Midi-Chlorians and Fatalities: What Star Wars and Mortal Kombat Have in Common
At one time, Star Wars and Mortal Kombat had something in common. A sense of mystery. Perplexed? Let me explain.
You see, before George Lucas created the abject train wreck that was Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, there was a welcome sense of ambiguity about the Force – the power behind Darth Vader capable of choke people with his mind, among other things.
When The Phantom Menace arrived, everything changed. In one fell swoop, everything remotely enigmatic about how the Jedi could fly or the Sith could kill you with a single tap was explained in one word. Midi-chlorians – tiny germ-like lifeforms that lived in living things in the Star Wars universe. When present in critical mass, the host would be capable of formidable feats that we thought were responsible for the enigma that is the Force.
This caused an outpouring of rage among fans. Such a revelation ruined the once mystical implications of some of the show’s most powerful actions. But what does this have to do with video games known for violence, gibs, mayhem and the like? Surprisingly many.
While Street Fighter has its technical move set, Soul Calibur its weapons, and Dead or Alive is uh… character models, Mortal Kombat has what can best be described as gore porn.
The series is known for its brutal finishing moves, Fatalities. Ever since its inception back in the days of 16-bit consoles, gamers had spent hours trying to come up with gruesome new ways to land the killing blow. From ripping an opponent’s spine out of their crumpled body to slicing their face, they were new, over the top, and added another reason to keep playing. Even if you were on the reception side. At the start of the series, before the widespread use of the internet, these special moves spread between people through trial and error and word of mouth.
From a consumer perspective, this meant that every game had some type of curiosity. A look of the unknown (read: pushing a certain combination of buttons) with the expectation of something amazing coming out of it (oh look at that fountain of blood where his head was!). Similar to how in Star Wars, you would accept space warriors carrying gigantic colored tube lights to be capable of massive feats for reasons beyond your comprehension.
While it took a word to kill the mystique behind Star Wars, it took years to kill the great mystery behind Fatality. The creators hadn’t even guessed that people would find deaths in the original. It was not to last.
Fast forward to now, and we’ve seen several games in the series have Fatalities listed in their move list and also act as marketing tools, which has more or less reduced the appeal that partly came from their secrecy. Even then, knowing the combination was no guarantee of getting a fatality, and there was almost a small part of me that smiled every time I could pull one off. That is of course, until today.
NetherRealm Studios (the creators of Mortal Kombat) has decided that you can pay to use Fatalities in a much easier way in Mortal Kombat X, the latest game in the series. Paying $0.99 gets you the chance to perform five easy fatalities and $4.99 lets you perform 30. the coolest things you can do in a game. Yes, they landed a Fatality on the whole concept of Fatality.
“We’ve learned over years and years of studying that there are a lot of people who just can’t get Fatalities right, or they freak out or they can’t figure out the timing,” NetherRealm said in late March. . At the time though, NetherRealm didn’t say that easy deaths would involve making you pay for the privilege. In doing so, it does a huge disservice to the fans of the series, the people who have stuck with the game since the days of cartridges and who have spread the gospel of ninjas and gratuitous violence to younger generations.
In an ideal world, a Rs. 3,499 game should have no microtransactons. It’s easy to imagine a few guys in commercial development looking at the money raised from free base achievements like League of Legends or DOTA 2, but monetization in such cases is a function of an install base that eclipses the most AAA consoles and PC games. Considering that Mortal Kombat X requires an entry fee of Rs 3,499, the overall total viewership is considerably smaller, making it even harder to sell.
–Jeff Gerstmann (@jeffgerstmann) April 14, 2015
For a game that’s desperately trying to be taken seriously by the professional gaming crowd, it’s a counter-intuitive move, going against everything Mortal Kombat X is trying to project. It is too early to tell what the long-term impacts, if any, would be. I would suggest playing the game as it should. Without easy controls. After all, the developers have already received your money by paying for the game to start.
And if you find that too hard, you can use the Force.