Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mortal Kombat (Game)

Mortal Kombat, commonly abbreviated MK, is a series of fighting games created by Ed Boon and John Tobias. The first four renditions and their updates were developed by Midway Games and initially released on arcade machines. The arcade titles were later picked up by Acclaim Entertainment for the home console conversions. Beginning with Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Midway Games exclusively created home versions of Mortal Kombat up until Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Following Midway's bankruptcy, the franchise was picked up by Warner Bros. in July 2009 and became a part of the Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Branch.
The series began originally as a game based on the popular actor martial artist, Jean-Claude Van Damme. The idea fell through and Mortal Kombat was born instead. As a result of its success, Mortal Kombat has spawned many sequels and has been spun off into several adventure games, films (animated and live-action with its own sequel), and television series (animated and live-action). Other spin-offs include various comic book series, a card game and a live-action tour.
The original three games and their updates, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, and Mortal Kombat Trilogy, were styled in a 2-D fighting fashion with gameplay consisting of six buttons that were high punch, low punch, high kick, low kick, block, and run (run was added in "Mortal Kombat 3"). Reviewers have stated that because of this the characters are only differentiated by their special moves. In fact, some reviewers have criticized that the "bewildering array" of special moves in comparison to other fighting games has resulted in too little focus on regular moves.
The series is especially noted for its realistic digitized sprites (which differentiated it from its contemporaries' hand-drawn sprites), and its high levels of blood and gore, including, most notably, its graphic Fatalities—finishing moves, requiring a sequence of buttons to perform, which, in part, led to the creation of the ESRB. The series name itself is also known for using the letter "K" in place of "C" for the hard C sound, thus intentionally misspelling the word "combat," as well as other words with the hard C sound within later games in the series. Early games in the series were infamous for the prominent use of palette swapping to create new character sprites.

According to, the early Mortal Kombat characters played virtually identical to one another with the only major differences being special moves. In an interview with Computer and Video Games, Ed Boon stated, "[...] since the beginning, one of the things that's separated us from other fighting games is the crazy moves we've put in it, like fireballs and all the magic moves, so to speak." When asked if Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat would do a crossover, Street Fighter producer, Yoshinori Ono, called Mortal Kombat a very different game from Street Fighter. The Capcom Senior Director of communications compared Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat in an interview with Gamasutra by asking if the interviewer preferred the "precision and depth" of Street Fighter or the "gore and comedy" of Mortal Kombat; he also stated that the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat rivalry was considered similar to the Coke and Pepsi rivalry in the 1990s. In an interview with Video Games Daily, Senior Producer of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Hans Lo, called Street Fighter a little more technical fighter in comparison to Mortal Kombat.
Midway would keep their single styled fighting moves with four attack buttons which were a different array of punches and kicks and block until they changed this in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance by differentiating characters normal moves and even giving them multiple fighting styles. Beginning in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance and until Mortal Kombat: Deception, the characters would have three fighting styles per character: two unarmed styles, and one weapon style. Few exceptions to this arose in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, such as monster-like characters like Onaga and Moloch who would have only one fighting style. Most of the fighting styles featured are based on real martial arts, though a few of them are not. Goro's fighting styles, for example, are designed to take advantage of the fact that he has four arms. For Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, fighting styles were reduced to a maximum of two per character (generally one hand-to-hand combat style and one weapon style) due to the sheer number of playable characters.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe dropped the multiple fighting style trend altogether in favor of giving each character a much wider variety of special moves, however some characters still had multiple fighting styles Baraka, utilizing the retractable blades in his arms (called the "Blade Stance"), and Deathstroke who also possessed the ability to use another fighting style in the form of a sword (called the "Sword Stance").

Finishing Moves
Mortal Kombat introduced Fatalities, finishing moves that allow players to end a fight by killing their opponent in a gruesome manner. It was developed in order to give gamers a free hit at the end of the fight. Finishing moves in later games included:
Friendship, in Mortal Kombat II, "which includes giving opponents a present or a bouquet of flowers, instead of killing them",
Animality, in Mortal Kombat 3: turning into an animal to violently finish off the opponent,
Mercy, where the victor gives a little health to the opponent,
Brutality, in Mortal Kombat Trilogy: bashing an opponent into pieces with a long combination of hits or combo
Babality "[where] your opponent turns into a baby."
Deception added the Hara-Kiri (as described by GameSpot, "[...] the hara-kiri, or self-fatality. Basically, players who have lost a match have the ability to punch in a command to perform a self-fatality"), to allow the losers to engage in a suicide-based finishing move, creating a race between both players to see if the winning player can finish off the losing player before the losing player can kill himself.
The Babality and Friendship moves were created as a satirical non-violent finishing move, a sarcastic swipe at the U.S. congressional Investigation for Violence in Videogames who came down harshly on the Mortal Kombat games.

The original Mortal Kombat was developed with digitized sprites based on actors, as opposed to animated cartoon graphics. Mortal Kombat 4 brought the series into 3D, replacing the digitized fighters of previous games with polygon models.
More so than other fighting games at the time, Mortal Kombat was famous for re-coloring certain sprites to appear as different characters. This was most prominent with the series' various ninja/assassin characters. Many of the more popular characters were spawned from these palette swaps.
In the very first game, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and Reptile were essentially the same character. The colors of their attire, fighting stance, and special techniques indicated the difference. Sub-Zero wore blue attire, Scorpion wore yellow, and Reptile wore green. Later games added other ninjas based on the same model: Noob Saibot (fully black), Smoke (gray with an attire that emitted clouds of smoke), Ermac (red), and Rain (purple). Chameleon was a hidden character who would cycle the palette colors of the other ninja.

Mortal Kombat started development in 1991 with only four people; Ed Boon, John Tobias, John Vogel, and Dan Forden. As Ed Boon stated in an interview with Major Nelson "The first Mortal Kombat game was 4 guys, literally, one programmer, myself (Boon), two graphics guys (Tobias and Vogel), and a sound guy (Forden) was the entire team, literally" Originally, Boon and Tobias wanted to create a video game starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, with a digitized version of the action star fighting villains. In a podcast interview with the Official Xbox Magazine, Ed Boon stated for six out of the eight months while they were in production of Mortal Kombat, "...nobody could come up with a name nobody didn't hate." Some of the names suggested were Kumite, Dragon Attack, Death Blow, and even at one point, Fatality. Someone had written down "combat" on the drawing board for the names in Ed Boon's office and someone wrote a K over the C, according to Ed Boon, "...just to be kind of weird..." Steve Ritchie, a pinball designer at that time, was sitting in Ed Boon's office and saw the word "Kombat" and said to Ed Boon, 'Why don't you name it Mortal Kombat?' and according to Ed Boon, that name "just stuck."
The series itself commonly uses the letter "K" in place of "C" for words containing the hard C sound, thus misspelling them. According to an interview with CraveOnline, Ed Boon stated that during game development they usually spell the words correctly and change them later when the developers recognize an opportunity.
As outlined in an article by TIME in 2001, the team switched from digitized actors to motion capture technology stating, "To make the characters in video games more realistic, actors are being recruited to serve as models. Acclaim, the video-game company that made Mortal Kombat, has created a special 'motion capture studio' for this purpose. A martial-arts expert with as many as 100 electronic sensors taped to his body sends precise readings to a camera as he goes through his moves—running, jumping, kicking, punching. The action is captured, digitized and synthesized into a 'naked' wire-frame model stored in a computer. Those models can then be 'dressed' with clothing, facial expressions and other characteristics by means of a computer technique called texture mapping."

Easter Eggs and Secrets
Mortal Kombat included secret characters, secret games, and other Easter eggs. Mortal Kombat 3, for example, included a hidden game of Galaga as well a hidden game of Pong in Mortal Kombat II. Many extras in the series have only been accessible through very challenging, demanding, and sometimes coincidental requirements.
The Sega Mega Drive/Genesis versions had some unique eggs: in Mortal Kombat, a head shot of the President of Probe Software, Fergus McGovern, flew in front of the moon in the Pit stage, while in Mortal Kombat II, Raiden could perform a "Fergality" on the Armory stage.
In the 1992 arcade original when fighting on The Pit stage, the player can qualify for a fight at the bottom of The Pit with the hidden character Reptile, who has the powers of Scorpion and Sub-Zero.
Some Easter eggs originated from in-jokes between members of the development team. One example is "Toasty", which found its way into the game in the form of a small image of sound designer Dan Forden, who would appear in the corner of the screen during gameplay (after performing an uppercut) and yell the word "Toasty". This egg was also the key to unlocking the hidden character Smoke when it happened in the Portal stage. Another note of interest is in Mortal Kombat 4, Forden would say "Toasty! 3D!" after Scorpion did his burn fatality, a reference to the fact that it is the first 3D game of the series.
"Toasty" is also found in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, appearing randomly after the character pulls off a chain of hits, though the picture of Forden was removed for that version.
Yet another private joke was the hidden character "Noob Saibot", who appeared in various versions of the game. The character's name derived from two of the series' creators' surnames, Ed Boon, and John Tobias, spelled backwards. In addition, the character Ermac's name came from the first Mortal Kombat, which had "ERMAC5" on its diagnostics screen; players presumed this dealt with some secret character. The development team decided to turn this rumor into an actual character, who was introduced in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. The character Mokap is based upon Carlos Pesina who leads the motion capture team for modern MK games (and previously played Raiden in the first and second games).