30 Years Old Blood: How Mortal Kombat Changed the Industry (Topic)

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30 Years Old Blood: How Mortal Kombat Changed the Industry


The iconic fighting game series Mortal Kombat has turned 30 this month. The author of Arcade Perfect: How Pac-Man, Mortal Kombat, and Other Coin-Op Classics Invaded the Living Room, David L. Craddock, detailed how Mortal Kombat changed the industry. We have translated for you an excerpt from his book, published on Polygon, and supplemented it in some points.

Two engineers from Midway threw open the arcade door and brought a simple black machine gun into a dark, cold room, placing it next to two Capcom machines from Street Fighter 2. They waited.

“It looked like we were entering the ring against Mike Tyson in his prime. But we flipped the switch, leaned back and started waiting, ”said John Tobias, co-creator of Mortal Kombat.


At first, no one paid attention to the automaton, but then a man approached. The screen turned on, digitized images of the actors appeared, and the two characters converged on top of a rocky cliff against the backdrop of the night sky. They kicked and punched each other, and then one of them crouched down, and in a jump hit the other with his fist under the chin, he flew away, leaving a trail of blood behind him. One of the players in the line of slot machines from Street Fighter 2 came out and came over to watch, followed by another, then two more. Capcom slots were abandoned by the end of the week.

“It was then that we realized that MK had its potential to become a phenomenon,” Tobias said.

At first glance, MK was a typical Street Fighter 2 clone, of which there were many at the time. Everyone tried to take the place of the king of fighting games, but no one could even come close to the brainchild of Capcom.


No fake could get to the incredible charm of SF2 with its vibrant graphics, unique heroes and fast gameplay. And that was before Mortal Kombat.

“From the very beginning of development, we understood that the game was definitely not a clone, since if we were focusing on SF, then most likely we would not even need to start making the game, it would have failed. In turn, we allowed ourselves a more rough graphics, and that was why MK was visually different from Street Fighter, ”- says John Tobias.

The most notable difference of MK was its aesthetics. SF2 looked like a cartoon, while MK looked like an R-rated movie. Its surroundings were rough and dark. His characters were brought to life thanks to a process that involved recording real actors performing all the movements. “I also think that the time we spent developing the characters and the story, which was a bizarre experience in making an arcade game, helped create a bigger world in the minds of our players,” Tobias said.


“This influence lives on with MK even in the most recent iterations. Of course, our in-game violence has pretty much given us a place at the pop culture table. ”

And there was blood in the MK. Tons of blood scattering around the sides as opponents punched, kicked, and threw opponents into the air. Most of all it was at the end, when the player was given the opportunity to commit a fatal murder and execute in a cruel way his losing opponent. With a correctly entered key combination, blood flowed like a river: the ninja Sub Zero grabbed the enemy's head and tore it off along with the spine hanging on the skull; Joni Cage, a reference to Jean-Claude Van Damme, kicked his opponent in the head and it flew off, and Kano tore the still beating heart from the loser's chest.


The Fatalities in Mortal Kombat were so elaborate that they had to be seen with our own eyes to be believed. On the playgrounds, one child recounted how a fighting game character took off his mask and breathed fire on another, turning him into a pile of ash. The second guy swore that a hero in a white suit and a straw hat could make lightning strike his enemy.

This gave rise to interest in the game and made it more popular. The growth of interest was also facilitated by the fact that all the media and parents shouted at the top that this is a game that children should not play. It became a forbidden fruit that everyone wanted to try.

Port on console

Jeff Peters of Sculptured Software was tasked with delivering MK on the SNES competently. Indeed, globally at this stage of its journey, the game looked like another clone of SF2. But, thanks to different fatalities, he was able to see the potential of the game. He decided to weigh all the pros and cons by analyzing MK while playing it for hours. Everything to make the game port even better.


Pros: it wasn't a shameless Street Fighter 2 clone; he had a unique art style that would resonate with Capcom's older cartoon visuals; and the violence was so excessive, so absurd, it was funny and simply fascinating. Peters concluded that there would be no harm in fatalities, since no one could take them seriously.

Cons: Artistic play, hundreds of frames of animation, detailed backgrounds, and catchy special attacks are what you need for a successful transfer. Nintendo's 16-bit hardware had its advantages, but the game looked pale compared to Midway's arcade.

Peters realized that early sales would not be successful for Street Fighter 2, as it already had an established audience. But the decision was made. Sculptured was hired to do the port on the SNES, while Probe will be working on porting to the Sega Genesis.

Satan's Worshipers

Peters enjoyed his quiet life. The tranquility and tranquility of the suburb where he lived created a pleasant contrast to the long hours and crazy demands of his work at Sculptured Software.


His neighbors were friendly Mormons, the dominant religion for large areas of Utah, including the Peters neighborhood. Every morning on the way to the office, he talked with friends, watered the lawns, took a newspaper or prepared to leave for work.

Peters greeted his neighbor one morning and he coldly threw "Hello" to him. Peters got goose bumps. They know, he thought to himself. He came under pressure from the community as everyone knew he was working on Mortal Kombat.

Children often walked around his house, pestering them with questions like: "Do you take drugs?", "Is it true that you are gay?", "Why do you worship Satan?" or "Mom says you will burn in hell, why is this so?" But Peters' favorite question was: "Our parents are forbidding us to play Mortal Kombat, can we play it in your house?"


Mortal Kombat's violence has permeated every aspect of the port's developers' lives. For example, one programmer approached Peters and asked that his name was not associated with MK, and if his family suddenly came to the studio, they needed to be told that he was working on another project. Almost everyone on the studio's staff grew up in Utah and was a believer, and many refused to work on the game. MK has really become a classic thing associated in society with something satanic.

Chitirim gentlemen, chitirim!

Blood-sensitive American society was not prepared for this. Many deaths that occurred at that time were associated with the influence of the game - people declared war on it. Editors for magazines like Time wrote columns on whether video games, which used to represent something good, like Super Mario, went too far in showing realistic deaths of characters. And Senator Joseph Lieberman has teamed up with other politicians to crush the game across the country, believing that their terrible content is no different from an R-rated movie and should not be sold to children.


Nintendo has been firmly on the side of politicians like Lieberman. The Japanese game manufacturer has built a reputation for providing entertainment for the whole family. True to its principles, Sega stood up to its rival. A series of court hearings, with Sega and Nintendo representatives throwing insults at each other, eventually led to the formation of the ESRB in charge of issuing age ratings to games in the summer of 1994.

But prior to that in 1993, Sega and Nintendo agreed to host Mortal Kombat on their platforms if Probe, Sculptured Software, Midway, and Acclaim adhere to certain rules. The Sega compromise was that it rated "MA-13" in the Sega Genesis version, the rough equivalent of a PG-13 rating in the film.


However, Nintendo created an internal division of the Mario Club to control the entire development process, and if anything, they made edits to the project. So, blood was removed from the SNES version, replacing it with gray sweat. This satisfied the company and also reduced the load on the console.


Sega gave a lot of freedom for development, but after it became known that Nintendo was removing blood from the game, Sega also cleaned it up and licked the fatality. This would calm the worried politicians. But the developers were all able to add one secret there. If the player pressed down, up left, left, A, right and down - DULLARD in one word. This opened up a secret cheat panel where blood, full fatalities and other useful things could be turned on.

However, the developers were afraid that this combination would be difficult to remember. Therefore, a more simplified version of AVASABB was also introduced into the game. By pressing this combination during loading, all fatalities and blood simply returned to the game.

Sega and Probe knew that the existence of ABACABB and DULLARD would incur the wrath of Lieberman and the parent groups. They kept both codes a secret, believing that some adventurous player would find them. For example, word of mouth would make the Genesis version a mystery that, fingers crossed, would give Sega an edge over Nintendo in 16-bit console warfare.


The person who found this secret code was Dan Amrich and his friend. He studied his find in detail and sent it to GamePro magazine. Everyone who found cheats was sent a T-shirt. After that, he received a call from the editorial office to find out whether he legally recognized this cheat. And he told how he did it. So this code went public, cementing Mortal Kombat's gore for a long time.

Also read our story of the Mortal Kombat series, where we talk about the evolution of this bloody fighting game and why the creators of Mortal Kombat 11 see a mountain of guts instead of people.

The Topic of Article: 30 Years Old Blood: How Mortal Kombat Changed the Industry.
Author: Jake Pinkman