This month gamers are going to get their hands on a new contender in the wrestling game genre as developer Immersion Games releases Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Recently, I got a chance to talk with Mateo Rojas at Immersion Games on all things Lucha Libre. Take a look at what Mateo had to say...
Can you talk about why you decided to create a game based on the AAA league? Is the style that much different than what we see in the WWF?
The Lucha Libre has been a part of México for a really long time, and since then, it has evolved into a tradition. It is the second most popular sport behind football (soccer). Many of the luchadores have become national icons. You could say that Mexican Lucha Libre is renowned all around the globe. Lucha Libre is a combination of show, tradition, and most of all, human effort. The show incorporates the crowd. The luchadores feed off the crowd. The crowd is a participant and can help determine the results of a match.
Tradition is also a really important part of the sport. There are families and entire dynasties that have dedicated their lives to the sport. Let’s not forget the masked luchadores themselves. The mask is a treasured and iconic article of clothing. In the famous Hair vs. Mask matches, luchadores wager their mask or hair and their pride. Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring’s Hair vs. Mask wager is so interesting because the stakes are very high. Winner takes all. Loser will have his mask ripped from his head or his head shaved. To lose your mask, is the equivalent to losing your pride. A luchador who has his mask ripped off loses his career. He must wait seven years before he can compete again as that character. Usually it signals the end of a career. Finally, the human effort: as said before, the luchadores in this sport have to earn the attention of the crowd in order to win, 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 committed to make the Mexican way of wrestling an international phenomenon.
What separates AAA apart from the competition, which launches later in the month?
It’s not wrestling. It is not mixed martial arts either. It´s Lucha Libre! So yes, as in reality, the game will have its own characteristics, and will earn its own place in the fighting genre. The genre has been stale for some time. We are bringing our own perspective to it. That means competition. Competition breeds innovation which means that fans can expect this genre to get better. Though there are many significant differences, I think the main one between American wrestling and Lucha Libre is fight inside and outside the ring. The fight inside the ring is based on the human factor. American wrestling, as I see it, usually revolves around the raw force or power which is fun but can be slow, not always but sometimes. The wrestlers are mainly focusing on showing their strength, and not their agility. The show is about how powerful the lights, music and fireworks can be. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact it is a lot of fun. Lucha Libre also has that, but it also offers a lot more. In Lucha Libre, luchadores are constantly trying to be innovative inside the ring. There are some luchadores who use brute force trauma as their fighting style, but the majority of luchadores implement a wide variety of battle styles. Many of them are known for flying around the ring and their opponents. Lucha Libre can be an aerial display. Luchadores also have to play to the crowd in different ways depending on whether they are a “face” or “heel.” They have to not only dominate inside the ring, but they have to play to the crowd. They must encourage their fans to support them. Without support, you cannot win consistently in Lucha Libre. Luchadores feed on crowd response. You see, in the fights, the most important thing is the people. Fans go to the luchas to support their fighter. They create banners and songs for their fighter which they sing or play throughout the match. You have to win the respect and admiration of the crowd before you can win. We have implemented these differences between the WWE and AAA and many more into the game so that when you play it, you get an authentic experience.
Do you find the lack of familiarity with the AAA federation a hurdle in the promotion of your game? How are you trying to bridge that gap?
Our biggest concern was to make an internationally enjoyable and understandable game, taking advantage of the Latin characteristics and the sport’s rich tradition. As mentioned before, the AAA league has already taken steps toward making the league more of a brand with wrestling fans. Just this summer MTV2 started showing matches on TV. But we don’t think the lack of familiarity with the AAA federation is a massive hurdle. We think fans of the wrestling and even MMA have been seen a little stagnation in the genre and are hunger for something different. For years it was dominated by one main brand, all be it a very impressive brand. The MMA has come in a provided a needed burst of competition. We too are adding to that competition. Competition breeds innovation and higher quality products. That in turns signals success for fans. When you play Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring, you will learn about the league, its luchadores and the history. It won’t be a long drawn out history lesson. The rules and facts about the league come out in a nature way as you play the game. What are the most important parts of creating a good wrestling game? What is the hardest of those to put into a game?
Well, there’s a lot of stuff. The most important part is to make sure that the game is fun to play. It could be the best looking game in the world, but if it’s not fun to play, no one will be it. For us, we had to be able to translate the fun in real Lucha Libre to the video game world. In order to do that, we did have to incorporate some arcade like fighting elements. You see, we have been clear that we are developing a Lucha Libre game and that has some differences with the wrestling ones, including the speed, the dynamic movements and actions, the crowd´s involvement, the fact that it is relatively more “hilarious”, and the variety of wrestling styles involved. But we had to be careful not to stray too far into the arcade world while making sure we created an authentic experience.
From what we’ve seen, you’ve done a great job of presenting a predominantly (in the US) unknown wrestling promotion to the audience, teaching the players a lot about the background of the federation; how important was that in the development process of the game?
As we were developing a game based on Mexican Lucha Libre filled with Latin elements, colorful environments, and new and different rules and fighting styles, we were also very concerned about making it a product easily enjoyable for people all around the world. In order to accomplish that we incorporated gameplay features that would be immediately recognizable, but a fan progressed the action and the competition would increase in difficulty. So we needed to create a game that was pick-up and play fun, but challenged those true wrestling and fighting fans.
What will the single player experience be like? Will players be able to create their own wrestlers or will they be using only the existing characters?
I can assure there is lots of material for a fun and lasting single player experience. The story line allows fans to play as either a “Face” or “Heel.” Think of it as a good or bad character. Depending on your affiliation, the story line evolves from there. As for the custom luchadores, allows fans to create their own unique character as well as create Lucha Libre legendary characters. There is very robust luchador editor in the game for players not only to enjoy in single, but in multiplayer experiences and online as well. Oh, let´s not forget, being that this is a Lucha Libre videogame, we have a mask editor that allows you to create your own mask. There are thousands of possibilities.
Wrestling is known for its writing and plots, how much of that are you bringing to Lucha Libre?
We have created two storylines in the story mode with a totally new plot depending on whether you play as a “técnico” or a “rudo.” These two unique storylines include the type of narration and stories you see in Mexican Lucha Libre (particularly in the AAA league, and in the late 80s – 90s of American wrestling), but the story provides introductions on each of the characters in the AAA league and their alignments. On designing the characters, choosing their behavior, their movements and their relationship with the crowd, we as well took special care in reflecting the roster’s real personalities.
What sort of online plans do you have in store for the title? Will multiplayer be strictly a shared sofa affair or will you be able to play people online? How will you handle those who leave a match early?
We have both local and online multiplayer. On the local side, we created an easy quick mode match that allows you to battle with friends. On the online side, we presented more competitive options. Letting you use your own created luchador to battle in the famous Hair vs. Mask modes or in other ranked matches including four player battles. If you lose your hair or mask in the ring, you have to battle through a series of matches in order to regain the ability to create a new one. Why the decision to use a gameplay / control system so closely comparable to the old Aki-engine (not that I am complaining)?
As mentioned before, there are some elements, rules and mechanics that we felt we had to maintain from wrestling titles. We felt it was necessary to provide gamers with some entry level mechanics so that they could familiarize themselves to the sport. Also, we have been playing wrestling games for years so there were certain things we just wanted to include in our game. For the Aki topic, there were some things we certainly felt were essential to add and adapt. We wanted to make the unfamiliar feel very familiar.
What kind of future do you see from the series? will we see more AAA?
We certainly hope so! Although it will be the gamers themselves that have the ultimate word, we here on the development team have so many more ideas for the franchise’s evolution. Unfortunately, we couldn’t put them all into the first game, so we hope to include them on the next one.
What are your thoughts on motion gaming for a wrestling game? Do you think you could ever have a wrestling game that used the Kinect controller?
We certainly see a promising future for motion controlled gaming and a lot of opportunities. When we started creating the game, we didn’t have access to it. Who knows, maybe we will incorporate it in the next version.
Is there anything we missed that you think is important?
We have worked hard to create a game that I hope people find entertaining and fun. As an invitation to your readers, I would only say, like they say during Mexican Lucha Libre matches: “Lucharán... sin límite de tiempo!”
Direction Translation: “They will fight! Without limit of time!”
I would personally like to thank Mateo Rojas of Immersion Games for taking the time to field our questions regarding the game as well as Jim for helping to coordinate the interview.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.