Adam Ryland from Grey Dog Software has been a guest of mine on more than one occasion.  We thought it might be a fun experiment to try a “community interview” regarding his upcoming text-based federation management sim Total Extreme Wrestling 2013.  A few weeks ago, I went to the Grey Dog forums and ask the fans to submit questions for Adam.  We took some of these, added some of my own, and the answers are below!  TEW 2013 is the sixth entry in the franchise which allows players to manage a wrestling federation at an unprecedented level.  If you’ve ever been interested in a thoughtful title where you book house shows, episodic TV, and pay-per-view events (setting up angles, feuds, etc), this is the sim for you when it releases in December!  Familiarize yourself with the game at www.greydogsoftware.com, then sit back and enjoy the interview.

20LEgend:  What is the process for updating the Cornellverse (Adam’s fictional in-game universe)?  Is it done area by area, promotion by promotion, month by month?

Adam:  It’s done on an area by area basis. First I work out the hirings and firings for the entire area, then I go through one promotion at a time, starting from the smallest. Each promotion has its roster updated first, then its tag teams, then I create all the title histories by working out when the title would have changed hands and referencing who would have been on the roster, with the right push, with the right disposition at that specific time. Once all the promotions are done, then I work on the independent scene. Finally the rest of the database is tidied up. All of this is done with a ‘master file’ that contains all the different dates and other information that is needed to try and minimise the chances of any contradictions or errors being introduced.

Psycho Sam:  Out of all of the current mods available for TEW2010, which one do you feel is the best fit for TEW 2013 as it exists?  Which one has the best “upside” to grow into the TEW 2013 engine?

Adam:  Unfortunately I don’t have time to play other people’s mods, so I really only know about them from when I get people’s save games sent to me for technical support. The “Death Of The Territories” mod always seems to be the best made to me based on my limited experience of them.

franticloser:  What are your wrestling influences?  Do you have a favorite time period when you most enjoyed watching the various products?  As of the last interview, you said you weren’t really watching anymore.  Is that still the case?

Adam:  My influences are primarily late 1980s \ early 1990s WWF and pre-PPV ECW; I’m like a walking encyclopedia for those specific time frames, and those most heavily influence the TEW series. No, I don’t watch much wrestling any more; I have probably watched less than a dozen whole matches in the past decade, and most of the current WWE roster are complete strangers to me.

Also from franticloser:  What part of the series’ growth has been your favorite?

Adam:  I think the way statistics are shown to the player has been the nicest evolution; going from basic numbers, through the grading system, on to the new concept of Fog Of War has seen the feature consistently improve each time.

Rickymex:  What is your favorite part of the game?  Do you enjoy the booking, creating the Cornellverse, or the challenge of creating a wrestling company from the ground up?

Adam:  I rarely get time to actually play the game outside of testing, so writing the CornellVerse and developing the game itself are really the only two areas I get to spend time on. Coming up with the new ideas each time is always fun, and is probably my favourite part of the design process.

Jeff:  Tell me about the QC testing that goes into creating a TEW title?  How difficult is it to test configurations for a primarily text based title?  Do you run into issues regarding different video cards, etc? 

Adam:  Quality control is almost entirely about playtesting for the TEW series, as the underlying technology is so simple and standardised that it will work on pretty much any system that is running Windows. So it is easy in the sense that it is just “play it to death and fix whatever comes up”, but obviously hard work in having so many different scenarios that could occur and need to be tried.

Jeff:  How do you set priorities when coming up with new features?  Is feature creep ever a problem?  How often do you have to make serious cuts to the number of features you wish to add?  Has there ever been a feature you just can’t make work for whatever reason?

Adam:  The initial design is always entirely free of restraints, the goal is simply to make the best game possible. We very rarely have to cut features, and those that we do are usually just because they didn’t fit in with the feel of the rest of the game or were simply not working out the way we’d hoped, for whatever reason. I think there’s only been a handful of features in the last ten years that have had to be dropped because we couldn’t figure out a way to do them in a way that wouldn’t be off-puttingly complex or obscure. 

Jeff:  Every new iteration of TEW makes the AI seem more human.  How difficult is it to take what appear to be “organic” decisions (how workers react to motivational speeches, whether a worker “shoots” on another, etc) and code them?

Adam:  Masking what is (obviously) a linear process and making it seem organic is always difficult, as there’s a very fine line between making it too dumbed down and having so many responses or variations that the player can’t work out what the underlying message is meant to be telling him. I’m relatively happy with how the current system (a mix of statistics, random number usage, and probability tricks) works, but I’d always like to make it even more realistic.

Jeff:  What do you think of the WWE series’ attempts to emulate what you’re doing with their “Universe” or “GM” modes?  Are you concerned they may someday reach your level of complexity?  Have you ever considered adding an action element either by yourself or teaming with another developer?

Adam:  I don’t see the WWE games as having much to do with me; their versions of booking is understandably very watered down compared to mine as we’re aiming at totally different markets, and I think the crossover is minimal. I don’t have any background in action games, so I simply don’t have the knowledge to introduce anything like that; I don’t think it would work well with my style of product anyway.

As always, I wish Adam the best of luck with the launch, and you can read a full review here when TEW 2013 becomes available for download at www.greydogsoftware.com.