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4. Good use of middleware
Throughout the development of Grimm, we were able to make good use of middleware solutions. Without those middleware solutions, Grimm would never have been as much fun as it is now.
The most important middleware program we used was, of course, Unreal Engine 3. UE3 was one of the biggest reasons why we succeeded with Grimm. It allowed us to prototype quickly, focus on core game mechanic issues, and accomplish some graphically interesting visual ideas.
Two other middleware solutions we made good use of were Bugzilla and AI Implant. Best of all, both of these solutions were free!
AI implant proved to be essential to getting the AI of our NPCs right. All the NPCs in Grimm have very specific behaviors, and using AI Implant enabled Marwin, our Technical Level Designer, to make those NPCs behave the way they should.
He could do this without having to bug the programming team to code new behaviors every time we came up with new requests for NPC AI. This greatly improved both speed and efficiency, and allowed the programmers to focus on all the other tasks at hand.
Through the many ways Bugzilla can be adjusted, we managed to make the application much more than just a bug reporting device. By the time production on the first episodes ended, we were using Bugzilla not only to report bugs, but also as a tool for feature requests and we had set up a bug verification tool to ensure bugs were being fixed.
It also became the main tool used to generate task lists for the programming team. Bugzilla, although a little rough on the edges and sometimes not quite as user-friendly as we would have liked, turned out to be an indispensable tool for the project.
The Spicy Horse Team
5. GameTap, our publisher
If it had not been for GameTap, Spicy Horse would never have existed. GameTap approached American looking for an episodic game set in a twisted fairytale world. Anybody who has spent time looking for a publisher knows how difficult that can be for a new studio, so Spicy Horse has been very fortunate to have been approached by GameTap.
In spite of a couple of hiccups (I cannot imagine a publisher-developer relationship where everything always goes right), GameTap turned out to be the perfect publisher for a game like Grimm.
They understood the reasons why we wanted to change up the gameplay so much after the prototype, they trusted our vision of what we wanted the game to look like and they always treated us correctly.
We have all heard horrifying stories about some executive at a publisher wanting a certain gameplay mechanic implemented two weeks before shipping the game, or publishers not paying because they wanted a certain feature in the milestone built first... but GameTap did none of that.
They have given us creative freedom and support, and it is wonderful to be in business with a publisher that sincerely wants to change the way games are financed, developed and distributed. We have been fortunate to have GameTap as our publisher and are thankful for the opportunity they have given us as a studio.