For many years the WWE 2K series has been the driving force in Wrestling video games on the major Console market. With games coming to the Major next gen Consoles like AEW Fight Forever and Wrestling Code, and games already released bringing the old school vibe like Wrestling Empire and RetroMania Wrestling to the Nintendo Switch, the Wrestling game market gets healthier and richer with variety with each passing month.
This gives opportunity for development teams to explore a different vision from the high-quality visual Simulation Sports Entertainment Machine in WWE 2K22 and beyond. Many of these games have taken the route to speed up gameplay and create a more arcade like experience.
With the pace becoming faster some have felt the game tends to move away from the Sport it's simulating and becoming a "Fight game in a Wrestling Ring" With a lot of things that give Pro Wrestling its distinct flavor taking a back seat. In comes Ultra Pro Wrestling, a game ready to bring Pure Wrestling to all major platforms.
Ultra Pro Wrestling is a wrestling video game that brings the philosophy & psychology of wrestling to the forefront in its gameplay, looking to the past success of Wrestling games and building upon the strong points of that formula.
Developed by Hyperfocus Games, one of the strongest points of inspiration is AKI corps WWF No Mercy, a game considered by many to be one of the best wrestling games that holds up even today.
We got a chance to speak with the Dev team about Ultra Pro Wrestling, and its goal to bring a different flavor to today's Wrestling Video Game Landscape.
TheSmackdownHotel: What would be the best way to describe Ultra Pro Wrestling?
Ultra Pro Wrestling: Ultra Pro Wrestling is a new wrestling video game which prioritizes gameplay and the philosophy of wrestling. When compared with other wrestling games out there I often view them as either “sports entertainment simulators” or as “fighting games which happen to take place in a wrestling ring”.
In my opinion there have been very few games over the years which understood the difference between wrestling and fighting. (Chief among the ones that did would be the AKI series of games released on the Nintendo 64). So, without trying to take anything away from the other games out there, I’d describe UPW as a true or “pure” wrestling game.
When you say a Pure Wrestling game, what opportunity does that present to separate UPW from the pack?
Ultra Pro Wrestling: As a small independent team I know we don’t have the budget to compete with the likes of WWE in certain areas. We don’t have any license for real promotions or wrestlers. We don’t have the resources to produce photo realistic graphics, nor do we have the capability of motion capture for the game's animations. But UPW will have the advantage when it comes to core gameplay.
I feel I truly understand the difference between wrestling and fighting from a gameplay perspective. To give an overly simplistic comparison, Fans of the fighting games prefer fast paced action where players are rewarded for rapidly smashing buttons faster than their opponent. The goal there is simply to beat your opponent and win the match. Back in the day these fans were opposed to games like No Mercy because of how “slow” it was. But No Mercy wasn’t a fighting game. It was a “pure wrestling game”.
The fans of No Mercy generally view wrestling as an art form and thus, the realistic or “slow” execution of moves gave those moves more meaning and importance. With No Mercy you weren’t just playing to win, you were telling a story with your match. Especially if you were up against someone of equal skill. A single match could be an epic back and forth, lasting over an hour with almost every move being countered and reversed. Every so often the match itself was so epic you actually hoped your friend would kick out of your pin attempt so that the fun could continue.
That’s the experience players can have with a pure wrestling game and with any luck UPW will one day be the best game for giving players that experience.
The pacing of many mainstream wrestling games of today seem to do just as you mentioned and put an emphasis on the moves with some feeling like they lack weight behind them and are just 'moves'. No Mercy is a strong example of a game that evolved from its predecessors, learning what works and improving on each feature. What ways do you feel you could improve on that formula?
Absolutely. A lot of what we are doing with UPW is looking at those old AKI games and trying to imagine what those developers would have done had they kept going. We know that by the time No Mercy came out they were struggling with the limitations of the console and were having to remove things from previous versions such as the full entrances.
They also could only manage 4 characters on screen at once which meant they couldn’t have a referee present. But we know exactly what an AKI referee would look and feel like because all the animations and ai mechanics were built for the “guest referee” match.
We also see how each iteration of those games grew over time. Like the weapon system. Initially in WCW vs NWO you could only really hold a weapon. If you tried to run it would spring from your hands and drop through the floor.
Then with WCW Revenge you were able to run with it, but again if you got hit or dropped it, it still fell through the floor. By No Mercy, you could drop it, pick it up, run with it and even throw it halfway across the ring at you opponent. So how might that mechanic have been expanded on in hypothetical future versions of those games? Perhaps climbing the turnbuckle with it? Or with the chair, wedging it in between the ropes of the corner.
Perhaps we would have had a button to unfold it and use it for moves like Sabu’s triple jump moonsault? I’m sure those ideas are implemented in other games but what interests me, is thinking about how those things would have worked in the AKI engine. That’s really the approach the UPW team is taking to a lot of the gameplay.
Taking the approach of improving upon a successful feature and imagining what the next step could be before implementation! Another feature that was well received from the No Mercy era was some of the sub features that could affect match flow. Weight Detection and injuries such as temporary KOs. Is this something UPW is also looking to implement?
So, in thinking about the weight detection and all the other in-ring systems like injuries and even the blood mechanics. We’re looking at how those old games treated those systems and trying to think how they could expand on in a way the original developers would have wanted.
In speaking with features beyond core gameplay, Let's touch on something that almost has become second nature with Wrestling games, and that's the Creation Suite. What's the current plan with this?
Yeah, the creation suite was another one of those features which evolved over time and became such a big part of what made those games so much fun. As UPW won’t feature any licensed promotions or wrestlers, the ability to create your own is such a crucial part of the game.
In fact, it was so important that the development of our creation suite started before any actual in-ring gameplay. With UPW we don’t want a “Main Roster” and a separate menu for a “CAW roster”. We don’t want any of your creations to feel separate from the game, so every character, event and even promotion, will be fully customizable. We also want to give fans a lot more choice when it comes to creating events.
So, for example, when it comes to choosing a ring. You can have a “pro” or “WWE” sized ring, an 18-foot ring (which is better suited to smaller independent shows), or a 6-sided ring. We even have a few unlock-able ring types which I might keep as a surprise for now.
You even have a choice when it comes to the ring ropes. The traditional bouncy WWE style rope or the stronger, tighter elevator wire used more often on the Indy’s. As for our current progress on that, the “create an event” and “create a wrestler” are fully functional with the exception of assigning moves in the CAW (Animating moves is what we are currently working on now)
Strong options for the Creation Suite? As mentioned earlier this game is also planned to be released on all major Platforms, correct?
Yeah Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo are what we are going for. But it’s possible the game will be released initially on Steam with PC and Mac versions.
Any information on a release date or early access at this stage of the development cycle?
At this stage our rate of development is very dependent on funding. We have an office and a handful of people working on this whenever we can but don’t yet have the funds to all be working full time.
We have a few fundraising ideas and that may involve releasing a playable demo to patreons. But without funding it could be a couple of years before it’s ready for a mainstream release.
Wonderful. In closing anything you'd like to mention to our readers?
I'd like to encourage anyone interested in this project to follow us on social media (Linked below). Being a relatively small team, we really appreciate any and all support
Thank you to the Dev Team of Ultra Pro Wrestling for taking the time to speak with us regarding the upcoming game. Below will be all the Social Media links to follow with their progress along with some options to reach out to the team directly if desired.