Friday, February 24, 2012

Adam Ryland's Wrestling Spirit 2...

Adam Ryland is known as the King of Text Based Wrestling Games. It's true. You can ask him yourself.

If modesty prevents him from admitting as much, his fans will certainly back it up.

Mr. Ryland started his ascent to the throne by way of his freeware Extreme Warfare series of text-based wrestling promotion simulators. After hooking his fans with a heroin-like addiction, he would eventually tire of providing freebies to the masses. Total Extreme Warfare, released in 2004 out of the now defunct .400 Software Studios, was his commercial breakthrough.

The following year, and to incredulous looks by no man, Ryland would cement his status as the wisest of the wise. Not only would he jump from .400 Studios to Grey Dog Software - a much more stable company, he would also change the completely inappropriate name of his series to Total Extreme Wrestling. The TEW series, as it would come to be known, would see updates in 2007, 2008, and 2010.

Never one to beat a dead horse - unless the glue factory demanded it, Ryland released part one of the Wrestling Spirit trilogy in 2004. Rather than plot a successful wrestling promotion, Wrestling Spirit focused on the individual's career in the 'Sport of Kings', as Mr. Gordon Solie called it. Being text-based, the game was an imagination-fueled depiction of life as a professional wrestler; finding bookings, making friends backstage, earning money from fight purses... basically everything a fan of kayfabe wrestling 'believed' to be true of the 'sport' (wink, wink - nudge, nudge).

The game pretty much sank like a rock*.

* = in relative, uninformed comparison to Mr. Ryland's previous titles.

Largely due to the average wrestling fan's stunning lack of imagination - coupled with the fact that kayfabe was murdered by Sports Entertainment in the 1990s, Wrestling Spirit wasn't nearly as big of a hit as his TEW flagship title. Still, Ryland would produce an equally successful sequel to Wrestling Spirit in 2006.

That game also sank like a rock.

But I loved it. And sometimes I still do.

I admit that I was on the creative team for Wrestling Spirit 2, but I would have loved it all the same had I not been. The absolute brilliance of the game (and I do not say so lightly) was in the strength of its fighting engine. Whereas most wrestling video games are bleep and blip button mashing frenzies, Wrestling Spirit 2 took a much more cerebral approach.

A cerebral, imagination fueled wrestling game?
What is this... a freak out?!?

Smarrt peepel play RESTLIN SPURIT! DUM peepel ply buten smashrs! I rekugnizze mi inabilitie to seamlessly describe the nuts and bolts of game mechanics, so I won't go into intimate detail on how the game works. Needless to say, wrestlers have move sets filed with muves they uses to beet peepel up.

Hot damn! I'm Charlie Algernon, reviewer of the Universe.

Beat THAT gimmick!

Every wrestler going into a match starts with varying amounts of energy. This is determined by his or her popularity in a given location, as they are considered to be "feeding off the crowd".

Throughout the match, each time a wrestler takes a move, energy is taken off. As the energy falls, so does his Energy Level; High, to Medium, to Low, to Danger. As the levels drop, more and more moves become available to the opponent. As soon as a wrestler is in Danger, the opponent starts unleashing their Finishers.

The actual rate of Energy Level drop (and subsequent availability of higher level moves) is dependent upon the Match Type favored by the promotion booking the fight. An Old School or Strong Style wrestling match sees a slow build to the brutal finish, whereas a Sports Entertainment or Spot Monkey fed will feature short, fast-paced matches.

Move execution (or the 'To Hit' roll) is established by the moves base Frequency rate. Modifiers on that number come into play in any number of situations. Momentum shifts, tiring wrestlers, even the opponent's attempted defense of the move can modify the Frequency.

Successful attacks do varying amounts of physical damage and momentum shifting; some moves (a punch) raise the attacker's momentum; some moves (a kick to the stomach) lowers the opponent's. Upon hitting a move, the attacker stays on the initiative for as long as he or she continues successfully 'rolling' under the frequency rate. Failure to execute a move results in the opponent taking the initiative lead.

While on defense, a wrestler attempts to thwart the attack (i.e., lower the opponent's frequency rate) in various ways depending upon the move attempted and the skills of the defender. As a series of examples: A superior technical wrestler will have a good chance to Slip Out of technical-based moves - or to Counter them with other technical moves. Rather than Block someone's punch, a more powerful wrestler might Brace himself against the blow, shrugging it off like the burly manly man he is. If the defender was quicker, he or she might be able to Roll Through arm wringers or Move from that falling headbutt.

Mike Von Erich would be smart to just leave the ring and get counted out.

The Thinking Fan's Wrestling Game, indeed.

We join this match in progress...

** I control the Sheik, using my own Death of the Territories database.

Tuesday, Week 2, May 1983
Maple Leaf Wrestling (TV) -- Ontario, Canada

Attendance: 3,437

The Sheik of Araby vs. Mad Dog Vachon

I tell ya, folks.. The Sheik of Araby is going too far! Look! He's biting Mad Dog Vachon in the head!!
The referee was not happy with that move.
I've heard the expression 'sucking face' before, but this is ridiculous!
The referee was not happy with that move.
The Sheik grabs the head of Mad Dog Vachon... and SLAMS Mad Dog Vachon's head right into the mat!

Mad Dog Vachon is now bleeding very heavily.
Mad Dog Vachon broke the The Arabian Clutch.
Mad Dog Vachon hit the Kneeling Jaw Breaker
The Sheik of Araby slipped out the back of the Stomp Flurry.
Ref??? The Sheik of Araby's using that pencil!!! Mad Dog Vachon gets jabbed in the forehead!!
The Bite to Forehead was countered into a Low Blow.
The referee begins the count...
This Could Be It!
Kick Out At Two-And-A-Half!
The Sheik of Araby moved and the Mad Man Clothesline missed!
The Sheik must have missed lunch on the way to the arena! He's biting Mad Dog Vachon!
The Sheik of Araby grimaces as he walks, his knee may have been hurt.
Mad Dog Vachon moved and the Pencil Gouge to Eye missed!
Mad Dog Vachon stops to stretch out his arm, clearly feeling some pain.
Mad Dog Vachon applied the Big Bear Hug
The referee checks the submission...
It seems to be locked in!
Will This Be It?
It's Still Locked In!
No, there is the escape!
The Sheik of Araby broke the The Vachon Piledriver.
The Standing Armpit Claw was countered into a Eye Rake.
The Punch Flurry was countered into a Punch.
The Sheik scoops Mad Dog Vachon up... and drops him with a sidebreaker!
Mad Dog Vachon easily blocked the Face Slam into Mat.
... And The Sheik of Araby with a brutal Face Slam into the Mat! Mad Dog Vachon looks groggy...
The Sheik of Araby is totally out of control... He's digging that object into Mad Dog Vachon's eye!!!

Mad Dog Vachon is a mess, with blood everywhere.
Mad Dog Vachon avoids the pencil!
Mad Dog Vachon applied the Big Bear Hug
The referee checks the submission...
It seems to be locked in!
Will This Be It?
A short struggle ends with the escape!
We've got a Pier-6 brawl, ladies and gentlemen... Mad Dog Vachon with a punch flurry!
The referee warns that that was illegal.
The Sheik of Araby slipped out the back of the Corner Stomp Flurry.
A stalemate happens as neither competitor can take the advantage.
Mad Dog Vachon easily slipped out the back of the Cheating Roll Up.
The Sheik of Araby slipped out the back of the Hammerlock Drive.
Mad Dog Vachon easily slipped out of the Cheating Roll Up.
The Sheik of Araby broke the The Vachon Piledriver.
The Sheik of Araby takes the easy road by raking the eyes of Mad Dog Vachon...
The referee warns that that was illegal.
Ref??? The Sheik of Araby's using that pencil!!! Mad Dog Vachon gets jabbed in the forehead!!

The referee has medically disqualified Mad Dog Vachon due to heavy blood loss.

** As the match had progressed to the point of both men being exhausted, you saw a bunch of initiative changes due to blocks and reversals. Once Vachon got bloody (and due to the fact I was unable to execute finishers on the Mad Dog), I decided it best to focus on the blood loss. Once Vachon reached the 'bloody mess' stage, it was only a matter of time until the referee was forced to stop the bout.

In many ways the Wrestling Spirit series is a text-based, single player role playing game. And like any role playing game, the user sometimes wishes to gut certain parts of the game mechanic for their own benefit. In this case, I'd love to be able to act as match-maker for my own federation, while still being able to play out the fights using the match engine. Not only that, I want the game to actually keep track of my promotion; contender rankings, match and title histories, you name it.

But how? Beg the designer for a sequel that allows the possibility?

No. I tried that.

Don't you worry... I've the answer in my next diatribe.


  1. I have never played a wrestling game like this BUT I want to now. That sounds like a blast. I look forward to hearing your answer coming in the next post.

  2. As always, thanks Mr. Warren. You've proven a huge inspiration to me these past few weeks.

    I am grateful.

    Wrestling Spirit 2 is one of my all-timers. I can fire the game up and have fun with it any time. And as the nostalgia for that era of wrestling will likely never fade, it is a game that will always maintain my interest.

    Like many of the things that have caught my fancy over the years, not too many people shared my passion for Wrestling Spirit.

    I've theories why it didn't catch on, but they wouldn't change the fact.

  3. Very cool - thanks for the compliment.

    I will have to track down this Wrestling Spirit 2 and give it a good go. I don't mind the button mashers but I would prefer a more management game / role playing game like you described.

    Just out of curiosity, I wouldn't mind hearing your theories about why it did not catch on. That type of discussion just interests me.

    1. It is a great game. I do believe you would like it a lot.

      My theories... For one, I believe the game was too different for Mr. Ryland's core audience at the time of release.

      Since then he has branched off into MMA and comic book sub-genres. However at the time all he had done was wrestling games. Promotion simulators. Essentially the furthest thing from kayfabe wrestling there is.

      All text-based games are imagination based. I just don't think the imaginations of those people in to writing soap opera story-lines and raiding rival promotions jived with Wrestling Spirit's approach.

      As it was kayfabe oriented, I believe Wrestling Spirit should have been marketed towards the fans of old-timey professional wrestling. Exactly how those old games were advertised in the old wrestling magazines.

      How? I don't know. They don't pay me the big marketing bucks. But working with website owners that cater to that market might have been a nice start. It is basically the equivalent of the old magazines these days.

      Another big reason was the sheer complexity of the editing process.

      The default data was fine enough, but a lot of people dig these type of games because Mr. Ryland provides a way for the player to edit things they don't like or create their own game world entirely. As people typically want to create 'Real World' data sets, diving into the editor is one of the first things many people do after purchasing Mr. Ryland's games

      I suspect a lot of people dove in and promptly smashed their heads on the concrete floor.

      To get one wrestler to act as they should with proper stats, moves, move sets and AI settings that ensure all three work in harmony is a bit of work. Creating an entire game world takes a level of dedication not many people were willing to muster.

      Between the two Wrestling Spirit games, there was only one full-fledged data set created for it: my own. And that was set in 1983. Before a lot of Ryland's fans were even born.

      Various people created modern day WWE set ups, but that's all they were. To the present day fan looking for the 'coolest mod to play', there was nothing for them in the Wrestling Spirit scene.

      Who knows, though. I am but a silly fan. Heh.

    2. Your thoughts on the matter just turned my interest way up on this product! It is unfortunate that editing is such a pain but if I can get get this product then I definitely need to get your data set.

      Could you create more than one promotion and use them in the same game? The "Monday Night War" between WCW and WWF was probably the last bright spot in modern wrestling. I admit that I did not watch a lot of WCW but I do miss them. The main reason being that WWF was because because of the competition. If the WCW buyout was handled better, they could have had a cash cow on hand. Imagine the story starts the same with Vince showing up on Nitro announcing his purchase of WCW. An hour later, fans turn on RAW to see what's going on. They flip back and forth for the remainder of Nitro. The fans are glued to the screen for the remainder of RAW. In the real world, Shane showed up and we know he pulled a fast one to buy the company instead of his father. What if things went differently? What if Ted Turner showed up in a limousine at the end of the show, walks to the ring and snatches a mic and says, "Excuse me, no one told ME the WCW was up for sale?!" . At this point, RAW ends with the screen going black and the fans don't know what happened. Imagine the possibilities...

    3. Sure! You could create as many promotions as you wanted. That way your wrestler would have more opportunities to advance their career.

      If you are talking that time period, you could create the WWE, WCW, and I guess ECW was still around - plus a bunch of carny indy feds.

      D.O.T.T. has a crap load. In America alone: WWF, Mid Atlantic, AWA, Georgia, World Class, Houston, Mid South, Southwest, Memphis, Florida, St. Louis, Detroit, the Pacific Northwest, Central States, Poffo's ICW, Southeastern, Shire's San Francisco... even Bruno Sammartino's Pittsburgh promotion. Ah... and GLOW, lol.


      Ryland's T.E.W. might also be of interest, as what you just explained, you could actually book in that game. In TEW you are a promoter trying to take a promotion to the top of a food chain; hiring people, booking story lines/feuds, etc.

    4. ** Sorry ... I meant to add:

      The idea in D.O.T.T. was for the wrestler to work various regional feds, gaining enough popularity in those regions for the bigger promotions like WWF to see your guy as a valuable asset.

      The rookie is unknown. If he becomes a regional star in Texas, Georgia, and the Great Lakes, the big guns will want to use him when they run those areas.

      It worked fairly well.

    5. Very cool information. My interest is definitely high on this thing. Although it is an interesting thought experiment to do the WWE/WCW/ECW/indies thing, I would truly want to do the earlier stuff from the late seventies and early eighties. The multiple promotion possibilities are very cool. Just out of curiosity, is Death of the Territories available for download or purchase? Sorry if you already mentioned this but it's been a while and I really don't want to sort through the posts between us to find I would be highly interested in seeing your stats for the old time wrestlers!

    6. D.O.T.T. is completely free, good Sir.

      Whenever you wish to download the stuff, just let me know. I'll provide all the links for it and help you get it into the game (if needed). It's broken down into a bunch of smaller downloads, so as to make it easier for people.

  4. Nice! I will be getting this "soon"...