Alex here wishing you all the best wherever you are in the world.
Heads up. This is the longest post we’ve ever created.
With so much to cover across the movement in the Alice project, this will be highly detailed.
Lots of written updates concerning recent meetings, lots of new artwork, as well as new Design Bible excerpts as we go.
We will share our plans and strategy for 2023, and a new WIP for the Design Bible is attached at the very bottom. 345 individual pages / 173 double-page spreads at the time of writing and still growing.
Please pour a fresh cup of tea (fight off the teapot if you have to) and join me as we look into the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future for this end-of-year update for Alice and beyond.
Firstly, the past.
This year has seen a ton of incredible concept artwork and design from the team.
Here’s a small curated selection below.
Regarding the Alice: Asylum game concept, we’ve been itching to talk about our recent meetings with potential development partners.
Short version; things are shaping up positively.
Our pre-production team has critical work to do.
From my perspective, the backward and forward American, Adam (our tech lead), and I are building with our potential development partner’s team are shaping up solidly.
We have new action points on our radar to address. We’ll share more here with you all as they eventuate.
Our potential development partners have told us they are actively finalizing a total projected development budget, (which should be hitting our inboxes sometime this month or January 2023).
This is based on the information previously released in the Design Bible WIPs and the Game Design Documents for Alice: Asylum.
Game design document links – Previously Released via Patreon – September 28th 2022:
American and I have also been actively addressing questions from our potential development partner regarding their work on Alice: Asylum.
Here are some select excerpts from these game design focussed discussions.
Let us know what you think.
Game Design Split /100
30% Exploration and Discovery (Exploring Wonderland / Sating Curiosity)
20% Combat (Action / Light & Heavy Combat + Boss Battles)
20% Narrative (Cutscenes, Voice Overs, Story Progression)
20% Spatial Challenges (Platforming, Maze Navigation, Spatial Hazard/Trap Evasion)
10% Puzzles (See Below)
Initial puzzle conceptual outlines consist of the following;
• Kinetic Puzzles – solved based on creative use of Alice’s abilities, weapon mechanics, or manipulation of the environment.
• Visual/Audio/Mental Puzzles – unique puzzle encounters, solved using visual elements (matching symbols, creating patterns, identifying “odd one out”).
• “Mind Bending” Puzzles – solved using creative thinking in Non-Euclidian environments.—–<start email excerpt>
More work will be done to identify clear puzzle encounters and when they occur in-game.
What do you think?
Does this sum up your ideal, modern, Alice 3 expectations?
Combat Outline – Ethos and Design Approach
The combat experience for Alice: Asylum is intended as a merger of First Person Shooter sensibility, (fast-paced and adaptable) with a combination of Third Person melee combat, in an accessible, satisfying and legible manner.
We do not want the punishing approach and high difficulting of Elden Ring.
Nor do we want the slow, methodical pace of Jedi: Fallen Order in combat.
Alice’s combat is FAST. But not punishing.
Fluid, flexible, versatile, with many viable options for success.
The idea is to build a “combat sandbox” that allows players to lean into their playstyles.
Want to get in close and hack it up with the Vorpal Blade?
You can do that.
Want to stay out of the action and snipe or chip away with Alice’s ranged attacks?
You can do that.
This approach leans into the FPS sensibility and design approach. Still, it is presented in the Third Person primarily to allow for a clear line of sight during Melee Combat and keep in line with the expectation of previous Alice games.
We want the combat controls to be EASY to pick up and play for a beginner.
Intuitive, responsive, and snappy.
But with DEPTH and skill ceilings in place for more advanced players to enjoy and experiment with on harder gameplay modes.
At Alice’s core, we REWARD CURIOSITY and EXPERIMENTATION.
However, we DO NOT want to punish less experienced players if they want to keep it simple and easy during their playthroughs.<end email excerpt>—–
The team structure currently sees American and me in Creative Direction and Design-Based roles, allowing us to decide on the initial core game design, narrative and mechanics decisions together, all with your input and feedback considered via Patreon.
We are sharing this information with the potential development heads, and they are sharing their insight to add to the discussion as we go.
From sitting in on the meeting, there is real enthusiasm, excitement, and active high-level discussion involving all of their heads of departments (creative and art, tech leads, finance leads, business, and management execs).
At this stage, (and moving forward), we must ensure the work the pre-production team produces assists the potential development team if we are greenlit in the future.
More on that strategy later in this post.
Here is my favourite key takeaway from the meeting.
At one point, a team lead went out of his way to point out;
“Had you come to us without the Design Bible document, I would not have been able to grasp the full scope of this game. I wouldn’t have understood it.”
“…with the Design Bible in front of us, we can see the concept for Alice 3 clearly. And it’s beautiful.”.
That’s a stab at capturing that moment from my memory of the discussion, (perhaps not the exact words used,) but hearing this notion underlined the importance of the work we have undertaken in creating the DB.
We believe it allows Alice her best shot at realizing her third chapter, within the limitations and boundaries placed on us.
And you have all allowed that to happen.
We have got Alice to this stage through your support of American and this team.
I’ll speak plainly.
We are not a huge AAA development studio with big resources.
The reality is; nothing on this project is guaranteed.
Not the greenlight. Not the approval. Not the development. Not the funding.
With so much out of our control, the only measure of guarantee we can provide is the hard, consistent work the team continues to put into the creative and design aspect to try and make this happen.
By supporting this Patreon, you are supporting a small team of individual freelance artists, designers, writers, and producers.
And our little team continues to work. All with your input, and under American’s direction, support, and encouragement.
We are working as a virtual team, dotted all across the world, to give something bigger than ourselves a chance to come to life for Alice’s fans.
So, thank you for sticking with us as we try to make this happen.
Our three main goals (creating the Design Bible to be enjoyable for Fans, tantalizing for Financiers, and informative for potential Development Partners) have already been achieved.
But the Design Bible is not yet completed.
And that brings us to the present.
So, what is happening now?
American, Adam, and I are continuing the discussions with our potential development partner to assist with their budgets and scope of work.
That is ongoing. We’ll share more as we go.
The pre-production art team has been hammering away at the artwork content I’ve requested and briefed up to populate and finish the first pass of the Design Bible (v1.0).
Here are some snippets of what the team has delivered recently.
Omri has just coloured Joey’s linework to use in Alice’s Dialogue bubbles for the story section of the DB.
I intend to choose and place a matching facial expression for Alice’s dialogue snippets in the DB throughout the story section.
That’ll be in the next pass.
Adam has finalized his renderings of an extraordinary end-game scene.
(Read the DB if you want to know more).
He also continues to work on the weapons and base skins for Asylum. The first pass for the Playing Cards arrived recently.
Norm has created the base concept of the Modular Card Guard Enemy Designs.
This is a concept where each time the enemy spawns, the Guards have an RNG (Random Number Generation) component in their body structure.
Head, Left Arm, Right Arm, Body, Left Leg, Right Leg.
We have the bases for each flavour here.
Normal, Barbed, Bone and Tentacle.
They can appear with any mix of these body parts to form an enemy combatant.
Different pieces affect their behaviour and attacks.
By the maths, we have 84 different possible combinations of Card Guard.
Omri is working on colouring each body part component, and I’ll create a full layout in the DB that illustrates the mix-match attacks and behaviours for these guys.
Joey is working with me on creating the visuals and states for Alice firing her weapons.
The result is to create a sort of “firing range” in the Design Bible where the weapons appear.
You can see the first image she just delivered at the top of this post and below.
As a special behind-the-scenes glance, and for a full understanding of what we’re trying to achieve with this one, here’s a full excerpt of the brief for this art task as it appears in our workflow management software.
The plan is for me to design aiming reticules, trajectories and AOE (area of effect) splash damage guides, to assist with communicating the concept in potential gameplay.
All of this work ties into the completion of the Design Bible.
And here are some new pages and spreads of how that is taking shape.
And finally, we discuss the future.
Core dates and targets currently in our sights are below.
This is taken directly from the email we have sent to our potential development partners, and we’re sharing it with you also.
<start email excerpt>
Time Frames and Key Dates
We intend to complete and release the first pass of the Design Bible (V1.0) by the End of January 2023. Releasing firstly for the Patreons, and then publicly shortly after that.
The DB and additional Pitch Documents required (TBC) will be taken to the first wave of prospective financiers during February-March 2023.
With larger/main potential financiers already lined up, being approached for a soft target of Valentine’s Day (14th of February 2023).
The intended focus for 2023 will be securing funding.
The current pre-production art team members under American’s and Alex’s guidance will continue on additional design, level design and character work for approximately the next 6 months during 2023, simultaneously while the Alice Pitches and financial discussions take place.
<end email excerpt>
Depending on how our current talks concerning development go, and once the DB hits financiers, I expect the DB will be updated as we go to address their input or concerns, (perhaps a V1.1, or V1.2).
We’ll continue to share the Design Bible updates with you on Patreon if they eventuate next year.
The focus of the work for Alice: Asylum has largely been on establishing the narrative, visual and overall design themes mentioned in the Narrative Outline.
Now and moving forward, the Game Design Documents and our discussions with our Development Partners are fuelling the next phase of work we can complete with our existing art team.
And we want to continue to have you along on that journey via this platform as we seek funding.
See below if this sounds like your cup of tea for 2023.
We are estimated to require $30-40 million USD to develop Alice: Asylum at this stage. Here’s our strategy.
Here is an excerpt from an internal team e-mail we sent to our team members recently discussing the future.
(With some redactions for privacy/NDA respects).
<start email excerpt>
2023 and Beyond – Changing Pace – Alice: Asylum Phase 2
With the approach of the first version of the Design Bible nearing completion, and the position we’re in with <REDACTED> once we receive a budget/scope, the focus next year we expect will be on securing funding.
However, American and I recently discussed how best to keep us all together as a team, and continue our work on helping Alice come to fruition.
We’ve decided the best approach is to use our discussions with <REDACTED> to burrow down on design specifics.
From what they require from us, we want to focus on building out the worlds, game design props, puzzles, game design elements, and “set-pieces” in the Game.
(Alex’s Patreon Edit: We used examples from other game design documents in the original email, but have removed them here).
We’ll talk more with <REDACTED> to ensure we focus on the right areas.
Once we’re all clear, I’ll review this work next year, categorize, brief, and provide the intended initial direction and scopes, and we’ll get to work.
We want everyone to contribute and continue working together with this type of artwork as our new design-based focus.
There is a risk inherent with this, but we want to let Patreon know that the purpose of the Patreon platform was to get Alice to this stage and that we’ve achieved it in creating the DB.
We will communicate this clearly, and if people want to stop backing the project, and jump off the train now, they are welcome to do so.
However, we want to continue offering value and insight into the journey and design process via Patreon.
We may also restructure the Patreon, and offer different tiers, most likely a $1 a month all-access pass to see the work as it eventuates.
We will most likely keep the Poster tiers for people who enjoy receiving the monthly posters.
So, there will potentially be an avenue to continue to create posters and artwork for Alice fans within the team.
All up, we do expect Patreon to take a hit financially.
Currently, with the current team, we break even paying everyone, but American has said he is willing to subsidize us to a certain level through Mysterious, should the finances and Patron support dry up as we continue, until it is no longer viable.
What’s next? Alice: Overview – Project Changes
What’s next, is we focus on our work, and take it as it comes.
Things could change, but for now, we continue as if they haven’t.
The game aspect of Alice has the most attention right now, and the most work we can do on it together.
We’ll keep everyone posted if anything changes there, but the analogy is “Planets in Orbit”.
We’re in a big Alice galaxy at the moment, and our team is the fastest-spinning planet around the sun.
We move the fastest, we are the smallest and we can control our own orbit.
The TV Show, Game Development, and Physical Printed Books are all other larger planets.
They orbit around the same Alice Sun, they just move a lot slower and turn less often than our own little Alice planet.
And we have no control over the big boys.
If the planets all lineup, (rare, but it happens) we’ll let everyone know.
Regarding workflow, I will most likely review the workflows for Phase 2 work, for a simpler, streamlined workflow for everyone.
I’ll look into building and improving our workflow system next year.
Regarding team structure, I’ve worn many hats on the project, but the role I’ll most likely be leaning into in 2023 is “Lead Designer” to focus and direct our art and design work on building the game itself.
My role is also shaping into an “Assistant Creative Director” working with American and <REDACTED> to dictate the overall decisions and where we move on the project for the team.
American will remain in the “Creative Director and Overseer” role, but will also be flipping his focus between Alice and Mysterious as the need arises.
Ideally, we want to keep rolling on this together as a team as we have been.
Everyone is doing wonderful work, and it’s amazing to think we’ve come this far as a team of independent freelancers.
Oz and Akanerio have also both cooled, and neither is an immediate focus.
Consider Oz a “Plan D” or “Plan E” as far as priority is concerned, but if we come to stage where we can press on with it, we’ll let everyone know.
If anyone has any suggestions, concerns, or wants to step back, or step up on the project next year, please let us know, and we’ll take it from there.
<end email excerpt>
That’s a direct copy/paste from an internal email American and I sent out to everyone on the team recently.
And you’re a part of the team if you’re reading this, so this is our approach.
If you are a paying Patron, we hope this level of transparency, and the open doors into our thinking and processes are appreciated.
As a team, we promise we will continue to work on Alice: Asylum, up until either we get a greenlight, or we legally cannot push it any further.
From our perspective, we are fighting the fight with two hands tied behind our backs, and blind.
In the dark.
But we’re still holding our own, and we’re still pushing forward.
And it feels like we’re gaining ground.
We all know the potential of the Alice project.
We all see the love, care and support that goes into our work.
We all want this to happen.
We all dream of exploring a next-gen Wonderland, and seeing Alice’s hair fluttering in the breeze amongst a high-definition Vale of Tears.
Everyone wants to hear Roger Jackson spin some fresh sass as the Cheshire Cat.
To see this eventuate, we need to get someone on board with a big sack of cash.
Again, to the tune of a projected $30-40 million USD to develop Alice: Asylum at this stage.
Someone who believes in Alice as much as we do.
We want to get them to join us, back us, be able to sign the right papers and make this all happen.
We have the creative team locked and loaded.
We have the development team engaged, interested and capable.
We will try to shop Alice around and find the funding next, in 2023.
You are welcome to be on this journey with us, and support us however you’d like.
Either way, as soon as the Design Bible is ready, we will share it for FREE on Patreon, (first for Patrons, then most likely publicly 3 days later) and eventually on American’s website externally.
One step at a time, but we’ll continue to share openly, work hard and push forward together as things eventuate next year.
Plenty of new designs and artwork to come, and hopefully, more insight to share along the way.
Please wish us luck, and thank you for being on this journey with us!
Here’s to 2023. The year of the Rabbit might be the sign we’re all waiting for.
Let’s see what the New Year brings, and aim for the stars.
Take care of yourselves, and each other this holiday season.
If there are any insights, feedback, or things we can clarify from what is mentioned above, please drop your thoughts in the comments where we can see them, and we’ll address what we can when we can.
Back to it!
<Remember, a new Design Bible PDF WIP Download is below!>