The Average Gamer

Mortal Kombat X Interview: Hans Lo

Mortal Kombat is coming next month, along with a supplementary mobile app that will let you unlock items on the go. I had a chat with Netherrealm Studios’ Senior Producer Hans Lo about features in both games.

The mobile game uses models and assets from console Mortal Kombat X, so the characters look great. It’s a far more casual game, akin to the mobile app of Injustice: Gods Among Us. You pick your team of three and fight against series of enemies.

Tap the screen for a quick attack or swipe for a more powerful move, stringing combos together to trigger a bigger attack that can be boosted by a QTE. Each character also fills their attack meter which unlocks special moves unique to the character. “You can play it how you want,” said Ho. “If you wanna do a quick, then a swipe, then another quick, swipe, swipe, there’s no rule that says you have to stick with one for your attack. Whatever you feel is right, go for it.”

The pre-release version I played unlocked characters for use within the app, alongside Koins that will be transferred over to the console games. There will be other console unlocks as well, though Lo was reticent on the details.

“There are things that you can cross-unlock, it’s not just Koins,” said Ho. “Today’s video was just an example but there could be other things you can unlock. There could be skins, special items that might help you on mobile. There are a variety of things, we just haven’t gotten to the point where we’re ready to discuss in detail what, exactly those items are.”

MortalKombatX_JohnnyCageScorpion_KombatThe mobile game will also feature events for mobile-only unlocks if you achieve a goal while the challenge is live.

Ho continued, “There are challenges that will come up from time to time and if you complete those challenges, you actually get a character card. So instead of being like, ‘Well here’s some more coins,” this is a specific character that you can only get by beating this challenge.”

Mortal Kombat X on console features a story mode with each chapter dedicated to a character, starting with Johnny Cage. The new game is set 25 years after MK9, adding four new characters descended from the originals: Cassie Cage, Jacqui Briggs, Takeda Takahashi and Kung Jin. “We’ve got a lot of good feedback over the years from our story modes,” said Ho. “How can we improve it? How can we build upon it? In this case we really took a shine, put a lot of effort into our story mode. From a visual standpoint, I think its’ probably our most visually beautiful. Our environments are really deep with a lot of details, animation. The backgrounds come alive to some extent. The characters are much more detailed. Their animations are unique to themselves. The way they walk, the way they duck. Everything is very tailored to the character.

Mortal Kombat X - Raiden Fujin Amulet“When you’re playing, you get a sense of who the character is. You start getting more of an investment, why you may like this character, why you dislike this character. They all stand out on their own. They’re not a bunch of generic characters saying ‘I hate you.’ ‘Well, I hate you too.’ ‘Let’s fight.’ We want to give you a real experience, tell a compelling story.

“What’s cool about this one is that because this takes place 25 years after the last Mortal Kombat game, we’re in uncharted territory. We’re telling a brand new story. Even people who’ve never played Mortal Kombat before can jump in. Because this is something new, they don’t necessarily have to know the history of who likes who, who has a grudge against what. This is really a new story that has elements of that but you don’t need to know that to really enjoy the story in itself.

“We’ve made the game in a way that it’s gonna be a lot easier for someone to just pick up. You should be able, with just a little bit of work, to easily pull off some simple combos and do multiple hits. We’re not trying to make a game that’s exclusively for the hardcore, tournament-level players.

“We know that not all our fans are at that level of dedication, looking at the minutiae, counting frames. You wanna do it? We have all that info for you to figure out. But if you’re just like ‘I wanna sit on a couch with my friends, have a good time,’ there you go. You can do it.”

The Mortal Kombat series has been running since 1992, when the first game was launched by Midway Games. As such, its fan base spans a wide range of ages. I asked Ho if thinks that younger people see games differently. “I think they do, to some extent. This is based on their experience. They didn’t necessarily grow up with the same games as some of the older gamers have. Their expectations are going to be different, the way they look at games is going to be different. We try to be cognitive of those things.”

“We have our older demographics, the fans who played the game back when it was in the arcade. We want to help cater to them, get them excited. Give them things they recognise and get excited about. At the same time, everybody keeps talking about next-gen. In some ways, we’re also looking at the next gen of fighting game players and trying to find ways to engage them and give them something unique to themselves.”

Mortal Kombat X is coming to PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS3 and Xbox 360 on 14th April 2015. The mobile app will be available on iOS and Android.