Off the Map in China

Off The Map in China

Off the Map in China

Gamasutra has posted an interview by Christian Nutt with your truly. It begins with…

Famous for his work with id Software and on EA-published cult classic Alice, American McGee set up shop in Shanghai, China, in 2007 with his new studio, Spicy Horse. Though the company’s first game, Grimm, for the GameTap digital service didn’t make a big splash, McGee maintains that developing the game was instrumental in setting up a tightly-run and efficient organization in China, one which has helped him reexamine the very process of developing games.

In fact, McGee suggests that most of what developers know about working in China is wrong. He suggests that process can lead to a crunch-free environment and great quality games — his team is currently working on a sequel to Alice for EA, for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

Says McGee, “EA has talked about trying to figure out how it is we’re doing what we’re doing, because clearly they’re looking at what we’re doing and they’re seeing us hit all the milestones and come in ahead of time, and come in high quality, and everything that they could ask for from a development team. [But] I don’t know if you could export it.”

Christian and I go on to talk about life and work in China, cultural and development impacts on starting and running a studio in Shanghai, and more. You can read the full article here.

Also, if you’re interested in some of the thinking that originally inspired me to move to China, I suggest you check out “Affluenza: The All Consuming Epidemic” The book examines how American culture has become obsessed with consumption – and how it’s destroying people’s ability to be happy with themselves and what they have.

Grimm Episode 22 – Thumbling

Thumbling Horse Profile

Horse Cross Section

And here you thought Grimm was finished! Well, I would have thought so too… I mean, he was *supposed* to be finished a few weeks ago. But it seems the guys over at Gametap needed to put the final episodes on hold while they revamped their site. So Grimm had to wait, but wait no more!

Behold, Episode 22 – Thumbling! To say this is a twisted episode would be a huge understatement. Just one look at that bit of key concept artwork, and you’ll know where going places no previous game has gone before. Probably with good reason.

But this episode, like many of the final-season episodes, has brought together a tight collection of the best game play mechanics, art production, and narrative delivery. In short, this is a great (if gross) episode. Head over to Gametap and check it out.

Direct link to the episode @ Gametap: HERE

And be sure to tune in next week when we deliver THE FINAL EPISODE!

The Grimm End is Near

Grimmvite Poster

The Grimm End is Near

Well folks, after 2 amazing years of innovative and exciting development, Grimm production is wrapping up. To celebrate, we’ll be hosting a Grimm “wrap party” at Spicy Horse, this Friday the 13th of March (appropriate, no?). If you happen to be in the neighborhood, stop by to enjoy pizza, drinks, and some Grimm-themed games (who can pee the furthest, make it stinkiest, etc).

Approaching this milestone in Grimm development fills me with a bizarre mixture of emotions. It’s always good to see a development through, finish it knowing all milestones were met, schedules kept, and a good game (or episodes) were delivered. Grimm is no exception. Grimm also brought with it the creation of a new studio in Shanghai, the building of a tremendously capable team, and the evolution of a beautiful company culture. We learned a ton, took some knocks, delivered some interesting content, and came out the other side – with a cool new project to show for it!

I’m really proud of Grimm. I’m even more proud of the team that built Grimm. Every person who contributed to the project deserves to be applauded for how they made the product (and the studio) into what it is today. Awesome work!

There are still a few new episodes yet to come. Be sure to check them out over on Gametap – some really fun stuff coming up!

Grimm Episode 17: Frog Prince

Frog Crowned

Ribbit! Frog Prince.

Grimm’s Back! And this time he’s brought along a bucket-full of slimy friends. Episode 17 visits “The Frog Prince”, and kicks off the final season of 8. We’re heading towards the finish line… hard to believe we’ve made it this far.

If you’ve not yet had a chance to check out Grimm, or only saw him back in the early days, be sure to play through these later episodes. The team have really pulled out all the stops, piled on all the tricks, and created some truly spectacular episodes. This batch is by the the best yet.

Check out Episode 17, “Frog Prince” HERE.
And check out all the other Grimm fun HERE.

Episodic Development with UE3

Grimm Production Timelines

Grimm Time Lines

Develop Magazine is running an article highlighting the episodic development of Grimm using the Unreal Engine 3 technology. From the article:

McGee’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.

“This 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,” explained McGee.

“Because 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.”

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!

Grimm Comics from IDW

School Book

Grimm Book

Cool news out of California: Grimm is coming to comics! From the article on MSNBC, “SAN DIEGO, CA – Celebrated game designer American McGee’s Grimm, an episodic videogame that debuted on GameTap, offers gamers the chance to create darkness across traditionally lighter fairy tales. And now Grimm, the game’s macabre dwarf who wreaks havoc on these fairy-tale tableaus, will be unleashed in a new comic book series coming from IDW Publishing in April 2009.”

The comics are being written by Dwight MacPherson and illustrated by Grant Bond. The work I’ve seen from the guys so far is really impressive, so I’m expecting (as you should) these comics to be a lot of fun.

The MSNBC article goes on to describe the theme of the comics, which, “will find Grimm invading — and forever changing — the worlds of romance comics, westerns, teenage high-school comics, and anthropomorphic comics. In each issue, Bond’s art style will reflect the archetypal art form of these traditional universes before Grimm’s dark influence fully takes over the comic.”

You can read more about the comics on the IDW Website.