Theme park or sandbox? That’s a debate that’s most commonly associated with MMORPGs, but it applies to Disney Infinity as well. On one hand, you have the carefully controlled action RPG experiences of the Play Sets, and on the other, the unfettered freedom provided by the Toy Box mode.
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The difference, of course, is that the game allows you to play either way, switching whenever you choose. With the release of Disney Infinity 3.0, the lines have also blurred ever so slightly: the Play Sets have expanded to encompass more characters (you can use any Star Wars figure with any Star Wars Play Set, for instance) and more genres (the Inside Out Play Set is a side-scrolling platformer), while the new Toy Box Games introduce more structure to your mash-ups.
Still, Disney Interactive has to perform a balancing act with each new edition of the game, carefully emphasizing the improvements made in each area. As Jeff Bunker, Studio Art Director for Disney Interactive/Avalanche told GameSided in a recent phone interview, it’s almost akin to developing two different games at the same time for two different audiences.
“Those were, internally, discussions that we were having,” Bunker said. “We do have different targets that we’re aiming at. We have a lot of the community that wants curated, structured gameplay, and then there’s the other half of our community that wants complete freedom and unstructured gameplay. So we almost have to have two different game plans, two different strategies to address both groups.”
Having had a chance to go hands-on with one of the new Star Wars Play Sets, during San Diego Comic-Con, I can personally vouch for the fact that the gameplay on that side takes another step forward in Disney Infinity 3.0. Not only do characters have many more options in combat, making the action feel more enjoyable than ever, but the developers managed to create the proper feel for each one. Jedis can use the Force to push or pull enemies, Boba Fett has an arsenal of different weapons to go with his rocket pack, and so on.
Bunker credits a solid working relationship with LucasArts for how the finished product turned out.
“We certainly had our opinions of what would make fun gameplay,” he said. “They had strong opinions of what would be authentic to the characters, and it was just a healthy synergy that happened between the two. I think it did end up in a really nice place in that there’s quite a bit of diversity between the different characters and mechanics, and that diversity is authentic to the personality of those characters.”
I think people will be surprised at the new depth of gameplay that our characters have.
While I didn’t get to try out any of the new Toy Box features in San Diego, the list of improvements there also sounds impressive. There’s a custom path creator and new tools for social sharing. Customizable sidekicks have the potential to make Toy Box Games a lot more interesting as well. Naturally, a host of new buildings and vehicles are entering the mix, along with farming (as in crops) and much more.
In other words, it should be enough to please fans no matter what they were most looking forward to from Disney Infinity 3.0. And when asked what features Bunker thought gamers would enjoy most, even he couldn’t decide.
“I think people will be surprised at the new depth of gameplay that our characters have,” he said. “There are a lot more ways to express yourself as a player through each one of the characters than we previously had. And then for the fans that are big into creating their own Toy Box and building, I think they’ll be blown away by the tools that they have now to build Toy Boxes with. I think they will be very excited about that.”
Disney Infinity 3.0 releases for a wide range of consoles in North America on August 30.