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Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring Developer Interview

Game: Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring
Company: Konami

Game Vortex's Matt Hanchey AKA HanChi recently got the chance to interview Mateo Rojas, Immersion's Project Designer for the new fighting game Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring.

GV: For those that don't know, what is AAA wrestling?

Mateo: Lucha libre (wrestling) has been a part of Mexico for almost a century (although there are matches that date back to the early 1900s, the real lucha libre began to be established around the 1930's), and since then, it has evolved into a tradition, and you could say, a national past time. Mexican Lucha Libre is known all around the globe, and I think it is for many reasons: it is a combination of show, tradition, and most of all, human effort. The show allows you to see, feel and be a part of it. In a Mexican Lucha Libre match, the crowd is another participant of the match itself, just as in the ancient roman circus. The crowd could determine the results of a match, and not because of the myth that the wrestlers don't really hurt themselves, but for them having to earn the crowd's attention. Tradition, on the other hand, is also a really important part. It showcases families and entire dynasties that dedicate their lives to the sport of wrestling. Tradition also speaks to the colorful characters that you see in the Lucha Libre. Finally, the human effort: as I said before, the luchadores in this sport have to earn the attention of the crowd to leave the ring in good shape, and for that, they push themselves to the limit, always performing outstanding moves and trying not to leave one second of time without an outstanding action. AAA is the most important Mexican wrestling league. AAA is commited to make the Mexican way of wrestling an international phenomenon.

GV: Why is it important to develop a AAA wrestling game for today's wrestling fan?

Mateo: In Mexican wrestling, luchadores have dedicated themselves to combining different wrestling styles: aerial, classic, extreme, all kinds of moves and styles, in order to make the battle as dynamic as possible. AAA has dedicated itself, as well to introducing variety to the show, as well as to the moves. It is this variety of movements, styles and locations, in combination with the constant participation of the crowd during the matches and the agile-dynamic gameplay experience that I think will be attractive and refreshing for wrestling fans.

GV: What are some of the challenges you faced as an independent developer in getting this game made?

Mateo: We are a small team, and, added to that, we were working on a specific theme (wrestling) that already has existing games in the marketplace with decades of experience. That was, I think, the primary challenge, but I could say it also gave us an opportunity to focus on creating an experience unlike any previous game including WWE. You see, in real life, there are a lot of differences between the American way of wrestling and the Mexican Lucha Libre way. WWE is the grandfather of wrestling games. They put out a great product every single year. So we wanted to give fans something a little different. So we invested our major effort into translating the Mexican Lucha Libre way, into a solid, fun gameplay experience. And I think we succeeded with it. The other hope is that we will help the genre grow. Competition brings out the best. The more wrestling titles there are, the harder we have to work to best one another. That will pay off in the long run for wrestling fans. They say that when working out, it is best to do so with a partner because a partner will push you to work harder. A partner won't let you quit when you get tired. It is the same with wrestling games. We will push competitors to work harder and they will do the same to us. And in the end, the fans will win because they will get even better games.

GV: How closely is AAA working with you on the Lucha Libre experience?

Mateo: They were with us throughout the entire project. Always available to provide support and feedback without getting in the way. During the early stages of the project, they were kind enough to invite us to some private practices with the great luchador Apache, one of the Mexican wrestling teachers with a prestigious reputation, and the main trainer of the AAA wrestlers. Their guidance was essential when we were creating the different luchadores found in the game. They helped make sure that each luchador had his real life personality and mannerisms reflected in the game.

GV: What are some of the struggles of being a Latin American game developer?

Mateo: Well, I think the main one is that you don't see many game development courses, so many of the team members have acquired their knowledge in game development by their own resources and investigation. There is, however, a huge possibility in terms of creativity, as I think we could give some new and fresh ideas as a Latin developer.

GV: How many wrestlers will be made available on the roster?

Mateo: There are 31 real AAA wrestlers available on the roster of the game, with a few surprises. Could be DLC? Could be a few unlockable characters? We will have to wait and see.

GV: What are your biggest influences on the wrestling system and grapple system used in the game? Are you looking more at the TNA games, WWE games, FirePro, or are you developing something totally new?

Mateo: Well, we took some ideas from classic games like No Mercy and the early Def Jams, as we have always been fans of the developer AKI. Nevertheless, in the development of the gameplay we came up with ideas not only from wrestling games, but also from different titles, mostly arcade fighting ones. When beginning to give shape to the grapple system, we even got some influence from the characteristic CQC system of Metal Gear Solid.

GV: In the press release, it mentions a system where the wrestler has to gain the support of the crowd in order to win. Does this apply to heels or rudos? Will they have to play dirty to gain the negative support of the crowd?

Mateo: Good question! And yes, we really tried to make differences between the gameplay of the técnicos (faces) and the rudos (heels), so do not expect to gain the favor of the crowd by playing by the rules as a técnico would do, if you're a rudo. As in Mexican wrestling, you will encounter differences in the gameplay according to the alignment of your character not only by your behavior and your moves, but also by the referee himself. You have to taunt, in combination with successfully completing moves, in order to unlock special finishing moves during a match.

GV: Is there a way for rudos, or dirty players, to cheat or distract the referee?

Mateo: As mentioned above, one of the features of Mexican lucha libre that we tried to reflect in the gameplay is the attitude from the referees in the matches: you see, as with the luchadores, the referees themselves have an alignment, and they will favor certain luchadores who share their alignment. So we tried to translate that behavior into gameplay. Therefore, you could expect different behaviors and tricks with the referees included in the game. Add that to the taunting and completing of moves and you get a unique wrestling experience.

GV: Of course, Lucha Libre is known for its masked wrestlers. Will any of the featured roster be available to play without their mask or facepaint?

Mateo: No, as we are working with real known Mexican wrestlers, we could not deviate away from their real history and career. We had to maintain their actual image. There are, however, a few surprises for the players during the course of the Story Mode, and the possibility to unmask some characters - as well as other players. We have an online mode, Mask vs. Hair, in which players gamble their created luchador's mask or hair. Winner tears the mask off the loser. The Loser has to go mask-less for a while until they win three ranked matches. Then they have the ability to create a new mask, but they never get their old mask back. This is an exciting gameplay experience that is unique to Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring. You won't find that in WWE or other competitive titles... well, not yet. And that goes back to what I was saying before about publishers pushing each other to be better and improve. As we work on the next game in the franchise (Whoops, is that a spoiler???), we are already improving.

GV: How are the venues going to play into the Lucha experience? How many are available? Can we expect arenas? Back yards? Alleys?

Mateo: The venues found in the game not only help differentiate them from our competition, but to also incorporate a lot of Mexican style and traditional elements in them. You can expect to encounter variations from closed classic arenas, to rings placed in weird but attractive and colorful environments.

GV: For the character editor, you can customize your own mask to use online. Does the mask editor work similarly to the decal editor in the Forza racing games? Or is it creating a mask from scratch?

Mateo: Compared with other titles, we have the largest character creator. There are similarities, but a lot of differences as well. Creating a mask is radically different from painting a car. The mask editor is one of the features that we are most proud of, as we made sure that anyone can both create a new legend using thousands and thousands of combinations, or try to recreate some of the legends of lucha libre.

GV: Lucha Libre is personified by high-risk, high impact moves. How many different moves are in the game; and what are some other modes of play or match types players can enjoy?

Mateo: Well, there are plenty of moves. Since we wanted to make each character an individual experience, we have set a system that encourages the player to create new or different strategies for each character in the roster. We had to include a good amount of movements. In fact, we had to actually get in the ring and learn some of them which was extremely important, informational and super order to really differentiate each character's style of wrestling, we included a large variety of moves. Not only aerial, but traditional. As for the game modes, what we tried to create is a sort of editor for matches. We wanted players to feel like they're in control, and finally, that they can create the match they want to play, so we set a number of match rules for players to combine or change to their liking.

GV: In your opinion, what can American wrestlers learn from AAA Lucha Libre? Also, what do you hope you can deliver better than the competition?

Mateo: Variety, as not only in moves, but also in wrestling styles. Our fighting is faster-paced. Our character create is more robust. Mask vs. Hair. Humor and participation of the crowd, and dynamism... a lot of fast-paced action.

GV: Will there be any surprises on the roster or unlockable characters?

Mateo: Yes, we have a few surprises hidden in the game that we're anxious for the people to discover and enjoy.

GV: What is your most favorite feature or the feature you are most proud of that made it into AAA?

Mateo: Can I say two? I would go either for the mask editor, which I think is one feature never before seen in this type of game (believe me, you have seen masks, but you haven't been able to create one, and later make it a part of the gameplay), or the variety in the character roster, that really encourages players to create different strategies according to the character they have chosen.

GV: Who is your favorite wrestler in the game?

Mateo: It is very difficult to say at this point. You see, we tried to really make the game experience for each luchador different, at the same time we imprinted in their movements and type of game the essence from the real AAA wrestlers, so we played a lot and tried to make each character unique, so that it would be difficult to say there's a favorite. Nevertheless, if you ask me about a favorite luchador in real life, maybe I would go for Dr. Wagner, Jr., as I think he represents the essence of Mexican Lucha Libre today, maintaining the mask and the tradition of a legend.

-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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