EA Diaries: How we built MMA

EA Diaries: How we built MMA

By Simon Sherr, Animation Director,

December 3rd 2010 at 2:00PM

How EA Tiburon modernised the fighting genre with ANT and Autodesk technology

EA Tiburon is bringing real contact to gamers and modernizing the fighting genre with EA SPORTS MMA, an entirely data-driven, authentic mixed martial arts (MMA) video game.

The Xbox 360 and PS3 title immerses players in an intense competition where anything goes. Gamers are given complete control over moves across multiple combat disciplines as they assume the roles of world-class fighters in matches and training sessions around the globe. 

I’ve watched the genre evolve with games like the Fight Night franchise and knew from its inception that EA SPORTS MMA would be a game changer.  The goal with EA SPORTS MMA was to transform the sport of fighting into a realistic simulation game that would enable strategic gameplay as opposed to the traditional button mashing we’ve seen in this genre.

We turned to our proprietary middleware solution, ANT, which leverages HumanIK middleware, and MotionBuilder and Maya software to develop a sophisticated fighting engine and realistic characters that would draw gamers into the world of MMA.
 
ANT and Autodesk technology have played a part in our production pipelines since 2004. ANT gives us complete flexibility – we can implement almost any idea with total control. The fact that HumanIK is integrated into both ANT and MotionBuilder is a huge advantage for us, because the interoperability between these tools is essentially seamless.


Delivering Authenticity
EA Tiburon borrowed and harvested technology from existing games across the EA SPORTS spectrum to build an authentic MMA experience.  To keep controls accessible and responsive during combat interactions we extended and customized our animation system to complete tasks it’s never done before.

At the core of the system is ANT, which constructed the gameplay, sped up iterations and enhanced the overall production pipeline. Character animations were exported out of MotionBuilder and imported into ANT, placed into controllers and eventually added to a layered state-machine where they were triggered.  This allowed us to add new punches or ground positions, change the timing windows and more.

The creation of realistic human fighters and precise character interactions were also priorities from the start. With help from Maya software, the team was able to previsualize believable fighters that resembled their real-world counterparts. We also made extensive use of HumanIK and MotionBuilder to deliver complex character interactions through procedural awareness, foot pinning, touch tags and player scaling – tasks that might not have been executed as well without the middleware’s full body-inverse kinematics.

“Relative IK,” which leverages HumanIK and MotionBuilder to create complex relationships between the virtual combatants, also proved essential to our system, especially in developing realistic character interactions between fighters of varying body builds.  


Making Future Combat

In producing EA SPORTS MMA we hoped to bring new innovation to the fighting genre, and I believe we’ve accomplished that. I’ve never worked on a game with this level of polish until now.

Choosing the right talent and tools enabled us to develop a game that surpasses former levels of fluidity, quality of motion and control response, and a data-driven system with excellent architecture for expansion. We’ve built a system that will ease the future construction of similar games in the genre.