~ January 2015 ~
aftermath of the Royal Rumble in Philadelphia,
I spoke to Jack of
Wrestledelphia about my work with wrestling:
Growing up, what
sparked your interest in the professional wrestling genre?
Wrestling became the talk of my school in the UK around 1990, and even though
I couldnít watch it myself I remember kids showing me pictures of guys like
the Ultimate Warrior and Machoman who looked like real-life superheroes. When
I finally sat down to watch it, I was sold on the curious mix of real
athleticism and theatrical storytelling. Itís the best of both worlds.
Hitchcock said that a movie is real life with all the boring bits cut out, and
I felt wrestling was a real sport with all the boring bits cut out! When I
returned to wrestling as an adult, it was more for the behind-the-scenes
politics. That can be even more dramatic than what happens in the ring, and
obviously influenced the direction I would take my games.
What about the art of video game programming? Was
there a moment that set you down that path?
That was more of a gradual thing, because I was making games long before I
even owned a computer. I would make my own card games, dice games, board games
Ė and videogames simply became a natural extension of that creativity.
Although I played a lot of console games, I didnít actually own a PC until I
was 16 and didnít learn programming until I was 18. That was when it stopped
being a hobby and I got serious about it. I tell kids that itís important to
have those years where all you do is have fun with games. Thatís where you
develop a sense of what is or isnít entertaining.
games were originally made for PC. On your site, you're quoted as saying, "I
was now making the biggest and best games that one man could possibly hope to
deliver. Upon discovering that even that wasn't good enough, there was nothing
left to do but draw a line under my gaming exploits." Why did you feel
There was a lot of frustration during the PC era, where I felt I wasnít
getting out what I put in. For 10 years, that was my life. I spent every
waking hour producing the best work I possibly could under the circumstances.
When the audiences werenít there or the recognition wasnít there, it felt like
a waste of time. There were plenty of good times, I hasten to add, and I
remain thankful for the support of my core following Ė many of whom are still
playing today. But sometimes you can work so hard that NOTHING is worth it! So
I was at fault in that respect. Now my philosophy is to work smarter instead
of harder. I work to live instead of living to work.
Why do you think mobile gaming resurrected your
Mobile gaming made sense of it all, because my games are a better fit for that
platform. The exact same work that was considered BELOW average on PC is
considered ABOVE average on mobiles! I was able to go over there with the
biggest 2D wrestling game on mobiles, and then turn around and also offer the
biggest 3D sim on mobiles. With over 5 million people playing each app, I
finally feel Iím getting out what I put in. Looking back, everything I did was
building up to that transition. I felt like Noah being ridiculed for working
on his boat, but when the flood came I was perfectly positioned to ride those
all of your games, you use fictional wrestling companies based on region, but
also include a Federation Online promotion which features fictional characters
that have withstood the test of time. Where do you get the inspirations for
these characters? Who are your favorites?
I think itís nostalgia more than anything else. Iíve been shoving these
characters in peopleís faces for so long that theyíd feel strange if they
WERENíT there! Still, itís interesting to see how these fictitious wrestlers
can ďget overĒ with people as though they were real. They even go up and down
in my own estimation with each release. ďWhack AxĒ was a happy accident I had
in 3D Studio MAX when I painted somebodyís entire torso pink and decided to
keep it! Now heís the face of the company. Others began as a parody of a real
star who evolved into their own identity. ďDriver 88Ē, for instance, was
supposed to be Steve Austin with a ponytail. A new guy Iím high on is ďScore
BenzĒ in developmental, whoís like our Seth Rollins. The names are the
funniest thing. I wake up every morning muttering random words to myself to
see what combinations I like the sound of. I imagine thatís how George Lucas
came up with the Star Wars names!
Give us the general gist of what your career mode is
like, both as the wrestler and booker. And in playing your game, what was the
strangest backstage happening you've come to see?
In either playing mode, my wrestling games have a formula of newspaper
reports, contract negotiations, backstage meetings, and finances. Most of
which youíll never see in a mainstream wrestling game because they have
neither the freedom nor the desire to pull the curtain back that far, whereas
an independent like me does. I simply pursue anything that I would personally
like to see in a game. As the saying goes, ďIf it happens in Wrestling, it
happens in RevolutionĒ! I like to leave no stone unturned to create a complete
experience for wrestling fans. At the same time, the game is so open that itís
even possible to see things that WOULDNíT happen in real life! Dusty Rhodes
once asked me to marry him in an awkward backstage segment. And this was
before gay marriage was legalized, so he was really taking a chance on that
compared your games to that of the Japanese Fire Pro series. Why do you think
those games were such a good foundation for the Wrestling MPire series?
Japanese wrestling is the foundation in more ways than one, because Fire Pro
on the SNES was one of the first wrestling games my brother and I sank our
teeth into. And then in later years it would be AKIís games on the N64, which
had Japanese roots. What I took from that was a large roster of characters
with expansive move sets, and the feeling that anything could happen at any
moment. WWF games were glorified pieces of merchandise by comparison. Like
Japanese wrestling itself, Japanese games took the sport seriously Ė and
thatís all any serious fan wants.
Did you watch Wrestle Kingdom 9? What were your
Yes, Iíve always admired NJPW from afar Ė but this was the first time I got to
hear western commentary attached to it. And Jim Ross, no less, who added a lot
to the broadcast. I got to imagine what WWE would be like if they had these
guys on their roster and used them properly. I genuinely believe that Nakamura
could be the first Japanese star to get legitimately over in the west. We need
more wrestlers who happen to be Japanese, whereas WWE turns them into Japanese
foreigners who happen to be wrestlers. I like that wrestling is portrayed as
more of a sport there. It helps with the suspension of disbelief.
had a ton of success in developing Wrestling and Booking Revolution in 2D.
What made you want to make a 3D version of the game for mobile platforms?
When I first started making games for mobiles, I assumed 2D was as good as it
was going to get for me. Even the pros like TNA could only muster a low-poly
1-on-1 match in 3D. As soon as I discovered that I was capable of making 3D
apps, and that the latest devices could handle up to 10 of my characters in
the ring, that was all I needed to make the leap. I knew I had everything I
needed to bring the biggest 3D wrestling game to mobiles, and it hasnít left
the Top 15 sports apps since. People are quick to criticize my graphics, but
the truth is that theyíre fit for purpose. It takes a lot of compromises to
squeeze 300 characters into a 30mb download and have it run smoothly on the
average device! Better looking games will come along, but I donít think
anybody will ever make a bigger mountain out of a smaller molehill.
I remember shortly after Wrestling Revolution 2D came
out, WWE personally had your game removed from Google Play reportedly for
stealing the thunder of their own mobile app. Though it would return soon
after, how did that make you feel?
Surprisingly enough, that spat with WWE had nothing to do with the gameís
content. It was more about search results, which have become the new
battleground of mobile marketing. Every time Michael Cole was telling people
to download the WWE app (which is a lot!), mine was showing up there tight
next to it and they took exception to that. I awoke on Christmas morning 2012
to find that my game had been wiped off the store at their request, with no
regard for the 300,000 people who had downloaded it at that point (including
paying customers). I looked up the lawyer responsible on LinkedIn, and he was
bragging about how ďaggressivelyĒ he defends WWEís interests. My only
complaint is that they were heavy-handed. They put their foot on my neck and
wouldnít take it off, whereas I had a similar issue with UFC and it was
resolved by exchanging a few polite e-mails. Of course, when the game returned
it was even more popular than it was before and quickly surpassed 1 million
downloads. Meanwhile, the ďWrestleFestĒ remake they were trying to make way
for bombed and no longer exists. Now both Wrestling Revolution 2D and
Wrestling Revolution 3D are the top search results for ďwrestlingĒ, and they
canít stop that any more than they can stop people chanting for Daniel Bryan!
Facebook page has rapidly climbed to nearly 50,000 followers. Do you enjoy the
fan interaction that you weren't afforded in your earlier years? Do you think
its benefited you not only as a programmer but as a creative mind?
Well, corresponding with the players has always been part of my daily routine.
I set aside a couple of hours every morning to read and reply to e-mails Ė
even if it means I have to break out Google Translate! I know what itís like
to be ignored, so I donít intentionally treat anybody that way. If I didnít
respond to a polite, well-written message, itís almost certainly because I
didnít see it. Which, admittedly, is becoming more common in the mobile era Ė
where millions of people are playing the apps, 50k are active on my Facebook
page, and 15k are following on Twitter. Itís easier than ever to get drowned
out by the noise now, so I canít say itís necessarily better than it was when
I had a more intimate audience. The feedback is more instantaneous at least. I
can post a screenshot on Facebook or Twitter and within a matter of minutes
Iíll have a sense of whether people are excited about it or not. In the old
days, I just posted things on my website and the response was a mystery. I
certainly prefer social media to maintaining my own site. Iíve barely updated
that in the past 6 years!
Philadelphia wrestling fans et all were up in arms
this week over the outcome of the Royal Rumble. Who would you have booked to
win the Rumble?
I think the problem with the Royal Rumble is that the winner is locked into
that Wrestlemania main event. If it was more of a seal of approval like
winning King Of The Ring, that would take the pressure off and they could have
more fun with it. It should be the kind of event a mid-carder can win to
elevate himself. Maybe that manifests itself in a title shot and maybe it
doesnít. Creativity could always use more options instead of fewer. I must say
I donít particularly have a problem with Roman Reigns. I donít even agree that
his promos are weak. In my experience, most people donít really know what they
want anyway. I shudder to think where I would be if I listened to the people
who said they didnít want mobile, didnít want touch-screen, didnít want 2D,
didnít want 3D. Henry Ford famously said that if he asked people what they
want, they would have asked for a faster horse instead of inventing the motor
car! Sometimes people donít know what they want until you show them, and
thatís the job of a visionary.
If 2K Sports
ever called you up and said, "Mat, we love your work. Please come work for us
on the next WWE2K installment/mobile game," would you do it?
A lot of people assume that being independent is a warm-up to working in the
mainstream, but it has been the other way around for a long time now. I know
more employees who want to be independent than independents who want to be
employed. Once youíre single-handedly responsible for games that are already
played by millions of people, thereís very little motivation to go and be a
cog in somebody elseís machine. Iíd be lying if I said I didnít want to be
part of the WWE family on some level, as every fan wants to peek behind that
curtain, but sentimentality wouldnít be a good enough reason for me to sign my
life away. In any case, I can assure you that WWE doesnít see me as anything
more than a cockroach - so itís not a decision Iíll have to make any time
soon! Nobody in the entire games industry knows my value except the fans, and
theyíre the only bosses Iíll ever work for.
Speaking of WWE, what are your thoughts on their
latest mobile effort "Immortals?"
I honestly havenít played it yet because I canít justify that 1.3gb download!
Call me old-fashioned, but I donít even mess around with movies that big. The
visuals are admittedly impressive for a mobile app, and it seems like a
creative combination of the 2 franchises, but nothing can justify that file
size to me. I squeezed 300 characters and 2 career modes into a 30mb file,
which just goes to show how much resource management goes into my projects.
Iím so old school that I still imagine Iím trying to squeeze the best game
possible onto an N64 cartridge! On another level, these gimmicks also suggest
that WWE still isnít taking mobile gaming seriously. I donít think fans will
be seeing a serious sim from them for some considerable time, which is a shame
because weíve established that thereís an audience for one.
When Wrestling Revolution 3D is complete with all the
necessary updates, what do you hope that fans of the genre will be able to
take away from the experience? Care to drop any hints on things to look for in
future WR3D updates?
Iím burnt out on wrestling after working on this 3D project for a solid year,
so all I see in my immediate future is a LONG break! Iíve already achieved
more than anybody thought was possible this time last year. Iíve practically
ported Wrestling MPire to mobiles and recreated Wrestling Revolution in 3D, so
anything that happens next is a bonus. The universe will max out at 300
characters in the next update, with dozens of new moves, and Iím not sure
mobile devices could handle much more than that. I may be experimenting with
virtual reality later in the year, in which case WR3D would be the guinea pig.
But other than that, I need a break from this genre to give other concepts a
chance to shine. As much as I love wrestling, itís the most time-consuming and
difficult genre I can imagine working on Ė and I think youíll see CM Punk
return to it before I do!
Anything else you'd like to say to your fans, or even
those who haven't tried your games yet?
Whenever WWE drops the ball, wrestling fans start talking about
ďalternativesĒ. I want people to know that goes for the games as well, so when
you get bored of WWE 2K15 donít get bored of the entire genre! Consider
looking up my ďWrestling RevolutionĒ series on mobiles (in either 2D or 3D) or
the old ďWrestling MPireĒ series on PC. Independent games are like independent
wrestling Ė not so pretty to look at, but we have the best moves! And just
like Daniel Bryan, the little guys are finally gravitating towards that top
spot. To all the fans that were with me from the beginning, thanks for having
the foresight to see what everybody else couldnít. Independent games wouldnít
be anything without independent thinkers to play them.
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