The Gamerheads Podcast

Creating WrestleQuest: A Fusion of Wrestling and JRPG with James Deighan from Mega Cat Studios

July 14, 2023 Gamerheads Podcast Network
The Gamerheads Podcast
Creating WrestleQuest: A Fusion of Wrestling and JRPG with James Deighan from Mega Cat Studios
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ready to hear the roar of the crowd and feel the electrifying energy of the wrestling ring? Let's join James Deighan from Mega Cat Studios, the mastermind behind WrestleQuest, the first-ever fusion of JRPG and Wrestling genres that's making waves in the gaming community. Get ready to feel the passion and dedication James and his team have poured into making this unique crossover a reality.

In a heart-to-heart chat, James walks us through the unique challenges they braved while creating this innovative game. Learn how Mega Cat Studios gained the trust of skeptical publishers and won the hearts of the wrestling fan community. He shines a spotlight on the incorporation of real wrestlers' feedback into the game, including the hilarious and sometimes bizarre requests from wrestlers who aren't typical gamers. Hear about the creative ways you can customize characters and the unique areas in-game dedicated to popular wrestling figures, all woven into a one-of-a-kind universe where Toy Story meets wrestling.

But that's not all. We take a deep dive into the mechanics of WrestleQuest, discussing the loot system, unique pin mechanics, and how they made the grind element more rewarding. Plus, we touch base on the thrill of setting up a wrestling ring at PAX East, the wave of positive response to the game, and the importance of support within the gaming industry. Brace yourself for tales of overcoming challenges, embracing creativity, and the joy of delivering an impressive gaming experience. So, whether you're a wrestling fan, a JRPG enthusiast, or someone who enjoys a good story of innovation and determination, this episode is a must-listen for you.

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Music:
Jeff Dasler - Recused


Speaker 1:

Hi, I'm Celia Shilling from Yacht Club Games.

Speaker 2:

Hey, this is James from Mega Cat Studios. Hey, this is Matt AK Stormageddon from Reignite Screensnark and the Fun and Games podcast. This is Stephanie from the Boss Rush podcast and the Boss Rush Network.

Speaker 1:

Hey, this is Mark and Keon from Bonta Off-Ald. Hey, this is Sebastian with theproteonerreportcom and the Single Player Experience podcast.

Speaker 2:

Hey, this is Todd Mitchell from Code.

Speaker 1:

Right Play.

Speaker 2:

Salutations. This is Mike Carroll from Stroll Art. Hey, this is Patrick from the Backlog Odyssey.

Speaker 1:

Hey, this is Rune from RuneCodes. Hi, this is Andrew from Spalada Birds. Hi everyone, Jill Grote here from the Indie Informer.

Speaker 2:

Hey, this is Brimstone and you're listening to Roger Reichardt on the Gamerheads podcast.

Speaker 1:

And welcome to another episode of the Gamerheads podcast. My name is Roger Along with me. this week I have a very special guest. I have James Degen from Mega Cat Studios, the creators behind the game WrestleQuest, and I'm super excited to talk about that game because I got to play some of it at PAX. I didn't get to play as much as I wanted to. I probably could have spent the whole day at PAX playing. PAX is playing this game, but I'm really happy to have James on the show with us. And James, how are you?

Speaker 2:

I'm good. Thanks for having us. It was hard for me to keep my shirt on, knowing we were talking about wrestling again.

Speaker 1:

You could pull Hulk Hogan there and rip it off for it right Sometimes he's so excited and so sweaty he's sharing WrestleQuest facts.

Speaker 2:

I said to him at home there's no HR issues. How do I say no?

Speaker 1:

Oh, that's awesome. Well, welcome to the show. I'm so glad that we were able to connect. Before we get into the game WrestleQuest, i want to ask you a couple of questions about yourself First of all tell us about yourself. How did you get into gaming and how did you get into the whole creating games? It's a good question.

Speaker 2:

I wish I had a more romantic version of the story. But we started making games for fun with a group of us because we had just a shared passion for retro gaming. As collectors. We made a couple of very bad games and then we made a couple of games that were also bad but good enough for other indies to support it. We were like man, this was so much fun. I wonder if we could do that on a commercial level.

Speaker 2:

Then fast forward eight years later took a while. We just continued to persevere, i guess, and just kind of build a path. We're located here in Pittsburgh. We're one of only two gaming companies in the area. Like most gaming companies on the West Coast, it's not exactly easy or natural to walk into a networking event or a career place and just find all sorts of folks who work in gaming. Because we live in the internet world, we can kind of message anybody. So I sort of eventually just kind of rubbing all those with all sorts of folks who are participating in game jams and making games for fun, which is also very different than commercial It is.

Speaker 2:

Slowly but surely we shipped away at all the things we needed to do to kind of budget and prepare for a wrestler quest, which wrestler quest was actually one of the first games we ever wanted to make. As Megaket, we just have such a reverence for RPGs and what goes into the design and the progression and the level of detail and the hours and months and years that go into it. We're like man. It's going to cost a lot of money to do this, so we just kept shipping away at it, but we got pretty lucky that we found a publisher around halfway through. I was willing to share the vision and we met all sorts of wrestlers along the way that we're willing to jump in and participate. So it's really been a journey. I'm excited that we're near launch now. It's been a long time coming.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, i love one of your promo videos. I think was Jeff Jarrett and you had a guitar sound and you said, jeff, is this the sound of guitar hitting over somebody's head? And he takes the guitar and hits it over somebody's head. That's the sound we're looking for.

Speaker 2:

That's one of my favorites. Yeah, it's funny We have both that broken guitar hanging in the purse that was with its office And then we have like a 2B broken second guitar waiting for the right moment, kind of like a pop to champagne.

Speaker 1:

I can't wait, that's awesome. That's awesome. So, yeah, tell us more about WrestleQuest. I mean, from what I know, i mean the bit that I played. I know it's a JRPG mixed with wrestling, so can you tell a little bit about the story behind it and what's it about?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So WrestleQuest is the world's first pro wrestling JRPG turn-based combat and all the trimmings and game sensibilities you'd want to see in a JRPG One of the goals we had at the onset of creating WrestleQuest. We've set a lot of goals but I'd say like, the three pillars are number one. Whether you're a wrestling fan or a JRPG fan, they wanted you to feel satisfied playing the game. We didn't want it to feel like a JRPG with wrestlers snapped in or a wrestling game that doesn't satisfy like a JRPG player. So we've put a massive amount of time. We've actually been giving panels now the last year and a half on the restification of the JRPG and how we've tuned these systems to make it very authentically wrestling and authentically JRPG. So that was the number one challenge and goal. Second one was we wanted to establish a visual identity for the game that was still retro and nostalgic and pixel art, but paid into the homage and level of detail of these legendary wrestlers and likenesses and also didn't look like the 40th Fire Pro Wrestling game.

Speaker 2:

So we stumbled into this and threw a lot of discussions with friends and fans is that for a lot of us our first memories of wrestling were actually the toys and action figures. So we realized that we could also solve that visual identity problem and create really fun design affordance space if everyone had articulated joints and moved like an action figure. And it solves a lot of things like I could snap your arm off and no blood comes out, and that's cool. We can kind of dance around things like performance enhancing drugs. Like an action figure can have super glue as an analog and yeah, right back on, and it's yeah, keeps him in the run.

Speaker 2:

So that was like a key breakthrough for us too. And then the last one was we set out specifically to work with. I'd say there's like five wrestler licenses and estates we just really always wanted to work with. Macho Man was number one for us, road Warriors, after the giant Jake the snake and then Jeff Jarrett, which are some people laugh at. But when people ask me my favorite wrestler is my top three, i say it's Jeff Jarrett three times.

Speaker 1:

Wow, it's like wow.

Speaker 2:

I'm just like a huge fan of, and arguably Jeff has done more for wrestling than any other single wrestler. At this point, yeah, think about not just the like teenage and and think like that's what I've found in this kind of brothers and arms world of wrestling and locker rooms is that Jeff is highly respected and beloved by the actual wrestlers themselves. Would you just don't realize or appreciate when you're a fan just watching the show, but it's like everyone that I've ever met has been well over 100 wrestlers at this point. They have like a true like love for Jeff and Jeff he does good by them. You know like he's a he's definitely an exception and a roleful, a world full of like chaos and carnies and personalities. You know so. But you know we were able to accomplish all of those things and through hell and high water and sweat, baby oil, perseverance, all those things.

Speaker 1:

Yeah and we'll get into that a little bit later about the fact that you did have a wrestling ring set up at at max, which was pretty awesome, and I did.

Speaker 1:

I did get to see your panel too on the yeah yeah, i loved it yeah, it was so good and it was, and I will say, i mean, this is not just a flow your own boat, but I thought actually that was one of the better presentations because, like you had a definite here's the agenda, here's like the things that you went through, like it was a swell, you're well done so, so nice job, um so yeah, you know.

Speaker 2:

By the way, roger, we've been in a lot of panels now for for a few years and yeah. I would say that the wrestling fan is uniquely engaged and like uh, excited. It's like, uh, we did pack that room the last two times we gave it. But Like I've never had panels where we've had people follow up with questions and responses and the thank you notes, it's been awesome. I want to say it's wrestling fans.

Speaker 2:

But it's like, it's um, it's definitely a better reception than we ever could have dreamed of and I just, i just love it. It's like I feel like my people are all coming to see it, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, well, and it's funny because, like I've mentioned this before, there is a fun like mix between video game Enthusiast and wrestling enthusiasts, right, like there's like that crossover between both of them and And you can see it in the games, right, not, you know like, look at all the wrestling games have been made Since we were kids. You know like I remember playing tag team wrestling like the on the NES, right, which wasn't that great but it was okay, right, and. And growing up with like muscle, wrestling, muscle men and the wrestling game.

Speaker 2:

Wars are in the game boys, one of the worst games ever played.

Speaker 1:

That's a thing right like we grew up playing these bad wrestling games And we came up with our own stories behind it and everything is a lot of these characters because, like you, had to. But one of the one of the things that I really love about this is the fact that this is, like you said, the first JRPG game. That's like mixes both JRPG and wrestling together. So what inspired that? like how, how did you come to that, to that Realization like hey, this is something we want to do.

Speaker 2:

You know, we have always wanted to make a wrestling game And we always wanted to make an RPG and we are mapping out, kind of the pillars of each. So you know, something that I've loved about the experience is that my best friends and one of the partners of mega cat, zach, you know, did not follow wrestling growing up. Oh, and we were gonna sit in there at the office trying to figure out a way to make the wrestling game come to life And I remember listing out all the pillars of what we loved about wrestling And one of the ways we were able to persuade him into considering it. Where's like we know, is that it's really about these spectacle, over-the-top character personalities. Like it's really like, like the stories they could tell and the classes that they are like. I think there's enough Here for analogs.

Speaker 2:

You should at least consider Like wrestlers as character classes and yeah you know, watch some promos, don't worry about the matches, don't worry about the rest. So watch them like late 80s, early 90s promos and just tell me You don't feel your adrenaline pumping. I remember he came back out of his uh, his like office, maybe like two or three hours later, and he was just like this is crazy. He's like how does anyone get into this, you know? and then like a week later and he was like you know, we have to make this game, like we have to do this. He's like I've been watching promos from option and plus three hours. He's like I don't understand why no one's made like a story-driven game.

Speaker 2:

I've just like yeah like I know, dude, i knew you come around, but you know we wanted to make them both separately. And then we just realized that the you know RPGs are great Whenever they have excellent stories and progression and classes and, as you're late at, all the things that we love about RPGs. We looked at how we could solve that with wrestling and you know if we're forcing the issue or if it felt like it could be made natural, and we we just realized there's just so many analogs like why would we? Why we miss out on the opportunity to bring two of our dreams to life and one big thing. So that was the.

Speaker 2:

That was the beginning of the challenge, you know. But it was definitely really exciting for the team to jump in the deep end and You know you mentioned that there's so much crossover and what's funny about that is we brought this game to Maybe a dozen publishers and it was like publisher after publisher Could not say no quickly enough, you know it was always just like oh Well, we think wrestling fans like are not, they're blue collar, they don't really want to think, they don't really want to play a strategy game.

Speaker 2:

Or we think these are, you know, these licenses are too old. Like Most people don't even know who, like mantra man, are under the giant R anymore. Like those guys Oh my gosh, they're in the late 30s, early 40s, 50s like they're not really playing games. And it was like over and over, just like Everyone a different opinion of what was wrong about it, but everyone was an agreement that wrestling and JRPGs, like should not, cannot live together. And We never lost hope. But there's a few times that we were thinking about cutting scope and we're like maybe this becomes like our favorite experiment, that we just finish and we just pray and We cut the scope, we cut the content, we cut the areas and and we use this as like the episode one or something you know. And then We brought it to.

Speaker 2:

Skybound and we got lucky because one of the team members at that time He's longer at that company, Which is a massive wrestling fan.

Speaker 1:

you know and we saw the, we thought we had like the.

Speaker 2:

You know, this kind of kind of coming of age story with our core protagonist, mutra Chaman, and we actually have this kind of the series undertone mixed with a lot of this really silly You know, mega cat's writing mixed with wrestling spectacle. He kind of jumped in the deep end with us. I was like all right, we're just gonna find a way to get this done. And It definitely look a lot longer than everyone expected For many reasons. But I would say that when you're making a game as a fan and you're scoping it as a fan, it's so hard to maintain like a disciplined anything like you know, at one point we literally had to be cut off because We were, you know, writing and putting in more characters and licenses and locations, because there's just like There's an infinite well of stuff here, because we've lived this for a whole lot right.

Speaker 2:

It's like yeah, it's like our favorite genre and our favorite, you know, sports entertainment vehicle And it's like you know we had so many things in the cutting room floor. I'm I still wish we could fit in. Like, like, we wanted to have an area that was like the It all. It's kind of the It's gonna sound silly, but like, as an example, we wanted to have an area that was dedicated to Exploring the rich history of avian culture and wrestling. Yeah, like Hock and Haven and Coco beware.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you know we'd have all these, like all these wrestlers there.

Speaker 2:

They're just be like, can you believe it? this whole time, you know, and it's just like we'll have something like that. We just we cut pretty early because we wanted to maintain like the Like, the seriousness and then a tone that you know pays into the autobiographical Stories of these characters and then also captures for someone who doesn't know anything about wrestling You know what a tour territory is and how that works and kind of like you know What these wrestlers and characters go through Dedicate, dedicate themselves to the sport, because there's not just silliness in the game, there's, you know, there's storylines where, like the loach adore is Letting his family down on the road every day and he's missing his children growing up and he's having to choose between being this local hero and Letting his family down.

Speaker 2:

And there's another wrestler that we learn when we kind of work through with it becomes in your party. He's, you know, he's a local star. That's kind of outgrown that local scene But he doesn't want to give up in his community to help kind of bring him up to where he is, but he knows these kind of hit the ceiling there.

Speaker 2:

So it's, you know, there's a lot of that in the game. I think just becomes really interesting for someone who's a Whether or not you're from like a wrestling fandom background, and then yeah, and it's really something you can relate to from your your experience doing You know different types of fan geek media.

Speaker 2:

But there's a lot of elapsed fans out there that are like casually Into it but they really haven't followed wrestling in 20 years like the last time they, you know, maybe watch it closely with high school. Yeah, we've met a lot of those fans because You know that they kind of pop out first.

Speaker 2:

They're like I think this game is made for me, like I'm into this, you know, and maybe they don't want to play finger karate with their game pad. They don't want to jump in like a super deep customization. They want to pick up and play, and I think they're going to be able to play, pick up and play, and I think RPGs provide enough of that too.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, i love that. I know I know in your talk you talked about how difficult it was to find a publisher Right because of the fact that, like they didn't see that connection there, which is funny and fascinating to me. But the other thing that I I loved too is, you know, the fact that you did highlight that you worked with wrestlers and you dug into their stories and And and brought a lot of that aspect to to the game. Were there any moments Where you had feedback from a wrestler and you're like I have no idea how we're gonna incorporate that into the game?

Speaker 2:

What's a that? Yeah, i do so without naming the wrestler. One of my favorite experiences about wrestler quest has been getting input from these wrestlers that do not and have not played games right. Very commonly we talked to them and they would talk about, like you know, pac-man and You know then. Or they talk about how their kids play Roblox. They're like my kids are Roblox.

Speaker 1:

That's cool, you know, it's just like that you know.

Speaker 2:

But I would say that Most of the feedback you would get would be so 10,000 foot that we could find a way to apply it And they were trusting us as, like, the games fans and the games experts. But we had one wrestler specifically. He was, you know, sitting down with us at dinner. He actually flew into the office and spent like two days at Pittsburgh. I think he was going to be at some other fan event.

Speaker 2:

It's about an hour or two away from us and thought he would just come in early and, you know, sit down, see the project, talk to the team and see what else he could do. And I think he had some other, bigger vision for other projects on the horizon and he wanted to find a way to help a lift this up and then maybe build another way to extend his, his current kind of Enterprising you know world. But anyway, we're we're way into this conversation. He's just throwing out brainstorm after brainstorming and trying to persuade us to license the holiday in logo because There's a few specific holiday ends and he thought we should include in each region.

Speaker 2:

And I'm like I Understand the hotels are a major piece of living on the road, but like I just don't think it's gonna translate the fans and he's like no man, the hotels are key. He's like hotel parties. He's like he's like this one specific holiday Crazy. You know, we're like 10 minutes into this thread and I'm sorry man We got. We have to put that to bed like we're not And if we were, like it wouldn't even play because Ten plus game there's no.

Speaker 2:

And there's no drugs. So we can't. We can't do this, you know. And maybe just in there, shaking his head like you, just don't. He's like calling on the rest or something on speaker phone.

Speaker 1:

He's like What was like the whole day.

Speaker 2:

So that was just find my favorite example just complete.

Speaker 1:

That is hilarious. When I met with you after, after, after, towards the end of the event, i should say, and one of the things I mentioned to you all was the fact that To me, i felt like this was like the version of Madden, where you guys were incorporating wrestlers into, into getting the feedback around Around the gameplay and just like like, was this legit, was this, was this how this feel like when you're on the road and what some air worries were right. Like same thing with Madden, when you know they brought him mad and a man's like this is not football, what is this? and they had to like basically, you know, put 12 people on the field, like, or 11 people on the field, like he said, like this is, you have to have the number of people on the field. So I really appreciate the fact that you, you know, incorporated all these wrestlers into Into big build in this game, because I think that's just so, so amazing.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you know it's like, Initially we had a wish list. That wish list was dashed because of how licensing works and is limited to the WWE, and then eventually a lot of our things that were dashed became undashed because, you know, we would kind of find an education on How to make it work and where and who and who the red stakeholders were.

Speaker 2:

And You know, one of the reasons that wrestler quest is as big as it is is because we were just finding over and over and over new Talent that had a great story to tell that fit what we were looking for, that were available and they all came in these little batches And they got the took so long to go through clearance on. Each was a whole. Another story for my autobiography someday, which also loving copies of but Man, it just It was. It's been an experience but, what do you do once you realize that you could Add in junk your dog?

Speaker 2:

I want to kill her, like talent and I just loved him growing up and his His game maker so great, and like dogs and chains and like a junkered atmosphere and if it's an era We already had and we're like guess rad in him and you know, and then yeah, over and over and over. And you know, one of our, one of my favorite areas in the game is Built for the road warriors, because they had this, this Mad Max vibe, right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, Yeah and it's like we created this, this area that's all dedicated to this, this tribe that worships the road warriors and they steal war paint from all the other communities, sacrifice the war paint for the rib warriors and they're there's like World wrestlers, and they have this, like you know gas mask in their face and they're just like super muscular, like, and you know it's a lot of fun building these things up.

Speaker 2:

We took a little bit of what they're already known for and they're aesthetic and then we just were able to, because that affordance base is so broad where it would have fun playing with it and it. It's funny because, particularly with casual fans, you'd have casual fans like at the booths at like Pax East and they'd be like, can you believe they licensed Johnny stretch And it's a character we made up, right, you know, but it's like, there's like enough there, though, people are like doing it, they don't kind of like really know yeah.

Speaker 2:

They're like they got onto the giant macho man, johnny stretch, and it's like Jake the snake here. So was John, this make brandy, this It's. I wish I could. I was making this up, oh my god, that's hilarious, that's awesome.

Speaker 1:

But you did, you did incorporate, like like at Pax East, you had the fan impact kid and he's in the game, right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah yeah, so like you had his retro right Yeah yeah, i would do it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly, but that was interesting. How different. This is gonna be a question that I didn't have my list But just spawned in my head right now. How different was it when you got feedback from somebody, like when you talk to somebody like Fan impact, kid versus versus some of the older wrestlers, in regards to, first of all, like what their story was like and like their road to becoming a wrestler, and then also just how they give feedback in regards to like this, so how you should incorporate this, or here's some feedback around the game.

Speaker 2:

You know, we knew from the very beginning of rustle quest that we wanted to use Different eras and types of characters differently. So we knew that the way we wanted to use like Macho Man Had to be like on a pedestal, like in a unique way that's ever been done. Like the way we use the legends is you don't play as them, and we've been And we've been saying it constantly, to set fans expectations that the way it works is like there's um, they're Value to wrestling as a sport and as a form of entertainment is so profound that there's like cities built in their image, right so like when you go to You know that post-apocalyptic junker at area, like there's large the life statue of Liberty, statues of the road warriors frozen in time, and there's wrestlers there that are coming to pay homage, that are like there, they're like I don't know what to do with my gimmick.

Speaker 2:

Do I go golf, do I go surf? for, like, please, it's a world we're wrestling is life. It's like, you know, people get up and they take their vitamins and they pump the iron and you know it's like It's pretty interesting. So like that's how we wanted the legends to be used and we knew we we wanted to make sure that the story that every Wrestler that can really do, which was the coming up the ranks, earning your stripes story. So we knew we wanted to be very selective but to find Some people that are still coming up that we think you're gonna make it. So we think you're gonna, you know, be a great moment and maybe we can help elevate them in our own limited way. So we met Fanny Pac kid cow and Just immediately loved him. Like his dad's amazing, you know his dad, like has been helping wrestlers of all levels for 20 some years.

Speaker 2:

He was an independent wrestler himself too. You know, al Snow actually is like the personal wrestling trainer for Cal Fanny Pac kid, and you know I was a wrestling Academy and he you know I was amazing, but it's like You know, cal really has a fighting chance to make something impressive and he lives it and he's great, he's super entertaining. So once we found this like 80s style Fanny Pac kid, it comes in this pedigree and is being mentored by these legends or like this guy's great, we got to put him in the game. Yeah, and you know he has a unique perspective too, since he like, loves video games.

Speaker 2:

Yeah you know, a lot of the wrestlers like you'd be, you know, on the phone for an hour trying to show them how to use their email and stuff right. So it's like It's different talking to the guys who are like active wrestling in the 70s, that are definitely later in their In their world right now, versus Cal, who's, like you know, streaming on tiktok at Paxies in the booth right, like it's like definitely a different slash, but it's been awesome because they they like, have unique ways to contribute.

Speaker 2:

But something that's been a theme for wrestler quests is that everyone is a fan of wrestling first. So, as a matter, if you're Fanny Pac kid or Jeff Jarrett or you know one of these, it while streamers, influencers, fans like all of us have this shared love and interest and Wrestling, and that's enough of a unifying language that it doesn't matter what your.

Speaker 2:

Social media preference might be or what genres you play. Like it's been this Really fun magnet and underdog story to get told no a million times and then when, like 20 best in show, best of best gameplay awards, you know, and it's like man, the team can't be any more proud. We hope someone buys it, you know. But it's like It's so rewarding when you make games and people love them and in this case, because we're told no so many times, we had such low expectations for it. It's been such a wonderful surprise to have so many people just rally up about it. Like I don't. We literally get a hundred plus messages a day from strangers just asking for dates or physical copies.

Speaker 1:

It's only something we're not used to. A whole lot of games, yeah, yeah, and in a way it's kind of like Parallel to wrestlers coming up right in, moving in, moving up and getting their name and yeah, exactly right, It's the same. It's same kind of story. I like it. That's fascinating.

Speaker 2:

It's when you said that, roger, because we would introduce the concept of indie to these, you know, 50, 60, 7 year old, sometimes wrestlers, and we would say indie, they would immediately assume it was wrestling. Yeah like, more like, oh no, like, let me describe like the first sizes, like there's different sizes. You know They would pick out the buzzwords they could relate to. They'd be like Nintendo. I know Nintendo like I played duck hunt. Yes, you know Not to add confusion, but we do make cartridge base games.

Speaker 2:

It was only interesting because, once we realized there was this shared fandom, we just changed how we introduced ourselves you know.

Speaker 2:

Just, it made it way easier for everyone to relate Once you would free frame them. Is what do you remember when you're on your come up? Do you remember when you were traveling around doing this, this and this? and there was there was an era there when you were on your come up where a ton of people were supporting you and you had the same skill and keep capability level as a A ton of professionals that were out there, but you just didn't have that right stage it and it'd be like, yeah, i'm like, well, that's that's how I see our company right now. Yeah, they'd be like I send the agreement, we're doing this right now. It was true, you know over and over. Except was like they like rally behind that. And then and I can't even tell you how many times I'd get like a Late night phone call from a wrestler be like, hey, i'm out at a bar with XYZ wrestler and I was just telling them how we're we're doing this, dude you know, I wouldn't even get into the details.

Speaker 2:

And I'm sitting here on Christmas Eve on a you know My family's in the other room and I'm like I'm trying to hide away on top of restrooms. I'm like I gotta go you know I'm sorry, bro, but like It was really hard to get in and once you earn their trust and do well by them and And they have like a, an understanding for you're coming from, it's like, it's like being part of, like a tribe, you know.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, that's awesome. One of the things that's Unique for well, not unique, but one of the things that's like staple, i guess for JRPG is is is the loot and gear. Can you talk about how loot and gear is used in the in wrestle quest?

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah. So, given that it is a toy story meets wrestling like universe, we have both the traditional Character add-ons and items and we also have, like the action figure, modification, crafting, because everything can be can be made in this kind of high fantasy, afford in space. So you know, one of the things that I think is most interesting about Russell Quest is that it doesn't have character creators, because it's a story driven RPG.

Speaker 2:

So the way you're customizing your character are things like a custom walk-on with walk-on effects and music and modifiers and Things like using your party and your manager and choosing you know your heel and face behaviors, and So all those things actually tie back to different types of equipment items. Another thing that's been fun is the way we use the legends, because you don't play as the legends. Sometimes you can play with the legends, so in some cases, like you can we've already spoiled this in a trailer, but you know, in some cases, if you finish certain quests and You earn the achievement and opportunity to have under the giant as a summons, which is a common RPG.

Speaker 2:

Yeah no ability and trope. Yeah, you can basically be summoned into the ring, lift the ring up because he's a human kind, you snap it in half And then finish off screen and it's like. It's like the coolest way to summon the giant, you know yeah, right. And it's either that or you can wear a singlet. Neither one. You know One of the ways we use, like the different customization and different items.

Speaker 1:

That's awesome. That's awesome. And and also grinding is also. Grinding for levels is also very common with JRPG's. What is? how does leveling system work in wrestle quest and how did you handle the grind element in wrestle quest?

Speaker 2:

You know it's funny, i'm a member of quite a few JRPG groups And I want to use, look, the incorrect language here, but there's one that I've been called JRPG shit posting And it's the same complaints all the time. You know, i wish I didn't have to grind. I wish, you know, there's a more quality life features and it was easier to find my way around, and I wish there was more content and more playable characters. And You know, given that we are fans of that genre, like I would say that Wrestle Quest is more of a JRPG than a wrestling game and it's oozing or slept with wrestling because you know, first and foremost, it's a JRPG, built with all the dressings and features and some features that you'd want to see in a game like that.

Speaker 2:

You know there's just like a, there's just a crazy amount to unpack and Nobody that is over 25 wants to grind and a JRPG It's not fun, you know so. So we we make it more lean forward than sit back with the way the gameplay works. So, as an example, there are some mechanics that are Intended to emulate the feeling of performing for a crowd, with the crowd doors on screen during battle And there's a height meter at the bottom, where the character player is actually actually rewarded For using a variety in variants and moves, rather than sitting there and spanning. You know, burrito slam, burrito slam, burrito slam right, and That's pretty interesting way to solve it, because we're actually On the height meter. You actually are rewarded with items, perks and better battles.

Speaker 2:

Right doing some of the things that are fun about wrestling like it might be the first year of PG where people taunt all the time because it's funny and it's part of wrestling, right, like part of that, wrestling pieces like He's like kicking him back and being like no, no, no, no, no.

Speaker 2:

You know, and it's like You know, we need to make sure that was represented and that was really in the in the game. So, and the height meter has some levels of risk reward, like if you go to pin Somebody very early and they're not ready to be pinned and they kick out their recovery hit points. But if you do pin them early and you get an upset like that, like the car may not be super excited, you get crazy perks for it And it's like a lot of layers. You know what else quest like that, or the pin itself, like the pin, it all is a very basic rhythm mechanic And you can turn it off as an option from the menu for accessibility sake.

Speaker 2:

But you know, the pin mechanic is another example of a lean forward like. The pin mechanic has a difficulty to it where, if you missed me, times in a row, it does become easier. Like the marker and the UI, they come slower and bigger and These are the line up. But it's like you. You were rewarded if you're able to hit that high skill, rhythm, moment, time and correctly, and These are small things but they keep you engaged and playing and thinking, and And it never makes you feel like you're exhausted in a battle.

Speaker 2:

Yeah you know, for that matter too, you don't have to fight every single person on a path. Like you go walk around them, like you don't have to do it just to do it's sake. And You know, the only game that's allowed to do that to me is Gem 1, pokemon. Otherwise I just don't. Who wants to fight every single beekeeper, every?

Speaker 1:

single point.

Speaker 2:

No way, not 11 anymore, you know yeah, I want to play that beekeeper, all I want to do is move on, let me die. I want to have control over my RPG destiny.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, i did go out and find everyone because I love the little bit that I got to play, right, i did love because it's fun. It that's the. That's the part that I do love about it too. It's like the wrestling is fun in this game and And and and. There's something about how you guys are able to capture the excitement of wrestling in in your matches too. But make it over the top. I mean wrestling's over the top, let's face it.

Speaker 1:

But I mean like make it archie RPG. You know the g RPG elements too, like I just I don't know. I loved that about the game and it's so, so vibrant and so colorful and and the fact that you stuck with You know the this retro feel, but it doesn't feel like you know it's. The artwork is so amazing. It doesn't feel retro, but it is retro and you're like wow, like it. Just everything pops in the game too. It's so good.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you know, i wish I could tell you how many hours of how much. There's probably 40 people for four years full-time. You know, it's just been crazy, and it's like I'm saying that because when we first started it we're like oh, how do we make these buildings feel, look unique, how we make the characters look?

Speaker 1:

unique. How do?

Speaker 2:

we get more expression? How do we? and that's what makes games and indie games but any type good is like the nurturing and the attention and and it's like I can never get those days and hours back. But But the number of cats that have spent time just staring at a scene, I mean like we need to add a water treatment with some biceps or I can't get asleep tonight, you know. And then next thing, you know, there's, like you know, I go to the snow area and there's these like jack snowmen and I'm like this Hey.

Speaker 1:

Why would?

Speaker 2:

there never a wcw. Antarctica night There's no much. I'm explored territory there. You know, yeah, why are there no snowmen based wrestling gimmicks? That is a good.

Speaker 1:

That is a good question because, like, we've had plenty of games like clay fighter, right, where they had snowmen characters. But you're right, wrestlers, that's not. That's not a thing, that's funny missed opportunity, man, but don't worry, we're bringing a lot of that in wrestling quest.

Speaker 1:

Nice, um, so I alluded to this earlier. I love the fact that At PAX East you set up a wrestling ring and you add wrestling matches. Uh, you also let people walk into the ring and got their picture taken with the what, the what the belt, um, and I will say I think I mean I know skybound had other games there and I'm not trying to Say anything like that they didn't attract a lot of people, but I think you're wrestling attracted a lot of people to Uh, to that area. Um, whose idea was that to uh, to bring in wrestling into into PAX East?

Speaker 2:

you know, we uh, without the volging, like the part that I think would bother some of my friends We, we first started wrestling. We put together like our vision document of what we went out of the game And I remember the skybound team kind of laughing and embracing some of it. And then you know, basically saying, well, there's no way we're doing these things, like we're not gonna bring a wrestling ring to PAX, like I don't even know how to ensure them, like my refuse to get on this path. Like You know, you guys are over your skis, yada, yada, yada. And then I said, well, how about if we get above a certain wishlist threshold? How about you reward us with the wrestling ring? and they're like, okay, if you get over. It was like some preposterous number of wishlist, do you know? if you get a thousand wish lists in this time, then Then okay, then we'll do it.

Speaker 1:

I was like, all right, cool I'm actually every single friend.

Speaker 2:

Coworker Podcast interview media person. I'm like hey can you, can you put a link in? this is wishlist. And on steam I was like that I need my math. I'm like don't tell anybody, but If we can hit this number, you know we're gonna. We're gonna promise a wrestling ring and I would be. You see, like they're head of marketing on the emails and you Text my phone, he'd be like stop whatever you're doing. It's not good. You can't trust these people. They're gonna talk about it.

Speaker 2:

They're gonna pay us in the bad light of like no man, like they're all wrestling fans, like they're gonna rise up. You know he's like your liability. You have to stop, you know. And then I remember I remember, like looking at the, i was like looking at our wish list, looks like six months for paths. I was like we're gonna make it. You know. I remember I remember messaging the like the read pop people and it's like what would it take for insurance? Because Boston's like union city.

Speaker 1:

You know, I'm like what would it?

Speaker 2:

take on the insurance and you can say trust to get a wrestling ring. And they're like You know, and I remember I remember going for little layers and all the steps and finding like the right people's safety, motor insurance packages and finally We hit the wish list threshold and I put together my you know, my Pino, my budget, all my, my talent roster and We'd hand selected the talent. There too. We'd, like you know, three of the talent that were there were actually like top 10 unsigned independent wrestlers in the US, like like JT Dunn's amazing, you know. I remember. I remember, like the some some of the team that are calling me and being like I was. So we're doing this thing, you know, and if they get hurt it's your fault and Your problem is your fault and we're gonna brand it all wrestling class. It's not gonna be brainless, guy bound and it's your liability. And you know, and I was like cool, let's do it. You know and yeah.

Speaker 2:

I remember like we all get it set up. I remember the day before packs opened I was like sitting there with the team. It was like Flynn and Zach And we're like kind of looking around. I was talking to pat the cat and I was like, all right, like you guys, uh, can you guys believe we got the wrestling ring? and they're like no, you know, like Like, what do we even do with this? I was like we're gonna wrestle, you know, and uh, and it went off of that hitch, you know there was no, no one got hurt. Fans went crazy. We definitely shut down packs a few times.

Speaker 2:

You know like it was like um I some great photos Where we're taking from the skywalk, whether it, you know, 10 people deep, you could not walk on the aisle uh and it was just uh, wrestling fans and gaming fans perplexed, and then just like captured by all the fun and you know, it's like a return from covid too, right, it's like yeah the events a bit a little dry and On the last event, after it was over the last match, we did three cards.

Speaker 2:

After the last one was over, i remember um, one of the sky mountain members came over. It's like I can't believe that you guys pulled this off And nobody got hurt and everything saved. He's like I just hope we don't get some hate mail later and and it was uh, it was like just crazy positive, like I can't tell you how many. We had, people that we hadn't even spoken to in like four years, that were just texting and calling and emailing us, being like Are you guys wrestling people?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it was awesome.

Speaker 2:

You know, that's actually like the majority of the story of how the ring happened was we just that was on our wish list and We just made a deal that if we got far enough, that we work it out. And we did and we, you know It was great. The fans like really did love that, by the way, and I yeah. I hope we can do it again. Got an event, but I guess I guess it depends on the game cell. So yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

I think I think I'll do well. I, i had so much fun. That was my highlight of of packs east was uh. So I went to see your um, your discussion on uh, ressifying, uh, i mean, yeah, g rpgs and wrestling right like the, the combination too. And you mentioned like we had a wrestling match on Friday night and I was like wait what? and uh, and then I found out, yeah, noon on Saturday you're gonna have more. And I was like 10 30 standing in front. I'm like I have a lunch break that I could sit here, stand right in front. And I stood right in front and, uh, it was so awesome, it was such a, it was so much fun. Uh, it was just a blast and the wrestlers were fantastic. It was so good.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, i'm gonna be like the man. I'm so glad you were able to check it out. You know, i uh, i really hope we can do something else about your later this year, after the game launches, we have two events We've been flirting with for a while about this, you know, and it's a. it's like a wrestling fans dream, right like healthy stories, work with these legends and then like set up your own wrestling cards, like Wow.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, man, and just the, the heels were so much fun too, like in that you guys said it was so much fun, like they really played the crowd and Yeah, and you know, like I said before recording, it was like my kid dream come true, where I get to sit in front of the Well as an adult too, right, like of course I want to go wrestling matches and sit in front, but like I was right in front and I got to interact with the wrestlers, it was, it was a blast, it was so much fun.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I'm so glad man. It's like it's probably my number one and And top three memories of being with the team and having them. Like it was just so great watching them. I'm so happy.

Speaker 2:

Yeah so happy. Several of the publishers that said like vehemently no to us were there. They were just like. There was a time where I was like sending them custom wrestling belts to their office to sign the game. You know, i just know they were just like, oh god, these guys again. And then it was great being a Paxies with our new wrestling belts in our ring, shutting down packs and having some of those publishers be like, hey, james, yeah, exactly Man. You know, like someone else, someone else launched a. You probably saw the announcement for wrestle story, someone else's RPG. I think that's like a flattering. You know AW just announced a figure fighters which is like a Wrestling action figure toy base game and I was like to dress dresses, making all sorts of things happen.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's awesome. When, when does? when does this game come out? then We're taking down dude Yeah wow And what work and all people play this game. I know like I think, switch right and yeah.

Speaker 2:

PS4, ps5, xbox one, xbox X, nintendo switch. Of course, on steam, please go wishlist it now We could do another ring. You know it's coming all over the place. There's a couple other unannounced Distribution channels that we're gonna be telling the world about shortly, but it's gonna be easy to find Russell quest.

Speaker 1:

Nice one last question I have for you, and then I'll let you go. What's one thing that you learned about yourself in the process of making this game?

Speaker 2:

It's a good question, i guess I uh, i learned that I Will continue forward Well beyond any reason to my detriment, and I need to be surrounded by people who are willing to tell me no, that's been a real theme, for sure nice.

Speaker 1:

Well, james, there's a real pleasure meeting you. I mean, i met you at PAX, But it's a real pleasure again sit and talk to you about Russell quest. I cannot wait for this game to come out, and August 8th can't come soon. Oh, eighth or six? I'm sorry, did you say six or eight? Yeah, august 8th, august 8th, okay, i cannot wait for that date to come. Thank you so much for taking time out your schedule and meeting with me.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, do me too. I can't wait.

Speaker 1:

That's great, all right, thanks. Yeah, you too.

Discussing WrestleQuest
Creating a Wrestling RPG Game
Incorporating Wrestlers' Feedback Into the Game
WrestleQuest Loot and Mechanics
Wrestling at PAX East
Discovering Self and Importance of Support

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