“I’m going to find Black Mask.”
The Batman: Arkham Origins panel at New York Comic Con 2013 started with another trailer giving us looks at the Batcave, a quick glimpse of the rogues gallery and fighting sequences with Firefly, Bane, Deathstroke, and of course the Joker. The panel was the last chance for developers from Warner Brother Interactive Montreal to reach out directly to fans before the October 25, 2013 release of the game. The final panel of Saturday night was packed tight with every seat filled and people standing in the aisles, in the back, and even a few sitting on the floor.
Editor of Newsarama Lucas Siegel hosted the panel and introduced the panelists: Creative Director Eric Holmes, the voice of Batman Roger Craig Smith , and the new voice of the Joker, Troy Baker. And a producer from NetherRealm Erin Pierperderdis.
Siegel asked “Why is NetherRealm here?”
Erin replied, “Why am I here tonight? Well we are here to announce that we are bringing Batman: Arkham Origins to the mobile platform.”
Footage from the newly announced mobile game was showing giving Batman alternate costumes including Gotham by Gaslight, and Batman beyond, as well as fighting sequences with both Deathstroke and Deadshot. The fighting consisted of tap and swipe sequences, but appeared to be much more advanced than that of the mobile Injustice: Gods Among Us also from NetherRealm.
Explaining how the game came about, Erin said, “Essentially…we jumped at the chance. I mean, who doesn’t want to make a cool Batman game?” He included the fact that there are some RPG elements included in gameplay, with different costumes that each actually have different properties. “There are areas in the game where you might want to put on the classic suit, or the Batman Beyond suit,” he said, explaining that certain costumes will give you advantages in certain areas.
The game is launching first on iOS devices, but “before anyone asks,” they did also announce an Android version “soon after.”
The game plays across platforms and if you have both versions of the game, there are several things you can unlock in the console version by playing mobile and vice versa. The Batman costume from Red Son is a free automatic unlock in the mobile game if you link it to the console, for example.
Siegel switched gears, bringing the conversation back to the console game. “Eric, you inherited elements of the game from Rocksteady like the game engine, many assets. How did that change the core developmental process?”
Holmes said: “We were starting with the Arkham City final product and we really hit the ground running.
“The idea is to keep it constantly fresh and engaging,” Holmes said, and expressed his gratitude for the work that came from Rocksteady.
Siegel asked what it’s like coming into a property with 75 years of history, and how the actors develop a character with that much backstory.
“What are you going to do different?” somebody had asked Baker in an earlier interview, he told the fans.. He replied with, “nothing. If I for one second think I can do better than Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, or Heath Ledger… so we’ve all seen different sides to the character and tapping into three quarter century franchise and we want to pay homage and that’s what we’re here to do.”
Smith: “Kevin Conroy is king,” which drew huge applause from the crowd.
“There’s nothing we can do to fill those shoes. Luckily what we have here is a prequel so we can have a different perspective than we’ve seen before. The idea is to make these characters that will become what Conroy and Hamill established.”
Siegel turned back to Holmes, and asked about the approach of telling an “early years” or “origin” story when there have been so many great ones in comics, movies, and animation in the past.
Holmes said, “It’s all about lineage.
“Spoiler alert: James Gordon and Batman are going to be friends. At the start of the game, they’re not, so we’re going to show you in our story, and see how that changes. That’s one example. We’re fitting puzzles pieces together from a picture we’ve already seen. What’s good about being a prequel is we’re not necessarily telling just a Batman origin story, we’re telling the origin of the Arkham games’ Batman. What he’s done to get to the point he’s at in the games you’ve played, so that there’s a whole through line in the story from our game to Asylum to City.
Siegel: What can you tell us about the casting process? How did you come to these two for these huge roles?
Holmes: “We knew we wanted to have a younger take on the characters.
“Batman is hard, because he has different voices, though. He’s also Bruce Wayne, he’s Batman talking to Alfred, talking to his enemies, or talking to his friends.”
Smith: “We were trying to find a voice that essentially is one transitioning to Kevin Conroy Batman. That was the utmost importance and to nail Batman in a believable way.”
Baker started a story to intimate how he approached the audition process in the first place. “I used to race home everyday to make sure I didn’t miss Batman: The Animated Series. I would tape each episode – yes tape, on a VCR - because we didn’t have Netflix, etc and you had to watch it being aired and I just wanted to catch that theme music. One reason I wanted to tape it was to see the credits at the end of the episode. I’d pause on the credits, with all the wavy lines from pausing a VCR, and I’d read and see “Kevin Conroy – okay, who is he? I need to know more about him. And Joker is… Mark Hamill? Luke Skywalker? No way it’s the same guy!” And that 12-year-old kid caught up in his reverie and dreaming of doing this job could never imagine he would be sitting here.
“It’s not just a 37-year-old man who walked into the booth to audition, but the 12-year-old kid, too.”
Holmes: “We sent Baker so much material, like I said, the other Arkham games, but some of our favorite stuff like Return of the Joker. My favorite thing was the Joker Killing Joke monologue.”
Chants of “do it” erupted from the crowd, with the chanting hitting a fever pitch until Baker shouted, in Joker voice, “BE QUIET!” The crowd sat silent and cell phones came out for video recording.
Baker then proceeded to do the Joker bit from the Killing Joke when he took Gordon through the “tunnel of love”. He nailed it and received a standing ovation, even from the rest of the panel. The official recording is below, and the speech starts at about 2:15.
Chants of “we want more” follow suit. Baker replied with you’ll get it on Oct 25.
Smith: “If Batman goes too far from what know from the character, it doesn’t do it service, but to do what Baker does with the Joker is unbelievable. I literally got goosebumps. It’s funny, I got goosebumps here, but the first time I went to record I got there early, because I’m a professional, and I got to watch him then. I was just looking around the room going ‘are you hearing this?’
“I think this guy has the future in the business,” Smith joked.
Baker: “The entire mythos of Batman is not just Batman but his relationships and his cast, but also the pinnacle is probably his relationship as the Joker. I am grateful for the technicians for how they took my face and made it Joker’s. It’s all about what the hundreds of people at Warner Bros Montreal are doing to bring these characters to life and make this game.”
Siegel: “It’s interesting you bring up “other characters”. You get to use iconic Batman villains and villains who you hope to make iconic.”
Holmes: “Origins takes place about year two, in our story, he’s almost an urban myth. Every one of these changes are there because of the story.”
That transitioned into the second announcement of the panel, the reveal of a new assassin, Electrocutioner.
Footage of Batman about to fight Electrocutioner voiced by Steve Blume was shown. He is a character with that Mega Man like trait, so when you beat him, you get his shock claws as a weapon upgrade. Holmes said they love the amazing fight system built into the Arkham world, with all its variations – and when you have the shock claws charged up, you get to temporarily completely break it, and just pummel everyone.
With that, it was time for a brief fan Q&A.
First question: We know for multiplayer, there are the two factions of Joker and Bane are you going to add more factions later?
Holmes: If you are referring to multiplayer, I really don’t know. Another team is working on multiplayer while my team keeps working on DLC singleplayer content. Even if I did, I’m sure I couldn’t answer.
What do you feel about stamping your legacy in this character’s heritage?
Smith: The challenge was to get rid of all the pressure. It was just a sense of focusing on pleasing what I call the people behind the glass. Just bark in front of the microphone and doing a great job.
How are you going to echo the tragedy of Bruce Wayne’s life and what makes him Batman?
Smith: Just behind honest. Everything we were approaching was character. I have a hard time saying “what am I bringing to it”?
Holmes: The word is authenticity. The character is very controlling and rawer and I think that’s what you bring to the table.
Fan dressed like Robin: You can’t reveal too much, I know, but is there a Robin moment in the game?
Holmes: Well, no. In terms of this campaign, no. This is year two, but year three is where he meets Dick Grayson.
What character from the Batman mythos had the biggest affect on you?
Baker: Each character for a different reason. Batman, duh. Dick Grayson: voice of reason. Even Harley Quinn, a character not created in the comics; but for me ultimately it’s the Joker.
Aaron: how do you pick a character from this universe, so I won’t pick the Joker so I’ll pick Harley Quinn.
Last one: a request for Baker to sing in the voice of the Joker.
Baker made up a song on the spot with a rhyme ending in “as you’ll find out on October twenty-fifth,” managing to fit in one last plug for the release date of Batman: Arkham Origins.