Back in August 2012 I started a series of articles entitled, “What Could Have Been…”, which detailed the way some of our favourite films could have played out if different decisions had been made during the production process. Now I’m turning my attention to video games that will never see the light of day
Until recently nearly every major big blockbuster summer movie had a video game release to help promote the film and Batman was no exception. I loved Batman: The Movie from Ocean Software on my ZX Spectrum and the run continued all the way through to Batman Begins on the original Xbox, PS2 and Nintendo GameCube from Electronic Arts in 2005.
With a sequel to Batman Begins in the works, it seemed silly not to have a game to release alongside its release. Although it was never officially announced, internet rumours revealed that software development team Pandemic Studios were working on a secret game which was labeled internally as “Project B”. Pandemic Studios had over the years created an impressive library of hits, including Full Spectrum Warrior, Star Wars: Battlefront, Mercenaries and Destroy All Humans!
Then in July 2008 in an interview with GameTrailers, actor Gary Oldman revealed that a lot of effort was being made for the Dark Knight video game, specifically making sure the gliding abilities with Batman’s cape felt smooth and fluid.
The Dark Knight hit the cinemas and there was no game to be seen or heard. Fans were left waiting and hoped something would be announced with the films home video release. But even with the DVD and Blu-ray release at the end of 2008 there was still no news.
According to a Newsweek article, the lack of a game at the same time of the movie’s release may have cost an estimated $101 million in missed revenue. So what went wrong?
Electronic Arts only had the Batman license for eighteen months, an already short time in which to develop a video game. Pandemic Studios jumped at the chance to create a Batman game believing that EA would throw money at them to help finish on an already tight deadline.
Several months into development, EA informed Pandemic that the game will be a tie-in to the upcoming Dark Knight movie. Pandemic had to throw out everything and start over, now with an ever tighter deadline. They decided to create an open world game for Batman but there were two major problems. No one at Pandemic had ever created this style of game before.
Secondly they decided to use the graphics engine from they’re upcoming World War 2 game, Saboteur. Whilst this was a great game engine, it wasn’t designed to creating an entire city to run around in. Pandemic pushed on, upgrading and tweaking the software as they went, but this just made it worse.
For example, they tried to implement a lighting technique known as HDR. It took seven months to code and never worked properly. It caused the game to run at around five frames per second and then crashed the development machines after a few minutes.
The game was never going to make the film’s release date and so it was pushed back until the end of 2008, the home video release date and the point at which the Batman licence with EA would expire. By September of 2008 when the game was supposed to be ready for Alpha testing it was obvious to see it was a technical mess and it would never meet its December target.
The game was canned and the studio was shut down a few months later when EA announced cuts were to be made.
The video below shows the games locations as well as an animation test at the end. Check out Unseen64 [Link] for a large selection of high quality screenshots.