Developer NetherRealm has officially confirmed that it will be significantly scaling back the custom variation feature in Mortal Kombat 11 in tournaments and online ranked play. Instead of customizing their character's moves, players will only be able to select from several pre-built variations in these kinds of matches.
However, players will still be able to use custom variation in local versus and casual online matches.
Mortal Kombat 11's custom variation feature allows players to customize how their character plays by selecting three special moves from a number of choices, creating their own unique build for that character. Players have no way of knowing what moves their opponents will or will not have, which makes combat a little more unpredictable.
NetherRealm has said that they are limiting the feature because letting each player create a custom fighting style with each character made the game extremely difficult to balance, leading to some very uneven matches. This is less of a problem in casual matches, but for tournaments and ranked matches it makes for an uneven playing field.
It's also difficult for players to remember all the different possible builds for all the characters, so limiting the number of builds for tournaments will make it easier for competitive players to create strategies for dealing with different opponents.
According to NetherRealm's lead designer John Edwards, a lot of thought went into creating builds that showcase as many of the character's special moves as possible. The builds are "thought out and planned to create the best variety of gameplay within the system that we have."
Sound reasoning, but many Mortal Kombat players have complained that limiting the feature also limits players' creativity. Players are also concerned that, despite the effort that NetherRealm has put in, the pre-built variations will miss some of the characters' best or fan-favorite moves.
Another advantage of custom variation is that it gives every player a chance to make every character work for them and their play style, effectively eliminating the "tier" ranks that so many fighting games have. This makes competitive play more interesting, and allows for more matchups between different characters.
Mortal Kombat 11 is releasing April 23 2019 for PC, the Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.