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Interview: EA Sports UFC Creative Director Brian Hayes

Posted on Wednesday, April 2 @ 11:00:00 Eastern by

EA Sports picked up the UFC license from THQ, but with experience developing the Fight Night series and an MMA game in the bag, Electronic Arts seem poised to claim the belt. We got hands-on with EA Sports UFC in February, but Creative Director Brian Hayes was nice enough to answer more of our questions.

We've partnered up with for our EA Sports UFC coverage, and they've got the inside track on the title's submission game. For everything you need to know about each UFC fighter, just click their names to be taken to Sherdog's fighter database. Don't forget to check out the roster revealed so far.

Game Revolution: How has the EA Sports and UFC relationship been after the license moved to you?

Brian Hayes: It’s been great. I know a lot of people have been curious about that because of some things that were said in the past, but really, since day one they have been really solid partners. We’re all interested in the same thing, which is making a great UFC game and that makes the collaboration pretty easy.

GR: As you get closer to releasing the game, what's the number one thing keeping you up at night or the one thing that you have to get right to deliver the best UFC experience?

BH: First and foremost, it’s just a reality of game development that you’re never going to be able to do everything you want, exactly the way you want to do it. I’ve been in game development for almost 13 years and I’ve never worked on a game where we got everything right. Ultimately, if anything is going to keep me up at night, it is the unknown. The things I know about don’t keep me up at night because I know we’re already working on them.

GR: Will the game feature one-strike knockouts, regardless of an opponent’s energy, power or damage bar?

BH: Yes, but some of those things contribute to making them more likely as a result of any given strike. For example, you are more likely to land a one-strike KO if your opponent is tired, or if your fighter has tremendous power. Additionally, if you create a counter opportunity by parrying or dodging your opponent’s attack, any strike you land immediately afterwards has a higher chance of knocking them out.

GR: What has been the fastest KO you have personally witnessed in the development process?

BH: Well, in development you’ll have days when something gets “fixed” and that day every single strike is a one-punch KO. So the answer to that question would be around 3 seconds. If we are talking about the earliest KO I’ve seen since the game has started playing more or less as intended, I knocked out the line producer yesterday about a minute into the first round. One knee to the face in the thai clinch (I was Gustafsson too). I’m sure some people have had earlier ones, but I like to feel my opponents out a little.

GR: What are some of the specific game play elements that you have focused on? How is the new game different from what we saw from the THQ series?

Technologically speaking, it is 100% different because we had to build this tech from the ground up. Our focus has always been to make an amazing looking game that is easy to pick up and play, but a challenge to master. We want it to feature the same fluid striking gamers are accustomed to from the Fight Night series and an accessible, but strategic ground game.

GR: More specifically, are we going to see things like signature or specialized techniques/movements from certain fighters in the game?

BH: Definitely.

GR: Are particular fighter models more difficult to design than others? For instance, Lyoto Machida does not move like anybody else, whereas plenty of fighters have a more generic kickboxing/muay Thai standup style.

BH: The base fighter stances aren’t very difficult to simulate from an animation perspective, like how the fighter positions their feet and hands. We blend that together with a few different variations of locomotion to create all the different styles. It’s a little challenging to simulate fighters that are very active when they move around, like Frankie Edgar, because so much of their movement is evasive/defensive in nature and that is an element of gameplay we want the players to be in charge of, but it requires more than just moving the left stick.

GR: What about classic fighters as unlockables or DLC? The WWE has found success incorporating lots of past stars into new games to capitalize on the nostalgia factor. Could we see something similar with the UFC game?

BH: It is a possibility.

GR: Have any fighters made suggestions about how they should appear or move in the game? Did they mention anything from past UFC games which they liked or disliked?

BH: There haven’t been many suggestions. One was kind of funny though: when we were taking photos with Phil Davis, he asked what it was for and we told him it was so we could get reference for his body proportions, skin tone, and any tattoos if he had them. He said he didn’t have any tattoos, but he asked if we could give him some in the game. I was like, “Are you being serious?” and he was like, “Yeah! Then I can see how it looks but don’t have to really get one.” Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to follow up with him, so he is without ink in the game.

GR: Thanks, Brian!

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