Interview: Peter Ong (Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion)
One of my top five games on the Nintendo DS is Monster Tale, developed by a company call DreamRift. Earlier in the year, when it was announced they were behind the 3DS release of Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, I knew that was going to be a game on my radar. I recently got the chance to do an interview with Peter Ong of Dream Rift. Whether you’re a fan of DreamRift’s work or you like the old Sega Illusion games, this interview will give you a little more insight into the development of Power Of Illusion.
Thanks for joining us today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do for DreamRift?
I am the Creative Director of the independent, video game studio, DreamRift. I’m also the Director of Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion. DreamRift developed Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion as a unique standalone game for Disney within the Epic Mickey franchise.
What can you tell us about Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion?
In DreamRift’s prior games, we prided ourselves on developing game experiences that could only be done in that manner on those systems. As you may know, many of DreamRift’s core team members worked on Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure and Monster Tale, for the Nintendo DS. With both of those games, our goal was to leverage the unique features of the Nintendo handheld console in a way that we hadn’t seen before. The same goes for this game, but now on the Nintendo 3DS.
The game that we had just finished when we spoke to Disney to eventually land this project was our latest, Monster Tale. When we spoke with Disney about working together, they were very excited about the work we had done on Monster Tale. Because people at Disney were such big fans of the dual-screen design of that game, we were able to secure the deal to work on Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion.
In all Epic Mickey games, the main idea is to use Mickey’s magical paint brush to paint or erase any object within Mickey’s environment. The way that we adapted this idea to the Nintendo 3DS was based on an idea that we already had, before we even spoke to Disney about working together. We didn’t know that they were looking to bring Epic Mickey to the Nintendo 3DS at the time, but we had an idea for a game where the main gameplay concept would be using the bottom touchscreen in order to create and erase objects which would then affect your platforming game on the top screen.
The game has been called a spiritual successor to games like Castle of Illusion. How much did that game influence Power of Illusion and will fans see any nods to that former series?
Our team members at DreamRift are actually all huge fans of Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse. It was one of my favorite games growing up, and it’s still one of my favorite games ever! A lot of hard work and passion has gone towards our attempt to do justice to the original.
In this game, you’ll find many similarities to Castle of Illusion. It has the same villain, the evil witch Mizabel, as well as new versions of our favorite songs from the original game. There are also similar moves and animations to the first game. It is our sincerest hope that players will feel at least some part of our appreciation for the original Castle of Illusion when they play this game.
What has the collaboration with Warren Spector been like? How much influence has he had on the direction of Power of Illusion?
Warren’s studio, Disney Interactive’s Junction Point, developed the upcoming Disney Epic Mickey: The Power of Two while DreamRift developed the unique Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for the Nintendo 3DS. With Warren and I being the Creative Directors of each studio making two completely standalone Epic Mickey games, we got together for in-depth discussions early in development to ensure that both games would offer a coherent addition to the narrative of the overall Epic Mickey universe. That communication was vital to DreamRift in order to maintain the same amount of thought and attention to detail that Junction Point put into establishing the world of Wasteland’s rules and behavior. We were then able to create a new story that, for the first time ever, brings famous and classic Disney characters as well as the original Castle of Illusion into Epic Mickey,without violating the established rules of the universe.
We’ve heard of a number of different Disney characters who will be making an appearance in the game. How many different familiar faces will we see and how will they work in the game?
There are over 30 Disney characters to rescue, most of which are optional. There are characters such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Peter Pan from early Disney, then we have Beast, Ariel, and Simba from the middle “renaissance” period, and then there are more modern characters such as Rapunzel from the film Tangled. Additionally, the Fortress system in the game is largely optional as well. There is so much you can do and all of this actually matters because it can change the endings that you get in a variety of ways. The range of time that a player can spend within the game is very flexible and can be a very long game for players who want that.
Are there any characters that will be in the game that haven’t been announced yet?
Yes, there are many.
One of your specialties appears to be using both the bottom screen and the top screen to almost play two different games at once. How will that work into Epic Mickey and how much did your previous games influence this new game?
DreamRift likes to explore getting a lot of use out of both screens on Nintendo’s handheld systems in a way that hopefully produces a new type of gameplay experience than what you could typically get before. So we have put a lot of thought in during the time frame that we had to make the game, to come up with the best system possible. We knew that we wanted to have some sort of meaningful interaction on each screen but the big challenges were to bring them together in such a way that makes sense to players, and to make it so that there’s a strong reason why the top and bottom screens exist within the game.
With Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, we’re utilizing the bottom screen in a unique manner, empowering users to create and mold their interactive platforming environment on the top screen, by literally painting objects on the bottom screens that upon completion, cross from the bottom screen into the top screen and become a part of in-level gameplay. In addition, users will be rewarded, in gameplay, based on how well they perform the action of authoring these objects through the painting mechanics on the bottom screen.
The storyline for Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion on the Nintendo 3DS takes place within the same universe of Epic Mickey that the Wii and Wii U versions do but is standalone. The story actually takes place in between the first Epic Mickey game and the upcoming Epic Mickey: The Power of Two.
Will there be any interaction between the handheld and console versions of the game? Any secrets that might be unlocked if you have both versions of the game?
There are no features of that sort between the handheld and console versions.
Monster Tale is one of my favorite DS games of all-time. Is there any chance that we might see a return to that game and more adventures with Ellie and those monsters?
Thank you so much! It means the world to us at DreamRift to hear that someone appreciates and understands the hard work and passion that our team puts into its games. We have a soft-spot for Ellie and Chomp, and we’d love to do another Monster Tale.
Warren Spector has mentioned numerous times that he wants to make a DuckTales game. If he came to you and asked to work on that franchise could we see another collaboration between your studios?
Show me where to sign.
What one Disney property, if any, is out there that you would like to see brought back to life?
I’m cheating by naming more than one, but a lot of things from the Disney Afternoon would be great to see returns. Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, Gargoyles, and so on.
What’s next for DreamRift after this? Are there any projects that you’re working on right now or have planned after Power of Illusion?
Thanks again for joining us today. Is there anything else you’d like to tell people before we finish?
Honestly I still can’t believe that we’ve had the amazing opportunity to make this game. Even sitting here today with the Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, completely finished, I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked on one of my childhood dreams. Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse was one of my favorite games growing up, and my greatest wish with this game is that we’ve done a good enough job to honor the memory of the original fantastic game. Nothing would please me more than if people who play the game enjoy it as much as I enjoyed working on it.