When you’re playing a game by developer American McGee, you know you’re not in for a traditional story or gaming experience. So when his Spicy Horse Studios decided to create a new action RPG – Akaneiro: Demon Hunters – and put it up on Kickstarter, McGee’s fans got excited (myself included). I had the very cool opportunity to ask McGee about Akaneiro and get a few more details about what we can expect from the game.
What makes Akaneiro unique is that the concept takes the traditional fairy tale story of Little Red Riding Hood, turns it on its head, and then sets it in historical Japan. Just like McGee retold Alice’s story in his Alice series of games – making Wonderland more screwy than we had ever imagined, Akaneiro does the same for the girl in the red hood who fought the big bad wolf.
But why Kickstarter? The decision to crowdsource Akaneiro was not an easy one. McGee said, “Prior to making the decision I struggled with this question a lot. We have a nearly complete game and a lot of interest from players and platforms (like Steam.) But because we’re a small company with limited funding, we must maintain our schedules and budgets – which means things often move at a slower pace than we’d like, or that we have to move resources to new projects even when we have tons of great ideas on how we might improve a soon-to-launch title.”
What’s important is that the Kickstarter project will allow Spicy Horse to accelerate development on the game’s features. It also allows the developer to get feedback from players about what’s being proposed for the game and raises awareness about Akaneiro, even if the campaign does not meet its goal (I’m expecting it will, though). “Lastly,” McGee stated, “and this is something we’ve been learning post-campaign launch, it’s turned out to be a really great way for building relationships with our audience.”
If you have played those previously-mentioned absolutely wonderful and slightly insane Alice games, you might notice some similarities, at least to the second title in that series: Alice: Madness Returns. McGee said, “There was an ‘Asian’ section to A:MR which provided our team a chance to explore techniques and technology for rendering a very distinct visual style. That’s had a lot of impact on the look and feel of Akaneiro.”
The art style of Akaneiro is distinctly Japansese. Inspired by Japanese ink, watercolor and woodblock illustration, the goal for the look and feel of the game was to depart from the traditional Western fantasy setting and do something completely different. But that also meant that the time period of the game had to be perfect. McGee said, “The reason we chose that particular time in Japanese history was that it was when Japan properly re-opened itself to relations and trade with western nations. This was a major culture clash, and inspired great change (not all of it positive). Since we’re introducing some western themes into an eastern setting, it seemed like an appropriate time period.”
Some of you may be most interested to learn that Akaneiro is 100% free to play. But you might wonder why a small studio headed up by one of the most well-known developers in t he industry would choose that particular route for their game. According to McGee, Spicy Horse has always embraced the free-to-play model because it gives players a way to try out and test games before investing in them. “We make sure to allow full access to all content for all players – whether they are paying or not,” he said. “It’s really more like a time saving device for those who do want to pay.”
But a gaming studio has to make money, right? So the game does have an in-game store where a variety of items can be purchased. But even for those players who don’t want to spend anything, that same content can still be earned just by playing the game.
(And if you’re looking for me, my in-game character’s name is Anya. Yes, that really is a Buffy, The Vampire Slayer reference.)