Category Archives: Grimm

Grimm Postmortem

Models & Animations Pipeline

Models & Animation Pipeline

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!

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.

Grimm Episode 16 – Christmas Carol

2008 Christmas Card

Ugly Christmas Baby

It’s that wonderful time of year again – time for another episode of Grimm! And something else… oh yeah, CHRISTMAS! And wouldn’t you know it, Grimm has a special treat for you! Is it a lump of coal? A stick? Nah! He’s cooked up a special presentation of “A Christmas Carol”. Not only does this episode deliver some critical commentary on the commercial “celebration” we call Christmas (joyful alliteration!), but it wraps up this “season of 8” – bringing us to 16 episodes in total! How’s that for weekly episodic content?!

But as usual you don’t have to take my word for any of this. Take a read at what David Craddock over on BigDownload has to say:

“In fairness, when Grimm Season Two was good, it was great. Episodes such as The Master Thief, The Pied Piper and Iron John are some of the most enjoyable casual gaming romps I’ve experienced — quite a feat, considering the plethora of free flash-based games available within the Internet’s many tubes. The conclusion of Season Two, A Christmas Carol, isn’t one of the series’ best offerings, but its excellent art direction, as well as its depressingly truthful analysis of the true meaning of Christmas circa 2008, does make it quite entertaining.”

So there you go. When it was good, it was great. And when it was just released, it was FREE. On top of all that, it was predictable, easily accessible, and unlike anything else out there. Pretty good first year of Grimm if you ask me. More fun stuff in store for next year.

In the meantime, check out Grimm, Episode 16, “A Christmas Carol”.

Now with all that Grimm stuff out of the way – I just wanted to take a moment to say, “Thank you!”. To all the people at GameTap who made Grimm happen. From Ricardo who gave it the green light to Roger who watched over its production. From Trent and Wendy who publicized it and marketed it. Of course MANY huge thanks to the dedicated team at Spicy Horse. Without their creative vision, process-driven production, and technical brilliance, Grimm would be nothing more than a little grumpy dwarf twinkle in my eye.

Last but not least, thank YOU! The Grimm audience. You guys have been great – providing feedback, praise, and criticism in all the right places. You made Grimm a truly interactive development process. Your comments were read, they mattered, and they impacted the product we were building in a real (and real-time) way. It’s been great to have you along.

Here’s wishing everyone a happy, safe, and healthy Holiday!

Grimm Episode 15 – The Pied Piper

Rat Hole

Rat Hole with Poo

Grimm episodes just keep on coming! You might ask yourself, “How do they do it!? How can they release week after week of awesome, original, episodic content?” Because we’re a machine my friend. A machine. Oh wait, that was last week when “Iron John” was on offer. This week it’s… let’s see… rats! Lots and lots of rats in fact, as Grimm perturbs Piper in Episode 15, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”. Eeek!

And like any good Grimm episode announcement, this one is accompanied by a review from our old friend David Craddock at BigDownload:

“The Pied Piper isn’t the best Grimm entry, but it is one of few episodes that deviates from its typical formula. Even those familiar with the tale will enjoy racing to the end to see what American McGee and his Spicy Horse cohorts have in store for the children, and those unfamiliar with the story will have even more reason to push forward.”

Not the best, but not the same. Hey, not bad!

Head over to GameTap, Stimulus, or TryGames and give it a nibble. You might like it – even if it is a bit cheesy.

Grimm Episode 14 – Iron John

Iron John

He said he’d be back!

Another week, another Grimm, another review. Episode 14 revisits the tale of “Iron John”, a convoluted, confusing, and somewhat dissatisfying tale in its original form. Of course Grimm is all about getting satisfaction and it seems the duller the original tale, the more interesting the Grimm result. John Callaham over at Big Download seems to agree and says,

“It’s been a long time since I have genuinely enjoyed an episode of American McGee’s Grimm. That’s not to say that any have been terrible, but rather that the formula seems to have run its course. American McGee’s Grimm: Iron John doesn’t stray far from the established mechanics of the series, but the way it deviates from the titular fairy tale, as well as how the world changes based on direct player interaction, makes it an enjoyable casual adventure.”

Mr. Callaham’s “dissatisfaction” with some of the more standard episodes is understandable. Grimm as a game has been finding its feet, exploring different game play ideas, and all the while trying to keep the promise of fresh weekly episodic content. Delivering on some areas of this promise is easier than others – innovating on game play can be difficult once the concept gets locked into a core mechanic.

I think a large part of the fresh infusion of cool new ideas has come out of the increased involvement of the studio’s latest Creative Director – Ben Kerslake. With fresh blood comes new ideas and the results are obvious. You can see for yourself in this latest and greatest episode.

Remember, episodes of Grimm continue to be offered for free on the day of launch (for 24 hours), and are then available for free to Gametap subscribers. You can also find Grimm on other download sites like Stimulus and TryGames.