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SVR '08, first interview/Pics
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Old 30 Mar 2007, 08:09 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default SVR '08, first interview/Pics

First Interview: SmackDown vs. Raw 2008
THQ reveals first details on its biggest and most interactive wrestler yet.
by Jeremy Dunham

March 29, 2007 - With today's announcement that SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 is hitting just about every platform known to man, we wanted to know more about it. To find out, we sat down to speak with THQ Creative Manager Cory Ledesma just before he headed out on a plane to Detroit for WrestleMania 23. Here's how it went down...

IGN: Last year was the first season where you were developing SmackDown for a platform other than a PlayStation system. What did you take from that experience and how are you going to apply that to 2008?

Cory Ledesma: We learned a whole lot about our fan base on the Xbox 360, for one, and we also learned that we want to utilize a lot of a console's specific features. So going forward, that's going to be our emphasis from now on -- getting to know our base on each platform, understanding what they want to see in the game, and fully utilizing that console's strengths to the best of our ability.

IGN: SmackDown '07 scored pretty well with reviewers but it also received a lot more criticism than the previous version did. Going into this year's game, how serious were you about addressing a lot of the concerns from the press and consumers?

THQ wants to make this Undertaker the 'Taker you want.

Ledesma: Whenever we get criticism we take it in stride. If there's a collective voice out there, we're going to put the things that the fans and the media have been vocal about at the top of our priority list. We pride ourselves on that -- listening to the people who show concern so we can give them the best game.

This year, just like every year, we researched the reviews of the game, listened to what the fans were saying on the boards, and went ahead and created our giant "wish list" based on that. Things that were hit on last year were examples like the AI for tag team matches -- that's something we really wanted to improve upon this year; the animation quality was talked about a lot; collision and clipping came up... we went ahead and listened to those things, put them as our top priorities and, right now, feel confident that we're going to address them well this year.

IGN: Personally, my biggest issue with the game was how dated it felt. Though I still liked it quite a bit, the animations and AI, like you said, felt old. Since you're specifically tackling those problems this year, what are you doing in those areas?

AI and general awareness are very important this year.

Ledesma: Well you're definitely going to see a big improvement with the AI. There was a partial problem with the match types since most of them were untouched compared to previous years, and therefore, the AI found in those match types was pretty much the same. Improving the AI that goes along with our existing match types (especially the tag match) is something we're really working on. We want to make a smarter AI, a more supportive AI, and an AI that's aware of what's happening in the ring -- we want it to know what you're doing and what's going on besides the player's actions. We stressed very heavily to Yuke's that this is something we had to work on for this year.

As far as animation goes, it's our overall franchise objective to significantly improve our system. What it means when we put something down as our "franchise objective," is that there is no higher priority. Of course, it doesn't mean that we're going to be able to fix everything in the first year -- because it could take a couple of years to get everything in there -- but we are putting a lot of resources behind getting this done as soon as possible.

What does that mean we'll be fixing? The blending you see between the moves... that will be better. The general movement in and outside the ring -- the walking, the running, the climbing -- you'll see an improvement in those areas' quality as well. Collision problems that happen during certain "up close" moves, we're focusing on those too and a bunch of other things.

In other words, we want to get rid of the older, robotic-looking things. We want to improve our visual quality.

Also, there's a second side to our big franchise objective and that's differentiating the game's characters. So, for example, when you play as Kane and you're walking around the ring, we want you to feel like you're moving a little bit slower and more lumbering than you would as Rey Mysterio. Rey should be able to hop around the ring, be very quick, and have all his animations tie into that kind of style and into the gameplay. We want these guys to feel like they would in real life.

IGN: Just so that we're clear: are your "improved" animations just enhanced versions of your older animation sets or are you actually going back and redoing them?

Expect a ton of new animation.

Ledesma: We're completely redoing animations. The problem with trying to rework and improve an older animation set is that you'll never be able to get a better quality than you already have even if you add more frames to it. Adding those extra frames is really just making the move take longer to perform and that slows down gameplay.

We're recapturing animations for all the improvements I just talked about. We'll have new animations for the base navigational stuff, for instance, and that's actually important. It's important because those are the animations that players are going to see 80-90% of the time. Running around, getting in and out of the ring, picking up weapons, these are the things you see the most of. Expect brand new animations for all of those.

We also want a more realistic approach to our animation in general with smart blending. If you're going from a walk to a run, it should be a gradual transition between the two; if you go from picking up a weapon to standing up, there shouldn't be a pop -- it should look real. Those are just some of the subtleties you'll notice that give the game a smoother look overall.

IGN: You talked a bit about the wrestlers having different fighting styles. How will these styles affect gameplay and the typical flow of a match?

Though both are big guys, Lashley and Kane will play differently.

Ledesma: Jeremy, let me tell you: this is by far our favorite new feature this year. Personally, I'm really excited about it. The reason being is that it changes the landscape of how everyone is going to play the game.

When you pick up SmackDown vs. Raw 2007, you're just trying to learn how to win the match. "How am I going to pin my opponent, submit him, knock him out... whatever." Because of 2008's new fighting styles, though, you'll actually be learning how to play that particular wrestler and his technique. Each one offers specific strategies and abilities that other wrestlers won't have.

It's almost like a fighting game in a way; if you play Soulcalibur, they have different weapons, different animations and different moves. We're taking that approach. We want players to have exclusive abilities and tactics that let them play differently based on personal preference and the wrestler they choose. You will have to learn how each fighting style works and, depending on the match type you're playing, you'll have to discover which ones are advantageous in certain matches and which ones aren't. Superstars aren't going to have the exact same abilities, moves, or animations in SmackDown vs. Raw 2008.

IGN: What are some examples of the fighting styles and how they work?

Ledesma: We're going to have eight fighting styles overall. We're going to have a hardcore and a high-flyer fighting style. The hardcore guys, obviously, are going to play well with weapons and hardcore match types that involve props or the bending of rules (no DQ and stuff like that). The high-flyer is going to have more aerial maneuvers than anybody. They'll be able to use the ring in new ways by launching themselves off the ropes or other areas around the ring that competing styles can't.

We're also going to have submission artists. They'll be proficient in the holds and have special abilities relating to that. We've got powerhouse guys who are essentially brutes. Think Batista or Triple H and you know that type -- they'll have some really forceful abilities. Our fifth fighting style is a brawler and he'll be proficient in striking, and you can expect special moves for that style related to those strikes.

There's also the showman. He's a cocky, arrogant wrestler who taunts his opponents and plays to the crowd. His whole goal is to lower his foe's momentum and morale in different ways -- a Shawn Michaels type, a Randy Orton type... even the Undertaker is a showman in his own way.

IGN: Wait a second. What happens when you have a guy who is a mix of styles? You just mentioned the Undertaker, for example. He's a showman sure, but he's also a powerhouse and depending on his opponent, even busts out the MMA submission skills. What do you in those cases?

No two superstars should play the same.

Ledesma: Don't worry. Each superstar has two fighting styles: a primary and a secondary. You can be a Dirty Showman, for example, or you can be a powerhouse brawler or a technical submission artist. You can combine any of the fighting styles and have all their abilities. The catch is that you'll only have the special move for your primary style, not the secondary.

We totally realized that not everyone fits into a single category. Ric Flair isn't just a submission artist; he's also a very dirty superstar. These combinations multiply what you can do.

IGN: On the subject of submissions, there's also a new submission system. Can you talk a little about that?

Ledesma: We're implementing a new "Struggle Submission System." Last year we wanted to give players improved controls with the analog sticks and this just the next step. We really want to get rid of the button mashing meters that we have because those are really dated. We're getting pretty tired of those, honestly. But now that we have our "Ultimate Control" theme going, we can apply that to submissions.

You can decide how much pressure to add to any submission move.

What's that mean for this year? It means that submissions are now controlled with the analog sticks. You can decide as an offensive player how much pressure you want to apply when you put an opponent in a hold. The more you push the stick in a particular direction, the more force you're putting behind that particular move.

Say, for example, that we have the Crippler Crossface applied to someone. As you add the pressure with the analog stick, you'll see your character pull back harder on the opponent in real time. That's an example of our new animation and how it applies to gameplay too. What's really great about it, though, is that you can also be defensive with this system and power out of a submission hold using the same analog mechanic. It makes the whole thing more of a cat and mouse game. We're trying to introduce a system where players always have control -- we don't want anyone sitting around waiting until their next opportunity. Adding a real strategy, a true "back and forth," is cool too.

IGN: Do the fighting styles alter how someone will escape a submission? Bobby Lashley powering out of a Masterlock is a whole lot different than Chavo.

Ledesma: There is some level of detail there, but it's not necessarily tied to your style but more your attributes. The submission artist and technician will have advantages in submission moves, of course, but how you escape will mostly be tied into your numbers.

IGN: Will these mechanics be universal across all platforms?

Ledesma: They will be. The only platform I'm going to exclude is the DS version. It's a completely different style of game but we're not disclosing much more than that. It will keep the same name and use the touch screen, but won't be "a traditional wrestling title." We'll reveal more about that in the future.

IGN: When you say it isn't traditional, you don't mean it's going to be like Crush Hour do you?

Ledesma: [laughs] No, it's definitely not like Crush Hour.

IGN: You've already talked about some major adjustments this year, have you made any improvements to the modes?

Ledesma:Yes! We've combined our General Manager Mode and Season Mode into what we're calling "WWE 24/7." The general theme is that you're living the life of a WWE superstar who wants to become a legend.

24/7 is different from past years in that, in previous years, your whole goal was to win a title at WrestleMania. This year we're talking a broader approach where you'll have to meet a long list of objectives to be considered a legend. If you start out with The Undertaker, maybe that question will take you six months; start out with a created wrestler and it may take you three years. Obviously, it depends on how successful you are and how well you play.

IGN: Is 24/7 keeping the same theme as past SmackDowns? Where you start off on Raw or SmackDown to begin with and work your way through those shows, or are you taking a Day of Reckoning approach and starting in OVW or something similar?

How long will it take you to become as legendary as these guys?

Ledesma:We're not going to talk much about it yet -- that's for later in the year. The only thing I can tell you is that you will start out on the SmackDown or Raw shows and become a superstar for those promotions. Of course, you can still switch shows like you could in previous years.

Oh, and there will be some specific created superstar paths, but again, we're not detailing how all that is going to work yet.

IGN: How important is online support this year?

Ledesma: It's very important. It's a must-have on next-generation platforms. We did some data-mining and found out that our online player community wasn't as big as we thought it was, so we're looking to grow that out with better features. How the match plays, its quality and framerate, the interface -- these are things we're definitely addressing.

As for what features we'll be incorporating this year, we can't say yet.

IGN: Can you talk about any differences between the versions? How will the PS3 and 360 editions differ from Wii, etc?

Ledesma: I can't speak about that stuff yet. We'll be revealing that in the future. Just remember what I said earlier, though -- that we're looking to play to the strengths of our platforms.

IGN: Midway is bringing out its TNA game at some point in the future. With that on the horizon, how has having your first real competition since Legends of Wrestling changes your philosophy when it comes to building your new game?

Ledesma: We welcome all competition in the genre, honestly. But as far as how it affects us, we're just trying to make the highest quality product that we can. Getting the true feeling of the WWE into SmackDown has always been our focus and that hasn't changed. It will be interesting to see what Midway does with TNA, though.

IGN: What sort of presentational improvements have you made?

Ledesma: One of our big additions this year is that ECW has a big presence. We're treating it as an equal brand with the SmackDown and Raw brands and having that in the game is the largest presentational improvement...

IGN: Then I have to ask: if ECW is equal to Raw and SmackDown, why isn't in the title?

Ledesma: [Laughs] Because SmackDown vs. Raw vs. ECW is kind of a long title. But seriously, it's a brand name that people recognize at this point and it's a household name.

IGN: Any parting words for the SmackDown fans who still have more than half a year to wait for SVR 2008?

Ledesma: Certainly. I want them to know that we're doing a lot of research this year to find out what the fans want. We're doing focus testing, dealing with research groups -- we're trying to get their opinions on what they think about our current feature sets and what they'd like to see. We're also doing the data-mining in titles we've already released so we can see what and how the fans are playing. We're taking all this info, putting it together with reviews and message board feedback, and we're trying to get it to become as close to what the fans want as possible.
The rest of the pics:


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Old 30 Mar 2007, 12:05 PM   #2 (permalink)
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If they REALLY wanted to give the fans what they wanted they would release expansion pack discs,
every few months with new wrestlers and matches so you could build the ultimate roster without buying a whole new game every year.
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Old 30 Mar 2007, 04:14 PM   #3 (permalink)
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holy fuck the graphics
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Old 30 Mar 2007, 04:29 PM   #4 (permalink)
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If they improve the goddamned story mode I will buy it.

Fuck pretty graphics, fuck everything else. Give me a good story.
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Old 30 Mar 2007, 04:54 PM   #5 (permalink)
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lol crap I don't even have SVR 07 yet
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