Author Topic: The Origins of Skylanders: Swap Force  (Read 1122 times)

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Offline NWR_Neal

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The Origins of Skylanders: Swap Force
« on: October 09, 2013, 07:23:10 AM »

How exactly did they put the Swap in Swap Force?

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/feature/35666

After wrapping up Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure on 3DS in 2011, the team at Menands, N.Y.-based Vicarious Visions moved on to their next challenge: the third entry in the, at the time, unreleased Skylanders franchise. That’s right; development began on this year’s Skylanders: Swap Force before the series became a phenomenon. It’s a crystal-clear example of the faith Activision had in Skylanders.

Less than a year after having two major projects cancelled, the team at Vicarious Visions didn’t quite know what they were going to do in the third main entry in the Skylanders franchise. “We knew that we wanted to do something that built off of that and added new magic to bring toys to life,” Vicarious Visions’ Jeremy Russo explained. “One idea we kept coming back to was mix and match. The idea of taking apart different characters and recombining them to create something unique.”

But Activision had had faith in other franchises Vicarious Visions was working on. In early 2011, their first foray into the lead developer role on the Guitar Hero series was cancelled. That followed years of churning out solid Wii and DS versions of the series. There was also the case of DJ Hero 3D, which was shown off as one of the few playable 3DS demos at the system’s reveal during E3 2010. While there has never been any official word on the status of DJ Hero 3D, it can be assumed that, like Guitar Hero 7, it was cancelled, probably around the time Vicarious Visions’ Skylanders involvement was heating up.

The mix-and-match concept, later becoming Swap Force’s main gimmick, was in its infancy at that point. The team hadn’t figured out much of the gameplay or logistics yet. Still, when Activision’s executives visited, the idea was approved. Russo recalled that Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg even called it “magical.” From there, the studio was off to the races to make the magic come to life.

“We initially split it into two groups,” Russo detailed. “We had engineers figuring out how it would actually work.” The original engineer-created character was essentially a mound of clay with an audio jack connecting two parts. It was crude, but effective at laying the base for how magnets would later bring it to fruition.

“Separately, we had designers and artists focusing on the game concept, like what this would actually mean to the player,” Russo said. “That was a lot of fun, but it was all just theory at that point. We knew we had something magical but we just weren’t making that connection between the hardware and the software at that point.”

Then Engineer Brent Gibson made what later became known as the “Frankenlander.” He went home, took apart a bunch of Skylanders and made a three-piece creation (or maybe abomination) using Spyro’s head, Prism Break’s torso, and Voodood’s legs. A video created by Gibson in the wee hours of the morning circulated around some of the team leads, showing, with no audio, Gibson taking Spyro’s head, and thanks to the magic of magnets, attaching it to the torso and the legs with one hand. It was the eureka moment of the entire project. The proof of concept that the Swap Force concept could actually work. And it happened before the first Skylanders game even hit stores.

Gibson was then instructed to make a few more of these beasts so they could use them as the basis for the new characters. No longer using his own home as the workshop, he worked in the New York studio’s own facilities. While cutting Skylanders into pieces for the good of the Cloudbreak Islands, Gibson managed to slice his hand open. Blood pooling in his hand, he tried to cover it up, until someone discovered him and then lead him to a garbage to dump his handful of blood and after that, the hospital. Gnarly scar in hand, Gibson was one of the key catalysts driving Swap Force from theory to reality.

The next debate was how to split up the characters. The Frankenlander was split in three, and a lot of the early prototypes were split up that way. “Do you divide it at the neck and the waist? Just the waist? Do you socket the arms? Is it easy for kids to use?” Gibson explained the process the team went through.

Eventually, they settled on the two-part characters about a quarter of the way through development, likely in early 2012. “Two part made a lot of sense,” Gibson said. “Simple play pattern. Click, click and you’re back in the game. You don’t really need to explain it.”

With that in minds, the team at Vicarious Visions underwent a two-year journey to create the game behind the concept. The product of that work, Skylanders: Swap Force, comes out October 13.

Neal Ronaghan
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Offline Ceric

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Re: The Origins of Skylanders: Swap Force
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2013, 08:18:43 AM »
I hope its more like the 3DS original than Giants.
Need a Personal NonCitizen-Magical-Elf-Boy-Child-Game-Abused-King-Kratos-Play-Thing Crimm Unmaker-of-Worlds-Hunter-Of-Boxes
so, I don't have to edit as Much.

Offline Webmalfunction

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Re: The Origins of Skylanders: Swap Force
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2013, 11:42:45 AM »
I really fucking wanted DJ Hero 3D.

Offline NWR_Neal

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Re: The Origins of Skylanders: Swap Force
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2013, 01:47:50 PM »
I really fucking wanted DJ Hero 3D.

Every time I talk to someone from VV, I pine about this game. DJ Hero was amazing. All of our lives suck more because the series is gone.
Neal Ronaghan
Director, NWR

"Fungah! Foiled again!"