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

NLG Q&A: Mark O’Connell, Creative Manager for Wrestlemania 21

A quick sit down with Studio Gigante's Wrestlemania Guru!
Posted by Michael Mullis on 3/17/2005 1:33:25 AM - Editorial -

Well, Wrestlemania 21 is getting closer and closer to it's ship date. And while we are getting back on track to bring you some updated videos and such, we got a chance to sneak a couple of questions over to Studio Gigante and pick the brain of Mark O'Connell, who's the Creative Manager for the game:

NLG: Thanks for taking time to talk to us. So how did you get into the mix to do the next Wrestlemania video game for THQ? Are you guys big wrestling fans yourselves? Who are your faves??

MOC: I have been a hardcore WWE fan since watching Survivor Series 1990, which featured the WWE debut of The Undertaker. I still have fond memories of larger then life Superstars such as Hollywood Hogan, Ultimate Warrior and the Legion of Doom. My current favorites include Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio and of course William Regal (I’m from England!).

NLG: Excellent! Ok, lets jump right in and talk about the game itself. The biggest issue Xbox gamers had with the older WWE Raw series was lack of a good story mode. How is the story mode going to be in Wrestlemania 21?

MOC: Career Mode offers players the chance to take their created Superstar through an entire action packed year of WWE programming. With motion-captured cut scenes, compelling storylines, and complete Superstar voiceover support, Wrestlemania 21 offers the most realistic WWE experience to date. Progression also offers the opportunity to continually build upon your created superstar’s attributes, to try and earn your place in the history books at the Granddaddy of them all – Wrestlemania!

NLG: How about the roster, match types, and specialties? Any legendary wrestler appearances?

MOC: There are forty-five Superstars on the roster, featuring headliners such as Triple H, The Undertaker, John Cena, Batista, JBL, Rey Mysterio, and for the first time in a WWE game – Eugene! All the biggest specialty match types are also present, including Hell in a Cell, Royal Rumble and TLC. You can even strip your favorite WWE Diva to nothing but her underwear in the ever-popular Bra and Panties Match. The greatest wrestlers ever to step into the squared circle are also available to unlock, including the legendary Andre The Giant, Mankind, Superfly Jimmy Snuka, Bret “Hitman” Hart, and the People’s Champion -The Rock.
NLG: We understand there is more commentary and voice-over work than even previous Smackdown games. How much is actually in the game?

MOC: Wrestlemania 21 features over twice the commentary of Smackdown Vs. Raw, making for a much more varied experience then in previous WWE titles. Tazz and Michael Cole provide the commentary for Smackdown-rostered events, and Jerry “The King” Lawler and JR call the action during Raw shows.

NLG: How in-depth is the Create-a-Wrestler mode in the game? Has there been any thought of including past WWE entrance themes for use with created wrestlers (provided WWE still owns the copyright). For example, the DX theme, or "Real American", and other themes people might want to use for their own characters, or to re-create old wrestlers.

MOC: The Create-A-Superstar process offers countless customizations, enabling players to easily configure every aspect of their wrestlers size, appearance, move set, entrance, and attire. In addition to the exclusive tracks available in game, players can import custom soundtracks from their Xbox hard drive via C-A-S mode. This allows you to add the ultimate personal touch to your created grappler’s entrance, and provides players with limitless creative opportunities.
(Editor's note:  Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge)

NLG: Ok, let's talk about the gameplay a bit. What kind of control system did you decide to go with?

MOC: Wrestlemania 21 features an intuitive 2-button grapple system. Each button features two of four grapple types (quick, strong, specialty or submission), which can be accessed by tapping or holding the button respectively.
NLG: Talk a bit about the new Pro Reversal System, and how it's different from the usual wrestling game reversals.

MOC: The new Pro-Reversal system enables players to reverse an attack not only at the beginning, but also during the move if correctly timed (indicated by a graphic on-screen). For the first time in a WWE game, every move also features a unique motion-captured counter move.

NLG: Now for the good stuff. Wrestling fans have been waiting for a true online wrestling game for a long time. Give us a taste of what Xbox Live gamers are going to see when they get online with Wrestlemania 21.

MOC: We're still evaluating all possible online modes, but we will only include in the final game those modes that offer the highest-quality play experience.
NLG: Are there going to be content downloads via Xbox Live? ie, new attire for wrestlers, new arenas, new entrance music, or even classic arenas and attires?

MOC: To maximize content for all users, we decided to make all extra environments and Superstars available on the disc as unlockables. I’m confident that fans will be excited with the huge range of unlockables on offer, which includes additional weapons, Create-A-Superstar costumes and accessories, advanced C-A-S Entrance customizations, and of course – WWE Legends! Also included are five exclusive environments, located in a Gymnasium, Civic Center, Wrestling Club, Training Facility, and Industrial Basement.

NLG: Will there be anything in place online to keep people from using cheat codes, or if they can be reported for doing so?

MOC: We are currently working on several different possibilities to address this issue, but we have not yet finalized which solution we are going to go with.
NLG: Now we know the big thing with the online mode will be it's "Create-A-Title" mode. Will you be able to actually create the full look of the belt, or use preset templates?

MOC: There are many selectable parts available in Create-A-Championship mode to design the ultimate Championship title, with even more available to unlock. Once created, the championship will earn more prestige if successfully defended.

NLG: And finally, in one word give us what the WWE Wrestlemania 21 for Xbox experience will be!

MOC: Legendary!
NLG: Thanks Mark, we are looking forward to getting our hands on what we hope is the first blockbuster WWE game for the Xbox!

MOC: Thanks for taking the time to put these questions together.

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