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eSports Boxing Club vs. Fight Night Champion

Steel City Interactive has dropped two gameplay videos for its upcoming simulation boxing game eSports Boxing Club over the last calendar year. These videos portray a photorealistic fighter with cinematic lighting and camera work. Equally as important, eSports Boxing Club is on track to emulate the masterful control layout of Fight Night Champion.

ESBC’s team gave us the control design layout in its latest gameplay video. Accordingly, it is instructive to review Fight Night Champion’s control scheme and compare. FNC is largely considered the last great boxing video game.

You can find the control layout for both ESBC and Fight Night Champion (2011) below.

Control Layout Comparison

eSports Boxing Club control layout.
Fight Night Champion, 2011 control layout.

We can see that ESBC will use the “six-axis control” found in the analog sticks, aligned with Fight Night Champion’s design from 2011. Whereas Fight Night offered eight different throw types, I argue some of the gestures on the right analog are difficult to access with precision. SCI’s decision to map fewer gestures to the right analog should give gamers confidence in executing an intended punch. There is a more considerable margin for error.

If it holds, I like this design decision — adopting a brilliant Fight Night control scheme and simplifying it can make the game more accessible. Further, it has been well-documented by EA Sports data scientists that analog sticks can be imprecise. EA Sports is developing AI technology to help alleviate these challenges with predictive motion algorithms, or AI-assisted controls. Perhaps ESBC’s development team understands the margin of error is small and opted for the simplified scheme.

According to ESBC’s website, the game will feature over 36 punch types. To reach that number, the left and right bumpers will function as a body-punch modifier and power punch modifier, respectively. Alternatively, ESBC breaks from the Fight Night scheme – the latter uses the left trigger as both the lean mechanic and body punch modifier. It is a subtle change, and while I like Fight Night’s dual-purpose left trigger, I will reserve judgment on how ESBC’s controls play.

DualSense

There has been no mention of how SCI will use the adaptive triggers and advanced haptics with the DualSense controllers. The gameplay videos showcase Xbox controllers.

I fully expect Steel City Interactive to take advantage of the adaptive triggers. The game looks every bit of a AAA title, and it is deploying the best character modeling technology in console gaming. ESBC is partnering with Ten24 Media Ltd. for body scans, and the player models and graphics appear to be AAA grade —this is even  in the alpha stage. Further, Steel City Interactive’s Adrenaline System demonstrates its interest in providing biometric fighter feedback. Sony explicitly designed the DualSense for communicating feedback to the gamer. It makes sense for ESBC to take advantage of Sony’s hardware.

Check-Hooks

Now, let’s talk defense. ESBC showcased a check-hook punch in its gameplay preview, and I love the detailed design. The check-hooks appear to be coming off the back foot, with less bodyweight behind the throw. This implies it is used as a defensive measure instead of a fully-weighted heavy hook with momentum. The check-hook looks like a mix of a jab and hook, quick and efficient. Additionally, the check-hook can use the opponent’s own body weight to your advantage as they lean into your throws.

Movement Slips

Slips activate solely with left analog gestures – without an active weave modifier or change in gesture.

ESBC distinguishes between weaving in the pocket and performing a slip. Steel City mirrors Fight Night Champion’s “weave in the pocket” mechanic  and maps it to the left trigger. Breaking from the Fight Night control layout, slips in ESBC are mapped to the left analog stick without a modifier or change in gestures. Players can perform a slip by a hard press of the left analog, whereas in FNC, a double-tap of the left analog launches a slip animation. Interestingly, SCI has mapped body movement to the left analog, too.

The Use of AI-Assistance

The slips animate when a player makes a gesture, and when a punch is within striking range of the fighter. The gameplay footage suggests that an AI-assist mechanic is working in the background of ESBC; determining when to slip, and when to move your entire fighter completely. We will see how it feels when the game’s demo drops and how well the game differentiates a slip from a simple shuffling of the feet to get out of danger. To note. Fight Night did intend for slips to the left and right to function the same way, but the results are ineffective at dodging punches consistently.

Steel City Interactive is blending the motions available on the left analog stick and auto-deploying the best movement for the situation.

So far, the demo looks intuitive. The slip mechanic appears AI-oriented, translating user gestures into intended outcomes. Steel City Interactive is blending the motions available on the left analog stick and auto-deploying the best movement for the situation; this suggests SCI is running a predictive algorithm. Based on the smoothness of the motions in the gameplay video, I cannot wait to run with it.

As a Fight Night fan, I am thrilled to see ESBC’s control design. The fight engine looks sharp. There is even a glimpse of AI predictive motion built into the fight engine, demonstrating advanced programming. Now that SCI has established the foundation, it follows that SCI can continue to refine and bring fighters to life with signature style and individualized attributes.


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