With EA Sports’ UFC 2, sequel to the 2014 UFC MMA fighting game now on store shelves the world over, series Creative Director Brian Hayes was gracious enough to spare some time with little ol’ me to answer some questions regarding the franchise, what to expect from UFC 2 and the possibility of bringing back some fan-loved franchises.
Mike: Hi Brian!
Brian: Hi Mike!
M: Thank you for taking time out of what must be a busy schedule to talk with me today.
B: It’s a real pleasure, thank you also.
M: UFC 2 is out now worldwide and has been out in some territories for a few days now and reviews have begun to trickle in, what’s your impression of the reception out there so far?
B: I’m getting a lot of very happy and excited tweets myself, the reviews have been pretty strong as well, showing a marked improvement over UFC 1 which is always nice. A big story that is breaking on the internet as well right now is that we have a secret character in the game, you can unlock Joe Rogan so there are a bunch of people out there who are pretty happy about that.
M: Do you unlock Joe by progressing through the career?
B: No, there is actually an old-school cheat-code that you can enter to unlock him (It’s actually the Konami code).
M: Exciting stuff, its been almost 2 years since UFC 1 was released, EA Sports titles are traditionally produced annually to keep up with current sports stars and also any changes within the sports themselves. What is different about UFC that encouraged EA to release them 2 years apart?
B: It’s not purely my decision, just to be 100% clear. I am a guy that wears T-shirts on stage when I talk at E3 and there are other people who wear suits when they talk at E3. Those sorts of decisions are very much a guy that wears a suit situation. We did however have a lot of data and research from the original UFC game but also from previous titles such as the Fight Night series that showed that because there is no sort of yearly calendar for the sports themselves the games tend to perform better when they have a longer “tail” so to speak, so it’s a situation where we chose not to eat our own tail by following up too quickly, it also afforded us more time to create a more compelling product.
M: Speaking of being granted the extra time, its a luxury that other teams under the EA Sports banner don’t have, do you feel that you utilised that time fully?
B: I certainly do, ultimately though my opinion doesn’t really count for much as its what the players think about what we did with the time. So far we’ve been overwhelmed with the positivity we’ve been receiving regarding the updates and changes that we’ve made to the game, so the evidence we’ve got right now points to me being pretty happy and confident that we used our time effectively.
M: Is there anything in particular that has been updated or added to the game that you’re seeing commented on more regularly than others?
B: There’s already been a bunch of people getting really into the new UFC Ultimate Team mode, which is great to see. The new Knockout Mode, which is a more arcadey experience has been getting a lot of great feedback too. One of the cool things is that we’ve added so many new modes and such a variety of experiences and ways for our players to interact with the product and get something out of it ranging from the hardcore fans all the way down to the more casual.
M: Were you a fan of UFC before your involvement in the games?
B: Yeah totally, combat sports such as boxing and MMA have always been my favourite sports to watch all the way through my teenage years and then also into adulthood. I’m sure there is some other sort of dream job I could have, like being a member of the Avengers or something like that but I’m very happy with where I am right now.
M: When UFC 1 was first revealed, there was a very big announcement for fighting fans being that you had Bruce Lee in the game. This year, with UFC 2 the celebrity inclusion is Mike Tyson. Looking towards the future slightly, who do you see being next? Or who do you want to be next? Muhammad Ali? Jean Claude Van Damme?
B: Haha! That’s a very interesting question, I don’t think we’re looking to putting any “fantasy characters” as post-launch content for UFC 2, so I guess thats half the answer. In terms of the future of the franchise I can think of few names that would resonate as strongly as Mike Tyson and Bruce Lee do. As time goes on it will become an increasingly difficult question to answer and you then run the risk of diluting the quality of the roster of fighters. No disprespect to Jean Claude Van Damme, but Bruce Lee or Mike Tyson he is not.
M: So you don’t see a sneaky Def Jam fighting franchise return via downloadable content?
B: I do not see that happening at this time.
M: The striking system in the game is very effective and the reactions of the fighters, announcers and crowd are brilliant indicators of whether you have done something well or not. As a fleeting fan of UFC however, when I found myself forced to the ground in UFC I had no idea what to do, can you talk about any changes you’ve made that could help me work on my ground game?
B: Yeah, there was definitely a big focus of adjusting and improving how the ground game works technically, and also what tools we could provide the user to help them know what to do. There’s a completely new grappling system that allows for both players to move independently when in a grapple situation and perform transitions independently of one-another, so its no-longer a “turn-based” system on the ground. Additionally we added a new grapple assist HUD, so if you are someone who is lost when on the ground, there is now an on-screen element which indicates what direction to push the right stick in order to reach a certain position and how successful you might be. We also tweaked the controls in that situation slightly too so you no longer have to do the “swooping” gestures with the right stick, its a up, down, left, right situation now.
M: Thats great to hear, is there a standout improvement or inclusion that you or the team are most proud of?
B: I’m super proud of the totality of the effort that the development team put forth and the product they created. As far as a single change that has a massive impact on the entire experience, the new knockout physics are pretty spectacular because of that, no matter what game mode you are playing in there is a chance that you can knock your opponent out or be knocked out yourself which I find just improved that game in just about every way you can play it, Knockout Mode stands out in particular, but I think the product as a whole is better off for it.
M: It makes for a more intense fight, particularly when playing against another player.
B: Exactly, theres the anticipation of potentially scoring an amazing knockout and then theres the fear of potentially suffering and amazing knockout. Having those two options on the table certainly lends itself to some pretty emotional experiences.
M: Brian, before we call this an interview I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.
B: Its been my pleasure, thank you very much for spending time with me.
M: The pleasure I all mine, I wish you a safe trip back home to Canada. But before you go I’ve got one request, its not a question, more a favour.
B: Oh boy haha.
M: I need you to rub some elbows, grease some palms, whatever it takes to help me with this. The EA Sports BIG banner has been gone for quite some time, I think the world is ready for another NBA Street.
B: You want NBA Street!? I thought for sure you was going to say Fight Night! It’s amazing that you would suggest that as the two other series’ I’ve worked on here at EA have been Fight Night and NBA Street, I will absolutely take that feedback with me into the office. Like I said earlier though I am the T-shirt wearing decision maker but I will absolutely pass that along
M: Thank you Brian, Thank you.
EA Sports UFC 2 is available now for PS4 and Xbox One, Xbox One users that are subscribed to EA Access can try the full game for 10 hours as part of their subscription.
It is also the UFC digital debut for Phil “CM Punk” Brooks, former professional wrestler most famous for his time with WWE, who famously quit the company back in 2014. He has since been signed to UFC and is expected to have his first fight some time this year.
See you in the octagon!