Batman: Arkham Asylum studio Rocksteady was given free licence to draw upon decades of Batman history, the studio’s co-founder says.
Sefton Hill reveals to Develop that not being tied to the Batman film licence – much like many of the game’s poorly-received predecessors – was an important privilege for the studio.
“It was great for us that we weren’t tied to the film licence,” he says. “There’s just so much Batman history beyond its films, and we drew ideas from all of that.
“Warner bros said to us, ‘there are decades of Batman history, go and embrace it.’ That was obviously very liberating.”
The archive of film-to game tie-ins is riddled with thirty years’ worth of critically panned offerings, from 1982’s E.T. to 2009’s Avatar, and numerous Star Wars games in between.
Last year, Rebellion’s co-founders Chris and Jason Kingsley told Develop that game studios rarely have enough time to make good of their movie tie-ins.
“The problem is it’s actually quicker to make a movie than it is to make a game these days, by quite a big margin. That’s always a big problem, because often you’re not given enough time to make the game. So you have to fit to the schedule that you have,” said Chris.
“Movies, once they’re green-lit, can be on the shelves within twelve months. It’s not that difficult to do that. That’s hardly ever going to be the same time you need to deliver a game,” Jason added.
Yet Rocksteady was spared of any plan to tie Arkham Asylum in with Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster The Dark Knight (released a year before Arkham), and was given uncommon creative freedom with the game.
“I think what people really appreciated was our respect for the Batman licence and the character,” says Hill.
“We felt our game was a chance to really experience what it was like to be this amazing Batman character. I think that’s what we did that’s a bit different from other superhero games.
“We didn’t have any excuses because we were designing a Batman game. We simply wanted to show you what it is like to be this powerful, and vulnerable character”.
Hill adds that Batman’s portrayed limitations as a character posed many design challenges in remaining faithful to them.
“There’s obviously a lot of things that Batman can’t do,” he said, “but those sort of things aren’t restrictive to the development of the game like a film licence is; those sort of things more define him more as a character.
“Batman’s own limitations made us approach the game’s design in different ways. Batman doesn’t kill, he doesn’t use guns in a gun fight, so we thought hard about how we were going to make the player feel powerful.
“Now that can be quite a limiting factor for a designer, but it takes out the easy option, makes us think harder about what we’re doing. It makes you come up with ideas and play mechanics that are more interesting”.
Rocksteady’s next project, Batman Arkham City, is scheduled for release at some stage during the last three months of 2011.