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Vol. 2, Issue 1
November 8, 1999

Through the Looking Glass

An interview by Russell "RadPipe" Lauzon




ld-schoolers like myself remember American McGee for his beautiful words of wisdom concerning llamas (and their care), but it was at id Software that he really earned a name for himself. His mapping work can be found on some of the all-time great First Person Shooters including Doom2, Quake, and Quake2. Some of his best levels are still routinely played on DM servers across the Net.

American McGee left id Software in the spring of 1998 with a cryptic message about a plan to start an online gambling adventure. But clearly gaming was in his blood, for not long after McGee was back in the game and working for Maxis. But he wasn't there long. An opportunity arose at Electronic Arts to work on a game, a new game following the most unlikely of children's stories, "Alice in Wonderland".

What prompted you to leave id Software?

I left id Software after finishing Quake II. I think that after so many years it was just time, and I'm actually very thankful to the id guys for the chance they gave me and for the time I spent there.

Is it true you did a stint at Maxis before settling into EA? What did you work on there?

I did start out with EA at Maxis.  I spent some time there while deciding what I wanted to work on.  The opportunity to work on Alice came up at EA and I grabbed it.  One project I spent some time on at Maxis is still in development so I can't talk about it.

Did you do any level designing in your spare time, or was it purely a dry period after your departure from id?

Since my departure from id I've worked on a number of DM maps purely for fun and exercise. Just recently I completed a Quake III map called "The Gibhole". I'll release that to the net as soon as Quake III is out.

When you left, you mentioned that you were going to go work for an online gambling company. What happened there?  Is this something you'd like to return to someday, or are your plans for the future purely in video games?

This is a pretty long story. The short of it was that I thought I wanted to get away from the gaming industry and try something new. A few friends and I took a stab at starting a company based on online and on location based gambling. After a while I realized that I was missing video games. I looked around at where the industry was, saw an opportunity to work with some really great people inside EA and took it.

Why Alice? Is this an idea you've been working on for awhile?

Alice was conceived during the course of work last summer. It came out of discussions with friends and separate game ideas that I was working on at the time. A lot of credit goes to the brilliant people I was surrounded by at the time.

What sort of liberties are you taking with the source material?

Quite a lot actually. A person could create many different types of games using the characters and spaces in Wonderland. Anything from a children's game to a full-on death and destruction fest. The real challenge is to stylize Alice in such a way that the existing 1st/3rd person market really gets into it. I'm trying to go for more of a 'Nightmare Before Christmas' type feeling with my version of Alice and so far it's working out really well.

Was Alice ever conceived as purely a first person game, or was third person the idea from the start?

I've been wanting to work on a 3rd person game for some time now. Alice has lent itself beautifully to being in 3rd person. First person is great, and it will be available in multiplayer, but single player is going to be 3rd person only. I think that the Alice design called for 1st person for about a week. Then I realized that the Alice character and the Wonderland environment were much better served by a 3rd person perspective.

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Credits: Illustration © 1999 Christopher "Derelict" Greenhaw. Through the Looking Glass is © 1999 Russel Lauzon and American McGee. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, goldarn it.