With every trailer and screenshot that's been released, "Batman: Arkham Asylum" continues to build momentum as one of the most anticipated games of 2009. In "Arkham Asylum," Batman will need to call upon both his combat and detective skills to defeat the Joker, who has trapped the caped crusader inside the asylum with some of his most dangerous enemies.
Publisher Eidos and developer Rocksteady have been working hard to craft the ultimate Batman experience, and CBR News has been checking in with them along the way.
Last month, CBR talked to Senior Producer Nathan Burlow about how the project came together and what the creative team felt were the core aspects of making a great Batman game. This month, CBR continues our series of exclusive interviews with this conversation with the game's writer, Paul Dini, well known to Batman fans for his work on "Batman: The Animated Series," as well as "Detective Comics." Dini talked with CBR about scripting "Batman: Arkham Asylum," working with old friends among the voice-over cast, and the differences between writing for games and television.
CBR: How complete was the concept for "Batman: Arkham Asylum" when you were brought in to write the story? Was it already set in stone that the game would be based in Arkham and feature certain characters?
Paul Dini: At the time I was brought in, Eidos, DC Comics and Rocksteady were investigating the idea of doing a Batman game set within Arkham Asylum. The art team at Rocksteady started on some preliminary designs with the idea that Arkham was originally a huge estate set on an island connected to the Gotham mainland by a bridge. As for what characters to use, that was fairly open, though it was a given that as this was Arkham, The Joker would be heavily involved.
Were there specific runs or story arcs of from the comics that you researched for the game?
Not really. I think everyone involved took another look at Grant Morrison's graphic novel "Batman: Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth" as well as certain Neal Adams and Frank Miller stories. But while the Arkham location bears some visual similarities to the versions in those stories, the game itself is fairly straightforward, story-wise.
Did you get to add to Arkham Asylum and reveal things about it that haven't been seen before?
Working with the game designers, we came up with a lot of new locations that have never been imagined before. By putting Arkham on an island, we opened up a world of locations within the old estate and beneath it. Yes, there are the traditional therapy rooms, operating theatres, and inmate cells, but you see much more of the place than you have ever seen in any of the movies. There are secrets everywhere in terms of hidden passageways, walled-up building wings, and even within the files themselves.
How does writing a video game differ from writing for a television series?
When writing for a video game, there's not a lot of time for the same amount of character development that a writer usually has in a TV episode. Which is fine, because most of the players, both serious gamers as well as Batman fans, will already be going into the game with a pretty solid idea of who Batman is. You can't really take time to expand on that too much when you have to keep the action moving. That said, there will be some very cool character scenes between Batman and The Joker and many fun cut scenes among the classic villains.
As a writer, what do you enjoy the most about writing about Batman and the world he lives in?
It's a great opportunity to act out certain vengeful, anti-social fantasies and not go to jail for it.
How cool was it to be writing dialog again for Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, who voiced Batman and The Joker on your old show, "Batman: The Animated Series?"
It's fantastic. For me, Kevin and Mark will always be the perfect Batman/Joker match-up. It was great to work with them both in the game recording sessions and see that old animated Batman magic taking shape again.
Did you have input into what characters would appear in the game? Was there anyone that you really wanted to make sure made it in?
Well, as The Joker needs people on the inside to help him throw his "party," it was natural that Harley Quinn be included. We also needed villains who were threats to Batman both physically and mentally. Killer Croc is perfect for that. We have many other villains in the wings, but we're keeping them surprises for now.
We know that Batman will be using his detective skills as a major element in the game. Will there be additional back-story that players get through files, journals, videotapes, etc?
Players shouldn't be too quick to ignore things they may find lying around the asylum. The files they stumble across contain lots of information on the inmates. Comics fans in particular, I think, are going to love going through them.
After this experience, are there other aspects of Batman's world you would like to see a game built around?
Oh sure. After being trapped for a hellish night on Arkham Island, it would be fun to let Batman stretch his "wings" a little. Gotham is a huge arena and we could take him anywhere in the city --- or maybe everywhere in the city. That would be a challenge!
CBR would like to thank Paul Dini for taking time to talk with us about the game. "Batman: Arkham Asylum" is currently scheduled to be released in Summer 2009. For more information about the game, head over to the official website, and stay tuned to CBR for more exclusive interviews with the talents behind the project.