March 29, 2007 - With today's announcement that SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 is hitting just about every platform known to man, we wanted to know more about it. To find out, we sat down to speak with THQ Creative Manager Cory Ledesma just before he headed out on a plane to Detroit for WrestleMania 23. Here's how it went down...
IGN: Last year was the first season where you were developing SmackDown for a platform other than a PlayStation system. What did you take from that experience and how are you going to apply that to 2008?
Cory Ledesma: We learned a whole lot about our fan base on the Xbox 360, for one, and we also learned that we want to utilize a lot of a console's specific features. So going forward, that's going to be our emphasis from now on -- getting to know our base on each platform, understanding what they want to see in the game, and fully utilizing that console's strengths to the best of our ability.
IGN: SmackDown '07 scored pretty well with reviewers but it also received a lot more criticism than the previous version did. Going into this year's game, how serious were you about addressing a lot of the concerns from the press and consumers?
THQ wants to make this Undertaker the 'Taker you want.
Ledesma: Whenever we get criticism we take it in stride. If there's a collective voice out there, we're going to put the things that the fans and the media have been vocal about at the top of our priority list. We pride ourselves on that -- listening to the people who show concern so we can give them the best game.
This year, just like every year, we researched the reviews of the game, listened to what the fans were saying on the boards, and went ahead and created our giant "wish list" based on that. Things that were hit on last year were examples like the AI for tag team matches -- that's something we really wanted to improve upon this year; the animation quality was talked about a lot; collision and clipping came up... we went ahead and listened to those things, put them as our top priorities and, right now, feel confident that we're going to address them well this year.
IGN: Personally, my biggest issue with the game was how dated it felt. Though I still liked it quite a bit, the animations and AI, like you said, felt old. Since you're specifically tackling those problems this year, what are you doing in those areas?
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AI and general awareness are very important this year.
Ledesma: Well you're definitely going to see a big improvement with the AI. There was a partial problem with the match types since most of them were untouched compared to previous years, and therefore, the AI found in those match types was pretty much the same. Improving the AI that goes along with our existing match types (especially the tag match) is something we're really working on. We want to make a smarter AI, a more supportive AI, and an AI that's aware of what's happening in the ring -- we want it to know what you're doing and what's going on besides the player's actions. We stressed very heavily to Yuke's that this is something we had to work on for this year.
As far as animation goes, it's our overall franchise objective to significantly improve our system. What it means when we put something down as our "franchise objective," is that there is no higher priority. Of course, it doesn't mean that we're going to be able to fix everything in the first year -- because it could take a couple of years to get everything in there -- but we are putting a lot of resources behind getting this done as soon as possible.
What does that mean we'll be fixing? The blending you see between the moves... that will be better. The general movement in and outside the ring -- the walking, the running, the climbing -- you'll see an improvement in those areas' quality as well. Collision problems that happen during certain "up close" moves, we're focusing on those too and a bunch of other things.