SmackDown! confidential - part 1

Wherever the future of gaming takes us, we know there will be wrestling there. WWE SmackDown! vs RAW 2007 proves it, riding the next-gen wave with fully interactive wrestling arenas, brawling in the stands, more realistic grappling and some of the slickest-looking wrestlers you've ever seen. (For the full scoop, check out ourhands-on preview.)

During E3, we sat down to pick the brains of two of the game's developers - Hiromi Furuta, senior vice president of Yuke's, and Taku Chihaya, senior director of Yuke's Yokohama studio - as well as the game's project manager, Colin Mack, who translated for the other two.

In the first installment of this two-part interview, the three give us some insight into how they pick each game's roster, where they get their inspiration and SmackDown! vs RAW 2007 's new features.

When you first started doing SmackDown!, did you ever think the series would be this successful, or run for this long?

Hiromi Furuta: The first one was the one we were the most nervous about. You had a Japanese developer making a game about an American property for an American market. You had the Aki game, which was out and already sold a million copies, so that was our competition, so we felt, we have to go in and make this game, and it's got to sell a million copies.

So we had a lot of pressure then, and weren't really thinking in terms of a long series, just trying to survive the first round. But after doing that, we got to know and like the WWE property, got to learn a lot more about western games, what western gamers like. We kept getting better at it every year, and gradually built up the confidence to feel like we really were a top pro-wrestling developer, and we could do a good job, and we kind of had to continue as the flagship wrestling title.

Right: While the game obviously looks great in still screens, you'll also notice a big visual improvement in the way the wrestlers animate and grapple.