UFC 2010: Exclusive Q&A With THQ's Omar Kendall

Designer Omar Kendall shares the first details of UFC Undisputed 2010 in our exclusive Q&A!

In a single year, THQ's UFC Undisputed series has gone from relative unknown to a lynchpin in the publisher's annual lineup. Powered partly by the growth in popularity of the real UFC, the debut entry in the series met with tremendous success in 2009 and has sold 3.5 million copies since its release in May. That's the kind of success that demands a sequel in the form of UFC 2010 Undisputed, which THQ and developer Yuke's will be delivering on May 25. It will be released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, as well as later in the year on the PSP.

While it's not surprising to learn of a UFC sequel, finding out who the face of UFC 2010 will be may come a surprise: current UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar will be the cover athlete for the game. Lesnar, who won the heavyweight championship from Randy Couture at UFC 91, has been the subject of much speculation of late. After pulling out of a scheduled fight at UFC 106, rumors surrounding Lesnar's health problems left many insiders wondering when or if the big man (who previously wrestled in the WWE and, in 2003, served as the cover star for THQ's WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain for the PlayStation 2) would return to the UFC octagon. Recently, however, Lesnar appeared on ESPN with UFC boss Dana White to announce that he would be returning to the UFC in 2010, which was good news both for fans of the sport and the video game.

Return to the octagon this spring in UFC 2010 Undisputed.

As for UFC 2010, the folks at THQ and Yuke's have been hard at work improving on what was a very strong debut in last year's game. To get a handle on all of the changes and additions, we had a chance to speak exclusively with Omar Kendall, one of the game's designers. Our conversation touched on all of the major features in this year's game, as well as on some of the smaller improvements that will make their way into UFC 2010.

GameSpot: Let's start by looking back at UFC Undisputed 2009. What do you think were the greatest strengths and weaknesses of that game? What was the most surprising feedback you received from fans?

Omar Kendall: First, I'd like to thank GameSpot for showing UFC 2009 Undisputed so much love. The site had some of our biggest supporters early on, and it did not go unnoticed!

One of UFC 2009 Undisputed's biggest strengths is that the game really captures the true essence of the UFC. This is something the team tried really hard to make sure happened. And based on the overwhelming response from UFC fans and the gaming community, we think we achieved our goal. As for a greatest weakness, we can be pretty harsh with the self-criticism, so we're constantly trying to improve the whole game--even stuff the fans or reviewers may not have touched upon. And, ultimately, we feel that this drives us to work even harder.

The most surprising feedback we received from the fans was the overwhelmingly positive response to our demo. When we set out to make a genre-defining game like UFC 2009 Undisputed, there's always that doubt that what we create won't quite mesh with what the public was thinking how a next-generation UFC game should play. It was really exciting to meet and, in many cases, exceed the lofty expectations of the community.

GS: What were the top priorities with this year's game?

OK: The top priority with UFC Undisputed 2010 is a continued march toward being perceived as, "As Real as It Gets." We're constantly tinkering with game systems, graphics, and modes to ensure we deliver the experience our fans deserve.

One example of this is the revision of our fighting technique system and the introduction of the fight camp concept to our Career mode. In UFC 2009 Undisputed, players chose a striking technique and a grappling technique at the beginning of their careers and then worked exclusively on leveling those two techniques. This year, players will be able to visit fight camps and work on individual moves that they want to improve on or add to their arsenal. For example, if players want to strengthen their guillotine choke or learn something more esoteric like a Peruvian Neck Tie, they'd go to a fight camp and work on it. Afterward, they'd be free to go learn something else from another fight camp, like a judo throw or a special takedown.

GS: UFC 2009 successfully married deep combat and easy-to-learn controls. What's changed with combat in this year's game?

OK: We're glad to hear GameSpot feels we were successful in this regard. The fight system in UFC 2009 Undisputed is something we pride ourselves on with the game. We're constantly looking for ways to improve on our systems, and one big way is in the further improvements to our ultimate fight control. In UFC 2009 Undisputed, clinch grappling and ground grappling were handled with multiple control schemes, which could be cumbersome to juggle depending on the fighter's orientation. This year, we undertook a new design philosophy that allowed us to better align our clinch grappling and ground grappling. In essence, players will now perform clinch pummels and throws using the ultimate fighting control the same way they performed transitions in UFC 2009 Undisputed.

GS: There was some criticism of the submission system in UFC 2009--the button mashing/stick rolling wasn't a particular favorite and there seemed to be a lack of flash submits. How has the submit system changed this time around? Is submission success still tied to your opponent's stamina level?

OK: While we've done quite a bit of tinkering with the submission system, the stick rolling method of submission execution and escape (known semiofficially as The Shine) will return. It's something that's steadily become a signature element of the game, and we're pretty fond of it. What we did want to change was the button mashing/brute force escape we utilized last year. This enabled fighters with high strength to be just as good at getting out of submissions as fighters with high submission defense.

Now all fighters will utilize The Shine, but the parameters that govern the success of getting out of a submission have changed. For UFC Undisputed 2010, the submission calculations will use either a fighter's submission defense or his current energy level expressed as a percentage--whichever is higher. For example, let's say a fighter has a submission defense skill of 50. If the fighter has 100 stamina and full (100 percent) energy, the game will look at this energy level, and the fighter will have a great chance of getting out of a submission. If the fighter has 100 stamina and has used the majority of his energy reserves, the game will look at the fighter's submission defense skill; in this case, shine hard! We feel this system is fairer to players and more representative of how an actual submission struggle would go down.

As for flash submissions, all we can say is stay tuned! We've overhauled much more of the submission system, and we can't wait to show it off.

GS: Will the cage have any effect on gameplay this time around? If so, how will it be used?

OK: We've implemented full cage support in UFC Undisputed 2010, and its effect on gameplay is huge. Since this year also sees us introduce new fighting techniques, including Greco-Roman wrestling, we feel that this, combined with all the other gameplay elements, like using the cage to prevent a takedown, is sure to have a dramatic impact on the way the game is played.

Our design approach to implementing cage gameplay allowed us to utilize our universal grapple system concept. On the ground, we have a rising hierarchy of positional advantage based on how much threat potential one fighter has in relation to another. In the case of two equally skilled fighters in open guard, for instance, the fighter on top is in a slightly better situation than the fighter on the bottom. We express this by saying the top fighter has a 55/45 advantage over the bottom fighter, expressed in the damage output of his strikes, the lethality of his submissions, etc. Put the same two fighters in the mount position, for instance, and that advantage changes to something much more dramatic, like say a 90/10 in favor of the top fighter.

We've utilized similar thinking with regard to the cage. Let's say we have the same two equally skilled fighters in the single collar tie position in the middle of the octagon. We consider this position to be one in which both fighters have equal advantage--a true 50/50 position. If one fighter manages to push his opponent up against the cage, he'll restrict his movement, limit the force he's able to generate on his strikes, and make it harder for him to regain energy; thus, shifting the balance in the favor of the free-standing fighter. It's an elegant system that we feel accurately represents the strategies employed in a real UFC fight.

The cage is your friend and your foe in UFC 2010.

GS: What's new in terms of fighter customization?

OK: This year, we wanted to give players more control over the customization of their fighters, but we also wanted to make the process smoother and more player friendly. For UFC Undisputed 2010, we've substantially increased the number of available parts for creation, but we've also added a ton of new features and improvements. One of the biggest changes from the previous game is the way we allow players to allocate individual moves for their fighters. Last year, we had base styles, each of which came with a set of predefined moves. This meant that all Brazilian jujitsu (BJJ) fighters had the same moves and techniques as other BJJ fighters. We wanted to change that this year, so we opened it up and now allow players to assign individual moves to their fighters on a move-by-move basis. There are well over 200 moves that can be assigned, mixed, and matched to create truly unique fighters.

Also new this year is the ability to fight orthodox, southpaw, or switch and assign a dominate power hand. Players can also choose their navigation style from a number of different postures to give their fighters more of a distinct look. There are several other customizable features that we'll also be sharing over the next few months.

GS: Adding sponsor logos to clothing in UFC 2009 required a ton of menu navigation. Is it easier this time around? Have any other aspects of sponsorship changed?

OK: We knew we had to make some improvements to this area of the game, so we completely revamped this system. The new system, which we've also applied to the placement of tattoos, uses more of a drag-and-drop style interface. Gone are the predefined spots where logos can only be placed and the series of menus that were required to place a logo. This year, it's as simple as picking shorts, picking a logo, and choosing its location on the shorts. Speaking of clothing, many top brands in MMA are back, along with some new ones, so players will have access to an extensive assortment of new designs and logos. In addition, we are also allowing players to pick or create their own post-fight clothing, which is worn during winner announcement scenes and certain areas in Career mode.

GS: The career mode in UFC 2009 was a good first step, but it was also heavy on menu navigation. How have things changed with UFC 2010? Will your career still be limited to a certain number of years?

OK: We'll be talking a lot more about our Career mode experience later this year, but what we can say is that we've put a lot of time and effort into making this mode an even more enriching and authentic experience for players. For example, an element we felt was missing from last year's Career mode was the sense of investment in a fighter and each of his fights. We've included several new features to help build up each fight and give them more meaning. An example of this is a new system we've added called "Game Is Watching You." The GIWY system tracks everything players are doing during the fighter's career and reflects it through commentary during fights. Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg will reference the fighter's previous fights, his training partners, titles held, and other things he does during his career. Opponents will also take notice of performances and adjust their fight styles and strategies to counter strengths and take advantage of weaknesses. We're excited at the progress we've made to this year's Career mode over last year's [mode] and will release more information down the line.

GS: What's new with fighter training?

OK: The core methods of fighter progression from last year were really well received and are still in place. However, we've made some improvements and new additions that we look forward to sharing with everyone later this year.

GS: Tell us about the new fighting styles in the game. Will fighters still be limited to two fighting disciplines?

OK: In addition to our six returning fighting techniques (boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, wrestling, judo, and Brazilian jujitsu), we've added three more: karate, Greco-Roman wrestling, and sambo. We've also moved away from the concept of one striking fighting technique and one grappling fighting technique in favor of a system that allows fighters to learn individual moves as they see fit. We feel this more accurately represents the type of cross-discipline training that the modern UFC fighter needs in order to compete at the highest levels.

GS: Online fighting was a crucial component of last year's game. How has online improved this year?

OK: We're really excited about what we're offering online players in UFC Undisputed 2010. We have a pretty dedicated online following to this day, and in order to bring even more people together, we're introducing online fight camps. Fight camps unite many different fighters under a single banner to compete against fighters from other fight camps to unlock new milestones and rewards.

Fight camps, which feature their own matchmaking and leaderboards, aren't just about competition. After all, how do players get better at the game if they don't practice? Players can use the virtual space of their fight camp to spar and teach each other the ins and outs of the game. Players can even bring in their Career mode fighters for an online training session to train with other players and get an extra career "cred" boost. Those boosts make better fighters and those better fighters make better camps. We're sure that fight camps are going to have a great impact on UFC Undisputed 2010's online landscape, and we look forward to showing everyone how it all will work later this year.

New fighting styles, new online modes, new ways to pummel your buddy into submission. What's not to like?

GS: Will it still be possible to "max out" created fighters for use online or will there be some restrictions in place to keep things more realistic?

OK: We know this was a problem for some players last year, so we've taken steps to prevent maxed-out CAF characters from being created and have instead applied more of a realistic approach to attribute and skill advancement. We'll be releasing specifics later this year.

GS: Finally, any other modes or aspects of the game we need to know about?

OK: We've added several new modes this year, including a Title and Title Defense mode, as well as a Tournament mode. In addition, our Classic Fights mode will return with some substantial changes. We'll be releasing more info about all of these modes later this year.

GS: Thanks for your time, Omar.

Look for more on UFC Undisputed 2010 this weekend as we get our first look at the game in Las Vegas.

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Discussion

108 comments
Mr_Manikin52
Mr_Manikin52

No Wii version...good thing that I got a Ps3.

CrazyRabbi
CrazyRabbi

"wish shane carwin was in this game..." Why wouldn't he be?

barn79
barn79

wish shane carwin was in this game...

Purely_Awesome
Purely_Awesome

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

GWA17
GWA17

i really hope that they improve a lot on the career mode because it annoyed with all the menus and how long it took between each fight

rambo_2k8
rambo_2k8

ye i agree hope they add more fighters they should put clay guida , vitor belfort, dustin hazelett an paul daley they are ace.

darealg
darealg

well i sure hope they have added a load of fighters and changnged the stats of some of the fighters from the 2009 game one of the most under rated fighters was Brandon Vera

MrDrew816
MrDrew816

Sounds like they're definitely putting a ton of effort and good ideas into this. I hope they allow a much larger selection of names to be announced for your CAF this year. 2009's selection was just terrible.

Seritonin
Seritonin

The first game was really good. This one should be even better. Can't wait to make a Southpaw fighter since I box Southpaw.

Fatherofangels
Fatherofangels

I would really love to see some game play videos and i wonder if and when we could get a demo but u are right a Paulo Thiago he is ugly in life and in the game

Shadow_th
Shadow_th

Hey Paulo Thiago looks as ugly as he is in real life.

DEATH775
DEATH775

Yes this is going to be awesome, loved the first game, definitely going to love this one even more.

bruinpride4life
bruinpride4life

hey they mentioned the peruvian necktie, so it would be a crime if C.B. Dollaway isn't in the game considering no one knew that move until he made it famous on TUF and using it in an actual match to win.

breannasboy
breannasboy

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

Fatherofangels
Fatherofangels

I am really hoping that Randy Couture and Mark Coleman is in this game it is kinda funny that they had the demo up and going at ufc 109 but did not have the main event fighters in the game that kinda makes me wonder but regardless it is still going to be a awsome game and i will be the 1st in line to pick it up on release day

diedante
diedante

I just hope the menus have been overhauled, that was about the only annoyance in the last one!! This game looks awesome, cant wait to see all the improvements the new edition brings to the table!!

Phosphorus213
Phosphorus213

Please THQ gods let us be able to run a career with an existing fighter so I can place the belts in the hands of the individuals that should have them instead of posers like cover boy Brock Lsbo

ThaElementz
ThaElementz

This guy sounds pretty enthusiastic about the upcoming game. Sounds like this year's UFC will be vastly improved. The last one kicked ass, hopefully this one will be just as good, if not better.

DiabolicalX
DiabolicalX

I hope there are more classic fights, I was disappointed there were only 12 fights, considering that I could think of easily 100 others that could be there too. Also it's great to hear they're ditching the rather limited pick a style progression in favour of learning different moves and skills, awesome to hear about the addition of cage control as well.

Sayed101
Sayed101

Omar Kendall......Omar is such a cool name!!

Nezerik
Nezerik

I have 2009 and its really great. Cant wait for this one

Xenogear272
Xenogear272

Good answer:"As for a greatest weakness, we can be pretty harsh with the self-criticism, so we're constantly trying to improve the whole game--even stuff the fans or reviewers may not have touched upon"- this man could be a great politician Lol!

atp77777
atp77777

getting 2009 then 2010 for sure I've been waiting for a fighting game like ufc

Loon3rBoon3r
Loon3rBoon3r

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

lostcali8
lostcali8

I'd pass on filling that guys bank account kiddo; being the cover athlete and all. Not too hot on giving money to one of the worst icons the sport has seen since the dark ages of MMA. Not cynical in the least. But assuming 2010 is going to be a better game than 09 before even playing it? Yeah that makes sense............

Mason-McGlasson
Mason-McGlasson

I can't wait! UFC 2009 348wins/144losses (Never quit but have been quit on many many times (my record would be better if it wasn't for all the quitters)! PSN: Skarred

olmedal21
olmedal21

This game will be awesome. i cant wait to start my online camp with friends and new friends that i will meet. it will be great to start your own camp or join oine with the top rank players to get better.

LS-Injection
LS-Injection

Games sounding like its going to be great. I like the idea of being able to place logos and tattoos anywhere you choose and not a predefined space, this will look a lot better, and good news that they got rid of all the menus, in UFC 09 they get tiresome. Also on the subject of tattoos, i hope they have a very decent variety, it i want a sleeve tattoo on my arm or leg i should be able to have that, decent tattoos this year is a must, and a WIDE variety would be nice. Overall i am mostly looking forward to the GIWY system, in career mode that's going to be interesting to see, especially if you retain the title belt for a number of years, will just add more to the game having commentators actually noticing you and keep track. So for me career mode and CAF is the stuff i am giddy for.. since i don't like online, lets hope the next bit of info is as good. :D

Hemzo
Hemzo

This looks like one awesome game! Looking foward to its release :D

jfcundiff
jfcundiff

That is the great part about competition. EA is going to push THQ to make a better product and THQ will do the same to EA. In the end, the customers will win.

JacksSmrkngRvng
JacksSmrkngRvng

Makes you wonder if a lot of the additions are due to the competition from EAs MMA game. Look at their track record with the WWE games. Very little improvement from year to year, and sometimes actually remove stuff and whatever they usually improve is not complete. This is a great reason why we need someone else making NFL games and license exclusivity sucks. Look at what EA was forced to do with their NHL and FIFA franchise because of competition. Yet without competition their Madden games remain broken and missing several things despite the fact they have been making football games for 20 years!! Thank God for Sony and The Show otherwise baseball games would be abysmal and probably be done as a viable game license. Even with competition from Sony, 2K still puts out horribly baseball games, imagine if they had true exclusivity.

CharlesSteak
CharlesSteak

Here's a question: How is it that we can get a Wii version of Smackdown vs. Raw, but not UFC? Sad.

Fatherofangels
Fatherofangels

and for all u people who said this game is just going to be an updated roster. u are really really stupid. you should learn how to read. they are really working to make this a much batter game and i will have mine on release day. cant wait to make everbody tapout

Fatherofangels
Fatherofangels

I love UFC 2009 and i cant wait for 2010 i am a big fan of mma and i cant wait to find out more about these fight camps and all the new moves this game is going to rock!!!

godek
godek

Will they fix the online lag i still cant play it online, and nearlly everyone i know who has purchased a copy is still getting bad connection i have 16mb connection. Hmmm just fix that and id be very happy

nsibbs
nsibbs

I like the direction so for. Lets hope this demo excites us and comes early like the last one. THQ Please focus on online play also.

ninjarob2007
ninjarob2007

Im looking forward to this although my only greivence with this from what theyre saing is the stupid stick rolling i found it more fustrating thqn anything, so iw as kind of hgoping they'd eithe A. fix it or B. take it out altogether and have a completely new control layout.

SithChampion
SithChampion

Sounds like everything from Undisputed 09 is upgraded and/or totally revamped. Thought the first game was good, its guaranteed this one will be better. Wonder if it will be better than EA Sports MMA. I'm just gunna get both.

lethalfate
lethalfate

@ lostcali8 Your going to pass over it based on the cover? How cynical are you? I'm not a big fan of Lesnar either but that's not going to stop me from playing a better game.

lostcali8
lostcali8

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

Latino1982
Latino1982

@Jack_n_Coke07: really!? so why dont you give it a try yourself? The beauty about the sport is the physical and mental conditio n of the athletes, I dont think there another sport in which you have to be extremely fit, not to mention how balanced your game has to be ... if you dont know, dont make stupid comments!

BigBacon87
BigBacon87

As long as the online functions properly. It did at first, then everybody started quiting before getting a loss and they made 'the patch' which added DNF ala SVR but didn't allow anybody to actually FIGHT! I've been trying to get into a game for months.. no dice. Support this one better don't just grab the money and run because I'd hate to see this become the new SVR with minor improvements year upon year.. even though I end up buying those games.

fedepal
fedepal

can`t wait!!! i lovee the style of the cover .. but i dont think lesnar has to be there... they should but bj penn... anderson silva.... or it would be cool that it had like many pictures of the actual champs or most famous fighters and hall of famers

ashylarry5500
ashylarry5500

@robtheguru They probably had Lesnar as the cover athlete because of how close his career came to ending, and besides Machida's title defense, I don't think there is a more interesting title situation.

tobelight
tobelight

Hope theres more freaking fighters to choose from. Career mode sucked on 09 cause u won the belt within bout 5 fights then kept fighting the same people over and over and over again. ADD MORE FIGHTERS