The Steampunk Batman Game That Never Was
by Gene Turnbow
We know we just published a Batman article, but believe me, you won’t be sorry you read this one.
If you’re a Krypton Radio regular, you would have read our article last month about the sad loss of the game Batman: Gotham By Gaslight when we told you about how artist and designer Julie A. Farrel had posted some sample artwork on her blog and announced that the project had died. The original comic Gotham by Gaslight was published in 1989 by DC Comics as the first in the Elseworlds stories. In this story, Bruce Wayne is framed and convicted for the murders associated with Jack the Ripper. Day 1 Studios of Chicago, Illinois, creators of the popular “MechAssault” game, and Warner Bros were to have been partners in the creation of this game, with Day 1 Studios doing the actual development.
The game never got out of the pitch stage, but this often means that at least some coding and content is created so that studio execs who sign checks and greenlight projects can have some idea of what they might be buying. Now the video of the in-game footage created for that executive presentation has been leaked, and we can get a peek at what the game might have looked like.
If it surprises you that this much was done on the game before it was even funded, don’t be. This is business as usual for game companies. The demo doesn’t do a lot. It shows some of how the Batman moves and that all important cape and how it moves, because if the game had been put into production, players would spend most of their experience looking at it. Each Batman game has a different visual appeal, and the cape is almost a character in and of itself. In a game that has to evince not only the Dark Knight but a period in history as well, the appearance and movement of the cape was critical, and from our perspective, the artists and animators had this nailed.
You’ll see a pedestrian turn to face Batman as he passes, about halfway through the video. There’s no animation applied to the non-player character – the model just pivots in place. Most of the environment is a flat gray, as there are no texture maps on the geometry. Art takes time and money. Good art takes a lot of time and money. At the pitch stage the project manager or producer is trying to get as much of the basics of what the game is going to be about on the screen as he or she can for as cheaply as they can possibly do it. Now in this case, they didn’t create the game engine from scratch. Few companies do this anymore. Most are creating using what are called Game Authoring Systems, giving game developers a “build once, release for every platform” capability. This is how the same game can be released simultaneously for XBox360, Playstation3, PC, Wii and other platforms on the same day. Otherwise they’d have to create the game by hand for each machine and operating system.
Each pitch is a roll of the dice. You’re spending nonreplaceable company resources on something that may fly – or may not. In this case, for whatever reason, the game was cancelled. Since Day 1 Studios is an independent game development studio, they were reliant on money from publisher THQ Studios to actually produce the game. This money never came; the pitch was unsuccessful, and THQ turned down the project. Warner Bros participation was likely little more than one of licensing, since Time Warner owns DC Comics outright.
Siliconera obtained this animation prototype video from a source at Day 1. The game demo was developed as a pitch for PS3 and Xbox 360 between 2009 and 2010.
The bones of Batman: Gotham By Gaslight are there, but sadly, the suits at THQ didn’t see the potential.
- 30 -