Interviews// EA Sports Director Nick Laing

Posted 10 Sep 2010 15:23 by
Games: EA Sports MMA
It's been two years in the making, but EA Sports is finally ready to start talking about its upcoming mixed martial arts game, MMA. Capitalising on the rise of cage fighting and other combat sports of the same nature, it pits athletes from all over the world against each other using nothing but the abilities of their chosen fighting style.

While THQ has already stepped into the ring with its UFC Undisputed series, EA Tiburon is going for the global angle, with all kinds of rule-sets and arenas available. Circular and hexagonal cages join boxing rings as the setting for the fighters' punishment, while certain arrangements like Japanese and Vale Tudo rules allow for the different uses of elbow, kick and knee attacks on the ground.

The combat itself is quite fluid and easy to manage on a base level – I learned from Nick Laing, EA Sports MMA's development director, that the reason it feels familiar is because the game is using a modified Fight Night engine. Along with adding attacks and moves that you normally wouldn't find in a boxing game, Laing tells me that EA Tiburon has improved the engine's input to support “realistic combos” a little more.

It plays out very differently to UFC Undisputed too – thanks to the Fight Night elements, all basic punching attacks are executed on the right stick, while holding a trigger whilst sweeping the stick will execute kicks instead. When it's time to advance to a takedown, you press one of the face buttons to attempt a grapple, and then continue attacking with the stick whilst pressing buttons to continue your grapple or to try and escape.

Get on the floor, and you're either on the receiving end of a pummelling (which would require you to mash buttons whilst taking note of your stamina) or a choking hold – the latter has both players seeking for a 'sweet spot' to escape or continue the hold.

There's quite a bit more than the combat to enjoy in MMA when it's released in October too, including an extensive online community feature. Friends can watch pre-recorded or live matches taking place on someone else's console or computer, while a group of eight players can set up their own pay-per-view event and set aside some space for viewers and commentators to boot.

After playing for a few matches as the legendary Bob Sapp – best known to me for his wacky Japanese TV game show antics more than his actual fighting ability – I sat down with Nick to talk more about his own experience with mixed martial arts, what separates this game from THQ's own and... just what the hell has he been doing with Alex Reid? Yes, that Alex – Mr Katie Price - Reid.

SPOnG: What's your history with mixed martial arts and the EA Sports MMA team? Did you come straight from Fight Night into this?

Nick Laing: Well, the majority of the team is EA Tiburon, but there are people from the Fight Night team working on this title too. Since we're in EA we also have the benefit of consulting guys from other studios like BioWare for our non-interactive sequences and story elements. I've personally been on this game for more than two years, but a small core of guys have worked on MMA a bit longer than that.

I should mention that I've been involved with mixed martial arts my whole life. I'm a huge fan of the sport in general, and I actually teach a local MMA class too. A lot of people I know want to learn more about it, appreciate it more and become bigger fans. So my goal is to teach as many as I can about the intricacies and subtleties of the sport, and help people understand it better. If this game achieves that, it'd be my dream come true.
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Games: EA Sports MMA

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