Standing on the top floor of a London five star hotel, supping a beer in the penthouse suite, looking at bizarre h?ors d'oeuvres being shoved under my nose. It?s not a place for me, for sure. Too posh, I guess, for an Essex lad. I was there for a reason though : WWE Smackdown vs RAW 2008
Although THQ had managed to bring top wrestler of the moment Ken Kennedy to meet and greet everyone, I have come to meet vice president of production Keith Kirby.
Thank you for having a chat with me today, Keith ? could you just introduce yourself to the readers of SPOnG, and tell us how you got into the video games industry?
I?m Keith Kirby, vice president of production for THQ, I work on the Smackdown vs RAW
series I am a hardcore, avid gamer, I have been ever since I was tall enough to throw a quarter in an arcade slot. I was maybe eight years old when I played my first game, and I?ve been addicted ever since. I went to schools to study Computer Science to make video games, and my first job when I was out of college was on video games, and I?ve been working in the industry for 18 years.
I?ve been everything from a programmer to a designer to a project lead and now I?m vice president of production for the Smackdown vs RAW
series, which is a huge honour because the game and the brand are such big juggernauts in the industry. So, to get an opportunity to make any sort of contribution to this product line is a huge deal for me. Not to mention the fact that the team I work with are spectacular ? we work with Yukes out of Japan, which is a wonderful development studio, and I?m very happy to have the opportunity to work on this stuff. It?s really a dream job.
There?s a new Smackdown vs RAW
game released every year. What?s the focus of the 2008 edition? What?s changed and what?s been added?
The number one thing that?s different is that we?re coming out on three new SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) ? so we?re coming out on the PS3 for the first time, coming out on the Wii and also on the DS. Particularly with the Wii and DS, those games are completely different than the other Smackdown
games, on the other four platforms.
What we?ve tried to do is we?ve tried to make a Smackdown vs RAW
experience for each of the platforms, that are customised to take advantage of each platform?s capabilities and features. So, for the DS we?ve tried to make something that will be a great mobile experience, easy to play with the stylus; for the Wii we?ve made something that?s easy to play with the nunchuk and Wiimote; and we try to keep the experience fun and fresh for each platform.
As far as features go - we?ve only announced three new features so far but there?s more coming ? those three new features are Fighting Styles, Struggle Submission System and the ECW Extreme Rules match. With Fighting Styles we got eight new fighting styles this year - each one is completely different.
The idea is we wanted to have a lot of depth and a lot of fun things to explore for the players this time around, and what?s so fun about the fighting styles is that every time you learn one, there are always advantages and disadvantages against the other styles. So you have to learn and adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of each type. It?s great fun because as well as learning the moves of a character, you also have to learn the attributes of their style of fighting.
Submissions are a big part of the game, and we?ve just tried to make it that much more interactive by providing more of an analogue, natural approach to the Struggle Submission System. You use the right stick to apply more pressure or release pressure against your opponent. If you use too much, he might get away ? kind of like a fish on a line. If you don?t apply enough, you?re not doing enough damage and you might loosen your grip.
We now have an ECW brand to the game as well, which makes it three brands in one package when you take into account Smackdown and RAW as two separate brands. ECW has been added in a huge way ? we?ve got ECW Superstars, ECW storylines, ECW match types. You can customise what weapons you want to bring in the ring, which can be barbed wire, flaming tables, katanas? you name it. All the areas around the ring are now fully interactive as well, so you can use items handed to you from the audience to do more damage to your opponent.