games / Columns

Mortal Kombat 11 Senior Designer Speaks w/ 411 About Ronda Rousey Voicing Sonya Blade, Continuing Where MKX Left Off

January 30, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Mortal Kombat 11

As previously reported, 411mania was in attendance for this month’s Mortal Kombat 11 reveal event to get the first crack at playing the game. We also had the chance to chat with one of the lead developers for the game, Brian Lebaron, who serves as Senior Designer for Mortal Kombat 11 at NetherRealm Studios. Here’s what he had to say about the next installment of the Mortal Kombat series.

Jeffrey Harris: So, we had the announcement of Mortal Kombat 11 last month at The Game Awards. The gameplay footage was revealed today. And the game hits the shelves in just about three months. Is this the right way to roll out and launch a new game?

Bryan Lebaron: It’s something different. We’re trying something different. I think it might be. We’ll see how it goes. I think it’s been really well received so far. It’s been really hard to keep it a secret as long as we did. Friends are like, “Where have you been for the last two months? I don’t see you have a game coming.” But it was really nice. I think it’s a different approach. I really like it. I think it’s working.

Jeffrey Harris: Were there any takeaways from the Injustice games that the team learned for Mortal Kombat 11?

Bryan Lebaron: I think it’s all been an evolving game. I think we really take everything from every game and try to evolve and make everything better. Some things work. Some things don’t work. And you’ve got to bring them and bring them in and keep bringing them in, so you just gotta get what you really want.

Jeffrey Harris: The feature I liked the most in the demo was that you could toggle specific moves onto the display screen and keep them on there throughout the matches.

Bryan Lebaron: We’ve actually done that before, but like I said, we’ve kind of made it better — more robust. In everything we do, we always have an idea of like, “If we have more time, we would do this.” And next time around, we do *do* that.

Jeffrey Harris: As a fighting game, I don’t see too many fighting games with the level of content and features of Mortal Kombat 11. Was that something the team wanted from the get-go?

Bryan Lebaron: Absolutely. I mean, we’ve always wanted that. I mean we never really compare ourselves, like, “Hey. We want to be more like this game or that game or have more than that.” We just do what we’ve always done, and [that’s] a huge amount of story content, huge amount of gameplay, lots of characters, lots of fun, bringing old characters back, new characters back, and people are really excited about that. So, I think we’re doing it right.

Jeffrey Harris: What can you tell us about the story prologue for Mortal Kombat 11 where Raiden appears to still be engulfed in his dark side?

Bryan Lebaron: We’re continuing right from where the last story left off, where Raiden kind of screwed up what was supposed to happen, and Kronika comes in and kinda tries to set things straight, which gave us a lot to play with — being able to roll back characters from the [earlier games]. You’ll see early versions, younger versions of the same characters. We had a lot of fun with that stuff.

Jeffrey Harris: What is it like now that NetherRealm can take a fighting game and build in a strong story narrative within the gameplay experience?

Bryan Lebaron: I mean it’s great. I really love re-imagining and re-envisioning stuff from old-school Mortal Kombat games. I grew up at 7-Eleven playing these games as a kid, so I know that nostalgic feeling. I really like being able to fit that stuff into our games now, especially with the amount of graphics we do, the amount of gore, the amount of blood, and the amount of detail we can bring forward.

Jeffrey Harris: I think one thing NetherRealm has done a great job with the Mortal Kombat and Injustice games is the guest characters. But what do you think about guest characters for Mortal Kombat 11?

Bryan Lebaron: I would love to have some. I’m sure there will be. It will probably be the same amount that we’ve always done.

Jeffrey Harris: Also, I noticed during the demo, there was an art card on a menu option with a character with a face plate and a red eye (Kano), and a female character who resembled Sonya Blade but with Cassie written on the back of her shirt (Casie Cage). What’s that about?

Bryan Lebaron: Oh yeah. It’s just artwork, man. It’s an early version of the game. It’s just an early version of the game.

Jeffrey Harris: How many Kombatants are you expecting to launch with?

Bryan Lebaron: At least as many as we’ve had in previous games. For sure.

Jeffrey Harris: Is there in-game economy for Mortal Kombat 11?

Bryan Lebaron: There is, but we’ve never been a company — NetherRealm has never been like pay to win type of company, so you don’t have to worry about that coming from us. But that’s all we’re really talking about right now.

Jeffrey Harris: You don’t know about lootboxes or anything like that?

Bryan Lebaron: We’re kind of staying away from it for now, but you’ll see more about it in the future very shortly. But for the most part, we’re not one of those companies that make you pay to win.

Jeffrey Harris: Another new feature shown for the demo was Konsumables. What else can you about Konsumbles for Tower Mode?

Bryan Lebaron: Yes. Basically, what Konsumables will do is allow you to bring things into your Tower matches. There are certain things like, you can have an assist character, or I want to have Cyrax’s net come in. There’s a bunch of that stuff. They’re usually characters that you’re not seeing right now, or characters we love in the game, or other characters — just stuff we need to bring back.

Jeffrey Harris: How has Warner Bros. been as a partner to NetherRealm?

Bryan Lebaron: Warner Bros. has been great. I mean ever since we did MK vs. DC, it’s been a great partnership. They’ve let us do what we want to do, and it’s been a great partnership. We have a lot of DLCs that you were talking about earlier on that are a direct result of our work with Warner Bros. We have great partners with that type of a deal.

Jeffrey Harris: What do you think of Babalities?

Bryan Lebaron: Oh, I love them.

Jeffrey Harris: What do you think about Animalities?

Bryan Lebaron: We love them. We love everything about Mortal Kombat?

Jeffrey Harris: Even Friendship?

Bryan Lebaron: Oh, I love Friendship. Shang Tsung’s is one of my favorites in MK 2. I still do it in the cafeteria sometimes.

Jeffrey Harris: Ronda Rousey as Sonya Blade was the other big announcement at the reveal event. At what point did she come into the project?

Bryan Lebaron: I’m not exactly sure when she came into the project. We already knew she was going to be involved. She was such a huge MK fan, it wasn’t a huge stretch to get her onto it. I think it’s really huge. I think it’s great because when I played Mortal Kombat, we had the actors portraying the characters that I was in love with growing up. Now, we get more digital, so it [the games] became more 3D models. Now, it’s going back to having that personality and a real person relating to a character. I think it’s huge.

Jeffrey Harris: When are we going to find out that Cody Rhodes is going to play Johnny Cage?

Bryan Lebaron: *Laughs* I don’t know anything about that. Rumors are rumors.

Jeffrey Harris: Fighter customization also looks pretty big for this game and like it’s been taken to a whole other level.

Bryan Lebaron: Yeah. It’s the first time we’ve ever done anything this huge with the customization. Like I said before, there’s way more than what we’ve done in the past. Being able to socket and augment your gear and being able to do that type of stuff is really cool.

Jeffrey Harris: It feels now that we can customize the Kombatants that the next natural step would be creating Kombatants?

Bryan Lebaron: Yeah. It’s always been a struggle. It’s really hard to let the players create that much. We have a lot of variables right now. Like you can equip different moves to your character. You can unlock victories, different colors, different palettes, different everything, so there’s a lot of stuff you can do in the game. It’s already kind of making them very customizable — very custom to yourselves.

Jeffrey Harris: I’m happy to see Baraka back as a playable character. How does the team decide who will become playable characters on the roster?

Bryan Lebaron: It’s a group effort. It kind of bounces around for a while. A lot of it has to work with the story as well, like, “How can we work these characters into this overall story idea we have?” I mean, that’s not directly us, but there’s a little bit more story guys with a little bit more influence, so they can have different [characters]. … We do all have a — there is a consensus of like, “If you have five guys, who would you choose out of these guys to come back?” That type of thing.

Jeffrey Harris: You’ve been a fan of this series for a long time, is there a Kombatant who is near and dear to your heart? It can be more than one or a few.

Bryan Lebaron: I would say Reptile. Shang Tsung is probably my No. 1. He was the first character I really fell in love with for MK 2. I really loved his jump kicks, and then his standing high kicks I used to love when I was a kid. So, it kind of has that sweet nostalgic memory. And then probably Sub-Zero after that.

Jeffrey Harris: What is you want gamers to get out of the experience once they get to take home Mortal Kombat 11?

Bryan Lebaron: I just want them to have a great time. I just want them to enjoy it. There’s so much to enjoy. There’s so much content, even than what you’ve seen. There’s so much more to explore. And just love the characters and love the game. It’s just so much fun. I want them to have fun. Have fun with it.

Mortal Kombat 11

Thank you to Bryan Lebaron for taking the time to speak with us. Mortal Kombat 11 hits the shelves on April 23 for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC. It’s currently available for pre-order at the official website.