Category Archives: General

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

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2013-01-21-american-mcgee-ea-tricked-alice-customers

http://www.mcvuk.com/news/read/american-mcgee-says-ea-tried-to-trick-gamers-with-alice-the-madness-returns-marketing/0109592

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

http://www.gameplanet.co.nz/pc/news/1020691.20130122.EA-tried-to-trick-gamers-regarding-the-tone-of-Alice-American-McGee/

http://www.kotaku.com.au/2013/01/mcgee-ea-misrepresented-madness-returns/

http://www.examiner.com/article/dragon-age-3-publisher-tricked-gamers-says-mcgee

http://www.gamepolitics.com/2013/01/21/spicy-horse-founder-offers-tough-criticism-eas-marketing-over-alice-sequel#.UP3hZSdBCSo

http://www.cvgworld.com/2013/01/21/american-mcgee-ea-wanted-to-trick-gamers-with-alicemr-marketing/

http://www.explosion.com/18638/american-mcgee-claims-ea-tricked-alice-customers/

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/121620-American-McGee-Blasts-EA-Marketing

http://www.gameplanet.com.au/pc/news/1023412.20130122.EA-tried-to-trick-gamers-regarding-the-tone-of-Alice-American-McGee/

http://www.i4u.com/2013/01/customers-alice-ea-american-tricked-mcgee

http://ewallstreeter.com/american-mcgee-ea-quot-wanted-to-trick-gamers-quot-with-disingenuous-marketing-7378/

http://www.dealspwn.com/american-mcgee-ea-wanted-trick-gamers-disingenuous-marketing-127090

http://www.onlinewelten.com/games/alice-madness-returns/news/absichtliche-taeuschung-american-mcgee-kritisiert-werbekampagne-electronic-arts-118902/

http://www.gamesblog.it/post/89829/american-mcgee-critica-ea-per-i-condizionamenti-subiti-nello-sviluppo-di-alice-madness-returns

http://www.gram.pl/news/2013/01/21/american-mcgee-narzeka-na-wspolprace-z-ea-przy-produkcji-alice-madness-returns.shtml

http://blogocio.net/american-mcgee-arremete-contra-ea-por-publicidad-enganosa-en-alice-madness-returns-no-62142/

http://www.eurogamer.pt/articles/2013-01-21-ea-tentou-enganar-os-consumidores-com-alice-madness-returns

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

Crazy Fairies is Crazy Good

The latest online game from Spicy Horse, Crazy Fairies, is topping the charts in just a few days since its launch. And since launch the game has been playable (cross-platform!) on Spicy’s own game portal SpicyWorld, Kongregate and facebook. Best of all, it’s exceeding everyone’s expectations!

During a two week period, the Crazy Fairies’ facebook page went from thirty to more than five-thousand likes. On Kongregate, it easily made it to the main page and it’s a top-game this month. We can’t wait to show you all the mobile versions (iOS and Android), coming in August!

In case you’re wondering what “cross-platform” means for you… it means you and your friends no longer need to be separated by hardware (PC or Mac), platform (web, Kongregate or facebook) or device (Android or iOS/phones or tablets). You can play in real-time across all these platforms and devices from anywhere in the world against ALL the other people who are playing the game around the globe. It’s one big happy online world!

Join the fun: Play Crazy Fairies RIGHT NOW!.

Game Designers in BigHead Bash

The newest brand in BigHead Bash brings you Tim Schafer, Will Wright, Ian Livingstone, John Romero and me, all ready to battle with our weapons of choice.

We think outside the box, we fight outside the box!
You can choose your favorite game designer (me?) and bash the competition inside a NEW MODE and MAP: Capture Point – Jungle.

These and a lot of tweaks and performance optimizations are waiting for you!

Click here to play

BigHead BASH- 4th of July Update incoming

Greeting Bashers,

To celebrate 4th of July, in the only way it should be, we are announcing a brand new update to the game! Yes, all the weapons we currently have in the game will be purchasable for a day for the low price 0 tickets. This is a very special 1 day only offer so be sure to check the game tomorrow & get awesome free stuff listed below Continue reading BigHead BASH- 4th of July Update incoming