Just as career mode is the most popular mode in the EA Sports UFC franchise, created fighters are far and away the most popular characters in the game. That's been the talking point used by developer EA Vancouver as the team members discussed why they've scrapped modes like Ultimate Team and doubled down on innovating and evolving gameplay, career mode, and Create-a-Fighter. We caught up with EA Vancouver one last time ahead of launch to chat about what changes were made in the Create-a-Fighter space.
The big change this time around is that rather than going in and tweaking every single aspect of the fighter's attributes and skills, you now choose from 12 distinct archetypes. According to creative director Brian Hayes, this is less about restricting player choice and more about ensuring that the online experience is balanced. "Previously, we had a system where most people would just create a fighter and give them 100 everything and level five everything, and they'd all be very O.P.," he says. "We're taking an approach where we want to make sure people can use their created fighter in as many modes as possible because it's a very popular fighter for people to use. We needed to find a system that makes these fighters fair, competitively balanced against other licensed fighters in the game. That's why we came up with the archetypes."
Early on, the studio toyed with the idea of a point-allocation system, where the higher you raised attributes, the more costly they would be, but the team figured out that a system like that is highly exploitable. "We had considered doing other things like a development-point limiting system," Hayes says. "What you end up having is people will find a way to min-max the system and find the way that is the most slightly O.P., so everybody will go do that. It's not the same as having 100 OVR created fighters everywhere, but you still end up with basically every created fighter being just one thing. We could still end up in a situation where the game comes out and we find out week one or week two that these two or three archetypes are a little bit O.P. Well then we have the ability to go in and tune those things like we would with a licensed fighter. So we're going to bump these archetypes up, we're going to turn these other archetypes down so that those 12 archetypes still have great variability, but competitive balance, which is a positive for people using created fighters against licensed fighters or against other created fighters online."
Another positive side effect from the archetype system is it makes the fighter-creation process much more streamlined. No longer do you have to go in and tweak every last attribute for each fighter you create. Now, you simply go in, choose the fighter's type, enter their vital information, and craft what they look like. However, just because the process of defining a fighter's skillset is more efficient doesn't mean the cosmetic side has been pared down.
In fact, the sculpting tools from UFC 3 made the trip to this fourth entry, plus there are more hairstyle and facial hair options, as well as new body types, hair colors, and tattoos. In addition, UFC 4 adds new categories for clothing and emotes. Clothing ranges from tame items like custom shorts and gloves to over-the-top cosmetics like animal masks, heavy chains, "anime hair," superhero masks, unicorn t-shirts, and royal crowns. The emotes let you give your fighter a bit more personality in the pre- and post-fight sequences, as well as in-fight taunts.
As you create your stable of fighters (up to 20 total, according to Hayes), you can designate one fighter to be your Universal Avatar. That fighter follows you across modes and can conform to whatever weightclass you are playing. That means that if you create a fighter at 170 pounds, if you set him as your Universal Avatar and want to use him in a 135-pound bout, he'll shrink proportionately to that size and associated skillsets. Universal Avatars are also able to swap out their archetypes on the fly, meaning that if you're a kickboxing archetype and you want to counter a jiu-jitsu or wrestling specialist, you can swap out your skills with ease.
For more on EA Sports UFC 4, check out our in-depth look at the game as a whole, or learn more about career mode through our recent deep dive. EA Sports UFC 4 hits PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on August 14.