Interview: Serious Parody’s Dan Hinkles

Wrestling fans know all about that uncontrollable urge to blurt out “I could book better than this!” when watching a show. It’s the same with football fans watching a match, and to help with that they have the fantastic Football Manager series. But what do us fans of WWE, TNA, ROH etc. have to play? That’s where Serious Parody step in with their hit iOS title Wrestling Manager.

And a hit it really has been. Having built up a dedicated user base, Serious Parody CEO Dan Hinkles is consistently amazed with what his team, and the community they have built up, are coming up with.

PTP: Wrestling Manager (WM) is such a great niche title, there’s really nothing like it on the App Store. What initially sparked you into creating this game?

Dan: The idea for a management game came around, and I’m not going to lie to you, when I was about 11 or 12. It was 15 years ago when I first decided I wanted to do this. I wasn’t planning seriously, but when I looked around and saw the likes of Ultimate Soccer Manager, Championship [now Football] Manager, and I thought ‘hang on, where’s my wrestling?’. So at first I tried to build it in Excel during my IT class!

The Adam Ryland game [wrestling management sim EWR] was about that was good, and I’ve lost many a night playing it, but nobody has really done it  the way I wanted. So we set up the company, and when it first came out it was like a smaller version of what we wanted to [eventually] achieve. So we decided, ‘right lets do this properly’ and here we are now with our game out there.

PTP: EWR is pretty well known amongst hardcore wrestling fans as a good text-based management sim. Were there any other games that influenced the creation of WM?

Dan: We took bits from everything. The way we designed WM originally is quite different to how it is today. I’d been playing a lot of Game Dev Story, and I loved it, and what I liked about that was how quickly it was to progress things. So I wanted to apply that same logic to WM, so that it would be more accessible than other wrestling management titles. At the same time though I didn’t want the game to lose its focus that it was for the hardcore wrestling fan, which is why we have ‘kayfabe’ in the game. Which really only a fan of the wrestling business will have any great knowledge of.  I’m a ridiculously hardcore wrestling fan, and this was my game for me, as well as a game for people like me.

Another that we looked at was FIFA’s Ultimate Team. The trading card and coin element  are similar to what we have. When I was describing the game to people I’d say it was ‘wrestling, meets Ultimate Team, meets Game Dev Story’. They’re the real influences behind it.

PTP: One of the big hooks of Game Dev Story and Football Manager  is the way the game cycles with no clear end-point. With wrestling on TV they consistently state “there’s no off-season”. Was this something you looked to adapt to WM?

Dan: Yeah. If you were to just take over WWE for example, then everything you do would be quite repetitive and this is how the WWE GM games [in the Smackdown! series] can get rather boring quickly. We wanted players to start off at the bottom, with a tiny roster and basic facilities, and to build up to a ‘WWE level’ . So we set a lot of targets within the game, like achieving a specific roster size or popularity rating. So the tasks would encourage the player to continue to grow their companies. We then introduced TV, Pay Per Views and ratings in. There is an element of repetitiveness, but we’ve offset that with the addition of achievements now to the game. Which we haven’t revealed yet so that’s a nice exclusive for you

Some of the people playing WM have been with us since day one, and I know from the feedback we get that once you get into it you can really get hooked. One guy bought it last November on release and he emails me two or three times a month with what he’s done in the game. He keeps restarting and replaying, and that kind of feedback is great.

PTP: It’s clear that you’re extremely aware of your audience and the feedback they provide. How integral is that relationship in evolving the game?

Dan: It’s been hugely important. We have a dedicated team of consumers that tests our releases and we have awards for best beta tester and so on. We’re big on giving credit where it is due, so if someone comes up with a good idea to improve the game and we end up using it, then we’re very keen to make sure they’re in the credits. We want to acknowledge that without them, that feature may not exist. I know a lot of game companies may take features off a fan forum and use it, but not give any credit. So I think if I was a fan and I wrote in with a feature, then that company credited me and acknowledged they took my suggestion on board, then I’d appreciate that. I’m sure there’s a legal reason that most game companies don’t credit, but it would be nice!

PTP: You’re not just settling for being an iOS developer, and have stated you’re underway with a console title. You’ve also said you want to grow beyond games and into movies. Do you see Serious Parody growing to become a content producer across a range of distribution channels?

Dan: That’s definitely the case, and in many ways it already is. As we’re working on several business-to-business relationships outside of games at the moment. So part of what we do even now doesn’t directly involve games. We’re very ambitious, and my business partner runs cinemas, arcades, he has his finger in a lot of pies! Right now, our main goal is the games industry, but we want to progress into other areas too. I genuinely love coming into work and seeing what our team has come up with, it’s exciting.

Wrestling Manager is available from the App Store and you can keep up to date with the latest Serious Parody happenings on their official Twitter page.

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