Exclusive: Akaneiro’s Kickfinisher

American McGee has had as varied a career in gaming as any, helping to design levels on seminal shooters Doom and Quake, being the creative lead of the twisted yet whimsical Alice games, and leading development on the Grimm episodic series that originally released on GameTap. Now American has shifted focus to Akaneiro: Demon Hunters, a free-to-play title that adapts the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale set in the backdrop of Japanese legends and demons. As if that wasn’t enough, his development studio Spicy Horse has launched a Kickstarter for the game while it is a good ways into development (in fact, it’s already entered open beta). Even in Shanghai he’s an American original, and he was kind enough to answer some questions about Akaneiro.

Most game projects that are put up on Kickstarter are not even in early stages of production. What made you decide to put up Akaneiro on Kickstarter even though it’s well into development?

Because we’re weirdos and don’t like to do things like we’re supposed to! Breakfast buffet We go there for dinner! Kickstarter We turned it into Kicklauncher! Truth is, we’ve been thinking about using Kickstarter for quite a while, watching how other developers have approached it and taking notes on what’s been successful (or not). Throughout the learning process we realized that starting from scratch, especially on something where we don’t have an established track record (or other major questions might be raised about our approach), was a path to certain failure.

If I told you 18 months ago that Spicy Horse was going to shift from development on a console 3D platformer game (Alice: Madness Returns) to an ARPG delivered via the web (and mobile) and utilizing a F2P monetization model, you would have told me, “You can’t do that!” Without proof of our ability to deliver something so radically different from our previous work, a campaign like that would have crashed and burned quickly. By launching the game in the middle of the campaign we’ve been able to address that concern, plus benefit the project in a number of other ways like generating awareness and building solid connections with our audience.

That said, do you think the fact that having a real, working game to show off has benefited the Kickstarter?

American McGee: Absolutely! In fact, I think more developers should try this approach. If you’re able to get through 99 percent of development on your own and are then near launch, a Kickstarter campaign can be a real boost to awareness and engagement. It appears to work quite well with rewards being linked to in-game items as well. That aspect of it is something we’ve seen done very successfully here in China, where a big MMO might have a real-world auction of virtual items before the game is launched.

After all of your various experiences making games, what made you decide to go with a browser-based, free-to-play title this time?

Again, back to doing things differently for the sake of doing things differently. If I wanted to work on the same basic game over and over again, I would have stayed at EA. Nothing wrong with working at EA, they’ve got comfy chairs and the regular pay-checks are nice! Being independent means we can choose (within reason!) to pursue things people tell us we can’t or shouldn’t. Coming to China in the first place was like that. Building a studio in Shanghai was also met with a lot of, “You can’t do that!” It’s all about tackling new challenges and developing games we like to play.

Beyond that, my interest in the F2P, online model goes back to my first visits to China, nearly 10 years ago. I found hope in what I saw back then. The scene reminded me of how things were back before I even started in the industry . . . 20+ years ago. PC was king, swap meets were where you found the latest games and people socialized in real life around the games they were playing. That’s the only way it’s ever been here in China, and I figured moving here would be a good way to gain a better understanding of how the model might once again break us out of the retail-publisher choke hold.

What attracts you to doing “twisted” versions of children’s fables and fairy tales?

Actually, most of the tales I’ve worked with are pretty dark to start with. In some older versions of “Red Riding Hood,” for example, the wolf has rocks sewn into his belly and is then thrown into a deep river as punishment for attempting to eat Red and Granny. Even the Alice stories contain deep veins of dark material that most people ignore because they’ve only ever seen the Disney movie. My interest in these tales comes mainly from the fact that my own personal narrative style aligns nicely with the tone and presentation contained within them. It’s said that our personal narrative (or art) style is established when we’re young — and is often influenced by life between the ages of 6 and 12. For me, that was a time filled with diverse and often dark happenings. So this mode of storytelling just feels natural to me.

One thing that is obvious upon seeing Akaneiro is that it is stylistically unique, both visually and aurally. Do you feel that’s one of the game’s main appeals, along with its gameplay?

First impressions are critical regardless of the medium you’re working in — whether or not I sample new music on iTunes is largely decided by the cover art or band name. We’ve seen how dramatic this can be when comparing customer reactions between our first two F2P titles and Akaneiro. A lot of players just can’t seem to bring themselves to try something called “Crazy Fairies,” which features a goofy-cute logo and art style. The more hardcore the platform’s audience, the more extreme the reaction is. On Armor Games, which is largely casual, the game (Crazy Fairies) has been pretty well received. On Steam They’d firebomb it off of Greenlight if they could. Art style matters. Everything matters!

Akaneiro has a lot going for it — an interesting story, simple F2P model and wide range of platforms and devices on which it can (eventually) be played. Only time will tell if it establishes itself as a recognized brand-name in the ARPG space. Fingers crossed.

Do you feel the recently announced open beta will help seal with deal with some people who might be sitting on the fence for this Kickstarter?

It certainly hasn’t hurt. I cringe to think what I’d be doing right now if we hadn’t launched Open Beta at the start of the campaign. We had a lot of negative and misinformed press hit the wire along with the announcement of the Kickstarter campaign. If the game hadn’t immediately come out and squashed those vicious rumors . . . ouch. The worst part about someone taking the low road and slinging mud is that you’re damned if you attempt to defend yourself and damned if you don’t. We were lucky this time around, and next time I’m going to be a lot more cautious when it comes to how we present information to the media.

The support we’ve seen from Kickstarter has been incredible. What seems to push a lot of people off the fence are the new tiers and rewards we’ve been adding. I’ve taken the liberty of exploiting our Alice fans by enticing them with rare and collector item toys, posters, books and other merch. Works great — we get to clean our closet of things that were collecting dust and the fans get their “precious.”

Tell me about the Akaneiro comic and how it will expand on the game’s universe.

Dark Horse published a very successful “Art of Alice: Madness Returns” book, which went on to become so popular in Japan that localized versions had to be printed. From that success grew a relationship between our companies that continues to this day. Our hope is to present the audience with a way to engage the narrative in multiple places — and to provide bonuses to people who both read the comic and play the game.

Come check out what we’re up to at www.angry-red.com!

American, thanks.

Temple Run 2 Hits 20 Million Downloads

Imangi has announced that Temple Run 2 has notched up more than 20 million downloads on the App Store in its first four days on sale, ascending to the top slot for free apps in the App Store after just eight hours. The game has already seen 210 million sessions that have produced roughly 1,775 years of gameplay.

“The response from fans has been overwhelming,” said Imangi co-founder Keith Shepherd. “We are thrilled players want more of the Temple Run universe, and we hope to grow and expand the game over the coming months.”

The original Temple Run released in August 2011 and has now been downloaded 170 million times from the App Store, Google Play and the Amazon Marketplace.

Tebow Teams With Ludacris For Headset

Tim Tebow recently launched a set of his own boutique headphones. The headphones are a collaboration between Tebow and Soul Electronics, a company founded by rapper Ludacris.

One of the headphones being offered will be the Combat+, which has noise-canceling properties but is designed for athletes and heavy stress. Tebow has named his headphones designed for airplane travel “Jet” though he and his spokesperson openly acknowledge that might not last much longer (he was a part of the New York Jets this past season, but is likely to not return next season).

Source: FoxSports.com

Nexon And DeNA Sign Major Business Alliance

Nexon and DeNA have announced they have signed a global business alliance. The two companies will work together to bring new Nexon-developed games to mobile users both in Japan and elsewhere through DeNA’s Mobage social games platform, with DeNA also providing marketing support for these and future titles.

“We are excited to build on our existing relationship with gloops and leverage DeNA’s deep expertise in developing and publishing international social games,” said Isao Moriyasu, CEO of DeNA. “Nexon has an impressive track record of delivering highly successful, world-class titles, and we are pleased that this alliance will enable us to offer Nexon games on the Mobage platform. We look forward to working with Nexon as we continue to bring new and exciting mobile social games to players around the world.”

“This alliance is a compelling next step in extending Nexon’s mobile strategy, which is also consistent with our vision of growing our presence in the expanding global mobile market,” said Seungwoo Choi, President and CEO of Nexon. “DeNA’s unique marketing expertise and capabilities, coupled with the scale and prominence of the Mobage platform, will accelerate Nexon’s ability to deliver best-in-class mobile gaming experiences to users worldwide and position the Company well for further growth in the mobile space.”

Nike Golf: No Cup Is Safe

Nike Golf used this ad to show off their newest addition: Rory McIlroy. It’s a pretty entertaining video, showing that Tiger and Rory have good accuracy with their balls (ahem).


God Of War: Ascension – Single Player Trailer

The story of God of War: Ascension has been kept mostly under wraps, but we do know that Kratos will be fighting the Furies to escape his bondage from Ares. While much of the focus for the trailers has been on the well received multiplayer mode, this trailer (which we have to imagine will substitute as a TV spot) gives us a brief glimpse at the story.

Sony CEO Says Company Fortunes Improving

Sony narrowed its losses and increased its sales last year, but it’s still trailing competitors like Apple and Samsung in key areas. Sony CEO Kaz Hirai says that the company is on the right path and will try to be more nimble moving forward.

“We need to be a lot faster in decision making. We need to be a lot faster in execution. We need to be passionate about our product,” Hirai said. “Are we perfect No. But I think we’ve improved significantly.”

Hirai says that he will make sure that innovative projects get the greenlight, highlighting Sony’s new waterproof, full-HD cellphone, set to go on sale around the world in the next few months. Also important will be 4K or “ultra-HD” TV sets, though Hirai acknowledged it may take as long as a decade for the technology to catch on.

Source: AP.org

Michelle Obama: Why She Has Two Twitter Accounts

Michelle Obama recently started a new Twitter handle @FLOTUS which saw over 25,000 followers in a few hours’ time. This marks her second Twitter account, the other being @MichelleObama which has been used since late 2011, gaining 2.6 million followers in that time.

There is a distinction: @MichelleObama is a political campaign account run by staffers at Obama for America (OFA), Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. On the other hand @FLOTUS is an official government account for the first lady of the United States.

The difference is that @MichelleObama tweets are considered messages from Michelle, the presidential candidate’s wife, not Michelle as the First Lady of the United States. That’s why @MichelleObama tweeted only six times since the end of the campaign, half of them retweets from the @BarackObama campaign account.

@FLOTUS tweets are, by contrast, messages from Michelle as first lady, a very public role that represents the White House in her public appearances and comments, including her tweets. @FLOTUS tweets, as White House communiques, will also be legally required to eventually be archived in a publicly-accessible fashion under the Presidential Records Act.

The different accounts for candidate’s wife Michelle and first lady Michelle gives options to choose from whichever platform is most appropriate for her message. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are in similar situations — as the President, Obama uses @WhiteHouse though as a candidate, Obama used @BarackObama, while Biden’s campaign account is @JoeBiden, his official Office of the Vice President of the United States account is @VP.

Source: Mashable.com