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The Man Behind the Cowl: Arkham City Interview

James Gallagher's Avatar + Posted by James Gallagher on Aug 19, 2011 // Blog Manager, SCEE

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.

Arkham City interview at gamescom

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.

Arkham City interview at gamescom

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.

Arkham City interview at gamescom

My favorite 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.

//Add Your Own

56 Comments

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1

+ ez_____ez_____ez on August 19th, 2011 at 7:06 am said:

I wish Batman would look like the Dark Knight version besides the OLD comic book style. Either way I will be picking this game up. Will there be some kind of online gameplay I wonder?


2

+ TarzanSr on August 19th, 2011 at 7:10 am said:

This GAme is is going to be awesome 2nd


3

+ killercroc119 on August 19th, 2011 at 7:11 am said:

This game will be so awesome.


4

+ killercroc119 on August 19th, 2011 at 7:12 am said:

I love the Uncharted series, but so far, this has shown huge improvement and is making me more excited about this.


5

+ bakerarmy on August 19th, 2011 at 7:14 am said:

Can’t wait.


6

+ Frejim on August 19th, 2011 at 7:19 am said:

Pre-ordered!!! Cant wait!!!


7

+ Kingsices2 on August 19th, 2011 at 7:20 am said:

cant wait, day 1 fo sho


8

+ midknight24 on August 19th, 2011 at 7:21 am said:

Already reserved it at GAMESTOP and will be picking it up on day one. ARKHAM ASYLUM was AWESOME so I know ARKHAM CITY will really ROCK


9

+ jazzyrider on August 19th, 2011 at 7:22 am said:

Great info from the interview…can’t wait till this games comes out!


10

+ LukaX23 on August 19th, 2011 at 7:39 am said:

This is easily going to be one of the best games for me this generation.


11

+ JLP_M on August 19th, 2011 at 7:53 am said:

@1

Are you serious! Well I guess thats your opinion.


12

+ jimmyfoxhound on August 19th, 2011 at 7:59 am said:

I kinda wish Batman didn’t look like he was stuffed full of steroids. He just looks way to big and bulky. But I’m def gonna check this game out. Arkham Asylum was really great.


13

+ Thebig444 on August 19th, 2011 at 8:04 am said:

Day one. Batman arkham city is one of my most wanted game of the year


14

+ Thebig444 on August 19th, 2011 at 8:09 am said:

Will they be mutiplayer fonctionne or like a three player coop. It would be realy cool if like batman, robin and catwomen caught have little mission to do that would force all the character to use there gadget. It would be cool. Opfully there is still some suprise rocksteady is keeping for use. ????


15

+ Thebig444 on August 19th, 2011 at 8:11 am said:

Or maybe juste being able to explore the city split-screed still.


16

+ sushiglutton on August 19th, 2011 at 8:16 am said:

Thanks for an interesting interview!

I have a a couple questions about challenege mode as there have been different reports on different sites. First, are all the combat challenges endless in the sense that u face wave after wave of enemie until u die? Or is it a fix number of thugs and when they’re defeated the map is over? Same question for predator mode. Secondly is it confimed that there will be no speed challenges in the game?

/Peter


17

+ vorhese187 on August 19th, 2011 at 8:20 am said:

Pre-ordered from Amazon with release day shipping, besides the obvious awesome Uncharted 3 (that I’ve pre-ordered as well!) this is the one I’m most excited for this year!


18

+ ez_____ez_____ez on August 19th, 2011 at 8:22 am said:

@ 11

Batman looks exactly like the same player model from the DC/Mortal Combat game from a couple years ago. If you took a poll I bet a majority would prefer a better looking Batman costume than the grey one.


19

+ Link01 on August 19th, 2011 at 8:25 am said:

can’t wait to play this in 3D


20

+ Falaut on August 19th, 2011 at 8:28 am said:

BGH Batman. Bat Growth Hormone? okay okay, that wasn’t all that funny. I’m curious to see what special features the developers are taking advantage of for the PS3 version, like using the SPUs and all that jazz (and please, don’t shoehorn Move, I’m the one of the biggest Move/Sharpshooter fans, but leave that for the 3rd and 1st person). From what I’ve read about the 3D, its more of a post processing effect as opposed to a native/core 3D like Socom and Killzone, please correct me if I’m wrong. What amazes me in this regard is the utter amount of hypocrisy (or part of the competitors Marketing Strategy) when it comes to 3D. I’ve been the staunchest supporter ever since I went to a local Best Buy and had them hook up a PS3 to their Sony Hx800 and ran GT5 through it. The people calling it a gimmick are the gimmick. When Sony is pushing the tech in their exclusives its all “garbage” and “not needed” blah blah blah, but all of a sudden when the box gets half a**ed 3D support through multiplats and daGears, its the best thing since sliced bread! Amazing.


21

+ Falaut on August 19th, 2011 at 8:29 am said:

To anyone looking to get into the “fad”, you can do so easy/cheap. I picked up the 46″ HX800 at a futureshop w/synch module (thrown in for free from a demo model :D) for $925cdn taxes in. The glasses are rechargable now too! Killzone 3 in 3D with a sharpshooter…let me put it this way, you cannot get this type of experience anywhere else! Awesome.

So, BS:Infinate is getting me Move and the orginal BS. What are you doing Arkham City to make me buy you new instead of used?

Cheers


22

+ mcbuttz78 on August 19th, 2011 at 8:31 am said:

@12 . if read the orginal bat man #1 he injected him self with super human strength serim.. So he could do alot stuff other folks could not do.. Batman trained in alot for bidden arts( martial art) and stuff so he could stay at the alevel without injecting him self with the serim all the time… That why he look like that. My uncle batman has number 2# a orginal copy also i have read batman #1.. the orginal copy.. My uncle collects batman he has every thing up to day starting from the orginal prints #2 batman.


23

+ snakeman07 on August 19th, 2011 at 8:35 am said:

@#1 You really don’t follow this game much do you? There is no multiplayer in Arkham City……….I won’t even start on your opinion about his suit…..


24

+ Deathspear666 on August 19th, 2011 at 8:40 am said:

@midknight24…How goes it bro? Been a while since i seen you on here lol


25

+ jorgeskate2 on August 19th, 2011 at 8:48 am said:

buenisimoo!


26

+ NerdyJordy on August 19th, 2011 at 8:56 am said:

Robin and a shield, hmm… I’ll admit, I’m not crazy about that idea at first but, I have more faith in Rocksteady’s combat choice for Robin than I do Christopher Nolan’s Catwoman as a whole.

I hope the studio releases a Robin trailer within the next couple weeks, though. I know he was only revealed in late June but it seems like fans have been waiting forever to see him in-action!


27

+ ez_____ez_____ez on August 19th, 2011 at 8:57 am said:

@23

I haven’t followed this game much, that’s why I asked. And I don’t personally care about your opinion because it’s obvious your trying to troll on these boards.


28

+ Deathspear666 on August 19th, 2011 at 9:02 am said:

For all you x-game chat whiners…

h ttp://play stationlifestyle.net/2011/08/19/sony-says-cross-game-chat-on-ps3-not-possible/

Just take out the spaces


29

+ digitalman123 on August 19th, 2011 at 9:02 am said:

I really wanna see some Robin gameplay.


30

+ mgsnull617 on August 19th, 2011 at 9:09 am said:

I own the AA Batman and I thought that the game was weak…..I was fustraited with the fact that batman cant kill enemies even by mistake it would be cool…. I understand he’s a hero but Batman should be able to kill and then you get penalized and graded at the end of each level. I was told A.A. was the equivalent
of hitman because Eidos made it lie………………the game was very repetative and in all honesty I played a better batman on Sega genisis “Batman Forever” If this game is anything like the old one then count me out I can spend a fast 50 on any of the other games being released in the next few months


31

+ ez_____ez_____ez on August 19th, 2011 at 9:13 am said:

@30

Batman for NES was awesome too.


32

+ mgsnull617 on August 19th, 2011 at 9:14 am said:

the one on nes is like the on on computer back in the day yeah that was a good one 2


33

+ mgsnull617 on August 19th, 2011 at 9:22 am said:

even spider man games were better back then anyone remember “Maximum Carnage”
I’m a old school gamer I grew up with this stuff so its sad to see everything ass-backwards these days…..these college boys took over everything and now we get stuck with kiddie version comic games and movies so they can make more money off kids….I think the last good comic book game I played was punisher on ps2 that game was dark and grizzly


34

+ mgsnull617 on August 19th, 2011 at 9:23 am said:

Yeah baby I like it raw


35

+ JLP_M on August 19th, 2011 at 9:45 am said:

@18

I don’t know, we’ll have to see to be honest. I really hated his Dark Knight one to be honest :S


36

+ suckin_blood on August 19th, 2011 at 10:20 am said:

Getting for XBOX 360 only there i say it


37

+ Heavenly_king on August 19th, 2011 at 10:39 am said:

I don’t like the character designs (specially the one of Batman, too bulky with ugly proportions; and also Batman runs horrible) , and I also don’t like too much the combat mechanics. If it get good reviews maybe I will buy it next year when it is 20 bucks.


38

+ mcbuttz78 on August 19th, 2011 at 11:46 am said:

@33 thats very true. they make comic book slike they use to. Punisher was the book to get .. owned just about all of them at one point. . I stopped after re drew him like sizzy all skinny and tight jeans… alot charater are not what they use to be..

i saw a book where they had hulk crying .. also they made his son a weak sizzy..


39

+ TuttiCicero on August 19th, 2011 at 12:08 pm said:

Alfred, get my wallet..


40

+ buenabena3 on August 19th, 2011 at 1:10 pm said:

just preorder that game yesterday cant wait


41

+ NeonReaver on August 19th, 2011 at 2:06 pm said:

This game can’t come fast enough. I sincerely hope that the closer we get to October 18th that date remains and we don’t get a month away and find out that it’s been delayed for another month or two or three.


42

+ KwietStorm on August 19th, 2011 at 2:21 pm said:

@30 You thought Batman Forever on Genesis was better than Arkham Asylum? I can’t even muster up a laugh. I’ve read some things on the internet this generation, but damn.


43

+ KwietStorm on August 19th, 2011 at 2:24 pm said:

And why would you be frustrated that you can’t kill anyone? How many times have you seen Batman kill somebody? Why do so many “gamers” these days prioritize looking for something to complain about over enjoying the games for what they are?


44

+ BoobooJones on August 19th, 2011 at 2:55 pm said:

Day 1 and GOTY. Already preordered the Collectors Edition.


45

+ WelmoscaBR on August 19th, 2011 at 3:16 pm said:

I just want that…catwoman have a upgrade in her boobs.


46

+ WelmoscaBR on August 19th, 2011 at 3:18 pm said:

but you know what I’m saying…I’m talking about a big UPGRADE lol


47

+ TJCALi on August 19th, 2011 at 5:38 pm said:

Day 1 pick up for me


48

+ Butters360 on August 19th, 2011 at 7:22 pm said:

Need this game.


49

+ materclobber on August 19th, 2011 at 7:35 pm said:

this will be an awesome game! my favorite super hero is batman and finnaly there is a game series focused on batman!! :)


50

+ JAVIER249 on August 19th, 2011 at 7:47 pm said:

This game is going to great. You know why….. becasue is about freaken Batman of course.


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