Bruce Buffer is best known for being the ‘voice of the octagon’ to all UFC fans around the world. Some of you may also be aware of what a successful entrepreneur he is too. He has his own podcast which has been running for quite some time now; last year launched his mobile phone app and autobiography as well as still managing his brother Michael Buffer ‘voice of the boxing ring’.
His latest venture is MMA Federation, a brand new social game based in the world of mixed martial arts. After running into him during UFC 168 fight week where he mentioned this new project of his for 2014 I was intrigued as he sold it as a game in the realm of Mafia Wars, and had the potential of being as successful as games like Grand Theft Auto in the mobile phone and tablet market
I thought it would be a good idea to follow up with the creative director behind the game Phil Goddard who is located in Manchester, England. Whilst a much more in depth video interview is in the works in the coming months below is a transcript of our brief conversation this week.
Before getting into the game are you a fan of MMA? If so what’s your earliest memory? What fight got you hooked?
I think I’ve always been aware of ‘MMA’ since UFC 1. My dad tried to get me into Judo when I was 6 years old, but it was when I went to college and joined a local Muay Thai school that I really got hooked. But with regards to being a true fan of the sport, I think it was back in 2003 when I bought my first UFC DVD, UFC 41… the one where Tank returned to be promptly heel-hooked by a very young Frank Mir. It was also my first time watching B.J. Penn… great fight against Caol Uno.
How often do you watch MMA events now? Is it mostly just UFC or do you watch any other promotions? Have you been to any live events?
Being in the UK, until recently, it’s always been difficult to catch decent MMA Events. For the last few years I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to subscribe through ESPN and more recently BT Sport, and record the US Events so I don’t need to stay up all night to catch them. I catch pretty much every UFC event either at the time or the day after, and try to catch regular Bellator and BAMMA events when I managed to find the listings.
My first Live MMA Event was UFC 105 in Manchester, UK, headlined by the great Randy Couture and Brandon Vera. Mike Bisping and Dan Hardy were both on the card, two UK favourites, and was great to see Mike come back after the upsetting UFC 100 KO. Since then I’ve been to London (Bisping / Akiyama) and back in Manchester last year.
Did you ever think about making an MMA related game before being approached by Bruce Buffer?
To be honest, yes. I actually worked on a pitch for an MMA Social Game a few years ago for another promotion; however it wasn’t even scratching the surface of what MMA Federation is offering now.
When did Bruce Buffer first get in contact with you about MMA Federation and what were the first few conversations like? What sold you to come on board as the Creative Director for the game?
It was one of Bruce’s Team that originally called me last year, through a mutual acquaintance in the games industry. I still remember that first conversation when I think I was on the phone for getting on three hours! Just talking and chatting about Martial Arts, games, my background etc. It was very exciting.
I generally have two core passions that I generally tweet and message about regularly – Video Games and Martial Arts. Bruce’s Team were looking for a Creative Director, to lead the product design of the game, set up the development studio and get the development team on board. Ideally the individual in question would have a solid history in games and creative direction, setting up and running their own studio, be a fan of MMA and possibly be a martial artist themselves. The opportunity was too good to be true for me so I jumped in with both feet!
How did you go about forming the development team and what qualities were you looking for in each person?
I’ve been working in digital media now for 14 years, and games for about 8 of those, so have had some time to meet some great individuals in the games industry along the way. When setting up an initial core team, especially for a game so close to your heart, it’s essential that you not only find the right people with the right skills, but also the right people for the ‘theme’ and situation of the project. All of the guys we have on board are either fans of MMA, a martial artist and/or a fan of heavy statistically driven games. Every individual is passionate about what we are trying to pioneer with our ReAch! Engine and produce the very best game we can, with the games and MMA community.
And of course we want the community to feel part of the development team as well. As we get further with the game we’ll be looking for regular feedback from the Beta Team, and work with them to ensure we produce a game that is built BY fans, FOR fans.
You have a kickstarter campaign currently in progress with a goal of £100k and as of writing are currently sitting on £12,699 with 17 days to go. Are you confident you will reach your goal over the next few weeks or what would you say is a realistic target within this time frame?
It’s less about the money and more about the active fan participation. We opted to use Kickstarter to recruit our Beta Team so we could offer a taste of the kinds of rewards that will be on offer when the full game launches. The campaign was a little slow out of the gate as it was at the same time as the pinnacle UFC 168, just before New Year. We have a lot of promotional activity lined up for the second half of the campaign and encourage all MMA fans and gamers to join the team as soon as possible. Our main tier offers backers the game 3 months ahead of the pulic for £6 ($10), and we also return 100% of the money with in-game currency. This shouldn’t be a big hurdle to get over.
Is the game development solely dependent on reaching your kickstarter goal or are there contingencies in place where budget will be provided to continue with or without it?
As I said, it’s less about the money and more about recruiting the right Beta Team. The monetary goal was set based on an average pledge amount, and the amount of Beta Testers we think we’ll need to have on board to help make the game successful. MMA Federation is a huge scope, and the Kickstarter goal is a small fraction of our development costs, with Bruce Buffer being the main backer behind the game.
Have you taken any inspiration from any other successful social media games that you have implemented into MMA Federation and adversely what new gaming experiences can fans and gamers expect?
Great question! Without boring you with technicalities, there’s a phrase – MDA – in games development – Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics… or ‘form follows function’. There are many proven mechanics we’ll be using in the game which are tried and tested, both by myself previously and thousands of other developers. Also, the game is designed for mobile, tablets AND web, on a variety of platforms and devices, so the execution needs to be simple but attractive.
MMA Federation truly is the first of its kind to do what we’re doing, and the best way to try to explain it at this early stage is we have our ReAch! Engine, offering real-world rewards to players, as part of our in-game achievements, combined with real-world statistics and feeds, similar to that of fantasy league games, with a management statistics gameplay style similar to that of Football Manager or other management sim games.
One of the most interesting things about the game to me seems to be the ‘Real Achievements’. Who came up with this idea and how has it been working with the various camps and fighters so far?
It’s a really original and first-to-market concept, and was actually Bruce’s and one of his advisor’s ideas. For this concept to work you really do need someone like Bruce Buffer at the helm. He’s been in the business for 17+ years and knows everyone!
Working with the camps and teams has been fantastic so far! They’re all really motivated by the project and looking forward to being involved in a next-generation concept that helps to promote their organization and sport. Working with the teams really is a win-win situation, with the teams and their fighters getting much more exposure to the fans directly, and the fans having direct contact to their favourite teams and fighters.
We’re recruiting new teams weekly now as the popularity of the game spreads.
What are your ultimate hopes and goals for this game? Do you foresee MMA fans playing this on their laptops, phones and tablets as much as Angry Birds and Candy Crush?
Although we are building a game, obviously, my thoughts for the ‘game’ are much larger than the core game concept. Because of our ethos of ‘blurring the lines between the real world and the digital’ we see MMA Federation as also being a lifestyle game / app for those who are a fan of the sport. When the game launches, I genuinely see fans who are watching an event on TV playing the game at the same time, as they see the game statistics evolve throughout the event.
For example, imagine American Top Team have a limited amount of spaces left for new ‘recruits’ this month within the game, and Dustin Poirier pulls off that amazing first round stoppage like he did at UFC 168… fans will be clambering over themselves to join ATT to benefit in the game from being associated with their success. These kinds of live, real time game tie-ins will be really cool.
Aside from the kickstarter campaign what can MMA fans do to help support MMA Federation?
Do what fans of MMA do naturally… remain true to the sport and keep talking about everything and anything that can help grow this sport in the way it deserves. We’d love to have every MMA Fan on board with the game eventually.
You can participate in MMA Federation at all of the following:
Kickstarter Page – http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/186837350/mma-federation
Website – http://www.mixedmartialmobile.com
Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/MixedMartialMob
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/mixedmartialmobile
Follow me on Twitter @ChamatkarSandhu