Brian Hayes is the Creative Director for EA SPORTS UFC. He’s a 12-year veteran of the video game industry and has worked on a number of different EA SPORTS titles, including Def Jam Vendetta, NBA Street Volume 3 and Fight Night Champion. We had a chance to sit down with him and go over the most exciting features fans can look forward to in EA SPORTS UFC.
Q: How does it feel to finally show off what you’ve been working on for the last year?
A: The whole team has been working hard since the day we signed the partnership with the UFC and we’re excited for the opportunity to show people a little peek at what we’re up to. I’m privileged to work with such a talented group of people and honored to be the one showing off their hard work.
Q: Tell us about incorporating the Fight Night team into the development process. How were they able to contribute to building the game?
A: Most of the people working on EA SPORTS UFC have previously worked on Fight Night. We’re not just contributing; we are the ones building it. We have a lot of experience with one-on-one fighting, fighter locomotion, striking, hit reactions, and fighting gameplay mechanics. We’re using everything we learned making Fight Night and building off of that to make EA SPORTS UFC.
Q: How will gamers be able to “Feel the Fight”?
A: We’re going to make players feel the fight with the most realistic looking fighters ever created using facial animation to communicate intensity, emotion and awareness; a Real Time Exertion system that causes changes in skin coloration, vascularity and muscle tension; a Full Body Deformation that shows the strength of every submission and the impact of every strike; and Realistic Damage visuals that will make the user wince – just like you do in real life when you see the result of some UFC fights.
Q: How in-depth has the research into the sport of MMA been for the development team? Can you estimate the hours of footage watched or the complexity of the research?
A: I really couldn’t accurately estimate the amount of research the team has done. A whole lot. Several members of the team are training in jiu-jitsu twice a week here at EA Canada and have prior martial arts experience in boxing, muay thai, judo, karate, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. We have every single UFC DVD available for anyone on the team to reference and most of us watch every single UFC event. We even organized a full team outing to attend a UFC event in Seattle (Henderson vs. Diaz).
Q: How were you able to capture the realism of each UFC fighter included in the game?
A: It starts with our ability to scan each UFC fighter using our proprietary head capture system. There is no better way to capture the authentic likeness of an athlete. It uses 18 high definition cameras to capture the fighter’s head in full 360 degrees and that data is used directly in the creation of the fighters head in the game. We also do full body photo reference shoots and use that information in conjunction with a new Fighter Body customization tool that allows us to create a huge variety of different body types. That’s critically important when you have fighters that range in size and shape from John Dodson to Jon Jones to Roy Nelson.
Q: Deformation is a huge aspect to the sport. Fighters rarely leave the Octagon looking pretty. How much damage can a person inflict and will there be times when a person will look away from their television after dishing or receiving a powerful hit?
A: Deformation due to damage is certainly one kind of deformation we’re focusing on and you can expect fighters to look really banged up from time to time when a fight is over. But equally important for us is the real-time deformation that occurs when the fight is happening. Our Full Body Deformation simulates what happens when one fighter tries to choke another fighter unconscious, displacing and deforming the flesh on their arms, face and neck to convey the pressure involved in that submission attempt. The big hits will certainly turn heads, but we think the submissions and grappling will make players lean in for a closer look.
Q: How will exertion work? Are we expecting that those people who rely on button-mashing will leave themselves open for a quick knockout or can gamers be able to catch their opposition off-guard and pick up a victory?
A: The Real Time Exertion system is another way we’re going to bring the fighters to life inside the octagon. Simulating the changes in skin color and vascularity that happen over time as the fight wears on. Obviously, a fighter that doesn’t pace themselves runs the risk of fatiguing too quickly and creating an opportunity for their opponent to capitalize on. The spontaneity of mixed martial arts is one of the things that makes it so exciting – one punch, one elbow, one kick, one mistake can change a fight – and you can expect the same experience in EA SPORTS UFC.
Q: Can you share any details on how the development team replicated the UFC presentation? Are there PPV-specific graphics and audio?
A: Recreating the UFC experience is a big focus for the team and the UFC are great partners, giving us access to a lot of their content. We aim to recreate the UFC PPV experience one hundred percent, from the music, to the graphics, to the announcers, everything. Watching a UFC event is very exciting and we want the game to be the same.
Q: Are you a big fan of the sport? What are your favorite memories watching the UFC?
A: I’m a huge fan of the sport. I remember renting the very 1st UFC event on VHS. The sport is so exciting; there is just an enormous list of moments that I could reference. The first fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar is one, Anderson Silva’s debut against Chris Leben and his first title fight against Rich Franklin were outstanding – you just knew you were watching someone on that other level. Jon Jones becoming the youngest champ ever. Recently, Bigfoot vs. Overeem and Dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt were two great heavyweight bouts. I could go on for a while.
Q: What are some of the reasons why a hardcore UFC fan would want to play EA SPORTS UFC?
A: Whether you’re a UFC fan or not, you haven’t seen a game that looks like this before. We are laser focused on creating the most amazing looking UFC game that makes players “feel the fight”. And anyone who’s played Fight Night knows there is nothing more satisfying than virtually beating up your friends (or enemies).