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Skylanders Giants

Skylanders Giants: An Interview With Toys for Bob's Alex Ness

Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure action figures have raked in over $30 million in sales, and the most popular characters in this line are still selling like hotcakes. It comes as no surprise that Activision, a company well versed in yearly sequels, has a second Skylanders game locked and loaded for this fall.

I talked to Alex Ness, Toys for Bob's producer and chief-of-staff about this follow-up, which introduces new Giant characters into the mix. He even details about one new Skylander Giant, who you can see for the first time in Game Informer's July issue.

How are the Giants being introduced into the story and world of Skylanders Giants?

First off, thanks very much for your interest in Skylanders Giants.  We can’t say enough about how happy we are with the success of Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure, and how excited we are about Skylanders Giants.  

But speaking of the Giants, they were actually the very first Skylanders to exist...kind of like how dinosaurs were the first humans. Although I guess, technically, dinosaurs weren’t really the first humans (or were they?). But similar to the dinosaurs, the Giants were around many thousands of years ago; they were huge like dinosaurs; and they also just completely disappeared one day. Back then, an evil race of magical technological beings called the Arkeyans ruled over Skylands with an iron fist. And I mean that literally. The source of all the Arkeyans’ power was an enchanted iron fist. Anyway, it was the Giants who banded together to free Skylands from the evil Arkeyans reign. This final battle between the Giants and the Arkeyans is what led to the Giants being blasted to Earth, where they were buried for centuries.  

When Kaos (resident “bad guy” of Skylands) manages to reactivate one of the old Arkeyan war machines, the Giants become unearthed, and must return to Skylands to deal with this ancient threat once again.  

Who is the nemesis in the story?

I guess I kind of gave that one away already… Kaos returns as the evil nemesis in Skylands, searching to find the enchanted iron fist and resurrect the Arkeyan army.  His faithful butler, Glumshanks, and a big robot who sounds suspiciously like George Takei are there to help him.

Will we see the same line-up of Skylanders characters?

Skylanders Giants will feature 16 brand new Skylander characters, including the super-sized Giants, the LightCore Skylanders that light-up in the game and in the real-world when you put them on or near the portal. Then there’s the Series 2 Skylanders, which are returning fan-favorites from Spyro’s Adventure. And, lastly, there are brand new Skylanders with new personalities and new powers.  

All of the Skylanders from Spryo’s Adventure are 100% compatible with Skylanders Giants – abilities and upgrades intact.  So you’ll definitely be seeing their familiar faces in Skylanders Giants too.

Will the hub world be handled in the same way?

It’s a little different this time around. Where Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure had players returning to the same location every time, Skylanders Giants is a bit more of a road trip. Players will embark on a long journey via this amazingly unlucky airship - piloted by Flynn – and return to this airship after each level and then flying the airship to the next level. But, like the Hub in Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure, this airship changes over time. You’ll pick up new parts for the ship along your way. Plus, plenty of stowaways.  

These Giants are substantially larger than the standard Skylanders. Do the Giants have their own levels? Or will standard levels be scaled to accommodate their larger sizes?

The Giants and the regular-sized Skylanders both play in the exact same levels of the game, but there will be plenty of things that only Giants can do, including occasional access to new level areas. For instance, we have some floating islands that are connected together by a huge long chain. A Giant can pick up the chain and pull in the floating island towards himself. Then the Giant can just walk over to the newly pulled-over island and explore whatever awaits. We call these Giants-only abilities, “Feats of Strength.” There are a bunch of different varieties.  

Aside from that, we really want the experience of playing a Giant to feel different than playing with a regular-sized Skylander. We want players to feel like they’re this big, powerful, Giant that can just walk right through walls and crush bad guys without ever breaking a sweat. Metaphorically-speaking, of course, as Giants don’t really sweat. Did dinosaurs sweat? Maybe that’s another thing they have in common?  

Will the level cap be raised for existing Skylanders that players may have maxed out in the first game?

Yes it will! The existing Skylanders (from Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure) are not only 100% forward-compatible with Skylanders Giants…their level cap actually increases from Level 10 to Level 15 in Giants!

It’s an interesting dynamic that I’m not sure many developers have explored before, since no one’s ever really used toys with a video game like the Skylanders series. It definitely requires a lot of special planning and organizing, but luckily we have people here who are great at planning and organizing. Or at least, they have managed to not explode yet, which in my opinion is a big win.

Cynder is returning, but with a new pose. Does this mean she will have new powers, or is she the same character from before?

Cynder is one of the Series 2 Skylanders, so fans will definitely recognize her character and her powers from Spyro’s Adventure, but as a Series 2 Skylander, Cynder will have increased stats and she’ll feature an all new “Wow Pow” upgrade power, which makes these returning fan-favorite Skylanders feel really significant and cool.

In addition to the “Wow Pow” upgrade powers, all of the Series 2 Skylanders will also be able to switch between multiple upgrade paths in the game anytime you want.



Any changes to how cooperative play works? Will there be online functionality?

Co-op play will function in Skylanders Giants pretty similarly as it did in Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure. We’re super happy to hear that people enjoy playing co-op together, especially when it’s parents playing together with their kids, so maybe we’ll want to expand this feature even more sometime later down the road.   

As far as any online functionality, I have to say, our primary focus is really getting people in the same room to play together. But…I’m sure online co-op and battle mode could be pretty sweet, so it’s probably something we’d like to explore in the future.

Do co-op characters share the same screen again, or will it split?

Yes, co-op players will share the same screen.  We’ve done some tweaking to co-op play to make sure the characters stay together on the screen more naturally. There are definitely some good co-op lessons we learned while making Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure, so we’re applying those learnings to Skylanders Giants every day.  

The first set of Skylanders (from Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure) consisted of 32 characters. How many characters are you shooting for in this Skylanders Giants? How many will be Giants? And how many will be reposed versions of original characters?

Skylanders Giants will feature 16 brand new Skylanders characters, not including any of the returning characters.  Eight of the 16 new characters will be Giants; the other 8 are new regular-sized Skylanders. The LightCore Skylanders will be a mix of new and returning Skylanders. The LightCore Skylanders light up when you place them on or near the Portal of Power. Like for instance, Prism Break is one of the LightCore Skylanders, so when he is placed on the Portal, all of his crystals light up. Our Giants will have this feature too.  We didn’t only want to innovate in-game elements of Skylanders Giants - we also wanted to innovate the toys themselves.

Will elemental groups play a deeper role in Skylanders Giants, aside from giving attack bonuses in certain areas and being used as keys to open new zones?

Yes, we have actually expanded the elemental areas quite a bit in Giants to deliver an overall richer experience while playing through these areas. The elemental areas are much larger, and they look and feel completely different than the rest of the main level. We also have folded some of them into the overall narrative this time around and have NPCs to kind of introduce the major ones.

Now that you have a big roster of playable characters, what comes first in the creative process: The style of attack or the character?

Maybe because it is such a big roster of Skylanders characters, the answer is…it depends. Sometimes we’d come up with a really cool idea for an attack or a power and then we’d kind of design a new character around it. Other times we’d create a Skylander that we really like, and then come up with attacks and powers that seemingly suit the character. Certain things like the elemental groups and the different attack types also provided us with some structure and helped us steer through the process. With Skylanders Giants, we looked at all the different types of Skylanders in Spyro’s Adventure and determined which archetypes and play-style types of Skylanders we didn’t already have, but knew we wanted. So in a sense, we were trying to make sure our new Skylanders felt different than the older ones, and that we filled some new roles we hadn’t filled before.

Will there be character customization beyond names and hats?

Names, hats, and all of the character stats and upgrades will be the only forms of customization in Skylanders Giants, just like in Spyro’s Adventure. It’s kind of a tricky thing because of our connection with the toys. If we allow players to customize and change too much about one of their toys, it would no longer look like the actual Skylander character anymore, and we wouldn’t want that. Although, personally, I think a really cool idea could be some way to customize the actual toy and then have those customizations correlate to the in-game experience. That’s something I would love to explore in the future.

In Skylanders Giants, we do allow the player to customize the Hub airship I mentioned earlier. If you or your readers have any ideas about other things we could customize, please feel free to email them to me directly.  I’m serious. Like most goodhearted people, I’m really into the idea of customization and am always interested to hear peoples’ thoughts on the subject.  

Tell us about the newest Giant, Bouncer.

Sure thing!  Bouncer is our Tech Giant in the game.

First, a little back-story: Bouncer was once a star “Robo-Ball” player – Robo-Ball being an anciently renowned, yet now-forgotten sport in Skylands. When the evil Arkeyan Empire destroyed Bouncer’s home town, they discontinued all Robo-Ball games and converted Bouncer into a messenger-bot to be stationed in the mines. It was while working in the mines that Bouncer realized he could be a real hero – not just a hero on the sporting field (assuming Robo-Ball was indeed played on a field.) Thus, Bouncer decided it was time to stand-up to the Arkeyans, rescue the Mabu prisoners, and join the rest of the Giants in the fight to overthrow the evil Arkeyan overlords.

Bouncer’s base power is shooting out the tips of his fingers.  He’s quite famous for various ricochet trick shots with these blasters, which I’m guessing is a product of his Robo-Ball skills. Bouncer can launch rockets from his shoulders, and use an aiming reticule to make them land in a very precise spot. Overall, he’s a pretty powerful, boisterous Tech Giant, and I think you guys/gals/robots will really like him a lot.

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Comments
  • E3 is finally here...and FIRST
  • Love me some Skylanders.

  • I would rather just have skylanders 2...

  • Very interesting and mostly great news. But from this it sounds like you'll have to be buying alot of the old characters... again. I probably should wait and see the new versions before getting completely down in the mouth, but I wonder why they couldn't just advance the abilities of the existing figures?
  • GREAT! Skylanders Giants in 2013. yes! Brazil

  • wooo wish I had the money