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Interview: Dave Wishnowski of Pro Wrestling X

The following is an interview that took place several months ago. SonnyBone asked Dave Wishnowski about the events that led to the creation of Pro Wrestling X, Wrestling Gamers United, and now Pro Wrestling X: Uprising. An audio interview was conducted on January 28th, 2012 that will be posted on Friday, February 3rd. The two interviews feature a few overlapping questions, but this text interview mainly focuses on the history of the project while the audio interview focuses more on the current state of Pro Wrestling X: Uprising. AxeBomber was also given an exclusive look at the current build of Pro Wrestling X: Uprising, and we will be releasing the first ever PWX: Uprising preview/impressions article on Friday, February 10th. You can follow the Pro Wrestling X project at the official website as well as the official Facebook page and Twitter account. Keep reading after the break for the lengthy text interview with Dave Wishnowski.

 Axe Bomber:
Dave, I know you’re incredibly busy right now putting the final touches on Pro Wrestling X: Uprising, so I just want to let you know how grateful we all are at Axe Bomber for you taking the time out of your schedule to grant us this interview.

Dave Wishnowski:
Hey, my pleasure. I became a fan of Axe Bomber the first time I saw it and it’s an honor to be interviewed . Thank you.

AxB:
Excuse my impatience, but I’m going to jump straight to the burning question. When are wrestling gamers finally going to be able to play Uprising?

DW:
Soon, I believe. I’m seeing daily improvements to each build. But I’ve been wrong before so we won’t be announcing a release date until the game is within days of release..

AxB:
It’s been over 8 years since the release of Wrestlemania X8 for the GameCube, which was somewhat of a catalyst for the creation of Pro Wrestling X. As the release of Uprising looms overhead, what kinds of thoughts and feelings do you have when reflecting back on where all of this began?

DW:
Oh man. It’s been a roller coaster. I’ve felt the entire spectrum of emotions from euphoria, gratitude, and pride to fear, depression, and embarrassment. I’ve seen the best in people like when our fans saved the project with their support letters and pre orders. I’ve been mentored by some of the most successful people in this industry simply because they wanted to help . On the other end of the spectrum I’ve been betrayed by
crew members I trusted, lost hundreds of thousands of borrowed dollars, and essentially made some very expensive mistakes. But at the end of the day I can look back on it all and smile because it’s given me experiences and shown me sides of myself that I might otherwise have never known. I’ve learned so much about not only game development but human nature, business , project management, and financing. Lessons only real world experience can give you. Someone once told me, “it wouldn’t be any fun if it was easy” and I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun. It’s humbling to think of everything I’ve been through just because I made a stupid promise on a Gamefaqs board to try and make a wrestling game..

AxB:
So before actually jumping into game development, you formed Wrestling Gamers United and petitioned THQ, correct? What kind of results were you looking for? I guess what I’m trying to ask is what could THQ have done to make you a happy wrestling gamer in 2002?

DW:
I was naive and honestly believed THQ would see all of these angry gamers and invite us all to sit in on design meetings for their next wrestling game. Yup. Pretty dumb. I had no idea the way the game business worked back then and in hindsight I don’t think they could have made a much better game for Gamecube than they did. THQ losing AKI was one of the worst things to ever happen to wrestling games. Look at what Yukes has been able to do with the time they’ve had to experiment and refine since then . Can you imagine if AKI had the same opportunity? I don’t think gamers would have been happy with anything less than No Mercy 2 from THQ or at the very least something like Here Comes the Pain to show there was potential from Yukes.

AxB:
At that point in 2002, did you consider yourself a wrestling game expert?

DW:
Ha! Probably, but I was also a big mouthed butthead back before I was humbled. Even now I’m no expert. There are certain wrestling games that I love and know a lot about and it’s my favorite genre in general. But when I think of wrestling game experts I think of guys like Jason Blackhart and Bill Wood who have done so much to educate gamers and promote an understanding of the way some games work. But I suppose having played the hell out of almost every wrestling game ever made gives me some credibility along with actually designing and developing my own game. But I think “Wrestling Game Nerd” would be a more fitting description in my case.

AxB:
So what transpired between the petition and your decision to actually start developing your own wrestling game? What set everything into motion?

DW:
I’m sure I must have fallen and hit my head really hard. I’m not sure. I just remember someone on Gamefaqs responding to one of my WMX8 rants with, “if you think you can do better why don’t you just make your own game then ?” And I thought , “Fine! I Will!” And that was that. It was just one of those times in life where you get hit by a lightning bolt and never turn back. I made a public promise then to make a wrestling game and I
just kept going. An acquaintance of mine at the time had just left EA after working on a WCW game and he really encouraged me to try and said it could be done if I stuck with it . I`ve been sticking with it ever since . For better or worse.

AxB:
So with basically zero experience in game development, you set out to develop a wrestling game from scratch. What was it like trying to explain this decision to your friends and family? Were they initially supportive, or did you have to fight for their approval?

DW:
Well at first it was just a hobby that I pursued in my spare time so acceptance was easy to come by. I kept working as a guitar teacher full time for as long as I could. But once prototype production started I took the leap and quit the teaching job and that was fine because financially we were ok for a while . When it got tough was when the money ran out and I was sitting there unemployed still chasing PWX with a wife and daughter to support. Times like that will show you who really believes in you and who doesn’t. I have the greatest wife in the entire world in that respect..

Axb:
Who was the most supportive early on?

DW:
Angry wrestling fans. WMX8 did more to jump start demand for PWX than anything else on earth. And anyone who thought they would get a job out of me was extremely supportive! In the early days there was nowhere to go but up and it was this big exciting adventure to be a part of. Like another game company owner said to me, “The employment line is full of people who say they believe in you and will stick it out to the end.” But again, my wife was amazing. She encouraged me to chase this thing and even when times were bad she reminded me of why I started and that I could do this.

Axb:
Who is the most supportive now? Who/What keeps you motivated after all this time?

DW:
In particular? Well besides my wife there are a few people who have been through what I’m going through and can relate . There is one game company owner in particular that I met a few years ago that I lean on pretty heavily for morale support. He’s seen success after suffering through far worse than I have and only because he was the last man standing and refused to quit. When someone like that encourages you it’s believable because they’ve been there. And to my utter amazement there are incredible fans who believe in PWX despite the long agonizing history. What motivates me is just knowing we can make these fans happy. Every time I get a new build of Uprising, no matter how buggy or broken it may be at that moment, I can see a glimmer of hope. It could be the smallest thing, a new move that works perfectly, a new camera angle, a fixed bug, but
more and more I’m starting to feel the fun in our game. I’m seeing the gameplay I hoped for come to life and isn’t it all just supposed to be about the game? Fair weather friends come and go, money comes and goes..and goes and goes…but in then end it’s just about making a wrestling game and that’s where my focus is right now until it ships . I don’t want to be responsible for a single person looking at this project and thinking it’s ok to give up just because things get hard or your popularity wanes.

Axb:
So you made this decision to develop your own wrestling game, but you were still faced with the reality of not having the experience, knowledge, or money to make it happen. What was your first REAL step towards making things happen?

DW:
There were two. The first was when I put up the original and cheesy looking Wrestling Gamers United website . Within days I had over a thousand newsletter subscribers and it validated my belief that there was a large enough demand to justify pursuing the idea. The second step that actually put the game into development happened after my first successful pitch to a pair of private investors. I had known them only casually as I used to teach guitar to their son a few years earlier. I showed them my pitch, explained why I thought this was a good idea, and held my breath. After a moment of silence that felt like an hour one investor turned to the other and simply said, “write him a cheque”. I had never accomplished anything like that before. I was yelling and cheering out my car window the whole way home to tell my wife. The ability to raise funding was something I was never taught, never went to school for, and certainly had no reason to believe I could do. So to have someone you barely know show they believe in you and loan you the means to actually start putting paid workers to work on PWX was a revelation. At that point I knew there was no roadblock that couldn’t be overcome if you just get out there and ask for help.

AxB:
How exactly did you go about forming your initial team? Was there any specific criteria that team members had to meet? For example, did they HAVE to be wrestling fans? Or were you just trying to form a team of artists and programmers in hopes that you could TEACH them to understand pro wrestling and wrestling games?

DW:
That was another area I didn’t make the best decisions in. The creative team was already in place simply because the project was exciting and drew interest. To find the rest of the 3D artists and programmers I placed ads and conducted interviews at a Starbucks. Professional, eh? Our early meetings were held in a public library or at my home. I wanted the whole crew to be wrestling fans but none of the applicants were so I just figured they could learn as they went. But the lack of wrestling knowledge among the crew did make for some face palming moments like the time an animator turned in a bulldog animation that had the attacker wrapping his arm around the defenders elbow instead of his head. The animator wasn’t familiar with the move and the reference video he used didn’t show the move from a great angle. Ideally you want wrestling fans making your wresting game but nothing about our circumstances were ideal and we made due..

AxB:
Did anything interesting happen during the initial “tryouts” for the team?

DW:
I was amazed at how many people openly hated wrestling and yet were applying for a job making wrestling games. Really?!.

AxB:
In the Summer of 2003, you worked with Scotty Mac, a Canadian pro wrestler, to record in-ring audio. How was that process, and is that original audio going to end up in Uprising.

DW:
That was easily one of the most painless development experiences I’ve had to date. Scotty has always been eager to help us out and wasn’t afraid to take some top rope bumps so we could get some good impact sounds. I just showed up at the ECCW training facility in Surrey with the audio equipment, told Scotty which sounds we wanted to capture, and he performed like a pro. We were done in less than an hour. All of the mat impact sounds in Uprising are from that session..

AxB:
How did Scotty Mac’s involvement come about? Have any other wrestlers helped out along the way or given you any support?

DW:
One of our original crew members was a friend of Scotty’s and gave me his contact info, saying Scotty would be happy to help and he was. AJ Styles was helping out a lot but that was very early on in the project, when TNA was still doing weekly PPV’s. We would talk every few weeks about Virtual Pro Wrestling and other games. But after so many false starts and failed development attempts I had less and less reason to call AJ. It’s been a while since we’ve spoken. Truth be told I’m a little embarassed about our delays to restore contact with him but I’d love to chat with him again now that we’ve got a game to release. I doubt he’d be any more worried about being associated with PWX than Impact. There is another wrestler I met a few years ago that agreed to develop another project with us but we can’t talk about that yet. There have been a few of the bigger indie feds interested as well . But really, it all hinges on what kind of interest Uprising gets after release. We have a lot of opportunities but until we can prove we can build a wrestling game that sells well and doesn’t totally blow we can’t really proceed with anything else..

AxB:
In 2004 you applied for funding from Telefilm Canada. Our readers may not be familiar with Telefilm, so here are a few lines from their mission statement:

Telefilm Canada is a federal cultural agency dedicated to the development and promotion of the Canadian audiovisual industry. Telefilm’s role is to foster the production of films, television programs and cultural products that reflect Canadian society, with its linguistic duality and cultural diversity, and to encourage their dissemination at home and abroad.

DW:
Ahhh good old Telefilm. Their loan support early on was what made it possible for us to even open a studio and begin production. Their validation also helped bring other investors to the table. We owe them a lot . Literally. We had some very big fans within Telefilm at the beginning and in general there was a feeling of excitement surrounding PWX. Here was this little Canadian company that was going to employ Canadians to make a wrestling game featuring some Canadians and sell it to Canadians. It was a perfect fit. Sadly, it wasn’t always smooth sailing as the project progressed. As the PC game industry was shifting away from boxed goods to digital distribution our business plan changed and it no longer completely reflected the plan that Telefilm had originally backed. They also weren’t pleased to hear how we had lost about $100k in development due to a bad game engine deal. I was told our project should have been terminated at that point . The PWX project became much smaller in scope than they originally hoped and I totally understand that. But it also didn’t change the fact that we were still a very dedicated and hard working team intent on bringing a PWX game to market. But at this time Telefilm was also experiencing their own internal staffing challenges finding appropriately experienced people to administer the fund to projects like our’s that didn’t easily fit inside well defined film or television project structure like they were used to. In the end we satisfied our contractual obligations to each other and moved on. I can’t thank them enough for getting us started but I also hope that in the future there can be some sort of fund set up that really addressess the unique financial needs and opportunites faced by indie game developers.

AxB:
Was acquiring and setting up a studio a difficult process? What all did you have to do to turn that space into a proper game studio?

DW:
Not difficult at all. By that point we had some seed funding in the bank and it was simply a matter of writing cheques to get the required space and equipment. We ran into a few snags with the business license but other than that it was pretty smooth. All that the place needed was a coat of paint (beer colored of course) and we were ready to go in less than a week. We wallpapered the stairwell with fan mail. That was a great thing to walk by on your way to work on PWX in the morning.

AxB:
Have you licensed any tools or engines during development?

DW:
We licensed a game engine from another local developer that we thought was going to be the answer to our prayers. It turned out to be a very expensive and almost project-killing nightmare. The whole thing turned into such a mess that we almost lost the project entirely. Another developer threatened to sue us if we shipped PWX with the engine in question and it was a very scary time. Since that time we’ve worked hard to develop our own in-house tools and software so that we never have to deal with that bullshit ever again.

AxB:
So at this point… you finally had a studio, equipment, a development team, and funding. Were your ideas firmly in place or were you still constructing your overall strategy / gameplan?

DW:
Oh we had a plan firmly in place alright. We had a beautiful design document, budget, and schedule. The only thing we didn’t have was the experience to realize that all of our plans were completely unrealistic. We had a plan for a $10 million dollar wrestling game but we only had 1% of the money and a lot of learning to do. All of the good intentions and positive attitude can’t bend the laws of time and money.

AxB:
Based on what I’ve seen thus far, it seems as though Virtual Pro Wrestling / No Mercy played a major influencing role in PWX. Some of the animations are nearly identical and the proposed grappling mechanics are very similar. Is this what you initially set out to do? To extend the concepts and gameplay of WWF No Mercy?

DW:
You nailed it. My initial mission was to make a cross between Virtual Pro Wrestling 3 and No Mercy 2. Every wrestling gamer has their favorite developer and franchise and there is a ton to love about the Fire Pro and King of Colosseum games but for me the pinnacle of basic “fun” was always in the old AKI games and they were definitely my base point for PWX design. I know every damn wrestling game that has come out since No Mercy has made reference to it in promotional interviews and who can forget the famous “former AKI members” claim of the WMX8 game? But I think when you look at footage of PWX the AKI influence hits you right between the eyes and I make no appologies for it. We were actually in direct talks with AKI for a while but I put an embarassing end to that relationship.

AxB:
Direct talks with AKI? Embarrassing end?! You’ve got to fill us in on this.

DW:
I had been in contact with the head of business development for AKI U.S.A. (at the time) and they agreed to license us the AKI engine to build PWX out from. The stipulation was that we only used it for PC projects. We agreed to never use it for a console title in order to protect AKI from the possibility of us competing directly with each other in the future with their own engine. However, when the time came for me to make a firm financial offer I came in a bit lower than they expected. My offer was naive and a tad insulting. They responded with something along the lines of, “While AKI supports the development of PWX and wish to support you with our technology we are very far apart in our appraisal of the AKI engine value. We must respectfully end our negotiations here so that we might still meet and be friends in the future over a beer .” Whoopsie! They are really cool to deal with, though, and I’m going to take them up on that beer offer when I get the chance.

AxB:
Going back to your comment on the “fun” of the Asmik Ace / AKI wrestling games, do you remember when WCW/nWo Revenge won FIGHTING GAME
OF THE YEAR? I think that says a lot for AKI and the game itself, but also a lot for where wrestling was at during that time. Your thoughts?

DW:
Yeah I think that just goes to show how well designed and easily accessible those AKI games were. You could watch someone have their first match without even reading the manual and they’d be having a great time without any frustration or confusion. That experience is a great goal to shoot for.

AxB:
What do you think made the AKI games so damned fun to play?

DW:
Aside from the overall balance and quality they were just so logical and easy to understand . One button to hit the guy and another button to grab the guy in almost any situation. You had the basic ingredients for a wrestling game that anyone could wrap their heads around and you didn’t need to keep the instruction booklet open in front of you while you played it .

AxB:
As for games constantly referencing No Mercy… I remember looking at the box art for Wrestlemania XIX on the Gamecube and reading “Robust Gameplay with Strong and Weak Grapples”, as if that was the reason for No Mercy’s success. Do you ever worry that by borrowing the grappling engine from No Mercy, PWX will be seen as a No Mercy copycat?

DW:
Nah. I’m sure some people will think so but I’m not worried about it. It’s hard to think of PWX being at all reminiscent of No Mercy and it being a bad thing.

AxB:
The core of PWX seems to stem from the basic mechanics found in VPW and No Mercy. What does PWX do that really sets it apart from those games?

DW:
Well for starters our actual game play depth is maybe only 50% of what No Mercy offered in terms of core mechanics. There was no way our first game would be anywhere near a big budget commercial game like No Mercy in that regard. We experimented with adding things like a side grapple position and a different control scheme once in a grapple. And the PWX system has nothing like the AKI “Special” system for finishing moves. That system was too easy to abuse and it was one area where I think the Fire Pro games are better designed than the AKI games. So in PWX you can attempt a finisher at anytime and there will be no taunting to a Special and chasing your chicken-shit opponent around.

AxB:
Do you want people to think of PWX as a spiritual successor to No Mercy / VPW? If gamers came to that general consensus, would accept that title ?

DW:
I’d be thrilled. But “successor” might not be the most accurate word for it. It’s nowhere near as deep and mature as the final AKI games. I think of PWX more like the newborn offspring of those games in most respects. It has all of it’s fingers and toes and it has the genetics to grow into something strong and healthy over it’s lifetime. But for now we’re just happy it’s breathing and that we survived the delivery. There’s an image for you.

AxB:
There are those that believe you are the savior of wrestling games and that PWX will be the answer to all of our wrestling game prayers. These people typically agree that No Mercy is the best wrestling game of all time, and the fact that PWX is influenced heavily by the AKI games fills them with enthusiasm. Then there are those that do not agree that No Mercy is the best example of what a wrestling game should be, and they are doubtful if PWX will appeal to them. There are many schools of thought, but these are the two that contradict each other directly. I’ve come to the conclusion that it may not be possible to craft a wrestling game that satisfies all wrestling gamers. Games like No Mercy, Virtual Pro Wrestling, Fire Pro Wrestling, and King of Colosseum are all considered to be GREAT games, but not always by the same people. Despite No Mercy and VPW sharing the same engine, they are distinct enough to be polarizing . How someone can HATE No Mercy but love Virtual Pro Wrestling is beyond my comprehension, but that’s the way some people feel. What I’m getting at is that early on in the development of PWX, the project seemed to be aimed at righting the wrongs of American wrestling game development and satisfying the wrestling gamer. The reality is… some people are going to hate PWX despite your intentions, hard work, and determination. The question is… do you find yourself focusing on ways to please as many people as possible, or are you more concerned with following through with the ideas and objectives that you initially started out with?

DW:
In the past I’ve been swayed from my original vision. I admit that. There were times when I forgot that the most vocal critics are rarely, if ever , indicative of the larger group of fans who sincerely want to see us succeed. I’m sure there are those who have their bad reviews of PWX Uprising already written and I’d be lying if I said those people never weighed on my mind when design decisions were made in the past. But in the last few
years I’ve regained my confidence in my vision for PWX. I’m making a game that I would love to play and I trust that there are enough people out there like me to make it a viable franchise. I have thousands of pages of fan support mail to make me feel I’m on the right track and should never have doubted that. Besides, the difference between No Mercy and Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 boils down to taste. No Mercy is an excellent representation of WWE style wrestling and Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 perfectly captures the spirit and nuances of the Japanese wrestling scene at the time. Both games nail their target perfectly and to actually “hate” one game over the other is just a reflection of a person’s taste in wrestling , in my opinion . It’s useless to try and win the favor of everyone who hates what we’re doing when there are many times more people who think we’re doing just fine.

AxB:
In May of 2005, you went traveled to E3 to pitch Pro Wrestling X to publishers. What was that experience like, and did you actually get to pitch anything in the way that you wanted?

DW:
E3 was a blast! We had a little booth that we shared with this really angry French guy that wasn’t so fun but the rest of the trip was a great experience. I met two crew members there, Mel and John, and together we pitched PWX to NCsoft which was hilarious. At the time all we had was a simple single player prototype but when they asked us about online features I panicked and was like, “..oh yeah we’ve totally got a handle on online multiplayer and the whole bit .” Needless to say though they never called back. We raided their catering table like a pack of starving college students before we left. The rest of the time at E3 was less productive but fun. I got my picture taken in front of the THQ booth, giving it the finger. This was around the time of that whole Matt Hardy/Lita/Edge drama and Edge was there giving autographs so Mel wanted to asked him to sign something with, “Dear Matt…I’m sorry” but he didn’t do it .

AxB:
In June of 2005 you were asked to perform test marketing, so you opened up pre-orders for the game. What kind of immediate results did that generate ?

DW:
Insane results! PWX was pre selling at a rate of about $1000/day. For a little indie game from and unproven team that is incredible and it just goes
to show the amount of strong support the project has. So many people want to see us succeed and that pre order test marketing proved it.

AxB:
Some people, especially publishers, believe that a pro wrestling game without a WWE license can’t be profitable in today’s market. Where do you stand on
this topic?

DW:
If we’re talking about a big budget AAA console game then, yeah, I agree. But the game business is changing thanks to PC digital distribution and new channels like Xbox Live Arcade Indie Games, iPhone, etc. Smaller teams making smaller games have proven they can be profitable and I think that’s where the future of wrestling games lies . I don’t think it will be from Spike, Yukes, or any other conventional console developer. I think we’re going to see a boom in indie wrestling games as the barriers come down. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a dozen new wrestling games from indie developers in the next few years. Maybe we were on to something with a concept like PWX, just eight years too early.

AxB:
With the TNA game, there were a ton of problems that many players excused for “The First Game Blues”. When a new wrestling game comes out, and it sucks, apologists like to argue that the first wrestling game in a series is supposed to be lacking certain features and refinements, and that the followup will fix all of the problems. I point to games like AJPW: King’s Soul and the original Virtual Pro Wrestling as examples that destroy that argument. Uprising is the only wrestling game I can think of that literally comes out and says, “This is our first game, and it doesn’t represent the full scope of PWX.” You won’t find that kind of honesty at a big budget studio! For those that haven’t been keeping up with PWX, what exactly IS Uprising and why did you decide to go this route?

DW:
Well PWX has been an open book since the very beginning and it ’s been a unique experience for everyone involved. No sense hiding the truth from your supporters whether the news is good or bad. I’m not saying it was easy to come out and admit that our first game would not be the No Mercy killer we foolishly said it would be when we started. I felt I was letting people down. But we were honest about our reasons for making a smaller game first and our supporters accepted that. Thank, God. We simply did not have the resources or money to guarantee a massive wrestling game for our first title. My choice was to either take my bruised ego and quit with a lame “poor me” attitude or suck it up and make whatever game I could realistically make and hope it would give our supporters faith in the future of PWX. I chose the latter. How will people accept a little wrestling PC wrestling game with exhibition matches, one venue, and easy access to mod art content? I don’t know. We ’ll find out soon enough. I think back to games like the original Virtual Pro Wrestling and I initially thought it would be a laughably easy target to surpass for our first game. But I didn’t take into account the experience of that original VPW team was something I didn’t have and it matters. It matters a lot. I didn’t have the experience to design a smaller game first and I didn’t have an experienced crew to realize that design without mountains of trail and error. It’s not an excuse, I’m not complaining, it’s just the facts and now I know better. And I don’t think the TNA game was a victim of “The First Game Blues” at all. That could have been a very fun game but it was a victim of budget and deadline . That team wasn’t given a fair chance to finish the game they started or it would have been a different story. It might not have been everyone’s idea of a great game but at least it would have been properly finished.

AxB:
So, after Uprising is released, what are your plans? Will the sales of Uprising determine the next step for you?

DW:
I just want to keep going and not repeat past mistakes. I want to keep building out the PWX platform and keep releasing updates and new games. I don’t want to stop until we’ve got the PWX game with all of the features I originally wanted. Why stop now? If Uprising sells tons of copies then we can develop more and faster. If it doesn’t sell tons we can still keep going just at a different pace.

AxB:
And what about all of the pre-orders? I know some people have asked for and have been granted refunds, but what about those that pre-ordered the full game back before Uprising was announced?

DW:
Those people are awesome! We ’ll be honoring those pre orders when there is a PWX game worthy of filling them and our supporters know I’m here until that promise is filled. We plan to do a lot more for those original supporters than just deliver one game. They’ve waited a long time and had a lot of faith that should be rewarded when we’re in a position to do so.

AxB:
We all know the landscape of the current PC gaming scene . You’re going with a digital distribution model for Uprising. Is piracy a concern for you?

DW:
I don’t worry about it. Piracy is a fact of life on the PC scene and I knew it would be an issue when we decided on PC. I also know it’s relatively fruitless to waste time and money fighting it. You don’t knowingly build a house next to a garbage dump and then complain about the smell. What we’re offering with Uprising and future releases is worth paying for and supporting. I believe many people will do so. Many people will pirate regardless .

AxB:
Let’s talk a bit about the actual gameplay of Uprising. How exactly do the striking and grappling mechanics work?

DW:
Very simply. You shouldn’t need an instruction manual in front of you to play your first match and have fun. One button generally initiates strikes and one button generally initiates grapples. Tap for weak, hold for strong. In some situations you can hold down two buttons instead of one to access an even stronger tier of moves. There is also a separate button for blocking strikes and one for blocking grapple attempts. There are no ready moves from a standing grapple, all grapple moves are initiated from a grapple loop state. Same goes for apron, ringside, and turnbuckle grapples .

AxB:
Are there any mini-games in Uprising? Do we have to clear a line of Tetris to kick out of a pin?

DW:
Oh hell no. I like my eyes to be on the action on the screen, not a HUD or mini-game graphics.

AxB:
You said earlier that Uprising is more like Fire Pro Wrestling than Smackdown and No Mercy in the ‘Finisher’ department. I’m a firm believer that the ‘RACE TO THE FINISHER’ style of wrestling gameplay has stunted the growth of American wrestling games for far too long. How do finishers work in PWX? Do you simply mark a move as a finisher in your moveset, or do you have to press a certain button to initiate them? And what about signature / specialty moves?

DW:
Strong finishing moves can be attempted at any time by initiating a strong front or back grapple and pressing A+B (on the 360 controller). Just like in Fire Pro, your chances of the move succeeding depend on the general relative health of each wrestler. That’s for Uprising. For our next game I want add the ability to flag additional moves as signature moves, KO moves, etc. If I felt we had more time I’d add this to Uprising but we have to
avoid feature creep and get this game out.

AxB:
How is move damage handled in Uprising? Do moves have static damage values that are altered by wrestler stats? Is limb damage implemented?

DW:
You got it. Every move has a base damage value which is then altered depending on wrestler stats and conditions. Damage is tracked for overall
health, arms, legs, head/neck, and torso.

AxB: 
Speaking of limb damage, I just want to add that I haven’t played a single wrestling game to date that has handled submissions in a realistic or effective manner. How do you feel about submission holds in wrestling games, and how are they implemented in Uprising?

DW:
I feel they are really damn expensive and time consuming to get done. Ideally I’d like to see submissions handled more like they are in the UFC and MMA games but that also messes up the pacing a bit. It’s definitely a case where you have to ask yourself the realism vs. gameplay question . So for now, submissions aren ’t a place where we’ve done any innovating. They work pretty much like they do in any Fire Pro or AKI game.

AxB:
I’ve always believed that wrestling games live and die by their reversal and finisher systems. I’m sure that’s why I can’t enjoy the Smackdown games. I think the best examples of reversals in pro wrestling games are the systems found in VPW, Fire Pro, and KOC, where timing based reversals are combined with auto-reversals that are based on stats and defensive styles. You’re certainly headed down the Fire Pro Wrestling path in the finisher category, but how are reversals handled in Uprising?

DW:
Once again I agree 100% regarding Smackdown. In Uprising you have to time the reversal button and then we roll the dice against stats and attributes .

AxB: 
As far as gameplay ‘extras’, I know of the infamous BALCONY DIVE, but that’s about it. What other gameplay additions can we expect in Uprising?

DW:
The balcony dive is the only guilty pleasure I added to Uprising. Not until all of the core mechanics are approved by our supporters will we add more extras. No extra gimmick matches, weapons, level interaction, etc. until the general consensus is that our basic gameplay is acceptable to build on. After Uprising our development time will likely be divided into 40% improving existing content, 30% experimenting with new game mechanics, and 30% creating new art content like moves, levels, and CAW parts.

AxB:
I assume that because Uprising is a PC game, we’ll be able to use custom music, textures, and images. Is this a safe assumption? Do you plan to allow for any other customization in the future such as arenas, animations, etc?

DW:
We’ll be leaving art and audio content directories open for modders. You can swap out all art with whatever your heart desires and we’ll be happy to help people with modding questions on our forum. The only things that won’t be accessible are the animations and character models. We’ll be upgrading and changing those assets after Uprising and at that point we’ll think about releasing mod files for those as well .

AxB:
So when Dave Wishnowski watches pro wrestling , what does he watch? What’s your favorite era of pro wrestling?

DW:
My fondest memories are of watching Stampede Wrestling with my dad when I was younger. These days I enjoy WWE Vintage Collection, wrestling documentaries, Ring of Honor, and especially CHIKARA. I catch TNA every now and then. Sometimes the wrestling is great but often I get stuck in the middle of a backstage segment or promo and lose interest. For the most part I read more about wrestling than watch it.

AxB: 
Do you have any favorite wrestlers?

DW:
Bret Hart represents everything I love about wrestling and also enjoy guys like AJ Styles and Davey Richards. But I’ve always had a soft spot for the more outlandish characters in wrestling like the Road Warriors, Undertaker, and Hayabusa.

AxB:
You’re Canadian, so I have to both praise and blame you for things you had nothing to do with. We all hate you for giving us Nickelback, but I’m personally grateful for the gift of Devin Townsend and Ian Thornley. Also… The Kids In The Hall . Oh yeah, and the awesome wrestlers. This is not a question . This is me hi-fiving you for being Canadian.

DW:
It’s funny because PWX owes it’s existence to being Canadian as well . We owe most of our financial support to Canadian investors and most of our crew has been Canadian as well. I’m not sure we would have been so fortunate with financing if we were anywhere else . But in Canada wrestling is loved and respected a lot like it is in Japan and Mexico and it wasn’t hard finding support. It’s a great place to be making a wrestling game and the vibe here, especially in Alberta, is perfect for it. Funny Nickleback story, when I used to walk my dog in Vancouver he would always stop and shit behind this one building that I later found out was the studio Nickleback recorded in. I loved that dog. And in a previous life my band opened for Devin’s Strapping Young Lad. Nice guy.

AxB:
We all know you play wrestling games, but what other games do you enjoy playing? Any current favorites?

DW:
I’m lucky if I get more than two hours a week to do any gaming not including the Rock Band parties with my family on the weekend. I’m just finishing Super Mario Bros. Wii with my wife and daughter. When I get the house to myself lately I’ve been loving Hydro Thunder on XBLA and I just finished Undead Nightmare. When I only have ten or fifteen minutes to play I’ll likely boot up Giant Gram 2000, No Mercy, or Fire Pro Advance on my DS. I haven’t taken that game out of the DS since the day I bought it . I still mess around making edits and setting up dream matches.

AxB:
We’re seeing some new fads in gaming. Do you ever think we’ll see a wrestling game that uses motion control to revolutionize the genre , or do you think wrestling games always be tied to traditional game controllers?

DW:
Maybe I lack imagination, but I can’t conceive of a motion controlled wrestling game with the depth and responsiveness most of us want in a wrestling game. I have yet to experience a motion controlled fighting game of any kind that made me want to throw away my traditional controller .

AxB:
And last, but certainly not least… If you saw a really ugly hat with Lex Luger on it, would you buy it?

DW:
I own a bar of Ultimate Warrior soap and WCW Valentine cards. I would have no choice. It’s a sickness.

AxB:
Words cannot express my gratitude for your willingness to participate in this ridiculously long interview. I also cannot express how much it means to us wrestling gamers that someone like yourself had the balls to break out and do what you’ve done. You’re paving the way for future developers, breaking down walls, and giving hope to wrestling gamers around the world. No matter what happens with PWX in the future, I consider this project to be a huge success because you went from nothing to something with little more than an idea and determination. Myself and the rest of Axe Bomber thanks you or your time, and we wish you the best of luck with Pro Wrestling X. We hope to see a review in the virtual pages of Axe Bomber Magazine some day! Any final comments?

DW:
Man, I don’t know where to begin. I just want to thank everyone who wants to see PWX succeed. I especially want to thank the fans who donated and pre ordered and who remain supportive to this day. I want to thank everyone who cared enough to be honest and call me on my mistakes. I’ve made a lot and there were many times where I didn’t feel I earned the generous support PWX has. It’s been an epic adventure and I want every
PWX supporter to know that the release of Uprising is not the end for this, it’s the beginning of the next chapter and I couldn’t feel more excited. I just want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who helped make this opportunity possible. I’ve been blessed. To anyone out there thinking of getting into game development I say do it. If you really love games, make them.

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