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n n n n Animation teraction engine and targeting system. “[ANT] is kind of a fight-game engine, but it allows us to build whatever we want. It has a lot of functionality,” says Sherr. ANT contains a modular animation framework for which the EA developers can build plug-ins that are very specific to a certain genre of game, what- ever that may be. Initially used for Madden NFL 2006, followed by Fight Club and even NHL 2007 (using Fight Club’s state machine for skating and analog stick handling), ANT was vital in making NBA Street: Homecourt and Def Jam Icon—the first titles built using the full suite of character interaction tools and the Fight Club state machine. Currently, ANT is being tweaked by the Battlefield group for the third-person shooter. Tree years ago, when Sherr was convinced that the engine had matured, he, along with MMA creative director Jason Barnes and a handful of others, began working on a proto- type to use during their creative pitch for an MMA game. “We wanted to do a true fighting simulator because a lot of us felt it had never re- ally been done before,” says Sherr, himself a for- mer kickboxer. “As with any EA Sports game, it was important for us to stick with what our brand is really about—to make the sports game fun and to teach people about the sport.” According to Sherr, players expect compel- The game contains groundbreaking animation through the use of Relative IK, developed at EA. Fight Club With the rise in popularity of mixed martial arts, it was only a matter of time until EA threw its expertise into the ring, creating a title that depicted the gritty sport. Known as ulti- mate fighting, no-holds barred, or cage fight- ing, the sport combines the techniques from boxing, martial arts, and traditional wrestling. Competitors can kick, punch, tackle, grapple, and wrestle in any combination while protect- ing themselves using these same techniques. Tis wide range of motions, along with the unpredictable nature of the sport, would pres- ent many complex challenges to a develop- ment team that ventured into this sport. It was not a game that could be rushed. As a matter of fact, when Simon Sherr, animation director at EA Tiburon (Orlando, Florida), began working at the company more than seven years ago, he and others pitched the idea of making an MMA title. But, the timing wasn’t right on a number of fronts. But then, a few years later, things started to change. Te popularity of the sport took off on a global level with leagues like Strikeforce. Ten for- 14 January/February 2011 mer VP of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertain- ment Business Division, Peter Moore, a fan of MMA, jump over to head up EA’s sports di- vision. Perhaps most important, ANT—EA’s propriety middleware suite—was maturing and had reaped success on titles such as Fight Night and NBA Jam. Several years ago, Sherr himself was one of the primary inventors of ANT, a game engine for EA that would enable internal teams to build just about any type of fight- ing game, having pitched the concept for the tool in 2004. Te idea was to globalize the animation tools within EA to save time and money. After kick-starting ANT develop- ment, he later led the Fight Club team—a collaboration among EA Chicago, EA Cana- da, EA Japan, and EA UK (the RenderWare physics guys)—to build a fighting engine in- side ANT, which, at the time, was already in existence but still in its infancy. Te fighting engine consisted of a layered visual state ma- chine tool set, a variable asset system (later called “game states”), character physics, pro- cedural awareness, and a robust character in- ling realism in titles from EA Sports. To that end, the trio sold EA execs on the concept and began assembling a small team (by EA standards) from within and outside Electronic Arts. By design, most were former martial art- ists, boxers, or fighters of some type—all of whom were passionate about the title. “We re- ally wanted to create something that made us feel like we were stepping back into the cage, or ring, or whatever it was,” Sherr adds. Move in the Right Direction According to Sherr, the team had already done groundbreaking work with games like Fight Night, but MMA promised to be an entirely different animal. “MMA is an anything-goes style of fighting, which is much more fluid and unpredictable than Fight Night,” he notes. “From a design standpoint, we set out to cre- ate a peer simulation fighting game, giving the players absolute control. We took punch con- trol and went way, way beyond.” With Fight Night (developed by EA Cana- da), the team took ANT—which already ex- isted—and built a suite of tools internally so that the engine could support specific fighting: in that case, two-player interaction. EA Tibu- ron began MMA using Fight Night’s version of the ANT tool, rather than the Madden version

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