Getting to know UFC 2 with Creative Director Brian Hayes

by on March 1, 2016

UFC 2 is set to be the biggest and best UFC title to date, and it is in part thanks to its Creative Director, Brian Hayes. Last November, I had the pleasure of speaking to him about a whole manner of things including the new knockout physics system, UFC Ultimate Team and the changes to its career mode. With under a month to go until the game is released, I got to go hands-on with UFC 2 and speak to Brian about a whole manner of things.

Brian spoke a little about the different modes and what each one involved. Live Events is a mode that “leverages organic engagement” by allowing the real life events of UFC to have an effect on the player. You can play through upcoming events or even predict who’s going to win. If you manage to guess correctly you’ll be granted in-game awards such as fight packs for the Ultimate Team. UT follows a similar kind of pattern to the other EA titles: win matches to earn points for upgrading skills and gaining new equipment.

The new knockout mode stands head and shoulders above anything else I saw in UFC 2. It incorporates the fun of arcade fighting with the excitement of UFC’s striking and it doesn’t hold back on the blood. The actual mechanics of the game are incredible too and Brian shared his thoughts on the unpredictability of the game’s matches.

“Sometimes the decisions are the most compelling. We’ve had tournaments at work and it’s great to knock someone out, but we’ve had tournaments where it went to decision and, I don’t know if you felt the same where you felt like maybe you should have won when the other guy did? I went to my fight and it was the final where I was fighting the best guy from QA and I was representing dev and it went to decision. I didn’t know if I won it. I ended up winning, but it’s only a fraction of what it feels like in real life. I don’t know how the judges are going to go, I just don’t. Then I won and was like, “yeah, I totally kicked your ass!” It’s a lot of fun with the emotions a game can bring out.”

UFC 2 really wants you to immerse yourself in every avenue possible. The Create Fighter is back, adding new features like face sculpt and the tattoo editor, meaning there are even more ways you can spend hours mulling over how you want to look. If you prefer to sit back and be the boss, you can. Brian talked about some of the other modes that put you in charge like Custom Events, which is essentially the “Dana White mode” as it allows you to create your own pay-per view event in any of the arenas the game has to offer, with any of the 250 fighters available. I asked Brian who he liked to fight as when playing the game.

“It’s nice to use guys like McGregor or Rockhold in Knockout Mode because they have some nice kicks with a lot of reach, but then, coming from my days on Fight Night I like using both the Diaz brothers because of the regular kind of boxing stuff. It all depends on how I feel like fighting, right? If I’d like to choke someone out or dominate on the ground, I’m going to use someone like Demian Maia or Jacare. If I want to knockout someone spectacularly I’ll pick guys like McGregor – that’s a better way to go. It’s the upside of having a 250 plus fighter roster, there’s limitless options for how you want to finish the fight.”

Finally, I wanted to know something that’s always fascinated me. We’d talked about UFC 2’s modes and gameplay, but I was curious as to how developers attribute the statistics to the sportsmen and women involved. I thought I’d find out and see how intricate the process can be and Brian was happy to enlighten me.

“I’m not sure if you’ve seen it in South Park, but the manatee tank – not really. Basically, we have a massive roster of fighters and then producers and designers on the team take a first pass and say, “Hey, this is where we think these guys shake out based on watching tape and looking at the rankings etc.” Then, we send those ratings off to the UFC and basically Joe Silva and Sean Shelby (UFC matchmakers) take a look at them and send us feedback saying “Well, this guy should be a little higher here or lower there” – we’ll make those changes. They might say this guy’s striking should be a little lower, and he has two fights over the course of development where he wins two fights by knockout and his striking’s really improved – we’ll pump those stats up a couple of notches. It’s basically a constantly evolving process and we just have to pay attention to what’s happening in the UFC and adjust accordingly.”

When playing, I noticed Holly Holm’s rating was slightly above Ronda Rousey’s. It seemed like it could be due to her surprise win against Rousey at UFC 193.

“That was like, you know what, her striking may be a little bit better than we had previously thought, right? Even her coaches said that she’d been holding some stuff back in her previous fights. So when someone has a career defining performance that blows everyone’s minds, yeah that’s probably worth a couple more points in kick power. Those are the kinds of things we have to pay attention to.”

I couldn’t help but appreciate Brian’s enthusiasm towards UFC 2. I asked him how he was feeling as the game’s release approaches.

“I think the thing that has me the most nervous, honestly, is how positive I feel. The entire development cycle for this game went exceptionally well, and then even when things went a little bit squirly recently with the beta and Rampage Jackson getting it a little early, the response to the beta that we did was exceedingly positive. The feedback we’ve been hearing has all been really strong. I feel really good about the amount of work we’ve been able to do and the content we’ve added to the game, and the changes and improvements we’ve been able to make. I’m just really proud of all the team back at EA Vancouver.”