Want to know more about Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion from the people behind it?
At a recent press event hosted by Disney in Disney World, Epic Mickey Director Warren Spector and Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion Director Peter Ong presented the origins and mechanics behind Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for 3DS. Nintendo World Report had the privilege to attend, and below is a slightly modified transcript of what Warren and Peter showed us. Also, check out the videos of the tour of the Magic Kingdom that we were taken on at the event.
Warren Spector: We’re here to talk about Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for the Nintendo 3DS. I am Warren Spector, the founder and creative director of Junction Point, the developer of the Epic Mickey game. We’re also going to be joined in a little while by Peter Ong, who is the creative director at DreamRift, who are the developers of the game we’re going to talk about today.
While we were working on the first Epic Mickey game, at E3, Nintendo showed the 3DS. And I was completely blown away by that device. At the time, I was blogging back then, I called it “the coolest thing in any category of thing I had ever seen at an E3 show.” I mean come on, stereoscopic 3D without glasses, that’s world changing. So I kind of wanted to do a 3DS game, but you know we didn’t have any internal expertise at Junction Point.
So, how do we go about doing that? What we had was a best-selling game. The first Epic Mickey was, and remains actually, the best-selling single-platform game in Disney history. Which I’m quite proud of, needless to say. And what we were working on at Junction Point was a sequel spread across a number of platforms, PS3, 360, Wii, PC, Mac, Wii U. We’re going to be everywhere with the sequel game.
But what about the 3DS? I love this little thing. I do so much of my gaming on the 3DS that it’s not even funny. So we had this fiction and these characters and these game mechanics and this world, but we had no pitch and no team. We needed to find someone to do it. So, some of the producers out there in Glendale and I talked to a bunch of developers who specialized in handheld development.
There was one day where we talked to the guys at DreamRift. They had a great idea. Now Peter Ong came out and did a pitch for it, and not even knowing what he was even pitching for, he can with this deck. (shows pitch for DreamRift’s Work of Art concept) You’re not going to see the whole deck, but he came in saying “we have an idea that we’ve been working on for a project where you draw things on the bottom screen of the 3DS and they appear on the top screen.” Look at that line (from the deck): “A world of adventure unfolds are you draw it into reality.”
And he showed it just like this; as you draw things on the bottom, they appear at the top. “But we don’t know about the fiction,” he said. And I said “Well, I might be able to help.” It seemed kind of like a match made in heaven. We have world, characters, drawing mechanics, erasing mechanics, and they had an idea and a passion to do a game pretty close to that. So working together was pretty much a no-brainer.
So together, the team at DreamRift and the folks at Disney and Junction Point worked together to come up with an idea that, to me at least, has some pretty cool foundation elements.
Paint and thinner to change the world around you; That top and bottom screen interaction. One of the things that really appealed to me about working with DreamRift was that if you look at the work that they’ve done on games like Henry Hatsworth or Monster Tale, they’re kind of the masters of top and bottom screen interaction. I love that about their games. We really wanted to make sure we captured that in any Disney Epic Mickey game that we did. They totally bought into the idea of rescuing toon characters, and Peter and I bonded over our love of games that had customizable fortresses.
I’ve wanted to sort of do a fortress-building game in any project I’ve done in the last, I don’t know, 15 years, and it’s been the first thing I usually had to cut. And I’ll never forget, Peter said “This time, we’re not going to cut it,” and this time we didn’t cut it. I’m really happy about that.
And I had one of those head-slapping moments when Peter said “How about we do video game history in Wasteland?” And I said to myself, “oh my gosh. I’m the guy who makes video games. I created a world called Wasteland, comprised of forgotten and rejected Disney history, and it never occurred to me to include video game history in Wasteland.” Needless to say, what I really said to him was “Well, yea, umm, I always planned to do that.”
And then, we wanted to honor a classic. Again, I wish I could take any credit for this, but the DreamRift guys came up with this, and it took me two seconds to agree to this. I’m sure most of you can recognize this, but, well, we’ll see.
So we’re doing a tribute to Castle of Illusion, a tribute to 16-bit graphics. Everyone’s going retro now with 8-bit graphics. I couldn’t wait as a developer and a player to get out of the 8-bit era. But 16-bit graphics? Well those were good times. So that’s where we’re going, and over to Peter.
Peter Ong: Thanks Warren. I’m here to talk about Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, and you got a look back at the original game’s intro. One of the things that was very important to us about this game was to make sure we do honor to the amazing effort and work that went into the original game as well as being faithful to the amazing caliber of the work that has gone into the various Disney classics that are a part of Disney’s history.
The presentation then was heavily visual, featuring images from the game’s intro sequence, which features the Castle of Illusion staple “Once Upon A Mouse,” and starts with Mickey hanging out in his house. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit tells him that Mizrabel, the villain from Castle of Illusion, captured Minnie and resurrected the Castle of Illusion in Wasteland. Mickey hops to and goes back to Wasteland, grabbing the magic paintbrush along the way. Mickey gets to Wasteland, and runs into Jiminy Cricket, who becomes Mickey’s guide for the quest.
Now within the castle, the villain that you’ll be facing this time around is the same villain from the original classic Sega Genesis game: the witch Mizrabel. And she is able to take on the forms of many different forms of Disney villains by her various powers of illusion. One of her favorite forms in this game is that of Maleficent, from the classic Sleeping Beauty.
Now within the castle, you’ll travel through many wings and halls, and each one kind of has its own theme, based upon a famous Disney classic. The first wing of the castle features levels based on Peter Pan. And another environment that will be featured in the game is the universe of Alice in Wonderland.
Moving on, like Warren mentioned, one of the things that DreamRift really likes to explore with the type of games that we make is the idea of what could be done on the top and bottom screen to create sort of a different experience than you typically would see on a hardware platform. This time the story is no different, but what we wanted to do with the idea of paint and thinner was to use it with the ability to use the bottom touch screen to select the objects that they can either paint or thin in order to create or erase things alongside the traditional platforming environment on the top screen.
Another big idea in the game is the fortress. Now the fortress is sort of a sub-mode within the game that broadens the idea of the traditional platformer structure. Within the normal platforming game levels, the player is able to explore the levels and often find optional rescueable characters and the cast of characters is huge, basically spanning every era of Disney from the early classic Disney period onto the Renaissance period and up to the modern era. We have characters as modern as Rapunzel from Tangled.
Here’s a view on one of the first characters you unlock in the game: Scrooge McDuck. And if you’ll notice at first when he gets into the fortress, his room is pretty barren and nondescript. The idea of the fortress is that as you interact with the characters, you complete various quests for them, and in return they’ll give you rewards that will help you back in your platforming quest. As you interact with these characters, their rooms will evolve. It gets to the point where, as you progress further and further and upgrade that character’s room, it will turn into a fully realized scene from that character’s universe.
Here’s another shot of a famous character you can meet along the way. And I, once again, will emphasize that this is a very small sampling of the suite of characters in the game. But this is one from The Lion King, Simba, in his location at Pride Rock. And here’s Peter Pan. In the background, you can see the beginnings of what could become, if the player chooses to evolve it completely, a fully realized version of the Lost Boy’s Hideout. And here’s a final look at one of the characters, with Goofy and his house.
The last time that we showed a lot of the game was back at E3. Let’s take a quick look at where we were at at that time.
So that trailer from E3 actually shows a lot of the content that we’ve implemented for the very first part of the game that we call the first wing of the Castle of Illusion. Now what we’re excited to present to you for the first time is what takes place in the second wing of the game and that’s the idea that the films in the second part of the game are based on the film Aladdin.
So with this wing of the castle, it was very important for us, as it is with every wing of the castle, to make sure that the visuals that we created for the game were as faithful as possible and as directly translated from the Disney films that we are drawing from that we can muster. And as a result, one of the things that we were really happy about with working directly with Disney was that we actually got their feature animation department to give us actual source working file images from the actual original movies. So, we used those images to do things like represent the final battle scene in the movie Aladdin where Aladdin fights Jafar is snake form.
Peter explained levels from the Aladdin wing of the castle here, as well as the sketches that you can use to add in objects whenever you want. You can read all about them in our impressions.