The pro wrestling game made for the fans

Exclusive Interview with Action Arcade Wrestling

There is a new wrestling game coming to Xbox Live Community Games, and we have an exclusive interview with the developer. He’s been a long time BIG supporter of PWX and I ask that all you other PWX supporters return the favor and check out his game, Action Arcade Wrestling, when it debuts on Xbox Live this Fall. If you’re a fan of old school arcade wrestling games and quicktime events like in Legends of Wrestlemania I think you’ll really enjoy the game from what I’ve seen so far. So, let’s ask the developer some questions shall we!

Why should wrestling gamers get excited about Action Arcade Wrestling? What makes it different or similar than all of the other wrestling games we’ve come to love or hate?

Probably the biggest thing Action Arcade Wrestling attempts to do is bring back some really good memories for a really good price. I have been extremely impressed with the recent “2.5D” games (i.e. the new releases of Bionic Commando, Turtles in Time, New Super Mario Brothers., etc.) and I thought – wow, it would be so cool to have Wrestlefest, NES Pro Wrestling or the old SNES WWF games released like that.

I think I remember you saying once that PWX started out to be No Mercy 2, but now it’s evolved and turned into something different. Simmilarly, I wanted to make Wrestlefest 2, but now it’s evolved into something completely different. And that’s really exciting to see the game take a new shape naturally like that.

What would you say has surprised you most about your experience developing Action Arcade Wrestling? What do you know now that you didn’t know then or perhaps thought you knew and were proven wrong?

I would say I learned how unique wrestling games are in comparison to other genres of games. I think there is a reason why there are very few wrestling games other than the big retail ones. I mean, the number of animations alone that you need to make even the basic wrestling game is unbelievable.

Right now I have about 463 animations (not moves, but total animations), and I had to keyframe all of them. It’s no wonder you don’t see a lot of wrestling games coming out by indie developers. And it’s amazing how you have to modify any game engine to make a wrestling game work, because they have such unique requirements.

How did you handle the workload and how did you decide which tasks you would handle yourself and which you would outsource to someone else?

From the experience that I have gained in both creating games in the past and creating interactive multimedia in general, I knew what my talents were and limits were. I outsourced the background graphics for the main arena and crowd, I bought a CD of 16-bit retro sounding music and sound effects, and I hired a consultant to help me figure out how to modify the engine to handle a create-a-wrestler.

Unless I’m forgetting something, I think that’s it. Everything else, I created myself. And as far as the workload, I’d work on it any time 1) I wasn’t doing something with my wife, 2) I wasn’t at work or church, 3) there wasn’t a Penguins or Steelers game on TV or 4) I wasn’t playing NHL 10 on Xbox 🙂

I always thought that you approached this very intelligently and avoided the common mistake of trying to do too much too soon. Years ago you started with just a simple Shockwave game and progressed from there. But if you had to do it all over again is there anything you would change?

A:I think I would have started to go the arcade-style route sooner. I did some early visual basic games that were never released even before the Shockwave game, and back then, I loved wrestling and video games, but no wrestling video game was ever “simulation” enough for me.

I mean even the most sim-like wrestling games (No Mercy, Fire Pro, etc.) still really weren’t capturing their real-life counterpart like the hockey or football games were. And I was constantly going back and playing Wrestlefest, NES Pro Wrestling, even SNES Royal Rumble.

Admittedly, all worse games than No Mercy, Fire Pro and SVR, but fun nonetheless. But then I realized why. I honestly think that a wrestling game is more fun if it’s a little more “arcadey”… not Wrestlemania Arcade or WWE All-stars style mind you, but like the Wrestlefests and the others I mentioned.

Video games are competitive. Pro Wrestling is not – it’s a show. It’s tough to simulate the show in a competitive video game. Plus now, with SVR starting to use real-time physics and coming a long way from where they were 5/10 years ago, and games like PWX on the way, the sim-market is much better now and it’s nowhere that I want to be thrown into the mix. Fun retro arcade style is definitely the way to go for me.

How do you achieve such an “arcadey” feel? Can you give us a brief rundown of your control scheme and use of quick time events?

When you get right next to an opponent, you are entered into a grapple. One player will be at an advantage and one will be at a disadvantage – visually shown by whatever player is being pushed down (the typical Wrestlefest / SNES animation and determined by which player has been struck more times prior to the grapple.

Then a quicktime event (QTE) happens. If the advantage player hits the correct button first, they now control the grapple and can do a move, drag him around, or whip him to the ropes. If the player with a disadvantage wins the QTE, they then become the advantage player and another QTE is initiated.

So the disadvantaged player can reverse any grapple, but they have to win at least 2 QTE’s in a row where the opponent only has to win one. On the higher difficulties, you really have to have some reflexes. If you happen to stun the other opponent (by striking him with the X button more than 3 times, performing a strong strike with the B button or striking him with a player that’s been “hot-tagged”), you enter in a grapple and there is no QTE. The strikes can be reversed with the A button to dodge.

I also use QTE mini-games when doing things like climbing a cage, eliminating someone from a battle royal, and getting up after several hard hits. It’s fairly reflex-intensive.

There are always debates over the use of QTE’s but I’ve found they work really well with non-sim wrestling games. If I could substitute a QTE to win a grapple instead of button-mashing in the old LJN SNES games, I would love it.

So its a nice cross between Fire Pro and Legends of Wrestlemania…that’s a nice wide target market! So with all of your PC development experience why make the switch to XBox 360? Was there a dominant creative, technical, or business lure?

Well really I’ve always been a console fanboy only because I grew up with a NES and not a powerful 386 IBM when I was a kid. The only reason I made games for the computer was, well, that was all that was available to indie gamers. Console development was locked. Now with Xbox Indie Games, it gave me the opportunity to see my games on my big LED TV with a controller in my hands.

Plus it was nice knowing what the end user will be experiencing. With PC development, my God, you have no idea what RAM, ROM, processor, resolution, operating system, or whatever else the user is running. This, if it looks good on my Xbox, it will look good on them all. Of course now I’m getting peer feedback like, “The game crashes if I select my memory card at the exact same time I pull out the same memory card.” or “The game crashes when I select my hard drive with my Rock Band Guitar and hit A on controller 4.” So every platform has its challenges.

Seriously? Those are some pretty whacky bugs. At least with the Xbox community you’ve got a large knowledge base to help fix those. So what now? Your twins will be toilet trained soon enough and you’ll get time to tinker again. The success of this game must have you thinking about the next one?

Ha! Well the success is yet to be determined, but even if I only sell a couple copies here and there, I’m really really happy with it. When it’s all said and done, at least I can say I made simple-but-fun commercial wrestling game pretty much all on my own, released it for a great price so people can enjoy it, and say that I’m really really proud of it.

I’m so very fortunate that God blessed me and my wife with our upcoming twins. Come September/October, they and they alone are my priority when I’m not running my business. And yes in a few years, I might get some of that free time back, but I’ll probably still just want to play with my kids until they don’t want me to anymore.

But as of right now, after I release the game, other than fixing any bugs or exploits with updates (which I’ll do if needed), it’s family, church, the business, and anything else will be playing video games instead of making them.

This game is definitely my retirement. Yes it might end up being a “Ric Flair” retirement, but we’ll see. If there is another game, I don’t think I would re-invent another game from the ground up. I think I would still do a 2.5D arcade game, just with more features, bigger and better graphics, awesome online, etc. Who knows what will be available to indie developers in a couple years.

Maybe you’ll see Action Arcade Wrestling 2 for Xbox 720 or Playstation 4. Of course if a big game company wants to come and buy the engine and the rights from me and make a really great version of it for me, done and done. 🙂

So let me save you some time and ask you the questions you’ll almost certainly be asked again and again as a wrestling game developer: Is there create-a-wrestler? Is there blood? Is there Hell in a Cell? Is Hulk Hogan in the game? Why iznt this on teh PS3? UR lazy.

Ha! – oh man. Ok here goes…

Is there create-a-wrestler? Yes! And I’m pretty proud of my little CAW for a buck if I do say so myself 🙂

Is there blood? No – It would make me change the ratings of it, plus it’s retro arcade and there wasn’t blood in wrestlefest, so, ya know.

Is there Hell in a Cell? No, but there are a pretty decent amount of modes – again for a dollar – including, rumble, battle royal, cage, tag team, steel man (iron man match), and something a little new called steel men. That one is like a four man iron man match. The guy with the most pins at the end wins.

Also, I have single and tag team championship modes which are fully customizable. So much so that, using the CAW, the Arena Edit feature and said championship modes, you could actually get pretty close to simulating the entire game of NES Pro Wrestling fighting single matches all the way up to a CAW version of Great Puma. Or, like Wrestlefest, fight your tag team up to CAW versions of the road warriors.

Is Hulk Hogan in the game? Train, say your prayers, eat your vitamins and use the create-a-wrestler 🙂

Why iznt this on teh PS3? Same reason why the game isn’t on Xbox Live Arcade. You need to get several licenses, pay fees, submit company numbers, download kits, all kinds of stuff. Xbox Indie is a free service for bums like me to release games they make on their laptops 🙂 PS3 as far as I know doesn’t have any indie games program. But trust me, I would love to release it on both Xbox Live and PSN if I could.

Q: Thanks for the interview, and good luck with everything. Business, parenthood, the game, you’re a good guy and you deserve it. Any closing remarks? Oh, and estimated release date?

The release date is slightly up in the air as the final step is out of my control. My plan is to submit it within the next month. Once it’s submitted, it needs to be passed by peer reviews. Once I get enough passes, the game goes live. So probably around September.

Closing words? Just to thank you so much for the interview. It really was my honor. As you know I’ve been a huge supporter and fan of PWX and I wish it nothing but tremendous success.

And of course thanks again, Dave, for the interview and I hope everyone really enjoys Action Arcade Wrestling. I think it’s a fun little wrestling game for a really good price, and hopefully something in it will make you chuckle out of nostalgia.

And as always, the latest information is always at my Facebook page.

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