With the release of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 for multiple games consoles just around the corner, ICGamers had the chance to catch up with Bryan Williams, Creative Manager at THQ. There’s talk of DLC, developing for multiple platforms and more after the break.
ICGamers: How would you describe THQ’s relationship with the WWE? Who selects the roster, match types, and many features that make it into the games every year?
THQ: The relationship between THQ and the WWE is great! They are a great partner and provide valuable insight into the production of each game.
ICGamers: Many fans of the franchise have been upset over the superstars included in this year’s roster. It seems much of the tag division has not been included and many inactive wrestlers appear in the game. Why is this?
THQ: The roster is decided upon very early in the development process. This is done for a variety of reasons, chief among them being the time it takes to create each model. Because we are an annual title, production begins before the current game hits store shelves. When deciding upon a roster that early in production, situations arise in which the roster may not be as up to date as weâ€™d like. Anyone whoâ€™s a fan can also attest to the unpredictable nature of the WWE. Superstars who seem certain to stay with the company sometimes leave, while new Superstars are introduced and quickly become fan favorites. With all that being said, Iâ€™m very happy about our roster. Does the roster contain every Superstar across all three brands? No, it doesnâ€™t. However, what the roster does have is over 50 playable WWE Superstars spanning all three WWE brands, including legends. Any way you look at it, weâ€™re still giving the fans plenty of bang for their hard earned buck.
ICGamers: Now that the ECW brand is a part of the WWE, how has this changed the vision THQ has for the WWE SmackDown vs. Raw franchise?
THQ: Our vision each year is to create a game that properly encapsulates the WWE experience for the period of time in which the game is released. The reemergence of ECW last year was a landmark event for the WWE, as it added another show to weekly programming and introduced viewers to an all-new roster of talented WWE Superstars. In keeping with our vision, the ECW brand will be prominently featured in WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008. The presence of ECW will loom large over all aspects of the game, including the roster, exclusive ECW arenas and the addition of the new ECW Extreme Rules Match.
ICGamers: In addition to ECW to the series, many new platforms including the Playstation 3, Wii, and DS are receiving some WWE love. How has it been to develop for so many platforms whereas in the past the series was confined to one to three consoles?
THQ: Itâ€™s certainly been a challenge. We could have gone the easy route and simply ported the same game across all consoles, but we wanted to take advantage of each consoleâ€™s strength. For our Nintendo products, we created new games from the ground up to take advantage of the Wiiâ€™s unique range of motion functionality and the touch screen functionality of the DS. The gameâ€™s name may be shared across the different platforms, but players who pick up WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 for the Wii and DS will be pleased to discover that both games have their own unique identities and style of play. Our fans definitely win out in the end.
ICGamers: What can we expect to see unique among each version of the game? Would there be any reason for wrestling fans to pick the game up for multiple platforms?
THQ: WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 for both the Wii and DS will offer players a completely different game play experience away from the 360 and PS3/PS2/PSP versions. Game play on the Wii is quicker paced and takes full advantage of the consoleâ€™s unique motion sensing capabilities, offering an unparalleled degree of immersion. The Wii version also features Main Event Mode, a unique single player experience, available only on the Wii console. Game play on the DS is also a completely different affair. The core game play is all handled via the touch screen and also boasts an original single player experience apart from the other consoles. Not to be outdone by our Nintendo product, the 360 and PS3 versions have exclusive content of their own. WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 for the 360 features customizable soundtracks. This feature enables players to customize the entrance music of their favorite Superstars by swapping in music stored on their hard drive. On the PS3, players will be able to switch into a first person view during ring entrances. During this first person view, players will be able to control their Superstarâ€™s head movements utilizing the motion sensing capabilities of the SIXAXIS controller. Players will literally feel transported out of their living rooms into a packed WWE arena.
ICGamers: We’re sure many WWE fans have been pining for downloadable content from the series. Do you plan on offering support for downloadable content this year?
THQ: Fans have definitely been clamoring for downloadable content and itâ€™s a subject that is routinely discussed here at THQ. I get excited thinking about downloadable content and all of the possibilities that come along with it. Itâ€™s something that weâ€™re investigating for the future.
ICGamers: Are there any plans to make use of the Eye Toy and Vision Camera for the Create-A-Superstar mode?
THQ: There are no plans to incorporate the Eye Toy and Vision Camera in this yearâ€™s game, but thatâ€™s not to say that they wonâ€™t be used in future iterations. Youâ€™ll just have to wait and see.
ICGamers: For the past couple of years you’ve been refining the online experience for the series, what kind of progress has been made? What modes are available and how many players can compete online?
THQ: Online gameplay supports up to four players and, with the exception of the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber events, all of the other match types are available for online play. Players will also be able to compete for and defend their custom created championships against other online competitors. Rounding out an already robust online feature set, players will also be able to trade their originally created Superstars with others online.
ICGamers: Finally, what improvements can we expect to see from last year’s title?
THQ: AI, hit detection and general gameplay improvements can be felt across the entire title. New parts and moves have been added to all of the games Create Modes (Create-A-Superstar, Create-An-Entrance, Create-A-Move-Set, etc.), and load times have been greatly reduced. All in all, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 is head and shoulders above last yearâ€™s effort. Do yourself a favor and pick it up this holiday season.
We here at ICG would like to sincerely thank Bryan Williams for taking the time out to talk to us. WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 is being released in Europe this Friday and ships in North America at the start of next week for Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Playstaton Portable, DS, Wii and Xbox 360.