The how and why of UFC Undisputed 3’s gameplay changes [Interview]

22 Jan 2012  by   Paul Younger
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After a break of two years, a new entry into the UFC Undisputed series is due out of 17 February. In anticipation, we sat down with Wes Bunn, the fighter’s senior game designer, to talk through how the team have put the extra development time to use – looking specifically at how the game mechanics have changed.
IncGamers: Going into production, what had you identified as the key areas of improvement over UFC Undisputed 2010?
Wes Bunn: Accessibility was probably the biggest thing. That’s one of the reasons we decided to introduce the alternate control scheme, which makes transitioning in the clinch and on the ground easier. In the previous games people seemed to gravitate towards the striking because it was simple, but the new controls should help people have fun from the other areas as well.
We’ve also added in-game tutorial pop-ups and advice on your performance between rounds so that you’re always getting tips on how to play and improve. Also, the submission system helps you better understand whether you’re doing well or poorly in a submission attempt and why.
IG: The sport and the game both attract a knowledgeable fan-base, how do you provide accessibility without diluting the game down for them?
WB: We never want to alienate our hardcore audience; the phrase we use to guide ourselves is “easy to play, difficult to master.” When players invest themselves in it they’ll certainly see the nuances and techniques that can be used for high level play.
For example, the ‘Pro’ controls have some advantages over the ‘Alternate’ control schemes – such as being able to stall your transitions, which is key to online play. Then there are the feints, combos, fake takedowns that we’ve added for skilled players.

IG: Knockouts, submissions, stoppages and the like can happen in the real UFC without much warning, how do you add (and balance) those elements without making them seem overly unfair or random?
WB: There are some ‘under-the-hood’ processes going on for a flash knockout, for example, which takes into account the point of impact, the frame of the animation, each fighter’s stats and whatever else. Then there’s a randomness added on top of those things to determine if the knockout will occur – so even if the stars are in alignment the knockout still may not happen.
We didn’t want people to be able to work out how such things happen and then execute them whenever they want. But, yeah, it’s a difficult balancing act to get right.
IG: What about illegal moves (low blows, grabbing the cage etc)… have you ever thought about including them? Letting players execute them either on purpose and/or by accident?
WB: That’s something we may do in the future, but it’s not in this game.
At the end of the day we are working on a licensed product with a partner that has final say on a lot of the content. I don’t think they would be too happy with us including illegal moves as they’re trying to get away from all that stuff and the image it creates.
IG: Has coming off of the yearly release cycle helped?
WB: The extra time has helped us add a lot more new stuff. I hope we’re going to stick with the longer development period moving forwards, but ultimately that’s not my call. However, I think once they see the game we’ve created they will agree that moving away from the yearly cycle allows us to do more and the players have more time to digest what we’ve done – rather than throwing a new game straight in their face.
I think too many games do that year after year, with only minor updates.

IG: There are a lot of fighters in the game. How much effort goes into making each fighter feel unique?
WB: Everyone is assigned a base set of moves and they all know how to do certain moves – some punches and kicks, submissions and transitions. On top of that we pick out moves to give to certain people so that they feel more ‘signature’, the best of the best guys get the most love in that respect.
Andersen Silva, for example, has a unique taunt where he does his little dance. We do try to pay attention to each fighter as much as possible. Plus, we work with Joe Silva (UFC match maker) to determine fighter stats and which guys we’re going to include.
IG: Had any feedback from the fighters themselves about their stats?
WB: Oh yeah, everybody wants their stats to be higher. Everybody wants to be able to do things they never do in a match. Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson told me once that he wanted his character to be able to do a head kick… but we’ll only give it to him when he actually does it in a fight [laughs].
Most of the time the guys are happy with their stats though and they’re just happy to be in the game.
IG: And why now choose to add PRIDE to the game?
WB: We’ve been wanting to do it for a long time, since back when I first started on this project in 2006. It allows us to include new gameplay such as soccer kicks, foot stomps, knees to a down opponent’s head, new ground format and new commentary team.
It’s also nice to pay homage to some of the older fighters such as Nogueira and Cro Cop – those guys have separate characters with their stats and moves in their PRIDE era. So you could take Cro Cop from five years ago and fight him against the Cro Cop of now.

IG: Is PRIDE incorporated into career mode? Can I fight in both PRIDE and UFC with my career mode fighter, for example?
WB: Yeah, that’s one of the things you can do. So start out in the WFA like before but now you’re not forced into the UFC, you can choose to go or you can stay and defend your WFA title. The more you defend your belt the higher your starting rank in the UFC is.
Once you’re in the UFC you can go and compete in a PRIDE Grand Prix if you want and then come back and fight in the UFC again.
IG: Now you’ve got PRIDE, are we likely to see The Ultimate Fighter included at some point?
WB: We’ve wanted to add that since 2006, too. There are still some political issues going on there with licensing, but now that The Ultimate Fighter is on FOX it might be easier to include it in future games.
We are always trying to stay true to what the UFC is doing and The Ultimate Fighter is included in that.
IG: Have you sorted out the online issues from the last game?
WB: Yeah, online actually works this time. That was one of the biggest complaints we’ve had, that the online last year was laggy and matchmaking was bad. This time we’ve built our own system from the ground up, so we own it entirely. Connections are much better and matchmaking is smoother.
Plus, we’ve added content sharing so players can upload created fighters, logo and tattoos for others to download. You can also create highlight reels from match replays and post those online with a maximum length of five minutes.
UFC Undisputed 3 career mode trailer.

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