As a complete and completely unabashed video game and MMA nerd, I’ll go to great lengths to protect and defend my two favorite hobbies. So when I heard about an upcoming video game called “Supremacy MMA”, my early reaction ended up being pretty hostile. I didn’t like what the game seemed to be saying about the sport I loved, and I didn’t have a problem vocally saying so. It would appear that I’m not alone in that sentiment, and I’ve repeated it on more than one occasion. So you can imagine my surprise when a representative from the game approached me and asked to let the team behind “Supremacy MMA” give their side of the story. What follows is exactly that: the first part of a four-part interview with Daryl Pitts, the Executive Producer of Kung Fu Factory and one the major driving forces behind “Supremacy MMA”.
Part 1: The Tough Questions
Oliver Saenz of Fighters.com (Fighters.com): By embracing the ultra-violent aspect of MMA, doesn’t this reinforce negative stereotypes?
Daryl Pitts, Executive Producer, Kung Fu Factory (Kung Fu Factory): Before I answer that, let me give you some context. First off, we love MMA. LOVE IT. We eat, drink, sleep it. We’ve been working on MMA games since UFC Dreamcast, and some of our team members train and fight, we watch all the fights, follow the fighters, and it’s definitely in our DNA. That said, we also love video games, and we enjoy the escapism, the non-reality of gaming, and like most gamers, we relish the freedom they give us to do things that we can’t do in real life.
Kung Fu Factory: Now with regards to Supremacy MMA, our game portrays the lives of authentic underground fighters. Sometimes things happen in the ring that we necessarily wouldn’t want to broadcast on pay-per-view, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should censor our game, does it? And you can look no further than Fight Night Champion, EA Sports’ first M-rated title, for proof that ratcheting up the violence and the drama isn’t reinforcing anything negative for boxing or otherwise, it’s there for gamer satisfaction. We think we’re on to something if the big guys like EA are also taking this real-life approach to sports games.
Kung Fu Factory: Ultimately, we’re designing a fun game play experience, according to what we know users will enjoy. And in our medium—videogames— sometimes exaggerating the over-the-top stuff provides more satisfaction. That’s really all there is to it. I wonder if you or those same people ever felt bad about running over pedestrians in Grand Theft Auto. It’s just a game. We’re not commenting on the politics of MMA as a sport, and we certainly don’t want to hurt progress of the sport in any way.
Fighters.com: Supremacy MMA seems to have an “us against the world” feel based on how it’s being marketed towards MMA and fighting game fans, isn’t this a step in the wrong direction given how MMA is still struggling for mainstream acceptance?
Kung Fu Factory: Maybe you’re misunderstanding the game. This is a game based on the real world of underground, no holds barred, cage fighting as it exists today. We’re working closely with real fighters like Jens Pulver and Jerome Le Banner, who tell us their stories of their early days when there were no referees, no doctors, and no money. Again, we’re not trying to take MMA as a sport anywhere, up, down, forward, backwards or otherwise.
Fighters.com: The development team consists of people that have worked on previous UFC and fighting games. Can you go into specifics? Who worked on what, and when, and for how long?
Kung Fu Factory: Back in the day, in 2000, I was producer on the original UFC for Dreamcast. More recently, our team worked for a couple of years on the Mortal Kombat franchise. In 2007-2008 we were developing a realistic MMA simulation game for Elite XC, (the game was cancelled mid-development by our publisher.) In 2008-2009, the majority of staff at Kung Fu Factory (we were called JGI Entertainment during this period), worked on UFC Undisputed 09. Our team was integrated with THQ and Yuke’s, and we served in various roles across the different titles, specifically in the planning, choreographing, and animating of the ground transitions, and submissions. We also handled all the knockout animations.
Fighters.com: UFC 2010 undersold and it had the name of the largest and most famous MMA promotion in the world attached to it. EA Sports MMA had the name of one of the largest video game companies in the world attached to it and its sales were abysmal. Why enter into a niche market that seems to be struggling?
Kung Fu Factory: Having done work as a support studio, we cut our teeth working on professional sports style games like the titles you mentioned. With the experience we earned, we decided we wanted to go in a different direction and build a game with a unique tone, approach and play style. So even though the current ESPN-like simulation games haven’t performed recently the way their publishers would have hoped they would, we believe our game will still appeal to both MMA and arcade fighting fans regardless. Yes, our game features MMA fighting, but our game is darker, there’s a story, and the gameplay is much faster, more like playing Mortal Kombat in the cage. So we feel like there’s actually an opening in the market based on the aforementioned customer fatigue. Our game isn’t ‘more of the same’ like the others, and it’s that difference that I think will attract both sets of fans.
Fighters.com: What do you say to the people who think your game is just an attempt to cash in on the surging popularity of Mixed Martial Arts?
Kung Fu Factory: Like I mentioned above, we’ve been doing fighting game for a long time, going back to 1999 I’ve been producing on MMA games. Given our company’s history in this genre, and considering that we began work on our Elite XC game for years before we joined the UFC Undisputed 09 development team, it’s safe to say that we’re not just jumping on some bandwagon.
Part 2, 3, and 4 will be up within the next couple of days. Some of the highlights include: what control scheme the game will use, what type of online mode fans can expect, details on MMA legend Jens Pulver’s involvement with the game, and more.