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Disney Infinity 2.0: Interview with John Vignocchi

Disney Infinity

I love Disney Infinity. This has been one of the most innovative video games of recent years, combining the fun of collectible figures with cool video game play and expansive world building capabilities. You can check out my full review of that original game and then read on for some cool information about the upcoming release.

With the upcoming release of Disney Infinity 2.0, I got a great opportunity to talk to John Vignocchi, the executive producer for this great new game. The original game took advantage of some of the Disney characters that are old and new favorites like The Incredibles, the cast from Toy Story, Monsters University, and Cars. With this new version, the world is expanding to include some great characters from the Marvel Universe including Captain America, Hawkeye, and the Guardians of the Galaxy as well as some more great Disney characters from the new and classic movies.



Comic Booked: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us about Disney Infinity 2.0. I can tell you that I was really excited when I heard that the Marvel heroes and villains were going to be introduced in this set and that it was going to be available on the Xbox One. Can you give us a short explanation of your role with Disney Infinity 2.0? What does it mean to be Executive Producer?

John Vignocchi: My job is primarily herding cats. And making sure that our amazing team at Avalanche Software can work on an incredible great game for kids and family.

Disney InfinityCB: What was your inspiration for changes in this edition?

JV: Three key things. First thing would be enhancing the combat of the game. Last year we had characters, for example Jack Sparrow and Davey Jones, that both used swords and blunderbusses but only had very simple three hit combos. This year we greatly improved our combat system to deliver something visceral and worthy of the Marvel name. So, you are going to be attacking different enemies and throwing them through buildings and climbing up walls and doing some incredible stuff inside of  Disney Infinity Marvel Super Heroes.

The second key thing, for us was locomotion, making sure that every one of these characters animated and behaved like the way that you know them from comic books or the silver screen. Like getting Iron Man’s and Thor’s flight just right took a lot of work. Integrating Hulk’s wall-crawling ability, that you may have seen in the Avengers film and of course he has done in some of the books, getting that inside of the game was another key element.

Lastly, the Toybox Mode was a really powerful tool, but was rather complicated for the younger end of our demographic. Our key thing was increasing the accessibility of the Toybox Mode so that any player could feel like a Toybox Master Artist. The way that we think we have done that is that we integrated what we call an Auto Creator, a procedural generation algorithm, that uses natural language processing to associate different blocks and items and things that you can build inside the Toybox with each other. Now, with the simple press of a button, the computer will procedurally generate an environment for you to play inside, complete with decorations, enemies, collectibles, and more.

CB: I loved Toybox mode, but it definitely was a little more difficult or the younger ones to use, so I am glad to hear about this improvement.

JV: Yeah, it is something that our fans asked for and we try to be so connected to our fans. It’s what we tried to really improve this year.

Disney InfinityCB: What was one of your greatest obstacles in creating this game? Were there problems with adapting it to different platforms?

JV: I think that one of the things that we are the most proud of is how we have made all of the world’s most iconic superheroes fit within this unique Disney Infinity art style such that they all feel that they are part of the same universe now. You can put Iron Man and Hulk down next to Buzz Lightyear and Wreck-It Ralph and they all feel like they are part of the same big family. I think that getting those characters to look just right is something that we are really proud of.

Our partners at Microsoft and Sony have been a blast to work with. We had a great time developing on both of those platforms and expanding that experience. This year, one of the key things that we did is expanding the overall footprint a user can make their Toybox. Last year we were constrained  by the amount of hardware memory on the Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U, or PS3. This year, with the current gen consoles being so beefy, we can allow players to build Toyboxes that are four times larger than they were last year.

CB: I know when I was building I would always max out the red bar that showed how much my Toybox could hold.

JV: Yeah, it was actually the reason why we are moving off of the Wii platform. We just felt that we could not deliver the vision of what we wanted Disney Infinity’s Toybox Mode to be using that hardware.

CB: Tell us about one of your favorite things in Disney Infinity 2.0 versus the original.

JV: That’s a tough question. One of the things that I think is really cool, that not a lot of people have talked about, is our Text Tool. We actually have a tool inside of the game that allows people to tag NPCs with chat bubbles so that they can say something when you interact with them. Now, this requires an internet connection, because it has to go to a Disney Cleanspeak server to verify that no one has written anything vulgar. Now you can place a townsperson character, like Ariel, inside of your Toybox and then tag her with quest giver text. She can ask you to go fetch something for her. Or you can place Gaston down from Beauty and the Beast and you could tag him with test that is asking you to go and destroy the evil Beast in the castle. So it actually really expands how much players can tell stories inside of the Toybox Mode and that is something that we look forward to seeing as we continue to nurture our community to provide great user-generated content.

Disney InfinityCB: World building was the one of the coolest parts of the first game. Has that changed any or has it just gotten better?

JV: Another thing we are proud of is everything that we have done with the user generated content part of the Toybox Mode. Inside of Disney Infinity 1.0, to date, we have had over 15 million Toyboxes downloaded. We also launched a web series called Toybox TV that has garnered over 3.5 million views organically from our community. The fact that we get between 5,000-7,000 submission each week and we feature all of their work inside of the game, is something that we are very proud of. We have actually gone on to hire members of our community to our development team. We opened up five positions and actually hired people from all around the world. They quit their jobs and relocated their families to Salt Lake City, Utah, where they are now working on Disney Infinity and working on episodic content for the Toybox Mode that people are going to be able to download each week for free to expand their experience.

CB: Will there be Star Wars playsets? I collected all of the original characters and got the lightsaber in Disney Infinity, and I have heard the teases about Star Wars characters coming in 2015, but I was wondering if you were able to talk about any of that. I can’t wait to build my own Avengers’ Tower and Death Star in the Toybox. Please tell me that is a possibility. Even Hoth or Degobah would be really cool.

JV: You know, um… I can’t comment on that right now, but what I can say is that Disney Infinity is a platform for all things Disney and as we expand the amount of playsets and characters and playsets that we have, over time, I can assure that we will become a “force” to be reckoned with.

CB: Thank you so much for your time. I can’t wait to pick up the game and see how this new version compares. Any final words for Comic Booked fans out there about Disney Infinity 2.0?

JV: I really hope that they enjoy the game and thanks for giving it a try.

End Interview

A big thanks goes out to the folks at DKC for setting up this interview, thanks to the folks at Disney for providing such a rich environment and worlds to play in, and thanks to John Vignocchi for his time and all the secrets that he tried not to tell us. Disney Infinity 2.0 looks and sounds like a great game and I look forward to playing it and seeing what the future of this platform holds. Plus, I can’t wait for those Star Wars playsets!

Disney Infinity 2.0 is available next week, September 23rd.

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