Lead Narrative Designer on Batman: Arkham City, Paul Crocker, had a very exciting week at Comic-Con International. He got the chance to see thousands of Batman fans watch new trailers and gameplay from the forthcoming sequel to Arkham Asylum in person. As if the anticipation wasn’t enough, this may have pushed it over the edge.Developed once again by Rocksteady Studios, Batman: Arkham City continues the story from the first game while expanding it in both breadth and and depth. Newsarama took a few minutes to speak with Crocker in the DC booth at Comic-Con, where the viewings were taking place, about the expansive new arena for the Dark Knight to play in, new characters appearing in-game and where the team goes from here.
Newsarama: Paul, tell us how you approached the second game.
Paul Crocker: Well when we came to Arkham City we looked at everything we thought was really cool from Arkham Asylum and just tried to outdo ourselves. Our first goal was to make this bigger open city and then the next step after we decided to do that was work out: A, how to do it and B, how are we going to tell the same kind of story, get the same kind of detail we had in the first game and make all that work in this bigger, open-ended structure that we have? So it was just a whole lot of work I guess, and now here we are two years later.
Nrama: Just how big is the actual game?
Crocker: It’s huge. I mean, size-wise I think it’s four to five times bigger than the first game. Gameplay-wise it’s just massive. I think we’ve got something like 400 secrets to find, loads and loads of replayability. We’ve really gone to town on wanting to make the player want to stay playing the game as long as possible. There’s loads to find, loads to do. You know, there’s the main player path but there’s also loads and loads of separate side stories to do, different things you could find out about the Batman universe, things you could find out about Batman and that kind of thing.
Nrama: With all the classic characters that were included in the first game, Joker, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, how did you go about deciding who would be in the sequel?
Crocker: What we did first of all was, we always do this, we kind of look at the situation we’re going to put Batman in and we decide which characters are going to most suit the gameplay, most suit pushing Batman. You know, Batman’s got the greatest Rogue’s gallery, we really would have put more into the first game but we were working as hard as we could to do more, then we looked at the ones we didn’t use in Arkham Asylum to give people some variety, looked at people we thought we could reinvent in our universe like Penguin. Do something that would be received in a different light, see new things about him and then obviously we’ve got Joker because everyone likes Joker. His story is kind of continuing from the first game via the comics we’ve talked about then we’re going to get back into this, Joker is sick at the beginning of the game and that’s all part of the main story. And then we’ve got Hugo Strange because we kind of like bald scientists with crazy beards. That was our biggest motivation. [laughs] Who doesn’t l like that?
Nrama: I was hearing in some of the gameplay during the convention that the Penguin is British. Where did that choice come from?
Crocker: Well, technically he’s the same American guy who went to England and was abandoned by his parents and he grew up on the streets so when he comes back to Gotham he’s got this kind of Cockney, kind of more violent sounding accent. And it was really a decision…we wanted to put Penguin in because he’s one of the guys everyone knows, the traditional Penguin doesn’t really fit in the Arkham-verse. He’s just a bit misplaced in our universe so we thought, “How do we make this guy the nasty piece of work he needs to be for this game?” Our first thought was well, why don’t we just replace his monocle with a broken bottle [laughs] and from there we went, it evolved into this streetwise, gangster like guy.
But deep down he’s still the same Penguin, he still looks the same, still got the monocle, still has his top hat, still has crazy umbrellas but he’s just coming from a slightly different place.Nrama: Tell us a little bit about Catwoman. She’s a playable character, but how much is she going to get to do, what is she going to get to do?
Crocker: She’s got her own campaign throughout the game, and the great thing about Catwoman’s story is it weaves in and out of Batman’s so at the point you’re playing her, it has a meaningful effect on what you’re doing as Batman as well. It was a very early decision. Catwoman was one of the first new characters we put in and then there was a crazy meeting where it was like, well why don’t we just make her playable? And everything evolved from there. It’s been in for ages, Catwoman, we love it. It’s a great extra character to compliment Batman, she’s very different than Batman. You know, she doesn’t have the same morals that he does and the two work very well together.
Nrama: There’s extra challenge maps in the sequel and we’ve heard that Robin is playable in them, can you tell us a little about that?
Crocker: Well again, with the challenge maps we know that they were really popular in the first game and people can perfect being Batman, they can be the best Batman they can be, they can learn all the movies. They get really good at the challenges; but we also know that with the last game the playable Joker was really exciting and we really wanted to put new stuff in.
So, everyone knows who Robin is. We wanted to, I guess, reinvent Robin so that he’s one bad-ass kid. So people don’t go, “Oh Robin, he’s no good to fight with.” We’ve made him...he fights in the coolest way we could do, he can beat the crap out of anyone. He’s got a full outfit, he’s not just a re-skinned version of Batman. Every time we had a character enter a challenge map or enter the game we think, “How can we make this character unique and as good as Batman?”
Nrama: And of course the main man himself, what have you done to change his characteristics?
Crocker: Well from a gameplay point of view we’ve just spent two years polishing everything. We’ve expanded his move set, we’ve expanded his fighting set and there’s many more animations in the combat. We’ve gone to town. Different takedowns, added new gadgets. You can now use the gadgets in the combat which expands the combat massively again. I think last night we showed the new Penguin trailer which had a massive chunk of Batman just snapping people apart, which at that point in the press conference we, as you can hear right now, people are shouting as they are getting the crap beat out of them by Batman. We really want you to feel like the most powerful Batman you can be and that’s what we did.
Nrama: Are you already looking towards a third?
Crocker: We’re looking to finish this one. Desperately looking to finish this one. But we will finish this one by October the 18th.
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