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Spector Talks Censorship, Evolution Of Epic Mickey

At Penny Arcade Expo, Warren Spector followed up Friday's keynote address by sitting down with press to answer questions concerning
At Penny Arcade Expo, Warren Spector followed up Friday's keynote address by sitting down with a small gathering of press this afternoon to answer questions concerning censorship generally and, more immediately, Disney Epic Mickey. A demonstration of the game at the Gamasutra-attended roundtable during the Seattle video game culture show served as a backdrop to the conversation, revealing more specifics on the Wii-exclusive title that re-imagines Mickey Mouse in some intriguing new ways. Spector On Censorship Using yesterday’s keynote as a jumping point, Gamasutra asked the Junction Point Creative Director his opinion concerning parallels and distinctions between film and game censorship. Spector informs us that parallels are, unfortunately, few and far between. The Epic Mickey developer suggests that the film industry has managed to deflect most censorship legislation by not allowing “questionable content”. Specifically, he noted that the MPAA rating system created in the 60’s “took the wind out of the sales of most critics.” By contrast, the game designer noted that games have remained under attack from legislative bodies and religious groups since the industry’s inception. These attacks have resulted in attempts to censor game production and create first amendment exceptions that hedge in the industry. He once again expressed his deep concern for the risk the industry currently faces. Although he firmly believes that the ESRB is the best rating system the entertainment industry has seen, he posits that the perception of “games” and “play” as child-oriented entertainment has led society as a whole to treat game content more conservatively. On Epic Mickey Moving to the next topic, Spector described the conceptualization of Mickey in his latest adventure. The designer emphasized that purity in concept and loyalty to the character were key features in the development process. He admitted to playing other products featuring the famous mouse before Junction Point was approached to produce Epic Mickey. However, once development began he refused to touch other games that might influence his conceptualization of the property. According to the Creative Director, “Mickey deserves more. Disney demands more… You have to do something that astounds people, that no one’s ever seen before. Mickey deserves something new.” The result is a game that features platforming, action adventure, role playing, and rich 3D and 2D environments that are 100% Disney. Game mechanics throughout the main story incorporate the Wii’s gestural controls to “paint and erase” the Epic Mickey Wasteland. Spector indicated that the decision to use paint and erase occurred at an early state in the conceptualization process: “Mickey is a cartoon character made of paint and ink. Why not give him control over what he’s made of?” The result, according to the designer, is a system that incorporates choice and consequence; the decision to add or remove from the environment effects all aspects of game play, including end game. Breaking up the story are 2D levels based on original Mickey cartoons and shorts. The decision to include 2D platforming to travel within the Wasteland was, according to Spector, a result of his own desire to create a platformer. “I’ve always wanted to create a platformer game and no one would give me the money to do it. So I just decided to sneak it in there.” While the game play is certainly unique, there is no question that Epic Mickey is very true to its source. The Disney Creative Director described how strictly he pushed for brand loyalty: “early in the story concept an artist created a barrel for the game. I asked the artist where the barrel came from. ‘I made it up.’ And I said ‘No. Find a barrel from Disney.’” According to Spector, the trash cans are modeled on Disney trash cans. The design team relied on blueprints of Disney rides. And Spector wasn’t alone in his commitment to the Mouse: The designer informed his audience that the animators “got inside Mickey’s body” by recreating old Mickey cartoons and compositing the Epic Mickey version into the original properties. Disney Epic Mickey will be released later this year. As the game comes closer to completion, the veteran game designer admitted that while he has enjoyed the adventure of creating this game, he is looking forward to some “detoxing, rest, and relaxation.”

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