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.

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

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

“Best Art Direction” for Alice: Madness Returns

MSNBC Tech has awarded Alice: Madness Returns a “Best Art Direction” award for 2011. Alice had some serious competition for the honor, going up against some of the year’s biggest and most beautiful games, including:
* Rage
* Batman: Arkham Asylum
* El Shaddai
* Skyrim

Landing this prize speaks volumes about the continued rise in high-quality AAA game development being seen here in China – and specifically in Shanghai. For years, Western developers and publishers utilized China as their outsource art asset factory. And over time the artists, animators and modelers here increased their capability and creativity – with a game like A:MR being wonderful testament to the sort of surreal, imaginative and detailed work the Chinese game industry is now capable of.

Large-scale AAA console games often spend 50% or ore of their budgets on art alone. Alice:MR was no different. Of a 65 person internal team, nearly half were working on “art” (animation, 3D, concept, effects). Another 45 artists spread between 4 different outsource studios contributed the bulk of 3D asset production for the game. This “near sourcing” of 3D asset production meant we could outsource 98% of all 3D artwork for the game to local outsource teams.

Not only did this model produce impressive results, it was reliable, cost-effective and creatively engaging for all involved. Geographic proximity meant that the outsource teams felt like a true part of the larger art department. And one of the shining examples of effeciency and creativity was outsource shop “China West Coast“.

Kudos to Spicy Horse’s internal art team must be shared with outsource groups like China West Coast. Without the seamless and effective integration of the internal and external art pipelines – and the beautiful work being produced by all – the game would never have attained placement among the year’s other AAA titles.

Awesome work by all involved. Thank you, Spicy Horse art team and all the outsource groups like CWC who did the creative heavy lifting!

If you’re interested in using CWC on one of your AAA projects, you can learn more about them HERE.

Bigger Budgets != More Quality

Read on today of an interview with Romuald Capron, COO at Arkane Studios of his views on budgets and team size as they relate to the creation of quality games. He says of smaller teams and outsourcing,

“I think that’s a good way to maintain reasonable budgets, and I think a lot of companies are coming round to this way of working right now,” he continued. “They’re realising that having 200 people in a studio – okay, it can work for ten months of scheduled development, but is it the way to make a triple-A game?

“Maybe they could re-organise and say, okay, let’s keep to a three-year schedule again, but with less people – and more polishing at the end? At some point I’m not sure the markets can follow as fast as the development costs.”

From where I’m sitting it’s great to hear solid developers touting a method of production that we’ve been utilizing at Spicy Horse for the past 4 years. All of our 3D asset production is outsourced (nearly 99% of it) to nearby outsource shops like China West Coast and Nuke. These guys become a virtual extension of our team (greatly benefiting from the fact that we’re all in the same city) – allowing us to produce and wrangle content like a 150+ person team while maintaining an internal core size of less than 65.

There’s a lot to be said for simplicity in production teams – higher communication, accountability and quality output being the three most obvious benefits.

As 2nd-hand sales and piracy continue to threaten the viability of larger-budget games, this sort of thinking will become more and more critical to publishers and developers alike – the simple fact is that cheaper games (which maintain AAA quality) are better able to survive the drag placed on them by things like 2nd-hand sales and piracy.

Read the full article HERE.