So Many Characters With Fart Swords...
Towards the end of a demo session, Lou Studdert, an associate producer at Activision on Skylanders Imaginators—the next game in the toys-to-life juggernaut—mentioned that a developer in the office had created a feces-themed hero by palette-swapping a living snowman's white for brown and giving his weapon swings a fart sound. That might sound weird, but It's all in keeping with the goals for the new game—to let kids make the heroes they want.
It starts with Creation Crystals, with the story-goal of allowing you to create an army of Imaginators to combat Kaos' Doomlander creations. Creation Crystals are element-based with ten different elements—a fire-based red-colored one comes with the starting pack. Place the creation crystal on the portal when you start the game and it glows with a heartbeat, and you can begin building your own character.
For the developers, the character-creation process has to balance players who want to get in and out with those who want to get in and adjust as many details as possible, starting with ten different battle classes to choose before picking the body. In the demo, Studdert chose the "Smasher" class to make a "Fire Smasher," moving on to select parts.
Body parts are chosen from a series of vast presets (down to different ear types, including even "ears of corn"), and automatically colored to fit the style guide for the element of the creation crystal. This made everything red by default, but each individual piece could be color-adjusted by individual preference (à la the poop-snowman). As Studdert picked body parts for his custom Skylander, it began to comment on how much it liked the choices being made, saying "This is totally me!"
How it responds can be customized as well, with a series of voice personalities, which could then be pitched up or down (to match the also customizable size). A big inspiration for the decision to have a character-creation element in the game is the tons of drawings of children sent as fanmail of their ideal Skylander, including catch-phrases and expressions. Skylanders Imaginators allows the player to pick a voice type (Studdert picked "Regal," which results in a boisterous noble voice) and a two-part catch phrase with 60 options for each part—for which Studdert says he always winds up with "Zombie Dance Parties" as his second part. "Prepare for Zombie Dance Parties!, or You Can't Handle Zombie Dance Parties!"
Sounds can even be picked for weapon swings, from wooshes to fart noises. There are also other options like accented glows or particles, and other degrees of tinkering customization. If someone just wants to get in and play, all of this can be randomized at any point as well for a quick character build. Imaginators adds a collaborative, or expensive depending on your point of view, element of role-playing character progression.
Imaginators has a loot system with Imaginite Chests dropping after enemy encounters, allowing for further customization with found weapons and other gear. A bigger part of Imaginators are the Sensei figures, a new class of Skylander that increases the level cap for the Imaginators when they first come into play, and can unlock three special elemental attacks for the custom characters.
The Senseis are useful characters in their own right, though. Each is newly designed for the game, with many returning as souped-up characters from previous entries. Their battle animations are more dynamic and over-the-top, but they also have a unique special "limit break"-like ability once their Sky-Chi-meter fills.
Studdert says they're still playing around with how many times you can increase the level cap, since there are over 30 Sensei figures you'll be able to buy for the game, and they don't know if they want it to be that ridiculously high level. Senseis can unlock the abilities for specific Imaginator battle classes at Sensei Shrines, where you must have the sensei with that specific battle class to open it up.
Skylanders Imaginators will release on October 16, 2016, The starter pack is expected to be the standard $74.99 and include the Fire Creation Crystal, Golden Queen, and King Pen Senseis. Individual Senseis will cost $14.99, and Creation Crystals will cost $9.99.