Creative director Brian Hayes talks cover athlete superstitions, Ultimate Team and much more.
EA Sports UFC 2 was a pretty good looking game…which helped it amidst the middling critical reviews on its release. The game itself wasn’t terrible but when you consider how well polished the Undisputed series had been, it definitely felt like a step down. Nonetheless, the series will be returning this Spring with EA Sports UFC 2 and GamingBolt had a chance to speak to creative director Brian Hayes on the improvements and changes made this time around, including the addition of Ultimate Team Mode to the UFC series for the first time.
"The initial experience is actually far lighter on the tutorialization, and more focused on fun and excitement. But immediately afterward, we offer players the ability to try out the new Practice Mode or Skill Challenges."
EA Sports UFC received quite a lot of hype, especially because it was the first title for current gen consoles, but was also routinely criticizes for its glitches and graphical problems. What steps have been taken to rectify this in EA Sports UFC 2?
Brian Hayes: Yeah, the infamous “Tommy Toe Hold Videos” were a thorn in our side to some degree. Although, they were entertaining. It should be noted, even he put a disclaimer on them saying how rare those issues were – and a lot of them were from our early access demo, not the final game. The thing is, it’s so easy to capture and share video with the PS4 and XB1, so even if the issues are very rare, it’s just a press of a button to save it for eternity. I’m not saying that the game didn’t have its glitches, but you could have 200 fights without seeing anything weird and then that one time Demetrious Johnson teleports outside the cage… Boom. Glitch video.
That being said, this is the reality now. We know how easy it is to save those weird moments now, so we’ve really focused on eradicating them within our game physics and animations.
How have you looked into improving the tutorial mode and easing players into their first fight?
Brian Hayes: This has been a big focus for us this time around. The initial experience is actually far lighter on the tutorialization, and more focused on fun and excitement. But immediately afterward, we offer players the ability to try out the new Practice Mode or Skill Challenges. In addition to that, there are new in-game training systems like the Grapple Assist feature to help players out if they just decide to jump straight into a fight.
What changes have been made to the Career mode over the first game? Are there any new features or challenges we can look forward to?
Brian Hayes: Basically, everything that happens between receiving a Fight Offer and stepping inside the octagon for your fight has been overhauled. Players can now receive multiple opponents to choose from for their next fight. That can affect how long they have to train and obviously what type of opponent they are training for. Then the Training Camp system is entirely new. It incorporates the concepts camp quality (did you have a good camp a bad camp), training intensity (are you training hard or taking it easy), and the potential for training injuries or general wear and tear on your fighter’s ratings. We also added a new feature we’re calling “The Fight Game” which will throw you a curveball once in a while and can make your training camp tougher or easier. There is also a “boss battle” system when you finally match up against the big names in your division like Jose Aldo or Conor McGregor. In short, there are a lot of new features and challenges!
"The advent of women fighting in the UFC came right in the middle of development for UFC 1, so we were only able to add the Bantamweights as a playable division. For UFC 2, we have the ability to create female fighters and play Career Mode, or Ultimate Team with them."
KO Mode sounds pretty cool and this will be the first time that Ultimate Team comes to a UFC game. Can you tell us more about both of these new additions?
Brian Hayes: KO Mode is a striking-only mode that was born out of just watching hundreds of users play the game in person, looking at in-game telemetry, and conducting some player research. As cool and awesome as the gentle art of Jiu Jitsu is, there are plenty of UFC fans that just want to stand and bang. Plus. KO Mode is the perfect vehicle to showcase the new physics knockout system in UFC2 because every fight ends in a KO.
UFC Ultimate Team is another entirely new experience for UFC gamers. Obviously, fighting is a 1-v-1 sport, so we’re not talking about some crazy team-based fighting mode. It’s a mode that lets you create up to 5 fighters, which would constitute your team (in MMA terms, think of it like Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male, or Jose Aldo and Team Nova Uniao). Then, each one of those fighters can fight to earn in-game coins that you use to purchase packs of upgrade items that can improve each fighter. There is a lot more customization of the individual athletes in UFC Ultimate Team compared to the UT modes you may be used to in FIFA, Madden or NHL.
Given the rise of women’s MMA in the past few years and EA Sports UFC 2 including Ronda Rousey as its cover athlete, is there any special mode – perhaps an additional career path – for female MMA fighters?
Brian Hayes: The advent of women fighting in the UFC came right in the middle of development for UFC 1, so we were only able to add the Bantamweights as a playable division. For UFC 2, we have the ability to create female fighters and play Career Mode, or Ultimate Team with them.
EA Sports UFC 2 has been hyped as “ridiculously good looking”. What new graphical features and systems have been added to achieve a higher graphical standard over the previous game?
Brian Hayes: That was me! Our Art Director was like, “Dude, seriously?” But, I’m a big Zoolander fan and the game does look amazing. UFC1 looked pretty awesome as well, so there wasn’t a lot required in terms of overhauling features, it was more a process of adding to and refining what was already there. One of the nicest things is our improved hair physics because of how it accentuates the impact of strikes in the game. But the entire graphical package is better and in my opinion, the fighters look better than ever.
Will there be any extra characters like martial arts legend Bruce Lee included down the line?
Brian Hayes: We might have some announcements regarding additional fighters at some point, so stick around and we’ll let you know if we do .
"At the end of the day, Holly Holm’s win over Ronda was worldwide news in large part, if not entirely due to the impact that Ronda had on women’s MMA and the UFC and she deserved the spot for that alone which is why were happy to announce her on the cover beforehand."
Will the game run at 1080p on both PS4 and Xbox One? What frame rate are you subsequently targeting?
Brian Hayes: The game runs at 1080p, and renders at 30fps with motion blur. We’ve found that going to 60fps doesn’t have a hugely beneficial impact, and people in testing have told us that the game actually looks better at 30fps with motion blur.
When exactly in Spring 2016 can we expect EA Sports UFC 2? Will the series ever head to PC at any point?
Brian Hayes: We’ll be sharing these details when we can.
As someone who is working exclusively on next gen consoles, what are your thoughts on claims of these consoles becoming obsolete in the next few years when compared to a high enc PC? Do you think consoles will hold their own at a graphics level when compared to the PC technology?
Brian Hayes: Graphics used to be the “end-all, be-all” to some degree. But I think we’ve seen evidence recently to say that awesome graphics aren’t everything. An engaging experience is what really matters. Content is what matters. I don’t know how limited consoles are compared to a high-end PC in that regard, because that comes from solid design more than it does from GPU horsepower.
Finally, what are your thoughts on the EA “cover athlete curse” especially given Ronda Rousey’s first loss via knockout shortly after she was announced as the cover athlete for EA Sports UFC 2?
Brian Hayes: I’m not a superstitious person, so I tend to look at it as an example of confirmation bias. The fact is, if you make it on to the cover of an EA SPORTS game – that means you’re playing a professional sport which is inherently dangerous to begin with. People get injured. Then, with special consideration for being on the cover of a fighting game, it means you were at the top of the mountain, everybody is gunning for you, and you’re always fighting a top contender. At the end of the day, Holly Holm’s win over Ronda was worldwide news in large part, if not entirely due to the impact that Ronda had on women’s MMA and the UFC and she deserved the spot for that alone which is why were happy to announce her on the cover beforehand.
Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
Brian Hayes: EA SPORTS UFC 2 is going to be awesome and I have to get back to work!