E3 2013: Batman: Arkham Origins Developer Interview with Eric Holmes
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 03:40pm 14/06/13 | Comments
At E3 2013, AusGamers catches up with Warner Bros. Games Montreal Creative Director Eric Holmes for a chat about Batman: Arkham Origins.
AusGamers E3 2013 Batman: Arkham Origins Dev Interview with Eric Holmes
AusGamers: Ladies and gents, welcome back to AusGamers. You’re here with Stephen Farrelly, and I’ve got Eric Holmes, who is the Creative Director on Batman: Arkham Origins. My readers know that I’m a massive, massive Batman fan. But you guys have an uphill battle with me though, because obviously Rocksteady have proven that this series is not just a great Batman game, but an unbelievable action game as well --probably one of highest staples out there, in my opinion.
I want to talk about that pressure for you guys, because it must be a bit of pressure to come in and try to fill those shoes?
Eric Holmes: Absolutely, it is. We’re huge fans of Rocksteady’s work; we hold them in the highest esteem, and it’s helped to drive us to do the best work that we can.
AusGamers: Was there much back and forth with you guys? Because obviously that’s their baby; Paul Dini has been across both of the games. For you guys, what was the process approaching them?
Eric: Well Rocksteady have absolutely been there to support us, but this is really WB Games Montreal’s game. We work with the same people at Warner Bros. who they worked with, in publishing, and we work with Geoff Johns at DC Comics, who’s also been involved in their games. So we feel well-supported by the whole organisation. I don’t feel like we want for anything; we’re making a Batman game!
AusGamers: From the writing perspective, how did you approach it? Because you’re talking about basically year two in Batman’s life, but I’ve noticed that he’s got pretty much the same gadgets that he’s got in Arkham City and Arkham Assylum.
Eric: Ah, he doesn’t have all of the same gadgets. Batman has a kind of rotating armoury. Even in the comic books, and movies; everything. He has some commonalities; he’ll always have the Batterangs right --I don’t think I’d ever think of a story where he didn’t have those, unless he loses his belt-- but I think there’s always a pressure to bring new gadgets and new items to any Batman excursion in any form, so we added new ones.
We created some holes by removing some, that you don’t necessarily know about yet, and you also don’t know of all the new things that we’ve brought. So I think you’ll have a lot of the stuff you had before, and you’ll have new additions which will make things feel refreshed and new and empowered in a new way.
AusGamers: So for people that played Arkham Assylum and Arkham City, have you recreated those locations in your game? Because obviously you’ve got a portion of Gotham City yourselves.
Eric: We have a portion of their game --of the Arkham City layout-- as a part of our city, but our city is also rewound several years back though, kind of taking us back to this year-two setting. We also have Christmas as a major theme in our world, so the whole place has a much larger footprint than what you saw in Arkham City; it’s over twice the size. We have a whole bunch of new interiors, a whole bunch of new locations; the whole place has visually changed to. The main place that you’ll see added is this whole South Gotham island, where the buildings are much taller, much grander; the scale is bigger overall, and it’s really great particularly for the great grapple and glide, locomotion style that Batman has.
He has a very unique way of moving around, and Rocksteady absolutely nailed that in Arkham City. It was great just to move around being that character, so we’ve added a lot more to the world to allow that control system to have kind of a different racetrack to drive on so-to-speak. There’s more ways to play it, in a new space that’s designed in a different way.
AusGamers: One of the big questions on everyone’s mind is that you do have city that’s twice the size of Arkham City: any Batmobiles or anything like that?
Eric: Well there is the Batwing system. The player won’t be driving a Batmobile in this game, but there is a Batwing system, which is this fast-travel system whereby you can drop off at various key locations in the map. We haven’t talked about all the places that you can go, but there could be some places off the map too, maybe, that we’ll be going to as well.
But overall, it’s not driveable. It’s not like you’ll be flying it, and firing guns, and swooping down through the streets. It’s a fast travel-system we call. We unlock the locations available to us through a part of the game as well, as a game mechanic where we’re... I’m not sure how much we’re saying at this point, but basically, we’re taking territory back from someone who’s claimed it, and for that, we unlock more, and more fast-travel locations, giving you more and more of a sense of mastery and ownership over the map through the game.
AusGamers: ...and a sense of progression as well, as a vigilante.
AusGamers: Can you talk to me about what it means to be an unrefined Batman? I kind of got a sense that combat is a little more brutal, and there’s a lot of bigger hits; bane just beat the shit out of him in there. Can we talk about what it means for you guys to have an unrefined Batman?
Eric: Sure. Well I think the core of it really comes from the story, rather than the action. Batman as a character, in the other games, he’s the classic Batman, he’s... I refer to it in the team as “issue 500 Batman”, he’s had a whole lot of stories so far, and he knows everything about who he is, and what he is. He’s met all these characters he’s dealing with, the thirtieth, the fortieth, the fiftieth meeting with these guys, but for us, many of the characters he encounters in Arkham Origins is the first time. He doesn’t know who the are, and they don’t know who he is necessarily, and what they mean to each other.
So our Batman, up to this point in his career, he has owned everyone he’s faced up against. He’s fought against the mob, the Falcones, the Maronis, and they are not equipped for someone like him --so much more skilled, so much more capable-- and it’s kind of gone to his head a little bit; he is supremely confident.
That’s going to change tonight, because the characters that Black Mask is going to bring to town, are characters who are his peers. Characters like Deathstroke, who are at least as skilled as him, at least as capable, and in the case of Deathstroke, is arguably stronger and faster too. So for Batman, that means he has to grow. He has to change and adapt to deal with this.
Going up against characters like that, he has to reassess what he thinks of himself and how he works for other characters, as well as for himself. So that’s something that’s really exciting for me, because as much as I love the other Arkham games, in the other games, he is classic Batman in the end, but we are moving from this young, raw Batman, towards that character.
So we get to see him grow, we get to see him undergo these kind of pivotal lessons. If you’re a Batman fan, like you say you are, you’ll know the series Legends of the Dark Knight, which grew out of the whole Year One book, which for me, was great for that reason: because he wasn’t really there yet. And he was making mistakes; he was learning as he went, and there was an element of... I don’t want to say redefining the character there, because it really didn’t; it was more like you were seeing it form together.
The first time he’d see an enemy, he wouldn’t necessarily have the shape he’d finally have, but you knew what he was going to become, and it was kind of a thrill as you saw those pieces snap into place like a puzzle.
AusGamers: You said that he’s alone, obviously that’s one of the main factors here. But he always did have Alfred, are we going to get some Alfred action?
Eric: We are absolutely going to see more of Alfred than we’ve ever seen before in the Arkham series, and the relationship with Alfred is also one that ties into the story I’m talking about. He doesn’t work that well with others, and that includes Alfred. Alfred and Batman, in the kind of classic depiction, they’re always a father-son relationship right? It’s a little more complex because he isn’t his father, he’s technically his servant, but ultimately, Alfred really cares for Bruce, and feels enormously responsible for who he is, and we’re going to be very true to that.
But at the start of our story, Alfred doesn’t necessarily understand exactly why Bruce is doing what he’s doing, and the level of risk he exposes himself to in this story, is something that causes Alfred great concern, and really brings those two characters into conflict with one another. So we’re going to see a really satisfying relationship between those two characters forge, and form, and become that more familiar thing we’ve seen, but they don’t quite start there.
AusGamers: Ok. I’ll wrap it up with one last question, and this was another thing that angered a few fans, and that’s no Kevin Conroy; obviously Mark Hamill has stepped down from the role, and it sounded like Troy Baker did a fantastic job in there. Can you talk about why Kevin wasn’t involved, and what the process in choosing the voice actors was?
Eric: Absolutely. Our characters are younger. They’re less formed than the other versions of the characters you’ve seen in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Getting that youthful energy, and unformed nature of those characters, led us to recasting those characters. So really, we wanted to get the best possible characters we could, and we went through an exhaustive casting campaign --not just to get the best actors we could, but to get people who sound like Kevin, to get people that can give a performance like Mark, but also have that edge of youthfulness.
So you won’t find anyone more respectful of their work than this team; than those actors too. I know that they love their performance, but they’re bringing something of their own to it as well. So I think ultimately... I understand people are passionate about Kevin, I am too, but I think that you’re going to see these people bring something new to it, which fits our story. Which I understand you guys maybe don’t know yet, because you haven’t played the game, but I hope when you play the game, that you’ll love it.
AusGamers: Right. We’ll wrap it up. It does look a lot better than I had anticipated, and I trust you guys now, so best of luck!
Eric: Ok. Well there’s so much more to see, and I hope you’ll keep your eyes on it until October 25th.
AusGamers: All right. Thanks very much.