The Oldest Game On Earth

The Oldest Game On Earth

"To the untrained eye, it looks gratuitous and barbaric, as though the promoters had simply swept the dregs of the local bars into a ring, to beat each other for the pleasure of the crowds. However, no amount of blood - or 'bloodsport' advertising - can obscure the elegant depth of the game, once you know where to look. Contrary to popular belief, cage fighting is indeed a thinking man's game, one no fighting game - not Street Fighter, not Tekken, and certainly not the dreaded Ultimate Fighting Championship: Tapout and Sudden Impact series - has adequately captured."

Pat Miller takes a revealing look at the sport of mixed martial arts, or ultimate fighting.

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I haven't played those games, but I'm a fan of MMA. It is definitely a shame that the complications that arise both strategically in the stand-up fight (that is, who's going to try for a takedown, or a fighting clinch [a la Couture], or a KO punch/kick and the tactics that arise in the ground fight haven't been adequately translated.
In the end, licensed games often rely too much on making a quick buck off of the name and very little effort is expended on their design.

I would fault MMA for not pushing for a better product, and the game companies for not showing MMA reps what is possible. In the end, both lose out because we, the gamers, lose out on a poorly designed game.

I think this article needs another once-over by the copy editor.

At any rate, martial arts is an elegant sport, and mixed martial arts is the natural extension of it. Good read.

Excellent article Pat, and I have to agree with your concerns over the next UFC videogame iteration; which, by the way, is slated for 2009, i believe. I, myself, train in Jiu Jiutsu, not Brazilian though, and I have to agree that the ground game is so unbelievably complex that an entire game could easily be built on just that. Anyone whose ever tried to submit a high ranking Juju fighter knows how fast things go sour, especially when their groundwork is up to snuff. I'm curious though how a developer could implement the different 'stances' in a ground game. Gaurd, half guard, side control, and so forth and the different counter attacks from those positions would take a long time to learn the buttons for and even longer if you didn't know the game. I guess what I'm trying to say is that 'fans' of the UFC (or pride or bodawg or whatever you watch) who don't really know what goes on on a technical level may have trouble understanding how to play a properly designed MMA game.

Still, I remember an interview with one of the Gracie boys who explained Jiu Jitsu as a branching art - that every move you're opponent makes offers numerous counter attacks. And for every counter attack you make there are numerous ways your opponent can respond, much like the way a tree branches out. Can this be done in a game?

nikudada:
Still, I remember an interview with one of the Gracie boys who explained Jiu Jitsu as a branching art - that every move you're opponent makes offers numerous counter attacks. And for every counter attack you make there are numerous ways your opponent can respond, much like the way a tree branches out. Can this be done in a game?

I think it can, but it requires that branching style of attack/response to be designed in as a feature. The current crop of UFC games are designed to allow you to jump in and play at beating people up, which is not the same.

I think it's possible a game involving the kind of branching attack/defense you describe may be impossible for someone without the requisite training and discipline to play, but they used to say that about playing guitar, too.

So I guess the question is: do we want a faithful simulation of MMA, which would be unplayable for most people, or a game that mimics the most important feature set. If the latter, then someone has to decide what's most important.

Again, using Guitar Hero as an example, it was decided that holding a guitar and causing music to come out was more important than replicating exact chord structures. Clearly those who make UFC games believe handing you a controller and allowing you to play act beating someone down as a model of a UFC fighter is more important that replication jiu jitsu.

Russ Pitts:

nikudada:
Still, I remember an interview with one of the Gracie boys who explained Jiu Jitsu as a branching art - that every move you're opponent makes offers numerous counter attacks. And for every counter attack you make there are numerous ways your opponent can respond, much like the way a tree branches out. Can this be done in a game?

I think it can, but it requires that branching style of attack/response to be designed in as a feature. The current crop of UFC games are designed to allow you to jump in and play at beating people up, which is not the same.

I think it's possible a game involving the kind of branching attack/defense you describe may be impossible for someone without the requisite training and discipline to play, but they used to say that about playing guitar, too.

So I guess the question is: do we want a faithful simulation of MMA, which would be unplayable for most people, or a game that mimics the most important feature set. If the latter, then someone has to decide what's most important.

Again, using Guitar Hero as an example, it was decided that holding a guitar and causing music to come out was more important than replicating exact chord structures. Clearly those who make UFC games believe handing you a controller and allowing you to play act beating someone down as a model of a UFC fighter is more important that replication jiu jitsu.

But clearly, what we want and need and what good game design calls for would be a middle ground--some challenge on the controls/gameplay, but without black-belt level groundfighting knowledge.

nikudada:
Jiu Jitsu as a branching art - that every move you're opponent makes offers numerous counter attacks. And for every counter attack you make there are numerous ways your opponent can respond, much like the way a tree branches out. Can this be done in a game?

At high levels of play, games like Soul Calibur III do indeed play this way.

A casual player could watch a match like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ6-O1f_90Y

...and not see anything much different from their own button mashing. But even an intermediate player like me can see a ridiculous number of branching strategic decisions going on in these matches. The trouble is that to make sense of it all you have to know the move sets of both characters involved and their particular strengths and weaknesses. You have to know timings, attack heights, damage levels, throw ranges... and all that just to spectate, never mind participate.

Of course, something like SCIII is nothing like cage fighting - it's pure fantasy. Still, I'm not sure it's the mechanics that are lacking. Good fighting games have some of the most polished mechanics of any game available. It's just not always easy to see.

 

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