SDCC 2011: Batman: Arkham City Interviews
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 07.29.2011
At the San Diego Comic-Con, 411mania got an exclusive preview of Batman: Arkham City, one of the most anticipated videogame releases of the year. Check out our exclusive interviews with lead animator, Zafer Coban, and Rocksteady's Dax Ginn
Batman: Arkham City is one of the most highly anticipated games of the year. It seems strange how two years ago at Comic-Con, not many people were interested in the game and wanted to do coverage of it until it came out and blew fans and gamers around the world away. During the convention, 411mania.com was able to get an exclusive hands on preview of the game plus speak with members of the Rocksteady team overseeing the game:
Interview With Zafer Coban, Lead Animator
Jeffrey Harris: Why is this game going to be better than Arkham Asylum?
Zafer Coban: Wow, OK. To start with, the game is about five times bigger than Arkham Asylum. In this game we got Hugo Strange governing a cordoned off part of the city, of Gotham City.
Jeffrey Harris: In the prequel comic series we see some of how this happens. Former Arkham Warden Quincy Sharp becomes the new mayor of Gotham City and he appears to be manipulated by Hugo Strange, right?
Zafer Coban: That's right. That's what we're saying at this moment in time. We got loads of new features in the game. If you've played Arkham Asylum, this game has been completely overwhelmed with new features, new gameplay mechanics, the glide that you guys saw in Arkham Asylum has been revamped. You got loads of new characters. You got Catwoman, Zsasz, Two-Face.
Jeffrey Harris: I really liked all the side challenges and mini-games in Arkham Asylum such as the riddles, finding the audio interviews and hidden files. Are those back in this game?
Zafer Coban: Yeah, definitely. Right now we can see in the game, you got these question marks all dotted around – all over the entire city. And there are little mini-challenges for you, so you can go and take those on. You have to use your array of gadgets and your gliding abilities to get those trophies. Once you've got enough [trophies], you will actually be able to go face to face with Riddler. What he's done this time around is set these elaborate traps holding like a hostage, and he kind of challenges you saying come along, if you think you're good enough to rescue the hostage. You have to use, like I say, your array of gadgets and abilities to rescue them.
Jeffrey Harris: Is Robin a DLC exclusive to the PS3 like the Joker for the first game?
Zafer Coban: No, he'll be playable for all three platforms.
Jeffrey Harris: Will the actual Batcave be in this game?
Zafer Coban: I'm not too sure. I'll have to find out.
Jeffrey Harris: Catwoman also has a playable storyline in this game.
Zafer Coban: Yes.
Jeffrey Harris: Is this within the main game or is it separate?
Zafer Coban: Catwoman is integrated into the main Arkham story. So she's about five to ten percent of the story, so you get to dip in and out of her while playing as Batman. The main full element of the game is Batman. We want to focus on Batman's gameplay. But like I said, we introduced Catwoman. She's got a whole array of new gadgets, new way of getting around the city. It gives the player kind of a break from the brooding that is the Batman.
Jeffrey Harris: It also looks like there are different affiliated gang members infesting the city.
Zafer Coban: Yes. There will be the Joker villains, so you get a whole array of Joker thugs. You'll have Penguin thugs which we recently announced Penguin in the game. And we got Two-Face thugs. So they'll all have their own kind of unique look and feel to them, really unique; something that we never had in the first game.
Jeffrey Harris: Is this the Joker's last laugh? The comic and the trailer hint that he's sick and is possibly dying. What is going on?
Zafer Coban: Right now we are announcing that Joker's sick, and that is the only thing that we are going to say. We're not announcing any sort of information about what Joker is doing and what his plan. So Joker is in the game and he's sick.
Jeffrey Harris: Who are the Black Ops soldiers policing Arkham City?
Zafer Coban: The Black Ops soldiers are called Tyger Guards. They work for Hugo Strange. And these are the guys that kind of ensure that nobody leaves the city and kind of making sure that they are just there.
Jeffrey Harris: What about alternate costumes?
Zafer Coban: Yes.
Jeffrey Harris: More than the last game?
Zafer Coban: Most definitely. I can't say who, or what, and how many, but there are loads more. I'll tell you the Batman fans will be extremely excited when they see what the alternate costumes are. But there are definitely a lot more.
Jeffrey Harris: What may we expect for the challenge maps?
Zafer Coban: Similar to the first game, we've got combat challenge maps and predator challenge maps. [There is] a lot more functionality in this game, so obviously there is a lot more to try out.
Dax Ginn, Rocksteady Studios, Marketing Game Manager, Rocksteady Studios
Jeffrey Harris: What was the goal with Arkham City?
Dax Ginn: Arkham City – the goal was to blow the roof off in every respect. So the atmosphere in Arkham Asylum was intense. We wanted to just bust that out onto the streets of Gotham with Arkham City and really take the action onto the streets. So we got an open world game structure. We got a crazy amount of freedom. And delivering justice on the streets of Gotham that was the objective.
Jeffrey Harris: How exhausting was it to make an open area five times bigger than Arkham Asylum and doing it all in two years?
Dax Ginn: (Laughs) Well if you look at the team size at the end of Arkham Asylum, we're about 65 developers. We're over a 100 now. We're coming into the final stretch, so we got a lot of new guys coming on to bug test and optimize, and that's really broken the 100 mark for us which has meant mostly a lot of artists just building out this incredible graphical world.
Jeffrey Harris: So from the first trailer and the comic series it looks like Joker isn't doing well.
Dax Ginn: He's looking crook.
Jeffrey Harris: Is this the Joker's end game?
Dax Ginn: Would you ever off? Would you ever write him out?
Jeffrey Harris: No I wouldn't.
Dax Ginn: Exactly (laughs).
Jeffrey Harris: Is this really Mark Hamill's last hurrah as the Joker?
Dax Ginn: Well we've got a huge role for Joker in Arkham City. I think that gamers are going to find that they get to explore every aspect of him as the powerful villainous powerhouse and also see the more human side of him as well with his relationship with Harley Quinn.
Jeffrey Harris: So what was the announcement made for alternate costumes?
Dax Ginn: The good news is the collector's edition we just announced, you get the Dark Knight skin with that. And with Catwoman and Robin, we've got more announcements to come.
Jeffrey Harris: What about a Batman Beyond skin?
Dax Ginn: That sounds awesome. Let me make a call. Let me see what I can do.
Jeffrey Harris: First game is Arkham Asylum. Second game you get this whole big section of Arkham City converted into a prison. But what about in the next game, the open world is all of Gotham City?
Dax Ginn: The whole thing? The whole world? The entire universe where you go from planet to planet?
Jeffrey Harris: No, just the open world is all of Gotham City.
Dax Ginn: I honestly don't know what's going on in Sefton's [Hill, game director] head right now. Well in fact I do. I know that he is dedicated to making the ultimate Batman experience in Arkham City. So who knows?
Jeffrey Harris: Is this a better game than Arkham Asylum?
Dax Ginn: Me personally, I absolutely believe it is a better game. We've worked harder and longer on this game than on any game. So gamers who loved Arkham Asylum, this is going to blow their heads off.
Jeffrey Harris: I really enjoyed all the side-challenges and non-traditional elements in the first game. You don't actually confront the Riddler, but if you solve all his riddles you can have him caught. You don't outright fight Killer Croc in the sewers, you have to basically evade him and collect samples and trick Croc. I think it made the game that much more clever and smarter. Will there be more of that in this game?
Dax Ginn: All of the stuff that works so well in Arkham Asylum we want to do more of in Arkham City. So to take down all of the villains is like 25 hours gameplay. To do all of the side missions and stuff that you were just talking about, we're talking about 40+. It's a huge game. We put in a stupid amount of effort into those cameos, even characters that probably only 5% of gamers/Batman fans will have heard of. We're really doing a lot of service to fans in this game.
Jeffrey Harris: Will the audio logs and interrogation interviews be back in this game?
Dax Ginn: I absolutely guarantee it.
Jeffrey Harris: Thanks very much for your time Dax. The game comes out October 2011.
Dax Ginn: That's correct.
Batman: Arkham City is set for release on October 18 on PC Windows, Xbox 360, and PS3. The game is also due for release on the Wii-U in 2012. Thank you to the developers and Rocksteady games for speaking with us.