In part one of this feature, we learned about some of the attempts made over the years to create a videogame that could match the stature of the world of Disney and its magical mascot, Mickey Mouse, hearing directly from Junction Point creative director Warren Spector about what the team is doing, and has done, to reach this goal.
Part two of the feature continues below, as we discover two more major areas in which Spector wishes to change and improve Disney Epic Mickey 2 over the original.
The game development luminary also assures us of the franchise’s future while telling us about his one major aspiration for the series and its ultimate impact on the videogame industry.
Following the release of the original game, and now that the development team on Disney Epic Mickey 2 doesn’t need to worry itself too much with building the game as well as the tools, relationships with Disney and history with which to fill the adventure, they can now focus on not only refining aspects that gamers saw as shortcomings in the first title, but they can also improve on areas of the game that Spector himself saw as lacking.
There were three main areas in which Spector wanted to improve the Disney Epic Mickey experience with the sequel, the first being the camera which he assured us has been addressed. But what were the second and third areas that he wanted to ensure received attention during the development of Disney Epic Mickey 2?
Second on his list was to imbue the world and its characters with the power of speech:
“: I made, what in retrospect was a foolish decision, and not have anybody speak in [Disney Epic Mickey], and I did that for a whole bunch of reasons… What I discovered was that Disney fans ‒ and they are legion ‒ really, really expect their heroes to talk. Mickey has a voice. Donald Duck has a voice. All of these characters have voices. And if you withhold those voices, they get very upset with you. So in [Disney Epic Mickey 2], everybody speaks every line of dialogue, and some of them even sing.
And what was the third item on Spector’s development hit-list?
“The third thing was, kind of the geeky thing where: all of my games have been about choice and consequence. Players deciding how to interact with the world, instead of the designer telling players how to interact with the world. But it’s not just about choice – every choice has to have a reward and a cost.
“What we did in the first game: we were going for that, but when we started testing the game with ‘normal’ people ‒ not gamers ‒ we discovered that they were really intimidated by that: ‘Wait, once I make this choice it’s forever? Once I make this choice I’m stuck?’
“It’s the same thing I saw back in the nineties when I was working on Deus Ex, I saw people paralyzed by choice. Gamers back then didn’t get it and now, they do. And what we discovered after we shipped Disney Epic Mickey, the first game, that even normal people and kids started to get that after a while.”
“So now I just can’t do choice and consequence the way I wanted so we have to go back to: when you make a choice in Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, it’s forever! There are some you can choose to go back and change, but I think Deus Ex fans and Thief fans and Ultima fans will find more of a kind of choice and consequence that they expect. Their playstyle is really going to matter this time.
“Those are the big things we wanted to improve on in different areas where I knew we could do better.”
While I’ll continue to defend the original Disney Epic Mickey as a fantastic but severely flawed game, I do recognise it as only the first great step towards the creation of a videogame that can truly match the magic of Disney and its mascot, Mickey Mouse.
Warren Spector has similar designs on the future and claims to have already mapped out the narrative arc that will keep us occupied in not only the game’s sequel, but two more games beyond that ‒ if Junction Point gets to make those games, that is:
“: before we even started working on [Disney Epic Mickey], I already had a four-story narrative arc,” Spector says. “So I knew four games in, what story we would tell if we got to make a second, third or fourth game. And I knew what the big gameplay features, the new thing from a gameplay standpoint, was going to be in the second game before we even started working on the first one.
“I already know about the third one, too, I’m not going to talk about that in case I don’t even get to make a third. But I’ve always known the big new thing we were going to do in Disney Epic Mickey 2 if we got to make it.”
“We re-introduced Oswald in the first game, now we’re making him a playable character, and we’ll see where we go in the future with Oswald. But I’ve always been a little scared to do a co-op game and I’ve always wanted to do it, and this seemed like the right time.
“So, we’re going to take all of those ideas about choice and consequence, and players expressing themselves through play, and we’re going to see what happens when you mix that up with two players playing together.”
Spector’s aspirations go even further than that, however, and perhaps even my own wish for the franchise, as he desperately wants to instil in players the feeling of narrative freedom:
“My goal here is to make you feel like the first time you played Dungeons & Dragons. You’re telling the story with your friends. And if we capture some of that feeling, we’ve taken a baby step in a very important direction.
“Those are the big goals for the project,” Spector summarises in a matter-of-fact manner, “and then of course there’ll be story and a chance to explore. Some other stuff that we’re not quite ready to talk about.”
With such high aspirations, a team like Junction Point and a luminary such as Warren Spector all driving the development of Disney Epic Mickey 2, is this the game to finally graduate Mickey Mouse to videogame legend?
With the release of Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two on November 18th in the US and November 23rd in European territories across Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii, we’ll surely find out!
You can read part one of this feature over here to find out why the development team was able to address the unruly camera of the original Disney Epic Mickey in the sequel, with many more morsels of information included.