The lights are on
With the launch of Injustice: Gods Among Us this week, we thought it would be a great time to catch up with NetherRealm creative director Ed Boon. During our conversation, we had a chance to talk about how Injustice evolved over its development, the tough choices made when selecting the roster of characters, and some hints about upcoming DLC. We also spoke a bit about life after Midway, and how things have changed for Ed and his team now that they are part of the WB family. Be sure to check out our review of Injustice, and the news of the first announced DLC character.
Game Informer: Injustice is a shift for you and NetherRealm away from Mortal Kombat. I want to talk a bit about the development process that you went through in order to make Injustice its own game and not just Mortal Kombat with DC characters.
Were there challenges in differentiating Injustice from Mortal Kombat, and were there any features or mechanics that you abandoned because they were too iconic to the Mortal Kombat series? Were there any characters that needed to be changed along the way because they were too similar to Mortal Kombat characters?Ed Boon: It was only tough in that Mortal Kombat is so established and so proven that it's a safe area to hang out. Let's do the block button. Let's do fatalities. Let's do the X-rays. All the stuff that's become synonymous with Mortal Kombat. It would have been more comfortable to have hung out there, but at the same time that wouldn't have let this game carve out its own identity.
So, certain things—fundamental things—like the attack buttons and what they do, adding the power button that's unique to each character, holding away to block, getting rid of round 1/round 2 all of these fundamental, staple things in Mortal Kombat. We wanted to establish a whole new feel for this game.
The biggest challenge was getting past our own comfort level. People on the team said, "Should we really not have fatalities? Should we really not have rounds and the block button?" But once people got used to it and looked at the game from a different standpoint, it felt more natural for this game.
A block button would have meant yet another button for players to remember about. We added this interaction button, and with the goal of keeping the play mechanics simple, we didn't want to add another button. So removing the block button reduced the amount of buttons players had to worry about by one, so it was good.
Along those lines, the background interactions, the wagers, etc., were any of those particularly challenging to implement? Did any one more than the others change over the course of development?The whole clash/wager system had a few permutations as we were developing the game. It used to be something you could do at any point in the game. It used to have a different user interface. After some people asked us, "how does it work," and after enough people ask it's a signal that it could be simpler and easier to understand.
As with many features, we did iterate on that one a few times. The background interactions, they were always going to be a staple of the game. From the very beginning, that was part of the plan, as was having the different class of characters (the power characters, the gadget characters).
The big challenge was coming up with a big enough variety and enough of them in each environment to have them play a good part of the fight without dominating the fight. That was the balancing act that we did there. We're happy with how it ended, because they do play part of the fight, but it's not just that the fight is all about picking up cars and slamming them down on your opponent. It's a combination of the fighting mechanics and taking advantage of where you are.
With the way the stages are set up and the background interactions, and the fact that all of them are so different, how did tuning the stages alongside the characters impact the development process?Dramatically. It opened up such amazingly fun scenarios. You get someone into a combo, you pop 'em up in the air, you get four or five hits in, and lo and behold, you realize that you're standing underneath something that you can jump up and slam it on the guy like an exclamation point on the sentence like a big finisher type thing. All of these opportunities kinda pop up organically.
"Oh my god, if I'm The Flash, I can take advantage of this gigantic tree and slam it on them." I really feel like not all of them have been discovered yet. It just opens up a huge number of different permutations and combinations of special things that can happen. You're adding that other variable that's not only character A versus character B, but also, which background and where you are. For me, that's one of the most exciting things that opened up with that feature.
Read on to find out how NetherRealm chose the roster of characters for Injustice and how life has changed for Ed and his team since their last DC collaboration.