Mortal Kombat 11 finally came out of hiding during its recent reveal and, within seconds, showered the viewer with an onslaught of enough blood to make a snuff film blush. But despite continuing the series’ trend of sadistic gore, Mortal Kombat 11 is drastically changing up the formula. And while we won’t know how those mechanics will play out when the game releases on April 23, we can learn more about them from asking the team at NetherRealm Studios. We recently sat down with Trevor Traub, producer on Mortal Kombat 11, to talk more about the game’s new style, the mysterious Switch version, and more.
Game Revolution: MKX was widely known as a rushdown heavy game. Mortal Kombat 11 is different. Was this a conscious choice?
Trevor Traub: I think it was more of a natural evolution of what we wanted to do. We were looking to do something different and I think we’ve achieved that. It’s not Injustice and it’s not MKX. We’ve got something new.
GR: Mortal Kombat has always had this Paul Verhoeven level of comedic violence but MKX was more serious. Is anything like that (like Animalities or Babalities) in MK11?
TT: I would really like to share details but I can’t. The tone is slightly more campy [than MKX] and I don’t think it’s as serious. But let’s face it. MKX ended in a very serious spot and I think story mode is going to continue directly from that spot. Kronika is very angry with the way Dark Raiden has handled things so she’s going to interject and change things around a bit.
GR: The new super moves are called Fatal Blows and initially seem a little weighted towards newer players. How is that not going to be an issue?
TT: It affords the player some more flexibility when they use it. And the thing to remember is that you only get one Fatal Blow per match. So a lot of times when I’m getting into a fight, we’ll get down to the end of the first round and both of us will have it. And it’s like if I use it now to win this round, I’m not going to have it if I get into the same situation. You have to make that choice. Do I save it and try to win normally? Or do I use now and get the round and try to tough it out the rest of the match.
GR: The gear system is kind of back from Injustice 2. What did you learn from the gear system and how did you improve upon that?
TT: One of the main differences is from Injustice 2’s gear system is that we’ve really divorced the cosmetic and statistical nature of gear. So all of the gear drops that you get that are the masks, the spears, or the blood vials have no stats by themselves. There are other drops that you get where you can choose specific stats on the gear or the specific special move augment that you want for a particular piece of gear. So you’re not tied to any stat on any one piece of gear. If you want stats on your gear, you can put them on there the exact way you want.
GR: When you stats, do you mean moves or…?
TT: For instances, some of the augments we have are that the Fatal Blows will do 10 percent more damage. Or with Skarlet, they add passives like if any of her blood attacks are being blocked, she will heal from it.
She has another augment that’s the inverse of that: she takes damage throughout the match but if she’s landing blood attacks, she’s healing even more. Those builds with Skarlet, like the blood scythe builds I’ve been building, have been the most fun for me.
GR: That sounds a little different from the gear moves in Injustice 2 which hardly anyone used because they weren’t allowed in competitive play. Are these augments and gear moves in competitive mode? How is the team making sure this gear stuff isn’t just relegated to the single-player modes?
TT: There will be a tournament mode that will offer a level playing field. But we’re not currently talking about how that works with gear and augments.
GR: I saw some of the customization options in the menu. How has customization spread to the other parts of the game?
TT: We got a positive response from the Variation system we introduced in MKX. Our main focus with MK11 is returning as much control to player as we possibly can. Instead of pre-baking variations for you, we’re going to let the player create as many Variations as they want with various different augments, gear pieces, and abilities. You can customize the victory screen when you don’t do a Fatality and the intro that plays in the beginning of a match. This game is about giving as much control to the player as possible.
GR: Red Hood was DLC in Injustice 2 mostly because of the fans. So how do you balance who you all want for DLC versus the rampant demands of those fans?
TT: So you know Ed [Boon] does all of those Twitter polls. He loves doing stuff like that. He always likes to take into account people’s desires for characters. Fan input has a really big weight on what Ed does. Ed has a special way of distilling feedback and figuring out what the community is really feeling.
GR: Do you know internally what the DLC characters you will have? How far in advance do you plan it out.
TT: I can’t talk about it. But things are in motion.
GR: The animation in Injustice 2 was impressive. This looks better than that. How do you achieve that level of fidelity? And how does that feed into the gore?
TT: We have our own custom blend shaped technology that powers our facial rigs. We did something really special our facial animation in Injustice 2. And to be able to build on such a successful implementation of facial animation in MKX has been great.
Like I think of Geras’ fatality where he’s freezing time and you see the different facial expressions on the characters especially when he does it on Skarlet. It’s all custom tech and our great team of animators are knocking it out of the park.
You’ll notice in all of our 30hz cinematics that the focus that we’ve placed on our fluid simulations. We’ve spent a lot of time getting those fluid simulations to look as real as possible. That technology is all custom technology.
GR: Mortal Kombat hasn’t been on a Nintendo platform since Armageddon in 2007. How is the Switch version of MK11 coming along?
TT: I actually really like the Switch build. I like the Joy-Con controller more than I thought. We’re trying to reach as many people as we possibly can. So we’re going to take that opportunity.
GR: But that opportunity comes at a cost since it isn’t as strong as the other systems. How do you “downgrade” it without sacrificing its core or frame rate?
TT: There are special geometry reductions that happen to make it work on the Switch. The end product is actually really fantastic. We’re actually not developing it in house; it’s being developed by Shiver Studios. They’re developing it at the same time as us so it’s sort of a co-development. There is no lead SKU.
I can’t wait because I play on Xbox but I will have the Switch version too for practice.