Category Archives: Featured

Adventures in Sailing

When not making games I engage in a wide range of hobbies, mostly as a humble dilettante: cooking, cello, electronics tinkering, and Chinese language to name a few. By far my favorite activity outside of work is sailing, and since late 2013 I’ve indulged this passion aboard my own sailboat. Details of my various adventures along with video and pictures can be found on a dedicated blog, here:

SV-Synchronicity Blog

And here’s an example of one of the many sailing adventure videos you can find on the site:

Koh Racha Sailing and Diving Trip from American McGee on Vimeo.

I have thought many times of combining game development with sailing. Imagine a sort of “Sailboat Studios,” made up of a small flotilla of boats, each crewed by a small number of game developers. This group would sail around, spend a few hours each day working on their game project, and spend the rest of the time exploring and adventuring together. Having now spent some time aboard doing both, I think the two ideas have some very interesting synergies.

More on this topic in the future. 🙂

The Gate iOS Worldwide Launch

Spicy Horse Games is proud to present The Gate for iOS, now available globally.

The Gate uniquely combines Real Time Strategy (RTS) and Card Collecting Game (CCG) mechanics. Battles are rendered in hand animated 3D while collectable cards are presented as beautifully illustrated artistic masterpieces. Solo battles provide a chance to strengthen your army, while Raids, Arena Battles, and World Bosses get your friends in on fight.

Grab it NOW for FREE on the iTunes store!

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

Game Designers in BigHead Bash

The newest brand in BigHead Bash brings you Tim Schafer, Will Wright, Ian Livingstone, John Romero and me, all ready to battle with our weapons of choice.

We think outside the box, we fight outside the box!
You can choose your favorite game designer (me?) and bash the competition inside a NEW MODE and MAP: Capture Point – Jungle.

These and a lot of tweaks and performance optimizations are waiting for you!

Click here to play

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!