Batman: Arkham City - The inside story
7th Sep 2010 | 18:02
Much like Bruce Wayne's morally impenetrable alter-ego, it was fearless, muscular... and immaculate.
The BAFTA-winning Batman: Arkham Asylum single-handedly set new standards; not only for licensed video games, but for third-person action games in general. Even viewed through the applause-slaying prism of intolerant fandom, it was a supremely class act.
So how do we know Brit hero Rocksteady isn't going to 'Citizen Kane' it? Surely you can't follow perfection with anything other than unfulfillment?
Not if you see flaws where everybody else sees none. Rocksteady believes it's built a bigger, better Batman world with follow-up Arkham: City - without losing any of the original game's magic. Early impressions have left us inclined to agree.
This month's Official PlayStation Magazine certainly adds weight to Rocksteady's claims - and how.
Its exclusive, 14-page behind-the-scenes look at the game shows some jaw-dropping environments - containing a demurely mischievous Catwoman, a playfully evil Harley Quinn; and a seriously pissed Bats. It's a bit of a must buy.
Rocksteady's acquisition by Warner Bros earlier this year allowed the game-maker unrestricted access to the entertainment giant's sacred Batman canon - and it appears to have taken full advantage.
Here, Rocksteady boss Sefton Hill gives a heartfelt insight into what we can expect from the gargantuan Arkham City - and just how much care and painstaking attention the studio has invested the new game.
Frankly, it's hard not to walk away panting like Catwoman in a Felix factory. Enjoy:
On choosing Arkham City's new characters...
The characters that are featured in the game are purely driven by the story. That's where we always start because we only want to include characters that make sense and help develop the atmosphere, plot or characterisation.
After that we chose the characters who we felt would have the most interesting time inside Arkham City. How would these different characters react to being locked up inside these walls?
Of course, with such a tremendous rouge's gallery to choose from, we really are spoilt for choice. The opportunity to bring so many special characters into the Arkhamverse, to breath life into these characters within the walls of Arkham City was a genuine privilege for us.
On the games that influenced Arkham City...
Like every game studio, everyone at Rocksteady is a committed gamer, and as a team we all play very different games and are influenced in different ways. However, I personally always try to just enjoy other games and not over analyse them. If you want to create something new and fresh I think it is better to do it without following others even if it means you make more mistakes along the way.
It is the act of trying and overcoming issues yourself which creates a more original game because it invariably requires you to come up with original solutions.
When it comes to design ideas we do, of course, have an unfair advantage! The back catalogue of Batman comic books and graphic novels is an incredibly valuable archive for us and we prefer to focus on the many decades of great comic book work in there and take inspiration from stand-out moments from within Batman's world rather than anywhere else.
On the motion capture process...
Our motion capture process has developed significantly since Batman: Arkham Asylum. Firstly, Rocksteady made the decision to build a custom, dedicated mocap wing to the studio. The new mocap studio has everything that we need for great capture and has space for a full armoury of weapons, crash mats and a load of other props. We also overhauled the entire motion capture pipeline so that we can grab even more of the subtle movement of our actors.
On Arkham City's musical score...
The intelligent use of music and audio is a very powerful tool in creating a genuine sense of immersion in a game world. The musical score is a critical component of our game and our Audio Director, Nick Arundel, continues to do some incredible work in composing a score that is both unique to the Arkham series, but is also laced with those signature orchestral Batman riffs that evoke the power and righteous menace of the Dark Knight.
There is a lot of thought and planning that goes into creating those stand-out, highly immersive cinematic moments for the player and, as with most elements of the game, it is only possible to achieve via collaboration between many different people in the studio bringing together creation vision and technical execution. The key to generating a genuine sense of immersion in the game lies in the way that the score is linked into the action of the player.
Our score is designed and composed with player immersion and interactivity at its heart. The score is broken down into thousands of component parts, which are then played depending on the actions of the player.
The Invisible Predator encounters are a great example of this; when the player first enters the room, the music sits on a certain level, but when they take down their first thug the music steps up to build the tension. If they are discovered, the music will jump to a different track and if they are fired upon, a different track entirely will play. All of these decisions are made with player immersion in mind.
It is simply a privilege to work on a Batman game. We have a great deal of creative flexibility to tell our own stories and create intriguing and compelling challenges for Batman.
All of that work is built on the incredibly solid foundations that DC Comics has built over decades of fantastic story telling. We are always pushing to innovate and introduce new and unexpected experiences for the player.
On going bigger and bolder than Arkham Asylum...
Without a doubt, the hardest part of moving the game setting from the confines of the asylum into the urban sprawl of Arkham City was simply building the environment.
Our objective in this game is not to make the biggest game we can, but to make the best game possible. Gamers who played Batman: Arkham Asylum will know how dedicated we are as a studio to injecting an incredible amount of detail into every environment we build.
It is this attention to detail that gives our games the deep and intense atmosphere that so many players have found so compelling, and so we have had to seriously scale up our art team in order to bring the same level of detail to Arkham City, which is about 4-5 times bigger than Arkham Asylum.
In terms of gameplay, we knew very early on that just scaling up Batman's abilities and gadgets wasn't going to work as he is fundamentally facing a new game world and totally different range of enemies in this game, so we took his move set from Batman: Arkham Asylum and built from there.
Looking at the raw amount of animations in this sequel, Batman's moves have doubled in number and we also wanted to create an authentic sense of continuity from the end of Batman: Arkham Asylum, so the player will begin Batman: Arkham City with many of the same core gadgets that they unlocked in the first game.
Batman's cutting-edge technology is a significant part of the game, so gamers can expect to see a range of totally new gadgets, as well as evolved new features built into those tools that they already enjoyed in Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Batman: Arkham City is due for release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC next year