Rocksteady moves to Unreal Engine 4 for Batman Arkham VR

Studio created Arkham trilogy of games in a modified version of Unreal Engine 3
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Rocksteady’s first step into virtual reality development was also the ideal opportunity to change engine, the UK studio’s co-founder has revealed.

Speaking about Batman Arkham VR, a spin-off to the trilogy comprising Asylum, City and last year’s Knight, Sefton Hill confirmed to Gamasutra that the title marked a major upgrade for the outlet’s tech foundation.

“This is our first game in Unreal 4,” he revealed. “This was a great way to learn that during that same time, as well.

“It allowed us to make a transition because we previously worked on 3 and then our own heavily modded version of 3. And we wanted to start with this to transition to 4.”

Rocksteady previously announced that Knight would mark its final entry in the Arkham series – Hill assured “we genuinely weren’t at that point” – but virtual reality’s ability to tell a “different story” “energised” the studio into returning to the franchise, albeit with a new approach.

“Developing VR games is very different – fundamentally different,” Hill stated.

“The best VR experiences are not going to be taking a console experience and traditional 2D experience and putting a headset in it. There are a lot of things that work really well in the Arkham series: free-flowing combat, predator gameplay, that don't directly translate well to something where you have a limited amount of space to move around in.

“But then because of that sense of presence and your direct physical interaction with the environment there are a lot of things which suddenly opened up to us as new possibilities. It's about really designing that experience to get the best out of it.”

Hill added that transitioning into VR can be an easy step if a studio has already has a strong virtual world to build upon.

"What's nice if you can do that is you have a talented team and a number of assets and components you can use to create the game,” he said. “ But at the same time to get the best out of it you need to think about it slightly differently."

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As one of the launch titles for PSVR, Batman: Arkham VR set the standard for immersive first person games on the platform. Sean Cleaver speaks to game director, Sefton Hill, to find out how the project started and the creative process behind the iconic Arkham series of games