Tag Archives: ozombie

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.

Message in a Bottle

I sometimes feel like a castaway on a deserted island. Surrounded by water, without a drop to drink. From the vantage of a passing cruise ship my situation looks idyllic, I’m a happy man in his own private tropical paradise. If only that mirrored the reality of my existence: marooned, desperate for rain and talking to seashells. A misconception wrapped in a conundrum that would drive many people mad.

My life is viewed like that island – as being a private paradise, wanting for nothing, enjoying the ease and fortune and fame that comes with “having your name on the box.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, I once worked for uber-successful companies like id Software and Electronic Arts, even had brief moments of (some would say undeserved) fame.

The reality is that I’ve worked for 12 years (out of 20 in the industry) as an independent game developer, far away from the safety and certainty of a well established corporate HQ. Being independent means my income isn’t guaranteed. Neither is my development work. It’s a constant, ongoing effort to secure business for myself and my studio. These efforts have produced games, but not security. Because most of the work I’ve done as an indie has been under standard publisher-development agreements, the support only lasts until the game is delivered.

To understand the challenge of this existence, look no further than my first months living in Shanghai. I’d spent every dime of my savings to get across the Pacific and build a new life for myself. To survive while working to secure a new development deal I lived on less than $5 a day and rode on the back of someone else’s bike. I tell this not to paint a picture of woe, I genuinely enjoyed those days of humble struggle, but to illustrate for you the truth of who I am. Not wealthy, not a name on a box, not someone with a sense of entitlement or a massive ego. Just a person, like you, overcoming obstacles so that I can have a chance to do the work I love.

This is my message in a bottle, an attempt at wiping out those misconceptions that keep me trapped on this island.

Now that we’re seeking funding via Kickstarter we might have a chance at something better. Self-publishing to web, mobile and via platforms like Steam and Kongregate also helps increase our chances of actually turning a profit. These efforts cannot be successful without a broad understanding of who I am, what Spicy Horse is about as a studio and the support that comes with those things. Support from you, from fans of the “Alice” games, from supporters of independent game development , from those who would like to see the traditional publishing models disrupted so that unique ideas can have a chance.

Please, do what you can to spread the word. Tell your friends, family and seashells that Spicy Horse needs their support to get OZombie made and to continue making unique content for many years to come.

American Interview: Chris Vrenna

Continuing with a series of interviews geared towards support of our ongoing OZombie Kickstarter campaign, I’ve asked musician Chris Vrenna a couple of questions. Chris and I met back in the day, while I was at id Software and he was banging drums for Nine Inch Nails. He was instrumental (pun intended) in establishing the tone for the first “Alice” game and I’ve been a fan of his work (Tweaker and other projects) for years. To the interview!

AJM: Let’s start off by getting out of the way some of the basics… Who you are and what you’ve been up to since you made the soundtrack for the first “Alice” game over 10 years ago?

CV: I am Chris Vrenna. I scored your first “American McGee’s Alice” game over 10 years ago. I can’t believe how long it’s been! I have had a pretty amazing post-Alice decade. I released three records by my side project, tweaker. tweaker is primarily a studio collaborative project where I have been fortunate enough to work with many of my personal idols. Robert Smith, David Sylvian, Will Oldham, and Johnny Marr to name a few. I also spent an amazing year or so drumming for Gnarls Barkley. Their single “Crazy” was a massive #1 hit in almost every country in the world. I was honored to play with, and become friends with CeeLo and Dangermouse. And I spent 7 years working with Marilyn Manson. I co-produced and co-wrote the last two records and toured the world as either drummer or keyboard player numerous times. In my “free time” I take on remixing, programming, and/or mixing projects.

AJM: You’re attached to the OZombie Kickstarter campaign as a “Stretch Goal.” Have you ever been a goal of any sort or particularly stretchy? How does it feel to be a Stretch Goal on a KS campaign?

CV: I have never been a goal, “stretch” or otherwise, on a KS campaign. And I am SO excited to once again team up with you (American) to score OZombie. I am the opposite of having any “stretchy” abilities, except maybe time-stretching samples! (Insert rimshot sound effect here.)

AJM: It’s a little early for final thoughts on many things related to the project, but have you had any early thoughts on directions you might take with the music for OZombie? We promise not to hold you too severely to any ideas you might express here.

CV: Wow! It is definitely a little early to talk specifics. But, I am SO inspired by all the early concept art I’ve seen. Like with all your games, the design is so vivid it instantly gets my brain spinning with ideas for both sound palettes and melodies.

AJM: You had a chance to visit Spicy Horse Games in Shanghai back in 2009 (is that right?). Can you share some of the impressions you took away about Shanghai?

CV: I believe it was 2009. It was my first, and still to this day, my only visit to China. I found Shanghai so fascinating and was surprised by how varied the city is culturally and architecturally. The ancient city, the European riverfront, and the incredibly futuristic business district just show the long history of Shanghai.

AJM: What do you do when you’re not creating music? Any hobbies or past-times you’d like to share? Any links between those hobbies and the inspiration you find to make music?

CV: My passion is art. I buy and collect as much art as I can. There is such a connection when a piece of art (whether painting, sculpture, photography, etc) grabs you and draws you to it. It becomes so personal and that’s when you know you just have to buy it so you can feel that connection forever.

AJM: Lastly, do you have a favorite character from the Oz books or films? If so, why?

CV: I have a few favorites. First has to be the flying monkeys. They were the most terrifying creatures as a child. And, at 46 years old, I STILL find them scary. And I have always had a soft spot for the Cowardly Lion. Can’t really put it into words, but I always empathized with him. maybe because I was picked on in school.

OZombie Kickstarter Launch

After several months of planning, negotiating and teasing we’ve announced our next Kickstarter campaign and it’s OZombie. The campaign page describes the game concept as:

OZombie is a narrative-driven action-adventure game set within an alternate version of the Oz universe created by L. Frank Baum. The game’s themes and characters are inspired by Baum’s deeply imaginative books (all 14 of them!) then filtered through the story and art treatment you’ve seen applied to our other games like Alice: Madness Returns and Akaneiro: Demon Hunters.

We’ve set our target at $950kUSD and a campaign length of 42 days. Why 42? Because that’s the number of Oz books in the official canon – plus it’s the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything. Anyway, it seemed like a good number.

I’m obviously pretty excited about the campaign and the prospect of returning to the Land of Oz. Years ago I made an attempt at developing a game based on Oz only to have it canceled half-way through by Atari. They claimed to be running out of money, something they seem to do every couple of years. The rights to that project have been tied up ever since – which meant that this new Oz needed to be as different from the old one as possible. Pretty sure with the inclusion of “zombies” in the title we’ve made the difference insanely clear.

Yeah, I know there are too many zombie games in the world today. Couldn’t agree more! Just keep in mind that when we talk about “zombies” in the world of Oz we’re referring not to the traditional brain-hungry zombies made so famous by the Romero films, but of conformist zombies… the ones like you and me that occupy a world controlled by powerful people who manipulate us through fear and deception. That’s the thematic core I’m planning to explore with the game – and one that featured heavily in the original Baum books.

So far the reaction to the announcement in the game media has been positive. Though it’s difficult to say the same about the comments from core gamers on those sites. Seriously guys, if you can’t come up with anything better than “he sucks, he made Bad Day LA” then I don’t think I’m the one you should be calling unoriginal.

On a more positive note, for those of you interested in this new take on Oz, we’ve put together some really awesome backer rewards including hand-made steampunk goggles, printed art, physical toys and a wide variety of digital items. All the details can be found on the official Kickstarter page. A page for PayPal backers is being created and should be live soon as well.