CCC: With the frightening look and psychological thriller nature of the game, it can seem easy to draw comparisons to titles such as Silent Hill and Alone in the Dark. That being said, what will Alan Wake do that will help to set it apart from these other games?
MR: I think people have this irresistible urge to always draw comparisons like this. I think our pacing and storytelling are very different. Especially when you look at something like Silent Hill, which is, of course, a Japanese series - even though I think it's very accessible to Western audiences, it's really got a rhythm of its own. It just feels completely different to play that game, and I'm not just talking about the controls. Also, even though Alan Wake has its share of the supernatural, I think we kind of try to leave it in the background a lot of the time, even when you're fighting the Taken. We don't have the gore, or the horribly mutated monsters. We just want things to feel spooky and weird and cool. A lot of the time, I think we consciously prefer the mystery over the horror.
CCC: What, if any, were some of the team's inspirations for Alan Wake's storyline?
MR: Well, Twin Peaks, Lost and Stephen King have been big influences, and I think you can see a lot of them in Alan Wake. We like to mention those three because they kind of triangulate the thing we're going for. Bret Easton Ellis and Paul Aster have both written books about writers, and they struck a chord with us. But there are also countless other things - I know there are some of Sam Lake's childhood memories in there, and concepts from a screenplay he wrote as a part of his screenwriting class back in the day. On the other hand, my own love for things like The Twilight Zone probably shows through. It's a melting pot, really.
CCC: One of the level designers at Remedy also has a degree in psychology. Did this have any effect on things? Can you give a direct example of how it specifically influenced something in the game?
MR: I don't think I can give a specific example. Really, I don't even think it works that way - you know, "hey, I know, that guy can put some psychology into this part of the game!" But things like that have an overall effect, they inform our discussions and everything we do. In any creative endeavor, it's useful when people have knowledge and expertise beyond their obvious job description.
CCC: Are there any future plans of eventually bringing out the PC version of Alan Wake that was initially announced and later put on hold?
MR: We're a small developer, and we like to craft our projects carefully. That's not just a preference, really, it's a necessity, because we simply don't have the manpower to do everything. It wasn't a fun decision, but production realities being what they were, we had to focus on the Xbox 360. We have no plans to deliver a Windows version at this time.
CCC: Will there be any DLC for Alan Wake and how will it fit into the game?
Absolutely. I can't really talk about it in much detail yet, but we like to think about Alan Wake as season one, and in that context, the DLC would be more like specials. They're relevant to the story, of course, and I would expect that anyone who completes Alan Wake and wants more will have a good time with them, but they aren't really intended as a part of season one. They're kind of their own thing - the atmosphere is different, we do some new things we couldn't do in Alan Wake itself. I'd like to say more, but I can't go into details yet.
Let me be clear, though: I know people are always concerned about this when it comes to DLC, so I want to emphasize that the ending to Alan Wake is in Alan Wake. It's not something we're reserving for the DLC. I know some reviewers look at it as a cliffhanger, and I'm not saying it explains and resolves everything and ties a pretty little bow on top, but there's a very definite story arc that Wake himself goes through during the game, and we take the story to a certain inevitable conclusion. If we had to leave it there and never come back to it, it'd absolutely work.
CCC: Is there a possibility for a sequel, and if so, can we expect the development time required be similar to that of this title?
We would definitely like to do a sequel. We've got all sorts of plans for that. But like so many things, it really comes down to how the game is received. This far, it's looking good, we've gotten a lot of positive feedback, received a lot of great reviews, and people seem to be very excited, so we're definitely optimistic. In the end, it all comes down to the actual sales… So in a very real way, it's really up to the fans.
Obviously, anything I say about our development time for a sequel is going to be pure speculation at this point, but I would expect that we'd get it done a lot faster - we now have the technology and everything we learned from making the first game. Of course we'll want to take it to the next level with the sequel, but we know what we'd be building on. We kind of have a history of this kind of thing; the original Max Payne took a good while to make as well, but the sequel was made far more quickly.
CCC: Finally, do you have any cheat codes, hints, or tips for the game that you'd like to tell our readers about?
MR: Yeah, sure - "take your time." There's no rush. Enjoy the scenery, look around, drink in the atmosphere. We'd like it to be an interesting experience, not just a test of your reflexes or gaming prowess. We put in a lot of things that we felt gave the game world depth and life, and I hope people take the time to experience it, whether that means reading the manuscript pages or checking out some radio shows, or whatever. You can just ignore a lot of that stuff if you like, and I know some people just want the pure action - which is fine, whatever works for you, you know? We definitely have the pulse-pounding moments in there. But there's quite a bit of other stuff in there as well.
Mikko, we really appreciate you taking your time to answer these questions. We've really enjoyed the game, and we're sure our readers can't wait to get their hands on the game as well!
CCC Staff Contributor