‘Batman: Arkham Knight’ Team Talks Next-Gen Gotham City

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Batman Arkham Knight Details

Few fictional villains are able to terrify through downright madness as well as the Joker, the iconic nemesis of DC Comics’ Batman. In Rocksteady’s Arkham series, the villain took his torment of Bruce Wayne from the confines of Arkham Asylum to a city-sized prison that threatened to terrorize the citizens of Gotham City. But in Batman: Arkham Knight, things have changed.

Surprisingly, the city has actually managed to rebuild itself one year after the events of Arkham City, recovering under the watchful gaze of its winged protector. The story concocted for the franchise’s finale promised to ruin that recovery, but it still requires the developers create a game world far more complicated than those which preceded it. Now, the developers have explained what fans can hope for, and why their version of Gotham City is only possible on next-gen systems.

The breathtaking announcement trailer gave a quick description of Arkham Knight‘s basic premise: the various villains and gangs of Gotham join forces to bring down the Bat in their own unique ways, possibly led by the mysterious Arkham Knight – the brand new villain after whom Rocksteady has named the game. Little is known about the new enemy, but Arkham‘s first foray into next-gen will apparently be its last, so we’re betting we’ll know more soon.

Batman Arkham Knight Gotham Screenshot

Among the returning villains is Dr. Jonathan Crane (known as ‘The Scarecrow’), who threatens to blanket Gotham City in his signature fear toxin, leading to a city-wide evacuation. While that presents an effective reason for the game’s environment to feel devoid of citizens (one of the series’ few criticisms), it doesn’t change the fact: the developers have needed to craft a larger, and more technically demanding environment than ever before.

The development team has explained to Game Informer just how much of an increase in size and detail fans can expect, and why it was never possible to even consider bringing the game to previous-gen consoles. Director Sefton Hill claims that next-gen development may be an intimidating thing for some studios and designers, but the team not only knew they were up to the task, they were begging for the chance to go to next-gen:

“I think for us the main thing was, ‘Please let us make this game. It’s not going to be quick, and it’s going to be quite hard, and it’s probably going to be quite expensive.”

“It’s not a challenge to move to next-gen. The real challenge is making sure you’re getting the best out of the machines. It’s easy to get the game running, but it’s about, ‘What can we do that really pushes those machines?’ Obviously, you see a lot of games that are cross-gen, and they feel a bit reined in because of that. Because we were able to make that decision quite early, we were able to be more ambitious with the design and make a real, genuine next-gen game.”

Fans have long hoped to one day gain access to the entirety of Gotham City, and Arkham Knight will do just that, whether players choose to traverse it gliding over rooftops or barreling down the streets in the brand new Batmobile. But Hill is quick to remind players that in open-world game design, size isn’t everything:

“As we’ve said before with Arkham City, it’s not about the scale as much as the detail. We want to make sure the world is rich and full of interesting things to do. We’re not trying to create the biggest open-world game ever. We are trying to create a really rich, vibrant, dense open world.

Batman Arkham Knight Gotham City Size

“Arkham City was quite claustrophobic. Here we have a lot more negative space between the buildings so it’s much easier and more enjoyable to glide around.”

That negative space will be put to good use as well, filled with the same mix of thugs, hired guns and small-time hoods as the previous Arkham games. The goons may not offer players the same kind of challenge as the game’s roster of villains, but there will certainly be more of them. Lead AI programmer Tim Hanagan puts the number of active thugs around “three and four times” the amount seen in Arkham City, meaning even if Gotham has been evacuated, it’ll be far from empty.

But it isn’t just overall numbers of NPCs that can populate a game space that shows how next-gen hardware has changed the formula. Lead Character Artist Albert Feliu echoes Hill’s claim that the leap to next-gen isn’t about the overall scope, but the incredibly high level of detail:

“At the beginning, we started making characters that were about three to four times the polygon count and texture sizes of Arkham City. As we kept going with every character we just pushed it more. It’s the kind of thing that sounds insane. Like, one character is as big as the polygon count of Arkham Asylum – the whole environment.”

Comments like that set the standards for next-gen fairly high, but whether the finished product’s improvements are all immediately noticeable or not, owners of the PS4 and Xbox One have another truly next-gen game to look forward to.

Where does Arkham Knight rank on your list of anticipated next-gen games? Will you need to see a bit more to be assured the issues of the previous games have been addressed, or is Arkham an empty well after three entries in the series? Leave your thoughts in the comments.


Batman: Arkham Knight will be released in 2014 for the PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.

Source: Game Informer

TAGS: Batman, Batman Arkham Knight, PC, PS4, Rocksteady Studios, Warner Bros. Interactive, Xbox One

  • fake

    “Blah blah blah, we are still only giving you a small area to play in.”

    That combined with the 3 previous games being the same damn rehash over and over has me at 0 excitement. Oh look, you get this big story from one of the better graphic novels with a bunch of the villai-NOPE, really all about Joker. Hey, look, an entire chunk of the city, all to fight against a portion of Gotham gone mad under the eye of Hugo Str-NOPE, Joker lol. The early years of Batman and this violence filled night packed with 8 assassi-NOPE Joker, who’da thunk it!

    Bet it’s Harley this time that is Joker in disguise, because screw originality. Arkham Asylum was a hit that they have just tried to repackage now 4 times.

    • Nathan

      You’re such a hater, arkham asylum changed batman game standards, arkham city introduced open world and origins barely counts as it wasn’t even made my rocksteady.

      • fake

        Nice job not addressing what I said. I bring up story, you go ‘Derp, open world, lol!’

        Thanks for helping kill game franchises, bandwagoner.

    • MiffedMonkey1

      I think “five times” the size of Arkham City hardly constitutes a small environment. And of course the Joker was the bad guy. He’s Batman’s arch nemesis. But I’m pretty he won’t be resurrected, and I doubt he’d go the route of an iron-clad Batman lookalike to fight the actual Batman. As for “rehash,” are you JUST complaining about the Joker or more? Because as far as mechanics are concerned, Arkham is great and there’s no need to make huge innovations. That Batmobile itself is ALL the innovation it took for me to want this game. “Don’t fix what isn’t broken.”

      • MiffedMonkey1

        pretty sure*

      • Ra’s Al Ghul

        The head writer for the story said in an interview that the Joker is dead, and they want it to stay that way. Unless somebody in the story decides to toss him in a lazarus pit, he won’t come back.

      • fake

        You are the reason AAA titles suck. Because companies can release the same thing every year as a blatant money grab, and you will pay them. Turning Batman into Madden or Call of Duty is ridiculous.

        And yes, it was a rehash story wise. They just used Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth for the first game, with the addition of the Titan sub-plot (which was the weakest part) while not including the best moments of the graphic novel. And then for the next game, it is yet again “Big dumb sub-plot, lol, Joker is the real enemy here!” That shit gets real boring, and real annoying, real fast. Giant Rogue’s Gallery, best in comics, and you make the main enemy the same one every time, and make the rest side characters. Does Superman’s best comics and movies come only from Luthor? No, simple as that. They use Joker as a crutch for their weak stories.

        And you don’t even know how the Batmobile will be implemented, so don’t get on about innovation, when you just want to justify the hype rather than think.

        • MiffedMonkey1

          You can’t deny that a great abundance of Superman media features Luthor as the villain though. Luthor is featured entirely too much, just as the Joker is. But they’re pretty much the main villains of their respective universes.

          And, I’m sorry, but I’m the reason AAA games suck? The thing you’re stating the first game was based off of, “Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth”, I’ve never heard of it. I’m not big into reading comics, but I like knowing about some of the stories and characters sometimes so I consider my knowledge of the Batman universe very mediocre, so excuse me for enjoying the first game quite a lot because I haven’t been bombarded with the Joker in all of the Batman material and I didn’t play through something that was just a rehash in my eyes.

          As far I’m concerned with the second game, it took what the first game did, and to me, gave you more play space and more villains to fight on the way to eliminating the Joker. I won’t deny that advertising Hugo Strange and then flipping it over to the Joker is a bit lame, but the game was still awesome to me.

          So, when I’m able to actually enjoy a game that the majority of people who played it enjoy, I’m the problem? MAYBE it’s just not a game for you. I know Batman isn’t new in videogames, but let’s be honest, the Arkham series is probably the only major foray into videogaming that Batman has ever had, and when you make such a big entry and it’s still kind of fresh, you ought to start with the vanilla. So that would be Batman vs Joker.

          Now you’re right about me not knowing how the Batmobile will be implemented. But, do I really need to know every single specific mechanic to be excited? I know THIS: The Batmobile is a sweet looking car and I’ll be allowed to drive it, and driving in whatever capacity we’ll be allowed is a new thing in Arkham, so I’m excited. So what if I don’t what the other features are? They’ll be showcased eventually, and at that point I can be more critical of what it will be like, but for now, the HYPE is all I have for a game that I happen to actually LIKE.

        • othras

          First, it’s been almost 2 years since the last Arkham game, and almost 4 since the last Rocksteady Arkham game, so you can’t compare those to annual releases like CoD and Madden.
          Second, they used Paul Dini to write the story for Asylum and City, 3 people for Origins, a prequel, and now they have 3 different people writing Knight’s story, and they’ve clarified that the Joker is dead, so I’m PRETTY sure they’re going to focus on other villains besides the Joker.

    • Crash Enthusiast

      I actually totally agree. After Arkham City, they totally f***ed up the story line. The only good “Back to the beginning” game I have ever played was reach. Gameplay was good in the last one, but the story was completely filler. And this one is the sequel to the prequel? Just let it go, leave the game series where it is and people will remember it as being good. But keeping it going is going to ruin it.
      “Either you die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”

      • MiffedMonkey1

        Sequel to the prequel? This is a sequel to Arkham City.

      • Tank

        Not only did this company have NOTHING to do with the prequel, this isn’t a sequel to the prequel.

  • Kyun

    If u kno better batman stories without the jokers involvement why don’t u send the idea to rocksteady? Anyways they are one of the boldest and genius minded companies to do a batman open world game and every time they do it they make it special. They practically win an award every time. Whether its joker taking over in this film or bane or scarecrow I don’t care at the end of the day it’s gonna be great

    • fake

      Nice attempt at English there, ace. And most of the good Batman story arcs of the last, oh, say 30 years, have had no joker, or very little. In fact, you can count the good Joker arcs in that time on 1 hand. One dead actor doesn’t elevate a comic character to indispensable status.

      The first game is just the Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, but with a shitty ‘Titan’ sub-plot added in. You want something fun? Have them make a Court of Owls game. Or give you a real detective game revolving around Hush or Heart of Hush, hell, they could give No Man’s Land a shot and have a good reason why there are no civvies.

      But they won’t. Because story wise, they are incredibly uncreative, unimaginative, and tend to screw up character interpretations worse than the movies did (No, Joker and he are not friends. Bruce has admitted to wanting him dead, but he is afraid that knowing Gotham, it will just spit something worse at him to take his place).

      • Tank

        This is based on both Hush and No Man’s Land. Do your research before you throw a tantrum like a little baby.

  • Darren

    This sounds awesome. Hoping it turns out great.;