Picture it: it's 2008, and Batman: Arkham Asylum hasn't set the bar for superhero video games yet. Enter Bottlerocket Entertainment's The Flash.
Shows some promise, doesn't it? It's a shame the game was cancelled during development, never to be mentioned by DC again. I recently spoke with YouTube user "misterbigmouth", who claims to have worked on the video game and originally posted the footage, to find out the history of The Flash. Here's what they had to say:
"Let’s start at the beginning. Originally we weren’t even slated to be working on Flash. Instead we were lined up to work on Watchmen. We had gone toe to toe with two other studios, pitching our game design to Zack Snyder himself and our design was the one he wanted to go with. So we jumped into pre-production mode on that before any paperwork was even done because we were so excited to be doing it."
"Two weeks later we get a call from WB letting us know that the project has been temporarily halted. According to them, Zack Snyder’s people weren’t 100% pleased with the contract and wanted some changes done. They had no idea how long it might take to iron things out or if they even could come to some agreement. Bottlerocket had no income at this point, so this was not good news and management was unsure what to do. For all we knew, the deal could fall apart as Hollywood stuff tends to do when parties can’t agree."
"A few days later we get a call from Brash Entertainment. Some of the main guys over there were huge Mark of Kri fans and heard through the grapevine that we might be available. They told us they wanted us to work on The Flash for them and we were thrilled by the opportunity. The problem was we didn’t want to just shut out WB like that so we were hesitant about doing it. A few days later they had a contract and the first check if we would say yes. As they say “Money talks” so we took the sure deal and started work on the game."
"A few weeks later WB got back to us and told us that the deal was all settled and they were ready to start working. We had to tell them that we had already signed with Brash to work with them. Needless to say they weren’t too thrilled and were quite upset at us for not waiting. But when you are a company with no income and employees to pay, you have to do what you have to do. As saddened as we were to not be working on Watchmen, we were even more thrilled to be working on Flash."
This Was a Passion Project
"My boss, myself and one of our main programmers were all huge comic fans, so we spent a few days just geeking out about what we could do in a Flash game. I then took all those ideas and spent the next month or so putting together the overall story and design for the game. Brash loved our take on things, DC was thrilled with what we had come up with and we began moving forward. Myself and another designer began building stub cities, a third designers started fleshing out the combat system, character modelers started work on Flash and some of the villains, environment artists started making buildings and code began working on making Flash run and how to populate the city with people and cars. DC teamed us up with legendary comic writer, Marv Wolfman (who I’m a huge fan of) and he began fleshing out the general storyline we had come up with. All in all we were trying to build a Flash game that comic book fans would love."
The Youtuber claiming to have worked on the project expanded on their gameplay model:
"In terms of gameplay, we were trying to cram in as many super speed moves as we could. We had quick dashes. We had 1000 hit punches. We had the ability to run around dudes really fast to spin them up into the air. We had bullet time. We even had the Infinite Mass Punch. All of his special combat moves were going to be tied to a Speed Force Meter that would build up as he ran. Each ability used up a certain amount of Speed Force. So with a full bar, players could do a lot of little moves or one super devastating move."
"For normal combat moves, we were using the fighting system we had developed in Mark of Kri and Rise of the Kasai."
"You could paint a button symbol over a target's head. Pressing that button would have you dash to that target and do an attack. There was a slight twist to that though. The player was still going to have combo moves he could pull off by doing certain button sequences (so like AABB). Because the player was painting button symbols over enemies, that meant if he pressed that button to attack that guy, he would be doing that part of the combo on that enemy. So if my combo was AABC and that was jab, jab, kick, uppercut and I had targeted three enemies if I pressed AA then B then C I would do the jabs on the first target the kick on the second and the uppercut on the third."
"What this meant was that you could break up your combo so certain moves would hit certain guys. We were doing this mostly because we wanted certain enemies to be able to block and certain parts of a combo to be block breakers. So as a player you could focus all of your attacks on one guy to pummel him, but it was more effective to figure out who needed to receive what hit in what order to fight most efficiently. If one guy was blocking all the time, make sure he could get hit with a block breaker and then another move. It sounds complicated but it was just a way to add extra depth. You could still just target guys and bounce back and forth between them and have a great time. The better you got, the more effective you would get.
"We had also decided that while running, we could create moving combat. So we were stealing a page from Road Rash for that one - allowing you to slam into other speeding targets (whether that was vehicles or other speedsters) to damage them. Doing enough damage would cause them to wipe out. This could happen to you too, though. It was less about doing a ton of damage to the player and more about slowing him down when he was trying to get from one location to another. The system was also going to be dynamic enough that if you stopped dead, if the enemies were other speedsters they would stop too and you’d go right into the normal combat mode."
"Besides fighting, we also wanted to make running as fun as possible so we were allowing Flash to grind on certain things like rails and wires (ala Jet Grind Radio) and he could launch himself off buildings to “jump” from building to building and do stunt moves while flying through the air (Tony Hawk style). These were mostly just to have some fun, but we also wanted to set up certain special short cuts that Flash could only access if he had contorted his body with the right stunt. For example, he would have to roll up into a ball to fit through an open window. Or twist his body sideways to fit through a tight squeeze. We had also decided to include floating Cadmus probe robots all around the city. By launching himself through the air and destroying them, the player could block out Cadmus’ view of that chunk of the city and stop them from sending troops after the Flash (which was part of our dynamic combat system to create random chunks of fighting). We knew all this navigation stuff was nothing that had been addressed in the comics and it was a bit risky but when so much of the game is about running around you want to make it as interesting and interactive as it can be."
"For mission structure, we were going to try to pull a page from the first Dead Rising. The thought was Flash would hear about different emergencies over the police band that were all happening around the same time at different parts of the city. No normal superhero could handle all those at once, but Flash could. So, the player was going to have to prioritize what missions to hit up when so he could attempt to help out at all of them. Each emergency would have had a timer of sorts associated to it before that emergency would have been considered too far gone for the Flash to help."
The game's complex missions also sounded interesting, allowing you to perform multiple duties at the same time:
"As a player you could race over to a robbery and beat up a few guys, then dash over to a burning building and pull some people out of it, head back to the robbery and chase down the getaway car - then race back to the burning building and help put out the fire. We were also going to spawn dynamic missions along the way. So say as the Flash is running back to the burning building he could see a crowd of people gathered looking up. A person would be getting ready to leap to their death from the top of a building. Flash could do a quick detour, run to the top of the building and grab the person taking him down to safety and then race back off to the burning building. The player would have a clump of these to handle and then things would quiet down and he could deal with side missions, or special story missions,or even boss fights. We wanted to make sure we were changing this up often enough so people would not get burned out."
So, what went wrong?
"We were only 6 months into production when Brash folded and production had to be halted. We had a handful of combat moves with more just around the corner. A handful of enemies had already been modeled and textured including Captain Cold, Weather Wizard and Tarpit along with some generic Cadmus soldiers and were just waiting to be animated."
"The pedestrians and traffic system was just about to come online in its first pass. We had the basics of a mission creation pipeline and had just started creating a few. Tons of city props were built and rough buildings were being swapped out with more finalized ones. And we even had part of the 'Captain Cold boss fight' working. Things were moving along very smoothly and I was super excited about what each day was bringing us. I had really high hopes for the game because in my head I could just see how cool the final product was going to be. I was crushed when the game was stopped and we couldn’t find anyone else to take over publishing. I dream of someday being able to work on it again. I think the overall design was really solid and would still play great in today’s market."
All that having been said, what do you think about the unreleased Flash video game? Let me know in the comments below, or through Twitter at @comicsvsworld. While you’re at it, don't forget to check out my website, Comic Books vs The World, for even more comic book related content!