Screwing Up Batman

Screwing Up Batman

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Kotaku Australia has an "insider" report about how the Dark Knight videogame being developed by Pandemic's Brisbane studio quickly went from a hotly-anticipated project to a white elephant that ultimately helped bring about the downfall of the developer.

It's a truism among gamers that videogames based on movies suck. But the Dark Knight had the potential to shatter that sad legacy of failure; Pandemic is a respected developer, and over the course of 2008 Electronic Arts had shown a new level of commitment to publishing innovative, quality games. The Dark Knight itself was a much more fertile ground for game adaptation than most, being far and away the finest on-screen rendition of the Batman ever seen. And it's the goddamn Batman! How can you screw that up?

To begin with, you sign a deal that puts you on an incredibly tight deadline: In this case, EA had the rights to the Batman IP for only 18 months. Pandemic leapt into the job with both feet, apparently confident that the value of the property meant EA would do whatever was necessary - ie., spend as much money as needed - to get the job done. But it wasn't until "several months" after the Brisbane studio began pre-production that the development team was informed that the Batman game was actually a movie tie-in and had to be based on The Dark Knight, a fact which not only rendered the efforts to that point worthless but imposed an even tighter release deadline, as it was decided the game and movie would be released simultaneously.

Experience and technology then became an issue: The decision was made to create an open-world game, even though none of the senior team members had ever worked on such a game, and the Saboteur engine in use at Pandemic's Los Angeles facility was chosen to power it. But the Saboteur technology was designed for an entirely different kind of game and quickly proved unsuitable for open-world development. Nonetheless, the developers pushed on, modifying and upgrading it as they went, but this just made things worse: The addition of an HDR lighting "solution," for instance, took seven months to implement and never worked properly, typically running at around five frames per second and crashing the development hardware within minutes of loading.

The design team was facing similar issues. Level design tools weren't available until six months into development, and management was apparently making decisions "above the Lead Designer" which often had to be reversed once the design tools became available. Pandemic brought more and more people into the project, primarily through private contractors, but ultimately it became clear that launching in conjunction with the movie would be impossible. At that point, the deadline was shifted to December for a launch in concert with the DVD release, a date carved in stone because that was also the time at which EA's rights to the property would expire.

But by September, when the game was supposed to go into alpha testing, it was still in desperately bad shape, and even the December deadline was obviously unattainable. At that point, the project was canned completely; roughly 20 people were let go in the immediate aftermath, and the Brisbane operation suddenly became expendable. When EA announced deep personnel cuts in December 2008, Pandemic was an easy choice.

via: CVG

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Well, I'm not sure anyone cared about this game anyway. Bring on Arkham Asylum!

Why does anyone give EA the time of day any more. This is the same company that threw away some really inventive IPs because they can't increase the suffix digit and resell them every year, the company that continuously promises so much and fails to deliver.

I just feel sorry for Pandemic. This is what happens when you let bankers make games and not game developers...

Neko Niisan:
Why does anyone give EA the time of day any more. This is the same company that threw away some really inventive IPs because they can't increase the suffix digit and resell them every year, the company that continuously promises so much and fails to deliver.

I just feel sorry for Pandemic. This is what happens when you let bankers make games and not game developers...

I was more confused by the sentence that had "EA" and "innovative" so close together. I do fully agree with your last line. As a whole the stock market is feeling the hit to the fact that investors know about one thing, investing, they are probably diagnosable with retardation in respect to the rest of their real world understandings.

Malygris:
And it's the goddamn Batman! How can you screw that up?

I recall an old TV episode in which Batman and Robin where tied to a buoy in the sea, with a torpedo heading toward them. Cut to the commerical. When they return, the scene looks the same, but Robin says, "Holy exploding porpoise, Batman! It sure was brave of that porpoise to jump in front of the torpedo for us!"

Or something.

Ouch! Too bad Pandemic may die, but I honestly don't care about the batman game. It can fail for all I care

SomeBritishDude:
Well, I'm not sure anyone cared about this game anyway. Bring on Arkham Asylum!

It's a Batman sandbox game, and you're not sure anyone cared about it? I'm sure (judging by the responses here) that there is certainly a demographic totally not impressed with this concept, but the number of nerds who want this game more in the worse way completely overwhelm the opposition with sheer numbers.

Arkham Asylum is going to be awesome if it's executed just right, letting the player actually be Batman and not just a Generic Video Game Hero in a Batman suit; now let's do that with all of Gotham City as our playground.

Maybe instead they should have been working on a Star Wars: Battlefront 3. I would have bought that, even if it was just a better retooling of Battlefront 2.

That was a sad but entirely unsurprising story. Shoudn't EA have know they wanted a TDK tie-in before pandemic started on pre-production. Shouldn't it have been the first thing they knew when they brought a developer on? How did that business meeting go?

"Hey remember when we picked up that Batman License?"
"Yeah"
"Well, apparently their also making a movie on the property. We should do a tie-in."
"Duh, well I'll tell the boys at pandemic that the batman project they're working on is now a movie tie-in project. I just wish we knew about this sooner, could have saved us some trouble. What is this some low budget short production schedule thing?"
"Well, actually it's a huge budget sequel, that's been in development soon after the success of the last Batman film, its kind of a big deal."
"That explains why the license cost so much"
"Hey don't worry, we'll just tell the boys to make a type of game they've never made before on technology that's not suitable for it."

... Call me an idiot, but this is the first I heard of the game...

NekoAnastasia:

I recall an old TV episode in which Batman and Robin where tied to a buoy in the sea, with a torpedo heading toward them. Cut to the commerical. When they return, the scene looks the same, but Robin says, "Holy exploding porpoise, Batman! It sure was brave of that porpoise to jump in front of the torpedo for us!"

Or something.

Hell yeah, Adam West. That's Batman the TV show with the comic-book style "ka-pows" and the classic Batman theme song everyone loves to sing. Comics were still a somewhat controversial item around the time of making the show so it had to be as innocuous as possible. The comic itself was dark, even in its early years. I saw an episode (could have been the same one) where the UN was frozen or something. Good times.

Ick, talk about taking a poison pill. Though I'm more inclined to believe that the truth is the lead devs at Pandemic had no choice in the matter and had to take on this project. I don't know how one can be that short-sighted to jump into such a project willingly.

i will not miss the game, however i will hope that Pandemic keeps making games and is still working on Battlefront III

how do you screw up something that's already screwed up

ellimist337:
Maybe instead they should have been working on a Star Wars: Battlefront 3. I would have bought that, even if it was just a better retooling of Battlefront 2.

I second that. Battlefront is one of my favourite games (I'm still playing it now)

On topic I do feel sorry for the developers. Some times things go bad in game development, but it seems they where fighting an uphill battle

Didn't know that The Dark Knight had even been considered as a game. It'd have been a good one though, I think.

I just hope Pandemic can carry on and make Battlefront III. Now that I am truly hoping for...

I hadn't even heard anything about this game until now. I've been looking forward to Arkham Asylum myself.

Frank Miller already had a stab at screwing up Batman.
Four words: "I'm the Goddamn Batman!"
If Batman can survive that, I'm sure he can survive some shite game.
In the mean time, Lego Batman is a barrel of fun...

Brokkr:
I hadn't even heard anything about this game until now. I've been looking forward to Arkham Asylum myself.

QFT. Asylum actually looks decent.

Xhumed:
Frank Miller already had a stab at screwing up Batman.
Four words: "I'm the Goddamn Batman!"
If Batman can survive that, I'm sure he can survive some shite game.
In the mean time, Lego Batman is a barrel of fun...

Lego batman is actually a pretty good example of simple but entertaining gameplay.

It's a shame most games these days have plenty of the former but basically none of the latter.

Even if I hadn't quit working for Pandemic the moment I realized it was an EA subsidiary, the minute they pulled the "Oh, yeah it must parallel the movie" bullshit, I'd have walked. By that point you have to realize the ship hit an iceburg and not even Leo DiCaprio can stop this ship from sinking.

Neko Niisan:
Why does anyone give EA the time of day any more. This is the same company that threw away some really inventive IPs because they can't increase the suffix digit and resell them every year

Actually, that was Activision.

Hopefully this means someone who isn't an EA-owned puppet will get the license now.

thebobmaster:

Neko Niisan:
Why does anyone give EA the time of day any more. This is the same company that threw away some really inventive IPs because they can't increase the suffix digit and resell them every year

Actually, that was Activision.

Yes, indeed Activision was quoted as saying that recently, that I concede but I feel that I need but look to the Fifa/NBA/NFL/every-other-international-sport brands to show my point hold some truth.

Neko Niisan:

thebobmaster:

Neko Niisan:
Why does anyone give EA the time of day any more. This is the same company that threw away some really inventive IPs because they can't increase the suffix digit and resell them every year

Actually, that was Activision.

Yes, indeed Activision was quoted as saying that recently, that I concede but I feel that I need but look to the Fifa/NBA/NFL/every-other-international-sport brands to show my point hold some truth.

Well, what "really inventive IPs" did EA throw away?

This is the type of stuff that fuels the fire against EA.

SmugFrog:
This is the type of stuff that fuels the fire against EA.

Who cares? Burn the lot of 'em.

Oh I'm not trying to defend them; just saying they're doing it to themselves.

ZeroMachine:
... Call me an idiot, but this is the first I heard of the game...

second. Come to think of it, I never noticed when I didn't see the usual game-based-on-a-movie malarky that seems to haunt all popular cinema. How odd.

 

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