This is an excerpt from an original early concept created by me, Ronildson S. S. Palermo, for a hypothetical multiplayer component for the already released title Batman: Arkham Asylum. The text assumes, for the general purpose of illustrating the idea, that much of the game’s design and features would remain the same and that only small changes and additions would be made, all of those will be, of course, explained and detailed along the way.
Multiplayer revolves around the clash between hero and villains. Gameplay is set much like a challenge room. The hero and the henchmen battle for basic multiplayer objectives like deathmatch (or in batman’s case: outcoldmatch), protect/capture the VIP or a special item and others. Of course all the components are stylized and themed for batman’s world using people and items of interest in the universe for the multiplayer. Some changes in perspective and slight additions to combat would be created and balanced. The hero would struggle to remain undetected and silently eliminate any immediate threats to his life and, if necessary, engage enemies in physical combat to achieve his objective. Villains would work together to find and eliminate the hero as soon as possible, combining their many different abilities to find, corner and kill Batman. Many game modes and play styles could be created by tweaking the numbers in the game, for example, like creating a pure predator mode where all thugs have guns or a wave mode where Batman must fend off wave after wave of increasingly better equipped enemies.
- A multiplayer match begins like a challenge room. There’s the possibility of mixing combat and predator gameplay in the match by introducing armed and unarmed opponents, using the match’s settings, forcing heroes to integrate and coordinate their skills in both Predator and Freeflow gameplay;
- Villains play using a first person perspective camera to facilitate weapon aiming and handling, build more tension around fighting and allowing more freedom for the hero to perform stealth maneuvers;
- Hero keeps third person perspective;
- Batman has only one life and henchmen have plenty, depending on balance and game mode. As thugs go down, they respawn until they run out of lives;
- Visual obstacles are mainly used to hinder the villain’s line of sight and create suspense as well as to allow some surprise for the hero in terms of enemy positioning. It allows stalking, silent approaches, quiet elimination of threats and ambushes, the latter possibly coming from both sides;
- Levels would contain pipes, tasers, knives, wall boxes and even weapon lockers. But never enough for more than a certain fraction of the thugs. This creates diversity and allows some predatory gameplay to take place in order for the hero to pick off any gun-wielding thug and increase their survival chance during close encounters;
- Villains can communicate through in-game voice chat. But when one of them are neutralized, no warning or notice is given to their partners. This feature helps the conveying of the experience of being Batman and eliminating a large group of enemies one-by-one leaving the rest to wonder what happened to the others, it also incentives thugs to work in groups.
- Detective Vision’s X-Ray range would be limited to two-three dozen feet, roughly 8-12 meters. This makes it mandatory for Batman to actively move and explore the area in order to find the all thugs’ positions, at the same time, henchmen outside his vision’s range would be given a chance to relocate and surprise the hero;
- The ceiling of every interior area, as well as the high perch areas of outside environments, (above the floodlights that light up the area) are shrouded in darkness. It allows Batman to move and scour the area without being seen by any thug who simply happens to look up. Batman would be able to grapple from gargoyle to gargoyle and range the area, assess the situation and then expose himself;
- Rifles have flashlights; these are capable of penetrating the thick darkness that embraces the high points of every area. Armed goons are capable of seeking Batman in the darkness, so the hero is not totally safe while scouting the area from the high points. The hero needs to avoid their light beams and keep moving in order to avoid getting caught by a dutiful guard.
- Tasers and other weapons do not respawn in a standard match. They spawn once, at the beginning of the game, and whenever a henchmen carrying one is neutralized, the weapon drops on the floor. Respawning thugs have to search for their initial weapons on-site. Batman cannot interact with them. This makes ammunition for the rifles extremely scarce, since they only have one ammo clip from start to finish. Making thugs think twice before spraying bullets into the known gargoyle positions.
- Villains have a similar set of movements in combat to the hero, except Batman’s counter is replaced with a block for villains and, though their evade jumps have the same range as batman’s jump/roll, their recovery time after an evade jump is a lot longer and, during this period, they are completely vulnerable to attacks, not to mention they cannot vault over someone with an evade move. The cape stun would be changed to a crippling blow or a ramming move that cannot be countered, only evaded, and would leave batman exposed for a second. Note that these additions, along with the tweaking of the henchmen controls to support weapons, would inevitably increase the number of animations.
- Henchmen are encouraged to work cooperatively and cover their weaker partners. If their partners are not as good as them in combat then the hero gets punches in and builds up a combo worth a takedown, thus enabling the hero to take out any thug in one move. That makes the game a lot more tactical for both the hero and villains. The hero would do its best to avoid the most skilled henchmen and pick off the weaker ones to enable takedowns which he can use to tackle better ones down, all the while the best thugs have to corner the hero and avoid him from building up combos, sometimes even using the weaker ones as bait; this requires some amount of coordination from the thugs’ part and gives a purpose the communication system mentioned earlier.
- Combat mechanics get one new addition, a cancel effect. The reason for this is quite simple: Batman Arkham Asylum was a single player experience, so it was important to empower and take care of the individual having the experience, since we’re dealing with human controlled villains now, they’re not going to want to wait to attack Batman whenever he counters a move. They’ll feel extremely frustrated if Batman becomes invulnerable whenever one of their friends makes a dumb move and the hero counters it. What’s proposed is a quick tweak in the counter move. Instead of triggering a cool cinematic camera and slow-motion effect whenever the hero successfully counters and attack, the counter animation is played normally like any other move during combat and, during the counter, if the hero triggers an evade move or another counter move due to a second wave of attack, the current counter is stopped and the thug takes a percentage of the full damage the counterattack would cause him. That allows Batman to deal with multiple attacks incoming at once. But also allow thugs to help out each other by striking when Batman counters one of their friends, forcing him to give up the full damage he would do to the specific thug in order to preserve his own life. But not entirely making the move useless, since some damage is still done. This way Batman can still defeat them by constantly switching targets, avoiding damage and doing little bits of damage every time he successfully counters and attack. This process considerably extends the length of the battle, making Batman susceptible to more attacks and, since he only has one life, each chance the thugs have of landing an attack on him brings him one step closer to losing. Cancel Counter is a very fast move, giving Batman the ability to counter any number of attacks in a fast sequence, provided they aren’t thrown at a very tight time gap. If two or more attacks are synchronized and thrown by thugs at the same time or with a very small time gap between them Batman won’t be able to counter all the attacks because of his Cancel Counter delay and would be forced to evade instead, in order not to be hit.
- Building up a combo rewards the player with the possibility of using a combo takedown and a throw. These are rewards the hero earns for playing well and keeping his combo up by dealing with whatever situations were thrown at him by the bad guys. Throws work just like in the single player and are used to stun one thug, potentially more if used right, except in multiplayer they have a stun effect that lasts a lot longer than that of the average stun cape. It does no damage unless the enemy is thrown against an environmental hazard like fatal drops or electrical cages, in which case the throw becomes deadly. It is also noteworthy to point out that a throw is unstoppable, it can’t be blocked, only evaded. Takedowns also work just like in single player, they are unstoppable, unavoidable and disable an enemy instantly, but the catch is that a combo takedown can only be applied on an enemy which is within eight feet from the hero, allowing thugs to attempt to get clear of the takedown once they feel it is coming by taking some distance from the hero, usually with an evade jump. Another problem with the combo takedowns and throws is that attempting to realize one and failing in multiplayer breaks the combo, this allows for thugs to break a hero’s combo by capitalizing on the move’s weaknesses, evasion for the throw and distance for the takedown. Going from the principle that a takedown and a throw are rewards and the design presupposes that they’re hard moves to unlock when playing against henchmen who know what they’re doing, these move should be non-cancellable by either Batman or the henchmen, this means that once a hero lands a throw or a takedown on a thug, they become momentarily invulnerable until the move is done;
This is just an initial high concept and by no means should be treated as the final documentation of a product or component of the game. Features here could, and should, be changed as further playtesting and polishing is conducted and done. All the ideas indicated here also should be changed, tweaked, expanded and shrinked in the designed experience’s best interest. Any mechanic or idea could be pulled independently or in conjunction with others from this document and used as the designers or developers see fit. Other aspects of the game design such as the rest of the wide range of gadgets Batman had in the game (Sonic Batarangs, Explosive Gel and the Line Launcher), special moves for the villains and others weren’t mentioned here but would also need to be fully explored, designed, balanced and tested for a fair and fun experience. This is just a sample that illustrates my vision of Batman’s multiplayer from an idea I had nearly a year ago. Although, I do think some major changes should be done in order for multiplayer to truly fit and feel right in the game, but I did my best with what I know Batman Arkham Asylum had in terms of gameplay and experience.
Most of the tweaks and changes done here were realized with balance in mind. Batman is the hero of the game, granted, but unless the “evil” side holds some appeal, no one would enjoy playing and spend time getting good at it. Therefore the use of known villains as potential playable characters in the multiplayer such as Joker, Zsasz (he has been introduced in the challenge rooms), Bane and others is an idea that came to mind and could be further explored and discussed, but wasn’t fully detailed in this excerpt.
I have no connection with Rocksteady Studios or Warner Bros. And Batman, along with any other names or logos are trademarks from their respective owners.