OZombie Kickstarter Launch

After several months of planning, negotiating and teasing we’ve announced our next Kickstarter campaign and it’s OZombie. The campaign page describes the game concept as:

OZombie is a narrative-driven action-adventure game set within an alternate version of the Oz universe created by L. Frank Baum. The game’s themes and characters are inspired by Baum’s deeply imaginative books (all 14 of them!) then filtered through the story and art treatment you’ve seen applied to our other games like Alice: Madness Returns and Akaneiro: Demon Hunters.

We’ve set our target at $950kUSD and a campaign length of 42 days. Why 42? Because that’s the number of Oz books in the official canon – plus it’s the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything. Anyway, it seemed like a good number.

I’m obviously pretty excited about the campaign and the prospect of returning to the Land of Oz. Years ago I made an attempt at developing a game based on Oz only to have it canceled half-way through by Atari. They claimed to be running out of money, something they seem to do every couple of years. The rights to that project have been tied up ever since – which meant that this new Oz needed to be as different from the old one as possible. Pretty sure with the inclusion of “zombies” in the title we’ve made the difference insanely clear.

Yeah, I know there are too many zombie games in the world today. Couldn’t agree more! Just keep in mind that when we talk about “zombies” in the world of Oz we’re referring not to the traditional brain-hungry zombies made so famous by the Romero films, but of conformist zombies… the ones like you and me that occupy a world controlled by powerful people who manipulate us through fear and deception. That’s the thematic core I’m planning to explore with the game – and one that featured heavily in the original Baum books.

So far the reaction to the announcement in the game media has been positive. Though it’s difficult to say the same about the comments from core gamers on those sites. Seriously guys, if you can’t come up with anything better than “he sucks, he made Bad Day LA” then I don’t think I’m the one you should be calling unoriginal.

On a more positive note, for those of you interested in this new take on Oz, we’ve put together some really awesome backer rewards including hand-made steampunk goggles, printed art, physical toys and a wide variety of digital items. All the details can be found on the official Kickstarter page. A page for PayPal backers is being created and should be live soon as well.

10th Anniversary Vorpal Blade

Vorpal Blade (Epic Weapons 10th Anniversary Edition)

Kotaku’s Mike Fahey has announced the release of a Vorpal Blade to celebrate the 10th anniversary of “American McGee’s Alice”. From the post:

In American McGee’s Alice, an older, abuse-ravaged, mentally unstable Alice cuts a bloody path through an equally twisted Wonderland using her trust Vorpal Sword. Now Epic Weapons brings the Vorpal Sword to life.

Epic Weapons is creating the replica Vorpal Sword to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the release of American McGee’s Alice. When the game was originally released, Alice was portrayed on the cover holding a bloody version of the Vorpal Sword, though the image proved too disturbing and was soon replaced with a wand and later some playing cards.

Read the full article and join the comments on Kotaku HERE
Or join the balanced and rational conversation on Destructiod HERE

After reading, you can get your hands on a Vorpal Blade several ways.
Purchase at Epic Weapons
Auction at Epic Weapons

You can also see the Blade at the Epic Booth during this year’s Comic Con. More info can be found in the press release.

iPhone Developer “Spicy Pony” Launched

Spicy Pony Logo

Spicy Pony Logo

Quick on the heels of news that the iPhone is gaining traction in China, Shanghai-based Spicy Horse gives birth to a mobile division aptly named “Spicy Pony“. Last week the Pony quietly released its first app – the unique brain trainer “DexIQ“. This week it makes official its entry into the iPhone arena with an eye towards developing entertainment, game and social apps for the Asian and Western markets.

To celebrate we’re making DexIQ FREE for a limited time (weekend of the 18th, December ’09).

Like many others, I was using an iPhone in China long before China Unicom’s official launch of the handset (October 30, ’09). Before the launch, conservative estimates put iPhone penetration in China around 1.5 million – some say as many as 3 million. But these are “gray market” phones, meaning they were sold in Hong Kong then brought into China, jail-broken and resold.

China Unicom iPhone sales hit 100,000 as of last week (December 11th, ’09). At that rate they’ll sell over 600,000 phones per year – and that’s without added momentum from price reductions, new features, killer apps, and the diminishing appeal of gray market phones. I’m going to be non-conservative here and guess that official iPhone sales will have surpassed 1 million units by this time next year. Things that will help drive iPhone sales for China Unicom:

* Young Chinese see cell phones as fashion accessories and love to update every 3 to 6 months.
* Most high-end cell phones here are the price of the iPhone (Chinese youth and professionals have been spending 300-800USD on phones for several years).
* Unicom is offering amnesty for gray market phone owners – allowing them to switch to legit accounts while gaining access to 3G.
* Better and faster network performance from anywhere will gain importance as people see their friends leveraging such access.
* Rumors abound that Unicom will unlock WiFi before long, when that happens watch out!
* More and cooler China-specific apps will drive interest in the device (as happened in the US).

For me, the biggest hurdle in switching was that I had to change my cell phone number. In China numbers are a big deal – everyone loves 8’s (very auspicious) – so phone numbers, license plate numbers and the like are chosen carefully and coveted. Fortunately, there’s little interest in 6’s, so I was able to secure a sweet ‘666’ number. Now that I’m on the new network I couldn’t be happier. It’s fast, reliable and price competitive – especially when compared to the so-so performance I was getting with my iPhone on China Mobile’s GPRS network.

For Spicy Pony, the rapidly expanding Chinese iPhone market is a phenomenal boon. Our studio and expertise are perfectly aligned to address the new Chinese and existing Western markets. It’s an exciting time to jump into the fray. We’re going to leverage our talents against development of original concepts for China and the West – and we’re cooking up a big license-based game I’m sure everyone will find quite wonderful.

Keep an eye on the Spicy Pony site for details and updates.

Check out the new Spicy Pony Website!
Check out the latest Spicy Pony game DexIQ!

And remember, DexIQ is FREE for a limited time. Enjoy!

The Return of Alice

Alice - Snail Fight

Alice Sequel – Snail Fight Image

Waking up in Shanghai this morning I’m greeted with a flood of emails, facebook messages, and phone calls. The world now knows what we here at Spicy Horse have known for some time: We’re making a sequel to “American McGee’s Alice” with Electronic Arts (EAP to be exact).

Not much can be said about the new project at this time. We are building it here in Shanghai. RJ Berg, who wrote the original and served as Executive Producer on the project, will reprise that role. The game will be delivered on PC, PS3, and 360. More details will come later of course. Until then, you can read the official press release. Or read EA’s official news blurb.

For me and the studio this obviously represents huge news. The original Alice was a good bit of fun – and aspects of the original are still quite compelling. The challenge for us – to build a great game, and a sequel worthy of the original – is real, but not daunting. Over the past few years we’ve assembled a really amazing team. I have full faith in their ability to create something amazing.

For me, this is a dream come true. The project will be fun, the studio can grow (and move – check out my flickr for pics of our new space), and we’ll eventually ship something unique. Lots of potential wrapped up in this news – I know I’ll be doing everything I can to make something great of it.

Check back here or in the forums for future updates. Can’t say I expect there to be much more news for a while – probably months. But if it’s allowed, I try to post some project updates, art, etc.

Also, a quick word of thanks to everyone at EA, EAP, CAA, and Weissman Wolff for everything they did to get this deal done.

And, we’re still looking for a few good people to join the team at Spicy Horse. Check out the hiring section for more info.

BaiJiu Racer Concept Announcement

Widescreen BaiJiu Race

Bai Jiu Racing

Today we’re going to try something a little different: Pitching a video game concept!

Traditionally when I’ve pitched game concepts the process involved face-to-face meetings with potential publishers, use of our agents (CAA) back in Los Angeles, and lots of traveling. Well, I’m getting old, China is FAR from the rest of the world, and the Internet can do a lot of amazing things, so here’s a game pitch for the next generation:

Announcing “BaiJiu Racer” – An MMO-lite racing game concept with China as the core theme. The concept has been in focused pre-production for the past three months here at Spicy Horse. Working with our Chinese publishing partner ICEE we’ve crafted a solid Game Design Document, Technical Design Document, Art Bible, Visual Target Demo, and Development Plan. Together these materials constitute a compelling pitch for a title we think will be a strong competitor in the worldwide, lite-MMO, online racing category (think “Kart Racer”).

A lot of teams dream of a “Mario Cart” or “KartRider” killer – and we think our concept goes a long ways towards being a viable contender. For one, it’s the first Chinese cart racing game developed with an authentic and original Chinese art style, set in real-world locations, and featuring some of the funkiest racing vehicle designs the world has ever seen (inspiration coming from actual Chinese vehicles). We’re focusing on semi-realistic (and fun) physics-based racing dynamic, going light on the power-ups, and throwing in a lot of visual action. Check out the art and video to see the result.

A few key features and differentiators:
* Distinctive art style featuring a timeless portrayal of everyday Chinese people and locations
* A clean and clear graphic style for UI
* Core gameplay focused on skill-based racing, avoiding fun-killing power-ups
* Strong narrative backbone and emotional drama – “everyone can be a hero”
* Unique and interesting vehicle designs based on real-life Chinese vehicles
* Track locations that reveal a China few foreigners have seen
* Risk reduction in production through use of 3rd-party tools and engine (UE3)
* A fast and efficient project schedule built on Spicy’s proven development processes

Our Chinese publishing partner ICEE has a lock on the publishing rights in China. What we’re looking for now is a publisher interested in the remaining world-wide rights. We might also be open to territory specific deals with the right partners.

To learn more about BaiJiu Racer and what’s on offer, you can do the following:

Visit my Flickr Account to view a collection of concept artwork related to the project.

Visit my YouTube Channel to watch a video of sample game play, primarily intended to show the art style working in-engine.

Finally, email me to request information (GDD, TDD, budget, schedule, etc) relevant to deciding if the publishing rights are a fit for you.

Spicy Horse has established itself as one of the strongest independent game developers in China. Following the success of Grimm we’re growing and expanding to leverage our core talents, process oriented development methods, and inspirational location. If you’re interested in learning more about the studio, our capabilities, and our ideas, let me know!