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The Gamer: An interview with Legends of Wrestlemania senior designer Paul Edwards

3/10/2009
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Bret Hart throws Shawn Michaels off the top of the Hell in a Cell cage and watches as the bloody Heart Break Kid crashes through a table on the floor. Imagine this payoff to the controversial feud had the Montreal screwjob never taken place.

Now, wrestling fans don't need to imagine thanks to THQ's WWE Legends of Wrestlemania, a game that throws some of the biggest names of sports entertainment together for one last virtual brouhaha.

The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Mr. Perfect and even Koko B. Ware duke it out in everything from Royal Rumble matches to the aforementioned Hell in a Cell, beating each other with steel chairs and flying fists as they attempt to get the 1-2-3.

We sat down with the game's senior designer, Paul Edwards, to get the latest dirt on the upcoming brawler that tries to recreate the magic of wrestling's glory days.

It's enough to make even Randy "The Ram" proud.

The Mag: When I first heard about the game, I expected you guys would just throw a whole bunch of legends in the already existing WWE Smackdown vs. Raw engine, but you instead built an entirely new game from the ground up. Why the big change?
Paul Edwards: The Smackdown engine itself was built around delivering a simulation of wrestling as opposed to an arcade-like experience. Our marketing team did a focus test where they polled fans of the game and asked them what type of game they would like to have and what their experiences were like with Smackdown vs. Raw. A lot of the people who wanted a legends title, they were wrestling fans, but they hadn't played a Smackdown vs. Raw game in years or never even tried it do to the initial learning curve of the control scheme. So there were a lot of people out there who SVR weren't targeting, and one of the main things all of these people had in common was that they liked the old legends, and this whole legends title is more catered toward them as opposed to the current wrestling fans who like the simulation aspect SVR provides them. We felt we'd be cheating the fans if we made a legends game using the old engine.

How did you go about the process of picking which legends would be in the game?
On our side, we compile a list that we then turn into legal who go out and try to secure the contracts. So I don't know who exactly decides who gets in the game, because we tend to put everybody on the list and then they come back and tell us what's possible and what's not. We don't usually get into why or why not we can sign certain guys, we just know the reality of the situation is that we can sign these 40 guys. We always try to shoot for the most as we can, but unfortunately a lot of it is out of our control.

What's strange about the roster is the fact that it's based on Wrestlemania legends and you don't have Randy Savage or Ricky Steamboat, the two guys who wrestled in maybe the best match in Wrestlemania history. Don't you think fans will be disappointed by that?
I certainly think so. There were a lot of great matches that we wanted to get in there but, unfortunately, we couldn't because of the roster. But that's not to say that we can't address those in some other title down the line or possibly even another legends title.

What about the celebrities? How come Mr. T and Lawrence Taylor aren't in the game?
It was one of the things that, creatively, we had planned for in the initial design phase. We hoped to get all of those iconic matches like the Mr. T and Roddy Piper boxing match in the game, but for whatever legal reason, we just weren't able to get all of those people.

The game lets you relive a bunch of the best Wrestlemania matches. How did you pick which matches made the cut?
It's one of those things where, honestly, we were kind of limited by the roster itself. Once we found out who we could and could not have, we went back and looked at the matches from Wrestlemanias I through XV. We had to focus on who we did have in the game and focus on those matches.

Do you think people will have more fun reliving those classic matches or putting Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels in Hell in a Cell and letting them beat each other senseless?
I really like the "relive campaign" itself because it brings the lapsed wrestling fans and people who remember that time period into the game. It gives them an easy ramping and learning curve with the control scheme. Then, once their memories have been refreshed about the time period and who was important and what they were doing, then they have that back story built up and will want to do crazy things like putting HBK in a ladder match with Bret Hart or something like that. Just doing more crazy things like that, moments that never actually happened.

I have fun throwing a bunch of legends in the Royal Rumble. How did you guys update the Royal Rumble mode from what fans have seen in SVR?
It's more of a refinement of the match and trying to fix some of the little things that stop the SVR Royal Rumble from being as balanced or as fun as it could be. People were just able to Irish Whip opponents over the top rope very easily and eliminate them really fast. We're trying to balance things a little more. Even when you are fully beat up and in the red, you still have the ability to come back and get back in the ring with a timed mini-game. So even when it appears that you're down and out, you're never down and out, and you're able to make some pretty amazing comebacks.

All of the wrestlers in the game look super hero-huge. Since they are legends, did this lead to the legendary muscles?
Actually, what started us down that course were those marketing focus tests. They found that people remembered these guys as not only being larger than life, they remembered them being larger than they actually were. We had a couple of mock-ups of an embellished version of Hulk Hogan and a real version of Hulk Hogan and a slightly between version, and most of the people thought that the embellished version was actually how he looked. So we thought that was interesting. And it also helped us differentiate us from Smackdown as if we had looked as real as it did on TV, if it didn't have that stylized look, then the gameplay itself might have been a bit off. You might have expected more of a simulator and felt disconnected. So this action-hero, action-figure take on the wrestlers, it gets your mind straight that this is not going to be super, hyper serious.

There is an amazing amount of old video footage from WWE in the game to help build up the feuds and characters. Is this one of the advantages to having an exclusive relationship with WWE, that they can devote so many resources to you?
Absolutely. They were very helpful in coming up with those. Initially, we didn't want to ask for too much from them because of how busy they are, so we were really only expecting highlights from some of the matches. But then they completely went wild with it and gave us all this footage from pre-Wrestlemania I events and feuds. And they created special montages and soundtracks for it all. They went totally over the top with it and helped us out tremendously. If you look at some of the later arenas in the game, like Wrestlemania XV, the arenas have Jumbotrons, so WWE even created Jumbotron videos and entrance music for guys like Andre The Giant who never had their own. It's incredible.

You guys went through and rated each wrestler. Do you fear one of these guys will get mad at being an 80 overall and show up at your office one day?
It's one of those things we don't try to think about when picking the numbers, but it is one of those things that does come up every now and then. When one of the wrestlers sees the game and finds out he's a little bit lower than another wrestler he thought he was better than, they make little comments, but nobody has been real serious about it. Nobody ever demanded to be taken out of the game if they weren't higher than Jake "The Snake" or anything like that.