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WWE 2K24 interview: developer on revisiting WrestleMania history and upcoming DLC

WWE 2K24 interview: developer on revisiting WrestleMania history and upcoming DLC

WWE 2K24 developer interview with Visual Concepts' creative director Lynell Jinks

WWE 2K24 is the latest pro wrestling video game from 2K and Visual Concepts which has been well received across the board from reviewers and fans alike. I had the chance to speak to WWE 2K creative director Lynell Jinks about WWE 2K24 and what the future holds for the series.

It’s now been a few years since Visual Concepts took over from veteran developer of the series, Yukes. Lynell explained what it’s like to truly put the studio’s stamp on the WWE 2K franchise. “I'm not gonna lie, it’s a great feeling, especially when we do something new with the engine that we've always dreamt of doing and we’re super conscious about building new systems as we look ahead. For example with Universe mode in WWE 2K20, we refactored it three or four times before we got it out the door. And now with that, we can add to it rather than tearing it apart for the next release. We keep the foundations and try not to limit ourselves and now that the code is ours, we can have so much fun with it,” he said.

Check out our chat with WWE Superstars below!

The pro wrestling industry is so fast in terms of creativity and storylines, pretty much anything goes. However, when it comes to annual releases such as with the WWE 2K series, some creative ideas might be left behind due to tight deadline restrictions. Some of those ideas may even surface in later releases. “We always look at certain match types. We look at certain features that used to be in previous franchises that were taken out for some reason or another, and those are always at the top of our minds. There are loads of new ideas too such as new concepts and mechanics. Inspiration can come from anywhere,” says Jinks.

“We have such a passionate team, not only for making video games but for pop culture, TV, movies and of course pro wrestling, and we can be like, ‘Man, that’s a great idea.’ But in terms of a development cycle, we only have around nine months to get the next game out of the door. It’s a tight schedule to make sure the next WWE 2K game is a worthy update and not just a roster update. We want to make sure that fans are happy spending their hard-earned money.”

One of the main modes in WWE 2K24 is its ‘Showcase of the Immortals’ campaign that celebrates ‘40 years of WrestleMania’. Yet with just 21 ‘WrestleMania Moments’ in the campaign, I can only imagine how much of a gruelling task it was to narrow it down to those few - and some legendary moments cannot be included due to legalities. “When I think about the first WrestleMania, it had Hulk Hogan with Mr. T vs Paul Ordorff and Roddy Piper with Pat Patterson and Muhammad Ali as special guest referees,” Jinks explains. “We might not necessarily have the rights to those names or other events that had taken place in later WrestleMania’s.”

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“Then we have decisions to make on whether we have matches returning from the ‘Showcase’ mode of WWE 2K14 which celebrated 30 years of WrestleMania and of course, which matches are the best or the most popular, and some wrestlers from previous games might no longer be contracted with WWE. So with those particular challenges and time restrictions, it presents its fair share of obstacles in curating a match-list for the Showcase of the Immortals.”

WWE 2K24 has over 200 playable wrestlers and even more to come with the season pass content which includes five DLC packs. The first piece of DLC is out now, the ‘ECW Punk Pack’, which includes the recently returned CM Punk after a 10-year hiatus. On social media, CM Punk, real name Phil Brooks, suggested his inclusion was last minute following the request of fans.

“He was last minute in the sense that by the time he re-debuted at Survivor Series in November 2023, the roster was locked and approved by WWE. The release date was set and we had to make our deadline. So when he debuts, we’re like, ‘Oh, man, that would have been nice if he would have showed up two months ago’. But CM Punk’s return made it a perfect case to have him in our DLC plans. Anytime someone debuts (and it's happened multiple times), after or around the SummerSlam timeline, it’s really hard for us to try to accommodate those last-minute additions.”

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In 2019, the WWE 2K series hit a low point with the release of WWE 2K20 with it launching in a very buggy state which resulted in WWE 2K21 being cancelled. Yukes was developing WWE games from 2000 to 2018 and before the release of WWE 2K20, Visual Concepts was assisting with production before the developmental reigns were handed over on a full-time basis. With the challenges that transition brought, not to mention it was during the early days of the COVID pandemic, it was a tough time for Visual Concepts and the studio was eager to right some wrongs and take advantage of the added time they had to release WWE 2K22.

“We were all appreciative of getting the additional time, and also the patience that everyone had with us for taking that extra time to correct the wrongs of WWE 2K20 and come out of the gate with something that hit differently but that was challenging from a roster standpoint too. During that pandemic, the roster was changing every week. We've already done mocap for some departed wrestlers and already got them in the game. Then they're gone. We were like “What do we do?” So as much as we needed that extra time for us, I'm glad to be back on a yearly cycle, because it was really hard to keep up with the times.”

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Along with the recently released ‘ECW Punk Pack’, WWE 2K24 has another 19 playable wrestlers to come as DLC and that’s not including all the extras for the MyFACTION mode. Some of those additions include the likes of current wrestlers Jade Cargill, and Kairi Sane and legends like Mr Perfect and The Great Muta. Lynell was keen to let me know who he’s looking forward to for fans to play as.

“I was a WWF [as it was once known] fan growing up in the 80s and early 90s. Yet, I went through a time when I stopped watching the product. Then at one of my old workplaces, a co-worker told me that Hulk Hogan is now a ‘heel’ [an industry term used for villains] and he’s in WWF's rival company, WCW and I was like, ‘What?’ I had to watch it and I was hooked again, and that’s when I first knew of a fan-favourite pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page (DDP).”

“This dude was incredible and I became a big DDP fan. So having DDP included in our DLC and hitting his Diamond Cutter finisher, is brutal and fun. There are also some cool easter eggs in each DLC to surprise players with. I think people are going to be very happy with the new content,” Lynell said.

Each year Visual Concepts has the tough task of trying to better each yearly release and a big selling point of each game is the aforementioned Showcase mode. As a big WWE and The Rock fan, I’d love to see a Showcase that depicts Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s career from the cringeworthy ‘face’ [a term used for heroes] that got booed out of the building to the most recent “Final Boss” entanglement with Cody Rhodes and Roman Reigns’ faction, the Bloodline.

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“The Rock would be cool as a Showcase. There’s so much WWE history for us to go through and pick out what we think are some of the best moments and it's been that way for the last few months now,” Lynell added.

“It’s about not only picking what’s possible with the game engine but what’s fun, and that’s the key. Sometimes we’re like, ‘We can do this,’ before we’re brought back down to Earth. Our lead designer is a walking encyclopaedia of WWE knowledge. So every time I have a question or an idea, I always bounce it off of him. Some of those ideas can work and sometimes that can’t. But it’s so much fun to have those conversations.”

For the longest time, the WWE 2K series has been multi-generation and with that, it invites fans of a variety of consoles to enjoy the game. However, sometimes it feels like new-gen consoles can be held back if a game is simultaneously catered for the previous generation.

“We have people who are constantly looking at that data and figuring out what console has the most users. So we look at that data and have to decide whether to stick to multi-generation or focus solely on the current generation. Ultimately, the market will tell us right when the time is right to leave a particular generation behind, but right now, older-gen consoles are still holding up strong,” Lynell told me.

So there you have it, last-gen consoles may be a decade old at this point, but we can all still enjoy the WWE 2K franchise for the foreseeable future. WWE 2K24 is out now on PC, PlayStation and Xbox.

Featured Image Credit: 2K

Topics: 2K Games, Features, Interview, PC, PlayStation, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X