May 10, 2010 - Alan Wake has been on the periphery of gamers' thoughts for many years now due to its long and bumpy development. While it may have been fairly easy to simply dismiss this title as vaporware at times, this ethereal psychological thriller is on the verge of finally solidifying onto store shelves. But, before we all get the chance to unravel the many mysteries sure to litter every inch of Bright Falls, CheatCC wanted to clear up a few of the lingering questions we still had about the game.
Read on to find out what Alan Wake's developers had to say before venturing forth with some lights, firearms, and your own wits as your only allies.
CCC: This game has been in development for a long time now, so what has changed since the beginning and how has the longer development time helped the project?
MR: A lot of things have changed. A really obvious thing is our technology - if you compare our graphics from the trailers and screenshots in 2005 to our graphics today, you can clearly see where a lot of the time went. Another thing is the story; its core has remained more or less the same, but so many of the details got changed and refined over the years. And of course, in the beginning, we thought it was going to be an open-world game, and then we realized that in order to really build a good thriller, that wouldn't work. The time we took allowed us to not only perfect our technology, but also to experiment a great deal, which is always very useful in a project like this. We could find the things that work for us.
CCC: Why did you decide to set the events of Alan Wake in the Pacific Northwest?
MR: I'm not entirely sure where the original idea for that came from, but if I say "Twin Peaks," I'm probably not too far off. Not only is the nature there beautiful and rich, but it's also ripe material for a video game - take those deep and dark woods, mix in something weird and horrible lurking in there, and you're all set. It's just a naturally exciting setting, and it's also something you don't see in games a lot. So often you see these underground complexes, confined spaces like that, endless corridors and so on. It always helps if you can stand out from the crowd a little bit. We wanted to do outdoors and wide spaces with a lot of things growing in there, a bit of wilderness. We throw in the occasional mine shaft and whatnot, of course, just to mix it up, but more often than not, you're outside. I think it feels fresh, though I think that in the end, that probably says a little more about gaming in general than our game in particular. In any case, it works very well for us.
CCC: What, if any, were some of the team's inspirations for Alan Wake's gameplay?
Remedy is obviously well-known for making story-driven action games, so to a large extent, that determined what we were going to do - it's where our expertise is, after all, but of course, we wanted to improve on what we had done before. Max Payne was best known for bullet time, but we don't really do that in Alan Wake - we just didn't want to do the same thing all over again, and in any case, that whole intense Hong Kong action thing just wasn't what we were doing this time around. We still have the occasional slow-motion scene when something really cool happens, but it's not something you can trigger at will. Now it feels like a reward for doing something just right.
In Alan Wake's gameplay, the "Fight With Light" mechanic is probably the best-known element. I think one reason it resonates well with players, as it did with us, is simply that it's extremely self-explanatory, even intuitive. The relationship between light and darkness is something everybody instinctively understands.
CCC: Will fans of the Max Payne series (that Remedy also worked on) notice any similarities between those games and Alan Wake?
Well, they're both third-person action games, which is a fairly fundamental similarity, and both games had a fairly strong storytelling element, although we're definitely taking that to another level with Alan Wake - although in Max Payne, we did most of the storytelling kind of between scenes, in the comics, whereas in Alan Wake we wanted to do more of the storytelling during the gameplay sequences. We have pretty intense action scenes in both games.
But these are kind of superficial things, I think. At least to me, they just don't feel like the same kind of a thing - pick any five-minute stretch from either game, and the mood is just completely different. Fans of our previous work may find a few familiar notes here and there, of course!
CCC: We know that survival in Alan Wake will rely as much on light as on weapons, but what kind of non-light based weapons can we expect to use during the course of the game?
MR: We have a fairly realistic selection of weapons in the game, things you could expect to find in the area - pistols, shotguns and rifles, things like that, with a few things like flashbang grenades thrown in for good measure. We really wanted to avoid rocket launchers and trip mines in Alan Wake - once you cross over to the blatantly improbable and throw in that kind of hardware, it just changes the mood of the game completely, and the atmosphere just wouldn't survive that. It's a fragile thing. You have to try to nurture it.