Akaneiro is a Action RPG, with the likes of Torchlight II but is themed around the beautiful Japanese art style and based on the tales of Red Riding Hood. When you start the game you become back of the Red Order and must hunt down Youkai (Japanese Demons).
Akaneiro is completed and ready to be launched officially but American McGee wants to push the bounds of the game and add in some really nice features, some of the features being tablet functionality for Android and iOS, crafting system, cross play compatibility and much more. To be able to add in these features they are looking to get the support from gamers and the fans of Akaneiro via the crowd funding campaign website Kickstarter.
We spoke to American McGee and got his thoughts on his latest game and also what he thinks about Kickstarter.
1. With your success for Alice Madness Return are you hoping for the same coverage for Akaneiro?
A:MR was a success for the studio in many regards, coming in on budget and schedule, achieving our goals for narrative and visual tone, and establishing our team's capability to deliver a AAA quality game. Many of these same things are true with Akaneiro, but we're also hoping for many more things that we were unable to achieve with A:MR. For example, once EA said A:MR was "done," we had no choice but to ship it – knowing we'd never have a chance to patch or improve what was burned on disc and shipped off to retail. With Akaneiro, we've delivered a living product that will continue to be supported and improved on into the future. We also have an opportunity to directly profit from a game like Akaneiro, since there's no massive development debt to be repaid to a publisher. Lastly, there's the relationship we're able to build with our audience around an online game, something that was lacking with the Alice games.
2. With free-to-play games turning up everywhere now, what's made you want to turn to this format of game model for Akaneiro?
My interest in online/F2P games goes all the way back to my first visits to Asia (and China in particular) nearly ten years ago. While it's a new model for Western gamers and developers, it's well established elsewhere in the world. The model offers many advantages to us and our audience – the most obvious one being that people can engage with the content for free before deciding (if ever) to make a purchase. Akaneiro is actually the third game we've published using this model – the first two being "BigHead BASH" and "Crazy Fairies," both of which are also available on Kongregate and SpicyWorld (among other platforms).
3. With you guys having pitched on Kickstarter, do you feel Kickstarter is becoming a major way of funding video games, and do you feel it will continue to have the same impact in the future?
I certainly hope it will continue to play a positive role in the funding of game content. It's something the industry has needed for a long, long time. Gamers tend to ignore the fact that games require huge investments of time and money to be committed up front and maintained for long periods of time. Banks and investors don't put money behind game productions. So, game publishers have been, for a very long time, the only source of funding developers can access – and that funding comes at an incredible cost IF you are even lucky enough to gain access to it.
To recoup a typical publishing deal the developer has to pay (for instance) 30% of every dollar earned towards the total development and marketing cost – while the other 70% is going straight to the publisher from first dollar. So imagine 0.30c of every dollar earned (which is not the same as the retail price of the game), being used to chip away at a $30,000,000.00 development and marketing budget. It's like using a sugar spoon to dig out from under an avalanche, and it basically ensures developers can never earn enough of a profit to become truly independent from publishers. It's an evil model and we're lucky to see a platform like Kickstarter offering an alternative.
4. Why did you choose the Japanese art style and theme while mixing it with lore from Red Riding Hood?
While the western high fantasy setting functions perfectly well for most ARPGs, we really wanted to depart from that theme. The folklore of Japan and neighboring regions is rich and inspiring, and we were also able to marry our art style to it.
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.
All of this was inspired by my reading of a book called "The Lost Wolves of Japan," which details the destruction of all the wolves in Japan around 100 years ago. Western cattlemen introduced beef to Japan and wiped out a massive amount of indigenous wildlife in their effort to expand operations in Northern Japan. Inclusion of the Red Riding Hood elements mainly came from this historical fact – my thought being to bring the classic wolf story to a place where wolves were being exterminated.
5. Will you be planning to release a PC Client for those that do not wish to play in their browser?
The PC and Mac client are available today. Simply head over to www.angry-red.com and grab either one. You can of course also choose to play via browser on Mac or PC. And, if our Kickstarter campaign is a success, we're looking to rapidly bring a Linux client to market as well.
6. Will Android and iOS devices see Akaneiro?
That's the hope. We had an early version of the game running on Android tablets powered by Nvidia's Tegra 3 chipset. The game looked glorious, but we simply couldn't sustain simultaneous development of the tablet and PC/Mac versions. Now that our original development schedule has reached the Final point for computer versions, we can once again turn our attention to tablet versions – and the Kickstarter can help to accelerate that process.
7. What are your thoughts about going up against online ARPGs such as Diablo 3, Torchlight II etc.
Well, until you mentioned it we weren't really thinking about going toe to toe with those big name titles. That being said, we are hearing a lot of comparisons being made – and most of those have been favourable. For me, it's pretty interesting to see our players talking in the chat, saying they feel Akaneiro is closer to what they'd hoped D3 would be. Makes me feel very proud of what our little team has been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. And I think it says a lot about the power of constraints. Limited time and resources often result in the most creative and efficient outputs.
8. The Free to Play model has a tendency to have a "pay to win" where players can use real money to buy the best and most powerful items which can break game play. What are you doing to stop this kind of play?
Though players may choose to purchase Karma (our in-game currency) to make life a little easier, they cannot purchase experience. Missions must be completed in sequence, and this is not a step players can skip. To access more powerful abilities, Spirit Helper Pets, defeat stronger enemies and earn better items all players must complete missions and earn experience.
9. What are your plans for real time co-op and or PvP?
These are another of the goals listed under our Kickstarter campaign. We have basic functionality for co-op already in the current game – check out the Summon Ally ability. What remains now is to implement the online aspects of this so that your friends can join in on missions.
10. Where there any other folktales other than Red Riding Hood that you drew inspiration from?
The biggest influence outside of RRH would be the classic Japanese folk tales that the team absorbed and brought to life in the game. The project's Creative Director, Ben Kerslake, read through a huge number of these fantastic tales of demons and evil spirits.
11. Did you learn anything you didn't know about fairy tales before?
For my part I'm always interested in seeing the similarities between fairy tales, regardless of where in the world they come from. The presentation and tone might change from culture to culture, but the underlying message remains the same. These tales are a part of the human social fabric – they reflect and define the rules, fears and hopes that make us who we are.
12. For the aspiring games companies and game designers, what would your biggest tip be to them to try and get a successful game?
Keep trying! I've been at this for 20 years now and still haven't hit a level of success on par with something like "The Fart App," much less "Angry Birds." The target, audience and platforms continue to change so rapidly that it's almost impossible to keep up. The best you can hope to do is chase the types of stories and game play mechanics that you enjoy, produce them as quickly as your care for quality will allow – then cross your fingers and hope to be standing in the right place when lightning strikes. Beyond that, I'd suggest people not "chase" success. That makes for a miserable life. Find something you enjoy doing and just do it. I'm doing that now – which means I'm not earning the most money I possibly could or occupying the most powerful position available to me. Instead I'm living in an interesting country at an interesting time and working with people who challenge me. That leaves time for a healthy pursuit of life outside of work, which is critical to any creative endeavour.
13. If you do not meet your Kickstarter amount what will you do?
The campaign is asking for an insignificant amount compared to the total development cost of the game or the cost to run our studio in general. It's meant to help us keep the team focused on one project, as opposed to moving the bulk of them to a new project. If it fails, then we'll continue on-plan towards most of the goals listed in the campaign, they'll just happen much more slowly. This is one of the disadvantages of being small – we often find our choices constrained by time and money, which means we don't always get to take the best path. With support from our audience we can continue along a path of full support for the game. Also, I'll probably cry and drink a bottle of wine by myself. Maybe punch a baby. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
14. Did you run in to any troubles when in production for Akaneiro?
We run into troubles almost every day! Ours is a very dynamic development environment, which means our various games are often fighting over limited resources. Akaneiro suffered from this problem for quite a while – never seeming to get enough attention in early stages. Then once more and more resources were dumped on it the team had an interesting time managing all the elements coming together simultaneously. Each time we go through this sort of process we get better and better at working together and producing solid results in a reliable fashion. This is one of the reasons why I think it's so critical that we keep our development teams together as groups – so that knowledge can exist within the team from project to project.
15. What would you say your best bit about Akaneiro is? Feature, Skill, NPC etc.
It's not something the public can see just yet, but we have it working with another of our titles (Crazy Fairies) and that's the idea of cross-device functionality. Being able to run the game on a tablet, then use your same account to play on Mac or PC, especially when multiplayer is added to the mix, is just super cool. My sense is that we're going to get to a point where this is a standard requirement for games in general. Also, did you see the Karakuri Gaben, a Spirit Pet Helper we just added to celebrate the approval of the game for distribution on Steam? Pure awesome.
16. Finally, for the Alice fans, do you think you will ever go back to the Alice Franchise?
Totally up to EA. If it were in my control, I'd start a new Kickstarter the second the Akaneiro one ended – and raise funding for an "Alice 3." Since EA owns the IP, there's nothing I can do to make something like that happen. If they decide one day to revive the franchise and want me involved, then I'm certain we would figure out a way to make that work. I've got my sugar spoon ready!
We thank American for taking some time out to answer our questions and if you wish to back Akaneiro: Demon Hunters you can by visiting the Akaneiro: Demon Hunters Kickstarter. Pledging towards their Kickstarter will get you some really nice in game items and pledge enough and you could get some amazing very limited physical signed items and more. Unsure if you want to back? Sign up for the current Open Beta and give the game a spin before you put down some money.
Dont forget we are also running a Live Stream of Akaneiro on Sunday 20th January @ 10PM GMT where American McGee will be there for an AMA or "Ask me Anything". For a chance to win the first signed Akaneiro canvas art check out our Facebook post or Twitter. We will also be giving our more awesome Akaneiro stuff during our entire Live Stream, be there to win!
Let us know what you thought about Akaneiro or American's answers in the comments.Last modified on