A former WWE video game writer and director has shared his thoughts on what went wrong with WWE 2K20.
Speaking to Inside The Ropes‘ Innes McVey, Justin Leeper, who worked on SmackDown vs. RAW 2009, 2010, and 2011, was asked why he thought the game suffered from so many problems. WWE 2K20, which was released in October 2019, was lambasted by many for its physics, downgraded character models, change in controls, and countless game-breaking glitches. Leeper believes that the departure of longtime series developer Yuke’s was the most significant factor and that Visual Concepts were ill-equipped to turn in a worthy game in such a short period of time.
“Well, it was a very difficult situation because whoever you believe on the timeline, Yuke’s was no longer on the project for 2K20 and they were always on the project for 20 years. They built the car that was pulling the game to stores every year and when you don’t have the driver and the mechanic there and you try and put someone else in the driving seat, it’s always going to be difficult and especially with such a time crunch.”
Leeper recalled the incredible time and dedication that Yuke's would put into the game, even sharing that he would see people sleeping under their desks because of how hard they were working. It's difficult to make a new game that fans will love every 11 months, and Visual Concepts had a near-impossible task stepping into a situation where they were inheriting an engine that they'd never worked on.
“When you get rid of those people you have to fill them you have to replace them with somebody. Visual Concepts was just not equipped to do the kinda production and make the kinda sacrifices I think that Yuke’s did to get these games out. It’s such a tough thing for them to do that got taken for granted and I think when we saw that they weren’t there… and it’s their engine!
They built it, whether there are rusty bolts and duct tape holding things together, they put it together and they knew it better than everyone. So for a company in California to sit there and try to take the helm, that’s a losing prospect but they had to put something out. I don’t excuse the game for coming out in the situation but I know what goes into making games, and those games in particular, and just how valuable Yuke’s was.”
In April 2020, Leeper reported that WWE 2K21 had been cancelled. WWE instead opted to publish an arcade-style fighting game entitled Battlegrounds in September 2020.
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