Disney Epic Mickey just has to be one of the most anticipated Wii games of the year, coming as it does from Disney Interactive’s Junction Point development studio, helmed by creative director and vice president and all-round legendary game designer Warren Spector (Deus Ex, Ultima Underworld, System Shock, Wing Commander). A life-long Mickey fan, Spector has previously said that this was definitely a labor of love for himself and his Junction Point team. WiiChat.com recently got the chance to interview two key members of the Disney Epic Mickey Junction Point team: Lead Designer Chase Jones and Director of Product Development, Paul Weaver, who provided a great deal of insight into the making of what promises to be a truly magical gaming experience for fans both young and old.
WiiChat.com: Did you play Castle of Illusion when it came out and if so, did it inspire you at all when working on Disney Epic Mickey, especially during the 2D sections of gameplay?
Chase Jones: I spent a lot of time playing Castle of Illusion when I was younger. I have fond memories of it and I did go back and play it when I heard I was going to be working on this title along with all of the other Mickey games. We pulled inspiration from everything Mickey to make this game and the older Mickey games were definitely in our minds when approaching Disney Epic Mickey.
Paul Weaver: I actually started my career working as a Tips Writer in the UK for Gamesmaster and Total! Magazine, initially working on the NES and Gameboy up through the Super Nintendo and Megadrive. I definitely fondly remember the time of Castle of Illusion and also Mickey Mania. Our 2D levels are as much of a “love letter” to the original Mickey Mouse cartoons of yesteryear as they are to Mickey’s early 2D platform game experiences on the 16-bit systems. Some of our levels in the game take the playability and feel of retro games, but are all based thematically around some of Mickey’s earliest cartoon adventures. With dozens to play through, I hope you’re going to enjoy it!
WiiChat.com: Could both of you tell us a little bit about your role in the making of the game?
Chase Jones: As the Lead Designer, it is my job to lead the design team to make a fun and cohesive game experience for the player. This means making sure the mechanics are right, the levels are fun and that the story is being told properly.
Paul Weaver: I’m the Director of Product Development at Junction Point and what that means is that I’m essentially Warren’s “right hand man.” He comes up with the ideas, the vision and the story and then I have to turn that into a battle plan, utilizing our Production, Programming, Art, Design and Audio teams (as well as our external partners). It’s also my job to keep pushing on the quality of all of the above and to make sure that it hits the standard that we’re looking for with the game.
WiiChat.com: What was behind the decision to make the game exclusive to Wii? Did you feel restricted at all by some of the limitations of the Wii compared to the PS3 or Xbox 360?
Chase Jones: I think putting this game on Wii was the right choice and made sense. When developing for any console, you are going to have restrictions that you will inevitably come across, but mostly they are of your own making. As a designer you have to work with the hardware and the team to get the most out of what you have and come up with creative solutions to get what you want. The team at Junction Point did an amazing job of creating an amazing game for Wii.
WiiChat.com: In terms of gameplay, this a game that will be played by both hardcore gamers and gaming novices alike, so what were your considerations in regard to making the difficulty level suitable for both of those types of player?
Chase Jones: A lot of the considerations for difficulty actually came up in the variety of choices you can make in the game. The player can make the game as easy or as difficult as they want depending on how they play through the game and how they use their tools. I have seen people of all ages play this game differently and change the difficulty just by thinking about a problem in a different way. Sometimes they even have come up with solutions that we never planned for which is pretty neat.
WiiChat.com: The story does indeed seem epic! How much input did Disney have in the development of the story, and do you think/hope that a whole new generation will fall in love with Oswald?! He seems pretty adorable!
Chase Jones: Disney actually gave us the bones for what the story was for the game. Each step of the way they gave us feedback and input as well. It was a lot of fun to work with them in this aspect as I have been a big fan of their stories since I was a kid. As for Oswald, I am sure people will fall in love with this guy. He is an amazing character and the animators did a fantastic job of bringing his personality to life.
WiiChat.com: Tell us a little about the experience of working with the great Warren Spector!
Chase Jones: Warren is great to work with. He has a lot of ideas, and challenges the team daily, which is exactly what you want when developing games. He makes sure that you are always pushing the boundaries and thinking beyond the norm.
WiiChat.com: What single aspect of the game are you most pleased with and why?
Chase Jones: I am most pleased with the entire game. I really cannot pin point one single thing because each part is so important to the overall experience no matter how big or small. This was a great project to work on and the end result shows how much pride the team had and how much hard work everyone put into it.
WiiChat.com: What other ways of dealing with enemies/interacting with the game world were considered other than the paint/thinner system, and why did you settle on that system and discount other methods?
Chase Jones: There actually were not a lot of other systems that we looked at as the paint and thinner mechanic came on pretty early. The sketch system went through some evolutions from what we have now but the core mechanic stayed intact throughout most of the development cycle.
WiiChat.com: What was the biggest challenge that you faced when making the game?
Chase Jones: There were a ton of challenges in making this game but one of the biggest was deciding between all of the ideas – which ones to keep and which ones not to keep. The Disney archives is just packed with inspiration and our team had some amazing ideas too. It was hard to go through all of that information and cull it down to an experience that was understandable and worked for the ultimate goal that we were trying to accomplish. I would have loved to put everything in the game, but in the end, I think we came out with the right amount of ideas to make an amazing game.
WiiChat.com: What’s next for Junction Point after this? Will there be a sequel, or will you be working on a new game? There have been rumours of a new Duck Tales game, is there any truth to that?
Chase Jones: I cannot say what we are doing at this time. I can only say that people will be excited once they find out.
Disney Epic Mickey will be available exclusively for the Nintendo Wii from November 26 2010.