Justin Leeper, the writer behind WWE SmackDown Vs. RAW’s Road To WrestleMania mode, has given his thoughts on what went wrong with WWE 2K20 that led to the game’s well-documented issues!
When WWE 2K20 released in October of 2019, fans could not have been more disappointed. The game launched a poor state, ladened with graphical issues, crashes and gameplay bugs, so much so that Sony offered full refunds to players – a move not seen with such a high-profile game again until Cyberpunk 2077’s equally disappointing launch late last year.
Speaking to Inside The Ropes‘ own Innes McVey, Leeper was asked what the main factors that contributed to the game’s problems were. The writer, designer and director of Road To WrestleMania in SmackDown Vs. RAW 2009, ’10 and ’11 responded that the departure of the series’ long-time developer Yuke’s played a huge part, making it difficult for another studio to pick up the pieces.
“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 would elaborate by discussing Yuke’s unmatched work ethic, allowing them to produce each of the series’ entries at a shockingly high standard in just 11 months, and recalled how he even saw employees sleeping under their desks when he visited their office!
“Yuke’s had flaws but what they did was they always worked super hard. I would go and visit them in January, in Yokohama, and there was people sleeping under their desks then. It’s heartbreaking to see how hard they had to work but also, they had to work that hard to get that kind of production to make those kinds of games.
Say what you will about the breadth of the series, what’s good, what’s bad and what feels cookie cutter or whatever – making a game in 11 months is very hard. Yuke’s bore the brunt of that pressure and they did it well and were always kind and always humble and always good to work with.”
The problems didn’t just end with Yuke’s, however, as Visual Concepts – who took over from the Japanese developer – were “just not equipped” to step into Yuke’s shoes and were unfamiliar with the established engine, according to Leeper!
“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.”
WWE 2K20 received several patches post-launch to fix its most pressing issues but the game was never brought up to the standard of its predecessors. The WWE 2K series as a whole would move in a different direction the following year with the release of WWE 2K Battlegrounds but speculation regarding 2K22 has been rife after reports emerged that 2K representatives were present at Royal Rumble.