Ed Boon is pretty much gaming royalty. He has worked as a designer since the late 1980s, starting with pinball and quickly moving on to arcade games. And then he and three other people created Mortal Kombat, and the rest is history.
The legendary fighting series hits the big 3-0 tomorrow, a date that marks the release of the original Mortal Kombat arcade cabinets on October 8, 1992. And Boon has worked on Mortal Kombat for each of those 30 years, one very unusual feat. in video game design.
To celebrate the occasion, I caught up with the affable creator, now creative director of Mortal Kombat and NetherRealm Studios, to talk about his deep roots in the series, reminisce about his career in MK development, and try to get a sense of where he is. goes from here
PlayStation.Blog: Where does 2022 find Mortal Kombat?
Ed Boon: Well, you find him celebrating 30 years of existence, being in the public eye. Obviously… we haven’t done the last one. I guess that’s probably as close as I can say without giving away too much.
The biggest surprise for me is that the players have come and stayed with us for so long. And so the fact that they’ve stuck with us all this time really makes us stronger with each iteration of the game.
PSB: With Mortal Kombat turning 30, are you reflecting on your life and how it intersects with the series?
EB: Not so much from my life, but certainly from my career making games. Mortal Kombat is like different forms of school for me now. The arcade days were like grade school, and 3D gaming was, you know, middle school or high school.
And now the most recent games, Mortal Kombat 9, MKX and MK11, are like a university or graduate school. I think of my career as different chapters because so much time has passed. And we’ve been making the games pretty consistently, for those 30 years, right? We didn’t stop and take a 10 year break and then we came back.
PSB: Are there any other anniversaries you celebrate besides the original arcade release date of the first game?
EB: I certainly celebrate the release of the arcade game. But there are different anniversaries. For example, 1991 is when we started working on the game, when it was a Van Damme game and all that.
And then next year will be the 30th anniversary of Mortal Monday, the marketing campaign created by Acclaim. They did an amazing job, they really elevated Mortal Kombat to a new level of exposure. And I think it’s been 20 years since Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, right? I think for the next few years we’re going to have a round anniversary number for some version or another of Mortal Kombat.
PSB: If you could travel back in time and give yourself one piece of advice while working on the original Mortal Kombat, what would it be?
EB: Don’t you work so many hours? When you are twenty years old you have almost unlimited energy. But at the same time, I don’t think he would have listened to me back then. We were so motivated. We were so motivated to do something special. And with every new thing that we saw, that we put in the game, and seeing people react to it… that charged us up a lot more, so there was nothing stopping us at that point. We were self-motivated. We were just on a mission.
PSB: And that original Mortal Kombat arcade game was put together in less than a year, right?
EB: Yes, about eight months in total. Yes.
PSB: Mortal Kombat co-creator John Tobias recently shared a look at the creation of the game’s famous dragon logo. Is there a story about the series that he wanted to tell, but somehow the interviews were never mentioned?
EB: There definitely are. And I’ve been trying to tell those stories on social media, showing some of the Record on video we had done capturing the actors going through the motions. And there’s, you know… I’m certainly entertaining the idea of writing some sort of book or something when I get the time. Because there are hundreds of stories that have happened over the years. Every once in a while you remember one of them and say, “Oh, that’s right!” You know? Because 30 years have passed.
PSB: Sounds like a great book! What is it about Mortal Kombat, in your mind, that has sustained it for 30 years? What is the secret?
EB: The secret, I think, is just the hard work and constant new releases that we do. We don’t take a break for 10 years and then we come back. And we’ve managed to do something new with each game. If you look at Mortal Kombat 1 or Deadly Alliance, or Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat 9, Mortal Kombat X… they don’t play the same, they don’t look the same. They all bring something new to the table, to the fighting mechanics that none of the other games had done. And so there is always a freshness in terms of the work.
The graphics have obviously made dramatic leaps forward. So I think a persistent new version coming out on a fairly regular basis has really contributed to that. There have also been things outside of games that have really broadened its horizon: the movies, the animation, all the merchandising… Everyone really keeps it in the public eye.
PSB: There’s probably not much you can say, but how’s the sequel to the movie going? i saw it was reported In the press…
EB: Well, it’s good, I’d say. [chuckles] I guess I shouldn’t say too much. But I’m happy to be involved with it. And Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind is also a great entry, so we really have a lot of things cooking.
PSB: If you went back to 1991 and told your old self that, in the future, there would be three or four movies, TV shows and animations based on Mortal Kombat… what do you think your reaction would have been?
EB: Disbelief. I… it’s funny. With every one of those big Mortal Kombat events that have expanded its reach, the two that come to mind are when Acclaim decided to put $10 million into an ad campaign and created Mortal Monday and you know, kids yelling “Mortal Kombat “. !” on the street. I remember they showed me that video and they were like, “You guys are going too far, this isn’t going to be that big.” And I couldn’t have been more wrong.
And the same when they decided they were going to make a movie based on him. I was like, you know, “you guys are putting too many eggs in one basket.” ….So I’m always a bit more cautious or maybe pessimistic. but i never [assume] “Oh, it’s going to be the greatest thing in the world.” That has always been a surprise to me, to everyone who works on the game that it has become so big.
PSB: Do you have many opportunities to catch up with other people like your peers in the world of fighting game development?
EB: Not very often. I am a big fan of games. I love Tekken, I love Street Fighter and I play those games every new version that comes out. The, you know, obviously Guilty Gears and Samurai Showdowns and all that stuff is great, I love them.
But a lot of them live and develop their games in Japan, and I’m not in Japan very often. So from time to time, we’ll cross paths at maybe E3 or something. But I don’t get that opportunity very often.
PSB: What are your broader thoughts on the fighting game scene right now? It is healthy?
EB: I am very positive. For example, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Tekken, I think they are very conventional games, right? They are not niche games that some people play. They have great appeal and are very different.
I think everyone has realized that you can’t be too complex, or you need to have some layer that is accessible to the general public that doesn’t count frames… they’ve figured that out, but they keep the kind of deeper element that hardcore gamers are really going to gobble up. So I’m really excited, especially, for the next two years. We’re going to have a lot of high-profile big hitters coming up to bat.
PSB: What do you think is driving the evolution in the fighting genre?
EB: Technology yes, obviously. Every game that comes out has new and better graphics. Online play is also important. As games become better played online, it naturally creates a larger audience, a greater variety of opponents to play against. And then exposure – events like EVO are certainly growing in popularity and show what you can do with these games. So a lot of players get inspired by watching the pros play.
PSB: Street Fighter also has an anniversary this year, it’s 35 years old. Going back in time, back to 1991. What was it like seeing Street Fighter II for the first time?
EB: What struck me in Street Fighter II was how big the characters were. For their time, they were huge on screen. And that was a lot of fun and really inspired us to make our characters even bigger on screen.
Arguably, Karate Champ really started the genre. Street Fighter II pushed him into, you know, a phenomenon. Some people credit Street Fighter II and the fighting games that followed with saving the arcades while they were really making a splash.
PSB: Are you playing good games lately?
EB: No… My days are fully booked. There are a number of games I want to play that I’ve seen glimpses of, for sure. So I have a stack of games that I’m definitely going to try out, but I haven’t played anything in a long time.
I always look forward to the new God of War game. It will be a lot of fun to check it out too.
PSB: And going back to Mortal Kombat, where does the series go from here?
EB: You know, you could have asked me the same question 10 years ago, 20 years ago. One of the best things about working on Mortal Kombat games for so long is that we now have team members who weren’t even born when Mortal Kombat came out.
And that’s why we always have such a wide range of players, experiences, ages, different diversity and backgrounds. So there is never a shortage of new ideas. And while I don’t think I can predict them… I’m 100% confident that we’ll always be able to deliver something new with every iteration of Mortal Kombat.
That is something I can say with great confidence. Mortal Kombat will continue to feel fresh, feel new, and push the boundaries with regards to certain aspects of game design.
Note: This interview was summarized for the sake of brevity and clarity.
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