Senior game designer Bryan Williams discusses THQ, WWE 2K14, ‘30 Years of WrestleMania’


Miami Herald Writer

It was a rollercoaster few weeks for senior game designer Bryan Williams and the rest of the WWE 2K14 video game team late last year.

They weren’t even sure there was going to be a video game after developer and publisher THQ was headed for bankruptcy.

“We were all kind of nervous,” Williams said. “The whole THQ situation was bad. It was you’re going into the office everyday wondering…We all saw the writing on the wall. I was at THQ since 2003. So we knew. I knew. The company was bleeding out for so long. It was like getting a gut shot. There isn’t really much you can do.

“I was hopeful that something or someone would come pick up the game and take the team. It just so happens 2K, Take-Two were the ones who wanted to be involved with WWE and the business side of it. They wanted to be making these games. So, for me, I found out in early November that 2K Sports was going to talk to us about what their intentions were.”

Williams described that day as a good one and a hopeful one. He was fortunate he and other members of the team working on the game were part of a fairly smooth transition. The longtime wrestling fan has been involved in the design side of WWE games since “SmackDown vs. Raw 2006.”

There wasn’t much lapse in game production during the acquisition because 2K Sports made arrangements to stay in the THQ building and continue working until the new offices were ready for the team.

“The visions, the designs and our entire focus for this game when we were still at THQ all came to fruition,” Williams said. “We didn’t have to cut anything or reduce scope on anything. It’s amazing that with all the stuff we’ve gone through in the span of the production of this game that we are still going to hit our street date of Oct. 29. More importantly than that, we are still going to be delivering a high quality game that blows our left effort out of the water, and that was a good game. It is. We are covering 30 years of WrestleMania.”

The creative team wanted to build on the success of last year’s focus on the “Attitude Era.” They certainly did in a big way. The “30 Years of WrestleMania” mode is an amazing trip down memory lane for longtime fans and a history lesson for new ones. The videos between the matches are well put together and provide a nice backs story to the matches.

There is so much attention to detail, from the entrance ways to the rings to the old superstar themes and everything in between. Jim Ross and Jerry The King Lawler reunite to provide the soundtrack to these iconic collisions gamers. With Ross no longer contracted to WWE, it may be the last time we hear his legendary voice calling matches. The mode itself truly is addicting. There is motivation in unlocking superstars like Razor Ramon and Eddie Guerrero and other goodies.

The “Streak” mode within the mod is a fun tribute to The Undertaker. The gauntlet style match has you play as the Deadman tries to rack up victims. Players can make it a competition among friends or themselves to see who can defeat more opponents in the ultimate battle of endurance. There is also a chance to face the legendary figure and try to end the most legendary win streak in WWE history. I tried numerous times, and it’s easier said than done.

Williams found the mode to be very ambitious.

“First off you are covering a huge number of years behind the rich history behind this event,” Williams said. “Then even more are we even going to be able to get the rights to some of these wrestlers that were involved in this time period. We talked to higher-ups basically saying, ‘This is what we want to do, and this is what we will need. Can you make this happen?’ We did have a Plan B because we couldn’t have done this mode without some of the names like Hogan.

“He was probably the biggest. Plan B I’m not going to reveal because it could be a future concept. I’m glad we didn’t though because our Plan B is good, but wouldn’t have been as cool as what we’ve done with the ‘30 Years of WrestleMania.’”

The legends combined with the current crop of WWE superstars make this arguably the most compete roster in the game franchise’s history. There is number of new faces including The Shield and Antonio Cesaro. The “WWE Universe” and exhibition modes present a great snapshot of the WWE landscape today. There are even some sprinkles of NXT with the arena at Full Sail University and NXT championship in the game. I’m looking forward to see how developers factor in WWE developmental more as it grows in popularity.

There are all the great matches we’ve seen in past versions of the game. If they ever do a tribute to the NWA or WCW, I hope they include War Games. If not, I still hope they include it at some point, along with other match types to bring something new to the table.

The tag team matches continue to improve over the years by being able to switch from the person on the apron to the person in the ring. I also love the catapult finishers. The modes combined with new downloadable content expansion packs coming out of the next few months, will keep fans playing the game for hours at a time. I can’t wait to see how the 2K develops games for the next generations systems like the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One.

The awesome thing about the games is you can make your own storylines with friends and players from all over the Universe. In my world Cesaro is my current face of the company, but not before Dolph Ziggler had a lengthy WWE title reign. Great Khali has also been barred from competing in my ring.

Much like WWE itself, anything can happen in WWE 2K14. The possibilities are endless.

WWE 2K14 is available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox.

• Follow Bryan Williams on Twitter @TrueBWill and WWE 2K at @WWEGames.

• The first downloadable content pack will be available in November. Titled “nWo Pack and Accelerator” expansion, the pack includes Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Macho Man Randy Savage, Syxx, Curt Hennig, Scott Steiner and The Giant. The "Accelerator" allows fans to unlock all in-game items and customize individual WWE fighter attributes.

This expansion is scheduled to launch in November.

The Accelerator is available on launch day, Oct. 29.

The next two DLCs will be made available in December and January respectively.

• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN,!/smFISHMAN, where I post links and information. Opinions expressed reflect no other entity. I can also be found tweeting incessantly during wrestling shows weekly.

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