‘Injustice: Gods Among Us': ‘Mortal Kombat’ master Ed Boon talks DC

May 13, 2013 | 6:17 p.m.
Batgirl is the newest downloadable character in "Injustice Among Us." (WB Games)

Batgirl is the newest downloadable character for “Injustice: Gods Among Us.” (WB Games)

The new game “Injustice: Gods Among Us” begins with Superman killing the Joker after one of the madman’s plots results in the death of Lois Lane, who was pregnant with the Kryptonian’s child. And things grow more intense from there.

Released last month, the game stages grand battles between an impressive number of familiar faces from the DC universe — a number that’s growing with the release of new downloadable characters. First was the interstellar bounty hunter Lobo. Next up, Commissioner Jim Gordon’s daughter Barbara, otherwise known as Batgirl, will join the fray.

Batgirl will be available on Xbox LIVE Marketplace for 400 Microsoft Points and PlayStation®Network for $4.99. Wii U players will have to wait until summer.

NetherRealm Studios and DC spent two years developing “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” which was accompanied by a comic book prequel written by Tom Taylor that debuted digitally back in January. The title sold more than half a million units for the PS3 and XBox 360 in its first week of release.

Hero Complex caught up with the game’s creative director Ed Boon, one of the creators of the venerable “Mortal Kombat” franchise, to talk about his approach to “Injustice.”

HC: How did your “Mortal Kombat” experience influence the creative choices you made on “Injustice: Gods Among Us”?

EB: One of the goals we had was to make it not be like “Mortal Kombat.” We certainly did not want to skin the “Mortal Kombat” engine with DC characters. We wanted to give this game its own identity, so the controls are very different. We don’t have fatalities. We don’t have a block button. We don’t have rounds — it’s just one long fight that you participate in. The game has its own feel, and that was the goal for what we hoped could be a series of games. This game is all about over-the-top moves. In “Mortal Kombat” you might swing a sword at somebody, and in DC you’ll swing a car at somebody. In “Mortal Kombat,” you kick somebody, they get knocked down. In DC, you kick somebody and they go flying through a building and land on top of a roof two blocks away. Very much we wanted to get this feeling of a battle of the gods with a diverse, superpowered ensemble of characters in this totally epic story.

HC: How did you decide which characters gamers would see in “Injustice”?

EB: For years, I’ve owned this DC bible of characters that have been made. If you look at it, it’s completely overwhelming. We can’t whittle this down to 25 characters or something like that. But we’re not going to make a DC game without Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash and on and on down that list. We wanted the villains — Lex Luthor, Sinestro, Joker — all those kind of big higher-profile guys. But DC was also about to release the New 52 — they hadn’t released it when we started working on this game — so we knew from them that they were going to be showcasing some characters more than others. Aquaman, Cyborg, so we wanted to be on board with these higher-profile ones. Then we got more obscure with the Raven, Ares and characters like that who may not have as big of a following, but we wanted to have as diverse a cast as possible. So, the combination of those things and the story itself is what drove the choices.

HC: There were obviously some that had to be left out.

EB: Yes. Thankfully, we’re doing these DLC characters — basically releasing other characters after the game is out that people can download and play — and we can include certain ones that we didn’t get in, like Lobo, who we announced as one of the first. He didn’t make the initial cut, but we got him out there. There are a few others that we’re not ready to introduce yet.

HC: In terms of the look of the game, did developers have specific comic book artists in mind when designing the DC characters?

EB: It was mainly a NetherRealm version of the characters. There’s some fantastic versions of these characters — the Arkham Universe from the Batman games, the New 52, DC Comics’ newest version. There’s movie versions, comic book versions, the animated series… We certainly felt like we wanted to carve out our own versions of these characters, and from the beginning we expressed that to DC and they were right on board.

HC: Did you have a hand in the comic book prequel?

EB: Our story guys certainly shared the script with the writer [Tom Taylor],  so he had a good idea of where we started. He said that he wanted to lead up to and basically fill up the five years before. I think he’s doing a great job, and I always want to read the next issue.

HC: What was your biggest obstacle in making the game?

EB: The biggest obstacle was, in general, just us capturing the whole spirit of these characters, representing them in the video game and creating something that’s as big of a spectacle as something you’d expect that has Superman and Batman in it. It was something that we were constantly challenging ourselves with in the story, the moves and the super moves. When we got Superman punching someone into outer space and then bringing them back down, that set this impossibly high bar for the characters that followed him in terms of making things epic. When we got Superman going, we had to redo Batman to make it more spectacular, so we added the Batmobile hitting an opponent. We had Aquaman — a tidal wave comes over and a big shark grabs the opponent, so that really set the bar. Living up to this gigantic scale universe that DC has created was definitely a challenge.

HC: “Mortal Kombat” is one of the all-time greats. Can you imagine a world where we might see a return to stand-up arcade games?

EB: My gut feeling is that console gaming is just so advanced that it’s surpassed arcade games in terms of technology. To this day, there’s still arcade games being made, though. Ironically you say that and recently at a Chicago arcade there was a guy who built a cabinet and created an “Injustice” graphic for it and basically made an “Injustice” arcade game. It was at a place called Galloping Ghost Arcade. That’s always a fun thing to see.

– Jevon Phillips

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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