Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Preview: UFC Undisputed 3

UFC Undisputed 3 is poised to take players inside the virtual Octagon with extensive focus on intense toe-to-toe combat, impressive visual presentation and significantly increased accessibility, including the introduction of PRIDE Mode, two new weight classes and an impressive playable roster of more than 150 UFC fighters.

The long-awaited addition of Featherweights and Bantamweights opens up the game’s roster of fighters by a large scale, letting you play as world class fighters like Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz for the first time in a UFC game.

“UFC Undisputed 3 is on track to deliver an incredible virtual MMA experience unlike any other,” said Danny Bilson, Executive Vice President, Core Games, THQ. “This product is intense, engaging and highly competitive while still being extremely accessible, making it a must-have for millions of UFC fans, traditional fighting game enthusiasts and more casual sports fans around the world.

UFC Undisputed 3 brings significant advancements to the franchise, including the opportunity to fight in Japan’s PRIDE tournament for the first time ever and more casual sports fans around the world.

UFC Undisputed 3 will mark the debut of PRIDE Mode, enabling players to fight for the first time in the renowned Japanese MMA organisation. The mode will include official commentators Bas Rutten and Stephen Quadros, authentic environments and notorious MMA rules, including the ability to execute soccer-style kicks, head stomps and ground knees to the head. Finishing an opponent will be more important than ever through devastating new moves, responsive striking controls, refined visual presentation and the introduction of a brand new submission system. In addition, players will now enter the Octagon with a choice between traditional and simplified gameplay control options, enabling them, regardless of skill level, to experience the intensity of UFC and nuances of MMA combat while executing simple standing strikes or more complex ground and transition mechanics.

Players will also experience the excitement of a live UFC event through significant visual improvements, including the introduction of much-anticipated fighter entrances, new camera positions, improved facial animations and a gritty, high contrast appearance. They will enter into battle with an unparalleled choice of more than 150 playable UFC fighters, including talent from the newly added featherweight and bantamweight divisions.

Rounding out the virtual UFC experience with a significantly revamped online experience, as well as a variety of new and returning gameplay modes, UFC Undisputed 3 lets players have their fights – their way – to deliver the most intense, competitive and engaging experience to date for the franchise.

We took to the Octagon with the game developer, Neven Dravinski, to learn how to tackle this latest challenge in the ultimate fighting franchise.

What is the PRIDE Mode?
We are introducing PRIDE Mode to offer players even more new gameplay experiences. PRIDE is a former Japanese MMA organisation that was purchased by the UFC; in fact, several UFC stars today had some of their most iconic fights in PRIDE. PRIDE rules allow for more brutal attacks, like kicking an opponent in the head when he is on the ground with face stomps and soccer kicks. PRIDE fights occurred in a ring, opposed to an Octagon, and it really allowed us to offer a new look and new gameplay experience in UFC Undisputed 3. What’s really cool is players can take any UFC fighter and fight using PRIDE rules and vice versa. Hardcore fans are going to love our attention to detail, while those not familiar with PRIDE will get a real treat in terms of both gameplay and presentation.

How big is the roster of players - any new weight classes?
The UFC Undisputed 3 roster includes more than 150 fighters. This year, we added the former WEC weight classes of Featherweight and Bantamweight, giving players a great opportunity to see the speed and pace of these lighter weight fighters.

Have you improved upon the finishing moves?
We have been able to put a lot of new animations in the game, and once people get their hands on it, they’re going to love what they see. The biggest compliment comes from those guys who have played all the UFC Undisputed games; it’s great when they tell us how far we’ve come.

What visual improvements have been made?
We’ve worked a lot on improving and tuning our shaders for both the UFC and PRIDE modes. PRIDE offers a lot of opportunity to play with our lighting to mimic the different look of PRIDE fights. We’ve improved our dynamic lighting, our character models, and as mentioned, have added a ton of new animations to the game!

How do you ensure the player is drawn into the Octagon experience?
I think once someone plays UFC Undisputed 3, he or she will be really drawn into the experience because it’s just so real. The visual fidelity and visceral impact experienced by players is one of the hallmarks of the UFC Undisputed franchise. Combined with both pro and amateur controls for players of all types, a more fluid striking system and a graphics-based submission system, these features will all help in making this the best MMA game yet.

How did you research the PRIDE element?
We have a lot of hardcore fight fans on the team, and most of us have been watching PRIDE fights since the early days. Our development team at Yuke’s Osaka is Japanese as well, and some of those guys had the special opportunity to see PRIDE fights in Japan. I would say when one has a team as passionate about MMA as ours; the “research” for PRIDE was actually really fun to do.

How much difference is there between PRIDE and our traditional tournaments?
PRIDE tournaments were the ultimate test of skill for an MMA fighter. Fighters had to survive multiple fights in one night to survive. Imagine facing Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and after a brutal war, your reward is to face Wanderlei Silva? In UFC Undisputed 3, players will carry damage and stamina and energy loss into the next fight. It’s a tough journey – believe me.

Is there the ability to bridge the PRIDE and UFC tournaments?
At any time in UFC Undisputed 3, the player can pick between PRIDE or UFC rules in Exhibition matches. He or she will be able to compete with any UFC fighter using PRIDE rules and any historical PRIDE fighter in UFC rules. This makes for a lot of really cool fantasy matchups. Going through a career in the game will also provide opportunities to compete in one-off PRIDE fights and PRIDE Grand Prix tournaments.

Did you work with any real life fighters to increase the reality of this title?
Absolutely. We have a great relationship with the UFC and its fighters. We have brought in fighters like Frank Mir, Nate Diaz, Matt Hughes and Sean Sherk to do motion capture, and in addition, all the fighters are welcome to stop by the office any time they’re in the area, which many of them do. For the developers, that is a pretty nice perk of the job.

Has the game been endorsed by any recognised fighters?
Diego Sanchez often talks about how he uses the game as mental preparation before fights to imagine himself winning. There are many UFC fighters who play games, and it’s cool to get a chance to play with these guys and to be surprised at how good they are at UFC Undisputed.

Why did you choose to exclude motion control – is this feasible in the future?
UFC Undisputed 3 is really focused on delivering a fighting game experience running at 60 frames per second with responsive, rapid controls. While we are always looking at ways to expand our technology, motion controls didn’t make sense at this time. However, if you check out UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fitness System, you’ll be surprised at how good a job it does at utilising the motion controls for an MMA game!

How long did the title take to develop?
UFC Undisputed 3 spent roughly 18 months in development.

What were the biggest challenges?
Our biggest challenge is always how to get everything finished. These games get bigger and bigger each year. PRIDE Mode is essentially a game within a game, including new announcers, new fighters and new animations. Add that to a new control scheme, a new submission system and two new weight classes, plus all the combat improvements, and let’s just say it was a huge undertaking.

How big was the development team, where was it based and what experiences (previous titles) were brought together?
Our team at Yuke’s Osaka averages around 60 people, depending on the point of development. On top of that, we have a team of folks at our headquarters in Agoura that focus on art, animation, design, production and more.

Was this game designed for your core fighter game fans or designed to entice newbies to the genre?
We designed UFC Undisputed 3 to be played by anyone – and in the ways they want to play. New “Amateur Controls” were specifically designed with new users in mind, but then things like our new Simulation Energy setting were designed with only the hardcore in mind.

How has the online functionality been improved?
In previous UFC titles, we used a lot of middleware; this is no longer the case with UFC Undisputed 3. This year, we also ran an Online Alpha Server test to stress test our servers before launch. From a feature perspective, we are offering a lot of content sharing this year, from highlight reels to logos to fighters, as well as the return of Fight Camps, which have been improved this year.

What can we expect from future editions?
I think the thing our team has always shown is that we are able to have a strong connection with our fans and our community. We’re just as big of MMA fans as anyone else, and I think our record has shown that every year we’re putting in features synonymous with the UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts. PRIDE and former WEC weight classes are great examples. What the future holds for the UFC Undisputed franchise is really dependent on what the people want!

  • Michael Gordon is editor of Charged Middle East magazine, a leading Dubai-based gadgets and games title that provides news, reviews and features on the latest home and consumer electronics. For more about the magazine, visit its Facebook page after the jump. Check out this article and many more in the February issue.