These days, I toy with thoughts of what Double Fine could develop with a Disney Infinity playset. Would it have the charm of Psychonauts with the tactical design of Massive Chalice? I wouldn’t be surprised if John Blackburn and John Vignocchi, Disney Interactive’s two most visible executives, have considered such a partnership. What could happen if Platinum Games became the franchise’s first Japanese supporting developer? To feel the “fingerprints” of Vanquish in a brilliant action-driven playset wouldn’t be outlandish, especially after pondering Disney Interactive’s development partner choices for Infinity 3.0.
There’s a sense of humility in how the developer/publisher improved upon the original Disney Infinity. Even with the addition of Marvel heroes and villains in 2.0 and Star Wars in 3.0, Disney Interactive knew it couldn’t coast on character recognition and popularity alone. In an industry filled with genre-experienced studios, collaborations were bound to happen. Two notable developers involved are Ninja Theory and Sumo Digital.
It’s an educated guess that the average game consumer doesn’t follow studios, at least to the degree that it would be marketable to put a large Ninja Theory logo on Disney Infinity packaging. Personally, I would be more inclined to choose a playset or figure set if I knew Ninja Theory was the primary studio in charge of those products. Again, using a studio name as a selling point would be impractical since these developers do not work alone. Much like the myriad Ubisoft studios credited on a single Assassin’s Creed game, one development house takes point on a given Infinity playset while the others are in support roles.
If you’re the type who consumes everything Ninja Theory puts their hands on, I recommend starting with the 2.0 playsets with Loki, Green Goblin and Princess Jasmine. These were the guinea pigs that the studio played with in order to learn how Disney Infinity’s design systems worked. They’re also the studio leading the development of the Star Wars: Twilight of the Republic playset, based on Episodes I through III. When it comes to Star Wars movies best suited to the studio behind DmC: Devil May Cry, the trilogy with Darth Maul is the obvious fit. Ninja Theory knows how to take advantage of a controller’s 12+ buttons; what better challenge is there than to figure out how to add depth to a series that only uses one button for attack? That’s when the studio adds input variations like pause combos and new moves by holding down the attack button. And that’s not even taking into account Force powers.
That’s the point of all these developer partnerships with Disney Infinity: so much of these collaborations just make sense. Studio Gobo has been involved since the first Disney Infinity, proving their worth with the Pirates of the Caribbean playset. Gobo’s well-rounded experience with vehicles makes them suited for the Star Wars: Rise Against the Empire original trilogy playset. That means piloting snowspeeders and hijacking AT-ATs in the same playthrough.
If there’s such a thing as too many vehicles, Disney Infinity is still a couple years away from oversaturation. Complementing Studio Gobo is Sumo Digital, which is bringing its racing experience to 3.0. Having followed the Sheffield developer since their exquisite port of OutRun 2 in 2004, having them tighten the proverbial screws in Disney Infinity’s driving system is a no-brainer and primes the franchise for some kart racing bedlam in the Speedway playset. And as much as Sumo is adept at other genres (eg. LittleBigPlanet 3) I hope that Disney Interactive gives Sumo more opportunities in the future to further refine Disney Infinity racing to the level of the studio’s prior work in the Sega All-Stars Racing series.
This brings up the question: What other studio collaborations would be equally sensible for future playsets? While these fictional scenarios seem far-fetched today, the same could have been said about Sumo Digital and Ninja Theory’s involvement a couple years ago. My predictions:
Version 6.0: Blackburn and Vignocchi will have reached out to Camouflaj, creators of Republique, to design a stealth-centric playset experience.
Version 7.0: The Disney Infinity toy designers will miraculously find some way to make The Punisher PG-rated and will lead a gun-wielding cast in the franchise’s inaugural first-person shooter playset, designed by Cliff Bleszinski’s Boss Key Productions. Expect the likes of Han Solo and Rocket Raccoon to be active participants.
Version 10.0: The long-overdue convergence playsets. Heroes from Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel team up to fight foes across multiple universes. Writers from Marvel Comics, along with ex-Bioware and ex-Naughty Dog story producers will be brought in to flesh out a narrative that’s more story-driven than any Disney Infinity version before it.