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Epic Mickey Interview with Warren Spector

by Neal Ronaghan and Jared Rosenberg - October 11, 2010, 8:46 am PDT
Total comments: 17

We talk with Warren Spector about collectibles, how the game compares with the original concept art, and someday making a game based on another Disney character.

Warren Spector has worked on a number of PC classics, including Deus EX, System Shock, and Ultima Underworld. His latest project, Epic Mickey, may be very different in some ways from the shooters and RPGs of his past, yet players will still encounter a great deal of familiarity.  As in his past games, players will be empowered to find their own unique way to complete objectives. At the New York Comic Con, we had the chance to chat with Mr. Spector about his upcoming game. 

Nintendo World Report (NWR): The original concept art for the game seemed to be a little bit darker in tone. How would you compare the concept art to how the game is now?

Warren Spector (WS): You know a lot of people got the idea that we changed the style dramatically and really, we didn’t. A lot of stuff leaked early and unfortunately it was part of our exploration of what we wanted to do. When you are making a game you try a thousand different things and only three of them end up in the game so a lot of stuff got out there that really never had a place in the game, but some of that stuff you might be surprised. You’ll see some of it at some point. 

NWR: I’ve seen what you have shown of the game so far and it seems it’s from early on in the adventure. Without giving too much away, how does the game open up as you progress through it? 

WS: You know it’s like Disneyland, you start out in the town square, and as you get to the hub, the center of Disneyland where the Walt and Mickey statue is, you start realizing that there are all these spokes, you know, you’re at the hub of a wheel, and there are all these spokes that lead out to different places so it’s a pretty epic experience. I mean, my first playthrough took about 25 hours and I knew a lot about what was going on in the game so I think players are going to find plenty to explore and do. 

NWR: And now as far as the story goes, there’s branching paths correct? 

WS: No actually, there are no branching paths. I don’t believe in branching storylines. It’s a linear storyline pretty much, but what changes, where the sort of interactive part of thing comes in is that you get to decide how you solve the problems in each place, it’s non linear in the way you get to approach the problems in the game, but everybody’s going to go to Main Street, we’ve shown some pirate adventures, everybody’s going to visit the same lands and the story, Mickey’s going to save the world, he’s going to redeem his brother, but how you do that is where the interactivity comes in. I think that’s way more interesting than a branching storyline. 

NWR: Now, you’ve said a lot about how play style matters with Epic Mickey.  Your past work includes the Deus Ex series and others. How has your view of play style changed during your many years in the industry to Epic Mickey today? 

WS: Well you know you always hope to grow with every game, and every game I’ve done at least since Ultima VI has been about letting players express themselves through play. This one was a different kind of challenge, you know we’re not working in the role-playing, shooter, stealth world, which is kind of where I’ve lived and where my teams have lived for a while. This is a combination of platforming and Zelda-style action adventure so the kinds of choices you make and the kinds of consequences you experience are a little different, but that core idea of players getting to decide how they interact with the world and then showing them the consequences of those choices, that’s still very much there. I think Deus Ex fans are going to find plenty to like about this. 

NWR: As far as replay value in the game, there’s the different choices that you can make that affect the world, not necessarily change the story at all. Outside of that, are there any kind of unlockables or collectibles, and what kind of rewards would you get from that? 

WS: Oh heck there are collectibles. I mean, come on yeah. In fact, it takes three playthroughs to get every collectible in the game. You cannot do and see everything in one playthrough by design. We wanted players to have a unique experience so your playthrough, you’re going to get different collectibles, and you’re going to have different friends, and you’re going to find different things, and maybe even go on different missions than I do so it really does take three playthroughs to get everything. 

NWR: That’s awesome.

WS: Yeah. 

NWR:  I know you've talked about the inclusion of weird Disney secrets like how Mickey’s ears always have to face the screen. Is there any kind of tidbit that you could share with us right now that is also cool and not many people know?

WS: Well, there are hidden Mickey’s. See if you can find them. I mean it wouldn’t be a Disney game, it wouldn’t be a Disney theme park inspired game if we didn’t have hidden Mickey’s so keep your eyes open for those. 

NWR: And any final words for the readers of Nintendoworldreport.com?

WS: Well I just hope you all enjoy finding out what kind of hero Mickey can be, determining what kind of hero he is and I hope you all end up loving Oswald. That’s a real honor to be able to bring a character back after 82 years of not having been a part of the Disney family so I’m real excited about Oswald and I hope everybody loves him. 

NWR: Well I’m really excited about the game and thank you very much for letting us interview you. Disney Epic Mickey is coming out on November 30 right? 

WS: November 30!

NWR: Yes, and it’s coming out for Wii, and maybe any other platforms? 

WS: If it’s coming out on any other platforms, nobodys talked to me about it so, I think we’re Wii exclusive and happy to be that. 

NWR: Do you want to go back to any other Disney characters outside of Mickey after this game? 

WS: You know I’m going to start singing the Duck Tales theme song if we don’t get this off right now so yeah, there are plenty of Disney properties to have fun with. 

NWR: Alright, well thank you very much. 

WS: Alright.

Embedded below is the majority of the interview in video form.

Thanks to Warren Spector, Disney, and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

Talkback

MoronSonOfBoronGarnet Red, Contributing WriterOctober 11, 2010

Darn, so close to having video of Warren Spector singing Ducktales!

As much doubt as there is surrounding this game (morality system, action platforming, collectibles), I'm still optimistic about seeing where this one goes.

greybrickNathan Mustafa, Staff AlumnusOctober 11, 2010

I love when Warren decided to curb his tongue and say, "Oh, heck there are collectibles!"

broodwarsOctober 11, 2010

Sounds like Specter confirmed some kind of New Game + feature, as he mentioned that you have to play the game at least 3 times to get all the collectables.  Given that he's said there will be no branching paths, I'm really not sure how I feel about that.  I'm not sure from the videos we've seen that there is enough content here to be worthy of 3 playthroughs.  I also haven't seen anything that assures me that the "moral choices" in this game won't be any less arbitrary than those in most video games these days outside of the Mass Effect series and occasionally in the Bioshock series.  The way he ducks the question on how drastically different the game is from the concept art that they released (and then acts like it's our fault that we got such assumptions, when they're the assumptions they wanted us to make) is very Peter Molineux-esque and really bothers me, too.

On the upside, 25 hours is a really healthy runtime for a game like this IF the gameplay and story can sustain that length.

I might have said this before, but I think the marketing/PR for this game kind of hurt it. They keep on only showing early stuff, and from what people like Spector say, there's a whole lot more down the rabbit hole that gets deeper and deeper. I could be wrong, but I'm willing to bite on this game.

KDR_11kOctober 12, 2010

There aren't branching paths but there are multiple ways to solve each situation so it can still be very different in subsequent playthroughs.

StratosOctober 12, 2010

I really hope this game becomes super popular so that Warren is given the opportunity to handle something like Ducktales or Darkwing Duck.

Killer_Man_JaroTom Malina, Associate Editor (Europe)October 12, 2010

Every time Mr Spector discusses Epic Mickey, I get the feeling he might have gotten too close to the game. He always sounds so passionate about what he's done with it, but impressions of the game so far don't appear to have shown off all these nice things.

The trouble with giving the player a moral choice is that most of the time, only one of the two options is worth taking. If, in this game, an NPC gives you a quest, and you can either play the quest or harm that NPC in some way, the majority of people will pick the former. Why wouldn't you? If you choose the latter, you miss out on a quest & the reward for doing the quest and the NPC will not talk to you any more. For the whole 'playstyle matters' component of the game, there has to be a good incentive to play as the Scrapper as well as the Hero. What are the benefits to destroying characters and locations with the thinner? If there are none, the whole idea falls apart.

KDR_11kOctober 12, 2010

Spector doesn't do moral choice like that. Favoring a brute force approach will likely benefit you in a different way.

Quote from: Killer_Man_Jaro

Every time Mr Spector discusses Epic Mickey, I get the feeling he might have gotten too close to the game. He always sounds so passionate about what he's done with it, but impressions of the game so far don't appear to have shown off all these nice things.

I feel exactly the same way.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterOctober 12, 2010

Quote from: Jonnyboy117

Quote from: Killer_Man_Jaro

Every time Mr Spector discusses Epic Mickey, I get the feeling he might have gotten too close to the game. He always sounds so passionate about what he's done with it, but impressions of the game so far don't appear to have shown off all these nice things.

I feel exactly the same way.

Same here. All the choice talk and it looks to be just a glorified "do this, get this, do that, get another". I mean, he just mentioned that the story doesn't change at all, that it has the same ending regardless of what you decide to do. I recall people saying that Deus Ex actually HAS consequences based on your actions.

I'll reserve my judgment until the game is released, but so far it might not live up to the expectations Spector has set.

broodwarsOctober 12, 2010

Quote from: NWR_pap64

Same here. All the choice talk and it looks to be just a glorified "do this, get this, do that, get another". I mean, he just mentioned that the story doesn't change at all, that it has the same ending regardless of what you decide to do. I recall people saying that Deus Ex actually HAS consequences based on your actions.

Exactly.  For months if not nearly a year now, he's been hyping his whole "Play Style Matters" thing, yet here he says that the story never branches, never wavers.  How can your choices matter if they don't impact the story in any meaningful way?  This whole game just seems like an awesome concept that was neutered by The Powers that Be at Disney and the inevitable technical and practical limitations that are a part of every game's development, yet they're still pretending like this is the same game.  I don't doubt Specter's enthusiasm and that he truly believes he has something awesome here.  I just have my doubts that his game's what he thinks it is.  That's why I compared Specter to Peter Molineaux, because this whole process sounds exactly like what happened to the original Fable.

SixthAngelOctober 13, 2010

Sounds great.

Quote from: broodwars

Exactly.  For months if not nearly a year now, he's been hyping his whole "Play Style Matters" thing, yet here he says that the story never branches, never wavers.  How can your choices matter if they don't impact the story in any meaningful way?

It is how you do it that matters. That is what gameplay is.  In Epic Mickey you have one goal but mutliple ways to solve the problem.  Maybe you can help someone to give you what you need, maybe you can be a dick to them to get it, maybe you can go somewhere else and build a new one, maybe you can talk him into giving it to you, or maybe Mickey can use his abilities to skip it altogehter but you still are trying to do the same thing.  Why should the story change?  There have been too many good/evil games out where people are given good way and bad way instead of the many ways that should be possible.  That was the amazing part of Deux Ex.  In the first level you are given an objective and have a ton of ways to complete it.  I don't remember how I completed this effecting the story in any way.  The storyline was never the amazing part, the amazing part was the freeform way to complete objectives.

KDR_11kOctober 13, 2010

To a developer who made games like Wing Commander a branching storyline means that the levels you go to change based on things you did earlier and you'll play through completely different content if you behave differently. It doesn't mean just sticking different text into the cutscenes. Your regular game with moral choice will alter maybe a few cutscenes and give you a different ending, Spector comes from a time when you'd have a whole tree of levels with forking branches almost every mission.

UltimatePartyBearOctober 13, 2010

Deus Ex doesn't have a branching story.  It has three endings, but you choose which one you want in the very last level.  There are many smaller events that don't really impact the overall narrative, but change the items you get, which sounds a lot like what he says about Epic Mickey in this interview.

And since Wing Commander would lead you to keep playing even after you'd blown your chance to actually win the game on the third mission, I can't say I miss that kind of branching story much. 

StratosOctober 13, 2010

I played a Wing Commander on the SNES. Was pretty fun. Did he work on all of them? I never did beat Deus Ex but what I did play was interesting.

I can see how your actions can affect the game without altering the story much. I recall Fable doing a similar thing where you played through pretty much the same game but either acted evil or good. Seemed like you had the same goal -avenging the death of your family- and you either acted like a Jedi saint or an asshole the whole time. (I never beat Fable but I got really far and that's what it felt like to me)

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterOctober 13, 2010

Once again, I will reserve my judgment until the final game is release. Things may change by that time and it might surprise everyone.


But what I am saying is that Spector is talking GRANDLY about how the decisions affect the world, talking as if this is a great, new thing that will make Epic Mickey one of the best games of the year. But all it seems is that you get bonus content based on what you decide to do.


Here's what I think of when he explains Playstyle Matters...


- If you decide to be evil Mickey and instead of do good cause chaos and mayhem, you save the Wasteland, but rather than bring it back to its former glory and letting Oswald be king again, you screw him over and you plunge the world deeper into darkness.


- If you are in the middle of the road, the world isn't fully restore, but you defeat the bad guy, make peace with Oswald and you begin working towards a better world.


- If you are the hero, the world is restore to its former glory, all the citizens rejoice and Mickey and Oswald rule a very beautiful and splendid Disney universe.


See, stuff like that.


Although, I may have to side with Neal in that they only show the very, very early stuff, which seems pretty tame and boring. It could get better as it progresses.

KDR_11kOctober 14, 2010

That's just different endings.

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