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Epic Mickey 2: Behind the Mouse Ears with Warren Spector

Fred Dutton's Avatar + Posted by Fred Dutton on Nov 15, 2012 // SCEE Blog Manager

Disney's Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two for PS3

As gaming résumés go, few can compare to that of Warren Spector. After starting his career on the fabled Wing Commander series back in 1990, he went on to work on massive franchises such as Ultima and System Shock, before re-inventing the stealth genre with Deus Ex and Thief. In short, he’s a true giant of game development.

And this week sees him return to the fray, with Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two – an ambitious sequel to his epic 2010 platforming adventure, packing in full co-op play and PlayStation Move support. The Junction Point founder was kind enough to lend PlayStation.Blog a few minutes of his valuable time to discuss the game – read on to find out what he had to say.

PlayStation.Blog: There are a lot of PlayStation gamers out there who might not be too familiar with the first game. What did they miss?
Warren Spector: What did they miss? Only the greatest game experience of all time! No, okay, seriously… what they missed was the reintroduction of Mickey Mouse as a game hero the equal of Mario, Sonic, Link or any other platforming or adventure star.

“Each player is the teller of his or her own story.”

They missed the return of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney’s first cartoon star – a great character who deserves better than to be forgotten. They missed what I hope was and is a unique combination of platforming and adventure game elements – with players getting to decide how the game felt and played.

They missed the “Deus Ex” choice and consequence idea applied to completely different genres – in Disney Epic Mickey games, each player is the teller of his or her own story, just as in Deus Ex and all the other games I’ve worked on.

They missed a cool story, a brand new game world and a trip down Disney Memory Lane. They missed all sorts of stuff!

Disney's Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two for PS3Disney's Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two for PS3

And for those who did play it, what are the key improvements you’ve made for the sequel?
WS: Camera, camera, camera! The team worked really hard to enhance the camera system. And when I say “really hard” I mean “really hard!”. I think we did a better job of player direction – knowing where to go and what to do. Games should be about how to do stuff, not figuring out what stuff to do!

We’ve added full voice for all characters, some of whom even sing. We’ve taken the idea of choice and consequence to new levels – your play-style really matters this time around and your choices may have consequences that last forever and can’t be undone.

Oh, and we’ve added a little thing called two-player co-op. Now, one player takes the role of Mickey, with Oswald as an AI-controlled character, but at any point, a second player can sit down next to you and play as Oswald. It’s all about the Power of Two!

The camera was indeed one of the issues that came in for criticism last time. How have you refined it?
WS: We’ve worked non-stop on the camera since the day we shipped the first game. We made a ton of code changes – including always allowing manual control of camera, while working to ensure you don’t have to take manual control any more than necessary.

“Everything’s better this time around.”

The level builders – designers and artists – were way more experienced this time around building levels that were less likely to break the camera system. And we just understood the ramifications of changing the world, dynamically, with paint and thinner.

Everything’s better this time around. I’m sure you and your readers will tell us if everything’s better enough!

Developers often struggle introducing simultaneous co-op play – was making it work in Epic Mickey 2 a big challenge for you?
WS: I don’t think so, really. I mean, once the team decided to go with Oswald AI throughout the game, we didn’t have to design maps to work with and without Oswald. He was always going to be with you, even in single player.

And I’m not a fan of special modes of play – I mean, there’s no special co-op mode, or co-op story, or co-op specific missions. There’s just the game. Oswald’s there to help. Sometimes he’s AI controlled and sometimes he’s player controlled.

It wasn’t easy – I’d never say that… the team would kill me! But we have a great team at Junction Point, a team that really wanted to tackle the problem, rather than being told to tackle it. That makes a world of difference.

Disney's Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two for PS3

You’ve included PS Move support. Do you see that as the definitive way to enjoy the game?
WS: Well, there’s certainly a lot to be said for the combination of gestural control and high definition graphics! That’s as close to a “definitive” statement as I’m going to make!

We know you’re a huge Disney fan – have you managed to pack plenty of fan service into the sequel? What new characters can we expect to see?

“The entire team embraced their inner Disney geek.”

WS: The key isn’t that I’m a huge Disney fan; the key is that the entire team embraced their inner Disney geek. On the first game, there was a learning period where people who might not have been huge Disney experts became huge Disney experts. I pushed the team to find Disney inspiration for everything in the game but that battle was won on the first game. No need to fight it again. The whole team went after it, Disney-style, this time.

There’s plenty of “fan service” in Epic Mickey 2! As far as specifics go, especially new characters, let’s move on. I want players to discover that for themselves.

Epic Mickey 2 is a big, colourful title that seems both family-friendly but also deep enough for core gamers to enjoy. How hard is it striking a balance between the two?

Disney's Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two for PS3

WS: Man, making games at all is hard! Making games where “play-style matters” is even harder. Luckily, making games where players really get to decide how to interact with the world and the characters makes reaching a diverse audience a little easier. It sounds crazy, but it’s true.

The thing to remember is that, in most, if not all cases, if a player tries something – fighting or erasing or sneaking or platforming – and it isn’t working, or it’s too hard, or they’re not having enough fun, they can just try something else. When there’s more than one way to solve every game problem – or nearly every one – reaching players of different skill levels, different ages, with different interests, is kind of a given. But don’t underestimate how hard it is to make games that offer choices and real consequences! That’s the tricky bit…

Disney's Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two for PS3Disney's Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two for PS3

Do you think younger gamers – or their parents – have enough choice these days? Epic Mickey 2 seems at odds with a number of the other big Christmas blockbuster releases…

“There’s an amazing amount of choice in games these days.”

WS: Honestly, I do think there’s an amazing amount of choice in games these days, if you look at the full range of platforms and distribution methods. I mean, if all you look at is console titles, sold at retail, then, sure, you might see a lot of games falling into a small handful of genres. But include digital distribution systems like PSN into things and the world looks a lot more diverse – in terms of content, gameplay, purchase price, commitment required, etc. Then, roll Facebook and browser-based games and iOS and Android games into your equation and the world of gaming is crazy broad.

Having said all that, I love the fact that Disney Epic Mickey 2 is one of the few truly family-oriented titles I see coming out this holiday season. And by ‘family-oriented’ I mean ‘of interest to everyone and anyone!’.

//Add Your Own

18 Comments

1

+ FriedConsole on November 15th, 2012 at 7:42 am said:

The first one was one of my most disappointing games ever. I love Disney and 3D platformers so I was super excited. The game was boring with fetch quests, oddly depressing, wonky, and had a weird morality system that didn’t fit. Why would Mickey Mouse do evil things? Can’t even muster enough to try the demo. Would love a cheery happy Mickey 3D platformer ala Castles of Illusion. Everything has to go “dark” these days. The real world is depressing enough.


2

+ spoonTRex on November 15th, 2012 at 7:47 am said:

How about, Warren Spector, instead of saying we missed out on a great experience, you do one better, and bring the game to PSN? Just do an HD re-release, so we can experience not only the sequel in HD resolutions, but the original as well, with better controls. (Nope, not Move; I’m talking a real, actual, two-stick controller.)


3

+ WorcesterRaider on November 15th, 2012 at 7:52 am said:

I am excited to try out this game. I did see that there were issues with the first one so I am excited that so much time was made to fix the old issues.

I personally enjoy the morality system. You can make your favorite characters act in any way! Be it bad or good. Great to see a game that both parents and children can enjoy together. I will enjoy this with my wife, a HUGE Disney fan.

Great article.


4

+ Mobius2525 on November 15th, 2012 at 8:12 am said:

I know this is kind of off topic but any word on the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 collection or maybe Kingdom Hearts 3?!


5

+ Dracont on November 15th, 2012 at 8:57 am said:

Is this game going to be on PSN for digital full game? Like many other ones? Please bring it digital


6

+ avdavidw on November 15th, 2012 at 9:05 am said:

I had this pre-ordered until I tried the demo. It looked and played like a Wii game, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.

The demo, to me anyway, wasn’t fun either. I found the gameplay and story to be strange. The only draw here are the characters. If you took Mickey Mouse out and added in any other character you’d just have this weird unrewarding game.

I am a big fan of Mickey Mouse and the demo left me feeling sorry for him being stuck in such a game.


7

+ four24twenty on November 15th, 2012 at 9:17 am said:

Regarding “choice” in today’s game market, I feel there just aren’t enough couch co-op games out there. I’ve recently gotten my Wife more into gaming, playing Lego Batman 2, Castle Crashers, Lara Croft/Guardian of Light.

Whenever a couch co-op game comes along (minus the split-screen), I’m checking them out because there just aren’t that many good ones out there. This game looks great, very excited to see how it turns out. Unfortunately, my Wife already called “dibs” on Oswald….


8

+ DZORMAGEN on November 15th, 2012 at 10:11 am said:

ring the original that loyal Sony fans missed on to the PS3, also I want to see a Vita version of the Nintendo handheld also. Why are we being left out of two titles….


9

+ SarshelYam on November 15th, 2012 at 10:56 am said:

Just as spoonTRex said in Comment 2, the reply by Warren really leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I understand the passion here, it’s his game and he and his team at Junction Point did a wonderful job of it, but it surely sounds like a little salt to the wound. Seriously, this should have been included on-disc, or at least as a PSN digital release. Even with a mere few days to go before EM2′s release, I’d still play the first if it were given the HD/Move treatment.

Perhaps I’m naive, but how hard could it be?


10

+ siegfried07 on November 15th, 2012 at 11:06 am said:

just please go an play infamous 2 whith move, and implemet the camera controls in the game


11

+ Elvick_ on November 15th, 2012 at 11:51 am said:

I wish Vita was getting love with either this or the 3DS game.


12

+ Vinland_Krauser on November 15th, 2012 at 12:12 pm said:

“They missed a cool story, a brand new game world and a trip down Disney Memory Lane. They missed all sorts of stuff!”
Almost feels like he is asking us to buy the game. Where am I reading this, Nintendo Blog?
I surely wouldn’t miss the original game if it was available on PSN.


13

+ ElektroDragon on November 15th, 2012 at 1:55 pm said:

I am VERY sad to report that the texture quality on this game is AWFUL compared to the Xbox version, based on trying both demos. So bad I had to cancel my order and will now buy either the Wii U or 360 version. This is very regrettable, as the Move support was nice. But such a huge quality difference.


14

+ Darth_Raww on November 15th, 2012 at 4:35 pm said:

Still waiting for the HD version of the first game…


15

+ DoTheKiller91 on November 15th, 2012 at 5:11 pm said:

@13 My my, a multiplat that looks horrible on PS3? Well that’s new…


16

+ DoTheKiller91 on November 15th, 2012 at 5:14 pm said:

Bayonetta, Skyrim and the WHOLE CoD franchise, anyone, no…? There’s lot more too!


17

+ tusunami on November 15th, 2012 at 7:51 pm said:

Glad to see finally this game is coming to PS3 this time.


18

+ Chaoxis on November 16th, 2012 at 5:14 pm said:

Hopefully they make a Ps Vita version of this as well…


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