SmackDown! exposed: 'We weren't sure what we were doing!'

Do you have the opportunity to do motion-capture with the big-name stars?
Colin Mack (SmackDown! project manager, THQ): Um... no. Do you know Ohio Valley Wrestling [minor league promotion that trains wrestlers for WWE]? That's who we use for all of our mo-cap. It's not like we say, "Hey, Triple H, come over and do some mo-cap" - he's a little too busy to come over and do that for us, so we get the up-and-coming wrestlers to do it instead.

Which do you consider to be the key games in the SmackDown! series, in terms of pushing the product forward?
Taka Chihaya (Yokohama studio senior director, Yuke's): For me, it was SmackDown! 2 [Know Your Role] and 4 [Shut Your Mouth] that were the biggest ones.

When we did the first SmackDown! game, we weren't really sure what we were doing. We just made a game that we thought would be fun for ourselves. So after that game sold, we got a lot of feedback. SmackDown! 2 was the first year where we started to try and understand what western gamers like.

SmackDown! 4 was the second year on PS2. The first one on PS2 [Just Bring It] was us getting used to the new platform. SmackDown! 4 was the first time we felt we knew how to use the new platform properly.

Above: SmackDown!'s move to next-gen means that characters now look more realistic than ever

In both those examples, they're the second versions of the game in each generation. Does that mean that we're not going to see the true capabilities of the next-gen consoles being used until SmackDown! vs Raw 2008?
HF: For the PSone to PS2 transition, basically the team was so challenged by the technical issues of getting the basic game running on PS2 that's almost all we were able to do.

This time, with that experience and realising that just that hardware transition alone is a whole lot of work, we started doing preparation a lot earlier for the next-generation transition. We restructured the way our team works and have a separate engine research team now, and it's worked out really, really well.

How big is the SmackDown! team now compared to when you were doing the first game?
CM: The first SmackDown! was maybe a 20-person team. This year we have about 300 people in total.

Check out part two of our exclusive Yuke's interview in which the crack coders give us the full lowdown on the new PS3 controller, keeping up with roster changes, and how the team comes up with new ideas every year