Interview – Ed Boon (NetherRealm Studios)


Interview – Ed Boon (NetherRealm Studios)
With Mortal Kombat Vita now on shelves, we decided it was time for our online readers to check out our interview with the game's creative director, Ed Boon, from last month's Click Magazine...
Click: Hi Ed, thanks very much for taking the time to speak to us. We’ll just start by saying that we had a play of the game earlier and we were very, very impressed!

EB: Good! I’m glad you think that!

Click: So what can you tell us about the Vita version of Mortal Kombat?

EB: Well, you know, the amount of new features that we have in the game… it’s a ton! I actually forget how many we have! The original Mortal Kombat game that came out in April last year had a ton of single player content. It had a very long story mode, it had the 300 challenge tower, it had the arcade mode, you know… it just had a ton of single player content! We also had lots of online modes. Then we added a number of downloadable characters, including some Mortal Kombat characters, Kratos from God of War and Freddy Krueger.

So we tried to cram all that stuff into the PS Vita version. Our goal was really to recreate that experience, and that’s the thing that I’m most proud of – you turn the game on, sit down and start playing and it’s running at 60 frames per second and your first reaction is that this is the Mortal Kombat you’ve been playing on the consoles! That to me is the biggest accomplishment here.

But on top of that, we’ve also utilized the touch screen. Some people can’t perform the fatality moves because they’re too complicated, so now we’ll let players do slashing motions to perform fatalities, or perform an X-Ray move by pressing the on screen X-Ray meter – we’ve got all of those features crammed in there, and a number of features that are specifically made for a portable console game.

You know, when you’re playing a portable game, there are times you want to play in five minute bursts – you might be at the bus stop or in the line for a coffee or something – so we added an additional 150 Challenge Tower missions that are specifically for the Vita. We also added some modes like Test Your Slice or Test Your Balance that really make use of the new controls offered by the Vita.

To me it’s that great Mortal Kombat experience, just like the console versions, plus all the additional content in a portable game, and that’s really the big selling point.

Click: In terms of the technological side of things - getting a full console game onto a handheld - how difficult was that?

EB: Luckily, a lot of the tools we used to create the original Mortal Kombat game were able to function on the Vita development kits, so it was really just a matter of getting the content that we had in the right format and with the different memory footprint and the different resolution, so we had to change a few things around to make it fit. So really it was just a case of optimising everything for the PlayStation Vita.

Click: The quality of the d-pad on the Vita is going to be a big thing for gamers too…

EB: Oh yeah absolutely!

Click: Is that something that you kept in mind while developing it, like “we’ve got a great d-pad again, let’s make the most of it!”?

EB: It’s funny you said that. I’ve always had problems, with analog controllers, doing circular motions and that kind of thing. I’ve been playing this game on the plane a lot as we’ve been developing it, and the one thing that I’ve picked up is that the d-pad offers so much tactile feedback! It’s so precise! You get that click and all that stuff – to me that’s the hidden gem in the system. All the attention is going towards the screen and the touch and all that technology, but the d-pad is fantastic!

Click: It’s like being back in 1994 again!

EB: Yeah exactly!

Click: So you mentioned the touch screen and the new controls, do you think that those new features help to add to the Mortal Kombat experience?

EB: Fighting games are about precise control at their core, so we weren’t going to do things like touching the screen to move forward or tapping it to jump - it just doesn’t really work like that. So we really put that stuff in its own category, which is this new 150 Challenge Tower. So we have these zany kind of missions, you know. So you’re playing as Scorpion and there’s blood spraying everywhere and you need to wipe the screen clear to keep fighting or you can’t see what’s going on, or you’re playing as Raiden and your hat is inflating and it’s going to explode, so you have to keep tapping it while you’re fighting to deflate it. We’re making players spin different ways and what not when they’re playing the game. It’s more from a novelty standpoint though. In terms of the serious fighting and playing using that great d-pad, we really wanted to speak to that precise control and use the novelty touch screen and motion control features for the more whimsical party type modes that are ideal for quick five minute experiences which suit the portable format so well.

Click: Have there been any major changes? Will there be an increased or decreased move roster for the characters, for example?

EB: No, as a matter of fact, all the fine tuning that we made after the original Mortal Kombat came out last year is in here. It’s really the most finely tuned version of Mortal Kombat available. All the moves are intact from the original version, and we added the additional characters that were available as downloadable content. It’s easily the most balanced version of Mortal Kombat available, which is a really big thing for us.

Click: We spoke to Adam Urbano before the launch of Mortal Kombat, and he was telling us that you guys were going to keep supporting that game for as long as possible. Can we expect that same level of support for the Vita version? Will there be DLC available for this one?

EB: I don’t know what our current plans are for DLC. I know we’ve discussed it and what not, but unfortunately we’ve also had to start our next game and we have other things going on. When we finished the last game we were able to work on DLC for a few months before we started on the Vita version, and then our next game, so there were overlaps there. Ideally we’d love to support them for as long as we can, but, you know, we’re always juggling our time and we need to focus on the new game. So we don’t have anything that we’re actually ready to announce right now, but you never know.

Click: Why the decision not to use the 3G connection for online play?

EB: Mortal Kombat runs at 60 frames per second and is very precise, we all know that, but what we found with 3G unfortunately didn’t feel like it could provide the precise experience that we want people to have. You’re susceptible to where you are and what not, so we didn’t want to provide the player with something that could potentially be a bad experience, so we kept it to the WiFi and local multiplayer where the players are in the same room.

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