Fight Night Champion: An Exclusive Interview With Brian Hayes, Lead Gameplay Designer

Posted By | On 22nd, Dec. 2010

Fight Night Champion is a boxing video game in development by EA Sports. It is a member of the Fight Night series, set to be released on March 1, 2011 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game is stated to take a drastic turn from previous installments, depicting a grittier and darker setting with animations and player damage that truly conveys the brutality of the sport of boxing. The single-player mode is intended to recreate the dramatic and emotional aspects of the sport. We recently got a chance to sit with Brian Hayes who is the Lead Gameplay Designer. We talked about the game and how different it will be from the previous installments. Check out the full interview below.

GB: How will Fight Night Champions differentiate itself from previous games in the franchise?

Brian: Interesting question. In many ways, we want to be recognized for the same things as previous iterations, such as exciting game-play and outstanding visuals. Those are hallmarks of the series that we try to surpass and improve upon every time around. Fight Night Champion is the first EA Sports game to deliver a Mature experience and the addition of Champion Mode is another first for EA Sports also. The pillars of the franchise remain the same.

GB: Will Fight Night Champion be a more story-oriented games than its predecessors?

Brian: The aforementioned Champion Mode is essentially a story-based, sports-simulation campaign mode. From beginning to end you follow the hero, Andre Bishop on his journey through the worlds of amateur, unlicensed and professional boxing. But the rest of the game that includes Fight Now, Legacy Mode, Online Gyms and World Championships is all still there too, with several additions and improvements.

GB: It has been said that Fight Night Champion will have a “darker” and “grittier” theme. How is that?

Brian: Again, this centers primarily around the story in Champion Mode which includes a good deal of darker, grittier and more mature themes than you’re accustomed to in an EA Sports game. As ancillary benefit, this has allowed us to beef up the level of physical damage we show in regular gameplay also. So while Champion Mode carries the load of the darker, grittier undertones, the overall game has become a bit more, let’s say, brutal. That’s not to say that we have purposely over-exaggerated it, but in the past we were somewhat hand-cuffed as far as what we could do when it came to showing the damage that professional prizefighting can really cause.

GB: What’s the new physics based animation system that Fight Night Champion will be supporting?

Brian: It’s fundamentally the same as the physics engine we introduced in Fight Night Round 4, with 18 more months under its belt. It was a revolutionary approach for Round 4 and we simply tried to build on that strong foundation.

GB: Is this game supposed to be the ultimate boxing experience? Will it totally recreate the sport?

Brian: It is definitely a great boxing experience and I think the fact that Fight Night is still in the ring throwing punches, when the sport itself is struggling somewhat, speaks volumes about the game’s quality. Delivering the ultimate boxing experience is our ultimate goal, but I really can’t be so presumptuous as to say it “totally” recreates the sport, any moreso than a game like Battlefield totally recreates warfare.

GB: Should we be expecting any new game modes, or perhaps an overhauled multiplayer mode?

Brian: Do I need to mention that Champion Mode is new at this point? One other addition we’ve made to Online play is the Online Gyms feature. More on that in the new year

GB: How does the new “Full Spectrum Punch Control” scheme work?

Brian: Very easily! We really went back to the drawing board with FSPC. The previous incarnation of analog punching, Total Punch Control, was a really solid design (and I’m proud to say that I was the first person to actually draw it up on paper back on Fight Night 2004). But ultimately, it worked better on paper and sound bites than it worked in your hands. It’s responsible for a lot of calloused thumbs and a lot of controllers worn down to the bare plastic sticks. Furthermore, the physiology of the human thumb and the layout of the modern controller meant that it was fundamentally harder to throw punches with your right hand than it was with your left.

We decided to remove the need for complex manipulation of the analog stick to throw punches. Every punch is thrown by simply flicking the stick to the left or right at different angles. As you move from 12 to 6 o’clock on the stick, you move through a variety of punch types. There are twice as many punches available with FPSC compared to TPC. It’s easier on your thumbs, its kinder to your controller and there are a lot more punches you can throw. However, if you just don’t like using the sticks, button controls are in the game too.

GB: Are you guys considering any support for the PlayStation MOVE, Microsoft’s Kinect and 3D?

Brian: It has been discussed, but the motion control technology is not something that you can just simply port existing games into and expect them to magically work. I think that’s something a lot of developers learned when the Wii first launched. Fight Night fans are accustomed to being able to fight for several rounds in a single sitting, boxing for 2-3 minutes at a time and immediately skipping the break between rounds. I don’t think its reasonable to think that you could just slap motion control in there and “ta-da!” have Fight Night for Move and Kinect. There are opportunities there for interactive boxing experiences, but they need to be designed from the ground up to work with motion control.

GB: Is there anything else you want to tell us about Fight Night Champion?

Brian: Most importantly, Fight Night Champion will be available for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on March 1, 2011.

We thank the team at EA and especially Brian Hayes for giving their valuable time to us.

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