The game world is five times the size of Arkham City’s. How do you break it up?
It’s broken down into three subsections. We had to step up our game in a way: we didn’t just want to do something bigger, we wanted to inject something new. In the last game, everything was brownstone style, with a twist of Gothic. In this one we’ve gone a bit neo-Gothic. In the downtown area, we needed a lot more verticality to balance out the roads being wider for Batmobile gameplay. Then we have the GCPD area, which is a bit more industrial. The third island is an extension of what we did in City.
How do you design architecture in areas that have featured in previous games?
We played with the concept of Gotham being rebuilt on top of itself. In the previous game, you saw the old part of the city… We tried to create a kind of layer cake – the idea is Gotham doesn’t erase all the mistakes they’re making, they’re just rebuilding over the top. It’s a bit abstract, and it makes for an interesting clash between old buildings and steel beams and glass.
Is there much back and forth with Warner over character designs?
For the top-tier characters – all the heroes and villains – we need to have a close relationship with Warner and DC. But it’s a relationship that is now seven years old. Through the different games, and the success they’ve had, there’s trust. They’ve been generally very open.
What about the design teams? It must be tricky to build a world in which every single surface can be grappled on and jumped off.
Something that is sure across everything is that gameplay is king. If we need to dismantle something and build it in a different way to provide that experience of being Batman, we will. The tricky part is keeping all these things in check: the distance between two objects, the height, how it feels. You can’t put a statue too close to a building – if you grapple boost, you’ll bang into it. For a long time, there was an artist who specialised in the bridge between design and art, making sure what we built conformed to the design, to smooth navigation.
What do you want players to get from Arkham Knight that they didn’t from City?
We’ve made a huge step in terms of tech. We’ve started to liberate ourselves from the tools and make a big step in what I call visual narration – making really meaningful environments and characters with backstory. It’s not just pixels for the sake of pixels – we try to add a second reading to everything we do. We’ve got a brand-new lighting shader; the engine’s really impressive. We’ve got an amazing engine team that’s opened all the doors to the new generation.