Next For American McGee? Hopefully More Alice

By Nathan Grayson on February 1st, 2013 at 8:00 am.

American McGee’s positioned himself as quite a polarizing figure within the gaming industry, but – success or horrific crash-and-burn failure – you can’t knock his imagination. And while the recently released Akaneiro: Demon Hunters‘ blend of Japanese folklore and Little Red Riding Hood at least looks quite attractive, it’s another fairytale fusion that put him on the map. American McGee’s Alice raised quite the stir when it was released back in 2000, and Alice: Madness Returns‘ world was brilliantly realized, if not always fun to be in. But they sort of came out 11 years apart, so really, what are the odds we’ll get another anytime soon? Well, actually pretty good, if McGee get his McWay. The main thing stopping him? EA, of course. He explained the situation during a recent interview with RPS.

“I’d like to continue working on [Alice], and that’s sometimes frustrating because the ownership of the franchise lies with EA,” he said. “They decide what to do with it. It’d be great if that was something where it was easier for me to call them up and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got money. We want to continue working on this. Let us have license to do that.’”

Yes, American McGee is unable to obtain a license to a franchise with his name literally written on it. But that’s because – as he went on to explain – it was actually EA that decided to put his name up in lights in the first place. The publisher wanted to “distance” McGee’s madder-than-10,000-Mad-Hatters vision from the vanilla public domain version, so as to avoid allowing others to freely use its property. And, though McGee prefers to keep his name off his games now that he’s independent, he’s certainly not unhappy with how things turned out in the long run.

“I’m really happy and proud of those games, and if I were to be hit by a bus tomorrow, it wouldn’t be a bad legacy. ‘Oh, that was the guy who did those Alice games.’”

“It’s better than being remembered for Bad Day LA,” he added with a laugh.

So then, where to from here? Well, that’s up to EA. For now, McGee’s focus is on Akaneiro, but if the publishing behemoth made lumbering advances in his direction, he certainly wouldn’t say no.

“Of course I want to make another one. Alice is a really wonderful character, and obviously I have a really great affinity for working with her and the material that comes with her. So I do hope someday – you know, if I can stop pissing EA off in the press – that I could work with them again to make another one.”

That’s just a tiny sliver of a massive chat I had with McGee recently. Look for the full thing – which covers his career, development philosophies, thoughts on violence in society, plans for the future, and somewhat controversial use of Kickstarter, among many other things – in the near future. You know, once my fingers grow back after my hands decided to detach them in a lizard-like fashion and flee from a thousand hours of transcription.

__________________

« | »

, , .

33 Comments »

  1. Nim says:

    EA pulled the plug on it and will probably just sit on the franchise for the rest of the company’s lifetime.

  2. f1x says:

    I would like to know how this IP things work exactly,
    Did EA adquire the Alice license as part of the deal for publishing and financing the first Alice game? or McGee sold it at some point? or McGee never actually owned it?

    • Hoaxfish says:

      EA’s American McGee’s Alice

    • Teovald says:

      I am not an IP lawyer, but from what I understand these 2 games are based on the original books that are in the public domain. Since EA did not want to let anyone else use this licence, they “invented” the American McGee’s Alice licence, which they own.
      The same way that a random vampire story is its own IP even if it is based on very public domain stuff.
      I would be very curious to see someone release a new IP under a Creative Commons licence. Would it really be a problem ? Or would the liberty to create other stories in that universe give a lot of strength to the IP ?

      • f1x says:

        I see,

        Good quesiton, that has been done, at least partially,
        one case I remember:

        Metro 2033 novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky, it was first released to be able to be read for free in the website,
        and there Dmitry encouraged people to write spin-offs or novels using the same universe he created, there are like 30 novels (all of them using the Metro 2033 brand) based on the universe and written by different authors

      • brulleks says:

        I’d be interested to see what happened if another developer/publisher team decided to release a different Alice game as well – particularly if it involved third-person platforming/ combat.

        • GameCat says:

          I have a plan (yeah, I know, everyone says “I have a plan to do X thing”) to make Alice In Wonderland game. I want to name it simply “Alice” but we’re living in a strange days where someone (greedy corporation) can take name or common word (I’m pointing at you, Apple) and use it as a IP. I’m scared, I don’t want be sued by EA.

  3. Kadayi says:

    Is there much gold left in the village of Alice? I’d rather see the guy work on more new IPs in truth.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      He’s already done other IPs, but I don’t think any of them have really been successful, or at least not as high profile.

  4. CaspianRoach says:

    Alice is a wonderful IP in need of more engaging gameplay. After doing the same platforming for a few hours in the last game I just didn’t have any willpower to continue.

    • dE says:

      Yep, pretty much this.
      I finished it, despite not liking the gameplay, simply to see the great levels and mood they could come up with. Some of it was more miss than hit but in general, the ideas had a curious sense of madness to them.

    • Baines says:

      The combat in Madness Returns bugged me more than the platforming. It was a fun game, but the combat system was just…present. That’s about the most positive thing I can say about it, there was definitely a combat system in the game.

  5. kraken says:

    Did Alice Madness Returns sell well?
    Because that’s pretty much the only thing EA care about.

    • f1x says:

      I think it didn’t sell as much as they wanted, but I’m almost sure it was not a loss of money

      The game itself was fairly good, decent “history”, awesome envrioments but a bit repetitive gameplay

  6. MeestaNob says:

    His Alice game was good, but he needn’t waste his time attempting to negotiate with EA – they’re a bunch IP squatting/destroying money grubbers.

  7. Megakoresh says:

    I like Madness returns more than the original, it just is more atmospheric and also looks fantastic, although the controls weren’t exactly great.

    I think the reason McGee signed this contract with EA is that in 2000 they were actually reasonable. Yeah I know, it’s such an oxymoron “Reasonable EA”, so weird…

    I think the reason people have mixed opinions about Madness Returns is because it just was very mental and too long in places. The last level in the kid’s room was just plain terrific (in a horror/Amnesia kind of way) and can give nightmares worse than Dead Space can, but it was stretched out as well, which made it even worse.

    Granted not a single game in history to this point has depicted a mind of mentally ill person better than Alice: The Madness Returns.

    • Jae Armstrong says:

      The Dollhouse reminds me a lot of the Meat Circus from Psychonauts. They’re both the climactic levels of their respective games, they’re both dominated by aesthetics, which are not only well-realised and visually compelling, but also thematically significantly and unpleasant to experience; psychically oppressive*, and they both go on for far, far too long.

      It doesn’t help that the Dollhouse’s characteristic enemy (the disfigured doll things) are Mass Effect -style damage sponges that are hugely unfun to fight.

      *The, I think it was second, time that the Dollhouse turned from “pastel colours and toys” to “grime and spikes and brains”, I actually sort of shut down for a couple of minutes, going, “No. No. Nope. Fuck. No. Nononononononononononononononononononono,” before I could will myself to continue.

  8. smoke.tetsu says:

    Yeah, Alice Madness Returns for me was good in the art direction department and what kept me going it seeing the next environment theme that it would throw at me. The art direction was a sight to behold especially the latter levels. It was very exciting playing a follow up to American McGee’s Alice after so many years.

    The thing is as far as I’ve heard the game was rushed to retail and in my opinion it shows. It suffers from both consolitis and from being rushed through QA. This is especially apparent when one looks into the PK3 file containing remastered HD assets for the reissue of AMA and seeing how little was done and some of the file names where even typoed or put in the wrong folder.

    I did think the knife moves where greatly improved over the original. However they tacked on a horrible lock on targeting system that even required one to hold to even use her umbrella to block stuff. The targeting system when set to toggle would get stuck on floating ruin when they die and fall out of view. Some of the platforming sections had unnecessary camera angle switches with the original game didn’t have. They deemphasized ranged combat and got rid of many of the weapons of the original game. The control bindings for keyboard and mouse where clunky and when one rebound them it tended to break mini-games unless manually edited in the .ini file.

    I originally blamed the control problems on it being console focused however I’ve played other third person games with or without gamepad and they all controlled better even the more melee combat focused ones. Even when it comes to camera controls those games controlled more like I expect even with a gamepad as opposed to keyboard and mouse.

    That being said what I would like to see is a more PC focused third game that’s more like the first game than the second. Give us back manual ranged weapon aiming but keep the improved melee moves for example. I know that has little chance of happening however.

    As for certain parts of the game being stretched out…. well… I think you have hour counters to blame for that!

    • Jae Armstrong says:

      The combat in Alice wasn’t up to the standard of DMC4 or Bayonetta, to be sure, or even Darksiders, say, but I don’t think it’s really fair to call it bad, at least while games like Heavenly Sword exist. Mediocre, perhaps. Humdrum.

      I know I still managed to have a fair bit of fun with it, before it degenerated in late-game power-creep. Especially whenever it was feasible to use the knife. I do like my fasty-fasty dancey-dancey stabby-stabby.

      • smoke.tetsu says:

        I was more saying certain mechanics of the controls where bad or buggy and could have used some improvement rather than the entire gameplay being bad in general. Like i noted there where some improvements like the knife melee moves but that was hampered by some bad decisions with the camera system & lock-on targeting controls.

        I wish they would have gone with a more free look all the time approach more like in the first game…. for ranged and melee combat. Other third person actionshooter games had it that way and played better as a result.

  9. Bhazor says:

    Why do people still give this guy a job? He’s had nothing but a string of disasters.
    How he survived Bad Day LA I will never know.

    • Rovac says:

      He owns Spicy Horse if Im not mistaken
      So yeah, the guy give himself a job

    • Jae Armstrong says:

      Hoi, you. Some of us enjoyed Alice, you know.

      • Fierce says:

        Don’t feed the trolls Jae. This thread isn’t a worthy discourse to be involved in.

        I mean, who doesn’t want a new version of Alice: Madness Returns with refined combat, less padding/power-creep, and true HD artistic textures and object visuals worthy of a PC built after 2009?

        If anyone raises their hand, I hear there’s a publisher or two out there that specializes in their desired level of customer milki- i mean, patronage.

    • warthriller says:

      You do realize that when he was making Bad Day LA, he was both homeless and nearly out of money, right? The fact that he even released a game while living in a situation like that is amazing. Since then he has survived and now has a successful company with over 50 employees. What have you done?

  10. Buemba says:

    The only real problem I have with Madness Returns is that its levels went on for far too long. The combat and platforming weren’t that great but I still enjoyed them, and the spectacular environments made a full playthrough more than worth it.

    There’s a great 5 hour long game in there, unfortunately it was stretched into a 15 hours long game.

  11. The Random One says:

    I hope he can find a satisfactory conclusion to his Alice franchise woes.

    After all, Alice well that ends well.

  12. Paul says:

    I really LOVED Alice: Madness Returns’s visual design and quite a bit of its storytelling too. The gameplay dragged on too much and some levels overstayed their welcome, but I do not regret finishing that game. Really beautifully horrific experience.
    McGee sounds like an alright guy.

  13. Etherealsteel says:

    If he does make a new Alice I hope he gets those view angles down b/c in some instances of the game it sucked.

  14. Fierce says:

    I for one would love to see another Alice game and I think McGee deserves all the support he can get. McGee’s Alice games are incredibly artisitc in a way that hasn’t been seen since the 90s-2005 and that’s a kind of game not a lot of people are interested in making these days. This fills a need that isn’t being satisfied in todays oversaturated shooter cesspool of an industry and makes money while it does it, and that is probably one of the straightest definitions of Win-Win I can imagine and can’t rationally be discouraged.

    In the same way people swoon for Shigeru Miyamoto for creating Mario and the world he and his supporting cast inhabit, I see McGee as creating one of the most criminally underrated female characters and artistic fantasy lands in gaming. Having a lower bottom line or less prolific sequel and tangential (Yoshi, Wario) offspring are hardly reasons to blow these creations off.

    I would be happy to have my daughter play these games alongside the Longest Journeys, Beyond Good and Evils and the less jiggly Tomb Raiders of our industry. I don’t think there are many characters/creators/games/worlds that I can realistically add to that list, and that speaks volumes to the necessity of Alice games and the McGee vision of her story continuing.

    Make your game Mr. McGee. I’ll be there with my wallet when you do.

  15. FataMorganaPseudonym says:

    I’d like to see him try to resurrect his attempt at doing the Oz game, personally.

  16. Pulec says:

    Just searched reddit and found link on this http://www.thepetitionsite.com/372/809/248/make-american-mcgees-alice-in-otherland-a-reality/#13598474149721&action=udata&udata=false

    And unreal thought appeared in my mind about Kickstarting campaign for buying license from EA to original developers, not just Alice, but every great game those ***** are sitting on. And those ***** are not just EA…

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>