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John Tobias Tao Feng Interview

Patrick McCarron - March 19, 2003

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John Tobias has been a name on the tongue of many fans of Mortal Kombat since the game exploded on to the arcade scene in 1992. In fact, the name John Tobias has become so synonymous with Mortal Kombat, the two are often spoken within the same breath. With a history so entrenched in the Mortal Kombat legacy, monumental challenges lie in the path of a legend who has embarked upon an arduous journey to reinvent himself. Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus is Tobias' first step to breaking free from the typecast that has deeply rooted itself into his career. Tobias sits down with us and discusses his legacy, his current project, and his ambitions for the future.

Back in 1999 Midway announced that Mortal Kombat: Special Forces was delayed. A month later you, along with other designers here at Studio Gigante, created quite a stir when you left Midway. Can you tell us a bit about why you left and if it had anything to do with the development of Mortal Kombat: Special Forces?

John Tobias: No. I'm not exactly sure how those events transpired but Special Forces and us leaving didn't have too much to do with each other. Personally, I was planning [to leave] at some point in 1999 or 2000 and at that point it seemed right for us with the new systems coming out I didn't want to start anything sort of mid-stream or...

Award plaque for the success of Mortal Kombat 3 becoming the best selling game of 1995.

Fall behind the stream?

Tobias: Exactly right, because I know that would be difficult for us to kind of catch up. So we wanted to try to get involved as early as possible and it seemed that the clock was ticking in that state. That had more to do with when I left than anything else.

What did you think of the altered version of Special Forces that was released after you left Midway Games, and was it vastly different from the state of the game when you guys left the project?

Tobias: You know I really never played it, I saw it at E3 and I maybe played it for like five minutes and never really played it after that. So I'm not really familiar with how it ended up.

What did you do after leaving Midway, did you all take a break or go straight into starting your own studio?

Tobias: No, we took a little bit of time off. I personally took some time off. I had some stuff going on in my life at the time. I had been working pretty much non-stop for 10 years or something. And there were contractual obligations we had to contend with and things like that.

Award plaque from the game's publisher, Acclaim, for the success of Mortal Kombat for home systems.

Non-compete agreements?

Tobias: Things of that nature. Once we waded through all that stuff then we were clear to move forward. And it took some time in terms of developing relationships with some of the publishers and finding the right fit for us in terms of our first project. When we left and we formed [Studio] Gigante and started talking to the companies, they all wanted a fighting product. It was clear we weren't going to be doing a racing game. So that we knew our first gig was going to be a fighting game. Which, you know, I think we all had a lot of excitement for fighting games and I certainly had a lot of things that I wanted to investigate about them. So it was kind of a natural, and that is what Microsoft was looking for at the time.

Page 2: The beginning of a new era
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