Interviews// Netherrealm Studios: Ed Boon

Posted 22 Apr 2013 13:16 by
Last Friday, a number of talented UK fighting game aficionados competed at Warner Brosí headquarters for the title of national Injustice: Gods Among Us champion. Training (on the demo version) had been taking place for weeks. Blood, sweat and tears were shed.

And Mortal Kombat creator Ed Boon was there.

The Netherrealm executive producer, who was also behind Injustice, decided to take the trip to London to enjoy the atmosphere and talk to press about the game. Considering his passion for the social side of fighting games, itís not all that surprising. Hereís what he had to say.


SPOnG: Youíre here to oversee and enjoy the Injustice tournament today - whatís your opinion of the tournament scene, and is that a focus for Netherrealm going forward?

Ed Boon: Well, a lot of people on our team actually used to play in the pro tournament scene - the EVOs and all those. So itís of huge importance to us. But at the same time... I feel that fighting games have become more and more technical over the last ten years. And some people just donít have the kind of patience to sit and learn all of the moves and secrets.

So we really wanted to create something that a casual player - the superhero fan, someone who just likes Batman - could pick up and start enjoying right away. We want to cater for the tournament guys, but at the same time draw in new players who might not have bought a fighting game before.


SPOnG: This isnít the first DC game that Netherrealm has developed. Whatís your personal assessment of Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, and what lessons did you learn from that going into the development of Injustice?

Ed Boon: The thing about MK vs DC was that... there were certain things that are strictly the identity of Mortal Kombat, and certain things that are strictly the identity of the DC universe. To make the two mix well, you need to make a little bit of compromise on each side.

After we developed that title we realised that there were two really great opportunities here. One was to make a Mortal Kombat game that went back to the roots and was pure in its gameplay and brutality. Another was to make the ultimate superhero experience - which is where we went with Injustice.

So I think Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe... made it very aware to us that there was an opportunity to do a game like Injustice. Something that is just so much of a superhero celebration.


SPOnG: You mentioned attracting a casual audience just now. The thing with Injustice is that a lot of the DC characters in it might not be so prominent in the minds of the mainstream consumer. Was that a concern for you guys when making this game?

Ed Boon: Well, when we first decided who was going to be in the game, we knew we werenít going to leave out the most important characters. Weíre not going to do a game without Batman, Superman, The Flash, Green Lantern or Wonderwoman. So we definitely wanted to keep the most recognisable characters, to attract people.

But later on in development we decided that we also wanted to make the coolest Aquaman thatís ever been in a video game too, as well as something where villains have a big presence. That means Lex Luthor, Joker, Sinestro. Then we got into the obscure ones such as Ares and Raven, and DC had its list of characters too, like Cyborg. It was a big undertaking to make a game with all of those considerations.


SPOnG: Is Injustice a statement of intent for Netherrealm? Are you guys trying to shirk the impression that you guys are just the ĎMortal Kombat studioí?

Ed Boon: Oh yeah! When youíve been doing it for 20 years, and our first game as Netherrealm studios was in fact the most recent Mortal Kombat game... with Injustice, we really did want to show people that we can do things that are a little bit outside of our comfort zone.

In doing this, I think itís a first step towards... I can see us doing an action adventure game or something like that. So Injustice is the first of hopefully many steps that we take that brings the studio outside of the Mortal Kombat box.


SPOnG: I imagine that would bring up its own challenges as well. Like you said, youíve been working on Mortal Kombat for so long, that broadening out into other genres would be a daunting prospect, surely.

Ed Boon: Absolutely. I think every time you step out of your comfort zone thereís a certain [perception challenge]. Like, a lot of people ask me when the next Mortal Kombat is coming out. So thereís always that balance. But thatís a great problem to have.

If Injustice continues to perform as it has been - in the States, itís been selling really well, weíre very happy about that - and it warrants doing a sequel, then it will be really nice to be known for at least two games: Mortal Kombat and Injustice.


SPOnG: I spoke with Hector [Sanchez, lead producer] recently about the evolution of the fighting genre. He said that the future is in online and social experiences. Do you agree with that? Do you have anything to add, in the form of gameplay enhancements?

Ed Boon: I think gameplay enhancements are always in the process [of evolution], and in Injustice thatís represented in the stage environments and the role they play in the game. Normally, itís just a picture that you fight in front of. Now you have a very big gameplay advancement with environment interactions.

But the really big thing for the future of fighting games is online, social interaction, and the competitive aspect of battling across the internet. Online tournaments, with prizes and everything, are in the genreís future. Thereís nothing like a one-on-one fighting game for the eSports competitive arena.


SPOnG: Whatís been the biggest change in the industry that youíve seen since the original Mortal Kombat arrived in the early 1990s?

Ed Boon: How we socialise and consume video games. In particular, the magic of fighting games is in the spectacle of two people battling one-on-one, with a captivated audience cheering them on. In the 1990s, that scene took the form of an arcade, and it was very much a social experience. People were talking with one another, giving strategies and all that stuff.

Arcades have a lot less presence now than they did in the 1990s... but I think the social experience has moved to the online space. And we need to do things to enhance that spectacle - people can tune in, watch a tournament, participate, win prizes and all that stuff. I really think thatís the future in regards to the social side of fighting games.


SPOnG: Injustice is very much its own game, but I can clearly see elements from the 2011 Mortal Kombat game in there. Do you think some elements of Injustice might make their way into a new Mortal Kombat in the future?

Ed Boon: Absolutely. I think what we learn from our previous titles always affect the decisions of what weíre going to do in the next game. There are things that I thought worked out really well with Injustice that Iíd love to see incorporated into a new Mortal Kombat game.


SPOnG: Thank you very much for your time.

Ed Boon: Thank you.

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