The level designer behind some of the best shooters of all time, including Doom II and Quake II, has spent the past decade adding his unique spin on classic stories like Alice in Wonderland (American McGee’s Alice), Grimm’s Faerie Tales (American McGee’s Grimm) and now American McGee’s Crooked House. The senior game director at Shanghai-based Spicy Horse talks about his latest game and chimes in on episodic gaming and 3D stereo gaming in this exclusive interview.
Where did the idea for Crooked House come from?
We’ve been playing with a number of well-known fairy tales, trying to see which is most appropriate for the platform. Currently, the team has a demo of Red Riding Hood and ideas for Jack in the Beanstalk — among other things. The story and setting of the “Crooked House” rhyme seemed to lend itself neatly to a tilt-based puzzle game. So far the positive reviews and sales data seem to support that idea.
How are you going to take advantage of iPad functionality when you bring Crooked House to that platform?
Crooked House works with both the slide (touch) and tilt functionality of the iPad. Plus, the larger screen and higher resolution will really show off the game’s wicked art.
How long do you think it will be before the iPad becomes a stand-alone gaming platform, versus a port platform?
I think it’s already there. Developers have had access to the SDK and simulation environment for a while. The biggest gating factor these days will be audience adoption rate.
As a proponent of episodic games, what role do you see iPad playing in that genre of digitally distributed episodic game content?
Any device which uses digital distribution as a primary means of content publication can make a great platform for episodic content. In my view, the primary challenge isn’t the platform, but the audience. Western audiences are still uncertain about multi-episode game content distributed over long periods of time. There’s a lot of content out there competing for attention – and anything that requires a longer time commitment must increase its entertainment value and stickiness accordingly. The platform’s there — the content has yet to arrive.
NVIDIA, Sony PlayStation and Nintendo (3DS) are all pushing 3D, what are your thoughts on 3D stereo for gaming?
Another step towards the inevitable “jacking in” – direct connection between computer visual output and our brains. Better than the old (2D) way, but still inferior to the real deal.
What do you see a third dimension opening up creatively for game makers?
Game makers have been building in 3D for a long time — so the content production and “set building” isn’t going to be impacted greatly. In terms of pure game design — I don’t think it adds a lot of new avenues for exploration. The biggest impact would be in well-applied dramatic presentation of visuals, but even that needs to be applied in moderation.