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Interview: WWE 2K19 Executive Producer Mark Little on 2K Showcase mode returning, framerate, PC version, ECW, and more

Just like last year, I spoke to Executive Producer Mark Little about various things relating to WWE 2K19 including development, addressing the multiple consoles, ECW, and more. If you missed it, I wrote about my time spent playing a near final build of WWE 2K19 here.

What would you say, off the top of your head is the biggest gameplay change for 2K19 compared to 2K18?
Specifically with gameplay, there are two real things that will jump out and it depends on how familiar you are with the game. We spent a lot of time on 2K19 working on the fluidity and the smoothness of the gameplay and its responsiveness overall. If you’ve been a longtime fan of WWE 2K games, you will really notice the difference when you pick up the controller and play. You will notice how much more fluid the animations are and how much more responsive the controls feel this year. Overall, this provides a greater sense of control in gameplay. If you’re new to the franchise, something that we are very happy about is the new Payback system that we implemented this year. It is very interesting because we designed that system with both our hardcore and also our casual users in mind. At its core, it gives the player the ability to gain back momentum during the match with various options. It keeps the more casual players engaged as they are learning the controls but for the more experienced players, it is another level of strategy to keep in mind. You’re always wondering when your opponent is going to bust out that Payback and how they will leverage that to their advantage. It has allowed us to add more personality and variation in how even the superstars play. For instance, we gave Nakamura the low blow payback since he’s been doing that often and this is something you wouldn’t usually see our AI do but with the payback system we are able to give him a bit more flair of personality.

Have there been any improvements to the commentary and crowd this year?
We always look at all parts of the game when we try and improve things. With the crowd, it is probably more refinement than large scale changes. With commentary, it is the same thing. We went back and recorded tens of thousands of lines with the commentary team, and I think you will really notice the new commentary in the game. In situations like the entrances, you will hear the difference when the commentators make interesting comments about superstars and their history. During the matches, you will hear them talk a lot more about the background of the different wrestlers and they might get interrupted because something interesting happened during the match but they will return back to that story and talk about it more as the match continues. This is new for 2K19.

WWE 2K18 was the first WWE game built for current generation hardware and you dropped support for the PS3 and Xbox 360 with it. Since this is the second game built only for current generation systems, what visual fidelity and performance improvements can people expect for consoles?
That’s definitely something we worked on very hard This year. I would say in all but very unusual situations, the game holds 60fps. That is something that we are very happy about. We were also able to increase some of the visual fidelity while we were improving framerate. While it is sad to say goodbye to the older generation hardware, when all your focus in on new hardware, you can make strides ahead. I continue to expect us to improve visuals in the game. I think we have gotten to the point where the visuals are very good. The changes might be smaller with each year. We took a pretty big bump in quality of the visuals overall. Now that we have improved the framerate, I think we will be able to do more at that same level of quality which is also exciting.

So we can expect 60fps on even the PS4 Slim and the Xbox One S?
Yes. Like I said, there are moments where there is a lot of crazy stuff happening where it won’t be but in most matches and most scenarios, absolutely.

How has MyCareer changed this year and what can fans who buy every game expect with this mode?
The entire MyCareer story is completely different in 2K19. We are using a different style of storytelling. We were actually able to go and record the superstars’ voices so as you play through the story, they are actually the ones talking to you and narrating. It is a much more immersive style than we had in the past. Because we were able to get to that level, the style of story that we have written for this year that you will playthrough is a much more narrative heavy experience. It is more about your journey from the indies into the WWE and through the rest of your career. I can tell you that there is a lot of really interesting plot points with twists and turns in this year’s mode. It is a little over 12 hours of play experience for most people. It is a good and meaty experience.

2K Showcase mode makes a return in 2K19. What made the team focus on Daniel Bryan for the return of 2K Showcase?
It was something that we had been thinking about for a while. The showcases are challenging for us because we need to be able to plan a path through history that we can tell. There are lots of parts of WWE history we really can’t tell effectively anymore because of things like the superstars not being available. Daniel Bryan was one that for us, he is still present of mind for WWE fans. We felt that a lot of the fans of him didn’t really understand what he went through in the early days To get into the WWE. A lot of Daniel Bryan fans are fans of his modern persona. We thought it would be interesting to tell his story of how he started out And how he struggled to be successful. Just the very interesting path he took to get there all the way to the pinnacle of the WWE with winning the championships and then retiring to give it all up but of course then returning. It is a very timely story to tell for us as well. We thought it held a very good message with the “Never Say Never” tagline. Keep your mind at something and you can achieve anything. We thought there were a lot of positives in the story and obviously it was a great story to tell the fans.

This year’s collector’s edition (WWE 2K19 Wooooo! Edition) has a focus on Ric Flair. What can Ric Flair fans expect in the game?
The collector’s edition revolves largely around the physical merchandise that comes with it. Some of it is pretty sweet. That ring is pretty nice. It is my favourite part. Obviously there are also the playable versions of Ric Flair in the game and some of his wackier attire. If you’re a fan of Ric Flair, you will appreciate some of the different attire we put in and the different versions of Ric Flair we added into the game.

This year’s release hits PS4, PS4 Pro, Xbox One X, Xbox One, and PC on the same day. Has the team started building for the highest spec and scaling down or is the game still built for lower end first?
We are still undergoing change with that but in general, the way most games handle it these days is they do design it more like the way we would build a pure PC game where you build it to the max and then you scale back as you go. It is much easier to build for the highest spec and then scale back than it is to try and bolt things on architecturally. In general, yes that is kind of the direction we had where we built for the best of the hardware and as we find ways to turn things off. The interesting part with that is that we have very smart engineers. Sometimes when we have done something with the really high end version of it, we try and find a cheat way to maybe not get it quite as good, but get 80% of the same result on the lower end hardware. That is something we challenge our engineers with every year.

Shane McMahon did motion capture for 2K18 last year. Was any more of that done with other superstars?
This year we didn’t end up with any WWE Superstars coming into our motion capture facility. We were trying for a couple of different groups but you know how their schedules are like. I will say injuries and other life things happened and it didn’t work out. It is something that both the WWE and us try and make happen on an annual basis. But with their and our schedule, it isn’t always possible.

Towers mode is the newest addition. What was the inspiration for that? People are comparing it to the mode in Mortal Kombat games.
We have towers in two parts of the game. We have towers under 2K Central which you can use the general roster and also your created superstars. That is also where the Million Dollar AJ tower lives. We also have towers inside MyPlayer that are specific to your MyPlayer. Like Road to Glory, that is an evergreen living place. We will be delivering daily, weekly, monthly challenge towers in the MyPlayer section.

Have there been any improvements to netcode for online play?
We continue to work on it. I would say our game is challenged more with the online than some other games specifically because our fanbase is worldwide and very distributed. Quite often when you connect to someone it is someone much farther away than you you think you are. We do our best to try and optimise it. We feel like we have made some strides with the matchmaking and consistency and speed at which we find matches for people. It is something we will continue to work on for the next couple of years. Really refining the online code and finding ways to optimise it so we can completely eliminate latency and lag in the game. That is the ultimate goal.

During the preview, it was mentioned that you can use Loot Packs to use customisations. Can Loot Packs be bought with real money? Can you buy in game currency to buy loot packs or is it just through stuff earned in game?
Just like last year, it is still just earned through the game. It is all in game so no microtransactions in WWE.

What does a day in your life look like at this time of the year?
I’ve been enjoying myself for the last few days in Madrid. This time of the year is usually very chaotic for myself and our team. There is a lot of focus on finishing and refining and perfecting 2K19 but in the same breath, I’m also working with some of our core design team on ideas for next year already. As soon as we can, we start working on the next year’s title to give ourselves as much runway as we can So we can do bigger and better things. It is kind of wearing lots of different hats right now and jumping in between them. Let’s think of all the cool ideas we could possibly ever do and then lets tune this better. It is a little bit of a schizophrenic world for us right now. It is very exciting because this is the time of the year where we finally get to see other people outside of our team play our game. we get to watch them have fun and take in feedback so we really do enjoy that part of they ear.

What do you think of the ECW Era with weapons and barbed wire among other things?
I would not subject my body to that. That was a very interesting experiment in what can we do that is even more fantastical to drive eyeballs to our show. That was back in the Ratings War Era where there were competing brands out to get eyeballs. I think that ECW took a path that was very different compared to everybody else. You either loved it or you were like “Oh dear god that is too brutal”. Obviously that’s not the core of the WWE experience today, thankfully for the superstars. I’ve talked to some of the old superstars who were in ECW about the tables and thumbtacks matches. You always hear that things are fake but most of that stuff isn’t like they literally have thumbtacks on tables and they have to pull them out of their backs through the night. While it was interesting to watch as a gruesome spectacle, I’m kind of glad that they are not doing it anymore. Now that i have a lot of wrestlers that are friends that would not be good.

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