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The “Arkham Quality”: How It Should Become A New Standard For Superhero Games
In recently announced details for Batman: Arkham Asylum, the developers mentioned something called the “Arkham Quality.” This is an interesting concept. The fact that the previous Arkham games have bred a new standard for the developer, Warner Brothers Montreal, is a good indicator of how people can strive to create a great game without copying actual gameplay.
The full quote from Ben Mattes, the Senior Producer at Warner Brothers Games, says “As a team we are absolutely not only acutely aware of, but perhaps obsessed with, the ramifications of ‘Arkham Quality.’ ‘Arkham Quality’ has been our life since we started development. ‘Arkham Quality’ is not “this feature’s kinda cool” it’s, ‘This feature is perfect.’ If it’s not perfect it doesn’t go in the box.” While not necessarily saying that they are copying the previous games, they know that the game’s new features have to be polished to the same standard. For superhero games, this is something that is rarely seen.
When Arkham Asylum was first released, the reception was stellar. The features were not all new per se, but the way they interacted with the characters made them special. The predator mode, for example, was great fun as it captured exactly what we all see in the comics, films and television shows: Hiding in the shadows, unsettling the enemy and silently taking them down. This is, at its base, a feature of his character that is synonymous with the name Batman. Similarly, Spider-Man has the web swinging which, since Spider-man 2, has featured realistic physics which mimic the thrill of what we see in other medias. Another example is Hulk: Ultimate Destruction’s portrayal of pure power… and destruction. These games all nailed the basic principles of the characters we love, and they flourished for it. More recently, superhero games have been different.
Games in the genre tend to “borrow” features nowadays, such as the freeflow combat system in the Arkham games rather than bringing innovation to the table and making those features full of quality. There is no longer a desire to deepen the character, to find what makes them tick. It is a money spinner for many companies. What should now happen is to use this “Arkham Quality” scale to get into a superhero story and find what works with this type of game and what definitely doesn’t rather than pointlessly adding parts of other games that have different context.
Do you think that this can become something that will improve future games? Comment below.