Toy Story 3: Pixar and Avalanche Software Q&A

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We’ve shown you the PS3-exclusive character, Zurg. We’ve given you our full hands-on preview. We’ve even given you a peek inside Pixar Studios.

Now there’s only one thing left to do: talk to the developers of Toy Story 3: The Video Game! The PlayStation.Blog participated in a roundtable that included the film’s director and senior production staff from Avalanche Software, and we’ve highlighted the best exchanges below.

Movie-based games have a mixed track record. What will make Toy Story 3 work well as a game?

We think it’s successful because Avalanche Software tapped into something great — the fundamental idea of play, of kids at play. It’s something we’ve done in all three of the movies, where we’ve seen Andy playing with the toys. This free, unbridled, silly play that’s exhilarating to watch. In Toy Story 3, we decided to go into that world and see what play time is like from a toy’s perspective. Avalanche Software tapped into that early on with this notion of the Toy Box Mode, which was inspired by the beginning of [the TS3 film] and what it’s like to be inside one of those play times. — Lee Unkrich, director, Toy Story 3

The whole idea of working in a kid’s imagination is something that you can build a good experience out of. When you’re playing a game, or playing with toys, you’re doing two very similar things. Another thing that allowed us to break the mold was the amount of time we had to work on the game, two and a half years. We had the amount of time you need to test it, refine it, and iterate the game to make it as good as gamers expect. We pushed ourselves. We felt that our initial pitch was a creative risk, but throughout the course of making the game we took a lot of technical risks, making sure that the engine was top-notch and that everything looked good. Towards the end, as Pixar finished up the film, we started having daily reviews with Pixar animators. So in a way, Pixar quality was being infused by Pixar. — John Blackburn, CEO, Avalanche Software

I’ve been making games for 15 years, and I’ve made quite a few film titles. We never got a good lead time. We have a lot of pride in what we’re trying to do, but we never had the ability to make the game we’d like to make for those films. In this case, Pixar has allowed into the process much earlier than anyone else. It was two and a half years ago, and so we could be more adventurous, take some risks, and come up with the Toy Box mode. It gave us a lot of freedom. — Jeff Bunker, art director, Avalanche Software

I remember leaving Avalanche Software’s pitch for making the game, and we were so excited because the Toy Box idea was so strong. That’s key at Pixar: if the idea is good, we’ll figure out the design and the details. Everybody loved their take from the get-go. — Bob Pauley, production designer, Pixar

Toy Story 3: The Video Game for PS3Toy Story 3: The Video Game for PS3

How closely does Toy Story 3: The Video Game follow Toy Story 3 the film?

We wanted to tell a story that hit on the high points of the film and lent themselves naturally to gameplay. We didn’t want to wedge gameplay into the narrative to advance the plot from point A to point B. We created a structure where the game is kind of a retrospective of the movie. We aren’t trying to tell the whole story, but re-live parts of it and linger in certain scenes for a little longer — Andy’s house, Sunny Side Day Care, and so on. Story mode became a companion to what we consider the “meat” of the experience, the Toy Box mode. That’s where we allow you to play with Andy’s toys the way you want to play with them. Story mode definitely has a beginning, middle, and end, and it follows the movie. But the ending scene of the film is not the ending scene of the game, per se. — Jason Katz, story editor, Pixar

How does cooperative play work in Toy Story 3: The Video Game? Are there any team-based moves?

Yes, absolutely. You can pick up and throw other players in single-player or multiplayer. Buzz can throw Jessie up on a shelf, for example, to get to areas you normally couldn’t reach. You can do it in Toy Box mode, too. You can do separate missions, you don’t have to stay together. One player can go off and do ten missions while the other player is doing missions. Then you can come together and solve puzzles together. —Mike Thompson, creative director, Avalanche Software

Final question…does the Buzz Lightyear video game from Toy Story 2 appear in this game? Is it playable?

Yes! It’s all about capturing the emotion of the experience. In the movie’s version of the Buzz Lightyear game, you fly down to the planet’s surface, battle against all these robots that Buzz blows away, and then then a boss fight. So that doesn’t quite work. We wanted to take that experience and translate it into something a little bit longer, something that made more sense for gameplay, but remains authentic to the feeling you got when you saw the Buzz Lightyear game in Toy Story 2. Great pains were taken to make it feel…right. — Jonathan Warner, senior producer, Avalanche Software

Toy Story 3: The Video Game hits the PS3 and PSP on June 15th, three days before the film’s premiere.

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