I read somewhere that you guys spent quite a bit of time even before the game went into full production looking into Unreal Engine 3.
SH: We did. We're big fans of Unreal, and there was a learning period when we were working on all those different prototypes. It was a good opportunity for us. There was about a year when we were working on the different prototypes and learning the tools and learning to get the best out of them.
That definitely gave us a great start when we started Batman. I think Unreal as an engine is really strong, and you have to work with it to do things the way it wants to do things. But as long as you do that, you can get some major results. I think we have a great relationship with Epic, and our philosophies are very closely matched. They really put the power into the hands of the content creators, which is very important for us. I can't speak highly enough for Epic and Unreal. It's a great engine.
What about the 360 version versus the PS3 versions of the game? How was that during the course of development for Batman?
SH: The systems definitely have their different requirements. We had a group of people working specifically on optimizations for both platforms. The PS3 was better for some things, and the 360 was better for other things. I think what you need to be prepared to do is make sure you're going to tailor your output to get the best out of both systems.
I really give a lot of credit to the guys who worked on the PS3 version, especially, to get that running the same as the 360 version. Specifically, they were making sure that it ran as fast on their version. We spent a lot of time making sure that both versions were as good as they possibly could be, framerate-wise. Those guys did a great job with that.
In general, what are some of the lessons that you're going to be taking on to the next project that you learned from Batman and Urban Chaos?
SH: There's a few things. The first thing that we hoped players would respond to and we got a lot of positive feedback on was that a lot of our development time was spent on empowering the player and giving the player a number of different ways to play the game, especially with the invisible "predator mode" and the number of different techniques they could use, and then letting them choose how to approach those situations.
Sometimes, the way that works is not particularly showy, because it's giving the player different gameplay mechanics they can use, and they're thinking up different ways to create their own stories. It was great to get a response on that, and we would definitely like to be sure that we develop that player-empowering philosophy further so that they create their own stories when they play.
One of the great things about the positive feedback we've received is that it gives us confidence in that philosophy to invest our time in that and invest time in making sure the player has options in how they approach situations. Each of those options have different benefits and pluses and minuses. I feel that's definitely something we've learned and we'll take forward to the next games that we do.
There was very little negative feedback on Batman, particularly in the games press with the reviewers. But some said that the boss battles were not as strong as they could be. Some of them said it was too tempting to stay in the detective mode all the time. Are you taking any of these criticisms to heart? Do you understand where they're coming from?
SH: Yeah. We always do a lot of focus testing on the game before it comes out and we always listen to players about what they like and didn't like about the experience. It's definitely fair to say that we'll be listening to people to see what they liked about the experience.
One of the things we look at is that we don't just focus on the negatives, but also on the positives. It gets quite easy to focus on the negatives and try to fix them, but I think if you want to make something different, you have to focus on the positives as well, and think about how to make those things different and push them even further. For sure, we'll be looking at any negative feedback, but we'll also be looking at the positive feedback to make sure that the games we make in the future are still surprising people.