American McGee Discusses A Potential Final Return To Wonderland In Alice 3 (Exclusive Interview)

Veteran game developer American McGee talks about his vision for Alice 3 in this exclusive interview.
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American McGee will be making the rounds at GDC 2013 for his annual pilgrimage to the United States. The veteran game developer, who helped forge the first-person shooter genre while at id Software with games like Doom and Quake, has been living in Shanghai for years now and running a successful game development business with Spicy Horse.

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Currently, he has four games in development (including a brand new one that will debut at GDC) – as well as BigHead BASH, Crazy Fairies, and Akaneiro: Demon Hunters.

One of the meetings McGee has set up for GDC is with Electronic Arts, the game publisher that owns the rights to his unique take on the Alice in Wonderland mythology. After a pair of games, McGee would like to return to Wonderland one last time to finish the story of Alice. After posting a Facebook query to his community of fans, it looks like many gamers are eager to jump back through the rabbit hole, as well.

McGee talks about his take on Alice 3 and why he’d love to utilize Kickstarter to get fans involved in the journey in this exclusive interview.

What are your thoughts on the reaction your Alice 3 Facebook post has had so far?

McGee:I only wish my friends and fans would get that excited about our non-Alice projects! Seriously, when I announce something related to our other games those 8,000+ “friends” and followers are quiet like church mice. When I make the slightest mention of another Alice project the comments and shares come so fast the update “dings” sound like an alarm clock! So, it’s wonderful to see that degree of interest and support – and it confirms my hunch that we could make a successful Kickstarter campaign around pretty much anything Alice.”

Why did you decide to ask gamers about this franchise after focusing on mobile and original games lately?

McGee: “It’s as simple as what I said in the original post – exploring the idea and meeting with some guys at EA to discuss in detail during GDC. Nothing’s committed and chances are slim something will come out of this immediately (if ever), but going into the meeting with a couple dozen articles on the topic and 3,500 “likes” on the idea won’t hurt.

“With regards to our online and mobile efforts – I see these things dovetailing quite nicely. The first two Alice games focused on single-player because that’s what made sense for the story (how exactly would multiple characters live inside Alice’s head at the same time). For the new game concept we’re exploring “Otherlands,” meaning we’re using Alice’s powers to gain access other people’s mental landscapes. That being the case, there’s a way we can turn the adventure into something that allows co-op play and player created content to be presented in really interesting ways across multiple devices and platforms.”

What is it about Alice that you find interesting?

McGee: “My original hope for the franchise was that it would provide an opportunity to leverage 3D game technology for something other than gun toting rampages through space stations or battlefields. She also represents (in my opinion) one of the more interesting and engaging video game characters because there’s a depth to her as a character and (as the first two games have proven) a lot of variety to be found in the worlds she creates and explores. The world and characters still have a lot of story left in them. So long as we don’t kill or lobotomize Alice, she’ll have interesting adventures to share.”

How long have you been thinking about a potential direction for another Alice sequel?

McGee: “Since the narrative work was being done on the second Alice game I’ve been thinking about a third installment to “close the loop.” Alice is on a classic hero’s journey, broken into three distinct and meaningful phases. The first game was about mastering the psychological – we saw Alice battling mental demons in Wonderland. The second was about overcoming obstacles in the physical world – her defeat of the real-world bad guy secured that domain. The third game would combine the psychological and physical, allowing us to present Alice as a sort of mind hopping superhero able to invade Otherlands – the mental landscapes of people around her.”

What are your thoughts on what Kickstarter has opened up for you as a development studio?

McGee: “More than anything, it’s provided a unique and valuable way for us to engage with our audience. The communication we’ve built and maintained with our backers has been really wonderful.”

What role could Kickstarter, and fan feedback, play in Alice 3 potentially?

McGee: “Hard to say at this point as we’re still in a very early exploratory phase. EA owns the Alice franchise, so to pull off crowd source funding would require some innovative licensing and legal acrobatics all-round. That being said, if EA’s willing to license us the IP and the audience is willing to back the production, we could end up doing something quite historic.

“With all the negative press “big corporations” are getting these days, there could be a win-win in here for everyone – EA benefits from appearing to be flexible, a developer (that’s us) gets to work on something they love and the audience gets direct involvement in a development with the possibility of showing the world what happens when indies and fans take the reins. We’re seeing this work wonderfully with Akaneiro – I’d love nothing more than to now apply that process and engagement to Alice.”

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John Gaudiosi
John Gaudiosi has been covering the video game business for over 20 years for outlets like The Washington Post, Reuters, Fortune, AOL and CNN. He's EIC of video game site