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Batman: Arkham Knight E3 2014 Developer Interview with Dax Ginn
Post by Dan @ 02:59pm 26/06/14 | Comments
At the 2014 E3 Expo in Los Angeles, AusGamers catches up with fellow Aussie and Rockysteady Studios Producer Dax Ginn, for a chat about the upcoming Batman: Arkham Knight.

AusGamers E3 2014 Batman: Arkham Knight Developer Interview Video with Dax Ginn

AusGamers: Ladies and gents, welcome to AusGamers, coming to you from the E3 showroom floor -- not specifically live, but live enough. We’ve got a very, very special friend of the site, a good friend of mine, Dax Ginn -- an Aussie that made it out.

Let’s talk about Batman, at the moment, it’s my game of the show, and I’ve only seen the demo -- I haven’t actually played it yet. But I want to talk about, I think the thing that you guys have nailed this time around is its just the ultimate Batman experience. They’ve always been about that, but this one is just like… he’s basically ninjaing everything.

Dax: [laughs] Well after the events of Arkham City, we wanted to setup a game that was the ultimate fantasy of being the Batman in its entirety. So the addition of the Batmobile really was the piece that we always felt was missing. You think Batman: you think Batmobile. So harnessing next gen, committing to it exclusively; unleashing the Batmobile, building out the entirety to Gotham City. For us, it really was the completion of the journey that we started in Arkham Asylum, all the way through to where we are right now.

AusGamers: Let’s talk about that: building out Gotham City in its entirety. That’s no mean feat for anyone, and it was only properly mapped about 15 years ago or something, I read the other day. So it’s kind of just lived in this lofty idealism for a long time. How did you guys go about it? What was the back and forth with DC on that?

Dax: There’s a lot of back and forth with DC, because those guys just have the final say and the first point of creative inspiration for so much of the stuff that we do. Whether it’s the layout of Gotham City itself, the location of key locations, designing the Arkham Knight, we’re in daily contact talking about the creative directions and the creative license that we can take with things, so that we can design a game that we know delivers that ultimate, awesome gameplay experience -- which is kind of our specialty, but is also very true and authentic to Batman lore, and to the core pillars that make Batman such an awesome character.

AusGamers: How many new locations have you guys added to Gotham for the sake of the game?

Dax: Areas like the penthouse at the top of Wayne Tower -- which is Bruce Wayne’s private office -- that was something that we feel is a space that hasn’t been deeply explored, so that we could design the location of where the Bat Pod goes, for his change of clothes -- from his suit into the Bat Suit.

We put a massive bar in there, because he’s always entertaining. So little things like that, that fit the way that we’ve interpreted Bruce Wayne. It’s awesome for us to just let loose and really come up with a creative space that we feel is true to the Arkham experience, but also true to Batman.

AusGamers: So how much Bruce Wayne will we be playing?

Dax: No idea what you’re talking about. [grins]

AusGamers: [laughs] In terms of other characters, the last game had so much… the last Rocksteady game had so many Batman nods to the 75 year history. How far have you guys gone this time around?

Dax: With creating new characters? We delve deep in terms of characters and characterisation, because a Batman game isn’t complete with that sense of real depth in terms of the villains that you come up against, but also the allies and the support that Batman has. So delving deeply into the relationship between Commissioner Gordon, his daughter Barbara -- thinking about the connection that Batman has with these people that he loves was a really big part of it.

Those characters have been part of the Batman Universe for so long, but we, in the telling of this part of the story, wanted to ask ourselves: what happens when Batman goes to war? What happens when the people that he loves start to pay the price for the decisions that he makes about his war on crime?

Because that’s what it is, it’s war in Gotham. The Arkham Knight, his forces have brought war to Gotham, Batman unleashes the Batmobile; unleashes the battle mode of the Batmobile, but there’s vulnerabilities around him that he can’t control. So that’s really where the emotion of the gameplay comes in.

AusGamers: Is there any particular reason that Commissioner Gordon doesn’t have a moustache?

Dax: [laughs] Well I didn’t have this beard two weeks ago. Us men, we’re dynamic animals! [laughs]

AusGamers: So how did you guys contextually tackle the challenge of building an open Gotham, a great Gotham that wasn’t walled off [like Arkham Asylum], without citizens? Or are there going to be citizens?

Dax: Well there’s always vulnerabilities that Batman has to address. So the innocent civilians who have fled Gotham as a result of Scarecrow’s threat, is the bulk of the population. But there’s always support services who will stay behind -- there’s the GCPD, who are there fighting for Gotham’s life.

That’s always been a critical part of the gameplay that we design: ensuring that Batman has that moral responsibility to defend the people that he can. But designing out the entirety of Gotham, from a technical and and aesthetic perspective, has been a massive challenge. And again, that’s part of the commitment that we’ve made to next gen, to make sure that we are doing that on the scale that everybody understands Gotham to be, but also with that hand-crafted detail that we’ve always prouded ourselves… prouded ourselves?... prided ourselves at Rocksteady, to make sure that: you’re driving the Batmobile 100 miles an hour, the city looks great, no worries, but if you get out, and you pay attention to the cracks in the pavement, and the water running down the brickwork on the side of the building, that that stuff looks immensely detailed and awesome. So balancing that is a huge technical challenge, but I think we’re on it.

AusGamers: It’s really telling how much you guys know about being Batman, that the Batmobile isn’t just a means to get from A to B, or to be cool, you can use it to help in takedowns in hand-to-hand combat. What the fuck dude? That is so cool!

Dax: That Batmobile-assisted takedown: when that first went in the game, I hadn’t been part of the design meetings where that came up, so it was just one of those things that just appeared in the game, and I was like ‘Woah! Woah what is this? Does anyone else know about this?’. Batman uppercuts a dude, and then the riot suppressor just locks on and ‘boom’, it takes him down when he’s airborne, it’s just that fusion of man and machine that makes perfect sense.

The Batmobile isn’t just this kind of gadget for Batman, it’s this ally; it’s this teammate; it’s this machine that he relies upon and teams up with. Whether it’s getting across the city, or engaging in offense and defence, the integration of the two of them has just been at the heart of our design considerations, right from even before we finished Arkham City. So there’s been like four years of kind of immense thought that’s gone into it, and it’s just coming together so beautifully.

AusGamers: This is a no-brainer, but you guys probably aren’t going to mention anything about it today: but obviously the Batmobile opens up a lot of opportunities for the non-campaign side of the Batman retail package, in the way of challenge maps and things like that. Can you at least mention anything along those lines?

Dax: Well, let me say that the way the Batmobile exists in Batman’s world, and the importance of the Batmobile for Batman, everybody can see -- all of the villains can see -- that the Batmobile is the key to Batman’s survival, and villains like The Riddler, have got it in their head that ‘well, let’s stop trying to take down the man; if we can take down the machine, then he’s vulnerable’.

So all of the challenges that The Riddler is setting up for Batman, are not about breaking the man, they’re about breaking down the machine, and that idea kind of flows in other parts of the game. There’s a sense of the Batmobile being the only thing that can protect Batman in his kind of hour of need, as war has come to Gotham, and Batman is really there with his back against the wall, with the people that he loves in the line of fire. So yeah, I love that about it. There’s this kind of emotional way that you feel about the Batmobile, because it’s not just a car, it’s got all of these other emotional connotations that flow off of that.

AusGamers: Finally, it’s not a dig at the last guys, or the last person that did this, but it must be awesome to have Kevin Conroy back.

Dax: He’s awesome, right? I was actually just talking about this before: the way that I think Kevin understands the story that we have wanted to tell for Arkham Asylum, and the way that Batman’s situation and predicament has become more and more desperate throughout, his voice is really matching that.

You go back and play Arkham Asylum, and he’s just kind of bold and brash, and everything you’d expect from Batman. Then by the end of Arkham City, you get that sense in his voice, that things aren’t going the way that he planned. And now in Arkham Knight, he knows that he needs to bring his A-game, he needs to step it up; he needs to be The Batman more than he’s ever been before, because it’s all on the line.

I think Kevin’s performance really has a lot of subtleties that tweak, and give you that sense of Batman being a powerful character, but also a character with some concerns and reservations about the state of play. He understood right from the beginning that that was the story arc that we were going for. I think he’s been preparing for this since Arkham Asylum.

AusGamers: And that brings it full circle, because it comes right back to that question about this being the most Batman that you can be, as Batman, and you’ve just said that Kevin brought that with him. So that’s actually a manifestation of the entire trilogy that you guys have set out to create.

Dax: Yeah. I mean, being Batman isn’t just about beating the crap out of people. Every superhero can do that, but the beauty of Batman is the humanity and the subtleties in his personality, and the vulnerabilities that surround him, the responsibilities that he places on himself, the childhood experience that he’s had -- no one can do it quite like Kevin Conroy.

So having that performance from him in this kind of epic conclusion to the trilogy, for us it’s one of the most significant things that we build the game around. We track his performance, and we design a game that supports that, as far as we possibly can -- it’s a real pleasure.

AusGamers: Alright everybody, you heard it here first with Dax, and Stephen Farrelly from AusGamers, at E3, wait until you play this game in 2015, it looks amazing. Thanks mate.

Dax: Cheers dude.
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