Alan Wake is a fine game. It reviewed very well, getting an 83 on Meta, and is a shoe-in for those Game of the Year lists that'll start popping up any day now.
It goes without saying, but needless to say, Alan Wake's a bit more then just alright.
After five years in development, the Remedy thriller released in May for Xbox 360, and has seen two DLC episodes release since then: The Signal in July and The Writer earlier this month.
We spoke to Remedy's managing director Matias Myllyrinne and gave a bit of a look back on the game, its DLC, as well as the now-canned PC version, the feedback towards the game and more.
Give it a read below.
[WARNING: We do talk about the DLC, The Signal and The Writer, which takes place after the main game ends. If you hit the break, you do so at your own risk. Beware.]
[Interview by Johnny Cullen]
VG247: What did you set out to achieve with The Writer?
Matias Myllyrinne: Our target with The Writer is very much the same as with the core game itself, to offer the gamers a heart pounding thrill ride – a smart thriller that gives reasons for those scares and offers the gamers a new brand of action gameplay, fighting with light.
The Writer answers questions and adds to the story. We wanted to leave the gamers with a sense of closure to certain events while opening doors to the larger fiction that we set out to build with Alan Wake.
On a higher level, I think we were all excited to be able to see how downloadable TV style episodes work and how games react to it. The nature of Alan Wake just makes it a natural fit and this was something we wanted to do. After all it is episodic by its very nature.
By the way, I think with The Writer we let ourselves loose a bit more and really played around with some of the environments, just using our the game code new ways. Some of the stuff the team came up with was stunning to see, perhaps we had more rope to run with and mature tools that we had learned to use. So I guess that shows in the way that the team is looking for the limits of the fiction and the game technology. Really, some scenes are just like Salvador Dali came up with the idea…
VG247: Playing through The Writer, there were some bits, for probably obvious reasons, that reminded me of Inception. Did that form as inspiration for the DLC?
Matias Myllyrinne: It is flattering that Inception is compared from the film medium to Alan Wake and The Writer episode in particular – we have loads of people who love that film and the work that the creative team behind it has accomplished.
So yeah, Inception is something that gets referred a lot. The reality is that the screenplay for The Writer was done before the film came out, we have pretty long lead times when you take the various disciplines into account; such as voice overs, cinematics, post production and localization. So, the core story structure of The Writer and The Signal were in place before.
VG247: Are you happy with the reception so far with The Writer?
Matias Myllyrinne: Absolutely. The reception has been generally warm and generous. In terms of storytelling, just as with a long standing TV series or a great book, we not only want to know what happens next and where the fiction goes we enjoy the anticipation of the twists and turns that await us. Of course games need to provide meaningful things for the players to do – it is an interactive medium first and foremost. The Writer pushes the gameplay slightly further from the previous episodes.
VG247: Alan comes about as an asshole, this cocky writer as we seen in the game, yet near the end of The Signal, we see him in a moment between him and Alice during a photoshoot as a memory: one that showed a different, happier and, for the lack of a better word, comfortable before. Is what happening around him with the darkness some sort of payback for what he's now become?
Matias Myllyrinne: I don’t want to over-explain it, I think the best stories leave room for the audience to interpret things in their own way. This way they live longer and stay with them vividly for a long time.
Regardless, for this scene I think we did want to show more of the dynamic between Alice and Alan. Where Alan Wake the game starts off with Wake being in a bad spot in his life – he does come across as short tempered and sarcastic. However, he has not always been like this and they have had happier times with Alice. It was great to work with a character who is not your stereotypical hero. All of us as real people have our weaknesses and faults. These things make us real and alive – also it builds a stronger bond with the player. We did not want to build a shallow cardboard cut-out hero- who is immaculate and perfect in every way.
VG247: Was two DLC episodes always going to be the magic number for the game, or was there more in mind?
Matias Myllyrinne: Two was the plan.
VG247: How has fan feedback with the game gone down?
Matias Myllyrinne: I think none of us works in a vacuum, so we do get feedback and we do take that into account. The fans have been very supportive on the community forums, facebook and meeting them face to face around the world. It has been encouraging, there are people out there who have followed Alan Wake and supported us throughout a long development process. I think for The Signal one or two sequences were a bit challenging to play through. The Writer is somewhat steadier and avoids the one or two difficulty spikes.
VG247: From reveal to release, it took five years for Alan Wake. Do you think you announced the game too early?
Matias Myllyrinne: Yeah, could be that we shared with the world too early. To be fair, we did not think it was going to take this long to get right, so when we announced we did not think folks would have to wait for so long. The first Max Payne was a similar story too, but I think as long as you can live up to the vision you set to build people will still be excited and welcome the game when it is done.
VG247: The game's gone through a lot of changes. The removal of it being a sandbox or free-roaming type game. The story seen a couple of changes as well, going by what I seen from the bonus materials. Is there anything else you could have done differently in the five years between development and release?
Matias Myllyrinne: I’m proud of the team and their desire to bring Alan Wake out. It has not always been easy and it has been a long road. Luckily we had more days of light than dark along the way. On 20 20 hindsight many of us would do some things differently. That’s just the intrinsic nature of innovation and building something new for the first time. However, what matters is the end result though – creating what you set out to do and being able to share with the world. With the game that shipped I feel we captured the essence of the experience we wanted to share with the world. It lives up to the original vision.
VG247: Its been said before Remedy focuses on one platform at a time instead of two because its too small, hence why you guys didn't release a PC version. But with Microsoft having another big push for PC, that was revealed at gamescom do you see yourself bringing it over at some point now the game's been out for a while on 360 and the DLC is done, or is that still too big of an ask from you at least?
Matias Myllyrinne: There are no plans for the PC.
VG247: If not you, would you mind if another developer came in and did it?
Matias Myllyrinne: There are no plans for the PC. Hypothetically, what we care about is the Remedy brand on any game needs to stand for something... polished quality, cinematic action and great storytelling. If it is created by us or a port it still needs to live up to the same standard. People need to be able to rely on it when they put down their hard earned money.
VG247: How much has the game sold now worldwide?
Matias Myllyrinne: I can’t give out specific figure. But we are pleased with how the game is doing and it continues to sell. Personally, it has been fantastic to see how many people have found and enjoyed the downloadable episodes. It will reach a respectable number of people in the end. The highly competitive time Alan Wake was launched did show in the initial sales figures, but we’re still tracking steady increase in players enjoying the game.
VG247: Alan Wake 2. What can you tell us about it at this point? Are you still talking to Microsoft about it at this point? Is it signed, sealed, delivered, basically?
Matias Myllyrinne: I cannot confirm anything on Alan Wake 2. What I can say, is that we are really excited and hard at work at Remedy. There is a good flow and energy in the air, the team is also growing a bit and we are looking confidently toward the future.
Alan Wake is out now for Xbox 360. DLC The Signal and The Writer are also available from Xbox Live Marketplace.