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Fight Night: Round 3 Interview

Game: Fight Night: Round 3
Company: EA Sports

Soon the latest round in the hit EA Sports series, Fight Night, will arrive in stores. Ricky Tucker AKA Starscream recently got a chance to interview Kudo Tsunoda, EA Chicago Executive Producer of Fight Night: Round 3, about what we can expect in the latest release.

GV: Getting right down to business, what has changed between Fight Night Round 2 and Round 3?

KT: As with every version of Fight Night made at EA Chicago, Fight Night Round 3 has new control mechanics, punches, mini-games, and new innovative features in our create a champ. There are 3 new Impact Punches that allow you to change the course of the fight with one big punch. Our new in-the-ring mini-game throws you in to a quick first person view during the fight. The new Create Style feature gives gamers the ability to customize their boxer's fighting style as much as their look. Our Career Mode is a lot deeper. A new Self-Deterministic AI system has been implemented. The EA super punch shows the most devastating punch impact effect seen in any game or film and the new HUD-less gameplay on the Xbox 360 really makes you feel like you're in the ring during the fights.

GV: What role do Impact Punches play in Round 3?

KT: The thing that makes boxing such an exciting and drama-filled sport is that any time during a fight, any one punch can end it. You can be getting your butt kicked for 11 rounds, but if you can land one big KO punch, you can win the fight. This type of big, devastating punch in Fight Night Round 3 are the Impact Punches. There are 3 Impact Punches: the Haymaker, the Flash KO Punch, and the Stun Punch. The Haymaker adds extra power to your punch and gives you a quick adrenaline boost if it lands. The Flash KO Punch instantly drains your opponent's health bar leaving them hurt and on the brink of going down. The Stun Punch triggers the first person mini-game, and with one big punch you can drop the other boxer to the canvas.

GV: Stun Punches have a rather unusual feature that go along with them; can you elaborate on what went into making that decision? Also, how will Stun Punches play out during online matches?

KT: The first person mini-game highlights the impact of the Stun Punch. We wanted to simulate what happens when a boxer lands a big punch that really hurts the other guy. With one big punch, your opponent is dazed and forced to go on the defensive. The boxer that lands the Stun Punch can go crazy throwing punches trying to knock the other boxer down. The first person view was a good way to highlight this action via a quick in-the-ring mini-game. It is also a camera perspective we have always wanted to put in the game.

GV: Is there a Risk versus Reward component involved when using Impact Punches?

KT: Since the Impact Punches do so much damage, they are very high risk to throw. The control mechanism for throwing an Impact Punch is simple in-game. It is a natural extension of the Total Punch Control system. But in order to land an Impact Punch, you need to set it up and throw it at the right time during gameplay. Impact Punches are big, powerful punches but they take longer to throw. Until later in the fight when a boxer is tired, Impact Punches are easy to block and counter. The best time to use them is after a parry, or later in the fight when your opponent's defense is slower to respond.

GV: How many boxers are featured in Round 3? Are there any new faces on the roster?

KT: Including all the secret unlockable characters, there are 32 boxers in the game this year. The boxers make up some of the biggest rivalries in the history of boxing including LaMatta vs Robinson, Ali vs Frasier, Leonard vs Duran, Gatti vs Ward, and Barrera vs Morales. We also signed some of the biggest boxers we did not already have in the game like Oscar De La Hoya and Marvin Hagler.

GV: Are there any boxers you would still love to get in the game but haven't been able to?

KT: I am a big fan of Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Ward. He is just starting out in his career so hopefully we can include him in future versions.

GV: When trying to get boxers to "fight like themselves", did you just watch a lot of tape, or was the team able to bring in some of the fighters to really study them?

KT: For every boxer possible, we brought the fighters in to the office to work specifically on the implementation of their style in the game. Each boxer was able to capture and give feedback on movement styles, punching styles, and defensive style. They also designed their Signature Punch. This was not possible with all fighters obviously as some are not in their premier fighting shape. But we amassed an enormous amount of fight footage for all boxers - cataloging with video each animation we wanted to capture.

GV: Were any boxers or trainers brought in to evaluate the game and give feedback, similar to how NFL players are brought in to evaluate Madden?

KT: Every boxer that comes in to EA Chicago we sit down with for extensive design feedback. They give us feedback on the previous year's game as well as all the new features we were putting in to Fight Night Round 3. The great thing is that most of the boxers play the games and are big gamers. So they are not just giving you feedback on how to make it more like real boxing, they are helping to make Fight Night a better overall game!

GV: How does the Create-A-Style feature work? Will all of the components be available at the start, or will they have to be unlocked (i.e. Fight Ali, learn parts of Ali's style)?

KT: Besides being able to completely customize the look of your boxer, in Fight Night Round 3 you also have complete customizable control over how your boxer moves and fights in the ring. You can choose your boxer's stance, movement style, punching style, and defensive style. Movement style affects your ring generalship. Punching style alters the power and speed of your punches. Blocking styles vary in how much protection they give you or how easy it is to counter punch from that style. Overall there are more than 800 unique fighting style in the Create-A-Style feature in Fight Night Round 3. Not all styles are unlocked at the beginning of the game. Many of them need to be earned by beating different real life boxers in Career Mode.

GV: How does the new Rivals system tie-in with the rest of the game?

KT: Rivalries are emphasized both in the Career Mode and in the ESPN Classics Mode. In Career Mode, there are big milestone fights on the way to winning a title belt and you develop rivalries with fighters in your weight class. They taunt you via movies and even will fight you during weigh-ins and press conferences. In ESPN Classics Mode you can relive the best fights throughout history. The best rivalries of your career are also saved and become ESPN Instant Classics.

GV: Will this system be integrated into the game's online component? Or are the offline and online games handled as two different entities?

KT: As you progress through your offline Career Mode and fight licensed boxers and rivals, you unlock new styles you can add to your Career Mode boxer. As your Career Mode boxer gets stronger from training and adds new styles, you can save out your Career Mode boxer and fight with them online. In previous years you could only take characters you maxed out in Create a Champ online. But in Fight Night Round 3, people who take time to go through the offline Career Mode will have superior abilities with their character online as well.

GV: Compared to the character models seen in other next-generation games, the fighters in Round 3 look more realistic and less like shiny, plastic dolls. What is the Round 3 team doing differently to get these results?

KT: Fight Night Round 3 has the most realistic characters and environments of any game I have seen in next gen games. For the boxers, we start characters with a 3 million poly laser scan of their head and bodies so we can get the exact contours of their physiques. We then do a high resolution photo-shoot where we take digital pictures of each part of their head, face and body. We end up using those photographs for the in-game textures. This is a similar type process we use for our environments. So when people say they have photo-real graphics in game, with Fight Night Round 3 it is not just a boast - we really do have photo-real graphics. The textures we use in game are photographs! But while you can have a very real looking picture of a character, the character has to come to life in game. EA Chicago has developed one of the premier next gen emotion systems for characters that I have seen on the Xbox 360. The facial expressions and eyes of our boxers go a long way in bringing the characters to life.

GV: Other than the expected graphic upgrades, what are the differences between the Xbox and PS2 version compared to the Xbox 360 release of the game?

KT: If you want to make a truly next gen game, then you don't just upgrade the graphics to make the game look better, you use the extra processing power and the realism of the graphics to change the way the game is played. For Fight Night Round 3 on the Xbox 360, we used the boxer emotion system not just to make the characters look more alive, but to build a more immersive gameplay experience that takes you off the living room sofa and puts?you inside the ring for the duration of the fight. One of the major obstacles to doing this has always been the 2D health and energy meters that make up the game's HUD. In order to see the health and energy of your boxer, you always had to pull yourself out of the TV to look at the crappy bars on the top of the screen. On the Xbox 360, there is no HUD for Fight Night Round 3. You are able to see the damage of your punches right on your opponent's face. You can see how hurt they are by the look in their eyes and their body language. You can see if a boxer is getting tired by how hard they are breathing, if their hands are sagging downwards, and if they are moving and punching more slowly. All of the information you need to win the fight you get from looking right at your opponent in the ring, just like boxers do in real life!

GV: Since you probably can't go into much detail about the PS3 version, how much of the 360's power is Round 3 utilizing? In other words is Round 3 what we can expect to see next-generation, or is this merely a taste of what is to come?

KT: We are already fully taxing the processing power and memory of the Xbox 360. This was necessary to deliver what is the best game currently on the Xbox 360. But as with each console, we have learned a lot about how to work on the 360 hardware and will improve with each game we make at EA Chicago. Fight Night Round 3 is a truly next generation game both graphically and gameplay wise. But you will continue to see games that deliver a high level of innovation and that really push the envelope coming from EA Chicago!

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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