This article on Microsoft.com mentions Spicy Horse as a studio “leading the way” in Episodic Games. Cool! Read it here.
Gamasutra is featuring a lengthy postmortem of “Grimm”. The article was primarily written by Grimm’s producer Wim Coveliers with contributions by all of the Spicy Horse team. It does a good job in detailing the high-level things that went right and wrong during the production of Grimm. From the article:
Going into production, we knew we had a lot on our hands: we were going to develop the world’s first weekly episodic game, and we had exactly one year before the first episodes were scheduled to air.
Since nobody had done a project with these variables, we had to create most of our scheduling and pipelines from scratch, based on the team’s instincts and varied experience.
Now, a year and a half after starting development of our prototype, eight episodes of Grimm have been released; sixteen more episodes will be distributed in the next several months.
The game has been very well received: it has become the best-selling game on the GameTap service, and with plans to bring it to other digital distribution platforms, the future looks very bright for Grimm (however much he hates bright things himself!)
And while the article provides some interesting insights, it barely scratches the surface of the story – the energy, ideas, pain, and joy that went into building a new studio in China while developing a first-of-kind episodic game. One thing that always amazes me are the personal stories carried by the individuals in our team – the backgrounds, travels, adventures, loves, losses, and other unique elements that make the people, and in turn the team, what they are… A really beautiful thing.
I’m proud to have been a part of it all. And hopeful for what the future holds in store for Spicy Horse. As we head into the New Year (Chinese!), I’m wishing everyone prosperity, health, and happiness.
Bring on the Year of the Cow! Moo!
McGeeâ€™s core team explored several engines before settling on Unreal Engine 3 and ultimately found that they were able to integrate content and achieve the visual results they wanted faster and easier with Unreal Engine 3.
â€œThis was primarily attributable to the superior reference materials, tutorials, and content pipeline and tools. Once our decision was made, attracting other team members with UE3 experience and gaining critical knowledge on our own was easy,â€ explained McGee.
â€œBecause Grimm is such an experimental game concept, rapid prototyping was essential to proving our new ideas. Being able to quickly build a world from near-final content allowed us to focus on the challenges of implementing original ideas.â€
If you’re interested in how we pulled off on-time development and distribution of 12 hours of episodic content, while building a studio from the ground up, AND being in a foreign land – then you’ll want to check out the full article. I will say a lot of our success is owed to the robustness of the UE3 toolset.
Attached to this article you’ll see a time-line which roughly illustrates the cycles our production went through in order to accomplish our development goals. This time line only gives a broad picture and a little detail related to Level Design production. There were in fact many similar time lines running concurrently through all departments, including Concept Art, Asset Production, Animation, and Programming.
Soon we’ll release a Post Mortem on the Grimm project which goes into more detail about the development of Grimm. Keep an eye out for it!
Just read an interesting blurb over at videogamer.com in which Wheelman Creative Director Simon Woodroffe comments on one of the biggest challenges in making effective use of off-the-shelf engine technology. He says:
“… you know, the biggest factor that hasn’t been touched upon in recent articles is the shared knowledge. We have 600 to 700 devs, all with Unreal experience, all working for the same company, all of whom can talk to each other. When we hit a problem, we have more people working on the engine than anybody – by a long way. And we have a massive pool of resources to draw upon. At least one team has dealt with pretty much every feature you might want in a next-gen game. Which means that we, as designers, are in a great position – because we can actually build games to be games, not just technology showcases any more,”
Now there are two things I find interesting about this. First that James Orry, the guy writing the article, decided to turn Simon’s insightful comments into mudslinging – by giving the article this headline: “Midway: Secret game looks ‘better’ than Gears 2”. Ahem. That’s not the point. But then videogamer.com isn’t Gamasutra, and perhaps we shouldn’t expect anything different from a news site targeted at gamers, not game makers.
Next, I’d like to say “amen” to the idea of shared knowledge! Be it within a development studio where there are multiple teams, or within a publishing organization where there are teams spread around the world, or within the industry – between two “rival” companies who are using the same technology. Honestly, I think the industries “lack of sharing” is one of the biggest spoilers to rapid advancement of games as an art form.
Think about it this way: When film makers get together to do their thing they pull together a “one time use” team made up of the best people they can get their hands on. People from all over the world converge on a project – a DP from London, a Director from LA, a Writer from Sydney, and a whole crew of visual effects people, technicians, lighting people, etc, etc. Each and every one of them bringing unique and valuable knowledge from their personal history of making films.
Compare this to the game industry where people don’t bounce around project-to-project and where our toolsets might vary widely from studio to studio and generation to generation (of code and hardware). In an environment like ours it makes sense to pool our knowledge and share our resources – especially when so many of us are using a common tool like the Unreal Engine.
Epic does what they can to foster this sort of sharing with their UDN (Unreal Developers Network). But developers and publishers could and should go one step further by pushing their knowledge, their tools, and their solutions to interesting problems and challenges out to communal repositories. Who wouldn’t love to “harvest” the latest and greatest tricks from recently released titles? And why not? Once a cool concept is released in a retail product other are going to do their best to copy it. Nothing is truly proprietary for long.
Our goal as an industry is to entertain. We do that by making the most immsersive and compelling entertainment products possible. And doing so requires a huge wealth of knowledge which every team in the world possesses bits of pieces of. Sharing knowledge with each other would help our studios, nurture the industry, and ultimately deliver better games to audience.
We do some pretty amazing things as individual teams – imagine what we might do as a unified industry force.