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American McGee's Grimm

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American McGee Presents American McGee's Grimm Interview

-- June 12, 2007 by: Chris Faylor

Late last month, developer American McGee and GameTap revealed American McGee's latest project, American McGee's Grimm, which will be distributed episodically through GameTap's subscription service beginning early next year. In development at the American McGee-founded Shanghai-based Spicy Horse studio, American McGee's Grimm harkens back to American McGee's earlier work on American McGee's Alice--modern retellings of classic fairy tales with a dark twist.

Following the announcement, I caught up with American McGee to get his perspective on a number of subjects, from the appeal of twisted fairy tales and episodic gaming to the Wii and Sid Meier.

Shack: Thanks for taking the time out of your hectic schedule for us, American.

American McGee: Thanks Chris Faylor! American McGee is happy to participate in American McGee's interview. Interviews give American McGee a chance to talk about American McGee's projects, American McGee's ideas, and American McGee's American McGee. American McGee.

Shack: What's your role in the development of American McGee's Grimm? How does that compare to the extent of your involvement in American McGee's Alice, American McGee Presents Scrapland, and American McGee Presents Bad Day LA?

American McGee: Comparing previous projects to the current one--probably the biggest difference is that Grimm is being produced inside of my own development studio, Spicy Horse. As with Alice and Bad Day LA, the initial concept for Grimm is my own--whereas Scrapland was dreamt up and produced by Enric Alvarez and his team at Mercury Steam.

Beyond that, Alice is probably the project that most closely resembles our production on Grimm. We're using a high-end, off-the-shelf 3D engine--something I wish we'd done with BDLA--and even have the original writer/executive producer from Alice, R.J. Berg, working in that same role for Spicy Horse.

As for my personal role in all of this, I've taken a very hands-on approach to everything from building the Spicy Horse team to designing the game. Ultimately, I try to surround myself with highly creative people, give them some initial guidance, and then get out of the way while they do what they're best at.

Oh, and we're trying to include at least 40% more American McGee in American McGee's Grimm. But for those who are tired of all the American McGee there is a No American McGee Mode--currently this replaces all the American McGee with John Romero, which may or may not be a good thing.

Shack: So you've got R.J. Berg reprising his role from Alice, any plans to bring anyone else back? Could Alice composer Chris Vrenna return to score Grimm? His work on American McGee's Alice is easily one of my favorite video game soundtracks; it's just so haunting and spooky that it fits perfectly with the game.

American McGee: R.J. is once again handling writing--something he did an amazing job on with Alice. He's also helping to guide production in his role as executive producer. R.J.'s positive influence on Alice was huge--it's really wonderful to be working with him again on this project.

I'd love to work with Chris again, but we're making a point to pull all music, SFX, and VO production in-house. Our sound engineer, Jason Tai, hails from Malaysia--and brings with him a wonderful range of light and dark musical styles--something which will play a big part in the tone and feel of Grimm. Having sound production in-house is an important part of our episodic production model.

Shack: Scrapland and Bad Day LA both had rather distinctive art styles and stories. What's brought you back to the dark twisted fairy tale setting?

American McGee: Ever since Alice I've been intrigued by the possibilities of retelling fairy tales via video games. But it wasn't until I was approached by GameTap that the opportunity and venue seemed right. Combining episodic production and delivery with classic fairy tale narratives seems like a very natural thing to do.

Shack: Can you elaborate on Grimm's combat system? The initial announcement mentioned that it was based off the concept of words as weapons.

American McGee: In keeping with the literary theme of our source material, all aspects of the game--including the weapons system--derive from the building blocks of fairy tales and the books containing them. The Words as Weapons concept is elegantly simple--our main character can pluck action verbs like "BURN" from the game environment, carry them around, and hurl them at enemies and obstacles. Word weapon effects are full of variety yet are visually self-evident, an aspect which I think makes the concept ideal for episodic games.

Turn the page for more on episodic gaming, the fate of American McGee's Oz, American McGee's thoughts on the Wii, and what would happen if American McGee and Sid Meier ever crossed paths.

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