The downloadable content for Fight Night Round 4 continues to roll out from the folk at EA Sports. In addition to a several paid DLC packs adding extra boxers to the game, EA has released free title updates, including the much-ballyhooed button controls to the game. The latest DLC, available in December, will include two new features: Old School Rules and Ring Rivalries. The DLC will be available for Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network next month and will cost 800 Microsoft points or $9.99, respectively. To learn more about the Old School Rules and Ring Rivalries feature, we recently chatted with Fight Night 4 gameplay producer Brian Hayes.
GameSpot: Before we get to the details: How does EA Sports go about planning its DLC? Are these packs planned before the release of the game? Are they potential features that simply didn't make it into the final product? What determines whether or not a DLC pack is going to be released?
Brian Hayes: Yes and no. Prior to the release of the product, we make a tentative schedule of dates we'd like to release DLC, but the boxer list, game modes, and game updates aren't flushed out until we receive feedback from our users. We're in constant contact with our community members on the Fight Night 4 forums, and we use this information to determine the potential appetite and content for our DLC releases.
GS: What's the number-one request Fight Night 4 fans have had for DLC since the game's release?
BH: The biggest requests have been for boxers, and we do our best to go after the guys people are asking for, but as we have mentioned in the past, negotiating contracts with each fighter individually can be a tricky process.
GS: What is the Old School Rules mode? Are the fighters boxing bare knuckle?
BH: Old School Rules mimics the way people used to box before the establishment of the Marques's of Queensbury Rules. The fight is not divided into timed rounds; instead, the boxers only return to their corners for a break when one boxer is knocked down. Also, there is no judging; the winner is determined by the last man standing. In our game, the boxers are still wearing gloves. Modeling the hands and creating new physics collision volumes is a tricky endeavor. Bare knuckles will have to be something we look at if we update this mode in the future.
GS: With the ref only in there to count for knockdowns--and not stop the fights based on damage or penalize fighters for illegal blows--do these fights tend to go longer than a typical match?
BH: They tend to go a little bit longer than normal matches in my experience. But sometimes a single round can last a long time if neither boxer is able to put his opponent down. I've had fights go on for over 12 minutes before a knockdown is scored. It can be a real test of your endurance.
GS: Should you even bother with defense in an Old School Rules match? Is there a particular style that works well in this type of match?
BH: Defense is just as important as always. It's still the best way to create an opening for a big punch, which is a great way to hurt your opponent and put him on the floor. What really changes is the long-term strategy in these matches. Without regular round breaks, the boxers are unable to recover health and stamina the same way they do in normal matches. Coming out very aggressive can pay off, but if your opponent can weather the storm, he might have an advantage later on if you expend too much energy.
GS: What is the Ring Rivalries mode?
BH: Ring Rivalries is kind of a quickplay mode where we automatically select the boxers, venue, and round length to re-create some of the greatest rivalries of all time. With our roster of fighters, including boxers we have added via DLC, there is quite a list.
GS: How did you decide which fights should be part of this mode? Could more rivalry fights be added in the future via DLC?
BH: We just looked at our roster and identified which boxers had faced each other in compelling matchups previously and put them on the list.
GS: What are some of the standout ring rivalry matches in your opinion?
BH: Well, we have classics like Hagler-Hearns, Ali-Frazier, Tyson-Holyfield, Barrera-Morales, Morales-Pacquiao and controversial fights like Whitaker-Chavez. We even went out on a limb and put Pacquiao vs. Cotto on there. The fight is on November 14, and the DLC drops on December 3. We're thinking that some people are going to want to relive that fight no matter how it goes down in real life.
GS: Will the presentation differ for Ring Rivalry fights? If you win a deciding Ring Rivalries fight (such as Ali vs. Frazier III), will there be a special presentation or achievement attached to it?
BH: Unfortunately, no. We had difficulty securing the rights for imagery and archival footage that we wanted to incorporate.
GS: How are you handling boxer attributes between the different fights? Have you done anything to mimic the real-life pace or events of the actual fights (like the flurry of activity in the first round of Hagler vs. Hearns)?
BH: First off, the boxer attributes can vary from the attributes in normal Fight Now mode. For example, in Ali-Frazier I, we give Frazier a little bump and Ali a little dip in ratings to mimic where they were in their careers. For Ali-Frazier III, we give them both little adjustments from their ratings in the first fight. Another example would be some of the earlier Pacquiao fights; we have to adjust his ratings to be on par with the weight class he was in at the time and not drop him in as a welterweight juggernaut against a little Erik Morales.
As far as the AI is concerned, it's always up to the users to do their part. If you go into Hagler vs. Hearns and start running and hiding, then the AI is going to adapt to that behavior, and it won't necessarily play out like it did in real life. It takes two to tango, as they say.
GS: Thanks for your time, Brian.