You’ve gone simply with ’Mortal Kombat’ as the title to what is essentially the ninth game in the series (not counting various spin-offs). Is this indicative of your intentions with the new game? Do you see it as a fresh start?
The short answer is "yes". With this Mortal Kombat, we wanted to go back to our roots on several levels. The most obvious is the return to a mature presentation; this game is more brutal than the last game and we’ve brought back the over-the-top fatalities. We’ve also gone back to a 2D fighting plane, which hasn’t been done in the series since Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Finally, the story in the game returns to the events of earlier Mortal Kombat games, but with a twist.
Street Fighter IV achieved considerable success by taking things back to the roots of the series, and I understand that you plan to do much the same with Mortal Kombat. What do you think are the particular strengths of the early Mortal Kombat games? And how do you intend to recapture those within a current-gen title?
The thought of going back to our roots has been kicked around by the team for a while now. In fact, many members of the current team grew up playing those classic 2D Mortal Kombat games, so there’s a bit of the nostalgia factor here. By going back to this style of gameplay, we are able to deliver a much faster-feeling gaming experience. This is probably the fastest Mortal Kombat to date. Also by going back to a 2D playing style, we can put more focus on character details and persistent character damage, which wasn’t possible in our earlier games. The combo system has been rethought as well. We wanted to give more control to the player, so though this game is very pick-up-and-play, there is also enough depth to appeal to our hardcore audience.
Similarly, what do you see as the missteps in the Mortal Kombat franchise thus far, and what have you learned from them?
Misstep is a pretty strong word. I don’t think there are any games that we look back on and regret. In fact, we’re rather proud of the games we’ve made over the years.
Mortal Kombat is said to be going back to an M or R18 rating where recent entries in the franchise have been PG. I’ve also read it will include a fairly deep fighting mechanic for hardcore players. Are these dangerous moves in an environment where other developers are attempting to appeal to wider audiences and generally create more accessible games?
The last game, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, was specifically targeted at a much younger audience, but overall, Mortal Kombat has traditionally been viewed as a more mature game. That being said, it is important to note that just because we are making a more mature game doesn’t mean we will not have elements that will appeal to a broader audience. So, while we do have a deeper fighting mechanic for the hardcore players, we also made the game very accessible to the novice and casual players. We’ve made it fairly easy for any kind of player to pull off simple combos while still including more complex moves for those who want to dive deeper into the game. Visually, we’ve kicked Mortal Kombat up to a new level so we can really show off the details of each character and the environments. We’re adding additional game modes to allow more ways for players and their friends to interact online and offline. Finally, there is a great storyline that will appeal to newcomers to the series as well as hardcore fans, that will unfold via the story mode that includes over two hours of cinematics. Essentially, we want to give gamers the best Mortal Kombat yet by offering any player a series of great gaming options and an overall well-rounded game.
Given that the franchise’s canon has developed over the course of eight games so far, will the new Mortal Kombat be a good starting point for those who are new to the series?
Yes. Right at the start we recap what has happened in the Mortal Kombat universe. From there, we take the player back to the beginning where they try to rewrite history in the hopes of ensuring a different outcome for the series.
This is the first Mortal Kombat title that won’t be published by Midway now that the company has dissolved. Has the new arrangement freed you up at all to do anything that you couldn’t previously or opened up any other opportunities?
This will be the first Mortal Kombat game that will be published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, so I guess you can look at this as a reboot for the team itself. The team was very fortunate in that we, as a team, became the newly formed NetherRealm Studios. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has been very supportive of the team. They saw what we had worked on already with this title and liked the direction we were going in. From there, they asked us what we needed to finish this game and gave us the room to just do our thing. It’s actually quite refreshing to be able to work on a game without worrying about anything other than just making a great game. Of course, being part of the Warner Bros. family also opens up more opportunities for us and the franchise.
Fatalities are back and reportedly more gruesome than ever in Mortal Kombat. What have you got in store for us that was too much for other recent entries? And how far can you push the boundaries with the anticipated R18 rating?
I don’t think we have a shortage of ideas for this Mortal Kombat; it always comes down to what’s best for the game and the player. As a team we are always pushing the boundaries, and our overall attitude is that we would rather go too far and then pull back than not go far enough. However, we are always talking with the ratings boards to get their feedback on what we have in mind for the game and ensure the game adheres to the rules for what is appropriate.
What do you think gamers will find the most surprising about the new Mortal Kombat (be they series veterans or newcomers)?
I can’t say much without ruining any surprises, which we definitely don’t want to do. What I can tell you is that, before we showed the game at E3, gamers had an idea of what they thought a mature-rated Mortal Kombat game would look like. Based on the feedback after the show, it was clear that what we showed them blew them away. We had people coming up to us after the presentations saying a new bar had been set. Moving forward, what we have planned will hopefully surpass the expectations of both veteran gamers and newcomers to the series.