UFC 5 devs on the UFC/WWE merger, Bruce Lee's hair & features that didn't make the cut

UFC 5 devs on the UFC/WWE merger, Bruce Lee's hair & features that didn't make the cut
Images via EA Sports

Written by 

Morgan Truder

Published 

7th Sep 2023 09:46

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with the UFC 5 development team to chat about their upcoming game. It has been three years since the last UFC game, which means there was plenty to talk about, including the challenges of working on such a fresh sport, as well as what didn’t quite make the final game. 

During our brief chat with the team behind the game, we touched on their love for the sport, 

Here is everything we spoke about with Nate McDonald, the Lead Producer on UFC 5, Jazz Brousseau, Associate Producer and Raman Bassi, Associate Producer. 

Fedor in UFC 5
Click to enlarge

UFC games have traditionally not been annual releases, does this offer any opportunities or challenges, and on top of that, how do you tackle adapting a sport like UFC that is still so fresh, constantly growing and finding its identity? 

Nate McDonald: “To cover off your first point, because it’s [UFC] not a sport that has a season, right? There is no start and finish to the season. It isn’t as important for us to come out yearly and I think that’s for us at least, we look at that as an opportunity to really be able to dig deep year over year, title over title, and look into what are the big differentiating features that the community wants for the next version of the game. We are able to take our time, really understand that, and build a feature set that’s focused on what that community wants. 

So when we think about a three-year gap between UFC 4 and UFC 5, that enabled us an opportunity to make the move over to Frostbite technology, to that engine, in a way that will allow us to deliver it at a high quality because we didn’t have to rush it in. I think that is definitely one of the benefits and I think, with the way the sport is set up it allows us to have more than a year between titles. 

The other thing I would add is, to the second part of your question, was about the sport and its growing popularity. You’re right, it is growing and it is becoming very popular. UFC 4 has over 20 million players that have played that game so that community is quite strong. So, knowing that we have 20+ million players in UFC 4 - figuring out the balance between how that community continues to grow, also making sure we are building a definitive title, and a title that is a leap forward in UFC 5 is how we landed on this is the time to launch.”

When considering the cover stars, how do you decide on who you have on the cover each time around? 

Nate McDonald: “On this team, we are all really big UFC FIght fans, so we usually start by identifying a few different fighters that we think represent the best and brightest in that particular moment - when it is time for us to put out a new title. 

For UFC 5 in particular, with Valentina Shevchenko, Alexander Volkanovski and Israel Adesanya, they really proved to be great fits, because they're not just global stars in the UFC Octagon but they also integrate extremely well with the direction we have taken the franchise this year. 

We’ve purposefully partnered with them because they really embody as real as it gets, the spirit of the sport and the game, from our perspective.” 

There are a lot of Celebrities and influencers, who are now taking part in these combat sports now. Did you ever consider including any of them? 

Nate McDonald: “Sure those conversations come up. We have those conversations with the UFC, they partner with us very closely on the roster. Not just for licensed fighters, but also for anybody we want to add to the game who doesn’t necessarily fight in the UFC directly. 

There isn’t anybody in addition to who discussed yesterday that is planned for the immediate term, but we are always having those conversations about who could be there in the end. So just to reiterate who will be in there for the pre-order at launch, we’ve got Muhammad Ali, we have the four alter egos with Alexander Volkanovski, Valentina Shevchenko, Jon Jones and Israel Adesanya. We have got Mike Tyson and Fedor Emelianenko, and then the four Bruce Lee alter egos, that we are also really excited about.”

Bruce Lee does feel like a tentpole of these now, it isn’t quite a UFC game without Bruce Lee. 

Nate McDonald: “Yeah exactly, but in the spirit of differentiation we have made some different-looking models of him this year, so it’s not what you have seen in the previous ones.”

Raman Bassi: “He has strand-based hair this year, so he is going to look really good.”

I saw the strand-based hair in the preview, as a fan of other EA Sports titles I’m aware of it, but here it looks outrageous. 

Nate McDonald: “Yeah, UFC will be the first EA Sports title where strand-based hair is actually functional in gameplay, it’s not just in the NIS sequences, it’s not just for the canned stuff only. It will be fully functional while you’re in a fight, rendering at 60 frames per second.”

I was also wondering, with the introduction of the Online Career Mode, what do you think that can offer as the new game mode in UFC 5? 

Jazz Brousseau: “Yeah, we are really excited about Online Career Mode, it’s something that our community has been asking for for some time. A space where created fighters can fight other created characters, away from the licenses - the Jon Jones’ and Connors [McGregor]. 

So having online progression mode is something that we have been wanting to do for a while. The introduction of fighter evolution from Career Mode is an interesting twist because for the first time, there's some familiarity between offline and online careers, and we’re hoping that will migrate players over.”

You mentioned this [Online Career] is something that the community has wanted for a while, do you think it offers further opportunity to the community, especially with things like streaming? 

Jazz Brousseau: “Yeah, I certainly see opportunities for streams on Twitch to be influenced by their own community and how their players grow their character in Online Career. There are definitely opportunities there.” 

I am aware you may not be able to talk about my next question but with the UFC/WWE acquisition earlier in the year does that impact development at all? If it didn’t impact this game, will it be something to take into account later down the line? 

Nate McDonald: “I honestly don’t know. The UFC, we haven’t had any conversations about that yet. My understanding is that the UFC and WWE sides still need to be sorted out before they can communicate with each other. So no, we have not crossed paths yet. For right now, we will do our thing on UFC and 2K will do their thing on WWE.” 

My last question, was there anything that you really wanted to do but because of time or it maybe wasn’t possible, was anything left on the cutting room floor? 

Raman Bassi: “There is always stuff on the cutting room floor.”

Nate McDonald: “Yeah there is always stuff. I would say the biggest one, and it has come up a fair amount in other conversations, which is why it stands out. Maybe I am exposing myself a little here, but that’s fine - someone's gonna put it in an interview. But, because we were so focused on making sure we really nailed this, quality-wise, with the migration over to Frostbite tech - crossplay was left on the cutting room floor. 

"That was a conscious decision to make, to ensure we are delivering as high-quality a product as we possibly can, with the effort that it took to migrate the game over to Frostbite. We think that is a decision players will be willing to compromise once they get the game in their hands because we really believe strongly in how it looks and feels this year. 

"The 60 FPS was also a pretty significant endeavour.” 

The new impact system also looks great and like it was a big undertaking to get right. 

Nate McDonald: “Yeah, that was significant for us, because of the authentic damage and how, you know ‘as real as it gets’ being one of our pillars. Frostbite was able to give us that, it was really important to bring that into the game strategically so that it wasn’t just a visual thing. So with the Real Impact System, if you end up with a broken nose, because of what Frostbite has been able to give us that will have an impact on stamina, which then will have an impact on your strategy and how you will proceed with the rest of the fight.

"It was really important to not just make it a visual masterpiece but tie it back to gameplay in a way that now will make you think more strategically about how you need to proceed with the fight.” 

For everything else we know about UFC 5 so far, check out our UFC homepage

Morgan is one of the Guides Writers at GGRecon. He first started writing about games for fun whilst doing his BA (Hons) in History and Film. Since then he has turned this passion into a career and was previously an Editor at VideoGamer before joining GGRecon. Despite enjoying all sorts of games, he can often be found playing Football Manager, Red Dead Redemption 2 or Sekiro.