Batman Arkham Knight (1/2): Building On Quick Sand

Batman Arkham Knight is one of the best critically received titles in recent memory, but it also released broken on PC. Not only that, but they ditched their lead writer before starting on Knight, and the consequences were complicated.

In this episode we step through the history of Rocksteady, Paul Dini and work out how Arkham Knight arrived the way it did. You can read an excerpt and listen to the full episode below.

As Arkham City hit the shelves, Rocksteady looked, instead, within their ranks. They had a decision to make.

With their sophomore effort so wildly successful, their next outing had monumental expectations before they’d even started.

Sometime around 2012, Warner Brothers and Rocksteady suggested to Dini he should seek other work. It’s largely unclear... why.

As is always the case on this show, when video game studios part ways with employees or freelancers (particularly ones so critical to the project), silence speaks volumes.

I couldn’t find any verification that Rocksteady and Dini had a falling out--nor did Dini have issues with DC, as he wrote a handful of Batman books after that. He did, however, pivot to writing for Ultimate Spider-Man and Hulk and Agents of SMASH.

There’s some speculation that these decisions influenced Rocksteady and DC’s decision, but this seems to be pure speculation the more I look at it. More than likely, Dini picked up these projects after leaving the Arkham franchise.

Regardless, Dini departed the Arkham franchise.

Instead, Rocksteady leant on Sefton Hill and Ian Ball, working with Martin Lacaster and Geoff Johns as consultants for the story.

Hill and Ball pitched their idea for Arkham Knight to Warner Brothers: a next-gen, physics heavy story that would cover the entirety of Gotham, not just one area.

Warner Brothers agreed with the vision, but pointed out three years was too long between games after the massive success of City.

So it was WB Montreal began development on Arkham Origins, a prequel to Asylum exploring Batman’s early career.

Without Dini’s involvement in either project, Origins was received well, but generally overlooked. The story was perfectly competent, and the gameplay offered little by way of evolution, largely a limitation of being a prequel and working on the same the Unreal Engine as City respectively.

But Origins was enough to tie over most fans, and stoked even more interest in the next mainline Arkham game.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity. You can subscribe on Youtube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you catch podcasts. Please take a moment and review the podcast where you find it. It really helps.


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David McNeill

David McNeill is the author of Maynard Trigg and editor-in-chief of ZeroIndent. He's a dedicated storyteller with a background in literary analysis and comms.

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