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Looking Back on 30 Years of Mortal Kombat Music and Sound Effects

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Looking Back on 30 Years of Mortal Kombat Music and Sound Effects

30 years! Wow, that’s a lot of Mortal Kombat.

As I reflect on the history of Mortal Kombat and the fact that I’ve been a part of the franchise for its entire history, I feel incredibly grateful to have been on this ride. I am also in awe of how this little game we put out in 1992 has survived and thrived to become a bona fide cultural touchstone with so many people contributing to deliver on the promise of over-the-top martial arts Kombat and, of course, incredibly imaginative finishing moves.

Also, looking back over the history of the game and the tools and tech we’ve used along the way to create it, I’m struck by where we were when we started, and where we find ourselves today. On the audio side, we were typing commands in a file that looked like assembly language for the first Mortal Kombat game, coercing sounds out of a Yamaha frequency modulation chip to create the music and many of the sound effects for the game. 

Today, we use top-of-the line, industry standard professional audio tools. Back then, the sounds fit into a couple ROM chips, probably about 500 KB worth of data. I don’t even know how much audio we have in the latest games, as they encompass so many hours of Story mode music and sound, many suites of combat music, thousands of individual sound effects and 10 times as many grunts and other utterances by all the characters. Back then, I did all the sound for the game. Now, we have a full team of audio professionals working in-house, along with a host of outside partners assisting in a myriad of ways.

I had been a game audio designer for only a few years when Ed Boon and John Tobias approached me to work on a new game they were cooking up. I had already worked with Ed on several games. One of my first projects after I was hired in 1988 was to create sounds and a little bit of music for Black Knight 2000, a pinball machine that Ed was programming (designed by legendary pinball designer Steve Ritchie). That went pretty well, so when Ed branched away from pinball and started designing and programming an over-the-top football arcade game called High Impact Football, I was happy to be invited to work on it. 

Mortal Kombat 11 Screenshot

That went well too, so we made another one, Super High Impact. Sometime in there, Ed and John started talking seriously about their ideas for a new game and the team of four came together: Ed was programmer/designer, John was the lead artist, John Vogel created a ton of environment and supplemental art for the game, and I did sound. Once it became clear that we had a hit and were going to make more, the team started to grow, and grow… and grow.

I feel very fortunate to have worked with so many extremely intelligent and motivated developers during my time working on Mortal Kombat. One of my prime motivators throughout my career and specifically while working on this game has been the opportunity and privilege to work with others who perform at such a high level day in and day out. I’ve often felt challenged to keep up with so many of our smart and talented developers in trying to create meaningful and impactful content for the game. For me, this emphasizes the magic and the value of working collaboratively across disciplines to develop and deliver compelling content to our fans.

Mortal Kombat 11 Screenshot

Probably the best aspect of working with such great teams over all these years is that it’s fun. It’s fun to figure out how to make compelling audio for Mortal Kombat when you’ve got super-talented animators, artists, designers, and programmers trying to make cool, unprecedented things happen on screen. I think back to when we had our first inkling that we were onto something with the first Mortal Kombat. Ed wanted to put together the uppercut feature. He got the team in the room after he’d put some code in to make it happen. I had already made a big punch sound and we had some voice over reactions. When he did the move, and the punch sound happened, and the screen shook, and the opponent went flying (and yelling) in the air, we were taken aback at the impact this moment had. It was a perfect example of all the disciplines coming together to create an impactful moment, and we were exhilarated because we all had a sense that we had just created something… fun!

While I am grateful and feel very lucky to have been in the right place at the right time to take on the challenge of creating sound for Mortal Kombat, the greatest part of my gratitude is to all the fans. Without their interest in and love of the game, no one would be talking about it. Clearly, Mortal Kombat struck a chord as soon as it came out and our fans’ passion for the game is what has catapulted the franchise into the realm of cultural phenomenon over these 30 years.

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Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate

Warner Bros. Games


1470


$59.99

$14.99

The definitive MK11 experience! Take control of Earthrealm’s protectors in the game’s TWO critically acclaimed, time-bending Story Campaigns as they race to stop Kronika from rewinding time and rebooting history. Friendships are tested, and new alliances forged, in the battle to save all of existence. MK11 Ultimate features the komplete 37-character roster, including new additions Rain, Mileena & Rambo.

Mortal Kombat 11 showcases every amusing friendship, gory fatality and soul-crushing fatal blow like never before. You’ll be so close to the fight, you can feel it!

Includes Mortal Kombat 11, Kombat Pack 1, Aftermath Expansion & Kombat Pack 2.

• Experience 2 robust, critically acclaimed Story Campaigns from MK11 & MK11: Aftermath
• Play as the komplete 37-character roster including newly added fighters Mileena, Rain & Rambo
• Thousands of skins, weapons & gear for an unprecedented level of fighter customization
• Includes all previous guest fighters: Terminator, Joker, Spawn & RoboCop
• Every mode including Towers of Time, Krypt, Tutorial, Online, Klassic Towers & more
• All Stages, Stage Fatalities, Brutalities, Iconic Fatalities & Friendships

MK11 Ultimate is Smart Delivery enabled and includes FREE upgrades on the Xbox Series X:

• 4K Dynamic Resolution
• Enhanced Visuals
• Significantly Improved Loading Times
• Cross-Platform/Cross-Gen Compatibility

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Mortal Kombat XL

Warner Bros. Games


1820

$19.99

One of the best-selling titles of 2015 has gone XL! Komplete The Mortal Kombat X Experience with new and existing content. Includes main game, and new playable characters Alien, Leatherface, Triborg, and Bo’Rai Cho. Previously released playable characters include Predator, Jason Voorhees, Tremor, Tanya, and Goro. Also includes new skins pack Apocalypse Pack.



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GAMES

Transport Fever 2: Console Edition is Bringing the Full Transport Tycoon Experience to Xbox

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Transport Fever 2: Console Edition is Bringing the Full Transport Tycoon Experience to Xbox

Today, we proudly share a sneak peek into the development of Transport Fever 2: Console Edition, and how we managed to bring the full transport tycoon experience to Xbox.

Transport Fever is a very popular and highly rated transportation tycoon franchise on PC. Its latest entry, Transport Fever 2, delivers a level of size and detail never before seen in the genre. The goal of the game is to build a successful transportation company by constructing railroads, streets, water and air lines. Starting in the 19th century, the player connects towns and industries to transport both passengers and cargo. In addition to a customizable free game mode, there is also a fully-fledged campaign mode with challenging missions set in real-world transportation history.

After the huge success of Transport Fever 2 on PC, it was only logical to bring the experience to consoles as well. Not only that, but no efforts were spared to give the console community the full experience that made the game great on PC. In order to achieve this, the engineers at Urban Games had to pull some rabbits out of their engineers’ hats.


Always providing the freshest layer of paint


One of the most cherished features of Transport Fever 2 are its highly detailed vehicles. The game comes with more than 200 lovingly hand-modeled trains, ships, and airplanes, each sporting multiple 4k textures and normal maps.

One of the many stars: The in-game model of the Class A 3/5 locomotive going full steam ahead.

On PC, it is easily affordable to have all the models and textures in memory whenever needed, as a typical rig has 16 GB of RAM and a GPU with a dedicated extra memory. Consoles, however, are built differently. They have a unified architecture with an overall smaller amount but ultra-fast memory. The key to make it work on consoles is texture streaming, which allows to clear textures of models that are not in view anymore. Moreover, this technology is used in Transport Fever 2 to constantly load textures at the highest affordable resolution to present the stars of the show, like the classic Class A 3/5 steam locomotive, in their best coat of paint at all times.


Keeping the ground like a console pro


A trademark of Transport Fever 2 are its huge maps. During development of the game, it was always paramount to provide a real sense of scale. The engine should allow for maps where a high-speed train, such as the famous Japanese Shinkansen, can really make use of its superior speed. So, a lot of effort was put into designing a highly effective terrain rendering pipeline that can handle maps of more than 120 sq miles of size with a detail resolution of almost 1 yard. Central to this is a dynamic terrain tessellation algorithm on the CPU that, while costing a bit of extra memory, makes sure the engine can render these maps on a wide variety of PCs.

The river flows: A comparison between software tessellation (white) and hardware tessellation on Xbox Series X|S (blue) of a canyon in the dry climate biome.

Now, enter the world of consoles with their incredibly well-designed GPUs and graphic APIs. Here, the hardware can be leveraged very well for terrain rendering by making use of the GPU tessellation feature. This feature generates the render mesh for the terrain fully on the graphics card, saving valuable processing time for the complex economy and city growth simulations. While generating more triangles, the hardware approach still costs less memory overall due to its efficiency. So vast maps can be viewed from a bird’s view high up in the sky and seamlessly zoomed in down to individual rocks on a riverbank.


Inspiring the inner architect


Finally, let’s talk about constructions, a central and defining part of the Transport Fever 2 experience. Constructions are large assemblies that consist of dozens of assets, street segments, ground decals and terrain modifications. Think of structures like airports, train stations, docks, highway crossings, and many more. Anything that is needed to build a vast transportation empire.

For a smooth construction experience, it is key that the player really feels that he has precise control over the building placement. On PC, constructions are typically built using the mouse. As the average PC user is very well adjusted to this method of input, it is sufficiently performant to calculate the entire construction each frame and place it under the cursor. However, on consoles, the best way of building constructions is to have them always kept in the center of the screen and move the camera along the map for placement. And moving the camera needs to be as smooth as silk.

Reminiscent of the famous glass roofs of the Liège-Guillemins train station: A preview (on the left) and the final construction (on the right) of the modern-age train station in Transport Fever 2.

So, for the console release of Transport Fever 2, the construction preview pipeline was overhauled. All dynamic calculations are now performed in the background while a static preview of the structure and its underlying ground plan are shown. Not only are constructions now completely stable in terms of FPS, but they also give feedback to the player on what environment features the construction would tear down when built.


Let’s get tycooning on console


We are very excited to bring the Transport Fever franchise to consoles for the first time ever with the release of Transport Fever 2: Console Edition on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One in February 2023, and we hope you will enjoy it as much as we did developing it.



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