Arkham Asylum art director talks mistakes

Develop 2010: Rocksteady's David Hego bemoans detective vision, discusses uncanny valley, gameplay decisions, and how its future game will use more of "augmented reality."

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At a talk at the Brighton, UK-based Develop conference, Batman: Arkham Asylum art director David Hego said he had regrets about the powerful "detective vision" mode in Rocksteady Studios' top-rated game.

Detective mode is to be toned down for the next Batman game.

Hego joked that when he would hear about people playing through the game entirely in the brightly coloured, X-ray-like mode, he would "want to cry a little bit." The Detective Vision mode, which gave the player a major advantage but obscured the game's painstakingly unique art direction, was "very powerful," but in keeping with Batman's high-technology arsenal, said Hego.

"It was a gameplay decision to make detective vision so strong…we're going to try not to do that mistake again." Hego added that Rocksteady would "make it more like augmented reality next time," shedding some light on how detective vision might be toned down and adapted for the studio's next Batman game.

In the talk on Arkham Asylum's art direction, Hego explained the game's use of light and shadow and warm and cool lighting to direct a player's attention within an environment, as well as the stylised realism used to design the characters. He called the exaggerated features and realistic textures of the character models, especially that of the Joker, a kind of hyperrealism.

That hyperrealism, said Hego, also circumvented the issue of the uncanny valley: the spooky effect produced by characters, which are very close to photorealistic but still perceptibly artificial.

"One of the big advantages of the stylised realism was we were jumping across the uncanny valley… By making [the characters] so stylised, you can forget about uncanny valley because you accept that it's not real."

Discussion

272 comments
keg2kay
keg2kay

i really like how now that dark knight came out and batman begins they are starting to make really good superhero games for the franchise, if you think about it batman's original games were all based on a movies storyline while arkham is based in the surroundings that are known to batman. I just hope the next Arkham will be just as amazing and spectacular as the last one.

drknessfeeds
drknessfeeds

Wasn't a big fan of the detective mode, think it should have just augmented the visuals a bit like highlight the villans without the xray effect or atleast give it some battery life so it kicked off on its own.

shadowroy64
shadowroy64

Arkham asylum- the first scary batman.

SkinnZero
SkinnZero

I was SO in love with the graphics and environements this game has, that I actually used detective vision only when it was very necessary

Thor101792
Thor101792

yea this is my all time favorite game but that was a problem i had staying in detective vision mode but when i was not in DVM (detective vision mode) i got to see how beautiful the game was

masterchief80
masterchief80

I never really had a problem with overusing this feature, though I could see how some people would just forget that they had it on. Sounds like a good decision.

Nero_Viper
Nero_Viper

That's great. I felt sad when I couldn't enjoy the graphics in the first game.

xGod27338
xGod27338

I like the new decision, although it wouldn't have made a difference for me; my routine: Walk into a new room, turn on detective mode for a sec to see who's in there, then drool on the tasty textures, the beefy characters, the... I AM SO GETTING BAA2.

jokerman_28
jokerman_28

this is a good direction for the game. playing through detective mode the whole game was too easy and it didn't help show the game's awesome graphics

maazbazmi
maazbazmi

They made detective mode soo helpful how did they expect gamers not to use that to finish the game

anthonycg
anthonycg

I sort of hated detective mode because I felt like I was missing out on the surroundings. The other problem was that I think it needed more bad guys from the series. I really wanted to see Mr. Freeze, Penguin, Two Face, etc. Still it was one of the best of 2010.

Darth_DuMas
Darth_DuMas

Great news, detective mode was my only real complaint about Arkham Asylum. I thought it did too much of the work and revealed too many of the secrets. Arkham Asylum could have been perfect, with the amount of secrets it had to find, but Detective mode ruined it by showing all. I'm a bit surprised reviews never complained about that even a little.

notorious98
notorious98

Same here, crazeegamer20. Detective mode, while helpful, completely detracted from the beauty of the game. Not to mention that it was totally boring in that perspective. Maybe the change they could make is not allowing you to see body heat signatures. That, in and of itself, would keep people from using it nearly as much.

crazeegamer20
crazeegamer20

i only used detective mode when we had to follow the scents and foot prints, otherwise it's always off for me..

KaizerJinn
KaizerJinn

LoL.. that's interesting, but i enjoyed AA nonetheless and look forward to AA2. it will be EPIC!

gideonkain
gideonkain

hehe, that's true - after awhile I just approached every situation in Detective Mode, Mechwarrior 2 had "Light amplification" which basically made the world wireframe, played the whole game that way. Mech3 and 4 did not it.

danyydude
danyydude

the detective mode should be like night vision in splinter cell conviction.

Elvis4576
Elvis4576

To me it would be better if they toned it down but made the detective mode more detailed or at least make you feel more like a detective.

JAHGREENHERB
JAHGREENHERB

yeah my brother played the entire game in detective mode which defeated the purpose of it being dark and frighting

Sniperwolf_SN
Sniperwolf_SN

yea , I hate to play in Detective mode all the time the game has a great environment and youll miss it if you play it in DM "I think the thing about Detective Mode is that it should have had a limited lifespan" I think thats right or maybe they can make the mode dark or something so you cant turn it on all the time

Rovelius
Rovelius

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mikeyvp87
mikeyvp87

Yeah detective mode was too good. I had to remind myself to take it off since it was so useful. Maybe they could take a page out of Assassins creed and make detective mode more like eagle vision.

lazycomplife
lazycomplife

I too played that game with detective mode on most of the time

MexStraxg3r
MexStraxg3r

im glad they put bios i didnt know most of those characters best batman game ever

lexluis
lexluis

They shouldn't do that, the great thing of detective mode is ecxactly that, YOU CAN SEE WHERE IS EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE. That's how Batman is: always one step ahead from his enemiges

CrookedCrown
CrookedCrown

Yeah played way too much in detective mode :/ Loved the game and the environment was absolutely breathtaking when I didn't have detective mode enabled.

Bezee4u
Bezee4u

I played 97% on detective mode. But i'd agree with Hego. It should be toned down a tad bit...But it was a really great feature.

gbrading
gbrading moderator

I think the thing about Detective Mode is that it should have had a limited lifespan. You could use it for an amount of time, before it would need to stop and recharge. Aside from that, it was a really great feature.

ndewitt2003
ndewitt2003

Far be it from me to tell a great developer what to do, but I would say "if it is not broke, don't fix it." Your game was game of the year for 2009 on many lists. Add bigger and better things to the game, but do not throw the "baby out with the bath water". Detective Mode was awesome. Maybe allow people to use it for actual detective work in the next game instead of just beating up fows, but I would leave it alone. If people are interested in seeing the artistic styling of the game then they will turn it off. I turned it on when I needed it like Batman would do.

burn6
burn6

i have to agree, the art and the beautifully rendered game is somewhat neglected since detective mode is almost a must-on in every new area and it made the game too easy and worsened the enemy AI and their locations. and made the corner cover unnecessary. did anyone noticed that when atop the gargoyle, even though it is bright enough the enemy can't still notice batman? don't forget the swinging to and fro, the noise? it seems the enemies are too afraid of stiff necks than Batman. just my two cents, still love the game.

Tommz7070
Tommz7070

I liked how you could use the detective vision at all times but I tried to use it as little as possible so I could enjoy the environment. I say keep the x-ray vision the way it is, but seeing as there not I totally cool with that. Just make sure that it is easy to use still and if you are going to limit it to a power requirement or a timed ability which I personally hope you don't do, make the vision easy earn and use too just like number #1. This game is going to be great no matter what though!

Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

Agreed totally, i really tried to use detective mode as less as possible. Arkham Asylum is easily one of the most artistic games i played this generation.

cikame
cikame

Now here's the thing, if you reduce the effectiveness of x-ray vision, you'll use it even more to try to raise its effectiveness... and that could get annoying. I agree it was overpowered in the first game and i played most of it with it on, constantly flicking it off so that i could see the actual graphics, i just don't know what you could do to make people use it less but have the same experience.

Sumna87
Sumna87

I'll admit I used detective vision a good bit in the game, but so would Batman. Isn't that the point?

sethbouldin
sethbouldin

@fetusfart18 I think people purposely try to point out the uncanny valley in video games. The only time the uncanny valley would really be an issue would be in the creation of robots. If you've ever read an article about a humanoid robot then you can understand. IT can seem so real but you don't know it's a robot 'til reading the article, then you can just tell that something is off with the "person."

majere613
majere613

It amazes me that no-one actually said during the testing phase "Hey, why would I want to ever turn Detective Vision off?" Seriously, even a team made up entirely of drunken badgers should have spotted that one. Give it a limited duration and a cooldown/ power requirement, make certain things like flashbangs or EMP overload it for a while, it's hardly the most difficult design problem to solve- arguably even some of the AvP games deal with it better.

coldsauce09
coldsauce09

good! a game with challenge ala MGS 1 and 2.

kuda001
kuda001

To be honest i played this game in detective mode the whole time and yes it needs to be toned especially the 'x-ray vision' which allowed you to see your targets without any effort rather than have the player seek them out.

zskrabs24
zskrabs24

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fetusfart18
fetusfart18

I can never understand the "uncanny valley". I mean, are people really "spooked out" by it? I've never had a problem.

jkdwest
jkdwest

Yeah, I don't understand why you would want to keep it on all the time either. Sure it was a bit overpowered, and I know some people would use that as a 'cheat' of sorts, but the game was just too stunningly beautiful to miss out on the standard visuals.

sanim02
sanim02

They should've put a timer on Detective Mode. Like you can only use it for 10 seconds to plan your attack but you have to recharge it for 30 seconds. It makes sense no?

disposition000
disposition000

I agree with the last few posters. The graphics were too awesome to use the detective mode more than sparingly. I would just use it when I could hear but not see someone or if I got lost or something. But I understand the whole "it's tempting to play the whole game like that" thing.

notserbamma
notserbamma

I really hated using detective vision cuz the graphics of the actual game were just so damn crisp...I think the game is also more challenging and enjoyable if you play without it... kinda like playing the first two MGS games without the soliton radar...

grey_fox1984
grey_fox1984

I tried to use it sparingly, I really liked the graphics in the normal vision mode, so i only used DT when i had to.

mattymurder
mattymurder

oohhhh I can't wait till this comes out. I loved Arkam Asylum.