Alan Wake Q&A - Sam Lake

Creator and writer Sam Lake talks about Alan Wake's long road to release, the influence of <i>Twin Peaks</i> and <i>Lost</i>, DLC plans, and more.

Originally announced back in 2005, Alan Wake has certainly been a long time coming. After a huge unveiling at the Electronic Entertainment Expo of that year, developer Remedy went quiet for a number of years, before reemerging at this year's expo with another fantastic demo. Finally, it looks to be ready to emerge from the shadows next year with a confirmed second quarter 2010 release date, albeit only on the Xbox 360 and not the PC, as was originally hoped.

Alan Wake is Remedy's follow-up to Max Payne and follows writer Alan Wake as he retreats to the sleepy town of Bright Falls. The game is predominantly an action thriller but with a psychological twist, where reality and fiction blend into one nightmarish scenario for Wake. The developer is currently putting the finishing touches on the game, but we managed to coax Sam Lake, the creator and writer, into telling us exactly what to expect from this highly anticipated game.

GameSpot UK: It's been six years since Alan Wake was announced, but with a Q2 2010 release, the end is now in sight. Are you nervous that such a long development period will result in high expectations from audiences?

Sam Lake: Nervous and very excited at the same time. To be honest, relieved as well. Six years is a long time to work on a project; a lot can happen in one’s life in six years. Like any large project, ours has seen its ups and downs, and a huge amount of hard work has gone into it.

These past few months, it’s been truly fantastic to see different areas come together and the final polished game finally taking shape before our eyes. I’m sure that we are our own worst and harshest critics when it comes to the details in the game. I’m very excited about the fact that soon the players will be able to experience Alan Wake but, naturally, a bit nervous as well. We’ve worked hard to make it a fun experience, and I definitely hope the players will find it that too.

GSUK: Alan Wake has been referred to as an "intense psychological thriller," but having seen the trailers, we're also detecting straight horror. What’s the balance in the game?

SL: More often than not in games, horror means blood and gore and monsters. Alan Wake is not about that. We set out to build an intense experience with a strong atmosphere and mood; lot of scares, yes, but scares that have a meaning and are tied to the story and the mystery at hand. And we felt that calling it a thriller would convey this very well.

We have action gameplay that involves people being attacked and disappearing in the woods at night and murderous, shadowy figures that come at you wielding axes. And, sure, if this was a movie, you would probably call some of these elements straight horror, but we still feel that as an overall definition, thriller is a good way to describe what the game is about.http://image.gamespotcdn.com/gamespot/images/2009/348/928006_20091215_790screen005.jpg

Alan Wake: blinded by the light.

GSUK: What have you learned from your experience with Max Payne and how has it influenced your approach to Alan Wake?

SL: Max Payne was all about stylised, cinematic action. Alan Wake has other sides to it, but cinematic action is very prominent in Wake as well. Max Payne also had a very strong main character. That’s very important to us. Alan Wake is all about Alan Wake, the writer. The story and the plot revolve around him, his background, his personality, his problems, and the situation he finds himself in. In a way, the whole world is a reflection of the character and his nightmares.

I think you can link the similarities. We found a winning concept in Max Payne that somewhat defined what a Remedy game is all about. As a company, we have evolved a lot and are really pushing the envelope with Alan Wake from a storytelling and technical perspective but, of course, keeping in mind our heritage and what got us here.

GSUK: Combat trailers seem to show the use of slow-motion bullet-time elements. Can you explain how they work in the game?

SL: These cinematic moments are there to give emphasis to particularly close calls or important successes in the combat. They are triggered by the game when conditions are right; "moments of brilliance" if you like.

GSUK: Just how character focused is Alan Wake and what twists and turns can we expect as the story unfolds?

SL: This is a psychological thriller, and as such, it’s very tightly focused around the main character and his state of mind. Questions about what happened to Wake’s wife, Alice; what the hell is going on; is Wake’s lost thriller novel really coming true; is Wake mad; what’s Bright Falls all about…will all be asked and answered…some of them many times and with different answers along the way.

Wake uses a combination of his torch and a gun to fend off enemies.

GSUK: Much has been said about the environments in Alan Wake and the way they can influence the characters and enemies in the game. Can you tell us more about these environmental dynamics?

SL: Light is the key factor here: light and darkness. Light and daytime represent the sane world and safety; darkness and nighttime are about horror and nightmares. The enemies wait in the dark and come at you in the dark. Light is a combat tool and a safe haven, even to the point where Wake regains his health much faster standing in a safe haven of light than in darkness.

GSUK: The use of light is a key feature of combat in Alan Wake, specifically the range of flares and flashlights Alan has at his disposal. Can you tell us more about the varieties of flashlight and what they can be used for?

SL: The enemies Wake faces are protected by the dark presence that possesses them. Only light can burn the dark presence away and make the enemies vulnerable to normal damage. Wake also seems to be able to will his light sources to burn brighter and to drain the dark presence away faster. This is a limited resource that takes either time or batteries to recharge.

There are a few different flashlights in the game. Stronger flashlights burn the dark presence away faster. The most extreme case would be a stationary searchlight--our version of a gun turret--that is powerful enough to destroy many enemies outright.

GSUK: The last time we saw Alan, he was actually running away from the light, as opposed to harnessing it. Are there likely to be more of these "reversal" events or is this a one-off incident?

SL: Light and darkness are themes that we explore from various directions in the game. Wake’s wife, Alice, suffers from the fear of the dark, and what Wake experiences in the game bears a resemblance to the way she describes how it feels to her. And while light represents sanity and safety, there are also more dreamlike and, at least, apparently supernatural sides to it as well.

GSUK: Alan Wake has a definite Twin Peaks vibe about it. Is it fair to say that this has been a source of inspiration for you? What other films/books/TV series have influenced you?

SL: Twin Peaks is a classic, and it’s fair to say that the town of Bright Falls has an echo of Twin Peaks in it. Of the more modern TV series, Lost made a big impression on us. Stephen King has used a writer as the main character in his horror books more than a few times, as have a few other good authors, such as Bret Easton Ellis and Paul Auster.

GSUK: What are your plans for postrelease content?

SL: We have talked about it, and with our episode-based structure, it would be very logical. But nothing has been decided on the matter, and right now, we are fully focused on polishing the game and shipping it. After that, let’s see.

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Discussion

205 comments
boris_viper
boris_viper

@ Morbidmassacre do you even know what you're arguing about?! in the first comment you say pc sucks and know it's one of the best? i know what my opinion is , pc is superior (that doesn't mean all consoles are bad , i won't consider anything above my sega genesis and ps2) but i still say pc is best , and ohh if you like arcade games so much buy a Wii , it's 2 birds by one stone

Morbidmassacre
Morbidmassacre

@boris_viper i'm not a fanboy. Modern consoles do kinda suck. Classic games will always be the best. Many of the best games ever made are PC games. Modern day game industry is a joke. And so are you and everything related to you. And by the way, i don't own a Wii mote.

boris_viper
boris_viper

@Morbidmassacre, you're exactly the kinda cancer that ruined gaming for all man kind , when you are playing with your "modern consoles" - which by the way will be replaced by the same company with a different name in 5 years or so and is the best way to make easy money from suckers like yourself- with games that no one will remember in 2 years or so , pc gamers are playing their classic warcraft , starcraft and counter strike with the same passion . by the way did remedy pay you to be their lawyer , or are they getting your 60 dollars and spend it in their hawai vacations. I said it before and i say it again you console lover ( which are introduced to gaming by your mother) can go f*** yourself with a wii mote , at list that doesnt waste MY f***ing time

Morbidmassacre
Morbidmassacre

@boris_viper PC sucks. That's the truth. Yeah, Max Payne was better on PC, but modern consoles can handle so much graphical greatness, and by the way, Remedy has made some of the easily greatest games in the world (Max Payne1&2) so quit your whining. Yes, 6 years is a long time, but it was worth it. PC sucks (and your warcraft user image too)

boris_viper
boris_viper

Remedy sucks , after all these years with fans waiting , after seeing what happened to max payne 2 on consoles , they still ignore the PC? i officially announce Remedy enemy of all mankind and banned from peoples' lives

CCyberDDemon
CCyberDDemon

intense psychological thriller full of gun blazing? ok anyway... this is the future of gaming. lots of years in the production results a better game? take a look at duke nukem.7 years and counting. halted

game-on-man
game-on-man

WHAT THE H@LL IS TAKING SOOO LONG. WHEN IS THIS GAME COMMING OUT ALREADY? Im not trying to bum anyone out or anything, but I think they are probably having some serious issues with this game. no game, ........................and i mean no game.......... should take this d@mn long. If this game ever does come out....Im going to start to wonder if its going to have alot of issues..........DOES ANYBODY KNOW WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG?

game-on-man
game-on-man

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

game-on-man
game-on-man

@truantjohnny yeah i know whay you mean, and no its not wrong. This game is the only reason why I keep my 360.

truantjohnny
truantjohnny

Is it wrong that this is the only game im interested in on the 360? D@mn exclusives!

puppeteer
puppeteer

Wow 5 years in the making and they still couldn't get a 360,PC simultaneous release right!!! This is summing up to be a POS and a joke hope it fails miserably.

Mister-Lee
Mister-Lee

'alone in the silent dark hill', anyone?

Chronologo
Chronologo

if this doesn't come out for the PC, you'll see a developers office exploding into pieces XD

Signal2Noise
Signal2Noise

The lovechild of Twin Peaks & LOST? I'm all over this then! I hope there's cherry pie.

equili3rium
equili3rium

I doubt they will get the money back that they have spent on it, given the long development period and lack of support for the many adoring fans that have waited for so long for nothing.

muze1
muze1

what type of game is this? any online modes?

game-on-man
game-on-man

This game will come for P.C eventually. Just a queastion of when. This game looks good. I will probably get it for 360. TO MANY GOOD GAMES COMMING OUT. I CAN'T AFFORD THEM ALL.

domz_dream
domz_dream

This game had better come out on PC sometime this year or...or...I'll have a hissy fit and cry like a little girlie.

mariokata
mariokata

i want 2 games for 2010. these are Super street fighter 4 Alan wake and the problem is that no one knows if they ever going to release them on PC. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Be glad it's not on PC, PC gamers, I have a strong felling we are going to get another 'Alone in the Dark' (not the great one from 15 years ago, the one from 2008 - y'know the one with all that great hype about how brilliant it was going to be and then turning out to be a total crappy game?!)

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Be glad it's not on PC, PC gamers, I have a strong felling we are going to get another 'Alone in the Dark' (not the great one from 15 years ago, the one from 2008 - y'know the one with all that great hype about how brilliant it was going to be and then turning out to be a total crappy game?!)

equili3rium
equili3rium

I have had this pre-ordered with Game online for a loooong time. If it now turns out that I won't be getting my PC version Remedy can kiss my shiny metal daffodil ass. I will go out of my way to make sure that my PC buddies know just how little Remedy and Microsoft think of them. I mean how can Microsoft not release that game on PC when it was slated as a flagship title for windows!?!

game-on-man
game-on-man

this games story sounds great, and the game looks amazing. Im really looking forward to this and Heavy Rain.

robinuk0
robinuk0

This was one of the main reasons i bought an Xbox 360 back in 2006. I cannot believe its finally here, it looks sweet! I hope it lives up to my expectations.

justxtremekilla
justxtremekilla

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

prince__vlad
prince__vlad

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Isoleaf
Isoleaf

When i first heard about games utilizing the full capacity of the quad, i heard it was this one. Its been in the back of my mind for now, but i can't believe its finally getting released! And it looks pretty damn fantastic too.

heeger9
heeger9

I believe that it will be released for pc! It's meant 4 pc!

moassa_1988
moassa_1988

it looks like a very good game, and I am very fervid about it . Story telling looks awesome, but I am very disappoint because it wont be available on the pc :( . I hope it will be released after that on pc . :) *-*

domz_dream
domz_dream

I'd play Alan Wake in a heartbeat! Actually, I've been following the journey of its making since they started it originally. It's pretty damn upsetting to me that this Gem will not be released on PC. These companies are pretty dumb to think PC enthusiasts will suddenly rush to buy Xboxes and Playstations just so they can play this game. Bugger that! Sorry. No sale, guys.

Zerosumgame
Zerosumgame

Designing a game with a guy and a gun in it takes 5 years, hm .... no good.

eeatedrules
eeatedrules

ya it sure affect the player psychologically , hope realling thrilling

apolloooo
apolloooo

startes Tracking this one since the half of the decade

farrlinn
farrlinn

I really am wondering how long the game will be. I hope it is at least a 15 hour single player experience since it is going to not have any online features.

bnazty23
bnazty23

Man I am so excited about this game. I have been reading and listening about it for three years now. It is starting to look really good and very interesting. I just hope that the extra time needed for the game is utilized to really put out a great product. I will always opt for a delayed game done right then a rushed game done inadequate.

MisticoGohan
MisticoGohan

Well for me is a little bad then the game dont release for PC, but is right, because some games for 360 come to PC, and in a PS3 exclusive never i see it come in PC. It looks great

gamer082009
gamer082009

So not cool to give PC users the shaft..at least I have a chance to get it on the 360.

tobelight
tobelight

looks amazing but gameplay looks so so . On the fence with this one could fall either way. Heavy Rain looks better regardless.

dennis8
dennis8

"moments of brilliance" = win

marktex96
marktex96

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

prince__vlad
prince__vlad

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

truelove79
truelove79

Oh man, WHY did they have to put a HUD in this game. Would have been nice to have a clean interface like Dead Space.

Jak_Napier
Jak_Napier

with this game and Heavy Rain for P3, it seems like there may be a trend forming with these types of mystery thriller games. Still, this looks pretty good, as well as Heavy Rain.

deadspace2
deadspace2

i hate microsoft he always release pc version too late why? and make 1 part for pc and 2nd part not release for pc like that gears of war2 not come pc why?

mindgamers
mindgamers

Will gonna be a great 3rd person thriller... already in my tag list far out before it get more exposed like now.

Vasot
Vasot

The game will kick @ss