Review Fix Exclusive: Q & A With “Wrestling Revolution” Creator Mat Dickie
The first real wrestling game on the iPad, “Wrestling Revolution” features over a dozen characters, real music and touch screen controls.
Review Fix: When did you decide you wanted to make this game?
Mat Dickie: I had been making PC wrestling games for the past ten years, so the only way I could justify carrying on for another decade was if I reinvented myself and did things differently. The advent of touch-screen technology was the impetus I needed. I had just come back from China, where I noticed that everybody was carrying a tablet device. It had really taken off there in a way that I had yet to witness in the west, so I left utterly convinced that the format had a stable future. More specifically, I sensed that it had a lot to offer the wrestling genre and I wanted to be one of the guys driving things forward for the fans. I’m a fan first and foremost, and I simply make the games I want to play.
Review Fix: What was the development process like?
Dickie: At the turn of 2012, I didn’t even own a smart phone – let alone know how to make games for one. So the past six months have been a real voyage of discovery where I didn’t even know where I would end up. Technically, I should have built up to a game like this with a dozen smaller ones – but I decided to dive in at the deep end and bring it into existence as soon as possible. There were many moments when it seemed the project wouldn’t be possible at all, or that it would have to be stripped down to one-on-one matches between two preset characters. Underneath the simplistic visuals, there’s a lot going on so I’m relieved that I’ve managed to squeeze so much content into a mobile app. Everyday I’m half-expecting an error message that says, “You’ve reached the limits of what is possible. Please abandon this project.” I have to keep reminding myself that “impossible” is two letters too long.
Review Fix: Are there any goals of putting this on the Playstation Vita or Nintendo 3DS, two systems that make use of touch screens as well?
Dickie: I wouldn’t rule anything out nowadays. I’ve even had my games working on interactive whiteboards in schools. There’s a whole layer of the games industry that has melted together to become one accessible wonderland. I’ve never had so many opportunities, so it’s an exciting time to be a developer. That said, I’m not sure my games are a good fit for mainstream consoles. I’ve found my niche where I’m the right sized fish in the right sized pond. If I stray too far outside my comfort zone, I’m liable to become irrelevant again. Plus, your ability to get things done gets compromised the further up the mountain you go. I’m not sure I could jump through the hoops of Nintendo or Sony. It’s bad enough trying to get approval from Apple.
Review Fix: What’s your favorite part of the game?
Dickie: There are several key features that separate this game from my previous efforts. The fully interactive tables, the pliable animations, the episodic shows – not to mention the whole touch-screen control system, which went beyond a gimmick and became a credible way of engaging with wrestling. But out of all of that, my favorite feature is actually the humble submission holds. I’ve always wanted to be able to control the motion of them like real wrestlers do, and to do it with touch-screen is all the more satisfying. It bodes well for an MMA spin-off. Plus, those moves are a joy to animate. They require the least amount of work and yet have the most convincing effect. We’ll be seeing even more of them going forward.
Review Fix: What do you feel the game needs to brushen up on before it can take on the big boys of mobile gaming?
Dickie: Wrestling Revolution is still very much a work-in-progress. I released it as soon as it was playable so that it could build up a following whilst giving me the breathing space to introduce more sophisticated features. This is going to evolve into a full-blown RPG, so I need time to implement that properly. I think the “episodic” releases I have now are the best compromise I could offer fans who want to get their hands on something. As a distribution model, that’s a “revolution” in itself and I for one am really enjoying it. I always wanted to book my own wrestling show and now I have the chance. It’s a fun and relevant way to introduce new characters and features. If I create a new move on Friday, you could be nailing someone with it on Saturday. I also get to respond to real-world events within hours of them happening, which keep things topical. I’m bridging the gap between the way games are made and the way games are played. That gap is already too small for “big boys” to fit through. Between myself, Dave Wishnowski of “Pro Wrestling X,” Dave Horn of “Action Arcade Wrestling,” and Dan Hinkles of Serious Parody, there’s a real movement to offer wrestling fans an alternative. Independent developers are like the independent wrestlers that got their hands on the gold against the odds through sheer passion. Guys like CM Punk have demonstrated that you can change the story if you don’t like the one you’re being told.
Review Fix: The promo work pokes fun of the WWE, what made you go that route?
Dickie: Whether people like it or not, WWE IS wrestling now so we’re all living in their shadow. I’d like to make it clear that I’m actually a huge fan of WWE’s product, and even THQ’s work as the official developer. What the license requires them to do, they do well – with the realistic presentation and everything. As I said, it’s all about “alternatives”. But when a target is that big, you can’t resist hitting it. I have a forum to make any statement I want, whilst having fun pulling real events out of context. It’s all a “work” designed to entertain wrestling fans. In that respect, WWE and I each have the same aim. We just go about it in different ways – and I’m the underdog that has to use guerilla tactics.
Review Fix: How’d you get the music for the game?
Dickie: Traditionally, I’ve produced the music for each of my games – including the 40+ entrance themes that are in the wrestling ones. It was always an enjoyable task so I never resented having to do it myself. However, it felt right to defer to the professionals on this one. The music is one of the things I admire most about WWE’s operation, and Vince McMahon certainly doesn’t compose it himself. Hell, their resident genius James Johnston doesn’t always do it. I thought it would be in keeping with the conventions of the genre if I gave a real band the spot, which turned out to be “Sick Logic” from Steve Austin’s movie “The Stranger.” They had identified themselves as fans of my work and wanted to contribute to a product they believe in. Their track “Broke” turned out to be the perfect fit, because it stood out as being unique whilst still having a familiar wrestling vibe to it. Their whole album, “Look In The Camera Sweetheart,” is full of solid tracks that wouldn’t sound out of place at a wrestling show. They can be found at www.SickLogic.net. I get a kick out of discovering new music, so I’d like to make it a regular thing with my games – much like checking out who’s doing the latest Raw theme, etc. Incidentally, I’m glad they finally changed it and I love the new one.
Review Fix: What are your hopes for Wrestling Revolution?
Dickie: The game has already surpassed my expectations because it could have failed so badly. People could have rejected the touch controls outright and that would be the end of it. As it is, the response has been incredible. Within its first week there were over 10,000 downloads, over 10,000 YouTube hits, and over 100 5-star reviews. I’ve never done those kinds of numbers with any project on any platform. Assuming the project continues to gain momentum instead of losing it, we could be onto something very special indeed. And the exciting thing is that I’ve barely gotten started yet. This is the most primitive the game will ever be, and it’s evolving towards something truly sophisticated. My only hope is that every wrestling fan gets a chance to check it out. I’d like to become part of the culture once and for all – with “Wrestling Revolution” signs at shows, or people actually playing my games while sat there. Now that this kind of entertainment is mobile, the possibilities are endless. I just want to enhance the way wrestling fans engage with their favorite sport.
Patrick Hickey Jr.
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