Disney Epic Mickey is one of the year's biggest Wii exclusives, and developer Junction Point isn't messing around when they say epic - the game spans the entire Disney universe. We sat down with lead designer Chase Jones to discuss in-game choices, the history of Mickey Mouse and working with industry legend Warren Spector.
Q: Which is the more intimidating name to be working with - Warren Spector or Mickey Mouse?
Chase Jones: Probably working with both at the same time. Honestly, I think working with Mickey was the more intimidating out of the two, because he has been such an influential icon to many generations and comes with so many expectations - anybody in my position would be intimidated! Warren comes with his own reasons for intimidation, but I have to choose Mickey first.
Q: From what's been shown of the game so far, we've seen lots of ways for players to change the world around them. Can Mickey's actions have a more long-term effect on the game, to the extent that you'll see the results of decisions you made much earlier in the story?
CJ: Choices which players make while playing as Mickey affect the game in a variety of ways from immediate actions to long term results. When approaching the choice and consequence theme in this game, I looked at it from three different levels: personal choice, local choice and global choice.
Personal choice is how your choices as a player affect the character. Local choice is the choices that affect the immediate area around the player. Global choice is the ones that carry on from map to map, and change major points in the game. We used this in the game to allow the player to express themselves in their gameplay and then reflect it in the game as they progress. How the player chooses to get through encounters impacts which characters show up in various areas of the game, and results in big changes to the end game.
Q: What was the most challenging thing to get right, in terms of the overall design of the game?
CJ: Mickey was one of the most challenging things to get right. He has been so many things to many different audiences that all have a different expectation of who he should be. We had to make sure we were fulfilling the expectations of the fans, as well as making Mickey right for the game.
Q: In making this game you've rescued a number of Disney creations from obscurity - Oswald the Lucky Rabbit being the obvious example. Who's your favourite re-discovered character?
CJ: Oswald is obviously up there for me, but aside from him, I would have to go with the Mad Doctor. I like the villains, and he was perfect for our story and our game.
Q: On a similar note - and speaking on a personal level - are there any video game characters you'd like to see making a comeback?
CJ: That is a hard question because a lot of the games I have played and loved are being revamped and released, so there aren't that many left. If I had to pick though, I would love to see someone do a modern day version of the King's Quest or Space Quest series.
Q: The Wii is arguably approaching its twilight years, but some of the console's best games have come out in the past 12 months or so. Do you think there's a lot left for the console to do? Is the best still to come?
CJ: I do believe that there is a lot left for Wii. A lot of times we are so quick to move on to the new shiny thing that we never get to a full understanding of a console's power. Look at some of the amazing games that came out as the PlayStation 2 moved into its "twilight years."
Q: Mickey himself has appeared in several games over the past three decades - Castle of Illusion always seems to be a fan favourite. Did Junction Point spend much time looking at these titles when you where deciding how to approach Epic Mickey? Or was it easier to concentrate on doing your own thing?
CJ: I think we are always going to do our own thing, but we definitely looked at these games to learn the history of Mickey in games. I remember Castle of Illusion well and even went back and played Mickey Mania, Mickey Mousecapades and Disney's Magical Mirror just to refresh my memory of past Mickey games.
Q: This game has been designed with the Wii in mind. At the time this game entered development the Wii's control scheme was unique, but now Sony has launched the Move, which uses similar controllers - and of course Kinect dispenses with controllers entirely. Do you think that twin-stick joypads are living on borrowed time? You guys clear have faith in this setup, after all.
CJ: I don't think the twin stick is on borrowed time. I think plenty of games are still going to use it well and continue to move it forward. I believe we now have more options for control schemes, depending on which console a team is developing for. We as designers should seize any opportunity to do something unique and new.
Q: Finally, please complete the following sentence: "The Disney character closest to my own personality is ______"
CJ: I would say Peter Pan, but I took a "Disney Personality" test and was told that I was most like Mickey Mouse...
Disney: Epic Mickey is due for release exclusively on Wii on November 26.