Mortal Kombat is one of the industry's enduring success stories, from controversial beginnings to securing its place at the top of the pile with Mortal Kombat X (and its various editions, the most recent of which - Mortal Kombat XL - launched recently). It's a storied history, and for fans of the genre, an interesting one. As such we talked with Ed Boon, a man who was there from the very start, and discussed the series and how he and his team have managed to keep things fresh throughout the years.
Gamereactor: The first Mortal Kombat was launched 1992, and just the other day, Mortal Kombat XL launched. How do you manage to stay passionate for the same series for such a long time?
Ed Boon: Mortal Kombat fans and their passion always fuels us to deliver the strongest game possible. That's easily our biggest motivation. With every Mortal Kombat game, we try to introduce new features people haven't seen before. This always excites us and gives players new challenges and things to learn with each game. This also makes each sequel unique to any of the others in the series.
GR: People really love Mortal Kombat and you probably get tons of requests on what should be included in the games. How do you cope with fan demands?
EB: We love the fact that fans are so passionate about Mortal Kombat. They always have their list of demands they want to see in the game. Unfortunately, it's simply not possible to satisfy every single wish from players. Often times those wishes contradict each other and it falls on us to determine what is best for each iteration of Mortal Kombat. While we certainly do listen to what the fans would like to see in the next game, we also want to surprise them with each game and give them something they were not expecting.
GR: Is there any example in Mortal Kombat X on how fans had influence over what is or isn't in the game?
EB: The fans are very influential in determining which characters we include for the DLC fighters that come after the game is released. Mortal Kombat fans are also very vocal about which characters they would like to see in the game who they missed in the original roster. So our ears are definitely open and listening to what they have to say. But again, we also feel it's important to surprise them with something they didn't see coming.
GR: What's the story behind Reptile, why was he this super secret character in the very first game and did he inspire the fact that secrets have, ever since, been a major part of the series?
EB: Reptile was created by simply changing the colour of Scorpion and Sub-Zero's costume to green. We had no additional graphics memory for another character so we made do with what we had. Yes, Reptile was pretty much the very first super-secret character in any fighting game. He really set the tone for all the future Mortal Kombat games to have some element of mystery that the players had to discover. After a while, players expected secrets.
GR: A common thing in fighting games is to add more meters, more stances, more super features and more gimmicks for every new game. Mortal Kombat has always been loved by both casual and hardcore players alike. How do you make sure you keep this audience intact when making the game deeper and more complicated?
EB: That is a very delicate balance (between core and casual) that we are constantly discussing, debating, and evolving over the years. Fighting game players today are much more sophisticated than they were 20 years ago and we've tried to keep an eye on where the casual player is and where the pros are as well. That sweet spot is different for pretty much every game that we release, so we are always re-evaluating everything.
GR: NetherRealm is leading the fighting genre when it comes to single-player content. Why do you focus so much on this in a genre generally made for versus gaming?
EB: The fact of the matter is that most people spend the majority of their time playing video games by themselves. Mortal Kombat by nature is a one-on-one fighting game that is most fun playing against real people. But we feel it's important to provide fun experiences for the single player as well. We feel Mortal Kombat provides the best single player experience of any fighting game and we are very proud of that.
GR: What's the story behind spelling combat with a K, which has become something of a trademark for the series?
EB: When we were trying to come up with a name for the game, at one point the word COMBAT was written on a grease board in my office. Someone suggested that we spell it with a K just to be different and add an element of mystery. After that, someone else saw the word KOMBAT written up there and suggested the name Mortal Kombat. From that point on we knew that was the right name and spelling.
GR: We would once again like to say thanks a lot for answering our questions, and would finally like to know what you are most proud of with Mortal Kombat?
ED: I personally am very proud of the fact that the last two versions of Mortal Kombat (Mortal Kombat 9 and Mortal Kombat X) are the highest selling of the series. I don't know many other video game franchises that have lasted over 20 years and are doing their best work in the most recent games. Plus our fans are just the best.