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Mortal Kombat, the Grimdarkening

Remember Mortal Kombat: Rebirth?

Now the director behind that short, Kevin Tancharoen, says his pitch has been turned down. But he’s not letting that stop him! He’s going pirate, doing ten web-episodes on the riff, including Michael Jai White returning as Jax. Of course it remains to be seen if Warner Bros. will attempt to stop him from using their IP… (Update: misunderstanding… Ignore that.)

Released online June 7th, 2010, the general consensus on the short was overwhelmingly positive. People are comfortable enough with remix culture that we don’t mind seeing a completely new take on an idea (and characters) that are well established. The short reintroduces us to characters, redefining them in a unique, albeit grimdark, way. Instantly plenty of other sites and forums had their own ideas. Here are some of mine, and some others I found online.

Liu Kang: Liu Kang’s parents agreed to be smuggled into the US by Shang Tsung, hoping for a better life, with promises that they could work off the debt. Unknowingly, they were selling themselves into slave labor. After he was born, he was smuggled back to his family in China. Furious at what he saw as their “theft”of his property, Shang Tsung kills the parents as an example to others. Now an adult, Liu Kang returns to Deacon City for revenge.

Kitana / Mileena: Twin sisters, Kitana goodhearted stripper, Mileena… Not so much. More a skanky prostitute. Mileena, driven by her constant envy of her more-loved sister, has multiple plastic surgeries in an attempt to constantly improve her looks, eventually runs afoul of Baraka’s roach motel fronts, and becomes horribly disfigured. (You all know the “mad doctor disfigures someone and sees it as beauty” bit.) As she walks away from her most recent facial surgery, there’s an attempted rape, until the rapist yanks away the bandages and sees what’s beneath… Mileena fights back against her attacker. After seeing her horrible face, the attacker freaks out, and in the struggle, she accidentally kills him. She eventually runs home and sees herself… And slowly falls off the deep end by what’s happened. Far from rational given the circumstances, she focuses her rage on her sister, jealous of the attention always given to her, and blames Kitana for driving her to doing these crazy things, including taking the man’s life, a line she decides was easy to cross. For fun and extra grimdark, she can attempt to hit on one of the other fighters, attempt to seduce him, and slaughter them as well! (Too much?)

Stryker / Kabal / Nightwolf: Stryker is a cop with a history of being “overzealous,” including a raid in a casino that went bad, and left the Native American family that ran it dead. Nightwolf’s family. Reprimanded for his actions, Stryker is “let go” from the police force, and instead takes a job as a private prison guard. Already being known as a vicious dirty cop, he begins living up to the role, beating on inmates for his shits and giggles. He’s fired when he lobs a few smoke grenades into the solitary confinement cell of a gang member. The gas completely destroys his eyes, throat, eyes, and esophagus. The only thing that keeps him alive is an artificial respirator. He wears a gas mask to make the breathing even easier. Yes, that gang member was Kabal. Now, without hope for a return to his glory, Stryker enters the tournament to clean up the streets by murdering what he considers unwanted elements.

Smoke / Cyrax / Sektor: Smoke, a member of the Lin Kuei like Sub-Zero, and friend of Cyrax and Sektor, two DJs who are friends of his who like to sample the screams, bones breaking, and flesh-ripping sounds of his victims in techno gorecore mixes. Think Daft Punk meets Eli Roth’s nightmares,) they’re not fighters, just personalities, and likely easy victims for someone. Potentially, they could also be the insane tech gurus behind some of the more insane fighting facilities, hence the crazy things like spikes and acid traps everywhere. It’d be nice if they turned on Smoke, saying it was only business.

Quan Chi: The true tournament organizer, an albino madman who runs the tournament as both a competition for killers, a terror device to destabilize the area, and snuff film market.

Kano: Quan Chi’s promising new experiment, lightweight durable headgear (not a replacement eye, maybe a contact lens or fucked-up looking implant?) that allows for the recording of the first person murders of the wearer. Kano is the first to test it by removing a man’s still-beating heart from his chest.

To be honest, I’m much happier with this as a webseries than a film. Each episode can revealing part of the world through the set/style, and the larger picture of the tournament/war and what it means, with each episode containing a fight.

Plenty of websites and forums have great ideas, those are some of my favorites, with some of my own thrown in! (Of course, not every character would be a martial artist, and each would not play an equal role. Some just serial killers and crazies to ratchet up the insanity.) Many are cliches, but really, isn’t Mortal Kombat in itself rife with them, only turned up to 11? That’s what it did right.

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The Podcast.

I’ve mentioned it in my Twitter, but I’d like to draw your attention to a podcast that my friend Justin and I are doing. It’s the Game Industry Newscast.

The concept is that most podcasts (particularly gaming podcasts) are very long, site/personality-dependent, and about how the hosts feel about the news and games they’re playing, all in an attempt to entertain. We go in the absolute opposite direction. Short (less than 3 minutes,) factual (no grandstanding, that’s why I have a blog,) and serious, with intent to inform.

Want to be informed and still have an extra hour to spare? Listen to the Game Industry Newscast. Have some GIN.

A voxelated olive.

Of course if you’re into Twitter, we’ve got one of those, too.

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If I Made the Next GTA.

Obviously the future of Grand Theft Auto lies between San Andreas and GTA4. What do I mean? Imagine the rich world (There’s so much room for activities!) created by San Andreas, but with the ability to download new chapters like GTA4. This is what’s needed. Of course, what will the next GTA be like? I certainly have no clue. I can only suggest what I would like it to be. And with that, I present Grand Theft Auto: Blue, Green, and Gold.

Imagine a rural community on the border of Tennessee and Kentucky. Wait, rural America? Damn right. Why? TN and KY are second and third in the rate of domestic US marijuana production (according to the latest numbers I found, 2006: http://www.drugscience.org/Archive/bcr2/domstprod.html.) This gives awesome potential for a series whose linking element is that you control a criminal.

See, I don’t want Rockstar to out-do themselves with a sprawling huge city with FOUR major areas instead of three and call that progress. I want them to out-do themselves with the amount of in-game data that they’re able to juggle. I’d gladly take a smaller more persistent world over a larger more sprawling one. More persistent elements in the world would go a great way toward helping create a more dynamic narrative structure, and that’s going to be important if we’re creating a world we’re going to want to expand on. I want them to make the game-story as open as the world, or to at least try.

So we start with a small town, an “across the tracks” neighborhood (where poor blacks live,) a trailer park (where poor whites live,) homes around the city for the more affluent, and a handful of apartment complexes for middle income folk scattered across the town. Straight through the city is one long six-lane Interstate with a four-lane loop around it. The ends of the six lane Interstate have a mountain tunnel on each end that just loops the player around. In the barren area around the city? Plenty of dirt roads, farms, a river with a few creeks, a small private airfield full of Cessnas, forests, maybe a sand dune, and hidden marijuana fields.

I want it filled with different actions like aircraft, bikes, side jobs, police missions, fire dept. missions, minigames, etc. just like San Andreas was. Keep a robust amount of activities with which to play off of later, but don’t use them all in the game’s plot.

I want Frank, the town drunk to start out at McDonald’s, and by the time I drive all the way around the town, he’s only stumbled his way down the road to Pearline’s Fried Chicken. (Whereas in the current GTA games, he’d probably just magically appear at random locations around the city.) I want some redneck named Clevon’s Station-Wagon-meth-labs exploding with a slight irregularity and small town news vans showing up like it’s the most important thing that’s ever happened. I want someone like Sheriff Buford T. Justice harassing a guy named Leroy for being black, but the Sheriff will claim that Leroy is a suspected drug dealer, so Leroy calls out the Sheriff on his racism, and the Sheriff skulking off. And once he’s gone, I want Leroy to actually sell drugs. If you shoot someone, the body should stay there (unless you move it,) and if someone finds it, the police and media show up. The county coroner plots against the sheriff, the city commission plots against him, small town politics get ugly. Cops keep their eyes open for any impropriety. I want cops to keep an eye out for your car, and your clothes, and changing them is how you ditch cops, not going through some magical paint shop. This is the world I want to play my games in.

But why? What kind of story could we get from this?

Put the player in the role of a young troublemaker banned from his similar county back home in Tennessee after being a known drug runner, but him never being caught. Keep alluding to “the shootout,” as the final straw that had the Sheriff of his last home threaten to kill him if he didn’t leave. Have a few references to a bloodbath in his home town, and have people who find out where he’s from be a bit in awe, and ask questions someone who’s been in serious shit wouldn’t ask. I’m convinced that this is golden.

Expansions?

-After the game’s end, the County Coroner arrests the Sheriff for being corrupt (as revealed in the game proper, after which our hero drives off in the sunset.) Of course, he’s even more twisted. In steps a secondary character in the game to save the day.

-Pizza delivery guy gets robbed and goes on an epic mission to get his $12.93 and tip.

-A pilot trying to make an important deadline makes an emergency landing on the town’s small airstrip and finds himself in the middle of thugs loading an airplane with gross amounts of weed. They try to kill him, but as he runs into the forest for safety, he stumbles across a cabin with a good ole boy who saves him. The player must now retrieve his aircraft by spoiling the operation, getting his plane fixed, and escape by a set time in order to make his mysterious delivery. More hijinks ensue.

I could go on all day, none the single most original thing you’ve heard, but all enough to make anyone’s imagination say “hey, yeah.” No, I don’t expect anyone to read this far, but, I had to expand on it. It’s been rumbling around in my head for a while and I meant to post it here a while back. Good to get it out.

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