We talk to EA UFC Director Brian Hayes about EA UFC (duh), and what we can expect out of the game

We’re almost in the next generation of fighting games, people. Can you believe it? Unless something weird happens, we’ll all be playing EA UFC on our PS4s or Xbones within sixty (60) days. Sixty! Depending on when you read this, it may be even sooner (or the past). Let’s move on from these temporal discussions and discuss our yearning for EA UFC. After all, it’s what we’ve all wanted for so long; the full-blown marriage of EA and the UFC as well as brand new technology. It’s almost too good to be true. I bought an Xbox One for this damn game.

It’s been a test of patience over these last few months. We see EA UFC coming, but the information is dropping at a slow rate. Yes, we have Bruce Lee. Yes, the roster is being revealed, but we need those cold, hard facts. Where are those sweet nuggets of information?

I was finally able to wrangle EA UFC Director Brian Hayes into an interview for you wonderful humans, and while our talk was watched over by the stern but fair EA employee known only as “Shirley,” I think I was able to extract a decent amount of information. Enough to paint a picture of EA’s relatively quick development process for this new series on brand new hardware. In the end, it’s more of a discussion about what’s not in EA UFC and why rather than what’s going to be featured. But we will speak again. How could we not? Brian has an extensive collection of awesome T-shirts.

Nice to talk to you again, Brian. How are ya?Jason
Good! We’re wrapping things up here, or we’re trying to. The Vancouver weather is helping us by being rainy so we don’t want to go outside.Brian
Indeed. It’s crunch time, so let’s get right down to it – are there any fighters you regret not having in this first EA UFC release?Jason
Part of me regrets any fighter we don’t have. We’re putting a lot of effort into making fighters that look as good as they do in our game. We want to get as many guys done as we can before we have to put a box around this thing put it on the shelf, so we’re going to be working on that as long as we can. We want to expand the game in the future, either by DLC or future games, so, for me there’s no one huge. We focused on guys that are the biggest guys, so it’s not like, ‘no, we didn’t get Anderson Silva in there.’ Hardcore MMA fans like yourself may be upset about Cro Cop. He’s not in there right now. That’s regrettable but it’s a long-term partnership and a franchise with a big future so I don’t think that just because some guys aren’t in there that they won’t be there in the future.Brian
So that brings us to the Create-A-Fighter. I’m sure you remember in EA MMA the fans populated the game with Fighter Share. How is that looking? Will they be able to do the same thing this time around?Jason
CAF is looking really good. The art quality of the assets is really high. But specifically those features that existed in previous games, like Fighter Share, those aren’t available due to the increasingly litigious society in which we live. Essentially, back in the day there was issues with EA MMA and the fighters looking too much like UFC fighters and in Fight Night I remember everyone would make Rocky Balboa but they weren’t licensed, so the whole concept of Fighter Share, that I can create something and distribute it to other fans, is unfortunately a thing of the past.Brian
You can bring your created characters online, correct?Jason
Yep. For online stuff. This is kind of a matchmaking issue, but mostly you have people creating 99s and bringing them in to fight with that dude. So yes, unranked matches, we wanted to make sure that championships and tournament structures were limited to licensed characters.Brian
I just really want to see Chuck Norris vs. Bruce Lee.Jason
You can try, but I don’t know if our body hair simulator is good enough to pull off Chuck. You can’t fake that either. That may have to be a UFC 2 or 3 thing.Brian
We appreciate that honesty. I’m sure it was hard to admit. So, how often do fights go to the judges?Jason
For me, rarely. I know how to play and I either play on the AI on the default difficulty or against someone not as capable as myself. It really does come down to the skill of the people playing the game. There’s people that may not be very skill based and want to slug it out after going hell for leather in the center of the Octagon, one of those guys is going down. If you have a situation like myself, where I have a skill advantage, there are definite opportunities that I can see where I can finish them. But then there are instances of people with equal skill and temperament fighting each other, then you’ll see more evenly-matched fights that go to the judges. It’s really up to them. It’s like the real UFC – if you’re trying to finish a fight, it’s probably going to happen either because you have the skill, or your aggressiveness created an opening for your opponent. You can create your own vulnerability for your opponent to take advantage of.Brian
Are the judges wildcards? I’m looking at the simulation factor here.Jason
We like the idea that although they fight in a videogame world we can make the videogame imperfect, but one of our goals was to have judges that don’t seem to be… Bribed haha. No preferences or biases here. There may be judges that have a bias towards striking advantages, or one that has a bias towards grappling. We didn’t put an idiot judge in there. If it was a close fight, it made it was a split-decison and there you go, as opposed to, “Why did I get a SD after dominating that guy?”Brian
So would you say your game feels more like a sim or a middle ground to an arcade game?Jason
We’re certainly looking for a middle ground. The most important thing is that the game is enjoyable to the most amount of people. While that means some simulation aspects are lacking, there’s a payoff in the end for them, because if there are a million or two million people playing it, there are more people to enjoy playing it with. If it’s too hardcore of a simulation, such as that it only appeals to a small group of people, then what is the future of the franchise and how many people are online to play against anyways? We wanted to perfect the look and feel of the UFC, but to be perfectly honest, there are so many nuances about MMA that, to make a really 100% authentic simulation, that would be the labor of several decades. I mean, just think about being like, “Hey, I’m up against the cage, can I move my head so I can get underneath my opponents chin, then fake the double leg and stand back up to ram into his jaw?” Those are techniques that fighters use that are so prevalent but so nuanced and opaque to 90% of the viewership… It would be a fruitless endeavor into simulating that.Brian
I totally agree. MMA is by far one of the hardest sports to turn into a videogame, but there are also broader aspects to the simulation. For example, can a fight end on a cut?Jason
Presently no. The reason why we did that is because there is very little you can do to about the cut besides defend. Some previous games, we had between round minigames to mitigate superficial damage and cuts. Since we didn’t have the capacity to deliver that experience, we figured, “Hey, let’s not rob you of the ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat considering there’s not much you can directly do about it. And the reason why fights get stopped due to cut in the real world is because someone is actually in medical danger. Like, the future of their fighting career is at stake unless you stop the damage. All of our guys are going to be totally A-OK next time you play the game. If it’s something fans are clamoring for, we’ll look at it, but only if your corner can help you out would we bring that feature back in.Brian
Makes sense. How about leg kicks? There’s very little info out there. Can you finish a fight via leg kicks? Knock fighter’s legs out from underneath them?Jason
You can definitely set up the finish. Each leg has an independent health meter, and you can see if you work on one leg the fighter will start limping and become more vulnerable to other attacks. His movement speed will be impeded, etc. If you chop at a guy’s legs and sort of get him limping and hurt, your ability to press the advantage is multiplied significantly. The visual damage on the legs looks just brutal.Brian
Like Jose Aldo vs. Urijah Faber, huh?Jason
Yeah, exactly. It’s definitely a viable strategy in the game.Brian
That makes me so happy.Jason
There’s also some real cool stuff with physics that we’ve been able to implement this year. It’s kind of like damage, but we’re procedurally using physics and animation to where you’re throwing a high kick, and I throw a low kick at the base leg, you can get procedural sweeps. So you can knock a guy off his feet any number of ways and add some strategy there.Brian
Is the striking so solid that you could make this a straight up kickboxing match and be pleased?Jason
Oh man, like Hendricks and Lawler, if you want to just stand then have at it. That’s very, very fun. Myself, I’m already so ingrained from watching the sport, every time I get rocked, I wait for the other guy to press forward and quickly see if I can parry or distract him with a jab then am trying to take him down, just like real fighters in the Octagon. If two users want to do that, that can totally happen. If one wants to stay on his feet, sprawl and brawl works great too. It happens a lot. Casual fans love to just punch and kick.Brian
How prevalent are flash knockouts?Jason
Similar to the previous question. It comes down to maximizing the probability of what’s going to happen. A lot factors into that. How cleanly does a given strike land? How much stamina when you throw it compared to your opponent? What kind of strike was it? How open was your opponent? It’s similar to the Fight Night lineage in that it’s always better to make your opponent miss, create that opening and then strike instead of standing in front of one another and whaling away. So I guess I should say; they are really prevalent in fights where guys have no idea what they’re doing against someone who really knows what they’re doing, and less so in evenly-matched players who are equal in skill.Brian
Is the clock sped up or in real time?Jason
There’s an option to change that, but by default it’s accelerated.Brian
Any low blows?Jason
None that actually hurt the guys, or ladies… Sometimes it looks like things may glance around that region, but in learning from Fight Night we had intentional illegal blows where an opponent could hurt you deliberately. We designed a really elaborate penalty system that was meant to be super-authentic where the ref may miss one or let one slide but definitely gets you one the second one. And we had it so you could get a point, or two points taken away or disqualified. We were totally happy about or simulated ref logic so penalties were dealt with properly. Then what happened online, you’d be fighting a guy and it’s abundantly clear that you have this guy outclassed and you’re on your way to a knockout, then he decides to punch you in the junk 4 times and get DQ’d because that’s better than getting knocked out. That’s a no-win for everybody. I’m sure the other guy had his soul crushed a bit by doing 4 low blows and had internal shame, but then you didn’t get a knockout. That’s literally the worst outcome for all parties involved. We decided that there’s no reason for people to be intentionally throwing stuff to the junk, and since you can’t really control it in our game, we didn’t want people to suffer for things beyond their control, or get disqualified for things beyond their control. There’s no illegal blows or inadvertent shots or pokes to the eye for example.Brian
I’m glad you brought up Hendricks and Lawler, as that was a footwork, parrying and slipping clinic. In the trailers, you emphasized a greater amount of physics, no footwork sliding, etc. Can you talk about how this is represented in EA UFC?Jason
So parrying is important and footwork is also important. Both are used to create openings and you can sidestep to counter and create a vulnerability which will cause more damage. Parrying a shot and lessening the damage is obviously just as important from the defensive side. Two peas in a pod from a ‘benefit to you’ perspective. In our offensive and defensive philosophy for EA UFC, both are very important. Sidestepping and using angles is the most useful. If you’re using footwork to back away, you may be backing away out of range to land your own countershot. In the same way footwork is important in real life is just as important in the game. That’s the nuts and bolts of it.Brian
Career mode is huge for me. I can’t remember if this is confirmed or not – as fighters age, will they degrade and become harder to play as?Jason
We haven’t really divulged all of the details of how career mode works. I can tell you that ‘you get crappy as you get old’ is not how our game works.Brian
Will the game have a tournament mode for party situations?Jason
There are online tournaments. Sitting down with you friends there is no offline tournament mode. We have Fight Now and after putting in all of the other modes at the end of the day, if you have four or eight buddies over at your house you can figure out how to run the tournament through Fight Now… Depending on how much drinking is involved.Brian
Will the tournament mode have damage carryover? Or can you tell us how many players?Jason
At the moment I’m not at liberty to give out any more information. We’ll be talking about that more in the future though.Brian
With Twitch being more popular than ever with gamers, can you discuss any of EA UFC’s plans in regards to the broadcasting community? I’ve heard that Fight Cards are out.Jason
So basically, EA MMA introduced the Live Broadcasts and Fight Cards and we were in early development, and this is before there was fully concrete information about the new consoles and streaming and sharing and stuff, from a design and priority standpoint, we thought it was best to focus on core features like head to head matchmaking and career mode than to wait and see about after the consoles have launched to figure out how we could improve experiences the hardware already has itself. We need to get this game into the wild and figure out what the best implementation is and see what the consoles can really do themselves as well as what the users want as opposed to taking a stab in the dark when we didn’t know what the consoles could do.Brian
As far as the blood and damage, are those templates or will it be dynamic every time?Jason
The blood and damage has parts that are template, but a lot of it has variations where it’s not the same thing every time. I also highly recommend trying this out when you get the game: if you can get a guy on the ground and start a cut, just start dropping some ground and pound on him and I can’t wait for you to see the blood flying off his face and start landing on the mat beside you. It’s weirdly awarding. It sounds so weird to say but it’s really cool.Brian
And does blood transfer onto their shorts and torsos?Jason
The blood transfers to various locations. The one most notable is flying off their face and onto the mat.Brian
Favorite part about career mode – GO!Jason
Uh, heh. Shirley is giving me a stern look but I’m going to go rogue. We’ve incorporated a lot of live action video and the video is from UFC fighters when stuff happens. I lost a fight the other day, and Forrest Griffin said to me, “Hey, I’m Forrest Griffin, you know who I am, but fighting like that, no one will ever remember who you are.” Stuff like that. I was just like, “Aw man!” We try to put you face to face with a lot of UFC stars, it’s cool.Brian
The disc is going to go gold soon (hopefully), what do you and the team want to hang your hat on? What are you most proud of coming in at the end of development?Jason
At the end, just getting it done, because it’s been a really big challenge. Not just for us, but the games that have come out before us… The launch of a new generation of consoles is always tremendously trying, and to launch a new franchise as well from the ground up with all new code, animation and art from scratch, just the effort I think the team is going to be really proud. For myself, it’s not really one feature, but how so many features come together and act the way they do in many different circumstances. Just like BJ Penn slapping his face in the trailer we dropped a few weeks ago, and his expression and his veins are bulging! You can see the tendons and the emotions… Just seeing that. We’re also going to be really proud about people going online and having a lot of fun with that.Brian
Published on April 22, 2014 at 12:14 am
Stay up-to-date with the latest MMA news, rumors, and updates by following the RED Monster on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. Also, don't forget to add MiddleEasy to your Google News feed Follow us on Google News for even more coverage.


Leave a Comment