In a fairy-tale forest, a boisterous
young girl accidentally unleashes an ancient demon
spirit; Fire incarnate. The demon posses the closest
thing to it, her dog, creating a giant evil fur-ball
that threatens to wreak havoc across the forest.
Leaving a trail of warped and fragile reality in its
wake, the new-born dog-god must be saved from
itself. Our young heroine has to undo the
chaos it wreaks and needs to battle through the
nightmares it leaves behind it, but she has a
guardian spirit and 4 petrified monks to help her.
Can Alice save her beloved pet? Will she be sharp
enough to save the forest from a fiery new reality?
Will she prove herself able enough to be charged
with power over nature... or will the dog-god's
madness consume the world?
Malice is a dark and comic
fairy-tale, a scary, character-based adventure for
kids and adults alike. Sumptuous in its visual
humor, Malice's worlds fall somewhere further down
the 'Yellow brick road', round the bend from
'Alice's Wonderland' and 'Through the looking glass'
...this is a place where you'll meet
those monsters that lurk in the closet, under the
bed; JuJu men raise zombies from the earth, singing
trees tell tales of prophesy, age'd ex super-heroes
lie helpless in spiders' webs, murderous crows
police the streets and pyromaniacal glow-worms set
fire to each other...
You'll wield a baseball bat to 'beat'
the magic out of the creatures you encounter, you'll
decipher the fiendish ways of a machine ecology gone
mad, and use the 4 elements to defend yourself
against the tyranny of a new born dog-god and his
Malice is a 3D adventure for the PlayStation; an
exploration/platform/puzzle game that takes the
classic platform style gameplay that the Croc 2
engine is so good at and moves it into a new
monstrous wicked wonderland. Was Malice inspired by
the story of Alice in Wonderland? According to
Herman Serrano, "only in so far as it's a dark
fairytale with a girl named Alice for a protagonist,
but certainly the aim was to write a dark fairytale
with a character who grows up to become a kick-ass
The bottom line is Malice PS1
combines the action of Croc 2 with the exploration
and depth of a Mario 64 and is presented with a
sense of unique style and graphic beauty and detail
that would have become the new technological
standard for the PlayStation. Although Malice was
released for the PS2 in 2004, the PS1 version
differs greatly in storyline, graphics, design, and
gameplay. Any of the former Malice designers will
tell you that Malice PS2 was only a shell of its
original design. Unfortunately many of the designs
that made this PS1 version so enjoyable were removed
in the PS2 version. This is the game that Malice
should have been on the PS2. In the end, Malice PS1
can easily be considered the greatest game never
released on the PlayStation.
Below is just a sampling of the
unique game design that can be found in Malice:
The dog-god turned Alice into a cat. Obtain
ingredients for the old witch to make a potion that
will turn Alice human again: eyes of newt, crow
feathers, and a deadly nightshade which is
represented by a ninja table lamp...get it? (aye
A land shark patrols the fields around the siren
tree. Get caught by it and it will drag Alice down
beneath the brush and thrash her around.
The siren tree has a throbbing purple fungal pimple
that must be popped. Traverse up the treacherous
branches of the siren tree and jump down from the
highest point and land on the pimple to pop it.
The gloworms have turned bad and you must knock the
evil out of them before they burn you with their
Use water magic to run on water.
Take a ride on a Beer Moth or a Toucan to reach
"I have lots of good memories of Malice. Mostly that
it was a wildly overambitious idea.. that had a
truly awesome tech demo that wowed a billion of
people (that was being used to launch xbox).. but it
got pulled around from Microsoft, and then from
publisher to publisher and eventually, died a death
and released on a "B" game label. The blame? Partly
due to mismanagement on our part.. partly down to
some of the team who were as creative as they were
egotistical... partly due to overzealous publisher
involvement - making wholesale changes that were
unnecessary and unwarranted.. and partly just
because it was too damn big a project to be done 'at
our own risk'!
Malice definitely contributed to bringing down the
company. I can't blame all our woes on one game (far
from it), but it sure sucked a lot of cash out of
the company (millions!) and that can't have helped."
-Jez San, former Argonaut Games CEO
So why was it dropped when the PSX version seemed
Two main reasons, the first technical, the second
ENGINE LEGACY AND WORK STILL TO-BE-DONE.
The game engine was based on the CROC engine and
although a lot of gameplay had been put in, it would
still take at least another year to nail some really
big bugs, plug in the cutscenes and level-linking
WORLD COLLISION: Camera gets stuck
The camera had a big tendency to get stuck on
scenery. It needed to be completely overhauled to
work with this world. Thanks in part to the tile set
approach and the lack of camera consideration when
the designers created the levels, this was a big
task. It is why the camera gets stuck or is
over-ridden a lot in most parts of the game. This
problem can still be seen in the final xbox version.
WORLD COLLISION: “FALL OUT OF WORLD”
Due to the tile set nature, Alice can fall through
the tiny gaps in the tile set if pushed. When the
game migrated to xbox, this big problem was resolved
by creating solid levels not based on tile sets. It
would have been a lot of testing and proofing of
levels to fix this issue if it were to remain on PSX.
WORLD VARIABLES UNDEFINED
This was made worse by the fact that each level had
it's own gravity setting, so Alice actually had
different jump-distances. This sort of thing was
soon standardised for the Xbox version.
FLAWED TEAM STRUCTURE LED TO DESIGN FRAGMENTATION
How did this lack of global vision happen? The
Malice team employed a large contingent of level
designers, encouraged to go off and design stuff
independently - to the point where one designer soon
lost sight of what the rest of the game looked like.
And the poor coders soon were being asked for dozens
of similar yet unique versions of the same type of
game object - very inefficient. This even went as
far as failing to nail down a set of global
variables, like gravity and jump distance.
So this led to a sort of us-and-them mentality
between the coders and the designers, the best
anecdote went something like this:-
Designers wanted everything tweakable. Coders were
getting sick of providing STRATS* to cover an
ever-ending list of changes - especially as the
other designers usually had something that already
did the job, if they had bothered to talk amongst
Still the coder dutifully added it to their to-do
list and soon returned a Strat the designer could
use. The coders by this stage were savvy enough to
add in so many variables to keep the designer happy.
And so the designer went off and played with the new
strat for ages, failing to ever ask what all the
variables did. Shame really as only a few of these
variables were ever actually plugged into something.
Oh those coders and their mind-games! Oh those
designers and their inability to know what to ask
*Strats are game objects the designer could drop in
the level editor, ranging from obstacles, lights,
cameras, pickups, NPCs, enemies etc.
So how was this communication fracture resolved? In
the last phase of Malice development, the game teams
were setup in smaller groups, consisting of a coder,
a designer and an artist together. These teams were
responsible for certain levels of the game. A
separate team was dedicated to global, front-end and
Alice-related matters, to which all teams fed into.
This stabilised the fragmentation but made the game
a bit too standardised in some areas.
The PSX console by 1999 was in it’s final stage. The
PS2 was out and Argonaut was already completing it’s
last big PSX project, the glorious Alien
Resurrection. This movie tie-in took 5 years to
develop and come out, way after the movie release
but was still a great game. However it proved to
Argonaut executives that the console was at the end
of it’s life as the returns on this great game were
So Malice was still in the pipeline and even though
so much had been put into the game since 1998, it
was still at least a whole year away from
completion. Fox Interactive also pulled out of
supporting Malice so Argonaut was left without a
backer for this game. However, the Xbox was due to
come out and Argonaut was keen to get first onto
this console and ideally showcase Argonaut’s
technology. So Malice transitioned from PSX to Xbox,
causing the team to swell in the process. During
this time, the tech also came along with the amazing
Shadowcaster engine emerging from this. By 2001,
Microsoft were showing off demos of Malice on Xbox
and all seemed well. However, the PSX game design
was tricky to re-work into a new schedule and the
resulting game suffered a lot of compromise.
Microsoft walked away, but Sierra came on-board –
complete with Gwen Stefani and No Doubt providing
voice talent to Malice’s main character.
But still the game design suffered and the tech
failed to deliver on the ever-changing demands.
Argonaut was also suffering poor returns on it’s
other titles during this 02-03 period and Malice
continued to be downgraded until finally Sierra
pulled out too. The team was downsized to a skeleton
team. Even the project lead was forced out in 2002,
effectively killing the vision forever.
Argonaut had to re-coup some of the money invested.
Over the next nine months up to summer 2003, the
remaining team and LT Studios, the PlayStation 2
conversion team, regrouped their resources and
redrafted the game into something that could ship.
The final game was a compilation of the
most-complete levels tidied up a bit, bundled
together in a barely cohesive plot and shipped out -
bug-free but a shadow of it’s former self. It took a
whole year to get the Gold Master and to find
someone to distribute it in 2004. Six months later,
Argonaut Games folded. Malice and a few other
projects snuck out while the whole company poured
everything into Catwoman – it was a risk that did
not pay off.
Malice was the sort of game you just don’t see
getting made anymore, and in fact almost did not in
the end. It is easy to look back and sneer at the
amateurish way the game came together, but it was
something trying to be different. If Argonaut had
been in better shape to keep it’s backers on-board
or alternatively had enforced a more hardline policy
earlier on to stabilize the design fragmentation
then maybe Malice could have become a classic.
Malice should have been made two years earlier and
stayed on the PSX to have had a real chance, but
resources were simply not in place at that time. It
is such a shame and all involved lament Malice.
Whoever you ask they will have a great story about
that game, and a bitter memory too.
IN MEMORY OF ALEX ILIC:
Ilic was an artist at Argonaut who tragically passed
away at age 30. He was very passionate about his
work and that's what he should be remembered by.
“May I say it is great that you dedicate this to
Alex – he was great artist with lots of talent and a
great work ethic – even though he was French J
(he’ll forgive me for saying that), but more than
that he was dear friend and I’m honoured to have
known him.” -Mark Jagger
"Alex was 100% dedicated to his job which was also
his passion. I learned a lot from him, an I enjoyed
working alongside him, his enthusiasm was
contagious. He had a very creative mind, full of
excellent, innovative ideas. He made a real
difference to my life in general as a friend and to
the way I approach work, trying to come up with ways
to improve things, thinking outside the box." -Tanguy Dewavrin
"He was a wonderful artist and a lovely gentle soul,
always striving for the very best in his art. He was
a pleasure to work with and a pleasure to sit
opposite, which I did for a few months. I was deeply
saddened to hear about his passing and I still think
about him every now and then... a great, great