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American McGee talks OZombie & Alice: Otherlands

Tuesday, 28 May 2013 08:04 GMT By Dave Cook

Alice: Otherlands and OZombie are the next potential projects from Spicy Horse. Studio founder American McGee tells VG247′s Dave Cook about, their plots, mechanics and possible multiplayer.

American McGee

McGee began his career at id Software and is now founder of Shanghai-based studio Spicy Horse.

The studio is known for the Alice series, and is currently working on Akaneiro, as well as concepts for Alice: Otherlands and OZombie.

Only one of the two concepts will make it to Kickstarter, but we won’t know which until the team is ready to announce the funding campaign.

You can check out early OZombie concepts and art over at the project’s Facebook hub.

Off the back of its successful Kickstarter campaign for Akaneiro: Demon Hunters, Shanghai-based studio Spicy Horse is looking at two potential follow-up projects to take down the crowd-funding route.

The first is tentatively titled Alice: Otherlands, which would be the third instalment of the popular trilogy based on the works of Lewis Carroll, and the second is OZombie, a twisted adventure based on the Wizard of Oz.

I caught up with studio founder American McGee to discuss both projects, and to get a clearer picture on what they both involve from a plot, gameplay and feature perspective.

But first I had to be sure of one thing, which was the status of the Alice IP at present, and McGee was happy to explain the current situation, confirming that he had spoken with EA on the matter.

McGee replied, “We’re simply trying to create a license that makes sense for us, that makes sense for EA, and also – to some degree – that makes sense to the fans.

“Already we’ve seen some feedback from the fans that suggests they’d like to see Spicy Horse having a certain amount of control and involvement with the IP going forward.

“So we’re trying to do something where all negotiations make sense for us, makes sense for EA and makes sense for the fans. It remains to be seen if we get there because that’s a lot to ask. Everybody’s got different ideas of what they’d like in an ideal situation, and so ultimately it may just be easier for everyone if we simply do OZombie.

“Whatever happens, we’re not going to make the announcement until the Kickstarter launches in July. Basically, even if I figure out next week with EA, that ‘Hey, we’re not going to do this, or we’re going to do that’, the fans and press won’t know which project it is until the day the Kickstarter goes live”.


This OZombie concept art shows Dorothy meeting the Tin Man.

With the fine details out of the way we started to discuss each project individually, starting with Alice in Otherlands. It’s conceptualised as a Unity 3D-powered, true sequel to Alice: Madness Returns and it’s set in London as the industrial revolution starts to take hold.

McGee explained the plot, and said, “The core concept is that she’s now, having completed the mission of the first game, mastered the psychological domain, and having completed the mission of the second game, mastered the physical domain. Alice has now achieved a level of super-power, which we’d like to see her use to travel into the Otherlands of other people’s minds.

“At that time in London there was a very rich collection of people present – everybody from Darwin and Thomas Edison, to Jack the Ripper and Mark Twain – just a huge number of literary, artistic and inventive people. So the idea would be that Alice would be travelling into the minds of the people she meets in London, and that’s the core gameplay mechanic; that the Otherlands become mental landscapes to adventure through.

“The third game would not be about Alice trying to save herself, as that’s kind of happened already. It would be about Alice trying to save London, trying to save the people around her, and what we’re envisioning is that she’s travelling into people’s minds to complete missions.

“Then in the outside world she’s building up a cross between London and Wonderland, which we refer to as ‘Londerland’, and so that’s becoming a sort of sanctuary for the children, the street urchins in London, and the base of power for Alice. All of this works toward a theme where she’s fighting against the growing industrialisation of the Victorian era”.


A piece of Madness Returns concept art showing Alice in London.

It’s an interesting concept that recalls the mind-hopping escapades of Double Fine’s Psychonauts, but with that classic dark edge that has become synonymous with Spicy Horse. It’s ambitious from a gameplay perspective too, but the scope of that ambition depends on whether or not the Kickstarter proceeds, and how much money it raises.

McGee explained that multiplayer is among the team’s goals, but that the bulk of the game would be am offline narrative single-player experience with exploration, combat and puzzles. Online facets such as co-op, tournaments, clans and PvP battles are also on the cards, but again, it is all dependant on the team getting the license and raising the necessary funds.

The less-problematic game to produce, OZombie is similar to the Alice trilogy in many ways. It also runs in Unity 3D and delivers a dark take on an otherwise whimsical fairytale story The game sees the realm of Oz turned into a dictatorship governed by the Scarecrow, and his lust for brains has turned everyone into husks.

However, McGee was keen to point out that you won’t be fighting traditional zombies or the undead at all. In fact, the term ‘zombie’ in this context applies to the populace of Oz, who have been beaten down by the Scarecrow’s regime so badly, that they are emotionless, conformist followers devoid of free-thought or ambition.

McGee explained, “When we talk about OZombie, the story revolves around the Scarecrow, and he is kind of crazy about brains, but the real story is that he’s trying to wipe out magic, creativity and beauty in Oz, and he’s trying to push everyone towards a very utilitarian, kind of Luddite anti-magic existence.


Don’t mess with the Tin Woodman, seriously. Don’t.

“The idea here is that Dorothy is going to come back into Oz, but this may even be Dorothy’s great, great granddaughter, we’re not sure yet. She’ll join forces with the Tin Woodman, the lion, she’ll have a version of Toto with her, and it’s not just about trying to fight against the Scarecrow and defeat the zombies.

“Really, the core of this will be trying to rebuild society, which means you’ll have to build up the infrastructure of the world. That means we’re going to be marrying some aspects of action, adventure, as well as resource-gathering and building mechanics into the core gameplay. All of this is very story-driven like Alice”.

Just like the Alice: Otherlands project, OZombie is conceptualised as having a narrative-driven single-player and a multiplayer component as well, which also depends on how well the Kickstarter funding drive goes. The world infrastructure aspect reminded me of Fable III’s kingdom-building, so I offered the comparison to McGee

He replied, “If you look at something like Fable – I mean, I love those games – those are incredible complex. you have to keep in mind that we’re on a budget that’s whatever the guys on Kickstarter want to give us. But a minimum is going to be around $1.5-$2 million, so we can’t be so ambitious as to suggest we’ll build a Fable-like RPG, plus all of the building stuff in there.

“It’s going to be something that’s a lighter presentation of some of those mechanics, so there would be resource collecting and then using them to build stuff. But the degree of freedom we give the players is probably going to be a lot more limited than you’d find in the traditional RTS or RPG genre. We’re really looking to make a streamlined experience out of it”.


OZombie’s witch is certainly a far cry from how she appears in the film.

Regardless of scope, OZombie is a neat take on the classic tale, and one that fans of the source material, and the twisted works of Spicy Horse should appreciate. It’ll take on a squad-based format, with Dorothy and chums blazing a trail across Oz, upgrading their combat abilities as they go.

The combat may not necessarily be real-time either, as McGee suggested that it may take on a stat-based, almost card fighter format instead. But as with most things right now, a lot of the finer details are open to change, depending once more on the Kickstarter strategy moving forward. It’s important to stress that most of this is not concrete at the time of writing.

In the end McGee views the audience and fans as Spicy Horse’s top priority. They’ll be – and have been – fully involved in the Kickstarter process and to ultimately decide – for example – how heavily the games lean towards action, narrative, or puzzles. It’s a malleable, transparent format, one that Kickstarter has become known for.

It gives the backers a true voice during production, and it’s something McGee and his team holds very dear indeed.

We’ll have more on both projects once Spicy Horse announces which one it is committing to Kickstarter, but for now, which would you like to see made first? Let us know below.

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4 Comments

  1. Richenbaum

    I guess it would maybe be best to do Alice 3 first since they’re already familiar with that type of game. Then they can take their time figuring out this new project, which does sound great. I’d gladly support either one if they needed it though.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. SameeR_Fisher

    “But a minimum is going to be around $1.5-$2 million”

    Not sure he will be able to hit that goal.

    “The combat may not necessarily be real-time either, as McGee suggested that it may take on a stat-based, almost card fighter format instead.”

    & the game lost its appeal.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. latalavera

    Les deux ont l’air géniaux!!

    Mais ma préférence va quand même à Alice: Otherlands car “le pays des merveilles amoché reste dans ton cœur…pour l’instant!” signifie pour moi qu’il faut ABSOLUMENT une suite à ce conte noir!

    Un grand sourire de chat du Cheshire. Please I want it!!!

    #3 2 years ago
  4. aliceinreverse

    i know this is extremely selfish of me. but…

    i have a pretty decent amount of money towards a kickstarter for alice, already saved.

    if oz is the kickstarter, i don’t think i will get involved.

    i love you american mcgee, but i love alice. i also have to agree with SameeR_Fisher that the combat issue is a let down.

    #4 2 years ago

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    The weekend Exotics market run by Xur: Agent of the Nine is now open for business. Destiny’s bizarre vendor, Xur, has arrived at the Tower. Xur is your man if you’re looking for Exotic armour or weapons. Not only that, but he will also let you exchange your old Exotic gear for new, upgraded versions. […]

  • Warcraft movie delayed yet again

    The Warcraft movie will no longer hit theatres in March 2016. The release date of the Warcraft movie has been pushed back by three months. The movie was expected in March 2016, but Legendary Pictures announced yesterday that it is now due on June 10, 2016. No reason was given for the delay. This is […]

  • Destiny: Iron Banner returns on April 28

    Destiny’s Iron Banner PvP event will return this Tuesday. Bungie has announced that the Iron Banner, it’s once-every-few-weeks PvP event, will make a return with next week’s weekly reset. It was initially due this week, but because of the recent Crucible changes that were implemented with patch 1.1.2, Bungie wanted to wait and see. That […]

  • Deus Ex devs take the piss out of Black Ops 3

    Deus Ex developers have been having a bit of a laugh at the expense of Call of Duty’s official Twitter account. You would be forgiven to think that yesterday’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 ‘Ember’ teaser was part of an ad campaign for a Deus Ex game, with all the biohacking, wearable tech, augmentation, […]

  • Bungie weekly update: Commendations begone

    Destiny’s weekly update is here to determine the fate of all those Commendations you’ve been earning in the past few months. Bungie started off this week’s update with a recap of the details revealed during the recent livestream. There wasn’t really anything on this front that they haven’t talked about already. With the exception of […]

  • This GTA 5 trainer lets you play as almost anything and it’s the best thing ever

    Want to play GTA 5 as a monkey, a cat, a fish, a deer or some other non-human thing that we eat or keep as a pet? ScriptHook has you covered. Not only can you play as critters, it change other game values, according to an explanation from PC Gamer. These values include making changes […]

  • EA Sports moves Rory McIlroy PGA TOUR release date to July

    EA Sports has announced Rory McIlroy PGA TOUR will be released in July. Originally announced for June, the golf game will now release the same week as the Open Championship at St. Andrews, on July 14. EA also provided some more color on gameplay features such as the ability to customize the game by borrowing […]

  • Jason Voorhees joins Mortal Kombat X in May, Kombat Pack owners get first dibs

    Jason Voorhees will arrive for Mortal Kombat X players in May, NetherRealm Studios announced today during the latest Kombat Kast. Jason will be shown for the first time on Monday, May 4 during a special Kombat Kast. According to EventHub which watched the livestream, the developer will also show off the character’s move and Variations. […]

  • The Witcher 3: Nvidia heads to Poland for a behind-the-scenes look – video

    A video for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been released, taking you behind-the-scenes with CD Projekt RED. Nvidia’s GeForce crew went to the firm’s studio in Poland to talk with the game’s executive producer John Mamais, who provides a look at the PC version of the upcoming RPG. CD Projekt, according to the video […]

  • Microsoft notes decline in Xbox unit sales for Q3 FY15 to 1.6 million

    Microsoft reported its Q3 FY15 earnings today, citing growth in Xbox Live usage as one of the contributing factors to the firm’s reported revenue. However, the firm noted a decline in units sales for its Xbox consoles during the quarter. Microsoft Q3 2014 (yoy comparison) Microsoft Q1 fiscal 2015 Microsoft Q2 fiscal 2015 The firm […]

  • Powerplay is a new feature included in the Elite: Dangerous May update

    The next update for Elite: Dangerous is coming next month and it includes a new feature called Powerplay. According to Frontier Developments, Powerplay allows players to participate in an ongoing battle that “enhances every aspect” of the game. Players can become allies with a number of galactic Powers and guide their strategy, pursue objectives in […]

  • Facebook says it’s “too early” to discuss large-scale shipments of Oculus Rift

    Facebook has said it is “too early” to discuss large-scale shipments of Oculus Rift as the VR headset is still in the development stages. Speaking during a call to investors, Facebook CFO David Wehner said the company had nothing to announce regarding the amount of stock it expected to ship. “We have not announced any […]

  • Battlefield Hardline’s first patch and rental server program hits next week

    Battlefield Hardline’s first patch has a release date for both consoles and PC. PC & Console patch and RSP for Consoles coming April 28th. Fixes include TDM spawns and more: http://t.co/BZYJeomPlr pic.twitter.com/27TCiY8hmf — Battlefield (@Battlefield) April 23, 2015 The update will include fixes to Punkbuster, Nvidia DirectX drivers, TDM spawns, contains weapon balance tweaks and […]

  • Modders can now earn money through Steam Workshop starting today with Skyrim

    Valve has introduced a new functionality within Steam Workshop which will allow mod makers to earn money for their creations, starting with Skyrim. The update will allow content such as mods, items, or maps to be sold through Steam Workshop for titles which have the feature enabled. A new “streamlined process for listing” has been […]

  • Play Skyrim for free this weekend on Steam and take 75% off while you’re at it

    Skyrim is free this weekend on Steam providing wanna-be Dragonborns who have procrastinated on wetting their blades with Stormcloak blood the perfect opportunity to give the RPG a try. Head over to Steam and download the game and play for free until April 26 at 1am PDT. The game is also 75% off if you […]

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 “Ember” teaser video released ahead of full reveal

    Activision has released a Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 teaser video titled “Ember” and you can watch it right here. Here’s the video blurb: “In the next 50 years, technological advancements will lead us into a world where only those who risk going too far, will find out how far we can actually go.” […]

  • Dragon Age Keep update includes more customizability and control

    Bioware has updated Dragon Age Keep after listening to community feedback. The update includes more customization and control over heroes, world states, career and more. Players can now customize hero portraits or delete Dragon Age: Inquisition heroes from the Hero section. They can also remove playthrough states from the World State Manager and keep up […]

  • Here’s a look at some Conker community creations in Project Spark

    Conker’s Bug Reunion releases today, and below is a video showing some of the community creations you will be able to download using the creation pack. Project Spark is a free download on Xbox One and Windows 8.1, and you can download the Conker Creation Pack today. It contains 350 assets in order for users […]

  • Rainbow Six: Siege video shines spotlight on the British Counter Terrorist Unit

    Ubisoft has released a Rainbow Six: Siege video which gives you a look at the British Counter Terrorist Unit which features “the best of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.” The firm said that over the next few weeks it will introduce the public to each of the units in the game. Rainbow Six Siege […]

  • Mario Kart 8 DLC and Mewtwo for Super Smash Bros. headline eShop update in North America

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with an update and new DLC for Mario Kart 8 and the Mewtwo DLC for Super Smash Bros. Other highlights include Mario Kart DS on Wii U Virtual Console, the continuation of International StreetPass Week and more. Full update is below. Nintendo eShop Mario Kart […]

  • Square Enix host E3 2015 conference this year on June 16

    With Final Fantasy 15, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided on the horizon, it should come as no surprise to learn that Square Enix will be hosting a dedicated E3 2015 conference this year. The presentation will take place Tuesday, June 16 at 9am PDT/12pm EDT/5pm UK. It will be broadcast […]

  • Final Fantasy 4: The After Years 3D remake releasing on Steam next month

    Final Fantasy 4: The After Years has been given a makeover and will be released on Steam of PC next month. You can now pre-order it on Steam and take 10% off for the time being. The game will be released on the digital service May 12 and will include trading cards and achievements. Thanks, […]

  • This Project Cars video shows off the racer’s multiplayer

    Project Cars developer Slightly Mad has released a new video giving you a look at the game’s multiplayer. The game is out next month, and if you would like to refresh yourself on the tracks included,  give this a look. While you are clicking links, here’s the minimum and recommended PC specifications which dropped last […]

  • Looks like Logitech is getting out of OEM mouse production business [Clarification]

    Logitech will no longer produce “low-end” mice, citing a decline in PC accessories. This story has been updated to include a clarification. According to a Reuters report, per MCV, the firm will instead focus on video accessories and streaming music, as its wireless Bluetooth speakers are now its best-selling product rage. This will help offset […]

  • Win! We have 1,000 Heroes of the Storm beta keys to give away

    Must have more MOBA? Win one of our 1,000 Heroes of the Storm beta keys and see if you’re more Blizzard than LoL. Can’t wait for June 2? Of course you can’t. We have 1,000 closed beta keys for Heroes of the Storm to give away this week, allowing you access before Blizzard’s MOBA goes […]

  • Xenoblade Chronicles X Nintendo Direct airs tomorrow, April 24

    A Nintendo Direct devoted entirely to Xenoblade Chronicles X will air this Friday, April 24. The video showcase will start at 11am PDT/2pm EDT/7pm UK. After the showcase, a new Nintendo Treehouse: Live presentation featuring the game will air. This is the second Xenoblace Chronicles X Nintendo Direct, but the first in English. The first […]

  • Blizzard will have 500 game stations set up at gamescom 2015

    Blizzard is heading to gamescom 2015 in August and it will have 500 game stations set up for attendees to get their hands on five of its titles. The developer will be set up in Hall 7 and those who stop by will be able to get hands-on with the latest content for Heroes of […]

  • PS4 price cut to £299 in UK

    Sony has dropped the price of the PS4 in the UK. For a limited time only, you can grab the console for £299.99 from Argos, Game, Tesco and Very. Go to Amazon.co.uk and you’ll get it for £289. You’ve only got until April 28, then it goes back up to £349. Go, go, go. For […]

  • Mad Max: first ever gameplay footage revealed

    Today, we get to finally take our first look at gameplay from Mad Max. Avalanche and Warner Bros. have shown off the first gameplay trailer for Mad Max today. The trailer below offers a look at melee combat, car combat, customisation and much more. Give it a watch below: There are a few new screenshots […]

  • Overlord: Fellowship of Evil has four-player co-op like we figured

    Codemasters has pulled the veil back on the next Overlord game, and its a four-player co-op game called Overlord: Fellowship of Evil. Rhianna Pratchett is back to write the story. The game may be co-op at its core, but it can still be played single-player. Each of the four playable character have strengths and weaknesses, […]

  • Update now available for Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, Pokemon X and Y

    Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire along with Pokemon X and Y are being updated by Nintendo to fix a few bugs and in-game text. There’s also the possibility of a few hacks and exploits being fixed. Per Nintendo Life (via Serebii), both patches are 250-270 blocks in size, and it’s a mandatory update which […]

  • Side-scrolling cover shooter Not a Hero gets a demo

    Not a Hero, the upcoming game from OlliOlli developer Roll7, has received a demo. The demo for Not a Hero was made available today on Steam. In the game, you play as Steve, the campaign manager for BunnyLord. A time-travelling rabbit who’s running for mayor of London. Think this is an absurd premise? This trailer […]