There are very few things I am more passionate about than gaming. And passion doesn’t really describe my love for the Quake series of games, specifically Quake II (Lithium mod’s grappling hook and double-barreled shotgun). I recently found some old 2005 interviews I did with Tom Hall, Michael Abrash, and American McGee. Put these three together again with “The Two Johns” (John Carmack & John Romero) and gaming will never be the same. No more Call of Duty craptastic games…just full-on balls-to-the-walls run-and-gun deathmatch gaming. Hey, I can dream for the glory days!
Anyway, back in September, I posted my interviews and I remembered the excitement and feelings of awe I had talking to these guys. Reminiscing lead me to reach out to American McGee and get an update…after all, it’s been 10 years. Well, I am pleased to say, American granted me a second interview!
For my readers who aren’t familiar with you, who are you?
A guy born in Texas 42 years ago, living in China for the past 11 years. To my friends, I’m best known for my spicy pasta, obsession for sailing, and intense communication style. To the world outside, I’m best known for my work on games like DOOM, Quake, American McGee’s Alice, and the products of my Shanghai-based development studio, Spicy Horse Games. To my dog, I’m a source of petting, food, and an obstacle to be avoided when sneaking into the kitchen.
What are you working on at the moment?
This interview. More generally speaking, I’m helping oversee the launch of several new games at Spicy Horse. Earlier this year, we published “Chains of Darkness,” a mobile-F2P-multplayer-CCG-etc game. We’ve also just soft-launched a new game called “Heroes of Night.” Outside of games, my girlfriend and I recently launched an online store called Mysterious, where we offer fairy tale-inspired accessories like bags, wallets, and umbrellas (note from The Cli3nt: I don’t carry a purse, but I sure do want the The Big Teeth Bag!!).
For those interested, I frequently post about projects and interests on my Facebook page: facebook.com/AmericanMcGee
Is there one project that you look back on that you’re most proud of? Do you have a favorite child, so to speak?
Can’t say for sure anymore. When fresh off a recently finished project, that moment is brightest in my thoughts… but as the years go by, I look back on each project in a different way. Pride fades quickly. Some of my earliest, and still favorite, memories of making games come from the days at id while working on Quake and Quake II. Back then I was deep in the development trenches, working 16-hour days, and cranking out a ton of playable content. Haven’t really experienced that sort of feeling since. Alice was a proud achievement, because it was my brainchild, but ultimately it was the product of a team’s effort; the pride was/is shared among many. These days, I take pride in little daily events – a well-made dinner, weathering a big storm on my sailboat, or helping someone in need.
What do you think is more important in game development? Is it the story, puzzles, or gameplay? I know they’re all really important, ultimately, but how do you prioritize them?
I think it depends on the project. I’ve been involved with games (like DOOM and Quake) where the story mattered very little. And I’ve been involved with games (like Alice) where it was all about the story. Each appealed to different audiences for different reasons – or to the same audience at different times, for different reasons. Kinda like I’m not going to watch porn all the time, but when I do, I don’t really care about the story. Meanwhile, I frequently like to watch sci-fi action flicks, and I’d generally like them to have a good story as well as good action. I’m still on the lookout for a good sci-fi porn action flick. Aren’t we all?
Your games feature some pretty amazing worlds. How do you feel about VR?
I feel awesome about VR! That’s exactly the kind of technology we need to make really excellent sci-fi porn action flicks! Beyond that, I think VR is indicative of the direction the world is going in, in general – people losing their connections with one another, becoming more and more immersed in their tech. I don’t think it’s a “good” thing from the perspective of being a humanist, but it’s doubtful we’re going to stop this evolution. Since it’s going to happen anyway, it’s also about time we moved away from flat displays, keyboards, and all the clunky-clacky hardware that’s defined computers for the past 30+ years.
How much time do you spend gaming versus writing code? What are you playing now?
These days I spend very little time playing games, much more time writing code… but the code I’m writing is almost exclusively for my electronics/tinkering projects. If I do play a game… well, I’ve been giving this answer for years now: Minecraft. I find it to be the ultimate escape. Very relaxing and immersive.
A new Alice game has become a hot topic in the past month. How do you feel about the petition? Will it work? Has there been any reaction from EA?
There has been no reaction from EA, but that’s not unusual. I have no idea whether they’ll acknowledge the petition. I do know there are people at EA who are huge Alice fans and would like to see another made. We’re all just waiting.
What’s your favorite game in the Zelda series?
I really liked Ocarina of Time.
If you could only have one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
My spicy pasta! Because it’s never the same twice!
What’s the wallpaper on your phone and/or computer?
Desktop at work features a sailboat anchored off a white sand beach. My phone has some sort of sci-fi dynamic art thing going on.
What music are you currently listening to?
It’s early in the morning, which means I’m listening to some string music (classical). Happens to be Boccherini: Quintetti per archi (Op. 20, No. 3: II. Largo) – a very sad and beautiful piece. I like Boccherini because he was a cellist (I also play cello), has a very distinct signature, and has an interesting biography.
Do you have any hobbies? What are they?
As mentioned in the previous question, I have been teaching myself cello for a number of years. I also am very much into sailing, diving, travel, languages, cooking, tinkering (electronics/mechanical), and have recently taken up FPV (First Person View) drone racing. My hope is to one day combine all of my passions aboard a sailing vessel while traveling around the world.
Once again, I want to thank American McGee for taking the time for this interview. I can’t possible put into words how much of an honor it is to interview people I consider heroes. So far, my “Interview Bucket List” is growing smaller: American McGee…check, Tom Hall…check, Vaughn Ripley…check, Johnny R…check, Barry Haarde…check (just waiting for his interview answers), Michael Abrash…check. All that remains is Kevin Mitnick, John Carmack and John Romero.
More info on American McGee and Spicy Horse can be found here:
Spicy Horse: www.spicyhorse.com
Personal Blog: www.americanmcgee.com
Sailing Blog: http://sv-synchronicity.com/blog/
For those interested, you can see some drone footage American McGee shot on a recent sailing/diving trip: