At GDC 2014, PSLS’ Dan Oravasaari got to sit down with Gaz Deaves, Rocksteady Studios’ Marketing Manager to ask about their upcoming game Batman: Arkham Knight.
Thank you for sitting down with us Gaz, could you tell us about how long have you been working on Arkham Knight?
Well, I think we started concepting it, properly, even before we wrapped up on Arkham City. So, I think you are talking about the end of 2011, 2009 was Arkham Asylum, 2011 was Arkham City, so, yeah, 2011.
Looking at many of the characters, as well as the Batmobile, there seems to be some obvious design changes. What have been some of the influences behind the decisions made?
I think the main influence we have in designing for the Arkham-verse, is what is going to make sense from a game play perspective. We start with what we want the Batmobile to be able to do, how do we want people to interact with it, what driving it is going to be like and visual design kind of fits into that. So, I wouldn’t say that we have drawn inspiration from any particular place in the design of Batman or the Batmobile. It is always about making the visual design reflect what we want to achieve from a gameplay perspective.
Why does there seem to be so much more emphasis behind the Batmobile this time around?
We felt like it was the missing piece from the Arkham experience, right. Arkham Asylum was kind of putting you in the shoes of the world’s greatest detective, the forensics and picking apart the mysteries were really a big part of that game. We, sort of, then blew it out into the big open world with the grappling glide mechanics that play into the caped crusader, that sort of representation of the Batman, interpretation of that and we really thought that we were delivering the ultimate Batman experience with Arkham Knight. And, what is the Dark Knight without a mighty steed?
So, the Batmobile really feeds in really nicely to the kind of game play that we wanted to do and because we have gone exclusively next-gen, with all of that extra processing power that we create a big, tall, wide, detailed, and destructible Gotham City for players to drive around, explore and smash to pieces.
Will any other vehicles from the Batman universe be available in Arkham Knight?
We are not talking about any of that kind of stuff just yet.
What engine will this be running off of?
We built this on Rocksteady’s heavily modified version of UE3. So, all the rain effects, all of the lighting, the reflections, all of that kind of stuff has been developed by our engine team and we are really proud of the way it is looking.
Have there been any major changes to the combat system? Besides the Fear Takedown.
The free flow combat has always been a really popular part of the Batman Arkham mix, because I think it comes back and hones in very centrally to that gameplay proposition, of making players feel like Batman. Batman can stroll into a room, full of thugs, 30 to 40 of them and just beat them down. So, that rhythm, and that pace, and that feeling of being powerful is something we always wanted to convey with that free flow combat, and what we have done is supercharged it by giving players even more options, even more capabilities to approach combat in a way that they like.
It makes them feel like Batman, so we implemented throw counters for example. Which allow you to throw a thug into other thugs, taking them out, causing maximum damage. Weapon steals, where you see Batman take a bat off an assailant and use that bat against him and his buddies until it breaks.
You also, can use gadgets while gliding, which is a really great feature for starting combat and for general exploration – whether using the line-launcher to establish a tightrope, so you can scope out a situation before gliding in, and then, laying in batarangs to take a few guys down before you even start combat. It is all about making you feel like you have got options, that you can approach these combat situations in a way that makes you feel mostly like Batman.
During the demo, there were some obvious frame-rate issues, is this something that concerns you?
Optimization is always one of the last things that happens during a project like ours, and we are not concerned at all.
You developed a completely new character for the game with Arkham Knight, is this someone that we will be seeing outside of Batman: Arkham Knight?
That would be cool. Right now, we are focusing on the Arkham Knight and how he fits in narratively within our game. Would I like to see him on a t-shirt? Or a lunch box someday? Yeah, sure. But, really, our focus is on making sure that he is really well represented in the game that players get. The importance for him as a character and enjoy what he brings to the Arkham-verse.
Are there any plans for DLC currently?
Haven’t talked about that yet.
Will there be side-missions strewn about the open world? Such as the payphone calls from in Arkham City?
We love being able to sort of paint with the pallet of the Batman universe with our games, to create really great gameplay experiences. That is one of the things I think players really enjoyed doing in Arkham City, that you kind of necessarily didn’t know where you were going to be taken on these things by answer the phone. So, we are expanding on that system in Arkham Knight, but, we also want to make it feel less like you have a central mission and side missions plotted around it. We want it to feel a little more cohesive, so you are not necessarily going to feel like you are straying away from the main path, that you are always working toward one central goal.
Scarecrow has united the Rogues Gallery effectively, moving into the vacuum left by [spoilers] jokers death at the end of Arkham City. So, the Rogues are not working across purposes as much in Arkham Knight as they were in previous games. So, those side missions are going to feel much more central to the main plot.
Will you be focusing on a select few villains? Or will you be going through many of the ones we have seen in previous titles?
There are a lot of really cool characters that we draw on from the extended Batman cannon, as well as some from previous games, so stay tuned for more on that.
Are you excited to check out the next saga in the Batman Arkham universe? Let us know in the comments below, or take to our forums to prepare for the Caped Crusader’s return.