On the surface, it would seem like even the tough Mortal Kombat characters would be no match for comic book superheroes. In order to make Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe, the game’s creators have devised a story where the worlds collide in a supernatural event, leveling the playing field. Now you can watch Subzero freeze Superman or Batman wail on little Sonya. Senior designer John Edwards and Mortal Kombat Co-creator Ed Boon answered fanboy questions about the upcoming game.
Crave Online: What can you do with Mortal Kombat on the new systems?
Ed Boon: One of the big things about this game is we're not only adding the DC Universe characters to this but we're also rebooting the whole fighting mechanic that we've had. We've done it a few times. This is really Mortal Kombat 8 when you think about it. If you were to describe what it is, it's a little bit more 2D orientated focus and with our fighting, also very focused on special moves. These characters obviously have things, signature attacks. Flash is super fast. Scorpion has always had this kind of spear move. He's had this flame move here since the beginning of Mortal Kombat and he's also had this leg slam. So with these characters, that's really the showcase of this game, these special moves. But on top of it, we've added a lot of layers to it. So some of these moves that you can do, there's almost pro versions of it. John could show you a move where Flash pops the guy up in the air and then he lands down, but if you get the timing right, you can do a more enhanced version of it where he zips over to the other side and nails him too. Those are moves the more fighting game aficionado guys will pick up on.
Crave Online: But you have to know how to do it each time, it’s not a combo?
Ed Boon: Exactly and there's timing involved with it too. So our goal really hasn't been so everybody can do the cool version of it. It's kind of like the cool people can do the cool version of it. We really don't want it to come up every single time. We want it to be a tough thing to do.
Crave Online: Does that make it more of a learned skill vs memorizing buttons?
Ed Boon: Yeah, exactly. That's kind of like the focus of our fighting. Before, we've had some pretty long combos that you really have to memorize a button sequence. Now our combos are more short, more like three hits, three or four hits and then we've added these elaborate fighting modes. This is Klose Kombat. You're building up this meter to try to get to the point where you can do a super. When you win, whoever's on top is the one who inflicts damage on the other guy. Flash has a lot of really cool moves here where he dashes three times, sends the guy spinning and you get a free hit in there. There's a number of teleport related moves where you can come up with different combos.
Crave Online: What's the decision that pounding the ground is certain strength, projectile is certain strength?
John Edwards: It's just gameplay balance. Obviously a projectile is easier to hit someone with because the range of it. In general they do less damage than a move that's hard to land on someone like a certain throw. Basically it's all classic fighting game balance. The harder a move is to land on somebody, usually the more powerful it is. That's the general rule but obviously there are variants within that as well. That's pretty much the rule I follow to start off with. If it's easy to hit somebody with, it probably should not be the one that does the most damage as well.
Crave Online: Do health bars go slower to allow more extensive fighting?
Ed Boon: Definitely there's a good amount of hits you've got to hit to get the guy, but because there are so many, like you just saw seven hits is 18% damage. In previous games you would have done 40% damage. So it's a lot less combo crazy and a lot more player specific moves. It's almost like a boxing game. He's trying to counter my offensive moves with defensive ones. He can grab me in the air.
Crave Online: How much fun thinking of words to spell with K instead of C?
Ed Boon: What's really weird is what we usually do is we put something in the game and we spell it how it should be. Then someone on the team will always say, "Shouldn't that be spelled with a K?" "Oh, you're right, you're right." Then we correct it like that. We don't try to do it but somebody will point it out at some point in the game.
Crave Online: Are the environments interactive?
John Edwards: They are. A lot of them have breakables in them. They all have some sort of a background transition whether it's bust the guys through the wall Test Your Might thing or a freefall level.
Crave Online: What can you break in Metropolis?
John Edwards: Any of the walls, you can actually bust through in any direction and basically go on. Bust through one wall, you come out the other side. You bust through the next wall, oh, there's LexCorp. You bust through, hey, it's the Daily Planet. It's this roundabout way of showing off all these things.
Crave Online: Is there a corresponding MK character for each DC one?
Ed Boon: It's interesting you said that because a lot of people asked, "How did you choose which characters to pick?" A lot of it was based on that. We were saying, "What is the equivalent of a Batman in our universe?" That's Subzero. What is the equivalent of a Scorpion? It was like our Flash. A lot of our decisions were based on counterparts basically.
Crave Online: Why is Batman like Subzero?
Ed Boon: They're both dark, mysterious, brooding characters. Masks, you don't know who they are. You can almost think of Subzero as our version of Batman.
Crave Online: Have you come up with any new fatalities?
Ed Boon: Well, the DC heroes perform brutalities. The DC villains and all the Mortal Kombat characters perform fatalities. Superman's a really good example of these characters that can string together moves. He grabs him, throws him out and attacks him. Those are all separate moves that he strung together. If you're a really good player, you can really show off with all the abilities.
Crave Online: Do you have to reign in DC characters, like Superman should be immortal?
Ed Boon: The storyline actually takes care of a lot of that. The fact that the worlds have merged, a lot of people don't know but Superman's not only weak to kryptonite. He's also susceptible to magic and all the MK characters come from a magical universe. So that kind of fixes itself. Then also the worlds merging together, it's causing all kinds of weird things with the characters. Some of the weaker characters, the human characters like Sonya, are becoming more powerful. Superman is becoming less powerful. So it's kind of a nice way to balance everything out. Obviously if Superman was full strength, no one could touch him. So we are taking some liberties, but not really liberties because it is written into the story. I think once the story is revealed, they'll actually understand how Superman can be getting beaten up by Sonya.
Crave Online: Also, because it's awesome.
Ed Boon: Well, there you go. Short answer, because it's awesome. I'll have to remember that for the next interview. "How can you beat up Superman?" "Because it's awesome." And, done.
Crave Online: Is this a standalone story?
John Edwards: As far as I know, it's completely noncanon so it is a standalone story basically. Even for the MK side also. We're not counting it at part of the official Mortal Kombat lore. I'm sure DC's not counting it as part of the official DC lore as well.
Crave Online: Again, it’s just awesome.
John Edwards: Yes, exactly.
Crave Online: What can you say about the Mortal Kombat side?
John Edwards: Basically, we wanted to try to introduce the iconic characters, the Subzeros, the Scorpions, Sonya, the main characters in Mortal Kombat and give them some of their classic abilities but then also add all this new stuff on top of it. So it's not just like oh, there's Sonya, she has the same old stuff she's always had. There's Subzero, he has the same old stuff. We are trying to actually introduce new elements to those characters, kind of reinvent them as well into the theme of the DC universe.
Crave Online: Do the Mortal Kombat characters have new powers?
John Edwards: Yeah, they're all still based on their theme basically. Subzero, obviously his stuff's all going to involve ice to some degree, but he does have a new teleport where he actually freezes himself into a puddle and pops out the other side. We definitely add new moves for all the MK characters as well to keep up with all the newness of the DC side.
Crave Online: What art did you base the DC characters on?
John Edwards: I think with DC, they wanted us to MK-ize some of their characters, so you see some of the modifications like Flash doesn't normally have these protective kind of armor gloves on. We added those things within some of the Mortal Kombat traditional features while also making them maintain their look of the DC characters. You wanted this guy to look like Flash. In terms of artists, Alex Ross is a big comic book artist. He always did a kind of realistic look. Some of our stuff was trying to focus in on that as opposed to the line art drawings of some of the other artists. He's also a good friend to some of the artists on our team so that's had a lot of input.
Crave Online: How do you perform fatalities and brutalities?
Ed Boon: Brutalities and fatalities are both performed kind of like the traditional way where at the end of the round, you have to do a secret combo that we don't document and do it within a certain distance. Basically, you get this big finishing move show. For the Mortal Kombat characters and the DC villains, it's a fatality. For the DC heroes, it's a brutality.
Crave Online: But brutality still kills you, right?
Ed Boon: No, that's the whole point. The DC heroes don't kill, so brutality beats the crap out of them.
Crave Online: Now that the characters look photorealistic, how hard is it to portray spine ripping?
Ed Boon: This is going to be a T rated game so we're actually not going to rip out spines and do the crazy stuff. We're going to have some of the classic fatalities from the game but not the ones that were crazy brutal.
Crave Online: Was that a decision for DC fans?
Ed Boon: I don't think DC would've been good with Superman tearing off people's arms and stuff. We knew that going into it.
Crave Online: How involved were DC in coming up with brutalities?
John Edwards: They had input on anything the DC side of the game, so even super moves, normal attacks and stuff. We copied some builds over to them, they look at them and go, "Flash really wouldn’t do this, Superman really wouldn't do this." They have their hands in pretty much anything relating to the DC characters which is fine.
Crave Online: Did they give you any fantastic ideas?
John Edwards: They've given us some ideas, yeah. They'll be for fatalities and brutalities that we reveal later on. They definitely have a big hand inside that.
Crave Online: Is this a new engine for a Mortal Kombat game?
John Edwards: We're using the Unreal 3 engine although it has been highly modified. Obviously Unreal 3 is a first person shooter game. This is not Gear of War, it's not Unreal Tournament. It's a fighting game and we ran at 60 frames per second, so we had to do a lot of under the hood management to get it to fit what we wanted to do.
Crave Online: That's still easier than starting from scratch?
John Edwards: It is, it is. A lot of the rendering stuff that Unreal engine does is really good so we just try to take those things, build upon them, change them in the ways we want to without actually having to rewrite it all from scratch. So it does take quite a bit of time. If the engine is good to work with in the first place, which it is. If it's not, then it's a complete miss but in this case it's actually been a fairly smooth transition.
Crave Online: Why should we root for Mortal Kombat or DC?
John Edwards: I guess maybe you should root for both of them equally. I don't want to hang the DC guys out there to dry. I guess just the attachment of some people say, "Hey, I really want to beat up Batman. I've always want to do that. I really like Subzero." So he's going to feel more inclined to fight against Batman. The guys who may not be as familiar with Mortal Kombat characters but find the game through the DC side will be the exact opposite. "I'm Superman, I really want to tear apart all these MK characters."