The House of Mouse

23 Jul

Last time we got together, I wrote about pet problems and how they got in the way of blogging. (Those pesky pets!)

Well, sometimes life throws you curves like that. And other times, life throws you an entirely different kind of curve. Like, for example, oh, you know, a gigantic multinational megacorporation acquires your little start-up studio and all of a sudden talking about reactive innovation in game design seems somehow less…pressing.

So, for another week, I’m going to continue sliding down the slippery slope that leads further and further from regular posting. The last couple of weeks have been a little different for me and for Junction Point and we need to talk about that.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a game news junkie, so you already know what’s up, but just in case, here’s the big news:

Junction Point Studios has been acquired by Disney Interactive Studios, the videogame arm of The Walt Disney Company.

Woot!

I’ve been doing a bunch of interviews about the deal, the reasons behind it and so on, so I’m not going to repeat all that stuff here. Check out the news sites for info about the nuts and bolts or to learn why I don’t see this marriage as weird, the way some of you do. What I want to talk about here is how cool I think this all is, and to address some concerns a few of you have expressed about whether JPS will stay true to its mission (as I expressed that mission in earlier blog posts).

I’m here to tell you that, near as I can tell sans functioning crystal ball, your concerns are unfounded and our mission remains the same as it ever was. I’m as psyched about game development, about specific projects and about the prospects for Junction Point Studios as I’ve ever been — I think that’s true for all of the JPS staffers. There are a bunch of reasons for this.

For one thing, I’ve been a huge Disney geek most of my life and always wanted to work for the Mouse. Personally, this is kind of a dream come true. Another box on my life resume will now be checked off.

For another, JPS has been doing concept development work for Disney Interactive Studios for some time now — several months last year and again this year, so we kind of know the folks over there, where their heads and hearts are, what their hopes and plans are. And they mean business.

Disney Interactive Studios is a serious attempt by a major media player to make an impact in the world of gaming. Sure, they’re going to exploit Disney brands — I mean, who wouldn’t? If you owned some of the most popular, successful, culturally significant properties on the freakin’ planet, wouldn’t you want to take them to a new medium and reach a new audience? I love creating original stuff but, man, the idea of having access to Disney’s history — and future — is hugely compelling.

On top of just the existence of all that great IP, the fact that Disney operates in so many different fields — movies, theme parks, music, print media, television AND games — means when we DO create original stuff, there’s no limit to where that stuff can go. Again, hugely compelling.

And then there’s the Disney legacy of technological innovation in storytelling. In his day, Walt was always among the first to recognize the value of new tech — color movies, stereo sound, multiplane animation, television, robotics… He pioneered all of them. And in my interactions with folks at Disney, they still get the value of innovation — new tools to tell stories in new ways? They’re all about that. They talk a lot about innovation as a core value and that, too, is hugely appealing to me.

Throw in the deep pockets, the possibility of collaboration with guys at Pixar, Disney Imagineering, Disney R&D, Disney Feature Animation — the opportunity to learn from those guys…man. Who wouldn’t be psyched?

But doesn’t Disney make kiddie games? And doesn’t JPS make mature games for adult gamers? That seems to be the root of most of the concerns people have expressed to me. And there’s some truth to both parts of that statement — Disney does do a lot of stuff for kids, and most of my games have been geared toward older audiences. However, that’s only part of the story.

First, check out Turok, which is being published under the Touchstone brand. Definitely not for kids! And check out the Pixar movies… look around the theme parks… You find stuff geared toward all ages, not just kids. That, too, is hugely appealing to me. While other game publishers seem content to grow the gaming audience incrementally, mostly going after slightly older young men, Disney’s overall focus on entertainment for the entire family is something the game business can, I think, productively carry over.

Maybe it’s just the place I am in my life and career, but I’m looking forward to making games everyone in the family can enjoy. I truly believe you can make deep, rich, story-driven games — games that challenge people’s notions of how the world works, how human relationships work, what constitutes right and wrong — without falling into the trap of assuming you need all the stuff that typically passes for “mature” in the game business.

And, on a purely personal note, I’m looking forward to working for a company whose aesthetic sensibilities don’t begin and end with hyper-realism. I mean, Disney’s a company built on cartoon magic and theme park fantasy — sign me up!

Hope you’ll stick with us, as we transition from independence to being Disney cast members. It’s going to be an exciting time, full of surprises. (Oh, my, are we going to surprise you!) Stay tuned…

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16 Responses to “The House of Mouse”

  1. razumasu July 23, 2007 at 9:43 pm #

    First I would like to congratulate everyone at JPS. Getting to work for one of the major players in the market, while still retaining the freedom to design great games is (almost) never a bad thing. At first when I read that JPS had been acquired by Disney my initial reaction can best be described as surprise. However after having read interviews and your blog post I am thrilled and very much looking forward to seeing what will come out of this endeavor.

    Yes it is true that JPS has a reputation of making mature games for the adult audience, and yes some fans might have certain concerns about what will happen now. But I have to say one thing. Even if JPS ended up doing a more kiddie oriented game, what would be wrong with that? Don’t kids deserve high quality games as much as any adult? And the market for kiddie games is, as far as I know, an enormous market. So even though I would like to see mature games coming from JPS under the Disney brand – I would also love to see what you guys could do to make the best kiddie game you could imagine. I for one would buy it.

    To sum things up – congratulations!!

    –Razumasu, MyFight.Dk

  2. damlaw July 24, 2007 at 2:46 am #

    I think its fabulous news. Congratulations. Did having the “right” agent help?

  3. whilgrey July 24, 2007 at 9:56 am #

    As long as it will be an immersive game I will still buy, even with Mr Mouse in it.

    Means access to pixar Blizzard-like ingame cutscenes? ^^

  4. the wizard July 24, 2007 at 11:21 am #

    Congratulations!!!
    The System Shock 2, Thief series, Deus Ex were actually games for adults. The term ‘mature’ is used by a lot of developers these days. I have not seen many games which actually stand out. Planescape: Torment is one game which I think can be called mature.
    Just a couple of days back I was discussing the same (‘mature’ games) with a friend of mine. The industry definition deals with blood, gore, sexual themes, use of alcohol blah blah.
    The discussion basically started with transhumanism and how it can be used as an object of racism in games which are set in futuristic-post-apocalyptic worlds (by futuristic I mean distant future).

    Anyway, I had thought of a lot of things to say here but will wrap it up.
    Congrats again, looking forward for news on the title that JPS is working on. :)

  5. hanners89 July 24, 2007 at 5:23 pm #

    Sounds fantastic…can’t wait to see your name in mouse ears!

    Love,
    Hannah

  6. slamelov July 26, 2007 at 9:16 am #

    I agree with The Wizzard.
    Many times people talks about “mature” when a game shows violence and gore (sex is not shown in commercial videogames), but they does not say anything about deep story telling, clever situations, atmosphere, dialogues and such of things. Games like System Shock, Ultima VII, Thief Series and Deus Ex (the first one) are good examples of it, but not the only ones.
    Now Mr Spector signs with Disney and he says that will make games for all audiences, I suppose like Pixar’s Films, and it’s ok, but videogames are filled of “all audiences” titles, and I miss mature games (in the meaning I referred before). Games which does not treat player like a stupid.
    There is not problem with games for kids, I have two kids and It’s great they play good games, but I’m mature and I would like also mature games. Where could I find it?. I would like to see games like Terranova, System Shock, Elite, Outcast, Vampire Bloodlines, Independence War Edge of Chaos, Deus Ex 1, STALKER, etc. Not the same, or course, I mean games with the same, or improved, mature content.
    I think that industry does not want mature games, may be adults are not in their target. May be create adult games is more difficult because we have played many games and we want new and surprising things with every new title… I don’t know, but the fact is that there is a lot of games for kids.
    Anyway, I wish Mr Spector can create the games he wants and he likes. If they are for kids, my children will play them and if they are for mature, I’ll play them.
    Turok is not the kind of “adult” game I’m referring.

    And sex… What about sex?. There is more sex and nudity scenes in movies than videogames. Much more. People accept sex in movies if it’s integrated into the story, but sex in videogame sis not accepted. Videogames are only for childs?. Is sex worse than violence?.

  7. mtureck July 26, 2007 at 6:00 pm #

    Just remember Warren, you can’t have any games depicting Mickey Mouse smoking!

    Disney to Cut Smoking in Family Films

    http://apnews.excite.com/article/20070726/D8QK94QG0.html

    While the Disney merger certainly sounds like a great opportunity, I think a lot of us would be interested in hearing more about what kind of autonomy you expect from the Mouse, and how working at a mega-company is going to be different than working independently.

    Good luck, and congrats!
    Matt

  8. exmachinax July 28, 2007 at 2:39 am #

    In my humble opinion it’s really hard to make any kind of entertainment (movies, games, whatever) that actually works effectively for ALL family, for people of different ages, generations and tastes. The developer almost always fall into one particular public, despite how hard one may try not to do so.

    I mean, must things that Disney tags as “for family” are desined for children / teenagers and, by extent, all people of a family can watch and get some fun and then move on to more important / meaningful things in one’s life.

    For example, films like “Pirates of Caribean” and Pixar movies. Only exception in the Pixar’s career IMO is “The Incredibles”, which really does a good job of being meaningfull for all people in a family – after all, is a action movie disguised as a kid’s one with a protagonisty that many adults can identify to (the mid-aged man bored with his normal life). Besides, it has some really clever dialogue. I’ll never forget the brilliant sentence – specially considering it was put in a Disney animation – “society rewards mediocrity” (don’t remember exactly the whole line, but this is its meaning).

    One great example of entertainment that do works for all ages is “The Simpsons”. I find amazing that such a long lived television show still manages to be fun and have something in store for different kinds of people. There’s the straightforward humor, the “tom and jerry” exagerated things that appeal to children, the dark / subtle humor, the social critic, the intelingent questioning of valours in one life and it all nicely put togheter.

    All in all, I just want to say that is (nearly) impossible to truly satisfy all people at the same time.

    And by no means a “kiddie” game is a bad thing. One the greatest, most enchanting games of all times to me is “Twinsen’s Odyssey” – or “Little Big Adventure 2″. It did not made me think about my life, my choices or the world I live in. But is so charming, up-lifting, enchanting and full of wonder that marvels me every time I play it, makes really fells like a child again :) .

    I just think one must be true to oneself, or to what one is doing. It’s no shame doing a kid’s game / movie, but there’s no point calling it “a game to the whole family” when it isn’t.

    Well, I do hope that your next game Mr. Spector is smg that DO manages to be an intelligent one that can really catch all people in a family, or smg that can marvel an adult and make him/her dream like a kid again. :)

  9. giopione July 28, 2007 at 3:47 pm #

    The acquisition done by DIS was something that surprised everyone. And even if now it’s somehow ‘metabolized’, it makes your productions even more anticipated.
    One can think that the couple JPS + Disney is something like ketchup on the icecream; they don’t fit very well together, but alone their tastes are good.
    We taste both (alone); we don’t know much about the first JPS game, but… ehi… look at your curriculum: System shock, Deus ex, Thief… It’s easy to think about something continuing this kind of videogames.
    On the other side, Disney is best known for their family products; it’s a brand, it’s a concept.
    If you say Disney you mean a lot of things behind that word: and that ‘scaries’ some JPS fan.
    I think that the main concern is about the games based on Disney IP that you’ll develope.
    When you work on something created from scratches you are free; I mean, you are not free at all. There are a lot of issues that constrain you: at the end you want to sell (for example)…
    But when you are working on non-original IP you have ALSO to stay within very strong boundaries. That character can’t say that, this one can’t do this…
    Both situations has own advantages, I don’t believe one is better than the other.

    Speaking about what Disney means, the first thing that comes to my mind is Pixar.
    In my humble opinion, the Pixar guys are the true heirs of Walt Disney: excellent technology used only to better tell their stories, memorable characters, situations able to appeal both parents and children. In their films they speak about very important themes: friendship, sacrifice, family…
    But if you saw ‘Tokyo godfathers’ or ‘Grave of the fireflies’ you know that there are a lot of ways to speak about similar themes.
    Their approach to important themes is… how can I say… soft. I would like to see more animated movies with a more mature and adult tone. I mean, I really love their movies and they move me inside!

    What JPS fans worry about is that the studio won’t be able to push the boundaries of the media using characters so limiting. We want games to be considered as art (Ebert… where are you? :)) and to move people: I wanna cry in front of my monitor, I wanna curse that virtual girl ‘cos she doesn’t love me, I wanna smile…
    I want videogames that speak to me in an adult way, because I’m an adult and a lot of gamers are.

    And we all want to trust in JPS.

  10. hundley July 31, 2007 at 9:53 am #

    Try not to let all these new figures in your professional life sway you too much.

    You know what to do.

  11. bulldog19892 August 10, 2007 at 5:57 am #

    Hi Warren! Just want to say I’ve been a huge fan of your games since I played Deus Ex. It’s my favorite game of all time.

    That being said, I’m very excited to hear this news. With that kind of funding and a creative mind like yours, your next game should be great. Although I personally prefer the more mature games myself, and I think that games should become a bit more mature if the industry wants to be taken seriously as an art medium.

  12. cyclepromo August 13, 2007 at 11:12 pm #

    I think Disney has learned not to mess to much with the creative side. They’ll had their marketing skills when needed but they know to build a successful entertainment company you need creative people and not just accountants.

  13. inspiredbydesign August 18, 2007 at 4:38 pm #

    I wish you guys could stay independent, but I’m still with you old friend.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Mouse - July 29, 2007

    Computermouse

    yeah thats what I ment, i didnt remember the spelling but i did remember the meaning of the Mouse

  2. Intelligent Artifice » Warren Spector starts blog, sells studio to Disney - September 23, 2007

    […] Warren Spector has started a blog. And what’s the first thing I read? Junction Point has been acquired by Disney. (I am not a game news junkie anymore, so it was news to me.) Congratulations! […]

  3. Epic Mickey « Objective 514 - July 30, 2009

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