Feature Article

WWE 2K18 Devs Detail Expanded Customization, Retooled Promos, And 8-Man Matches

Road to Glory mode adds the things you liked about Showcase mode.

WWE 2K18 is a few weeks away from its release on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, hitting stores on October 17, with the Switch version coming later this fall. The newest installment of the sports entertainment series offers improved graphics, a more in-depth MyCareer mode, and for the first time in 2K's run, up to eight superstars competing in a match at the same time.

Once again, WWE 2K18 boasts the largest roster ever, with over 180 original playable stars. In addition, there are multiple match types from one on one to eight stars fighting on their own, and every variation in between with quite a few stipulations to add to your matches. In addition, it adds Road to Glory mode, which adds a new dynamic to the typical online play that comes in the way of certain tasks that must be performed during each match.

During a WWE 2K event at the WWE Archives in Connecticut, GameSpot had the opportunity to talk to two of the devs behind the game: creative director Lynell Jinks and Ramelle Ballesca, the game designer behind the revamped MyCareer as well as the online mode Road to Glory.

GameSpot: One of the new additions to last year's game were the segments and promos in MyCareer as well as Universe mode. What improvements have you made to it this year?

Ramelle Ballesca: Especially with the promos, one of the things that we felt we were lacking, was just making superstars feel like themselves when they're getting in the ring, doing those promos. We added a ton of animations to specific superstars like the Undertaker, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Enzo so that they feel like themselves when doing a promo.

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Is it going to be kinda the same format where somebody says something and you reply? I loved the idea, but it felt like as a player I couldn't understand sometimes what was going on.

RB: We saw that too, I mean we listen to you guys a lot. One of the things that we noticed was that the way we scored promos wasn't essentially the best way, so we changed that this year. Now instead of scoring based on are you being a good guy or a bad guy, we focused it on more so just picking a topic and sticking to that topic. You see that a lot with the combos from last year that was probably the most fun part, so we took that and put that on the forefront and said, "Hey, all right, you have four choices of the things you want to relate to the WWE Universe." Then from there, scoring based on are you sticking to what you are saying or are you sort of flip-flopping a little bit? Now, you could totally say what you want, and you'll be scored heavily based off of that now.

There was a lot of mention of the fact your MyCareer character will have many different people to interact with backstage. How does that kind of come into play into the whole MyCareer mode?

RB: This year, we sort of shifted back to telling a narrative, so a lot of that is going to happen backstage. You're going to be talking to superstars, getting into rivalries with them backstage, and then you might want to ambush them backstage during the storyline and stage a backstage brawl and take them over to the limousine and hit them over there. We want to make sure that when we tell these storylines it's not just two people talking. We wanted to add a lot of the interactivity that we've had in the game, so enabling those interviews with Rene and also again...

Lynell Jinks: Side quests as well.

RB: Yeah, side quests as well. When you're not actually in a storyline, you could go up to some other superstars, and they'll tell you, "Hey this guy ambushed me last week. I want you to do the dirty work." You can get a lot of that different flavor in there also.

You can become a minion for whomever is backstage?

LJ: Yeah, and there's legends too that you can interact with backstage as well in MyCareer.

RB: One of the storylines involves talking to legends and getting their take on how to become a superstar. I don't want to talk too much of the storyline, but you'll get involved with people like The Rock, and they'll sort of guide you along the way as well.

There was going to also be the inclusion of other players who are using the game or if you are friends with them on Xbox or PlayStation. Are there gonna be other people you can also interact with or are they just guys you can just beat up in the background?

RB: No, we treat them just like any other superstar, any roster superstar for instance. They'll be backstage. Yes, you can brawl with them at your leisure, but also you'll get side quests, and they'll tell you what to do in terms of like, "Hey, do you wanna do a promo with them?" Or do a backstage brawl with them, or do a match with them and get like five stars during that match. We treat them just like any other superstar.

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This year's game had a big bump in the graphics department. What was the process for this and how did you make it even more realistic than last year's game?

LJ: I was set in that direction, and honestly just working with Yuke's to make sure that they reach what my goal was and our goal was. For me, it was to deliver the best looking wrestling game ever, right?

It's disappointing when we came out [with] WWE 2K15 on the current gen platforms now, and we saw what the guys upstairs on NBA were doing and what everyone else was doing, it just wasn't there. Every year, we try to push it, and we just couldn't do it without rewriting the whole graphics engine, and so that was the mandate from day one when we started working on this thing, and we worked real closely with Yuke's to ensure that we basically got what you see now.

It took a long time to get it that way and to get there, but I feel like we hit it, and I'm glad you feel the same way because it's one of those things when you're working in that bubble and you are comparing yourself to what you did last year and years previously. You kind of get tunnel vision and so you don't really see, you know its like, "I think we did it." But it's great to hear your guys' response and seeing the hard work that we put in, not only at VC 2K, but at Yuke's as well.

This is the first time you guys have included eight-man matches. Prior to that, we've only seen six-man matches, aside from that Royal Rumble game for Dreamcast. What was your decision behind going eight-man matches, aside from getting closer to a traditional Survivor Series match?

LJ: For us, Survivor Series, but we need one more to recreate that accurately, but I think since we picked up the license from THQ that was kind of our goal, but again, when this franchise has a history that's really long with Yuke's and there's already an engine there, there's certain limitations that we couldn't get past. I mean it's not only just what we can do graphically, but what the gameplay limitations are as well. We finally got a point where we could spend some time in making sure we could create a cohesive eight-man match without things just blowing up or some unpredictable happening as well as creating a whole new system on how we can render eight guys on the screen at once and keep frame rate at a reasonable rate.

One of the things we had to do was to introduce some [level of detail] which we've never had on the current gen platform. What you were seeing was the high-res model all the time in the previous iteration of our game, and this year, in order to get eight men working, we really had to look at ways that we can optimize the character for those match types so that we can run eight men.

One of the new gameplay mechanics you guys have added this year is carrying. What is the carry system and what does it add to the game?

LJ: The carry system, I know it's been in previous versions of the game but it was one of the thing's that hasn't been in the most recent games. It was implemented in a much more limited fashion previously, so what we wanted to do was create a new carry system that had all these modifiers that you can you carry a guy in different positions, if you want to put him in the powerbomb position, if you want to carry him into a fireman's carry, or if you just want to modify how you walk around and carry that guy and interact with the objects around the ring, in the ring, backstage. To me, it felt like the right time to create that freedom now that we introduced all these different areas to our game.

One of the driving forces too was who's on the roster now, you're seeing guys like Braun Strowman picking guys up and throwing them out. So that kind of drove that as well, just seeing what's happening on programing, and this was really the only way to do it accurately but not just with a cut scene or just a preset move but to allow the users to do it as well, and not just in a Royal Rumble match, just giving that freedom to everyone everywhere.

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Showcase mode is gone, which you had included with DLC last year, and it was the focus two years ago, and now the focus is on MyCareer. Is there gonna be enough for the average person to play within MyCareer?

RB: I think it's a combination of My Career and Road to Glory now. You're going to create your MyCareer player, and then you're going to have this ecosystem that you can play in where, if you wanna go online and challenge other players with my MyPlayer, I can do that. Or if you just want to hear a really good storyline and take the MyPlayer through several narrative experience, that's what MyCareer is for, but it's really Road to Glory I feel like is the new feature this year.

LJ: I think we talked about that. It was the objectives that you get in Road to Glory mimic what you used to be able to do in Showcase, I think a lot of people like that. It's like, "Oh there was these objectives I had to complete these objectives in order to move the story along." But those objectives are now in Road to Glory in the daily events. In order to get that pay-per-view event and qualify for that match, you gotta get those stars and in order to do so you have to complete those objectives in the daily event. We feel like, that to me we hit on that, but it's going to constantly be changing and it's going to be different every pay-per-view. I think that's going to give it more legs than Showcase ever had because we're going to be updating this throughout the whole year.

In Create a Superstar mode, what are the big changes this year for the game?

LJ: For me, it's seeing what everyone else is saying and the things that they want to create, so that's kind of our drawing board. Every year, we try to enhance it even more. For us, it was seeing how similar a lot of the faces--even with the face photo capture--we're still seeing a lot of superstars that look the same. On the 2K Dev Instagram throughout the year, I would post the 2K Fav of the day. Seeing a lot of similar generic looking guys because of their face or whatever, we saw that was one of the things that we wanted to reintroduce was just having really good templates for people to start off with.

Having different races and ethnicities to help break up that variety, but then not losing the ability to customize that even further if you want to, using the face photo capture, or even just moving sliders around. We still kept that in place. Like I said the teeth option, being able to like hide teeth, which was like seeing it on Mick Foley, but I can't recreate someone who looks like that. So things like that, adding support for different materials like glow, which was really hard to get in, black light. I know people want to create really crazy out there superstars...

That's me.

LJ: Right, and I'm with you. Just seeing what the community creates, that kind of drives what we wanna do. Like having the ability to not only limit the glow on attire but on tattoos or on your hairstyle, whatever. If you want to create a guy who's just from a different planet, you can. It's just making sure you guys have the tools to create and have the freedom to create guys that you want rather than feeling like you're limited because you don't have a certain tool or certain method to do things.

Every year, we know we're going to add more things, like one of my favorite features I talked about in my dev videos was, I'm an old school guy, the 8-bit filter for Create-A-Show. Just having your game look different, the hashtag "be like no one" is not just a tag on. That was our thing. We want everyone's game and experience to be different. Like I said, like the heads, we don't want the same looking guy all over the place, if you want to create a... Like last year. we did the old bad VHS filter, added the 8-bit filter you know just because I think, which was kind of inspired by Ramel. On the inside, he does like 8-bit art, which I really think is brilliant. I'm like, "Aw man, that'd be cool if we added a filter." We added that, so you can have a show that looks like an old school video game.

The other area was, Create a Video, saving highlights was the big thing. I know last year a lot of people complained that you weren't able to have free cam, we added that support back in there but we took it a step further, by allowing you to hide the background, hide the referee, hide the crowd. So [that] you can create like a green screen effect when encoding your videos you can overlay in the actual Create a Video option, overlay things on top of it, behind it, so you can have your superstars placed on different videos, videos placed on top of it. Just, giving users the ability to have their own video, tron, or whatever that feels like it's at the same quality as the rest of the WWE superstars on this.

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Mat Elfring

Mat Elfring is GameSpot's Entertainment Editor, and been with the site since 2015. With 10 years experience as an entertainment journalist, Mat covers movies, TV shows, streaming services, and more. He is also the co-host, co-producer, and editor of GameSpot's professional wrestling podcast Wrestle Buddies, which covers nostalgic moments from WWE, WCW, AEW, and more--with a comedic spin. Mat lives in Chicagoland, where he spends his days planning very weird D&D campaigns.

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