Interviews

Warren Spector goes back to the drawing board

Deus Ex creator on how he hopes to change everything in Epic Mickey 2...

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Warren Spector defined PC gaming with titles like Wing Commander, Ultima Underworld, System Shock, Thief and Deus Ex - but when every other PC developer came to 360 and PS3, Spector vanished.

He returned in 2010, bringing choice and consequence to the Disney universe with Wii exclusive Epic Mickey. Two years later Spector is at last coming to PS3 and Xbox 360, and the mouse is coming with him.

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The first Epic Mickey was so rich in Disney history, including some of the best bits like Fantasia. How do you follow that?

Oh, we can make Wasteland games for a hundred years and never run out of material, are you kidding me? You go into the Disney archives and you feel like you're in the final scene of Indiana Jones. I guarantee one of the joys for adult players of Disney Epic Mickey 2 is going to be playing the 'where did that come from' game.

A lot has changed since Disney made those old cartoons in the early 20th century - Mickey doesn't play geese as accordions anymore, for instance. How much license do you have to modernise such a classic character?

We had more than I expected, to be honest. In the time we've been making Epic Mickey, Disney has said 'no' to me once. We can't show Mickey's teeth. Mickey does not show his teeth. End of story. Other than that it's been a nice collaboration. Some of the core elements of this game came from Disney. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit's return came from them.

A world called Wasteland full of rejected and forgotten Disney stuff - that came from them. The Phantom Blot as our bad guy came from them. We talked a lot and decided together whether something was appropriate or not. It hasn't been as hard as I expected, or as hard as people think it must be.

Some of the best parts of the first Epic Mickey were just about the opportunity to make mischief in Disney's sandbox...

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Honestly, I've watched a lot of people play this game, kids, adults and boys and girls. My observation is that kids actually have an easy time experimenting. They just run around and do what they want. Adults get stuck and say, "Oh man, what do I do? What do they want me to do here?" The adults are rules-bound and the kids are into experimentation and free play - neither are used to having that kind of freedom where their choices also have consequences.

That makes Epic Mickey different to a lot of kids' games, which are are geared towards rigid storylines.

A lot of adult games are like that too. I've been resisting that for 23 years. The quickest way to get me to kick you out of my office or give you a lecture is to say the words 'this is where the player does X' or 'the player has to' or 'you need to' or 'the player sees', because I don't believe that's what games should be about. Junction Point is built on the idea that we're going to empower players to be the creative force on the game. I don't want to make games more like movies, and I don't want to control the experience, I want the player to create the experience.

What games have you been excited by recently?

Well, I tend to play a little bit of a lot of games these days. It's an issue when you start making games and have ridiculous hours. I finished only two games in the last year. One of them was Heavy Rain, which I came to a little late, and the other was Deus Ex Human Revolution, surprise surprise. Heavy Rain I thought was an amazing experience. I would never make a game like that, but as a player I thought it was swell. I have no interest in making a game like that.

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