Making Mickey Magical: Design Director, Chase Jones, Talks About Disney Epic Mickey 2

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Posted May 8, 2012 - By Kevin Kelly

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Disney Epic Mickey 2

Chase Jones is the Design Director on Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, and it’s his job to make sure that all of the moving parts work smoothly together. Are the artists turning in their assets on time? Does the gameplay work cohesively with the story? Is everyone remaining fairly sane? It’s a lot to keep track of, and a big step up from his previous job as Lead Designer on Disney Epic Mickey.

We spoke to Chase when Disney Epic Mickey 2 was announced in Austin, Texas, where Disney’s Junction Point studios are located and headed up by gaming legend Warren Spector. Read on for the full interview with Chase where he talks about what the game holds in store, what changes they’ve made, and the most amazing thing he saw in the Disney Archives.

G4: So, it sounds like your team has been working on this game for quite awhile.

Chase Jones: Ever since the first one wrapped up. I mean whenever you set to finish out a project it’s like, what do we want to do next? So I think as we were deciding to bring the first one to a close, we started talking about this next one. Anything from camera to story, to mechanics; all of those talks began the moment we shipped.

So, give us an overview of the Design Director’s position. What are you doing on a day-to-day basis?

I’m working with the other directors, the Art Director, the Audio Director, Programming Director, basically to make sure the experience comes together, that the ideas are coming out the way that we want them to. I work closely with the Story Designers, the Art Designers to make sure the experience is right. I sat down early with Warren and the Art Director. All of the other directors, really, and they all figured out what we wanted to do for this project, and so from there, my job would be making sure we have everything on schedule for the team to make that come together, and the constant creative review of that.

At what point in development did you guys know you were going to branch out to more than just the Wii?

We started talking about that day one, you know. I think everybody on the first game was like, we’d really love to see this on other platforms, and so that was just a natural step.

Disney Epic Mickey 2

It’s ironic because, I mean yes, the game looks gorgeous on the PS3 and the Xbox, and you can see so much more detail in all those art assets that are pulled into the game, but yet the game play on the Wii is still so satisfying because that’s how a lot of us played the first game. Now we’ll have to choose one or the other.

I imagine people maybe end up getting it on both platforms. We’re not showing it here just yet, but we’re also supporting PlayStation Move so maybe you can get that same feel from the Wii by playing that way.

No Kinect support?

No. We looked at it, but again it’s like when you’re holding the controller, what mechanics are going to branch over to Kinect and I know it has voice commands, but we really didn’t want to people to be yelling at their Xbox while they played this. We wanted to be an active part of the experience. So really it’s not that we didn’t want to support it. It’s just that we were really looking at what the Kinect had to offer and how we could work that into our game which is, we couldn’t really find something we thought would make sense.

Where do you think this game is the most ambitious? It has co-op, voices, and multiple platforms. What was the biggest hurdle?

There were just a number of them. I don’t think there’s one that has been more challenging than the others. It’s like they all have their own unique challenges. With the co-op, you know, as Warren said, we wanted to have Oswald in at as a playable character and as AI. So, there comes that challenge. Really making him a personality as an A.I. that stands out and measures up to his past.

The musical stuff, figuring out how we wanted to bring that into the game and actually have him tell the story was it’s own hurdle from the storytelling standpoint and audio standpoint. Going back to the list of feedback we got from the first game, the persistency, how do we make requests less generic or boring, how do you tell another magical story?

It’s like everything had it’s own unique hurdle and I don’t think any one was easier or more difficult than the others, so we kind of threw a lot of risks in this one in general, but I think it’s paying off.

In the last game we got to explore a lot of Disney’s past. There were a lot of things that we didn’t expect to see. Are you going that epic in scale with this second game?

Yeah, we’re definitely going to different areas from Disney’s history. There are levels that inspired off of Frontierland, so as we get further towards the shipping of the game, you’ll hear more and more about that. There are some really cool inspirations for our boss fights and again, even more later on down the line.

We are going to come back to some of the same areas, but this isn’t a game where we just say, "hey, we’re going to reuse the levels from last time and bring it back again." OsTown isn’t the same at all and we’re going to reveal the underground section that you saw in the demo. There’s more to that and for each different area, so there’s going to be a lot of exciting twists and turns to explore throughout the game.

Disney Epic Mickey 2

There are some of the items from the Disney archives here and more than half seem to be from Warren’s own personal collection. He must be a fervent collector. Have you gotten to go to the Disney archives? I’ve seen a small version at Disneyland, but is the real one more like the Vatican Archives in Angels & Demons?

It’s crazy. We went to visit them early on for this game so that we could see the inspirations, and like you said, there’s the one there in the studio which was great. I mean they even brought stuff out of that and I was amazed, like ‘Really, you have that?!’

They brought us to the archives, the art archives, and you know, for me, I grew up in Florida, it is one of those places like Area 51, just going in you have to be sterilized and you’ve got to have the credentials to go into place. You walk in and there’s just all of this stuff that you see from your childhood you never thought you’d see again, you never think about it, but then when you see it, that is crazy. I literally had one of those moments where you’re standing there and you’re going, ‘I’m never going to see anything like this again in my life.’

They brought out a picture, one of the original paintings of Disneyland that they used to sell it to the sponsors and it was this crazy picture they had done of the park and they used to have it hanging behind Walt in The Wonderful World of Disney. But back then it was a black and white. That’s all you saw on the T.V. screen, so when we came in and you see it in full color. But the really amazing thing was when they said ‘Now this is the coolest thing that you’re ever going to see,’ and they turned the lights out and a black light goes on and you can see how the park would look at night on the same painting that was done way back when. Somebody went in and hand did all of the lights in black light painting. It’s one of those heart stopping experiences.

What is it like for Junction Point to be able to assemble the whole team and announce a game like Disney Epic Mickey 2?

It’s one of those insane things that happens every time we put out a game. You work so hard and are so focused on getting to game to this stage, and to be able to come out and see the appreciation of people playing it that aren’t us and being able to step outside of the office and really see it kind of put on display … It’s mind boggling

It feels like a testament to your work, as well. If they first game hadn’t performed so well, it’s doubtful that Disney would bring people to Austin, Texas to show off the sequel.

We’re very proud of what we’ve done and we’re glad we could show it off in our home town so that everybody gets a chance to see our game. It is their game. You know, Warren’s come out and said it. I believe that no one person makes these things and every single one of these people that work on it think it’s special.

Making Mickey Magical: Design Director, Chase Jones, Talks About Disney Epic Mickey 2


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