At Gamescom, we sat down with Mortal Kombat co-creator and NetherRealm Studios lead Ed Boon to talk about the newest game in the franchise, life after Midway and what could be next for the fighting game developer.
First, the developer has to wrap up work on its new Mortal Kombat fighting game, due sometime in 2011. Boon estimates an arrival in the first half of that year, giving the team at NetherRealm Studios more time to polish the game than it had been at failed publisher Midway.
When Warner Bros. picked up the Mortal Kombat property and the team responsible for making it, the studio told Boon and team "We want to give you more time. We want to focus on quality."
'I think what people are seeing are the results of that," Boon says. "We're not working under the same accelerated pace that we were during the past few games." That means a Mortal Kombat game that's not as "barebones," in Boon's words, as the last entry, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.
But it also won't be as overstuffed with features as 2006's Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, a game that boasted more than 60 characters, multiple mini-games, a "Kreate A Fighter" mode and more. This time, Boon says, the team is focusing more on the core game, plus offering the unlockable secrets the series is known for.
"We're going to have a Krypt. It's going to have a really elaborate and sophisticated unlocking system," Boon says. "We'll have really deep online stuff. Not to say that we're never going to do [those over the top bonus modes] again, but this game's not going to have a puzzle game or chess game. This is really us focusing on those first three games..."
According to Boon, it seems the new home of Mortal Kombat is focused on extending the franchise beyond just fighting games.
"Warner Bros. made it pretty clear when we came on, that there's a lot more than can be done with Mortal Kombat," Boon says. "Not 'a lot more' as in, 'Let's release two games a year' and beat it into the ground. A lot more in terms of other media—movies, comic books, TV shows, stuff like that."
Boon himself believes there's room to grow on the video game side as well.
"I'd still like to see Mortal Kombat extend to other types of [genres]," he says. "I think [Mortal Kombat spin-off] Shaolin Monks proved that a solid game could be made in terms of action adventure.
"I would certainly like to do something more than [just fighting games]. But it's important that the first game we work on is successful and proves to us that this was a good move by Warner Bros. to pick us up."
"I really want Warner Bros. to be glad that they made this decision. But we definitely would like to work on new types of games. And we've had a number of discussions about it and some things are in the early stages. Not that I don't like Mortal Kombat but I certainly would like to try to work on a different property too."
What about revisiting one of Boon's other beloved games, the arcade deathmatch-cum-game show The Grid?
"I still think it would be a great Xbox Live Arcade game," Boon says. The Grid, now 10 years old, was recently a topic of discussion with the former Midway developers. "I saw that Monday Night Combat game and I was like... damn. 'Cause we'd been talking about trying to redo The Grid for years. It actually got traction about a year before Midway went under."
As for other fondly remembered Midway games, like Smash TV, Spy Hunter and Narc, licenses that now exist as Warner Bros. property, Boon wouldn't claim to be working on anything but Mortal Kombat. But he did offer hope for more Midway revivals, saying "I can't imagine they'll do nothing with those games."