Ed Boon talks Mortal Kombat secrets, MK vs. DC, and the future of M-rated fighters
GP: Let's talk about online play in MK vs. DC. Will it be primarily one-on-one versus fights? What about matchmaking?
Ed Boon: For online, our main focus are the game lobbies. We touched on this concept in the last two games: it's a lobby where you see a list of people inside the rooms. To me, the whole magic of the arcades was trying to beat the guy who kept winning. Our online interface in MK vs. DC tries to mimic that: you go to the Outworld room, the Netherrealm room, and so forth. You can challenge other players, and when you win the game will highlight the winning streak. When you see those winning streaks, you want to take down the other player. It's trying to tap into the public announcement of wins, let players show off in front of others.
GP: The Mortal Kombat games tend to reinvent the wheel every few years. Moving into the future of the series, do you think you'll settle into a more iterative, steady-improvement development schedule similar to games like Tekken? Or will you continue to reinvent the series frequently?
Ed Boon: My gut feeling is that we'll probably do it more often than we have. MK1, MK2, and MK3 were a group: each one added a little bit more to the previous one. MK4 used 3D hardware, but we were afraid to move away from the 2D gameplay...and I think MK4 had the least identity of all the games.
And then with MK: Deadly Alliance, Deception, and Armageddon, we wiped the slate clean and came up with the multiple fighting styles, new graphics and gameplay. I liked how those turned out, but maybe three games under that gameplay style was maybe a bit much. I can see expanding on the MK vs. DC style, but I don't know if I'd want to do it as many times. I think there's a novelty to MK vs. DC where people will say, "Woah, 2D style! I feel like haven't played this before."
Out of our competitors, my favorite fighting series is Tekken. When I pick ip [a new Tekken game] and play as Hwoarang or Jin Kazama, I feel like my character gained a few new moves but overall retained the same strategy. Prettier graphics, but the same basic gameplay. It's the same thing with Virtua Fighter -- I feel like I've played them all before. Coincidentally, their sales aren't nearly as big as they were back in the days of Tekken 3. I think that's something all fighting games, especially ones with multiple sequels, need to do: add something dramatically different.
GP: Obviously the video game industry has moved away from the arcade model. But with Mortal Kombat being one of the biggest arcade series ever, do you ever miss the heat that would surround an arcade release for a new Mortal Kombat game?
Ed Boon: Totally. We got a lot of excitement and valuable data out of testing in the arcade. You bring an arcade board to an arcade, you see people crowded around your game, and you get instant reactions. What are the players having trouble with? So the first night you can [head back to the office] and zone in on perfecting the gameplay.
These days, it's all about the QA department. But you don't get the general public's reaction to the game, and that was a huge thing. And then there was the overall excitement of [an arcade release], watching players go to the change machine, putting their quarter up on the screen, talking about it...to me, that was an exciting atmosphere.
GP: Any word from John Tobias? (note: Tobias and Boon were the core creators of the original Mortal Kombat; Tobias later left the studio after MK 3)
Ed Boon: Yes! I've been talking to him a lot lately. He drew the comic book for our MK vs. DC special edition box. I called him up sometime in August and asked him if he was interested in drawing our comic. John is a comic book artist now, he's huge and he's drawn Superman and Batman. When I asked him [to draw the MK vs. DC comic], John said "that would be a dream come true!" So we all kind of got back together. We still have lunch every couple of months or so. John is actually doing graphic novels now, he's going to release one in November. I don't think he wants me to say the name, but he'll be announcing it pretty soon.
GP: What about Dan "Toasty" Forden?
Ed Boon: Dan is still with Midway. He's the head of the "Central Groups," a group of artists and animators inside Midway who help all the teams with all their games.
GP: What games are you looking forward to playing this fall?
Ed Boon: Gears of War 2! And I'm intrigued by Little Big Planet, everyone is talking about it. And easily my number one game will be the new Guitar Hero: World Tour.