Friday, June 27, 2014

Trey Plays Promotion Wars, Part 2: Booking Is Hard

Could this match have happened in 2002 if Trey had the book in a real company?
Photo Credit: WWE.com
I would like to think that the slight delay in the second part of this is a subtle reference to the near four year wait from 1.2e to 1.3 of the Promotion Wars game. It is not, because in that four year lifespan, this feature hasn't suddenly been made obsolete due to rival competitors. If anything, I probably have come in too late, since it's not like the world isn't flush with wrestling game reviews. Anyways, it is my own lackadaisical nature coupled with a regular work schedule that has led to this minor delay.
2002 is a surprisingly plum time in the smark's mind in terms of fantasy booking. 2002 is the beginning of our 12-year nightmare with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling as well as the launch of the brand split that ultimately led to the WWE pushing the idea of a greater world capable of more top-level talent. Even before that, there was a curious run of promotions that all sought to fill that WCW-style hole in the wrestling business.

The Choosing Process/Month 1
So when I began, I had to make a choice in terms of what to fantasy book. The numerous data updates and fantasy scenarios allow anything from a reborn WCW to some generic Anti-McMahon company to XPW. And as hilarious as it would be to try to play the porn producer-owned Xtreme Pro Wrestling, I can't bring myself to acknowledge the existence of that company. Instead, I chose World Wrestling All-Stars or WWA for short. I only know of the very brief existence of WWA through Promotion Wars. Based in Australia, it was mostly known as a stopgap promotion for ex-WCW talent that was not either pulling a Time Warner or WWF contract and had only one particularly notable non-WCW star in future WWE signing Nathan Jones. Needless to say, their history isn't particularly notable.

I chose WWA to play up the game's main feature in inaccurately setting up a new Monday Night War between Raw and the creatively titled (because it is nonexistent) Monday Show. I'm sure Monday Show is a big deal on the beloved TV Channel. Anyways, the game still holds the idea of a WCW competing against WWF, so WWA has two (again nonexistent) shows to run a week. And due to a massive glitch that makes money in game go down quicker than a Steam summer sale, I gave the promotion $500 million so that I could actually book longer than six weeks without dying. I also signed Bill Goldberg, which immediately makes this report about as unreal as that Guest Booker shoot rebooking the Invasion, but with Bill Goldberg and not say Lance Storm.

And Then I Booked Things/Month 2 and 3
Then again, the game actually seems to reward you for rather implausible things. Other than big signings, the easiest way to drum up interest for your product is near constant heel/face turns. After four months, the only consistent main event face on my roster was Goldberg, which for the thin WWA roster of the time, it seems like he would be the only top face anyway. But my promotion had signed Sting, Macho Man, and Ken Shamrock, who all turned heel after a little bit of time and kind of makes the promotion sort of drown in top heels for The Prototype (yes, THAT Prototype) and CM Punk to beat.

To be honest, I don't know if the game allows me to be a good booker. Your ultimate judge, I mean other than ratings and the bottom line, is the feud screen. Feuds go up over time with their present heat highlighted by a growing orange line until the moment they suddenly turn blue or cold. At that point, it is best to quietly end the feud, maybe with an immediate blowoff match. The trouble is that, despite what you do, this is mostly arbitrary. My epic Goldberg/Macho Man feud can go cold with say two weeks until the pay per view. Usually I go on with the match anyway with another guy as the "real feud." I quickly found that the only way to not go mad doing this is to make a faction. If a feud goes cold, use another guy. Build all the dragons for the top face to slay. Simple stuff, right?

This Is Not Simple/Month 4
I am four and a half months into the game. The game's metrics love me, the board meetings note that the title is finally in good standing, and while I'm losing absurd amounts of money due to that glitch I mentioned, I have risen Monday Show's ratings from a 0.2 to a 1.3. Essentially, I have made a potentially viable #2 promotion. I even signed this American Dragon fellow after months of him declining my offer. But something is missing. It is my own internal logic.

A pretty big problem with the game is that the player does not directly choose match outcomes. Instead, the player chooses who to push and book based on a command to push a wrestler on their own separate screen. This usually means needing to remember who you are pushing at a given moment. Or hell, if you're lazy, it might even be more fun to leave most of the roster unpushed. This leave the match outcome random and potentially leads to some of the more hilarious results you see above.

That said, PW's aims were even undercut at the time by the system Extreme Warfare Revenge had in place. Those games allow more accurate choice as every match and segment in that game is directly decided by the player instead of passively hoped for. This is where our travels will take us next, as we find out just how EWR altered text sims as a genre.