Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Interview Batman: The Brave and the Bold the Videogame

Batman: The Brave and the Bold brings a campier, more humorous look at the Dark Knight's adventures and the upcoming Batman: The Brave and the Bold the Videogame is taking that humor and action to the Nintendo Wii and DS. Why should Bat's fans take notice, why should DC fans take notice? We went to the source to find out as Adam Tierney, WayForward Designer/Director of Batman the Brave and the Bold the Videogame for Wii and Sean Velasco, WayForward Designer/Director of Batman the Brave and the Bold the Videogame for DS chime in on what the adventure is all about.

Why should Batman fans, new to Brave and the Bold, give this new adventure a spin?

Adam Tierney (director of Wii game): If you haven’t seen the TV show the game is based on, I’d definitely recommend giving it a look. As a huge fan of all things Batman, I was skeptical at first of this lighter, sillier portrayal of the Dark Knight. He’s hardly dark at all! But the writing is so sharp, funny, and the characterizations of each hero are so fresh, you can’t help but fall in love with it.

With the game, we essentially wanted to create four playable ‘episodes’ structured like the TV show. From our first discussion with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, the concept was that gamers would essentially ‘play the cartoon.’ So instead of creating a game like most superhero games, where you have a cutscene, followed by speechless gameplay until the next cutscene, we have constant, running dialogue (over 400 pages of it) of our heroes bantering, bickering and discussing the current mission. The end result is really unlike any other action game on the market.

Sean Velasco (director of DS game): With the DS title, our focus has been on embracing the strengths of the platform. We have amazing renditions of all the characters and environments using WayForward’s signature pixel style, and our gameplay is suited to faster pick-up-and-play sessions with emphasis on teaming up and kicking butt.

Will the game retain the same fun, campy humor as the show?

Adam: Absolutely. We worked with the TV show’s writers to ensure that the dialogue and humor felt very true to the source material. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment also brought in the cast of the TV show to record for the game, from Diedrich Bader as Batman to Paul Reubens as Bat-Mite.

What games influenced the direction of Batman: The Brave and the Bold?

Adam: The core combat is a blend of old-school brawlers such as Double Dragon, mixed with modern juggler/fighters. We looked at games aimed at younger audiences (like the LEGO series) in regard to risk/reward systems, since the target audience skews a bit younger than most superhero games. We also pulled elements from other Batman games where it made sense, like the gadget inventory system and lunge attacks inspired by Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Sean: Platformers like Mega Man and Metroid inspired some of our core mobility, but Batman: The Brave and the Bold the Videogame is also very combat heavy. I’m pretty proud of the depth we managed to cram into the combat system, which you could say is a bit similar to the next-gen games. I am extremely reverent towards the perfection of the combat in that series!

Why go with a side-scrolling style vs. a more 3D adventure?

Adam: For a couple of reasons - first, and most important we wanted to match the look and feel of the TV show as faithfully as possible. If we recreated the characters in 3D, it wouldn’t feel like playable episodes. Our animators used the very same models, and frame-by-frame process, as the animators on the Batman: The Brave and Bold TV show, so the end result looks strikingly similar.

Second, WayForward excels at classic, 2D animation. We put out quite a number of 3D titles as well, but if you look at 2D game development, we’re maybe the only developer producing this magnitude of classic frame animation in games. I believe the final animation frame count for the Wii game was around 16,000 frames, each frame illustrated by hand, from pencils to digital inks and colors.

And third, the core combat has its roots in games like Double Dragon and Street Fighter, so 2D art and gameplay matched those sensibilities. The game does feature some very impressive 3D backgrounds and special effects, but the playfield and characters look straight out of the cartoon.

Sean: With the DS, the answer is clear. Awesome pixels games are our specialty, and adding Batman to the mix is too good a formula to pass up.

How different was development from Wii to the DS?

Adam: Both projects were in development at the same time, and share a lot of similarities: episodic structure, some heroes, villains, and locations. However, the Wii game had more of an emphasis on storytelling, and its combat was predominantly brawler-influenced.

Sean: As Adam was saying, we were on two different development tracks. The DS game has more of a focus on platforming and classic game sensibilities. The games came out with some core similarities, but the cool part is that each one is its own unique experience.

How much will motion/stylus controls play into the game?

Adam: Keeping combat as precise and tight as possible is absolutely essential for any good fighting game. At the same time, the game is being developed for the Wii, so to not take advantage of the system’s more unique attributes would be a missed opportunity. All core combat occurs on the analog stick and face buttons, and the Wii Remote’s IR and motion functions are used for powering up jump-in heroes (shaking) or special aiming.

Sean: Our game focuses on the top screen as the playable portion. The bottom screen is used for selecting gadgets, swapping heroes, and also acts as a heads-up-display.

Which in-game character is the most unique, fun to play? (for you)

Sean: Batman! The Caped Crusader has an awesome array of moves, a huge arsenal of gadgets, and a bunch of great little dialog quips. The other characters are great partners that add a lot of flavor to the game, but I have to go with the tried-and-true.

Adam: I’d have to go with Guy Gardner. When you have a ring that allows you to construct anything in your head, the possibilities are endless. The animators had a lot of fun varying up Guy’s attacks visually, so you’ll see him construct chairs, baseball bats, anvils, all in the blink of an eye with each button press. His gadgets are also a blast to play with, since they’re very IR driven and can be projected anywhere onscreen. Using a giant fist, he can slap enemies around, or pick them up and hurl them at one another.

Are there any surprise characters not mentioned yet we can be spoiled/teased with?

Adam: Definitely. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has been announcing characters over the past few months, and there are plenty left. The 5 playable characters in the Wii game are now known, but we’ve only revealed some of the jump-in heroes, and only a few of the villains. The number I’ve heard is over 60 prominent DC Universe characters between both games. As a tease, I could say one of the game’s episodes deals with a 100-year-old grudge against Batman.

Sean: Sorry, I can’t be monkeying around with any clues at this time!

Are there characters unique to the game not seen in the cartoon?

Adam: In a sense. All of the characters in the game have appeared in the cartoon, but some of them had only minor or non-speaking parts, so for the game we were able to develop a voice and persona for them. Catman was a character that only appeared in a teaser sequence in the show, and we were really able to develop his personality in the game as a hilarious key villain. The thing about the show is that sooner or later, everyone in the mainstream DC Universe gets pulled in. So even characters we had an interest in using that weren’t from the show, ended up being written into the show by the time the game went into production.

What's next for Batman, more Brave and Bold adventures on the Wii and DS?

Adam: The game is coming out September 7th!

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