Holy Baterangs! Interview with Jonathan Smith reveals more Lego Batman details...
Before getting into the interview, here's what we already know about Lego Batman and TT Games.
Recently acknowledged as the leading UK developer in the Develop 100 report, TT Games was acquired last year by Warner Bros Interactive, a result we guess of their relationship with movie licences and tie-ins. They are certainly one of the most respected names in the UK development community and have two big Lego titles coming out this year; Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures and Lego Batman.
Lego Batman is based on an original story where all the lunatics have taken over Arkham Asylum and succeeded in escaping. It's your job to round them up, of course. The campaign to re-capture the likes of Catwoman, the Penguin, the Joker, Killer Croc, Scarecrow and others takes you across 18 Lego infested levels. But that is literally only half the story.
As you play through the 'hero' levels, you'll unlock another 18 levels where you play the game from the villain's point-of-view.
The success of the gameplay in the previous Lego titles is mirrored in Lego Batman with grappling hooks that are similar to those in Star Wars II, the chance to build new items out of Lego pieces and the usual mix of action and puzzle solving. However, in Lego Batman the emphasis will change somewhat - let's find out more from Jonathan Smith:
[PS3A] This is the first time you've developed a title outside of the Lucas arena...
[JS] I suppose it is. We just think of it as a natural progression of our work on Lego games. Obviously, the Lego company has been making play materials for a long time for a wide range of different properties including loads of characters from TV series and movies over the years. So we don't see it as a radical departure for us.
[PS3A] What has been different about working with the PS3 over the years?
[JS] Traveller's Tales (the developers) are experts in working with the PlayStation 3. Obviously they were strong on all Sony platforms from PlayStation 1 through to the PS2 and PSP. They have a lot of expertise in those areas that they've brought to the PS3 when they first starting developing for it a few years ago. With Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga and Lego Indiana Jones on the PS3, and with other PlayStation 3 titles already in development, it is really a platform that everyone is extremely comfortable with and enjoys working on.
[PS3A] What is your approach to producing multi-platform titles?
[JS] Traveller's Tales has been brought up over the last 17 years or so as a specialist in multi-platform development and right from the start their culture and technology has been built up around that. They have proven over the years to be extremely effective and being able to share assets, models, animations, sounds and elements of design between platforms with a common engine at heart but with different modules that allow the advantages of each platform to come to the fore. It is a technology and approach that has served them in good stead over the years.
[PS3A] Batman is an interesting choice because of the different incarnations of the character. There's the mildly camp TV series, the sometimes grittier films, the animated series, the original comic books and the graphic novels. As far as Lego Batman is concerned, which style of Batman are we going to see?
[JS] Lego Batman is really both its own version of Batman, and all the other versions of Batman as well. It is a sort of distillation of many of the common elements that have appeared in the different in carnations over the decades. Elements of it will seem familiar from the comic books in particular but also from your memory of the different things that Batman and the other Gotham City characters have got up to or meant to you across all the other versions. But the game does have its own distinct look in terms of style, the colours we use, vehicles and costumes. They're unique, but I suppose it is best to say they are compatible; compatible with all the other different versions of Batman.
[PS3A] With previous Lego titles there are areas that you can't access until you have played the game through. Once completed, you can access other areas when playing as 'the bad guys'. Is this feature in Lego Batman?
[JS] You're right, but we're taking it to a whole new level. You're right to say that in our previous games we've had the concept of 'story mode' and 'free play', and in 'free play' you can go back and access areas with all the characters you've unlocked, including the bad guys. We still have that, but what we have done that takes this to a new level is 'villain mode'. In 'villain mode' you won't just be able to go back and look at new levels, we're creating an entirely new and separate campaign that tells the whole story of the game from the villain's point-of-view.
[PS3A] Is 'villain mode' unlocked when you finish the hero campaign?
[JS] No - it is actually unlocked as you progress through the game.
[PS3A] What new game mechanics can we expect from your Lego Batman title?
[JS] In Lego Batman it is all about the gadgets and technology that Batman has researched, or have been researched for him. We have the concept of different suits he and Robin can wear that give unique and distinct abilities in order to progress through a level.
[PS3A] I guess that's why Robin is wearing scuba gear in the trailer!
[JS] Exactly, Robin's scuba suit is one of them and both characters have a range of very cool suits that give them special abilities.
[PS3A] What else is new to the series?
[JS] On top of that, people that play the Lego series of games will find plenty of other fundamentally new approaches to the gameplay that suit the action of Batman including a greater emphasis on cool hand-to-hand combat and fighting. In terms of weapons, whereas in Indy we have lots of different firearms, Batman is not a character that needs to use guns to deal with the bad guys, so as well as the cool hand-to-hand combat he has baterangs as well.
[PS3A] How do they work?
[JS] Baterangs work in a very cool way in Lego Batman that you won't have seen in the series before where you can manually target a sequence of different objects with a baterang, then send it off and destroy a group of objects and enemies from a distance.
[PS3A] On the PS3, will that be controlled using the SixAxis or with the analogue sticks?
[JS] The targeting system is stick-based.
[PS3A] You don't have to comment, but that's probably a good move! So what's next for you and the Lego series?
[JS] I'm going to have to be coy about specifics, but the thing about Lego is it can become anyone and do anything. So it's just down to your imagination really. We spend a good deal of time imagining cool directions for the series and all I can say is that we're sure fans won't be disappointed with what comes next. Traveller's Tales are working on another game that will be out this year, and we're very excited about our Guinness Game of World Records. Based on the famous Book of World Records, the idea is that all the most amazing feats of human achievement you've previously read about you can now undertake yourself - in a game, with your friends, you can break those records and become a real record breaker.
PS3 Attitude would like to thank Jonathan Smith for his time and we look forward to catching up with him in person later this year at GameCity 3. Check back soon for more Lego Batman details, and watch the trailer below for some sneak preview action.
Lego Batman is currently planned for release in September this year. Lego Indy is being released on the 6th June, which you can pre-order now.