Looking back at Batman: Arkham Asylum - Part 2

Rocksteady Games created a monster in Batman: Arkham Asylum, and senior gameplay programmer Paul Denning is so proud of their game spawn that he just couldn’t stop talking to us about it. He spilled so many truth nuggets from his talented maw that we had to split the interview into two parts. Here’s the second bit, complete with all sorts of interesting information about Batman’s return to the dance floor, how he nearly had the power to command motorboats, and even a story about how a big film company didn’t interfere with the game development process to a significant degree. You see, miracles do happen sometimes. For the first part of our interview, click here.

Do the Bat-tussi

“Originally, our forensic system was a lot bigger. We had four months prototyping at the beginning of the project and a lot of the stuff we did for forensics we ended up dropping or leaving out, because we didn’t really think it would fit with the way the game was going. If you look at the way the forensics works there’s not much of it in there and we felt that any time you needed to learn a mechanic, it would almost be thrown away straight away because you’d be past that section.

“We also had rhythm action combat. This idea was that music was playing and Batman would fight him in time with music. As the camera would cut, a new guy would come in and you’d have to punch him on the beat to connect or you’d end up getting hit. If you had two guys running at you, you’d have to branch off into another piece of music that would seamlessly blend into a combo attack.

“We put all that in and we actually got it pretty far and it was looking pretty good, but it was also obvious that we were running out of places we could take it already.

“We also had this idea where you could pull boats around in the water with your bat claw. We had levels with lots of water where you were turning on valves to raise the water level up and down but we dropped that as well because we felt it slowed the pace right down, and it also involved mashing the buttons a lot.”

Bat Happy

“When it was first announced that we were doing Batman, we were all called into a meeting and to some of us it was really a big surprise. There was instant hollering and whooping. There were some big Batman fans here who were really psyched and there were others who were into it a bit and thought it would be a pretty cool thing to work on. I had read some of the Batman material and seen all of the films but I didn’t know anywhere near as much as I do now. You get a bit of daunting feeling as well knowing that it could be huge.

“As the project went on and we started to really see what we were creating and we started believing that it was going to be huge. Then the pressure started to come from the outside. Once we saw on the forums how all the fans were getting excited, and Warner starting saying how good it was, the pressure increased.

“At the end when we were sprinting for the line and fixing bugs and tweaking gameplay, we all felt that we’d probably made the best game we possibly could. This is the best game I’ve ever worked on, and you never know, for a lot of people this could be the best game they ever work on.”

Core Ideas

“One of the first things that was drummed into us was thinking about Batman, like what are his core facets? So we wrote down all the things that made him great, all the things he’d do and wouldn’t do, and the gameplay all evolved from that.

“You start work on the things that are most important. So the things we prototyped first were the combat, the forensics and the predator stuff, and then as we went on we expanded on those and if somebody turned up with a good idea it went in.

“Some things were taken out and it did evolve as we went along. If you took a snapshot at the end of our prototype period, and then again at the end of the alpha, it looks completely different to the final version.

“We started in April 2007 so it took us roughly two years, including four months of preproduction time. It was tight and we didn’t start with a huge team, maybe 30-35 to start with and then grew from there.”

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  • meyamokevin - January 4, 2010 7:38 a.m.

    i love how everyone shut up after they were asked to back their claims with actual reasoning
  • crazyqazqaz - December 26, 2009 6:51 p.m.

    This guy has an eye for games and certainly knows what he's talking about. He's pulled off a brilliant game by keeping it relatively simple instead of piling on the features. Concentrating on a smaller number of aspects means that a game will be more refined and thought through, ultimately making it better. I'll admit some complicated games still work but it requires more skill to make a better game with fewer features. By the way will you lot open your eyes for a few seconds and look at the game your arguing over. I'm searching for flaws but I can't seem to find any big ones. If your going to say something is flawed at least take the time to give a reason. If not then just don't comment, save us from having to read another argument. I'm not directing this at anyone in paticular, I'm not looking for an argument. You know who you are.
  • LeeCarvallo - December 26, 2009 10:11 a.m.

    Love Arkham Asylum. Love Batman. Can't wait for the sequel.
  • kllim050 - December 25, 2009 2:48 p.m.

    One of the greatest games I have ever played! I can't wait for the sequel.
  • SumCallMeTalent - December 24, 2009 9:49 p.m.

    ugh what is up with this game....? i thought it was a raging snorefest
  • slickninja - December 24, 2009 6:39 p.m.

    @ idlemindkiller I read the article because it's amusing to me to see how much GR has been slurping Rocksteady. I never once complained about the game, only the fact that GR has had a hard-on for it and had the balls to award it GOTY. Yes, it is GR's award and they can give it to whatever game they want, but everyone knew Batman was going to get it simply because of the amount of "coverage" and all the ridiculous "pat-myself-on-the-back" articles. And just to shut you up, I did get 100% completion on the game. Vomit-Burp is my PS3 screenname if you don't believe me. While the game was good, it was still heavily flawed. an 8 out of 10 for sure, but no game of the year. Are you fucking kidding me, with Uncharted 2 out there?
  • idlemindkiller - December 24, 2009 10:44 a.m.

    @ slickninja, driveshaft, cwf2008-if you dont like the game then why even read this? id like to see any of you losers make a game a 10th as well as this game was made. you cant. like sabtos said, go play some mario party bitches.
  • rafa_slash - December 24, 2009 4:39 a.m.

    well, I guess some people cant recognize an awesome game when they see it and by the way, wait 20 years for a good Batman and then get a GOTY and then well see if youll shut up about it
  • Stockholm - December 24, 2009 4:27 a.m.

    @slickninja Ya, no kidding. Same goes for that crappy GTA: Chinatown Wars game. They will NOT SHUT UP ABOUT IT. Seriously GR, are you guys getting paid for this???
  • coolbeans - December 24, 2009 2:45 a.m.

    silence haters! this game rocked!
  • Cwf2008 - December 24, 2009 2:16 a.m.

    Honestly how a repetitive and bland game like this got GOTY is beyond me
  • Dolan88fan - December 24, 2009 1:17 a.m.

    once again how could you give this game goty after you gave it a 9 and uc2 a 10
  • Sabtos - December 24, 2009 12:03 a.m.

    DriveShaft, and what sort of games do you like? Probably Mario Party.
  • Sabtos - December 24, 2009 12:02 a.m.

    Very glad they did not use Danny Elfman/movie soundtracks. Way too stereotypical and almost campy by now. Extremely overused in the LEGO games to the point I really do not like it at all anymore. As far as Arkham Asylum goes, I think the Elfman music would have significantly weakened the experience of the game as a whole.
  • DriveShaft - December 23, 2009 11:16 p.m.

    Jesus, got enough Arkham articles this year or what? No matter how much you rave, I still say it's an overrated, allbeit pretty, crap pile.
  • slickninja - December 23, 2009 10:12 p.m.

    What a surprise, ANOTHER Batman: Arkham Asylum article on GR. Geez guys, give it a rest already. You're going to make me hate the game, overexposure much? I bet you guys are going to come up with some sort of "Happy New Year Batman:Arkham Asylum welcome 2010 Look At What We Predicted and Top 7 Reasons Why We Love Batman: Arkham Asylum The GR Game of the Year Article" ENOUGH!!!!!!
  • Samael - December 23, 2009 7:56 p.m.

    Well...I guess that means no Rocksteady Superman game. Wasn't expecting one anyways but here's the final confirmation I guess.
  • Spacegrass - December 23, 2009 7:10 p.m.

    I'm glad they got rid of the "rhythm action combat", that sounds like a really bad idea. So bad that every other game would copy it, like they did with QTEs.
  • Marvelfan13 - December 23, 2009 7:10 p.m.

    Great Article. I loved this game. Never had the time to beat though... Hopefully Arkham Asylum 2 will be just as good.