“UFC Undisputed 2010″ comes to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this week, and Neven Dravinski, UFC Project Manager, answered some questions for Nerdage about the hard-hitting sequel.
Nerdage: Can you tell me about the development of moves for the UFC Undisputed game?
Neven Dravinski: The Moves in the Undisputed series of games has always been about conveying the realism of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Our team watches a TON of footage, we have guys training in MMA, and we work with actual MMA coaches to really help convey the realism of the sport in the game. Marc Laimon (who also appears as the player’s Career Mode Coach) is one of the top Brazilian Jiu Jitsu coaches in the business but also a huge gamer. We worked with Marc on the 2009 and now 2010 game and it’s really great to have someone that understands the dynamic of video games helping you convey the nuance of the sport of MMA. Creating moves for a fighting game, especially one so complex as a fighting game that represents Mixed Martial Arts is extremely difficult and requires a lot of conversations between the Art, Animation, Programming and Design departments. Something that may happen in the blink of an eye for a player might be the result of weeks of discussions and agreements between all parties.
For example let’s look at a simple transition animation from say Open Guard to Half Guard. The designer indicates how many frames of animation the move should last from start to finish. The animator creates the move to that specification and make sure it is visually pleasing. Then there are points within the animation where the animation itself can be interrupted or branched. Then animator, programmer and designer have to work together to make sure all the nuances and permutations of the move and the moves that can come out of that move look and feel correct. A programmer has to take into account the physics and collision system, mapping the animation to the controller input etc. etc. When you look at the process from a 10,000 ft. view it’s incredibly complex.
UFC Undisputed 2010 plays a lot faster than the 2009 product. We didn’t just globally speed up all the animations but rather analyzed the game from a system level. In the 2009 game we had a lot of animated reactions (animations that play when the player gets hit). With a purely animated reaction control is taken away from the player receiving the damage. Even though it may be a second it still causes a feeling of unresponsiveness. In the 2010 game we moved a lot of those reactions to the physics system; which makes for a much smoother gameplay experience as the player is in control of their character for longer and you get great sequences of players hitting while being hit, all while running at 60 frames a second.
Nerdage: Tell me about the concept behind the virtual submissions.
Neven Dravinski: Our concept for the submission system in UFC Undisputed 2010 was to create something a little more elegant and analog that would effectively communicate struggle. In 2009 the game had very static states for the submissions. There would be an initiation animation, a mid-struggle and animation and then either a success or failure. The problem this creates is that there is no way to effectively communicate struggle. Visually the Undisputed series doesn’t use any graphical elements on screen (with the exception of the optional Stamina/Energy bar) as we try and mimic the broadcast look and feel.
In the 2010 game we created what we feel is a more analog system for submission. Once the submission is initiated (via clicking in on the right stick) you will see a more “educational” display of the submission. In an Armbar for example, you will see the arm bending back into the submission position as a player inputs more and more concentric circles on the rights stick (or the “shine” as we call it). As the other character fights against the submission you will see the arm try to curl back to safety. We use the camera as well to zoom in when a submission is closer to happening and zoom out on failure. This ends up being a much more descriptive way to convey struggle and really allows players to see who’s winning or losing a submission at an instant.
Nerdage: What is it that makes the UFC have so much appeal, both as a video game and as a sport?
Neven Dravinski: I think the thing that makes the UFC the brand and UFC the video game so popular is the realism. Fighting is something that is universal; there’s no cultural lines, it’s truly a global sport. The UFC’s mantra has always been “As Real As It Gets” and that certainly carries over into the development of the game. The strength of the UFC isn’t just one man but rather its arsenal of the best athletes in the world fighting against each other at the highest level of competition. The UFC puts on fights people want to see, they don’t put on cupcake fights to pad records, or protect their champions; I think they really put on very compelling matchups to give the fans what they want.
Giving the fans what they want is something that we’re very focused on with the video game as well. I think the success of the game is directly related to the fact that we made a very real interpretation of such a complex sport; but rather than passively watching on TV you’re actively participating in it. The game conveys impact in a very gratifying and realistic way. We really give you the opportunity to fight like a true Mixed Martial Artist. Most people initially gravitate towards the standup because that is more familiar than say the ground or clinch game. But if you want to win and win consistently, much like fighters in the real Octagon, you’re going to have to learn all aspects of the game; the clinch, the ground, the submissions as well as the striking. The game really allows you to fight how you want to fight. Are you a takedown, ground and pound guy? Do you set up your submissions with effective striking? There’s so many ways to play the game but that is the nature of a game that emulates such a dynamic sport.
Mixed Martial Arts is growing in popularity on an exponential scale around the world. Little kids don’t want to take Karate anymore, but rather Muy Thai and Jiu Jitsu. The UFC is the number one fighting franchise in the world, and they recognize how much impact the video game itself is able to have on global scale as we’re able to promote the brand and the fighters to territories that may not even have UFC programming yet. I certainly believe that having the UFC license is obviously related to the our success, but I’d like to believe we made and will continue to make good games as well.
Nerdage: What are some of the innovative elements in UFC Undisputed 2010?
Neven Dravinski: UFC Undisputed 2010 has a host of new improvements that make it an even better representation of the brand of the UFC and the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. The Aforementioned submission system allows for a much more realistic educational view of submissions themselves. This year we introduced southpaw stances, cage positions, and sways and leans. These three things I think really dramatically improve gameplay and just add to the realism of the game. Statistically, from 2009, we quadrupled the number of strike animations, tripled the number of ground animations and doubled the number of submissions. As mentioned the game plays faster, it plays smoother, but that’s just the cusp of the game improvements.
In 2010 we offer a more exciting Create-A-Fighter system which allows you to literally place moves per controller input per position essentially allowing you to create the exact Mixed Martial Artist you want! We have a Tournament mode, a Title (arcade style ladder mode) and Title Defense mode (survival mode). We have an improved Career mode where the player will have more emotion investment in their created fighter via picking fighter voices and participating in interactive cut scenes. A new system called “The Game Is Watching You” tracks your behavior, your fighting style and the choices you make, creating consequences down the line in your career. Undisputed 2010 also has an event mode where players will be given the opportunity to create their own Pay Per View broadcast, and they’ll be treated to a lot more presentation and interview segments from Octagon announcers Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg. Players will also be able to download event cards of real upcoming UFC matches which we’ll be able to track the results of. Speaking of Online we’ve upgraded our system and in addition to the online exhibition matches we also allow players to create Fight Camps which are essentially guilds or clans and you can train with Camp Members online and fight against other camps.
While sequel titles in the sports genre tend to have a stigma associated with them of “how much can they really do” I think people will be incredibly impressed with what we’ve been able to accomplish in only a year’s time. UFC Undisputed 2010 is a better game than its 2009 predecessor and we hope to enjoy the continued success the Undisputed franchise has achieved.
- Matt Price