Critter Academy – Android Launch

Spicy Horse is proud to announce the launch of “Critter Academy” for Android devices.

Tower Defense meets RPG meets Deck Building Action with beautiful 3D art. Collect and train Critters. Battle in real time against friends from around the world. Establish a Guild and challenge others in the Tournaments. Defend and rule the Critterdom!

Critter Academy is the most prestigious university in the Critterdom. Students from around the realm travel here to learn the skills and magic necessary to compete in Critter battles.

As your battle skills improve, you’ll travel to new parts of the Critterdom, making friends and battling ever more powerful Critters.

Prepare to be pulled into a story spanning the history of the realm and the origin of the Critters. From the Critter miners in the lowest caverns to the royal family in the highest castles, this tale will take you on an epic journey of power and deceit.


As we enter the 2nd week of 2016, Critter Academy marks the 7th release of a F2P mobile game from the development team at Spicy Horse Games in Shanghai. After 9 years in business, with the last 5 years focused on the development of F2P mobile games. We’ve launched some good games, made a lot of mistakes, learned many valuable lessons. Critter Academy is the distillation of all the learning – and I believe it’s the best mobile game we’ve made to date.

Grab Critter Academy for Android via the Google Play Store.

iOS version is scheduled for launch late January 2016.

News Flash: Things Cost Money

I read an excerpt from an upcoming interview with Strategy Informer on the topic of our OZombie Kickstarter Campaign. Apparently, in view of what’s happening with Double Fine, my honest suggestion that Spicy Horse might seek additional funding above and beyond what’s raised on Kickstarter, is a bad thing. There’s enough attention on this topic that this excerpt from the larger interview was published prior to the main article… here’s a bit of it:

While $950,000 may seem like a lot of money, but it’s not a massive amount when it comes to making games. Spicy Horse have recently started a Kickstarter for the Oz-set game titled OZombie and eyebrows have been raised at the scope versus the goal price.

We spoke with lead designer American McGee and he suggested that the price would only be to start the game and fund a few chapters. After that they would need to get further funding, including the possibility of publishing deals which might upset a few backers.

Just want to say to all the press, public and others who are gnashing their fangs at Kickstarter, Double Fine and anyone they think look “fishy,” you can’t have it both ways. You can’t complain about big publishers and their bad business models – highlighting all the times they’ve pushed overpriced, buggy, unfinished product onto the shelves in hopes of a quick buck. Then when an indie developer lays bare their business model and struggles, crucify them for taking risks and being honest. In both cases the hyperbole is through the roof and completely unproductive.

“Kickstarter is done!” “Consoles are dead!” “Always Online is the devil child of DRM!” “Get the pitchforks and burn Microsoft!” “She’s a witch!” “Early Access is a scam!” “Publishers are evil!” “F2P is evil!” “Mobile phones are Lucifer’s gaming device!” “Game developer are the devil!” “Moar COD!” “Sequels! Kill them with fire!” On and on and on… these chants of rage make it so no one can do anything right. Any attempt at honesty or innovation is met with derision and contempt. Even the slightest mistake must be repaid by public lynching or Hara-Kiri.

What’s going on here? Why are we so bent on finding enemies and destroying them? What’s happened to civility and constructive debate? Could it be true… all this video-game playing HAS had a significant psychological impact on us all? Are we unable to go through a day without seeing a bag of MacDonald’s as a power-up and misquoted game developer as a demon from hell who must be beheaded with a shotgun and cast into a lake of lava? Why are gamers becoming so antagonistic, combative and resistant to constructive engagement? Have all those hours spent destroying and killing rotted our brains and turned us into robotic griefers?

Note to the online kill squads:

Developers aren’t your enemies. They’re just people, like you, trying to make a living doing what they love. Publishers aren’t the spawn of Satan. They’re just corporations trying to compete with other corporations for your wallet, soul and first born. Accept these things and the world around you. Not everything should be answered with criticism, negativity and buckshot to the face.

The games you play cost HUGE amounts of money to develop and market. Productions are insanely complex, which means there are many places where they can breakdown or fail. Outcomes aren’t predictable, so that money to fund these things is nearly impossible to come by. Simply put, this shit is hard.

Things are going to go sideways and sometimes horribly wrong. Instead of wanting to murder someone when they level with you about these facts, embrace them. The choice is yours – support transparency, honesty and constructive involvement… or don’t complain when the industry shrugs and shifts back to a model dominated by monolithic, uncaring publishers.

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

Hungry And Lazy Developers

Read this morning an article entitled “Hacker Exploits iOS Flaw for Free In-app Purchases.” First thing that struck me is the language being used to describe what this guy has done. He’s a “hacker” who is “exploiting” something called a “flaw” to get something for “free”. Inadvertently (or not?) the writer has cast this character as someone who has done no wrong, only what’s natural given who he is and the environment he lives in. It’s somehow considered normal that a weakness in the system can and should be exploited for gain and reported in such glowing terms. Think about it for a second – this is like justifying a mugging because the victim didn’t know kung-fu. Or patting a bank robber on the head for finding an ingenious way to circumvent security systems and loot a vault filled with other peoples’ savings. Under other circumstances the headline would be: “Thief Steals From Unsuspecting Victims.” What’s going on here?

In the article the hacker, named Borodin, is given a chance to explain his motives:

So why did Borodin do this? “It’s my hobby,” he said. “And it’s a challenge to CSR Racing.” That’s an iOS game with a freemium model; though the game is free to download, it offers a slew of in-app purchases to unlock extra in-game options and features. Borodin disapproves. “I set this up due to hungry and lazy developers … I was very angry to see that CSR Racing developer taking money from me every single breath.”

This makes absolutely no sense – the developer doesn’t force anyone to play the game. They don’t unilaterally extract money from Borodin’s savings account. In fact, it’s Borodin who has himself become a literal thief: downloading a product, circumventing the payment channel and spreading the word on how others might do the same. Not only a thief, a theft enabler.

Hacking doesn’t bother me – white hats (hackers) are known to assist companies in strengthening their security by hacking then sharing gained knowledge with developers and the community. Borodin is given a soapbox that he then uses to justify his actions not because he’s trying to be helpful, but because he was “angry” at “hungry and lazy developers.” Let’s examine his motivation for a moment.

I’ve not actually played CSR Racing, but I did take a look at some game-play footage, screenshots and reviews. From what I can tell it’s a high quality offering with a slew of valuable licensed content (BMW, Audi, etc). The app and license content literally scream “hard working developer”. This is not the product of a lazy development team. Hungry? Maybe so. Certainly after Borodin shares with the world how to steal food from their table. Since when does someone being hungry justify stealing from them?

Anyway, I have a point to make here. Or more to the point, a question to ask: Why this anger towards developers? What’s happened to create the idea that it’s wrong to be hungry, build something of value then hope to monetize it? This isn’t an isolated event and I’m not trying to call out Borodin for what he’s done. He’s a small part of a larger problem. The environment in which we (as developers) live is comprised of players, media and developer/publishers. Players and media are frequently heard categorizing the freemium, F2P, item-based, business models as “taking money” AKA stealing. And when actual theft takes place the thief is given space to vent his anger and justify his actions. It’s backwards and crazy.

Now that Spicy Horse is getting into the F2P space I’m seeing a fair number of comments related to our product that sound similar:
“Free to play? Fuuu you!” “Rental system on items? Fuuu you!” “I have to earn tickets to purchase stuff? Fuuu you!” “I have to spend money to get valuable items? Fuuu you!!”.

You get the point. The entire F2P model is derided from top to bottom. Imagine the same thing being posted in the comments for a grocery store:
“Free sausage samples on isle 5? Fuuu you!” “Rental system on carpet cleaning machines? Fuuu you!” “I have to collect coupons to get discounts? Fuuu you!” “You mean I have to pay for the items on the shelves? Fuu!!!!”

The backlash against F2P games should look and feel as ridiculous as my grocery store analogies. Not the case in the West. Meanwhile, in China, Korea and other countries where F2P games are the norm, railing against in-game stores, weapon rentals and other aspects of the model would seem as pointless and silly as complaining that a grocery store doesn’t take kindly to shoplifting – no matter how elaborate and crafty your method for doing it.

I believe we’re in a transition phase and that people will, eventually, accept F2P as a consumption model for their games. In the meantime the industry as a whole is fighting against perceptions and positioning. My feeling is that developers and the media both have a responsibility to educate players on the virtues of the model while dispelling the myth that virtual item theft is somehow anything other than outright robbery. Call it what it is.

Would love to hear opinions in response to this – on either side of the argument. Maybe I’m ignoring a critical flaw in the F2P model? Maybe I’m overreacting to what’s “just” a virtual theft? Let me know! If possible, please refrain from arguing, “Just because! Fuuuu you!”

Cross Platform/Device Gaming

“Console guys are running scared,” says Will Wright in an interview over on Games Industry. In the interview Will is asked for his thoughts on cloud gaming, to which he replies,

Will Wright: I think that is going to be the future. People have so many devices they carry around. They have their tablets, their smartphones, their PC at home, their Xbox – I think that having a game that’s accessible on all these devices at any time is going to be much more sticky than something you have to go home and play on your PC or only play on your iPhone. I think in that general sense, it’s going to hit a much broader group of players than dedicated games.

I couldn’t agree more!

Play anywhere on anything against everyone using a single persistent account. With all the gaming devices we’re surrounded by and ubiquitous network access connecting them all together it’s surprising how no game has yet to achieve this goal. There have been a couple of near-hits like Buddy Rush; though these offer a single login and gameplay across multiple platforms they don’t offer simultaneous multiplayer. This last feature is (in my opinion) a sort of holy grail which has the potential to unite gamers across all platforms and devices inside shared persistent worlds.

Cross platform real-time multiplayer links together what were once the separate islands of iOS, Android and web into a single mass community. This will improve player acquisition and retention – and help make marketing dollars spent on a single product more effective across all platforms and devices. It should also result in more engaged (happy) users who are no longer blocked by platform/device barriers when wanting to engage with their friends in the cloud.

This goal has been Spicy’s focus since we left the world of AAA console titles and entered into the F2P, online market. This week I’m happy to announce our first (and I believe the world’s first) truly cross-platform/device game launch with “Crazy Fairies: One World“.

We’ll launch CF into Closed Beta the week of July 16th. If you’re interested in checking it out, head over to the website, register and jump right in! About a month after the launch of the web/online version we’ll publish mobile versions for iOS and Android devices. And as soon as we get our hands on the latest Unity tech you should expect to see an Ubuntu build as well!