"Hammer: What was the thinking/reasoning behind the All Stars gameplay?
NN: From the very beginning the design group’s focus was to create a fresh and unique experience that both a casual and hardcore fan would enjoy. We wanted to design something that was easy to pickup and play but also give the hardcore gamer mechanics and depth that they could master with practice. With this in mind, we blending some traditional fighting game elements like extensive comboing and juggling into wrestling combat. The fast pace and responsive feel is one of the design groups core competencies and something that we felt would naturally translate well into an over the top game like All Stars.
Hammer: What type of games did you go to for inspiration?
NN: There are quite a number of individuals here at THQ San Diego who are hardcore fighting game players so naturally we were inspired by games like Street Fighter, Tekken and even the Soul Calibur series. On the wrestling side of things we have always been fond of Virtua Pro Wrestling 2 (the Japanese No Mercy), Def Jam: Fight for New York and all the old school wrestling games from the N64. I think the combat mechanics like the rock/paper/scissors and risk/reward elements found in some of the wrestling games that came out in the N64 era were simple yet very addicting.
Hammer: Your animation system is amazing. Can you explain it?
NN: I think the reason why our animations stand out is because our tools and philosophies behind creating attacks and getting animations into the game is all designer driven. Designers have complete control over how the animations look and feel within the game. In each animation we can control blending, timing, velocity as well as a myriad of other functions. If I think an attack is too slow, I can trim frames and adjust the play rate of the animation and literally be playing the modified attack in realtime. It is all about rapid iteration!
Even though our game runs on a modified version of the UnrealEngine3, all of our combat tools are homegrown and have been refined over the course of many years. Additionally, our most important asset is our combat designers who are all part animator and have an amazing eye for detail and ability to capture a responsive gameplay feel. At the same time, it doesn’t hurt of have one of the best mocap/animation/director in the industry in Sal DiVita on the team to work with the various groups get the highest quality animation data.
Hammer: How did you differentiate Superstar/Legend from Superstar/Legend?
NN: WWE All Stars is really all about the combat experience so it was so critical that all of the classes and characters played completely different. In order to accomplish this we wanted to establish some base game mechanics in each character class then build off these ideas at a character level to really give these characters a different play style. For example, we might build a brawler who has a lot of combos but he tends to play different because he has the ability to start charging powerful strikes from any branch within these combos. Alternatively, we may create another brawler who is primarily offensive and wants to get into his victims face and employ punishing strikes that stun his opponent or set him up for other powerful attacks. Even though the brawler is all about combos and strikes we can create different variations of brawlers that utilize the core mechanic of combo-ing and take it to another level.
Why would I want WWE All Stars if it’s “arcade?” I like simulation games. What are some “sim” aspects to All Stars in terms of gameplay?
NN: Even though All Stars is an over the top stylistic take on the WWE, we went back and looked at moves that Superstars have performed during their entire careers. For example, fans will notice Stone Cold performing his stun gun signature move from his Stunning Steve Austin days or CM Punk doing his hammerlock clothesline that he hasn’t done since his Indy days. Our goal here was to be authentic as possible and really capture the true essence of each Superstar throughout their entire career.
Hammer: How deep is the combat system in All Stars?
NN: I feel that All Stars is a hardcore fighting game in an arcade over the top setting. The game is definitely very competitive and the combat team was heavily focused on maintaining the balance needed for a competitive game. Every attack’s startup, active, recovery and range was tuned religiously to ensure that attacks were not overpowered and balanced according to all the other attacks in the game.
I think the amount of depth in All Stars is one of the things that will surprise most gamers. We designed every character to have unique combo chains, timing and purposes for each attack. Also, the combo chains and juggle attacks are designed to work in conjunction with each other. This gives players the freedom to discover how to combine combos together to perform really insane attacks. For example, you can play the Ultimate Warrior and perform one particular combo chain to pop the victim into the air then use another combo chain that he has to blast your victim out of the ring on the final hit. This is cool because it allows the hardcore gamer to discover or invent new combinations of their own.
Hammer: What is your favorite match type?
NN: Our favorite match type here at THQ San Diego is definitely Tornado Tag Elimination. The multiplayer matches are all about team strategy and team makeup. I would compare it to playing 2v2 arena in WoW. Working effectively as a team and learning how to isolate opponents, switching targets at the right time and knowing when to use extreme moves or finishers are elements that add an awesome new dimension to All Stars.
Hammer: Anything else we need to know?
NN: The characters (especially grapplers) are loaded with a lot of hidden combos, branching and abilities from various contexts that might take a while for gamers to find."