I've been making games for 20+ years ("DOOM", "Quake", "Alice", "Bad Day LA" [sorry], "Grimm" and more) and have seen the industry change from developer-audience focused to one dominated by a publisher driven monopoly. We're seeing a shift back towards better days and my company is just about to release another indie title, "Akaneiro: Demon Hunters", an online ARPG.

Proof: https://twitter.com/americanmcgee/status/293226033824555008

Comments: 918 • Responses: 83  • Date: 

herzkolt454 karma

Just wanted to tell you, the Alice games are beautiful. I enjoyed every minute of them, every room, every scenery. Thank you!

americanmcgee195 karma

Thanks! The team is always happy to hear positive feedback (and I don't mind either).

Amnotlurker133 karma

You. I like you. Make more games.

americanmcgee96 karma

Thank! I like you too! :)

evilseanbot95 karma

I had a couple of questions:

1) I saw some girl with Alice tattoos. Isn't that grand? I would like to make people stain their body with my ideas at some point.

2) What was the deal with Marilyn Manson's Alice involvement? I've heard a lot of things on the internet but internet things are unreliable.

3) Regarding Bad Day LA, after reading this: http://www.americanmcgee.com/forum/index.php?topic=1008.0, I was wondering if you had advice for people who are in a similar position of not wanting a potentially bad game to define them.

4) I kind of thought the mad-hatter level in Alice seemed distinctly different from the rest of the game, a bit more horrific what with the little mangled kids. Any reason for that?

americanmcgee226 karma

  1. It's weird. Someone once sent me a porno clip (I swear!) where the actress had tattooed the Cheshire Cat's face/mouth around her ... naughty bits. It was awful. After that, I never wanted to see another Alice-inspired tattoo. Or naughty bits.

  2. He was involved, then he wasn't. They (Manson/NIN people) are a mercurial bunch. Never figured out what the real motivation for the sudden departure was. But we did get a couple of really beautiful tracks out of it - sadly, I'm legally forbidden from releasing them. So I listen to them by myself and smile.

  3. Wow. That is a LONG post. I forgot I even wrote that. Advice for avoiding that? Not sure what I wrote in that post, but honestly, if you gave me the chance to avoid it today... I wouldn't. If I had not been involved with that game I never would have moved to Hong Kong or China and the last 8 years of my life would have been a lot more mundane.

  4. You'd have to ask Alice. It's her imagination after all ;)

chantmeow87 karma


americanmcgee109 karma

Thank you SO MUCH for the support. It would appear I'm not supposed to directly mention something like the Kickstarter campaign as that's asking for money? So I won't do that. But you found it on your own and I thank you! ;)

americanmcgee76 karma

Alright, it's been fun but I have to run. Thank you, all for stopping by with questions. If you get a moment, please be sure to check out our latest game, "Akaneiro: Demon Hunters" at www.angry-red.com

Tubheadt61 karma

Any plans to make an Alice movie? I'd love to see one.

americanmcgee112 karma

Yeah, that gets asked very often. Sadly, I don't control the Alice franchise. I created it while working as an employee for Electronic Arts, so they own and control it 100%. Ask them!

emacsomancer54 karma

Plans for more Alice games?

americanmcgee124 karma

I do have plans but I don't have control. If I made another Alice today it would complete Alice's hero-journey arc and see her realize the full potential of physical mastery combined with psychological mastery. Remember when Neo figured out he could mess with the Matrix and reality? Like that.

shogi_x51 karma

  • What's Shanghai like?
  • What made you get into making games?
  • If you had to have one of your past games made by another company/person, what game and what company would you choose?
  • As a game developer, what's your take on the whole "violent video games" debate?
  • What's different about working in your own indie company rather than a huge studios?

americanmcgee142 karma

Shanghai is like what LA looked like in "Blade Runner", except the cars don't fly (on purpose). It's a mix of incredibly modern and amazingly old. High tech and dirt poor. Our studio is 1km from the heart of the city, but there are chickens running around outside he front door! You really have to visit to appreciate it. And I wouldn't want to live anywhere else!

Wow, excellent question. So I'd LOVE to see Ken Levine do something with the Alice series. Or Tim Schafer do something with Grimm. If you've played either game, you probably get how awesome that would be :)

Violent video games... media/content has an impact on our brains. We know that's true. What we don't know is what sort of impact violent games have on our sensitivity to violence. I DO NOT think violent games make people go out and act in violent ways. Actually, I would lean towards them making people care less about violence in the real world, while subduing their own impulses to act out real violence. If anything, I'd worry about a generation of kids being raised on hyper-violent video games losing sight of things like the true cost of real war. Odd I have to say things like "real war". See?

Working as an indie means having a terrifying amount of freedom. We make decisions that we know might simply put us out of business 6 months from now. I don't actually mind the idea of someone else paying our bills and supporting us while we develop something (AKA a publisher), but I HATE the idea of someone shaping the types of products we make to fit on a limited amount of shelf space and structuring recoup deals so we can NEVER earn enough money to be free to pursue our own designs. These days you can't have cake and eat it too ;)

pushevolve31 karma

Hey, LOVED the first Alice when it came out. I don't get to play many games nowadays but the art direction was, and still is in my opinion, some of the best I've ever seen! Alice 2 is extremely gorgeous as well.

When I heard that you were going to come out with a Wizard of OZ game I was so excited! My hopes were that this would start a series of adaptations with similarly dark and gritty imagery and story.

My question is why did The OZ project fall through and is there any chance we will ever get to see this or something like it in the future?


americanmcgee42 karma

Hey there! Happy you liked the Alice games :)

OZ was picked up for funding and publishing by Atari (this was after I'd left EA and started being an indie producer, living in LA). A year into development they killed the project. By that point we had a running (and beautiful!) game, so we tried to shop it around to other publishers. Problem was (and is) that the game's development to that point cost Atari ~1 million USD. In order for another publisher to acquire the rights, they have to repay that money. On top of that, the development rights on my side of the table are all screwed up with former business partners. So the chance you'll see that Oz getting made are about 0%.

That being said, the underlying Oz property is public domain. So if I'm ever feeling sassy (and wealthy) enough to risk being sued by a bunch of people for thinking up a new interpretation, there might be a shot at getting a game done.

Nomsfud29 karma

What inspired you to make "Alice?" Was it just a huge fandom for Lewis Carroll or did you think the concept was just perfect for a game? I remember playing it when I was a kid and thinking it was fantastic! Also, what made you decide to make a sequel about ten years later?

americanmcgee77 karma

It was a song. "Trip Like I Do" by the Crystal Method. I heard it while zooming along the coast of California (Highway 1) and thought, "Huh, dark land of wonder?" I later realized the sampled lyrics came from "The Dark Crystal," so in some round-about way you could say that movie helped inspire the idea.

The sequel was something I always had in mind. The 10 year timing had to do with my having left EA, moving to China, building a studio capable of doing a sequel, then going back and proposing the idea to EA.

MontyAshley28 karma

Before it was yanked off the internet, did you think the Penny Arcade comic "American McGee's Strawberry Shortcake" was funny?

americanmcgee37 karma

I loved it. Who wouldn't?!

WestEndRiot24 karma

What exactly do you mean by 'largest indie Western game development studio in China'?

Because to me that just sounds like you've gone and hired cheap Chinese labour to make games for a Western audience, which strikes me as more a corporate attitude than anything Indie.

americanmcgee114 karma

Well, if you play games from the big Western publishers, you're playing Chinese-made art content. That's outsourcing plain and simple. Same goes for the keyboard you're typing on, Gap jeans you're wearing, iPod you're listening to, etc. Most everything we consume these days is made (or partly made) in China. Hard to escape it.

I guess the thing that makes me different is that I actually live here and have done so since I left the U.S. eight years ago. Would it make you feel better if I'd used my God-given freedoms as an American to move to a less threatening country, like Australia or the U.K.? Or one where I had to pay people more to work for me, even though less of their wages went into their pocket at the end of the day (or paid for social services they could actually use, as opposed to dropping bombs on innocent children/families in the mountains of Pakistan)?

Corporate? If it's because you think I've hired "cheap" labor, I'd once again ask you to look at the twisted manner in which big corporations (EA, Activision) skirt labor laws in places like California by denying healthcare and basic benefits to employees by labeling them 'contractors' or forcing them into part-time positions. Labor here in Shanghai isn't "cheap" by comparison. That being said, my own compensation has never been lower - certainly not compared to when I worked for EA or id Software. Then again, my cost of living is also relatively lower. Our employees are paid on a scale that is directly competitive (in many cases) to what they would be paid in the U.S. - but I take a local salary because I'm living locally.

I dunno... I choose to live in another part of the world because I wanted to see the world and be exposed to new culture and new ways of thinking. I make games for a living so I opened a studio here. We focus on high-quality of life for everyone in our studio, which means we don't crunch or overtime (though it has happened a few times in our 6 year history). I feel the work environment I've created here is healthier and more sustainable than anything I could have created in the U.S.

Still, people want to see the bad in it.

Btw, we're the largest indie Western studio because we have 50 people working here, including 2 cleaning ladies, a receptionist, accountant, Office Manger, etc. Our core team is around 40 people. 6 of that group are from places outside China (U.K., Aussies, U.S., etc). Indie development is very rare here, especially on the "scale" we've achieved and maintained. It's just not an environment conducive to the kind of business we've built. We're an oddity. If we were corporate, I think you'd see a lot more studios exactly like ours. You don't.

Does all of that sound "corporate" to you?

Btw, I get tired and sensitive around this subject because so many people come at me with straight-up racist or purely ignorant nonsense on this topic. I apologize if my response feels overly reactive... I just wish people would better understand the global dynamic, true sources of evil in the world and how to recognize when 'indie' means indie ;)

WestEndRiot32 karma

Thank you for taking the time to write all that.

I just want to say before I go into this further, that I never meant for my question to be in any way insulting or offensive, and my apologies if it came across as such. I was purely curious and hoping things weren't like my initial thought.

Having read that, it seems like you're doing what you're doing for the right reason and not just to make a quick buck, which I respect greatly. It pains me to see what AAA studios are like these days, especially with how it seems like they're trying to turn Indie into another meaningless buzzword.

To me, Indie isn't about going at it alone or with no funds and starving for weeks on end, it's about making that game that you actually have passion for, where it's not just a job but a lifestyle.

As a fellow Indie developer, I wish you the best of luck with what you're doing and keep fighting the good fight.

One follow up question: If I moved from Australia to China, would I be able to get a job as a cleaner with your studio? Because you've just shown me how much you actually care about this sort of stuff and I don't get to see that often enough.

americanmcgee34 karma


Our existing cleaning ladies have been with us for years and they are deadly serious about keeping their positions. Probably better that you try entering through a less... dangerous... position?

If you're serious, send a note to contact @ spicyhorse dot com

FeNgArAeRiTh19 karma

Why did you attach your name to the title of Alice? Was "American McGee's Alice" just a cute way to try to market yourself and make your name known or did you feel you were primarily responsible for so much of the game that it was no longer a true team effort?

americanmcgee40 karma

There's a longer version of this story, but the short version is that I never had the power/control to force my name on a box of anything. EA legal and marketing decided it was a good way to establish a version of the "Alice" name which they could own and control. I signed a bit of paper giving them the right - and there you have it. Once that was done, other publishers came to me asking to use the name for marketing purposes. I did something akin to pure marketing use on "Scrapland." You'll note that the games coming out of my studio today DO NOT include the use of my name. When I have a choice about it, I don't do it.

mfryar8918 karma

I just want to ask, what steps did you take to get where you are now? And are those the same steps you would take today?

americanmcgee50 karma

Mine is an unusual story. I was forced, due to family issues, to drop out of high school at age 17. Until I was 20 I worked as a car mechanic. I was then brought into id Software by John Carmack and the rest is history. My experience with computers goes all the way back to age 11 or 12 - and everything I know today has been self-taught. Because I'm a big fan of knowledge and learning, self-teaching comes quite easily... and based on what I've heard of institutional higher level learning, it sounds like this was/is the right path for me.

I would NOT change anything in my past, btw. Some really bad things had to happen for me to get where I am today - but I recognize the value, even in those awful moments; things happen in a certain order and if we could change that order we'd not end up in the same place. I like where I am today.

mfryar8935 karma

I like that answer, I'm currently a father of two, working fast food, in a position I swore I would never be in, and I consider suicide daily, but what holds me back is my love for my girls, and the knowledge that I have been worse off before, and I'm just too far indebted to this glorious thing called love to give it up now, I hope one day to have a fraction of your success and happiness man

americanmcgee68 karma

Life can really suck sometimes. People don't ask me, so I don't tell... but I've been SUPER poor, screwed up and down before. And when I moved to China, wow... I was so poor I rode on the back of someone else's bike! We ate breakfast/lunch/dinner every day for about 20RMB (less than $5). And I had to WORK to build something from scratch here. It was excellent and terrifying. The great thing about being down, is you can only go up. Sounds silly, but it's true.

Keep your focus on love. And turn your hobbies into success. Chasing success for money... that sucks. Chase fun stuff. Even if it doesn't make money, you'll be happier. :)

Miasmatastic18 karma

How does it feel knowing that a company like EA is in control of one of your titles? Are they as bad to work with as they are with their customers?

Also, thanks for my childhood, haha.

americanmcgee65 karma

They are just a corporate machine. Machines are neither good nor bad. They are simply programmed to attain certain results - and to find ways to become more efficient at attaining those results. As long as you understand the forces acting on the market in which they operate you can "accept" the decisions they make. In a sense, they have no choice. That's the sad thing about becoming a massive, publicly traded corporation. Entities like that no longer make decisions based on what's best for their developers, IP libraries or customers.

You're ... welcome? ;)

ShittyEverything17 karma

What's your next project?

americanmcgee24 karma

We're in the process of launching a new one RIGHT NOW. It's called "Akaneiro" and you can play it via web or client: www.angry-red.com

pixelz6 karma

This looks very beautiful. I look forward to playing.

americanmcgee13 karma

There's a Kickstarter for it as well. Search and find. You might like what you see ;)

Ouren16 karma

Hey! I asked you about reference material on the livestream before I left the house for a bit. I wanted to also ask you where you were able to find artistic reference material for Akaneiro as well.

The internet seems to be a horrible place for actual research, and the public library doesn't have as many "art books" that have lovely full color photos as I'd like. They are mostly art-history textbooks with just pages upon pages of exposition and history.

We're actually designing a game right now that is steeped in ancient asian mythology as well as modern design aesthetic. (sci-fi!)

Any tips on where to find good material?

americanmcgee20 karma

That was a hectic interview! So, for reference, we use the 'net pretty heavily, but also relied on a treasure trove of books brought back from Japan by the project's Creative Director, Ben Kerslake. He lugged many kilos of books from Tokyo to Shanghai - books that proved to be really valuable when it came to the more detailed art research we needed to do.

So, you might want to travel to China or Japan/Korea if you're looking for research into the real stuff.

KellyCommaRoy15 karma

I'm a semi-professional voice actor (most of my activity is on YouTube but I am trying to get paid work) and the thing I'd love to do most of all is voices for games. What can I do to make that happen? How do you cast for your games? Is it still the old know someone who knows someone routine?

americanmcgee30 karma

Honestly, I don't know what to say... other than there are TONS of people out there trying to do what you're doing. Next to "Hey, I'm a sound designer and..." the emails we get from "Hey, I'm a VO person and..." are the most frequent "job, please?" emails we get. It's a tough market you've decided to enter. For our studio, we simply don't have a need to hire anyone. And statistically, when you think about games, where you might have dozens of artists or tech guys... there are usually about 2 people doing VO or sound. The odds just aren't that great.

Muzungu14 karma

No question, I just want to say thank you for creating Scrapland. That game was a big part of my childhood. Best of luck for the future!

americanmcgee25 karma

Thanks for the kind comment. Keep in mind that the real person you should be thanking is the game's designer/producer, Enrique Alvarez. He's the studio head at Mercury Steam, a former psychologist and the guy responsible for that awesome game's development. I was just the marketing tool! :)

Original-Copy12 karma

What do you think about the law (that may be passed) of ESRB ratings being manadotory on all games? How much would it hurt you as an indie developer?

americanmcgee25 karma

Funny how a non-government ratings board can have laws passed to enforce their selection and control of media in the U.S. This type of stuff is a violation of our rights as artists (and consumers) to create and consume the kind of content we want without government getting in the way.

Not sure how much this would directly impact us - and don't see how it would be applied to web games. Not going to worry about it just yet ;)

backnblack9211 karma

Hey. I loved playing your games growing up. DOOM and Quake were amazing, and Alice was really awesome too. Cannot wait to try Akanerio: Demon Hunters

1 Just curious, but why did you choose the name American McGee?

2 Are there any new games you have in the works that seem especially interesting (besides Akanerio or course)

3 Are there any games you made that didn't get the recognition it deserved, but you thought it was a really good game? I hope I worded that right. Basically I'm asking if you have any underrated, hidden, or lesser known games that'll be fun to check out. If so do you have any links so I can maybe play a Demo or download it online (I'll pay for the full game if you have a download link of course. I'm not one to pirate games. Especially from indie developers)

edit: 4 What do you mean by "better days" when you talk about the industry shifting?

americanmcgee28 karma

Hey! :)

  1. Hahahaha. Awesome. I didn't choose my name. My mother named me that. She was a hippy. She said it was that or "Obnard" or "Marrakesh". Really, REALLY happy it wasn't Obnard.

  2. Yes. Please check out our shiny new gaming portal, SpicyWorld. You can do that via http://spicyworld.spicyhorse.com

  3. Nah. Seems when I make a game, even when I don't actually "make" the game, it gets some attention. Main thing I care about is actually getting more recognition for the PEOPLE who are making the games you think I make ;)

  4. Just that when I started it felt a lot more like a happy relationship between audience and developer. These days there's a lot of animosity going around - people are angry at publishers, press feeding off drama, gamers feeling ripped off, developers being hid or kept in captivity. I just think that we're seeing a shift back towards a better relationship between devs and audience.

emacsomancer11 karma

Back in 2006 you mentioned that you had switched to Linux on your primary work machine and planned to stay switched ( http://www.americanmcgee.com/2006/07/26/wga-and-activation-failures-dont-faze-redmond/ ). Are you still using Linux as you primary?

americanmcgee24 karma

Nope! Can't do these days because of China + game dev tools! Seriously, we run a Windows network and a lot of our source control tools simply don't exist on Linux. Also, China is not an environment in which you find a lot of people experienced on Linux. Know why? Because if you try to download a Linux distro without a VPN connection, YOU CAN'T! Crazy Chinese government blocks open source OS's. Go figure.

That being said, I run no less than THREE boxes at home. Hope that makes up for it ;)

Also, we ARE pushing more and more of our internal (and external) stuff to Linux these days. Mainly because we just imported a crazy-smart Russian programmer to Shanghai - he's a HUGE Linux nut, so he's been working to bring our back-end stuff over from Windows and will also be responsible for porting our games to Linux.

That's actually one of the goals of our current Kickstarter campaign for Akaneiro - get it running on Linux!

bigcitydandy11 karma

What advice would you give to solo indie developers who are trying to turn their hobby into a living?

americanmcgee22 karma

Make stuff! Plain and simple. You can grab the Apple Developer Kit and secure a license to publish for $99 - that puts you in front of millions of customers (billions?) and provides a way to hone your skills while building fun stuff. With stuff in hand, you have an opportunity to present yourself to publishers as a viable development studio. Or you may hit on the next Angry Birds and I'll be coming to you for work and publishing! :P

Vateman10 karma

What is the most important piece of advice you can think of for someone starting out in the games industry?

americanmcgee52 karma

Keep in mind that everyone goes into the industry thinking they have "passion" and that their passion will get them noticed. That means your passion is just like everyone else's... it won't get you noticed. What you need is an ability to display a WIDE RANGE of skills. If you're an artist, be able to draw more than just transforming robots or ponies. Be able to draw transforming robot ponies at the drop of a hat! Programmer? Don't specialize in stuff you're interested in. Pursue broad knowledge around AI, physics, multi-platform targeting, game play programming, machine learning, etc, etc.

Once you're able to do lots of interesting stuff, PROVE IT. Build demos, create an amazing portfolio; just show how awesome you are! At Spicy Horse we don't hire people based on their degree (a bit of paper) we hire them based on their ability to SHOW US how awesome they are.

Lastly, don't be a sound guy! If sound guys were made of water we'd all live in boats. I love me some good sound people, but seriously, there are SO MANY of them out there. Sorry.

robotsmakinglove9 karma

Who in your opinion is the most talented programmer you've ever worked with?

americanmcgee31 karma

John Carmack. No question. Actually, I'm pretty sure he's the most talented programmer anyone has ever worked with ;)

r_antrobus9 karma

Mr. McGee, I was wondering, why wasn't the recent Alice game released to the Mac? And are there any plans to porting any new or old games to the mac?

Also I'm living in Shanghai right now, why work in Shanghai where websites like Facebook, Youtube, and file sharing sites like Megaupload are blocked? Where are your headquarters, and can I visit? :)

EDIT: Added a few questions regarding Shanghai.

americanmcgee14 karma

Where and how Alice gets released is 100% up to EA. You'd have to ask them why they didn't bring it to Mac... I think they'd tell you there isn't enough profit (for them) in it.

I don't choose where I live based on Internet access or censorship policies. If I did, there'd be a very small number of countries to choose from.

Our office is located in ZhaBei District, just North of People's Square (about 1km). You are more than welcome to visit. Email me to arrange a time: american at spicyhorse dot com

masterplan19899 karma

im not a gamer by any means .i played quake beginning to end when i got my first computer. satisfaction was found at the end. ive never played another game since then. thanks for making it worth it.

americanmcgee22 karma

Wow. That might be a good way to be. Play one excellent game. Get out. Like winning at the Blackjack tables and walking away. You've avoided a lot of BS the games industry has put players through!

Squee019 karma

Alice was the best game ever! It's one of the few I've played all the way through. We were going to dress my 1 year old as Alice from the game (with blood and all) for Halloween but backed out at the last minute because we figured no one would "get" it.

Wasn't there a movie that was supposed to come out?

Props to you. That game is awesome!

americanmcgee20 karma

Thanks! Yeah, children covered in blood. Maybe not a great idea.

Movie... maybe. It's stuck 'in Hollywood.' We'll all just have to continue waiting.

Thanks for the props! I'll use those to fight off the 100 duck sized horses.

americanmcgee8 karma

OK. I AM LEAVING. This marks 24 hours of AMA. Pretty sure I managed to answer most questions. If you have additional questions, PLEASE DON'T post them here. Send them to me directly! My email address:

american at spicyhorse dot com

Seriously, stop posting here. You're making my OCD go nuts.

Thank you, everyone who showed up and asked questions. Great fun.

Take care!

PS: www.angry-red.com


SLTFATF8 karma

I haven't played any of your games, but they look great! How much work generally goes into a game?

americanmcgee28 karma

Depends on the type of game, platform, budget, etc. Some games take 600+ people to make (see Ubi's "Assassins Creed" games). Some take only 1 person (see "The Fart App"). Development schedules can last between 1 day and 8 years. Large-scale games often consume more man-hours to produce than a typical film might, by way of comparison.

k8207dz7 karma

Just curious if you've played Rage, and how you think id Software in general is doing these days?

Also, Akaneiro looks pretty sweet!

americanmcgee12 karma

I've not played Rage for more than a few minutes. It felt to me, like many modern day games do, very 'plastic.' One of the things I think id games used to do really well was capture a sense of dark humor - even when you were gibbing a imp or using exploding barrels to take out a bunch of 'pinkies.' No idea how id is doing. We don't speak :)

Glad to hear you like Akaneiro. We're very proud of it. And it feels like something good is going to happen with it. Very positive noises being made around it - and that noise is growing day by day.

Annon2017 karma

Shanghai was awesome, but Guangzhou has been my fave city in China.. There are more lights, led screens and flashy things then Macau and Las Vegas combined.

I wish I knew a way to find employment over there.. I can program, been an IT admin, electronic engineer & run my own business in phone repairs.. But so can 250,000 other Chinese graduates..

americanmcgee4 karma

Eh, don't let the numbers stop you. It's true... China is an incredibly competitive market to try and set up shop or work. The government puts a lot of barriers in place for foreigners to come over and work here as well. But it's an amazing time to be here. Keep looking, you can find a way :)

lunadivinare6 karma

You made my favorite games of all time. Alice changed me. I'm so happy those games exist. I don't need you to even respond, I just want you to know that you were the reason I got into gaming. Thank you. I might try to defeat that insidious ruin again on nightmare mode now.

americanmcgee7 karma

Well, I'm going to respond anyway. Glad to hear you like the game so much. Thanks for the kind feedback!

theoriginalmarshall6 karma

can we get another alice game, and also hi

americanmcgee10 karma

Electronic Arts controls Alice. You'll have to ask them. Sorry :)

looozie6 karma

  1. How is your Mandarin?
  2. Is Oz dead?
  3. Do you plan do any similar sort of re-imaginings or other classic tales? You've got a real talent for this sort of thing.
  4. Are your ideas influenced at all by the use of psychedelics?

Also as an aside. The jumping system in Alice was the greatest, most intuitive and easy to use jumping system I've seen in a 3D game. I've not played the sequel yet, so I don't know if it's the same in that one. I find it amusing every time I see somebody online talk down on the jumping segments in Alice because I'm convinced they simply didn't understand how the movable landing "crosshair" functioned.

americanmcgee18 karma

  1. It's good enough. I have a wide range of hobbies (building electric scooters, playing cello, cooking, making games, etc) and am able to converse about those things pretty openly. I also have a car, which I almost never drive, which means I'm pretty good at reading traffic and highway signs. That being said, it sucks. Chinese is difficult, and even my Expat friends who I know are good will tell you they suck.

  2. Pretty much, yes.

  3. We are in the process of releasing a new title, based on Red Riding Hood. It's called "Akaneiro: Demon Hunters" and you can play it by visiting www.angry-red.com - We also happen to be running a Kickstarter campaign, but I don't want to link to that for fear of appearing to be soliciting money from you guys. :)

  4. Hahaha. Good question. Goodbye future in politics. Yes. I lived in San Francisco from 1997~2001, during which time I made Alice. I "got the shirt" from End Up, 1015 Folsom, etc. Been there. Done that.

  5. Shit, there is no 5. Bad 4, bad.

Yeah, people get bent up about all sorts of stuff. They should really try more 4.

Mc_slave6 karma

What's your favorite game you helped create, and your favorite that you didn't?

americanmcgee10 karma

Kinda torn on this one. I really enjoyed working on the DOOM/Quake games because I was able to get involved with SO MUCH. That being said, the "Alice" games really helped established my name, so they're difficult to ignore. As for least favorite that would have to be "Bad Day LA," but not because of the game itself - just because of the terrible conditions we had to endure while creating it.

archeronefour5 karma

What do you say to the idea that indie games are at a disadvantage in the field of graphics and open-world scale? Do you think a game like Far Cry 3 could be replicated indie-style?

americanmcgee12 karma

There will always be a place for big-budget games running on next-gen hardware. Productions that will be difficult (if not impossible) for indie studios to create. Then again, the bulk of labor going into a title like that is related to art. If we get to a point where mouse/keyboard are replaced with more efficient input devices, it might take only ONE highly creative person to imagine and produce a massive title like Far Cry.

AliceTheGreatest5 karma

I haven't played the Alice in Wonderland games, but it's something I plan on doing at some point. What was you inspiration for the insanity change in the games?

americanmcgee9 karma

Not sure I understand what you mean by "insanity change"... do you mean the Rage Box? That was inspired by earlier games in which players had access to stuff like (in Quake) the "Quad Damage." Old habits die hard ;)

AliceTheGreatest5 karma

I mean. In the books, wasn't it more fairy-tale like? Where as in the games, it's more of a nightmare.

americanmcgee12 karma

Ah. You mean "why did you make the cute, happy Alice tale a dark one?"

Well, my reading of the original books is that they are already pretty dark. Combine that with a lot of the rumors that swirl around the relationship between Carroll and Alice; around the era in general... and you get something that I think fits pretty well with the games.

My goal was never to make them dark for the sake of dark. If that were the goal, then the games would have come out looking like what EA did with Dante's Inferno. Full-on 'nope' for me.

brokensaint825 karma

What do you think of the state of copy and paste FPS games penetrating the market today and breaking records left and right?

americanmcgee15 karma

I think it's sad. But it's also a sign of the industry nearing the end of this particular cycle of content and development. It's a sort of distilling down of content towards the last remaining lucrative audience. That doesn't mean it represents the larger, more curious audience - or the new gamers who are coming online for the first time, never having touched a mouse/keyboard or console controller. The bright side of all of this is that other forms of gaming and other delivery system are breaking records too. Just give it more time to balance out again.

brokensaint824 karma

I wonder then if you've played Spec Ops: The Line? It feels like one of the aforementioned copy and paste shooters but takes on a very different approach and feel to the genre. If you have played it what were your impressions coming away from it?

americanmcgee10 karma

Have heard it's great, but haven't played. I'm sure there's still room for expression and awesome content... Just seems publishers are less and less interested in making those kinds of bets these days.

Roxas1465 karma

Hi American McGee! Of course, I wanted to get the obligatory thank-yous out of the way. I actually found the first Alice near a dumpster when I was taking out the trash, and the discs were all fully functional! One man's trash is truly another one's treasure :) I thought that you concept did such a great job of highlighting the darker sides of Lewis Carroll and really brought out what I thought was Alice's "true" character.

Just a couple of a questions when you have the time:

1) What do you think is your greatest strength when it comes to bringing a game/idea to fruition? Ideas for the gameplay and immersion/experience? Or do you think you do well with the character development and the story?

2) Continuing on the last question, which one do you think is the most important? There are many games such as Counter-Strike and Starcraft that make their living based on gameplay, whereas almost all Square Enix games make success because of the super deep and consistent character development in conjunction with an engrossing, emotional story with several plot turns.

3) I understand that you will want to make future Alice games. When you do, where do you think the story will go? There is a lot of speculation concerning the ambiguity around the ending of Madness Returns. Have you thought of a Chrono Trigger-esque storyline in which certain actions influence the ending of your story?

4) What are your favorite games and books?

5) Do you play any musical instruments? If not, what would you like to play and why?

Once again, thank you very much!

americanmcgee18 karma

Hey there! Obligatory thank you accepted ;) Someone threw Alice in the trash!? Shame!

Answers: 1. My greatest strength in this business is being able to surround myself with really talented people - and to keep them happy (most of the time). I'm good with the big, high-concept stuff as well. When it comes to the details of making games or getting them done, I'm so-so. These days I spent huge amounts of time on running the business, which I've found I'm pretty good at. We're still here after 6 years!

  1. There's room in the world for both types of games, same as there's room in the world for pr0n and Ridley Scott movies.

  2. There shouldn't be ambiguity at the end of Alice! She's attained mastery of the physical world and we see that blended with her mastery of the psychological world (which she came away from the first game with). If there's a third game, my hope is to see her leveraging both of those powers to enter the minds of other characters - so-called "Otherlands." Yes, this has an element of Psychonauts to it. So be it. Imagine Alice mind-raping Jack the Ripper. They lived in the same time-period, I've done the research. Hehe.

  3. These days I'm mainly focused on Minecraft. I love the amount imagination it pulls out of me when playing it. As for books, my Kindle front-page currently has a book on evolution/social behavior (Wilson), several books on circuit design, books on Rasberry pi (hence the circuit design stuff), a book called "You are not so Smart," also, "I'll Go Home Then" (David Thorne), and "A supposedly fun thing..." by David Foster Wallace. I tend to read several books at the same time - which is OK as long as they are all different topics.

5) Cello. I've been teaching myself for the past 3 years and would say I am "ok." I played flute when I was in elementary-high school. That was OK because all the cute girls played flute and clarinet. Giggity.

Clayab1015 karma

years ago there were rumors flying around about Sarah Michelle Gellar starring in a big screen version of Alice. Was there any truth to the rumblings? Also, any future plans for an Alice movie?

americanmcgee13 karma

There was truth. She accosted me outside a restaurant in Hollywood and went ballistic about her desire to play the lead role in an "Alice" movie. It was... interesting. Nothing ever came of it. The movie is caught in the Hollywood doldrums.

jeawjeaw4 karma

Do you ever miss the "Lamma Drama"?

americanmcgee9 karma

Because of Lamma Drama I most certainly can never run for political office. That's too bad, because I'd like to get into politics and mess stuff up. Oh well.

drakeblood44 karma

When writing a game, do you prefer creating a streamlined experience that has an articulate, concise feel, or making a large, broad game which allows a player to explore and create their own experience.

americanmcgee9 karma

I'm a fan of the latter when it comes to playing, but the former when it comes to story-telling. Story telling requires structure (or an alternate to) whereas 'create your own experience' can get away with less of it. I've not yet had a chance to write a narrative for a more open experience, but it is something I wish I had more opportunity to explore. The big barrier is time/money.

drakeblood42 karma

That's a solid response. I definitely agree that reduction of player choice streamlines a story, but I think a game can have a surprising amount of player choice without hamstringing the story it's telling. Things like Loneliness are really exemplary of of this in my opinion. It ends up being very difficult to write something like that, and things like convergent storylines ala Echo Bazaar are probably a very necessary element of longer versions of it.

What would you say to any college kid considering going into Game Design? What do you wish you'd done earlier in your career?

americanmcgee3 karma

Going into Game Design is tough. If you ask a room full of 8 year-old-kids what they want to be when they grow up, a large % will say "Game Designer!" So, there's some competition. The best game designers I know (and I'm not one of them, btw) tend to combine together a mastery of multiple disciplines with an understanding a development ... which allows them to be flexible within constraints. The worst designers are the ones that have no clue of constraints and don't understand how things actually get developed. With that in mind, expose your self to as much knowledge about all facets of development as you can.

an800lbgorilla4 karma

Fellow 上海老外 here. Favorite bar in Shanghai? I'm a big fan of Oscar's for a round of pool and darts.

americanmcgee5 karma

你好! I'm frequently at UVA in Jing'An District. They have a chill atmosphere and play good music. They closed down all of our nearby hole-in-wall places so the buildings could be... you guessed it... knocked down!

an800lbgorilla1 karma

Thanks for the reply. Love that area of town, too. The Shed is a great spot. If I ever see you out on the town, I'll be sure to buy you a drink. 干杯!

americanmcgee2 karma

They tore down the Shed!!! ;(

Well, there's a new one, but it's nowhere near as hole-in-the-wall as the old one.

MyNameAintCowboy4 karma

Thank you for your contributions to gaming history! I'm studying audio production, and I was wondering how difficult it is to get involved in sound design for games?

americanmcgee7 karma

I answered this already, if you look towards some of the earlier questions. That post will have a distinct aura of depression around it (for you), as getting into sound/music/VO for games is really hard. Wish I had something happier to tell you, but the reality is we get hit with 1~3 new inquiries from "sound guys" (or VO, SFX, composers, etc) on a daily basis. There's just that much spare resource out there. Compare that with how impossible it is for us to find a good UI Coder. I'd give my left ... something ... for a good UI Coder right now!

Laspimon4 karma

It is common knowledge that literature cultivates the mind, but how about video games? How do you see your own role (or that of video games in general) in shaping the next generation? Do you ever make design decisions on the grounds of avoiding bad influence or for the purpose of being an inspiration/role model?

americanmcgee8 karma

My design decisions are more driven by what I think the story or main character "wants" than what the outside world is asking for. "Alice" is a great example - on both developments I found myself repeatedly saying things like, "Alice wouldn't do that," or "Alice wouldn't wear that." That being said, I did choose to work with the property because I knew the things Alice would be things I'd agree with. Psychological backflip there.

As for avoiding bad influence... I believe people have a personal responsibility to handle that for themselves.

And as for being a role model... I do try my best. Most of that's done at our studio where I tend to lead by example.

WirtThePegLeggedBoy4 karma

Hey, big fan of your work. Any opinions you could offer, from a developer's standpoint, regarding mobile devices, consoles, PCs... Which would be the best platform to see your creations realized on, vs. ease of development, etc., not to mention how publishers have huge influence over the console realm, and how that affects a smaller dev house trying to release their title.

americanmcgee21 karma

I've been saying for a long time that I believe we're going to see all these different devices consolidated into one. At some point you're going to be carrying around a brick of processors and memory - and it's going to interface with all sorts of screens and inputs - and we'll have to come up with a new name for it. But we're not there yet...

For today, we're big fans of online/web/client games. Simply because there's a direct connection to our audience and no curated 'store' standing between you and discovery of our game. Marketing stuff on the web is hard, but virality can still work. Not so much on the mobile stores, Facebook, etc. Those platforms are gamed - you either spend marketing $ or you don't exist.

Console is just terrible for indies. There's like a 0.00001% chance of getting an indie title onto any of the proprietary platforms.

Towards this thinking, we built our own platform: spicyworld.spicyhorse.com

What we're finding is that we're seeing better retention and engagement - and we're better able to connect directly with our audience. We're happier and the people playing our games are happier.

Someday gamers and developers are going to look back at the 15+ years that were LOST because of a retail market dominated by large publishers pushing content to a locked platform. We lived with a full-blown monopoly for all this time, and no one ever noticed. Glad to see that going away.

shempmalone3 karma

How was working with the Shy the Sun crew?

americanmcgee27 karma

They are fantastic in terms of creativity and capability. If you check out the trailers they did for A:MR, all you can say is "Wow!" What was frustrating was how EA Marketing interfered - telling STS from the start that ALL creative direction and final say would come from them, not from us (the developer/creator of the story/tone). That resulted in trailers that were much darker and gorier than the game ... and that was a calculated disconnect created by EA. They wanted to "trick" gamers into believing A:MR was a hard-core horror title, even though we refused to develop it in that tone. Their thinking is, even if the game isn't a hard-core horror title, you can market it as one and trick those customers into buying it (while driving away more casual customers, like female gamers, who might be turned off by really dark trailers). It's all a part of the race to the bottom EA, Activision and the other big pubs are engaged in. Expect to see it get worse before it gets better.

Derpsans3 karma

What's your opinion on Hollywood leaning more to releasing more "darker" child story book movies? The recent "Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters and the soon to be released Jack the Giant Slayer" being examples.

americanmcgee14 karma

Haven't seen the movies in question (or the trailers even!) but my thought is "eh?" These things come and go in cycles. So long as the story is cool, I don't care what the theme is.

GoneAFK3 karma

What's the one universe you've always dreamed of setting a game in that you haven't yet for one reason or another (legal or otherwise)?

americanmcgee13 karma

My dreams for game development don't revolve around particular stories or universes. I get really excited when thinking about potential advances in human/machine I/O. Seriously, we've been using mouse & keyboard forever. It's a limitation on input of creativity and on output of experience to our brains. Someone seriously needs to create a mechanism for jacking-in. Then we can talk about the kinds of worlds we want to create.

anmoyunos3 karma

How in the hell were you so good at Quake with the screen shrunk down so small? Also, I almost got into the Quake clan you used to be in. I forget the name of it (dark requiem?), but my interest was that they had the only decent looking skin and I wanted it so bad. Then I discovered you were rolling with them and that made me rather excited.

americanmcgee7 karma

I'm pretty sure the massive amount of exposure we endured while making those games completely re-wired the way our brains worked. To this day my path finding and internal mapping systems are insanely overpowered. By way of example, I spent a week in Venice... and never got lost. Didn't even use a map!

skekze2 karma

How can someone who can't draw or code a game, get into this type of thing? I've been playing since I was 4, so 36 years of play. I started with Pong. If that doesn't count as a degree, I don't know what does. Nice game with Alice in Wonderland. It was a beautiful disturbed dream-walk. I haven't had the honor of playing the sequel yet. Thanks for adding to this mad new genre of horror and technology.

americanmcgee6 karma

There are plenty of people in our studio working as Producers or Designers who didn't come here with any proof of being able to actually do those things. I like to take chances on people - because someone took a chance on me. So, if you wanted to work here, I wouldn't demand you produce proof of education... but I would expect some proof of capability.

Some of the people I've hired were brought in because they made videos showing off their game ideas - even going to the trouble to mock-up a Wii-mote and edit together video to make it look like they had a console to demo on, when they did not. That sort of thing gets my attention.

wendyclear862 karma

Probably going to be buried, but Alice was one of my all time favorite games. I liked the dark take on the story. Just wanted to let you know.

americanmcgee5 karma

Thank you! Appreciate the kind feedback!

Demarcator2 karma

What is the deal with that restaurant deli store in Newport? Do you own it in part? I heard that you do. Alice was awesome by the way.

americanmcgee11 karma

Absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Except the Alice being awesome part. Thanks ;)

drakeblood42 karma

If you had to choose between writing a game where the player fights one hundred duck sized horses or a game where the player fights one horse sized duck, which would you choose?

americanmcgee9 karma

In the case of the game, I think I'd want to give Player the option of choose that battle for themselves. It's their game. Let them play however they want!

Cherudim2 karma

Is there any chance the original Alice might get re-release on pc at any time? I lost my original copy years ago and I've been wanting to replay it really bad since I picked up Madness Returns. Getting it through other methods has been pretty iffy since the game doesn't run very well on modern operating systems.

americanmcgee9 karma

EA re-released it (and we ported it to newer OS's) via Origin (their digital download service). Keys for free downloads were included in some new boxes of A:MR. Maybe check Origin?

JWoodzy2 karma

Any comments on Nintendo Wii U as compared to other consoles? Innovative, bad, good, dumb, smart?

americanmcgee6 karma

I think they might have stumbled. And I say that as a HUGE fan of innovation in control and output. The industry needs more evolution on the I/O aspect of games. Just seems Nintendo might have missed the target this time. Note that this feedback comes from a person who has never actually touched one of these devices - just watched others struggle with them and read of the alarming drop-off rates happening after people purchase them.

orange_octopus2 karma

What advice would you give to a young composer who is interested in writing music for games?

americanmcgee3 karma

Choose another profession? Sorry, I don't mean to be discouraging, but the odds are against you. Generally speaking, for any large game development, where you have 200+ people working on the project... you'd be lucky to find 2 or more composers on the project. Combine that with a massive number of people trying to get into a "sound" position in the industry... it's just really difficult.

If you're going to chase it though... figure out a personal calling card, quirk, something to set yourself a part. Maybe change your name to, "American?" :P

happylurker1 karma

Alice is definitely my favorite game of all times. Back in high school I wrote a project about art, literature and videogames and brought it as a splendid example, thank you!

americanmcgee1 karma

Glad to hear it! Thank you for the warm support :)

NotReallyAnon1 karma

Fledgling 3D animator/concept artist here. I graduate last year and like everyone else we've all had bad luck breaking into the industry.

I wanted to say that you are the sole reason I got into this industry and Alice has been one of my favourite games of all time since I was about 9 years old, just knowing that you are still making games makes me want to work harder to get in a position where I can contribute to something as amazing as the Alice franchise. Thank you for your constant inspiration!

americanmcgee6 karma

Sorry to hear that. If you're in the US, you might be suffering from the fact that large publishers outsource a significant % of their art and animation to cheaper countries. That's bad for you, it's bad for games, but it's good for the corporate giants. My suggestion would be that you stop looking for someone to hire you and simply start making stuff. There are TONS of people out there looking for a job - all of whom have solid skills - and ignoring the fact that you could cobble together an indie crew and start making stuff in your garage, right now.

J03_661 karma

Hope I'm not too late to ask questions... What happened to Oz? I remember seeing something about it in an old gameinformer magazine a long time ago

americanmcgee2 karma

It was killed when the publisher (Atari) ran out of money. More detailed explanation is offered in earlier response.

DarkAvenger221 karma

how difficult is it to get started in the game designing business?

where are some good places to start in Scotland?

what are the most basic kind of qualifications i need to begin with?

americanmcgee2 karma

Depends on exactly what you want to do. If "design" is your goal, then it's pretty tough. For every 50+ person team, there's often only 1 designer, so the odds are automatically against you (same with sound/music people, btw). I answer in more detail the requirements in an earlier question.

Though there's a "Mc" in my name, I'm not at all familiar with Scotland or where you might start looking for a design job there.

Truth is, you don't "need" qualifications. Plenty of really successful mobile games were created by individuals with no prior experience, working alone and self-publishing.

My advice for anyone just starting out would be "make developing games your hobby, download the Apple development kit" and get going!

bewjujular1 karma

Do you watch Zero Punctuation?

americanmcgee2 karma

I do! Especially the one he did about "Alice: Madness Returns." He's always good for a laugh. Or, when he's lampooning your baby, a cry.

Seufman1 karma

Hi, American. First, I'd like to thank you for your portfolio of work.

What challenges have you faced in transitioning to Free-to-Play? Do you think Free-to-Play is easier to implement on the desktop than on mobile? Can you recommend a publisher to work with in the Chinese market? My studio is hoping to release our title in China but I've yet to find any publishers that were accessible / would return my emails.

americanmcgee2 karma

Thanks for the thanks!

Challenges in transitioning to F2P largely revolve around the fact that we have absolutely NO CLUE what we're doing! It's a model a number of developers have figured out with highly lucrative results, but which also draws the ire of "real" gamers. Our challenge has been in trying to make something work as a game, give gamers free access to lots of content and still put food on the table. I can say that F2P is NOT easier to implement by any stretch of the imagination. But the benefits appear to outweigh the required effort - if we can survive long enough to enjoy them ;)

A would be happy to discuss the Chinese publishing landscape with you. Email me: american at spicyhorse dot com It's a long conversation and probably best had on the phone.

CherryCandee1 karma

I don't have anything to ask, I just want to thank you for making my favorite games; Alice is the most awesome, crazy and at the same time beautiful game ever made.

americanmcgee2 karma

Thanks for that!

hivemind61 karma

You have a great name. Do you eat burgers and shit freedom?

americanmcgee13 karma


The last time I ate a burger it gave me such incredible food poisoning that I've not eaten another since. If what I was shitting was freedom, then I'd suggest everyone get as far away from freedom as possible.

Ironic that my sole encounter with food poisoning in China came from a hamburger?

snxsnx1 karma

Do you have any plans to make some more games based on classic tales, such as rumored "American McGee's Oz" and "American McGee's Grimm"?

It was just a rumor or were they really considered? I would love to see your take on them.

americanmcgee3 karma

Just rumors. More details provided in the earlier responses.

marksagrouch1 karma

Since all of my questions about your previous work has been answered, I have a serious question for you. What schoolyard taunts did you have to deal with growing up?

americanmcgee3 karma

Good one! Seems even young kids grasped that by making fun of my being "American," they'd be making phone of their own. So they went for my last name: McGee. That become "Monkey" and I was... "American Monkey!" So creative.

You know, I was a weird kid, so most kids stayed pretty far away from me. So far away they didn't even bother to taunt me.

aazav1 karma

Oh, just shut up and take my money!


americanmcgee7 karma

Pretty sure I already took YOUR money. Thanks.

YouSmellLikeBurning1 karma

Got any plans for any more twisted fairytale games? I absolutely adore both Alice games, and would be delighted if you guys could adapt something like Snow White or Rapunzel. Preferably continuing the trend of a snarky British accent on the heroine as well.

americanmcgee4 karma

We're just in the process of launching another: www.angry-red.com

This is "Diablo meets Okami" with a Red Riding Hood inspired main character.

Beyond that, I've got mountains of ideas... just not enough time, energy or money!

drhodesmumby1 karma

Wow. Nice to see you doing an AMA; my partner and I seriously loved Alice, even if we never did quite manage to finish it (kept dying while fighting the blasted Queen of Hearts...).

What do you think was the most significant factor in Alice's success, and what was your favourite part of the game and why? Bonus points for favourite part to design as well as play!

americanmcgee2 karma

The build-in audience certainly didn't help. Alice is recognized globally by a wide demographic of people. Beyond that, I'd like to think that the approach we took (stylistically) resonated more often than not with people's internal expectations for what the narrative might look like outside of the Disney interpretation.

Favorite parts? I'm not good at those. Mainly, when a game is done, I like the part that goes in the box and is called "finished."

/shakes fist at blasted Queen of Hearts!

applebeedonogan0 karma

Wanna be my lover?

americanmcgee4 karma

I already have a very lovely girlfriend, but thanks for the offer :)


Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?

americanmcgee17 karma

I believe one could overcome the sheer number of 100 duck-sized horses through careful breaking of critical bones and joints... while a horse-sized duck could rip off your head before you blinked an eye. I'd go for 100 duck-sized horses. Also, in Chinese my name is "lucky horse" (马吉) so that seems to indicate some sort of advantage when it comes to horse battle?