American McGee's Alice Q&A
American McGee describes why Alice will stand apart from other 3D action games.
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GameSpot: American, your departure from id Software wasn't exactly amicable. What happened to cause you to leave?
American McGee: We had a difference of opinion (more than one, actually), so I left.
GS: When you left, you mentioned that you wanted to pursue development of online gambling games, right? Whatever happened with that?
AM: EA gave me the opportunity to let me explore a game idea that I'd been thinking about for years.
GS: Working at Electronic Arts and id Software has to be two completely different experiences. Certainly, working at a corporate giant like EA has its benefits, but do you ever miss the independent-developer mentality of id?
AM: Those differences were exactly what drew me to EA in the first place. And partnering up with a company like Rogue on the actual development of Alice has allowed us to utilize all the best aspects of both types of companies. Is there anything I miss about id? Probably the only thing that comes to mind would be the years when we were working on the Doom games. Those were id's halcyon days, and it was a time in my life when I was just naive enough to believe that it could last forever. Aside from that? Not a thing.
GS: So how much creative room are you given at the company? Do you have total control of Alice, or does EA ever impose its marketing muscle on you and Rogue Entertainment?
AM: EA gives us the creative room we need. Alice has never really suffered from any sort of corporate stifling of creativity though... The truth is that Alice never really needed to push those sorts of limits. We've created a product that doesn't force us to make excuses about its content or creative decisions and therefore doesn't put EA in a position where it has to question what we're doing or why we're doing it.
GS: You're now the creative director of Alice, even though the development team is located in Dallas, Texas, and you currently live in California. Explain how the dynamics of your relationship with Rogue works considering the fact that you're constantly off-site.
AM: My relationship with Rogue has worked out really well. The relationship may not have functioned properly had the team been different, but they're a world-class developer that knows how to get the job done and done right. Plus, the last three months of the project I actually spent on-site with Rogue, lending a hand where I could.
GS: Speaking of Rogue, the guys there have had plenty of experience with id Software's 3D engines in the past. Have they done anything with the Quake III: Arena engine in Alice that you're particularly proud of?
AM: Everything they've done is worthy of praise. I honestly believe that Alice shows the most creative use of an id engine to date. Every department inside of Rogue did something spectacular during the development process. The artists, programmers, designers, and animators pushed the limits in all of their respective disciplines. The end result is a product that each of them should be proud to say they were involved with.
GS: You've said before that Alice won't be just another third-person 3D action game. Other than the obvious characteristics like the unique setting and plot, what exactly separates it from similar games like F.A.K.K.2?
AM: To be honest, I have yet to find time to sit down and play F.A.K.K.2 beyond the intro, so I can't comment on the differences in the two products. I will say that Alice is different from anything I've ever played. The story, characters, and locations do a great job of drawing you in and keeping you in. The gameplay is varied enough that you don't get bored, and most importantly it's just plain fun to play.
GS: Alice is broken up into 15 different areas, including memorable locales like the Fortress of Doors and the Mushroom Forest. Which one is your favorite? Which did you have the most fun designing? Why?
AM: There are so many areas that really impress me, it's hard to choose just one. The Queen's Realm and the Garden levels are pretty high on my list. I only had a hand in designing two of the areas, and even then it was only to lay basic geometry. Those were the Hatter areas, and I had a lot of fun working on them, mostly because they were allowed to be a bit stranger and more psychedelic than some of the other maps.
GS: In Lewis Carroll's novel, Alice doesn't exactly have the kinds of weapons you gave her in the game. Where did you draw inspiration for the icewand, jackbomb, and the rest of her arsenal?
AM: Inspiration for this came from a number of places, but mostly out of boredom with the shotguns, rocket launchers, and the like. Toys as weapons just made sense. Weapons such as the icewand make sense in the context of the areas that Alice explores in Wonderland.
GS: It's pretty clear that this is a game that's particularly close to your heart. What do you wish to accomplish with Alice?
AM: Hopefully Alice will show people that PC "action" games can tell a story and make you want to play for more than just the combat.
GS: Alice is strictly a single-player game, and as of yet, EA hasn't made any announcements about releasing a multiplayer component at a later date. But if it were entirely up to you, what would you include in an Alice multiplayer add-on to make it as notable as the game's single-player element?
AM: Multiplayer Alice would be no competition to a true multiplayer combat game such as Q3A or UT. For that reason, and others, it didn't and still doesn't make sense to try to bring that sort of gameplay into the Wonderland universe.
GS: Are you happy with Alice as a final product? Would you do anything differently now that the game's nearly done?
AM: Very happy with the finished product. Something differently? We'll have to wait till it's out in the world to know that!
GS: In past interviews, you've said that you want to do an "indie style" game after development on Alice wraps up. What exactly do you mean, and have you been putting more thought into your future projects now that Alice is nearing completion?
AM: I've been putting a lot of thought into my future games, but right now I can't say more than that about them. What I mean by doing an "indie" game is that we do something good and fast while working on designs for the next epic. Wait and see.
GS: Thanks, American.