American McGee is still trying to turn his theoretical Alice: Asylum into a reality. The last game in his dark action-platformer series, Alice: Madness Returns, released more than ten years ago, and since then McGee has been funding development through a Patreon which, at the time of writing, currently has 3,192 paying members. In 2021, McGee released the first draft of a script, and now he’s back with a 414-page design bible, the announcement of a partner studio, and an odd plea to EA.
The design bible is available now for Patrons and opens up to everyone else tomorrow, but you can catch glimpses of it in the recently released trailer. There’s tons of concept art, design notes, mock UI concepts, and a brief glimpse at a new “dress rune system” - seemingly a way to mix and match different abilities. The full, finished script is also here, showing Alice at her “brightest” point - which in this context means she’s just about smiling - to her “darkest” point, showing her begging on the street like I imagine all Victorian era children did.
The end of the trailer is when things get a little odder, as series owner EA’s logo appears with text reading “Let’s make impossible things happen together.” This comes off as a plea for EA to greenlight and approve a sequel, rather than any type of announcement. When McGee released the first draft script, he said the team’s plan was to “build a production/design plan, have that plan approved by EA, and then raise funding to develop a new game." The recent design bible is described as “the first pre-production phase,” so who knows when a final plan will be ready for approval.
At least Alice: Asylum now has a dev partner, making the project one step away from just a hypothetical. McGee and his dev team are being joined by Virtuos, a support studio known for their work on games like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and a few other heavy hitters.
Looking at the design bible honestly? I can’t help but be a little intrigued at another trip in this series. Sure, Madness Returns was insufferable at times. Overly edgy, weirdly bloated and definitely repetitive. But, boy, was it beautiful. That’s to be expected when you’re remixing designs from Lewis Carroll’s classic books and turning them into these trippy, fever dream set pieces - and the design bible seems like more of the same, just more. More sharp teeth on fancy teapots, more architecture that twirls unnaturally, and more random cards floating across the sky. So, yes, I’d like another.
At the same time, McGee has been talking about a third game for literally a decade. Maybe I’d have a better time waiting for another bad Disney film.