E3 2015: Hands-On Disney Infinity 3.0

e3-15-disney-infinity-3-hands-on

When I arrived at the Disney booth at E3 I fully expected to play the game for a bit, maybe talk to someone about it and move on. Silly me, this is Disney. The game would come but it would be integrated with a very informative booth tour, one that was well worth it.

My guide Shelby took the time to show me around the entire booth and put up with my nonsense so I have to thank her right off the bat. We started in an area with walls that reached a good ten to fifteen feet high displaying all kinds of artwork. I hadn’t paid much attention to it on the way in but I learned that all the artwork was a series of preliminary sketches for the model Infinity characters.

The developers worked closely with Disney animators to come up with a pose for each that would capture the essence of that character. For example, with Merida they actually worked with one of the directors of Brave who immediately changed the look of her hips explaining that they didn’t need to be to the side but more straight on since she’s a very direct character. They also worked closely to get the hair just right.

Once satisfied with what they had on paper it would need to be modeled in 3D. With all the advances in technology it’s become pretty easy to prototype a quick model using a 3D printer. This way, the characters can be seen from all angles giving everyone a good sense of how it would really look.

Oftentimes they have to go back and model a different pose or gesture until it feels right. This was especially useful when they got into the Marvel characters. With the first wave of Infinity figures it made sense for them to be standing around in a typical pose but the superheroes looked better when it appeared as though they were just about to spring into action.

It was fascinating to see the early, rough builds of the characters versus how they ended up. Clearly a ton of attention and care was put into each of the characters and how they’re presented.

The artwork area was bisected by more than six thousand Power Discs strung from the ceiling in rows like some unreal beaded curtain in the home of an uber-rich Disney nerd. Yes, I was jealous.

At the ends of the two walls, iPads were set up with even more concept art from across the entire Disney Infinity collection. I was blown away by the whole thing and we’d barely started.

We took a quick look at the front of the booth which featured a huge figure wall in the shape of the Infinity base with the center cut out. Every figure from all three games was featured in their own little nook and lit as if being displayed in a museum.

Stations were set up with each of the upcoming Play Sets. Rise Against the Empire is set during the original trilogy with Han, Luke, Leia, Chewie and all. Twilight of the Republic is set during the Clone Wars era and Inside Out, based on the new Pixar movie was available as well.

I started with the Inside Out playset which takes place after the movie and contains more than twenty-five levels. Riley watches a scary movie right before bed and it scatters all her memories in dreamland. The emotions are sent out to collect the memory balls and return them to the right place.

This Play Set is unique in that it’s pretty much a traditional puzzle-platformer and honestly it looked a lot like an Inside Out themed LittleBigPlanet level. That’s not all there is however as it changes from a traditional side scroller to a 3D isometric view and even switches gravity similar to Ibb and Obb. If you’re playing with two players, one can run along the top while one runs along the bottom. It even includes Leaderboards at the end of every level to add to the replayability. The two player mode doesn’t do split screen though, the camera simply pulls back instead.

Each of the emotions has their own special ability. For example, Anger can run across lava, Sadness can stand on clouds, Disgust can jump really high off clouds, Fear is fast and Joy glides when she jumps. Many hidden areas and collectibles are only accessible with those specific abilities.

Flag_of_the_United_States.svg

Now I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking it too. In order to find everything in the Play Set you’ll need to buy every character right? Nope. They’ve actually added a cool feature where you can switch to any other character at any time for about thirty seconds. That’s always enough time to be able to switch characters and grab some out of reach memory before you switch back if you’re good. In co-op you can even combine abilities to solve puzzles by carrying characters. The platforming felt good and the collectible objects combined with a ticking clock on each level really made for an exciting experience.

The Inside Out Play Set will be out on August 30, 2015 for $39.99 and it will include Joy and Anger as well as the Play Set piece.

We then moved on to Twilight of the Republic which is set during the Clone Wars era of the Old Republic. Possibly the best thing about Disney Infinity 3.0 is that they’re aware of their shortcomings from the first two games and they’ve decided to do something about it. To that effect, Ninja Theory was brought in to rework the melée combat and the results are fantastic.

Combat feels much better than the previous Disney Infinity games in all aspects with the lightsaber battles being especially fun. Force push (or pull depending on the character) is used to great effect as well and the new finishing moves are amazing.

I started in the Droid Factory with Ahsoka Tano on the hunt for General Grievous. When I hit an upgrade point the new Skill Tree was highlighted. In the new game the skills are separated off in different grids with sections dedicated to different abilities making it much easier to use. As in the previous game, if you don’t like where the upgrades are going you’re allowed to respec twice to entirely redo the tree.

Each mission now has three stars for completion. The first is for completing the main objective, the second is usually for completing it with a specific character, and the third is usually a condition such as completing the level without falling off a ledge.

Since I missed it at E3, I was able to try Rise Against The Empire at the Sony Holiday Showcase in July. I flew a mission against the Death Star and the space combat felt great. It was a series of dogfights, protection, avoidance, and straight destruction that’s generally on rails with a little bit of leeway.

What’s really cool with this Play Set is that when you finish a mission you’ll jump into a ship and fly off into space to head to the next one. You’re not automatically taken there however and you’ll have a chance to fly around to wherever you want in a free roam environment.

Along with the Death Star I checked out Hoth and Endor. On Hoth, I was tasked to take down advancing AT-AT’s which was done in a number of ways. On foot, you’ll run up to the advancing walkers and shoot at the legs.

The armor eventually breaks off revealing the toy-like nature of it and hand holds to get up to the body of the walker. Once there a battery compartment opens (like an actual C battery) and you have to knock that out. Repeat for the other three legs and the walker is down.

Of course it wouldn’t be the battle of Hoth however if you couldn’t fly a Snowspeeder and of course I did. Just like the movies you’ll grapple the legs to bring them down. What’s cool is that the falls are procedurally generated so they’ll look different and we saw some funny ones.

Even more fun though is to fly past the top of the walker and jump onto it. There’s a big button up by the head that will eject the driver and a big remote control on the back that will allow you to take control of the walker itself. You can jump on buttons for forward, left, right, and fire so if you get one early in the battle you can turn it against the others.

The remote can even be removed from the back and taken with you. That way you can stand on the ground away from the battle and just go to town. If you’re playing co-op you can even have walker fights.

Endor looked fantastic as well and I did a few missions for Wicket and Lando even getting the chance to steal a speeder bike. I was playing as Leia at first and we dropped a costume Power Disc under her to swap her into the bounty hunter costume. The entire Play Set is massive and will keep everyone busy for days on end.

Back at E3, we moved over to another station to check out the new Toy Box expansion games. These previously came in the Starter Packs but this year they’re being sold separately. These are now full on worlds available to all Disney Infinity characters and each of the levels is franchise themed.

There’s one, Toy Box Takeover, that’s like a dungeon crawler. In that, the villains have taken over the Toy Box and you need to fight to take it back from them. The one I played was all racing with nine levels including a Nightmare Before Christmas level and the Sugar Rush from Wreck-It Ralph.

New vehicles have been added as well like the Tea Cup and a Splash Mountain log from Disneyland. The vehicle mechanics were completely overhauled by Sumo Digital and the racing feels so much better than it has in previous games. Building race tracks used procedural generation to make it easier last year but it still wasn’t quite right so that’s been tweaked as well.

Everything about racing is so much better. I used Darth Vader in the big Disney parade float that looks like a huge drum standing on its side. It’s probably the most awkward vehicle in the game but I quickly got a feel for it and was able to handle the racing really well. They run like a standard kart racer with weapons and power-ups.

Any of the older Power Discs can be used in this set so you’ll have a ton of vehicles to choose from. The set will be sold stand-alone for $19.99 as a Game Disc. It will include nine courses across three different hubs.

The Toy Box has been upgraded as well this year with a new Toy Box Hub. What they noticed in the past was that people would get overwhelmed in the Toy Box with access to all the tools and no idea where to start.

Now you’re dropped into a colorless hub with different worlds that you can go into to learn different skills like building a platforming game or racing. These are essentially set up as short campaigns to give people instruction and inspiration. As you play through each of the areas they fill in with color so you can easily see where you’ve been.

Main Street in Disney is in the hub with Flynn’s Arcade. Entering it will open up a bunch of minigames that can be played online. The El Capitan Theatre is also present which, in real life, is where Disney premieres all their movies. Enter the building and you’ll see posters on the wall highlighting the top Toy Box creators for the week and you can jump right into the creations from there. The movie screen inside shows Toy Box TV which is the weekly YouTube show.

The last section of the booth was dedicated to showing off the worlds that the community has created. Five of the top Toy Box creators were consistently blowing the developers away week after week and they were eventually hired to build Toy Boxes full time. They been building new creations every week and they’ve been working on Toy Box Tales which is fantastic episodic content.

At the end of the tour I was given the choice of one of three characters to take home with me. It was either Mickey, Sadness from Inside Out, or Darth Maul so of course I went with Darth Maul. The interesting thing about him is that in the films he has eight horns but the 3D model’s head was too small to fit them. Instead they went with six but each individual horn is a separate piece attached to the character and the attention to detail is just wonderful.

At the Sony Holiday Event in New York I was able to see even more of the characters up close and the all look spectacular. Sabine from the new Star Wars Rebels series is the most detailed character they’ve done to date. The textures, wrinkles, buttons, and more make the figure a real stand out. I was given the Chewbacca figure after playing the game there and he looks just as awesome as you’d expect with his bandolier and crossbow laser rifle.

Disney Infinity 3.0 will be available as a Starter Pack for $64.99 which includes the game, the base, the Twilight of the Republic Play Set, and the Ahsoka Tano and Anakin Skywalker figures.

Also available will be the PlayStation exclusive Saga Bundle which includes everything from the Starter Pack along with the Rise Against The Empire Play Set, the Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and timed exclusive Boba Fett figures for $119.99.

The Power Discs will no longer be sold in blind packs which is another great change they’ve made this year. Instead they’ll be grouped four to a pack in clear packaging for $9.99 so you can see what you’re getting.

Both sets and a number of characters will be released on August 30, 2015.

Flag_of_the_United_States.svg

Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg

Flag_of_Canada.svg

 

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook