SarahOConnell Interview

Here is the transcript of my interview with, discussing WWE Wrestlemania 21 for Xbox.

Features - Developer Interview - WrestleMania 21

 Luke {Hep}

Xbox owners and wrestling fans alike, have been patiently waiting for a wrestling game that provides the atmosphere and excitement equal to a night of RAW or Smackdown. After a period of disappointing wrestling games that failed to capture the spirit of the WWE, gamers soon will be receiving THQ's WrestleMania XXI, which may even deliver an experience, not equal to a night of RAW or Smackdown, but to that of a "Pay per View". Studio Gigante have been placing the finishing touches to a game that will give us the chance to "Rock Bottom" our friends over Xbox Live, and offer a host of unique and impressive features.

In order to reveal the details of this anticipated title, we entered the ring with Mark O'Connell, the Creative Manager for WrestleMania XXI at THQ and held him down for the count, his answers may just reinstate your faith in wrestling games on the Xbox.

AXB: First of all could you please let us all know who you are and what your roll is at Studio Gigante?

MOC: My name is Mark O’Connell, and I am a Creative Manager for Wrestlemania 21 at THQ.

AXB: How long has Wrestlemania 21 been in development? Were there some challenges along the way?

MOC: Wrestlemania 21 has been in development for two years. Our biggest challenge during development was creating a new wrestling engine that would make the most out of the Xbox’s powerful capabilities. Every move in the game has also been motion-captured, making each socket-wrenching animation look stunningly realistic.

AXB: Wrestlemania 21 has been touted to have a "countering system that incorporates a contrary reversal for each and every attacking move". How will these work?

MOC: For the first time in a WWE game, each move has its own unique counter move. For example, if you attempted a Press Slam and your opponent countered it at the correct time (indicated by an on-screen graphic), they would slide out of the move and perform a backdrop. You would only see that particular reversal if a Press Slam is successfully countered, so with hundreds of moves available, the pro-reversal system adds tremendous variety to game play.

AXB: How many Wrestlers will be in the game? Can you name some of the well-known wrestlers that have been confirmed? And maybe one that hasn't :0) ?

MOC: All the big name RAW and Smackdown Superstars such as John Cena, Triple H, The Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Randy Orton, Eddie Guerrero, JBL and Batista are present, along with six of the hottest Divas - including Trish Stratus and Stacy Keibler. I can also reveal that some of the greatest Legends ever to step into the squared circle will be available to unlock, including Andre The Giant and Bret “Hitman” Hart. In total there are 45 larger-then-life WWE Superstars in the game.

AXB: WWE Wrestlers have always had their rivals, will Wrestlemania 21 try to capture this in any way?

MOC: WWE is all about rivalries, and Wrestlemania 21 is no exception. Without giving away any surprises, I can confirm that the Career mode features some of the most intense character-driven storylines to date. Alliances are made and broken, rivalries spiral out of control, and it ultimately comes down to every man for himself in the quest for championship gold.

AXB: Will the “create an entrance be featured in WW21”? How will it work and some of the things you can do with it?

MOC: Wrestlemania 21 allows you to make every entrance unique by customizing the way your Superstar walks to the ring. You can also select from a spectacular array of pyrotechnics, choose an entrance video and music, and even decide what crowd signs the audience will hold up in support.

AXB: Are we able to edit current superstars, if so what ways are we able to change our wrestler?

MOC: While you cannot edit current superstars, you can easily create a detailed likeness in WM21’s expansive Create A Superstar feature. You can modify everything from a created superstars waist size to the color of their facial hair. Selecting a shirt, for example, opens up a variety of customizations allowing you to choose the shape, material, pattern, and color of the clothing. You can even add some jewelry or a logo to finish off the look. The sky is truly the limit with the sheer number of items and accessories on offer.

AXB: How’s the commentary featured in the game? Do we have two commentator groups for RAW and Smack down?

MOC: Jerry “The King” Lawler and JR provide the commentary for all RAW events, and Michael Cole and Tazz are in the announcing position for Smackdown shows. Both entertaining and informative, the teams bring the action to life with over twice the audio of Smackdown! Vs. RAW. Also worth mentioning is the Career mode, which for the first time features full Superstar voice-overs.

AXB: What type of environments do we get to take the wrestlers into? Are they interactive e.g.: stools, chairs etc?

MOC: In addition to the visually stunning television and Pay Per View arenas, Wrestlemania 21 features five exclusive environments including a Gymnasium, Wrestling Club, Training Facility, Civic Center and Industrial Basement. There are various interactive elements throughout, including a Trophy cabinet at the Wrestling Club. Irish Whipping your opponent into the cabinet will cause the glass to shatter and all the trophies to fall onto the floor – which can then be picked up and used as a weapon. Other interactive elements include walls, punch bags, weights and even television sets. There is also a wide variety of weapons hidden under the ring to use (if you can get away with it!) and even more available to purchase.

AXB: That sounds insane! How does one "Become a Legend"?

MOC: To become a Legend you must rise up the ranks of the WWE and prove yourself against the toughest Superstars in the business. Taking a created Superstar through an entire year of exciting WWE programming, you can develop your skills to acquire new moves, costumes and abilities. If you are worthy, you may even earn the most coveted opportunity in the Wrestling industry; a championship shot at Wrestlemania!

AXB: How many Staff members are working on Wrestlemania 21? Did you or your team get to meet the wrestlers in person?

MOC: There are 45 staff members at Studio Gigante, plus a 10-person creative team at THQ. We have collectively met a great number of WWE superstars, and I personally have had the pleasure of meeting the likes of “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Big Show and the lovely Torrie Wilson.

AXB: You lucky bugger! With the ability to create a championship belt and have others challenge a gamer online for the title, how long can a gamer hold onto that belt for without being challenged? How long does a belt last for?

MOC: Once created, a Championship belt will last forever. If a Titleholder refuses to take on any challengers, the belt will start to lose prestige, until it eventually falls completely off the leader board. Therefore you must put your belt on the line often to stay at the top of the rankings.

AXB: I look forward to that. With Xbox Live, can you give us some more information about the types of modes we can play online?

MOC: We are working to include as many modes as possible for online play, stay tuned.

AXB: Will there be sort of some Xbox Live User ranking system?

MOC: As mentioned above - Wrestlemania 21 offers a unique ranking system that will allow players to create a Championship and defend it online, and also challenge other players for their Championships.

AXB: Last but not least when do you think the full roster will be announced?

MOC: The roster has been officially confirmed, we’re excited that Wrestlemania 21 will feature the highly anticipated debut of Eugene!

Thanks for your time, and thanks to Studio Gigante for producing these mind-blowing games. Good work guys!!

MOC: Thanks for taking the time to put these questions together. We are really excited about Wrestlemania 21, and aim to deliver the ultimate WWE experience for Xbox owners!
- Mark O’Connell

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