Mark Rein and John Gaudiosi look at UE3's impact on the fighting genre's latest challenger
NetherRealm Studios has been working with Unreal Engine 3 (UE3) technology since it was part of Midway Entertainment. The Chicago-based studio has focused on fighting games, establishing itself with the bestselling Mortal Kombat franchise.
After exploring a hit crossover a few years ago with Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, the Warner Bros. Interactive-owned developer has returned to comic book lore with the original fighter, Injustice: Gods Among Us. The game, which features iconic super heroes including the Dark Knight, Superman and Wonder Woman, was designed using Unreal.
“We’re always making advancements,” says Ed Boon, creative director of NetherRealm. “This game has much more dynamic lights in terms of lighting the environments and the characters. It showcases a lot more detail than what we had going in the last Mortal Kombat game."
Boon said his team has made optimisations that particularly cater to the fighting genre, since games such as Mortal Kombat and Injustice feature large characters that rely on heavy motion capture animation.
“We have a faster rendering engine, so we can put more on the screen running at 60 FPS,” he explains.
“We have a great memory manager that lets us have multiple arenas for any fight, so you can knock someone from one arena into the next. Injustice is reaping the benefits from all of these steps forward that we took since Mortal Kombat.”
In addition, Boon explains that NetherRealm has crafted a scripting system for implementing animations and moves specifically for its fighting games.
“This is proprietary technology that we’ve added to Epic’s engine. It’s a more code-based component than a visual interface, so it lets us iterate, speeding up animation, slowing down changing collisions and all that.
And it allows us to do all of that with a very fast turnaround.”
Boon also reveals that the team’s experience with Unreal Engine technology over all of these years has made it easier to add these types of modifications.
“UE3 gives us a great way to start off running,” states Boon. “With Injustice, we can put characters in and start animating right off the bat. We’re improving the systems with each iteration.”
Unreal Engine 3 has allowed NetherRealm to focus on innovating the fighting genre, which has always relied on technical breakthroughs to create the experiences fans desire.
While the last Mortal Kombat game was the best-selling in franchise history, the studio sought to make something completely original this time around.
“Our main goal was to do another fighting game that was completely different than Mortal Kombat,” confirms Boon.
“When we joined the Warner Bros. family, we looked at their wealth of intellectual properties and the DC heroes seemed like a great fit for it. We had actually worked with them before on Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and we wanted to do something that was focused on celebrating the whole exaggerated world of superheroes.
“So instead of doing things like swinging a sword, you swing a car. Instead of knocking somebody down, you throw them through a building. We really wanted to exaggerate all these events and create this hyper-realistic battle of the gods’ world, and that’s what Injustice is.”
Injustice: Gods Among Us is one of 2013’s highly anticipated Unreal Engine 3-powered blockbusters, coming to PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U.