After playing a few rounds of Sub-Zero vs. Scoprion with Erin Piepergerdes, I asked the associate producer a couple of questions about Mortal Kombat and NetherRealm Studios. Before the interview began, Piepergerdes pointed out how the super meter can enhance attack similar to a focus attack in Street Fighter IV. If the meter is full you can catch a character in a bone-breaking X-ray attack. While there are new features, the team focused on bringing classic Mortal Kombat back, especially after so many fans voiced to see a 2D Mortal Kombat game.
When we were playing Mortal Kombat you mentioned how you wanted bring the best of [Mortal Kombat] 1, 2, and 3 into this game. How have you modernized elements from those legacy games for Mortal Kombat?
Erin Piepergerdes, Associate Producer: Some of the enhanced attacks and some of the finishing moves are modern takes on the classic moves. A good example is Kung Lao has a fatality that actually pulls pieces from his fatality from MK 2 and MK 3 and melds them into one over the top bloody fatality. You will see elements from the early games, but with a modern twist of them.
We also balanced the gameplay considerably more than some of the early games to keep it really competitive and make it almost a tournament level fighter.
What do you as a fighting game developer consider a "tournament level fighter?"
There are a bunch of great ones out there. Some of the Street Fighter games. Tekken. There are a lot of great fighters out there. From day one, we wanted to make ours competitive with the other franchises. Because at the heart, the gameplay is the most important thing. It’s what keeps people coming back.
How are you guiding development to make Mortal Kombat a tournament level fighter?
Testing. Testing, testing, testing. Play testing the game, playing it as much as we can. We have a really great staff of designers that play with the moves and iterate on them. We also have the tech in place, where once the game is released to the general public, if something comes up where we think a move is too overpowered or if heaven forbids someone finds an exploit in the game we can actually tweak those moves through a patch to balance things back out again. As much testing as we do, the best test of the game is when the general public gets to play it. Because you’re never going to find everything in the game and people are going to find things that amaze you.
Why did you decide to take weapon and stance switching out?
Again, it’s just because we are paying tribute to MK 1, 2, and 3. We’re trying to mirror the gameplay as much as possible. By bringing back the characters from those games as well as the environments, those kinds of things.
Mortal Kombat has always been a visceral series. Do you ever feel like you have to step back and cut content out?
Sure, there are fatalities, moves, and what not that we’ve thrown out there that we decided were not a good fit for a game. It’s usually because we do try to censor ourselves because these big finishing moves are very graphic and over the top. At the same time, we are shooting for a mature rating and there are moves we have to cut because they might push us over the edge. So, there were things left on the cutting room floor.
It’s interesting when I think back to Mortal Kombat 2 and 3, I think of wacky elements like friendships, animalities, and that code wheel. While we’ve seen a lot of gore, there hasn’t been as much humor besides "test your sight". Does Mortal Kombat have any of thing similar?
I’ll tell you there are secrets people are going to find when the game comes out in April and I would hate to giveaway those secrets today. Rest assured, there is some content we’re holding back that people have not seen yet. Some will be funny elements and some will be gameplay.
Where do you want to take Mortal Kombat after this game?
With each iteration we try to throw in some new ideas, see what works, what doesn’t work because obviously we want to keep things fresh for players. It’s hard to speculate where we will go with the next one, but rest assured there will be quite a few new things that we’ll try.
Do you think Mortal Kombat go in a direction with more violence or crossovers?
[Laughs.] That is a good question, but not one we can address today. I’m sure we’ll do a variety of things in the future.
How did you work with Sony to get Kratos into the game?
It was a long process, but we worked closely with Sony Santa Monica. Kratos is a great fit in the game because what character fits better in the Mortal Kombat universe than Kratos? It’s been a long time in the making and we’re really happy to see him in the final product?
How does Kratos fit into the story?
There are some story elements there. I don’t really want to give them away because I want them to be surprises for people when they actually get to play the game. He’s mainly in the single player 1 vs. 1 and 2 vs. 2 modes. You’re not going to see him in the story mode of the game, but there are some story elements that help explain why he’s in the Mortal Kombat universe.
Will the Xbox 360 version have an extra character?
I hate to throw this out there, but nothing I can really talk about today so…
NetherRealm Studios is named after the Mortal Kombat franchise, but as a Warner Brothers owned studio are you planning projects outside of the series?
Yeah, there will definitely be other projects in the future. Unfortunately, nothing we can really talk about today, but we’re already throwing out some ideas that maybe don’t fall into the Mortal Kombat canon. As a development studio, we of course love working on the Mortal Kombat games. It’s a big part of our history, but at the same time you do want to try new things from time to time. You will see some other I-other things come out of our studio in the future. For right now, we’re focused on making this be the most balanced and best Mortal Kombat that we can.