I was able to sit down for a few minutes to chat with two members of the development team of WWE 2K17: Ramelle Ballesca, game designer from 2K, and Lynell Jinks, creative director from Visual Concepts. We covered some new additions to the franchise this year, including why there isn’t a “Showcase” mode this time around (including why Brock Lesnar didn’t get the treatment), and one of the most remarkably unremarked-upon pay-per-view wrestling events of all time. (Even though I already knew the answer, I thought it might be interesting to hear from their end just why that answer is… y’know, the answer.)
So here’s my chat with two guys more familiar with WWE 2K17 than I ever could be, Ramelle Ballesca and Lynell Jinks!
GameRevolution (Kevin Schaller): Promos are new this year. What went into the thinking of designing the promo system? Was there a specific idea you were going for?
Ramelle Ballesca (2K): The thing we really wanted to hit on this year for that is that these superstars aren’t only just faces (good guys) or heels (bad guys), but the best ones are really, really good faces and heels. So, the crowd can buy into either side, right? They can buy into either a strong face or a strong heel. That’s what we were really trying to nail.
GR: Are there any other really major overhauls this year over last year?
Lynell Jinks (Visual Concepts): Our biggest thing, our mandate this year, was to just up the ante on presentation. Make it feel more like what you see on broadcast, what you see on WWE Network. And we felt like the only areas we were really doing it and accomplishing that was in—I hate to say it—but was in ‘Showcase’. And so, we’re putting all our resources into ‘Showcase’ year after year, but when we do that, we neglect certain areas like ‘Career Mode’ or ‘Universe’.
So we’re like, you know what? Let’s really blow up the presentation, let’s up the ante on presentation during ‘Universe’ and ‘Exhibition’, make it feel more like you see on TV. So you’ve got run-ins (interrupt entrances/walking to the ring), the AI does a run-in, breakouts during victory scenes (attacks after the match is over), just the show presentation as well. When you go into ‘Universe’, you hit ‘go’, you get the show load for Raw or Smackdown!, or Main Event, Superstars, but also the pay-per-views as well.
We take it a step further for ‘Universe’, where you can create your own show. Create your own show-load video. You wanna make your own little transition video? Assign a song from our library to make it unique. Put your own logo on there. Go ahead. It’s always tough every year when we’re trying to chase what they’re doing on programming, and we have to put pencils down at some point. And they start into new things, and we’re like *frustrated groan*—but that’s where we kinda get off on giving the tools to do it. And we feel that by doing things like this, we take the same approach with victory, and you know if somebody changes their style or their look or whatever on the show, they can recreate it on their own when they get the game.
That’s kinda the mandate. I think overall we wanted to polish and present the game the way that users have been wanting it forever. I know we took a lot of features out when we made that jump from old-gen to current-gen. So now we’re re-evaluating all those modes we took out and trying to polish them and give it a new facelift. I hope we’re accomplishing that.
GR: It plays really well, and I did notice there isn’t a ‘Showcase’ this year. Probably would’ve been hard with Brock Lesnar being on the cover, that if you’d wanted to focus on his specific career… because nobody’s currently there that was there to help build his career (when he first debuted in WWE). Was there somebody else you would have wanted to do a ‘Showcase’ mode that you just didn’t get a chance to?
LJ: Not really. Obviously the natural selection would be to choose Brock, but then you look at everyone that we don’t have access to, didn’t seem like we’d do it justice. And so like I said, we looked at everything that we were lacking, as far as the other modes go, and we’re like ‘you know what? We can get more out of putting our efforts into blowing up ‘Career’ mode, ‘Universe’, and just give the user a much better experience.
And what they come to expect with what we’re doing with our NBA game. That’s our goal. We’re competitive. We used to be on the NBA 2K team, and so we understand that they’re the bigger brother, but we’re catchin’ up. And that’s our measuring stick.
GR: So there is an NXT Edition of the game that comes with four DLC characters (those characters are Nia Jax, Samoa Joe, Apollo Crews, and my spirit animal Shinsuke Nakamura). Is that going to be made bigger over time, where there’s going to be more DLC characters?
LJ: We’re supposed to announce the rest of our DLC plans soon, and so if you look on the Internet right today there might’ve been some leaks somewhere. *laughing* But yeah, our goal is to give users their money’s worth with our DLC plans. We announced some stuff last night, and it seems like that went over pretty well. We showed Eddie Guerrero to Sasha (Guerrero is her favorite wrestler) and I think she got the first sneak peek as to how he looks in the game.
GR: I miss Eddie.
LJ: We’ve got a bunch of wrestling heads on our team who are really excited to put their best efforts on making sure we represent him well. So we’re really proud of that one especially. Again with the NXT Edition, there’s some cool stuff in there as well that we’ll be happy to show you once it’s officially announced.
GR: Fair enough! One last question, this one kind of just for me. I saw a lot of WCW arenas and rings, but there’s one that I have not seen that WWE doesn’t really talk about, and WCW did NOT talk about (much) after it happened. And that’s Collision in Korea (a PPV event where WCW teamed with New Japan Pro Wrestling to perform in the DPRK/North Korea). Is there ever going to be a possibility that that can show up?
LJ: Given the state of… you know… around the world, I don’t know! Yeah, who knows?
GR: Is that a fair question? I don’t know!
LJ: Again, the users can create whatever they want with the creation tools we give ‘em! But yeah, who knows? Every year we do listen, I don’t know if it showed but we do listen. We check the forums, we watch you guys’ videos, everything. We see what people are requesting and we try our damnedest to try to deliver on all those fronts. It’s tough with the yearly cycle, but we try hard.
GR: Thank you very much for your time!
Devs: No problem!