I was fortunate to be invited to the Canadian launch of Injustice2 and had the unexpected opportunity to meet and chat with Ed Boon.
Okay… for those of you who are into games, Ed Boon was one of the guys responsible for Mortal Kombat, the truly legendary arcade fighting game. It was released in 1992 by Midway and became, as we all know, one of the most successful fighting titles, spawning sequels and movies; not to mention forever influencing the genre.
I’m not an overly nostalgic type, but as I get older, little historic milestones like these are becoming more personally significant to me. I still remember the first time hearing ‘FATALITY’ and seeing it on the arcade floor in downtown Toronto… it was different, a little unsettling, and so irresistible.
Even though Ed’s worked on a lot of different titles, he will always be most known for his contribution with MK. This is one of the rare instances where when I use the term game-changing, it is not only used correctly in-context, but completely accurate... he, indeed, changed the face of fighting games!
Presently, the much anticipated sequel to Injustice: Gods Among Us, Injustice 2 becomes available on May 16. INJ2 was developed by Netherealm Studios, which rose from the ashes of Midway Games in 2010, and is published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
Nader Iskander, Product Manager of Video Games at Warner Bros pulled together a classy event. In addition to 4 demo stations, open bar and excellent catering, he invited local DC artists, Francis Manapul and Marcus To to create Injustice 2 inspired original art, giving the evening an authentic comic-con and gallery exhibit vibe.
The main attraction was, of course, INJ2, with Ed Boon the worthy Netherrealm representative and also director of the title. You can view the full Q&A with Ajay Fry, courtesy of Nyteworks’ YouTube Channel.
When things settled down a little later in the evening, I was able to get a few minutes with Ed. Even though he’d already been through droves of media and fanboys, he still had the enthusiasm to dive into a fresh conversation.
Aside from typical banter, I only really had one questions: I asked him what it was like to have worked on fighting games, almost exclusively, for so many years, particularly already having had such meteoric success with MK. I was glad he seemed to like the question, like it made him reflect back a little.
“It’s just so completely different.”, he said. “I don’t feel like I’m working on the same thing because of it.
“When we were working on Mortal Kombat, there were only the 4 of us.”
I have to add here that these dudes also had a ridiculous timeline and were expected to compete with Street Fighter II, but all I could say was “That’s amazing, man.”
“Today,”, he continued, “when you count everyone at Netherealms and include external resources that came in and out throughout development, we had nearly 400 people on the project.”
We both had a moment there, each of us mumbling to each other “100 times” with a bit of amazement at the sheer scale against MK… “100 times”.
Now, I have to say, I’m a pretty big supporter of hiring talent, paying them what they are worth, and giving them a great challenge. Injustice 2 IS totally gorgeous in design, execution and with incredible game-play, so it definitely looks and feels of an endeavour of such magnitude. In parallel, it also only serves to enhance my respect for Boon and his 3 original cohorts when they were given that fateful Midway assignment in 1991.
“I was the only one coding for 1, 2 and 3”, he said. “I can’t compare the experiences.”
I got the sense that he, not only, likes what he does for a living, but he was genuinely enjoying the ride. Perhaps it is the evolving nature of his contribution, the excitement of new innovation, re-envisioning DC properties, or just the challenge of refining the fight. As I often write about (and am fixated on) change, these few minutes with Ed were fascinating. Whatever it is that keeps him going, it was inspiring.
I wrapped up by congratulating him on Injustice 2.. and then, again for Mortal Kombat. I recanted what I wrote at the beginning, “I still remember the first time hearing ‘FATALITY’...” and, I added, “Thank you for making that happen and setting the bar on violence for me and all the following generations.”
Yep, that sounded pretty odd, but it wasn’t. Then we laughed the way dudes laugh in recognition of an awesome deed done.