The UFC Undisputed series is back. After taking a year off in order to get their priorities straight and prove that this series will not fall into the dreaded “annual update” cycle many sports games get caught in, THQ and Yukes are back and undoubtedly better than ever. This past weekend I got a chance to chat with THQ Senior Game Designer Wes Bunn and find out just what was going to make UFc Undisputed 3 the best game the series has seen yet.
Can you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a little about about your role(s) at THQ and on the UFC Undisputed 3 project?
My name is Wes Bunn, I am Senior Game Designer at THQ and on UFC Undisputed 3.
This is the third game in the series and you guys took a year off after Undisputed 2010, what have you done with both the additional time and the feedback that you received from the public with the last release?
The extra time allowed us to go back and refine some of our core combat and gameplay mechanics. Early on we brought in some of the guys from our (Undisputed) community and some fighting game fans to figure out what we needed to do to make the game more accessible to the casual players as well as keeping it a hardcore game for the hardcore fighting guys. The addition of things like equalized stats, mirror matches, and the competition settings that remove all of the random elements appeal to the hardcore guys because it is more about movesets. It’s my moves versus your moves, my inputs versus your inputs.
At the same time, we also wanted to appeal to the casual guys who may have been frustrated with the previous games because of the controls or the lack of the knowledge... what to do, why one position is better than another, so introducing a new control scheme makes it a lot easier. All that you have to do is flick up or flick down on the right stick as well as our new in-game tutorial hint system which teaches you what to do in each position. The extra time allowed us to do a lot of the things that we have been wanting to do for some time.
The UFC Undisputed series has been much more successful than the other MMA games that have come out in the past few years... particularly EA Sports MMA and Supremacy MMA. What do you think has set the UFC games apart and more successful than the competition?
I think that one of the things that sets us apart from the other games out there is the fluidity of our gameplay. Our gameplay, when you pick it up and feel it, you’re feeling instant responsiveness. Some of the other games, from my impressions, feel a little “floaty”. You’re skating around, you’re pressing a button and waiting for action to happen or the action to play out. We have this notion that’s been a staple of our franchise from the very beginning of constant control; you are always in control of your fighter, you always have the ability to punch and kick, press face buttons to do transitions, you never feel like you don’t have control of your fighter and that is one of the things we have always focused on with our combat, making you have control.
Would you contribute the success of your games to, in addition to the explosion of the sport of MMA, the resurgence of the fighting game genre over the past couple of years?
I think so. It’s funny that you mention that. Our first game, Undisputed 2009, surpassed all of our expectations. We knew that we had a good game but we just didn’t know how many MMA fans there were out there. Ever since then, it has just gotten bigger and bigger and our games have gotten bigger and bigger. The growth of MMA has definitely helped us and it is just a fun game. You can pick it up with your friends and punch each other in the face, what is wrong with that?
The new game has a heavy focus on educating players about the process of a fight in MMA; how important is that to the overall experience of the game?
It’s very important. I think that was one of our shortcomings of UFC 2010 actually. Undisputed 2009, because it was so successful, when 2010 came out we figured that everyone played our game, so they know how to play so we didn’t have a lot of tutorial systems. You were kind of thrown to the wolves to try and figure things out on your own, unlike the current one. We had a lot of intricate systems in the career mode for last year but didn’t do a good job at explaining them. For this year, when you are playing through career mode you are getting spoon-fed the career mode system so you know “what does a gameplan do?”, “how do I train?”, and “how do I raise my stats and attributes?” Mike Goldberg is there and he kind of gives a guide basically, if you will, through the career mode.
Have there been any enhancements made to the online portion of the game?
We do have some new stuff with online. One of the things that we are very happy about is that we have our own infrastructure in place this year. So, our servers are going to be a lot less laggy and it’s going to be a lot easier to get into matches because we have our own system built from the ground up. We are actually doing alpha tests on it right now; we have been doing them to make sure that when the game comes out at launch that it’s as smooth as possible and players can get in and start having fun.
Camps are back, so you’ll be able to join with camps and fight with your friends and go against rival camps. We actually have a camp versus camp leaderboard this year, so you can see whose camp is the best and fight against each other and see who is the best camp in the world. Then we have a lot of content sharing; it’s something that we haven’t really talked about yet. You can create your own fighters, upload them, rate them, and download them from the community. Then we have our highlight reel system: create highlight reels from your last 50 rounds in any mode, put together a highlight reel, upload it, download it, and rate it. And a create-a-logo feature so that you can create tattoos and place logos on your shorts or on your fighter; you can upload, download, and rate those as well. There is a lot of online sharing and refinement to our server system... that is what people can expect in the online area.
Too many sports series fall into the dreaded “annual update cycle”; how do you feel about that concern and how do you feel that Undisputed 3 has benefitted by breaking away from that cycle?
It’s really hard when you only have a year and you have a deadline that you have to meet. Bascially, when you finish the first game, you’re immediately working on the next one and sometimes even before the first one comes out. You have such limited time to meet that next deadline to get your next product out. In a yearly title, it’s very hard to get significant changes in.
From 2009 to 2010, we were able to get in a lot of different modes and things around the actual combat; we made some changes to the combat system but not a lot, and I think that’s where a lot of fans and critics pointed it out that we didn’t make a lot of changes. At the end of the day, you’re in the octagon fighting, that is all that you are doing really, and just because we didn’t make a lot (fighting) changes it felt like the same game. For UFC 3, because we had that extra time, we went back and refined every area of combat. Striking has been changed, clinch systems have been changed, the ground system, a new submission system, the inclusion of Pride Fighting Championships’ different strikes and different rule set... all of that was possible thanks to the extra time that we had.
What can we expect in terms of post-launch support for the game?
We want to give back to the community and we want to continue to support this product once it launches. We do have plans for DLC, we have fighters that you will be able to download. If you go to our Undisputed Facebook page
, you can get a code to download Alistair Overeem for free. That is really cool because he just joined the UFC and destroyed Brock Lesnar. Then, we also have plans for some Ultimate Fights. Our Ultimate Fights mode is something that we put in both 2009 and 2010; this year we revamped it and kind of streamlined the process. In Ultimate Fights, basically you are trying to replay, recreate, or rewrite the history of some important fights. We’re going to have some of those available for DLC and they each come with specific tasks that you are trying to recreate and special unlockable videos that give with them as well.
Thanks for speaking with us and please remind us when we can expect UFC Undisputed 3.
No, thank you brother! UFC Undisputed 3 comes out on February 14, 2012 for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Thanks again to Wes Bunn for not only taking the time to speak with me but also taking the time to show the ropes in the game! Thanks also to THQ who provided transport and lodging.