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AusGamers Danny Bilson UFC 3 Undisputed and THQ 2012 Video Interview
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 03:19pm 06/12/11 | Comments
AusGamers caught up with THQ's Danny Bilson, head of core game development at THQ. Read on or watch for what he had to say...

Watch the full video interview with Danny Bilson embedded in HD above, or click here for a direct link.

AusGamers: Ladies and gents, welcome back to AusGamers. Once again, we find ourselves out in fabulous Las Vegas -- thanks very much to THQ -- and I have the man from THQ, Mr Danny Bilson with me today.

You guys know that we’ve spoken to him before about a number of things, but today we’re here to talk about UFC 3 Undisputed, which I actually had a chance to get hands-on with before and there’s a lot of improvements this time around Danny -- it seems like you guys have stepped up your game.

Could you just run us through the process from the first game right up to here and what you learnt in the process and what you, as the lead in core games at THQ, felt the philosophy was going forward?

Danny Bilson: Sure. I think the original intention they thought at the beginning was “we can release this every year like WWE”, so we went on a very short production cycle to the second one and definitely improved it over the first game, but I felt we didn’t do enough for the game and put enough new features in -- make it absolutely essential for everybody who bought the first game to move up to the second game.

So we figured “You know what? We need to take more time; we need to take more time, add more features, add more content; really give people a brand new UFC experience, no matter how long that took”. So it’s taken us almost two years this time to put out UFC 3 -- which will be out February 14th -- and now we have PRIDE rules -- a whole new type of gameplay which I think... not only is it a replication of the sport, but I also think it’s a great fighting videogame -- as well as, of course, the normal, or current, UFC octagon fighting. PRIDE just brings in more “oh my God” moments I think.

And we have two new weight classes, so we have seven and there’s 150 fighters in the game. We reworked a lot of the combat and animation systems. Some things we changed in the second one, we went back to a few things that worked better in the first one and really -- after the experience from the first two games -- taking more time makes a much better UFC game this time.

I mean, that’s our job of course -- for every game to be better than the last one -- but again, the price of admission is a lot for the average gamer, so we really have to give them all the value. And most important to me was “can we make a game for everyone? For every UFC fan and every fighting game fan?”. So we put in a second control set that’s not as complex; you can compete against someone who’s using the full advanced controls, but I know myself, I prefer the more simple controls, which make it easier and a little more... I wouldn’t say arcadey, it just makes it easier to play and I found that to be a big win. So that more and more people will be able to have fun with UFC 3.

AusGamers: Now my other Australian cohort here, Mr Joab Gilroy from GameArena, is actually quite good at the game and I was a bit worried about going up against him before so I was playing around with amateur controls, then it took me around three to four goes and we both switched over to technical [controls] and I beat him a couple of times. So the learning curve isn’t too hard to go from one to the other -- obviously you can learn a lot more complex moves, but I found that was a pretty good transition.

Danny: Yeah, I mean I really think that the easier mode is not really lacking that much, it’s just a few subtleties. So once you get it down, you can add a few more subtle moves to it in the advanced mode. But again, what’s really important for the first timers with the game is to be able to pick it up and have a good time. I think on the previous two games, it was very challenging and took a lot of practice to get good at.

I remember I think on the first game I spent 90 minutes in training. 90 minutes and I was like “oh my God, how am I going to remember all this?”.

AusGamers: Did you win your first fight?

Danny: No [laughs] not at all. And that was against the computer, right? But with this one, again, I think it’s just more fun for more people.

AusGamers: Another thing, as Dana White said before, one of the reasons that he went to THQ in the first place was you guys said “we can make it real” and that’s what he wanted, he wanted to make it real. Now, obviously it’s an iterative process no matter what you do, but do you guys feel that initially you made that step in the right direction?

Danny: Yeah, I think the first game was fantastic and I credit what we call “the fighting team”, both in Agoura [Hills, California,THQ HQ] and Yukes in Osaka who built the game. They did an unbelievable job in those first two and a half to three years -- from zero to getting that first game done. Everything we’ve done, as you said, is iterative from that and all the learning from one to now and now to three. And again, taking more time with three -- and we even added in a little more resources recently to polish up some more corners of it -- to just give everybody the best UFC game ever made and I’m really, really excited about that.

AusGamers: Ok, now lets move on to... this is dropping in February, but you’ve also got Saints coming out in November, which is pretty big. I had a big chat to the guys at Tokyo Games Show about that, they’re really excited. Eric [Barker, Volition Studio Manager] is in Australia right now I think, pimping the game out.

What’s 2012 for THQ from a core perspective? There was a few shakeups this year with the Melbourne stuff that went down and a couple of projects that seem like they got lost, but grabbing Crytek UK -- for example -- to take over Homefront, I’m personally hugely excited for that, because I’m a huge TimeSplitters fan and I played Goldeneye to absolute death, so I think that’s a really good step -- and Darksiders 2.

So I just want to get and idea of where you guys are now after a little bit of tumult, moving forward in 2012.

Danny: Sure. The issues were... the world is highly competitive in core games right now, and if you’re not putting out an excellent game with great marketing, and essentially almost creating an event, you’re not going to be able to succeed. So it wasn’t that some of the games that we stopped production on weren’t good -- they were good -- but I wouldn’t say... we didn’t know whether they were going to be unbelievably awesome.

Look at what everybody else is doing. All of the other companies are doing the same thing. Only the finest games will survive now on console in core. So there were some different issues with some of the stuff that we stopped making -- and I’m telling you they were good games, it’s just “would they be able to compete with what you’re seeing in the marketplace right now?”.

So now, to answer your question: in 2012, we have Darksiders 2, which is really shaping up to twice what Darksiders 1 was and Darksiders 1 was a very good game. It’s looking really, really good; we’re going to be talking about it a lot after the first part of the year.

AusGamers: Well Daniel Isaac [Vigil Developer] had me really pumped for it out at TGS.

Danny: Yeah, we showed some stuff at TGS. I don’t know how much I’m supposed to talk about it, but just the straight playthrough is 18 hours minimum. So it’s an epic game and there’s lots of new features we’re going to be rolling out over the next six to eight months until it comes out next year.

We have Metro: Last Light coming, which I think is going to be an epic shooter. Very unique; special. I look at it like... have you seen Metro: Last Light? It’s looking very competitive with some of the best shooters in the category and I think it’s going to be a very interesting place to go, into the Metro next year.

We actually have a game we haven’t announced yet and I can’t announce tonight -- but we will be around December -- that’ll be coming out next year that is also very exciting. Continuing our traditions with WWE, I know that this year’s WWE 12 is absolutely the best one ever done. It’s got new technology and a whole new look and a new campaign and we’ll be continuing that on into next year as well.

So the mission for us really is to make less games and invest what we have into those few games and make them world class, and I’m absolutely sure that UFC 3 is world class.

AusGamers: A seminal favourite was WWE: Allstars that just came out, which had a great over-the-top feel; very arcadey. We were talking about this before: do you think that there’s ever a moment, and a time, and a place -- given that THQ works both the WWE license and the UFC license that we could maybe get some legends in a similar kind of component?

Danny: You mean UFC legends or a UFC arcade game?

AusGamers: A UFC versus WWE legends!

Danny: You know, it would be a blast, and I would say that the first step in that direction is having Brock Lesnar in WWE 12, so you can play with Brock in WWE 12. Of course, he was in the WWE.

AusGamers: I was excited to hear that, I was hoping he was going back to WWE for a little bit there, but UFC’s still got him.

Danny: Yeah, I don’t know much about that, but I do know that he’s in the game and Rock’s in the game. But as far as mixing them, some of that’s up to the UFC and WWE -- it’s really up to them, if they would ever want to do that. It could be pretty... I don’t know, who’s rules would you play by?

AusGamers: I guess you’d just have over-the-top moves for everybody or something like that...

Danny: I do think there’s a place some time in the future -- we’re not doing it or anything -- but I think there’s a place to do a really arcadey UFC game kind of like Allstars. And maybe in years to come we’ll do that, I have no idea, but it’s always in the back of my mind as something that could be really fun.

AusGamers: Ok, we’ll leave it there because I know you have a bunch of other interviews to do, but I’m really happy that the game looks great and that you guys have really pushed it. I’m really looking forward to the games that you guys have coming out next year.

Danny: Saints Row: The Third, which of course comes out November 15th -- along with WWE on the 22nd, but Saints Row: The Third is really special, there’s no other game like that. I can say that, it’s not an overstatement. I’m sure you’ve been seeing and running some of the videos yourself that we’ve been releasing. You probably have a copy back in Oz to play by now and it’s absolutely a good time. It’s one of the wildest thing they ever put on a console.

AusGamers: Well thanks very much for that Danny. Have a good show. Cheers.

Danny: Thank you very much.