At what moment (spoilers) did you realise you were going to kill the Joker?
We decided fairly early on, I guess. Batman is very much about the story, so we discuss the story early. Right at the start we sat down and thought what story we wanted to tell. We knew we had Joker starting off sick from the previous game and we wanted to play on that idea. Pretty early on we hit on this idea of Joker poisoning Batman and the two of them having this kind of shared goal, but with diametrically opposed world views. We felt that gave a lot of opportunity to interact in interesting ways, and I guess then we sort of knew that we wanted that story to have resonance in the universe.
You invest time in a game and this story, and you want to feel like the universe is affected by the events you play. We didn't want it to feel hollow - Joker starts off poisoned, Batman gets poisoned, where does that story go? We knew people would be thinking: 'obviously they're not going to kill Batman or Joker, right?' We felt killing Joker was a really striking end. It was almost taboo, like it was something we could never do. That would be interesting.
The idea of the two Jokers was something we hit upon early. If you play through the game again, you can see a ton of hints that the end is going to happen. Lots of people talking in the street talking about that as you play through. At some point we'll release a video of all the hints, or something.
Did anybody at DC or Warner object to you killing their character?
They were quite good with it actually. DC, Warner, Paul Dini - they were all in this room discussing the story and discussing what we want to do. It was never a case of them saying: 'you can't kill him,' it was more about whether we were only killing him for shock value.
There were no dissenting voices, as long as it was done in a proper way, as long as it was clear that Batman didn't go out to kill him - that's never what Batman would do. Joker being responsible for his own downfall because he wasn't able to resist stabbing Batman in the back was something we thought would be a nice poetic end for him.
Is Arkham City a middle act?
Er... Could be. It depends...
Middle acts are always darker than what comes before and next, and Arkham City is a very dark game. You have two endings, and each way someone dies...
The Catwoman ending was interesting - giving her the opportunity to walk away and leave Batman. In that situation, what decision would she make? Batman is morally clear. What he would do in all situations is clear, it's always for the greater good. But Catwoman is not quite the same. It was interesting to give the player that choice, but the idea came very late in production. Originally you had to go back and save Batman, but we started kicking that around - would she stay, would she walk away? None of us were one hundred per cent sure, so we decided to leave it to the player.
It was only a few months before we wrapped up work on the game. Myself, the lead level designer and the lead narrative designer said: 'what if we do?' We spoke to the audio guy and went with that idea of the rewind so the game didn't just end there - that would be a bit harsh. The cinematic guys were up for it. We were all working crazy hours, but we all thought it was worth putting in because it was too good not to. That's one of the nice things about the studio as a whole. We're a triple A developer, but we're relatively small, and it gives us the opportunity to be quite agile. That was something we decided in one day and we spent two days putting it in, had a few problems with it, fixed them, and shipped the game.
You teased Arkham City in a secret room in the first game. How early on did you have the concept for Arkham City locked down?
We knew we wanted to take the game into Gotham and let Batman loose. Maybe six to eight months before the end of Arkham Asylum, we started to think about what comes next. We didn't know that anything was going to come next, but we hoped we'd be lucky enough to make another one. We went back and looked at the story to see where we could link the two games - things like Quincy Sharp running for mayor, the Hugo Strange cameo... The secret room was the main one, and we even used some of the concept work and initial ideas from Arkham City and stuck them in that room, so you can actually see some of the original concept work we did.