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Feature: The Saga of Mortal Kombat HD

03/25/2014 :: Posted at 10:42 PM by Mick-Lucifer
The Whole Story - From Canceled Side Project to Fan Project Shut Down.

After 20 years as a successful franchise, its the sequel to the eponymous Mortal Kombat that many still regard with fondest memories. For fans who live and bleed Mortal Kombat, however, the tournament-centric original can never be completely forgotten. Such is the dedication of a focused group of industrious fans, who've applied themselves to independently designing and developing a playable revamp of the original dubbed: Mortal Kombat HD.

Determined by consensus; the objective of Mortal Kombat HD was to create a slavishly complete, high definition remake of the 1992 arcade classic. Built from the ground up, using popular 2D freeware engine MUGEN as a playable base and 3D models -- the project would be made of all original resources, designed to imitate the original as exactly as possible. Therein would lie the problem, however, leading to an effective shutdown of any intention to release a working product, rendered by Warner Brothers late last week.

While the enthusiasm of fans may lead them to desire otherwise, Warner Brothers' position represents an open and shut case. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it's also a self-evident example of copyright and trademark infringement. Exceptions may exist at the prerogative of intellectual property owners who choose to overlook infringements, but they are always within their rights to shut down unlicensed fan projects.

On the surface, this would appear to be an effective end to the MKHD fan game as it was intended. To release any playable version to the public would be to court personal ruin. No fan will play it. Much less clear, however, is the exact motivation for Warner Brothers' intervention. While there is broad intellectual property protection and brand management to consider -- there is an extensive history behind MKHD.


Work in Progress: Demonstrations of MKHD "Kommunity Edition" show considerable promise.

The fan-made passion project -- initiated late in 2011 -- was to have filled the void of Warner Brothers' own much discussed, but ultimately aborted trilogy of HD klassic remakes (Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II & Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3) [original story].

Art from the project leaked [gallery below], including various images of animality assets and preliminary character design. While the HD digitization process was abandoned - a milque toast version of the Arcade Kollection did eventually find its way to consoles and PC through 2012.

A source that worked on the ill fated official HD Kollection told Mortal Kombat Online, "I wish I knew more of what happened to the game, but no one from the developer side even knew what actually happened. What most of us knew was one day, every [developer] got into a big meeting and WB basically decided to scale down the scope of the game because they thought it was risky to release it close to the release of the latest Mortal Kombat game. The game was only meant to be a filler before the [reboot] was out, so it's understandable why they didn't [want] a full game that would take the sales of the [MK2011]."

Mortal Kombat HD Arcade Kollection Concept Art:

Speculation about the future of HD projects was reignited when NetherRealm Creative Director Ed Boon recently discussed a "Mortal Kombat II Director's Cut" during the Giant Bomb GDC Livestream. Update (May 2): Make-up artist Tanea Brooks has release a gallery of new behind-the-scenes photos from the MKHD shoot.

Though speaking hypothetically and in past-tense about what may simply have been the cancelled HD Kollection; Boon's vernacular of vague details about a specific title [MKII] has inspired hope in the imagination of many fans. Hollywood star Kiefer Sutherland is known to have recently completed work on an unknown Mortal Kombat project, open to similar speculation [full story].

The intervention of Warner Brothers in the fan-made Mortal Kombat HD has been interpreted by some as a question of competition, anticipating a new release. MKOmmunity User and MKHD contributor Gabriel "bleed" Melendez told us, "I received an e-mail from WB asking to get in contact with them, to talk about our fan project, Mortal Kombat HD Kommunity Edition. I did so right away and had a short conversation with someone, [whose] responsibility is to find and deal with copyright infringement. In general terms this person said that we can not release a working game, no matter how small, even if it's free, and we have to remove the website dedicated to its progress, because it crosses the line of what type of fan art is okay with them."

If you thought this might have given bleed the inside track on Warner Brothers' plans, think again; "I don't have any information on what NRS is doing, I can just assume they are always working on the next MK, and hope for an HD upgrade to the classics. So much that I'm willing to spend the time to do it my self."


Excellent: Cage battles Sub-Zero in fans' classic arena Shang Tsung's Throne Room!

On the future of the Mortal Kombat HD "Kommunity Edition", bleed offered some hope for fans eager to see more and possibly get their hands on elements, "I asked a few questions to see what is acceptable, and it sounded like anything but a working game would be fine. Posting artwork on the forums or a personal website is not a problem. I then asked if a working game is the problem, can I release parts of it? A character for example, like you see all over with MUGEN and mods. They were not sure about this, they would have to ask someone higher up, but that it's probably not allowed, because technically fan art is copy right infringement. If you make some drawings, no problem, but as soon as you get something playable, they raise an eyebrow."

"I took it as a fun learning experience, working on something of interest while improving my skills in art. I never thought of competing with the real MK, it wasn't even the idea."

Would you like to see an official Mortal Kombat HD come to life? Share your thoughts about the fan project and official MKHD on the forums! Find and support other fan projects in the Fan Submission forum!

     
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