”Wonderland, where are you?” The creative path of Americana McGee. Part Three: The Return of Madness (Topic)

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”Wonderland, where are you?” The creative path of Americana McGee. Part Three: The Return of Madness


We come to the end of our story about American McGee's career and his contribution to the gaming industry. In the last two articles, we talked about the beginning of his work and triumph, as well as about failed projects. Today we will talk about his loudest game and the future. Here are links to the first and second part of the article, if you have not already checked them out.

Alice Madness Returns

Work at Spicy Horse was in full swing, the last episodes of Grimm were being completed, new concepts were being developed, and the staff of artists was expanding. The studio had plans to draw its hands to the fairy tale "The Wizard of Oz". And although Spicy Horse began to translate the idea into reality, the American Mcgee's Oz project was eventually canceled. It was then that American realized that it was time to return to his main brainchild.


“In the moment when I realized everything, there was nothing out of the ordinary - I just needed to be in the right place at the right time for everything to align and to be able to continue.

I spent the previous 10 years traveling the world making other games, moving to Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Shanghai before starting a studio that I felt was capable of making that very game, ”says American. p>


In addition, in Shanghai, there was an opportunity to talk to EA, who took the first step. In 2008, they contacted a game designer and asked him to create a sequel to Alice for them, but only for all platforms. Then the work on the project began to boil. It is worth saying that it was just a sequel, and not a restart, which promised to be more mature and developed. In the end, a lot of things have changed in the life of the father of this game, in an interview with GamejunkieNz, he was asked if he felt that he had grown as a developer in 10 years, to which American replied:

“Yes, of course. The experience gained in Shanghai is unique in the sense that it took a lot of growth, not only in the understanding that we were going to make games, but also in the fact that we had to move to China, learn the language and culture. We had to learn all the details and start our own business there, and therefore I would say that for me personally it was a huge experience of growth, comparable to a flight to the moon. ”


In the same interview with American, there was the artistic director of the project, Kay Wong, who added the following:

“I think for us as a studio, American was the leader. For some of us, this is our first or second game, and he really shared his experience and taught us a lot. Spicy Horse is a unique studio where we have about 50 percent Chinese employees and we made an interesting game in a really interesting city. ”

Although in the last game, Alice got used to herself, cleared of internal demons and was discharged from the hospital, she is still depressed. The girl inherited and transferred to the Houndsditch Orphanage for the mentally ill, where psychiatrist Angus Bambi became her doctor. The heroine is trying to restore her memories and find the cause of the fire in the family home.


People were attracted not only by the stunning aesthetics of the world shown in the game, but also by the fact that the shifted narrative, and the huge amount of variety in character design and ideas, which was so fond of the first game, in the sequel puts these elements in an ideal position, with which they wanted to show them at American Mcgee's Alice. Plus, the game is made in such a way that new players don't have to play the first part to understand the essence of the second [but I highly recommend].

The main character herself was a huge plus of Madness Returns. Our site named her one of the best and most realistic female characters. This is especially evident in contrast to other projects where there were female characters who succumbed to sexual objectification.


While Mortal Kombat 9 was trying to bare the heroines of its fighting game, and the Poles were stripping Triss in the second Witcher, Alice Americana McGee fascinated with her sharp tongue, sarcasticity, and most importantly - humanity.

“She is a person you can empathize with. Her story about the murder of her family really attracted a lot of people. From the very beginning and to this day she is a strong female character; very smart and uses her wits to overcome obstacles.

We didn't make her too sexy, so she could be believable. I think this has created an audience that truly believes in her as a character and that has helped her stay that way all these years. ”- American McGee in an interview with PC World.

“She is very different from many other video game characters. When we described the idea of a new game for a new team, we said that she [Alice] does not look like a huge Space Marine, she is not a barbaric warrior; she's a mad Victorian girl. And immediately it's something fresh, and you don't see it very often in games. I think this made her very attractive to many different people. And it gave them something that perhaps they cannot find in other games. "- Kay Wong for the same publication.


Games then [and still] lacked strong female protagonists. However, Alice, along with Chel and Glados, in 2011 became a kind of flagship and an impetus for changes.

Alas, the game of comparisons with Tim Burton's film about his dark version of the tale about Alice did not escape, but many gamers saw in the film more borrowing from American Mcgee's Alice than vice versa. Although the game designer did not go without jokes like: “I knew Burton’s film was going to be shitty, but I’m glad he found his audience.”

A surreal approach to storytelling and visualization, vibrant colors, pleasing gameplay elements, and a great protagonist all made the game amazing. Alice Madness Returns in the literal sense was varied, this is the exploration of locations in a reduced version, action, fights, platforming, unusual weapons and cool features that are directly related to the setting. What is the stage when Alice drinks an increasing potion and becomes a giant that kills the servants of the Queen of Hearts.

“The content in the game is exclusively controlled by Alice as a character. During development, we had a rule - everything that can be seen in Wonderland should come from Alice's experience in her real life. This limitation made us think of interesting ways to present truly fantastic or terrifying themes using only Alice's imagination, ”says the game designer.

And of course, don't forget about the fantastic soundtrack that underpins all this madness.

Crowdfunding and more crowdfunding

Although the last game was exclusively the brainchild of Spicy Horse, EA still had the rights to Alice, who did not want to agree to a sequel.

The studio has switched to the Akaneiro Demon Hunters project. It was supposed to be a reworked version of Little Red Riding Hood, where the heroine would act as a demon hunter in the Chinese setting. Then for the first time in 2012, the developer went to Kickstarter. There he collected the required amount and released the game. True, Akinero turned out to be a rather low-quality and pass-through product, which passed even the biggest fans of the game designer's creativity.


In 2013, he announced that he would still be making a sequel to his main franchise. The third game was supposed to be called Alice in Otherlands, but EA did not allocate money and the only way out was Kickstarter. In the end it worked out the last time. In concept, Alice would travel through the minds of the people she met and help them cope with their demons. She has that experience, right? So, American planned that Alice would penetrate the minds of Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison and even Jack the Ripper himself!

True, the project was not destined to see the light of day, because American decided to add an online component, which left the fans dissatisfied. Alice in Otherlands lost support and the studio decided to cancel it. However, the money from crowdfunding had to be put somewhere. It was decided to please the fans and release short-length cartoons Alice in Otherlands, which were not even bad.


American was not lucky with the next project. He wanted to get back to playing the Wizard of Oz. The OZombie project page has appeared on Kickstarter. He was very ambitious. According to the concept, the Scarecrow became a zombie and turned Oz into a terrible place. We had to win her back by playing as Doreti's great-granddaughter. The game was wholly Alice's spiritual successor and more. Since this was a game designer's favorite fairy tale, he wanted to reveal many personal topics through it: personal freedom, mutual obligations of society and the individual, the harmful influence of religion, and the desire of society to suppress non-conformism.


In addition, the game was single player and story-driven. But, alas, there was not enough money, so the American decided to go all-in. He froze the project, and promised fans that he would focus on negotiations with EA on the third full-fledged Alice part.


And here we are. The creative path of American McGee is not finished, because right now he is developing the third part of Alice Alice Asylum. This will be a prequel about how Alice experienced the death of loved ones in the early stages of the disease, and how exactly Wonderland began to turn into a land of Nightmares. You can support the project on Patreon because the game is made without EA sponsorship.


What will come of this? I hope this is a masterpiece that will kickstart the creation of OZombie in the future.


The Topic of Article: ”Wonderland, where are you?” The creative path of Americana McGee. Part Three: The Return of Madness.
Author: Jake Pinkman