Looking back at Batman: Arkham Asylum

Hallucinatory crashes

“By the time you reached the Scarecrow for the third time we were after something a little bit different. I think the idea to fake a crash originated from our game director, Sefton Hill, and basically evolved from there.

“The funny thing was we focus tested it and people didn’t get it. They didn’t understand what had happened and this was when we had the cutscenes in. Even when they saw the cutscene with The Joker driving the Batmobile they just said: ‘Oh – that looked like something went wrong there!’

“So, we were really worried at one point that it wasn’t going to come off. The other thing was we weren’t sure whether Microsoft and Sony would allow it because obviously it made it look like your machine had crashed. Honestly though, we have to bow our heads a little bit to Eternal Darkness, they paved the way by doing that a number of years before.

“We did think about some other stuff, but in the end we went for the crash. It is a stand out moment. If you ask people what the key moments were – most of them will mention that. The trouble is that it’s a bit of a one shot mechanism. Once you’ve done it once, people expect it. You’ve really got to nail it the first time or we’ve effectively lost. It had to be once and it had to be good.”

A ticket to Gotham

“Gotham itself is a fantastically realised fictional city and there are so many places that would probably be ideal for our gameplay and great to explore. But would our game have worked in a free-roaming Gotham City? I really don’t think it would have.

“I think sandbox games that do that well are so hard to realise. Grand Theft Auto is obviously a fantastic example of one that gets it right but there are so many that get it wrong and I think you have to be careful when you take that route.

“Before we announced Arkham Asylum and how confined it was, there were people on the forums hoping it was set in Gotham. I read that thinking ‘Is that really what you want?’ because as soon as you open it up and allow that diversity you lose specifics and the ability to get core mechanics really nailed down.

“I think if Arkham Asylum had been that kind of game I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have been as good. Also, Batman is a very driven character and wants to stop The Joker at all costs – you’d lose that intensity if you could suddenly think to yourself, ‘Oh, I’ll just go over here for a bit.’ I think it would be very difficult and you’d have to approach it very carefully.”

Dec 16, 2009

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