This is a very broad question, but how do you, as a designer, define consequence?
WS: I don't have a straight answer for you about the definition of consequence, but what I do make a point of with the team here, or teams I've worked with, is that it can't just be a fictional thing. If all you're doing is changing fiction -- and by the way, we're doing fictional stuff, we're showing fictional consequences in Disney Epic Mickey -- but if that's all you're doing, you're missing the point.
Because at some level, games are about doing, they're about verbs, right? They're not about watching and interpreting, they're about doing.
And so the only consequences that really matter, when you say "real choices" and "real consequences" -- which everybody says now -- the only definition of "real", which is the important word, is something that effects the player's ability to do something in the game.
So, for example, in our game, if you play a particularly mischievous, erasing sort of style, don't-help-everybody-you-see, if you say "I have to save this world, I need to do that as efficiently as possible, I have to get where I'm going and I'm really sorry I don't have time to help you, Henrietta Cow", then there has to be consequences.
It's not enough for Henrietta to say, "Oh Mickey! I wish he would help me!" because that is not a real consequence to the player.
But in the game, what has to happen is you have to start seeing things like your paint supply becomes smaller, or a character won't talk to you, so you don't learn about a secret entrance to a map, or you don't learn about a quest. There has to be a real tangible consequence for the player in the game, not just the fiction. So that's kind of the consequence that I think is important.
But the power of choice and consequence, or Play Style Matters -- of that idea -- is kind of twofold. One is, when we're at our best, I think giving players that kind of power, as they play, means that their play experience can tell them as much about themselves as it does about the character of the story they're a part of. That's really huge. When you can learn something about yourself it's like, "Hey, it's really hard for me to go through this game erasing a lot of stuff -- it doesn't feel right," that says something about the player and I find that really, really exciting.
And at the end of the game, you describe a situation that no other player's ever seen, or that other players don't see. You craft your own story, that minute-to-minute experience that you describe to your friends. If they can say, "wow, I've never even saw that place" or "holy cow, I did that a completely different way" And we're seeing all of that happen in Disney Epic Mickey as we watch people play.
As far as choices go in games, in real life, every choice I make isn't going to be a moral dilemma. But it seems in video games that's what they are: choice means, "are you going to be good or you going to be bad?" Do you think that choice in games is too focused squarely on that moral aspect, on what's right and wrong? And in Epic Mickey, do you plan on just having regular choices?
WS: Yeah, that's a great question, actually, and if you want to talk about something that frustrates me in games, it's exactly the fact that most games that offer choice really do turn into a good/evil morality choice, and I hate that.
If you go back and look at Deus Ex, in particular -- which is actually the best expression of what I'm about to say -- anybody who can say there's a good way to solve problems and a bad way to solve problems was not paying attention as they play. There are just different choices and different consequences.
Okay, we've got to get back to Disney Epic Mickey at some point here. But if right in the beginning of the game, if you go and kill every terrorist in the Statue of Liberty, you've saved the day, you succeed and some people think you're a hero and other people think "you shouldn't have done that".
And there are different rewards, and different costs for doing that, and for killing no one, okay? It's not that it's good or evil, it's that there is a price to pay for being a warmonger, and there's a price to pay for being a pacifist. That is true in the real world, and it's true in the game. But there's a benefit to each one of those as well. There are different costs and different benefits.
I hate telling players what good and evil is, and I hate telling players what's right and wrong. What I want to do is throw situations out there, and let them explore for themselves, and come to their own conclusions about that.
And in Disney Epic Mickey, there is absolutely no good Mickey and bad Mickey, there is no evil Mickey and righteous Mickey; there is no morality system. There is "what kind of hero am I?", "who do I want to be?", "who should Mickey be?" That's all there is. If anybody sees a judgment in this game, it is an absolute failure on my part, and I don't think they'll find it.