New Screenshots with Harley Quinn and Propaganda Artwork for Batman: Arkham City

It’s another Batman day today with the release of a new propaganda artwork poster of Hugo Strange and screenshots including Harley Quinn and more thugs for Batman to dispose of. Gamespot also has an interview with Sefton Hill, Batman: Arkham Asylum game director.

Batman: Arkham Asylum seamlessly tied its subject matter and mechanics into a cohesive experience that ultimately showed how great a game could be based on a licensed property. For the sequel, Batman leaves the confines of the asylum and heads to the city where he’ll have to deal with new threats in a much larger setting. We spoke with Sefton Hill, game director at Rocksteady Studios, to learn more about this new setting and how the Dark Knight will adapt.

GS: One of the great things about Batman: Arkham Asylum is that the mechanics associated with Batman felt true to his character and everything felt like it was placed in the context of that universe. With that in mind, what are you doing to expand Batman’s repertoire of moves and abilities in Arkham City and how difficult is it to keep those in line with the Batman character?

SH: The range of moves and abilities that we developed for Batman in the first game were designed to meet the threats and obstacles that gamers would find within Arkham Asylum. We wanted to reinforce the feeling of genuinely being the Dark Knight and then come up with a series of challenges, which best tested these abilities. Taking the game onto the Gotham streets has given us the opportunity to significantly increase Batman’s repertoire. Our primary goal is to deliver the “Batman in Gotham” feeling, and this meant completely overhauling the traversal and navigation system. We wanted the player to experience the freedom and exhilaration of gliding down alleyways and soaring above the skyline, and this has meant [adding] nearly twice as many moves and animations as in the original game.

But none of this has been difficult to keep in line with Batman’s character as this is where we always start, even before we design any challenges or locations. “What would it be fun to do as Batman?” Once we have the answer to that question, we can then start to make the rest of the game.

GS: As the title suggests, it seems with Arkham City that you’re trying to expand the world and give Batman a larger arena to use his crime fighting know-how. Is the development team going for a sandbox-style approach where players can kind of go at their own pace–picking and choosing side missions–or will Arkham City be more of a streamlined open-world experience?

SH: The footprint of Arkham City is about five times bigger than Arkham Island, but our primary intention was never to create a bigger gameworld just for the sake of it. In Batman: Arkham Asylum, we really focused our effort on creating an intense, pressure-cooker atmosphere by locking Batman in the madhouse and allowing The Joker to turn up the heat. In Arkham City, we want to take that attitude to the next level, so we created an experience in which gamers will have a huge amount of navigational freedom, but they will also feel the extreme pressure of the challenges that they face. Players will be able to go anywhere at any time, but we have made sure that players will always have a very clear idea of where they are needed most if they want to just stick to the core narrative path of the game. Explore the streets of Arkham City, and you will find many side missions, secrets, and street brawls, so players won’t find it difficult to get into some trouble if that’s what they are looking for.

I wouldn’t describe the game as “sandbox” because a totally open and free-form gameworld would not allow us to create the kind of atmosphere that we wanted to, but we don’t hold your hand either. Arkham City is its own place; a massive superprison, jam packed with supervillains, thugs, and psychopaths. There aren’t any rules, but it has a law of its own, and this is why it is a perfect setting for Batman. Gamers will have to think and act like the Dark Knight if they want to survive in a place like Arkham City.

GS: Let’s talk about the setting of Arkham City. Was this the idea for the sequel’s setting from the very beginning, as suggested by the warden’s secret room in Arkham Asylum? Does this setting give you a little more creative freedom?

SH: Yes, the decision to take the second game off of Arkham Island was really driven by our desire to set a new creative challenge for the whole team and to give players an even deeper and more authentic Batman experience. As soon as we had Batman diving off rooftops and gliding between buildings, we knew that we had made the right decision to take the action to the streets. We began thinking about the setting for the sequel very early on as it is important to us that gamers get a very real sense of the narrative connection between the two games, and so, the plans in Warden Sharp’s secret room are just one example of the way in which the two stories link together. Gamers who have played and completed Batman: Arkham Asylum will definitely see a lot of interesting hooks in Arkham City that connect to the events that happened in Arkham Asylum 18 months earlier.

GS: With such a character-focused game, can you give us some insight into how the story process works for a game like Arkham City? Does the gameplay precede the story or do you need to have a story framework in place and then work from there? What’s involved in the villain-selection process?

SH: For every member of the Rocksteady development team, everything starts with the question, “What would Batman do?” The most important thing for us is that players genuinely feel like Batman when they play the game, and so every creative decision that we take is made with that in mind. Then, once we have a feature in place, we ask ourselves, “Does that make me feel like Batman?” The narrative components are crafted to support this feeling, and we deliberately create scenarios and select villains that enable us to reinforce the difficult choices that Batman faces as a man and as the ultimate crime fighter.

GS: Were there any features of Batman: Arkham Asylum that the team knew it wanted to tweak and refine right away when jumping to development for Arkham City? Obviously, detective vision was one of those, but it seems like combat is also being changed around.

SH: We reappraised every aspect of every feature that was developed for Batman: Arkham Asylum and rethought them in the context of the new game setting and story of Batman: Arkham City. Thankfully, we had some very strong core systems to build upon. Our goal was, therefore, to develop these systems and add even more depth and gameplay instead of changing them fundamentally. Taking the freeflow combat system as an example, the core mechanics of this system remain in place. However, it has been updated with lots of new features, including multiple simultaneous counters, aerial attacks, projectile counters, environment counters, beatdowns, the ability to combo in gadgets, new special moves, and more. We have invested as much time and effort into the improvements for Batman: Arkham City as we did in creating the entire systems from scratch for Batman: Arkham Asylum, so I really hope players will appreciate the new features and depth.

GS: Can you give us any hints on what to expect from Arkham City’s multiplayer mode?

SH: We are not making any announcements regarding multiplayer at this time.

Source: Gamespot, Batman: Arkham City Facebook

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