'The ending was almost taboo' - Rocksteady looks back on Arkham City

Sefton Hill on secrets, multiplayer, and 'that' ending...

Batman: Arkham City was an ambitious sequel to a game that is undoubtedly one of the finest of this generation.

Not only did Rocksteady's build an open-world based on DC's storied Gotham City, but it also took hold of one of the comic book behemoth's most recognisable characters and did the unthinkable.

Following the release of Batman: Arkham City we sat down with Rocksteady's game director, Sefton Hill, to discuss all things Batman movies, games, games, multiplayer - and of course - that controversial ending.

Naturally, there's going to be plenty of spoilers ahead...

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You defined how gamers think of Batman in Arkham Asylum. What's your take on the character?

He's the bad guy for the bad guys. He's the bogeyman. He appears out of nowhere - it's almost like he's cheating. When you watch a horror film - something like Halloween - the bad guy comes out of nowhere, he's always one step ahead, he's always got the drop on them. We wanted you to feel like that as Batman. He knows where people are going and has the ability to anticipate that, through his training and years of experience but that's hard to get across in a game.

It's quite interesting; you never see Batman go anywhere. If someone is going to meet him on the roof, he just walks out of the shadows and he's there. That was really interesting for us, to think: 'how does he get around? How does he do this without anyone knowing? How do we give the player that kind of empowerment?'

I always had a personal frustration with stealth games. When you don't know the layout of the room it's very hard for you to feel like you can get the drop on anyone. You have to bumble through it and fail a few times to build up this conceptual picture of the 3D space. We wanted players to go in and use the space to their advantage, rather than be at a disadvantage to the AI. That was the inspiration really - looking at horror films, which I'm terrified of, and looking at the classic comics.

Which movies scare you the most?

Halloween was always terrifying for me. There's a classic Spanish film about a guy who gets trapped in a telephone box - La Cabina. It terrified me, and still terrifies me today. I really can't watch them now, that's the absolute truth. I'm such a wuss.

How do you handle scary games?

It's kind of embarrassing but I almost can't play them. I played the original Resident Evil and it was terrifying. I really wanted to play System Shock 1 and 2; I started playing them and thought: 'Nope. This is terrifying me'. Turned it off.

Do you ever look at other, similar games for clues on how to do things well? Assassin's Creed and Arkham City share some similarities, for instance.

I never really played Assassin's Creed; I played it for an hour. I find that whenI play similar games my thinking gets quite constrained. It's a limitation of my own but it's more interesting if you have to come up with your own solution because it will give your game a unique feel. I try and avoid playing too much stuff in the same space.

There's certainly a load of gameplay out there that I love, and they've been inspirations in different ways through the years - even looking at modern stuff now which is just incredible. Look at Uncharted 3. The production values are really scary. It's such a competitive industry and it's so scary to see what everyone else is doing. I wish everyone else would just chill! Just stop trying so hard! Let's all just relax!

When development began on Arkham City, EA were saying single player is dead and you have to have multiplayer mode to be competitive. Was there ever a moment where someone insisted that Arkham City needed multiplayer?

We're really thankful to Warner on that. At a time when a lot of publishers said you have to have multiplayer, they backed our ideas for single player.

We did look at multiplayer early on and we looked at what it could actually bring to the table. We tried some ideas out but it always felt like it was just there as arequirement. If we did multiplayer then we wouldn't have been able to deliver the quality of game that people wanted - that we wanted. We would end up delivering two watered down products.

You see games where you feel like they bolted the multiplayer on, but if they had taken that effort and put it into the single player, they would have had a better game instead of having a multiplayer that people don't play.


I can understand why people want multiplayer, but if you buy one game it doesn't stop you buying other games. Idon't know why there's this obsession in the games industry where a game has to be all things to all people. You wouldn't have a film that needs to be drama, romance, horror, all at once - it doesn't have to press every button, it just has to be good. Buy Arkham City and buy Call of Duty or Battlefield if that's what you want!

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