EA UFC released a needed and important patch on Tuesday, which has effectively revitalized the title in more ways than one. The UFC's altruistic stance to release free fighter updates gave us Dillashaw, Woodley and Mizugaki, along with a massive host of bug fixes and general gameplay changes. Some were disappointed at EA UFC's launch, but knowing that EA UFC's lifecycle is going to come with the full support of the developers is promising, considering just how much this patch helped the game.
If you felt burned before (not everyone did), download the latest patch. It's a creamy salve that will soothe your skin, dear virtual martial artist. I was so impressed by the patch, I got the director of EA UFC on the horn as quickly as possible, and we had a enlightining discussion in southern France about the future of EA UFC, and the philosophy of the team behind the game. All while eating freshly-baked croissants, un-pasteurized cheese and drinking the most sublime red wine we've ever tasted, given to us by an old man who travels up and down the streets from chateau to chateau on his antique bicycle. (We're lying about all of this France stuff, sorry to get your hopes up.)
So, why did it take like an extra 6 weeks to get this version of the game out, Brian?
Even if we had a team of a hundred testers, which, we don't, we don't employ that many testers on any one particular game. But, you know, even if we had that many, it still doesn't, you know, it's just really getting to a point where there's no amount of internal/outsource testing of a game that you can do, you know, a few weeks, months prior to manufacturing that's going to equate what it's like when, you know, well, right now potentially five, six, seven, hundred thousand people are playing a game. Things will just come up, that, there's some people out there that will find stuff that nobody else did because when there's half a million people hammering on it, you're just gonna find things that fifty people can't. It's almost like a third law of video game thermodynamics, let's call it.
Oh yeah, the crowd sourcing of the testing, if you will.
And that may be something where, you know, for the most part, as the industry changes and continues to sort of evolve, who knows? Really, when we drop a demo, when any game drops a demo for something that's going to be released two weeks later, I'm sure some users might think that "Oh, you had the demo, and there were these issues, why couldn't you fix them by the time it released?" There's literally anything that is identified in the demo over the course of two weeks, that's literally not a timeline that is actionable either. So anything you saw that was in the demo that was then fixed in the final product, that's because we already knew about it prior to anybody ever playing the demo. That may be something where the industry changes and, you know, maybe demos should be starting to be utilized more as betas or open betas. And in that sense then, they would be released, who knows, two to three months prior to launch. That would really give actionable time for action to be taken, but that's just me making stuff up because it's ten in the morning and I just finished my coffee, so...
I'm glad I got you at this time, then. This is a good point that I was gonna bring up to you 'cause EA kinda has that philosophy now with Battlefield and whatnot. You're seeing these open betas stress testing servers and whether or not they're really fixing any of the bugs they're at least getting the data from the users to try and make the better product in a month or two at launch. The Hardline beta started right after E3 a month ago, and that game isn't set to launch until October-November. And maybe, from my understanding, limited understanding about the industry, people like Ken Levine, you look at Rockstar, they don't release demos because you have a whole team working on that demo, and they have to release that demo, and finalize the code for that demo, and then pop it out, and then they go back to the game. So, in a way, wouldn't a beta, at least for maybe like an EA UFC 2, almost streamline and make the game that much better?
It's a possibility, but it's also challenging in some instances. What Battlefield does, or what GTA does, or what Assassin's Creed does, or what anybody else does, there are just differences in what's possible with a team these size of the EA Sports UFC team and what's possible with a team the size of GTA V team. And there's differences in terms of; whatever's working for them. The industry's changing, everything is moving to a much more of a live service, constant support model. Which, I mean, sort of this patch is, for us, indicative of as well. I think, you know, it just takes time for everything to evolve or, for things that, for lack of a better term, for me it may be kind of vestigial, to ultimately to turn into something else or whither and fall off. Who knows? Certainly those kinds of things, like a beta's a great opportunity to get feedback from a massive number of people. Again, for a game like, you know, a game that spent three years in development or whatever, and has two years to get up a highly playable state and then they can drop a beta, sit on that and work of that for a another half a year. That's just a whole different ball game than most sports games which are releasing yearly, or on a calendar cycle only slightly larger than that.
So everything kinda changes based on how much time you have, how many people you have, and all that kind of stuff.
That makes sense. I mean, that said, this patch is brilliant. I liked the game before, I recognized its flaws, but in my review I said that the foundation is there for greatness. And I feel like the game is more complete than ever. And I very much like the stamina, I feel like that's very much something that you guys saw right away with leg kicks. As soon as you hit the brown belt division people are just going seven-eight leg kicks in a row and that's really slowed down now with the stamina changes. But with that, why, why, why doesn't stamina raise up when you're blocking?
Well, that was in our sort of other feedback. I wouldn't necessarily call it greasing, but just watching matches ourselves, playing matches ourselves, looking at getting - more feedback. There was a lot of feedback, the basic block, or the weak block, was too effective as a strategy, in terms of just totaling up, sitting in the pocket, and firing back. So, to attempt to strike a better balance in terms of making it not so easy for people to just sort of turtle, we just made that slight change. And again, it's sort of part of the process now. It's a possibility that we might swing the pendulum back in a little direction if other things come up, but for the most part, again, yeah, right now the feedback's been generally quite positive and the changes in game play have been received quite well.
Yeah, well, I love Mark Hunt. He's the only person I play as in heavyweight. I have not played as a single other person except for Roy Nelson, but I was in a quick match mode. Ranked, I'm always Mark Hunt. I'm always facing JDS, and Werdum, and Cain, and so. He's got, you know, the T-Rex arms, and so now, without the stamina I feel like Mark Hunt is almost impossible to play as because I want to be able to put my hands up and move into the pocket like you would in real life and it's just now happening yet. I'm getting beat up. So, you know, for the sake of Mark Hunt, I'm just saying. Not for me, but for Mark Hunt. Something has to be tweaked.
Do it for Mark Hunt, yeah. It's there, and there's definitely some stuff that we've been testing with that internally. Making those changes and making observations ourselves, and I think that, potentially yeah, those stamina changes may have hurt the heavyweight division in general disproportionately.
Or made it more realistic, you know? I just wanna say, like, not everyone needs to have a huge gas tank. I think that, in general, the stamina is pretty darn good. So, just to let you know.
Can we expect - as you're saying, this is like an ever-living, ever-evolving product, you obviously added in the sprawl position, which is fantastic. It really adds a lot to the ground game because then, with that sprawl you're set up in a position to throw a few body shots, or maneuver around, or whirlwind around and there's a lot more grappling involved in this patch.
Yeah, I definitely noticed that myself. Like, I had a match the other day and I stopped, you know, maybe three or four power takedowns that at one time would've just went straight through. I just tried to sink the anaconda in right away and another time I just quickly went, to the guy's back, and then stood back up. We were super happy about being able tog get that one in.
Oh yeah, that makes all the difference in the world. It really really does. Are we going to see more positions and moves implemented via patch?
That's limited by, you know, what content we have. For instance, in terms of what we've been able to motion capture. Starting from scratch in terms of everything. We were only able to get so many things done in motion capture and animation during the development time cycle. And so it'll come down to what we still have in the tool box, so to speak. Which isn't much. We've pretty much put in as much as we could in terms of what we had. So, certainly in the future of the franchise, yeah, you can certainly expect that. How much we'll be able to do future updates of patches is something where I can't really speak with any specificity as to how many more changes like that we might see or what they may be.
That's absolutely fair. There was quite a bit of motion capture done down in Florida for EA MMA, you guys own that, I'm assuming, why not dig into that? Is that just not a possibility? Just educate me on why, because I know that I read around and people people wonder "All of that work that was done, was that just thrown in the garbage?"
It's not thrown in the garbage, no. But if you think about, technology is improving, if you think about how smartphones have changed or the hardware updated or the software updated from 2009 to 2014, right?
Technology advances. Our technology in motion capture, in terms of how many cameras you use, how they process and solve that data, that stuff - they're always trying to improve that so we can make better and better stuff. So all the data that we have from EA Sports MMA or games like Fight Night, or what have you, it's older data where the fidelity isn't necessarily as high as ours in terms of the raw data. It's also, in order to really expedite things, we'd more likely just go to the data that's already been solved. In which case, again, it may not have been using the way we do it now in 2014. That's not they way they may have done it in 2007 and 9 in terms of different things. And then when we're making games for next gen, every single animation needs to be put on a rig for the game that it's being used for, and because our rig is so much more complex and detailed than rigs were, you know, certain character rigs, than they were on current-gen games. You know?
It's a whole big process. It's a possibility, but for the most part, it's as labor intensive for us to go back, get that old data, do all the stuff we need to do to it, and get it into a new game as to just go back into the studio and recapture the moves that you want and get them in your game. And then also there's the element of when we go into the motion capture we don't just have two guys come in and say, "Hey, you guys have a fight and we'll just take the pieces that we need." You go in there with a script and a design of how the gameplay's supposed to work and the animations that you have the actors do, they move a certain way in order to accomplish a certain objective that you had articulated to them, and the designer has a certain idea of how it's gonna work. So there' not even necessarily the guarantee that the way a certain animation was captured for a previous game is going to fit into the scheme of the system that we're working with. You'll see that mostly in the clinch and the ground.
That makes sense. That makes total sense. So, looking forward then, about this patch, I love that you added in touching gloves. That means the world to me. I don't know if it should mean the world to me, but it does. But can you guys, or are you guys, or are you thinking about adding in touching gloves to more than just the small window that you have now at the beginning of matches?
So you mean like have a full on high five Uriah Hall/John Howard fight?
Yeah, or you know, Cro Cop/Patt Barry. Exactly.
Ha ha, you know, I don't think, I mean we get it, I don't think that's super high on the To Do list. Just because it's just super high - there's definitely bigger fish to fry, I think. For the most part, when we sit down with the gameplay designers and animators there's bigger priorities on the list. I'm not saying it's impossible, but I would say that I'd be surprised if through everything else that's we'd want to invest time in. To get down to addressing more touch glove control and variety.
Well I'm hoping that on EA UFC's 2 cover it'll say "The most versatile glove touching engine."
Yeah, back of the box.
Yeah, exactly. It'll take up like five bullet points. You know, you can hug...
You know what? The tagline for EA UFC 2 will be, instead of Feel the Fight, it'll be Touch the Glove.
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Bump knuckles, bro. So that'll be perfect. So now, here's another thing that I always end up talking about with people online; the philosophy of the fighter rantings. Every one is so freaking high up that it kind of lends itself, at least on ranked matches, that... Also, let me just interject with myself. I see on PlayStation, cause I bought the game, I enjoyed the game so much I went out and bought a PlayStation 4 yesterday so I can play with a couple more buddies. PlayStation users seem to have a greater variety of who they use compared to Xbox where it's always Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Renan Barao... I digress. So, I think that's because because the ratings are just so high and kind of disparaging. I think Rich Franklin is like 86, he's like one of the lowest people. What was the philosophy behind those fighter ratings?
So when you say they're so high, you mean that just overall everybody in the game is high...
Yeah, not like Nick Diaz high
...or you mean that the highest guys are really high?
I think both. I guess I'm saying both, because it seems like everybody is really high up there, and I guess when you're playing a fighting game... I mean, here's my thing, Street Fighter doesn't have, and I know this isn't Street Fighter, this is more like Fight Night, but Street Fighter doesn't have ratings. It's kind of like they're just letting you be Ryu and that's the paintbrush and the game is the canvas. And I understand that Anderson Silva is better than most everybody in MMA, and so is Jon Jones, however it affects negatively, in my opinion, the online, especially ranked matches because nobody will ever want to fight as anyone other than the best.
Yeah, and that, in and of itself, is one of the reasons why I think it's generally more of a good thing that - I've never seen somebody use Rich Franklin in my life online, I've never seen somebody use Pascal Krauss. But I have seen, if I'm playing light heavyweight, obviously you see Alex, I've seen Belfort, I've seen Shogun, I've seen Hendo. If you're playing in featherweight of welterweight I've seen Diaz, St. Pierre, Hendricks, Lawler, Bendo. So the fact that, you know, on the one hand why are all these guys that are like 97, 94, 95, 96, 92, one thing about it that's good is that while there's a lot of guys that are rated 90, on the one hand "Oh, there's so many guys rated 90," yeah, but the other side of it, when you go online, I rarely take Jon Jones myself, but I've never had a Jones versus Jones match. Very few Best Guy in the Division versus Best Guy in the Division matches personally when I'm fighting online. And I don't mean that just because I'm not choosing the best guys in the divisions, like very rarely I find myself facing whoever the top guy is in that division. With the exception of possibly, probably about fifty percent of the heavyweight matches I play are versus Cain. But in all the other divisions it seems like because there's that cluster of talented, high-rated dudes at the top of each division, people jump around a lot more. Whereas, like, back in the day when you're used to playing Tiger Woods online, it was only Tiger Woods. Like, nobody went online and played with, I don't know. It was just Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods, and Tiger Woods.
Well then Brian, you should start the revolution and just get rid of number ratings. Just get rid of them. Throw them out. We don't need them.
We do need them.
Yeah, the dice in the background
Right, in terms of showing them to the users, you know, that's something, but that's an interesting question. I think it's a philosophical discussion and it's similar to what I was talking about earlier, where it's like "Hey, a lot of things could have been done. Sports games for a long time, and the industry continues to evolve and some things that are more like vestigial are either going to adapt into something new that's more beneficial to the most users or whither and die or whatever.
Or it may be something that, what we do for really competitive modes is create a version of online player competitive play where, you know, everything is - I don't want to say where everybody has the same rating - but where everybody is balanced out based on some logic of strengths and weaknesses that sort of equalize everyone. You might have a guy that's great at striking and mediocre at grappling, you might have a balanced guy, you might have a combination of the first two or whatever, those are all kinds of things we can look at in the future. But those are bigger discussions.
Yeah, that's something that was in UFC 3 where they had equalized stats. I liked it because then I felt like I could pick a Chael Sonnen and gladly be him and grind out wrestling and not have to worry about the fact that he's like an 89-90 fighting Jon Jones and hoping that the toe will fall off. Yeah, I think that's really interesting. Also, going back to Rich Franklin, he knocked out Chuck Liddell and Liddell is rated higher. I really think that Rich Franklin should be rated higher. I'm not even a big Rich Franklin fan, I just think he should be rated higher. And I figure I should tell you that.
No, that's totally fair. We partnered with the UFC on the ratings and we did get a lot of feedback directly from Joe Silva and Sean Shelby the matchmakers, because for the most part, we're like "Hey, nobody's really gonna have a much better inside opinion or inside view of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the UFC roster than Joe Silva and Sean Shelby. We did take a lot of their corrections, I'm not gonna say that we just 100% took everything that they gave us because they weren't necessarily trying to balance gameplay and make it work. But for the most part, we did take their guidance and they enlightened us with their expertise.
Will you guys ever release data on who the users are picking most? Like, how active is the women's division, etc., etc.? The most used player in certain divisions and stuff like that?
We certainly could. I know I've seen some of that at some point myself and it changes. For example we saw some big spikes in Machida and Weidman usage right just before and after their fight. Interestingly enough, Jones and Gus are a couple athletes that, are on the cover and are a couple big, huge stars in the game. But right around launch, the most played match up in the game was BJ Penn/Frankie Edgar.
For the like, I don't know, the first four days, five days or something like that. BJ Penn was the most used fighter for a little period and I think part of that also chalked up to the fact that he'd be in 3 weightclasses in the game. But the most common match up was Penn/Edgar, which we were kind of surprised to see. Not because both of those guys aren't great, but it was just kind of like "Oh, wow." To see that there's clearly such a buzz about that match up with the season of TUF that was going on at the time. So it's a definite possibility. We didn't release that kind of information, I'm just trying to remember some of the stuff I've seen.
Obviously Bruce Lee was big. I haven't seen stats on that. I'm not sure who else floated way to the top yet, we might get some more data based on the upcoming event, that should happen. I'll be anxious to see myself how much we see TJ Dillashaw sort of show up in the tournament tree. I know I'm seeing him like all the time when I go play online.
Yeah, and Woodley.
Yeah, I see Woodley a lot. I don't see Mizugaki get much love, but I knocked somebody out with him last night. So, uh, good on...good on him. Ha ha.
Awesome. So then, with the final question, what can you say is at the forefront of the studio's work right now and can you whet our appetites on anything upcoming as far as future patches or what we can, the fans, expect to see out of EA UFC? Hype us, Brian.
I can't, for a variety of reasons, some financial, like, some reporting reasons that I'm not an expert on, there's reasons around accounting why we aren't able to say anything about what fighters and when prior to certain dates. A lot of it has to due with fiscal quarters and all that. It's mind-numbingly annoying and frustrating. But certainly, the short story is we do have a plan to continue supporting this game with content for a fairly extended period of time. We released 3 fighters for free. Any active fighters that we released for the game, they are gonna be free in the future as well. I'm sure stoked about that.
Wow, that's awesome!
It's jut awesome to be able to do that. And I love the fact that nobody believed it when we announced it. They were like "Yeah sure, I'll believe it when I see it." Now people are like "Oh , OK , well there' this. It was free!" For the community, for the fans, the one thing I'd want them to know, since I can't tell you specifically what we're working on and when it's coming, is that we are working on stuff, we are listening to their feedback, and we are committed to making this game as great as it can possibly be. It's a long-term partnership we have with the UFC, so we're thinking long-term. Everybody on this team loves the feedback on our first patch. We're happy to be moving on to next one, whenever it is. Hopefully, you know, we'll continue the positive feedback when we get all the way up to the UFC 2 and beyond.