Preview

Mortal Kombat X

An Interview With Mortal Kombat X's Shaun Himmerick
by Andrew Reiner on Dec 06, 2014 at 05:39 PM
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Release:
Rating: Mature
Platform: PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, iOS

"I can't believe people are figuring out Fatalities," says Shaun Himmerick, Mortal Kombat X's executive producer, as he watches gamers brutally slay each other in matches of the game at today's PlayStation Experience expo in Las Vegas. "I don't know how they are doing this. It's unreal."

Mortal Kombat X doesn't release until April 14, 2015, yet it appears fans are already figuring out the game's secrets from the brief time they have with it at conventions. I talked to Shaun for 15 minutes as he watched people step up and play his game, and we were interrupted twice by different groups of fans performing Fatalities with different characters. I saw Kano blast a hole through someone's skull with his eye laser, and Ferra and Torr tear an opponent in two.

In between the moments of disbelief, Shaun and I talk about the progress made to Mortal Kombat X, and director Ed Boon's stick figure Fatality illustrations.

Game Informer: How is development on the next Mortal Kombat coming along?
Shaun: It's coming along well. We have the pro testers coming in now so we can get their balancing done. It's hot and furious as always.

Are you testing both online and off?
Yup. We're getting people in to test. We have something like 300 testers between the different groups that are focused on different things. The game is so big that we need people to play story mode, online, play every character against every character with every variation. You have to play every variation against every variation on that matrix. You just need an army of people.

You are doing new things with the new PlayStation 4 and Xbox One hardware, but it's still Mortal Kombat at its core. Are you building off of the same formula that you've been using for the last few entries?
It's interesting. I don't want to say we started from scratch with this one, but we started with a new base with the next-gen change. Between everyone's experience on the team, we have a lot of the same people that it comes back really fast. My favorite joke is: I've been on the team for 13 or 14 years and I'm still number 20 on the seniority list. So many people have been around for so long.

Is Ed Boon still scripting Fatalities through stick figure illustrations?
Yup. He is. He gets really fancy now. They used to be on paper, but now he's using his tablet. He can drag his stick figure characters around and reposition them. You know what, that's how we should announce and leak some stuff, through Ed's stick figures. He's very embarrassed by his art, but I think it's awesome.

 Who are some of the new fighters included in this PlayStation Experience build?
Since E3 we've announced Kano, Raiden, and Quan Chi is the latest one. Quan Chi probably gives away some hints for the story stuff, like where are we, and what's going on.

What's the biggest challenge with making games on the new hardware?
The new hardware has been so powerful that we don't really have a big challenge comparatively to previous generations. I don't want to say it's the easiest, but Sony and Microsoft have been so good with the tools comparatively to history. I think it's been harder on art than anything because look at the number of polygons used to create any character and it could have been done in a couple of weeks. Now it's like a six week process. We have 150 people in the building, 30 temps, probably 15 different outsourcing companies, it's crazy. It's a good problem. [laughs]

How are you going to explain the game taking place in the future in story mode?
At the beginning of the game we do one of those 'Hey, remember what happened and then jump to the future" kind of moments. A lot of people die. I always joke that I think one of the reasons Ed wanted to do Quan Chi is because he's the guy from Hell who can resurrect people, but they are not always the same. Quan Chi obviously lets us do that. The nice thing: We have a whole new generation of people to play with, not just the one age. We can kind of have different tiers from different ages.

Someone just did a Kano Fatality?
We are trying to make them very nostalgic, so maybe they are holding true to what we did before, but it's blowing my mind watching these people pull off Fatalaties. How would you know how to do that?

What is the meeting like when you go into the office and say "Okay, we are adding Scorpion again. How do we make him different?"
Scorpion is the hardest because he's Ed's favorite, and he's the poster boy for the game. You can't screw that up. We basically build Scorpion, and then we build things on. You can't have the spear be part of a variation. That would never work. To have a variation that didn't have the spear would be nuts. We make sure the fans get the character they know and love, while not making it an exact copy of what has come before. In Mortal Kombat X, I love the variation where you can summon a demon. You still have the spear and teleport and now a demon.