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Skylanders Swap Force will use next-gen social features

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Skylanders Swap Force will use the social features of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One when it launches later this year, as well as take advantage of the PlayStation Vita's Remote Play feature, Vicarious Visions co-studio head Guha Bala told Polygon.

Swap Force players will be able to use the Vita to play the game in another room, away from the PS4 console. Bala added that the studio will implement a select amount of each console's social features, since time until launch is rapidly ticking down.

"It's a simple [integration] that we're doing [with next-gen], partially because it's a launch title," he said. "The timing window we have right now is quite short, so we have to be choosey about when the emphasis goes.

"The demographic is also a big piece of it too, especially because of our kid focus, we [have to] carefully make a sort of a walled garden approach to online support, where it's a very safe environment so parents can just have their six and nine year old play, and they don't have any worries about online interactions and so forth," he added. "So the type of online support is access only to friends lists, like your Xbox [Live] friends or Nintendo ID friends, and see their collections. You can borrow each other's hats, and for race and score modes you can compare leaderboards. But that's only in the friends group."

Bala said Vicarious is also looking into the PS4's share capabilities.

"Overall, if I were to look at it, it's still centering on a safe experience for kids with asynchronous online play features," he said. "But largely, we're [using it to bring] alive the Skylands with this richer detail and at a richer level."

When asked about the company's take on Disney Infinity and its similar mechanics, Bala said that it's natural for big brands to want to move into a space they see is profitable.

"Spyro's Adventure was a big bet for the studios, as well as Activision, but we thought we really had something cool on our hands," he explained. "Bringing toys to life seems to be a universal fantasy for children, and some adults.

"Our ideas for Swap Force actually started before Spyro was even released," he added. "We knew that if we created something really unique like this and with the kind of potential we thought it had, we'd have competition somewhere. That's what a competitive, capitalistic market does."

In the end, the Skylanders series is all about empowering children and giving them the opportunity to discover on their own. The way they games are set up and the staggered release model for Skylanders figures encourages repeat play and allows them to explore and test each character's powers at their own pace.

But creating a video game for children isn't about making the most simplistic game possible, Bala believes; it's about creating a way to help them learn to handle more complex things.

"One of the big play patterns we observe with children is the way that they replay,' Bala explained. "The levels are designed as playgrounds, really, for the toys. [It's designed so] the child, as the Portal Master, will feel clever and powerful. This kind of guided experience is a really positive thing, but beyond the guided experience there's so many other things to do.

"Making a kid's game isn't about dumbing it down; it's about making the right way in."