Interview: WWE 2K18 Executive Producer Mark Little

2K will release WWE 2K18 next week and we’ve already played a near final build of it on PS4 Pro at a preview event. You can read about it here. We had a chance to interview Executive Producer Mark Little of Visual Concepts about WWE 2K18, Wrestling games in general, platform wise performance, the Nintendo Switch, and more.

With WWE 2K games getting more and more realistic, do you think there is space for a more arcade like experience for more fun like the PS2 games?

I think that’s something that we keep looking at as we keep moving forward. Our goal with the product right now is to focus on being an authentic WWE experience. That includes being able to replicate what you see on programming and the way wrestling matches happen today. A huge part of the fan base wants to have that experience. Something that we try and do within the game is have different play experiences for different types of users. We understand that not every WWE fan plays the game the same way. That’s why we have such a breath of game modes in it. We have everything from MyCareer mode which is more of a narrative based story system game mode Which is much more casual in some ways. You get to play along with the story and not have to figure out all the systems for yourself. Then there’s the new online MyPlayer mode with Road to Glory. We have a very broad play offering. How does an arcade experience fit in to our game or a second title is something that we keep looking at. What we’re focused on right now is providing a lot of different play experiences inside this one game. We take care of the needs of all our users.

This year we added create a match back into the game And rethought it. One of the reasons we did that is because while those game matches might not exist in real world programming in WWE, we wanted to let users have fun with it. We have this great game that can do so many things and now we’re trying to let the users find the fun that they want to have with the product and the way that they see is most exciting.

What we’re focussed on right now is providing a lot of different play experiences inside this one game. We take care of the needs of all our users.

WWE 2K17 saw backstage mode make a return after a long time. How do you decide which game modes from previous games to add into the new entry?

That’s an interesting question. Every year we do a very large feedback project with our community on our own forums. I forget what the statistics are but we had tens of thousands of responses in last year’s feedback project. One of the things we do is we look at what are actual community is saying about things they like in the game and things they would like to see added into the game. What do they wish they had that they didn’t have. Everything from what move should be on which superstar that we don’t currently have down to what new create modes do people want. We get a large set of feedback from our community and based on that and our own plans for the game, we kind of come up with a strategy for the upcoming year. Obviously the good and the bad of an annual title is that we know we have a title coming up every year so we have to plan year over year. The bad is we can only get so much done in a given year. We have to plan accordingly. This year we brought back create a match which I mentioned. We saw in the feedback and even for our own plans we really wanted to keep expanding the Backstage areas. It is more than twice the size it was last year. There’s a lot of interactable elements for the community to discover and play with.

WWE 2K games began with 2K14 under the 2K Sports brand. Which were your favourites from the WWE 2K games? Mine is 2K16 for the Steve Austin showcase.

I hear a lot of people really like 2K16 and a lot of that is because of the Stone Cold Steve Austin showcase. It was pretty epic. That was probably one of the highlights in WWE history. To be able to go back and relive it with all those characters was really special. For me, it feels like you’re asking me to pick which one of my children is my favourite which is always hard but you know there’s things from each game that I really enjoy. From 2K16 it was obviously the Showcase for Stone Cold Steve Austin. From this year’s game there’s a lot to pick from. For me, it is really exciting to see the new Road to Glory mode. I think that’s gonna be really exciting. We’ve always wanted to have a mode that plays along with the real WWE PPV schedule. Now that’s something we have and it’s a mode that’s designed to play through over the course of a year. This isn’t something that we had with WWE games in the past. Something with that much longevity. That’s pretty exciting to me. It is hard to pick one because I’m always excited about the new one that’s coming because it has the new shiny things in it Like 8 man matches. There’s a huge amount of stuff in 2K18 that’s very exciting.

Speaking of new shiny things, 2K18 has a new engine for visuals. Did this finally allow you to drop support PS3 and 360? Was that where you drew the line for dropping support?

For us, removing PS3 and 360 support was a lot about focus and the future of the game. We know that there are some people that wish we kept support. By not supporting those consoles this year we were able to do things like the new graphics engine and we were able to have the largest roster ever in history which is way bigger than last year’s which was already a crazy sized roster. I think it was the ability that it gave us to move forward with the product and also this year we were able to bring the PC version to ship day and date with the consoles which is also very positive for our fanbase.

This year we were able to bring the PC version to ship day and date with the consoles which is also very positive for our fanbase.

Can you talk about the Nintendo Switch version? Will it be like NBA 2K18 on the Switch which is the whole game put on the Switch handheld with a frame rate compromise? Will WWE be the same full game without any content cut?

We haven’t announced exactly when it is releasing. Stay tuned for the actual date. About the Switch version: That is the plan. The biggest difference between the console version and the Switch version is the Switch version will fit in your pocket. The plan is to bring the same console experience that you have on PS4 and Xbox One to the Switch and there are some small differences like resolution and frame rate to just work on that device. But overall you’re gonna have the same great gameplay, the same modes, and the same features.

Some people have been expecting the mobile version to get ported to the Switch.

Everybody is going to be super excited when we start releasing content and images and once we start getting into the marketing of the Switch version.

WWE 2K18 seems like a huge upgrade in a lot of ways. What do you plan on doing post launch with 2K18?

We have the season pass stuff and I think that the Road to Glory mode will really shine. This mode is designed to play along with the real PPV scheduled. There will be unique PPV events in this mode which will let you earn unique parts for your MyPlayer. We’re gonna be having custom content as a reward for the PPV events in Road to Glory.

We learned recently that there are microtransactions in WWE 2K18? Will these affect the single player modes at all?

Obviously it is something of a topic of late. Our plan with WWE hasn’t changed. If you look at the past years with MyPlayer, there was always virtual currency unlocks. That is something we are continuing this year. We don’t actually sell virtual currency for real world money in 2K18. We haven’t in the past as well. All the VC you get, you earn by playing our game. We designed the economy of the game for it to make sense. What it does mean, for places that we use VC, you can’t have everything. We do that so that everybody’s MyPlayers are different. The goal is you make decisions about how you want your MyPlayer to grow. Part of that is based on the economy of the game. You can spend so much and only buy so many things to represent yourself through your MyPlayer. When you go into Road to Glory and our online, everybody is wildly different and they’re a better representation of how they want to look. If everything is free and available, then everyone has access to the same stuff. It isn’t as interesting to see how people build up their MyPlayer. For us, it is part to help encourage people to make choices and decisions about what they want. By playing our game naturally, you should have enough VC to buy the things you need for your MyPlayer.

By playing our game naturally, you should have enough VC to buy the things you need for your MyPlayer.

Commentrary is supposedly improved with all the commentators recording their parts together to feel more natural. There were still bugs with the wrong character name when I executed a finisher. When will we reach NBA 2K level with commentary?

NBA 2K commentary is the best there is. No doubt about that. That is the goal. This year we got to start over which has its pros and cons. It meant we had to redo a lot of stuff that was already done. In this case, you take quite a few steps backward to start building up a better position while moving forward. Our team is probably more critical of our commentary than anyone else. A lot of the people that were the masterminds behind the NBA commentary, work on our commentary as well. This set the vision for who commentary should work in our games. It is going to take years. That’s the thing the people need to understand is that the amount of time we spend recording with the announcers is very high. As you know they are on the road 350 days a year. We do a great job of trying to schedule time with them. They do a great job making themselves available to us. So we get them into a studio to record. It is going to take time to get there with this title. It is absolutely the goal. It is something I look forward to hearing in our game in the future.

Coming back to the WWE 2K16 showcase, do you think we will ever see soemthing like that return? There are a lot of eras which would be a lot of fun to experience again in a WWE 2K game.

I think that is something we talk about internally. I talked a little bit about last year when we said that we weren’t having a showcase last year. With most of the eras that have interesting story content, there are problems for us In trying to recreate them. Superstars that we can’t get, some that we aren’t allowed to use, things we aren’t to talk about anymore. We run into a lot of black periods thou shalt not talk about those eras so it has become very hard for us to do the stories the way we want to do. That was one of the things people liked about the Stone Cold showcase. It was very complete and we did have to skip over some of the stuff because it involved people that we weren’t able to get into the game. But we were able to cover them ok with a video package. When we look at some of the other periods that we wanted to do, we would have to do video package half the story line. At that point it isn’t as compelling for us. I think that you can look forward the future of more sort of story based narrative things coming from our games. Whether it is reliving exactly what happenned in history or new stories that we will write for ourselves. That is something that is going to grow.

We played WWE 2K18 on a PS4 Pro debug unit. Can you tell us how it will run on various platforms? What resolution should we expect on PS4, PS4 Pro, Xbox One, Xbox One X and do we have details about the PC version?

So on the PS4 and Xbox One, the game mostly runs at 60fps at 1080p. There’s a couple of situations where we purposely set it to 30 because it was more stable. We didn’t want to see the frame rate go from 60 to 30 to 60 because that is more distracting than to play at 30. A few limited spots have it limited to 30 but we are working to fix those spikes. Once we have fixed them, we will kick it back to 60. The goal is to always run at 60fps at 1080p. We’re basically there on PS4 and Xbox One. On PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, we run at 60fps. Those spikes don’t happen. That‘s where we are at with that. We want to look at 4K support for both PS4 Pro and Xbox One X but we we’re not ready to announce anything yet. Stay tuned. Hopefully we will announce something about that soon. These are things we can patch into the game as well. In general it looks very similar on the PS4 Pro and PS4. PC we are still not done but it should run at 60fps on our recommended specs. If you run on our recommended specs, I just saw a report that it runs at 60fps with everything turned on.

The goal is to always run at 60fps at 1080p. We’re basically there on PS4 and Xbox One.

This is the first time a WWE game for PC will release on the same day as the main platforms for it. The Switch version releases later. Going forward can we expect all on the same day?

That’s always the goal. Right now it is too early to speculate what we will do for 2K19. Obviously we want to bring things to our consumers at the same time as much as possible.

Can you comment on which superstars fans have been asking for but you haven’t been able to add?

If you look at the active roster, for the ones wrestling now. We basically have almost everyone. There’s only a few people joined very late in the summer that we don’t have. Only a handful in NXT that we don’t have as well. Overall I think the roster is fairly complete. As far as the legend goes, everybody has their favourites and theyre so many of them. Some people will always wish we have some people. If you look across history, there’s very few people that are missing from our game. With Kurt Angle this year and the Hardy Boyz as DLC, those are some of the big names that people have been hoping to see in a WWE game for a long time.

What should people look forward to the most with WWE 2K18? Especially the ones who keep buying the games each year.

That’s the exciting thing like I said before. We have so much variation in the fan base as to what they find exciting. There’s always something for everyone. If you’re a big creation fans, the new create features and the customization features are really exciting. Details like removing teeth to glow materials to embossing logos. There’s some really cool stuff. It is very detailed as well. If you’re more into chaotic gameplay, we have 8 man matches this year. 8 man ladder matches are awesome. All the new gameplay improvements like the new carry systems. There’s lots of little additions to the gameplay that make it more compelling than ever before. There’s MyCareer and Road to Glory where you can grow one character up. It is hard to say what fans should be the happiest about because there’s different things for different fans to be very excited about.

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