What will Arkham Knight offer players who are worried that it'll just be a bigger version of City, or for those that preferred Asylum?
The entire world itself is designed to give the player freedom of choice and freedom of navigation. The atmosphere, I think though, in Asylum, was really unique and memorable, and I think hardcore AA fans really love it because it felt like a high-pressure, claustrophobic pressure cooker kind of environment.
The way we're approaching atmosphere in [Arkham Knight] is to [ask] what is the atmosphere of Gotham? It's a pretty unique place, it's got a unique sense of place. Whether it's the weather, the shadows, the sounds, we've put an insane amount of effort and energy into making it feel like Gotham. Not any city, Gotham city.
Tell us about the creation of this version of the Batmobile.
Very collaborative. The decisions that we've made from a gameplay perspective, we've always had awesome support from DC and Warner on whatever we want to do...in terms of design, there's a lot of functional stuff that needed to be present in the design because of what it's doing in the world. You can see the destruction that it's bringing so it needed to look heavy, it needed to look imposing, it needed to look like a wrecking ball. There are also elements of the design from Asylum, that we wanted to reflect here. So if you look at the shape of the fins, or the pipes on the side, they exist in both [cars]. The sense of evolution between the cars was important as well.
Do you think that the game will potentially suffer without the presence of the Joker?
That was the plan from the beginning, that the Scarecrow and Joker were double billed in Asylum, and I think that worked incredibly well. Then the focus was squarely on Joker in the sequel to build him up to the climactic death. And then bringing Scarecrow back to fill that power vacuum, that was the broad narrative arc that we had decided on early on.
I think Scarecrow as a character is awesome, as he brings that psychological angle that Joker never had. He's just about chaos and carnage. Guys like you that love Asylum, I think it's Scarecrow's presence that gives the game such a unique flavour. And that's something that's really exciting to me about Arkham Knight...I love the way Scarecrow messes with Batman's head, and to be able to do that and unify the rogue's gallery against Batman, all working together to take him down and destroy him, having a psychological puppet master at the top of that is such an exciting thing in prospect.
You've explored the various mental trauma that Batman/Bruce Wayne suffers in the previous two games. Are you going to build on that for Arkham Knight?
It's definitely the most emotional game we've ever made, and that emotion is all about Batman, the man, it's about his childhood, the decisions that he's made throughout the course of his life. The connection that he's made with Oracle, the connection he's made with Jim Gordon, the disparity in information they have about him and the tension that brings between father and daughter. These are all things we're exploring and playing with, because it draws out the emotional content that exists within him as a fairly conflicted, traumatised guy. As well as the experience he's had through Asylum and City, that continues all the way through. So Arkham Knight really is a wrap-up of everything that has happened previously, as the ramifications of the decisions he's made start to bear fruit.
Making Arkham Knight PS4, Xbox One and PC-only gives you a lot more power to play with, but you've got to use it wisely. How did you allocate your resources?
[The power you mention] is not infinite, it's about making choices as to where you go crazy and where you rein it back, because you can't go insane on everything. We went insane on the Batmobile, insane on the city, but they were the choices we were committing to because we know from a gameplay perspective that's important. That's what fans have been calling for since the beginning, and that's what we wanted to do as well. So I don't feel like we're doing that because we're under pressure to do so, but instead that's where we always wanted the franchise and trilogy to go. So, the detail that's in the Batmobile is just ridiculous, in terms of the poly count. The size of the city, the texture detail is ridiculous as well. We've had to make hard decisions about where we keep our heads fairly screwed on.
How easy is it going to be to let it go?
Even though we're still a young studio, we're still quite an experienced developer, that's what we do best. Third person single-player action games, that's what we do best. What happens next...I don't think that anyone is thinking that far in advance, because we need to keep our eye on the ball, as we have so much work to do on Arkham Knight, rounding out the trilogy. [We want to focus on] that sense of completion, which comes with a great sense of pride that we've made really good quality stuff. That's what we always wanted to do. So the realisation of the plan, the plan has gone to plan, that's pretty rare in development. It's incredibly complex, and to have it go well so far and look like it's going to continue, that's a really nice feeling.