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Rocksteady's Sefton Hill Unmasks Batman: Arkham Asylum
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Rocksteady's Sefton Hill Unmasks Batman: Arkham Asylum

October 19, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

What about original IP? You did Urban Chaos and then worked with a license. Are you still open to creating something original as well?

SH: I think as a studio, we've got a lot of room to work on original IP or work on licenses. I know that some people perhaps don't like working on licenses, but we really enjoyed working on Batman. If you embrace the license and enjoy the license, you can definitely get a lot more out of it.

It's easy for me to say, because we were able to work on Batman, but I think we definitely have a lot of talent and a concept team here to work on ideas. We can work on original IP or on licenses. Our main thing is to work on games that are fun to play. That's the fundamental thing that we work on.

For Batman: Arkham Asylum, how hard was it to resist the temptation of throwing in Batmobile driving segments? I thought it was interesting what you guys did with the Batmobile, but Batman has these great vehicles like that and the Batwing. Was there some debate whether or not to include those in the game? It would seem like obvious to have a driving or a flying segment.

SH: We didn't have a flying or driving section in the game, that's true. There was a lot of discussion about that. Obviously, the vehicles are a part of Batman. We decided that we would make vehicles a part of the story, so rescuing the Batmobile plays a significant part, and the Batwing delivers the Line Launcher.

What we don't want to do is take on too much. Some of the things that we really wanted to achieve were for Batman himself, so we didn't want to overstretch with a driving section with its own mechanic and requirements, and take that development time away from the things that were important for Batman himself.

That was what really drove that decision. We had a lot of discussions about it, but at the end of the day, anything that is going to compromise the quality of what we were doing was something that we wouldn't take on if it was going to compromise the quality of the other components. We wanted to make sure that what we deliver and what you play is of the highest possible quality.

That's one thing I think a lot of people picked up on. It does feel like a very focused, tight game, whereas a lot of other games try to do so many things like multiplayer and vehicle segments and a single-player campaign and so on. They just fall into that trap, it seems.

SH: Yeah, I think that's easy to do. When it comes to features, they're always a very quantifiable thing. It's very easy to sit there and go, "Where are all these features?" Quality can be a little bit harder to quantify, especially at the start of the project when you're talking about, "How big is it going to be?" I think it's easier to say, "All these features are going to make it great," rather than, "We're going to have less features, but those features are going to be really good." It's harder to convince someone that that's going to be the case.

It's easy to see how people fall into the trap of having so many features. It's natural to equate features with quality, because that's all you've got to go on at the beginning of the project. I think what you need is confidence, and it can be hard. It's harder for publishers to give developers that confidence when you're in a catch-22 situation.

You don't want to overstretch. You want to do less, but do amazingly well, rather than do more and have a load of average stuff at the end of the day. There are too many games out there that deliver lots of average content.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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Tim Huntsman
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Great article. Interesting insight into how you approached the essence of your character and made design decisions based on what supports what core.

It's also good to see the argument "Less is More" reiterated--that can be a hard notion to get across to certain groups.

Sylviano Dolce
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Funny he mentions a cutscene mustn't show some action because it would frustrate players, that's exaclty what happens in the last cutscene : we as player totally wanted to do ingame what batman did :(

Eddie Vertigo
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Batman: Arkham Asylum was a fantastic game, one of the few games I will keep in my collection permanently, and I truly hope they make a sequel.

Chris Ainsworth
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"Also, we had the philosophy that if it's something that's simple for Batman to do in his world, then it should be easy for the player to execute as well. That's where the combat's simple controls came from."

I love that idea.

Trent Kusters
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"That project took just over a year, and after we finished that, we started to work on a number of different prototypes using Unreal Engine 3 for a next-gen game on 360 and PS3. That was the first time we'd used Unreal, and we worked on that for about a year."

Well, that just makes me want to end it all right now. In the time they were prototyping we'd released four games for 5 different platforms.

What I would give to be in a position to be able to have that much attention to R&D. Phenomenal. To all those at Rocksteady; please realise how extremely rare this is and be appreciative, always.