E3 2014: Disney Infinity 2.0 is Magnificently Maleficent

With great power comes great malleability.

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I have given Disney Infinity executive producer John Vignocchi a lot of my money. Well, OK--I didn't give Vignocchi that money directly, but I did spend it on a bunch of Disney Infinity figures. For all the problems I had with the initial release of the game, I simply couldn't help myself; my Disney obsession, and my love of the Infinity toybox, was just too strong. In fact, as I headed for my appointment with Vignocchi, my primary concern was whether I'd be leaving the meeting with another figure for my collection. (And when all was said and done, I did manage to nab a new figure, one of Spider-Man nemesis Venom.)

Disney Infinity 2.0 is in the works, and it promises so much more than the original Disney Infinity ever did. The demonstration began with a look at the upcoming Spider-Man playset, in which you can tool around Manhattan, which is four-and-a-half times as large as the city was in the Incredibles playset. If you're a comics fan, then you surely knew that Marvel is now under Disney supervision--and if you're an Infinity fan, then you already knew that Marvel characters were coming to the game. I enjoyed seeing Spider-Man in action; his wall-climbing and web-slinging looked fun and fluid, and very different from anything I'd seen in Disney Infinity before.

"There was no real difference between Jack Sparrow and Barbossa," Vignocchi told me. "With Marvel superheroes, and with Disney Infinity as a platform moving forward, we really want you to have the investment in our characters, and make sure all these characters truly feel different." The level cap for every character--even those you played in Disney Infinity 1.0--will be 20 (up from 15), and all those older characters will be forwards-compatible. Every time you earn a level, you will earn skill points, and you can spend those on upgrades and new moves. All of the new characters will feature those attributes, and all of the characters you import will immediately receive the proper number of skill points for you to use in the same way. "That Buzz Lightyear you got in 2013 will feel and play and act different in 2014," said Vignocchi. And because the skill tree will have more options than there are points to earn, you can make your version of Buzz different from your friends' versions. It's a way of giving you even more ownership of Buzz--both the in-game character, and the figurine that represents him.

I can't help it--I'm excited. I am particularly excited to play on the newest consoles, as the game will perform better on them. (Frame rate dips and screen tearing could be nuisances on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.) The bad news is that Disney Infinity 2 will not allow you to stuff more objects into your toybox than on other platforms if you play on the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One, since sharing across platforms would then no longer be possible. Does my excitement strike you as odd? After all, I'm a grown man without children playing a Disney game and collecting figurines. As it turns out, however, I am not a single blip on the Infinity radar--and adult collectors like me aren't the only surprises that surfaced for the Disney Infinity team.

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"We were surprised by what our demographic is," said Vignocchi. "We had thought, for example, that we'd be 70/30 [percent] boys to girls, but it got down to about 60/40, and then after the holidays, it went to 55/45." Vignocchi is very aware of the sizeable female audience, and the upcoming figures feature plenty of women--Black Widow, Maleficent, and Merida from Brave have already been announced, and others are on their way. The other surprise, of course, was how Disney Infinity was appealing to the older crowd. "When we started looking at our demographic set, we were appealing to as many 6 to 12 year-olds as we were to what we call non-parent adults, guys like you and me that have cats."

Cats are people too, John.

My cat is probably not as interested as I am in the game's new destruction system, which showcases lots of flying rubble and makes combat feel a lot more impactful. Nor is he as interested as I am in how Marvel characters will be able to cross over into each others' playsets, unlike the Disney characters, who are confined to their own. In fact, some characters will have unique crossover content; for instance, Iron Man will have unique content in the Spider-Man playset that will tie into Spidey's story. I like to think my cat would be excited by the additions to the Disney Infinity toybox, however, such as the randomly generated structures and racetracks that keep you from having to piece large segments together bit by bit if you'd rather avoid the tedium.

Watching the new toybox in action, I asked Vignocchi about the robustness of the tools. Having played a good deal of Project Spark in recent months, I have often wished I had the sheer number of objects to mess around with as I do in Disney Infinity. On the other hand, I have always wanted more control of object behavior in Infinity, and my dream creation tool would be one that combines the huge number of objects available in Disney Infinity with Project Spark's coding features. The Infinity 2.0 toybox won't offer the complex options of Project Spark, but it does allow for a lot more fine tuning than the original did. There are 20 new logic toys that allow you to create storefronts, limit inventories, remove creative powers from players, and connect two levels together. There are even templates you can place that insert full games directly into the world, such as racetracks that allow you to set checkpoints.

You can even insert speech bubbles, though doing so requires an Internet connection, so that the appropriateness of your text can be verified. (Disney Infinity is a family game, so keep your naughty words to yourself!) But it's nice to know that the game has found an audience with all kinds of families--single-parent families, families with both boys and girls, and most importantly, families consisting of a lonely 42-year-old and his aging cat.

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