Injustice: Gods Among Us isn’t the first fighting game with characters from the DC Universe. NetherRealm worked on the awkward Mortal Kombat and DC Universe mashup and a decade before when fighting games were all the rage that Sunsoft made a Justice League fighting game. Justice League Task Force never attempted to explain why Green Arrow could beat Superman in a fight. Back then if a rat was on a moon nobody asked questions, but the story mode in Injustice: Gods Among Us will tackle questions for DC fans. In this interview we talked to NetherRealm about selecting story arcs, using Street Fighter style controls, and Detective Chimp.
With so many DC characters out there, how did you pick characters for Injustice: Gods Among Us?
Erin Piepergerdes, Producer: It’s an extremely difficult process especially for a game like this. I mean it’s hard enough when we do a Mortal Kombat game because we’ve created so many cool characters over the years, but when you go into developing a game like Injustice and you have the full depth of the DC Universe to pull from there are some heated debates.
Obviously, we want to have a mix of big power characters like Solomon Grundy and Bane as well as a mix of the more agile guys like Flash and Nightwing. We look for a good mix of powers and styles. We kind of put characters in a few different broad categories and from there make sure we’re pulling evenly. While paying attention to at the same time fan favorites as well as we got some characters in there that are maybe a little more obscure to appeal to fans of the comic books. There are a lot of things we have to juggle and balance so it is certainly not an easy process by any means.
Detective Chimp. I’m not even lying. Adam [Urbano] and I have been fighting to get Detective Chimp in the game, but we were overruled. It’s probably a little too crazy. We have fun making our games, but at the end of the game we want it to be a serious game and not super silly.
Speaking of the comic book fans, how is the story in Injustice going to address the DC lore when it comes to questions like how can superhero X defeat superhero Y?
From day one when we announced the game, people were like how is this going to make sense? How is Catwoman going to defeat Superman? The fans of the comics are really passionate about these characters and to some of them it might not make much sense. The good thing with this game is we had an opportunity to work with a couple of DC comic writers, Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. We have our own internal story team that came up with pitches and we worked closely with them to explain all of these things – to explain how Batman can stand up against Superman and these sort of things.
Anybody that played the last Mortal Kombat, there was the story mode campaign. It was a couple hours long and it was a lot of content. We decided we want to go bigger and better with this game. Basically, there is a story mode to Injustice it’s going to explain all of these things.
Can you explain how Batman can beat Superman?
Unfortunately, I really can’t because it’s key to the storyline. What I can say it’s a really cool take on these characters. I think there are going to be some surprises to help explain some of these matchups and why you see characters who are traditionally good fighting each other to begin with.
You’re definitely going to see alliances you wouldn’t expect. It’s part of the central plot line to the game. You might see people that might traditionally be a villain teaming up with a good character.
Besides the New 52, what story arcs did you pick out and say we want these to be in Injustice?
Similar to the roster selection there are so many storylines everyone has their personal favorites. One of the ones we’re really proud of that is in the game is if you preorder from Gamestop you get the Red Sun characters. That’s when Superman landed in Soviet Russia instead of in the States and what would have happened if he grew up in the Soviet Union. It’s a really cool storyline that gave us a chance to add some missions to the game as well as character skins that fit that storyline.
There is also the Darkest Night Batman. That’s another example where there are retail exclusives with skins and things that deal with that storyline. There are a few of those out that are out there. We also have a few tricks up our sleeve for down the road.
Are there going to be more DLC stories?
We always like to support these games as long as people are playing them. Dealing with the DC Universe, there is a lot of content that we can add in this game to help extend the playtime.
I’ve seen Injustice a couple of times now and the controls reminded me more of Street Fighter than Mortal Kombat with three buttons for attacks and holding back to block. Why did you switch to this style?
We wanted to switch the fight style with this game mainly because we want to differentiate it from our other games like Mortal Kombat. We didn’t want people to play Injustice and think it’s basically a reskinned Mortal Kombat. It gave us a chance as developers to try some new things. There are some similarities to the other game you mentioned, but there are also some difference that we’re doing that are unique to Injustice. Instead of having L1 as your block button like we do in Mortal Kombat, it’s back to block. I usually play more Mortal Kombat so for me it’s more difficult. I have to practice Injustice more. You’ve seen the interactive object and environment. We don’t have that in Mortal Kombat, from a development perspective it gave us a chance to grow and try new things.
You have to make sure you have balanced attacks using the three buttons, but what element you add to the fourth face button to keep the gameplay fun and quick paced. With Injustice we came up with are character traits is something unique for each character and hopefully adds an element of strategy.
When you switched to the three button style did you think this made Injustice more accessible?
When we’re dealing with the DC license we’re going to appeal to a broader audience than we do with Mortal Kombat. Most fighting games in general, are a niche market. There are plenty of players out there that are super passionate about fighting games, but we want the game to reach a much larger audience.
The three button control scheme does tend to lend itself well to a more casual market. Also, this game is teen rated compared to our last game, Mortal Kombat, being rated M. It does go into our thought process to reach a larger audience.
What do you think of the fighting game market in general? There was a drought for awhile, but there are so many more fighting games available today.
It’s actually a great time to be a fan of fighting games and also a developer of fighting games. Because it’s really exciting to see our competitors, some of the other developers what they’re coming up with. They’re really raising the bar across the field. That just drives us to go bigger and better with each of our games.
Especially if you’re a fan of the games, it’s a really great time. There are some great options out there. Hopefully, people will give Injustice a try since there is a lot for people to play and enjoy.
Aside from having a license like the DC Universe, how else can you expand the fighting game genre?
It kind of going back to what you’re saying, making sure it’s accessible. We got a license that appeals to fans of more than just video games, like people who are into comic books or the movies. But, making sure that people can just pick up and play the game without having to study frame animation data to pull off some cool moves. We’re well positioned to appeal to that casual market and then making sure that when people do hear about it we’re accessible in terms of social media and getting commercials out there so people are aware of it.
S.T.A.R. Labs reminds me a lot of the Challenge Tower in Mortal Kombat. We saw the space flying mission which has QTEs. What else can you tell us about this?
You mentioned the one where you actually fly Superman’s ship. We have other ones in there… I apologize I don’t know what I can and can’t talk about here. S.T.A.R. Labs is kind of like Challenge Tower 2.0. Challenge Tower in Mortal Kombat is something we threw together because we wanted to make sure there was a lot of content for single player, people that don’t necessarily want to go online and play the game home on their own.
With S.T.A.R. Labs its a little more cohesive. You’ve got ten or so missions per character that tell a mini-story and then there are challenges within S.T.A.R. Labs and almost achievements for each of those missions. If you get ’em all, three stars on all 240+ missions, there are some really cool unlocks and prizes you will receive for having gone through all of that.
Now that the roster is almost completely revealed, who is your favorite character to play as?
It’s funny because that changes frequently. Every time the designers put a new character in I swear my attention goes to that character. Overall, if I had to pick one and this is tough because there are a couple I really like, I always seem to come back to the Flash. I love his speed, the quick attacks he’s got. Honestly, I’m not very good at fighting games so I need a quick character. Solomon Grundy is one of my favorite characters, as well, but he’s a big brawler and he’s a lot slower. When I’m using him versus someone in our studio who is much better at playing the game I’ve got no chance so I go back to the Flash.