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Interview with Kudo Tsunoda, Executive Producer of Fight Night 2004
By Orlando Rios, Jr. (March 18, 2004) 
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Following my first EA sports article, EA Sports Selling Out?, which garnered many emails from Doghouse Boxing readers, I was approached by EA to conduct an interview with Fight Night 2004 producer, Kudo Tsunoda.

During our interview, Mr. Tsunoda, gave me some great insights about Fight Night 2004, but also answered some of the questions which boxing fans have long yearned for answers too.

OR: Off the bat, why are guys like Fernando Vargas, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, JR., the Klitschko Brothers, Joe Mesi, and other boxing greats such as Marvin Hagler, Larry Holmes, and Tommy Hearns not in Fight Night 2004?

Orly, first off, let me say I am really excited to get do this interview for Doghouse Boxing and to see news about Fight Night 2004 on your website. It is great to get direct questions about the game from the people who care most about the sport of boxing. As always, the more dialogue about the game the better we are able to capture the essence of boxing in our game.

In answer to your question, certainly these boxers not being in the game was not a decision made for design reasons. Unlike many other professional sports, boxing does not have a central union or sport management that handles deals like this for all the athletes in boxing. When you are trying to license players from a pro sport, you are able to deal with the league and the players union. Getting boxers in a video game is different. You need to deal with each boxer individually. This makes getting every big name boxer in the game incredibly difficult. Getting contracts signed is extremely complicated as many boxers have several representatives and it is hard to get negotiations done.

In some cases, certain legal conditions necessary for us to use people in the game could not be agreed on. As boxing fans know, often times there are fights that everyone wants to see and thinks should happen, but for various reasons the negotiations just don’t work out. Plus, with the level of detail we are putting in to our character models, you need at some point to cut off adding new boxers because we will not have time to make their in-game representations properly.

In any case, everyone on the team is a big fan of boxing and we would like to have all the fighters in the game as well. We tried really hard to obtain every big name we could. The list of boxers we tried to get in the game was enormous, but due to numerous factors we just aren’t able to get them all.

Tito Trinidad vs. Shane Mosley
OR: How does EA get fighters like Bernard Hopkins and Felix Trinidad for the game?

This is a particularly challenging endeavor. On some level, the first thing you need to do is track these guys down so you can make contact with them. This is not an easy task. Most boxers have extremely busy schedules and are on the move a lot. If a boxer is training for a fight, there is little chance to talk to him at that point. When boxers are not training, many times they are getting away from it all and not in an easily contactable place in the world. Fortunately Electronic Arts now has developed long standing relationships with many boxers and people in the boxing world so you have a pretty good shot at talking to people. Once you get a chance to meet, we try and talk boxers through what we are going to do with the game and how their character in particular will be represented in the game. If the boxer is interested in being a part of the game, lawyers then try and hammer out a deal that everyone can agree to.

OR: Why update the sport to more of a "hip hop culture" when many boxing fans would agree that boxing isn't purely that type of culture that it's being made out to be, but rather more of an International, Latin-Hispanic, Hip-Hop mix. Some argue that the "hip-hop culture" portrayed in the Madden and NBA live franchises is fine, but not for boxing. So why try to appeal boxing as a "hip-hop culture'?

Roy Jones Jr vs. Bernard Hopkins
In determining the style and tone of Fight Night 2004, we looked at two main areas for inspiration: our cover athlete (Roy Jones JR.) and the way boxing is presented in main stream culture. Besides being one of the best pound for pound boxers, Roy Jones, JR. has also released a hip hop album and runs a hip hop label. He has appeared in other artists videos also. Much of his on camera personality is brash and in-your-face, and attitude we have captured with the tone of the game.

In an examination of how boxing is presented through mainstream media, we were surprised at how many of the boxers appeared in more urban-styled advertisements. I recently saw James Toney in a magazine print ad for a brand of custom 22-inch rims. Even Everlast, traditionally an old school boxing company, recently released its urban men’s clothing line.

There are so many different boxers with so many different personalities that it is really hard to define a video game style that incorporates the international mix that makes up boxing. With our resources and schedule, we decided to base our game more around the cover athlete than to try and be all things to all people.

OR: Boxing fans have long believed that EA has overlooked its boxing franchise. Other sports such as the Madden franchise and NBA Live franchise are greatly detailed, yet in the new Fight Night 2004, Big Tigger does the commentary and ring introductions, and fighters enter to an almost circus like intro, filled with pyrotechnics, almost resembling a ring walk straight out of pro wrestling. Why the vast difference in detail and accuracy between other EA franchises and Fight Night?

The first line of your question is to me, the core of the issue. Boxing fans have long believed that EA has overlooked its boxing franchise. To me, this is a travesty. I was hired at EA specifically to work on Fight Night 2004 and turn it into the “Madden of boxing games”. In looking at all other boxing video games made, and not just the EA games, none of them captured the skill or nuances of boxing in their gameplay whatsoever. All previous games threw punches the same way, with button presses. You had no control over your fists whatsoever. There was no skill to landing punches, all you did was hit a button as fast as you could and hoped some would land. The skills that separate the great boxers from the rest were no where represented in gameplay.

This is something Fight Night 2004 has completely changed with our new analog control system, Total Punch Control. You can now actually control your fists while throwing punches and blocking using the analog sticks. When you move the right analog stick to throw a punch, you see your fist making that exact same motion on screen. Since you are controlling your fists with the right analog stick, you can now also block in the game quickly and effectively. Unlike previous games slow and unresponsive button blocking, Fight Night 2004 allows you to react to incoming punches by moving your fists into their path and blocking them with your fists, arms, and elbows.

The left analog stick moves your boxer around the ring. If you hold in the left trigger the left analog stick becomes an extension of your upper body. You can now move your torso in any direction you can move the left analog stick allowing you to quickly dodge out of the way of your opponent’s punches. You also have a full 360 degree range of motion with your upper body meaning you can bob and weave to avoid combinations or use your upper body movement to confuse your opponent and land punhes of your own.

With the revolutionary analog punching, and the fast and responsive defense, you now need to set your punches up to land them. You cannot just run forward to the middle of the ring and throw non-stop punches like you see in every other game. If you do, you will get killed! Fight Night 2004’s gameplay is all about using actual boxing tactics and your boxers physical abilities to set up punches and tactically out maneuver your opponent.

Fight Night 2004 is the first video game to incorporate actual boxing strategies into their gameplay. To me, the failure of previous boxing games to do this is why boxing fans felt their sport was being neglected. And rightfully so. Fight Night 2004 has fixed that for sure. This is the best playing boxing game ever made, no contest. It’s all about the gameplay. And that, to me was most important thing to nail in this game. Things like the ring entrances or the ring announcer are not as critical to a great boxing game as having great boxing gameplay.

That being said, we used real life boxer ring entrances as our reference in creating all the ring effects. While we definitely used the flashiest ones we saw boxers using, they are real to what boxers have done. Although not all boxers. And once again, the ring entrances are customizable. If you want your boxer to walk out to the ring unaccompanied by pyrotechnics, no frills and all business, you’re in complete control to do so.

OR: Will Mexican fighters such as Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales be entering with a Mexican Mariachi song, or with DMX and P. Diddy?

The gamer can choose for his boxer to make an entrance to any of the songs in our games soundtrack. So it is customizable by the user. While we don’t have a Mexican Mariachi song in particular, there is a variety of music, even if the soundtrack has a predominately hip hop feel.

OR: Would outside competition from other gaming brands allow for a greater budget, more fighters, and better attention to detail?

Trust me, there is always lots of competition from other games. Even if there are few other boxing games out there right now, our game competes with all the other sports games and fighting games on the market. The best thing that can happen for the Fight Night franchise is for people to support the game. Being a big boxing fan, it has always somewhat irritated me that sports like Football and Basketball have such a bigger fan base than that of boxing. They get more coverage online, on TV, in the press, etc.

I am always trying to turn other sports fans on to boxing by showing them great fights from my library or taking people out to watch fights live. In working on this game, I started taking boxing lessons and have even gotten 4 of my friends to take up boxing for real. Fight Night 2004 is the first game to show people the fun and skill of boxing in this type of format. It is a great vehicle for getting people who don’t usually follow boxing interested in the sport.

It has somewhat surprised me that so much of the press about the game from boxing news media has focused on what they see as flaws. We should all be trumpeting the great boxing at the core of the game and getting people who don’t usually follow boxing to check it out. The more people there are following boxing, the more budget there is for all of us! :)

OR: One of the trademarks of EA Sports, is the game introductions, where somebody says, "EA SPORTS....It's in the game!" Will this be done for Fight Night?

While we wanted to put this in, we felt it was more critical to use this game space for playing a video showing how the boxing oriented control scheme could be utilized in gameplay.

OR: Do you think that Fight Night 2004 would appeal to more fans world wide if it included certain fighters? For example, would sales in Mexico be better off if the game included Mexican Icon, Julio Cesar Chavez, or in the Philippines with the addition of Manny Pacquiao?

Chavez is a legend and Pacquiao is one of the most exciting guys to come along in a while. I think both of those guys are great fighters and the game would benefit from having either of them in, no matter where it’s being sold. We do have many fighters from south of the US including Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales. But as I mentioned earlier, while we would like to have every boxer in the world included in the game, it unfortunately just isn’t possible because of the licensing process.

OR: Would you, for Fight Night 2005, consider gathering with a panel of current and former boxers and boxing writers and experts for additional input into making FN 2005 more detailed and as true to the sport as possible?

This would be awesome. We would love to do some thing like this. We really have worked extremely hard to make Fight Night 2004 as true to the sport as possible. Several members of the design team were huge boxing fans to begin with and have actual boxing experience. We talked to many boxers and even had everyone on the design team watching fight tapes and taking up boxing classes in real life to make sure we all better understood what you need to do to land punches and avoid getting hit. The more people we can talk to about boxing the better. We always love more expert input.

OR: The general consensus amongst boxing fans, is that they want a game, that is as true to their sport as possible, even if it includes stopping fights prematurely to cuts, or in having Larry Merchant and Jim Lampley do commentary with Jimmy Lennon JR. doing ring introductions. It's the little things that count, and it's what makes games like the Madden franchise so special. Do you believe that you've achieved that with Fight Night 2004 ?

Fight Night 2004 is the most realistic boxing video game ever brought to the market. Believe me, this is not just hype. Gone are the days of button mashing gameplay, random punching, and no defense in a boxing game. This is the first boxing game that has brought realistic boxing to its gameplay. Once you get the controller in your hand and feel the sensation of controlling your entire body while boxing well it just makes landing punches a really cool sensation. There is a rhythm and flow to your boxer that is incredibly realistic. If you are a fan of boxing, this game will prove to you that EA is not overlooking your boxing franchise. We are building a boxing franchise true to its sport. We will continue to innovate and improve the game in years to come.

OR: In closing, any comments to the readers?

I am the person responsible for the quality and direction of the Fight Night franchise. Our main goal is to create boxing games true to the sport of boxing that really show what it’s like to be in the ring. By creating boxing games of very high quality, I want to bring the sport of boxing to people who are not currently fans of the sport. Boxing is the ultimate sporting competition. The people I have turned on to the sport of boxing quickly become hooked. The Fight Night franchise has the ability to not only change how boxing video games are perceived, but can develop and nourish the core contingent that follows boxing. In order to do this, I look forward to working with many more people in the boxing community. Input and feedback from boxing experts and fans can only help deliver the highest quality Fight Night games possible.

Thanks so much again for giving me the opportunity to do this interview. The dialogue is great and I love getting questions directly from the people who love boxing. is one of my favorite online resources for boxing news and information and it is really cool to see news about our game on your site.

The game is Fight Night 2004 coming out this spring. I hope you have as much fun playing it as we did making it. Check it out!! -Kudo
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