Mortal Kombat 11 Dev Talks Crushing Blows, Character Choices and More

Bryan Dawson,

January 28, 2019 10:13 PM

Twin Galaxies was able to sit down with NeatherRealm Studios Senior Designer Brian Lebaron and discuss all things Mortal Kombat 11.

Mortal Kombat 11 will be beginning the next era of the legendary Mortal Kombat fighting game franchise with new characters, a truly ambitious story and new mechanics that are sure to deliver plenty of highlight moments to players. 

Twin Galaxies was able to sit down with NeatherRealm Studios Senior Designer Brian Lebaron and discuss everything from the motivation behind the creation of the new crushing blow mechanic to what characters are in play or off limits when it comes to making an appearance in Mortal Kombat 11. 

TG: Why did you decide to add the crushing blows mechanic and how do they add to the gameplay?

Brian: "They really evolved from X-Ray moves. X-Ray moves are really flashy, and they’re just really f**king cool. One thing that we did not really like was that it took so long, and we want that to be really quick and instant. Like how can we work it into a gameplay that is like not interruptive from the gameplay, and that’s where we came up with the crushing blows. We love it, and as we worked on it more and more it evolved and is what it is now where it is super fast. It doesn’t slow down or interrupt the game. It just adds so much to it.

It’s not like it’s not happening a lot. It will happen for casuals. It will happen when you want it to happen. It’s like you know ‘Oh I need these counter hits to win this match,' and you get the counter hit. Imagine the hype around something like that where like it’s a big match and you get a counter hit on someone who gets a crushing blow and for the win, and you are like 'Wow, what the hell.' Those big wow moments and being able to integrate those into the game seamlessly like that is really cool."

TG: The other thing I noticed is that instead of X-Rays we moved to crushing blows and now we have more of a generic super move that activates when you only have a little bit of health left, and it is really the main way of doing damage and are similar to the X-Ray moves. Why did we pivot from X-Ray moves to having supers at the end of a match?

Brian: "I think it gives the hardcore and casual gamer something. So casual gamers are button mashing, and they get down to 30%, and they’ll see something and be like ‘Oh My God’ and don’t have to worry about a meter. Most casual gamers don’t care and just want to have a good time with it and are just having fun, and they are able to come out and be like ‘Ah that’s great!' So being able to get that accessibility to gamers, as well as hardcore gamers who like to meter manage, and they are like if you misstep then you still get it, and it recharges. You have one the whole match, so it’s not overpowering, but it’s another thing to think about and manage. There’s definitely going to be a meter game and you’re going to be seeing that stuff."

TG: Speaking of casual gamers, we noticed that the meter refills automatically and there are two different kinds instead of just one. What was your philosophy going towards let’s recharge the meter over time and let’s change it so that these do two different things?

Brian: "The change to two different things was something that we always kinda wanted, but you again wanted to make it so it is accessible for everyone. So that was really the hard part trying that. Moving the X-Ray part out of that really gave us the freedom to break those into two because breaking it into two makes it more complicated, but being able to separate that allows it to be where you don’t have to think about the X-Rays or super moves anymore. 

The meter refilling automatically is just something that has been going back and forth regarding what works the best, and it not watering down the system. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. We just go another way, but you have to try stuff. The real trick was balancing it to where it would work for everybody. It’s easy to understand. This is offensive, and this is defensive, and there’s crushing blows. You don’t even think about it. A lot of casual gamers have told me that it feels like two separate issues, but it’s all really still meter management, but it’s different. I think that it is really working well, and I am glad we went down that road."

TG: I’ve noticed that Mortal Kombat 11 kinda feels like it has slowed things down. It feels a lot like Mortal Kombat 1 and 2 in that neutral is emphasized. There is no run button or dash.

Brian: "We definitely had that in mind. Not necessarily slowing it down but more focusing on the big moments and action. I hate to say it again but making it accessible to everyone. Unlike level transitions, where you are bouncing around from stages. You are not seeing that right now. It’s very focused on the actual action. You don’t have to worry about too much going on. It’s mostly just you, another player and then interactable stuff."

TG: Obviously, Baraka died in Mortal Kombat X. We haven’t seen Skarlet since Mortal Kombat 9. Are there any rules to which characters you can and can not use?

Brian: "Early on we come up with that type of stuff. We do like a who do we want to come back in kinda like a consensus between the guys that have been there for awhile, the people who are newer and some people who have more inspiration. Just pulling from different places. We really focus on the storyline, so we get the story written and who would make the most sense in that role and then we are like well Skarlet falls perfect to this role. We kinda work the story like that. It’s based off of a little of who everyone wants to bring back, and a lot of what fans want because everybody loves Skarlet. She is such a popular character that we really wanted to bring her back and work her into the story, but it’s really a lot of what everybody wants. We really try to give you guys everything you guys ask for."

TG: So it doesn’t really matter if someone is dead? Does that factor into it at all?

Brian: "With our new storyline that is like breaking everything, we kinda get a get out of free card with this one because we are rewinding time to the very beginning. So we are back at MK1, and we can do pretty much anything we want to. So pretty much at this point in this story no one is dead, so we have free reign to do whatever we want to do. At some point we can bring people in, bring older and younger. All sorts of cool stuff goes on in our game, and I can’t wait for people to play through the game."

TG: Is Sindel completely out of the picture or is she a more popular character?

Brian: "She’s a popular character. She has always been a popular character. I personally love Sindel, especially in the MK3 days. I can’t really comment on whether she is coming back or not, but everyone is in the running for this game. Anybody can come back. You can’t keep anybody dead. It’s like a CW TV show. Everybody can come back alive. It’s like comic book 101. At this point, we can bring anybody back, especially with this storyline of rebooting. We have free reign."

TG: Do you already have DLC planned out now or is that something you wont start planning until the game is done? Not in terms of making the characters but do you know if you are going to have three seasons or etc..?

Brian: "We’re not really supposed to comment on it but for the most part we kinda know what we want, but we don’t have anything fully fleshed out. Nothing is 100% yet. We have ideas, and we always come up with the same form of DLC. We have the same kind of formula that we have always used. Some guest characters, some real characters."

TG: The reason I asked is because it seems like with each new NeatherRealm game we get one extra season of DLC, so once we hit three seasons is that done or is there more?

Brian: "I think it is not necessarily based on how we are doing it, but it is based on what other games and everybody else in the industry is doing. You got games like Fortnite out there where that is all that they do, so games like that are pushing the way. That showed in our older games where there was more and more DLC, support for longer, and more money into like tournaments, more streams, more putting money into everything, so it is kinda where everything is going. Everything esports and keeping the game alive longer. Keeping it fresher. That is not necessarily what we are doing, but that is where the industry is going, and it would be silly for us to not do stuff like that."

TG: With the variations, I noticed that some of them have cool names. Are those the final names?

Brian: "No, I used to do a lot of the naming in the old games, but I passed that onto another guy that I work with, so we kinda just went through right before and threw some names in there right before the show that we thought people would find funny. You can name your variations whatever you want."

TG: When you design the alternate moves for the different character variations, is that something that goes onto someone else later to decide how to balance those?

Brian: "Everything goes through Palo at some point. Eventually it will get to the point where you make a character 90% of the way then the fine tuning, fine tweaking and overall balance is something we all kinda help out with, but he is the main last person it goes through for the most part. With the extra moves that we have now, it is a lot harder to balance. Deciding what takes up multiple slots because some moves will take up more slots, so we have a lot of balancing there to do. It’s pretty custom the character you can make. They are pretty unique. A lot of different combinations, so it’s been difficult, but it works. You kinda know what default moves you are going to have for characters."

TG: When we are going to go into tournaments we are going to have to kick all of the variations. Is there going to be a base version that you are going to be able to use?

Brian: "Absolutely. We definitely keep that in mind one way or another, and we’ll have it where we take off all of the extra attributes like we did in the previous game or it nulls out everything, but you still have your look which is most likely what it will be."

TG: Injustice 2 had like a random gear mode where it would be competitive, but it would randomize the gear, so you could look kinda neat. Do you think Mortal Kombat 11 will have something like that where you can have a different looking character but it still has the default attributes?

Brian: "We are going to do everything that we have done in past games plus more. We are never going to take anything away that was good or helpful."

TG: In Injustice 2 you guys had the boxes that you could buy or get through the tower to get drops for gear. In MK 11 is it still going to be that you have these towers that you have now and competing them will get you boxes that you can open?

Brian: "We are not talking about loot crates at all, but what I can say is that we are not that company who makes the pay to play or pay to win. We are not that guy. We are not those people, so we are not going to force anyone to pay any money to get to anything or achieve anything. We are not really talking about that now, but it will come later."

TG: There has been a lot of talk online about changing voice actors for characters. Who makes the decision to bring in like Ronda Rousey for Sonya Blade? Is that more NeatherRealm or is that more Warner Bros.? Is it more like a mixture?

Brian: "It’s a little bit a mixture of everything. I don't know where the initial idea came from, but somebody does though. I’m really excited for the Ronda Rousy stuff because in my MK days I had characters in real life that I related Sonya too. As the games got older and prettier with the art,  having the younger generation be able to relate a real person, actor or martial artist to those characters is really great. I’ve always been for it. I know that she is a huge MK fan, and she does a lot of work with Warner Brothers, so I am sure there is some collaboration there. Working with her has been great. It was fun to write some dialogue that I knew she was going to have to say."

TG: Can we expect the rollback online netcode?

Brian: "We are not talking about netcode at this time. There’s the textbook answer to that one. Like I said, we are not going backwards. Everything we do is going forwards."

Are you excited to defend Earthrealm from a new threat in Mortal Kombat 11? Join our community and let us know in the comments below!


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