World of Mixed Martial Arts 2 Preview (PC)

At the end of next year, when we ring in the end of the decade, we may well reminisce upon it as the time when the sport of mixed martial arts really blew up and exploded onto the mainstream map.

With tons of fans and fighters coming from all parts of the globe, MMA has now evolved to the point where elite fighters such as Fedor Emelianenko, Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre are recognized and regarded as celebrities on the level of other professional athletes in the NBA, EPL, F1 and beyond.

Unfortunately, although the actual matches are often entertaining to watch, gamers have not had many entertaining MMA games to play -- the sole exceptions being the excellent Pride FC game released for the PS2, and perhaps the first UFC game released for the Dreamcast. Other than that, the cupboard had remained remarkably empty.

That is until 2007, when Adam Ryland, the famed creator of the wrestling-based text-sim games Extreme Warfare, Extreme Warfare Revenge and Total Extreme Wrestling, decided to try his hand at another, perhaps more legitimate form of athletic fighting competition. The end result, World of Mixed Martial Arts (or WMMA), was a fantastic debut text-sim title that enabled players to take on the role of a president/organizer like Dana White rather than that of a caged (or ringed) competitor.

All in all, WMMA was a fun and polished game that possessed enough modifiable and customizable elements to appeal to all factions of MMA fans, whether they mainly supported the UFC or were fans of foreign/smaller organizations such as DREAM, Strikeforce, WEC or others. And in typical Ryland fashion, he crafted an incredibly engrossing universe of fictional fighters and organizations that proved more enjoyable than any real-world oriented mod.

In fact, the excellence of WMMA is why I am now excited to preview what is in store for Adam Ryland’s newest release, World of Mixed Martial Arts 2, which is set for a full release on April 8 with a demo releasing on April 1.

Let’s Get It on

Before I begin, I want to clarify that all of this information is gathered straight from Adam Ryland himself, right from his developer journal/thread that he has been keeping since the beginning of this year. I encourage all of you to check it out for further particulars that I may not be able to fit in and cover within this preview.

When describing his approach to developing WMMA 2, Mr. Ryland describes it as a game being built atop the previous one, which is sensible reasoning since the first game was already solid. And in particular, the improvements in WMMA 2 come mostly in two varieties: entirely new features and refinements to existing game elements.

Within the first category, which I will be discussing first, many of those new features are genuine answers to some of the common problems in the first game, and hopefully they will make things easier for gamers who play WMMA 2.

What’s New

No doubt, one of the best new features is that now the user has the ability to book multiple events in advance, which is what is currently seen in the UFC. This is a big deal because the game will not only emulate the real world, but it will also give the player an easier way to plan for the future.

Another new feature is the inclusion of a new medical area that provides an overall look at who is not currently available to fight. Also, the new purse calculator instantly tells you how much a fighter could potentially earn -- depending on various contract clauses -- if he or she wins a fight. This basically eliminates the surprise of paying out an unexpected amount and financially ruining you in the process.

An underrated new feature could come in the way of new low-level independent events for unemployed lower-ranked fighters. You see, with the small amount of available companies in the original game, many of the lower ranked/rookie fighters could go a long time without fighting, and this feature will hopefully alleviate those problems.

There are also a litany of new smaller, miscellaneous features in WMMA 2. These include new changes to teams/fighting camps (camps now accept long-term or short-term visitors), fighter records that can now be split by promotions and new end-of-the-year awards (rookie of the year, female fighter of the year, fight of the year).

Other features include new tools for mod-makers -- ability to set historical start/stop dates for networks, etc. -- vast improvements in custom round choices, the ability to change parameters of any individual match in an event and an improved in-game processing speed (promised to be considerably quicker).

And finally, the newly included notepad -- similar to what is seen in TEW -- will allow users to jot down whatever important thoughts pop up while playing the game.

So as you can tell, those new features alone ensure that WMMA 2 should be an improvement over the original game, and they should go a long way towards removing the issues that plagued the original WMMA. However, the fun does not end there as many existing elements have been given a makeover as well.

What’s Improved

I know I have already touched on some of the new features in WMMA 2, but the amount that has been revamped on the gameplay front is quite significant, with half of the improvements focusing on the in-ring/cage action and the other half focusing on out of the ring/cage elements.

King of the Cage

For starters, the in-game match engine has undergone a sizable change. It would take up far too much space to go into complete detail (if you are curious for more detailed info, check the WMMA 2 developer journal thread), but it essentially functions as a real-time simulation of an MMA fight -- except it is broken down into 29 possible fighting positions, such as half-guard, Muay Thai clinch, normal standing, etc.

The end result of each scenario is factored into a combination of each fighter’s offensive/defensive/specialization/athletic attributes, overall strategy/tactics, level of consistency and some small elements of randomness. Accordingly, other elements of the fight, such as the fight judging and overall fight quality, are also generated in real time.

The play-by-play engine in WMMA 2 has also been revamped. The biggest change is that, unlike the pre-written text of WMMA 1, the play-by-play text is now created dynamically in real time depending on what is going on in the simulation. Also, unlike WMMA 1, the play-by-play text can now be displayed line by line as the action happens and not in a huge block of text, which is great for generating some tension and suspense.

Linked directly with the new match and PBP engine are the new fighter tactics. There are 14 different tactics -- counter-striking and smothering to name two -- and different levels of proficiency for each fighter. In general, there is a lot here that will make it easier for competitors to maintain their own unique fighting styles. Each tactic is also used dynamically for each possible scenario and opponent, so a fighter will not focus on an all-out ground assault against a great opponent that has excellent takedown defense or submission skills.

Bigger and Better

One other immediate improvement is that the game-world of WMMA 2 is receiving a boost in size when compared to WMMA. Now there are three new world areas in Russia, Central America and Africa. Also, existing areas will receive a boost, with the Asian and European regions gaining more territories.

The attributes of a fighter will also receive a change since fighters can now have a specified background in a particular combat discipline, such as BJJ, wrestling, boxing, judo or Muay Thai. And as was the case in WMMA, there are a ton of comprehensive attributes (too many to list here) that cover every element of a fighter that you can think of. From his ground game to his punching/kicking power to his dedication level and even to the strength of his chin, it is all included.

Also making its debut, straight from the TEW series, are new fighter personalities. These 10 traits cover a wide range of areas that determine whether or not fighters are humble and generous or self-centered and selfish to everything in between. Of course, these traits do evolve over time so things are never set in stone.

In addition, you will have no access to most of those stats during the game, so you will have to rely on a fighter’s scouting report -- even that element of WMMA 2 has undergone a change. And in an effort make things more "user-friendly," the default scouting screens in WMMA 2 will be considerably less text-heavy.

Basically, now every fighter will have various icons on a five-by-five grid, with each icon representing a different skill. For instance, one icon may focus on a fighter’s boxing ability, while another measures his elusiveness. Each icon will also be grouped into a few specific sections, such as fitness, mental abilities and fighting abilities. Most importantly, each icon will also yield a colored martial-arts belt indicating the fighter’s strength at that particular skill, with a white belt representing the low end of the tier and a black belt representing the strongest.

According to the developer, it is hoped that by learning this system and glancing at a fighter's icon grid, the user will quickly identify a fighter’s various strengths and weaknesses. Of course, if you prefer the text version of this, that option is still available.

Get Money

And on the financial side of things, you will now be able to buy up smaller, struggling groups and use them as feeder leagues. This potentially gives you a venue to showcase your talented youngsters or give some lower-ranked fighters some experience; however, this will also add to your potential debts.

But no matter how rich you may become in WMMA 2, your fighters still need to get paid, and WMMA 2 includes a new way of negotiating their contracts.

For one, the pressure/timed contract negotiation system from TEW is coming over to WMMA 2. In this system, your aim is to get a deal done while under the threat of a timer. And if you fail to reach a deal under the time allotted, you will have your negotiations break down. This forces you to take risks and sometimes concede to some demands to get things done. There are also some other changes to the contract system, such as the ability to enter into a bidding war for a fighter.

If you do eventually sign him or her, you will have to decide what weight class to put the fighter in, and even this area of the game has undergone some change.

The most visible difference is that the user now has more weight-class slots to use, so you can now really customize to your heart’s content. Also, fighters are now tied to different weight classes instead of any specific weight. This allows for much more movement between classes and even allows someone to be at different classes in different organizations.

The fighter and promotion popularity levels of WMMA 2 are also brand new. In WMMA 2, popularity levels now extend over three tiers -- regional, national and international -- with each tier ranging from zero to 100 percent. For example, going 100 percent national will increase your international tier by 10 percent. Any ascent in one tier will automatically increase to 10 percent to avoid the dreaded yo-yo effect between tiers.

Another change is that fighters and promotions will have a singular ranked tier over an entire game area, such as America, Canada, etc., instead of tiers for every individual territory. Although this simplifies the popularity system a bit, your tier will now limit where you can hold your shows. For example, an internationally ranked company can hold shows anywhere, while a regionally based organization will be limited to its territory.

The process of signing television contracts has also been revised to closely mirror how it is done in TEW 08. Basically, this means you will have the option to try and set up a new show, expand an existing show or extend your contract. And to fall closer in line with the reality of TV specials like Ultimate Fight Night, you will be able to sign up on a show-by-show basis instead of month to month.

All Tapped Out

So as you can see, WMMA 2 does not appear to be some rehashed sequel. Basically every important element of the game has received either some nice improvements or a complete overhaul.

When I also consider the new features that were implemented to alleviate the problems faced in the first game, I simply come away with the impression that WMMA 2 is definitely going to be a game worth checking out.

The WMMA 2 demo will be available on April 1, with the full game planned for release on April 8. It will retail for $34.95 and will be available from Grey Dog Software at http://www.greydogsoftware.com/wmma2/.

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