Arkham City Q&A: Rocksteady Answers Your Questions

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Arkham City Q&A: Rocksteady Answers Your Questions

It’s been mere months since I belatedly finished Batman: Arkham Asylum and learned what all the fuss was about. Now, with Arkham City just days away from its October 21st PS3 release, I jumped at a rare chance to speak with Game Director Sefton Hill from Rocksteady Studios. I solicited some of your best questions from Twitter and hopped on the phone with Mr. Hill to discuss a wide range of topics related to one of my most-anticipated games for 2011. Before you dive into the Q&A, get into the spirit by watching the new “Rogue’s Gallery” video below.

PlayStation.Blog: In Arkham Asylum I was able to level up almost all of my skills by the end of the game. Does Arkham City bring more skill upgrades and more skill diversification, perhaps specialized character builds?

We’ve certainly expanded the number of upgrades in the game – we had 20 upgrades in Arkham Asylum, and we now have 33 different upgrades in Arkham City. There are a lot of ways to develop your skills and use them in the game. There’s not a massive skill tree, per se, though certain upgrades do unlock other upgrades. Ultimately, it’s more about how you decide to use your skills. We’ve really expanded those options with Arkham City.

PSB: Since you start with most of the gadgets from Arkham Asylum, will there be room for new gadgets?

Yeah. You start with five of the gadgets from Arkham Asylum: the Batarang, Bat Claw, Remote Batarang, Explosive Gel and Cryptographic Sequencer. And every single one of those gadgets has new features and improved useage. Overall, we’ve expanded the number of gadgets from eight to 12.

We have a number of new gadgets as well, such as the Remote Electrical Charge, called the REC for short. It’s a projectile-taser weapon that you can fire into enemies to stun them or fire at their gun to make it go off and create a distraction. The REC can also power machinery and create magnetic fields that work in some puzzles. Another new gadget is the Freeze Blast technology from Mr. Freeze: it can freeze enemies in place, or you can use it to freeze an enemy’s weapon and take it out of action. Our focus was to give the player as many options as possible.

PSB: What are the biggest refinements you’ve made to Batman’s controls, gameplay mechanics, and overall “feel” since Arkham Asylum?

The biggest thing we’ve focused on is his navigation and his ability to get around Gotham City, making that as exciting and fun as possible. The game is much bigger, a larger expanse but also much more vertical. We worked a lot on the glide system; when you’re gliding you can pull R2 to throw Batman into a dive. And as you hurdle towards the ground you can build momentum to propel you around the city. You can also get a grapple boost upgrade that boosts you off ledges and rooftops. And you can combine these two moves, the dive and grapple boost, to get around Gotham City without even touching the ground, if you get good enough.

What’s really nice is that you have to constantly be evaluating your surroundings like Batman would: where to dive, where to move as you weave through back alleyways and over the tops of buildings. It gives you the feel of being Batman in Gotham City. We wanted to live up to that promise.

Arkham City interview at gamescom

PSB: Will the Bat Cave be returning in Arkham City, and will it be featured more prominently than it was in Arkham Asylum? (via @PSIPodcast)

I don’t want to give away any spoilers! I can definitely say that we’re focusing on the key Batman elements: you have the action, but obviously the cerebral, the forensic, the psychological, being the world’s greatest detective and so forth. Those are all important elements, and we have them all in Arkham City.

PSB: All the new villains are part of the main quest or from side quest? I fear too many characters and too little time to develop them (via @OverlordZombie)

I think I understand that concern. From our point of view, though, we wanted to make the best story we possibly could. There was never an attempt to squeeze in extra characters for the sake of doing so; we just wanted a really strong Batman story. The story is about this relationship between Batman and the supervillains. Some of the villains are part of the main story, others are part of the side missions. We’ve spent as much time crafting the side missions as we’ve spent on the main story. They are in no way filler, they’re really great entertainment.

PSB: The boss fights are different, right? In Arkham Asylum many were very similar. (via @KevJones311)

In Arkham Asylum I guess we never really thought of the Titan henchmen as boss fights, but as part of the normal combat flow. I can certainly see the concern. When we think about boss fights, we look at the supervillain and how he can challenge Batman.

Take Mr. Freeze. He’s very powerful with his suit, so Batman can’t take him head-on. But Freeze is also super intelligent, so that fight is all about trying to outsmart Freeze. When you find a way past his defenses, when you manage to sneak up and hurt him, he’ll study your behavior and shut down the techniques you’re using. It’s dynamic. If he sees that you’re using the glide kick, he’ll reduce the temperature of the air in the room to freeze up Batman’s cape and stop you from gliding. If you use the floor grates, he’ll freeze them up so you can’t use them. As the fight goes on, the environment dynamically evolves.

Batman: Arkham-City - Game Photo

PSB: How has freeflow hand-to-hand combat been improved since the first game?

We didn’t want to overcomplicate the system. I think its strength is that it focuses on selecting the right move, not long combos or complicated sequences. You really feel like Batman when you play because it’s a very simple, very rewarding combat system. Now the number of options has been expanded massively.

We’ve added a lot of things, like simultaneous counters so that Batman can fend off two, three enemies at once. We added projectile counters, too, so he can throw objects back at enemies. Enemies can use combo attacks now, and you have to pull while countering multiple strikes. You can perform beatdowns, a series of really fast blows that can finish an enemy off without you having to use a takedown. You can even use your gadgets in combos: the Bat claw, the Explosive Gel, REC, even the Freeze Blast. It’s still really easy to pick up and play.

PSB: How much time will the average gamer spend in Detective Mode this time around? (via @TheMarriedGamer)

I understand those concerns. On the flip side, the whole point of the game is to experience what it’s like to be Batman: we didn’t want to reduce his effectiveness or drop a battery life meter on Detective Mode, because that wouldn’t be Batman. So we looked for other ways to solve the issue. We’ve done that by thinking of Detective Mode as being a way for Batman to hunt enemies down; you turn it off to navigate. That balance works well.

As an example, in Detective Mode now, the environment doesn’t look quite as clear. We pull the enemies out of the environment so you can identify and inspect them instantly but the environment itself doesn’t look quite as distinct. Then when you navigate, it will feel very natural to switch Detective Mode off. We still let the player use it when he wants to, though. We just had to find a more natural useage for it.

PSB: Can we drive the Batmobile or Batplane? (via @mitii5)

We did look at that, those are obviously key elements of the series. But after a lot of thought, we wanted to focus on the feeling of Batman moving through the city, this very vertical city. It’s an inhospitable place: it’s quarantined, it’s got roadblocks in place, so the best way to get around is to glide across the rooftops and through the streets. So that’s what we focused on. When you play, you’ll see why that’s the most effective way to travel.

PSB: I’d like further clarification on the things to expect in the Challenge Rooms. (via @Felix824)

People really enjoyed them last time — it’s a place to develop your combat skills and push them to the maximum. We added this idea of modifiers. There are 12 modifiers in all, and any combination of them can be applied to any challenge room to get a different experience. One example is a a protective aura that moves around the room between different enemies, so you have to pick and choose when to attack. Some of the modifiers are positive, too, such as one that allows you to smash through enemies who hold shields or tasers.

On top of that, we have a campaign mode where you face three challenge rooms in a row. But you start with as many as six modifiers and you have to use them all before you finish all three rooms. You can do them in any order: two in this room, four in the next or however you want.

Arkham City interview at gamescom

PSB: Will there be any hidden secrets similar to the Arkham City blueprints in Arkham Asylum? (via @RetroDLC)

We love that feeling of the Arkham DNA being throughout the environment in Arkham City. There are going to be lots of secrets and Batman references and Gotham folklore. And the Riddler’s coming back with a vengeance – he’s been plotting his revenge since Arkham Asylum. Throughout Arkham City are 440 different trophies to collect, and each one has its own puzzle. And to raise the stakes, Riddler has taken hostages this time. So if you don’t play his game…

PSB: What are you personally most excited for players to experience in Arkham City?

The thing I’m personally most proud of is how we balanced an open world with the strong, focused story. The feeling that you really are Batman and that feeling of being almost overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that you’ve got to do.

The other thing is just gliding through the city, grappling-boosting off the top of buildings, diving down through alleyways. I can’t tell you how many hours of work we’ve lost to that.

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  • will the ps3 version get exclusive stuff? like jokes in aa

  • Will there be a demo out soon? I can’t wait to see how you have improved upon Arkham Asylum!

  • I hope Scarecrow returns he was the best villain in AA.

  • I’m interested to know why they decided to make the “online pass” for access to highly publicised single player content in the game? It pretty much removes one of the main selling points of the game for people who don’t buy it new. It won’t affect me as I’m buying the game new but it seems kind of a low blow here really, to remove Catwoman from the game entirely for people who buy used.

    It just strikes me as odd that’s all. I would have thought if they wanted to restrict access to anything it would be the challenge rooms, as they don’t affect any story missions or the overall single player experience of the game. I really hope this isn’t a new trend, to lock used players out of portions of single player games unless they pay a fee to unlock them again.


  • @1 thats what i was wondering as AA did.

  • There is a movie on the blueray and an exclusive costume as announced on kotaku

  • I cant wait for next Friday! This game is going to be amazing! How about some PSN avatars? I would love some of those and im sure every Batman fan would. Make it happen! :D

  • catwoman locked to a single use code?
    that’s 10% of the campaign.

    i’ll be waiting for a preowned copy.

  • I can’t believe they ruin games with online passes pre owned games make a killing in sales so why ruin it.

  • @10 – Because none of that ‘killing’ goes to the game publisher. Every second-hand sale is a loss for them, the only people that profit from second-hand sales are the retailers.

    That said, locking out single-player content from pre-owned games is a terrible idea. With multiplayer, there’s the argument for server costs etc. but this is just a kick in the teeth.

  • Online pass for single player content = no buy. Screw that. You realise there are a good number of offline people who will buy this new and get screwed out of content right because they canot redeem code.

    What was a buy is no longer one.

  • When I discovered the Geonet pass for WKC2 was £7.99 rather than free (as it was on the first game) I avoided it, now I have heard about Cat-Woman only being available through a single-use dlc code, I will also be avoiding this game. if these ploys are intended to make money, they have failed. Take note devs, we are not stupid and if we feel we are being made fools of we will just spend our money elsewhere!!!

  • Quick question about the ‘single use code’ for the game.
    My girlfriend and I both have accounts on a single PS3, will the code be locked to a PSN ID or to the console (as with, say RDR DLC).
    Little bit confused by this, we have the game pre-ordered but if we have to then pay out more just to both enjoy the full game then I will be canceling and not bothering with what it sure to be an excellent game!

  • Need.Batman.Arkham.City!

    Oh my god, i’ve been waiting for it since they announced it;can’t wait for the epicness to arrive. :D

  • I was going to get Arkham City as soon as I could, as it looks like a truly fantastic game. However, as a student at University, my PS3 is blocked from the PSN by the provided internet filters and blocks at work, so I’m going to be offline until at least next July. I’m not buying the game if what you’ve already described as a full subplot that is interwoven with the main story is cut out because I can’t get online.
    I didn’t have to enter a code when I bought Batman: Year One to receive the pages with Jim Gordon’s story. That’s what this feels like.

  • Will the PS3 version have MLAA & V-Sync enabled?

  • I have 2 ps3´s at home, and 2 accounts and will only be able to play the compleet game on 1 account is a no buy for me. Come up with something else to get more money but not steeling from your loyal customers!
    NO BUY!

  • Part 1

    I have 2 ps3’s now at home, one for downstairs and 1 for the boys upstairs and all 3 of us want to play the game.

    So am I being made to buy extra passes? Is it linked to my ip address so anyone in my household can play with one pass? Or is it linked to one name on my home accounts or is it linked to all the names on my psn account on any machine?

    I’m sorry but I need to know, as a very hard working man who want’s himself and his immediate family to enjoy the games I can afford to buy in these rather difficult times (I have preordered the collectors edition)I expect to be able to play a single player game in full and have full access for my household as well.

    If this is the case, that we don’t get full access as a family on our 2 machines and I find out in the next couple of days I am cancelling my order immediately.

    If we don’t get full access then this stinks I am all for supporting the devs and game companies.

    Heck I have spent thousands of pounds over the years on new games and the very occasional second hand one but there has to be a fair way to implement passes to halt the second hand game sales, other than to penalise purchasers of new copies.

  • Conclusion.

    I also have the explorer edition of Uncharted 3 ordered and I will not hesitate to cancel that if something equally unfair is implemented.

    I don’t care If I miss out early on release, I will buy them second hand later and play what’s available without online pass options.

    Welcome to the recession it seems.

  • Conclusion.

    I also have the explorer edition of Uncharted 3 ordered and I will not hesitate to cancel that if something equally unfair is implemented.

    I don’t care If I miss out early on release, I will buy them second hand later and play what’s available without online pass options.

    If we can all play then fine that’s all I ask.

    If not? Welcome to the recession it seems.

  • Dear reader, (this message is for everyone because i want an answer) ok, im really pumped for this game as i finished arkham asylum and got the platinum trophy ;), is this game a direct link from the asylum or new?, is there gunna be that titan stuff seen in that cliffhanger at the end? scarecrow, croc, bane all nabbed it

  • If you buy a pre-owned version, you will have to buy the catwoman campaign as a dlc. it costs like 7-10€ as of what i’ve heard.

  • I loved the new trailer. The quick shot of Robin at the end made me think that he is in the main story mode, well at least not as a playable character.

    That was a great interview and I cannot wait for Friday, going to my first ever midnight opening to pick up the game!!

  • I’m not a fan of batman but this game looks really good, if I were a fan I would go crazy for this game.

  • Thank god that i don’t like this game. it’s silly and boring game.

  • People that are worried about that online pass and multiple PS3 systems:

    When you download a piece of DLC (the online pass in this case) it will be activated to all users that play on the system, as long as the original user account that downloaded it is not deleted.

    If you want the pass on multiple PS3 systems, just create a new user account, log in your pass holder PSN account and download the pass. You can do this on up to 5 different PS3’s. Just do not ever delete the user account that downloaded the online pass and it will work.

  • @mobarek why comment on an article of a game that you dont like, makes no sense. if you dont like the game then dont read the article and certainly dont comment

  • @mobarek: the fact that you’re commenting on a game you haven’t even tried yet. Wow.

    I wish I could’ve asked Sefton Hill this:

    “With Arkham City it seems kind of “this-is-it”. The third game can’t possibly be any better, but I also know you’re one of the few developers who can do that. With that in mind, what are some of the things you’d like to improve for a third game? Are there things you weren’t satisfied with in the second game?”

    Mostly interested since there’s talks about a third game although nothing has been announced yet of course.

  • This looks so much better than the first game.. I was a bit disappointed with the setting in the first game and Gotham city is the obvious choice for Batman.. Gives it much more of a filmnoir feel.. Getting this and Rachet/Clank in a day or two..

  • Definitely keen to grab my copy!

  • has anyone been/is playing Rage,? only i spotted what looks like a very good deal yesterday at HMV, trade in Rage and get Arkham City for 99 pence, and the offer runs till 27th oct,… as i am mostly done, well maybe another weeks worth. with Rage i’m defo going to be doing this,.. mind you i believe you can still get around £30 trade in certain places for Rage, at the moment, though i doubt you’d get that (£30) come 27th, just a heads up in case i can help anyone…. also a guy mentioned seeing Robin in a trailer in above post.. if your interested (and in UK) then go to game/gamestation (same owners btw) as thier ‘exclusive’ is having Robin as a playable character with ‘his own set of unique moves’ etc, so that could add more replayability,..but i’m not 100% if to get him you need to pre-order, i’d say no, but if you’d like that be best finding out for sure,.. AA was a top game, no doubt, so i just hope they can at least equal that, if they can actually better it then happy days.

  • What are you going to do about the DLC-disaster?

    What a way to ruin your own release…

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