We had the chance to catch up with Derek Kirtzic, one of the lead designers on Mortal Kombat 1, to find out more about what's new, the story and why he thinks the series is still so popular.
Few franchises can survive for 30 years and still maintain such a high level of popularity. But Mortal Kombat has done it, and a new instalment is about to be launched very soon. Just as goofy, just as bloody, but in a rebooted universe where even a familiar story is given new twists and turns. We had the chance to catch up with Derek Kirtzic, one of the lead designers on Mortal Kombat 1, to find out more about what's new, the story and why he thinks the series is still so popular.
What does Mortal Kombat 1 actually mean for the series and for the players?
That it's a reboot, a new story that we're telling from a new creation of this timeline through Liu Kang's eyes as the new god of Mortal Kombat. And he's recreated many things that were familiar to you before, such as some characters are coming back differently, they're changing. But still at their core, their same self and still the essence that they've always had.
This isn't the first try of Liu Kang to create a whole new universe. So will we see another of his attempts at creating and molding the universe?
I don't think we're going to see that any time soon. I think we're going to ride this one out for a bit and see what he messed up.
Originally, after Mortal Kombat 11, many players, including myself, expected that your next game won't be another Mortal Kombat. More likely Injustice 3 or anything else. So why did you decide to return to Mortal Kombat right after 11?
We've been working on the same engine for a very long time. For this game, we rebuilt the engine to take on components of Unreal 5 to really make this game look gorgeous and beautiful. And we felt like doing that with Mortal Kombat was our best foot forward. Let's show Mortal Kombat on this new engine and the most beautiful game that we've ever created, and it absolutely is. The game looks gorgeous.
Any other reason?
That was the main reason. The fact that we knew that the dev cycle was going to take longer because of the engine. And that we felt like moving forward that our best foot forward would be showing Mortal Kombat in this new timeline on this new engine. And just make that the decision moving forward.
You've already introduced a lot of characters for the game, but they were divided into factions. So what do these factions mean for the game and how do they fit into the story?
We've given little story blips here and there that there still is a tournament and there is Earthrealm and there is Outworld. And then you've got the Umgadi and you've got the Tarkatans and you still have a lot of these sort of factions that still exist within this timeline.
Essentially this is the second reboot of the franchise. So what can we expect in terms of the story and differences to the previous reboot?
Well, I don't want to really give up too much of the story, right? Because the story is outstanding. But I'm going to say you're definitely going to see some characters and an ending that you did not see coming.
The game introduces the Kameo system. What inspired you to create this new mechanic?
So every Mortal Kombat we want to have something new, something different. We've had variations, we've had where you can build your own loadouts with different moves. And with this game we wanted to have each character have their own core move set. But we want to alter it from game to game, so what do we do? And so we naturally went to, hey, let's explore having an assist game. We've never done that before and it also allows us to dive even deeper into the Mortal Kombat universe by bringing in some of the older characters you haven't seen for a while and have them debut as Kameos in this new timeline.
During the design phase, did you consider making any significant changes to the gameplay?
There are very many significant changes. You have aerial combat now, which you can extend. You have the Kameo system. You have what we call Up Block. You also have your traditional breakers that are back. Meter management is different than it has been in the previous game. So we did make a lot of different changes to the gameplay. But at its core essence, Mortal Kombat still feels like Mortal Kombat, right? When you pick it up, you're like, yes, this feels like Mortal Kombat. But now there are these new systems in place as well for you to work in, to learn, and to engage with.
Since we've played Invasions, I noticed that some of the past minigames were incorporated into Invasions. So what other game modes are we going to get? Are there going to be any surprises, like Motor Kombat in the past?
There was Motor Kombat, there was Chess Kombat, there was Test Your Sight. So what we're showing right now is Test Your Might and Survival missions. There's a couple other little things that kind of trigger and pop up through the exploration journey of Invasions. But our goal is that each season, we're going to start introducing new things. So throughout the life of it, you might be seeing more and more minigames. I can't promise Motor Kombat by any means, sut you'll start seeing some more familiar throwback kind of fun minigames, yes.
Mortal Kombat always had a strong character list with very interesting characters. But with DLC, you are focusing on guest characters from different franchises. Why did you decide to focus on these characters?
So generally, we kind of picked almost like a genre. Like in MK11, you had Rambo, you had Terminator. So you kind of had those movie star action stars. And so for the DLC pack, we really wanted to lean into one, what is really engaging the world right now. And it's The Boys, it's the Omni-Man, and it's Peacemaker. They are some big heavy hitters, and I'm so excited for these DLC characters because they fit so well in this universe. And I think that people are going to absolutely love what we do with them. And of course, we're bringing back some favorites - Quan Chi, Ermac, and Takeda. So we're definitely making sure that we have that balance of the wanted MK characters along with what seems to be really cool for us to embrace right now.
Mortal Kombat, as a franchise, has been around for over 30 years. So why do you think it's still so popular?
I think it's still so popular because it sticks to its roots, which is just, it's fun, it's goofy, and it's easy to play with your friends. And it's familiar, right? It's almost like family at this point, right? It's like, oh, Mortal Kombat, I gotta get Mortal Kombat, right? And we never take ourselves too seriously. There's always a great amount of content for the user to consume for what we're giving you. And in addition to that, it's made with nothing but love and passion.