Interviews: WayForward - Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Posted by Corbie Dillard
Developers open up about new Wii and DS titles
WayForward have had their hands in quite a number of licensed releases over the years, but it's their upcoming Batman: The Brave and the Bold titles that have been garnering a lot of attention as of late.
With the Wii and DS versions of the game set for release in North America on September 7th and in Europe on September 24th, we thought now would be a good time to get in touch with the developers to try to get the scoop on what gamers can expect when these two games hit store shelves.
WayForward Designers Adam Tierney, Director of Batman: The Brave and the Bold for Wii and Sean Velasco, Director of Batman: The Brave and the Bold for DS, were kind enough to sit down and answer a few of our questions about their new games and you can find out everything they had to say in the exclusive Nintendo Life interview below.
Nintendo Life: How did you guys end up working on these two Batman: The Brave and the Bold titles in the first place?
Adam Tierney: WayForward has worked on a number of titles with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment previously, and this was an opportunity that they came to us with. Everyone in both companies was really excited about the "play the cartoon" approach we had planned for the game, especially after using a similar production process on the beautiful A Boy and His Blob for Wii.
Sean Velesco: We were always a shoe-in for doing the DS version, with our handheld experience. The idea was to make a game as awesome as Contra 4, but infused with Batman’s signature style and skewed towards all-ages. The Wii game was more challenging to sell, but once they saw what we had planned, the project was ours!
NL: How long have the games been in development?
AT: We started initial discussions around January of last year. Full production kicked off around E3 of last year, so the bulk of production took place over the course of a year or so.
SV: The DS game wrapped a bit earlier than the Wii game, being a handheld and all.
NL: Why did you decide to do a video game based on the animated series rather than the movies?
AT: The game was green lit based on Batman: The Brave and the Bold the animated series and Warner Bros. was looking for a developer specifically for Batman: The Brave and Bold the Videogame. That said, we definitely looked to other versions of Batman - the comics, movies, cartoons, and previous games - for influence in addition to the Brave and Bold cartoon. The character's existed for over 70 years, so there are a ton of great characters, plots, weapons, and worlds to play with.
SV: One of the coolest parts of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold universe is its playfulness, we had a lot of leeway when it came to putting Batman into bizarre situations or introducing new character or game elements. It’s a much more liberating take on the character than the brooding Dark Knight that’s so prevalent.
NL: What was it like to be able to create a video game based around one of the all-time great comic book superheroes?
AT: Incredible! We've worked on a number of superhero games previously, but let's be honest - no one tops Batman. And this version of Batman is a lot of fun to work with, because the TV show pulls in characters and stories from all over the DC Universe. I'm a big fan of the DC's comics, and I never imagined I would be able to work on a game where Batman teamed up with Guy Gardner to fight The Rogues. Those are three worlds that never intersect, outside of the odd comic book crossover. But in the world of The Brave and the Bold, it makes perfect sense.
SV: Batman is my favorite superhero of all time. And we got to decide that we were going to give him a gadget that lets him shoot electric blasts from his hands. We got to decide that he is going to punch dinosaurs in the face. We got to decide that when Batman gets eaten by a T-Rex, the T-Rex burps up the cape. That is so beyond amazing that words will never suffice. I am deeply honored to have contributed to Batman: The Brave and the Bold the Videogame
NL: Were there any specific aspects of development that proved to be more challenging than others?
AT: We were dealing with two very different audiences with this game. The target audience is young kids, the same group the TV show is aimed at. At the same time, like the TV show, we knew Bat-fans of all ages would be buying this product. And even more, this is the Batman game that follows up Batman: Arkham Asylum, arguably the best superhero game ever made. So balancing the gameplay and gameflow to be easy enough for kids, yet challenging and deep enough for older gamers, took a lot of effort. I think we ultimately found a sweet spot, and the feedback from those who have played the game so far has been overwhelmingly positive. But that was definitely a constant challenge over the course of development.
SV: We managed to balance the difficulty so that it’s meaty for grown-ups and sweet for kids.
NL: When you sat down to design the two games, what was one of the most important aspects of the game you wanted to emphasize?
AT: In the Wii game, we wanted to put a huge emphasis on storytelling DURING the gameplay. We didn't want to create an experience where characters chatted nonstop during cutscenes (while you go make a sandwich) and then there's a complete absence of plot during the stages. So the first thing you'll notice as you play the game is that we have plot unfolding as you progress through each stage. Batman and his partner have running conversations - often very funny ones - and the characters seem to be making decisions along with the player. So when you come to a dead end, Robin might observe that, followed by a suggestion from Batman to use their Batcables to head upward. We wanted the storytelling to be rich enough that someone watching the game being played would have the same kind of experience as watching an episode of the TV show.
SV: For the DS, it’s all about teaming up and kicking butt! Just like the show, Batman and his buddies must use their combined forces to win. We knew we wanted to do a classic platform/combat hybrid, and that we were going to have a ton of crazy situations and bosses. On top of that, we knew we had to infuse the show’s humor into the gameplay. From there, plotting out the game was as easy as letting our imaginations run wild! It’s so rad!
NL: Why the decision to create an old-fashioned 2-D action title rather than go with the 3D free-roaming style so popular on the current game systems?
AT: Well for starters, a 3D version of the game just wouldn't feel like the show. Even with the dialogue and the environments all matching up, it just doesn't click. If you're going for a faithful adaptation, you have to remain faithful across the board. In addition to that, the TV show is all about paying homage to decades of Batman comics, films, and TV shows, so it made sense to go with a retro flavor for the gameplay as well. You'll see elements from Double Dragon, Final Fight, Street Fighter, many of the brawlers and fighters our development team grew up on. That genre of game also allowed us to tell a very linear story, which was essential for our dialogue and storytelling. Open worlds work great in exploration games like Batman: Arkham Asylum, but for this title we really wanted to host the experience, rather than allowing the player to go wherever they wanted.
SV: Wayforward is legendary for its pixel animation and 2D side-scrolling prowess. It was a no brainer that the ultimate action superhero would fit like a glove into this type of game. It was a bit scary, because there have been some really cool batman side-scrollers. We tried to respect the past by including the wall jump from Batman NES, among other details. Long story short: the kind of game that Batman DS is, is the kind of game that we love to make!
NL: Can you tell us a little about the gameplay of the game?
AT: The Wii game is predominantly a brawler/fighter mix, with some light platforming and puzzling thrown in. You're able to beat up enemies with a wide variety of attacks, grab them, and then either continue with close attacks or hurl them (to your partner, into other enemies, or into a hazard). The physics of tossing enemies were kept very floaty to allow for juggling and mid-air combat. So after you toss an enemy into the air, you can leap up after him and continue your beat down as you both make a slow descent back to the ground. The driving concept behind all of this was FUN. We wanted to create a world where the player is free to experiment with attacks and take down enemies and obstacles the way they want to. There's a ton of combat and gadget variety, so each player can decide their own attack style.
SV: the DS game has more of an emphasis on platforming in addition to the brawling. We tried to make the combat fast and furious, with a good flow. The player swaps between Batman and his ally by tapping the touch screen, and both use their abilities to get through the levels. So, for example, Plastic Man can bounce up to high places that Batman cannot. By using the heroes in conjunction with one another, the player can progress. On top of that, levels are punctuated by enormous bosses throughout. Dare I say it’s an action-packed thrill ride, or would that be too cliché?
NL: Can fans expect a lot of gadgets?
AT: It's a pretty hefty amount. Batman has multiple primary gadgets, unlocked over the course of the game, in addition to his trusty Batcable. The four partner characters also have their own set of gadgets. Every gadget in the game can also be upgraded twice, which is where the coins you collect come into play. The player earns coins from beating up enemies, earns more coins by defeating enemies in rapid succession, and loses coins each time they die. So the better you play, the more quickly you can unlock new gadgets and upgrades. And each of the upgrades changes how the gadget works. We didn't want to just level up their strength, so we have a lot of crazy secondary properties that get added to the gadgets as you power them up.
SV: In the Nintendo DS version, Batman gets new gadgets by buying them from the armory, and from defeating the boss at the end of each level. The gadgets aren’t required, but they do awesome stuff that will help you through the game. Regenerate your health, make your batarangs electrocute on contact, shoot electric blasts from your gauntlets… you can customize your gameplay experience and build a better Batman.
NL: Will there be any voiced dialog from the cast of the animated series?
AT: 100% of it. The game's dialogue script is over 300 pages long, and we worked with Warner Bros. Animation to get everyone from the original TV show cast to reprise their roles for this game. That includes Diedrich Bader as Batman, and Paul Reubens as Bat-Mite.
SV: The DS version features a ton of voice clips and one-liners that show off the flavor of the show.
NL: Aside from visuals, what are the main differences between the Wii and DS versions of the game?
AT: Although they share some heroes, villains, and locations, the games are two completely unique adventures. The show-faithful approach wouldn’t really translate to DS, given the lower screen resolution and limited VO capabilities. So the handheld game instead uses our classical pixel art (many of the game’s artists and animators worked on Contra 4), and focuses on hero partnership through character-swapping, rather than co-op multiplayer. The game’s combat and mobility is also closer to Megaman X or Ninja Gaiden, whereas the Wii game is more of a classic brawler.
NL: Will there be any motion or touch screen controls in the games or will they make use of a more standard control scheme?
AT: The game uses the Wii Remote + Nunchuk; we used motion for the broader actions – summoning call-in heroes, charging up heavy attacks, or IR gadget aiming – with the majority of combat and mobility handled through the analog stick and buttons. Most of the gadgets in the game have both an IR aiming and traditional buttons input mechanic. So with the Batarang, for example, you can tag multiple enemies by aiming with your Wii Remote, then have your projectile ping pong between bad guys, or you can simply tap the action button and hurl your Batarangs straight forward.
NL: Do the Wii and DS versions have any connectivity to each other?
AT: If you have both versions of the game, and both a Wii and a DS, you can connect the two games wirelessly for an added Bat-Mite mode. Bat-Mite is a mischievous imp that also happens to be Batman’s biggest fan. Using the Nintendo DS and stylus as a controller, the player can maneuver Bat-Mite around in the Wii game, dropping health, energy, anvils, or bombs. Of course, those last two work on both enemies and heroes. So it’s up to the person controlling Bat-Mite whether they feel like being helpful, or being a nuisance. Bat-Mite can be used in any stages or boss battles, essentially turning the game into a 3-player experience. It’s a really cool feature, and I’m shocked that more Wii and DS games out there aren’t taking advantage of it.
NL: Is there anything you'd like to tell our readers in closing?
AT: We’re big time gamers and comic book fans, and what we made is the kind of Batman game we’d like to play. If you’re a fan of oldschool brawler gameplay and classic animation, check out Batman: The Brave and the Bold the Videogame this September.
SV: This is Batman without boundaries. Get excited!
We'd like to thank Warner Bros. and WayForward for taking time out of their busy schedules to set up and take part in the interview.