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PSU Interviews Loz Doyle on LEGO Batman: The Videogame

18 September 2008

The world of gaming was first introduced to LEGO Star Wars in 2005. That title was then followed by its entire trilogy and saga. In order for Traveller's Tales to top the Star Wars saga, they took on the whip-loving Indiana Jones and his own trilogy of adventures. Finally, LEGO is bringing a new type of hero to the lego gaming scene, Batman. PlayStation Universe had the chance to talk to Loz Doyle, head producer on LEGO Batman: The Videogame, about some of the deeper aspects of the next installment into the LEGO franchise as well as what was next in line for Traveller's Tales.

PSU: At E3, you guys mentioned that creating Harley Quinn from the ground up was one of the coolest experiences working on the LEGO franchise thus far. Are there any other areas of Gotham that you guys are particularly proud of or excited about?

Loz Doyle: We've incorporated just about every area of Gotham you can think of into the game, so in terms of locations, certainly! The fairground in the Batman comics is one that's continually mentioned, and is at its most vivid in 'The Killing Joke' (an office favourite). We've taken that colourful and detailed fairground in its entirety and injected it with LEGO charm, it’s eye popping. Then there's the mass of characters in the game. Part of the magic of our character unveils has been comic fans envisaging their favourite admirable Hero and Villain's transformation into lovable LEGO elements.

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PSU: The worlds behind Star Wars and Indiana Jones were very simple to keep family friendly and bright. Gotham, however, has much darker tones. Was there any difficulty keeping Gotham City on the same playing field as pick up and play, family-friendly fun like the titles that precede it?

Doyle: LEGO is still at the heart of the game. We're breaking bricks here, so in literal terms it’s always going to be a daft block busting foray. We would have been in trouble if we lost the light hearted atmosphere though. We had to insist on keeping Gotham beautiful for the fans, but also steer away from the darker elements of the Batman universe. Comics became inspiration for keeping the colouring light. We looked at how purples and blues were used in place of blacks and grey's. More research than you can imagine went into the game. So, in Gotham cathedral you'll see we've got a dazzlingly bright pallet of colours shining through the Gothic windows. I think players interpret the LEGO games as they want, if you're a kid, this is your LEGO playground, if you're a Batman fan, welcome to living breathing Gotham City.

PSU: During the E3 hands-on I experienced, you guys mentioned that an important aspect to the title was making each character fun to play with. With such a large overall cast from the Batman universe at your disposal, do you feel you met this goal 100%, or are there still a couple of characters leaving a bit to be desired?

Doyle: Not a single character leaves anything to be desired; we've taken each personality and injected them into LEGO moulds. The challenge was retaining all of the characters drawn and acted movements from the reference material into hundreds of combat, idle, creeping and running animations in game. Combat is by far the most exciting. Signature moves such as Banes backbreaker are critical to the rivalry between him and Batman! We want players to make statements about the game such as “oh it would be great if you could do Bane’s backbreaker” and be utterly satisfied when you find that you can. Some of the team’s favourites include Two Face's stud flipping idle animation, and Harley Quinn's tuned acrobatic back flip. With over 50 characters there’s just so much to see!

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PSU: Batman has always had more than a handful of storylines, yet Traveller's Tales went with the option to create an entirely new story for gamers and fans of the series to enjoy. Do you think this helped better the title, or do you guys enjoy having a framework to work with like in the SW Trilogy and Indiana Jones?

Doyle: It was utterly liberating writing from the ground up, and we were able to work with DC Comics and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to create a classic Batman story. Writing from the ground up also allowed us to go in a different direction. To answer your question, for Batman, yes it's made the game better because we can have our own stories that surprise and amuse players. Also, what stories would we use for the game? There's been so many that we wouldn't like to begin to chose. We owed it to comic readers to give them another injection of stories, which they are used to reading on a regular basis, stories that Batman fans will need to see to call themselves true know-it-alls.

PSU: I noticed that LEGO Batman has a lot more entertaining co-op situations available -- like the Fun House -- than the other LEGO games. Can we expect those types (beyond entertaining) of teamwork-oriented portions throughout the game or is the Fun House going to be the pinnacle of that type of play?

Doyle: Of course we're pleased with the fun house, it was great to show at E3, but Gotham City isn't a wide open desert, it isn't the vast depths of space, it's densely packed. You won’t find yourself wandering about wide open areas. Tasks are continually staring you in the face, so the fun house demo is just one small example of what we've kept constant through the game. With the character specific actions, each player, each character has an important role in the progression. It's all about the switching characters.

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PSU: The feature I'm looking forward to most is the Villain story mode that I caught a glimpse of in Los Angeles. Do you feel this addition to the title has helped bring LEGO Batman to the next level of the franchise?

Doyle: Adding to the LEGO formula is what keeps it alive, and playing as the villains is an utter dream for fans, especially considering the fanboyism goes with each. Villain mode doubles the size of the game too, because we've had to create separate levels for the villains to progress through, darker yuckier ones in which to develop their dastardly plans. Who can honestly say that they don’t have that mischievous side to them as well?

PSU: Each villain has its own unique arsenal of creative maneuvers that they can perform. What are some of the development team's personal favorites?

Doyle: If the combat and the animations weren't enough, we've added the puzzle specific maneuvers that allow one character to be tied to a specific puzzle. The Joker has about the most multi purpose of those manouevres in the hand buzzer. Players can shock enemies, friends and even operate electronic lifts, doors and switches with it. Mr Freeze and Bane also have a super strength ability that allows them to lift trucks and vault doors up over their heads, before slinging them into the sky. Penguin's penguin-bomb launching attack is the favourite without a doubt!

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PSU: Finally, the question a lot of forums have been buzzing about; what's next for the LEGO franchise? Are you guys going to stay on for one more with Warner and churn out the Matrix Trilogy of LEGO goodness? Spill the beans!

Doyle: I'm afraid the LEGO beans are going to have to stay sealed tightly in the LEGO tin, but we do love the fan suggestions so keep them coming. We've just got to find the ones that suit the LEGO charm. Stay tuned.

I'd like to thank Loz Doyle and the guys over at Warner Brothers and Traveller's Tales for their time. I'm sure a lot of you are looking forward to their upcoming LEGO release.


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