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Batman: Arkham City - Inside the Camden Batcave

PSM3 takes the Northern Line to Rocksteady, makers of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City

The new issue of PSM3 is on sale now.

Rocksteady is tiny. There's room for maybe fifty staff and you can see everyone - bar the audio team in their soundproof bunker - from the entrance. And then you remember... this is the studio behind two of the biggest, best games of the generation. Size means nothing.


If this were America they'd have a hundred employees by now - maybe more - but instead Rocksteady is by far the biggest studio to have remained so small. They're not about expansion and bloat.

"When we were making Arkham Asylum, we had no idea how successful it would be," says Arkham's game director, Sefton Hill. "We just wanted to make great games, and we were trying to figure out the best way of doing that. Even on Urban Chaos that was always our focus."

Rocksteady was founded back in 2004 by Hill - formerly of Sega and Psygnosis - and industry veteran Jamie Walker. Working from a space in Camden, Rocksteady immediately went to work on ultraviolent supercop-'em-up Urban Chaos. "We had just over a year to make the game from start to finish," says Hill.

"We had a business plan where we wanted to go from that and establish ourselves as a triple-A developer on the next gen platforms. We thought it would probably take a couple of titles to do it, but that's what we wanted to do."


What followed was almost five years of experimentation with Unreal 2 and 3 - experiments so impressive they were able to take on Batman for Eidos. "We were fortunate," says Hill. "They had the licence already, and they came to us and said, 'What would be the best game you could come up with?'"

It's easy to forget, four years on, just how little anyone expected from Arkham Asylum; Batman games had a history of failure after failure, and the guys behind Urban Chaos were just another tiny studio given the impossible job of bringing the Dark Knight to life. Arkham Asylum should have been terrible; instead, it nailed it.


"You're so close to the project you've no idea how successful it's going to be," says Hill. "Or if it is going to be successful at all. I was just proud of the work the team had done, but when it was that successful it gave us a real confidence that what we were doing was the right thing. We had our philosophy to create a game that's fun to play - genuinely fun at its core - and it's authentic to Batman. It sounds pretty obvious, but focusing on those two tenets made the game."

It's quiet in the studio now. Some are on holiday, others polishing patches and DLC that has since gone live. We interview Hill in the same room DC-writer Paul Dini and Rocksteady decided to kill the Joker, and chat with community manager Sarah Wellock where Rocksteady splashed steel sheets with acid the week the studio opened. Those sheets still adorn the doors, eight years on.


"Our business model is really simple," says Hill. "It's just to make good games, and then people always want to work with you. I don't think this industry is much more complicated than that." n