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

Akaneiro Kickstarter Campaign

Akaneiro Art by Joey

Just launched a Kickstarter Campaign for Akaneiro. We’ve been working on Akaneiro since early 2011 and are nearing our scheduled completion date – looking to launch Open Beta in early January 2013. This campaign is intended to help support expansion on our current development – namely to bring things like tablet support, multiplayer and addition content and features to the game. If we manage to go beyond our initial goal, we’ll also add stretch goals for things like a Linux port.

Any and all support you might lend would be helpful. Even if you cannot contribute financially, you can help us by spreading the word. The more people are aware the better the campaign will do.

Akaneiro: Demon Hunters – Trailer News Links

Ever feel you can’t get enough news about Akaneiro? Well, here’s a massive list of news generated by yesterday’s gameplay trailer release. Enough news to drown a wolf…

3DJuegos (Spanish)
http://www.3djuegos.com/noticia/127970/0/akaneiro-demon-hunters/american-mcgee/

Anait Games (Spanish)
http://www.anaitgames.com/noticias/american-mcgee-akaneiro

AndroidWorld (Italian)
http://www.androidworld.it/2012/04/11/akaneiro-demon-hunters-un-hacknslash-in-arrivo-per-android-sanera-il-senso-di-vuoto-lasciato-da-dungeon-hunter-iii-82600/

AnjelSyndicate
http://www.anjelsyndicate.org/2012/09/11/quickie-akaneiro-demon-hunters-first-gameplay-video-and-beta-signups-begin/

Atomix (Spanish)
http://atomix.vg/2012/04/10/aparecen-nuevos-datos-de-akaneiro-demon-hunters-el-nuevo-titulo-de-american-mcgee/

AusGamers
http://www.ausgamers.com/news/read/3241250/american-mcgees-akaneiro-demon-hunters-video-shows-diablo-esque-gameplay-stunning-art

Betasjournal (French)
http://www.betasjournal.com/news/akaneiro-demon-hunters-annonce-inscriptions-a-la-beta/

Blue’s News
http://www.bluesnews.com/s/135111/akaneiro-demon-hunters-video-beta-signups

Dailymotion (video)

Digital Spy
http://www.digitalspy.ca/gaming/news/a405361/akaneiro-demon-hunters-announced-with-beta-signup.html

DroidGamers
http://www.droidgamers.com/index.php/tablet-gaming/tablet-gaming-news/4605-akaneiro-demon-hunters-multiplayer-action-rpg-beta-signups-now-live

DSOGaming

Akaneiro: Demon Hunters gets a gameplay trailer – New Cell-Shaded Action RPG From Spicy Horse

EGM/DigitalNoob
http://www.egmnow.com/digitalnoob/a-first-look-at-akaneiro-demon-hunters/

Eurogamer
http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-09-11-american-mcgees-upcoming-resembles-an-isometric-okami

Eurogamer.es
http://www.eurogamer.es/articles/2012-04-11-spicy-horse-anuncia-akaneiro-demon-hunters

Eurogamer.it
http://www.eurogamer.it/articles/2012-04-11-news-videogiochi-spicy-horse-rivela-akaneiro-demon-hunters

Flesh Eating Zipper

“Akaneiro: Demon Hunters” – First Gameplay Video and Beta Signups Begin!

Forbes
http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/09/12/japanese-folklore-meets-little-red-riding-hood-in-hand-painted-action-rpg-akaneiro-demon-hunters/

G4TV
http://www.g4tv.com/thefeed/blog/post/727902/akaneiro-demon-hunters-alpha-gameplay-video/

Gamasutra (just press release)
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/pressreleases/177495/ldquoAkaneiro_Demon_Huntersrdquo__First_Gameplay_Videoand_Beta_Signups_Begin_for_Spicy_Horsersquos_FantasyActionRPG.php

GameBanshee
http://www.gamebanshee.com/news/109426-akaneiro-demon-hunters-announced.html

Game Dynamo (Spanish)
http://juegos.gamedynamo.com/2012/04/30/noticias-de-juegos-spicy-horse-de-american-mcgee-pasa-de-alicia-a-caperucita-roja-con-akaneiro-demon-hunters/

Game-Insider

Akaneiro: Demon Hunters – See The First Gameplay Video – Beta Signups Begin for Spicy Horse’s Fantasy Action-RPG

Gameplay.com.mx (Spanish)
http://www.gameplay.com.mx/gameplay/el-nuevo-juego-de-american-mcgee-se-llama-akaneiro-demon-hunter-noticias/

Gameranx

First Akaneiro: Demon Hunters Gameplay Trailer Drops

Game Reactor
http://www.gamereactor.eu/news/45401/Akaneiro%3A+Demon+Hunters/

Game Revolution (video)
http://www.gamerevolution.com/game/akaneiro-demon-hunters

Gamers Temple
http://www.gamerstemple.com/NewsPlus/NPViewArticle.asp?articleid=15196

Gamesnation (Italian)
http://www.gamesnation.it/news/11117/akaneiro-demon-hunters-un-nuovo-rpg-free-to-play-da-spicy-horse.html

GameSpot (video+screens)
http://www.gamespot.com/akaneiro-demon-hunters/videos/akaneiro-demon-hunters-gameplay-6396260/

GamesRadar
http://www.gamesradar.com/akaneiro-revealed-american-mcgee-first-trailer/

Gamezplay.org
http://www.gamezplay.org/2012/09/akaneiro-demon-hunters-first-gameplay.html

Gaming Blend/Cinema Blend
http://www.cinemablend.com/games/Akaneiro-Demon-Hunters-Hack-Slash-ARPG-Trailer-Released-46798.html

Gaming Dead
http://gamingdead.com/2012/09/12/akaneiro-demon-hunters-by-american-mcgee-alpha-video-released

Gaming Outsiders
http://www.gamingoutsiders.com/first-footage-of-spicy-horses-akaneiro/

Gamona (German)
http://www.gamona.de/games/akaneiro-demon-hunters,american-mcgee-arbeitet-an-action-rollenspiel:news,2157685.html

Gbase.ch (Swiss)
http://www.gbase.ch/pc/news/12372/Akaneiro-F2P-MMOG-von-McGee-54830.html

IGN (video)
http://ca.ign.com/videos/2012/09/12/akaneiro-demon-hunters-gameplay-trailer-1

IRBGamer
http://irbgamer.com/2012/09/akaneiro-demon-hunters-first-gameplay-video-and-beta-signups-begin/

JeuxCapt (FR)
http://www.jeuxcapt.com/Akaneiro–Demon-Hunter—Images–Le-nouveau-projet-de-Spicy-Horse-actualite-10713.html

Journal du Gamer (French)

Akaneiro : un Beat’em all chez Spicy Horse ?

Joystiq
http://www.joystiq.com/2012/09/11/akaneiro-demon-hunters-beta-pits-little-red-riding-hood-against/

Kotaku
http://kotaku.com/5942226/watch-american-mcgees-gritty-take-on-red-riding-hood-in-action-with-akaneiro

Legendra (French)
http://www.legendra.com/rpg/news-id-3554.html

LevelUp (Spanish)
http://www.levelup.com/noticias/18790/American-McGee-da-detalles-de-Akaneiro/

Multiplayer.it (Italian)
http://multiplayer.it/notizie/101747-akaneiro-demon-hunters-si-chiama-akaneiro-demon-hunters-il-nuovo-progetto-di-american-mcgee.html

NeoGAF (yeah, they’re talking about it a bit :))
http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?p=42041962

PCGamer.com
http://www.pcgamer.com/2012/09/11/american-mcgee-reveals-akaneiro-a-free-to-play-action-rpg-trailer-inside/

PCGames.de (German)

Pixel Perfect Gaming
http://webguyunlimited.com/pixelperfectgaming/?p=33316

PocketGamer
http://www.pocketgamer.co.uk/r/Android/Akaneiro%3A+Demon+Hunters/news.asp?c=44888

Rock, Paper, Shotgun

Feudal Red Riding Hood – Akaneiro: Demon Hunters

Saving Content
http://www.savingcontent.com/2012/09/akaneiro-demon-hunters-first-gameplay-video-for-spicy-horses-fantasy-action-rpg-signup-for-the-beta/

Shacknews
http://www.shacknews.com/article/75711/akaneiro-demon-hunters-opens-beta-sign-ups-shows-off-gameplay

Siliconera

Here’s Akaneiro: Demon Hunter, A Fantasy Action RPG Set In Feudal Japan

Spaziogames.it (Italy)
http://www.spaziogames.it/notizie_videogiochi/console_multi_piattaforma/159196/akaneiro-demon-hunters-in-artwork.aspx
http://www.spaziogames.it/notizie_videogiochi/console_multi_piattaforma/157811/prime-immagini-per-rpg-f2p-akaneiro.aspx

SpiritLAN (French)
http://www.spirit-lan.com/blog/index.php/le-petit-chaperon-rouge-par-american-mcgee-ou-pas/

Stuff.co.nz
http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/games/7659473/Red-Riding-Hood-goes-J-horror

Tom’s Games (French)
http://www.jeuxvideopc.com/news/32908-akaneiro-demon-hunters-annonce-images.php

WorthPlaying
http://worthplaying.com/article/2012/9/11/news/87007/

Z-Giochi (Italian)
http://www.z-giochi.com/news/akaneiro-demon-hunters-rilasciato-nuovo-gameplay-trailer-62341

State of the Horse, March 2012

Know what’s incredible? Spicy Horse is preparing to release not one… not two… but THREE new games in 2012! It’s been a wild ride since the end of development on “Alice: Madness Returns”. Back then, the studio escaped certain death. We were lucky enough to secure investment from solid, committed partners. And for all of 2011 the team cranked away on new titles for a new generation of gaming platforms.

Here’s what’s coming in 2012:

BigHead BASH” is competitive multiplayer deathmatch action set in a toy store – for the adrenaline junkies out there. It’s filled with original toy concepts and awesome licensed content from bands, brands, games and comics. BHB is the online toy store of the future. You can check it out right now: bhb.spicyhorse.com

“Akaneiro: Demon Hunters” is an online, lite-RPG based on a dark, Japanese themed Red Riding Hood – for those of you who are quest & collect fans. If you liked the dark, twisted atmosphere of the “Alice” series, you’ll love this adaptation of “Red”. Expect this online and on Tegra-powered Android tablets.

Lastly, “Crazy Fairies” combines comedy and fairy tales with turn-based multiplayer “Worms” style game play. This one will be playable across ALL mobile devices (iOS, Android), online, and on social networks (like Facebook).

Personally, I think these titles are set to revolutionize the way people think about “browser games” – and “Facebook games” in particular. Cool themes, super high quality art and really fun online game play. A little something for everyone in this lineup! The devs here at Spicy Horse are delivering on the promise – AAA quality games in your browser, on your mobile device.

Stay tuned for more news here and on our main Spicy Horse site. It’s going to be an exciting year!