Magnets are magic, and the Skylanders team had to defeat them for Swap Force.
Even if you don't care a lick about Skylanders, it's cool to hear about designers solving difficult problems with scientific testing and iteration. The basic tenet of Activision's Skylanders franchise is the toys you purchase, when placed on peripheral device attached to the console, are instantly playable in your digital game. You level up those characters in the game, and the saved data is stored on the toy itself. For Swap Force, instead of just one single toy, you have two halves of characters that stick together to create interesting elemental combos. The problem is the team wanted to use magnets to adhere the halves, but any student of physics knows that magnetic fields interfere with data and power transference. Somehow, the Swap Force team made it work.
"You're going to see some patents being introduced soon," said Karthik Bala, CEO of Vicarious Visions, the Activision-owned studio working on Skylanders: Swap Force. Damn him and his corporate scruples!
The 16 new swap force toys look wonderful - I especially liked the water-based octopus pirate called Washbuckler - but Bala doesn't want to alienate the fans who've been collecting Skylanders toys since the series debuted in 2011. That's why every single toy created to date will be playable in Swap Force, complete with brand new next generation animations for every single character. Oh, and now every character can jump.
"That was a significant design challenge, to recreate animations for all of the characters that have been released," Bala said, but he's committed to increasing the value for all the toys kids forced parents to buy for $14.99.
For Swap Force, you'll get the two halves of Wash Buckler and Blast Zone, a rocket knight, as well as a new ninja-themed Stealth Elf. "If you have a friend come over with two Swap Force characters, you'll already have a possible 16 combinations to experiment with and play in the game," said Bala.
The bottom half of the character has abilities associated with movement, while the top half are usually offensive abilities. So it's cool to come up with tactics to allow faster movement like Night Shift's teleport ability while using the ice attacks of the top half of Freeze Blade.
Skylanders: Swap Force is a launch title for the new generation consoles Xbox One and PS4, and it looks great in full 1080p video. It will also launch simultaneously on the rest of the consoles on the market - Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Wii U and the 3DS. Look for it to be pushed in toy stores everywhere, and for kids to not realize how difficult a problem it was to defeat the magnets in the toys. Magnets, how do they work?