M (Mark): Hi Nick, my name is Mark O’Connell, and I’m from Smackdown5.com.
N (Nick): Cool!
M: What new feature are you most excited about in Smackdown 5: Here Comes The Pain… if you could pick one?
N: I can only pick one?
M: Or several… (Laughs)
N: Great! We have made several big changes to the product. Normally each year we are like ‘yeah this is our great feature for this year!’ This year, all throughout the game, there is a big overhaul. For example, the graphics engine… big, big improvement. When you look at the models, they’re totally lifelike Such as the details on the bodies and the specular lighting etc. Plus the crowd is now 3D which means that they aren’t a detracting experience. It really makes the environment look polished. Overall the graphics are much better. Game play, huge changes, which are obviously the most important part. New grappling system, new submission system: great for fans because you really get to use that area specific damage. Work on a particular body part to make them more prone to submissions, that’s really cool. Characters are very different in terms of what their strengths, and their weaknesses are. Somebody like The Undertaker is slow, but he’s got huge damage because of his power moves. Rey Mysterio is really quick with his speed. He uses his stamina to his advantage. And then, the weight detection is sort of factoring in there. If Rey Mysterio tries to pick up The Undertaker, there’s no way he’s going to do that. The Undertaker will just fall on top of him.
M: In the Create mode, can you set their weight on that as well?
N: Yeah, you can set what ever character you are creating, to be a certain weight. As you progress through season mode, you start with no attributes. You’ve got to build up your speed, power, stamina. You can sort of customise… let’s say I want to build a really fast guy who is really small. Set him to be really small and increase his speed so that he can be successful, if that’s the approach I want to take, and progress from there.
M: Will recently released WWE stars such as Rowdy Roddy Piper, Crash Holly and Jeff Hardy be in the game?
N: Rowdy Roddy Piper.
M: He will, but not the others? Will their moves be in?
N: Potentially…I think based on previous years experience you can see that moves are included.
M: Yeah, Goldberg’s moves have been included for years. Will you be able to defend belts in Exhibition Mode?
N: We are sort of undecided on that right now. We have taken the first step, which is to bring the belts from Season Mode, into Exhibition Mode. We’re not sure how we are going to approach the ability to defend them.
M: How long does it take from conception to make a new Smackdown game?
N: Originally it was about a year, and now it’s up to probably 16, 17 months.
N: Yeah, because the market is expecting games that are of a much better quality now. It gives us more time to make more significant changes. When I talk about ‘Here Comes The Pain’, we have done so many things that there’s no way we could have done it in a year. We had to start probably 3 and a half months before we finished ‘Shut Your Mouth’. We had to make all those changes, and increase the size of the team. I can say to you that we are already starting on ‘Smackdown 6’.
M: Do you know anything that is going to be in Smackdown 6 already?
N: (Laughs) I do but I cannot tell you!
M: But work IS underway on it?
N: (Whispers) Yes!
M: Have you considered a multi-format wrestling game, or would you rather keep producing console exclusives?
N: Right now, we’re very happy in the direction we’re taking. There are so many different ways you can take a WWE franchise. Wrestlemania, Raw, and Smackdown are all in totally different directions. Until this year, Wrestlemania and Raw were by far weaker products. This year we have made significant improvements to Wrestlemania and Raw, and right now, are competing with Smackdown. So that’s the way we are going to continue to go. Especially since the fans are really hardcore and they are buying more then one product, since they come out at different times of the year.
M: I have all of them!
N: (laughs) Yeah, you’re a perfect example!
M: How did you get into WWE games, and have you always been a wrestling fan?
N: Yeah, I’ve been a wrestling fan since I was a kid. Probably… maybe a bigger wrestling fan then I am now. Only because I thought the characters were…
N: Yeah, superheroes, larger then life, the giant types. So I really miss that. It’s just as compelling now, which is why I like Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. They are massive…intense.
M: There used to be more power wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior.
N: How did I get into it? Well I spent sort of 7 years working on Fifa. So, that was my love, its football. And, I love wrestling. So I was happy to come onto WWE. There were a lot of changes that needed to be made. I’ve been on it for about 10 months now. Because as a wrestling fan, I was really disappointed at where the products were at and I think now we are starting to make some significant changes. Consumers are going to be the ones at the end of this, who are going to get awesome products.
M: What is your favourite wrestling game?
N: No Mercy.
M: On the N64…
N: I think No Mercy serves as in inspiration to the direction we’re going in now, in terms of nailing a control system that works. It has to evolve from where No Mercy was. That game was fantastic because it wasn’t complicated, but the core fundamentals of a good wrestling game were in that game. We’re talking about the location specific damage, the submission system, the multiple format grapples, that’s all based in No Mercy.
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