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American McGee to serve as 'lead pirate' on seafaring game jam

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Studio stepping away from free-to-play

American McGee, founder of Spicy Horse Games and creator of the Alice games, announced his next project: Pirate Jam, an adventure at sea for intrepid game designers.

Those who sign up for the planned game jam's inaugural journey, which sets sail from Thailand, will spend 15 days traveling on the Andaman Sea; 10 of those will involve design teams creating a complete game. Pirate Jam's website outlines the day-to-day schedule, which includes fishing and other "pirate games" amidst the development time. "Points earned from pirate games played during the adventure will be combined with app scores to determine a winning team," according to the website.

When the developers return to shore, a panel of judges will assess their projects. McGee, who has previously shared videos of his own Thai sailing trips, will serve as "lead pirate" during the jam. Dates have not yet been scheduled for the trip, but interested designers can now visit the website and register for more information.

The announcement of the mobile game jam comes after reports circulated about Spicy Horse's possible closure. An employee of the studio, which is based in Shanghai, posted a message on social media earlier this week that suggested its impending shutdown.

That's not the case, McGee told Polygon. While Spicy Horse recently reduced staff, the studio remains open, according to the designer.

"The remaining staff will maintain our recently launched and existing games," McGee said. While he's best known for games like Alice: Madness Returns and American McGee's Grimm, Spicy Horse has mostly released free-to-play games in recent years.

That will soon change, the designer explained. "We're working to pivot away from F2P mobile games," he said. "After five years and the launch of seven titles in this space, we feel it's time to move on."

New projects at Spicy Horse include Pirate Jam, and McGee is currently exploring virtual reality and augmented reality games as well.