Recent Mortal Kombat milestones have been a relatively sedate affair, but Ed Boon is getting ahead of next year's 30th Anniversary with archival footage from the original 1991 recording sessions. In his first clip he reveals the moment of inspiration that led to the creation of an iconic Scorpion attack -- the rope dart spear! Get over here and watch:
The footage sees live-action Scorpion actor Daniel Pesina receiving instructions from Boon and John Tobias as they navigate from concept to fully realised digitized motion. The credited co-creator shared this footage to his personal Twitter account with a series of tweets that elaborate on the historic moment.
The behind-the-scenes footage may make the creative process look improvised, but Boon notes that it wasn't always so off the cuff: "We certainly did a ton of prep for our video shoots, but some ideas came to us while filming." That preparation no doubt informed their ability to act on the idea, taking into consideration practical gameplay elements, such as speed and interaction with opponent sprites.
One of those details was how fast Scorpion threw the spear, which had to be quick so he could catch opponents by surprise. This meant keeping the animation simple & very few frames. We also wanted the spear to pass over a ducking opponent, so we kept it at chest height. (3/9)— Ed Boon (@noobde) October 12, 2021
By keeping the rope dart level with shoulder height, it allowed for nuanced player reactions. Blocking will avoid the free hit with minimal damage, but ducking offered another quick defensive measure that allowed players to get back on the offensive.
Scorpion's fast throwing motion helped to maintain an element of surprise, but also kept frames of animation, and the memory required, to a limit. Boon explains, "We were so tight on memory, that we didn’t even capture any motions for the victim reactions. Instead we borrowed from their existing animation frames."
Mortal Kombat is well known for its economic application of reused existing assets: palette swapping notably helped allow Sub-Zero and Reptile to coexist in the game alongside Scorpion. Their iconic attacks might not have been possible without clever use of knockdown sprites for spear contact, and "fatality dizzy" animations for the stunned free-hit.
Boon waxes nostalgic about the footage, recounting some of the things that amuse him watching it thirty years later, including: "... hearing [John Tobias] describe how he wants to make the rope like a snake by saying “shh shh”." A concept Hollywood controversially took very literally in the 1995 feature film adaptation.
Perhaps even more amusing is Tobias' own reflective confession that he wasn't immediately a fan of the move! "[Boon] and I wanted to theme the ‘ninjas’ w fire and ice to differentiate them. So, when Ed had the idea for the rope/spear silly me wasn’t crazy about it because it wasn’t ‘fire’ themed. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯"
Ed also notes that there was more to completing the finished product, such as sound effects and his iconic battle cry: "GET OVER HERE!" A shout that earned the developer a Guinness World Record for longest running US voice actor in a video game!
Finally, while there was SO MUCH more involved with us creating this classic move (fx, sounds) it’s still kool to see the germ of an idea that eventually became so synonymous with Mortal Kombat, and duplicated SO MANY TIMES in future games, movies, tv, animation & comics! (8/9)— Ed Boon (@noobde) October 12, 2021
The "fly on the wall" footage, as Boon calls it, is an incredible historical record that exists thanks to the games' unique graphical digitization process. It offers fans a tremendous insight into the series' past, and combats some of the misinformation Boon and Tobias have both been critical of in recent years.
Which moments from development of the original Mortal Kombat would you like to see in future installments? Share your thoughts about the invention of Scorpion's Spear in the comments below, and make like Marky Mark and keep those 1991 good vibrations going in the 2D Kombat Klassics forum!