MGD 08: Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe Interview with Ed Boon

Patrick McCarron - April 18, 2008

Shortly after the release of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, the Mortal Kombat series was promised a complete change. Gone were the expectations of another fighter under the Armageddon/Deadly Alliance formula. It was time for a fresh new start for the series. In a swank, remote Las Vegas resort/hotel, Midway finally unleashed a shocking revelation not even the most imaginative person could ever conjure up. The Mortal Kombat realm was crossing over with the DC Comics universe.

We sat down with Mortal Kombat series co-creator, Ed Boon, and sought insight to where this new direction is going to take MK fans.

Click on the audio clips if you wish to follow along with select parts of the interview.


Patrick (TRMK): When did you come up with the concept, of Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. And how did everything get set up between the two companies?

Ed Boon (EB): You know what, literally around Mortal Kombat 3. I always thought it would be cool to see a crossover like Street Fighter versus Mortal Kombat. Then we started to get into 3D stuff like Deadly Alliance we started talking about doing some crossover stuff. Then the reality of the situation is who is going to develop it and who is going to have approval rights. A couple of times we were pretty close to pursuing some stuff, but our guy who was our representative on their side quit. So from that stand point the idea of a crossover has always kind of been in my head.

And our marketing people approached us and said "what do you think about doing a DC game?" And you know, there was obvious pause. We didn't instantly say "Yeah we'll do it!" But at the same time, we're on Mortal Kombat 8 and we see the sales of other fighting games, and as big of a fan of them that I am, we see their sales going down and what-not. We've been lucky enough to have maintained that we've sold in the multi-million of copies of our games. We really feel like that it's the big changes that we do that keep people interested.

TRMK: It keeps bringing people right back into it.
EB: Yeah, and so this was as dramatic of a change that you could expect. I think there are people that will assume stuff and kind of have a negative reaction.

TRMK: It's natural.
EB: I think over time when the new features are seen in the game, and people see the game playing; the novelty of these two characters on the screen at the same time.

TRMK: Just that little clip you showed, just the dramatic-ness of what you actually saw happening. It was something I've always wanted to see in the game.
EB: I think that stuff will prevail, ultimately. That was kind of how it all started.

TRMK: Now you've got a lot of involvement with the DC comics writers. How's that shape the evolution of the title?
EB: The writers were actually very cool. They know the personalities of their characters. I know the characters, but I don't know that Superman would never say this, or I don't know Batman would never say that. It actually added that kind of authentic-ness to it.

TRMK: They are the experts in the field, might as well have them on board.
EB: Exactly, given in this situation, what would Superman's reaction be to this? Stuff like that. So they really played a big part in giving the authentic-ness from the DC perspective.

TRMK: And you obviously have that from the Mortal Kombat perspective.
EB: Exactly.

TRMK: How does this MK fit storywise? Is it canon or out of continuity [parallel universe].
EB: We don't know. A number of people have asked me that. I think that when we're done and we do the next game then we'll decide whether it will be a continuation. The knee jerk reaction is: Oh of course it's a what-if, but you never know what will become of it.

TRMK: Who knows what idea you'll have for the next game...
EB: Exactly. Instead of one way it'll be another and people will jump down my throat for that stuff.

TRMK: (sarcastically) Yeah, that never happens.
EB: Right, it doesn't.

TRMK: Beyond those announced today, Scorpion and Sub-Zero. How many/which old characters can we expect to return?
EB: You know, I can't answer that. Actually, you know what? The way I always answer to people is: The only ones we confirmed are Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Superman and Batman. But, if you were to say: Ok, what are the biggest Mortal Kombat characters? What are the biggest DC characters? I bet that you will get 90% of the cast yourself. You know, so you do the math.

TRMK: Will there be fatalities in the game because Superman is invulnerable on earth and it depends on where you're fighting. Can you perform a fatality on him?
EB: The Superman issue is - you know - he actually has two weaknesses, kryptonite and magic. A lot of people don't know about the whole magic thing. Mortal Kombat is grounded in a ton of magic. We have sorcerers and the Netherrealm. All this kind of crazy stuff. So in Outworld, Superman is clearly going to have some vulnerabilities. The whole premise of our story is these two realms merging together. So when you see that it's makes it a lot more plausible.


ENGINE QUESTIONS

TRMK: What has been the hardest challenge of getting a fighting game working in the Unreal Engine?
EB: The hardest challenge is that - in the Unreal Engine - there were a number of things that were tailored for a first-person shooter. Field of view and all that stuff. We're doing two huge characters, over 20,000 polygons, complex animation, animation compression, fighting engine stuff, 60 frames a second. There were tons of modifications that we had to do in order to make that happen.

TRMK: With the entire company working on next-gen stuff in the Unreal Engine, have you been able to do a lot of knowledge sharing between the multiple titles? Especially in Chicago I know that you have two games going on and you're in really close quarters...
EB: The other teams in Chicago have been working on pretty radically different games. Stranglehold is nothing like us. Even like Blitz and Ballers are kind of different. Ballers would probably share some similarities. Probably the closest similarity would have to be TNA Wrestling. You have two big characters in an arena. But we have multiple-tiered arenas. We're doing all of these transitions and all of this destruction; where-as, they're fighting in the octagonal or six-sided ring...

TRMK: More like your old arenas were in the previous games...
EB: Yeah, yeah. So there are similarities from the basic mechanics of it.

TRMK: So they're stealing code from you.
EB: We're writing code for them. [laughs]

TRMK: Every Mortal Kombat game has increased more and more as far as members on the team. How big of a percentage change happened since the last game and this game as far as staff?
EB: You know what? We had some key people move on. A guy named Todd Allen, who has been with us since Mortal Kombat 4, he's moved on. We still keep in touch and we have lunch. But they have things that they want to do. But we have also gotten some amazing people.

TRMK: Picked up some Unreal experts probably?
EB: Yeah. We've really managed to keep the core of the team kind of intact. So for the most part we have been lucky.

TRMK: Will the game be only for the Xbox 360 and PS3 or will there be a possibility of a Wii port?
EB: I don't know for sure. It's kind of like it was with Armageddon. We did an Xbox version and a PS2 version and a Wii version followed. We didn't know it was going to follow. The Wii is selling so huge it would almost be difficult to ignore it. But at the same time, there's no Unreal Engine for the Wii.

TRMK: I think one company has got it working, but Epic is not supporting it.
EB: Right, so it would be a challenge. I certainly wouldn't have a problem with it. Armageddon actually did pretty well on the Wii. So it makes some sense.


GAMEPLAY QUESTIONS

TRMK: What changed as far as the player manipulation in 3D as far as the control scheme? Has any major changes happened from the last games?
EB: We are literally in the midst of going back and forth with different things. This whole concept of ducking, is it just down? Or is it down and to the left? Or is it some other mechanism of ducking? We want to keep some of that basic 2D feel. But we also want to keep the very easy maneuverability, because a number of features in the game where you want to move yourself and somebody. Throw them over the edge or something like that. And we don't want to make it difficult to walk and move. So, I really can't even answer that question right now, because we're in constant flux.

TRMK: What are you guys looking for as far as new elements in gameplay that this game will bring that wows the casual gamer, but still wins over the hardcore fighting game fans, and sets it apart from everything else?
EB: Well I guess the biggest thing is the change. We want to just dramatically change things. We don't want people to feel like - "Oh I've played this, the multiple fighting styles..." So, we're not doing multiple fighting styles. We don't have weapons. We don't have...

TRMK: You threw all that out...
EB: Right, and not that...We were very excited about it. We did well with it. But we do feel like it's time...

TRMK: ...a clean slate...
EB: ...to do a clean slate. So it's a different fighting mode. It's a different kind of events that happen in a fight. When I grab you, I pull you in. And then we do this kind of boxing close-combat thing. Knock you over the edge of a building, and we fight as we're falling. And then that's kind of like the freefall combat and whatnot. So it's kind of like switching between these modes.

TRMK: Now some fun questions that some people sent to us. Will we see anything like the Kombat Kart game or the puzzles...
EB: No. No.

TRMK: ...or Kombat Soccer, none of that?
EB: No. There's part of me that thinks it would be really cool and stuff. But like again, we started doing it. It's almost expected, and so we don't want it to be expected.

TRMK: Time to change.
EB: Yeah. Exactly.

TRMK: So what about a single-player Konquest mode? Is anything like that being explored?
EB: There's a single player story mode, but it's not like the Konquest mode.

TRMK: So it's a new take on the whole thing.
EB: Exactly.

TRMK: Awesome. Now, if you had the ability to work on a non-Mortal Kombat game...
EB: It'd be The Grid 2.

TRMK: [laughs] Would it be The Grid 2?
EB: [laughs] It totally would.

TRMK: It totally would. That's it right here in the question. You read it before I could ask.
EB: Yeah, totally.

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