Disney World’s newest attraction is…a video game?


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WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT — There's a brand new attraction at the Magic Kingdom. But it's not a ride.

'Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom' is a new card-based role-playing game designed by one of the creators of several beloved LucasArts adventure games, including Sam & Max Hit the Road, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle and The Curse of Monkey Island.

But rather than sitting in a dark room and interacting with a screen, this game is spread throughout Orlando's Disney World theme park with over 20 hidden areas.

It's a multiplayer affair that encourages replay through a level up system similar to what you might find in games like World of WarCraft. Guests become apprentice sorcerers and embark on a challenge to stop animated villains like Hades (voiced by James Woods), Ursula (Pat Carroll), Dr. Facilier (Keith David) and Cruella de Vil from stealing one of the four shattered pieces of Merlin's powerful crystal ball.

"When guests enter the Magic Kingdom they can come to one of our two sign-up locations," said Jonathan Ackley, Project Producer & Creative Director at Walt Disney Imagineering. "One is on Main Street at the firehouse, where Merlin is organizing a Citizens Brigade to protect the Magic Kingdom, and one is recruiting for General Merlin's army in Liberty Square."

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A sample card from 'Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom'

It's at these locations that players are given a Sorcerer's key and a pack of five spell cards. Merlin's assistants also hand players a map that details the location of each of the mystic portals scattered throughout the theme park. Each hidden portal in Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, and Main Street, U.S.A. has a round marker on the ground for players to stand on, as well as a chest or some type of object for the key to unlock.

Find the right spot, and a video wall -- sometimes hidden inside store fronts -- comes alive and the gameplay begins.

"When the portal opens a Disney villain will appear and players -- up to six at a time -- will engage in a Sorcerers' duel," explained Ackley. "Players can pick the spell they think would be best or funniest to defeat the villain and then hold it out and show it to the villain. Then it becomes a turn-based game of spell casting until the loser runs out of magic and the combat is over."

Four years in the making, this real-life RPG has been designed to keep players moving through the park, including the ability to send players to different locations based on how busy things are. The game is also attracting repeat players.

"We are seeing similar behaviors to those that you see with online games," said Ackley. "We're seeing repeat players, people who've beaten the game once, twice, five times, even seven times. That's not something, honestly, that I ever predicted."

Part of the replay value comes in the form of the 70 collectible spell cards, each with a popular Disney character on the front. Guests collect and trade these cards, which are kept in folders. Up to six spells can be cast at any portal and mixing up cards gets different results.

"What we're finding is that games are sticky," said Ackley. "If people like it, they're going to come back, play it again, and they're going to want to level up and try something new and see what their new cards open up in this game."

Ackley and his team worked with Disney animators to create over 95 minutes of original animation for the new attraction. Most of the original Hollywood actors reprise their roles for this game, which features heroes, sidekicks and the aforementioned villains.

The influx of Facebook casual games, including the first-ever Disney theme park tie-in game 'Disney Animal Kingdom Explorers', has opened up a whole new audience for Imagineers to tap into with video games.

"The prevalence of casual games and the way that they're growing the gaming market really makes people look at games as not just for kids anymore," said Ackley. "There's a cultural shift about games and we see that with so many grandparents playing the game, sometimes without their grandkids or kids."

Perhaps the best thing about the game? No lines. And that's something that any theme park patron will appreciate.

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