While at GDC 2013, PlayStation LifeStyle had a chance to sit down with Dan Hinkles, the CEO of Serious-Parody, to conduct an in-depth interview regarding their first console project set to release exclusively on the PS3. Here's the interview below:
Tell me a bit about Serious-Parody.
Well we made Wresting Manager on the iPhone and iPad. It was the first wrestling strategy card game for mobile devices and the first iPhone/iPad game to introduce mod tools to the community…We have over 500 cards including hundreds of characters and we knew wrestling fans would love to mod this game, so we gave them the tools to do it and the beauty is, they don’t need to have any kind of programming skills or anything like that.
So is Wrestling Manager going to be connected to Five Star Wrestling? Or is this more like an evolution of the project?
They’re not really connected but this is definitely an evolution of the product. It is not a wrestling management game this time, it’s a full blown wrestling game like the WWE games. We have the very dark arena, we have the minitrons – which is kind of a meme for wrestling fans. The biggest thing I would say we are bringing to the table is that we are putting ring psychology into the genre. That is a very hardcore thing to do for wrestling games, what I mean by that is, up until now, if you were playing a wrestling game, if you were to attack somebody’s legs they would just basically limp and that would be the outcome. That’s not really a gameplay kind of outcome, because he’s just limping. You can make them submit faster if you use a leg submission, which makes sense, but that’s it. In our game we are taking it to a whole different level. For example, if you injure your opponents legs to the point where they can barely stand up, they won’t be able to lift you up, which means they will no longer be able to do some of their most powerful moves. That is the reason why technical wrestlers like Bret Hart and Kurt Angle attack the legs in wrestling, especially when taking on much stronger opponents. It’s a strategy for leveling the playing field and it’s a basic wrestling concept that’s been missing from wrestling games until now. One of the biggest matches in recent history was the Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, and Shawn Michaels spent the entire match working over the guy’s leg. He did that to take away The Undertakers finishing moves for example Undertaker tried a choke slam but his knee gave out and it left Shawn in control. In our game that is exactly what happens, if you have worked the guy’s legs and he has to do a move that requires him to lift you up, like a powerbomb, he runs the risk of blowing his knee out – causing him to fall over and become vulnerable.
So you are still able to achieve those moves, but there is now a risk factor being associated with them?
Yes, in some circumstances if your knee has been that badly beaten and you try it, you could really run the risk of losing the match.
So is it a ‘game over’ state from blowing out your knee?
No, the match would still continue, but if your knee is that badly beaten and your opponent puts on a leg submission, chances are that you are going to submit.
Are there any indicators to what is happening with your character in regards to damage?
We have a silhouette of the person, and a color code to indicate damage to certain areas. You will also notice him start to limp because if he you attack that leg that it is going to happen and there’s visible bruising, blood, etc. We think that this a massive improvement on what is out there, even in the broader fighting game genre in a lot of respects. Even in UFC games you can kick a guys leg all day, and then he kicks you with the same leg, which doesn’t really happen in real UFC matches because he stops kicking due to his leg hurting and often they will change stance to protect the leg. What we are also bringing to the genre is that… if you play a WWE game right now, and you do a finishing move, you always do the same finishing move animation. So, for example if you are using John Cena he will do his “Attitude Adjustment” and it is the same animation every time, no matter if it was the first move he did in the game or the last. If he has wrestled for an hour and all of a sudden he is using the exact same animation, its just odd. In life the guy will get tired, for example in that match at Wrestlemania, the Undertaker hit the Tombstone on the outside and it looked devastating but he was too tired to capitalize on it and he could hardly get back to his feet. It adds a bit of drama to the match like at the end of Rocky 4, where he throws the big punch and they both go down together. Well in our game, if your guy is exhausted and you try your most powerful moves there’s a good chance you’ll be too tired to get up and capitalize on it right away.
How many variations are there going to be? Is it just the normal and tired state?
Well, we have a power state as well for those times at the end of a match when you want to put all you have into the move. Again, going back to the Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels – At the end of the match, Shawn Michaels is on his feet, barely able to stand and he’s just taunting the Undertaker – eventually Micheals just slaps the Undertaker. Now, the Undertaker just gets pissed off and does a powerful finisher. So that is where we are trying to go with that, you will be able to give it your all. There is an important gameplay balance here. When you’re momentum maxed out and you gain access to your finishing moves, you have time to do two ‘Quick Finishers’ much like The Undertaker who always did a Choke Slam then a Tombstone, or how Kurt Angle would do an Angle Slam then an Ankle Lock. If you can get both off in succession, chances are you are going to win the match, but there is that added risk factor of your opponent reversing the second finisher. The alternate option is to do a ‘Power Finisher’, it is not quite a powerful as two quick finishers put together but is more powerful than one by itself and your opponent only has one shot at reversing it rather than two. Now if you try to do the power finisher towards the end of the match, that means putting in too much effort if you are already extremely exhausted, so you might get it but you might be too tired to capitalize on it afterwards.
How do you build up the momentum meter?
Attacking your opponent, taunting him, etc.
Are there tables, ladders, or any of the more popular hardcore aspects that are happening in wrestling?
We can’t discuss weapons right now but we will have some typical wrestling styled things. Our focus currently is on the actual wrestling match itself.
Will you guys have any licensed wrestlers at all?
No, we aren’t attached to any brands out there, there are no real wrestlers in the game, these are all our own characters, etc. Luckily, the flip side to not having a license is that we can actually be more creative. We do not have to pump out sequels and we can iterate on this through DLC, so people won’t feel like they’ve had to buy the same guy over and over again. I’ve bought every wrestling game for the last 20 years, I must have bought HHH like 50 times.
What about ring location aspects, things like touching the ropes?
We have count outs, we have rope breaks, we have all the things you would expect from a standard wrestling game and like I said, the beauty of not having a license is that we can get a little creative with some of that stuff. If we want to let players set ‘Count Outs’ to 20 seconds instead of 10, that’s up to us, we don’t need to get permission to do it, so all our design choices are about ‘what’s good for the game’ rather than limiting ourselves to ‘what fits a brand’.
Are characters able to dive over the ropes, or off the top of the turnbuckle?
Yes, we have move positions from all over the ring. That was one of the big things we looked at early on, and we wanted to make sure that everything was covered. As an example, in TNA games you weren’t able to do back grapples, only front grapples, and WWE All-Stars didn’t have a submission system… We have back grapples, front grapples, top rope, apron grapples, ground grapples, running grapples, a submission system… I mean, of course we have a submission system, it is a wrestling game, submissions are huge part of wrestling. How can you have wrestling without submissions?
When is the release window for the game?
We are looking at summer.
Have you set a price to launch at?
Not yet, we have a rough idea but we are not talking about price just yet.
Will it be retail and on the PSN store, or will it just be digital download?
It’s exclusively on the PlayStation Network. I know some people would prefer to have it on a disc but we’re only a small team and doing retail would mean having to put our resources into getting shelve space in shops rather than building the game.
Anything you would like to add?
I just want to emphasize that we’re all about the wrestling gameplay. I’m really proud of some of the things we’re doing and most of this stuff should have been in this genre for a hell of a long time. When you think about it, Bret Hart dominated the wrestling industry for years and every match he would have a strategy but for what ever reason, the strategy element has been missing from wrestling games. If it wasn’t Bret taking Diesel’s legs out at Rumble 95, it was Angle taking Undertaker’s legs or CM Punk taking Randy’s out which stopped him doing the Punt Kick…Wrestling is about telling stories through actions in the ring, its about David vs. Goliath, Good vs. Evil and above all else it’s about strategy. So that is what we are bringing to the table with 5 Star Wrestling.