Features Feature Stories Disney Epic Mickey Conference Call with Warren Spector - Part 1

Disney Epic Mickey Conference Call with Warren Spector - Part 1 Steve Schardein Hot

Written by Steve Schardein     November 18, 2010    
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Moments ago, we had an opportunity to sit in on a multi-outlet conference call with Junction Point’s Warren Spector, creative director of Disney Epic Mickey, upcoming title from Disney Interactive Studios.

This article is provided in the format of paraphrased notes taken throughout the course of the interview session. We certainly hope that none of it is taken out of context, but we’re quite confident that we captured the intent of his remarks!

We would like to thank Warren Spector, Disney Interactive Studios, and Junction Point in advance for giving us this great opportunity. Enjoy!

  • Basics

    • Nov 30 release date, of course.

  • Where did the idea come from?

    • Originated at Disney. Created Junction Point independently; was pitching ideas for a fantasy game. They weren’t interested, but they wanted him to check out their approach for a Mickey game.

    • The inclusion of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was Disney’s idea.

    • Spector loved all of Disney’s initial suggestions.

  • The hardest part? Story, gameplay, controller?

    • The massive amount of information they had. Full access to all Disney archives… Disney was incredibly open. His team often describes him as the “kitchen sink designer”, throwing everything in.

  • How much of your trademark edginess finds its way into the game?

    • Quite a bit of it really. Spector doesn’t think of it in those terms; he just creates worlds that he wants to create, but it’s true that this is a bit of a darker world. The darker, desaturated, run-down versions of Main Street, USA or Small World may be a bit shocking to gamers.

  • How different is it moving from a sci-fi game to a Disney/Mickey Mouse game?

    • Spector knows a lot of people know him for his epic fantasy and dark sci-fi stuff… but he’s worked on cartoon-style games before. He used to be the “funny guy”, as hard as that is to believe. Many people who didn’t have that background may have had trouble, but this is familiar territory for him.

  • What Disney universe within the game are you the most proud of?

    • Thanks to the lack of embargo, he can’t talk about the place he’s most proud of. But he will say there is one place he’s really proud of. The edgiest of all probably; he’s surprised it made it into the game. He doesn’t want to talk about it quite yet.

    • Really, really proud of the end-game. Wraps up in a “really cool and surprisingly emotional” way.

    • Surprised how much emotion you can wring out of a videogame by this.

  • Why did you choose this era of Disney art for the game?

    • The idea was a world of “forgotten and rejected” Disney stuff. Obviously Disney is still a vital part of world culture, but people don’t really appreciate how much Disney contributed to the 20th century in terms of entertainment. He limited this game to material that Disney himself touched… 1928—1967. The last stuff was the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and The Jungle Book.

    • However they did violate that rule in a couple of places. He’ll let us figure that out. J

    • Main reason: he’s gotten to meet some of the animators and artist from recent stuff, and he’s not going to be the guy to say “wow, that really wasn’t very good.”

  • (DigitalChumps): The initial illustrations released during the project’s early life differ quite dramatically from what we see in the final version today. Could you talk for a moment about how the game’s art style and direction has evolved over the course of development?

    • Leaked concept art—not on purpose! Got out there inadvertently. It was just a small sample of one of the art styles they were considering.

    • Spector always likes to: 1) Get a variety of options in front of him, half a dozen options, then another dozen. Probably annoys people J Thinks projects benefit from this. 2) Also, anytime you think you’ve gone “far enough” with something you’re working on, go 20% further, and he’ll pull you back if you cross the line. Because the only way to know where the line truly exists is to cross it!

    • Everything happens within creative constraints. He wanted to collaborate with Disney about which lines are not to be crossed. Some of this artwork probably crossed those lines.

    • He hopes people do not judge what might have been, but rather what is.

    • He’s had a couple games in his career where they had to ship a little too soon. But he’s generally always happy.

    • The art team really did an amazing job here.

  • What inspired the darker approach?

    • Mickey himself isn’t darker; the world he is in is darker than people might expect. A couple reasons:

      • He just kind of likes darker stuff.

      • Establishes Mickey as a sort of videogame hero along the lines of a Mario or Link or Master Chief. The world needed to be a pretty dark place. Every player is going to bring light to this world, and that requires an initially dark condition. There are some pretty sad places in this game, and a world of sadness is required.

  • Did the main gameplay concept always involve the paint and thinner, or were there initially other concepts?

    • Basically had a blank screen, an “empty Word document”, but this idea came fairly early on.

    • They (Warren and the team) said “it’d be cool to remind people that he’s a cartoon character, and not a real mouse.”

    • And so this is where the paint came from. But since Spector is always about choices in games, they had to also provide the option for the opposite: the thinner.

  • Finally another Mickey game matching the magic of the SNES days. What made this the right time?

    • Remembers reading interviews about how they’re going to give Mickey a rest in the videogame space (before he was involved). But they just thought he was the right guy I guess.

  • What makes this game different from other Wii titles?

    • The dark, cartoony-ness of it really sets it apart. And not just on Nintendo, but other platforms as well. You always have these cartoony, bright games, and then the complete opposite as well. He challenged the team from day one to suck players into the experience at E3. He wanted a game that “looks like a Disney animated feature.” Wanted the “lushness”, such as Pinocchio, which is sort of the pinnacle of Disney tradition he believes.

    • Visited Pixar as he was working on this. They use color scripts to provide an overview of colors which dominate scenes in different settings as the movie progresses. So they took this approach as well… just discussing the colors used to dominate the game in particular areas of the game. The color scripting and the technique really set them apart.

  • What sort of audience did the team have when trying to make this title?

    • Spector knew this was not like making a Deus Ex. Mickey is known to nearly everyone on the planet, so they had to work with their partners at Disney to figure out the right way to approach the game.

    • “At Pixar, we don’t make movies for a target audience; we make entertainment for everyone.”

    • Why can’t a game aspire to the same goal?

    • Not saying they succeeded; that’s our job. But that was their goal.

    • They really didn’t have a target audience!

  • Given that you were allowed access to the Disney archives, what was one of the more obscure items included in this game?

    • Not sure if it’s even interesting to talk about this, as the players ultimately make this decision for themselves. But in terms of characters, surely Oswald.

    • After that, the Gremlins. Created for a movie in development in 1942-3 which was never made.

    • Got to visit the parks in Anaheim before it opened to the public. Thousands of photos of extreme close-ups of wall and floor textures resulted to assist the texture and environment artists. Of course, photorealism was never the goal, but this was their approach. Fans won’t even notice where they used an image where an Imagineer used in 1948.

Click here to go to Part 2 >>

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