Well, quite simply, Simpsons Wrestling was a half-a$$ed title. I haven't read the magazines yet, but some of the online reviews did indeed talk about the models and how bad they 'looked.' And yes, the models did indeed 'look' bad, but what MADE them look bad is up to interpretation. Was it the model CONSTRUCTION that looked bad (modeling), or the model DISPLAY (rendering/game engine), or the model ANIMATION (animator)?
See, Simpsons Wrestling was a Playstation 1 title through-and-through. Fox Interactive told us they wanted the game to look as much like the show as possible, and that included the black-line drawing around the characters. Those two items - PSX1 and Black-line techniques - are basically mutually exclusive, due to the limited processing power of the PS1, but Fox was adamant that this game come out for the PS1.
As a result, in order to keep the framerate parameters we *thought* we would need, I was given a low-poly count per character, between 500-700 polys. That's not a lot for a fighting game, and ESPECIALLY for a game that was going to be COMPLETELY lit at all times. A lot of games can get away with low poly counts because the games were dark - we couldn't. That said, I think the models actually look a lot like the characters when viewed up-close, and were approved by Film Roman (the Simpsons team), AND matched the turnaround images from Film Roman we used as reference. So I am of course biased, but the construction of the models themselves I don't think is what the reviewers were talking about.
The models were indeed RENDERED badly in the game engine. The black line caused TREMENDOUS Z-sorting problems, where the same line would seem to flicker from one frame to the next. Not to mention that the game ran in low-res instead of high-res...an unfortunate side effect of the black line processing. The programmers thought they could coax high-res out of the PSX early on in development, but that went away. Plus the fact that at low-res, the natural antialiasing that the TV gives you is virtually nonexistent - it works VERY well at high-res.
As for the animation, yes, a lot of the animation was half-a$$ed as well, and I can take responsibility for that. We had a REALLY tight deadline, so the impetus was to "We need to get the characters moving and fighting ASAP, make the animation work, it doesn't need to be beautiful, we'll clean it up later." So we based our early animation on gameplay needs, not on adhering to a strict 'animator's' code of not moving onto the next animation until the one you're working on is 'right.' Well, no good deed goes unpunished, as our programmers came back later and said 'Don't adjust the animations, there's already too much memory allocated to the anim lists, in fact you need to comb through and DELETE a buncha keyframes per anim to make them fit.' So, bad animation got even worse, as a lot of the in-between frames went away. Yes, the animation was FUNCTIONAL, but it wasn't pretty.
All in all, I was disappointed in Simpsons Wrestling from the beginning. We built a pretty nice engine for TPM, where we had large levels to explore, lots of people to interact with and talk to, and some nice detail. The big problems we DID have with TPM were player control and collision detection. So, naturally, what contract do we get next? A game with NO exploration, NOBODY to talk to, and VERY LITTLE detail due to PSX limitations. AND, a game that RELIES HEAVILY on player control and collision detection. Oh, and throw on top of that the fact that we needed to be done in 12 months, so that we don't have time to re-write bad code, we just had enough time to put a few band-aids on it.
And I cannot confirm nor deny my 'TRUE' identity