Flashback: An Interview with Warren Spector on Epic Mickey 2 from 2012

Joseph Yaden and I were talking about past interviews, and this one came up in conversation while we were playing Far Cry: New Dawn! This was an interview I did for PlayStation Euphoria a long long time ago when it was still around. I was fresh out of high school, and I was incredibly nervous. Warren Spector was the creator of a huge series called Deus Ex, and the Disney PR people were overlooking the whole conversation. They actually shut down the interview as it was going too long. However, I got some great information from him and a surprise interviewee Marv Wolfman, known for his work on DC Comics, such as The New Teen Titans and the Crisis on Infinite Earth. Unfortunately, Disney never told me of his involvement and I wasn’t prepared at all. Awkwardness ensued.  But without further ado, the interview is below. There was an audio version, but it’s long gone!
Warren Spector, the creative director, and Marv Wolfman, the co-writer of Epic Mickey 2 set some time for us so we can have a discussion of the game and violence in today’s video game industry. Enjoy the interview we carried out earlier this week!
Epic Mickey 2, Disney

Chris Penwell: Welcome to PlayStation Euphoria, Warren and Marv! I first want to ask about how you both got into the industry.

Warren Spector: I kinda fell into it…probably before most people listening to this were born. I started out as a gamer back in the 70′s and just happened to get lucky [while] getting a job as an assistant editor at a little company called Steve Jackson Games. [I] went from there to TSR, the folks behind Dungeons and Dragons and then I moved on from table top games into electronic games for a company called Origin back in 1989. I’ve been doing it ever since.

Chris Penwell: And how about you, Marv?

Marv Wolfman: I’ve always played games but I never knew that you could write them because most [games] were written in-house but I was asked because of a Superman game and I’ve been writing the Superman comic. I’ve been working on the game to take what they had and try to plus it to make the character a little bit stronger and [those] were the first games I started to do and I’ve been doing them ever since.

Chris Penwell: What’s new in Epic Mickey 2?

Warren Spector: Well, obviously we’re trying to tell a new story which Marv was instrumental in creating but we’ve introduced a bunch of new stuff. The most important thing is probably 2 player co-op. Now it’s not just a single player playing as Mickey Mouse but now you can actually take control of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney’s first cartoon star and play with a friend; one player will play as Mickey, the other as Oswald. We’ve added full voice so every character speaks every line of dialogue and when you hear Mickey in this game, it’s really Mickey. We’re able to give characters like Oswald and some other characters like the Gremlins who never had a voice [a chance to speak] because they were silent film characters many many years ago so we were able to give them voices for the first time. We’ve added songs, costumes, inkwells that can make you invulnerable or invisible….just a bunch of new stuff. If you enjoyed the first one, [it’s] more and better this time around.

Chris Penwell: How do Oswald’s abilities meld with Mickey’s Paint and Thinner?

Warren Spector: It’s critical that when you do co-op, all the characters are differentiated from each other. Having a character who does 1-8 points damage with a picture which looks like a fireball and a character who does 1-8 points of damage with a picture which looks like a spear is kinda silly. Mickey already had this ability to draw and erase the world. […] We looked at all the things Oswald did in these crazy silent cartoons and said which of those made for a great video game character so he has the ability to fly around using his helicopter ears and Mickey can go along for the ride by grabbing on to his ankles and [Oswald] can remove his arm and throw it like a boomerang to hit things at a distance. We also gave him a remote control which gives him control of electricity so he can actually stun or take control of the robotic enemies in the game and when Mickey uses his Paint and Thinner and Oswald uses his electricty together, magic happens. It’s pretty cool!

Chris Penwell: In Epic Mickey 2, you decided to add voices to the game. Was this your decision or Disney’s?

Warren Spector: It was me. I made a decision in the first game not to have any characters talk because I heard Oswald’s voice in my head [trying to get out]…it was really silly…[…] I think I was probably wrong because when playing the first game, Disney fans told us [that] we really expect our characters to talk so this time around, Marv wrote some great dialogue and we had great actors to speak the lines (occasionally singing them). Every character speaks every line of dialogue. [It was] totally our decision!

Chris Penwell: I also wanted to ask you about your “Play Style Matters” mechanic. Is this back in Epic Mickey 2 in a grander scale?

Warren Spector: Oh yeah, for sure. This is something I really have to count…it’s either my 22nd or 23rd game and every one of them have been about players deciding how they want to interact with the world, the characters and how they want to solve problems. They’re all about that. With the first Mickey game, we had “Play Style Matters Lite” because we were introducing that idea that it’s about how clever and creative you are, to a whole new audience of people who might not be seasoned gamers but now that we’ve done that with this game, we’re going all the way. Your choices really do matter.

Chris Penwell: That was my favorite part of Epic Mickey so I’m glad to hear that.

Warren Spector: Just wait for [Epic Mickey] 2! It’s the power of TEN!

Chris Penwell: That’s fantastic! So will the DualShock 3 Controller work with the game and is it just as good to control with as the PlayStation Move?

Warren Spector: Yeah, you know they’re different! This shouldn’t have come to no surprise for me but it did…the controller you’re using really changes the way you play. If you watch a kid play with the Wii Remote or the PlayStation Move controller, what you see is that they play. They spin it all over the place. Their hands move like crazy. They’re flinging this stuff around all over the place and they’re having great fun; they’re not thinking about it too much. When you watch an adult use those controllers, they stop and they think and they aim at a specific [point]. They don’t want to look stupid and they don’t want to fail but when you watch the same people, the same adults, play with the DualShock controller, it changes because you don’t have that sort of pixel perfect aiming that you have with [the] Move/gestural controls […] so you see adults just start spraying paint and thinner around and playing like a kid which I think is kinda cool! One of the things Disney does better than anybody else is that they remind us all of what’s it like to be a kid and just switching to the standard PS3 controller for example, it just gets you back you to that childlike state which I think more people need to remember.

Chris Penwell: That reminds me of what you said to Games Industry International. In an interview, you said that “the ultraviolence [in video games]  has to stop. We have to stop loving it. I just don’t believe in the effects argument at all but I do believe that we are fetishizing violence and now in some cases, we are actually combining it with an adolescent approach to sexuality. I just think it’s in bad taste” Where do you think the industry should go then because Call of Duty (Actvision) is getting high profits from using the gun mechanics and first person shooting elements? How do you think game developers should make games?

Warren Spector: You know, I was expressing a personal opinion there and I don’t think it’s my job to tell other people what games to make or tell gamers what games to like. Make whatever games you want! I think the problem isn’t so much that we’re making too many violent games or anything like that. You know, I was at E3 when I said that and it was one of a few opportunities to talk to the real world beyond the world of gaming, right?

Chris Penwell: Yeah

lollipop chainsaw
Lollipop Chainsaw, Warner Bros, Grasshopper Manufacturer


Warren Spector: I talk to gamers all the time and guys who work at other game companies. Gamers know that we’re not just shooters [and] we’re not just girls with short dresses, chainsaws and lollipops. They know that! They know that we’re also Braid, Flower, Portal and dare I say it, Epic Mickey, but the real world of non-gamers doesn’t know that and at E3 this year, I just felt like that was all we showed people (shooters and sexualized characters) and I was really disappointed.

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two will release on November 18th 2012 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and Wii U. Go and check it out when it reaches store shelves and online retailers! Special thanks go out to Warren Spector and Marv Wolfman for giving 15 minutes of their time for us. I also wanted to thank Joseph Cariati for arranging this interview. Keep an eye out on PlayStation Euphoria for Chris Penwell’s review on Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two this November. 


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