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If there’s one genre that’s not well represented on the PC, the platform game must surely be it. There have been few PC exclusive platform games throughout the years, due at least in part to there being no standard PC gamepad to play them on until recently. Curiously, the dark fantasy themed platform game American McGee’s Alice was launched as a PC exclusive in 2000 and would not receive a console port until 2011. Despite launching on the PC, a platform not well known for platform games, the game went on to become a success and remains popular to this day, with original print-run copies changing hands for hundreds of dollars on e-bay. If you’re lucky enough to find a copy of the game, getting it to run on a modern PC is fairly easy. If you have played the recently released sequel, Alice – Madness returns, or if you’re simply curious to see this warped version of wonderland yourself, you will find much to enjoy down this particular rabbit hole.
American McGee’s Alice should install on Windows 7 and 8 PCs without any difficulties. Simply place the first CD-ROM in your computers optical drive and follow the on-screen prompts. If the installation does not start automatically, browse to the CD in your computer and double click on the “autoplay.exe” file.
During the installation process, the installer will ask if you want to install the “Typical” version or the “Low memory” version. Obviously, you should choose “Typical”.
Windows 10 installation
For some reason (probably related to the games copy protection) the game will NOT install correctly on Windows 10 machines. In order to play Alice on a Windows 10 machine you will need to follow these steps.
- Install the game from the CDs as normal. Make a note of the installation directory
- Place Alice CD1 back into your computers optical drive
- Download and run this fix-file.
Our American McGee’s Alice Windows 10 fix program will copy the missing files from the CD-ROM and fix the missing shortcuts. Please note we’ve only tested this on the one machine, so please do let us know if it works for you. The fix does NOT automatically detect your Alice game folder, so if you installed to a folder other than the default, you will need to enter this path manually when the fix program asks you where to install. Remember, you will still need the first CD in your computers optical drive when you play the game.
Improving visual quality
Being almost a decade and a half old, the visuals of American McGee’s Alice have dated somewhat. For best results on a modern PC, we recommend you install either the Alice HD upgrade or the American McGee’s Alice – Madly Enhanced upgrade. Deciding on which of these to install is largely a matter of personal taste.
The American McGee’s Alice HD texture pack can be downloaded here. This is a complete high resolution re-texturing/revamp of the game, the HUD and the menus. It also includes a cheat menu, new enemies, widescreen fixes and much more.
The Madly Enhanced upgrade can be downloaded here. This upgrade includes enhanced textures and also tweaks certain weapons to make them more balanced. When downloading this mod, be sure to download both parts and install the V1 part first. This pack also includes the updated textures that were included with the 2011 re-release of the game (which came bundled with certain versions of the sequel, Alice – Madness Returns).
Both of the upgrades are downloaded as .zip files. To install them, you need to open your American McGee’s Alice installation folder. By default this can be found at “C:\Program Files (x86)\EA Games\American McGee’s Alice”. Inside this folder is a sub-folder called “Base”. Copy the entire contents of the .zip file(s) you downloaded into the Base sub-folder. That’s all that is needed to install either of the HD upgrades.
Later in the guide we will show you how to play the game in widescreen and HD resolutions, but you should set up controls, sound and the in-game visual quality options before you attempt this.
American McGee’s Alice has no native game controller support at all. If you want to use your game controller, you will need to use Xpadder. Below is a picture of our Xpadder profile.
Alice will walk if you hold down the shift key and run otherwise. To implement this on the gamepad, we used the Xpadder distance zone feature. If you’re unfamiliar with configuring distance zones in Xpadder, see this tutorial.
The rest of the mappings are fairly self-explanatory. Jump is mapped to Y, which could easily be switched with A if desired. When climbing ropes or vines, you need to use B to climb down and A to climb up. The “N” key is mapped to the back button on the pad. This performs a special function, which we will discuss later.
You may need to increase mouse sensitivity in game. This can be done by going to the Settings menu and then clicking on Game Options (the top part of the head).
Tweaking Sound options
American McGee’s Alice features a rather stunning surround sound soundtrack. Unfortunately, like most games from this era, this is only supported through EAX, which relies on OS components no longer present in Windows Vista, 7 or 8. If you have a EAX capable sound card however, you can use the Creative ALchemy software to restore EAX functionality. Simply start ALchemy and the software will detect that you have installed American McGee’s Alice. Select the game from the list of installed games and click the “>>” button.
Now, start the game and go to the Settings menu. A menu will appear in the shape of a human head. Click near the ears on the head to access the audio options. Now, select “EAXZ” as the sound driver. Below this option, make sure to set speaker type to “Surround” (or to match whatever speakers you are using). Make sure “Quality” is set to 44khz and that “Force 8bits” is deselected. You should now get the full surround sound soundtrack restored to the game!
If you don’t have an EAX capable sound setup you can still improve sound quality with a few tweaks. Go to the sound setup as described above but leave the sound driver on the default option. Change the sound quality to 44khz and make sure “Force 8bits” is deselected.
Tweaking visual options
There are a number of quality settings that you can change in the game. If you intend to apply the widescreen mod, you should make sure to set these options before you apply that mod. Start the game and from the games main menu, choose “Settings”. A menu will appear in the shape of a human head. Click near the eyes on the head to access video options.
On a modern PC, all of the above options should be set to the maximum, as shown in the picture above. The only exception is brightness, which of course should be set to taste (avoid setting this too high else you will lose detail in the brightest parts of the image). Pay particular attention to the Texture depth and Color Depth options, these should be set to 32 bit on all modern machines.
If you aren’t intending to use the widescreen fix, you can also select your screen resolution from this menu. If you are, leave the resolution as 640×480 for now (and do not attempt to change it from this menu in the future!).
Playing in widescreen
At this point, we strongly recommend you test all your settings (sound, graphics and controls) and make sure that they are acceptable before making these final tweaks. If you make further changes to the games settings after you have configured widescreen HD resolutions, you will need to come back here and make some or all of these changes again.
To run American McGee’s Alice in HD widescreen resolutions, we are going to need to edit a config file by hand. The file in question is called “config.cfg” and resides in your American McGee’s Alice installation folder in the sub-folder “Base” (“C:\Program Files (x86)\EA Games\American McGee’s Alice\Base” by default). If you are using the American McGee’s Alice HD texture pack, then you should edit the file “autoexec.cfg” file instead. If you are unfamiliar with editing configuration files, see this tutorial.
Open the appropriate file in your favourite editor and add or edit the following lines for 720p resolution:-
seta r_customwidth "1280" seta r_customheight "720"
for 1080p add/edit:-
seta r_customwidth "1920" seta r_customheight "1080"
Or for any other resolution, substitute the values for those applicable to your monitor. We have tested up to 4k (3840 x 2160).
Next, add the following line to the key bindings section near the top of the file (anywhere after the “unbindall” command). Note that you should skip this step if you are using the American McGee’s Alice HD texture pack as the FOV (field of view) is already corrected with this mod.
bind n "fov 106.27"
If you see our Xpadder configuration above, you can see that the letter “N” is assigned to our back button. If you simply configure American McGee’s Alice to run in widescreen, the camera will be too close to Alice. By adding this key binding, each time you load or save a game or change a level, you can press the back button on the controller to fix the camera in the proper position. If you are using a 16:10 screen mode, use the value 100.39 in place of 106.27. Unfortunately this is the only way to fix the camera position (other than installing the HD texture pack) , setting the fov manually in the config file will not work.
If you’re NOT using the HD texture pack, you should also complete the following two steps, otherwise skip these too.
Search the config.cfg file for the following line:-
seta r_mode "x"
Remove the line above, if it exists. Finally, add the following line:-
seta r_mode "-1"
Now, save your changes. If you have difficulty saving your changes, see the troubleshooting section below under “Problems saving games”.
You are now ready to guide Alice through the madness of wonderland. Start the game as normal and if you followed the instructions above correctly, the game should run in your chosen widescreen resolution.
Custom screen resolutions not applied or reset:- If the game resets your custom screen resolution, you may need to go back into the config.cfg and add the changes again. Particularly, check for the line that reads seta r_mode “-1”. Without this line your custom resolution will not work.
Graphical glitches:- If the game exhibits graphical glitches, such as white squares showing up, loss of textures entirely, or buildings/geometry getting smeared over the screen, try this fix.
- Browse to the games installation folder (“C:\Program Files (x86)\EA Games\American McGee’s Alice\Base” by default) and find the Alice or Alice.exe file. It must be the executable file, don’t get the icon (alice.ico) file by mistake!
- Right click on “Alice.exe” and choose “Rename”.
- Enter “quake3” as the new name. Be sure not to delete the .exe extension, so the full name of the file should be “quake3.exe”.
- Run the game. Hopefully your graphical glitches are gone.
- Optionally, update the games shortcut to point to the renamed file. If you’re not sure how to do this, there are some tutorials here.
Why does this work? Well, aren’t you the curious one? American McGee’s Alice uses the same game engine as the first person shooter game Quake 3. By re-naming the games executable file to Quake3.exe, we actually trick windows into thinking it is Quake 3 we’re playing. Windows then applies some special compatibility fixes for Quake 3, that work well with Alice too.
Problems saving games:- Like many old titles, American McGee’s Alice saves its game data into the same folder as the game itself. In some instances on more modern versions of Windows, this will mean that save games cannot be written. To solve this problem you can either run the game as administrator (right click on the games icon and choose “Run as administrator”) or, better still, set the permissions on your Alice game folder so that your user account has full control. You can find a tutorial on how to configure folder permissions here.
The screenshots below show the game running in 1080p. Click on any of the pictures to see it at full size.