The Man Behind The Cowl: Arkham City Interview

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The Man Behind The Cowl: Arkham City Interview

I remember the day my copy of Arkham Asylum arrived at the office because I hadn’t followed the game’s development too closely and, when I took it home just to check out what my colleagues had been raving about, I finished it that same weekend.

As a result, I’ve had a keen eye on Arkham City, so yesterday I swooped over to the Warner Brothers gamescom area and watched a demo of the new challenge maps, which offer a high-score chasing, combo-stringing alternative to the meat and drink of the story campaign. Compeered by Dax Ginn, marketing game manager at Rocksteady Studios, two members of the dev team played through identical challenge maps on different TVs – one as Batman and one as Catwoman – in a face-off as a small group of journalists watched the stereoscopic 3D beatdown.

Afterwards, I caught up with Dax to discuss the gamescom build of Arkham City and their approach to character development with this sequel.


What do you have to show us in this build of Arkham City?

At E3 and San Diego Comic-Con we showed some of our single-player story and side-missions and, here at gamescom, we’ve brought the third big part of our game: our challenge mode. We’ve brought both combat and Predator challenge maps and we’re showing it all in 3D.

We’ve put so much work into this area but we haven’t shown them to anyone yet so that’s what’s most exciting right now.

How are you treating the challenge mode in this sequel?

They’re kind of like a dojo where you can go to sharpen your skills. For all its atmosphere and emotional intensity, Arkham Asylum was a very driven, focused experience; with Arkham City the design is aimed towards giving the player freedom, so there are a lot of choices on offer at any given moment. The challenge in that, for us, is not being able to control and ramp up the difficulty in the same way we did in the first game, so if you find at any point you’re getting slaughtered in the main game, you have the challenge maps to work on your skills.

The second function of the mode is to massively blow out the amount of content in the game and we’ve added in a reward structure with the Riddler Revenge feature, where you earn up to three medals for getting a high score in combat or taking out enemies in specific ways in the Predator maps, and online leaderboards.

With Catwoman taking a central role in what we’ve seen of the game so far, and a distinct, Rocksteady take on Robin appearing in challenge mode, what is the essence of those two characters?

The ‘Rocksteady take’ is a very good way of putting it because we’re given a lot of creative freedom to define the Arkham verse, as we call it. Take a look at what we’ve done with Penguin – the monocle doesn’t really work in the 21st century so we’ve smashed a beer bottle into his face and that’s our take on it. That sums up our approach to character design: gritty and nasty, and with a tangible sense of threat in the game world.

Catwoman’s design is driven by the hostile atmosphere in Arkham City and her Catsuit has a military feel – if you look closely then you’ll see a very fine black and grey camouflage pattern, in keeping with her being very difficult to detect in the shadows.

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Because Robin only appears in the challenge maps, our focus is on taking him in a
direction not seen before. To fit in our world then he needs to be hard-hitting and have abilities that are approaching the potency of Batman’s, so he has a bow staff and shield, and he is an explosions specialist, with vision augmentation that allows him to identify explosives in the environment. Robin is a complex character and very different to Batman – it’s not a case that we’ve just reskinned him.

How has the Rocksteady team built up such an extensive knowledge of the Batman universe and characters?

Working closely with DC Comics helps a lot. They are masters of that universe and we consult them on every aspect of the game because we want to make sure any new idea is there to create a deeper experience of feeling like Batman.

The alter ego is a big part of any superhero and yet you have never explored that. Why did you decided to steer clear of Bruce Wayne?

Because it’s a Batman game. He’s powerful and aspirational but you never lose sight of the fact that he is mortal. It’s such fertile ground and in Arkham City we will go deeper into the man behind the cowl by bringing in characters like Hugo Strange, who knows Batman’s true identity, and Talia al Ghul, who has a romantic relationship with him. Through those characters we see his vulnerable side but our aim has always been to make an action game, not a business simulator, and when you start thinking about what you would do while playing as Bruce Wayne, it doesn’t seem terribly exciting in comparison.

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My favourite parts of Arkham Asylum were when events would suddenly take a dark turn to the left, like the scene in the morgue and the Scarecrow levels. How will you surprise players this time around knowing that they are now expecting that kind of stuff?

It’s a really tough challenge. I can’t be completely truthful with my answer here because we want to make sure that surprises remain. We have moments in the game that are designed to take you by surprise and… this really is a difficult question to answer… players are going to appreciate what we have done because those moments you mentioned worked so well in the first game, and we totally understand that there’s an expectation now. We’ve thought a lot about what we think people are going to think, and then worked out ways to stay one step ahead.

Let me know if you have any questions based on my time with Arkham City and I’ll do my best to answer over the weekend.

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4 Author Replies

  • I honestly CAN. NOT. WAIT. FOR. THIS!

  • So long as it’s not the same 3-4 rooms repeated,and the game doesn’t rehash the same boss over and over, I’ll be happier than playing the first game.

  • Sorry mate, i got so excited about this article that i forgot to state a question haha..

    Right my first question is this: I realise Robin is playable within the challenge maps, thats kool but is he making an appearance in the actual story mode too?

    Second question is: Can you tell us a world first if you happened to see a trophy pop up as youve been playing this and if so what was it for?

    And my last question is: Wouldnt be kool if Superman made an appearance!

    Ok, it wasnt a question but still it’ll be flippin SICK if they ever did that though right! just a two second cameo!

    • No Robin for the story mode and I’m afraid I didn’t see any trophies – you can switch them off on dev kits and that’s what they tend to do for demos, when they remember.

      Superman?! I honestly can’t see that happening.

  • @ KAP

    It is very likely that Superman will get some form of mention in Arkham City. Seen as there were tons of references to various DC characters in Arkham Asylum, I would not be at all surprised if the name “Clark Kent” appeared somewhere in the game.

    However, I don’t think the character of Superman will feature in the game. While not many Batman fans have a problem with the idea of Batman and Superman existing in the same universe, there are usually problems when the two of them come together.

  • I’m sorry for being off topic, but could you pls release some Sly Info. Thx…

  • “Did anyone catch the game last night?”

    Scarecrow was awesome in AA.

  • Hi guys, first off I would like to say congratulations on proving the comic book to game stereotype wrong. So nice to see a famous comic hero brought into the gaming world, and it not be a steaming pile! AA was one of the best games I have played this gen, now I have MASSIVE expectations for AC!

    5 Questions.
    1: How has the team improved and expanded on the puzzle/ detective side of Arkham city? That’s one big complaint people had with the original, there was not much detective work, and when there was it was simple basic stuff like follow these fingerprints, or follow the pollen in the air. Not exactly stuff you would give to the world’s greatest detective!

    2: Will we be getting any new gadgets geared to puzzle solving?
    That’s another big complaint allot of people had with the original, batman is notorious for his gadgets, but AA really did not have many geared towards stealth which he’s infamous for, and towards detective work.

    • Just bear in mind that I am from SCEE, not Rocksteady, so I can only answer based on what I have seen and learned through interviews.

      This piece I wrote a couple of months ago should answer 1 and 2 in some way. I’ve heard them say that there are no plans to include Batmobile driving sections.

      Not sure about the EB Expo… I’ll ask the Aussie office next time I speak to them.

  • Sorry had to split it into 2 half’s because of the character limit.

    3: Did the team at some time consider implementing the bat mobile in one way or another?
    That’s again another complaint allot of people had with the game. Batman with his bat mobile just does not seem right, every movie, and every comic, every time you see the caped crusader you see his loyal transport! Hard to think of where it could be implemented, just simple driving missions or chase sequences just won’t fit, but there’s got to be a different way to put the girl in.

    4: Will this be at the EB games expo in October?
    Dying to play it, and seeing it comes out only 4 days after the expo ends it would be the perfect opportunity to get some marketing and hype for the game!

    O and just one general question will the PS Vita be at the EB expo in October also? Dying to get my hands on the little beast! Especially since it won’t be out till next year.
    Hope the prices EB have are not correct though, I mean $348 for the WIFI and $400 for the 3G is just ridiculous! 160GB ps3 is only $348 and that comes with 2 free games and a 2nd controller!
    No way in hell is a 3G vita worth 50 bucks more than a ps3! Let alone a ps3, 2 games, and a controller!

  • I would like to know the size of the map, is it actually five times bigger than Arkham Asylum, like they say?

    Also, how does the game feel, more fluid than the first game?

  • 5: Why is the PC version not offered as the collectors or steelbook edition? I really wanted to get the CE, but I want to get this on my PC since its one of the very few games that are actually proper PC games and not crappy console ports! Please reconsider, really disappointing allot of publishers are starting to do this! Same thing happened with deus ex human revolution. Really wanted to get that on PC but if I do I miss out on the extra DLC, and making of.

  • The scene in the morgue in the first game really got me; the opening and slamming meat locker doors and the voice whispering “You’re not supposed to be here!” had me running around like a petrified headless chicken… can’t wait to see how they top that!!!

  • I’m itching to play this. B:AA is one of my favorite games of all time, so this one will probably follow the same route.

  • I gotta say I loved B: AA .. seriously itching to get my hands on this!

  • Dax had this to say on Batmans batmobile in an interview i read a little while back:

    “To us, that vision of running off a rooftop and gliding through the streets is so much more compelling than putting Batman in a car. I think when a lot of people instinctively think about the Batman experience they want the Batmobile is right up there. But then when you really start to think about it, certainly from our perspective it doesn’t make any sense because it removes all of the emotion and vulnerability he has. The Batmobile is such a tank that it suddenly removes the threat of guys with machine guns, and on top of that Batman never kills, so all of a sudden the implications of turning this game into a free-roaming driving game means that, as much as you’d want to run people down, you would never be able do that. We’d have to have guys diving out of the way at the last minute and that would have been really unsatisfying. I hear you and I get that question a lot, but for us, we literally thought about it and went no, that’s just not going to work, or that’s going to result in a game we wouldn’t be happy making.”

    And this is why i also think the batmobile wuld be a stupid thing to add in this game.

    • To me he said something along the lines of: “we’re focused on making Batman himself the ultimate vehicle when getting around the game world.”

  • Agreed, that’s why I said they need to implement it in another way.
    It just has to be in the game in one way or another, maybe have it like the first game, or as side missions. To completely ignore it would be like having a GOW game without the infamous chains of Olympus!

  • @16

    Yea I hear you but logically, it’ll be diluted in the sense that you’ll never really be able to do what you want in the car, example: Driver San Fran demo, you played it yet?

    Try running someone over in that. You cant, all the pedestrians have spider sense and dodge out the way the moment you try.. I dont know about you but thats ultra dumb and takes me out the game EVERYTIME i see it.

    I’d rather them not include something for the sake of it then add something that wont be ultimately right within the constraints of the world.

    If they’d of added a driving section in AA and it was meh, or even “ok” it would have taken away from the initial game a little.

    Im glad Rocksteady dont conform to multiplayer or the batmobile because there pressured, good on ’em.

  • I want to know if The Scarecrow is coming back? I would really love to have him back.

  • is gotham opened right from the start?

    • This is what I’ve been told by Rocksteady: Everything open to the sky (so outdoor areas) is accessible from the start and indoor areas will gradually unlock as you progress through the story.

  • When are we going to see PS3 footage?

  • Sony pull your thumb out of your as$ and fix the web browser, it is now impossible to watch anything on the 4od app because the web browser collapses and says “there is not enough memory. the window content was replaced with a blank page.”

  • I agree with the above post, glad to have 4oD, but its simply not possible to use it cause of the substandard web browser.

    but erm on topic.

    I loved the first game, so this will be freaking AMAZING. Im imagining it being Game of the Year, quite possible.

  • Does PS3 Arkham City have MLAA & V-Sync enabled?
    And will we need to force 1080i/p to make it run in 1080i/p?

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