Rocksteady on Arkham City’s “completely different experience”

Photobucket Having discovered that there are some people from Rocksteady at the Arkham City Eurogamer Expo stand, I wave over somebody I believe to be from the Arkham City development team. It is at this point that I am accosted by a panic-stricken (but very friendly) Warner Bros. Employee. I’m swiftly redirected to the PR rep who, in turn, redirects me to a very busy looking young woman sorting through a box of Batman swag. This is Sarah Wellock, Rocksteady community manager. We’re brought a pair of transparent blocks that look like they could have some vague connection to Mr Freeze, which serve us as seats during the interview.

“As a studio, we always believed in the quality of Arkham Asylum.” she says, when asked about that game’s resounding critical success and potential pressure for the sequel. “The best thing you can get is to have that belief reflected in the review scores. We were obviously thrilled to pieces, but we would never put out a product that we didn’t believe was absolutely top quality.

The most pressure we feel is that we put on ourselves to push ourselves further, push ourselves harder. We didn’t want to make a game that was just Arkham Asylum 2.0; we wanted it to be a completely different experience in the Arkham universe, and that was a different challenge for us.”

How much freedom are they allowed within the Batman license?

“We have an absolutely fantastic relationship with DC, we’re very lucky. Paul Crocker, the narrative designer, is always on the phone to them; we get to bounce off ideas. We would never do anything that does the characters a disservice, and they know that, they have faith in us. As a studio working on any great, well known character that’s brilliant, knowing the creators have faith in you.”

Arkham Asylum was a very contained, somewhat claustrophobic experience… “It [Arkham City]‘s a different environment. Arkham Asylum was a cat and mouse chase with Joker; it was meant to be very intense, very claustrophobic in the asylum. Obviously, now we’ve gone from an island, the asylum, to a city; so you’re looking at five times the size of Arkham Asylum. But we love the fact that players can start the game and go where they want to go, explore wherever they want to explore. We’ve got great side missions, and there’s over 400 Riddler trophies now.”

Photobucket“It’s a difficult question,” says Wellock, when I ask what Arkham City does that Arkham Asylum doesn’t “because I don’t think Arkham Asylum did anything in a negative way, it did exactly what we designed and built it to do – to make this claustrophobic, intense cat and mouse game.

What Arkham City does that is different to Arkham Asylum is that it positions Batman in a much wider scale. You can fly and you can glide; and it gives us freedom as a studio to explore relationships in a very different way across the scale. So it’s not what it does that Arkham Asylum didn’t, but it’s what it does differently that makes it exciting.”

After unsuccessfully trying to get some info on the Wii U version, I bring up the issue of the (now defunct) multiplayer rumours that started going around last year. “Absolutely no multiplayer.” Wellock says firmly. “We do have an interactive online leaderboard, but we felt that the game was comfortable as a singleplayer experience. Batman may have his allies in Catwoman and Robin, but he’s still Batman on his own at the end of the day. We want that reflected in the game experience.”

Laughter is the initial response I get when I suggest that Arkham Asylum was unique in the world of superhero videogames in that it was… well… good. “I think the Rocksteady mantra for all our games even down to Urban Chaos is: it’s about quality, and it’s about narrative. We spent years on Arkham Asylum and years again on Arkham City, and we’re a one game studio. We have nothing else going on while we’re doing these. We worked hard on our relationship with DC to ensure we had the freedom to do this; we’ve got a whole studio full of Batfans. That passion, that knowledge, means we can introduce these characters to a more mainstream audience with a lot of comfortable authority.”

I almost get an answer when I ask about whether they have a firm hold on the Batman license which allows them to make another Batman game…

“We were like, if we can get this to do well, if we were in a position where we could do a sequel, my word that would be amazing. We do have big DLC plans, and we’ve got challenge maps and New Game Plus; so we’re focusing on Arkham City before we even think of another game… and having a holiday! Holiday being the focus.”

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He’s the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you’ll find something he’s written in there.

Luke doesn’t have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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