Epic Mickey proved to be one of the most successful original Disney games in quite some time on its release in 2010. The game's sequel, Power of Two, is due later this year, and we spoke to Warren Spector, founder of Junction Point Studios, about reaction to the reveal and some misconceptions of the original game.
Q: I think Epic Mickey was a real grower, with many people not giving it the chance it deserved. Do you think people went into the game expecting it to be something it wasn't?
Warren Spector: I don't know. I think people had a pretty good idea what to expect. There were some relatively late developments that came out of playtesting that caused us to pull back on some things we'd talked a lot about, so maybe there were some issues there. Really, I can't complain too much about the response to the first game or the sales. I mean, it sold better than anything I've ever worked on (by far!) and is still Disney Interactive's number one single-platform game. And the response from players who DID pick the game up was overwhelmingly positive. That's good enough for me!
Q: There's also a general perception that the game didn't sell well - I think possibly because of low figures during its first few weeks on sale. Can you clear up how successful the first game was in the end?
WS: I have no idea why anyone would think the game didn't sell well. The actual sales of the game far exceed any number I've seen publicly. It sold really, really well.
Q: I've already seen you talk about improving the camera for Power of 2. Is there anything else you really wish had turned out better in the original?
WS: Well, I wish we'd gone with full voice for all the characters. Not having any characters speak wasn't the best call I've made in 29 years of making games, that's for sure.
Q: You've mentioned that you'd like non-Wii owners to experience the first game. Could we see the original hit XBLA/PSN or appear as a pre-order bonus?
WS: Who knows? You don't want to know how many games I've wanted to make that never got made for one reason or another. I'm still lobbying for an HD version of the first game. We'll see if it happens.
Q: The Xbox 360 version of Power of 2 doesn't support Kinect, which makes sense as it's not a pointer-based peripheral. Did you or the guys at Blitz handling the 360/PS3 version attempt to come up with a way for the tech to work in the game?
WS: We never went as far as prototyping or anything but we certainly talked about it a lot. At the end of the day, we just couldn't figure out how to allow freeform exploration of Wasteland with Kinect as our connection to the console. It didn't seem to make much sense to create a game that didn't showcase hardware or gameplay to their best advantage so we punted.
Q: I've seen some harsh criticism of the musical element to Power of 2. Was the goal here to bring the game more in line with Disney movies, which more often than not see characters burst into song?
WS: I've always wanted to make a musical – a film, a game, whatever. I love musicals. This seemed like a great time to try a musical comedy experiment. I mean, you said it yourself – Disney films almost always incorporate song as a storytelling device or a way for characters to express emotions. We claim to be making games that honour Disney's creative history – and we are – but to do that right... to do it fully... we needed to add songs. Someday, maybe the songs will be interactive, but that'll depend on how players respond to having songs in a game at all. It's not clear gamers will go for that.
Q: The original concept art for the first game was so gorgeous, I think some people feel sad that the games don't (and realistically can't) live up to that. Could we see a game that comes close to that Game Informer cover on the next round of consoles?
WS: I'm not exactly sure what concept art you're referring to so it's hard for me to answer. If you're talking about the art that leaked a year or two before the first game shipped, we moved away from that steampunk look (and some pretty radical character designs!) because I thought the game should be more “cartoony” and less science fiction inspired. (The character designs were part of an effort to find out where some creative lines were – by crossing them pretty conclusively! I never intended to ship a game that looked like that.) Some other leaked images didn't get used because we cut the locations or quests they illustrated. It was all pretty standard game development stuff. If you're talking more generally about the quality of the concept art we did for Disney Epic Mickey, I'm not going to argue with you about its quality – I've never worked with a more talented bunch of concept artists (at least until we started working on Disney Epic Mickey 2, where the team's doing amazing things...). Can a game look like its concept art? Sure. I actually think we did a pretty incredible job in Disney Epic Mickey and we're going to do it again next time around!
Q: Speaking of the next-gen. You've been one of only a few third-party devs to wholeheartedly support the Wii with big-budget productions. Will you do the same with the Wii U?
WS: I was, and am, a big Nintendo fan. Supporting the Wii was a no-brainer, given my personal enthusiasm and the great fit of character (Mickey Mouse), platform (Wii with gestural control) and audience (Mario and Zelda fans!). Will enthusiasm and fit translate into a Wii U version? I'm afraid I'll have to give a "no comment" on that!
Q: Power of Illusion looks like a beautiful throw-back to the 16-bit era Disney games. Why did you go with that art-style over a more modern look as seen in something like Rayman Origins?
WS: To be clear, we're still tweaking the graphics on the 3DS, so the game should look even better by the time we ship than it does now. What probably won't change is that 16-bit look you correctly identified. Think about it – the Castle of Illusion game from 1990 is the first game thing to show up in Wasteland. Of course the castle and everything in it would look like the game that inspired it. It's nice that retro-look stuff is pretty cool these days – just check out Minecraft! – but that look seems so right for a Wasteland game we probably would have gone with it even if retro wasn't so "in" right now.
Q: Why is there no Vita version of Power of 2 or Power of Illusion?
WS: The Vita didn't exist, as far as we knew, when we started thinking about and working on Power of 2 and Power if Illusion! I have a Vita and love it, so it'd be cool to do something for that platform. Nothing in the works at this moment, but you never know.
Q: Finally, Epic Mickey proved to be one of the most successful original Disney games in quite some time. Is there now a lot of pressure on you and the teams involved to deliver the goods?
WS: I don't know that there's any more pressure now than there was the first time around. I mean, any time you're working with Mickey Mouse, one of the most recognizable icons on planet Earth, there's pressure not to be "the guy who screwed it up!" And on the first game, we built a studio, a team, a tech base, a world, a story AND defined all-new gameplay. With Mickey as the star of his first game in about a decade. Hard to imagine anything being more pressure than that! Definitely. This one's been easier!