Extra Punctuation: The Sandbox Killed Batman

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What happened to Longshoremen 1 through 9?

Zach of Fables:
I haven't actually played Arkham City yet but based on what Yahtzee wrote it does sound like AC, like AA, is the experience of being Batman. This time, though, it's not necessarily in a good way.

If you read the comics, Batman does get around by shooting grappling hooks everywhere.

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And also by running, climbing on buildings, and so forth. And rarely the Batmobile too. I understand how in a video game that can get very old very fast. But it's still how Batman would function on a minute to minute basis when out fighting crime.

I'm a pretty hardcore comics and Batman fan, so maybe I'll still find some fun in traveling that way. Maybe Arkham City just requires a little more imagination than some other games?

I have to disagree with Yahtzee. Yes, you can grapple and glide, but there's a certain degree of skill to doing it well. Batman can dive bomb down to the ground and pull up with a faster velocity and rise higher; combining gliding, dive bombing, and grapple-boosting combines into what is probably the best transportation in a superhero game since Spider-man 2. This is what I think, sure, but I'd hardly call it "clunky" - it's really quite graceful.

There's a wonderful side-mission that puts Batman through some augmented reality gliding challenges (courtesy of the Batcomputer) and it really shows off how advanced gliding tactics can shake up the game significantly.

After reading this weeks post I can't help but think that Yahtzee would really enjoy The Joker Blogs.

Cid SilverWing:
I fail to see how you could have trouble with the Gliding and Grappling Hook mechanics, Yahtzee. I got around perfectly fine, and I grabbed the Grappling Upgrade as early as I could so I could super-Grapple onto selected edges as I was gliding to kick myself back up and continue gliding. It's Catwoman's method of getting around (i.e. pouncing and whipping) that got on my tits; the pouncing was basically forced QTE's that begrudgingly force Catwoman up the building if you fail them anyway and the indicators are horribly drawn so I can't tell how to time the button press.

Andy of Comix Inc:
I have to disagree with Yahtzee. Yes, you can grapple and glide, but there's a certain degree of skill to doing it well. Batman can dive bomb down to the ground and pull up with a faster velocity and rise higher; combining gliding, dive bombing, and grapple-boosting combines into what is probably the best transportation in a superhero game since Spider-man 2. This is what I think, sure, but I'd hardly call it "clunky" - it's really quite graceful.

There's a wonderful side-mission that puts Batman through some augmented reality gliding challenges (courtesy of the Batcomputer) and it really shows off how advanced gliding tactics can shake up the game significantly.

Totally agree. Traversing the city was one of the most improved aspects of Arkham City. The improved combat is also great. I actually look to pick fights and I'm doing the combat challenges because the combat is so much more fun than Arkham Asylum. I liked the combat in Arkham Asylum but it didn't have enough depth IMO. I agree there is some hit to the level design compared to AA because of the bigger world, but the level design is still solid and better than most linear games. The Riddler challenges were much improved and you had to use your mind to get a lot of the trophies instead of just waiting to get a gadget so you could line launch over to a trophy, use the batclaw to pull open a ventilation grate, etc. Lastly, I loved the story so much more in Arkham City, and I'll remember that iconic ending probably for the rest of my life.

Great column. Echoes a few of the thoughts Zak Smith (the guy from I Hit It With My Axe, whose dnd blog is the precise opposite of that execrable video show) who said heroes are less interesting to play as than villains because they only react, whereas villains also set the rules of engagement. (A hero who goes to a church will have some sort of church-related adventure, but it isn't clear what kind; a villain will decide whether he'll try to dress as a ghost to scare people off the real state or kidnap nuns one by one to power a sin engine, and thus what kind of game he's playing.) Then again, perhaps villains are more suited to tabletop, while heroes are better suited to videogames, which don't have a human behind them to act in response to everything and need a rigid framework or they'll go off the rails.

I actually thought a lot about how MHYTRMG would work, after the initial mention on the SR2 video.

The tone would be like in SR2, in which you are in a colorful bizarre cartoon world where everything is a degree of magnitude above what it shoulde be, but gameplay would be like Prototype, in which you'd use your own mode of transportation and attack rather than relying on mundane vehicles and weapons. There'd probably be some sort of skill tree so you had to choose whether you had a death ray and an evilmobile or a jetpack and a freeze ray.

The story progression would work like SR2, you'd have to commit 'acts of villainy' to gain infamy and proceed through the story. But the 'story' would be clearly the backdrop; the meat of the game would be the 'acts of villany'. You could be dumb and just act like your cousin when he comes over to play GTA and just kill a bunch of people, or you could be a cool Lex Luthor creature and plan extensive heists while trying to mantain a dignified public persona. Either would count. There would be very few story events, maybe four or five in the whole game, and many acts of villainy, so you'd spend the whole game working on those.

There would be wanted stars, just like in a GTA game, and in a similar way. One star, police; two star, heavy police (all points bulletin); three stars, specialized SWAT like team; four, army/national guard/whatever. At five stars, things start to get different: you'd get one of several teams specialized in taking out supervillains. They're human, but they're specially trained to deal with people like you. They use wildly different tactics and the one that manages to defeat you the most often will be called with more frequency when you reach that level.

The sixth star is a superhero, of course. Superheroes would be an event in their own, with the game freezing to show BANGLE BANNER! arriving on the scene. Superheroes would have 'wanted' stars on their own. At first you'd only fight lame superheroes that were just super strong/skilled people in bright costumes, but as you defeated them more dangerous heroes appeared. At the highest tier there would only be two or three superheroes, one of whom would be a Superman expy who would be able to kick your ass very, very quickly. An interesting choice for another top tier superhero to be less powerful than Notsuperman but have less scruples and not hesitate to throw a semi on top of you just because you're in front of a schoolbus.

anyway, my people will call your people, thx.

I alwyas thourght villans were "WROOOOOONG" because..they did BAD things..they HURT people..you know they are called "villans" for a reason, regardless of how interesting they are

Stop bringing up Evil Genius. It's a glorified tower defense game. Not that it wasn't fun for awhile (though once I had 3 invincible superagents in my base all at once it was pretty tedious) but it's not at all what Yahtzee is suggesting. I think you all missed the "start with Saints Row 2" part. He doesn't want to just sit back and click on "activate trap" and "deploy minion" buttons (which would be more interaction with the game than you have in Evil Genius).

Hot damn, Yahtzee, that second page was beautiful. Make that game, and then SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

I think the Venture Brothers do a good job of bringing this fact to light: the Guild of Calamitous Intent (the "Legion of Doom" equivalent in the Venture Bros. setting) provides everything a wannabe supervillain could want to wreak havoc yet avoid incarcaration and potential death at the hands of overzealous vigilantes - provided those villains work within a set of bureaucratic rules.

As Brock Samson pointed out "these guys like their system;" a system where villains can indulge their weird costume fetishes and dramatic entrances and villainous monologes without lasting consequence.

"You take that away," Brock goes on to say, "And you are looking at a bunch of pissed off nutbags with ray guns and giant, I don't know, a giant octopus slash tank with laser eyes."

As much as I disagree with Yahtzee on the quality of the game, he makes some good points that are worth exploring in other projects. I have to wonder. With as much clout as he has on the internet and in the gaming industry (due in no small part to the fact that developers listen to him), why hasn't anyone approached him to contract his unique perspective for their game development.

The way he describes MHYTRMG and Fun Space Game: The Game has me quick-drawing my wallet, shortcutting to Amazon, then waking up and realizing these games don't exist. :(

Phoenixmgs:
The Riddler challenges were much improved and you had to use your mind to get a lot of the trophies instead of just waiting to get a gadget to you could line launch over to a trophy, use the batclaw to pull open a ventilation grate, etc. Lastly, I loved the story so much more in Arkham City, and I'll remember that iconic ending probably for the rest of my life.

I kinda disagree, not because the puzzles were not challenging (they were, and are), but just because of that, they are puzzles, not riddles.
The name of the man is Riddler, not Puzzler (and i bet there is a guy named that out there), i should be solving riddles, not puzzles that are mainly about timing and proper jump sequencing (or grapple line aiming).

The Random One:
Great column. Echoes a few of the thoughts Zak Smith (the guy from I Hit It With My Axe, whose dnd blog is the precise opposite of that execrable video show) who said heroes are less interesting to play as than villains because they only react, whereas villains also set the rules of engagement. (A hero who goes to a church will have some sort of church-related adventure, but it isn't clear what kind; a villain will decide whether he'll try to dress as a ghost to scare people off the real state or kidnap nuns one by one to power a sin engine, and thus what kind of game he's playing.) Then again, perhaps villains are more suited to tabletop, while heroes are better suited to videogames, which don't have a human behind them to act in response to everything and need a rigid framework or they'll go off the rails.

Which leaves sandbox games as an interesting case, because in those games the whole appeal is that there really are no rails. Maybe that's why they already work so well for stories where you play a criminal. But what Yahtzee is proposing is almost more like a complete inversion, where you're meant to build the rails yourself. Now that he's fleshed out his ideas a bit more, it's actually sounding less like a GTA clone and more like a tool where you use a combination of RTS mechanics and skills honed from playing RollerCoaster Tycoon to play the role of a game designer and AI and then have the computer-controlled hero play it.

Unless you're the Authority, then you just tear the spines out Supervillians, then kill "god" and take over the US. Yeah actually spot on with the need to keep villains alive.

DasDestroyer:
I would so play a Supervillain Sandbox like that... But I do think that your goal(not necessarily the final one) could be to actually kill the Superhero... and then watch as your character begins to suffer from boredom.(Megamind, anyone?)

I was definitely thinking as I read the second page that he had a bit of a Megamind-esque theme all around. Especially the holding each other in check part.

It's difficult to see how they could produce a explorative zelda/metroid prime style beat em up anywhere other than Arkam Asylum and still maintain verisimilitude within the Batman universe.

I think a full sandbox with Gotham proper, Wayne Mansion, Batcave, Asylum and surrounding countryside should be on the cards next (Provided they can do it right.). Actually using stuff like the Batmobile, Bat-Bike, Bat-plane etc could be quite satisfying if done well (Maybe al la Saint's Row The Third. Can't wait to see BYC's opinion on that one.)

The narrative tightness of the experience would suffer but you'd end up with something more like a Batman Simulator. Perhaps Bruce Wayne would have to attend to business occasionally and need to balance that with being Batman and not being found out. Attend society functions that Joker/Two Face might crash and kidnap from. A Batplane level where you have to destroy Laughing/Fear gas zeppilines that the Joker/Scarcrow have set up. Batmobile car chase involving hookshots and RPGs.

There is potential there.

As to his evil genius game: I think he may almost get his wish with Saint's Row 3; but I guess you could have something like Pikmen where you surround your self with goons and go rob banks, steal freeze rays, collect components for a poison gas factory etc etc.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Extra Punctuation: The Sandbox Killed Batman

The villains are lost in Arkham City.

Read Full Article

Not sure about this Yahtzee.

"Batman as a character isn't really about fun-time acrobatics the same way Spider-Man is, and that's why Spider-Man might suit a sandbox where Batman doesn't."

True, not in the same way, but Batman IS about fun-time acrobatics. The fact that he wasn't bitten by a radioactive spider doesn't change this fact. Almost every Batman comic will have one spread or frame of the Dark Knight high above the Gotham skyline (with or without Robin/Nightwing). One leg will be bent at the knee, the other outstretched gracefully, as if he's kicking some invisible foe. Most of the time you can't even see where his grapnel gun has attached itself, he's just flying through the air, hundreds of feet above street level. This is fairly acrobatic to me.

Also, watching Batman fight in the comics and in Arkham Asylum/City is very acrobatic. The dude jumps through hails of bullets, kicks one bro in the face whilst backfisting another perp. He's a machine.

"Getting around Arkham City with the hookshot and glidey wings feels clumsy and overcomplicated"

Flying through Arkham is awesome, it took me time to master, but there is a beauty to it. Especially when after a good 30 second glide you just decide to drop in on some nefarious dudes and mess them up. I t had me thinking imagine the Batman just dropping in on you like that, it would be very scary.

"...and when viewed from above the rooftops the whole place feels kind of lifeless."

LOL, it's Gotham City brah (and not Joel Schumacher's bright and chirpy version). The place is a sink for degenerates. No money has been invested in the infrastructure for decades and it's also been recently turned into a prison. Rocksteady got Gotham spot on.

"I enjoyed it very much because Batman's hardly in it."

This is why I don't like Burton's Batman that much, as Burton took the view that the villains were the most important aspect of the films. Nolan realised that Batman is the most important aspect, he is tragic. It really hits home when you pay your respects to his parents in Crime Alley.

Arkham City is a roller-coaster ride and I love it for its pace and ambition to give us so many bad guys. Along the way we see Batman pushed to him limits. Wearing a suit that is basically scraps of cloth and damaged Kevlar by the final chapter.

The key is not to see this as a separate game, but as a literal follow on. Less depth is needed because we already know what the backstory is. Almost every villain in Arkham City was set up in Asylum.

tl;dr

Interesting ideas and talents that could be better channeled.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_serial_killers_by_country

Could say that about all those people, but punching them in the face is probably the best thing you could do that doesn't involve a bullet. There's a fair few villains in the Batman universe that should be killed, routinely poisoning/kidnapping/killing the citizens of Gotham so ideally you'd go from super hero to super villain but in an antihero role, somewhat like the Punisher. Super villain otherwise is just serial killer. :P

The supervillian sandbox game you want has already been made, and it was called - Scarface. Exept it lacked the hentchmen.

Not sure I entirely agree with you there, Yahtzee. The difference between Asylum and City is that in Asylum most of the villains were in on Joker's plan to trap Batman, which is why there's that sense of 'being watched'. Whereas in Arkham City, most of the villains are simply left to their own devices and no doubt weren't entirely prepared for Batman's arrival in the city. It's not a come down from Arkham Asylum, it's just the product of a different setting and story.

That said, it did feel like Hugo Strange and the Riddler were usually one step ahead of the Bat. The difference is they work entirely in the background, so you don't tend to notice it.

Xman490:
supervillain (Firefox says that word is misspelled, but not its opposite...)

That would be because the word you used is a colloquialism, slang. A case where you threw together two words, they formed a compound word which is not recognised by Firefox. We call slang that you know that dictionaries don't a "neologism". Firefox would still be using a simple dictionary which would not include old words, new words, large words, scientific terminology, general terminology specific to a single workplace apart from I.T. and general content like that.

There's your English and I.T. lesson for the day. :P

You can add it to the dictionary, or even install others if you so chose. Or simply rely on your knowledge of the word rather than the programs, I'd advise the latter. It's easier that way. That and relying on the program tends to dumb your language down, my English usage is horrible. lol

Last comment on this particular post.

You mentioned "The central drama, the everlasting stalemate.".

See, that's _why_ the super hero just punches the super villain in the face. He could act like the Punisher, but then you'd get bored because the everlasting stalemate didn't exist. It's one of those things, one or the other. Balance is possible, but extremes of both unfortunately aren't.

GiantRaven:
What happened to Longshoremen 1 through 9?

'throws boathook into the middle of the room'

We're looking at hiring..

I agree with Yahtzee on the point that you don't really get to know the villains in this game (apart from Joker but we all knew him anyway). I kept waiting for another fight with Two-Face but it never came and you get nearly no hints on what Protocol 10 is the whole way through. Playing over it again you see them but not the first time. Everything else though I disagree. I liked being able to run over rooftops but I adore Assassin's Creed so that's probably why. I don't think the city's meant to feel alive because in the end it is meant to be a prison. And I don't think anyone could say that was a bad ending.

The "Mankind Has Yet To Recognise My Genius" is a great one! Funnily enough I sorta half started a Batman story that focused on a new villain instead of Batman after finishing Arkham City but I'm rubbish at ideas so it didn't go anywhere. I'd definitely buy a game using this idea though.

Sounds a bit like Evil Genius, kinda played out the same as dungeon keeper IMO. Evil Genius was a fun game, but FAR too slow paced for my tastes which means it would probably drive Yahtzee up the wall and off the other side.

It would be VERY interesting to see a "Saint's Row" style destroy everything game with a mix of a more tactical long term basis. An X-Com of the evil genius world if you will. Have an investigation bar that starts filling up the more crimes you commit, when its full the police have found your HQ. Fill it by commiting crimes, empty it by adding cover opperations, bribing police etc.

Have a research lab where you try and find the super's weakness, be it kryptonite or copper or whatever.

I've tried to envision a villain-themed game myself for quite sometime, and I always see a problem with gameplay mechanics.

I mean - you could really do great narrative there, that's not the point. And making colorful and deep characters would be easier compared to doing "Random hero-guy avenging his dead dog #34"

And you would have a lot of motivations to play with, if you are sticking with the evil protagonist: you can pursue power, or wealth, or be on a vengeance-quest against the society as a whole, or just be one of those men, who "just want to watch the world burn"

But it all boils down to gameplay.
Because let's face it - Evil Genius was boring. It was brilliant style-wise, it wonderfully used the graphical limitations of its era to make a parody of the whole James Bond genre, but gameplay-wise Evil Genius was boring.

Your villain game has to have something special about it, otherwise you get a generic action game, just without the moral superiority over the AI-controlled enemies. Think CoD, but instead of "I kill dudes for FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY" you go "I kill dudes. Period."

Now that I think about it - pretty much any action game nowadays is about a self-righteous mass-murderer. We play supervillain games everyday, we just have the hypocrisy to call them heroes because their enemies have been carefully labeled "bad" for us by game devs.

nyysjan:

Phoenixmgs:
The Riddler challenges were much improved and you had to use your mind to get a lot of the trophies instead of just waiting to get a gadget to you could line launch over to a trophy, use the batclaw to pull open a ventilation grate, etc. Lastly, I loved the story so much more in Arkham City, and I'll remember that iconic ending probably for the rest of my life.

I kinda disagree, not because the puzzles were not challenging (they were, and are), but just because of that, they are puzzles, not riddles.
The name of the man is Riddler, not Puzzler (and i bet there is a guy named that out there), i should be solving riddles, not puzzles that are mainly about timing and proper jump sequencing (or grapple line aiming).

There are still plenty of riddles in the game, every outside and interior area of the game has a riddle, plus there's riddle to locate every hostage you have to save. Also, the Riddler just doesn't do riddles alone. If the Riddler only had riddles for Batman to solve, he wouldn't be a villain. Batman has to solve the riddles to find out where and/or when Riddler's next crime is and he usually has some kind of trap in store for Batman.

And, here's the first line of the Riddler character overview on Wikipedia:

The Riddler is obsessed with riddles, puzzles, and word games.

And, this is the paragraph describing Riddler's powers and abilities:

The Riddler possesses extreme originality in decoding and formulating puzzles of all kinds. His deductive ability has perfused his new role of private detective, in which he is shown to have investigative skills that rival those of the Dark Knight. The Riddler has no superhuman abilities, but is a highly cunning criminal strategist. He is not especially talented in fisticuffs (although his endurance has grown from having to engage in them over the years), but sometimes employs weaponry that exploits his gimmick, such as exploding jigsaw pieces, his infamous question mark cane, known to house a wide variety of technological devices and weapons, and question mark shaped pistols. He is shown to be skilled with engineering and technology, confronting Batman and Robin with unique and elaborate deathtraps.

The idea of playing as a super villian would be wasted on a sandbox title. An idea like that is worthy of a well written and well crafted, tight, single player game. Sandbox's are ultimately judged by the extent to which they let you fuck around, and I think a good idea like that deserves more.

Your views on Batman as a character are such asinine bullcrap, Yahtzee. Go watch the animated series from the 90's, then come back and say all that again. If you've watched it already: watch it again, pay attention this time, come back and say all that again.

I found moving around lots of fun in arkham city. Was that just me?

I loved the sandbox and it made the game so much better. I'm happy they did it.

Good article but... 'colorful'? Yahtzee I thought you were British where's the 'u' gone?

MHYTRMG will never catch on unfortunately, good idea though.

Also I thought I was the only one who liked Batman's villains much more than him, everyone seems to worship Batman.

The Joker is obviously the most interesting one because he is pure havoc, rather than greed.

nyysjan:

Phoenixmgs:
The Riddler challenges were much improved and you had to use your mind to get a lot of the trophies instead of just waiting to get a gadget to you could line launch over to a trophy, use the batclaw to pull open a ventilation grate, etc. Lastly, I loved the story so much more in Arkham City, and I'll remember that iconic ending probably for the rest of my life.

I kinda disagree, not because the puzzles were not challenging (they were, and are), but just because of that, they are puzzles, not riddles.
The name of the man is Riddler, not Puzzler (and i bet there is a guy named that out there), i should be solving riddles, not puzzles that are mainly about timing and proper jump sequencing (or grapple line aiming).

Sorry, but you fail at knowledge of Batman comics (normally a very silly skill to criticise someone on, EXCEPT where that person is ripping on a game for not characterising a character for the comics correctly).

The Riddler has long worked on puzzles as well as Riddles. All the way from his earliest appearances, in fact. Usually the puzzles are his main threat, while he calls himself the 'Riddler' because he is a genius at intellectual problem-solving of the kind that requires lateral thinking - which he shows off via reeling off his riddles. I.e. his riddles are mainly just for taunting purposes, the backbone of his actual threats is the death-trap puzzles.

Good example of why he's called the Riddler - while locked away and hallucinating mildly in one of Ra's Al Ghul's Lazarus Pits (being the Riddler, upon discovering that he was dying, he put his mind to solving the riddle, in the sense of 'mystery', of how Ghul stays immortal, and discovers the pits), during which time he works out who Batman's alter ego is (and then teams up with Hush to take him out).

If he's on the attack, he tends to use traps and puzzles to put Batman at risk of death unless he finds the way out of the trap. The riddling kind of describes his special ability - putting 2 and 2 together to discover 5, as in the Batman=Wayne discovery through nothing more than meditating on it.

Incidentally (and please, no spoilers other than the one I'm asking for)...is Hush in Arkham City? He and Prometheus would be two of my favourite lesser known villains (well, Prometheus is more of a Justice League villain, but he's the anti-Batman, the guy who takes out the combined Justice Leage with ease despite having no special powers other than a helmet that stores info on the strategies he's worked out for taking down each hero).

Prometheus would be a bit much, given that in one incident he he single-handedly invades the Justice League's base and wtf-pwned the Flash, Batman, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Huntress Martian Manhunter, Zauriel, Steel and Superman himself, despite having no superpowers beyond being a badass strategist. If you had him in it, he'd pretty much have to be THE main villain, and while it might be interesting to have an ultra hands-on villain who periodically steps into the action himself to whoop your ass a few times before you can find a way of defeating him, he's just too obscure to be the main villain for a Batman game.

Hush, however, is awesome and could serve equally well as a side-villain, a henchman for another villain, or the main guy, depending on the story. Without spoiling anything else, does Hush get any serious screen-time in Arkham City?

ZZoMBiE13:
You really need to play Evil Genius Ben. Seriously. Go to Steam, download it now.

I think he has in fact played it. As it happens, I was just watching his review of Dead Space again, and in the final credits panel is written, "Evil Genius is a management sim, not a sandbox crime game, shut up you idiots."

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