#3 The Engine: Focusing on the Toy Box

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#3 The Engine: Focusing on the Toy Box

Postby goofyspaceranger » Wed Aug 17, 2016 12:35 pm

Glossary post #3 for "A Toy Box Tale: Recapture the Spark!"

The Engine
In the story, The Engine is the Toy Box engine. It's the best aspect of the Disney Infinity product. The quality of the Disney Infinity Play Sets has been excellent, but to a considerable extent they mirror what all of the other toys-to-life games are already doing - providing ready-made adventures for these toys-to-life characters. It's to the new owner's advantage to focus on the single software engine of the Toy Box. It would minimize the amount of initial & ongoing development costs for the reboot to occur, relying upon the subscription-based pricing model & community content to scale the business. It would elevate all of the fan-created content, as they would not be in competition with Play Set creations made with engines that they could not use. It would similarly equalize the mobile platform that didn't support Play Sets in the first place. It would equalize all of the Infinity figures, as those who were "JUST in the Toy Box" seemed somehow of lesser importance. Any Infinity content developed in-house by the new owner would be using the same Toy Box Engine; this would automatically drive quality for the engine internally, and when released, those Toy Box Games would be inspiring to players to see great content that they could model & extend themselves. The reboot could be done with the Toy Box Engine as it is today - but every software product can always get better. Here's a list of some ideas...

Opening New Doors
The Toy Box Door has been an excellent way to connect multiple Toy Boxes together, but it's currently limited as to how many boxes it can connect, and by the fact that those boxes are not independently listed in Community Content. Imagine the ability to connect ALL of the Toy Boxes in Community Content together in one never-ending story, where various boxes fork into various storyline sub-plots. The game has enjoyed this notion of "unlocking toys" for several releases. Imagine the notion of "unlocking Toy Boxes". A new Property on the Toy Box Door would allow the player to travel to one or more future Toy Boxes, to be named later, potentially by other artists. The Property could specify that it's exclusively for future boxes from that same artist (such as the owner), from the same team (see later posts on Guilds), or it could be open to anyone. When a subsequent Toy Box is submitted, the artist would have the option to have it continue from one of these "Open Door" Toy Boxes already in Community Content. There could be the option whether this subsequent title is directly linked from the prior Toy Box, or simply unlocked in the Community Content lists. There could be another related option chosen at submission whether this locked Toy Box is shown as locked in Community Content (with a lock symbol superimposed on its snapshot picture), or completely hidden from Community Content until that prerequisite Toy Box is completed. Plus, a single Open Door could fork into an unlimited number of Toy Boxes from a variety of artists. From this new functionality of the Toy Box Door, the new Disney Infinity owner could provide an introductory storyline of Toy Boxes to re-introduce the Toy Box and unlock new content as part of the value in subscriptions. The owner could choose one or more open fork points for the community to extend that storyline from the official Introductory Boxes. Toy Boxes would become like Checkpoints in one huge Community-based Play Set that by its nature supports all of the characters.

The Player Gate & The Player#1 Insert
Toy Box Tales could be more immersive with a Creativi-toy that could detect which character was being played. A "Player Gate" could be a specialized Logic Gate toy where the if-then-else conditional was based on the character's specific identity, or alternatively the player's grouping (e.g. Guardians/Avengers/CloneWars/Mickey&Friends/Frozen/etc.) Rather than requiring a list of 100 characters to specify, it could detect the character building the Toy Box at the time of forming its logic connection (and you just switch the characters for different characters). Similarly the Text Creator toy could use a reserved string, "Player#1" to replace with the character's name in-game for player #1. Similarly, there could be Player#2, Player#3, and Player#4 inserts, too. This would make it possible for Toy Box builders to tailor the story to the specific character or set of characters being played. It would greatly resolve the conflicting goals of allowing all characters to play nearly all Toy Boxes, while still providing character adventures that increase the value of those characters and corresponding figures.

The Purchase Gate & In-Game Currency
Fix the currency system, not only for Tower Defense games, but adventure gaming in general. Provide a currency animation to handle larger amounts of accumulated (or lost) currency. Provide a variant on the Logic Gate (e.g. "Purchase Gate") where a Properties-set amount of character's currency can be subtracted from any trigger as Output, with a separate message of "Input Blocked" when the character doesn't have enough. Provide better flexibility for game designers on the in-game purchases within Toy Box games. With the dismantling of the Toy Store, allow for Blue Sparks to be the currency (including the reset of those sparks at the start of the game). On a side-note, a Spark Generator toy for the colors Blue, Yellow, Green, Purple, or Rainbow Mix would be beneficial too - better visuals, better control for game design that focuses on the sparks of the imagination.

Colorful, Emotional Teams
Provide further enhancements for color-based multi-player games. Add a Red Team Activator to associate with the Anger emotion (and the Sith). Add Red & Purple Infinity orbs (armored & unarmored) so that collection games can be based on Team Color. Add Color designations to the Target toys (with an additional Property to deactivate it when it's hit). Add Color designations to the Key, Lockable Cage, Lockable Cage Wall, and add a colored Lockable Loot Chest. Allow the Team Activators to change a player's team when their character passes through them. Have an alternative Team Scoring toy based on the "percentage of color" in the Toy Box... make a rough volume calculation based on the toys being colored by the Diffusinator (with a fudge factor for "thin" toys like Race Tracks). For Toy Box theming, Toy Box Saves could include the results of that Diffusinator (it could be particularly useful in distinguishing various Action Buttons & Triggers). Add a "paint thinner" option for removal. There could even be a new Property on the Key/Cage/Wall/Chest/Button/Target/Trigger to be immune to the Diffusinator to preserve the designer's goals. There's a whole lot of extra fun possible with some incremental enhancements to Team Colors.

Half-Challenge Rings & Horizontal Purples & Reds
The Endor challenge with the Challenge Rings imbedded within the ground is really cool. Challenge Rings could be updated to have no collision detection in the Toy Box, or perhaps Half or 3/4-shaped Challenge Rings could be added to place atop flat Terrain to provide the illusion of that. Since they're different size, the colors wouldn't play as well into Team Color based games, but some new horizontal Challenge Rings could provide additional variety to Flyers and to collection games designed with a bird's eye view camera.

The Power of the Reset & The Breakables Tracker
The option to "Reset" in the midst of Toy Box gameplay is rather unpredictable. Ideally, it could be used to completely restart a Toy Box without incurring the wait-time of re-loading the game entirely. It could have the following phases: (1) reset all Creativi-Toys to their initial-load Properties (which is not the same as default), (2) respawn character(s) at the start-up Infinity pad, and (3) drive the Level Starter if one exists. This would provide the game designer a clean way to test the Level Starter without adding say an Action Button to hide/remove later, and provide predictable gameplay on player resets. On a related note, it's problematic to "reset" Breakable toys. They are much less manageable than traditional Collectibles. If a "Breakables Tracker" was added that was the functional equivalent to the Collectibles Tracker, then all of the Toy Box's breakables would provide that much more variety in scavenger hunt style games. If further control was provided on spark generation, then certain breakables could generate certain colors of sparks to make this more interesting - the breakables could be for extending currency, special power, healing, or in-game experience.

Resizable Racing Gate & Avoiding Rainbow Roads
Create a toy similar to the resizable Trigger Area (and two-dimensional in presentation similar to the arrow decorations) in order to provide the green resizable Racing Gates used in the Play Sets. Its ability to cover different spaces without collision issues would make races for Mounts/Vehicles/Flyers/Flying Vehicles much better. It has also been a long-standing fan request to provide Terrain/Track pieces that match each others slopes so that races can have different elevations without so much risk of the drivers going off said roads.

Just Around The Riverbend
Provide an increased set of river & lake pieces akin to the cave sub-category... T-shaped River Split, River Cross, Lake Side, Lake Inner Corner, Lake Outer Corner, River/Lake Mouth, & full-Lake pieces for a much greater variety of toy waterways - maybe even a whirlpool piece as a Teleportation or Kill Switch option, and a Sloped River piece that lines up with one of the sloped Terrains as an alternative to waterfalls. On a side-note, the 3.0 additions of Cave walls, corners, & ceilings provided much greater variety to caverns, but could still use a rounded quarter-corner piece for rounding off those Cave walls or combining in a set of 4 to form cave pillars in large caverns. There could also be another cave entrance piece that matched the slope of the existing Cliff Terrain pieces.

Terrain Blends, Themed Hangs, & Rounded Corners
Most of the Toy Box's world-building toys have a great rounded style, with the squared-off edges for easy placement that also reminds you that each world is an assortment of toys. The two forms of hedges have a rounded corner piece that would work well with all Terrain themes. In addition to the river pieces, the caves & cliffs, race track, etc. a rounded corner piece would help extend this rounded visual to the overall structure of Toy Boxes. Similarly, the Terrain Blends provide a great way to join two level pieces of Terrain that have different themes - but these blends are small compared to the size of many Toy Box layouts. A larger set would help prevent theme changes from looking squared off. In Building Blocks, a flat triangle piece (both floor & wall) wouldn't be exactly rounded, but would allow mosaic-style patterns and better block lettering similar to those made with the triangular pieces that have depth. On a general theming note, the Ledge Hang toys only have a few choices - ideally they would include the same set of themes as the Rail Grinds. This would extend the existing Toy Box style and its capacity to build the virtual sets for fun toy storytelling.

Enjoying The View (& The Music)
The Sky Changer provides lighting, background images, & background music all-in-one. While the Boombox can override the Sky Changer music, it doesn't contain the same set of musical scores. To maximize the variety of background music, the Sky Changer could provide the ability to change the sky, the music, or both. Then with multiple connections you could mix & match. Lots of Disney films have many iconic songs - the "Sky & Music Changer" could support many. Also, it's been requested by several Master Artists to supply more day-and-nighttime versions of the skies so that they can change mid-game. Another significant factor for views is the set of virtual cameras. The Battlegrounds Play Set introduced 4-local-player gaming. This could be extended into the Toy Box with the corresponding shared camera support, along with the option to split the screen 4 ways, too, or 3 ways in a 3v1 mini-game. 2-player racing would be better if the camera could be split top & bottom as it was first introduced in the Cars Play Set.

Pinball, Peggle, & Mini-Golf
Add angled Pinball toys to match the Terrain/Track, and a vertical set for "Peggle-style" games. Allow them to be themed like the platformer gameplay toys now can be. They could be combined with Disney fan block art to make some fun, visually stunning Toy Box games. These game could also use a piece of Terrain and/or Track with a round hole that could detect passage (similar to the ESPN nets), and this could also be used in conjunction with Timers & Super Cannons (or perhaps an improved ESPN-supporting sling shot) to make a wide variety of Disney Infinity themed mini-golf games, especially with the addition of a Team Color property to the ESPN golf balls.

The INterior Glitch & The Forgotten Princesses
By means of a glitch in the Toy Box engine, several Toy Box Artists have managed to bring INterior toys into the standard Toy Box. Accepting that these highly-detailed toys significantly raise the open Toy Box meter, but so do Collectibles. So-called INterior toys could become a standard part of the Toy Box interface. This would provide a simpler way to provide more creative options in Toy Box building. From the perspective of INterior themes, it's somewhat surprising that Frozen theming was not yet available for the walls, ceiling, floor, & trim, given the popularity of Elsa & Anna (Olaf's snowy options not-withstanding). INteriors are in some respects like virtual dollhouses, and any Disney Princess that appears as a character in Infinity needs to have the corresponding theming.

Managing The Meter & Replayer Snafus
Apparently a throttle was added into the 3.0 Toy Box Engine to help keep the Toy Box Meter equivalent across PS4 & Xbox One, which is a good thing. But it's still possible to "tilt" Toy Boxes with added animation, especially from the various generators. If possible, it would be cleaner for a Toy Box to max out and simply stop further generation while still functioning. Ideally there could be distinct limits for current-gen & prior-gen consoles so that builders can choose maximum cross-platform compatibility or current-gen capacity. It works fairly well now, but could be more reliable. The same is still true for the Replayer, which is a great toy for creative builds. On a side-note, it would be cool for the Object Generator to support more Tools & Packs - perhaps it would help to replace its specific animation with a question mark, similar to that of the Vehicle Weapon Generator.

This list hopes to show how ongoing incremental updates to the Toy Box Engine would make the Disney Infinity Toy Box experience that much better. It would further differentiate the product in its celebration of family-friendly gaming, collaborative building, and Disney toy storytelling. When scaling to millions of creators of content, any investment into the Toy Box Engine would go a long way.

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