ACM - Computers in Entertainment

Marching with Mice: An Interview with Lance Priebe

By Ashley Yeo

From Cinderella’s dutiful little helpers to evil schemers in “Pinky and the Brain,” mice have been the center of animation attention for decades. Today, Hyper Hippo Productions and New Zealand’s Oktobor Animation join hands to create a new type of engagement between children and learning, through a third person, squad based, light tactical strategy game—featuring mice.

The game, Mech Mice, aims to target children ages 10 and up. Lance Priebe, who co-founded Club Penguin in 2005, which was later sold to The Walt Disney Company in 2007, co-founded Hyper Hippo Productions with Pascale Audette in 2012.

 

Ashley Yeo: What inspired the building of Mech Mice?

Lance Priebe: I actually had the idea for Mech Mice prior to Club Penguin and since then, joined forces with the New Zealand based animation studio, Oktobor Animation, to help bring this vision to life. The dream originated from my love for simplicity, the game mechanics, and the depth of strategy in board games such as Settlers of Catan.  

The idea was to develop an easy-to-learn tactical, squad-based game for a younger market. This allows the opportunity for children and their parents to enjoy together what was once a more mature genre. 

 

AY: I’ve noticed Mech Mice’s game imagery and storyline resembles that of Pixar Animation’s “Ratatouille.” Was the film an inspiration for you?

LP: Great observation! All of us at Hyper Hippo and Oktobor Animation are big fans of the Pixar model where children and parents can both immerse themselves in the same story, but enjoy the journey for very different reasons. This combined with my interest in the simplicity of board games; we developed Mech Mice to closely resemble a digital board game that can be played both online and offline, within the family and between friends.

 

AY: Can you share some of the educational values that are in-built in the game property?

LP: Mech Mice’s tactical mechanics help encourage children to stop and think about their strategy before they move, as well as instilling virtues like teamwork, leadership, heroism, and bravery. More than that, the episodic strategy game also aims to cultivate imagination and create positive community impact.

 

AY: What would you think are two unique aspects of Mech Mice? Can you share them?

LP: Sure! One point is that Mech Mice combines the cute of mice with the cool of mech in a fun combination that sets it apart visually.  Another unique aspect is the idea of taking turn based tactical games and making them feel more real time in nature, so they appeal to a younger audience. 

 

AY: Was it a difficult process building a game for children and what were some of the concerns that surfaced?

LP: Two examples come to mind. First, providing children with a safe online experience is one of our main concerns. We have extensive experience in online safety from our time at Club Penguin, where we played a defining role in the implementation of various online safety features throughout the organization. Secondly, we are committed to having Mech Mice support several national and international causes that strive to make a difference in children’s lives around the world.

 

Mech Mice will launch an open beta program in the summer of 2013, with the game’s scheduled release later in the year. For up to date information on the launch, follow Mech Mice on Twitter, @mechmice.

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