Announced at E3 in 2012, EA Sports UFC immediately caused quite a stir in the gaming community. The first part of a multi-year, multi-product partnership with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC - when it releases next year - will bring Fight Night sensibilities to an all-new sporting code for the first time, making it an interesting prospect for a whole range of gamers - even those who aren't familiar with the sport itself.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has been around since 1983; what makes now the right time to make a game about it? "The obvious reason," UFC's creative director Brian Hayes explained to me, "is we signed a long term licensing partnership with the UFC. Why did we do that? There's a couple of reasons. One, it's one of the fastest growing sports in the world right now, so that's a pretty cool partner to have. Two, the head of EA Sports (Andrew Wilson) is a tremendous mixed martial arts and UFC fan, so that's always a benefit! And three, it's a great opportunity to do something new, because we have a new technology - the EA Sports Ignite engine - and we have new platforms coming out (the Xbox One and PlayStation 4) so it's a great time to launch a new partnership like this and hopefully make waves and make an exciting new title for new platforms."
Brian - you might remember him from EA's press conferences over the years; he makes quite an impression at a videogame themed event - isn't new to gaming, development, or sports related to fighting. "[I'm a] HUGE fan of UFC," he enthused to me shortly after we finished a few rounds in an early version of the game. "I've been a huge fan of boxing, obviously, I have a lot of experience working on the Fight Night games, and I've been a huge fan of the UFC since its inception really."
"Although, my appreciation for it has changed significantly as the sport itself has changed. When the first UFC 1 came out, I remember renting that on VHS and that was more of a spectacle, right? Just kinda crazy. Not too many years ago, the sport really started to evolve into a legitimate athletic competition between highly trained, highly conditioned athletes, and it's only becoming more and more that as it continues to grow. I've been a fan since the first UFC, and I'm a bigger fan now than I've ever been - hopefully there's more and more people like me out there every single day."
I'm new to the sport personally; I get that it's a "thing" (it's hard to watch anything on Sky Sports these days and not be exposed to it, after all), but I've yet to become as engrossed in the code as some people clearly already are. What is it that people are so enamored by? "Dana white has a really great way to explain it," Brian suggested, "and we tend to agree with him. It's that 'everybody understands fighting.'"
"The story I made up one day is that if you took a human being from before the UFC was invented, sequestered them away from civilization - like Charlton Heston['s character] from Planet of the Apes, when he went away and then he came back to Earth. If you brought him to a UFC event and you sat him in a seat, and he just looked [and said] 'oh look, there's an Octagon. A cage. Two guys just walked into it, and they're both dressed like they're prepared to, maybe, combat each other?'"
"You wouldn't have to explain to him what's going to happen. He would just get it; 'oh, there's two guys in that environment? I bet they're going to have a fight.' And you wouldn't have to explain to him what 'fight' means; human beings get that on an instinctual level - we've been fighting for various reasons, any sort of reason, ever since we became human beings."
"The fact that it's now a sport or a competition is something that's part of our human nature; it's part of our DNA. Every single organism, whether it be a single-cell organism - they battle for survival in your bloodstream, rams battle and butt heads on the mountain top, silverback gorillas battle for bamboo shoots or whatever - it goes all the way through every living organism on earth: competition is in our DNA."
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