The Bolitho Buzz


~ December 2011 ~
Benjamin Eyriey interviewed me for his school newspaper, the Bolitho Buzz:

What made you want to make games?
From day one, I've always been motivated by the fact that I what I wanted to play simply didn't exist! I'm a firm believer that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself. Whether you like it or not, no other human being on the planet shares your particular vision. That's why it's so great that people can mod the games now and rebuild them in their own image. That's what I've always said to my critics - if you don't like what I do, go and do a better job of it yourself. Whining to somebody else is the least productive thing you could ever do. Even now, I'm still intensely dissatisfied with THQ's wrestling games and that fuelled my recent return to the Wrestling MPire series. I became a fan of wrestling again this year and wanted to engage with the latest games. I was genuinely disappointed that I felt the need to load up my own simulator! I want to love the official games because they look the part, but there's something missing. It's frustrating that they get the difficult things right and the easy things wrong?! I'd like to think that my legacy is one of getting the important things right. Making sure the experience is deep and feels good - and to hell with what it looks like on the surface. Unfortunately, that doesn't fly in the 21st century...

What is your best selling game?
My most popular game is actually 2006's Wrestling Encore. Even though it's primitive compared to Wrestling MPire 2008, it had the good fortune to arrive when my work was at its most widely accepted. When I first started, people were more tolerant of my novice flaws and that tolerance gradually evaporated over time - as did the enthusiasm for wrestling itself, which has only just started to enjoy a resurgence. It has always frustrated me that my best work was enjoyed by the least amount of people! It's like I've been living out my career in reverse. I wish Facebook and Twitter had been around 10 years ago, because we could have added a couple of zeroes to the current following and kept a better grip on it...

Can you tell us the history of Wrestling MPire or any other games?
The history of my games actually goes beyond the moment I even owned a computer! When we were kids, my brother and I would make games of ALL kinds. Board games, card games, dice games, even outdoor sports and activities. We were bursting with creativity and would unleash it on absolutely anything that had a chance of being entertaining. It comes back to what I said about being dissatisfied with professional efforts and doing a better job yourself. We were all about that from day one. We knew what we wanted and refused to accept that we couldn't bring it into existence ourselves. I learnt a lot about what does and doesn't work during that period, which gave me a running start when I finally sat in front of a PC. In fact, my wrestling games share a lot of DNA with a card game we made that used those exact same statistics for each wrestler! It's amazing how everything pans out and the past becomes part of your present. So now my advice to any kid who wants to be creative is to appreciate every little thing that's happening. Every success and failure - they're all bricks in your own empire. Nothing begins or ends in vain...

What game are you making at the moment?
I was hoping to have moved on to a "Mixed Martial Arts" game by now, but I've had to think twice about whether it's worth embarking on a major new 3D project. I'm still not convinced that there's an audience for what I do as I currently do it. Under Development and Wrestling MPire Remix were special one-off projects that I was happy to come back and release for the longtime fans. They weren't forward-looking projects that were designed to reboot my career. That would involve a lot of wholesale changes to what I do and how I do it. The next time you see a game from me, I suspect it will be on a completely different platform. I'm more interested in developing for Apple and Android mobile devices now. I figure I can relive my career all over again from the beginning if I start releasing small but charming games to a large audience. I've noticed that wrestling is not very well represented, so I'd love to corner that market with some unique interactive experiences...

If you could be any famous video game character which one would it be?
Ah, a question I can honestly say I've never been asked before! I always thought Ryu was cool in Street Fighter - both because of the game and the animated Manga movie, which was surprisingly good. Not only did he look the part and have the moves, but I'm a sucker for a good back-story. I love the fact that he used to train with Ken and got his red headband from him. It's interesting to know why somebody is the way they are, and what they sacrificed to get there...

What program do you use to make the games?
I made the big 3D games in a version of the BASIC programming language known as Blitz 3D. They prefer not to acknowledge my existence, but I'm happy to promote their product because it gave me a career. I'd be happy to use it for the rest of my life if only there were an audience for it! For me, it's as easy as breathing. I can rely on it to create almost any 3D experience for the PC that I can imagine. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean a lot now that the PC platform is almost extinct as a gaming platform. In order to stay relevant going forward, I would have to embrace new technology. A lot of my elitist critics looked down on me for the simplistic methods I used, but I wear it as a badge of honour. If they're "real" programmers and I'm not then they're under-achieving while I'm over-achieving! I'm just a regular guy who shouldn't have been making games at all, and yet I made a living from it for 10 years. I think it's pretty cool that I made something out of nothing through sheer passion. I'd like anybody reading this to know that that's the most important factor in achieving any dream. Passion alone will make you get up and persistently DO the things that everybody else is merely talking about.

After the deaths of wrestlers like Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, have you had any complaints about the fact that wrestlers die in your game?
Well, the whole reason death is in my game is because we see so much of it in real life. Everything from the contract negotiations to the worked matches is supposed to make the experience as close to a real career as possible, so you have to take the good with the bad. I don't believe in shying away from things. I tackle them head on. I'm quite pleased with the fatalities as a game feature. It's not as if it's played for comic effect. It's genuinely poignant that you won't see that character again, and you have a little tribute show for them. It's as tasteful as it gets without denying that death exists. Even in Hard Time, the fellow prisoners would bow their heads at the announcement of a death. I think it's a very interesting subject to explore in a game. I've never had any complaints about it. People are more likely to complain about severe violence that DOESN'T result in death!

What do you think about the number of deaths in WWE?
It's clearly horrendous and unacceptable that so many wrestlers have died prematurely. I check the latest wrestling news every day, and I've always had this morbid joke with myself about seeing "who has died this week"! It seems to happen on a monthly basis as regular as clockwork, which is obviously a sign that something is wrong. It's hard to point the finger though, because it happens for a variety of reasons - from drug abuse and suicide to freak accidents in and out of the ring. But at least half of those deaths could be prevented with a healthier and more humane approach to doing business. I haven't studied the economics of it, so I've never really understood why wrestling shows HAVE to go on the road every day. Surely one big televised show a week is enough to keep the money flowing? I suppose we're missing the "territory" days where wrestlers pretty much lived where they worked and could enjoy a relatively normal existence. But so long as Vince and the WWE have a monopoly on it, the work will entail whatever they want it to entail.

As you believe in God, have you had any complaints about The You Testament from people that don't believe in god?
Some DON'T believe in God but DO like the game, whereas others DO believe in God but DON'T like the game! I'd say the latter are actually more common, which is also the most disappointing. A lot of Christians and Muslims have been very critical of those religious projects, which is a shame because I don't see anybody doing a better job. The choice they have is MY game or NO game that represents those spiritual ideals, so there's no room for being petty. It's plain to see that my intentions were good and my efforts were sincere. If I wanted to besmirch either religion, the results would have looked very different - and I wouldn't have dedicated months of my life to it. My conscience is clear and I know I did the work I was inspired to do to the best of my ability. Of course, there are also plenty of Godless people who were sent into a frenzy by the existence of such a project. That was entirely predictable though, so it didn't bother me as much. Atheism is the most predictable and clichéd opinion any westerner can have right now. I hear it every day and I wrote an entire book on the subject. I don't have a lot of time for cynicism. It's easier to criticize everyone and everything than it is to stand up and achieve something of your own. I will always be the pragmatist DOING the things that everybody else is merely talking about.

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