WWE 13 Exclusive Interview with Game Director Cory Ledesma

We lay the smackdown on WWE 13 with the head honcho of the game!

Stuart W. Bedford

Contributor

There isn’t long left to go now before WWE 13 slams its way onto shelves and can we help it if we’re excited? WWE 12 represented monumental change for the franchise after implementing a brand new engine in the Predator technology and from my hands on playtime at the recent THQ summer showcase, it looks as though they’re in the process of making more significant improvements.

To follow up our recent preview, we were able to net some interview time with the head honcho himself – Game Director Cory Ledesma. Here’s how it went down:

 

SB: Hey Cory. First off, thanks for retweeting our WWE 13 Hands on Review; we got quite a bit of buzz around it so we appreciate that!

CL: Yeah no problem. It was a great article, we had no problems putting it out.

 

SB: Well you know, I’m a huge fan of the series and you guys are doing a great job from what I’ve played of WWE 13; it was going to get a good review from me!

CL: Well thanks man, that’s good of you to say.

 

SB: No worries. Well I know you’re a busy man, shall we dive in?

CL: Let’s do it.

 

SB: What was your main goal when redrafting the Predator Engine into version 2.0?

CL: Well when we introduced the new engine last year with WWE 12, we knew it was going to benefit us for several years into the future. We wanted it to be something we were able to build upon and find ways to advance gameplay, our animation system; it wasn’t just a one year project. So we’re excited going into the second year to be continuing to build on top of the Predator Engine and to be continuing to push the limits of what it can do.

I mean there was stuff we didn’t get to do in WWE 12, but we got a lot accomplished which resulted in a fantastic experience.  But we can continue to build it out even more and this year we’ve been able to develop some new enhancements to gameplay because of the new engine and so I think our fans are going to benefit from it for not just WWE 13, but into the future.

 

SB: Sounds like you guys are fully future-proofed over there.

CL: Definitely. I mean, we believe that gameplay is the most important overall feature. Sometimes we get involved in creating these other modes, or creating bigger areas of the game or setting our focus into the season mode or creation mode or whatnot – but gameplay is the most important thing.

Every single mode touches gameplay and so we want that experience to not only be really smooth and fluid, but we want it to be real fun, and we also want to try to freshen it up each year. You can look forward to getting the new WWE game and to the new features that’ll be in there.

Like this year, with WWE 13, we’re adding these new Spectacular Moments which are these really cool over the top moments like the ability to break the ring, or smash someone through the barricade. And in having these cool moments, I think our goal is really just making sure gameplay is overall fun, fluid, fast and smooth animation wise, but also so that there’s something new to play with.

And we introduced new match up modes like Special Referee, just to add a lot of variety, which you can expect each year when you buy the new WWE game.

SB: Spectacular Moments are awesome! That was one of the stand out features from the build I played at THQ’s summer showcase. Can you go into a bit more detail about them? What kind of thing can we expect?

CL: When you watch WWE Television, you see these great over the top moments sporadically as you’re watching. They’re these really huge moments that the fans go nuts for. They’re really surprising and exciting; we thought it would be great to reproduce that feeling in the game.

Not only is it a fun mechanic to play and to try out in the game, but also as for as the ‘wow’ factor and the visuals you get from seeing those moves pulled off in game, they just are spectacular. That’s why we kind of coined that term – Spectacular Moments – that’s the reaction when you see them happen in the game.

We thought this was the perfect year to introduce some cool new gameplay features like that. It’s something that fans have been seeing more and more of lately with the WWE talent in the ring when they’re doing these moves. Like, you’ve seen the Big Show and Mark Henry doing the Superplex and collapsing the ring; Sheamus and Mark Henry doing the barricade smash. These are just those really exciting moments and we really think fans will enjoy those.

And on top of that we’re doing this audio overhaul this year for WWE 13: what perfect timing to introduce Spectacular Moments, ‘cause that’s when the crowd really goes crazy. And audio wise, we really wanted to match that. So we thought it’d be so perfect to have these really cool Spectacular Moments that are over the top and fun, and also have the audio support that, with that atmosphere of the fans going crazy.

 

SB: Well, I played the Demo at the showcase and the crowd audio was mind blowing, I must admit.

CL: That’s good to hear! And that was just our second phase. You know, we were working on the sound effects first, then the crowd, and then now we’re working on the commentary side of things so we’re really excited with how much better it’s going to sound. Since WWE 12 we feel like we’re on a great path and to us, it’s an investment for multiple years. We’re not just thinking that everything’s going to be absolutely perfect and amazing in year one. We’re going to see a substantial improvement year on year. And going into the future we’re just really excited to really invest more and more into the audio because that’s really what immerses you completely into the experience.

SB: I think the TV broadcasts and even the performances of the superstars themselves sort of feed off the fans and their reaction really. So it’s great to see that being reflected in the game. In the presentation at the [THQ Summer] Showcase you talked about listening to the fans when you were creating the game. How important would you say player feedback has been on the road to WWE 13?

CL: It’s always very important to us every year. Fan feedback is something that we don’t ignore or discourage. We’re all about finding out what the fans want to see in the next WWE game, because our attitude at the THQ offices is really: “Hey we’re not making the game for us, we’re making it for our consumers”. And a lot of times as a designer you can get maybe a little consumed with what you want to see in the game and what you like. But at the end of the day, it’s really about what the fans like, so that’s important to us.

So we take it to heart. We love to see praises and criticisms – you know, what’s working, what’s not working – and decide what we can do to make things better each year, or introduce new features that the fans really want to see.

Special Referee is one of those examples where we actually removed it from the game a while back and fans were really asking for us to bring it back. And so we definitely heard those calls, and we’ve made a big effort to go ahead and bring it back [in WWE 13].

That’s one small example, but fan feedback comes into everything. Even as small as moves that fans want to see in the game. We do online polls that ask consumers which move they want to see, we ask fans about future features they’d like to see, what their favourite match type is, things like that. Because we want to find out what they want.

I’m active on message boards and on Twitter, and I respond to fans daily and I like to see their responses. As long as they’re not…uh…overly negative. [laughs] But I understand there’s a lot of passion toward our games, and WWE fans are a really passionate group and that’s what makes them so great. And we’re always trying to please them and to satisfy their appetite.

 

SB: Well as a long running fan of the series, I hope I can speak for all of us when I say: cheers for that!

CL: You’re totally welcome.

SB: Can you maybe give us a hint as to what Attitude Era storylines we’ll be reliving?

CL: They won’t let me divulge that information just yet. I think in the next few weeks we will be able to start to discuss it. What we’ve been highlighting is that obviously Stone Cold Steve Austin has a major role in the story. He’s such a big part of the Attitude Era and his character really helped raise the popularity and raise the bar for WWE as far as the edginess they were able to bring and he was one of the main reasons that WWE were able to surpass the WCW in the ratings and take a hold of that time.

He’s definitely going to be a focal point but we’ll definitely cover different characters; you won’t only play as one character. We’re covering a time-line, a certain period within that Attitude Era.

 

SB: In one tag-line we’ve read it says ‘we’ll be reliving the Monday Night Wars’. Does this mean that the WCW will feature in some way?

With WWE 13 we really wanted to focus on the WWE side of the history and really experience the Monday Night Wars from the WWE’s point of view, so we won’t be seeing the WCW in the game. We’re really coming at the story with the Attitude Era as the main focal point so we’ll be focusing on the WWE characters that really made that time a success.

 

SB: So can we expect to begin with the Montreal Screwjob? That’s probably where the Attitude Era began surely?

Well it’s funny, because depending on who you speak to, everyone has a different idea about when the Attitude Era actually started. You know, some say it was the Montreal Screwjob, some people say it was when Austin Stunned McMahon, some people even say it was way back when Austin cut his famous King of the Ring promo.  So it’ll be interesting, fans will get to see what THQ’s opinion is about when the Attitude Era started.

SB: If WWE 13’s setting in the Attitude Era is successful, which we’re sure it will be considering it was the golden age of pro-wrestling, could that mean that WWE 14 might go further into it and include WCW and ECW, if only for the nostalgia factor?

CL: Well it’s definitely not something to rule out. The path that we took this year as far as reliving historical period I think is a fresh take for the WWE [game] franchise. The last couple of years, we’ve done original fiction that the WWE helped us produce and I thought that worked well for a while but I don’t want it to get too stale. I mean I’d really like to try different stuff to keep the product fresh, and so I think doing the historical route for the next couple of years could be something very interesting.

But we haven’t really got into those plans yet, so I think fans will just have to enjoy WWE 13 in the meanwhile and then dream about what we might have in WWE 14.

 

SB: Oh believe me, we will be.

CL: [Laughs]

SB: Do you guys have any plans for DLC at this point?

CL: You know, they won’t let me discuss DLC yet, so we don’t have any official news or announcements on it. But DLC has been very successful for us the last couple of years so you can imagine that we would want to do it again. But we don’t have anything official for maybe the next few months.

 

SB: If there was one thing, say a match mode or a specific performer, that you really wanted to include but for whatever reason couldn’t, what would it be?

CL: You know, I get the question asked to me a lot, whether or not it’s difficult coming out with a game each year and coming up with ideas and it’s really not difficult for us, because I think there’s so much we want to do in the game each year. And not only that but I think there’s so much that the WWE is constantly introducing to the product, whether it’s new characters or new match types or new moves or new pay-per-views, whatever it may be.

Like, we always have a huge well to draw from for new ideas and I don’t think we ever run dry. So of course we always want to put more and more into the game. We’re always probably internally disappointed like “Aaah, we didn’t have enough time to get this into the game” or “Aah, this got introduced too late in our development cycle”, whatever it may be. And so a lot of times those are little small disappointments for us.

But it just gives us more to work on for next year. So we really don’t have a lot of regrets in that regard as far as features. I’d have to say no, I don’t think we’re disappointed that anything got left out or anything like that because I think we’re just really excited about this year’s product.

 

SB: One final question, I know you’re a busy man, but this will be on our readers’ minds for sure. Created Characters: are there going to be any new gameplay modes for our created superstars either inside or outside of WWE Universe mode?

CL: Create-a-Superstar and WWE Universe Mode are both some of our most popular features, so they’d never get ignored. We’re always introducing new options in both of those modes; whether they’re customisation options or options that affect gameplay. We’d really like to continue to push those two modes because we’ve noticed among our fans that those are by far the most popular features.

The only thing I can say at this point is that fans can definitely expect new additions and features in those two modes in particular. What those details are, we’ll have to wait and see in the next month or so.

 

SB: So what you’re saying is we can expect something different from the last title?

CL: Absolutely. Both those modes will see new updates in WWE 13.

 

SB: Well thanks for taking the time to talk to us Cory. It’s been a pleasure and after the demo we played, we can’t wait to see how the finished product turns out.

 

 

There you have it. Cory Ledesma: a thoroughly bloody nice bloke. Anything catch your attention in particular? Do let us know.

WWE 13 is out in November 2012 for Xbox 360, PS3 and Nintendo Wii.