Brian Hayes, the creative director of EA SPORTS UFC shares his thoughts on the game's submission system.
In June of 2012, EA SPORTS and the UFC announced a new licensing partnership. That same month, the development team at EA Canada enlisted the services of MMA trainer and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Adam Ryan, to come show us the art of BJJ first hand. Some people were complete novices, others had already been training for years. Everybody loved it. Maybe not as much the morning after…
For the past two years now, there has been a dedicated group of designers, animators and programmers rolling together twice a week under Adam's tutelage.
One of the first things I learned about jiu-jitsu is that you can do it with your eyes closed. Rolling with one of my more experienced teammates, I noticed the relaxed expression on his face and closed eyes. When your opponent is in your closed guard and you have wrist control, there really isn't much information your eyes provide.
Grappling is much more about feeling where your opponent is, rather than seeing where they are. That encapsulates the challenge everyone who has tried developing the submission system for a video game has faced. Ever. How to recreate an experience that's all about feel, when the only information you can give the player is visual?
We wanted to showcase the fact that trying to submit someone is a constant struggle and that, very often, not as easy as the press of a button. Additionally, when Coach Adam would show the team how to properly set up and apply various submission holds, we noticed there were always technical details about how to grab your own arm, where to place your feet, or how to keep your weight on your opponent because failing to do so could give them a doorway to escape.
There is always some way the defensive fighter can try to move or shift that will relieve the pressure of a joint lock or a choke. That is, until there is no place to move and the fight is over. It's the offensive fighter's job to shut the defender down and look for their openings to tighten the submission to the point where their opponent has no choice but to tap.
These are the observations that led us to create the Submission Game for EA SPORTS UFC.
The idea of progression vs. resistance played a big role in how we approached the HUD for our in-game Strategic Submission Battles.
The HUD consists of four gates that surround the fighters on screen. A blue Right Stick icon will appear in each of these gates informing the defending fighter that they can move their right stick in any direction. If the defending fighter can push one of these Right Stick icons all the way to the outside of the submission HUD, they’ll escape the submission.
Resistance comes into play when the attacking fighter looks to block the escape. As the defending fighter attempts to move their Right Stick icon to the to the outside of the HUD, the icon will turn red letting the attacker know they need to resist the escape by moving their own Right Stick in the same direction. When the attacking fighter does so, the defender cannot escape in that direction and has to try another.
Progression comes into play when after an escape is blocked for a period of time, the attacking fighter will see a Left Stick icon appear over one of the gates. Flicking the Left Stick in that direction will allow the submission to progress to the next stage and force the defending fighter to restart their escape from scratch. Flicking the Left Stick too late or in the wrong direction will make it easier for the defending fighter to escape.
A fighter’s submission rating and stamina during a fight dictate how difficult it will be to escape or lock in the submission.
Progress to through all the stages to complete the submission and force the tapout.