~ July 2006 ~
Wrestling Encore's more polished
game engine has taken the concept further than its
predecessors ever did - including to the desks of wrestling journalists
Here, the "Internet Icon"
Staniforth finds out what all the fuss is about...
you to make games?
From as early as I can remember, the story of my life has been "if you want
something done right, do it yourself". Even when I was like 5 or 10 years old,
I would look at the toys and games around me and come up with ways of
improving them. And if that wasn't enough, my brother and I would invent
things from scratch. Card games, dice games, board games, and even sports in
the backyard! If there was something we wanted to do and the professionals
weren't delivering the goods, we'd rectify the situation. And now, as an
adult, that's exactly what I do for a living. I scour the games industry and
fill in the gaps. If there's a game I want to play and it doesn't exist, I
step in and make it myself. That's my legacy in a nutshell - doing what nobody
else can or will do. Refusing to accept things as they are and pushing for
How did you get started?
My entire career is pretty much an accident. When I was growing up, wanting to
make games was as ambitious as wanting to be an astronaut! It was some sort of
ungodly science that no normal person could ever hope to understand. I
certainly never considered it as a viable option. But then one day, I stumbled
across these new simplified programming languages - DIV Games Studio,
Dark BASIC, and Blitz BASIC - which were accessible enough for
me to work with. I taught myself how to use each one (along with every other
aspect of making games), and the rest is history. Now my only job is to keep
breaking down the walls, and spread the word that anybody can do this stuff if
they work hard enough. Knowing how a computer works inside out is no longer
necessary. Creative talent is all that matters now. Steven Spielberg didn't
invent film and Michael Jackson didn't invent music, but they sure as hell
know what to do with it! That's where we're at with games now...
do you feel your games and work have progressed
I'm very sensitive to the way my work changes over time. It's a source of
great frustration. I look at Wrestling Encore and Grass Roots
now and I like what I see - but I KNOW it's going to be a different story in a
couple of years! It's only a matter of time before my perspective (and those
of my players) changes so much that they can't be
taken seriously anymore. The graphics, the presentation, the gameplay - it'll
all be surpassed and there won't be any love for those projects anymore.
That's the way I feel about my early games. I simply can't load them up
without cringing - not even the ones made in 2003! Games only ever get
replaced, and that's hard to take when you're the one that made them. You want
them to last forever like your favourite song or movie...
What really goes into a game?
Making games is the most thankless job in entertainment, because nobody
realizes how hard it all is. Especially at my level, where you're literally
doing the work of an entire office block full of people. The games you see in
the stores (which critics are so quick to compare mine to) were made by up to
100 highly trained professionals working all year round on a million dollar
budget. Check out the credits some time! For me to single-handedly churn out
anything that comes close, in just a matter of months, is something that I
will always defend as a work of genius. Even my biggest supporters find that
hard to hear, but give it a try some time and you'll know where I'm coming
from. Wake up one morning and design a 3D world, animate some 3D characters,
program the thousands of lines of code that bring them to life, engineer the
sounds that they emit, compose the music that plays out in the background,
write the instruction manual, draw up the box art, and then wind down by
maintaining the website that talks about all of the above! Do that and come
out of the other side with a game that people love - and then do it game after
game, year after year. I'd be the first to admit that my games aren't the
"best in the world" and they'll never be "works of art". But if you want to
talk about the process - if you want to talk about who's making the biggest
mountain out of the smallest molehill - there's not a human being alive that
can take me on...
your feelings on today's wrestling scene?
I must admit that I don't watch Western wresting anymore. When the WWF
"got the F out", I "got the F out" too! Ever since that day, the company's
legacy got somewhat muddled - which is disappointing for a guy that was a fan
of the history and tradition. It doesn't help that the product also started to
lose its way at that juncture. Wrestling has always appealed to me because of
the sporting content. If I wanted to watch soft porn or a badly acted soap
opera, there are plenty of other places I could go for that! I'll always have
time for the Japanese product though, and I do see some glimmers of hope on
the independent circuit. That pretty much sums up my taste in wrestling. If
you want to know what I like, go and watch a Samoa Joe match...
Do you actually have any spare
time?! And if so, what do you do with it?
I have even less spare time than people think! When I'm not working on the
games, I'm working on everything other aspect of my life. Self-improvement is
the only real hobby I have, and it just happens to encompass everything else.
I work on the games 9 to 5, and then I spend a couple of hours each evening
acquiring new skills and insights. The backbone of that may be working out and
becoming stronger, but it also involves studying politics, philosophy, and the
creative works of other people. The way I see it, I've got a chance to be a
role model to thousands of kids - and that's not a responsibility I take
lightly. I make sure every aspect of my character is firing on all cylinders,
so that I can make the most of the voice my work has given me. It often feels
like I've sacrificed a normal life to do what I do, which seems a little
unnecessary when you're talking about a few games! However, the way I see it,
there are 6 billion "normal" people on the planet. Civilization won't break
down if one guy breaks the mould to achieve something special...
What's your advice to
anyone who wants to get into making games?
My best advice has always been to keep it simple. The single biggest mistake
people make when they try their hand at game development is that they want
Tomb Raider to be their first game! I've seen it with my own eyes on the
courses I took at college and university. Student after student would be
turning their noses up at text games, 2D games... anything less than a
Playstation quality blockbuster wasn't worth learning. They even had the
audacity to criticize me while I was paying those dues, but guess what? Not a
single one of them is making games for a living now. They're still waiting for
that magical day when they wake up with the skills of a veteran! There's not
an art form on the planet that works that way. There's no such thing as an
"overnight success". There's only the work the public sees and the work the
public DOESN'T see. If you really want to do something, prove it by getting
down to some thankless work and the rest will write itself...
finally, what are your plans for the future?
My outlook seems to change from day to day! Sometimes I feel that the world
can't take me on, and that I'm going to revolutionize the games industry for
the better. However, the other side of me knows that I'm just churning out a
few humble games that are only ever going to have a niche audience. I
certainly feel that time is against me. There's only so many years left before
the gap between me and the mainstream becomes so wide that it simply can't be
bridged anymore. We've already reached the point where I can single-handedly
produce a game the size of Wrestling Encore and still not get the
recognition I deserve - which is a worrying sign, because that's as good as it
gets! In the early days, I always convinced myself that things would take off
once I reached that one big project that showcases everything I'm capable of.
Well, we're there and there's still a lot of ignorance holding it down. Of
course, it doesn't help that wrestling itself isn't as popular as it used to
be! I'll be trying my hand at several other, more wide-ranging genres and
we'll see if one of those contains the golden ticket. In the meantime, there
are plans to roll out Wrestling Encore as a boxed product in stores
across Europe - so it'll be interesting to see how that pans out...
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