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 First Interview: WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009

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PostSubject: First Interview: WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009   Sat Mar 29, 2008 9:34 am

Cory Ledesma is the Vince McMahon of THQ's SmackDown vs. Raw franchise. No -- to our knowledge -- he doesn't make a public spectacle out of firing his underlings, fighting his coworkers in steel cages or having a bizarre relationship with Hornswoggle, but if you wanted to know exactly what was happening with the WWE, you'd ask Vince, and if you wanted to know exactly what's up with THQ's annual grappler, you'd ask Cory, the title's senior creative manager.

With today's announcement that WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 is storming your videogame console of choice, we decided to go one-on-one with Ledesma and try to pin him down with questions about downloadable content, the DS RPG approach and about a billion other burning WWE questions.

He didn't hit us with a chair. Somehow we doubt Vince would be as nice.


Mr. Kennedy cares not for your rules (Xbox 360).

IGN: Cory, thanks so much for joining us here. Let's get right to it. Four months removed from SmackDown vs. Raw '08, what did you take away from the reaction both in terms of readers and reviewers?

Cory Ledesma:
What did we take away from the reaction? Well, you know we're always looking to improve each year. We're very humble. We don't have a big ego. We definitely always see room for improvement in the franchise, so we've always welcomed criticism. We always welcome feedback on areas that fans really like so that we can continue to figure out what areas to develop and what areas need some improvement. So really we started pre-production this year quite early. We started a couple months before SmackDown vs. Raw '08 even came out, so we've had a big head start on our new game. We've had a long lead time to go ahead and develop some new features and to get our kind of wish list together of new features that want to add to the game, so we really feel really comfortable that going into SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 we think we're going to deliver an awesome feature set that the fans have been asking for as well as some new surprises that they probably won't see coming.

IGN: Well talking about '09, you're always a very outspoken person, we love that. Tell us, what is the new feature for '09 that knocks your socks off personally.

Ledesma:
There are two big features that we're talking about at the announcement. We actually have a lot of the other features we're going to wait to reveal a little later on. I just want to stress that we're definitely going to have some cool surprises later on, but the two big features we're talking about now -- that I'm really excited about both -- is the first one is Create-A-Finisher. So now players are going to be able to create their own finishing move, put it on either Create-A-Superstars or existing WWE Superstars. We have a brand new creation interface that lets users piece together over 500 animations.

IGN: Wow.


Ledesma: They can piece together their move to mix in different kinds of holds, different taunts, different moves. If you want to have a pin on it, do you want to speed up the animation, do you want to slow it down? We have a lot of different options in there for you to really customize the finishing move that you really want, so this is a big, big feature. A lot of fans have been asking for a creation mode like this and we're really happy to deliver it this year, and we also think it gives players another way to customize their experience. They already have Create-A-Superstar, they already have Create-An-Entrance, and now, they're going to be able to go in further and create their own finishing moves. So you know, Greg, if you want to go ahead and create your Create-A-Superstar -- the "Greg Master" or "Greg the Destroyer" -- you're also going to be able to create your entrance and you're also going to be able to customize the way you're going to devastate opponents through this finishing move.






[size=9]Save me (PS3)![/size]


IGN: On behalf of all the fans: oh my God, that's awesome. How does that come together? I know as a fan, that's something we've been asking for forever. How do you work inside the limitations of that? Obviously you guys mo-cap all your moves and make sure they look as realistic as possible. Do you have to cobble together different pieces or how do you go about tackling that?

Ledesma:
Yeah, we spent a lot of time thinking about exactly how we wanted this feature to be laid out and we were first talking about, "What should be the goal for Create-A-Finisher? For the player, what does he want to create?" And really we were thinking, "OK, well, he either wants to create moves that no one has ever seen before or he wants to create moves that other wrestlers outside this organization do or maybe past wrestlers do." So really, we didn't want to focus on just recreating or adjusting existing moves, we thought, "Hey, that's not really fun. We want to create brand new moves that no one's ever seen before, or moves that other Superstars do that they don't have access to." Really that was the vision for the design of Create-A-Finisher, so with that in mind, we wanted to motion capture animations that were unique, different than what you typically see in the WWE.

IGN: I know you want to keep so much of it behind closed doors and keep people exited for it and not give it all away, but does it break down into pieces? Do you have to pick A, B and C from a pool of 500 motions to get it down to one solid move?

Ledesma:
Yeah, what it's going to be is you're actually going to have an allotment as far as how much memory you have to work with and it works up to about ten pieces you can piece together. That's your maximum. So you can go ahead to chain together a big, long ten piece. So, I'm not sure if you're familiar with the former Superstar Eddie Guerrero's "Three Amigos?"

IGN: OK.

Ledesma:
He did the three suplexes?


IGN: Yeah, yeah.

Ledesma:
If you really wanted to go all out, you could add eight suplexes in there, and just go crazy. Or you could add eight powerbombs. You have the eight steps to work with, so you can add in as much as you want. It can be additional taunts, if you want to transition to different holds, if you want to add spins in there, you can have the guy rotate. You have a lot of different options for what you can do.

IGN: Wow, awesome. Well, you said there are two main parts that get you going. What's the other one as far as new features?

Ledesma:The other big feature is that we're overhauling our tag team match. What's really exciting about this is that we've pretty much had the same tag team match in there for a while, and it really plays like a single match with a legal partner waiting on the side.

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PostSubject: Re: First Interview: WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009   Sat Mar 29, 2008 9:57 am

IGN: Yeah, that's one of the things that -- looking at it ahead of time -- that's going to be a hard sell I know for me personally because I've been playing for years, and it's like whenever I'm doing my single-player career, you get to that one point where you have to do the tag match. So, you tag out immediately and then drag the other guy out and just get the count out so you can move on.

Ledesma:
Right.

IGN: How do you change that?

Ledesma:[/bSo basically we've added a bunch of new abilities and we've added some big changes to the tag team match itself. I'll highlight a couple of those big changes so you can kind of get a taste of how the new tag team approach will play like. First, one big change is that both members will function under the same momentum meter now. Instead of having separate meters, you work as a team. So this encouragement is used for you to work as a team and you are using the same exact momentum. So that's one big change. We're also adding attributes as a team, so you can continue to get better and earn new abilities with your team. That means you can earn the ability to do special tag team abilities that we're going to have in gameplay that you can -- as you get better as a team, the more you play with that team, that partner -- you'll start to gain these abilities, and I'll start talking about some of these abilities as well.


[b]Pause for dramatic effect (Wii).


IGN: OK, sounds great. Is it working in that RPG realm that you guys kind of touched on with 24/7 Mode, or is this something that can be -- you're earning attributes even when you're doing exhibition stuff with a friend?

Ledesma:
This is actually starting to work a little more like fighting style abilities, where you earn these and they become fighting style abilities where you have these abilities. Another big change we're doing is that double team moves will actually -- you know, in past tag team matches they seemed like a single match because you're also doing single finishers. This year, we want to do double team finishers.

IGN: How does that work? You were talking about looking at other organizations or old wrestlers, are we going to see stuff like the 3D or the Steiner Brothers out there?

Ledesma:
I can't comment on those in particular. We definitely want to have a lot of, we're definitely adding a lot of double team moves this year. We definitely want to have a wide variety for you to choose from, but really since you're working with the same momentum meter for both players, when you get that build and you do finishers, you have to do a double team finisher. That's the way it really works.

IGN: OK.

Ledesma:
Also, I was talking about some of the underlying changes with tag match, but really what we're doing is, we want to make it fun to be the illegal partner. The past is not fun; you sit on the side and wait for the guy to tag you in. There's no fun in that whatsoever. Now what we're doing is we're giving the illegal partner a lot more abilities. Now he can do stuff like he can clutch the opponent when he's close by and hold him back so that your partner can go ahead and beat on them, so you're going to be able to do that. He's also going to be able to distract the referees. The referee's close by -- he can grab the referee and distract him. We're also going to have [with] the illegal partner the ability to grab the top rope and bring it down if a guy's Irish Whipping so that he flies right over the top rope. You know the move I'm talking about?

IGN: Yeah, yeah, nice.

Ledesma:
We're also going to have taunting abilities that let you hit the turnbuckle or clap to get the crowd involved and boost up your momentum. We're going to have a lot of abilities like that that really encourage the teamwork side of it where there's some strategy. Like I said, you go ahead and Irish Whip the opponent and I go ahead and drop the ropes so he goes flying out. That encourages teamwork, but also gives the illegal partner something to do. In the past he just sort of sits there, and it's not fun to play that aspect of the tag team match. We want to change that, give them a lot more abilities.


And this one's for that rap album (Xbox 360).

IGN: I know it's early, so it's always hard to pin you down on a question like this, but what does this mean in terms of the roster? In a very general sense, because I know one of the major criticisms of last year was that there weren't a lot of tag teams on it. So are you going to see a thing like more of a focus as far as having people like Jessie or Festus or having the people together, or is going to be like you're teaming 'Taker and Cena and doing this tag team and stable thing together.

Ledesma:
That's a great question, and we thought about that quite a bit and really a lot of our features this year are supporting tag teams and we really want to push that. I can't name any specific Superstars, but I can say that we did focus on trying to get tag teams in the game because we realize how important that is. Greg, you know as a fan that tag teams isn't a huge thing in the WWE right now. There are not a lot of huge, big name tag teams, but there are quite a few tag teams in there. We wanted to make sure they're well represented in the game, and that this feature is supported well with tag teams on the roster, so that is definitely something we consider. I can't tell you who's in the game, but I can tell you that you're right on with that question because we asked ourselves that same question and factor that into the roster decision.

IGN: Definitely. And I understand, of course, so don't worry about not being able to tell me. I'm sure one day I'll find out, but beyond that even, what does this mean as far as AI? I'm going to get to it in a second that obviously that this -- from what I've seen overall -- this game appears to be really, really into co-op and really into having that other player, but if I was alone, is the AI better? Is the tag team, my partner, going know to pull down the rope and stuff like that?

Ledesma:
Love the question, and I'm sure that's probably something that's on everyone's mind. We are actually rewriting our entire AI engine this year. Our whole AI system is being rewritten and we are taking drastic steps and measures to make sure that the AI is not only extremely intelligent, but is well supported in all these new features that were added.

IGN: Wow, well that's quite the undertaking. I mean, from everything you guys have had in the past ...

Ledesma:Absolutely and the you know the big thing about it is that we're also looking at a bunch of new AI features as well. It's not just making sure that the AI is competent, that he's intelligent, but it's also toying around with doing some cool stuff like making each individual Superstar act like their real life selves.

IGN: Wow.

Ledesma: So that means that Undertaker is not doing diving attacks when it's not appropriate. It means that Undertaker is doing moves that set up his Old School, and he knows that he has the Old School and he knows that it's one of his best moves. So he has a sequence that sets up those types of moves. So what you'll see is you'll see the actual real life Superstars start to use their actual strategies, their actual moves to set up a lot of their personality, a lot of the actual moves that they do in real life programming. That's another cool thing that we're offering with our new AI engine.

IGN: Now, I've noticed that what I've read so far from you guys about '09 there wasn't talk of fighting styles. Is that's still in there, was that something that worked for you guys last year?

Ledesma:
Fighting styles will still be a part of the game. We're not disclosing exactly what we're doing with the feature yet. We will in the near future, but I can definitely say that fighting styles are still a part of the game.

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PostSubject: Re: First Interview: WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009   Sat Mar 29, 2008 10:39 am

IGN: Awesome. So let's get back to it again for all the people who are just joining what's going on with '09. Talk to me a little bit about co-op this year. It's being worked into Road to Wrestlemania, correct?

Ledesma: That's correct. So, for the first time ever, we're going to have a co-op storyline in our Road to Wrestlemania mode, and so you can play a multiplayer story and you guys are working as a team. You guys make decisions as a team, and I don't want to ruin the story or the outcome or anything like that, but basically you'll have some roads to cross and decisions to make as a team and you'll be able to play all the matches together. And this is the first time we're ever offering a feature like this.

IGN: So basically it's a tag team career?

Ledesma: A tag team storyline is the way I would phrase it because the Road to Wrestlemania mode this year is really focusing on the Superstar's path to WWE's biggest event, Wrestlemania.


Matt attack (PS3).

IGN: What does that mean for the single-player career or storyline? Is there a single-player component to that, or is there something different?

Ledesma: Absolutely, there will be multiple stories. There are multiple Superstars you can take through on their path to Wrestlemania, and so we're offering one tag team story, but we're also offering a lot of single-player stories as well, so you build up experience [for] different Superstars, and this year, each story is tailored around that Superstar and a much more specific storyline around that Superstar. So [there] won't be a lot of generic stories where you see Undertaker's not really doing something that you would see him doing on programming or is kind of generic that old roles can fit that. It's more that this is the Undertaker in the WWE and you get to live that life and you get to experience his path to Wrestlemania.

IGN: Well, I know as awesome as that is, getting specific sometimes can -- it makes a lot of work for you guys, and it can kind of limit it in a sense. Is there only a set number of people who can go through a storyline or can I still bring in my created wrestler?

Ledesma: For this Road to Wrestlemania mode, there is a set number of Superstars that we'll have in the mode. However, another mode that we're not discussing yet will be able to support a bunch more options for the players that like to have the free rein, the multiple decisions to use created elements in that mode, but we'll discuss it at a later point. Road to Wrestlemania mode: we just wanted to deliver a mode that offered very high quality stories, and some people might look at it like it's limiting us, but on the contrary, it's actually giving us more freedom. It's allowing us to develop much better stories because we're focused around one character. Those much better stories give us the opportunities to branch the stories a lot more, and also it gives us ability to go ahead and try some new things now as far as decision making, as far as multiple endings. It's giving us a lot more options of what we can do in the stories, so I actually think we're going to deliver the highest quality stories we've ever delivered in this mode. Sure you might not be able to play with, you know, some of the lower talent of the WWE roster, but you'll be able to play with a lot of the top talent. You'll experience triple-A quality stories, and not only that but gameplay within those stories because we're doing a lot of storytelling through gameplay as well.

IGN: Awesome. So, Road to Wrestlemania, the unnamed other thing that you can do with whoever you want to do -- [laughter] -- does GM come back, are we going to see that where if you want to play behind-the-scenes booker, you can?

Ledesma: We'll discuss that at a later point. We're not really talking about it just yet, but we'll definitely discuss that when it comes to discussing the other modes.

IGN: Well let's move on to something else you guys have made a point of: online. How's that working this year?


Ledesma: Definitely. You know, our online feature set has been fairly similar the last two years, so we wanted to offer some brand new features for online, and we definitely want to support a strong online community, and really blow that out.

IGN: Does this play into Road to Wrestlemania?


Ledesma: We're not really detailing how that's going to work just yet.





IGN: What about downloadable content?

Ledesma: This is very exciting. I think you mentioned at the very beginning of the call that you're asking, "What do we take away from some of the press or the fan feedback that we got from last year's game?" and a lot of times you hear "the roster."

IGN: Yeah.

Ledesma: The roster. The roster. The roster. We're committed to the rosters because it's the most important thing to the fans, and it is fairly important. We want to make sure that we're as up to date as possible. It's very difficult from a game development standpoint to offer a Superstar that, you know, debuts a month or two months before we ship. It really ties our hands at what we can do, so we want to offer downloadable content that players can get the most up-to-date experience possible.

IGN: Does that mean you're going to have wrestlers that you can download?

Ledesma: [long pause] ... we're not discussing -- [laughter]. The one thing that I can say is that we will have content available for use in the game that will update your experience for SmackDown vs. Raw 2009.

IGN: Mmmkaaaay ...

Ledesma: That's a wink, wink, you know...

IGN: Yeah, not really ready to talk about new stories or anything like that, huh?

Ledesma: [laughter] We'll blow it out soon.

IGN: Uh-huh, I'm sure you will. Real quick, before we move on to anything else, I'm the PlayStation Team guy, so I've got to ask: will there be voice chat in this one for online on PlayStation 3?

Ledesma: The plan is to have voice chat online for PlayStation 3.

IGN: OK, and have you thought at all about any Home functionality?

Ledesma: We're not discussing any Home functionality at this point.

IGN: Great. What else is going on? I mean, this obviously isn't limited to just 360 and PS3. What's going to happen over on the PS2/PSP side? Obviously last year they were not watered down, but they were kind of a different version of what you were seeing on those two consoles. What does that mean this year?

Ledesma: You know there are some things that we're able to offer in the Xbox 360 and the PS3 that we're not able to offer on the PS2 and PSP, mostly just because of the hardware, but really we want all of the experiences to be relatively the same. So you will see some differences in the feature set; however, they will be minor. Our major features such as Create-A-Finisher and the new tag team play will all be available on the PS2 and the PSP, so that will still be intact. However, we just -- we still want to deliver the same experience on all four platforms, but we don't want the PSP user to feel like he's getting a watered-down experience, or he's not getting the full feature set. On the contrary, we want to offer all the same features as much as possible across all the platforms, so really our goal is really to just deliver the same experience across all four.



IGN: Real quick before I forget again: you're talking about overhauling the AI. Are we going to see the same kind of thing over on the animation side?

Ledesma: We've identified five key things that we're addressing as a franchise. I mentioned one of them with AI. There are a couple other things that we're taking drastic measures to improve, so we highlight these five key things that we want to improve and we put our best effort and our best foot forward on these five things. So, I kind of want to detail these five things for you real quick.

IGN: Sounds good.

Ledesma: I already mentioned the AI. AI is right up there on the list of five things that we're drastically improving. The other one, which is really on the top of our list, is loading times. We are working very hard on cutting down loading times over 50 percent of what's currently in SmackDown vs. Raw 2008. So, we're making drastic cuts to the loading times, and we're putting a lot of effort in this area because we understand that gamers just want to hop right in, not be bogged down with loading times. So across the board -- that means going to games, going back to menus, before cutscenes -- all those loading times will be drastically reduced.

IGN: Well, that sounds great, but if you could put in some kind of code so that when it's the Kelly Kelly loading screen that is stays up a little longer, I'd be fine.

Ledesma: [laughter] We'll definitely put that one in just for you.

IGN: Thank you.

Ledesma: So, loading times is a big one. The third one that we're focusing on is commentary. We know commentary has some small issues. All in all, it's not terrible, but all in all, it definitely could see some improvement. I think the thing you hear the most is line repetition, so that's an area that we're definitely focusing on. We're also trying to improve the system as far as adding more play-by-play aspect instead of just a lot of funny chatter or banter. We want to add a lot more play-by-play, and this play-by-play will also factor in how you're doing in the match. We want to give you tips: "Chris Jericho needs to watch out right here. He's getting beaten down pretty bad." We want to add a lot of that commentary that will help you play the game as well as add a play-by-play aspect.

IGN: Are you going to keep the different teams for every show?

Ledesma: Yeah, we're going to keep the different teams for the different shows, so we'll have three commenting teams. And Greg, you know what? I challenge you to find another game that has three commenting teams, because --

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PostSubject: Re: First Interview: WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009   Sat Mar 29, 2008 10:45 am




IGN: I'll do my best.

Ledesma: That is a monstrous task on our end.

IGN: I have to imagine, especially if you're trying to get more specific and have them do actually what's happening in the match.

Ledesma: Absolutely, and you know it's kind of hard for gamers to understand what goes into that process. Maybe some day we'll do a little behind-the-scenes and show you all the work that's involved in the commentating for three teams, but really we're the only game that offers three commentating teams. If you play any other kind of game, sports games, they have one team and they use it for every part of the game. So this is the only game that really does that; it's a big challenge for us, but we're not going to back away. We're not going to make excuses. We're really going to step up our game, and we're going to offer a commentary system that's very comparable to what you see on WWE programming.

IGN: OK. What's four and five?

Ledesma: The fourth one is hit detection. I know a lot of people complain that, "Hey, I threw this weapon attack or I dived off the turnbuckle and I missed and it was really lame and I shouldn't have missed." We are going to try to clean up as much of that as we possibly can. We want you to feel very satisfied, and we want the controls to be really responsive and eliminate those issues where you felt as if you should've hit that attack or should have landed that attack. We understand the frustration that comes with that, and we want to eliminate that frustration. We want to make it feel like every one of your attacks connects with accuracy and consistency. We're definitely improving hit detection so that is not a concern anymore, so if you feel like you got the timing right and you were in the right place at the right time, you need to be rewarded for that.

IGN: Totally.

Ledesma: The fifth one is animation.

IGN: That's a big one. I know a lot of people complain about that every year, no matter what you guys do.

Ledesma: Absolutely, and you know we have a ton of animations in the game and we want to continue to add animations, not only just to improve the animation system, but we have to update it for the new characters every year in the game, the new features we have in the game. So every year, we actually pump in a lot of new animations, and what we do is we get rid of the old ones. The ones that were either robotic looking or from the past games and are not up to snuff now anymore, not to par. So we eliminate all those moves, but also we're doing some big changes to our blending system. We're continuing to refine that so that the transitions between moves are much smoother. So you don't ever see any kind of warping going on. Sometimes you might see your guy kind of warp into position, and we want to eliminate those warping situations. And we also want to spend time just with the quality of the animations; we want them to be very smooth, very snappy. We want them to be very quick, very concise and eliminate a lot of the robotic animations you might see. A lot of them happen to be their navigational animations -- moving around the ring or climbing up ladders or whatever it is. We're really looking to offer more realistic animations in those areas. We're also looking to improve facial animation as well. We know sometimes facial animation isn't -- it can't be its most lifelike, and we're continuing to improve that, add more bones to the face. It gives us a little bit more flexibility in the personalities that we can portray on the face.

IGN: Alright. Sounds like you have your work cut out for you this year.

Ledesma: It really is. You know, it's a testament to the reviewer/fan feedback. I don't, we don't want fans to think we're not listening. We don't want fans to think we're not concerned with these issues, and we're really looking to improve in all these areas and never kind of slack or sit back each year -- look to push the envelope in each of these areas.




IGN: Let's get to Nintendo. Let's start with the Wii a little bit. It was something completely new for you guys last year to go first to Nintendo -- let alone the Wii -- and try to do this whole new feature set. Coming away from that, how did you guys feel the Wiimote controls kind of worked out?

Ledesma: You know, we were very excited. The biggest thing we were excited about was really building the Wii from the ground up. It gave us the opportunity to not just do a straight port but to come up with gameplay and controls that fit the Wii console. That was something that we consider a very big success. Of course, you know fans want every single feature under the roof in the game and they want all the bells and whistles. We want to deliver that, but our first year execution, we were just extremely happy that we got the opportunity to build from the ground up and that we were able to take advantage of the Wii remotes and nunchuks and create gameplay that was arcadey, fast and very interactive -- that used the controls very well. So, from that standpoint, we thought it was a very big success, and we were very happy about it. From the standpoint of about how many features we had in there, you know, it was a year-one game. We knew that it might be a tad feature light, but that only gave us tons of room for improvement in the future years.

IGN: Well, definitely. Here we are, sophomore year, what did you guys keep? What did you dump? Did you add a lot of stuff to it this year coming into SmackDown vs. Raw 2009?

Ledesma: Yeah, actually we're adding a ton of stuff this year. That's kind of the goal this year is to beef up the feature set so that it's comparable to the other SKUs. We want to definitely add a whole bunch of match types. The player can play more than just six or seven match types. They now have a big list of match types that they're able to play -- and not only play, but experience with the Wii controls. We didn't just want to port over match types. We really wanted to create match types from the ground up that utilized the unique Wii controls. We are planning on having matches like the cage match and the ladder match and matches like that. We're planning on using Wii controls for all of those matches -- when you climb the ladder, you can picture yourself using the Wii nunchuk and remote. When you climb the cage, you can picture yourself using those controls. Definitely beefing up the match type list was a big emphasis for us this year. We wanted to make sure that the player had a wide assortment of matches that they can enjoy using the Wii controls. So first and foremost, that was definitely our biggest improvement.

IGN: OK. Definitely.

Ledesma: We also wanted to add other modes that were not in the game such as Create-An-Entrance and stuff like that to make sure that the players were able to access all the other modes that they were used to in SmackDown vs. Raw but weren't able to enjoy on the Wii. So, you can see the rest of the feature set fill out with a lot of those same features.

IGN: Now, I know from the announcement that you guys were talking about interactive entrances and victory scenes. How does that work?

Ledesma: Yeah, we really like these features. It's just getting you one step closer to feeling like you are the Superstar. We were kind of messing around with that a little bit last year where you were able to control the taunts with the Wiimote and nunchuk and you were able to act out all the taunts. That was a ton of fun, and we really just wanted to blow that out even further. Now during the entrances, you actually control the Superstar's taunts throughout the entrance.

IGN: Really?

Ledesma: So, at the stage, you get to decide what you want to do and there's a couple different options, and each option is unique for each superstar.

IGN: So, this doesn't mean that if I choose Rey, I have to jump off my couch in the very beginning with my fireworks does it?

Ledesma: [laughing] That's what we want you to do.

IGN: OK.


Ledesma: But we really wanted to carry that over into the entrances and victory scenes. Also, you do get the feedback that the entrances are kind of just -- you watch them once or twice, you get the feel of it, and then you skip them from here on out. But for the Wii, we want you to go ahead and experience the entrances and really not skip them over and really be able to have some interactivity in there so you can control the entrances and not only that, we give you in-match rewards for how well you did during your entrance as far as pumping up the crowd.

IGN: Oh really. What are those?

Ledesma: So those are just bonuses that you get depending on how successful you were in executing your taunts. We give you momentum bonuses that will impact you in the beginning of the match.

IGN: Oh, interesting.

Ledesma: So we also wanted to add a gameplay element to it as well and not just acting out the motions but also based on your success with them we also get rewards for it in-match.


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PostSubject: Re: First Interview: WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009   Sat Mar 29, 2008 10:49 am

IGN: Alright.

Ledesma: Basically, the player has a couple of different points throughout the entrances where they are able to take over interactive control. They also have a freestyle area on the ramp where they are able to do a lot of different motions all at once and kind of freestyle and do as many motions as they want, and we have a bunch of interactive points where you're able to take over control and execute the taunt you want.

IGN: Will something flash on the screen that actually lets me know that it's time to act like an idiot?

Ledesma: Absolutely. We have a little timer that goes off and tells you when you're able to perform your taunts and we also have a help prompt that explains to you how to perform each of the individual taunts. So just to give you some examples: Cena -- you're able to do his Marine salute on the ramp, you're able to go into the ring, you're able to grab his hat and toss it into the crowd. You're able to do cool little taunts like that. You do them all with the Wiimote or the nunchuk.

IGN: Great. Now, I'm looking over the fact sheet here and I'm seeing -- it's probably a typo -- but it says right under Nintendo Wii "online gameplay."

Ledesma: Crazy, huh?

IGN: Is that right? I mean, they told you you're developing for the Wii, right? Nobody wants that there.

Ledesma: I know, crazy.

IGN: How's it going to work?

Ledesma: We are going to take our first step into delivering online gameplay for the Wii. The feature will feature just gameplay and rankings. It won't feature anything as far as brand new features, but the player will be able to go online, battle other players across the country with the Wii game and be able to be ranked throughout. This is kind of our first stab at doing online for the Wii, and we're really excited about it. We want to have fans develop a community online and especially for the Wii because it's really starting to catch up with the other SKUs. We want to be there right at the beginning and help Nintendo develop that community.

IGN: Now, I know again it's so early as far as the planning phase, is this going to be something that makes use of your current Nintendo Wii friend code or are you going to need -- kind of like Super Smash Brothers Brawl -- an in-game friend code?

Ledesma: [laughs] Yeah, we're not detailing out everything just yet. We will in the near future, but as far as those details, we're just kind of leaving it blank for now.

IGN: Well, no sweat. Tell me a little bit about how Road to Wrestlemania works. Is it similar to the other ones as far as having storylines or is it completely different?

Ledesma: No, it's going to be very similar to the core SKU experience. We just wanted to let users know that "Hey, they're not going to be cheated out of the full story-mode experience." They're going to get the full thing on the Wii version as well. We will have some small things that are exclusive for the Wii as far as how you can utilize the controls and maybe the Wii speakers and stuff like that, but all in all, it's going to have the same stories and the same mode in both SKUs.

IGN: OK, what's happening on the DS? I know last year it was touch screen, swinging around, hitting everything -- is it similar to that? I know I saw some talk of the d-pad.

Ledesma: I'm really excited about the DS, but real quick before we jump over to that, I just want to point out one other feature on the Wii that we're excited about. I was talking about the interactive entrances, but we're doing something different on the interactive victory scenes.

IGN: Oh, really?


Ledesma: What we're doing there is after the match, after you've beaten your opponent you have a couple different options of how you kind of want to end the match -- what kind of taste you want to leave in the opponent's mouth. You have a couple different options -- you can do stuff like decide to shake his hand and tell him it was a good match or you can go ahead and beat on him a little longer with the chair or you can go ahead and knock out the referee. We're giving you a lot of different options, so now the victory scenes become an interactive moment in the game. It's not just watching some canned theme play out. You actually take over control of what you want to have happen in the victory scene. So, say you and I are playing, Greg.

IGN: Uh-huh.

Ledesma: Of course you know I whoop you like --





IGN: WHAT?!

Ledesma: And then I can choose to go ahead and smack you across the face to really just leave that bitter taste in your mouth at the end of the match. That kind of taunting and trash talking going on in the game will be alive and well on the Wii even into the victory scenes. It's something that we're really excited about, something we've had in past SmackDown games that fans really liked and were really excited for being able to do stuff after your victory scene. We think it fits the Wii perfectly because it's all interactive and you control yourself with the controls. That's just another feature I wanted to highlight.

IGN: No, definitely. Is that another thing that would pop up in the match as far as a prompt, or would I just know from past experience that if I waggle it this way or hit the d-pad that way that would happen?

Ledesma: What's really cool is that we're experimenting with a couple of different things, but you're able to free-roam/move around the ring.

IGN: Oh, wow.

Ledesma: Basically when you interact with certain elements within the ring or outside of the ring, it will trigger the opportunity for you to make a decision. So say I walk up to the referee, it will then trigger an option for me to do something with the referee.

IGN: I see.

Ledesma: If I go hop out of the ring and I go walk into a weapon, it will now let me pick up that weapon and go beat up on the guy. It's going to be context sensitive and you're going to be able to use elements of the environment to go ahead and trigger these moments.

IGN: Sounds great.

Ledesma: Yeah, it's really cool. So, now we can get back to the DS.

IGN: Yeah, totally.

Ledesma: Very exciting news on the DS. First and foremost, we are working with a new developer. The developer's name is Tose, and they're out of Japan. And the reason we chose to go with Tose is they just have a great track record with delivering great games. We wanted to take a brand new approach to the DS this year so we just felt it was the right time to go ahead and make this change and make this move.

IGN: For some of the readers out there, what has Tose been behind before?

Ledesma: Tose has worked on one of my favorite all-time games, which was Rocket Slime.

IGN: Oh, OK.

Ledesma: Have you played Rocket Slime?

IGN: I have, yeah. I remember the tanks.

Ledesma: It's an RPG-style thing where you can go ahead and build up your ammo and your tank weapons and stuff like that, and we really loved that RPG aspect and that is actually something we're pushing hard for in our season mode.

IGN: Oh, really. On the DS?

Ledesma: On the DS.

IGN: How's it work?

Ledesma: Basically what we're thinking is that you have a semi-free-roam environment -- it won't be like the Rocket Slime game -- but basically you're able to access different rooms and areas in the arena and go ahead and walk around and interact with Superstars, you can go to the WWE Shop and buy weapons to upgrade your character, you can go to the training area and work out your character and build up his attributes. We want it to be a free-roam environment where you're able to interact with either various rooms in the environment where you can boost up your character's skill level RPG-style or you can interact with characters in the environment. You can go ahead and jumpstart matches and rivalries. That's something that's totally brand new that we haven't been able to do in the past, and Tose really brings that expertise to be able to deliver a top notch single-player experience, so that is one thing we're very excited about.


IGN: You talked a little bit about -- in the press release and then even right here -- about you have to compete in these missions during the RPG thing. Are these missions along the lines of dating Mae Young or I have to pin someone in a certain amount of time?

Ledesma: That's hilarious. No comment on the Mae Young.

[Laughter all around.]

Ledesma: Basically you will have a lot of different missions throughout the mode, and really what it is is that say you're given a mission to take out Undertaker, and you're going to start out a kind of weaker character because you can use your created Superstar in this mode, and you're really going to have to develop your skills. You're really going to have to upgrade your character to be able to take him out. Very similar to a Rocket Slime type of game where you can't just bring a tank battle in and go up against a top notch guy -- you have to build up your arsenal, unlock new weapons, build up your skill set -- it's those kinds of aspects that really bring out the RPG style and lets you be successful in those missions.

IGN: Sounds great, I can't wait. As far as Create-A-Wrestler on the DS, how's that been? Is that hard? Is the cartridge limiting? I mean you guys have always been known for such a deep option there.

Ledesma: Yeah, it's definitely going to be nowhere near as robust as our core SKU obviously, but we're really excited to bring Create-A-Superstar to a Nintendo handheld. It's something we've never had on a Nintendo handheld. It was something the fans were asking about quite a bit, and so we're really excited to be able to do this. We feel that we're going to be able to have quite a few options to customize your character. The only place where it will be a little limiting is how many created Superstars you can save.

IGN: Oh, really?

Ledesma: So, some of out fans might be surprised because in our core SKU you can save something crazy like 30 wrestlers. Obviously, we won't be able to have that support on the DS, but you will be able to save a couple guys. It won't be to the extent of the core SKU, but that's the only really limiting factor is how many guys you can save.

IGN: Well, even beyond the created Superstars, I know I've been reading that there's more match types and more Superstars this year on DS, right?

Ledesma: That's right. We're really blowing out the DS, upgrading the feature set quite a bit. We have around 30 superstars to play with, which is a big upgrade over last year. We're also adding a bunch of new match types like cage match, table match, ladder match, those kind of matches. We're really excited about that because on our first effort on the DS we only had a couple matches and we had kind of a smaller roster. So, we're really blowing that out. We're packing a lot into this DS card. It's going to be more along the lines of a deeper experience; there's a lot more stuff you can do on the DS -- very comparable to the amount of features you have almost on the PSP as far as all the things you can do and how many hours you'll be able to play the game and still see new content.

IGN: OK. Real quick before we take off from DS, is it similar in control scheme? I mean, are people who mastered it last year going to be able to jump into this one easy or is it completely new since it is a new developer?

Ledesma: It's completely new. You know, we tried an original approach with last year's effort, and we really wanted to take a different stab at this year. What we're doing is we're going back to more of a traditional wrestling-style game where it's not you move from sequence to sequence but actually you have full movement around the ring, you can choose whether you want to strike/grapple at any time, we have a light grapple and heavy grapple. We're going back to more of a traditional wrestling gameplay style, and we are not involving too much stylus control. We are having stylus control in there, but it's not the entire game as it was in the past effort. This is something that we're really excited about because we think the fans were expecting more of a traditional wrestling style with the DS controls and so now we feel we are really, truly able to deliver that this year.

IGN: OK. Cory, before I focus in to wrap up on what you love and what you're excited for and why this is going to be the greatest game of all time, I have to be selfish. Tell me, is ECW Extreme Rules Match back in the core SKU?

Ledesma: Yes.

IGN: Oh, thank you!

Ledesma: Extreme Rules is back in the core SKU.

IGN: OK, great. Are you making changes to it or is it pretty much going to be what we saw before or do you not want to talk about it?

Ledesma: We won't talk about it just yet. We'll definitely blow it out later.

IGN: Sounds good.

Ledesma: It's definitely still going to be in there.

IGN: At least I can sleep at night knowing I'll still make flaming 2x4s and hit people in the face.

Ledesma: Absolutely.

IGN: Also real quick, too, I know last year on the core SKU, there was a little set of differences between PS3 and 360 -- namely that 360 could import its own music and then PS3 had the first-person mode. Are we going to see more of a crossover there? Are PS3 people going to be able to take music off their hard drives this year?

Ledesma: Yes, we are planning on the ability to rip music for the PS3 and offer that for created entrances. That option will be available. The reason that it we didn't do it last year was simply because the Sony libraries weren't ready for us to do it. It wasn't because we have something against the PS3 owners or being selfish for the Xbox owners. It was just simply a matter of not being able to do it. So, this year, we're really excited that those libraries are available and able to offer that feature.

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PostSubject: Re: First Interview: WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009   Sat Mar 29, 2008 10:52 am

IGN: I know we already talked a little bit about downloadable content; are we going to see stuff -- not even just for this aspect of downloadable content but overall on the systems, PS3/360 -- are you going to see exclusive features on each one or are we going to have one more unified approach this year?

Ledesma: You know, in the past they've been pretty uniform with slight differences here and there, and really, we're keeping along the same lines where the game is similar across both platforms, but you will see some slight differences here and there as far as exclusive features. Nothing major like we're introducing a new mode or anything like that.





IGN: OK. Cory, we can take it back to you now: tell me why should people be excited? Why is 2009 going to be the greatest SmackDown vs. Raw game of all time?

Ledesma: Wow.

IGN: No pressure.

Ledesma: You know, last year was -- I hate to use the word "transition year," but it was a challenging year for us. We got up to speed on so many SKUs, and so usually your freshman effort on new SKUs, you don't always deliver exactly what you want to deliver. On our sophomore effort, on a lot of these new SKUs, and the fact that we kind of got our bearings now and delivery working on six different SKUs, we feel a lot more confident in the quality that we're going to be able to deliver across all the SKUs. So, that's something I'm very excited about, and something I just want to reiterate to the fans is that now that we have our bearings, we're able to deliver a really full feature set, we're able to work on a lot of franchise improvements like we discussed earlier about loading times, about the AI overhaul, about improving commentary -- those are going to make huge differences to the game, but on top of that we're able to go ahead and really offer a full feature set and introduce cool features such as the Create-A-Finisher mode. I think fans are going to absolutely love that. The last time we had a creation mode like that was really way, way back in the day when we had the Create-A-Taunt system.

IGN: Oh yeah.

Ledesma: I think that was around SmackDown 3 or something like that. Four. And that was a long time ago, but it was a very cool system and we're very excited about being able to offer something like that, and it really helps you complete the package of creating your own character. We've found through some of our own focus testing that Create-A-Superstar is by far the most popular feature. Fans create tons and tons of created Superstars. We want you to continue that experience and have fun and go that extra step of creating your own finisher as well so you kind of complete the whole package. Throughout the years, that's what we've been doing. We added Create-An-Entrance, we added different things to fully customize your character, and this is kind of the next step that let's you carry over to gameplay -- not just the aesthetic visuals but also adding your spin on your character to gameplay. I'm really excited about that feature. And we only talked about a couple of key features now, but we have tons and tons of future feature announcements, plenty of surprises. We're talking about new match types, new modes, a bunch of new superstars, a bunch of new gameplay enhancements we're not even talking about just yet. I really think we're already talking about some cools stuff, but we have plenty of stuff in the future that fans are just going to eat up. I'm just really excited this year for SmackDown vs. Raw 2009. I think it's going to be a really complete game that fans are going to be extremely happy with.

IGN: Well, it sounds great Cory. Thank you so much for talking to us.

Ledesma: Absolutely. My pleasure.

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