I'm a bit of a nerd. I work in IT, I've created a spreadsheet that lists all fights in my collection so that I know the exact location of any fights I own and I have always had a fondness for sports simulation games. I'm a micromanager by nature and as such managing finances, rosters, merchandising, media (and so on...) is right up my alley.
Baseball and wrestling have always been the stars of the sports simulation galaxy. The foundations for both are on the day to day operations of your organization more so than on the games or matches as with Madden Football or the WWE Smackdown vs. Raw games.
Adam Ryland is a bit of a legend in the world of pro wrestling simulation; having created the Total Extreme Warfare franchise (and the still available freeware game Extreme Warfare Revenge). I have had the fortune of playing Adam's newest release from Grey Dog Software "World of Mixed Martial Arts" via a reviewer copy for the past few months before it was made available to the public.
WMMA allows you to take over an MMA promotion, book matches for events, sign and release fighters, work out PPV and TV deals...all while putting out a product that attracts live and TV crowds and growing the size of your promotion. Doing all this while computer controled promotions are running their own shows, signing fighters and trying to put out a better product than you is very rewarding. The real question though is...is it worth your money?
What makes baseball and wrestling ideal for simulation gaming is the everyday grind. Wrestling generally involves booking 1-2 shows a week leading up to a monthly pay-per-view event; baseball is a 162 game season. Running a mixed martial arts organization as big as Pride in its heyday or the UFC means booking 1-2 events a month. This means a lot of "game days" where you are doing nothing and clicking "next day" over and over. Should you attempt to do a weekly show you end up with a very thin roster and no way to have main events big enough every show to draw a good crowd or TV ratings. So expect to spend a lot of time clicking "next day" and waiting for the next day's screen to load.
Also frustrating is the recovery time being static. Each fighter has tons of different stats in fields ranging from conditioning, dedication, punching power, kicking technique, sweeping, submission defense...the list goes on and on. Unfortunately this seems to tie directly into the amount of time a fighter will be unavailable after his last fights...no matter the result of his last bout. So if Fighter A fights in June and wins by a KO in 14 seconds, he will be unavailable to be booked again for the same amount of time as if he loses via a 3rd round TKO. This rigid recovery time limits the realism of the booking to an extent. Need a last minute title challenger replacement due to injury? Well it won't be that rising superstar who scored a 50 second KO of the #3 light heavyweight in the world last month...he needs to rest for 3 months like he went 5 hard rounds.
Last, the game comes with fighters and promotions from the "Cornellverse" which is a fictional universe created by Ryland. Using real fighters in a retail game carries with it copyright issues, so you get no real fighters when you download the game. You can't blame Ryland for this one as there isn't really anything he can do. The beauty of the simulation community is that user mods are very common. A few months from release there should be a number of "real world mods" that can be downloaded and used in the game (and of course a raging debate over which is the best). The biggest problem with the Cornellverse is the amount of women's fighters (way too high), the inclusion of only 4 promotions (way too low), and several of the attempts at humor (way too unfunny). Adam's humor falls a little flat in the game, and while that can be left alone in pro wrestling simulations based on the inherent absurdity of pretend fighting (this is coming from someone who grew up loving the "sport") in the more serious world of MMA it just comes across cheesy. The humor seems to be tied to another issue...the developer seems as though he may not be all that familiar with the sport and made the decision to "strike while the iron is hot." I can't really fault them for trying to capitalize on a somewhat barren market though and the moments where you question how much they REALLY know about MMA are few enough that it isn't a huge issue.
The database conversation leads into the positives quite nicely though. The editorial suite included in the game is easy to use and if you have the time you can create any sort of database you want to use with the game...this includes creating and editing fighters, contracts, promotions, rules, and titles. This is perfect for someone like me who enjoys spending days on end creating my own real world database to use. Another cool thing is that over time you will see people release specialized databases...the start of the UFC days and a 2005 (fall of Pride) mod have already been announced by users as being developed. And there is no real limit to the amount of databases you can use...just select which one you want to play from when you start up the game and fire up a new game or load your existing one from that database. It's a very fun system.
The fight results are shown in a text breakdown. So there are no fancy fight graphics. However, it is still pretty enjoyable to be able to read exactly how the fight goes down. As new updates come out new text for fights will likely come with it which means you'll see less repetition in the match results.
The biggest thing the game has going for it is just how addictive these types of programs can be. I have found myself laying in bed several times realizing exactly the direction I should be going with the lightweights over the next few months. That is exactly what a simulation game should do. The slow hours at work should be spent grabbing a pen and paper jotting down potential matchups that you want to look into booking once you get home, or deciding that your heavyweight division is really lacking and thinking that you may have to go overseas to strengthen it.
Final verdict? I'd recommend the game for any sports sim fan or MMA fan who is dying to run their own promotion. But I do suggest waiting until the game has been out for a few months and the real world mods start coming out. The Cornellverse is a necessary (but very cheesy) evil, but the game is good enough to make me keep coming back to make Alpha-1 the biggest promotion in the world...I can only imagine how addictive it will be once I can focus on using Elite-XC to overtake the UFC. The game is fun as hell...just give it some time to get some really solid real world mods developed by the user community.
Grey Dog Software
World of Mixed Martial Arts (demo can be downloaded from this page)
One real world mod that has been released Only including the UFC, WEC and EXC currently...and I personally have a lot of problems with several fighter's skill settings. Still a decent database to use to try out the demo.
Update [2007-12-20 17:42:45 by Brent Brookhouse]: As posted in the comments there is a second much better Real World mod that has already been released. [It can be found here http://www.greydogsoftware.com/forum/showthread.php?t=27897] Only the UFC is done right now but it isn't a bad thing to take your time and get everything right. Check it out.