NetherRealm Brings the Fight to DC Super Heroes with Unreal Engine 3

By John Gaudiosi

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 Entertainment-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, the Man of Steel, Wonder Woman and Catwoman, was designed using Unreal Engine technology.

Injustice: Gods Among Us Announcement Trailer

“We’re always making advancements,” said Ed Boon, creative director, NetherRealm Studios. “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 optimizations 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](/features/rendering/), so we can put more on the screen running at 60 frames per second,” he explained. “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 said 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 said that the team’s experience with Unreal Engine technology over all of these years has made it easier to add these types of modifications.

Injustice-Gods Among us

“UE3 gives us a great way to start off running,” said Boon. “With Injustice, we can put characters in and start animating right off the bat. We’re improving the systems with each iteration.”

UE3 has allowed the developer to focus on innovating the fighter genre. 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,” said 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 super heroes.

Injustice_ Cyborg

“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 UE3-powered blockbuster releases.

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