Exclusive Interview with Mat Dickie of MDGames (Wrestling Revolution 3D & Wrestling Empire) | Smark Out Moment

I was lucky enough to sit down recently for an exclusive interview with legendary games developer, Mat Dickie of MDGames, creator of the Wrestling Empire video game. Mat is in the top 1% of developers in this country, with one of his titles, Wrestling Revolution 3D, having a staggering 50 Million downloads. Mat spent the first decade of his career developing exclusively for the PC before branching out as a mobile developer, and, most recently, the Nintendo Switch.

How long have you been developing games for and how did you get started?

MD: Ever since I got a PC around 1998, I was getting creative in anything I could get my hands on - even if it meant abusing programs like Powerpoint to create my own point & click adventures! That naturally evolving into real programming when I was introduced to it at college and I never stopped learning.

How long have you been a wrestling fan? And do you have a favourite match or wrestler?

MD: My earliest memories are of the Ultimate Warrior replacing Hulk Hogan as the top guy in 1990, but I went on to become a bigger fan of Bret Hart for his creativity and commitment to the craft. I loved his match against Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania 8 from its emotional start to its creative finish.

How about your own favourite video game?

MD: The one I've gone back to most consistently over the past 20 years is Civilization in its various forms - but mainly 2 then and 5 now. Jagged Alliance is another one that never gets old to me. Most recently, I enjoyed Mario Odyssey and I'm enjoying Mario World 3D right now.

Right, let us talk about Wrestling Empire! Many see it as a spiritual successor to the THQ/AKI wrestling games on the Nintendo 64. Was this the reason behind you choosing the Nintendo Switch as the game's console home?

MD: It was certainly poetic to mark the 20-year anniversary of No Mercy by bringing my own brand of low-poly wrestling to a Nintendo console - at the exact moment that fans were clamoring for an alternative. If you told me I'd be doing that 20 years ago, I could never imagine it would even be possible! It has definitely been something to cross off the bucket list, and I feel somewhat vindicated to have taken my work that far when nobody ever believed I would.

You have been ridiculously prolific when it comes to adding updates and improvements to the game. What has been the most requested addition that you have successfully been able to implement?

MD: In the old days, you would finish a game and then take a break - but now that's just when things are getting started and it's difficult to see where you'll ever be able to take a break without being accused of "abandoning" the project! The most requested feature has always been multiplayer, so I was excited to offer that in the console version. Although they meant online play, everything about this game is old school so I'm happy to bring back the living room experience. New moves are always a popular request as well, but each one is a little work of art that takes hours to animate and program - so I have to choose wisely. People think they want finishers, but you only see those once in a while - whereas I get more excited about animations you'll see in every match.

This game features a stonking 350+ cast of wrestlers from many different leagues all over history, as well as notable famous figures such as Sylvester Stallone, Joe Rogan, and even Donald Trump! Hilariously, you have been able to do this by coming up with funny alternative names, such as Cliff Hanger (Edge) and Bobby Q (Jim Ross). What are some of your personal favourites?

MD: I like puns that force you to say the actual name without realizing it - such as "Mat Showman" or "Crispin Noir"! I wake up every day muttering fictitious names to myself, so these games have given me a kind of mental illness.

This game is a staggering achievement for a studio consisting of just yourself. How on earth do you manage it?

MD: Thanks for saying so, as not a lot of people have considered that aspect of it. The secret is that it's actually a lot easier to do things yourself, as you don't have to compromise with anyone or anything! Anything I think of is in the game within minutes with no quarrel or delay. On top of that, I suppose I'm very organized and live a very disciplined life. If I was a pool player, we might say I have good "shot selection." I know how to complete one project or task in such a way that it sets me up for the next in perfect order to clear the table. Completing a project is like completing a puzzle, and I've done it enough times to know what works and what doesn't!

What is next for Wrestling Empire? What sort of exciting updates can fans expect in the next patch?

MD: We're just turning the corner on the basic career mode, so I'd like to get every move and story from previous games in there to solidify that. Then the way is clear for me to concentrate on adding a booking mode where you run your own promotion. Last year, fans were upset that the console had no wrestling games and now they're upset that they have no GM modes. Every time somebody fumbles the ball, I'll be there to score with it!

Thank you so much for your time Mat and congratulations on all your achievements.

To keep up on all the updates and future game development you can check out out Mat on Twitter, or learn more about Wrestling Empire on the Nintendo Website.

Also, be sure to listen out for Ross himself as the voice of some of the referees in the game once the latest audio patch has been added!

AUTHOR OF THIS POST: ROSS K. FOAD

Ross K Foad is an actor and writer who has been a wrestling fan ever since the early '90s. You can keep up to date on his endeavors on Twitter and YouTube.

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