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Category Archives: Commentary

Wrestling game series WWE SmackDown vs. Raw will make its PC debut with an online-focused title, publisher THQ and Jakks Pacific announced today.

Though the companies declined to provide any concrete details on the PC game, Jakks Pacific’s Interactive SVP Nelo Lucich hinted that users will be able to “become their favorite superstar in a WWE virtual world of their own creation.”

Currently with the working title of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw Online, the game will release in Asia in late 2010 and is being developed by Korean studio Vertigo Games (Black Shot).

Via Gamasutra

For a start, Black Shot sounds incredibly politically incorrect yet it looks like a last-gen console FPS.

Secondly, what the flipping flip? How can this work? I’ve scribbled down basic designs for a number of wrestling-related RPGs or adventure games in the past, and I can tell you that it doesn’t work. The story mode in the console Smackdown games doesn’t work, let alone a game in which you create a ‘WWE virtual world’ of your own.

But then let’s think about this. Let’s think about GTA San Andreas, where you need to train to get buff — perfect minigame fodder. Join a free-to-play MMO and it’s heavily suggested you hit the item shop — I’m sure WWE wouldn’t be averse to taking micropayments for in-game ‘supplements’ or advanced spandex designs.

I do see it taking an open-world design, WOW style. The life of a wrestler is a grind; get up, work out, get to the arena, get to the airport, travel, repeat. That’s WOW in a nutshell. Problem is, like WOW, I think they’d struggle to make it interesting if it was centred on such mundanity. Servers would be packed at 7pm when the wrestling show is on — a show which would presumably include an unweildy card of several hundred competitors — but I certainly wouldn’t want to bother sticking around for the rest of it.

Then again, such a game would cost a lot to develop. WWE isn’t noted for pumping money into development — the first Smackdown game used a second-hand engine and they’ve stuck with it for the last seven years — and if it was meant specifically for the Korean market they’d be even less likely to shell out.

Maybe something like Carom 3D, a pool game that’s almost certainly an MMO, where the focus is on playing pool rather than any pointless peripheral cocking about? Ah yes, but WWE’s philosophy seems to explicitly state that the actual wrestling part of wrestling is unimportant. It’s all about frilly shirts and fireworks. City of Heroes might be a fairly close match, and I’d definitely pay to able to wander around piledriving vile criminals, but again, no. You’d be giving autographs to fans, or visiting sick kids in hospital. Tedious.

So really there’s a possibility that this might turn out to be something rather good, but only if some canny developer manages to invent a new genre which can tie MMO philosophy to the unique nature of the wrestling game. That’s like mixing toothpaste and Cilit Bang in the hope of making a tasty steak sauce.

Good luck!