Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In the Groove of Things...

Day 3 back at THQ, and I feel like I never left. Wait, scratch that, I feel a renewed sense of appreciation for what I'm doing. It's clear that I missed this while I was gone, and that I underestimated that. Life is a learning experience, but I learned that if you listen to it with a pure heart, you'll be where you belong. Things I love so far:

- Writing: I really missed this

- Twitter: I'm a force, and although Tank and Cory think they have the upper hand, no one dominates Twitter like the "People's Hammer."

- You guys: You motivate me every single day to represent you in the best way possible. It's a pleasure.

We released our DLC reveal #1 yesterday. Like always, I expected some backlash. You really can't win with these, but I never intend to. Never go into a fight expecting to win, when you already know that you can't. Not saying that this is a fight, though. Although, I'm sure that I'd like to fight that dude who told me to "die" this morning. What a moron. Have some perspective, brah!

Anyway, with the DLC there are a few things to note:

- This isn't all of the DLC that we're putting out, we're revealing more on Thursday

- Our Fan Axxess pass works much like last year's. If you bought last year's, you still have to purchase this year's though. There is no carry over

- The DLC is worked on past our final for the shipped game -- hence why they're DLC. We work with the WWE to get our roster. Our roster is comprised of Superstars/Divas and personalities we want that are current to programming, and Superstars/Divas/Legends and other personalities we want in RTWM. That's how the list is compiled

I hear all sorts of things on my twitter account (shameless @stephensonmc plug), but I can never understand the contradictions in some things that I read. For instance: "I'm not going to buy WWE '12 because of so and so not having the attire I wanted/or being on the roster." Ok...thanks for your feedback, but surely you must understand that your preference isn't going to determine what we do, right? When I say, "stand up and unite" I truly mean that. I want change just as much as you guys, but we can't do it alone. If you truly feel something with all of your heart and soul, impact others and voice your opinions together. Strength in numbers, everyone. Individuals do matter, but the reality is that we make a game for everyone. Anyway, I didn't even get to the second part that is funny about these comments. They usually say "I loved every single thing about the game until I heard that one thing." I don't mind you saying what you feel, but read what you're saying before you say it. How can I not think you're nuts? Ok, "nuts" was a harsh word. I don't think you're nuts, just not thinking clearly when you're speaking to me. Just as you analyze each word that I say, I have to do the same. After all, I'm helping you.

I got the WWE '12 build yesterday, and I'm really enjoying it. The difference really is phenomenal from last year to this year. Even the difference from when I left to now is incredible. I do want to answer all of the detailed questions you guys have, but I'm also trying to figure out an efficient way to do that. I need to have the time to do my daily duties, and answer as many Q's as I can. I hate that the FAQ dropped off after I left, because I fear that there is too much to catch-up on, but I guess that's just as much my fault as anyone's. I'm exploring a few ways (other than Twitter), for you guys to speak directly to me. I'll have more on that later.

For now, I'm just getting into the groove again, and I hope that you can be patient along with me, while I reset myself in this wild and crazy world that I love so much.

Monday, October 24, 2011


NOTE: This is resurfaced from my first blog at our WWEgames website. This will be the only blog that I resurface. The rest of the blogs here will be about me, and making our games better. Personal conversations with all of you.

For starters, damn I missed all of you. It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve been here, but in reality, it’s only been two months. Now, I’ve learned that when you love something as much as I love this, two months can feel like two years, and that’s what happened here. Before the countdown, follow me on Twitter. Why? Because I'm awesome, and can help you. (Twitter: @stephensonmc) Now, begin the countdown...

Last August, I left WWE Games to pursue another opportunity. It was very hard for me, as I left knowing that a piece of me was dying. A big piece. The WWE and games had been engrained in the fabric of my DNA since birth practically, and was mostly responsible for my career. I knew that when I left it would hurt, but I couldn’t have predicted the overwhelming response from you guys. Your reaction to my departure caught me off guard, and I instantly felt guilty for letting all of you guys down. Including those internally who counted on me to be there alongside them. With that said, that’s not the reason why I’m coming back (well, maybe a small part).

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Marcus Stephenson, and I was a Designer and Community Manager on WWE Games. Most recently, as a Community Manager, I partnered with THQ_Tank to form the most electrifying tag team in this business. We’ll no doubt pickup right where we left off, but to keep this in line with WWE ’12, we’re taking things over the top (one of my favorite movies, by the way), and making it all BIGGER, BADDER, and BETTER (sorry for the cheese)!

What does this mean, though? More than ever, your feedback will be directly impacting the development of future WWE Games. I’ll personally be assisting the design team with development going forward, and that can only mean good things for all of you. There’s no doubt that the design team listens to what you’re saying before making decisions on the games, but we want to take that to another level. We believe that WWE ’12 is a reflection of what you guys want. That can only get better. Know that when you’re talking to me, you’re talking to a Community Manager who is engrained in the design. That’s the way we’re doing things here at THQ. Community matters here, and I don’t mean to butter all of you up, but think of my return as a prime example of what THQ_Tank, Cory, and the rest of the staff here think about all of you. We have the most passionate fans in the world, and we’re using that asset to our advantage.

Now, it’s time to do your part. I’m not saying that you haven’t been already, but like I said, we want to do things “BBB” going forward. You know where we are: @stephensonmc, @THQ_Tank, @RealCoryLedesma. If you have feedback, we want to hear it. Sure, we’ll be on our official forums regularly (CLICK HERE FOR OUR OFFICIAL FORUMS), but if you want answers quickly, our Twitter accounts are up throughout the day, so hit us up there!

Thanks for the warm welcome, everyone. I know I made the right choice in coming back. Cory, thanks for bugging me on Twitter about the WNBA. Tank, we need to come up with a finisher for some of these fools who get out of line.

It’s clobberin’ time!

- Marcus “The Hammer” Stephenson (@stephensonmc)

Friday, June 24, 2011

History Repeating Itself...

I honestly wondered if I would ever use this again, but sure enough, here we are..

I can't say that I'm too happy about having to post a blog, but I guess some of the blind hatred has forced "baby" out of her "corner" to drop some knowledge. So far, the reaction to WWE '12 has been astounding! We couldn't have hoped for anything better, and the development team truly deserves some awesome credit this year. Another audience deserves credit as well, YOU. Well, not all of you, but a good amount who truly took what we had to say last year to heart, and committed to helping us make the best possible game we could. Without your feedback, we wouldn't be where we are now, that's for sure.

On with the show...

6 Diva Matches

Cory said in his Q&A that this isn't possible due to polygonal count. This isn't an excuse, and is true. If you don't believe, then ask yourself these questions:

1.) We know there are hacks out there (you're not hard to find), why would Cory say what he said knowing that you guys can do what you want via hacks? Did you ever stop to think that Cory knows about actually making the games? I picked that question out for the sole purpose of getting Cory's response for you guys.

2.)This was absolutely a controlled Q&A based on what we can say at this point (PR timelines -- I'll come to that later). Why would Cory have even answered it if it wasn't true? The answer, because it was the truth. And you know this, man!

3.)Let us prove it to you -- we have a plan, let us show it to you!

Bottom line, when we can prioritize the proper work involved to make things happen, we will. Not this year, though... Here's why.


In case you haven't heard, gameplay was the big focus for us this year -- and it should have been. We've heard from you guys for the longest time that our gameplay needs addressed. We're finally doing that this year with our "Predator Technology." Nice guess, guys, "Predator" obviously has a tie-in with Randy Orton, but here's what the tech actually is as we would describe it internally:

- Our SvR gameplay tech caused the "picturebook" effect, meaning that each animation had missing frames in it, creating a flip picture book look. As the game got older, you'd notice this more. This is where the term "herky-jerky" came from (made famous from NFL 2K). What our new tech allows us to do, is fill those missing frames in with an animation, creating blending from one animation to the next. It makes for a much smoother experience.

- Physics now come in to play via our gameplay tech upgrade. Now, if you walk by another person and glance their shoulder, they'll move accordingly. This means that your opponent is an actual in-ring object that has true interaction.

The gameplay tech upgrade was a massive undertaking. Most of our time was spent taking our old data, and hooking it in with this new upgrade. Have you played NBA 2K? Have you noticed some of the same looking animations in their game since the earlier days? Yep -- but they look a whole lot better now. That's our reality.

You're right, this is an upgrade and not a new engine. We never said it would be, and we made the right choice to do it this way. Why didn't we do a completely new engine? Here's why:

- We make a game every year, and this gives us the opportunity to replace the "house" brick by brick vs a demolish and redo effort. If that's the case, you'd have Madden 06 / FIFA 06, instead, this allows us to be more like a NBA 2K -- any questions?

- A new gameplay tech upgrade does not mean that it will "LOOK" visually different than what you've seen before. When we say you have to play it and see side by side comparisons, we mean it. We're still the WWE sim game, so we have to keep up a certain visual degree to stay real to true WWE programming. The visual improvements come in with the slight texture and modeling upgrades (note: not gameplay related), and our physics and blending that is made possible by the "Predator tech."

- If we wanted a new engine, our current team size would not make that a possibility at the moment. We're making a game every year, and we don't have the resources to try to build new engines and prove them out while doing what we're doing now. Money doesn't come out of thin air, and although some may think we're just raking in the dough -- we're not.

Haters Gonna Hate

There's negative feedback (which is needed and constructive), and there's hating. Don't mix it up, we know the difference. I'll take responsibility for making some of you think that you'll get an official reaction if you SHOUT false assumptions. That's going to stop now, I promise.

We're in the business of making games, and we reached out to you guys to help us make a great game (games moving forward). At this point, if you're hating, you're not helping. We're out here every day trying to solicit feedback from all of you. USE THIS OPPORTUNITY! We've proven to you now that your feedback from SvR 2011 was not only heard, but implemented where it could be. Even now your feedback is being heard. Keep turning your heads to it (the few), you're missing some great things.

PR Timelines

This is literally the one that pains me to write about, because it makes me think that no one has learned anything from last year. If we're ever going to get anywhere, then there needs to be actual thinking on both sides. We've done the work to understand where you're coming from, please do the same and try to learn and understand where we are too. Some of you are really good at digging for things if it supports your opinion, but can you do the same sort of digging to find things that don't (the truth)?

Anyway, like every single game in this industry, we have a timeline plan from the start of a campaign to launch. The timeline is filled with spots where new information on the game is revealed. Whether it's a website exclusive article talking about RtWM, or a new trailer, it's all on there. The issue I see you guys having, is that you still don't understand that this exists. Sometimes, when I see the failure to understand this pretty simplistic concept that's a staple of our industry, I think of the seagulls in Finding Nemo who don't listen and learn, but just shout "MINE, MINE, MINE," or in this case, "INFO, INFO, INFO."

We want to give you the information, we just can't right now and when we can, you'll forget about this moment because you got what you were looking for -- INFO. Please understand this difference.

Surveys Weren't for Nothing

Do you remember those surveys we frequently put out last year? Ok, now do you remember some of you saying that "they probably won't do anything with this?" Well, I think you're seeing that we took them very seriously. They helped us with our prioritization. We saw point blank that gameplay was the biggest issue for you guys, and in even more detail than that. That was much more concrete than going to random message boards to look at what one or two (or 20) people wanted. This way, we got a huge sample size and some great feedback.

In closing, I'll say this until I'm blue in the face -- we're here for you. Without you, we wouldn't have this game, so we're trying very hard to get you on board with helping us so that you'll understand what it takes to not only make a game, but do it every year. Expectations are set by YOU, not us. We want you to buy our game, yes, but we're not going to "sell" you on it. The purchasing decision is yours, and we wont force you. But we will prove it to you, and we have till 11/22 to do it.

The burden is on us, not you. Let us PROVE IT!

Oh yeah, I can't wait for the "Why don't you keep working on the actual game instead of typing novels" comment. No win situation, but I love it!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Class in Session: Our Modeling Process

Hey everyone,

I have seen numerous posts throughout the world wide web questioning our motives for choosing specific WWE Superstars and Legends for our SvR franchise. I wanted to take a moment to break down exactly what we do, so that all of us are clear on our process. It's cool if you don't like our process, but understand it as fact please -- because it is the truth.

Firstly, like all things, our superstar list comes down to budget and timing. At the beginning of pre-production, we have a list (based on the features we want to do), of guys we want to have in our game. In development, there is creative and project management. Creative handles exactly that, the creative (that's me). Project Management handles the timing and budget for our game (that's not me). Where was I? Oh yeah, once we have a list of superstars we want in game (which is usually like everyone), we submit it to our Project Management team so that they can scope it. What that means is that they take our list, and then breakdown how much each superstar would cost (in real money) to model. Once that is done, they get back to us with a high-level estimate of how much it will cost to create each model, and how much time it will take.

We then take a look at those estimates, and of course we're way over scope (time and money), so we have to make cuts. There's not back and forth here, we make an annual title, and our numbers (budget and time) have to be met. So, in order to cut we're told that we can have (for example) 105 models in the game. Here's the thing though, alternate attires, referees, WWE Security, Non playable characters (Stephanie, Tiffany, etc.) and WWE Legends all count as models. Every alternate attire we have, counts as one model each. For instance, if Cena were to start wearing a NEXUS shirt, and we were able to do it in time, that would be an entirely new model, not just switching out his shirt. Is it an ideal process? No -- and we're working on solutions to fix this.

"But I can change stuff in Superstar Threads, it should be easy for you"

When you change things in Superstar Threads, you're just adding layers on TOP of existing layers (hence the name layers). These assets that we build the models with are "baked in," and are given the same lighting treatment that we give the skin on our models. Tricky, eh? :)

Now, concerning WWE Legends. The WWE has a Legends roster that includes a list of superstars that we're allowed to use at no extra cost. A lot of the guys are on it, but there are a certain amount (and you can probably guess which ones) that aren't -- therefore we have to go out and sign them. This is like any other licensed sports game as well. How did NBA 2K11 get all of those legends in? They had the legends license, and guys who didn't fall under it, they had to sign. Sounds great if you have the money, but in some cases -- in some years, we just don't.

We redid our models this year for SvR '11. EVERY model. Just because you've seen a model in a previous game, and it looks like the same model, it doesn't mean that is is the same. When we change the lighting, we have to change the model, when we upgrade visually (like we did this year), we have to change the model. Some were saying we used Jake Roberts from our LoWM game, but that isn't true. We created his model (it may look the same, but the work was still done). Work is work, guys -- and it CAN replicate previous work. We have muscle flexing in the game, that is a HUGE modeling task, and required all of our models to get redone as well. Not blowing smoke guys, just saying facts here.

I hope this was a little bit of an education for you guys. I always like to teach you guys about our development process, so thanks for being so interested!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Up in the Air

I’m pretty inspired right now to write while I’m in the air at 35,000 feet (probably above Utah). I spent a majority of the day flying (8 hours), for just two hours of business – fair trade, right? I went to Game Informer in Minnesota for a press tour. “What’s a press tour,” you ask? That’s just lingo the games industry uses to make it sound a lot more glamorous than it is. Anyway, I sat with a writer at Game Informer (now “GI” for the rest of this update) for two hours taking him through the highlights of the game. This is a very important thing for us to do, because these magazines and websites have to review the game. Since GI didn’t go to our latest press event in Dallas (at the HIAC PPV), they had seen about as much of the game as you all have. The only difference is that they have to review it…

So I took the GI writer through our game, and everything that’s new. We started with gameplay. From the change to our grapple system, to directional grapple throws, to our much talked about physics engine, this was all new to these guys and it was quite refreshing to see some genuine excitement for a bit.

While away, I followed my Twitter account on my Blackberry (I’m anti-iPhone until they go to Verizon). I found out that we revealed some of our legends in our game – and I knew which ones. I’m pretty stoked about Jake Roberts. He’s one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, and although he’s been in the SvR series before (by way of the PSP), in my book he’s a welcome addition. Funk? That’s an AWESOME one, and a personal favorite of game designer Jon Durr’s. My favorite for this year is yet to be announced, but that didn’t stop some from voicing their displeasure on my Twitter account. Newsflash guys, the roster will never make anyone happy. Every year, get ready for ups and downs with the roster because we can’t have everyone, and the process to get someone in is much more difficult than you think. Unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to discuss this in more detail, although I wish I could.

I just started reading “Countdown to Lockdown” by Mick Foley, beginning on the first leg of my trip to Minnesota. I must say, I’m about a quarter of the way through it, and I can’t quite figure out if I like it or not. Don’t get me wrong, Mick’s the man, but in my opinion, he seems rather long-winded in this one. I will say that it IS interesting getting his take on his current time with TNA.

There’s a lot of confusion out there, and I’m feeling very confused in my head as well. I really thought all of your questions would be answered this week, and I think the news that came out just made you guys as more. The good news is that you guys are getting so incredibly detailed in your questioning that it is certainly a good sign for us that you’re talking details instead of blatant distaste for high-level features.

Working in this industry is unlike anything else I think I’ll ever do in my life. I’m still trying to tell myself that 8 hours of flying for a 2 hour meeting, in the era of video conference no less, was a good use of my time. It’s no knock on the decision makers to do it, I don’t blame them – that’s how everyone does it. I just question whether it’s the best use of time (only at this very moment as I write this).

I’d like to send a shout out to “Tank” for getting married next week. (just wanted to throw that in there)

I know I’m rambling guys, just enjoying writing right now. I apologize for not being on any podcasts for a bit, it’s just that I’ve been extremely busy lately working on that game you all know will be coming out at this same time next year, but we can’t officially talk about it yet. We’re in pre-production right now going back and forth with Yuke’s. We finished our high-level creative briefs, and are now in the process of getting estimates on how much it will cost, and how long it will take from an engineering perspective to code.

As a designer, you can’t fall in love with your ideas. It’s great to be passionate about them, but don’t get attached because you’ll find out that your grand idea usually gets cut down to 25% of what you wanted in the first place. That’s the annual title biz, folks – it’s definitely something that challenges us to think in two ways (quality and cost). While I was at EA SPORTS, it was customary to adopt things from the other sports franchises for cost effectiveness reasons. At THQ, we are starting to get that luxury with UFC being developed.

Like I said on my Twitter account – I can’t talk about the “Axxess” stuff until probably Tuesday of next week. Very unfortunate that you guys are seeing the stuff on XBL and PSN, with no explanation yet, but I can’t risk getting in trouble, guys. Let me just say that you guys are over-analyzing it by 100 times over. It will make sense soon, I promise.

I’m really honored and blessed to be working on such a great franchise that knows where it wants to be, surrounded by passionate wrestling fans. Every single day, we’re looking at the dirt sheets, talking about every detail that’s happened – it’s like high school again.

I’m even more grateful for the fantastic support you guys, the community, has given us this year. I think you’re starting to believe that we know what we’re doing, and with your help – we’ll get to where we BOTH want to be. So THANKS!
Playing NBA 2K11 nonstop lately, and am very proud of my good buddy Mike Wang’s work (as well as the rest of the 2K team). What a fantastic basketball simulation.

Trust me, we’ve taken note. THAT is what “great” (not good) looks like.
Well, that’s it for now. Thanks for reading, everyone – I really do appreciate your interest in what I have to say. It’s not getting to my head, I can assure you. If anything, it’s adding pressure to write informative blogs for you guys. But your passion keeps me feeling challenged, both as a communicator and a designer.
I’m still in the air, but feeling a bit at ease since I got to write this.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


That was the key word for last night's RAW -- "EMOTION." I haven't seen that kind of emotion on a WWE programming in ages. That's the kind of emotion I want to draw out of all of you when you play our game. And it's not there yet, I know. What do you guys think we could do to get that kind of reaction out of you guys? I see it when people play NBA 2K, or even MADDEN -- definitely FIFA. I mentioned in my first interview when leaving EA to come to THQ, a few things that I would like to add to our presentation to make matches feel BIGGER.

I'm on the SFX-360 Podcast tonight. TANK will be joining me, so that should be pretty fun.

Quick blog update today, but just want to throw that question out to you guys.

"What would you do to the SvR franchise, to draw emotion out of YOU?"

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hell in a Cubicle

I hope all of you had a great weekend. What did you guys think of the Hell in a Cell PPV? I thought the way they did the Cena joining NEXUS bit was very well done. I can't wait to watch RAW tonight. Cena in a NEXUS shirt? Wow. I know everyone loves Daniel Bryan, but I can't get over that silly smirk he has.

The message boards were on FIRE this weekend, and some of that heat was directed towards me. It's funny how much you guys take my words, interpret them the way you want to, and then broadcast out to the rest of the community your version of my words. Wouldn't a simple copy and paste do the trick? Anyway, there are a lot of opinions out there as to how we should have handled our roster reveal, and to be honest, if you guys weren't happy with it this year -- then I'm on board for finding another way as well. But when I say that I had nothing to do with it, I mean it. It was a PR thing for the reveal to happen with Gamespot, and then our web team took over the rest of the reveal. I know you guys want to know the roster in full -- but this just came across my desk, and I wanted to share it with you guys.

This is the day for the website on the next roster reveal, BUT if that day changes, please don't go insane and start freaking out. Just trying to show you guys that there is a plan, but like all plans -- sometimes they can change. So please be careful with how you react to this:

Oct. 7th

There you have it. Once again if this day changes, please just try to keep it in perspective. For example, if the guy who has to physically put these up on the site is sick one of these days, we obviously wait until the next day.

Take care, everyone!