Closure of Shanghai Studio, Start of New Adventures

10 years, 10 games, tons of wonderful memories. The Shanghai studio of Spicy Horse Games is closing its doors. The company itself will remain intact, and we’ll continue to operate existing games online. At our peak, during development of Alice: Madness Returns, the studio contained 85+ people. These days we’re down to just 6, and it feels like a good time for a radical shift.

I’m going to turn my focus to indie development and will continue to publish small titles under the Spicy Horse brand. Much of this work will be done in a challenging new environment – aboard my sailboat, bobbing around the S.E. Asia region. This is also where I’ll bring to life Pirate Jam – the game jam on a flotilla of sailboats. I plan to document this new adventure online and in video. If you want to support these new creations, check out my Patreon page.

The past 12 years in China have been incredible. I owe so much to the people who helped build Spicy Horse into a happy place to explore and create. To the hundreds of developers who called Spicy Horse home over the years, Thank You. And to the fans and supporters who enjoyed our efforts, Thank You.

Now, to the next adventure! I hope you’ll all join me along the way 🙂

Comment on this announcement on my Facebook page.

Alice: Otherlands – Updates & Status Post

The “Alice: Otherlands” Kickstarter campaign is CLOSED.

If you are a Backer and need to change your mailing address for Backer Rewards, please do so via Backerkit.

If you were not a Backer, but are interested in the physical Backer Rewards, please read the following:

Due to legal restrictions we are NOT able to offer physical items (Backer Rewards) for sale outside of the Kickstarter campaign. That means if you missed out on the opportunity to back the campaign you cannot buy the physical backer rewards.

If the the situation with the legal restrictions changes, I will post an update via Kickstarter and here in this post.

Please note that the digital content (animations and art book) WILL BE released to the public, for free. It’s the physical items we cannot sell outside of the Kickstarter campaign.

Current estimated release date for physical items (Backer Rewards) is sometime around October 2015 (yes, we are late!). Digital assets will be released, for free, around that same time. As soon as we know how/when we’ll be releasing the digital assets, an update will be posted here, on Kickstarter, Facebook, etc. Please, do not write asking about timing for release of the digital assets. All info on this subject will be posted to the KS page.

A final note regarding physical rewards: We cannot sell them, but there are no restrictions on giving them away for free. I will try to find ways to link these items to other things you might purchase from Spicy Horse or Mysterious. Keep on eye on my Facebook, Twitter, and this blog for details on future offers.

For more info on the project and its progress, please read the campaign updates on Kickstarter.

Here are the post-campaign updates that have been made for 2014, 2015 (and some of 2013):

October 20th, 2015 – Arrival of Physical Rewards
September 16th, 2015 – Mid-Production Update
August 22nd, 2015 – Pulling the Trigger
August 4th, 2015 – Off to Manufacture-land
July 7th, 2015 – July and The Final Stretch
June 9th, 2015 – Animations Complete!
April 15th, 2015 – The Art of The Art Book
March 24th, 2015 – The “No Update” Update
Feb 11th, 2015 – Happy Chinese New Year – Year of the Sheep
Jan 8th, 2015 – Happy New Year 2015!
Dec 24th, 2014 – Happy Holidays
Nov 10th, 2014 – Quick Update
Aug 5th, 2014 – One Year!
July 11th, 2014 – Noble Pursuits
Apr 17th, 2014 – Eyeballs, Tentacles, and Monsters
Apr 17th, 2014 – My Apologies
Feb 21st, 2014 – Missing Posters Follow Up!
Feb 18th, 2014 – Progress and Possibilities
Feb 10th, 2014 – Time to Find the Missing Posters!
Jan 23rd, 2014 – Dude, Where’s My Poster?!
Jan 9th, 2014 – 20,000 Leagues into Otherlands
Dec 16th, 2013 – Get Those Walls Ready!
Nov 15th, 2013 – A Night at the Opera

There are additional posts, going back further in 2013. To read them, please follow THIS LINK.

If you have additional questions not covered by this post, please send them to me via Kickstarter.

To everyone who backed the campaign and has expressed interest in Otherlands, Thank You!

You Can’t Escape

While engaged in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) over at Reddit, to promote our Akaneiro Kickstarter, I was asked about my experience working with UK-based Shy the Sun on the trailers for “Alice: Madness Returns”. You can see a compilation of the three trailers in question via YouTube. My Reddit post follows:

They are fantastic in terms of creativity and capability. If you check out the trailers they did for A:MR, all you can say is “Wow!” What was frustrating was how EA Marketing interfered – telling STS from the start that ALL creative direction and final say would come from them, not from us (the developer/creator of the story/tone). That resulted in trailers that were much darker and gorier than the game … and that was a calculated disconnect created by EA. They wanted to “trick” gamers into believing A:MR was a hard-core horror title, even though we refused to develop it in that tone. Their thinking is, even if the game isn’t a hard-core horror title, you can market it as one and trick those customers into buying it (while driving away more casual customers, like female gamers, who might be turned off by really dark trailers). It’s all a part of the race to the bottom EA, Activision and the other big pubs are engaged in. Expect to see it get worse before it gets better.

To my surprise, this ignited a firestorm of press coverage from the game media. It attracted a few pissed messages from EA. Some readers have even suggested this has killed any possibility of my ever being employed by a game publisher again.

Allow me to expand on my original post while at the same time making a correction (call it a retraction if you like). “Tricked” is the wrong word. I take that back. Apologies to EA and anyone else whose feelings were hurt. Electronic Arts doesn’t trick customers into buying things. They carefully apply proven marketing techniques to achieve the desired customer response. If they were bad at this sort of thing they’d have been crushed by their competitors long ago and you’d be playing Madden Football from Activision or Atari or something.

We live in a world full of marketing. Marketing tells us the “2013 Land Yacht” is more stylish, powerful and awesome than last year’s model. Or that a certain toothpaste is going to get us laid more often. That a wrist watch will finally force the world to understand just how adventurous and manly we are. Or that a game contains lots of blood and guts – even when the creators don’t think that’s the primary selling point. “Alice: Madness Returns” does contain a lot of the stuff you see in those trailers, but my concern was that the main character was being portrayed in a way I felt didn’t align with her character as I understand it.

Beyond that, there has always been and likely always will be tension between publishers and developers over stuff like this. Truth is, publishers are giving audiences what they want – again, if they weren’t they wouldn’t stay in business very long. Maybe I don’t agree with where gaming content seems to be going – but isn’t that the prerogative of aging creators? To complain that things are too loud, too bright or too fleshy?

At the end of the day, I’ve got (well, had) a good relationship with EA. They helped put my name on the map. They funded two of my favorite creations. And they helped me bring strikingly original content to a gaming world that often seems dominated by bullets and boobs. I can’t and don’t fully fault them or their marketing for whatever the “Alice” games might or might not have done sales-wise. As a developer, do I grumble into my beer about how it could have been different if only… ? Sure do! But I also recognize my own faults, and actions which are to blame for things not being 100%… or for inadvertently igniting firestorms.

Call this a mea culpa, an apology, a clarification or a cop-out if you like. My feelings around these topics are nuanced and complicated enough that I myself barely understand them most of the time.

The firestorm, for your reading enjoyment:

American McGee: EA tried to “trick” gamers into believing Alice: Madness Returns was a horror title

American McGee: “Marketing of Alice by EA Showed a Calculated Discount”

BigHead Bash comes to Facebook

Now you guys can play BigHead BASH on Facebook, our own gaming portal, SpicyWorld and on Kongregate. Not only can you play from wherever you like, but you’ll be playing against ALL the players from ALL those platforms ALL at the same time! Cool, huh?

Also, we’ve heard your concerns about weapon rentals and made a change we think you’ll like. To celebrate the Facebook launch weapons can be permanently purchased with tickets! This change will stay in the game from this point forward. Hope you enjoy!

We have also implemented Daily Quests! Players can now earn tickets, experience and tokens by logging in daily and completing different quests. For those who complete all the quests, you’ll earn a special weapons prize pack.

Lastly, we are having a BIG SALE. All toys are now 50% off. Had your eye on that Alice toy with Pepper Grinder Cannon? Now’s your chance to own them both!

BigHead BASH Head-Hunter Contest is Here

Today we are announcing a new contest:”The BigHead BASH Head-Hunter Contest”. The goal of this contest is quite simple: over the course of a week starting today, 27th July till 2nd August UTC 8PM, kill as many different players as possible to increase your ‘unique kill’ count. The one with the highest number of ‘unique kills’ in the game will win 500 gold tokens! 2nd and 3rd place players will also get gold tokens.

You can keep track of the daily leaders on the BHB Forum & Facebook

BigHead BASH Head-Hunter Contest

Happy Head-Hunting