Gotham By Gaslight: A lost cause that held lots of potential

The last few years have been amazing for the Caped Crusader. A successful reboot series under the belt of Christopher Nolan, and a developer that can actually make a “great” Batman videogame, actually make that two. Thank you, Rocksteady!

But here’s a rather sad tale of a Batman project that saw a rather abrupt end while under quiet development, and a  concept that after a recent video posted on Youtube, made me second guess and see a title that could’ve held a lot of potential.

“Gotham By Gaslight” was a title inspired by the Steampunk theme, which featured a tale reminiscent of an old one-time comic by the same name. Gaslight was to feature Batman as he would appear set in the 1800s, hunting the streets of Gotham City in search of Jack the Ripper. The game was being developed by Day 1 Studios, the same developer behind F.E.A.R. 3 and the Mechwarrior series.

Visual artist Julie Farrell had been working on the project for quite some time. She hosted a blog, where she showed off various designs, including the menu screen and overall character design.  Farrell was asked by Day 1 Studios and Warner Bros. in the most recent update seen on her blog to take down her artwork. The update featured a list of articles that links to stories which covered the potential game, and includes the featured artwork, and most recently, a video showcasing animation footage from the lost project.

The game was in the pitching stages between the years of 2009 and 2010, around the same time as the release of Rocksteady’s first Batman title, Arkham Asylum, in 2009. Day 1 Studios was to work with THQ in developing the project, but saw the project get canned early on.

After seeing this video, even though it was still in the very early stages of development, you could see the large amount of potential that this game carried. I even think this game could have played for stiff competition with the dynamic duo that is the Arkham series developed by Rocksteady. You could already see the stunning visual detail in the buildings, and in the fog, as well as a dark, brooding atmosphere that most Batman fans have grown to expect from the series. Combined with such a unique tale in the Batman universe, I think it would’ve made the one-time comic it was based off of more popular than ever, probably a great seller. And if that doesn’t make you think hard enough, just look at Day 1 Studios, they developed F.E.A.R. 3, which in itself is a spectacular example of a game with a dark, disturbing storyline. I think they would have set the tone of the series perfectly, minus the little girl haunting every alley, that is.

Gotham by Gaslight is a prime example of a glistening light that failed to glow bright enough to survive, and sadly the lights went out on the project far too soon. What I think Warner Bros. was concerned about in light of pulling the plug was a fear of taking the successful franchise in a new, and complete different direction, and to be honest, I can’t say I blame them entirely. I know I sound like I’m on the fence at this point, but really I’m not, because if you look at the big picture, you have to think: how could they let Gotham City Imposters fly and not Gotham by Gaslight? Imposters doesn’t even feature the Caped Crusader, for Christ’s sake.

Whatever the case, the future of video games will have a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and a lot of failed pitch attempts by small-time game programmers, animators and visual artists looking to get their big breaks in the industry. For the future, I think developers should look at the work that’s delivered, and maybe take another minute to think about the big picture, and how small gems could hold such potential for greatness.

With files from Siliconera, Julie Farrell’s blog, Kotaku and 4PlayerPodcast

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