We were already excited about the new Batman: Arkham Origins game; but, after their press room and panel at NYCC, we can safely say that it’s going to be killer. We had the chance to sit down with Eric Holmes (creative director at WB Games Montreal), Roger Craig Smith (Batman) and Troy Baker (Joker), and got the scoop on what’s going to make this next Arkham game truly Bat-tastic (yep).
Chances are, if you’ve played a video game this past year, you’ve heard Troy Baker. After playing lead characters in the two top contenders for Game of the Year – Booker in Bioshock Infinite and Joel in The Last of Us – Baker is coming to Arkham to tackle the iconic role of the Joker. To anyone who isn’t sure that he’ll make a good replacement for Mark Hamill, let me tell you: Baker performed the Joker’s iconic monologue about madness from The Killing Joke, and gave the whole audience standing-ovation-worthy goosebumps.
Baker took accepting the role of the Joker very seriously. “I used to rush home at 4:30 every day to make sure I could watch Batman: the Animated Series,” he said. “It didn’t matter what episode it was, but I just wanted to hear that opening scene and watch the end credits. This was a 25-year process – not just being the Joker, but being an actor, and being in the Batman world. The first comic book I ever bought was Batman: Year 3.”
Playing the Joker in particular was a daunting task for Baker – and not just because he’d previously been fired from a job (Greed, in Full Metal Alchemist) for his inability to laugh properly. “[The Joker is] one of the most complex, interesting, intriguing characters – not just villains, but characters – in any visual medium,” said Baker. “What am I going to do that’s new and fresh? Nothing. All I can do is honor the legacy of that character, and show people the Joker. I don’t have to dress it up in any way. It’s already good.”
“My wife had been starving herself for like 6 months getting ready for our wedding,” continued Baker, “and all she wanted was pasta. So she decided she was going to cheat, and have pasta this one night. She spent the whole day making the sauce, and this friend comes by and says, ‘You know what really helps? A teaspoon of cinnamon.’ So she dumps it into the sauce.” He paused. “Don’t ever put cinnamon in pasta sauce. It absolutely ruined it. I don’t want to be the cinnamon in the sauce, you know what I mean? It’s good as it is.”
Roger Craig Smith experienced similar feelings in taking the role of Batman over from Kevin Conroy. Assuring us that he was in no way “taking over” or “emulating” Conroy’s iconic Batvoice, Smith said that the pressure actually came from just being asked to play Batman. What made his job easier, however, was the fact that Arkham Origins is a prequel game, and deals with a much younger Batman than the one we see in Arkham City.
“That was the one reassuring element to this,” said Smith, “because I totally understand that die-hard fans – just as I grew up listening to the voices of Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy in those roles – I totally understand what it’s like to hear someone else do something that you are so in love with. So to know that we were covering a little bit of a younger Batman was reassuring, because I was able to say, okay, we can play around with it a little bit, to where we don’t alienate the fanbase. Thankfully I don’t have to sit there and be the poor soul who thinks he’s going to somehow improve upon, emulate, or even match Kevin Conroy’s performance – because you can’t do that.
And, not that he reads the blogs, but Smith also said that the greatest compliment he’s seen online is when people say that he sounds like “a young Kevin Conroy.” Internet, it’s on you to keep this up.
The one major downer to the Arkham Origins press room came when speaking with Eric Holmes, creative director at WB Games Montreal. When I asked him about the potential for playable female characters in Origins, he skirted this issue (skirted, because girl characters, get it?).
“We haven’t announced any [playable women],” said Holmes. “Geoff Johns used the phrase at SDCC, ‘We talk about everything.’ That’s very true, because there’s so many characters in this universe, and there’s so many people we could bring in as enemies that we do literally go through every open option – and we get to choose the strongest one, choose the ones which hopefully bring something new, rather than retreading things. For the future – I wish I knew. We’re still talking about everything.” Holmes did say to look forward to the DLC, so hopefully we can get some women kicking butt via download.
On the other hand, Holmes made the Dynamic Events being added to Origins sound interesting. “We want to be Batman in the city more,” Holmes said, “and one of the things we thought would be good would be surprising people. Trying to make sure that as you’re going around, suddenly something pops up and you can choose to go and deal with it, or if it’s a bit scary, maybe you won’t take it on. There’s a certain sense of duty when you’re Batman, you know the character well enough, you feel like you should do what he would do – and generally he would go and stop anything like that.” Holmes was also quick to reassure us that all new features and tech primarily serve the storyline, and never exist for the sake of just being new.
Female characters or no, we’ll be playing Arkham Origins as soon as it comes out – maybe mostly for Baker’s Joker laugh. Trust us – it’s worth it.
[Update - 11/1/13] Originally this article incorrectly referred to Roger Craig Smith as “Roger Craig David”. Our apologies.
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