Batman Arkham Origins: Over-Analysis Part 1

By Shamus
on Dec 3, 2013
Filed under:
Batman

The first two Arkham games were developed by Rocksteady, and they were phenomenal. They sold well, were reviewed well, and are remembered well. They hold up both in terms of gameplay and as a vehicle for Batman stories. That’s pretty much a best-case scenario. Sure, you can nitpick the games (I sure did) and talk about how they could be improved, but at some point you’re kind of wishing for the moon when you’ve already been given the sun. They are not perfect games, but they shine bright compared to their contemporaries.

So it was kind of surprising to me when Batman: Arkham Origins was handed off to Warner Brothers Games Montréal. Note that since Warner Brothers is also the publisher, the result is that this newest game is more “in-house”, from the perspective of the people that own the Batman franchise. I’ve read some rumors, but they don’t say much and don’t really hint at the “why” behind this move.

Why change developers when the series was doing so well?

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Conjecture: As per the rumors, Time Warner wants to “monetize the superheroes through films, games, televised series’, and cartoons.” So they probably want to repeat the success of the Arkham series with Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, or whoever else might sell some games. The thing is that launching a new franchise is risky. An established series can survive a bad title, but a bad first effort will smother the series in its crib.

I imagine that WB handed the already successful title to another team in the hopes that they could simply copy what Rocksteady had already established. Meanwhile, WB gave the team at Rocksteady the task of creating gameplay for (say) Superman, in the hopes that they will “get” Supes just as well as they did the Dark Knight.

This makes sense according to the risk-averse thinking of publishers. Sure, this can still end badly. Maybe a new team won’t copy the formula properly and we’ll end up with a malformed Batman game, and maybe the lightning won’t strike twice at Rocksteady. Still, if you’re never looking beyond the next release then this move makes the most sense.

Further conjecture: I’d predict that Rocksteady is either working on Green Lantern or Superman, since those two are the ones that have been turned into movies recently. Superman is problematic because the guy is so amazingly powerful that it’s hard to design a game where the player can fight “mooks”, or needs to hit anything more than once. Green Lantern is problematic for other reasons.

I wasn’t crazy about the idea of making the next Arkham game a prequel, but I understand why WBGM did it. It let them hide all the seams between the old and new. We could talk for ages about the external factors that sort of painted this new team into a design corner: The departure of key voice actors, the way Mark Hamil’s Joker stole the show last time around, the scope and lore of the previous games, the influence and expectations of the Christopher Nolan movies and the New 52 being blended with the classic Bat-lore in the minds of the public. All of these forces – mixed with general expectation that the scope of the game needs to keep expanding with each iteration – really trapped WBGM with regard to what the game needed to be about, where it needed to take place, and who could be in it. Moving into prequel territory freed them from some constraints. Most notably, it let them use Joker.

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I’d complain about the Joker over-use in this series, but it was sort of inevitable:

Arkham Asylum: Well of course we have to focus the first game on the Joker. It’s a game set in an insane asylum and he’s the craziest of the bunch. That’s his whole character. It would be strange to not have the game revolve around him.

Arkham City: Mark Hamill was retiring from the Joker role, and the team needed to give him a fitting send-off. You couldn’t very well let the most popular actor of the most popular Batman villain retire in a subplot. Like the death of Robin or Bane breaking Batman’s back, this isn’t the kind of thing you do in optional side missions. If it’s in the game, it’s got to be part of the story. And if it’s in the story, then it has to be central because nothing else can top it.

Arkham Origins: WBGM was new to the series and had some big shoes to fill. After the event’s of Arkham City, Ra’s al Ghul, Hugo Strange, and the Joker were off the table, since they were the major players of the last game. Harley Quinn was the DLC villain of Arkham City, so they couldn’t use her again. Riddler has been established as the “collect the secrets and hidden items” guy of this series, so they couldn’t use him as the central villain.

Bane is a big one, but remember that while WBGM was writing Origins, the Dark Knight Rises was still an upcoming release and it was already known that the movie would feature Bane. The last thing this new developer would want would be to stand in the shadow of BOTH Rocksteady Batman and Nolan Batman at the same time. Moreover, the Bane of the first two Arkham games isn’t a mastermind with waves of henchman to fight, so building a game around him would have been difficult.

Penguin, Two-face, and Poison Ivy have been demoted to second-tier gang leaders in the game, so fighting them would feel like a step down. Sure, it could be done, but WBGM had their work cut out for them before they even started, and the last thing they wanted to do was show up with Batman’s B-list supervillains.

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So who’s left? Catwoman? Mr. Freeze? Batman’s rogue’s gallery is pretty big, but a lot of names are off the list and there aren’t many others who are really “famous” to the general public. Mad Hatter, Zsasz, and Killer Croc just don’t have the kind of ambition and name recognition to carry a game on their own.

(The pre-Nolan Batman movies had this same problem. Batman has THE JOKER, about a half-dozen secondary foes, and a hundred obscure tertiary ones. Once they play THE JOKER card, writers start throwing secondary foes at him in groups in an attempt to keep the stakes high. But if you’re burning through second-stringers two or three at a time then you’ll run out fast and find yourself stuck with guys like Calendar Man.)

I think WBGM could have made a run at it with a Scarecrow / Bane story, but that would have been risky. They would have needed a lot of confidence in their writing to go that route. In the end they decided to play it safe and jump back in time so they could use THE JOKER.

WBGM knew they would be following two smash-hit games and the conclusion of a popular movie trilogy. Which is probably why we see this game show such a lack of confidence. They wanted to open with the big guns, which is why we have THE JOKER, plus Penguin AND Bane AND Eight! Deadly! Assassins! All this, plus we’re trying to introduce almost every major character in the series, all in one night. What we end up with is a conveyor belt of fanservice where the game stops every few minutes to shout WELL LOOK WHO IT IS! DO YOU REMEMBER THIS CHARACTER? HUH? FROM THE COMICS? COOL, RIGHT?

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I’m going to use this series of posts to go over Arkham Origins in high-resolution nitpick mode and look at what WBGM did differently, what worked, and what didn’t. I’m not doing this because I disliked Origins, I’m doing it because this transition from one developer to another is a really interesting opportunity. We can see the same basic design doc as interpreted by two different teams. That’s like hearing the same music played by two different musicians, or the same play as performed by two different theater groups.

Tune in next week, same Bat-time, same Bat-blog.

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  1. Thomas says:

    I’m pretty excited about Rocksteady not working on this game. The thing that disappointed me about Arkham City was it replayed the same gameplay/narrative tricks that made the first game so amazing (particularly the one day/cape-ripping worn-down thing).

    So with a new franchise I hope they can do it again, building a game from the ground up to reflect an idea of something. Of course if instead they build a game from the ground up to reflect the idea of Batman then they fail the test of being a completely awesome developer, but I don’t think they will do that.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I hope your conjecture is true,because while I enjoyed this trilogy immensely,Id like to see someone new with this brawler mechanic,because batman became a tad bit stale.Maybe wonder woman,for a change.Though green lantern can work.Heck,they can even stay in gotham and go with robin for a change.

    Though Id much more prefer it if marvel did something like this with their heroes,because they have a bunch of a listers that rely on gadgets(like iron man,or green arrow).And they kind of did something like this with spiderman,but that was console exclusive,so boo.

    • Ciennas says:

      Ye gods, I’d like to see someone create a Wonder Woman ANYTHING.

      Woman hasn’t gotten a chance to shine on her own since the seventies.

      • Ciennas says:

        Also, I would totally want to play a full scale game sort of like the Avengers Alliance game on the android and istore.

        it’s got that nice blnded universe feel, and it has an interesting plot to boot.

        it would even mesh well as a brawl ’em up or whatever these things are.

        Have any of you guys played it?

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        Anything but this I take?

        My problem with a Green Lantern game is that when I was much younger and read the comics the thing that interested me the most about it was the sort creativity that the ring offered. This aspect of Green Lantern doesn’t really translate well to video games which, for obvious reasons, have to limit the ring’s uses to a few scripted manifestations (so most likely stuff like green armour, giant fists, shield, energy beams, maybe a lever or giant hands for lifting something). The closest game I can think of that would tap into this aspect of Green Lantern would be Scribblenauts.

        • Felblood says:

          Okay, this is why a green lantern game, especially a cheap one churned out in hopes of cashing in on a movie, is a terrible idea.

          –BUT!

          This is also why a Green Lantern Corps game has the potential to be a great tool, for drawing new people into that area of the DC lore.

          Take a handful of the Green Lanterns of your choice, and build a game around showcasing these characters and clearly establishing a unique identity for each of them, through the medium of the distinctive objects they summon.

          This would work well as a brawler game, but they did that with the last game, and you don’t want to be reminding people of that. Instead I would borrow the basic game-play conceits from either Lego Star Wars or Tales of Symphonia. The specific details of what the characters do isn’t as important, as being absolutely sure that the WAY each character does their thing is distinctive, endearing, and 100% in-tune with what makes that character work in other continuities.

          You do this right, and you’ll be sending away new fans, with a new favorite character, they had never heard of before. Basically you want to do for each of your chosen Lanterns, what the Iron Man movie did for, well Iron Man. The goal is to literally catapult each character you portray from the realm of Comic Book Obscura to the realm of Superstardom.

          You pull this off and the money you make off off character pack DLC and annualized sequels will pale compared to the T-shirts, toys and posters.

    • anaphysik says:

      Green Arrow is actually DC. /Hawkeye/ is the most prominent Marvel arrow-dude.

      But anyway, a Green-Arrow/Hawkeye-based game would probably be cool. Totally different sort of gameplay (could even be puzzle-like).

      (Green Arrow had a successful TV series thing recently, correct? A bit surprising of them not to try to spring off of that.)

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Whoops.

        But thanks,now I see that even dc can work their arrow guy into this game,which would be cool.After all,for some unfathomable reason,arrows are made to be superior to guns in plenty of shooters already,so why not have a game where such a thing is actually explained in canon.

        • Mathias says:

          Ugh, that TV show.

          So I realize that Green Arrow was originally just left-wing Batman, and that aping the Dark Knight and Robin Hood is sort of his thing.

          …But did they have to make a TV show that basically made him into an archer version of Batman? And then have the archery be so awful to watch if you’ve ever done so much as hobby archery?

          • In my opinion, nothing has yet topped Orlando Bloom’s firing of an arrow in Troy where he might have been trying to do concentrating but it looks like “oh crap, did I just kill an extra?” level of panic. Especially coming right after lotr, it just looked so damn wrong.

            Arrow is uneven at best, I find, so I file it with Supernatural & Who in the “am I in the mood and does this episode involve or potentially involve something I like” pile. At this point, it’s a “is there John Barrowman being awesome?” or “is Constantine back?” or nothing, and even that’s worn thin. In fact, I think I’ve never actually seen most of the second halves of any season after the first. Only reason I watched the first few was well, I knew Constantine was coming in for one and that was worth sitting through the rest.

            Supernatural’s managed to not yet wear out the monster of the week bit with me, mostly because that’s a fascination and also because hey, occasionally funny, good actor chemistry, Badger from Firefly’s the devil now and because I keep waiting to see when they’re bringing out Cthulhu for the Winchesters at all to defeat somehow. I am rather hoping for sushi jokes at that point. I kinda think of it as my guilty pleasure show.

            Who, well, it’s worn out with me. I can still see the charm in the old new stuff (9 and 10) but 11 wore me out. The movie thing got me back for a bit, and I like the actor for 12 but it’s just meh.

            (Shamus, I swear I am closing the browser and finding a book. I apologize if I’ve been even slightly annoying, I know I’m operating on a drunk level of sleep deprivation and I do hope it’s been entertaining instead of annoying. Have a good week!)

    • Gilfareth says:

      Personally, I hope for a Teen Titans game with this sort of combat. I grew up with the animated show and had a soft spot for the group ever since, which is why it pains me that they seem so darn obscure these days.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Hey,thats an even better idea!A brawler with mutliple different characters to choose from.We hadnt had a good one of those in a while(no,consoles dont count).

      • The Rocketeer says:

        Teen Titans was DC’s big chance to get me into comics, which have never interested me. The show first came on when I was right in the target age for it, and the show itself was just really, really good. When I got off the school bus, whatever show came on before Teen Titans would have about ten minutes left and then I would watch Teen Titans. That was just how it was. I was hooked on the characters, the tone was pitch-perfect, and it could tell a wide variety of stories and episodes with equal aptitude, going from zany and arch one episode to a bit darker and more serious and character focused than you would expect from a show like that.

        So when I finally realized, “Hey, these characters all came from a comic series, I should check it out!” I was pretty crushed when I found out the Teen Titans comics series were and are terrible. I found them to be offensively bee-ay-dee bad for an outlandish number of reasons as a middle/high schooler, and I find them to be just as awful for an outlandish number of completely different reasons today, as I enter my mid-twenties.

        The worst part of it, at least to me now, is the difference between the show’s Starfire and the comics’ Starfire. In the show, she seems to me, in my utter cluelessness as a twenty-something male, a character perfectly crafted for girls in their mid-teens. She’s feminine but powerful and competent, she has a lot of aspects that I think her target audience could latch on to and identify with. Even in being Robin’s love interest, she’s an active participant in their growing relationship and not just the team-leader’s damsel. Hell, she stars in a Very Special Episode which is the most thinly-veiled metaphor for puberty you could expect to get away with putting on kids’ television. Despite being and having been the diametric opposite of the character then and now, I still might mark her as my favorite character in the cast just for how well I think she fills a role that’s sorely needed and rare as a three-dollar bill.

        Comics’ Starfire? Some of the most brazen and obvious male wish-fulfillment I’ve seen from the industry, and boooooooy is THAT ever saying something, from writers who are probably way too old for that not to be just seriously goddamn creepy.

        So, yeah, that was DC’s chance to get me into the industry. I don’t really read comics, and I’ve never been convinced I’m missing out on anything. So, uh, there’s 400 words about a show I’m about six years too old to care about this much still, I guess.

  3. The challenge for Superman is both simple to accomplish successfully yet difficult for video game developers. In theory, games are already about invulnerable, undefeatable protagonists. Your eventual victory isn’t in question, it’s just how many times you have to reload the game.

    In a Superman game, with the exception of a few boss characters and anyone armed with Kryptonite or magic, Supes’ “death” would have to be replaced by a different “loss state.” Most likely, this would be not achieving a goal in time or not stopping something from happening. If the game were done like the better parts of Mass Effect, it’d be neat to have your choices determine parts of the plot outcome (did Lois die? Did Jimmy? Did you kill them on purpose? Does Lex Luthor get away with all of the cakes he stole?), which would be a satisfying replacement for getting “killed” in other games.

    Unfortunately, I could see such a game have your choices mean nothing, the suits wouldn’t understand a game where major characters could be killed off even though there would be a “canonical” ending going forward, and a lot of the gameplay would likely be escort missions, obstacle courses, or other time-killers that devs seem to think are “fun.”

    • While I’m dreaming here, wouldn’t it be great if your ending for the first game was left intact for the second, which becomes a kind of Crisis on Infinite Earths game? You could meet up with/fight an Alt-U Superman who calls you out on who you’ve let die or is jealous of your reality because of who you saved that he didn’t. Missions could be undertaken to change the final reality that comes out of the game or defends the existing one from being changed. In either case, it’s not a straight retcon via a button press, you have to undertake missions to alter/preserve the timeline you want.

      The aforementioned suits at WB might be placated if they couch all of this in the “Earth-X” mode the comics seem to cast all of the TV shows, films, etc. as. “Oh, the video game takes place in Earth-1337, and if Lois gets killed and Lex Luthor gets life in prison, that’s Earth-442” and so forth.

    • Thomas says:

      That would be really interesting if they could find a good implementation. A videogame protagonist who can’t die except in very rare moments sends out a very strong single.

      I don’t think it’s their only or most important problem though, if they want to make a game. The key to the success of Akrham is at every design decision they asked ‘what should being Batman feel like?’ and then built the mechanic around that.

      Invunerability is an important part of superman and I really love the idea of actually tying that straight into the game, but they need a central idea of what Superman is and tie into that. Batman is fear and shadows, achieving through determination and dedication. Superman is more like hope and openness and strength to cast aside the bad (and maybe the responsibilities that brings).

      I actually think that anything which focused it’s core on beating people up could only ever be a good superman game. A great game would need a central mechanic better than that. Whereas in Arkham it was generally a good decision to hide civilians, Batman exists in the underworld, I actually think civilians would need to be very obviously present with superman. When he’s fighting there should be a direct link between that and the innocent people around him being improved. Maybe the more successful superman is the more ‘hopeful’ the people around him are and they stop cowering and take action/get themselves to safety. etc

      Designing a great superman game would be a really interesting challenge (and very relevant since the most recent film failed to find the ‘idea’ of superman in the same way). I really hope a smart studio takes the challenge on

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        There’s a lot of ways to fail, even for an invulnerable and basically invincible hero. Mostly, though they’re essentially MANAGEMENT problems. Management of time, attention, knowing when to set up a delaying action versus actually resolving an issue, a la “can I pen this guy up, or keep him busy fighting the fires you’ve set long enough to run this other guy back to the authorities?” It makes for a VERY different game than Batman, but it might be a good change…

        • What you could do and what missions you could undertake might also hinge on some kind of detective work for Superman. Walking around as Clark Kent or having conversations with various people could unlock missions or set events in motion. If an event is necessary to the plot, maybe a talk with a police officer, one with Lois Lane, and one with… aw, heck, let’s say Batman lets you do some apparently small things that later make the plot-event a bit easier or brings in allies or whatever.

          Also, if they wanted to try the Fallout 1 way of motivating you, at the end of the game, you could get a victory cutscene that changes depending on how much Metropolis was damaged, which villains got away, which people you saved, etc. It doesn’t mean you “lost,” but many players will want to try and affect the outcome to get what they consider to be the “best” ending.

          • Peter H. Coffin says:

            I love the “Investigate as Clark to figure out what to do” idea. That is awesome, and I hope it could be a substantial chunk of the game. It becomes almost a cloak mode, because otherwise every move in public is all “It’s Superman! Hey, look everybody!”. And getting spotted changing by anyone is a fail state.

          • Isy says:

            I really like the “Clark Investigation” idea, and I agree that the focus of Superman shouldn’t be “punch all the bad guys” because he should just win. The focus for Superman should be to save and protect people, because that’s who he is and what he’s concerned about. The major issue with this is that big game companies have proven notoriously bad at implementing game mechanics that don’t involve “kill all the dudes”, and attempting a game where that isn’t the focus has all the hallmarks of disaster written on it. I’m envisioning a game that is literally nothing but escort quests. It would be a nightmare.

            I’d be very interested to hear an idea for a Superman game mechanic that didn’t involve punching foes through walls.

      • syal says:

        I kind of like the idea of Superman playing protector of the innocent in the middle of a war. With, like… whatever you call it when everything moves forward at the same pace and you have to choose the order in which you deal with events to save as many people as you can.

        And every hundred-and-forty-fifth soldier has a Kryptonite weapon and you can’t tell them apart.

        • Ooooh… Imagine a DC Comics RTS circa WWII. You have Golden Age versions of the major characters to use along with military units in a campaign to defeat Hitler.

          And yes, an Avengers (actually it’d be the Invaders) game in a similar vein could be fun, too.

    • Hal says:

      Most likely, this would be not achieving a goal in time or not stopping something from happening.

      That’s a great idea! Perhaps if the player had to fly through obstacles in a specific amount of time. I guess you could do rings, but that might seem out of place.

      • I’m sorry, but my generation demands that Lex Luthor fly around Metropolis via a backpack-mounted helicopter rotor. :P

        Essentially, however, you wouldn’t be that far off from what most companies would do, I fear. I’d be impressed if they made it something more Superman-worthy, like smashing some of Darkseid’s forces at X number of locations in Y amount of time.

    • Khizan says:

      The biggest problem with a Superman game is the “Superman Syndrome”, which is when the protagonist becomes so powerful that you have to come up with really esoteric situations to justify the hero having difficulty with it. Because of this, I contend that it’s impossible to really get a satisfying Superman game.

      Arkham Asylum was so good because it was a really cool Batman experience. Stealthy. Skillful. Grapple up to a ledge, inch along it, drop into a group of dudes and beat them senseless with this giant flowing Bat-Combo. You can die, but you’re so much better than them that as long as you don’t mess it up, you’re going to stomp a group of mooks flat, because you’re the goddamn Batman.

      The Superman experience, though, is going to be basically impossible to manage, imo. When you get down to it, no normal enemy or event poses a threat to Superman, so he doesn’t even have to waste time fighting mooks. If he’s trying to defuse a bomb or something, he can just run past the mooks at super-speed looking for it while letting them plink at his invulnerable backside. He never has to look for a key, because he can just pound any door down.

      There’s only so many situations that Superman can find challenging, and a game filled with them is going to feel extremely contrived.

      The only Superman game I think would be worth playing would be to take a sort of Shadow of the Colossus approach to things. Instead of trying to make mooks and guns and ordinary things threatening you get a smaller number of Superman-endangering boss-level challengers, so it’s not “Superman, we need you to defuse the bomb before the bank blows up!”, it’s Superman and an enraged Hulk bodyslamming each other through buildings.

      • Ciennas says:

        Why don’t you just use the Fable approach? Of course you can’t die- you’re the hero! But the hero still suffers loss in some tangible form. you get a bonus for a no damage run or something.

        or just move supes into a field where it doesn’t matter all that much that he’s superman. have him fight interdimensional fangly beasts, or make move his fight to neptunia or something, where they don’t have bear problems- they have fire breathing dire turantubears with laser machine guns.

        you can tell a good Superman story- you just have to remember to scale the threat accordingly.

      • Thomas says:

        This is where my Superman knowledge is lacking, but I actually think a challenge focus would be a bad direction for a superman game (probably), at least in the easiest ways. I don’t mean make it very easy, or an Exploratory game, but Batman really fits the idea of challenge because he’s always overcoming obstacles that are so much bigger than he is.

        But rather than try to get Superman to fit that mould by forcing a bigger threat they should build around the X other thing that drives superman. I don’t know what X is (I suggested inspiring/helping civilians above but that’s just what I feel like Superman strives to with outside knowledge). But there’s also an innocence and goodness which it’s important to capture.

        In the same way that Spiderman 2 isn’t challenge focused and is mainly about goofing around, having fun, doing pretty small scale stuff because thats a lot of Spiderman’s character, even the tone of the gameplay should be balanced around whatever drives Superman.

      • ET says:

        I had an idea about how to solve Superman’s problem with being too good, and that is: mix a bit of real-life consequences back into his super powers.
        Such as, using your super-sonic speed causes sonic booms, which would break windows, shake buildings, and cripple or kill any nearby civilians.
        Going too fast while trying to pick up, or fly with a civilian to get them to safety, would liquify them.
        Super punches would essentially be atom-bombs, because of the force of him hitting somebody in the face so fast.
        You could make it something as simple as a one-button toggle, between super-mode and less-super-mode.
        This would give an in-story, player-driven reason for Super Man not being “super” all the time; and therefore, hopefully more palatable than a writer-/story-mandated “because of kryptonite” or “because of X” reason.

        It might be an ultimately doomed idea, but I think it would open up possibilities for S-man.
        First, saving all the civilians in, say, a burning building, would be challenging if not impossible for a single man to do.
        Also, it could open up an S-man game, to having him look out over the whole world, with bleary, blood-shot eyes;
        Imagine all the civilians you can’t save today.
        The scoring system would obviously incorporate a measure of his sanity, and/or regret.
        Maybe even have different zones in the world, ala XCOM, who get pissed off if you don’t save people in their area.
        One possible ending to the game would have to be him going insane, crippled by his guilt at being unable to save them all.
        Cue S-man eating a kryptonite-tipped lead-salad.

        • Khizan says:

          No, see, this is awful.

          The entire point of Superman is that he flies super fast, hits super hard, and and is generally super. Being required to tone it down sucks all the fun out of it. Imagine a Batman game where you got to drive the Batmobile but had to obey traffic laws so as not to cause accidents. How much fun would that be?

          • harborpirate says:

            Well, nothing would stop you from going FULL POWER ALL THE TIME, its just that there would be consequences for doing that. The populace would consider you a menace if you were constantly shattering windows and crushing civilians in the process of turning low-level mooks into a mess that they’re having to scrape off the streets all the time.

        • You could have a level where you play as Clark Kent. Off the top of my head, say you’re in a building that has loads of cameras and something’s going on that’s a threat to those present (Intergang is raiding the place, for example). In a kind of homage to stealth games, you have to not only evade the guards (because if they find out something’s up, they’ll start killing hostages elsewhere in the building), you have to use your powers and foil their plans when the cameras aren’t on you, recording what’s going on (you could have a super-vision mechanic that lets you see their area of view).

          Once you reach a given goal, like disabling the main threat to the building (a bomb, whoever is in charge of the gang’s instant communication, etc.), the game could then let you change into your super-suit and have access to those story-breaking powers as a reward. The bad guys can’t communicate fast enough to start killing civilians now? Awesome. Here’s your super speed and your power punch, free and clear. Go nuts.

          A game like this would take creativity and probably someone in charge who actually likes comic books. It’d also have to embrace Superman’s inherent brokenness as a protagonist who’s hard to threaten, but it can be done and done well in the right hands.

          • Humanoid says:

            Clark Kent is tasked by his boss to fix all the problems with Superman 64.

          • Khizan says:

            The problem here is that Superman’s powers are so powerful and so varied. He has super strength, he’s indestructible, he has super speed, he can fly, he has laser eyes.

            The kind of setup that might actually hinder him is so complex that it becomes one of those super-contrived situations that exists just to make him a character you can handle, and if you make a whole game full of those, what you have isn’t a Superman game. It’s a game for a totally different type of protagonist that you jammed Superman into.

            • Not every level would be like that, and if that’s really a deal-breaker for most players, then one could make the ensuing results a choice the character makes: You’re basically a demigod, so really, does it matter if a few mortals get killed in the process? You’ll end the standoff one way or another, so it’s really up to you whether or not you’re going to try to save everyone or sacrifice a few lives to more easily save many more.

              My point to most of this is that yes, Superman is overpowered. That can be addressed in other ways so long as the game devs go in with the overpowered stuff in mind. It’s kind of like a superhero version of Saint’s Row in that respect. Adding RPG and story elements are needed to make the game still interesting, as no superpower can overcome a lack of information or narrative progression. That is, Superman would have little to do if nobody gave him a heads up that something was afoot, and he can’t be everywhere at once (especially when controlled by a mere mortal), so gameplay can use simultaneous antagonists/goals as a mechanic.

        • Eruanno says:

          That sounds… eh. I don’t know. Giving the player amazing super powers and punishing them for using them? That just sounds really annoying. It’s like playing Dishonored and every time you use Blink, it kills a random character on the level while you’re trying to do a no-kill playthrough.

      • Cybron says:

        I think the solution to this is to reconsider what Superman should actually be doing. A lot of the problems with Superman come from slavishing adhering to what we perceive as ‘classic’ Superman elements – the whole Metropolis, Lois Lane, Clark Kent thing. While that’s fine for Superman stories, it won’t make for compelling Superman gameplay, because that’s going to make you a titanic fish in a small pond. Why not scale it up? Put Superman up against threats that can actually THREATEN him. Take him out of Metropolis and put him up against Darkseid or something. In space, because SPACE.

        I dunno, maybe this isn’t what people want – I’m not much of a Superman fan. But it seems like a waste to stick to that same formula every time.

        • I’m with you on the Darkseid and other settings thing.

          Having Metropolis as a kind of quest hub wouldn’t be bad, but treating it more like the Citadel in Mass Effect might be the way to go. Also, a lot of what makes the movies so tired and boring could be avoided by simply not rehashing Superman’s effing origin yet again.

    • MrGuy says:

      One idea I’d like to propose for a Superman game is one I’m basically stealing wholesale from Yahtzee – a game where the protagonist levels in reverse.

      You start out as near-invincible Superman. Makes for an easy tutorial – learn the mechanics while knocking down dozens of foes in one punch.

      Then Lex Luthor’s baddies do something terrible like take over a nuclear missile silo, and lace the ground around it with kryptonite. The only way to stop them is for Superman to enter the silo and pass by the kryptonite. It turns out that the missile silo is only the first step in a more elaborate plot (plot currently pending), but Luthor & Team got a bulk deal on kryptonite (meteorite landing?), and they use it everywhere.

      Kryptonite exposure works as anti-XP. Accumulate enough of it, and you have to choose one of your powers to weaken. The foes never get any stronger, but as you weaken that guy with an AK goes from “mook I take out by the dozen” to “near-unstoppable mini-boss.” Also makes for an interesting side-quest mechanic – you gain nobility points by saving that burning orphanage full of puppies, but getting to it weakens you for the rest of the game.

      The bad thing about a system like this is that it would be hard to do a sequel (unless there’s some kind of magic “power restore!” device at the end…)

      • Lasslisa says:

        The other problem with something like that is that it’s really unpleasant to feel like a game is punishing you for playing it. If doing the side quests makes me weaker, at some level the message I’m getting from the game is “you shouldn’t be doing these side quests, you should be focusing your efforts on the important things”. You can overcome that to some degree with fluff and perhaps with some benefit from ‘nobility points’ in-game. But the game has to not become less fun as you progress.

        • Felblood says:

          Actually, from a strictly mechanical standpoint, a game that doesn’t do this is generally termed “broken”.

          Traditional, challenge focused games are designed to get harder the longer you play. Completing a given level is an achievement, which is rewarded with more content, suited to a player of greater skill.

          The fact that the “side quest” trope undermines this fundamental assumption is one of the greatest challenges facing RPG developers today. Too little loot, and players feel like you’re “wasting their time;” Too much loot, and the rest of the game is now “too easy,” and your final boss is “disappointing.” Leveling players backwards makes a perfect end-run on this most frustrating conundrum.

          The key is to couch this in a metaphor that communicates this data to the player.

          Superman is a symbol of both power and selflessness. The game needs to hammer this home early, and do it well. Superman, does not abandon those weaker than himself, no matter the personal cost. –EVER. Living to fight another day, by sacrificing the innocent, is absolutely antithetical to him.

          This reveals a deeper issue with the design though:

          Failing to rescue all the children from a burning building is a tragic blow for Superman; deliberately allowing children to come to harm in order to save his own skin, is a betrayal of everything he stand for.

          For Superman, ignoring children in a burning orphanage is on the same level, where another hero would find murdering those same children for XP, and harvesting their organs for ADAM.

          If you neglect even one side quest, you should be just as shut out of the best (and certainly canonical) ending, as harvesting a Little Sister did in Bioshock.

          “Good guys do not kill children for Teh L3wtz” –Superman 1:1

          That’s not to say the idea can’t be salvaged, but it needs some tweaks. I’ll cover a couple points on why, and then get into the how of my changes.

          First, levels need to be short, and going back to try to get a perfect score on a past level should be easy. If you’ve ever played a Rogue Squadron game, you can see where this is going. Getting that gold medal on a mission you could barely pass before makes you feel like a genuine superhero, and that is exactly the feeling a superman game must evoke. Present the enormity of the challenge, then allow the player ample opportunity to overcome it

          Second, reward players for completing bonus objectives with some kind of non-mechanical perks, like image galleries and other DVD extra crap. Most people collect this stuff, because collecting things is fun, not because they have any intention of actually looking at it.

          Third, there is a fear that a player might bite off more than he can chew, by doing too many side-quests, and eventually finding himself too weak to complete even the main quest missions. To correct this, side quests will impose a penalty for the duration of that single mission, and it will go away later.

          Fourth, Superman should feel insanely powerful, to the point that the player occasionally feels like they are struggling for controlled use of an unstoppable, untamable force of nature. The world he lives in is basically made of glass, in his eyes. If you have a controller with pressure sensitive buttons, or analog triggers, a single button could represent both, “knock a mook out” and “punch a vault door into space”.

          Pitch: A villain is doing something evil with time machines. (–trying to launch a global viral pandemic? It doesn’t actually matter.) Fairly early in the game Supes gets a hold of one, and can use it to go back, Quantum Leap style, to previous levels.

          In each mission, there are 3 goals: Find a clue to unlock the next mission, thwart the evil doers, and stop whatever calamity the villain is using to cover his actions (some of these could be natural events, while others could be set up for this purpose). In most missions the clue will be got by thwarting the villain, but you could hide some Easter eggs that unlock extra levels, akin to Rogue Squadron’s missile upgrades.

          While Superman can fully recharge his solar batteries between missions, being inside a time field blocks the nourishing rays of the sun, meaning that superman has a finite supply of power. Ergo, overusing your powers will deplete you to the point that you lose your invulnerability field, or even have to finish the last stages of the mission on foot, barely able to leap a mere 5 story building in two bounds.

          Flight should come in a number of speeds, with different energy requirements. Covering the same distance quickly should consume more energy. Flying at maximum force should feel shockingly wasteful, but exhilarating. At least a few missions should require this level of speed for a perfect score. (In fact, there should be one mission outside of a time bubble, focused entirely on catching up to a fast moving object, just so players can appreciate what it feels like to be superman off-the-leash. You could put a bit in the tutorial where Supes has to catch a UFO, and then punch a meteor into the Sun.)

          The villain knows all Supes’ weaknesses, and has seeded many of his more critical installations with a variety of dangerous tricks, that make later level inherently more difficult (Wow, this guy almost has to be Luthor). He is deliberately tempting superman to bring out or hold back a bit more of his power than his code demands.

          Some missions could involve a crimes in an area, belonging to a tribe with magic weapons (which can harm you before you even lose your invulnerability), but who are only defending their lands and should not be harmed, if you want the perfect score. Later missions might even involve henchmen attacking tribes-people, who Superman must defend, whilst unable to properly communicate his good intentions, without risking a magic spear in his face. This is basically Superman’s life story, in a context the player will grasp more readily.

          If Superman saves tribesmen in one bubble, it could alter another bubble, such that these folk, decedents of the others, will be peaceful towards Superman unless he attacks them. This could serve as a microcosm of his greater quest to prove his good intentions to humanity and lead mankind toward peace.

          The final mission would be to destroy the MacGuffin that makes the time machines work, setting the current timeline in place permanently, and then rolling out the ending. The more perfect scores the player has, the better their epilogue, from a regretful Superman beating himself up for destroying the machine so soon, to a brave, tired Superman who feels like he might have missed some optional maps and used it for more good, to a proud and noble, battered Super Hero who knows, that the people of Earth can count on him when the chips are down, no matter the odds.

          The player’s hunger for that perfect score should meld seamlessly, into Superman’s drive to be more than merely a man, but a paragon of what a man ought to be

          • Khizan says:

            The problem I have with this is that, to me, this isn’t really a Superman game. A defining trait of Superman is his incredible power. His speed, his strength, his ability to block bullets with his eyeballs. In fact, I’d call those his only defining traits, because otherwise he’s Generic Good Guy #252. Save all the innocents, protect all the things, etc, etc.

            And so, when you place such harsh limits on his super powers, you cut at the heart of what Superman is. When I play a Superman game, I don’t want to be flying slow to preserve my power so I’m not vulnerable to bullets. I want to be screaming through the sky at Mach 2 because enemy jets are going to nuke New York unless I can intercept them. I want to suplex Doomsday through a bank vault. I want to pick up a car and then beat a tank to death with it.

            • Thomas says:

              I think you’re being unfair on Superman. If all he was was his strength he wanted have lasted or have had the popularity he did. There are several good superman stories where he doesn’t have his powers or doesn’t use them.

              Superman is very much also defined by his optimism and the degree of his niceness. Superman is probably the last hero who’d ever kill someone and I really liked the Animated Justice League idea that on earth he’s basically always holding himself back because he doesn’t want to hurt others

              • Thomas says:

                Although I agree Superman should feel powerful. I don’t know if crazy awesome violence and explosions is fitting, maybe that would need a less restrained hero? But superman should feel in control

            • False Prophet says:

              Maybe 20 or 30 years ago, I would have been bored with a game about Generic Good Guy. But after three decades of almost nothing but anti-heroes with ANGST who do things BECAUSE IT’S PERSONAL in my fiction, Generic Good Guy would be refreshing.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Actually,sidequests could work as a way to mitigate the bad effects.For example,every main mission drops you by a level,but if you do a number of sidequests you can negate the next level drop.

          Also,frozen throne had a campaign like this where arthas leveled backwards,and it worked.

          • Felblood says:

            That’s right!

            –but…

            This is really important.

            In the final level, Arthas gets all his powers back for the final duel with Illidan.

            You need to have those moments, where the player feels really powerful, but still has a challenge becasue the task at hand calls for his full power.

            This is doubly important for Superman, because it’s absolutely essential to his character, and it’s one of the aspects that bad writers most often neglect. Hence why his pop-culture identity has been reduced to a list of superficial traits like his power set.

            A side quest for some power restoration might also play, but you have to make sure that players understand that this is a self-balancing measure, for players who are too wuss to play the game with just the main quest XP loss. In that light, you definately don’t want playing the game in hard-mode to be too out of character.

            • syal says:

              Also important; that campaign was the last of seven, and the other six (and about half of the seventh) featured your character and army getting progressively stronger. I would argue the only reason it was acceptable for Arthas to be powered down at the end was because you powered him up beforehand, so it was sort of a return to his roots.

    • Steve C says:

      Superman is definitely a much harder game to make. Not only do you have to deal with the balance issue you also have to deal with huge gaping plot holes that are caused by an effectively invincible goodie-two-shoes god.

      • Humanoid says:

        I’m thinking of a Superman game in the vein of Ultima IV. Open world game, you get all your powers and can use them at will, no villains, no one to oppose you. Can you, the player, resist the temptation to abuse your power, or will you steal all the things to deck out your totally sweet player mansion? Can you resist using your X-ray vision for prurient reasons? Can you resist illegally downloading the latest Batman game using someone else’s unsecured wi-fi network?

      • Counterpoint: As has often been established, Superman is a dick.

  4. Tychoxi says:

    “I wan’t crazy about the idea of making the next Arkham game a…”

    One of the weirdest typos I’ve seen in a while! Otherwise very interested to read what’s coming! Haven’t played Origins and don’t plan to for who-knows-how-long so I’m hoping it’s light on spoilers.

  5. Hal says:

    Re: Batman villains

    Half the gameplay is based around timing hits and blocks into combos, and they can’t figure out how to work the Clock King into the mix? There is a failure of imagination happening here.

  6. Jeff R. says:

    I thought that the idea was to put Rocksteady on the game targeting the next console generation [which was rumored to be a more silver-age-y Batman at one time at least] while giving the other team the job of squeezing the last drops of game out of the current engine/continuity…

  7. Marty Runyon says:

    Your conjecture is interesting. However, Kevin Conroy leaked that he was working on another Batman game with Rocksteady some time back. See: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-05-21-kevin-conroy-batman-confusion-continues-with-deleted-new-arkham-game-tweet

  8. LazerBlade says:

    Yay! More in depth nitpick analysis! I like pretty much all twentysided has to offer, but I really seriously like the multi-post in depth analysis of game stuff.

  9. Phantos says:

    Arkham City: Mark Hamill was retiring from the Joker role, and the team needed to give him a fitting send-off. You couldn’t very well let the most popular actor of the most popular Batman villain retire in a subplot. Like the death of Robin or Bane breaking Batman’s back, this isn’t the kind of thing you do in optional side missions. If it’s in the game, it’s got to be part of the story. And if it’s in the story, then it has to be central because nothing else can top it.

    I think the distraction of the Joker really helped that game. I honestly did not see the twist coming at the top of the tower. The story and the motivations of the bad guys and the whole evil plan didn’t make sense to me until I found out who was in charge. I might not have been so blindsided were I not focused on what the Joker was going to do for the finale.

    Here though, judging from the trailers, I get the feeling they just threw him in there because… that’s what you do in a Batman story? I guess they didn’t expect such big-name showstoppers like Black Mask, Deathstroke, Deadshot, Bloodkill, Murderpunch and Doomshart to sell copies?

  10. MrGuy says:

    Speaking as someone who loved the first two Arkham games and found the third to be a “meh,” I think it’s entirely possible WBGM gets a bit of a bad rap for Origins.

    Rocksteady painted themselves into a corner villain-wise by the end of Arkham City, and the whole “we trashed a significant part of Gotham by turning it into a huge open-air prison” isn’t the kind of thing a city recovers from easily.

    Origins was a mess of second-tier villains and confusing motivations, but I’m skeptical Rocksteady could have done better. For many of the reasons Shamus points out, they’d exhausted the franchise in the Arkahm world, and fans probably wouldn’t have stood for a major reboot.

    It’s the same way Saints Row V is going to suck (and you just KNOW it’s in development – if it’s a popular franchise, it’s getting a sequel). People are going to blame the THQ/Volition fire sale, and say the new devs “can’t handle the material,” when really it’s a franchise with nothing left to say and nothing left that’s interesting enough to build on.

  11. ACman says:

    How about Scarface? He’s a Batman villain that has always been intriguing.

    In terms of power level and craziness level he’s sort of on par with two face, (his character has some obvious parallels as well.) He’d be a pretty good first or middle act bad guy for either a prequel or a sequel.

    Or maybe you could actually introduce some Superman/Greenlantern level villains in a sequal. How about a Sinestro/Brainiac powered Ras al Ghul for the second act? Then you could introduce Sinestro and Green Lantern (But who really cares about Green Lantern?), or Brainiac, Lex Luthor and Superman. You could use it to kick off a whole series of Superman games…. But we are talking about WB/DC aren’t we?…

    • rofltehcat says:

      I really like Scarface’s design and I really liked the way he was portrayed in Arkham Asylum (and haven’t played Arkham City yet).

      However, I think the way used to portray him might get old very fast. He really seems like a secondary enemy to fight a couple of times throughout the game because he is rather weak in a direct confrontation (wear a gas mask!) whereas he is a great enemy to run into along the way because you’re pretty much bound to run into his odorless gas traps and you also can’t wear a gas mask for the whole game.

  12. ACman says:

    Also I feel like we should hear from Mumbles here.

  13. Thomas says:

    I haven’t played Arkham Origins, but to solve the Joker problem I think they should have picked a relatively minor villain and reinvented him , or invent a new one and then run with it (and of course focused the whole game on him so it made sense, with only sidequest appearances by others)

    I feel like the games are at a point when they can really reach out and start inventing canon, they’ve already done small steps. The true test of a branch of franchise is when it can influence and create things that get attached to the main body of work, like so much of the Batman Animated Series did

  14. Grampy_Bone says:

    I have been debating over getting Origins so this will be interesting. Really, I think these long-form game analyses are my favorite articles on this site.

  15. Paul Spooner says:

    Batman games! I’ve been hearing a lot of things about this game from the side-lines, but given my aversion to AAA titles I haven’t had any first-hand experience with it. From the footage I’ve seen it seems like the game-play boils down to a combat mechanic I like to term the “real-time traveling salesman” approach. The non-combat parts are, of course, the normal old traveling salesman problem.

    From a narrative perspective, I can’t bring myself to play any game with a strong narrative element, much preferring to experience a fixed narrative through a fixed medium like Youtube, a plot summary, or this fine website… So I’m looking forward to this series! Just don’t forget to give your impressions of the game-play as well as the plot.

  16. Decius says:

    The problem with the line of logic for why they needed Joker (and thus a prequel) has a fatal flaw: Almost every single point applies just as much to the next game.

  17. Mumbles says:

    Riddler is the best part of the entire series. His origin story is not canon but kind of fucking perfect for the character they wrote in the first two games. HE IS THE STAR OF THE SHOW AND YOU CAN’T TELL ME OTHERWISE.

  18. GiantRaven says:

    You bring up some good reasons why I feel an episodic Batman game series would be an interesting avenue to go down. I think having shorter and less grandiose experiences would allow for the use of a lot of Batman’s ‘lesser’ rogues. Maybe following the comic in that manner would be a good idea.

  19. LB says:

    Just for the record, Rocksteady are supposedly working on a next-gen (PS4, Xbox One) Batman game.

    And it drives me crazy that the Joker is practically the main character in all these games.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Well who would you expect the main character to be?Batman?Puhlease.

    • I don’t mind the Joker being involved. I do mind how every movie franchise thus far has killed him off for no good reason.

      The hard part for developers, I think, is that Batman is about more than just punching dudes, though that plays a large role. Ever since the days of the text-based game, simulating being a really awesome detective has been REALLY difficult since players can miss evidence, not pick up on hints from NPCs, jump to the wrong conclusions, etc. which leaves the game with railroading you onto the right track, stonewalling you until you figure out what you missed, letting you somehow fail to finish the mission, or progress somehow (with or without knowing you got it wrong).

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Batman had a damn good reason for it.

        Also,can any batnut Mumbles enlighten me on how much originality is in that movie with regards to making everything about the joker be known,while keeping much of batman in the dark.

        • MichaelGC says:

          I’m an old, rusty near-batnut, which means I’m not current on most of the recent rewrites and reboots and whatnot (New 52? Wozzat?), but I’m not aware of there being any origin story for the Joker in the comics. Do we even know his real name?

          (Joe Chill killed Mr. & Mrs. Wayne last I heard – which will no doubt date me for any more up-to-the-minute batnuts, if things have indeed changed! Presumably it’s now “Jo Chill” a.k.a “Mrs Freeze.” Or something…)

        • MichaelGC says:

          Oh, hold on, I’m forgetting the Red Hood stuff, the details of which I am ignorant of. To Wikipedia!…

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Damn,the filter hates Tim Burton for some reason.

      • Thomas says:

        But the Joker doesn’t die in the Dark Knight? That’s like half the point isn’t it? Because he keeps trying to force Batman to kill him, but Batman refuses (because unlike 1989 Batman, this one’s a bit less psychopathic)

        The actor died, which is why he wasn’t in the third, but they never killed off the Joker

        • Phantos says:

          I did think it was weird in Rises how they refuse to even say his name, though. Like he was Voldemort or something.

          Or maybe they knew they were making a movie so terrible, they thought Heath Ledger would haunt it?

        • Drinking with Skeletons says:

          I like to pretend that part of the Dent Act was a dramatic expansion in trial and death penalty rules, so that the Joker was fast-tracked and executed despite being mentally ill. Of course, this proves to be a hell of a slippery slope, which helps to explain the otherwise hazy anger that Bane taps into in Rises. It also means that the Joker did indeed instill enough fear into Gotham for them to sacrifice their morality and allow the events of the final film.

          Think about it! It really works!

  20. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    There’s one thing you are forgetting, though: a lot of people grew up with Batman: The Animated Series, and so some of the more obscure villains aren’t really that obscure. There’s a reason why the games are both kind of gritty and brought back voice actors from the Animated Series, and it’s not because they were solely focused on tapping into new fans.

    I’m glad you are going into this with an open mind. While I think that Origins is the weakest of the three games, I actually think it was the best written, suffering mostly from being overstuffed. Looking forward to this feature.

  21. Jack V says:

    I would love to see another superhero converted into a game as well as Arkham Asylum. (Though it might be too much to hope for.)

    I think it _might_ be possible to do superman. Even if you don’t have the risk of dying, you might have to, eg, take down each thug without killing any and without hitting any victims, or, eg, fly through the city to catch someone falling in time. Both of which might have an Arkham Asylum feel, you can fail, without feeling less immortal.

  22. Aldowyn says:

    Although I totally agree they’re almost certainly overusing Joker, I’ve heard Troy Baker did a great job as him in Origins.

    Definitely looking forward to the series, interested to see what you have to say Shamus!

  23. kanodin says:

    I really thought anarky was gonna be a central villain when they gave him this big entrance with the tv’s and projector, which was really similar to how you interacted with the joker in most of Asylum, and threatening to blow up integral parts of the city. Consequently I actually really wanted that to happen, batman the billionaire fighting a V pastiche on Christmas Eve sounded fantastic. No one was sadder than I when he turned out to be a short sidequest.

    I’m so attached to the story I thought was gonna happen that now I”m hoping an older even angrier Anarky shows up in their next non-prequel game as a main threat and this was all setup. I want to believe

    • Phantos says:

      I share your disappointment about Anarky. You’d think given the Occupy stuff over the last couple of years, he would have had more of the spotlight lately.

      He and Mad Hatter(especially the Arkham game version) are the two Rogue’s Gallery villains I could see getting a promotion of sorts to the A-list. It’s easy to forget that Mr. Freeze used to be the goofy and unthreatening “Mr. Zero”, before Paul Dini gave him a soul and a sympathetic backstory. All it takes for a seemingly “lesser” character to become something bigger is the right author and the right motivation.

      There’s a new Batman cartoon out where Anarky’s supposed to be the main villain, but uh… The less said about that, the better.

  24. The Rocketeer says:

    I think one of the major problems with making games about characters like Superman or Green Lantern isn’t how powerful they are, or trying to get the tone or lore right. It’s that, right out of the box, they can fly.

    I’m just thinking out loud here; feel free to shoot me right down, but it makes sense to me. Established, well-known characters like comic book heroes live and die by fulfilling audience expectations, and one of the most sacrosanct parts of this is their power sets. But if what your characters can do is set in stone beforehand, including how the characters get around, that very greatly informs what kinds of games you can and should try building around them.

    Superman can fly, and do so very, very quickly. Right off the bat, we need a very large area, or the most well-known of his powers outside of super-strength and being damn hard to hurt will go to waste. But if we have a very large game world- Metropolis, presumably- then we’re talking about building an open-world style game, and now we’ve already lined up the kind of game people can expect to play, because while comics fans will lose their minds over tampering with established character concepts, so too will gamers and developers alike lose their minds over deviations from the familiar standards of the open-world model.

    Sure, we could put Superman in some other situation where he couldn’t or didn’t need to fly, but why would you? No one, and I mean NO ONE wants to play a de-powered Superman. It’s the laziest, most obvious treatment of the character, and it has never worked in the past. And if you kept Superman in a type of game in which flying around everywhere or going from place to place faster than sound was somehow restricted, disincentivised, or just plain not useful, players will be either mad at Superman for being unable or unwilling to use some of his most famous and attractive attributes, or at the developers for the exact same reasons.

    And making an open-world game fit for Superman sounds really, really expensive. This is a character who can fly around the Earth in minutes or seconds, depending on how froggy he’s feeling that morning; what’s a game the size of Arkham City to a character like that? Is any studio in the world willing or prepared to make a game the size of GTA V or FUEL for the sake of a character that, despite their fame, has never starred in a decent game?

    Come to think of it, at least a couple of the better superhero games were about heroes who had methods of transport that were naturally systemized; Batman can’t fly, but he can glide, and he has ninja agility and all those wonderful toys, so simply moving around the gameworld as Batman offers a lot of fun and useful options indoors and out. Spiderman has web-slinging, and Spiderman 2 (the game, that is) got web-slinging so right it’s still remembered as one of the best of its ilk.

    Actually, I think a game about Green Lantern might have a good shot. Not to knock the character, but I don’t know too much about GL and I think a lot of other gamers might be in the same boat. While I still think a de-powered Superman would repel many gamers, I don’t think the same holds true for Green Lantern. Therefore, a game about the character just finding the ring and learning their powers as they go might be for the best, for the sake of introducing the character and his power set. And speaking of his power set, here are the two things I know about Green Lantern: he’s basically a space cop defending Earth from any weird space shit that happens along, meaning the game could plausibly be about anything; and the power of the ring is limited by the wearer’s ability to make use of it, meaning the character’s in-game abilities could plausibly be used for whatever the designers wanted. And while in a different world, the game might be unwilling to kick off focusing on any threat besides Parallax or Sinestro- which, though I could be totally wrong, I think are some of GL’s most famous nemeses- the movie focused on Parallax, I think (not like I saw that garbage!), and with how famous a turd the movie was, it might actually be a safer bet to branch out and try something more off the wall, at least for the first outing for the character.

    And while Green Lantern can fly, if the character is still learning the ropes that could always be reserved as a late-game power, and one limited by some sort of “energy” resource; hey, if it takes concentration or mana or whatever to use the ring, then simply balance flying around everywhere against getting to use your stronger utility or combat ring powers, right?

    Could be interesting.

  25. Blue Spider says:

    It turns out that Arkham Origins is not part of the series.

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