retr0spective: Junction Point Studios

In the year of 2005, veteran video game designer and developer Warren Spector was fresh off of overseeing projects for the now-defunct video game studio Ion Storm, and was just about ready for something new. After meeting up with a colleague of his by the name of Art Min and gathering up several former employees from Ion Storm, they soon founded a studio named after a cancelled MMO that was being developed by another now-defunct developer that Spector was an employee of called Junction Point Studios.

Junction_Point_Studios_logo

During that same year, the studio was quickly approached by Valve, who provided them with the prospects of making a brand new installment in the Half-Life series. Spector agreed to the deal, and soon development of the game was well underway…that was, until Disney Interactive came into the picture.

Disney-Interactive-Logo

In 2007, not long after buying back the rights to Walt’s original cartoon star Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Disney started searching far and wide throughout the industry to for who they thought would be the perfect developer to help bring an idea of theirs that had been in the pipeline since 2003 by the name of Epic Mickey to life. After meeting up with several developers, they eventually ended up approaching Junction Point. Surprisingly, they agreed to the deal, and soon they were bought out by Disney – a circumstance that unfortunately did not benefit Valve positively in any way, as they were forced to cancel the Half-Life game.

steamgoof (1)

As stated in the paragraph above, Epic Mickey was an idea of Disney Interactive’s that had been in the pipeline for years, and was finally put into the development phase after JP was brought on board. The game aimed to re-invent Mickey Mouse in terms of both design and personality, as he would take on a much more “1930’s” look, and would also lack his familiar goody-two-shoes personality, instead having a significantly more mischievous and daring personality akin to his one in his debut short, “Plane Crazy”. The game was also set to be very, VERY dark, having a tone not dissimilar to that of Silent Hill, with a tone that of a post-apocalyptic Disneyland, and was to shine the spotlight on many of the Mouse House’s long-forgotten characters, most notably Oswald himself, who was also originally supposed to be the game’s antagonist.

Epic-Mickey-Concept-Art-Jordan_Lamarre-Wan_12b.jpg

Two aspects that stuck throughout the game’s development all the way through were a paint mechanic as well as a morality system. Originally, Mickey was originally supposed to shoot paint from his hands, although this idea was later discarded. Also, the morality system was also supposed to progressively alter Mickey’s design throughout the game depending on what path you took, but this was also discarded. While development of the game had been pretty smooth so far, Spector had came to an all-of-a-sudden conclusion: the game was just too dark and depressing for its’ own good. Resolving to fix this problem, the game’s tone and story underwent a major overhaul; what was originally set to be a grim and gritty action-adventure game was now a dark but still family-friendly platforming adventure, similar to the likes of Rayman 2 or Banjo-Tooie.

1886606-box_emickey.png

In 2010, the game was finally released (albeit as a Wii-only title) to favorable reviews and decent sales, with the only real major criticism going to the game’s AWFUL camera. While the game hadn’t exactly performed the way they wanted it to, Disney was still satisfied with the game just enough to greenlight a sequel that was released in 2013 by the name of Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Tw0.

2368426-box_em2

While its’ predecessor wasn’t a HUGE success, it still performed rather modestly. THIS game however, did not. Not only did it receive pretty mediocre reviews, with many of them saying that excluding the edition of co-op, not much was done to build upon the original game’s formula, but it didn’t even come CLOSE to meeting its’ predecessor’s sales. As a result of this, Disney decided to pull the plug on any potential future follow-ups, as well as to shut down Junction Point entirely, leaving several game designers out of a job and Spector quitting Disney entirely.

Although its’ time as a developer was short-lived…okay, VERY short-lived, it can’t be denied that Junction Point really wanted to make a name for themselves as well as to set new heights for Disney games in the same way that Rocksteady set new heights for DC games (heck, prior to its’ closing, Spector himself said that he wanted to do a DuckTales game and a Marvel game). And for that, I can’t help but to give them an A for effort.

What are your thoughts on the Epic Mickey duology? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below, and thanks for reading!

Advertisements

4 Comments

  1. Great article! I have not yet beaten Epic Mickey, but it seemed pretty decent. I was swayed away from getting the sequel because of its mediocre reviews. I am disappointed about Junction Point’s closure. Not that I was particularly impressed by Epic Mickey games, but it just seemed that Warren Spector was so invested about this. You can always tell from his interviews how much he was happy to be doing this, how much he knew about the parks, and how important it was to him that Disney owned the rights to Oswald. I respect the guy, no matter how his games turned out. I’m glad he was able to do these games, even if only for a short time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed. Honestly, I think the game’s shift in tone was ultimately for the better, but I’d like to see how things could’ve turned out had they went with the original vision. You should really give these games a try. They’re no masterpieces, but they’re still far from terrible. They’re a lot like the 3D platformers of the N64/PS1 days, but with a modernized twist to them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I will definitely finish Epic Mickey at some point! I left off at the ghost area, I believe, but it was enjoyable. Epic Mickey 2 is very cheap now, so I might try that after beating Epic Mickey too. Also, I think the tone is what made me interested in Epic Mickey in the first place. Definitely a sharp contrast from what I expect from the House of Mouse!

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s