EA Sports MMA & Don’t Hate the Player Hate the Game
Recently Randy Couture made a few announcements to the delight of many MMA fans. He signed a new contract with the UFC for six more fights and twenty-eight months, basically insuring that the “Natural” would finish his career with the UFC. But of equal importance it was announced by EA Sports on August 14, 2009 that Couture had been added to the roster of their MMA video game, bringing their total number of fighters on contract to five (according to the EA website, but internet rumors say there are more). Many fans were a little upset when his name was absent from the roster of the UFC Undisputed video game released by THQ, and in a way rightfully so. Couture is one of the biggest names in MMA and one of the UFC’s biggest draws and fan favorites. His name is synonymous with both MMA and the UFC and his abscence from the game caused some controversy. But as pointed out that with his inclusion in the EA game one thing can finally be realized in some respect and that is a fight with Fedor, and many may have to realize that this may be the only way this would ever happen. However, Couture’s addition makes one wonder if any other UFC fighters will be able or allowed to join the games roster?Also is there a way for EA Sports to produce a superior MMA game than Undisputed? What could they do to possibly make it better? With THQ and the UFC already announcing a sequel to Undisputed for a 2010 release EA Sports needs to make sure it can keep up. The addition of Couture is a major boost and by adding a few other tweaks they can produce an excellent game that many will enjoy.
First and foremost in any discussion is fighters. EA may not be able to grab anymore UFC fighters due to their contracts, but there are plenty of fighters who are out there that would be excellent additions. Unfortunately, Dana White has stated that anyone who signs on to the game would never fight in the UFC, and given that they are the big boy on the block that may deter a number of fighters who hope to fight there some day. In addition that a significant number of these fighters may only be known to the “hardcore” MMA fan in many respects and therefore not be a draw for the casual fan to purchase the game. In addition EA will have to deal with organizational name recognition in much the same way with the lack of the UFC name. Sure there is Strikeforce, DREAM, K-1, and others that can find there way into the game, but when many people associate MMA with the UFC it can be a difficult sell to the “casual” fan.
However, this can really be a blessing in disguise for the EA developers and there are many ways that they can push their game that the UFC cannot. In terms of fighters one way to garner interest is to include many “legends” of MMA such as Frank Shamrock, Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, David “Tank” Abbott, and Royce Gracie to name a few. Another “untapped” fighter area is of course Female fighters and Gina Carano would be a welcome addition along with Cris “Cyborg” Santos Maroes Coenen, Erin Toughill, and others. This is an area in which the UFC can not compete and could help draw in the female MMA fan/gamer as well. Furthermore, there can be fighters who are organization or geographic location specific that would be very interesting (which will be discussed below), that would add to the feel of the “MMA World” outside of the UFC. Another area concerning fighters and fights is the idea of having some sort of open weight-class fights. Again this could be organization and location specific and should not be to difficult.
Another area is the career mode which is somewhat lacking in Undisputed. In this game no matter what your fighter does not age and does not loose attributes as time goes on. Also there is a limited amount of time to achieve a certain status and then you are forced to retire. For example if you create a fighter whether they are 18 or 40 they fight the same amount of time and can gain attributes at the same rate. In addition they never age, which means they remain that age throughout the game. EA should rectify this by allowing a fighter who is created to be more physically fit at a younger age, but less experienced than say an older fighter or just make every fighter start at say twenty. Furthermore, the game should be based on an aging and perhaps fight damage type of level that would force a fighter to retire because they are not offered matches. This would allow a fighter to gain name recognition early in their career and then continue to fight as long as they are not losing and taking a significant amount of damage.
In addition to the way a fighter is created fighting styles can be improved and this also can be based on say geographic location. In Undisputed the fighters style is based on a striking style and a grappling style, and the fighter is allowed to “train” with various camps to gain skill levels and moves. A way of improving on this would be to have a fighter “gain” moves and say experience or “belt” levels by training in a specific camp. For example if you train at a Gracie BJJ your Brazilian Ju Jitsu levels will go up, but you may not attain an advance in striking no matter how much you “spar” or train otherwise. You can also have a fighter base themselves in a camp and therefore make that fighter’s style more grounded. Of course they would have to have a “rounded” approach, but they should be more style orientated. Also in the game the fighter could receive “camp” invites, say to improve a skill set in a short period of time. If the fighters striking skills are lacking they can be invited to train at a Muay Thai camp and gain a small improvement in skills in that area or may be a new move, but they would not become a Muay Thai expert overnight.
Finally, because EA cannot use the UFC they must make their organizations have a certain flare to gain attention. A good way to do this is two fold: first have “minor” leagues or smaller shows for the fighters to work their way up. Undisputed has Ultimate Fight Nights and Undercards but by having a fighter have to “prove” themselves it would allow a sense of realism that otherwise is missing. Second, make organizations in areas outside of the U.S. with differing rules and set ups. For example in career mode a fighter could be fighting in Japan under rules that allow kneeing and kicking a downed opponent but not elbows in a ring or a fight in Brazil that follows Vale Tudo rules such as no time limit, as well as the unified rules found in the U.S.. There could also be Grand Prix’s, Tournaments, and other match types that are not included elsewhere. The possibilities are endless (except by game limitations) and it would make the game more interesting in being able to put certain fighters in unique situations. For example imagine taking an American trained wrestler and putting him into a no time limit fight like those featured in Rio Heroes? By opening up weight classes as well you can feature “super fights” that Undisputed can not do.
There of course are more suggestions people will have, and these are very basic ones to some extent (and not mentioning certain game play issues), but will allow more acceptance by a wider audience. As with every game there always seems to be areas for improvements and an MMA game is no different. EA Sports MMA Game webpage has a forum section dedicated to the topic and there are far numerous suggestions that go into much further detail. All suggestions here are more than welcome, but if you wish for yours to be heard and possibly included in the game please follow the link to them below.