October 12, 2021 2:48 PM   Subscribe

"We certainly did a ton of prep for our video shoots, but some ideas came to us while filming. With Scorpion’s spear, it started with “You know what would be a cool ass move?”. From there you can be a fly on the wall and see us working through the details." How Scorpion got an iconic move: Twitter thread (and threadreader)
posted by curious nu (18 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The "FINISH HIM!" device in general was a 110% Hall of Fame idea.
posted by rhizome at 4:01 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]

That thread was like WAH! Then the video was like BAM!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:14 PM on October 12 [6 favorites]

Interesting how the motion capture actor footage looks a lot like miming. Trying to imagine what a Marcel Marceau video game could have been.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 5:22 PM on October 12

30 years. Man, time has flown.

If you want to see more historical footage of John and Ed working on MK1, there's a clip from Wild Chicago (Public Television) where they visit the factory. The game had pretty much wrapped by then but you can see the studio* where they shot the actors on VHS tape. They might have already started MK2 since you can see they finally sprung for a blue screen to assist with clipping the art instead of, urp, doing all the clipping by hand pixel-by-pixel like they did for MK1.

(* The "studio" was an unused storeroom at the end of a hallway deep in the farthest corner of the Williams Electronics pinball plant on California Avenue in Chicago, near Wrigley Field. Funny thing - since MK was the only title to really survive the breakup of Williams/Bally/Midway and then the implosion of Midway Games, Ed still works on MK a few blocks away at Warner Interactive's NeatherRealm Studios)

There are also some tapes on YouTube from Daniel Pesina (Johnny Cage) and Ho Sung Pak (Liu Kang) working on their motion capture. You can hear the paging system of the pinball factory go off overhead as they're working. Using a set of wooden steps as a bench for Pesina's flying kick is pretty brilliant too.

A deeper dive into the history of the 1990s video titles from Midway is in Josh Tsui's documentary Insert Coin which came out recently. Josh was a programmer at Midway and got plenty of stories from the employees themselves. Except Ed. Bummer. But it covers the trail from the first digitized images in arcade games and how they got to that point in time.

Tobias also has some videos up, like his background footage of MK3 being shot (a clip from Insert Coin) and he shows off the video rig.
posted by mookoz at 6:28 PM on October 12 [12 favorites]

I unironically love the 90's American pop culture conception of what a ninja is. It's like those medieval drawings of elephants by people who lived thousands of miles from the nearest elephant. Would a ninja have, like, a rope? Could they yank you across the room? Do you think a ninja could slap an acorn at your face so hard you would totally die? Nobody knows, man! Go crazy!
posted by phooky at 7:18 PM on October 12 [16 favorites]

"hey yeah we got a couple guys in vests and hoodies, and put respirator masks on them. That's basically a ninja, right"
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:45 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]

This is such a weirdly specific moment in the history of computer graphics. A little earlier and you didn't have enough memory or screen resolution to do 2-D animation based on actual photographs or video. And soon after this, computer graphics improved enough that it looked silly to try to paste photos or videos into a computer-generated scene. But Myst did it. Donkey Kong Country sorta did it by making 3D models and then "photographing" screen shots of them in different poses to make the animation frames, which was a better match for the pixel art backgrounds, but still looks like some kind of stop-motion movie.

As early as 1984 you had Jordan Mechner tracing the outline of stills from a video--simple low-resolution rotoscoping--to create animations for Karateka and later Prince of Persia. And today motion capture is basically the same thing. People like this guy pose wearing a suit that makes it easy for the computer to see them and uses their movements as a guide for how to draw and animate the graphics.
posted by straight at 11:10 PM on October 12 [5 favorites]

What do you figure was going through Daniel Pesina's head this whole time? "Seriously, you couldn't have planned this out beforehand? You're just making it all up on the spot? Is it lunchtime yet?"
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:54 AM on October 13

This is such a weirdly specific moment in the history of computer graphics

Pit Fighter (1990)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:23 AM on October 13 [2 favorites]

An era parodied delightfully in Eagle vs. Shark.
posted by HeroZero at 5:20 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]

Do you think a ninja could slap an acorn at your face so hard you would totally die?

One of the recurring themes in college BS sessions was “a ninja can kill with any weapon,” in which one person would propose some preposterous item to be used as a weapon, and the group would have to figure out how the ninja would use it to kill. My favorite was a gum wrapper.

These would often devolve into semantic debates - if the ninja balls up the gum wrapper in his fist, and then punches the victim so hard they die, does that count? The victim is killed, and the gum wrapper is “with” the killing - is this an exclusive with meaning without the weapon the death couldn’t happen, or an associative with meaning the ninja simply needs to posses the weapon? But in that case the ninja could be said to have killed the victim “with” the ninja’s own kidneys, since he has them “with” him at the killing. Oh, a ninja could totally kill you with his own kidneys!

Being in college in the 90s was pretty great.
posted by nickmark at 6:52 AM on October 13 [4 favorites]

Pit Fighter (1990)

NARC (1988)
Journey (1983)
posted by mookoz at 7:12 AM on October 13 [2 favorites]

posted by Earthtopus at 7:29 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]

Ninjas can kill anyone they want! Ninjas cut off heads ALL the time and don't even think twice about it. These guys are so crazy and awesome that they flip out ALL the time. I heard that there was this ninja who was eating at a diner. And when some dude dropped a spoon the ninja killed the whole town. My friend Mark said that he saw a ninja totally uppercut some kid just because the kid opened a window. --- Real Ultimate Power.
posted by SPrintF at 7:33 AM on October 13 [4 favorites]

"hey yeah we got a couple guys in vests and hoodies, and put respirator masks on them. That's basically a ninja, right"

Ha! So, I worked at Midway in the early 2000s and the Scorpion costume was basically hanging in a hallway closet where anyone could (and occasionally did) just pull it out and put it on. One of my coworkers went out to lunch dressed in it one time.
posted by 40 Watt at 9:08 AM on October 13 [13 favorites]

If I had the energy, I would probably be alarmed at how pedestrian the original furor over Mortal Kombat feels today.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 9:19 AM on October 13 [3 favorites]

This is such a weirdly specific moment in the history of computer graphics.
Even some of the Doom characters were physically modeled in clay and photographed.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 1:40 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]

The ninjas in this glorious scene from a movie called "Ninja: Silent Assassin" (1987) bear a striking resemblance to Scorpion and Sub-Zero.

Dunno if that was just the aesthetic of the ninjasploitation genre at the time, or if this movie helped to inspire the look.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:50 AM on October 14 [1 favorite]

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