EA Sports MMA: Pranks, Mayhem, and Strikeforce

We chat with Jason "Mayhem" Miller and EA's Dale Jackson about the upcoming fighting game.

I'm due to call MMA fighter Jason "Mayhem" Miller at 1:30 p.m. PDT. I dutifully dial the number right on time, wait a few rings, and then hear a voice on the other end pick up that immediately launches into a foreign language.

"Comment ca va?"

For a moment, I'm thrown for a loop. The guy is speaking a language I don't understand…but his accent is terrible. I regain my composure and launch into my introductions. "Hey Jason, this is Brian Ekberg at GameSpot."

More non-English. I get the impression that Miller is on the other end of the line and he is messing with me.

"Sorry, I don't speak Spanish," I reply. Now it's Miller's turn to be confused, but only for a microsecond. "Umm, sorry man, that was French," he quickly corrects me with a dubious tone in his voice.

Facepalm. Time to move on and quickly--as it's clear to me that the man known as "Mayhem" enjoys verbal sparring every bit as much as he likes getting down to business in the cage. By the looks of things, Miller is always "on"--whether it's blindsiding an unwitting journalist with some off-the-cuff French or confronting bullies in the MTV reality show he hosts, "Bully Beatdown." For video game fans, particularly those who follow EA Sports MMA--the upcoming mixed martial arts game from the House That Madden Built--Miller is known as the guy who pulled off one of the more convincing and memorable pranks in recent video game history.

While visiting EA Tiburon (where EA Sports MMA is being developed), Miller and Tiburon staff joined forces for an elaborate prank on the game's head developer Rob Hyder. Seemingly upset by his fighter's attributes in the game, Miller confronts Hyder in dramatic fashion, scuffles with other EA employees, and generally causes…well, mayhem. It's a profoundly uncomfortable scene upon first viewing--with Miller getting right up Hyder's face (to his credit, Hyder doesn't back down or lose his cool), before letting him in on the joke. Check out the full video of the prank on YouTube.

I asked Miller about the genesis of the prank. "We were doing a stopover…to consult on the video game," Miller said. "One of the producers…approached me before we even met with the [Hyder] on the game and told me that 'We're going to play a prank on him. You can push me, or you can do whatever. We're going to show your stats being really low, and we want you to flip out on him.'

"I'm like, 'Flip out on him? Oh, come on, no problem at all. Like, you know, I got this.' I'm an expert at flipping bananas, right? So, I flip bananas and…right at the point where I was like, 'This is getting way too mean.' Like I'm really being a jerk here--I let him go.

"So, it was a good; it was a good experience. It was real funny, and those guys got me back recently at the Madden Bowl [in Miami]. They got me back pretty good because they made my character dance like a [expletive]. So, I was pretty bummed when I saw that animation, but I say they should leave [the animation] in [the game]."

For EA's perspective on the infamous prank, I turned to EA Sports MMA executive producer, Dale Jackson.

"Only about three of us were in on it, and the other people [in the room] went and changed their pants afterward," Jackson said with a laugh. "It was pretty bad. We were on the Madden floor around all the development going on, and all the shouting and lots of cursing and lots of furniture banging around starts happening. In the video, you can see me going to the door and stopping people because [there were] guys outside the door ready to come in and defend somebody."

The hilarity of the prank illustrates the friendly relationship Jackson and his team have with the fighters who are on the roster. The development team has spent lots of time with the fighters, looking for any kind of insight they can use to make the game a more realistic experience. Whether it's consulting with Mayhem or Randy Couture or recording mo-cap with Cung Le, the approach is to get as much information as possible on the different fighters in the game to re-create their styles as accurately as possible.

"We sit down with them here at the studio and everyone's a little different," Jackson said. "Mayhem and Cung are gamers, so it's great to sit down with them and let them play the game…give us feedback on [things like] 'I'd like to be able to throw this combination off of this kick.' They give us a very specific feedback on gameplay and things like that. When we sit down with Randy Couture or some of the other guys who aren't as much gamers, they give us feedback on, 'Yeah, he would never do that.' So, they're giving us the stuff that allows us to build the AI to be more like what they'll really be.

"We can go and watch all the footage in the world, but, you know, Randy may have fought some of the guys numerous times or Scott Smith has fought them. Different people have fought these guys throughout their time. And with [former UFC referee] John McCarthy…sitting down with him is like opening an encyclopedia of fighting. If the guy hasn't been in a ring with a fighter three times in his career, he's been at more fights three feet away from the fight than anyone in the world. So, getting insight from him has been huge."

For a specific example of fighter comments appearing in tangible form in the game, we turned to Miller, who describes some of the feedback he had for developers after seeing the game. "They did a great job of animating their [fighter animation] transitions. Like when [a fighter is moving] from grappling to striking and just getting back to stand up. They did an excellent job of that.

"But there was one small detail. For example, in most every fighting game when the guy gets hit with a good shot and gets rocked, he just falls down backward, which is very unrealistic. That doesn't always happen. You don't hit somebody in the chin and he just falls back immediately. Sometimes they fall forward or sometimes you'll be rocked really bad but just enough where you know you can just shoot in on the guy's legs to try to take him down…to kind of get your bearings back for a moment. They added that into the game after I was there because we played the rough demo and I just noticed that, 'Hey man, I hit the guy. He always falls backward. That doesn't happen in a real fight.' Sometimes you go, 'Oh, man, I'm hurt,' and you grab the guy."

EA Sports MMA will use a modified version of the Fight Night engine, so it's natural to assume that the game will have the striking game down cold. But, according to Jackson, the complexity of the sport of mixed martial arts has resulted in a lot of work to that engine in order to properly replicate what happens in the octagon. "The striking controls are pretty naturally mapped," Jackson said. "They feel good on the sticks. The one thing that was a weakness when [Fight Night Round 4] came out was their lack of button controls, and a lot of people ripped them apart for them. We knew that from the very start, too, that we wanted button controls in there, so we've added that. We've also had to do a lot of different things. In the boxing AI, there are only so many things you can do. You have a few main stances and so many punches you can throw out of it. The world opens up to a whole different level in MMA, and so a lot of different AI hooks had to be added and different ways to teach the AI how to fight."

Stamina, too, will play a role in fights, though Jackson is still playing his cards close to the vest on exactly how it will be implemented into the game. "Without going into too much detail, stamina affects just about every aspect of the game," he said. "It's a three-round, five-minute round sport or five five-minute rounds in the championship [bouts]…it's an endurance test in its simplest form. When you put in striking and grappling and everything else…and how much it takes out of you just to be out there and getting into position to do something…making sure you have the gas in the tank to finish it when you get there is important. So all of our submissions take into account your stamina when you started and how much stamina it takes to try to lock in that submission and close it out."

While I've got him on the line, I ask Jackson for some thoughts on this weekend's Strikeforce event in Nashville (which will air Saturday on CBS), which he calls "the card to watch this year." There are three championship bouts on the main card, Jake Shields vs. Dan Henderson for the middleweight championship; Gegard Mousasi vs. Muhammed Lawal for the light heavyweight belt; and Gilbert Melendez vs. Shinya Aoki for the lightweight championship. An avowed MMA expert, Jackson has encyclopedic knowledge on all these competitors, calling out Lawal's resilience vs. Ryo Kawamura in March of 2009, whom he beat after suffering an ACL tear in the first round, or the submission skills of Aoki who, according to Jackson, has broken three arms [of opponents] in his career.

Jackson avoids straight-up predictions--which is probably the correct choice considering his position. "I've gotten to know a lot of these guys, and before, I could just root for somebody and kind of watch it analytically and surgically. Now I don't ever want to see one of them lose."

As for Miller, he'll be fighting on this weekend's card too, but MMA seems to be just one portion of Mayhem's burgeoning career. In addition to his show on MTV, Miller regularly appears on Sirius satellite radio and has even studied acting (no wonder he can keep a straight face when punking unsuspecting developers). It's clear that Mayhem is always looking forward to the next big thing. "I'm not just 'Mayhem the fighter.' I'm 'Mayhem [the] Mogul.' I'm doing everything. Hell, I want my own EA video game where they have [me] walking the streets and cleaning it up. You know what I'm saying?"

Provided I could pull some Mayhem-inspired pranks, I'd be up for playing that game. Are you listening, EA?

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103 comments
AlbionsGreatest
AlbionsGreatest

Jason "Mayhem" Miller: The Game... I'm in! Mayhem Monkeys unite!!!

casperdet313
casperdet313

@ jamesdrover WOW your statement goes to show just how naive you are.That SUB HAS only been used twice in MMA history(Diaz and Aoki) and sorry I didn't say his name right I didn't know you were an English teacher.Also the fight with Sanchez was really close and diaz didn't get dominated by him.Besides Diaz is a WAY better fighter now and you can think what you want but that's my opinion,I believe he could beat some of the top fighters and DANA even said he has one of the best chances at beating GSP.And no I don't need to insult you with childish phrases,I'm better than that and I know that there's actually MMA outside of the UFC and I'm not a little fanboy.

jamesdrover
jamesdrover

and sanchez handled diaz and we all seen what a well conditioned bj done to sanchez

jamesdrover
jamesdrover

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

casperdet313
casperdet313

@ Caz110 O my Bad I didn't know B.J. Penn was...O ya that's right he lost to frankie edgar and diaz has WAY better boxing than edgar.Diaz has tremendous ground skills and proved so by submitting gono with a sub that was only used twice in the history of mma.Diaz is WAY larger than B.J and it's a lot easier to takedown a smaller guy than a TALL lanky fighter like diaz(If you really listened to joe rogan you'd know that,watch the Grove/Cote fight and he explains that,joe is more educated on the ground than he is in boxing and would know more about grappling than boxing.Also Penn had to gain weight to fight GSP and that had a great effect on him,Diaz does triathlons and the training won't hurt him like it did penn.Diaz has a good shot at beating GSP that is if his training partner jake shields doesn't beat him to it(which he is close to signing the deal).

Caz110
Caz110

You're telling me, that Diaz has better takedown defense than BJ? And many claim that BJ has the BEST boxing in MMA (thank you Joe Rogan) just watch Penn vs. Sanchez and you'll hear all of that multiple times.

casperdet313
casperdet313

@Caz110 really? I think diaz would have a really good shot against GSP.I'm not saying he would win but think about it,Diaz has some of the best boxing in MMA,he also has great take down defense and once your on the ground it's hard to control him.Sure GSP was able to neutralize a good striker in Alves and a smaller B.J. Penn,but what happens when someone can stop your take downs and can hit you with punches repeatedly.

ekultus
ekultus

All gameplay videos that I have seen lead me to believe this game will fail. UFC game was fail as well so no biggie.

Pyro018
Pyro018

@Sempai4056 Hate to burst your bubble, but not only does dana white want to sign jake shields from strikeforce to go to the UFC, they also have Dan Henderson. Also Strikeforce has Fendor and we all know he could easily handle the UFC. Now I'm not saying I'm all for strikeforce, cause there are more known fighters in the UFC, but you can;t say there's nobody.

RevilFox
RevilFox

@Sempai4056 Um...because both Pride and WEC are owned by the same people that own the UFC?

joey_ed27
joey_ed27

@ casperdet313 Totally agree with you... I'll get this game because of Photo game face maker. Hope it works better now, than with FNR4.

Sempai4056
Sempai4056

Why Strikeforce? It should have been Pride FC or WEC, not Strikeforce. Strikeforce hella sucks they got no good fighters. None of Strikeforce fighters can't even handle the UFC. They'll get owned. F**k Strikeforce

method115
method115

The game looks horrible from what I've been seeing lately real robotic.

VengfulOne
VengfulOne

@DKHardee Hah yeah I meant Undisputed. Don't know where I got Unleashed from hehe.

Caz110
Caz110

I dont know if we want GSP vs. Diaz

casperdet313
casperdet313

I'm buying both and hopefully both will be good.Both have advantages that the other doesn't.EA will most likely have photo face so we could put any MMA fighters we want in the game(Lesnar vs Fedor,Machida vs King MO,Sheilds vs Silva,GSP vs Diaz,and Melendez vs Edgar) that would be awesome.UFC will probably most likely be the better game,but if their both good that means that us fans get two good mma games this year

ninjarob2007
ninjarob2007

I'll rent it, but as most people have said yeah it looks a bit tacky. The only reason (in my opinion) I see people at least giving it any benefit of the doubt is because Coture is in. If he wasnt then there'd be no reason to even look at this game. I know that sounds a bit bias but if he was in UFC 2010 for example I dont think there would be much hype around this game.

TrapMuzik92
TrapMuzik92

UFC All Day...I'll feel bad for anyone who actually buys this game.

alkaline_DnB
alkaline_DnB

i watched strikeforce this weekend, which is a joke by the way...that franchise is over with imo...and they were using mma sports for their pre-fight simulations. this game looks like garbage. the players moved around so robotic and artificial and the controls just seemed clunky that it doesn't even look fun. don't look at the screenshots and judge the game without seeing it in action because it doesn't look good. add the weak roster to the mix and just like the strikeforce franchise promoting it, it's going to get shut down and stomped on by ufc.

Dark_Infinite
Dark_Infinite

still skeptical of this game. most likely gonna be a rent for me UFC Undisputed ftw.

DKHardee
DKHardee

@VengfulOne do you mean Undisputed?

theshamonofsexy
theshamonofsexy

this game looks like sh!t, especially after seeing all of the previews last night, definetely a renter

PunkyV2
PunkyV2

They're all so sweaty.

VengfulOne
VengfulOne

After watching Strikeforce last night and seeing commercial after commercial for this game, I'm not real impressed with the graphics. Everyone looked shiny and plastic. I'll check out a demo (if they have one) but I will most likely stick with Unleashed.

Princess_Rectum
Princess_Rectum

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

GamerBaboo
GamerBaboo

@Djin I just joined the page to respond to you, but it seems you're so obsessed with this thing that you don't even think twice before responding to the many people who hold a different view. Anyway, I'm not the one who said UFC is dgay , even Bob Arum said so. Secondly, in case your narrow mind couldn't see it, I also mentioned that I liked the original UFC with the Legends like Ken Shamrock, Royce Gracie and Don Frye. Presently, UFC is making a joke out of itself with tight jockstraps and stupid rules. So grow up, and read before responding.

gamer082009
gamer082009

What's exactly so different from this and UFC? I wonder if this one will be any better or worse!

scoonie1
scoonie1

Yeah small-business, even before UFC went with THQ, Dana White went to EA and brought them the idea of making a mixed martial arts game. And they replied that mma isn't a real sport and that none of the fighters are real athletes. But when UFC Undisputed comes out, EA wants to make a MMA game. EA are a bunch of as*hol*s who shot down a golden opportunity to make a great game with all the well known fighters.

Small-Business
Small-Business

actually undisputed was being made first and once EA saw how much hype and following it was getting they started making one they even have an interviews with one of the developers where he says they asked EA first and they said no it wouldn't sell

xnjones
xnjones

looks nice so far cant wait for the next trailer of game play so i can really make a decision on if i want to buy it or not

skabinflaff
skabinflaff

If you ever visit the forums I think you'll find the devs actually interact with the community alot and seem really passionate about the sport, plus the game's been in production for over 2 years, so it doesn't make sense to say they are piggybacking off undisputed's success - the ball was already rolling before they were anywhere near a release date for 2009. At the end of the day we'll hopefully get two fun MMA games, concentrating on different aspects of the sport. People who choose for whatever dumb reason not to buy both games are the only people who are losing out. You should embrace the flourishing MMA scene and just be thankful that we will have 2 great games by the end of the year.

Djin
Djin

What I don't understand is why everyone really thinks this can compete against UFC 2010. They obviously made this because they FINALLY noticed they can milk the life out of MMA. So they are going to use an engine they already have and just tweak a few things to make it MMA. I cannot stand EA.

Djin
Djin

@laimis911 You are trying to compare MMA to boxing? You really are uneducated. Of course if you get on top, 75% of the time the fight is over. It's just how it works in real life. When all you do is box and stand in front of each other, of course it's going to last a lot longer than a MMA match. You really are ignorant.

jokethis21
jokethis21

UFC 2010 will own this. EA probably too so much from UFC 2009.. I mean its no coincidence they are "suddenly" making MMA fighting games!! Shame EA

laimis911
laimis911

ufc 2009 its so easy game even on hardest 2010 will be like last year all the gameplay,if you going on top the figth is over ,i always have to play lie dumb as....because dont want to win the fight in first round,but when im playing fight night 4the gameplay its much more balanced on G.O.A.T mode ant you sometimes playing even 6-8 rounds,so the same fn4 engine will be in ea mma and you can expect much better game than ufc2010(ufc its more arcade for kids)

Amauris96
Amauris96

I have a feeling this game is gonna give me that amazing punching feeling considering they made Fight NIght Round 4 and all the other ones, so they should be able to make this game amazing easily. EA makes many sports games so it seems right if this is a Great game that meets all expectations.

theshamonofsexy
theshamonofsexy

looks ok, but UFC 2010 is gunna be way better, after all it is made by THQ

Backlash24
Backlash24

Looks great thus far ... excited for it ...

PsychoWWEFan
PsychoWWEFan

@XboxGuyxx and chaldoboy14 The newest WWE game SVR 2010 got a HUGE overhaul, and is really good compared to the past few games. Anyways, I liked UFC 2009, but I still think PrideFC for PS2 is the best MMA game. I didn't like the UFC game as much because it seemed like almost every fighter fought the same. Hopefully EA Sports MMA will give some of the fighters something unique like PrideFC did. Also It better have a good create a fighter mode....UFC 2009's IMO sucked.

chaldoboy14
chaldoboy14

I do want UFC to be better, but come on, think about it. It's the same studio that brings us Smackdown vs. Raw. Remember HCTP? How awesome it was? And that everything that was awesome was progressively removed year after year and new features that no one cared about were added? Yea that company, I'm worried, UFC 09 was disappointing. Lets say they make an awesome UFC game, I'm worried it might get Smackdown'd where all the good stuff gets removed or worsened, and gimmick features that no one cares about get added. I'm just saying. Seeing Smackdown downfall since HCTP (2004) doesn't exactly make me confident in UFC, not saying EA MMA will be good either, we'll have to see about that one.

2ndr3smw
2ndr3smw

This game might do to UFC 2010 what Skate did to the Tony Hawk series.

Scottish_rite
Scottish_rite

From a gamer's perspective and a true mma fan, I have to say that UFC 2009 undisputed was the biggest disappointment in a sports game I've ever seen. It was all about pattern recognition and puzzle solving. What a huge disappointment from THQ! Not much improvement from their first UFC game on the Dreamcast ten years ago. So Dana goes out on a big PR campaign and brags about the addition of southpaw fighters. Are you kidding me?!? So that's the highlighted feature of the game? You should have had left-handed fighters from the beginning. THQ is going up against a giant in EA and they're going to get tapped out quickly. A company like EA already has all the experience and wisdom required to put together the best and most realistic mma fighting game the fans have ever seen. EA has a proven track record with the Fight Night series of games and I can guarantee you that this game is going to exploit all the holes and weaknesses regarding the rules and regulations that govern UFC competitions.

Djin
Djin

@XboxGuyxx So you think EA is the only company allowed to make the smallest changes in sport games year after year after year? Please shut up. You sound like a fool.

Djin
Djin

@IRISH_VANDAL I couldn't agree more with you. Reguardless of what you and I say, we will get a bunch of thumbs down. This is Gamespot and it's ruined by immature children and people who think their views of EA are the only views. For everyone who thinks EA will not fail are foolish. Reguardless of how many MMA organizations there are, UFC is the biggest one, and no one will really care about the others. It is when the gamer starts buying into crap that we'll get a flood of crap MMA games. We should just leave this area alone. I know there are a dozen or more organizations, but does anyone really care about any other then UFC? I sure don't. I am also a jiu-jitsu student. So for people to think I do not know what I speak of, are fools. But whatever. They can have their watered down FightNight 5... I mean EA MMA (what a joke).

mechberg
mechberg

@pungaboy -- Enough people have pointed it out that, despite my earlier contention, I've changed "octagon" to "cage". Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Thessassin
Thessassin

Man im not saying this wont be a good game but calling it EA Sports MMA? are they seriously dumb enough to thing that the name will hold up against UFC 2010? EA messed up and pissed off dana so i do believe that they reap what they sow when UFC just demolishes it.

pungaboy
pungaboy

@BrianEk As a point of information, the UFC actually does have a patent on the eight-sided cage. No other fighting organization in the world can legally use it. Miller, because he is not a UFC fighter does not fight in octagons.