A man of steel, a dark knight, and a warrior princess:
The DC Universe will soon collide with the world of
Mortal Kombat and we've tracked down one of the
men responsible for the merger: Hans Lo!
The DCU may be staring down the barrel of it's own Final Crisis, but catastrophic cosmic events will introduce a whole new set of problems when the DC heroes and villains come face to face with the warriors of Mortal Kombat in - Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe!
With invested interest in both franchises, the Infinite Wars has watched over the past few months with keen interest as this surprising crossover unfolds!
Earlier in the month we did our darndest to probe for more interesting information regarding the DC-side of the game when we held a Q&A with consulting DC writer, Jimmy Palmiotti! In an effort to balance the scales, and satisfy your insatiable desire for info, we we one-on-one with chosen warrior from the MK Team - Hans Lo!
We were very grateful to have the opportunity to talk more about some of the story and details from Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, as well as some of the surrounding details, like John Tobias' return, the on-going saga of Mortal Kombat, and what the future might hold.
For the readers: Who are you and what is your history?
My name is Hans Lo and I am the Senior Producer on Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe (MK vs DCU). I have been in the gaming industry for about twenty years. The first nine years I worked at Nintendo starting at a Gameplay Counselor, and later being involved in QA and hardware accessory licensing.
Then for a brief period after that I worked at Crave Entertainment as the QA Manager. Then in late 1999, I joined Midway as a QA Manager. From there I moved into production working on a wide variety of games.
For the last three years I’ve been involved with the MK Team working on such titles as Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 on Xbox Live Arcade, and Mortal Kombat DS.
Fifteen years of MK has built one of the fullest stories in the fighting genre, but in comparison to the seventy years of DC comics, it's still a very young world. What's it like contributing to this on-going saga that manages to be familiar, but constantly evolving?
It’s very exciting. As you’ve said, these universes are ever changing and evolving. In MK vs DCU, we’re going on more of an alternate universe storyline. It’s more of a "what if" scenario involving the DC universe, similar to what DC calls their Elseworld series. So while there is a lot of familiarity with the MK characters, we have a chance to explore how their interactions and views are effected when exposed to something that’s very alien to the MK universe.
For new fans jumping on board, what are some of the highlights of the MK story they might like to know?
Well, as I mentioned before, this is more of a "what if" scenario. So while it does take place in the MK universe, it’s not totally canon to the previous MK games storyline. What I can say about this story is that major events occur simultaneously in the MK and DC universe which leads to a cataclysmic event that forces heroes and villains from each universe to team up in order to save their worlds. These heroes and villains put aside their differences to help each other survive. Some for the good all, and others only do it for self preservation. Either way, it makes a great story. But as for now, the team isn’t quite ready to give out much more detail than this.
Word from above comes down: MK is about to collide with the DC Universe.
What's the first thing the MK team does to initiate the creative process?
Well with any game the team sits downs and brainstorm.
Ed welcomes feedback from the whole team. So if anyone has something they feel could contribute to the process, they are more than welcome to participate. One of the first thing they go over is story arc. In this case, what makes sense for both the MK universe and the DC universe. Why are they colliding? How are they going to collide? Who or what is responsible? Once a basic framework has been worked out, we had to think who do we want to populate these worlds? Basically, you start to fill the missing pieces of puzzle.
Armageddon left the MK story in a very open-ended, pliable place.
What was the impetus to remove MKvsDCU from the on-going story? How much influence, if any, does a potential MKA sequel have on the decision?
Since this crossover is something completely new for MK, we decided to reboot everything. Reboot the gameplay, story, presentation, everything.
At its core, it’s definitely still MK. By removing this game from the past storyline, it gave us sort of a new canvas to work with. It allowed us to go back and look at what we liked and what really worked on previous MK titles, without the constraints or preconception of the MKA storyline.
By doing this, I think we’ve really been able to come up with a really fun game that people will really enjoy. As for a sequel to MKA, it’s too early to say.
I do know that Ed and the team want to go back to a more traditional MK game in the sense that the game will take place within the MK universe, but right now we’re all focused on finishing MK vs DCU.
That "open-ended" quality of Armageddon left many fans wanting more of the in-game story and character development. How much are fans going to get out of MKvsDCU? In the end, will we learn or appreciate anything new about the characters or MK worlds?
Definitely, you’ll get to see more how the character act and react with each other in the situations they find themselves in this game’s story. Sometimes they’ll even behave in such a manner that while is out of character, it’s believable for the altered state they’re in. I might have said a little too much here, but when the fans play the game, this will all make sense. It’s a pretty wild ride.
There have been whispers of character appearances outside the playable twenty-or-so. How much of each universe and it's wide range of characters can we expect to see? What kinds of roles will these characters play?
Can you divulge any names, or mysteriouso hints?
Really? Who’s been whispering this? What do politicians always say these situations?... I can neither confirm or deny these rumors. I guess it’s possible for other characters to be playable. Guess we’ll have to wait and see, won’t we?
The major MK cast is hovering around the seventy character mark, and, of course, the DC Universe has hundreds of characters created over decades of publication. What was it about the characters we've seen announced that assured them a spot? They're iconic, but was there something more?
Yeah, they’re all pretty iconic, and the reason for this is we wanted characters that were easily recognizable for players that were not necessarily familiar with these universes.
No Adam, No Canary:
Neither fishnets nor mass
genocide could guarantee
characters a spot in MKvsDCU!
By choosing the characters we have for the game, it makes it much more accessible to a larger audience. But this wasn’t the only factor, we also wanted to make sure that each character in from each universe had a counterpoint. I can tell you, when it came to the decision process for this roster, it got pretty headed between the team members. In the end, I think we found a good balance. Hopefully the fans out there will agree.
Fans have spent a lot of time trying to pair characters up by certain commonalities. How much of the cast is built on specific comparisons, be they of similarity, or friction?
As I mentioned in the previous question, it was a pretty large part of the process. Both sides have so many rich and interesting characters. Some match ups were really easy, others were tougher in the sense that there could have been more than one good match up.
What led to the decision to create a hybrid villain over existing options?
How involved are the two halves prior to merging? Of the names yet to be revealed, are these characters playable, and can we still look forward to the age-old tradition of henchman sub-bosses?
Hybrid villain? Really? You don’t say. I know that the merging of the universes happens in the game. But villains? Hmmm…
[EDITOR: WorldsCollide.com alluded to a mash-up boss last month, referring to "a cataclysmic force [that] merges conquerors from two universes." Very recent leaks also revealed a "Dark Kahn" victory achievement for Xbox.]
Can you hint at all at the circumstances that merge the chief villains, or for that matter, the universes themselves? Be honest: is it Kochal?
As for the merging of the two universes, I can say that two major events occurring at the same time in each universe triggers the merging process and that it’s up to the teams from each universe to find the cause and hopefully correct the situation before it spells the doom not just one universe, but both.
The differing moral codes of each universe caused a stir when the game was first announced. Has this contrast of ideals played in to the thematic presentation of both worlds?
I think it’s because of these differing forms of moral codes it what makes this game and story great. Each side is true to itself, and because of this, it comes across in the story in an exciting manner.
Shoulder pads, loin flaps, face masks: Has the story and juxtaposition of the two franchises influenced the design of the MK characters?
While the universes are merging, the characters stay true to their universe.
In other words; Scorpion looks like Scorpion, and not some sort "DCized" version of him. The truth can also be said of the DC characters. You don’t see Wonder Woman wearing an outfit that looks like it came from Outworld or the Neatherrealm. She is instantly recognizable as Wonder Woman, golden lasso and all.
MKvsDCU promises to boast a range of story driven cut scenes in the appropriate mode. Are we going to get to see fully rendered motion video? How amazed are fans going to be? How far have things come since MK4?
The cut scenes will be rendered, but right now they’re a work in process, but even then, where they stand right now, they look pretty awesome, and they’ll look even better after we put the final touches on them. Given the power of the Xbox360 and the PS3, the characters and environments in-game look amazing.
We’ve been able to do things that we could only dream of back in MK4.
With that, even though we’re rendering the cut scenes, there’s a very consistent look throughout the game between cutscenes and gameplay.
Will characters feature individual cinematic endings as well as the conclusion to the storymode? Will these be story driven, or suggest more about the characters?
At this point in the development process, we’re not ready to divulge this information. You’ll have to be patient a little longer.
Are there any enticing details you can offer fans eagerly anticipating the story of MKvsDCU?
Well we’ve mentioned quite a bit to date.
Most of the line-up has been announced. We’ve confirmed that there will be fatalities and brutalities. Announced some of the levels. There’s really can’t say much more... yet. We’ll definitely have more in the coming month. A few more exciting things to share in the new future.
Shaolin Monks saw well known comic writer, Jim Kreuger, come on to provide writing that left some fans a little unimpressed. How important was it, in expanding the presence of characters, to examine the script?
Shaolin Monks’ story was about filling in the blanks of between the events of MK2 and MK3. So when we went into it we pretty much knew where the story picks up and where it needed to end, and how it needed to end.
For this game, because it’s more of alternate reality/timeline, we had much more freedom with the story, but at the same time, we knew we weren’t DC writers.
We could write story and dialogue for the MK characters, but while we are fans of the DC universe, we weren’t qualified. This is why we brought in Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray [check out our Q&A with Jimmy!].
Both these men have experience writing in the DC universe and are both well respected in the comic world. Who better to help write the story and the DC dialogue? They both were able to help us find ways of bringing these two universes together.
The prodigal son, John Tobias, has returned. How involved is he with this, or future games? How does his presence, if at all, effect John Vogel's position within the writing staff?
John Tobias isn’t involved in the game development of the game, he is involved in a special edition comic book that supplements the game’s story line.
He’ll be bringing his artistic talents to create the drawings within the comic. So in regards to John Vogel, this doesn’t really effect his work.
Having John Tobias back in the office interfacing with the team was awesome. The newer members were excited to be able to meet and work with John, who is a legend to them. For the older team members, like John Vogel, that have worked with John in the original MK games, it was a blast.
Tobias was announced at SDCC as the penciler for a sixteen-page comic packaged with the collector's edition. That's quite short. What kind of content can we expect from that? Who's writing? Will DC characters appear? That’s right, John will be the penciler for the comic.
Like I was mentioning before, this comic is more of a supplement, or companion to the game. It’ll give you a bit more back story of the events you see in game.
The writing will mainly be done by John Vogel.
As for DC characters; oh yeah, they’ll in there. After all, this story affects them as much as it affect the MK characters. This also means there will be DC involvement in this story.
It's been well over a decade now since Malibu produced their range of licensed MK comics. It's been surprising for some that DC haven't taken a publishing role for any MKvsDCU tie-ins. Is there any intent from the MK team to see Mortal Kombat return to comics again in an expanded role? What would it take to see that happen?
I think it would be great if this happen. As of right now, there are no plans on doing anything more comic wise. However, this isn’t to say that it could never happen.
The MK Kollection three-pack value bundle will be available when MKvsDCU hits shelves. How high are hopes that MKvsDCU might induct new fans into the MK mythos? Why was Deadly Alliance omitted?
With every MK title, we always hope that we can win over new fans, and with MK vs DCU this is no different.
I guess the main difference this time around it was a more conscious thought. Having a Teen rating in North America was part of it. Mostly this can be seen in our gameplay mechanics.
This game is probably much easier for novice gamer to pick up and play than the previous versions. This is not to say that the game has no depth. We also put moves in there that the more advanced players would appreciate.
The best way to phrase it would be easy to learn, but tough to master.
With the bredth of press and acknowledgments coming in, you really get the impression MKvsDCU is another breath of fresh air for the franchise.
What does the future look like for Mortal Kombat?... Could I sell you on a sequel to Special Forces?...
All the positive press and attention for the game has garnered has been phenomenal. The team thinks we have something really special here and we’re really excited to get this game finished and out the door so that the fans can play it. It’s really energized the team. We can’t wait to start on the next MK installment.
As to a sequel to Special Forces, I’ll talk to Ed about it and get back to you. :-)
- Hans, many thanks for your time!
Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe is scheduled to hit stores November 10, available for the Playstation 3 and XBox 360! A limited collector's edition [pictured right] comes in a velvet box and includes; a print, t-shirt, making of DVD, and sixteen page comic book drawn by returning series co-creator, John Tobias!
For more on Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe, check out the official website, and our series of character spotlights and discussions: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, clues special, bonus one, two, three, and four!