American McGee is one of gaming's most renowned and influential designers. Having started way back when with id Software on Doom II, Quake and then Quake II, he swiftly moved over to EA in the late nineties creating the acclaimed American McGee's Alice.
After producing the intriguing Scrapland, McGee has continued his ambition to unite the gaming and movie worlds, avowing to be the 'Walt Disney of Gaming, only a little more wicked.' With two film projects in the works in American McGee's Oz and American McGee's Grimm, McGee has recently moved to Hong Kong, which he sees as one of the new production centres in the future of the industry.
With new outing Bad Day LA releasing in just a week or two's time, we caught up with American in the first part of an exclusive interview to hear about his newest PC project, the role of humour in gaming and challenges of creating good comedy and why in-game advertising isn't necessarily an evil thing.
Free of the restrictions of a big studio system, McGee is refreshingly candid on the big issues of the day including Bad Day's political themes, "My goal with the game was to highlight the ridiculous notion of living in constant fear and trading our liberties for "safety" when there is no actual threat... at least not ones that giving up our freedoms for will save us from", also expounding on the current political climate toward games in the US and how even his name has become a barometer for how America is perceived abroad... so without further ado it's over to you American.
How is Bad Day LA doing: do you have a release date for it? And who is going to publish it in the UK and Europe?
Bad Day LA is doing great. We are just putting the finishing touches on it and getting it out the door. There is a release date for it. In the US we're looking at a late August release date and in UK/Europe around the same time. For the UK/Europe, there are a few different publishers, depending on territory. In the UK and Germany, the publisher is Gost and Frogster. In the UK the publisher is Supersonic.
Bad Day boasts a very distinctive visual style, what made you choose that look and does it give the game a very different feel and flavour?
Humour is a big theme in the game, and at the same time we're dealing with some topics that aren't normally considered funny. The art style is designed to look a little like those in-flight safety cards you see on air planes, and also serves to soften the impact of the disasters themes we're dealing with. The goal was not to gross people out with photo-realistic blood and gore, but to highlight the ridiculous nature of living in constant fear of unpredictable disasters.
The art itself was inspired by a Los Angeles art duo called Kozyndan (www.kozyndan.com).
What's been the biggest challenge in developing Bad Day?
Creating good comedy is hard, anyone will tell you that. And combining comedy with decent game play is no small feat. Along with all the usual technical, artistic, and schedule related challenges that are usually associated with game development, we also had to deal with the cultural adaptation of our content to our development environment in Hong Kong and mainland China. All in all, this was probably one of the more challenging development projects I've been involved with, and I think everyone learned a lot of valuable lessons.
How did the idea for the game originally come about - and how close is the game to your original vision?
The original concept was inspired by a wide range of events that I witnessed in the US post-9/11. But I was really inspired into action by a billboard I saw on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles, which read "Bio-chemical terror attack - Are you Prepared!?" It was this billboard, brought to us by the Department of Homeland Security, that really pushed me over the edge. It has become so normal to see messages like this all over the US today, that we hardly notice them any more. America is a fear-controlled society.