In this Gamasutra-exclusive postmortem
, Spicy Horse, the creators of American McGee's Grimm
, analyze the creation of the Chinese-developed episodic PC adventure series -- which has been available through GameTap and is now coming to additional digital distribution platforms.
Starting up Spicy Horse in Shanghai, China, played a major role in the developer's success, as its location made it easier for the studio to find experienced employees and work with outsourcing partners:
"As one of the biggest game-development zones in China ... it is easier to find experienced employees [in Shanghai], while the vast numbers of university and college-trained people in China also provide a steady source for junior level designers, artists or programmers. And although Shanghai is a much more expensive city than most other Chinese cities, salaries and overall costs are still much lower than in Europe or North America.
The success of game developers in Shanghai (both Chinese and foreign studios) has spawned a lot of outsourcing studios in and around Shanghai. This enabled us to outsource all of our 3D asset production, while still maintaining a hands-on approach to asset production: our outsourcing studio being around the corner, we could go and check up on them and give them feedback whenever we wanted to.
About half our animation and concept art team were outsourced as well, but (again) because of our favorable location, we were able to have them work on-site, basically working as if they were a part of Spicy Horse.
This close relationship with our outsourcing partner enabled us to keep our goal of maintaining a relatively small core team of permanent workers, while outsourcing as much of the art production as possible."
While working in China has its benefits, issues with language and culture managed to affect Grimm
"Although most of the expatriates already knew Chinese or were studying it, there was still a language barrier when talking about very technical things. Add in the differences in culture to that, and you get a pretty powerful combo of confusion. To avoid loss of face, a Chinese employee will not say that he only understood half of what his expat colleague tells him. This leads to misunderstandings, and ultimately to a lot of time lost.
We encountered a lot of these problems working with the outsourcing team that made all our 3D models. The same mistakes would be made over and over again because the modeling team didn't understand the comments we made on their work, package names would have spelling errors in them, etc.
Towards the end of the project, these problems gradually became smaller, as Chinese artists started to understand English better and expatriates became more proficient in the Chinese language. More bilingual support, both at Spicy Horse and at the outsourcing studio, would have helped a lot in the beginning, though."
You can read the full postmortem
for American McGee's Grimm
, including more examples of what went right and wrong during the episodic game's production (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).