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!