As Mortal Kombat celebrates its 30th anniversary, Ed Boon, father of the license, has decided to reveal some creative secrets.
Released on arcade machines in 1992, Mortal Kombat has since established itself as THE most popular fighting license and is also placed as the best-selling VS Fighting series of all time, ahead of Street Fighter and others, to the point that it was often copied, but never equaled.
So it’s been 30 yearsa whole life for sure, that we smash our skulls, break our bones and swing Fatalities, each more gory and grotesque than the other. And if there are two iconic characters that emerge from this deluge of guts, it’s Scorpion and Sub-Zero. Two friends-enemies that everything opposes on paper, and yet, according to the latest revelations from Ed Boon, the two ninjas are much closer than one could have imagined.
Scorpion and Sub-Zero are actually… the same person
Thirty years ago, creating a video game was not easy, especially because of the many technical restrictions, whether for games designed for arcade terminals, or for the first home consoles. Hardware that, at the time, forced creators to use and abuse tricks to snatch maximum performance. A practice that Ed Boon and his team had to apply during the development of the first Mortal Kombatwhose fighters were actually real actors, filmed, captured and digitized afterwards.
It is also because of this that Scorpion and Sub-Zero were born, two characters who have become true standard bearers for the license over time. Except thatback then they were just two nameless ninjas with different color, placed there to complete the roster, and above all recorded by the same actor for technical reasons. Although on paper they were already being sold to us as fierce rivals.
It was with a long thread on Twitter, accompanied by a behind-the-scenes video, that Ed Boon came back to this funny story.. That of a team that was looking at all costs to save memory and that wanted to create two different ninjas despite everything, far from imagining the place that their characters would take within the license.
As Mortal Kombat’s most recognizable characters, the origin of ‘color-swapping ninjas’ [aka Scorpion et Sub-Zero] comes from both a fantastic storyline rivalry and a technical solution that we needed to fit the game into the limited space (memory) we had at the time.
Basically, one of the reasons we made them ninjas was that we want to get two fighters from the same movie and from the same memory. But we ended up doing some unique and exclusive images for each of them.
Since we came up with this idea during filming, the next step was to find a unique combat position for each character. They had to be different (to stand out) while still working with all the attacks (punches and kicks) the two ninjas shared.
It was very early in the project and these ninjas didn’t even have names yet. I still see myself referring to Sub-zero as ‘the cold guy’
Continuing our celebration of Mortal Kombat’s 30th anniversary, here’s another video showing more behind-the-scenes moments. This time you can see how we decided to give Scorpion & Sub-zero different fight stances so they would look & feel like two separate characters. pic.twitter.com/t8fJmYexcu
— Ed Boon (@noobde) March 10, 2022
A creative and technical process that has never ceased to be shaken by the spontaneous ideas of the two creators, Ed Boon and John Tobias.. The video shows it to us, the actor only changes position to chain the shots at the request of the two developers, some of which will not even see the light of day.
One thing worth pointing out is how spontaneous our decisions were, based on what we saw in the moment. John suggesting that Scorpion twirl his fists. Me suggesting that Sub-zero bring his hand back to his chest and rock back and forth.
And besides, some ideas just didn’t work out.
Notice how many different positions we tried with Sub-zero before arriving at his final pose. You’d be surprised how many ideas didn’t make it into the final game.
Notice also how the end positions are on the left and right of the screen. During this shoot, they didn’t exist yet. It’s fun how we improvised, until we got to those iconic poses you know today.
An amusing anecdote that shows just how much chance and creativity can make beautiful things. Starting from a desire to reduce technical blows, Ed Boon and John Tobias finally created two characters, Scorpion and Sub-Zero, who both became true icons. of the video game that even players who have never touched the soft know how to recognize at a glance.