Interviews

Alice: Madness Returns - 'Zelda, BioShock and Half-Life are all influences'

American McGee talks about Alice's latest adventure

After 11 years in the asylum Alice has finally cracked - again. Fortunately for us that means we get another entry American McGee's unique Alice series to sink our teeth into.

We caught up with American (the name continues to be brilliant) to have a chat about Alice's legacy, what's new with the title, the future of the series and the video game industry in general.

What's the main difference with the this sequel?

Well it's a funny way to put the question in many ways we wanted to recreate a lot of the original by way of those game mechanics that the audiences really seem to love with the first, and the mixture of things like the adventure/action/platforming/puzzle solving, so in a lot of ways those things they remain somewhat unchanged, though we have added a lot more depth to many of them.

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The combat was something with the first game where a lot of people kind of felt that it was very flat, it didn't have a lot of progression to it, of course this time we've add a lot more complexity and depth into combat but the story is the narrative sequel to the first though of course it's bringing new elements and asking new questions and she's seeking new answers but character-wise and especially her as a main character, the change is actually one that's quite small.

She's left the asylum at the end of the last game, a year has been spent while she's living in London and now she's confronting the question of what really happened on the night her family died, so it feels very natural the extension, the movement forward into this second product.

Are you happy about Alice's cult status?

Yeah, I mean, absolutely, we can see in the response that we've been getting and that we've continued to get after ten years that the product did establish itself a cult following.

I thought it was very funny when we were in Tokyo doing promotion that the product manager for Tokyo for Japan came up to me and said, "Oh Alice is really great," and I said, "Yeah, the new game is looking really awesome," and she goes "No, the first game, it's still selling in Japan," and so things like that are very clear indications that the first game really established itself in a unique position and we're quite happy to come back to it.

It's been, for us, nice to have been able to listen for ten years to the feedback from consumers and to adjust the product in ways that would address some of their concerns but at the same time, it's like I was saying, we've actually tried very hard not to radically change things so much that it became a product not of the original world and characters and style.

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Given the age of the original Alice, do you consider it a product from a classic era of gaming? Should other games be more closely connected to the past?

I do think that there is something classic about the presentation in this and it was intentional, I mean we didn't want to have to go out and reinvent the wheel and potentially alienate and audience that were sitting there waiting for this sequel to come along and I actually think that these gameplay mechanics are, by their nature, sort of eternal you know, something that's fun about them as a core mechanic and then when we layer on top of that the aesthetic and the art presentation and the story and the characters, there was a real life in there and I think that, you know, for gamers of this generation and the games that they're playing, there's room to have both; a classically crafted product and also something that's non-linear and open world and trying to come up with new ways for the game player and story and that also includes something of what we've seen in this explosion of mobile platform games where these very classic old school mechanics are suddenly having all of this new life and interests in them so I think there's enough room and there's enough life left in them in those types of game mechanics that they hold that it'll work well.

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