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IVG interview: Batman: Arkham Origins

Every superhero needs an origin story, and since Batman’s already had his on the bigscreen, it’s time for him to get one in the world of videogames. To make that possible, Warner Bros. has allocated its newly formed studio, Warner Bros. Games Montreal to develop Batman: Arkham Origins, an open world game that takes place before Arkham Asylum and Arkham Origins, shedding some light on Batman’s past.

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Talking to us about the game’s development and some of the new ideas it brings to the table is Ben Mattes, senior producer at Warner Bros. Games Montreal.

You guys have big shoes to fill coming in after Rocksteady Games. What measures have you taken to make sure Arkham Origins lives up to expectations?

Honestly we feel we’ve taken every measure possible to ensure we live up to everyone’s expectations – ours as well as the fans’. Before we created a single level or wrote a line of code, everyone on the team played Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City through at least once – some multiple times. We grew a team of world class AAA console developers with an average of 10+ years of experience, and collaborated closely with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Entertainment. We care very deeply about making a great game in its own right – one that stands on its own and is recognized not just as being worthy of the Arkham brand, but that resonates as one of the best Batman stories ever told.

What made you guys go in for an origin story? What’s next from here?

The early career Batman space is a very exciting time from a narrative point of view. Later on in his career, Batman becomes part of the establishment – everyone knows him and recognizes him. Early in his career he is still an urban legend. Very few people have actually met him and those that have wish they hadn’t. Such a backdrop gives us a great opportunity to create a younger, more raw Batman that the enemies fear, which is an empowering premise for players that we are excited to share.

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Since this is a prequel of sorts, will players begin with a more inexperienced Batman? How will the game handle his transition?

Batman is certainly less experienced than he is in Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City. We like to say our Batman is version 0.9 compared to the version 5.0 of Arkham City. This is reinforced through his personality, his tone, the cinematics, story, and through some animations as well. What we did not do, though, is weaken him significantly to make him feel like a ‘beginner Batman’. We don’t think players would enjoy throwing a Batarang and missing, or having punches do less damage. It isn’t an exciting or empowering premise and not one we ourselves would want to play.

Have you made any changes to certain gameplay mechanics like combat or traversal? If so, could you elaborate on that? Could you also touch upon the game’s new Detective Mode?

We wanted to further deliver on the fantasy of being the World’s Greatest Detective in a way that dovetailed core Arkham gameplay with interactive story telling.

Detective Mode definitely received the largest overhaul. Combat and traversal were already world class systems with a ton of depth and opportunity for mastery. What we chose to do is create new gadgets and enemies to challenge players and build upon these incredible existing systems, as well as find ways to help all players further master the full wealth of combat and navigation opportunities available to them. We think many more players will end up feeling they have a “Black Belt in being Batman” in playing our game because of the careful additions we’ve made here.

For Detective Mode – in particular the creation of our new Case File system – we wanted to further deliver on the fantasy of being the World’s Greatest Detective in a way that dovetailed core Arkham gameplay with interactive story telling. At a Crime Scene, players will be able to digitally recreate the events that took place and watch those events enfold in an Augmented Reality style, rewinding and fast forwarding through the events at their discretion until they’ve discovered the key piece of information and evidence needed to continue their investigation. It very much feels like how Batman would solve crimes by combining his powerful intellect with the incredible wealth and technology available to him through Wayne enterprises.

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Does stealth still play an important role in this game?

The Invisible Predator rooms are still very much a huge part of the game – both in the main campaign, the recently announced Online mode, as well as challenge maps. There are new gadgets we’ve created (like the Remote Claw) that were explicitly designed to give player’s additional options and strategies in the Invisible Predator rooms and we’re very proud of this aspect of the game.

Could you talk about some of the new gadgets players can expect in Arkham Origins? Will players have access to vehicles?

We’ve announced the Remote Claw gadget already which allows Batman to connect two points together via a high-tensile steel cable. Connecting two gargoyles together creates a new path inside the Invisible Predator rooms. Attaching a thug to a gargoyle will pull the thug off of his feet as the two ends of the Remote Claw projectile pull together, stringing the thug up from underneath the gargoyle. We’re excited to see all of the additional strategies and patterns players discover as they explore this gadget in the full game.

As for vehicles, we’ve talked briefly before about the Batwing and its role in our game as the Fast Travel system. We definitely wanted to create opportunities for players to get access to some key, iconic vehicles and locations within the Batman cannon and with the increased size of our open world, the fast travel time that the batwing would bring to traversal was an obvious fit.

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From the E3 gameplay video, the city did look scarcely populated. Will there be dynamic events taking place to make sure players have something to do at all times?

The city isn’t filled with civilians because they are all hiding out in their homes. It is Christmas Eve, there is a huge snow storm blowing through the city, there are eight deadly Assassins and their armies of mercenaries and thugs tearing the city apart looking for Batman and, finally, the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD) have declared martial law in order to keep the civilians off the streets while they try and deal with all of the chaos.

That said, there are dynamic events that occur in the form of our Crimes-In- Progress system. These are more difficult enemy encounters that pop up throughout the game that the GCPD is simply too overwhelmed to respond to in time. Batman can choose to engage in these crimes, attempting to stop them before the perpetrators can escape. Doing so will prove a challenge, but the reward will be a greater boost of Experience Points than through a standard enemy encounter. We really feel these Crimes-In-Progress add a great feeling of pressure and opportunity to explore the open world and give us an additional vehicle to help reinforce the narrative of just how intense this night is for Batman.

What kind of side activities can players expect to partake in? Will Arkham Origins be a true open-world game in structure?

Our open world is filled with activities – enemy encounters, puzzles to solve, collectibles to find, crimes to solve (through the Case File system), Crimes-In-Progress to prevent, and Most Wanted missions to tackle.

The Most Wanted system are all optional side missions with key DC Comics characters who aren’t necessarily Assassins, but who have chosen this night to put their own nefarious plans into action.

We are confident that players who enjoyed the open world experience of Batman: Arkham City will discover a lot to do in Batman: Arkham Origins and happily spend many, many hours exploring all that the open world has to offer.

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Is there any chance of the game coming out on next gen platforms?

Batman: Arkham Origins is shipping on Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Wii U, with Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate coming to Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita.  All of our focus and energy is invested in making the game the best it can possibly be for these platforms.

Batman: Arkham Origins will be available October 25, 2013 for Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Wii U.

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