Rocksteady Studios impressed the hell out of “Batman” fans and gamers alike with its work on “Batman: Arkham Asylum.” Not only was the game almost perfectly polished and tuned, it also delivered on a formula that developers have been tinkering with since the early days of interactive entertainment: making an awesome “Batman” video game. It’s hard to imagine the ante being upped in any way for the sequel, “Batman: Arkham City,” but that’s exactly what Rocksteady’s ambition is in trying to deliver the same sort of tight narrative within the framework of a more open world for Gotham’s Caped Crusader to explore.
“Everywhere that’s open to the sky is available to the player from the off,” Rocksteady game marketing manager Dax Ginn told CVG in an interview. “So they can go anywhere they want and that was the emotional feeling that we wanted to convey; you’re Batman, you can do what you want. That’s the empowering thing that ’Arkham Asylum’ didn’t really deliver because it was such a linear, tight, intense story.”
Ginn goes on to explain how the story in the sequel works, with all of the most important expositional moments unfolding within the game’s indoor locations. The streets serve up a variety of sidequests, but there are also mechanics which serve to help keep players aware of, if not fully focused on, the story.
“The decision to take the game out into the streets and out into an open-world structure – the first thing that’s going to do is deal a massive body blow to your ability to tell a tight story,” Ginn said.
“So that’s why we developed these ambient story-telling systems, which meant we weren’t just relying on cinematic cut-scenes to tell the story, we’re bombarding the player with story all the time because you’re constantly hearing discussions of thugs or they’re bricking it before you take them down.”
One of the big questions about the new game’s structure is how it will translate onto the screen. “Arkham Asylum” was an open world for all intents and purposes, but “Arkham City” is reported to be five times larger and far less focused on pushing players along on a linear path. The outdoor world of “Asylum” was also broken up into smaller discrete areas rather than one, all-encompassing space. According to Ginn, the larger size doesn’t matter: the outdoor world in “Arkham City” is a load-free environment.
“It’s all open, all the time,” he said. “Our technical director was like, ’What? You want an open-world that’s open all the time that’s five times bigger than anything we’ve done before? Are you crazy?’ It streams seamlessly throughout and that has been a massive, massive challenge.”