Ed Boon explains Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe isn’t a repeat of the past

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In the explosion of fighting game crossovers Yoda searches for the Soulcalibur, Ryu throws fireballs at Gold Lightan, and Sub-Zero freezes Batman. It’s a strange world out there. During my conversation with Ed Boon, the Co-creator of Mortal Kombat, he emphasized Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe isn’t just a Mortal Kombat game with Superman. The team at Midway went back to the drawing board to create a new system for a new installment of Mortal Kombat. Unfortunately, Boon’s drive to do something new meant the diversion games such as Motor Kombat won’t be part of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. I thought a super deformed Batman in a mini-batmobile would be a selling point, but Boon says Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is pure fighting.


Do you think it’s possible to make a game casual players looking to fight with Superman and hardcore Mortal Kombat fans can both enjoy?


Ed Boon, Producer at Midway Games: A lot of the guys on our team are really hardcore fighting game players. They have influence with respect to the really deep features and that’s taken a great direction. We realize that some of the DC fans and some of the casual players, it’s a “T” rated game, are coming into this for the first time. So, we want to make this as accessible as possible. We have two kinds of efforts going on which is great. They’re merging together very well.


Tell me about some of the advanced features, the “pro” moves or just frame style attacks.


Every Mortal Kombat game has had your standard punch and kick attacks. And then, from the beginning, what happens when you go down, away and hit X and it does something really cool. People realize that, and we call those special moves.


This Mortal Kombat game is the first one to introduce enhanced versions of those special moves. Batman might throw one batarang, but if you time something right he quickly throws another one out there. Our intention is to have it not be something someone can do every time, but it’s a tough enough move that if you do it you’re cool, it’s a great event, and stuff like that. What we don’t want is everyone to be able to do it because then it’s like, OK, why would anyone do the normal version of the move?




You mentioned the batarang and you can easily sidestep that move in the demo I’ve been playing. How do you plan to adjust Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe so sidestepping isn’t as powerful as the other 3D Mortal Kombat games?


There’s not just sidestepping, but a side dodge. In [Mortal Kombat:] Armageddon if you’re in the middle of an attack and you dodge, you do a super fast step. That really was something people could use to quickly avoid a projectile. We don’t have that kind of instant, fast dodge in the game. We still want 3D movement so you can knock yourself over the edge of a platform or through the buildings. We still want maneuverability, but not the lightning fast stuff in the previous games.


I noticed I could still waltz around another player and spiral my way in. Maybe not with the Flash since he has so many reversals, but if someone else is Scorpion you can close distance by walking.


There’s plenty of moves… Shang Tsung has a move that will teleport him right behind. So does Batman. There are a number of moves where a character propels forward and is immune to 3D walking. Like a guy zooming forward. With regards to the projectiles, it’s probably a way you that can still be avoiding it, but it’s not like something that you can sidestep and be indestructible. There are still other moves that can counter it.


Thinking back to some of the other 3D Mortal Kombat games how come you removed the multiple fighting style system?


I think with this game our goal was to wipe the slate clean. We wanted to say “Let’s start from scratch”. We don’t want to do something because we’ve done before. A lot of our competition, they repeat the same thing. Version 5. Version 6. People are getting the feeling I’ve played this game, I like the game, but I played it for the last seven or eight years.


Our goal was we want people to pick it up and feel like this is a new experience. This is something that we started from the very beginning. Because we had the multiple fighting styles, we liked it, but we felt like we’ve done it for three games so let’s start something new. Our new thing is the new combo system, the enhanced versions of the special moves, and letting the player create their own combos.


One thing I hope you don’t give up from the other PS2 Mortal Kombats are those awesome mini-games like Puzzle Kombat. Are you planning anything similar to that?


No, we aren’t. Like I said, we purposely didn’t do things, even though we liked them. We had the puzzle game in Deception and the Kart game, Motor Kombat, in Armageddon. While we were pleased with them, at the same time we felt like if we repeated that people would be like I’ve done that before. We really wanted to focus on fighting and story mode.


Is there going to be absolutely no bonus games? No Test Your Might? None of that?


There is a Test Your Might. When you run through the buildings and you’re crashing through them. There is a tug of war like Test Your Might game, a brief one that lasts for eight seconds or something like that, where both players are participating. One player is trying to increase the damage. One player is trying to decrease the damage. Test Your Might has been integrated in the game, but we don’t have what I would call the diversion games like the puzzle, the motor, and the chess.




Who is your favorite character to fight as?


Right now, it’s the Flash. He’s the big crowd pleaser in our game. People see him flying all over the place doing these crazy punches and they are like I want to play as that character! I’ve demoed the game a lot with Flash.  I’ve gotten to know his moves probably more than any other character in the game. Scorpion is always my favorite Mortal Kombat character, but Flash to me is the equivalent on the DC side.


What was it like working with DC on this project? Did they have a lot of restrictions of what you can and cannot do?


They had restrictions, certainly. Superman is not going to do a fatality. He’s not going to rip Sub-Zero’s head off. He’s not going to do anything brutal from the standpoint of the old Mortal Kombat games. We knew the heroes were going to have these Brutality moves. They still function like a Fatality. The villains and the Mortal Kombat characters still have Fatalities, which is like what people have seen before in the other Mortal Kombat games.


But these won’t be as brutal as the other Mortal Kombat games.


That’s true. It is a “T” rated game. We probably aren’t going to be decapitating people and doing the crazy, shocking, oh my God moves. The fact that it plays so different, it’s a whole new fighting mechanic, it’s the novelty of oh my God it’s Batman and Sub-Zero on the screen at the same time. We feel like that more than makes up for the compromise that we had to make with the finishing moves.


Will there be anything else like Animalities or Babalities?


[Laughs] No, that’s kind of like similar to the question you said before about the puzzle games. It was fun to do an Animality and a Babalitiy. But again we felt like, wipe the slate clean. Start over. I certainly wouldn’t say that we’ve seen the end of those features in terms of future games, but in this game I don’t think you’re going to see a baby version of Flash.




Thinking about the future, have you thought about downloadable content? Selling other characters, DC and Mortal Kombat characters, for an extra price?


We’ve definitely have thought about it. We haven’t thought about any kind of price scheme, if we make them free or make some of them free or something like that. I think it would be the coolest thing in the world. Time is probably going to be the biggest deterring factor. We’re coming out in November. Whatever we can get into the game in time for that is going to determine what’s going to be in there.


I realize you are coming out in November, but you can also sell some DC character in February 2009.


Technology wise, if we can modify the code to accept downloadable content and do that after, then absolutely. I would love to see, I don’t know what names I can throw out there, Hawkman or of course another DC character. That would be a cool thing to have people download. That would be a riot.


What do you think about Marvel vs. Capcom?


I love those games. They played kind of super hyper. You wail on all of the buttons and you see seventy two hits, marvelous, and stuff like that. That was probably a little bit extreme for me, but I thought the novelty was having them was cool. They presented it a little more like animated stuff, a little bit more drawn style. Our goal was to have a realistic, darker, more serious presentation. Radically different styles, but we’re trying to be different.


I’m sure you get this question all of the time, but would you ever make Mortal Kombat vs. Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat vs. Soulcalibur.


Oh yeah. We talked about it way back during in MK4. Ten years ago we talked about it. The reality of the fact is that Capcom owns Street Fighter. Namco owns Soulcalibur and Tekken. And we own Mortal Kombat. So it’s like OK, yeah let’s do it, but who is going to make the game? Is it going to be collaboration? I think those obstacles have been the hardest thing to overcome for doing something like that.


Are there any plans to release this in Japan? Sometimes the Mortal Kombat games are released there like Mortal Kombat II.


Actually, I didn’t know Mortal Kombat II was released there. I don’t know. That’s a really good question. I don’t think Mortal Kombat is well known in Japan, but they probably recognize Batman and Superman so maybe that’s something that will happen.


We know Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is going to be released in Europe too so will there be multi-region online play?


We talked about it. I think we looked into it, but I can’t promise it right now. It’s a long distance and our goal is to keep the lag time between the two games as tight as possible so it’s not a glitchy experience, but we’re looking into it.


I asked the Producer of Street Fighter IV what he thought of your game so I wanted to ask you how you felt about Street Fighter IV.


I thought it was cool. I played it for awhile. Again, there is a novelty of seeing Guile in his full 3D form, Ryu and all those characters. I only played a few games so I didn’t get into all the nuances, but I enjoyed it.


Images courtesy of Midway.

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