I recently caught up with EA Sports’ Creative Director Brian Hayes to talk about the new modes and other improvements in EA Sports UFC 2.
Vic B’Stard: Hi Brian, thanks for talking the time out to talk about UFC 2. Now, I really enjoyed UFC, and I still give it a go now and again, but it is a bit lacking compared to other EA Sports games. Have you addressed this at all in UFC 2?
Brian Hayes: You touched on one of the really big points there. I wouldn’t say that you were the only one that thought UFC 1 was lacking, certainly as it compared to other EA Sports titles.
Unfortunately, we were making the first iteration of a new franchise. We were being compared against the 25th version and the 18th or 16th version of several other EA Sports’ franchises. No matter what, we had some catching up to do.
One of the things that we are proudest of with UFC 2 is the amount of new content we’ve added and the improvements we’ve made when it comes to game modes. We’ve added five new game modes that didn’t exist before.
Live Events is quite innovative; I don’t think any other game has done anything quite like that feature. Then there’s UFC Ultimate Team. Whilst other games have Ultimate Team features, ours is different because as you know MMA is a one verses one sport. It’s a deep mode which you can get really get your teeth into and play for a long time.
We’ve also added super-fun modes like knockout mode, which is going to be a blast for so many people. For hardcore UFC fans that what to play Dana White we’ve got custom events, they are going to have a lot of fun with that.
And then practice mode is there to help everybody out in terms of just getting better and better at the game. Adding extra content to make sure that this game doesn’t seem lacking in any way was one of the biggest things that we worked on for UFC 2.
Vic B’Stard: You mentioned knockout mode? How did that mode come about?
Brian Hayes: Well, it came about in two ways. It wasn’t actually a part of our original concept twenty-one months ago when we were in the early stages of working on UFC 2. It really wasn’t something that we were considering.
We didn’t think to have a mode were you didn’t have any grappling. We thought that UFC fans would be like, well how can you not have 50%, maybe 60% of the sport, right? We were doing player research and talking to a bunch of fans – some very engaged mixed martial arts fans. They would say, I love the game, I love UFC, I watch every pay per view, but when I play the game with my friends we have a rule that if the fight goes to the ground we both stand up- because we just want to stand and bang.
We were also working on these new knockout physics. Now, I might sound biased, but they are totally awesome. When we were capturing work-in-progress videos of the knockout physics development we would turn on debug settings. With these settings it would only take four hits to knockout either fighter. And they turned into these really tense, fast paced striking battles. We would circle around each other and try and test each other’s range. As we made these videos to show the executives we were thinking that this is a really fun way to play the game. Each match always ended spectacularly because the knockouts are so amazing.
We had feedback from fans saying that they would enjoy a mode like this, so we decided to conceptualise it. We wanted the knockout mode to be accessible, fast, furious, and really fun; to make it perfect for a sit down couch-play experience.
Vic B’Stard: Knockout mode sure is an intense experience. Going back to the main fight mode, the submissions mechanic seems a little easier to use this this time, can you tell me what you’ve done there?
Brian Hayes: We slightly changed the visuals of the HUD on-screen. It covers up the action a bit less and is a little more transparent when you are not pushing in any direction.
The only new prompt during submissions is a green left-stick prompt. These prompts allow the submission that the offensive guy is attempting to be chained and you can sort of skip stages into a deeper stage of a different type of submission.
An example would be if your opponent starts going for a triangle from full guard and that green prompt comes up. if they hit that before you do they will go into like the second last stage of an arm bar, so that give them an opportunity to finish with a submission quicker than they normally would.
But other than that the submission game stay pretty much the same as last time. If you are on defence all you want to do is push your right stick until one of those windows fills up or you push one of those gate all the way out. If you are on offence, you want to block the other guy with your right-stick and then when you see the left-stick prompt come up flick the left-stick in that direction to sink the submission in deeper.
Vic B’Stard: So you’ve just tweaked the HUD a bit. Well, it seems to make all the difference. The whole game seems to have be a lot more refined since last time, can you tell me a little more about the visuals, about the animations?
Brian Hayes: Just to get the dynamics of the grappling system and the way the ground game works alone we had to add around 2000-2200 individual animations to allow the fighters to do all that stuff independently on the ground. That’s a ton of animation additions alone to get dynamic grappling working as a system.
Then we have also added a whole gamut of hit reaction animations, so there’s much better visual feedback for every different type of strike that lands. When big strikes land there’s more whole-body stumbling reactions.
Hit reactions on the ground when you are doing ground and pound are much, much better and they build up in intensity. We have really tried to improve the visual feedback when you are landing strikes and damage against your opponent. That’s another area were we added a lot of new animations. Little things like facial animations.
When you watch the replays you will see the guys actually flinch now before a punch comes into land. It makes the replays look like are watching human beings that aware of what is happening as opposed to video game automatons that that just sit there with their eyes wide open and get hit in the face.
So basically we’ve tweaked every facet of the game from the minute details to adding new strikes, hit reactions and making dynamic grappling work. Custom fighter animations for ring entrances, walk-outs, fighter introduction stuff and celebrations and whole load of new stuff has been added to game to make it look as authentic and believable as possible.
Vic B’Stard: Well thanks ever so much Brian. UFC 2 looks great and I’m looking forward to getting another go on it. Best of luck.