It's difficult denying that the LEGO video franchise has been going strong, with each new release better than the previous. LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham looks to take a look at not only Batman's world, but the DC Universe at large – emphasis on Universe. The game features space travel, as well as a colassal who's who list of characters to play as this time around.
At New York Comic Con, Newsarama sat down with Game Director of Traveller's Tales Arthur Parsons, Assistant Game Director Stephen Sharples, Batman's voice talent Troy Baker, and famed director and cult icon Kevin Smith, who is also providing a voice in the game as himself.
First up was Parsons who was asked if LEGO Batman 3 has anything different than in the previous installments. "Yeah, definitely!," Parsons answered enthusiastically. "We go into space, a lot of character abilities and personality were put into this game. Very slick and quick suit changing, we've got the open world being set on different planets and space. Locations we've never had like the Watchtower and the Hall of Doom, vehicles we've never had. LEGO Batman 3 just takes 1 and 2 and just expands on what we've already established. There's something ridiculous like fives times as many lines of dialog, but the main emphasis is that we are going out in the whole DC Universe."
Kevin Smith had stated in the LEGO Batman 3 panel that the games are becoming more story-driven. They released "Lego Batman DC Heroes Unite", but Parsons doesn't think they'll go down that route again anytime soon.
"I doubt it. I mean, who knows later on, but as things stand, I doubt it. As a designer, I'm more interested in what a player does than what a player watches. I want the player to feel immersed, but constantly surprised by something the new. The fact that the story is great means you get both sides of it. Warners did announce a Lego Batman movie for 2017, but I guess that's a separate entity."
Parsons then commented about the differences between the different Batmen. "No, it's not just a change in costumes. Each of these Batman characters have unique abilities and powers and moves. So, the New 52 Batman played by Troy [Baker], when he turns invisible he uses a gadget and turns invisible. When '66 Batman is invisible he just pulls his cloak up to his face and he sneaks around. So while they're the same, they're also completely different. You've got characters like Zebra Batman who has different powers and abilities than the Terry McGinnis Batman. Again, different powers and different abilities and different animations."
Parsons was also "super excited" to have worked alongside Geoff Johns, Kevin Smith, and Stephen Amell. He also praised Amell's voice work and the reason behind wanting him in the game. "The reason we do it is to make the game better. If Arrow doesn't speak, it's not great. If Arrow does speak and it's not Stephen Amell, it's not the best. When Arrow is voiced by Amell, it's great and we will try and make sure that much is possible."
There was the discussion about where you can actually go in the game. Parsons has listed a huge list of names for cities and planets you explore, but there are a few that aren't in the game this time around. "Sorry to disappoint, but there is no Themyscira. So there's no harpies or Amazons, unfortunately. To fit the story we had these places, and that's where we will go. It would be great to do something along those lines. We can't cover every avenue, but we've we got is awesome." Parsons also commented about the possibility of the inclusion of Elseworlds in the future. "You can't rule anything out."
Parsons then went into how this game touched on everything he wanted to and if he missed anything that he originally wanted. "We did a lot more than we originally set out to do. It gets to a point where it snowballed, but there's always room to go."
The subject came up about the Batman Beyond DLC packs that, for the meantime, are available only on Sony platforms and in the UK. "Yeah, now when you get the game and if you live in Europe, it's free and available at launch. However, come December, that pack will be available to the rest of the world and to other platforms like Xbox and PC, just not WiiU."
Parsons was asked about how they keep the designs fresh and not repetitive. "Well that's where the team comes in. We set down and basically say 'okay, I want Beast Boy to do this' or 'I want Plastic Man to be able to turn into a toilet and flush his enemies down'. You list stuff out and it all comes down to is there enough time and if the team can pull it off. The sheer number of animations in this game is ridiculous."
Before he left, he mentioned that TT Games "strives to do the best game we can" and that the team blew him away on this game.
Next up was Stephen Sharples who was asked about what were the more fun environments to make. "That's a long list to make because there's so many," Sharples laughed. "You've got Zamaron and Qward, we've never been to the Watchtower or to Martian Manhunter's world. We've never been inside the Hall of Justice! The Legion of Doom headquarters, the Darth Vader-looking helmet, actually comes out of the swamp. The only thing you're missing is the guy going [narrator voice]'Meanwhile, at the Legion of Doom'. We're not messing around here."
Sharples mentioned the level of research he had to do since he wasn't a huge comic fan growing up, but it was still "probably not as much as Arthur". He continued saying he was always much more of a gamer than comic reader. "I was saying earlier when I was a boy, I just grew up with a Sega Genesis instead of comics, and the rest is sort of history. I didn't really discover comics until I saw things like the 1989 Batman movie and eventually came into comics later on in life."
Sharples was sporting a Neal Adams-style Green Arrow shirt at the table and was asked if he had a favorite superhero. "Green Arrow is sort of my favorite now because of 'Arrow'. I got told about the Arrow TV show and I don't see a lot of television because of work. I bought season one and fell in love with it. I've got a lot of love for Batman, but I kinda have a liking for the Riddler a lot. He's kinda cool! Even when Schumacher made that film, he even made him kinda cool."
Sharples commented on whether there was something he enjoyed working on more than anything else during the production. "First and foremost, I'm a level designer at heart. We have a group of guys and girls who are part of this design team that I absolutely adore. So, I love the start of a project. We have a decent turnover at Traveler's Tales of LEGO games and I'm kinda doing something different every year and it's fantastic! Not many places do that. It's the initial design wishlist that we put together that gets me excited. Let's go nuts!"
Sharpels also said that when 60's Batman hits somebody, it does do a classic sound effect.
Newsarama then talked to Kevin Smith, who was suprised on his inclusion in the game. "They put me in a game and I didn't ask, so that's a good thing. It would have been nice to have been asked, but you put somebody in an awkward position and it's like 'oh the fat guy from Clerks wants to be in a game'."
Jokes aside, Smith was thrilled beyond belief when he got the call about doing the voicework for the came as well. It was a bit more than he expected. "So when I went in there, there was a full script and I was in the game more than I realized. They have me interacting with characters. My weapon is a megaphone so my voice can destroy my enemies, which I'm sure the people who hate my guts will enjoy." He continued, talking about how it's surreal to be in this game since he plays the other ones with his daughter. "It's just an absolute dream come true, but you don't dream about [stuff] like this. My daughter told me that this better than winning an Oscar, but later had to think about that and said 'you're never going to win an Oscar, right?' I just shook my head and said that this is my Oscar moment. I don't know how else to describe it. Thrilling and it's pure joy, which is what this type of game is. Pure joy. It's fun and it's blissful. Every corner brings a giggile or a smile."
He also joked about they made him thinner, since "you can only get so large with LEGO shapes".
Smith was on the panel earlier in the day as well and was surprised at how much he saw. "I've seen more at the panel than I've ever seen of the game yet. I mean, they'll show you some pictures, but they don't really have footage or anything. So here at the panel was the first time I saw a lot of that stuff and my God, I really thought the fact that they were including me in the game they were just going to give the game away for free. I didn't think I was playable, but you can runaround and kill me, or not." He had a sense of humor about in which you could "kill" his character. "You can just go 'Cop Out' and throw me over the bannister. I'll come back and you can go 'Tusk' and have me fall of a ledge again and again."
Finally, voice artist Troy Baker, who portrays Batman this time around, was asked if he completes himself now since he previously played Joker. "I was saying that it would be great to do a one-man show of 'Waiting for Gadot' with Batman and the Joker. What I love is that Lego exists in a way that it will sustain that. You can put reality on pause and I can be Batman. The only thing more fun than making it is to play it, and that's a rare opportunity to get that. I'm a gamer first and an actor second so this is the game that will be a day one purchase for me."
Will he play as Batman or the Joker in the game, though? "I will play as Batman as long as you can, but in these games you have to switch around and you can't play as Batman and have to switch between characters. So everytime I do that it's always [Batman grunt] just as Batman makes [Batman grunt]."
There's been so many incarnations of the Batman character, but where did Baker pull from for his inspirations in this game? Baker responded that there's more than one. "First of all, the guys at TT Games give fan service from the top down to the bottom up. We're all fans here and so what's great is there's not one joke, line, or reference that we don't get. So what we're doing is pulling from the '66 Batman, the Burton Batman, Nolan's Batman, even from the comics as well. So whatever we do, I get to gravitate to whatever they're referencing. If they're making fun of Bale did, we get to own it and lean towards that. LEGO Batman 3 is a culmination of 75 years of Batman. That comes from having a really good team that is steering this old crazy ship."
Baker also said that the cast readings were mostly ensemble, except for the smaller stuff. "The single stuff that we did were just pick ups like fighting noises and grunts and groans. They made a philosophical decision that so much of the story depended on the performances and the performances depended on how we interacted."
Since he pulls from all decades of Batman in the game, he was asked if he got to perform the Christian Bale growl. "Yeah. I mean, we didn't go full 'swear to me!' but we there are times we get to pull from what Michael Keaton did [low whisper] 'I'm Batman' so it all really depended on the situation. So if you hear the Batman you see on the cover, it's going to be me. We have four Batmen in this...Batmans, Batmi?"
Lastly, since Baker has been in voice work for decades and providing the voice for dozens of DC characters over the years, the question about who would he really like to take a crack at nearly stumped him.
"I don't know, man, I look at cool characters like Deadshot or any of those people, and those are cool characters-Two-Face was great, too-and playing Two-Face was sort of a banner moment because I didn't know I was going to read for it because I thought I was going to play Nightwing, but his role got really downplayed. So then I was asked if I wanted to do Two-Face and I basically wanted to do what Richard Moll did. So I don't know if there's anybody who else is out there, but after the Joker role, I won't be afraid to do it."