By now, most know the story of 2K’s in-house struggle to bring WWE 2K20 to fruition after the sudden departure of long-time developer Yukes. Caught in an unenviable trap between losing the primary developer and an annual commitment to the world’s largest wrestling entity, 2K raced to bring the new title to life. While patches were able to pull the game back to playable territory after launch, the community remained underwhelmed and uncertain of the new team’s capabilities and direction going forward.
This led to a shake-up in philosophy and, surprisingly, the gift of an extra year from the WWE to develop the next chapter (although a new arcade-style game will be available this year to help pad those gaming dollars). While this means that WWE 2K21 will not exist, WWE 2K22 — perhaps with a different name to signify new beginnings — is now the main focus of the team.
For a franchise that has been notoriously short on details and transparency with players, 2K drew immediate intrigue by setting up a feedback forum loaded with potential topics that they promised would help guide the hand of the developers going forward. With this new title roughly a year and a half away, excitement was evident as there is actually enough time for the community voices to have a direct impact on the next WWE simulation.
And so, the community spoke. Contained in the feedback forum are words of encouragement and words of disappointment. There are unique and novel ideas, and there are recurring themes that spell out requests so intensely desired that the developers could not possibly have missed the neon signs.
Many requests were plausible. Many were eyebrow raising in terms of feasibility, but that was the point. This was the rare chance to speak and know that you at least have the ear of those who hope to make the crowd pop with a big return next fall.
Here are some excerpts from the feedback forum that ran from April 20, 2020 through May 22, 2020.
Long-time WWE executive Bruce Prichard has a line he likes to use when explaining how hiding myriad problems with fluffy and dazzling storytelling eventually fails. He simply says, “and then the ball rang.” Whether it’s actually being on the pitch in FIFA, feeling the crack of the bat in The Show, or sinking a buzzer-beater in NBA 2K, sports titles are made or broken when the action starts.
Does it actually simulate the athletic event that it’s supposed to? Is it fun? Intuitive? Gameplay has generally been a mixed bag for the WWE 2K franchise. The steady hand of Yukes had created a dual sensation that was warmly familiar yet long due for an overhaul. So what is needed for the gameplay to evolve?
“cruiserweights, lightheavyweights AI should be using springboard moves if they have that skill.”
More broadly, wrestlers should perform the way you would expect that wrestler to perform. Human players have no issues realizing they’re using luchadores and will head straight for the top rope, but the AI doesn’t seem to know the difference between Mysterio and Big Show. As such, they perform very similarly in the ring, breaking immersion in a subtle but meaningful way.
“I think it’s time to expand the “option” menu and allow us to toggle almost everything (both on/off or with various degrees). Having so much gameplay options would allow us to set the game the way we want. Want a more methodical style? then put stamina and major reversal in place. Want a more “arcadish” experience? Simplify the body damage and button-mash your way to victory! Want to play with settings and find a middle ground? Have fun, the game is yours!”
Generally speaking, more options are a winning recipe. If sliders are implemented correctly, it may finally mute the debate between slower or faster game speed in the ring by allowing players to choose their own experience.
“More selling (injures, stumbling etc, failing to lift opponent etc) and no more invisible walls, more hit detection with the environment.”
“One of the bigger things that’s been requested over the years is an improvement in selling, particularly selling of individual body parts over the course of a match. In addition to making the matches much more immersive, being able to tell how damaged/healthy your wrestler and opponent are just by looking at them would be a big step toward being able to play without the HUD, which is another thing that would make the game much more immersive.”
The registering of strikes was greatly improved in 2K20, and the addition of wrestlers selling into different positions (on the ropes, into the corners, etc.) over the past few years was another solid improvement. I think the “rollout” feature in multi-person matches and tag matches — where wrestlers sell for an extended period outside the ring — has made those match types the best they’ve been in any wrestling game, and I’d definitely like to see that remain.
Whenever people talk about great in-ring performers, there is an underappreciated art form that subconsciously lets us know that we are watching an elite storyteller. From Perfect to Ziggler, selling is as important as anything to buying into the gravity of a match. WWE 2K has in recent years added moments of crawling across the ring or into a seated position in the corner. Adding more of these moments where they belong, becoming more common as the match progresses, would greatly improve the feeling that you are having an epic match.
Bring back the control scheme from WWE 2K19.
An attempt to have WWE 2K20 feel fresh by changing the control scheme appears to have missed the mark. In the gameplay section, by far the most common request is to do away with this new scheme. The simple fact is that it changed too much, and in many cases created counter-intuitive inputs that flew in the face of years of muscle memory. While there are a slew of gameplay improvements to be made, radically changing control input with no option to use the classic system was one thing players did not expect or need.
Perhaps the most ancient of questions for any wrestling game ever… “where is <insert match>?” Personally, I found myself perpetually disappointed not being able to experience the chaos of the three-ring World War 3 battle royale. Gimmick matches are a pillar of the industry, so it is natural to crave these unique stipulations for the shows we create on our game consoles. The craving deepens when a gimmick match has actually been featured in the past, and has since gone missing.
“Inferno Match, Buried Alive Match and Special Referee match have to return!!!!”
The above are three of the most requested match types, and all three were previously featured in past WWE titles. While WWE has not held an Inferno match or Buried Alive match in quite some time, they are still beloved staples of the Attitude Era that hit a special type of nostalgia. Special Guest Referee matches have always been common, even to this day, making the lack of this option simply confusing. Often serving to advance a plot between rivals, its return would fit nicely within the framework of Universe mode’s branching storylines.
“1. War Games. It’s chaotic fun, plain and simple. Add an option for weapon implementation and the amount of fun that would be had would be amazing. It may be a little difficult to get the second ring in, but I would like to see it if possible.
2. Round Robin Tournaments. The block style format of tournaments such as the G1 or the current Cruiserweight Championship tournament would be amazing for players.
3. Implementing weapons into current match types. Who wouldn’t love to see an Elimination Chamber or Steel Cage match with weapons on the sides of the cage to pick up and use to your heart’s content?”
Since debuting as an ambitious revival for the NXT brand, War Games has become an annual fan favorite. While the dual-ring setup is likely a challenging creation, the fact is that two WWE 2K releases have occurred since it was re-introduced. This contrasts heavily with the Elimination Chamber making its video game debut barely a year after its introduction. It’s rare for novel match types to truly catch fire with the audience, and 2K has twice missed the chance to strike while the iron is hot. Not introducing War Games after an extra year of production is likely to be a devastating strike three.
“-I quit Match (In universe mode, the loser could be unselectable for a certain period)
-Title vs “something match” – Title vs career, title vs hair, title vs title… Just like a MITB cash in.”
Both of these ideas work towards expanding the replay elements of Universe mode. Any match that can be implemented to have a direct and lasting impact on storylines would go a long way towards building immersion.
While Universe mode has received mixed reactions at times, there is no doubt that it carries the potential to generate the most replay hours. As the ostensibly open-ended sandbox, it is a mode that should always be expanding and looking for ideas on how to seamlessly tell stories from show to show. How do you re-create the anticipation of seeing what’s going to happen on the next Raw or Smackdown? How do you present that epic storyline that culminates at a PPV?
While it is true that Universe mode has a lot of room to grow, arguably there is no mode that has the potential to shine as bright.
“- Any time (and I mean any time) we’re viewing a superstar in any Universe Menu, we should be able to check and see which shows they’re on (Like the logo of a show in the corner of their render or something), and who they are currently feuding with. Also if we’re booking a show we should be shown whether someone is booked that night already with the option to book them anyways if we want. When you’re running multiple shows featuring multiple rivalries, it gets easy to lose track of every single roster member.
– A better rivalry system. Please. This constant 1 on 1 booking every week kills the rivalries for me. Ideally two people who are feuding should rarely meet one on one before the big PPV match, and the only time they should is if it plays into the story between them in a meaningful way. Other than that, there are ways to keep the rivalry going with tag matches involving them, segments, backstage interviews, etc. Some of this is already implemented but I would like to see these things reflected on later in the rivalry (through promos later for instance) as opposed to just happening and then forgotten about. There needs to be a narrative in each rivalry and something that actually incorporates the characters for who they are.
– I want attires to be toggle-able instead of just having to select one or random. I’d also want to be able to select attires for PPVs only.
– We should have the ability to run GM/authority segments where they can strip someone of their title, create matches, or make various types of announcements. We should also have the ability to assign anyone we want to the role of GM for these scenes.
– I’d like it if Universe Mode was to keep track of things broken during matches. You can slam your opponent through the announcer tables and barriers before they’re magically fixed by the next match. I think it would be more immersive if broken barriers were temporarily fixed with caution tape (that you can rip away during one of the next matches in the night if you want to enter the crowd area). Or that announcer tables stay broken for the night.
– I’d love to have the ability to have tournaments (either over the course of months, or in one night) in Universe Mode. King of the Ring needs a place among my Universe PPV schedule. Tournaments are sorely missing. With the prize being selected by the player and ranging from being announced as King of the Ring for the year (along with a ceremony in cutscenes), to being given a shot at a championship title, etc.
– We should have the ability to book more segment types than just in ring promos to be interrupted. Please, please include some of the more crazy cutscenes in the past. I’d love to see cutscenes where you can have superstars attack each other (perhaps leading to matches within) in hotels, grocery stores, outside, during interviews. I’d love to see unique cutscenes that you can book to happen such as attacks during Backstage interviews, GM meetings (or superstars confronting them about something), confrontations in the hall, pyro mishaps (with the later reveal that a superstar messed with another superstar’s pyro), vehicle run downs, monster trucks smashing rides, exploding limos, title thefts, superstars locking others in trunks and causing the car to crash, etc. There’s a whole history of wacky moments like this to draw from within WWE’s vault. It would be great if we could also establish vague motivations for certain scenes (like attacks) that could serve as a potential rivalry starter.
– I want managers to be able to appear next to superstars at all times if slated by the players to. This includes segments, matches, promos (with the ability to have the manager to instead speak for the superstar).
– While we’re on rivalries, I’d love to see some more variation there as well. We have 1 on 1 and 2 on 2, but I’d love to see 3 on 3, 4 on 4, 5 on 5, 1 on 1 (with manager playing integral role), 1 on 1 on 1. You get the idea.
– No going back to the match screen after every segment. Ideally no loading (or disguised loading) between segments and matches. I’d like to be immersed into whatever show I’m playing from the moment the pyro display goes of to the moment the end show logo flashes on the screen. Hell if anything, disguise the loading (only if the loading is absolutely necessary) by playing a commercial between matches (that can be skipped once the loading is finished) as if we’re on break. It takes the steam out of the show each time we have to go back to the match up screen and wait for it to load, it slows everything down and kind of ruins the experience. Presentation is important. Though with the upcoming consoles, I imagine this will be less of a problem than it is right now.”
I know that was a whole lot of thoughts from one feedback poster. But the fact is, Mr. Clown was on absolute fire and Doink would cackle with approval. There was recently an AMA featuring the new executive producer for WWE sim games, Patrick Gilmore, in which he mentioned that the team was focused on six core elements. One of these elements was what he called WWEX, or WWE Experience. How do you create a true end-to-end experience that feels true to the product?
The ideas presented here for Universe mode all push this idea forward and touch on elements of Universe mode that have the potential to break immersion, even if only for a moment. For instance, for several games now we have seen weekly shows open with an introduction video, pyro, lights on, commentary, city appearing at the top of the screen. It is a true WWE show opening, but that immersion is immediately broken by returning to the menu.
Why does the music for the first match or promo not hit immediately after commentary welcomes the audience? Why is it not possible to incorporate The Dusty Classic, Mae Young Classic or King of the Ring? Why are rivalries so repetitive in match type? An absolute major focus going forward has to be blurring the line between a show on 2K and a show on television.
“STABLES NEED TO MATTER. Having stables being treated as a single entity in the rivalry system would be a start. The authority being a stable for an example would fued against a wrestler who has to overcome all odds to win the fued, run-ins, dusty finishes etc. also upping the number of wrestlers per stable. multiple tag teams per stable. stable promos.”
Stables done well can have a seismic impact on the world of the WWE, with groups like Evolution and the nWo creating waves that impacted the entire roster and how the show operated. That impact is definitely missing, with stables currently feeling like little more than vague acquaintances that sometimes tag team together.
“• Preshows for PPVs, 2 extra matches at the beginning of the show, the panellists are not necessary, though. Preshows would add realism to Universe mode shows.
• Day/Night cycle for outdoor arenas, Day time for the first 1/3 of matches, Evening for the second 1/3 and Night for the last 1/3.
• Retirement Matches and cutscenes where rivalries and promos revolve around retirement.
• Part Timer option or choose when a wrestler shows up. Brock Lesnar wrestles on almost every RAW in my Universe, which is wild to see.”
Immersion, immersion, immersion.
“-Dynamic Commentary where the commentators talk about what happened earlier in the show which started the main event, what the main event is later in the show, what major event happened at the previous show/PPV with whom is in the match, your match up on next show, officialy announce matchs for upcoming PPV, etc.
-Let us choose to put superstars in multiple divisions
-In create-a-team let us turn off tag team slots by having option to choose if group follows Freebird Rule. With Freebird rules on the competitors from the group in tag matches will be random
-In create-a-team let us pick who is the leader. The leader would take the talker role in team promo (Team Promos need to be a new addition to the game as well
-Triple Threat, Fatal Four Way, 3v3, and 4v4 (perfect for Survivor series but would be cross brand. Unique cutscenes of invasions would happen during Survivor Series rivalry) rivalrys.”
Have I mentioned how important immersion is?
“Add GM Mode features – I think a GM Mode all by itself would be fun. But personally, I’d love to see some GM Mode features added to Universe. Let me draft superstars between shows. Let me trade superstars between shows. Set budgets. Give me show ratings. But, these features NEED to have the ability to be toggled On/Off. This gives the option for players who don’t like GM Mode the ability to turn these features off and play Universe Mode how they want.”
Not surprisingly, the most often mentioned element for Universe mode was the return of GM mode. For those unfamiliar, GM mode essentially added a business simulator on top of the experience. It then called on players to compete with the other brands for talent, resources and more in order to gain better ratings. It added a layer of strategy, and it was hugely satisfying to choose one brand while your friend selected another before you competed.
It is best immortalized now in the Battle Of The Brands series Austin Creed puts out on his YouTube channel.
While it is heavily requested, this poster reminds us that not everyone is going to be on board with that type of simulation. It might be wise to present an option to play Universe without some or all GM elements, allowing players to customize their own experience.
In part two of this WWE 2K22 wishlist, we’ll get to the feedback surrounding the roster, the creation suite, MyCareer, DLC and any other miscellaneous areas.