Interview With Ed Boon - By GameMaster Magazine

Special thanks to Antony Espindola who posted this interview on his page.

Click here to see a text version.

As promised, here is the full scoop on MK4 in an interview with Ed Boon himself, done in conjunction with GamesMaster magazine (may edition, on sale now).


Gather round people. It's time. You'll be hearing all the hype about the home version of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 soon. It's time we moved on and this month in our exclusive interview with MK creator Ed Boon, we learn out about the next generation of Mortal Kombat. Forget Mortal Kombat 3, say hello to Mortal Kombat 4, this time in 3D

So, did the massive response to MK3 surprise you?
I was actually surprised at how many home cartridges we sold. When we went into the whole thing, especially with the 16 Bit SNES and Genesis people were telling us that the market was very weak for those platforms and getting weaker. So, we weren't expecting big numbers but we sold over a million on each platform which really surprised us, we were expecting maybe 500,000 or even 600,000 per platform. It just really took off. The PlayStation MK3 is one of their highest selling PlayStation games ever still. So, all of it really surprised us just in that respect.

What do you think the reasons are behind the whole MK legend, especially now with the movie and animated video?
There's a lot of a snowball effect going on. When you do a video game that's based on a movie you have some momentum going and Mortal Kombat has actually become a license in itself so we've been lucky enough to have created it and be continually making it. We have momentum going in with each game that is built on the previous game so as long as we keep doing our job there should be further Mortal Kombats.

As a programmer, what difficulties do you face after you do a hugely successful game and then have to do a sequel, then a third and now a fourth game?
The hardest problem that we really hit the wall with ultimately was that there was just so much stuff that we put into the game and there was so much time that had to go just burying things that at some point you just have to say okay we're not going to make the next game, we're not going to keep building on it in that respect. Part one had seven characters, part two had 12, part three had 15 and Ultimate had 22. Part Four isn't going to have 30 characters or anything like that, We're not going to take steps in that area. I think we're going to be more focused on taking steps in new gameplay elements and the new hardware system that we have and try to make it go off in a different direction as opposed to just building on the previous ones. After four games, including Ultimate, I don't think we can expect people to keep playing the same game in a sense and still have the kind of response that we've had for parts one, two and three.

New gameplay elements? What are you planning to do?
Oh god. I wish I could say. Let's just say that the whole strategy of the fighting is going to change radically. Kind of like how we added the RUN button last time. I can't play MK1 or MK2 anymore just because I miss the RUN button so much. Just in terms of how the RUN suddenly makes aggressive attacks and darting in a lot more part of the gameplay than just general gameplay. The new features that we're going to add will do things as major advancements as that. If not more, in fact I would say definitely more.

How long has MK4 been in the development stages now?
Not very long at all. Just a few months really. We're a lot further ahead in the software than the hardware. The hardware is actually still being designed and we're working with our older hardware for the meantime and then when the new stuff comes in we're going to switch over to that. Tony Goskie has already a few backgrounds going which are even better than anything that he's done in the previous games.

How do you go about starting the design?
I think we have a pretty good feeling about what it was about the Mortal Kombat games that people liked and I think, well like I was saying before, that we want to add more stuff but we don't want to alienate the people that liked what we did in the previous games. There are games like Killer Instinct, Streetfighter and Samurai Shodown of which I don't think any of those games have borrowed things from other games but they didn't set out right off the bat to be a complete copy of another game. If you set out from the beginning to be a copy of another game then you're limiting the success that you're going to have because somebody else has already done it. It's not like you're going to be attracting a whole new audience. So, with Mortal Kombat 4 we want to duplicate as many of the things that they liked about part three but at the same time we have to take a couple of risks and change things for the sake of being fresh and new. There's going to be a radical change in the graphics. It's a 3D game and that opens the doors for a lot more nasty fatalities and stuff like that. We're probably going to be a lot more serious too. Mortal Kombat 2 and 3 got a little comical, making fun of the whole issue of the controversy and everything. I think we're going to go back to more of a badass approach in part four.

Any news on ideas or characters, who's returning?
Well, okay, seeing as its you. Raiden and Scorpion are definitely in. Raiden's definitely going to be returning. There's something really exciting about seeing existing favourite characters in a 3D world. It's not like you see polygons with these guys. They're 3D but they're completely seamless. There are no joins or anything like that. It's just really exciting to see these old characters in this new format. At first our idea was to just introduce not all new characters but now just getting Scorpion up and running, everyone is just so jazzed about seeing that. Then everyone is saying oh I want to see his hell fatality, I wanna see this, I wanna see that in 3D.

What graphical enhancements will this game offer over the others? How will it compare to Tekken 2 and Virtua Fighter 2 and 3?
Well, even with those games you can still see polygons. Maybe in Virtua Fighter 3 you start losing them, but the amount of colours they have per polygon, it's kind of like Daytona when you compare it to Cruisin' USA. We're going to have a lot more of a realistic film quality look as opposed to a cartoony type look where the colours are very vibrant. Our textures are going to be more detailed textures as opposed to just a simple texture which gives a cartoon type look. We want a more digitised look. We still want to look like Mortal Kombat in the sense of what Mortal Kombat is associated with. It'll be a digitised look in a 3D game. We'll maintain the look of Mortal Kombat but have the freedom of the 3D movement.

Is Wargods a testbed for MK4?
No. Wargods is a completely different design team and completely different hardware system. They use different hardware to what we're going to have. In general it's completely separate to us. A lot of people will associate it because there are similarities. It has the same button layout as Mortal Kombat and a lot of the same features. People will assume there was some overlap in the design but there wasn't.

Will there any stuff in number 4 that was left out of 3?
Not graphics, but feature wise yes. With every game we finish we don't get time to do everything we wanted to do. In terms of features there is going to be quite a few that we will have time to do this time around.

Will all the moves translate from 2D to 3D?
That's part of what we're going to be discovering. As we get our engine running and we get the players jumping around on the screen I think a lot of doors are going to be opened and unfortunately some will probably be closed because of the fact that we are going 3D. There's a lot to be learned as well. Mortal Kombat is a lot different to the fighting simulators. With Tekken and Virtua Fighter you don't have people disappearing off screen and flying off the ceiling or coming out of the ground and throwing projectiles or spears, or throwing puddles on the ground. We have all these outrageous super natural moves that haven't been implemented in a 3D game yet, that we're going to be doing.

How about fatalities, no MK game is complete without them, will you do a whole load of new ones for 3D or translate the others?
We're going to do new ones. We're going back to the more wicked approach to it all as opposed to that comical one. We're not going to be inflating heads or stretching people out or something like that. It's going to be a lot more towards Mortal Kombat 1 style.

Any new Alities you would love to do if you had the chance?
Animalities, babalities and friendships, they're all in a sense making fun of the whole controversy of Mortal Kombat 1. We may have something new but it will be more serious like the original fatalities. It's not going to be turn your guy into a pumpkin or anything like that. It's not going to be whimsical things like that, it'll be a lot more of a shocker, a real show stopper.

What problems do you see yourself encountering in a 3D game that wouldn't happen with 2D?
The super natural moves that make up so much of the Mortal Kombat style of gameplay, how that will translate to 3D with the ability to zoom in and out. There's a certain simplicity to Mortal Kombat which I think contributes a lot to its success where Virtua Fighter is technically wonderful but it intimidates certain people just because there's a learning curve that's pretty high for that game so I think a lot of the casual players maybe were turned off by it. A lot of the hard core gamers would stick with it and find all the nuances that they'd buried in there. The way that you jump around and the natural feel of it was a little intimidating to some and we really wanted to avoid turning off the people who were really into the 2D Mortal Kombat stuff. The biggest challenge will be getting a 3D game that feels as much fun as a 2D game.

Do you think it would have been possible to do another 2D game?
It certainly would have been possible but I think it would have started to get repetitive and mundane. If we knew that part four was our last one then we would have probably gone in that direction but if part four does well then we will definitely do part five. Until we fail we're going to keep doing Mortal Kombat games.

Is there still a market for 2D stuff, seeing as Capcom are still insisting on doing them?
I don't know if you can just point the finger at Capcom. A lot of people are still romanticised by the whole 3D thing. They don't realise that right now the 2D games are selling the most. Everyone was very impressed by the first Tekken game when it came out but Mortal Kombat 3 sold way more than Tekken did. Mortal Kombat 3 was the top selling game next to Donkey Kong Country last year in terms of all the home games. It sold more than Virtua Fighter and even in the arcade it sold more than all those games. Everybody is still blown away by the whole 3D terminology but there hasn't been a 3D game that has sold as much as the 2D ones, like Killer Instinct. Tekken 2 may break that mould because it's an excellent game. It has a really big following in the arcades and it will be interesting to see how it does with the home versions. If you look at the numbers, the highest selling games over the last three years have been the three Mortal Kombats. Until a 3D games comes along and makes everything else completely obsolete, I can't make any sort of statement and say that 2D games are gone.

How long is MK4 going to be in development?
We're shooting for March next year as a release date.

Is that quicker than the other games?
In a sense it is. It's been over a year since Ultimate came out but out new hardware isn't developed yet so it's going to be a lot more challenging for us to get the game out in less time.

Do you ever get fed up with fighting games now that there are so many, or does the fact that there are so many present its own challenge?
Yeah, that's exactly it. There's always the assumption that the second and third games in a series don't do as well as the first one and I like the idea of breaking that mould where all three MKs were all the top sellers of the year that they came out. Part three doing that was probably the biggest victory just because everyone expects that the third instalment won't do as well. So breaking that mould and saying here's Mortal Kombat 4 and we haven't seen the Streetfighter 4s or a Killer Instinct 4 yet, I guess there's always the possibility, but the fact that we're leading the pack in that respect is nice and it's a challenge to keep that up.

During the last batch of Kombat Kolumns you mentioned the MK RPG, is that still happening and if so on what format? When will it come out?
It's still in the conceptual stage. I'm not involved directly with it. John Tobias is heading up that project. He's doing some incredible stuff. John's the master storyteller and this is an avenue that lets him just go to town with that whole aspect of the game.

What do you think to all the new MKs (UMK3, MK+, MK trilogy), do you think it's stretching it a bit?
That's a good question. One of the, I don't know if you can call it a pitfall, more like, one of the problems you have to deal with with these Mortal Kombat games is that everybody and their brother wants a version for their home system and everybody and their brother also wants the latest version. So we've got everybody asking for some sort of exclusive with Mortal Kombat that will separate their games system from everybody else's. In that respect we want to appease as many people as possible but unfortunately that means that there are so many products in development at the same time that you get concerned that at some point you will just hit over exposure and we don't want to do that because we know that part four is coming down the line.

Is this the last MK game?
If Mortal Kombat Four does well then no.

Has the appearance of Wargods changed any of the ideas you had for MK4?
No, not at all. A lot of people are assuming that War Gods is a sort of test site for Mortal Kombat. It's nothing to do with our design team. We have no connection with that and they have no connection with us.

What can people expect from MK4?
Our goal is the same speed and seriousness of Mortal Kombat. I think one of the things that separates us from the other games is that everything is so furious. There's very little lull time because you can run in and do stuff. We've managed to keep a very high intense sort of gameplay. Keeping that intact and adding the 3D element and being able to move the camera around but keeping the simplistic gameplay style. Everything that you liked about Mortal Kombat but we've cranked the graphics up. We've cranked it up way beyond anything that Mortal Kombat has ever shown before.

Finally, any launch date for MK4 and what do you think it will do to the opposition?
It'll be interesting. I don't know when Virtua Fighter 3 is coming out and I guess people will compare it to that and Tekken 2 or even Tekken 3 if it's out then. I think it'll be radically different. We're going to be completely different to those games. Let's just say this. I bet you that we're going to be the number one game of the year we come out but I said that about the previous games too.