PAX Prime 2013: The ‘WWE 2K14′ Interview

WWE2K14 had a fairly sizable presence at PAX Prime 2013, including a makeshift right that was filled with demo stations of the upcoming game. I myself entered it to speak with Bryan Williams, one of the game’s lead game designers.

We spoke about what differentiates a wrestling game and a fighting game, the differences between a Wrestlemania 1 match and a Wrestlemania 29 match, plus more.

MTV Multiplayer: Everyone tries to view wrestling games like fighting games. But they’re not. How do you feel about this confusion and what is being done to make the distinction?

Williams: We make it loud and clear that this is not Street Fighter, this is not Tekken, this is an amalgamation of a whole different forms of disciples. Our game is very unique. Because wrestling is very unique! A unique art form, a unique form of entertainment. So in our game, the one thing sets it apart from traditional fighting games, is how we have health in a sense, not like in those other games.

Your health can be low, yet you can always mount a comeback and get a win, despite of how damaged you are. Unlike a Street Fighter, in which once that bar is empty, you’re done. And that’s wrestling, the drama of it all; I’ve been pounding this guy the entire match and I can’t believe he eked out a win over me.

MTV Multiplayer:  In the 30 Years of Wrestlemania mode, in which you reenact famous matches, you only play as the winner. And it’s clear that you have to win the match in the same manner in which they actually ended, plus do all the major spots as well. But why not play as the loser, and still have to follow the script? Was that ever considered?

Williams: We went back and forth on that for at least a month and a half. Because there were people saying, “Let’s do both; it would be cool to have the option to relive the match as it happened, and on both sides.” And there was people who go, “Screw history, I want to have Andre beat Hulk at Wrestlemania 3!”

But we didn’t want to water down the mode. We set our sights and focus on one area, so it could be as polished and refined as possible. Because the more things you add on the more you need to check and tune. So we said, maybe next time we’ll think about doing similar to that.

MTV Multiplayer: Now, a match that took place in Wrestlemania 3 is different than one that took place in 29. The pacing, the type of moves employed, etc. How is the distinction being made? If so, is it difficult, given that controls are consistent, so players will be tempted to perform very technically, in an era in which that they didn’t fly?

Williams: Controls are indeed consistent across the board, but you’re right; starting with Wrestlemania 1 you have men like Big John Studd and King Kong Bundy, and these days you have a CM Punk and Undertaker. So when you’re playing Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan, the whole point of that match is you not being able to lift him, that’s the story. So that whole match is geared around that. We do things on the game design side to make sure certain things are not possible, but without making it obvious to players that they can’t do them. We have other actions that take place instead.

So starting with the first match, players will see a progression, and not only things that open up, in terms of what you can do in the ring. In the beginning it’s mostly big guys with their scoop slams, it’s more about the characters and the personalities. But later on you get the smaller guys, the Shawn Michaels and CM Punks, and you get these wrestling clinics. That was definitely one of our biggest points of emphasis; making sure that these characters aren’t behaving outside of themselves,

But if you want that to happen, just take them to exhibition and go to town. But as far as recreating matches go, we wanted to be as authentic as possible.

MTV Multiplayer: The mode is called 30 Years of Wrestlemania and only 29 is included, simply because only 29 has happened. Is there something big planned with Wrestlemania 30 happens early next year?

Williams: I can’t speak about that right now, sorry! But we do have other things that we’ll be unveiling in the next month and a half, so that question will be answered.

MTV Multiplayer: Did it mean a lot to everyone making the game that, when 2K picked up publishing rights from THQ, that they branded it in the same manner as their other sports titles?

Williams: Yes. For me, it was like ’we’re accepted!’ When we saw the cover art, we went ’Wow, this is it!’ Because they went back and forth on whether to keep the original 2K numbering that we had before we joined.

We’re really glad that they went with what they did, though importantly, it shows how much that they wanted us! They wanted to be in the business of the WWE. So the support that they’ve given us has been tremendous.

MTV Multiplayer: You’ve always had the wrestlers themselves involved in the product, and I’d imagine that the younger ones are way into whatever project, because they’re of the age in which video games are a part of their lives, they grew up with them. But what about the older guys? Something tells me that the Ultimate Warrior does not play PS3 or Xbox 360 much. How is it working with folks like him?

Williams: I don’t think Ultimate Warrior had any idea how big video games are. We did an event in NYC a couple of months back, and Warrior was a guest. And he genuinely seemed so humbled that, one, he was in the game, and two, these people still care about him. He almost seemed as if he was chocked up a little bit. Like, “Wow, people still remember what I did?”

I think they realize their legacy will primarily live on, in video game form.

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