Reinventing a Franchise with Skylanders: Trap Team

So far, Activision’s Skylanders games have been all about bringing toys to life. Put a toy on the included Portal of Power accessory, and boom – you’re now playing with that character in the game. With Skylanders: Trap Team, however, the developers at Toys for Bob wanted to take a step in the opposite direction: take something from the game and bring it into a toy. When you track down an escaped villain and defeat him in battle, you have the option to capture him in a physical “trap.” The villain lives inside the Traptanium Portal… but instead of being a bad guy, he instead works for the titular Skylanders, and you can play as him using his special abilities in the fight for good.

“The Traptanium Portal allows us to reverse the magic and bring digital characters into the physical world,” said Toys for Bob Chief of Staff Alex Ness. When Portal Masters capture villains, you can hear the villains traveling from the game into the real world, and from inside the trap itself when placed in the Traptanium Portal. “For kids, it’s a magical experience, and is just as exciting to players as it was the first time they saw a Skylander being placed on the Portal of Power and then appearing in the game,” Ness said.

Originally, the team looked into representing trapped characters with video images, but quickly quickly discovered that audio was much more magical than video. “To actually hear the villain not only going into the trap but talking directly to you from the Traptanium Portal made you believe he was truly inside the trap,” Ness explained. The key, then, became coming up with all the different personalities for these villains, who wanted them to be “interesting and funny and weird and cool,” and to stand out from just your average, generic bad guy.

“Figuring that stuff out is a lot of fun, and the job is made a lot easier because our character concept and modeling teams are so good at what they do,” Ness said. “They built a character who is pretty much a broccoli wizard, for example. It’s not hard to inject personality into a broccoli wizard.”

Ness cited, among other things, the Ivan Reitman classic Ghostbusters as an inspiration for the team. “When the idea first surfaced, we loved the whole notion of having a little guy inside something,” he said. “Plus I like to randomly sing out, ‘Bustin’ makes me feel good!’ every once in a while from my desk, and I like to think that inspires everyone who sits nearby.”

Skylanders: Trap Team debuts on October 5 for the Xbox One and Xbox 360, so get ready to trap some bad guys!