As bright as the spotlight that beckons Batman, I’ve made my love for Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate quite clear, both here on the site and Nintendo World Report’s Connectivity podcast. When I finally bested the last of the game’s villains, I couldn’t wait to pick the brain of Armature Studio, the folks behind the game. I got in touch with Jack Mathews, a director of Blackgate, as well as one of the founders of Armature Studio, and was able to discuss Batman, the expectations for someone who worked on the Metroid Prime series, and why they develop for handhelds.
What is the meaning behind the studio’s name?
Jack Mathews (JM): When we first started the studio, the idea behind it was to develop prototypes, then use distributed development to use outside resources to ramp up development of the game. An “Armature” is the substructure of a building or a sculpture, so it seemed to make sense. Of course, over time, we have evolved to a more traditional studio model, so the only part of that business model that remains is the name.
Many games set out to have Metroid-like design, but I’d argue that few are successful. What is the most difficult part in developing an exploration heavy game, and how does Armature Studio address it?
JM: Metroid-style games have a huge amount of hurdles to overcome. Due to the backtracking and exploration, you need interesting environments. Due to the “item-based progression” (using abilities as keys rather than, well, keys), you need to be able to have cool enough items that are fun, but also interesting challenges that make the player feel smart when they realize they can use the tool they just got to help them on something they saw awhile back (hey, there was a weak wall and I just got explosive gel!). All of this stuff hits the player abilities, the room and scenario design, and the art direction. It’s very difficult to keep all of those moving pieces together.
As for what we do to address it, intense amounts of planning.