Since debuting in late 2008, the animated series “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” has been very popular with both television critics and fans of the Caped Crusader. Inspired by “The Brave and the Bold” comic series, each episode of the animated show features Batman teaming-up with other heroes from the DC Universe. The show features both well and lesser-known characters, ranging from the Flash to Plastic Man to Gentleman Ghost. The show recently received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series, for the acclaimed “Mayhem of the Music Meister” episode.
CBR News spoke previously Adam Tierney and Sean Velasco, directors of the Nintendo Wii and DS versions of a new game based on “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” developed by WayForward Technologies. With the game’s release now less than a week away, we present a second interview with Tierney in which we discuss the viability of the cartoon series that served as the basis for the video game; how that lead to the game’s rendition of the Caped Crusader; and what fans of the television show, and of video games, can expect from this title.
CBR: Batman has seen so many takes and so many iterations, from light-hearted superhero to superficially powerful to dark and tormented. What made you decide on using this particular skew as the basis for the game?
ADAM TIERNEY: The simple answer is that the video game is based on the animated series “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.” The video game was created because of how popular and well received the TV show has been. As a huge fan of “dark” Batman, I was initially skeptical about this vibrant, Technicolor take on the Caped Crusader. But the TV show is so charming and smartly written that you can’t help but fall in love with it. I never would have expected my favorite Batman series to be a comedy, but somehow it is.
That said, there are elements of our Batman that pull from the prior Batman films, previous cartoon series, and definitely the comics. At one point in the game, Bat-Mite says, “You silly thugs. What are you, stupid? Don’t you know who he is?? He’s the Gosh Darn Batman!!” So even though the game exists in “The Brave and Bold” animated world, we had some fun pulling from other versions of the character as well.
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Working from the context of an established franchise – in this case, the cartoon – must have its good points and its bad points. Among the good is the graphical vision is already established and you don’t have to re-imagine the look of the game. The bad would be that the cartoon has legions of fans that will come at your game with certain expectations. What do you take from the cartoon series for the game, and what do you bypass in order to make this truly a game that players can embrace?
Actually, quite a lot carried directly over. The structure of the TV show is already very video game-like in regard to progressing through the environments and battling thugs on the way to a final boss. And since we had decided to emulate the show’s format, dialogue, and art style, a good deal of our game flow came from just watching what the TV show did. In areas where we needed to differ, like combat variety and level design, we looked at the classic brawler games we grew up on, such as “Double Dragon” and “Final Fight.” The TV show has a very nostalgic vibe, so it made sense that the gameplay would be a bit of a throwback as well.
In regard to the legion of Batman fans with high expectations, we certainly felt that during development. And to raise expectations even more, this is the Batman game that follows “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” arguably the greatest superhero video game ever made! But like the TV show, it’s a completely unique take on the character. Ultimately, we just made the kind of all-ages Batman game we’d want to play ourselves.
Keep in mind that for all the adorable visuals of WayForward games like “Shantae” and “A Boy and His Blob,” WayForward loves developing games with solid, old-school mechanics. And even though this game is aimed at younger audiences, it’s no exception to that trend. I’m confident that any skeptical Bat-fans that take time to try the game out and master the combat will really enjoy the game.
What elements do you feel are essential to making a good Batman game?
I’d say maybe above everything else, you have to nail his persona. There’s a level of confidence and thoughtfulness to the character that needs to be respected. You can’t have a Batman game where the character just charges mindlessly into a group of bad guys. Even in an action game like ours, there needs to be the illusion that Batman is constantly assessing the situation, on his guard, and striking when he knows it’s the right moment. And that’s something we conveyed through the selection of combat maneuvers, and as well as through the execution of each animation. We needed the player to feel as though they’re controlling the World’s Greatest Detective, not some typical action hero in a Batman suit.
“The Brave and the Bold” is not the first time that WayForward has tackled on an established license – “A Boy and His Blob” was a solid adventure that was a touch quirky, fun and challenging. What do you find so inviting (and challenging) about taking on licenses like this?
Easy answer – we’re fans! Big, dumb, frothing-at-the-mouth fanboys. This is what we grew up on. In 2006 we got our hands on “Contra,” which was one of director Matt Bozon’s favorite games ever. Then Sean Velasco, the designer of the Nintendo DS version of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” directed “A Boy and His Blob” in 2008, one of the most celebrated platformers on NES. And now here we are with Batman. We’ve worked on a number of superhero games in the past, but really, nobody tops the Caped Crusader.
Growing up, I’ve always been a big fan of the Batman comics. I vividly remember following “A Lonely Place of Dying” when I was about 10-years-old, and getting caught up in the characters and raw emotions of it all. That might’ve been the storyline that got me following Batman. Shortly after that I picked up the Longmeadow Press edition of “The Complete Frank Miller Batman” (worth its weight in gold for storytelling), and then started collecting “Legends of the Dark Knight,” one of the best comics anthologies to ever see print.
So when we heard about this project, specifically about how the show pulled in characters from all over the DC Universe, I was very keen to work on it. The greatest challenge, of course, is fitting all my years of Batman adoration into one game, and making the right decisions for that game. If anything was tough, it was holding back our inner geeks and making decisions, regarding characters and plotlines, based on what would work best for the game and not just our fan favorites.
How closely do you work with the cartoon team and what did they bring to this project that was unexpected and a surprise – in a good way?
We worked very closely at key milestones with Warner Bros. Animation. We discussed plot ideas, characters, environments, and then collaborated on the scripts and cut scenes. It was very important that everything in the game felt authentic to the TV show, to maintain the idea that gamers would be able to “play the cartoon.” In addition to working with Warner Bros. Animation, our producers at Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) are also huge DC Comics and Batman fans. So we had constant support from all parties.
As for surprises, obviously seeing the animated cut scenes develop was incredible, as was sitting in on the voice-over recording sessions. At every step, we were treated like a part of the TV show’s production, rather than a typical video-game adaptation. And I’m sure that level of collaboration will come across in the final product.
In our previous interview, you stated that you are one of the few developers that uses “traditional, hand-illustrated, frame-by-frame 2D animation.” Given the intensity of that process, how long does it take to create a level and how many illustrations, on average, are needed for a level?
It takes a long, long, long, long (gasp) long time. Well, not specifically a long time, as much as a great number of man hours, since we had a lot of animators working concurrently. We had a pretty substantial animation team working here at WayForward during production. The animation process goes through the following steps: concept, roughs, tie-down (cleanup), color, and output. To quantify the process, our art director, Marc Gomez, tells me an average frame of animation (depending of course on character size and complexity) might take 4-5 hours to produce from start to finish. So multiply that by 16,000+ frames of animation, and you’re looking at about 72,000 hours of work. It’s an absolutely insane figure, but when you see the end result, you can tell the difference. The characters don’t look like flat puppets with moving pieces, they look like the TV show.
Who scripted the game? Can players expect a few surprises that may not appear (yet) in the cartoon series?
It was a very collaborative process between WayForward and Warner Bros. Animation. As with everything else, we wanted the dialogue to be as true to the show’s tone and humor as possible. So at the start of the project, both companies discussed which heroes and villains to feature. Once those were settled on, we went back and forth on plot breakdowns before jumping into the actual scripts. I wrote the dialogue for the Wii game and Sean Velasco wrote for the DS, with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment providing feedback and suggestions along the way.
As for surprises not from the show, all the heroes and villains in our game have at least had a cameo in the TV show. However, we were able to really develop and expand some of these characters within the game. Arisia and Copperhead, for example, make their speaking debuts in our game. And characters that appeared only briefly in the show, like Catman, are given a chance to take the spotlight in the game. We have an entire episode about the relationship between Batman and Hawkman, a character barely touched upon in the show. In all, the player is getting four completely new, original game episodes created specifically for this game.