The Chicago-based developer NetherRealm Studios brought a murderer's row of talent downtown to meet a raucous capacity crowd of their fans at C2E2 2013 to answer some fan questions about Injustice: Gods Among Us and show the first gameplay video of the first DLC character to be added to their game: Lobo.
The panel, moderated by Newsarama's own Editor Lucas Siegel, featured Mortal Kombat Co-Creator and NetherRealm Creative Director Ed Boon, veteran comics scribe/Injustice writing consultant Jimmy Palmiotti, Game Cinematic Director (and co-writer) Dominic Clanciolo, Art Director (and co-writer) Steve Beran and Producer Hector Sanchez. However throughout the hour, the panel took time to shout out to all the NetherRealm staff that was in the audience by name so they could receive the thanks of the crowd as well.
Prompted with the question of how the game's story was conceived, Clanciolo stated that Ed Boom wanted a cinematic summer blockbuster level experience in a video game. When the idea of the game taking place in and around an alternate universe, Jimmy Palmiotti and his frequent collaborator Justin Gray were brought in to give the story a look. Palmiotti chimes in that what he saw that day was that they (NetherRealm) had “pretty much nailed it” story-wise and DC Comics was on board completely.
On how and which fights were chosen to take place in the story mode Boon made it a priority that every set piece fight was as evenly matched as possible and that they made sure to put in the fights they wanted to see. Along the same lines, when asked by the moderator why implement a story mode at all, Boon described that after MK vs. DC and the Mortal Kombat 'reboot,' this was the third game they’ve made that has a story mode. That experience helped them make it an epic experience for the player.
Siegel then asked about the production process of the story mode's cinematics and Clanciolo was visibly stunned when he described how much work they did in such a short amount of time. He traveled to California to work with the motion capture actors using the same kind of technology that James Cameron used to make Avatar, but doing so on “their snack budget.” Further more Clanciolo described working with the veteran voice staff including Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series) and Tara Strong (Batman: Arkham City) as exciting but pressure packed.
Jimmy Palmiotti took on the question about the custom endings to the game's arcade/battle mode, again reiterating that apart from making sure they matched the game's overall tone, the staff at NetherRealm blew him away.
Art Director Beran got the tricky question of how the look of each of the characters were re-imagined. He described the process as daunting, but the staff did the necessary hard work of creating all the looks and alternate looks before they were sent to DC Comics for approval. They were aided by the game's alternate universe concept, which allowed them to push the boundaries in creating more aggressive, militaristic looking outfits.
On how the final list of playable characters was determined, Ed Boon used the story they created as a guide. Beyond the core DC characters that were absolutely not optional the list of potentials was broken down into how they would affect the game's balance between power/gadget characters, heroes and villains, men and women and finally who in the office yelled the loudest. On the last criteria the rest of the panel agreed that Boon was consistently the loudest yeller.
The game's arenas, according to Clanciolo, were determined by necessities of the game's story. Boon revealed that the arena transitions, and their cameos were made as a treat for DC comics fans as were the hundreds of lines of custom dialog when characters enter Clash Mode. The area's interactively and deterioration wasn't just for show, Sanchez said that they were implemented to show/see to the player that an epic fight was taking place. Beran added that designing those elements and making sure they made sense in the areas they were found in was a big challenge.
Siegel then asked about the new control scheme that is almost a complete reinvention from the typical Mortal Kombat style that has been in use for decades. Ed Boon replied that it was a conscious choice to get them out of their comfort zone. Continuing, he said that the new scheme gives Injustice it's own identity, especially because of its new “unique power button” that does something different for each character. Sanchez added that the new scheme was also crucial for the game since as it is a new title that is going to attract a new audience with its DC characters it's important that they are able to able to experience the game without being lost in complicated move sets. The unique powers and the super moves are accomplished with simple inputs but they are also not over powered so the balance is maintained.
On the topic of super moves, the audience is then screened a video that shows the progress of how Aquaman's shark-baiting super move was created from wire frame animatic to final render compete with custom camera moves. Art Director Steve Beran let the audience know that idea for that super move was Boon's and that bringing his ideas to life is always a challenge but their team was up to it.
The moderator then challenged the panel to name their favorite super moves: Boon, Aquaman; Palmiotti, Aquaman; Clanciolo, Aquaman; Beran Superman (since it was the first one they finished); Sanchez teased that it was Lobo's but the audience wouldn't get to see it until later.
On the third game mode: STAR Labs, Boon said it started off just like the latest Mortal Kombat's Challenge Tower, but took on an Angry Birds twist with the three-star system. He was also proud of how the level of challenge constantly shifted.
Finally on the subject of the mobile version of Injustice, Sanchez was enthused about how the basic idea of a mobile game that unlocks items in the console game, and visa versa, was brought from concept to reality. He described the mobile game as a free-to-play hybrid card battling-fighting game where two teams of three battle it out in a series of missions and told the iOS enabled device wielders in the audience to check it out.
The floor was then opened to questions!
-Right out of the gate, a veteran of Injustice’s online battles asked about re-balancing some 'problem' characters like Deathstroke.
Boon reassured him that there are hundreds of variables in the game that are 'tweakable,' and they are constantly on the lookout to refine the game's experience.
-The next fan asked why the game's story was so dark.
Dominic Clanciolo said that since Superman was written as the game's villain the game had to go to a dark enough place tonally to sell the idea that he could go bad.
-Eliciting a shower of boos, one fan dared ask if they would make a similar game for Marvel Comics character.
Ed Boon was a delicately as he could, letting the questioner and all others, know while he likes Marvel's characters personally the fundamental separation between DC (Warner Bros, who also owns NetherRealm) and Marvel (Disney) makes it an impossible desire, though you could always just imagine it.
-After complimenting the tie-in digital comic and the game's theme music, the petitioner asked in effect how they determined the game's scale.
Boon described that Mortal Kombat is by nature an M rated game, but DC Comics are not M-equivalent rated, so MK vs. DC was not an M rated game. The difference is that Injustice is a thematically dark game.
-A brave soul without an iPhone asked if the mobile game could be ported over to Android powered phones/devices.
Sanchez was evasive about it, NetherRealm wants to deliver quality games and the fans are being heard at least. He said "we listen to the fans and try to make them happy," teasing that it is at least in some stage of development.
-Despite being warned that no questions were going to answered about DLC characters other than Lobo, a...determined fan asked about Martian Manhunter and a PC release for the game.
Sanchez shot him down right away since J'onn was already on the Watchtower but added that just like the mobile/Android question the fans are being heard on the PC issue.
-A gamer flustered with his inability to disable the interactive items in his online battles even after asking the game to do so asked for a fix to this bug.
Sanchez informed him that his issue was not a bug, for interactive items to be disabled both players need to select that option, not just one, since those features are part of the game's fundamental balance. He recommended starting/finding an online room that agrees to turn those features off.
-Another questioner tempted fate asking for DLC characters from DC's smaller imprints like Vertigo and even (inadvertently) from different publisher's imprints.
Boon could only say that maybe that was possible for a sequel, but in the end some characters are going to be left out and some fan or another will always be let down.
-Finally one last fan asked a question that was essentially a spoiler for a really cool twist in the game's story, and wanted to know how that came about.
When the boos for the spoiler died down, Siegel joked "Ahem - Spoiler Alert..." Then Sanchez said it was all approved by DC, who actually loved the idea.
It was then time for the Lobo trailer, in which the alien bounty hunter faced Batman (in his Flashpoint skin). The fight was fast and furious but key moments that revealed how this power-type character played where easy to pick out. Lobo frequently used his hook to not only ensnare his foe, but he even once used to propel himself forward after driving it into the ground in front of him. Lobo also has a shotgun (which is likely his unique character power) which he uses both at range and as a part of his throws, one of which involves spinning his foe over his head and shooting him in the face. Finally his super move is him shooting his foe in the face, running them over with his space-motorcycle then frying him with the flaming exhaust while giving him a (pixelated) middle finger.
After the laughs and applause died down, Moderator Siegel asked one last question of Boon, what it takes to add a new character to the game. Boon described the process as deeply involved as each character goes though an extensive process from conception, modeling, scripting and all the way to a new custom ending. Sanchez added that the QA process is just as intense and through.
To end the panel the Lobo trailer was screened again before it was revealed that he will be available for download on May 7.