Interview: Disney Infinity

Date:29 August 2013 Author: Rogan Louwrens

So Disney Infinity has hit South Africa like a sack of Santas.

This is a game that speaks to just about anybody who’s ever owned a toy. The idea? Empty your pockets to collect a set of figurines from the Disney•Pixar universe, and plug them into a virtual world using an electronic stand called the Infinity Base.

Two modes make up the game itself: Play Set, in which you get to have a jaunt in a character’s own story; and Toy Box, in which you get to let your mind explode all over the place, using unlockable content to create – and share – your own worlds and games.

Just watch the trailer to get the gist:

Intrigued? Then read on as we chat to Mathew Solie, an associate producer at Disney Interactive, about what goes on under the hood.

PM Zone: From a technical standpoint, how do the figurines connect to the game?

Mat: The figurines use RFID technology. A near-field communicator in the Infinity Base sends out an electromagnetic pulse; the pulse charges the RFID in the figurine, letting it send a signal back to the base. The figurines have memory, so they can store things like experience levels and unlocks.

If you bring your figurine over to my house and play on my PS3, when you get back to your Xbox 360 at home all the gameplay data you racked up will come back with your figurine. It’s sort of like the character remembers what you’ve done.

PMZ: What have you done to make sure people can’t trick the game into thinking a figurine they don’t have is on the base?

M: Not to give a call-out to hackers to try anything, but we have an extreme level of protection in the base alongside the RFID technology. We definitely want to make sure that everything’s protected. I can say very confidently that the information in those figurines is safe.

PMZ: In Toy Box mode, how big a world can players make?

M: I don’t know the exact virtual dimensions, but these things are absolutely ginormous. There are hardware limitations, of course, but to give you an idea of how big we’re talking, it took me two and a half minutes using Buzz Lightyear’s jetpack − one of the fastest modes of travel in the game − to make it across a Toy Box level.

PMZ: How much power does Disney Infinity’s Toy Box mode actually give you?

M: We had a guy in QA who was able to build a working calculator just using all the logic tools in the Toy Box. That’s probably the geekiest thing that’s been made in the game so far. The QA people have also come up with recreations of all sorts of classic games – Contra, Spy Hunter, Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart 64

PMZ: How similar are the Toy Box tools to the developer tools you use to make the playsets?

M: Obviously our developer tools are much more complex, but in terms of structural placement they’re actually very similar. The only things that are really different are the cinematic tools, which we use to set up dialogue and mission structure and the like; in the Toy Box you can’t script dialogue and scenes.

PMZ: And just how user-friendly are these tools?

M: Let me put it this way: a couple of months ago my eight-year-old nephew was playing around in Toy Box mode, and within an hour he was already building a modern version of Gauntlet − he had enemy spawners, weapon drops, you name it.

Of course, while he was doing working his little brother was beating him up with Dash from The Incredibles

PMZ: Thanks for your time, Mat.

Mighty interesting indeed. Keep an eye out for our review of the game.

Disney Infinity is available for Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U, 3DS and PS3; a PC version is set for an October release.

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