Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon says that his studio's newest fighting game is being built with better online balancing in mind, letting the developer finesse aspects of the combat after it ship—without the need for software patches.
Boon said at Gamescom this week that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 fighting game has software "hooks" built into it that will reduce the need for post-launch updates that users will be required to download.
"The past few games, we've had some exploits that we thought 'We'd really like to fix that,'" Boon said in an interview with Kotaku. "With the introduction of online, imbalances become very publicly exploited. You can fix them with patches—and every game has their really powerful characters, like Sagat in Street Fighter IV."
The MK team's last game, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, suffered from that very problem. The game's Superman had a combo that could be chained together infinitely—a frustrating exploit.
"Everybody wants to ship the perfectly balanced game, but when it has been played for six months and beat on by everybody, players are going to find its weaknesses," Boon said. "We're actually putting stuff in the game that lets us 'turn knobs' after the [game ships]. We have knobs that we can turn to further tweak the game once we know everyone has been bashing on it.
"I mean, we can't add a special move, but we can slow a projectile down or speed a projectile up or tweak the damage, just to kind of fine tune it after the fact."
One of the Mortal Kombat team's other post-launch plans calls for "aggressive" downloadable content. Since the 2011 Mortal Kombat will be comprised largely (if not exclusively) of characters from the original 1992 Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3, don't expect too many new faces. Those three games "really defined the vast majority of the characters that were going to be in it," Boon says.
"We know we're going to be really aggressive with the DLC," he says. "That's a great opportunity for either a brand new character that nobody's ever seen before or bringing back a character that was in MK4 or later.
"That's how we're going to introduce more characters. They're not going to be on the disc and you'll unlock it or something," Boon says, citing the sometimes bothersome practice of shipping supposedly downloadable content on a disc, only to pay for an unlock code later on. "You'll actually download the data."
"The big challenge is getting the DLC characters to people who didn't buy them," Boon says, addressing the potential problem of splitting the online playerbase into DLC haves and have-nots. Given that the MK team plans on offering downloadable fighters a la carte, it's a thorny problem.
"We're going to need a patch or some kind of delivery method—and we're still trying to solve it," Boon says. "One option is a free character that everybody gets and get you all the purchasable ones too. If you download a free version of Raiden or whoever, you'll get everything." Other options include offering free fatalities or environments, but it sounds like Boon is leaning toward giving away at least some combatants as part of their DLC solution.
Boon says that the Mortal Kombat team may also follow in Street Fighter IV's footsteps and will think about releasing a version of the game for the PC.
"We're definitely considering it," Boon says. "I've thought 'How many fighting game players are PC guys?' Apparently there seems to be a market for that in Europe. Since we're on the Unreal Engine, I guess it's not that much of a change from the console versions." Those plans definitely sound like they're open to change, as publisher Warner Bros. has only announced Mortal Kombat for consoles.
We'll have more on Mortal Kombat and NetherRealm Studios' future plans soon.