Batman Begins Q&A
We talk to producer Reid Schneider about the upcoming movie-based game that aims to revive the classic comic hero.
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Batman Begins is the upcoming third-person action game from Electronic Arts and Eurocom based on the forthcoming film of the same name. Much like its movie counterpart, Batman Begins aims to restore the Caped Crusader to his former glory after some less than stellar appearances in console games. Fortunately, the game, which is being copublished by EA and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, will borrow liberally from its big screen cousin and will reflect its faithful spin on the Dark Knight's formative years. We stalked EA producer Reid Schneider to see how the game is shaping up.
GameSpot: When did development on the game start?
Reid Schneider: We began thinking about the concepts for the game about 16 months ago. We spent a long time deciding about the type of game we wanted to build. Shortly after that, we began working with Eurocom to bring that vision to life.
The team at Eurocom has done a great job building the game. Even more important, they have run with our original ideas, embraced them as their own, and enabled a really strong collaboration between all involved.
GS: What kind of experience does the team bring to the project?
RS: Eurocom has developed previous James Bond games, as well as Harry Potter titles for EA. JT Petty (the game's writer) and I previously worked together as the writer and producer on the original Splinter Cell at Ubisoft. Our executive producer, Rob Letts, came from Activision, where he worked on many Marvel titles. Our technical director, Gary Lake, came from Vivendi, where he was part of the Chronicles of Riddick team. Our development directors (Nana Wallace and Tim Coupe), brought a huge amount of experience from Maxis and Crytek as well. And, finally, our assistant producer, Erin Skeens, was a key member of The Lord of The Rings team at EA. We're really lucky to have so many talented people working on the game.
GS: How much access did you/do you have to the script, film cast, production sketches, etc.?
RS: Warner Bros. has been a great partner in getting us access to the script, cast, and film production. Their work has enabled us to make the game better and more true to Christopher Nolan's vision. The filmmakers have also been a great resource for us. We work with them regularly on our content.
DC Comics has also been helpful, as they have given us access to Denny O' Neil. Denny created the Ra's Al Ghul character and was the chief Batman editor for years. Denny has been working with JT on the story content.
GS: How closely are you going to follow the game's story?
RS: We are going to follow the film's key moments, but at the same time expand on the narrative presented there. With the game, we have the opportunity to go well beyond the movie experience to let players explore the iconic locations of Gotham City. For example, if Arkham Asylum is featured in the film for 15 minutes, we may have the game experience last for two to three hours there.
GS: Going in, what were some key elements you felt the game had to have?
RS: Similar to the way the film is setting out to reinvent the Batman franchise in movies, we felt we had to do the same with the game. One of the key focus points of the film is the notion that Batman uses fear against his enemies. We decided to make that a key component of the game. In our game, fear is a weapon that Batman can wield against his foes. We felt that the best way to create a compelling gameplay experience with Batman was to create a stealth action game with a strong focus on fear.
GS: How does the fear mechanic fit in with those elements? Could you explain the fear mechanic to us?
RS: The fear mechanic works very well with the character and his overall persona. As we spoke about above, this is central to the film and, thus, central to the game. The way the fear mechanic works in the game is that all environments are designed as "theaters of fear" for Batman to negotiate. All enemies are also built with the ability to sense fear and react accordingly. When you create fear in enemies, their behavior completely changes. Their fighting ability, weapon accuracy, and general environment perception all deteriorate. In most games, players are on the receiving end of the fear, but in Batman Begins, they'll have the opportunity to dish it out.
GS: Games based on movies are always a dicey prospect. What would you say are the biggest pitfalls a movie game can fall into, and how are you working to ensure Batman Begins doesn't fall into them?
RS: That's definitely true. I think the key is to have the goal of building a great game that would stand on its own without the license. The license then only adds to the game's value.
GS: Are you planning any exclusive content for the different console versions? Will there be any online features to any of them?
RS: The content will be very similar across all versions. We're not planning online for this game.
GS: What's one misconception you think people will have about the game, and why are they wrong?
RS: When we have shown the game, many people were really surprised by the cerebral and puzzle-based nature of it. I think most of them expected a brawler that will not require any thought. That is 100 percent opposite of what we're building.
I think people were also happy to see the stealth action focus and the ability to create fear in their enemies. The fear element is new to games, and we are really excited to show it off.
GS: Thanks for your time.