Mortal Kombat creator Ed Boon knows a lot about the DC Universe. Back when his NetherRealm Studios was part of Midway Entertainment, they brought Superman, Batman, Catwoman, and Wonder Woman, along with other DC super heroes and super villains, to the fighting genre. While that Teen-rated game pitted the cape and cowl crowd against Mortal Kombat fighters, Boon and his team are developing an original DC-based fighting game and story line with Injustice: Gods Among Us. The Mortal Kombat pugilists are gone and these new super heroes look nothing like their last outing, thanks in part to advances in the Unreal Engine 3 technology the game is being built on. Boon talks about what’s in store for fighting fans in this exclusive interview.
What your goals were heading into Injustice: Gods Among Us?
Where did the title Injustice come from?
It’s a play on the word “Justice League.” Normally [the] Justice League is a band of good heroes, and we’re asking the question, “What would happen if these heroes went bad?” The idea of our heroes going bad and the reasons they’re fighting is going to be revealed over the next few months, but the basic concept is that they are going bad and this is what would happen in that scenario.
What is the storyline that is going on in this world?
We haven’t released details about the specifics of the story, but I can tell you that the story does explain why Batman would be fighting Superman. They’re traditionally both known as good guys. The other thing we explain is why would the fight be even, because everybody would expect Superman to defeat everybody immediately. We do tell those things and it is a very deep story the player participates in.
As the creators of Mortal Kombat, how are you bringing that visceral violence to this game without ripping spines out?
Yeah, it’s funny. A lot of our studio is associated with Mortal Kombat, so I think that people generally tend to ask the question of “Are you going to have fatalities?” And our thing is that this game is its own identity. It has its own feel, features, characters, etc. We really don’t want to draw too many comparisons with Mortal Kombat other than we hope that people try the game out because we did Mortal Kombat. But Injustice is its own game in itself. We really don’t feel like we have to fill out a template game that’s Mortal Kombat with all those features.
Where did the inspiration come for the specific looks of these characters?
DC has been really great with letting us do our own spin, or like a NetherRealm twist, on these iconic characters like Superman, The Flash, and some of these characters that have been traditionally represented with just tights or a really skin-tight uniforms. Because we are able to show much more sophisticated costumes, we designed them to be a lot more dimensional. We have armor and all these things we couldn’t normally represent with our old engine; now we can show those kinds of details.
One of the newest fighters is Catwoman. What does she add to the game?
In our game, the main distinction between the different classes of characters is what we’re calling power characters and gadget characters. Catwoman certainly falls into the category of a gadget character. That tends to be a character that has a really cool weapon or gadget that is typically human-powered. Superman, Solomon Grundy, and Wonder Woman are these crazy over-the-top power characters. They pick up cars and slam them. Catwoman is acrobatic. She jumps off cars. She can easily get herself out of the corners of arenas. She can take her tail off and use it as a whip. She has these really long nails that can be used with all these scratching combos, so she’s like the ultimate female acrobatic character.
Do you have a favorite character of the ones that have been announced thus far?
My favorite so far is Nightwing. He’s acrobatic too, but he has these two fighting styles. He’s got these kali sticks that he uses in his normal fighting, but then he can put them together and he has this really long staff that he has for far-reaching attacks. He can combine the two and switch in between the two fight styles. He’s my favorite one, so far.
Can you explain how the fighting mechanics work?
The gauges on the bottom of the screen are unique to every character, which is something that is really great about this game. Each character uses these meters in a different way. They build up what you can do with the meters and the function of the button that uses the meter is totally different. For Wonder Woman, it changes fighting styles. For Grundy, it’s a whole bunch of grapple moves. This creates a completely different kind of feeling game for each character and their uniqueness with how you play, how the characters interact with the environment, etc. It makes the fighting experience different based on who you’re fighting as.
How has the technology progressed from the last Mortal Kombat to this game?
We’re always making advancements in our graphics engine. This game has much more dynamic lighting in terms of the environments and the characters. It’s a lot more detailed than what we had with the last Mortal Kombat game. In addition, we have a faster rendering engine, so we can put more out on the screen than 60 frames a second. We have a great memory manager that lets us have multiple arenas. You can knock someone from one arena into the next. It’s a lot of steps forward since Mortal Kombat and we’re kind reaping the benefits from these advances in Injustice.
Unreal Engine 3 was never known as a fighting engine before your team tackled things.
Yeah. That’s true. Unreal has traditionally been an engine that’s more for first-person shooters. The Mortal Kombat and Injustice games have these big characters and heavily rely on motion capture animation running at 60 frames per second, so they’re a completely different animal. We made modifications to be optimized for running on this type of game, as opposed to a first-person shooter. Guys put a good amount of work into making this tech more optimal for a fighter.