Rearranging Your Opponents FaceBy Kudo Tsunoda
Executive Producer, EA Canada
Hey! My name is Kudo Tsunoda, and I am the executive producer on EA Sports Fight Night 2004.
In our last developer diary, we talked about the genesis of our game's most innovative feature, Total Punch Control. This feature allows you to control your fists with the analog sticks to throw precise punches. Gone from gameplay are the days of complete button mashing. Landing punches is now a skill you have to master.
So one thing we are very focused on doing in Fight Night 2004 is giving gamers an immediate graphical reward for landing punches on their opponents. Fortunately, boxing provides this naturally, since boxers' faces are constantly being damaged and deformed by the impact of fists. Punch impacts have never been done justice in other boxing and fighting games.
Gathering the reference materials for this part of the game was the most bizarre research task of the project. We put together thousands of photos and videos of viscous cuts, grotesque swelling, and devastating knockouts. And we went to great lengths to bring this part of boxing to gamers in Fight Night 2004.
The damage your fists will cause is broken down into three parts: punch impacts, facial damage, and knockdowns.
Getting punch impacts right was especially tricky. We watched endless hours of slo-mo video and looked at thousands of pictures of when power shots landed directly on boxers' heads. We wanted to see exactly what was happening to boxers' faces right at the point of punch impact. The three most noticeable effects were sweat flying off guys' heads, blood spraying out of existing cuts, and the ripple of boxers' facial flesh as it distorted from the power of the punches. Fight Night 2004 has all of these effects, the most impressive of which is the deformation of the boxers' faces when they get hit by punches.
In the replay cameras, you can watch from multiple slow motion angles as your opponent's face completely distorts based on exactly what punch you throw and from what angle. The realism of this feature is stunning, and it really adds to the trash talking when you land a clean shot on your friend and then can taunt him as his face caves in on impact. In the never-ending quest for the most realistic effects, we even went so far as to capture many facial reactions using our motion capture system. All of our standard boxing animations were done with "mocap," but it is the innovative use of motion capture to gather these facial animations that brings Fight Night 2004's effects to a level never before seen in other games. The stunt people we used to capture these animations certainly earned their money that day!!
While seeing your punch crush your opponent's face is awesome, one of the easiest ways to see who is winning a fight is how beat up a boxer's face is from repeatedly getting hit. During the course of a fight, boxers' faces bruise, cut, and swell in sometimes epic proportions. This happens dynamically during a fight, and you can really see this happen as you are hitting your opponent in Fight Night 2004. Bruises develop in the exact areas where your punches are landing; you can break your opponent's nose with clean shots to the center of his face; landing punches repeatedly around a boxer's eyes will cause the eye areas to swell dynamically during a fight. The more you pick at a specific area of your opponent's face, the worse the damage in that area will become. Eventually cuts will open, and the blood will start to flow. The cuts in the game look really sweet! They have a great viscosity to them.
One thing I am really proud of about our damage system is that it is not just a visual effect. Like we have tried to do with all features we put into Fight Night 2004, the damage done to a boxer has a realistic effect on the gameplay. With the great defensive capabilities of Fight Night described in the last developer diary, you need to be able to block and lean out of the way of punches in this game, or you are in trouble. It is no longer a nonstop slugfest, so you need to keep your guard up. However, the more damage done to a boxer in the game, the harder it is for a boxer to protect himself. For example, if a boxer has a bad cut near his left eye, he will not be able to react defensively to punches coming from that side of his face. Like in real boxing, he has a harder time seeing the punches as they are coming toward him. This means once you start doing some damage to your opponent, you can repeatedly drive punches in to the blind-eye side of his face to really put the hurt on!
Of course, the biggest payoff for landing a great punch is seeing a knockdown. Your fists are like giant wrecking balls, and there is nothing more satisfying in our game than seeing your opponent's body crumple to the canvas after a devastating punch. One of the things I have always hated about other boxing and fighting games is the totally precanned animations they use for knockdowns. No matter what punch you hit a guy with, you get the same knockdown over and over. It is so repetitive and completely unlike real knockdowns.
In Fight Night 2004, we implemented a revolutionary new knockdown system that, like in real life, gives you a completely unique knockdown each time a guy gets knocked senseless. Our knockdowns are all based on real-world physics, not precanned animations. How a boxer hits the canvas depends on the type of punch landed, the power of the punch, the speed of the punch, the angle of the punch, and the way the boxers' bodies are moving at the time of impact. You can knock down a million boxers, and you will get a million unique knockdowns. The Fight Night 2004 knockdown system has totally captured the effect of a boxer getting knocked out cold while his whole body drops to the ground defenseless. If you are really good at the game, you can hit your opponent as he is falling for extra damage! Again, visual features in the game go beyond just graphical effects and can be used to your advantage during gameplay to win the fight.
The Fight Night 2004 damage system works incredibly well with its addictive multiplayer gameplay. Boxing is the ultimate head-to-head sport, especially in video games. No other game gives you the opportunity to go one-on-one versus an opponent to beat him into submission by dominating him physically. When you see the results of the pounding you are putting on the friend you are playing with, it takes the competition and trash talking to the next level. It's really hard not to gloat extensively when you see your friend's face ripple under the impact of your punch (while he's got a cut open over his eye that's causing blood to stream down his face). Furthermore, it's totally satisfying when your friend's boxer gets knocked out cold and falls to the ground while you're pounding him with punches as he heads toward the canvas. Outstanding replay angles provide plenty of opportunity to add verbal elaboration to the beating you've just handed to your friend.
We here at the office have each had thousands of fights, but it just never gets old getting in the ring with somebody and going at it head-to-head. It's how we relieve all our interoffice stress!
Thanks again for letting me talk about our development experiences on your site! GameSpot is one of the best places to go for industry news and information. I check your site daily, and it really helps me to stay informed with video game happenings.
The game is EA Sports Fight Night 2004 for the PS2 and Xbox. Check it out! I hope you have as much fun playing it as we've had making it!