After the messy, widely lampooned launch of WWE 2K20 last fall, 2K hit the brakes on putting out another installment this year. Instead, developer Visual Concepts is being given more time to work on its next WWE title, and new executive producer Patrick Gilmore (past credits include the Killer Instinct reboot and Medal of Honor) will oversee development. Now, it seems Gilmore's got some ambitious goals in mind for the project.
In a recent Reddit AMA thread, Gilmore gave a lengthy response to a fan asking if the next WWE title could see a gameplay overhaul. In short, Gilmore's answer affirms that the Visual Concepts team is looking to significantly rework the gameplay. Digging deeper into his response, Gilmore drops some interesting details about what that might entail.
First, Gilmore says the team is drawing on lessons from well-received WWE games in the past ("like No Mercy or Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain") as well as from "more modern wrestling and fighting games to build an all-new philosophical foundation for the game." Gilmore warns that fans of any one title "are likely to be disappointed" if they're hoping the new WWE game adopts a control scheme or design philosophy wholesale, however.
In addition to focusing on accessibility (a better interface, "consistent inputs regardless of situation") and depth of gameplay, Gilmore promises that Visual Concepts wants to capture "the essence of professional wrestling" in the next WWE title. Gilmore calls "finding ways for players to feel in control of the vast number of potential outcomes in a given match" a huge challenge—since wrestling is as much or more about storytelling as it is about displays of athleticism, designing around that breadth of control surely isn't easy.
"While we're determined to deliver the spectacle and specific moments of a genuine match, I can say we're trying to get away form [sic] UI popups or mini games to represent things like pins or reversals," says Gilmore, "and instead move those concepts into more fully-realized mechanics which feel like extensions of the main experience." In another response to the AMA, Gilmore says the game will also "stay within the stylistic framework of WWE presentation, but with a stronger focus on capturing the emotional experience of the superstars."
In lieu of a new mainline installment this year, 2K will release Saber Interactive's new arcade-style title WWE 2K Battlegrounds. Especially for those who want the WWE 2K series to behave more like a simulator or storytelling tool, Gilmore's promises should be of interest, and with an arcade fighter on the way, there should theoretically be less pressure on Visual Concepts to try and satisfy all segments of the wrestling gaming audience.
Still, it's barely been a month since 2K and the WWE announced the change of plans for the franchise, so it'll surely be a while before we see how these ambitions pan out. Avoiding a disastrous release like WWE2K20's could be plenty to keep things rolling, but a radical revision could be a boon after 2K's split with former series lead Yuke's, so long as it's done right.