Disney Epic Mickey: Exclusive Interview with Paul Weaver, Director, Product Development

Posted By | On 10th, Nov. 2010

GamingBolt had an exclusive opportunity to speak with Paul Weaver who is the Director of Product Development at Junction Games. Paul Weaver is close to being a twenty year veteran of the video game industry with his last three spent at Junction Point. In addition to helping drive Disney Epic Mickey to completion, Paul has been instrumental in growing the studio in terms of staff – which has gone from 16 to well over 100 members – and generating global recognition by developing solid relationships with many partners around the world.

Paul was born and raised in Wales, United Kingdom and has lived and worked in England, Texas and California during his career in video games. Paul loves every aspect of gaming, and when not playing games or spending time with his family, he enjoys running, movies and reading. Paul lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Nicola, two children and a couple of cats.

Check out the full interview below:

GB: Disney Epic Mickey has some very cool mechanics, like the “karma” mechanic. But it is something that we have seen in other games before, like inFamous. How do you plan on making it different and prevent it from being just another face in the crowd?

Paul: One of the coolest (and most subtle) aspects of our game is the implementation of choice and consequence. Disney Epic Mickey is not a game that “beats you over the head” when you make a significant choice, so don’t expect to see meters dominating the gameplay experience. Instead, you’ll be changing the story that you’re playing, making it your own experience. In the minute to minute, you’ll be able to attract guardians in the world if you excessively use paint or Paint Thinner, and these guys can be used to help support your chosen playstyle too. Finally, our game has no concept of “Mission Failed.” There are certainly boundaries and things you “can’t do,” but there is no moment in the game where we stop the action and make you start again because “that’s not what we want you to do.”

GB: The painting mechanic seems interesting. Although, it has not quite been detailed very much. As far as we know, there’s two meters that control the two different kinds of things that Mickey can do with his magic paintbrush. How exactly does this work?

Paul: Using the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, Mickey can paint things in by using the B Button on the Wii Remote and using Paint Thinner with the Z Button on the Nunchuck (we’ve also added a left hand mode version so you can switch these). Through the development of the game, we tried a lot of different looks for monitoring your paint and thinner – but finally came down to the decision to show your levels of these at all times, as you can use either ability at any time. Depending on the choices that you make, these monitoring bars will get bigger as you make major choices in the game.

GB: We can also paint stuff to distract enemies and the like, like paint a clock and slow time down and paint a television to distract enemies. Would you please tell us of a few more things like these?

Paul: Paint and Thinner has a lot of uses in the game; you can slow down the Beetleworx enemies with Paint as it gums up their works, or wear down their toon armor with Paint Thinner making them vulnerable to your Spin Move. Painting a Blotling repeatedly will eventually make them friendly and stop them from attacking you (in fact they’ll go after anyone attacking you at this point too), while using Paint Thinner will erase them from existence. Toon objects in the world can still move around, but will stop when thinned; painting and thinning them can allow the player to manipulate the platforms in the game world to their advantage. Also, larger objects in the game can sometimes rest on painted areas and by thinning them out you can get them to fall, causing other areas to open up. Players will need to be careful though as these decisions are sometimes irreversible.

GB: The opening cinematic that was revealed some time ago looked wonderfully gimmicky and represented exactly what Disney represents: fun. Is that the basic underlying theme of the game?

Paul: You’re absolutely right; Disney is synonymous with fun and entertainment that’s accessible for all family members to enjoy. We feel that we’ve achieved that goal with Disney Epic Mickey!

GB: Disney Epic Mickey was originally promoted as a game that painted Mickey Mouse in a darker and grittier role. Now, from what we have seen till now, the game doesn’t really move towards the “mature” side of gaming. Will it become darker as the game moves forward, or is unadulterated fun all there will be?

Paul: Actually, while we believe we’ve made a very fun and enjoyable experience, make no mistake that there is still a darker tone to this game that needs to be appreciated. We still have a world of the forgotten and rejected who’s happy life was altered by the Thinner disaster. As you make your way through the game as Mickey, you will see glimpses of what the world once was, and we think you’ll make an emotional connection with these characters who are making the best of a bad situation, but really need the help of a hero to make things right.

GB: You guys have been showing extreme interest in the Wii. Do you have any further plans for it, or maybe the 3DS?

Paul: We’ve had a great time developing for the Nintendo Wii and our partnership with Nintendo has been very enjoyable. I can honestly say that we’ve been so focused on this title and the past eighty years of Disney history that we really haven’t had time to think about the future :).

GB: Disney characters have done well on other systems as well, like the PSP, with the recently released Kingdom Hearts. Do you have any plans for the PSP or any other Sony systems, maybe?

Paul: We really haven’t had a chance to think about other systems and consoles. After Disney Epic Mickey launches, we plan to get back into prototyping ideas for games and we’ll see what happens.

GB: Have you ever considered making Xbox 360/ PS3 games? Or do you think you might want to make Disney Epic Mickey a multiplat title?

Paul: In the past we certainly considered all hardware platforms, but back in early 2008 when the idea of Paint and Paint Thinner came about, we realized quickly that the gestural control that was only available on Wii at that time was the perfect fit for the game that we’re making.

GB: With so many other awesome platformers on the Wii, like Super Mario Galaxy and the like, what gives you the fresh ideas and the strength to keep going? Doesn’t the idea of making a platformer daunt you when there is tough competition in the genre on the same system?

Paul: It’s certainly been a daunting task, as Wii (not to mention the history of Nintendo) is full of memorable and classic platforming games going all the way back to the beginning of the genre. Fortunately for us, we’ve got some considerable strength in terms of development experience on the team and we probably spent as much time researching competitive titles as we did poring over Disney’s history. Remember though, Disney Epic Mickey as a platformer is only part of the experience; we’re also an action adventure title with RPG elements as well, and while we want our platforming experience to be fun and enjoyable, it’s not the only element of the game.

GB: If Disney Epic Mickey is successful, will you consider making a sequel? If yes, will it be a Wii exclusive as well?

Paul: If people react well to the game and want to see more Tales of Wasteland, then I’d certainly love to be involved on another adventure with Mickey Mouse!

We thank the team at Junction Studios and specially to Paul Weaver for giving their valuable time to us.

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