Rocksteady details the "Arkham Recipe" at DICE, gives insight into series' formula

We’re not going to lie – the main reason we attended Rocksteady’s panel at D.I.C.E. was in hopes that it would give a slight hint as to what its next title might be. It didn’t. What we got instead, however, might be even more interesting.

When Rocksteady’s co-founder Sefton Hill set out to give a speech at D.I.C.E. entitled “Escaping the Asylum,” his goal was to detail how the developer adapted its linear adventure game into a massive, open-world experience. When attempting to get it together, however, he noticed that it was even more interesting at how little it actually needed to adapt things. Instead, they just applied the same logic they used for the linear game to the open-world one. He called it the “Arkham Recipe,” and he shared it at the show.

Instantly fun and accessible

Hill said that the first part of the formula is to make sure that, right away, the game is immediately enjoyable and easy to learn. It’s the developer's job to entertain, after all, and it wanted to make sure that the game was entertaining out of the gate. The way Rocksteady accomplished this was with the free-flow combat, which gave players the feeling of being Batman right out of the box without needing to learn any complex mechanics or go through lengthy tutorials.

Deep core mechanics

While Rocksteady wants it to be accessible out of the box, it isn’t about to limit the complexity of the game on the whole. With that in mind, it gradually ramps up the difficulty with new enemies that require new mechanics to defeat. This makes sure the player is continually being challenged, as well as continually learning mew mechanics in the way of combat and sweet new gadgets. New mechanics give the player new ways to defeat new enemies, fueling the deep gameplay.

Completely unorthodox design

Rocksteady constantly changes things up in its games. It’s not strictly a fighting game or a platforming game or a puzzle game, but it has mechanics of just about every genre at some point. The Riddler gameplay in requires to think like a detective, the hunting gameplay of the complex rooms requires players to play like a predator, the platforming requires players to learn to navigate and control Batman, and the combat gameplay… well, obviously it requires players to learn to beat people up. Rocksteady says that mixing these all together creates an unorthodox design that gamers like.


One of the most important elements, however, is keeping things authentic. Rocksteady doesn’t just want to sell a Batman game, it wants to sell one that actually feels like a Batman game. This means the main character can’t kill people, and he can’t use guns. While this sounds encumbering (and, in a way, is), it challenged it to make new gameplay to explore these limitations and to use them to its advantage.

So, what can we take away from this? A few things. Namely, that whatever Rocksteady is working on next will follow this formula of embracing their license while mixing in unorthodox design decisions with deep core mechanics. And it will likely star Batman.

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  • KidKatana - February 14, 2012 6:50 a.m.

    I heard a rumour that Rocksteady is doing an Arkham-style adaptation of the TMNT. Which would be fricking AWESOME.
  • MrDobble - February 13, 2012 2:29 p.m.

    It's really good to see Rocksteady actually care about what their customers will receive. All developers can take something from D.I.C.E's formula. After playing through Arkham Asylum & City several times, I see how they put their formula into place. Both fantastic games. :)
  • Darkhawk - February 13, 2012 2:26 p.m.

    I wish the people handling other licensed properties took this much care. The last truly stellar Marvel video game was probably last-gen Spider-Man 2 (free roaming as well; hmm....)
  • codystovall - February 13, 2012 12:48 p.m.

    All you have to do is give a fuck about the game your making. Ask yourself "Would I like this game?" "Does it need refinement?" "Could this game be better?"
  • number1hitjam - February 13, 2012 12:24 p.m.

    Wow that was disappointingly vague and "result-y".
  • yoshiking - February 13, 2012 11:56 a.m.

    When I saw the words "Arkham" and "D.I.C.E" I immediately thought "Arkham's Edge".
  • Thedigitalg - February 13, 2012 11:36 a.m.

    5) Make rock-hard challenges. It's a testament to how good Asylum was when I spent almost as much time in the combat challenges as I did in the main game.