E3 2014: How Mortal Kombat X Is Improving the MK Formula

The streets will run red.

by

Mortal Kombat is back with another bloody entry in this long-running fighting franchise that’s set 25 years after the events of the last game. When developer NetherRealm Studios released its first trailer for Mortal Kombat X, there was a lot of speculation about what could be different in this new Mortal Kombat. Here at E3 2014, I was finally able to get my hands on the game and chat with designer Brian LeBaron about the many changes coming to the Mortal Kombat formula. There is a lot to get excited about in this sequel, so let’s dive in!

In an effort to make the fighters feel less robotic, NetherRealm is stepping up the number of animations per character.

Variants Change Your Fighting Style

Variants are a fascinating addition to the Mortal Kombat formula that dramatically change each character’s fighting style. Each character has three variants available to him or her, which you select at the start of a match, and each variant unlocks different special moves. Playing as D’Vorah--the creepy bug lady shown above--I had variants that gave me access to either a close-range, poisonous spray, or a bug trap that would detonate after a few seconds. I focused on the third option, dubbed Swarm Queen, which granted me bug attacks that stunned my opponent, letting me follow up with another attack. Using that variant, I played D’Vorah as a keep-away fighter, but when I took the poison spray, for example, I had to play her much more aggressively.

Variants feel like they break the fighting game tradition of designing each character with only one play style in mind--be it grappling, zoning, or otherwise--and I’m excited to see how NetherRealm expands upon it. As an added bonus, the variant you choose also affects your character’s outfit. For D’Vorah, she would fight with her hood up or down, or with green ooze flowing from her wrists and ankles. Did I mention she’s a creepy bug lady?

Interactables Have Been Toned Down

With Injustice: Gods Among Us, NetherRealm introduced a new system that let players use certain objects in the background to assist in the fight. Mortal Kombat X has a similar mechanic, but it has been toned down significantly. In the three stages I played, there were fewer interactable objects; the ones that were present were used mostly for mobility, and all fighters used these objects in the same way. Using an object also required some of my fighter’s stamina meter, which we’ll cover in a moment.

The variants system feels like it breaks the fighting game tradition of designing each character with only one play style in mind, and I’m excited to see how NetherRealm expands upon it.

Together, these changes made background objects feel more like utilities than smart bombs. They had less of an impact on the fight, but were still a helpful tool nonetheless. According to LeBaron, these were deliberate changes on the team’s part. He also noted that some background objects can be linked together, such as in the frozen woods where players can swing between two tree branches--provided you have enough stamina.

Stamina Meter Unlocks New Options

Before we talk about the stamina meter, I should note that, like most games here at E3 2014, Mortal Kombat X is still very much a work in progress, meaning certain aspects could change between now and release. With that in mind, the stamina meter is a new addition to Mortal Kombat X that does a few specific things. As I mentioned earlier, it restricts how frequently you can use background objects. The meter is divided into two sections, and using an object drains one of the sections.

Back dashing also drains one of the sections. Running forward--another new mechanic--drains the stamina meter, but at a slow rate. Finally, LeBaron mentioned that the team is experimenting with letting players use stamina to perform throw canceling; however, he wasn’t able to elaborate beyond that point. Stamina will recharge to full after a second or two of being used.

Running lets you quickly close the gap between you and your opponent, and you can cancel out of running into an attack.

While variants, background objects, and the stamina meter were the most obvious changes to the Moral Kombat formula, I also picked up on a few smaller changes. According to LeBaron, you build meter much faster in Mortal Kombat X compared to its predecessor, and the game’s speed has been increased as well. This, combined with several new character animations, helped the action feel less stiff and robotic, which has always been a sticking point for this series. And despite what that initial trailer showed, Mortal Kombat X's counter system is no different from its predecessor. There's still a lot to discover--including what's going on with the story mode--ahead of the game's release sometime next year, but until then, these initial changes have me more than a little excited about the future of Mortal Kombat.

See more coverage of E3 2014 →

Discussion

66 comments
awesomestuff333
awesomestuff333

AWESOME i hope this mortal kombat will be better... mortal kombat 9 was cool but not fun to play 4 an hour but they should add calling cards i guess and maybey u can make your person nah that wont be that fun but the game should have better graphics and way blooder fatatalatys AWESOmE...............................and they should make it fun and some more modes on this games i dont hate mortal kombat i  love it its just not a game 2 play every 2 days

daikkenaurora12
daikkenaurora12

Is Sub-Zero getting killed again???  Ed must hate him.

g1rldraco7
g1rldraco7

This will be very interesting I mean the choice of the different fighting styles you can choose from.and finally a stamina bar. I like it so far.

venomousproctor
venomousproctor

Why does everyone keep saying that the running is a brand new mechanic. If anything its a renewal of the run mechanic from old MK games like trilogy that I personally was really wanting to see introduced again. Go netherrealm


fatalscorpion
fatalscorpion

Damn I look sexy in dat pic! I have to get that chicks number so we can both woop Sub-Zero.

vallee05
vallee05

Announce the edition with the PDP Arcade fight stick again! Superb quality on the previous edition, wished the fight stick would work on my XB1. Would also like to see the other games in the series ported over... looking forward to this!

aquoon_0nly
aquoon_0nly

I'm a casual gamer, not because i want, because i cant play much, and i'll say, each version of mk is getting harder and harder for casuals like me, everything is combo, counter-combo, and such things. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, im just throwing that if you're like me you'll probably play offline only or skip these kind of games, like im doing.

jeager_titan
jeager_titan

 "obvious changes to the Moral Kombat formula" I hope they make a moral Kombat,

WA31988
WA31988

the variants could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how well its implemented, i remember the first mortal kombat on the ps2 era had something similar to that, but it was never implemented that well and it just made things more messy and more complicated to master a single player combos, but the different was that u used to change the players fighting style during the match n not before it, so idk, maybe the variants idea is an improved implementation of what they had in that old MK...

so again, it really depends on how its executed, and seriously when it comes to MK, i rather them play it safe than take big risks, they have been taking risks in the last 4-5 MK games before MK 9 and they all pretty much sucked, none of them felt right...while MK 9 took the basics of MK 2 (played it safe) and it simply rocked.

kane6911
kane6911

some of these changes sounds like the stamina bar sounds like hen-durance instead of being helpful. i think the should let players have infinite run and infinite counters like in dead or alive. but over i need to hear more about this. affecting game play could kill this game.  

hastati4
hastati4

I do like the variants idea, especially when it's something you pick before the fight, rather than during it, as was the case in whatever MK game where each character had two fighting styles and a weapon style. Deception I think, maybe there was another one.

Anyway, it's good because a lot of people are already attached to a specific character as a favorite (Ermac personally) and will now be able to play them in whatever specific kind of style they want.

ra-seru
ra-seru

 I'm not sure if I like these changes... Not liked at all the new fighters (only Cassie cage, come on, how do not like cage and sonya's daughter?)


The graphics looks stunning, but so far, tons of trash games also have amazing grafics...


I think what mortal kombat fans really wanted was a "new MK 9", with more chars (keeping the one existents), better graphics, new combos, new fatalities and animalities =D...


So far i do not like what I did see =/

maklenard
maklenard

hoping the stamina bar would be like ultimate ninja storm's substitution jutsu...

that would be cool

jack00
jack00

The last thing a fighting game needs to be is complicated. For the love of god keep it simple NR, that variant feature looks more tedious then anything else.

RSM-HQ
RSM-HQ

It sounds different, but will different be a good thing? Deadly Alliance was 'different' and stumbled as a joke in all respects.


But with the lack of Next Gen fighters I'll probably grab this anyway, never judge lest played as I always say :)

youre_a_sheep
youre_a_sheep

"While variants, background objects, and the stamina meter were the most obvious changes to the Moral Kombat formula"

Someone contact Robot Chicken and ask for a sketch called Moral Kombat.

princeev
princeev

- How Mortal Kombat X is Improving the MK Formula? 

- with adding more brutality and more sexy bodies.

Coco_pierrot
Coco_pierrot

ok so they re-use some past ideas with some update ... the stamina meter was in MK3/Ultimate/Trilogy and the various fighting stance in Deadly Alliance/Deception/Armaggedon.

nomailx
nomailx

lol!  the "Moral" Kombat! man! best typo ever! @ first line last paragraph! Please don't change it! Awesome!


FINISH HIM!

...

(blabla bla bla bla bla -endless lecture)

---

head explodes!

...

MORALITY!!!


>: )

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

I hated he way blocking was done in Injustice. I want a dedicated button to block. I don't want  Backing away to make a block. I quit playing these fighting games when blocking became an after thought. In the first 3 games. Blocking was very much a part of your strategy. And then somewhere it got lost and players were able to spam attack you, not being able to get out of/ defend/counter attacks. Played Injustice  with friends and you could get 20+ combos. that's not a fight that's a slaughter. I also want simple finishing moves, not 7 button combo (hope you hit all of them right) to finish them. They fix that I'll buy the game at launch.  

xmayne93
xmayne93

@aquoon_0nly Each version is getting harder? I'm guessing you haven't played the first three MK games? Those are much harder than what we have today.

And I'm not really following how it's "hard" exactly. There's still difficulty levels to choose from in MK9. You could literally choose Easy mode and just evade, block, and button mash - and you'd win. Honestly, how hard is it to pick a character, choose an appropriate difficulty, and just play? Remembering complex combos isn't even entirely necessary. And if you want to learn a quick 3 hit combo real fast, just open up the move list in the menu and you'll most likely see an "X,X,X" combo, or an "X,B,A" combo. Then you just work off of that. It's really not that difficult...

Honestly, maybe these types of games aren't for you? That's the vibe I'm getting from the way you talk. The problem seems to be on your end, rather than being on the game's end. The same goes for you, @jack00.

Burning_Typhoon
Burning_Typhoon

@aquoon_0nly 

When you get online. just play a lot.  Lose a lot.  You have to lose before you get good, and after a few months, even if you've only played 15 minutes a day, you'll be able to hold your own.  Muscle memory will build up, and you'll get used to certain strategies.

It's not about how much time you spend playing, but the effectiveness of the time you spend.

jack00
jack00

@aquoon_0nly  I hear you man. I don't have as much time to play as before and today a game who is too complicated to get into, I just end up playing it for a few hours or simply not getting it at all. Fighting games should be the easiest games to get into, but they seems to want to change and fix things that aren't broke.

They are trying to find new ways to make fighting games "better" or more innovative but guess what, a fighting game is only gonna be that, a fightning game. You can't reinvent the wheel with this. So while they think they are making new an exciting fight games, they are just making them worst.

I wanted to get into the last MK game so bad but I ended up playing about 4hours total because I just couldn't learn all the moves and mechanics. It's still in my ps3 slot and i'm always saying man I wanna play some mk, then I think about how complicated it is and move on to something else...

Burning_Typhoon
Burning_Typhoon

@WA31988 

Yeah, I basically stuck to one fighting style the entire time, unless the game required me to switch.  If you know 2, or 3 fighting styles, you're going to use all three of them together.  That's how it should have been.

imajinn
imajinn

@WA31988 This will be different from on the fly style changes. This will be picking your variant before the match, and sticking with that variant until end of match. That fighting style change was horrible in MK: DA

Burning_Typhoon
Burning_Typhoon

@kane6911 

It can work, if implemented correctly.  If you want infinite counters, you have to have the timing on them more strict..  I don't think it's very strict, so it's ok to burn meter.  At least you gain meter faster in this game.

ra-seru
ra-seru

@hastati4 in this case, wouldn't be better then your favorite (like ermac) have ALL these move set at once, without have to change the fighting style? Only having a wider range of attacks and combos?

imajinn
imajinn

@ra-seru I am not one of the MK fans that agree with this. I have been waiting for a more fluid game play, new roster MK for quite a while now, and this just might be what I have been waiting on. Sub and Scorp will always return, but i'm glad to see new characters and not the same roster rehashed again.

dogman7
dogman7

@maklenard God, I hope not. When they changed it so everyone had the same number of substitutions the games got stupid. Basically the first person to substitute was screwed. So many things wrong with the newer Ultimate Ninja games, unfortunately.

dogman7
dogman7

@jack00 I like to think of it as having more characters. You can play using whatever variant you want, so all it'd doing is giving people more playstyle choices.

helder_novais
helder_novais

@Coco_pierrot Clearly, Deadly Alliance, Deception, Armageddon and Shaolin Monks -- Mortal Kombat era was the best. Classic PS2-Xbox-GameCube era.

simonbelmont2
simonbelmont2

@spartanx169x Holding back to block is the industry standard method and it isn't an afterthought. Most fighting games use the hold back to block feature and it has been a staple of fighting games for decades. Blocking is part of the strategy in every MK game and every fighting game in general.


IIRC in Injustice you can push block to escape pressure. The onus is on you the player to learn how to escape or counter pressure from the other player. You can always defend attacks and counter if you learn the game. Twenty hit combos in a fighting game is actually rather tame. You should try playing Marvel vs Capcom where you can get hit with an eighty + combo which will drain your entire health bar.

Ironically, in MK9 the block button actually made the game worse and more unbalanced. The block button allowed players to cancel Kabal's recovery period on his Nomad dash attack. This meant players could do the attack over and over again without having to recover or leave themselves open. It actually prevented the other player from being able to counter his Nomad dash. It made it impossible for players to escape pressure and counter the attack which is similar to the thing you were complaining about.

jack00
jack00

@dogman7 @jack00  Yeah and then you have to think about what variant is better against another variant and which one is best for you. I don't want to analyse sht like that, I want to pick my favorite characters and play. SIMPLE.

princeev
princeev

@Nathalmighty1 yeah, you can have lots of fun with Kintaro's body!

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@simonbelmont2 @spartanx169x  I don't disagree. you obviously know more about them than I do.  Like I said I quit playing them a while back, when a 6 hit combo was almost impossible.   In the very first MK game back in the early 90s. there was a standard button for blocking. I liked that . You knew you were hitting the right button to block. Half the time when I back away in the new games to block, it doesn't block and I get hit.  Again the first game had a counter move to EVERY move. These new games do not have that. If they do I would like to see it explained on a site (not saying there isn't one, just saying I would like to see it to understand it. to me they have made these games button mashers vs being methodical to your approach. That's just my perception. More is not always better. One developer about a year ago commented on how the games have transitioned to Attack , attack , attack. from what they were. And yes its been more than I decade since I played them for that reason. They are what they are now. And that's fine. They just aren't for me. Like I said I have see people get into 25+hit combos(yes I know the numbers can get much bigger and that's not fighting, that's not strategy. That's button mashing. But if that's what the fans want, so be it. I will just  continue to play other games. no harm, no foul . they can't make them for everybody. When they make one where every move has a counter move, then I'll get interested again.

GlaciusXL
GlaciusXL

@simonbelmont2 @spartanx169x Since SFII was where it pretty much began in terms of fighting game craze, BACK-TO-BLOCK was there from the start, quickly followed up by MK's Block in 92. Even games like Pit Fighter had a block button. But either way, both have been around and been in many games for 20+ years. If I had to pick a preference though I would choose block button. Everyone has their preference I'm sure but my personal reasons why I don't like back-to-block as much are:

1) Auto-blocking when trying to back away. In SFII, before backdashs something as simple as taking a step back from a hundred-handslap to do a hadoken without getting hit meant jumping back. If it was block-button, you could take one step back and attack. If you know a move won't hit, back-to-block might still block because its within the programmed "block" range.

2) Opponents get a free block if they were actually just backing up or starting a special move input. In both cases, whether a hindrance or an assist, I feel that if it wasn't specifically intended, it shouldn't block. 

3) You can't block without someone attacking. This is a problem to me because you don't get to see someone that's overly defensive. Are they constantly hitting BLOCK? Whether they're wrongly anticipating an attack, are overly nervous, or are just troIIing, its one more layer to the game. Works the other way to "Hey, I'm not blocking anything... I'm just avoiding. It's a sign that matters. Much like a boxing match I suppose. Just one more thing to read.

4) Crouching block is necessary to prevent walking back. Sometimes you might anticipate an overhead. Well, if no attack happens, you walk backwards. Tap forward to retain position, repeat. This is true with all standing blocks. So crouching block becomes dominant.

5) There are no stand offs or recovering for blocking. A lot of times in classic MK, there would be moments where you're both right together and blocking. Who's going to let down their defense first? Standing crouching, pokes etc. With back-to-block there would only be crouching. And without (at least in the old days) a couple frames of unblocking before you attack, there's zero risk in just always holding down-back.

I love plenty of games in both styles. I've just never had a single moment in block-button games where it blocked a move FOR ME that I didn't intend to block. And I've never had my movement altered because of it. SF, KI and other games (while rare) have at some point done things I didn't want and for me, fighting games are all about exact control. I'LL decide when I block and when I walk backwards. I'm sure some people prefer back-to-block for their own reasons. But seeing as MK has always had a block button, I'm glad it's here in this one.

xmayne93
xmayne93

@jack00 You honestly think this is that complicated? Really? They're expanding their game and adding new things. If they didn't do this, their game wouldn't grow and people would be rightfully upset by that. Most fans of this game like these changes and additions. Catering to people who can't handle them would get NR nowhere.

simonbelmont2
simonbelmont2

@spartanx169x @simonbelmont2 Fair enough dude and I see where you are coming from. 

I think these days fighting games have so many moves that perhaps it takes longer to figure out the counter moves. Also, some of the attacks in fighting games these days are often useless and risky to use. 

To understand which moves are good counters these days you have to check out fighting game message boards and places like Shoryuken.com. There you can learn things like frame data and stuff like that. It is very complex info though and not beginner friendly. The info is out there but I think it should be clearer and more accessible to beginners. The counter moves also do exist but you have to work hard to figure them out, You can't see them with casual observation.


I disagree about the button mashing as most modern fighters require the opposite strategy in order to win. Good players will punish you for throwing out random moves and button mashing. In modern fighters mashing will get you nowhere as players will block your unsafe attacks and ruin you with long combos. One reckless mistake in Marvel vs Capcom 3 for example can lead to a combo that will take out 100% of your health. You have to be even more methodical now as the tools are there to do that and making mistakes is costly.


Streetfighter 4 can be played defensively if you are using certain characters and so can Marvel vs Capcom 3. In Marvel certain teams excel at keeping your opponent away and not rushing to attack them at close range.


Long combos require a lot of dexterity and knowledge of which attacks can be combined. In Streetfighter 4 for example learning one frame links to do some combos is quite difficult. Trying to mash out the links will not work.


Hopefully MKX will interest you enough to give it a go as the game looks good :-)

simonbelmont2
simonbelmont2

@GlaciusXL Fair enough mate and you make good points. The block button has been around for decades too but I think more games use the hold back to block method. Each to his own though and every player has their own preferences.


I have no problem with a block button and I did just fine with it in all the MK games I played. My only beef is how the block button in MK9 caused problems with the balance as I mentioned. I do generally prefer the hold back to block style though.

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@GlaciusXL  Thank you. I couldn't have said it any better. Its been so long since I played I couldn't remember all the details. Didn't know the button was there on the new one. That will make me a buyer. Thanks.