D23 Expo 2013: To Infinity and Beyond (Disney Interactive)

I’m only a casual gamer, but even as someone who doesn’t follow gaming that closely, it was impossible to miss hearing about Disney Infinity prior to the Expo this year.    But even having heard about it multiple times, I still wasn’t quite sure what it was.   A new console (there definitely seemed to be a hardware component).   A single game, a series of games?    The bits and pieces I’d heard were not giving me a cohesive picture, but there was enough to intrigue me a bit and make me wonder what it was going to be.    (And as far as the other games introduced at the Expo — I had heard nothing about them prior to the Expo, so those were all completely new to me).

In preparation for the Expo, I did do a bit of research — mainly because I needed to figure out whether the Disney Infinity presentation was worth my time — in particular, whether I was willing to forgo the Imagineering and Pixar presentations happening at the same time in order to see what Disney Infinity was all about.

So I did my research, watched many of the YouTube videos on the game, and was hooked.   Enough so that I pre-ordered the game and put the Disney Infinity presentation on my schedule.

The To Infinity and Beyond presentation at the Expo actually covered 4 different games or interactive series:   Fantasic: Music Evolved,  a couple of web series (Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story and it’s a small world), the Disney Animated app for the iPad, and Disney Infinity.     In this post I’m only going to cover the Disney Infinity system; I may circle around and write up posts on some of the others later on.    (In particular, I’ve downloaded and have enjoyed playing with the Animated app and may have more to say when I’ve had a chance to explore it more).

Disney Infinity

The Disney Infinity system is a combination of software and hardware; it is available for the most popular console systems (Wii, XBox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii U).   The Wii version is somewhat more limited (less multiplayer capability) so if you have multiple consoles to pick from, one of the others may be preferable.   I’m a Wii and Playstation 3 owner myself so went with the PS3 version.

The analogy to think of with Disney Infinity is your toy box.    Watch any kid play with toys from the toy box, and there is no separation of toys into “franchises” — there isn’t any thought that you can’t have your old west cowboy play together with your futuristic space ranger, no idea that “those don’t go together”.   Anything you can imagine is fair game.    This is obviously the concept that brought us the Toy Story films, and is also one of the key ideas behind D:I — the ability to mix and match toys from such diverse worlds as Toy Story, Monsters Inc, The Incredibles, etc. and have them all play together.

To dive into Disney Infinity, you purchase the Starter Pack appropriate for whatever your console system is.   The starter pack will cost you about $75, and includes the “Infinity Base”, which is a bit of hardware used to allow you to use characters and power disks (I’ll get to that in a minute).    Once you’re purchased the Starter Pack, all of the add-ons (characters and power disks) are console-agnostic and can be used with any system.

The starter set comes with 3 figures — these are molded plastic figures, about six inches tall, that are themselves nice collectible action-figure type toys.  But when set on the Infinity Base, they cause the character to appear in the game.   The Infinity Base has a place to set two characters, and the software supports two-player cooperative play.   (Up to four players can play simultaneously in an online multiplayer mode)

The starter pack includes Jack Sparrow, Sully, and Mr. Incredible figures.    Many additional characters are available for purchase (see below for the complete list).

The starter set also includes 3 play sets corresponding to the included figures — Pirates of the Caribbean, Monsters University, and The Incredibles.

There are two modes of play with Disney Infinity — a more structured mode involving “Play sets”, and a more unstructured, free form mode called the “Toy Box”.      In the play set mode, you’re given an environment to play in the represents locations from the movie — so the Pirates of the Caribbean play set obviously involves ships and the high seas, while the Monsters University play set is a college campus.    Characters cannot be used in non-native play sets — you can’t use Jack Sparrow in the Monsters University play set.   But that’s where the Toy Box comes in — if you want Mater and Buzz Lightyear to play together, they can do so in the toy box, just not in a Cars or Toy Story play set.

Additional characters are available, at about $13 each, and are not machine specific, but you must have the appropriate play set to be able to use the character other than in the toy box.   There are also multi-character packs that give you a bit of a discount — 3 sidekicks (Violet, Barbossa, and Mike Wazowski) or 3 villains (Davy Jones, Randall, and Syndrome) for $30.

Additional play sets, such as Cars or the Lone Ranger, are about $35 and include two characters.

Finally, there are power disks.   These are another accessory that you place on the Infinity Base, as you do the characters.  There are two different flavors of power disks.   The round disks confer special capabilities to a character — such as greater strength, or resistance to injury — and are used by placing them between the character figure and the Infinity base (I’m not certain how many can be stacked).   Round disks work in both play sets and the toy box.

The hexagonal disks are played onto a special hexagonal port on the infinity base, and are used only in the toy box.   They unlock features or themes (appearance overlays) in the toy box.   Power disks come two to a pack, at $5 a pack; there are about 20 different power disks available at introduction.   The power disks are a blind item — you won’t know what power disks are in a package until you open it, so I am sure this will create opportunities for trading and a secondary market for the disks.

Playsets & Characters
Available at Introduction:
Pirates of the Caribbean
– Jack Sparrow (Starter Set)
– Barbossa
– Davy Jones

Monsters Inc
– Sully (Starter Set)
– Mike
– Randall

Incredibles
– Mr. Incredible (Starter Set)
– Elastigirl (Mrs. Incredible)
– Violet
– Dash
– Syndrome

Cars (additional play set)
– Lightning McQueen
– Mater
– Francesca
– Holley

Toy Story (no play set — toy box only?)
– Buzz Lightyear
– Jessie
– Woody

Lone Ranger – Additional play set with both characters
– Lone Ranger
– Tonto
Several new characters were introduced at D23 Expo; these had not been previously announced and I’m not sure if they are going to be available at release or sometime after.

Phineas and Ferb
– Phineas
– Agent P

Frozen
– Anna
– Elsa

Nightmare Before Christmas
– Jack Skellington

Tangled
– Rapunzel
Wreck it Ralph
– Ralph
– Vanellope

One final character introduction was The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mickey Mouse.    Everyone in attendance received Sorcerer Mickey as a gift (and many of them are already up on eBay).    The Sorcerer Mickey will be supported in-game at release, but will not be available for retail purchase until January.    (I also heard that the retail version will have a  different paint scheme than the giveaway item — I guess we’ll have to wait to see if that is true).

We also saw a sneak peek of Infinity on mobile devices — this is really a couple of different apps that enhance the Infinity experience in various ways.   A free app was shown that allows you to add Infinity character animations to your own videos.   There will also be a not-free app for the iPad that works with the console, but that was not being introduced yet so we weren’t shown or told anything about it other than it exists.

We saw an extended demo that involved creating a race track in the Toy Box mode; it is fairly easy (at least for the experienced person doing the demo — not sure how long it will take to get proficient at this) to set up a customized racetrack through the toy box, with various loops, jumps, and hazards, and then have characters race each other around the toy box.

One interesting feature of the toy box — especially for park fans such as myself — is that many park elements are reproductions of locations from the parks, such as Epcot’s Spaceship Earth.     It was mentioned that the game designer’s interpretation of Disneyland will be available at launch as an online download; you can be certain I’ll be adding that to my toy box right away.

So the game is out today …. if you have it, please share your initial impressions.    Due to my being in the middle of a move, all my gaming stuff is stored away for the next few months, so it will be a while before I have a chance to try this out myself.    (But I can play with my Sorcerer Mickey figure in the meantime, so that helps).

Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey, available in January

Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey, available in January

 

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2 Responses to D23 Expo 2013: To Infinity and Beyond (Disney Interactive)

  1. Bob says:

    While Disney and Disney Interactive do seek to eliminate the high risks associated in basing multiple games upon the short-term successes and popularity of corresponding movies and/or characters, the point to be made is that Disney could have enriched the gaming properties it already had at its disposal without turning its back entirely upon such games and the corresponding (player) “communities” whom voice and legitimate concerns were, in essence,
    blatantly ignored.

    For example, players loyal to the game “Pirates of the Caribbean Online” (POTCO) maintained an ongoing petition movement for over a year which involved the gain of some 3,000 signatures from players whom had voiced their legitimate concern about the game and the status it was allowed to be kept.

    To date, in the shadow of this report, no hint of acknowledgement of such concerns were ever received by the POTCO community from an official representative of Disney or Disney Interactive. http://revivepotco.org/

  2. Pingback: D23 Expo 2013: Disney Interactive, Part II (everything that’s not Disney Infinity) | Epic Mikey

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