Remedy on making Alan Wake

DICE 2010: Finnish studio's president Matias Myllyrinne discusses the "method behind our madness" during the psychological thriller's half-decade in development.

Has Remedy Entertainment really not shipped a game since October 2003? "Some of your parents may remember our last game, Max Payne 2," joked Matias Myllyrinne, president of the Finnish studio at his DICE Summit session this afternoon. However, with Alan Wake now set for a May 18 release, the designer took the stage to explain why it has taken so long to make the psychological horror game. "We'll discuss the method behind our madness," he declared.

First off, Myllyrinne said Alan Wake's long development cycle would not have been possible without the support of Microsoft. The company's backing is "letting us punch above our own weight," said an effusively thankful Myllyrinne. He did not mention that as part of that support, the PC version of the now Xbox 360-exclusive game was put on indefinite hold last year.

Alan Wake's character has evolved over five years into a more tired, paranoid figure.

Remedy's principles are at the key of its development, and first among these is the core value of "focus." Myllyrinne said that this results in better games. He declared he'd rather ship a game that sells 4 million units every four years than release a game that sells 1 million units every year.

Another key principle is "people" at Remedy, which uses a smaller team than most AAA developers. They focus on multitalented people from all over the world: One Danish game designer has a background in drama, and a Brazilian level designer has a degree in psychology, which came in handy on Alan Wake.

To get the most out of his smaller staff, Myllyrinne encourages active--sometimes even heated--debate between coworkers because new ideas can arise from conflict. Remedy has also invested heavily in tools and technology, allowing for maximum worker productivity. As a result, Myllyrinne said only "three or four" members of the core Alan Wake team left during the game's development.

Finally, Remedy has a focus on branding and is very involved with the game's marketing. Myllyrinne said he wants every ad to make viewers feel like they're in a thriller.

Wheeling to Alan Wake in particular, Myllyrinne said that they set out to make a scary game and deliberately modeled the town of Bright Falls after TV's fictional hamlet of Twin Peaks. However, the game's three stages of development--preproduction, production, and the extensive postproduction Remedy is known for--ended up taking nearly twice as long as originally planned. Myllyrinne joked this was "taking the long road home."

That's not a hallucination--Alan Wake will finally ship to stores in May.

Luckily, Remedy had enough Max Payne money and Microsoft support to bulk up to cope with the increased demands of current-generation console games. Although still small, the shop has increased payroll by 10-15 percent each year and uses outsourcing and freelancers extensively. As an example, two companies--one in Los Angeles and the other in Germany--are handling the game's sound design.

The character of Alan Wake has evolved as well, going from an outdoorsman of sorts to a tired, more paranoid figure. To make him as realistic as possible--something Myllyrinne feels is key in a thriller--they primarily used many concept photos instead of concept art for his character.

For Alan Wake's enemies, they wanted them to seem "just a bit off." To give the enemies a ghostly edge, they poured water on the concept drawings and let the ink run. This results in the shadowy, blurry figures that can be seen in the game's trailers.

Remedy also decided to reuse some elements from Max Payne 2 for what they call "near-miss moments." When an enemy attacks Alan Wake and nearly hits him, the action slows and then the camera angle changes. A brief demo showed the dramatic effect of these moments, especially when Max Payne pulls a flare out to vanquish a group of enemies in what Myllyrinne called "a Statue of Liberty moment."

Light will be a player's main weapon in Alan Wake, be it in the form of a flashlight or a blinding safety flare.

All the aforementioned elements were shown together in a demo called the "Harvester of Sorrow," in which Alan Wake is attacked by a possessed grain combine that he must fend off with a flashlight. Once the shadowy driver takes enough damage, the machine disintegrates in a burst of shadow.

Myllyrinne said another big plus on Alan Wake development was the user testing assistance lent by Microsoft. So far, the game's controller scheme has been changed 18 times, and Myllyrinne thinks it will be 20 by the time it ships.

Remedy also gradually phased out the game's heads-up display for greater realism, including dumping a speedometer that appeared during driving sequences. "This isn't Need for Speed, so we didn't really need that."

Alan Wake's world is 10-by-10 kilometers of fully modeled terrain, based on over 60,000 photos taken in the Pacific Northwest. The Oregon town of Astoria was a particular inspiration, as was the state's Crater Lake National Park.

Unfortunately, Myllyrinne said the decision to make the game an open-world sandbox was a poor one and had to ultimately be scaled back. The advantage of a more linear story is that it allows for better pacing and emotional resonance. It also prevents jarring incongruity that could arise from random events. "When you have a guy show up to a love scene in a monster truck, you know something is wrong," Myllyrinne joked.

To help keep the game's development on track, Remedy would do intense work for five weeks and then every sixth week celebrate and focus on planning for the next phase. "You have to celebrate the small victories," said Myllyrinne in conclusion. When Alan Wake ships exactly three months from now, Remedy will be celebrating a big one.

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149 comments
gbrading
gbrading moderator

Fascinating reading on the earlier development.

Kaki1911
Kaki1911

why do you not release the game to computer. i was ready to buy it but you only think about consoles

hitmanxmk
hitmanxmk

I definitely agree with u killing_spree20. I mean, consoles suck in every kinda way. Also, form other side PC is the ULTIMATE testing benchmark machine for every game..and about death of PC..it will NEVER happen, noone gonna let whole industries for PC component parts to fell apart because someone simply thought to stop making PC games. I think the PC era will come with big return very very soon...

killing_spree20
killing_spree20

Most of the big games still get released for PC, I don't think its going anywhere. Yeah, everynow and again Sony or MC will put a big exclusive on to shift the consoles. But we've been in this state for years. Most of the games that only get released on consoles I probably wouldn't buy anyway, in fact there are only 3 I can think of, Uncharted 1&2 and GOW2. The PC market isn't shrinking, you only have to look at steam to see games are sold all the time on the PC, but those figures are not taken into account in the charts. PC may get games later, but to be honest thats fair enough, it takes loads more testing for PCs than consoles. How long is it now people have been claiming the death of the PC...forever? Well it hasn't happened yet.

Geris_F
Geris_F

@ josh_b I agree with you completely. :) This is all true ...

josh_b
josh_b

I haven't posted on this site for years. after reading the past comments i knew i had to say something. Plain and simple. Yes the PC gamers got screwed. The list of quality AAA games for the PC is ever growing smaller but you have to look at things from the developers point of view. The console market is booming while PC is shrinking.I can hardly remember the last PC game i was actually excited for.... think it was Crysis. If your not into online rpgs, simulations or RTS then what is there really to look forward to? Consoles are always going to have the upper hand. They are cheap and and for the most part pretty easy to develope a great looking and great playing game. If you really want to play the game then pick up a 360. No since complaining about Microsoft or Remedy. In the end it's all about one thing and one thing only. The money, they don't care about anything else.

BTroxell
BTroxell

@geris What? You obviously completely misunderstood what I said. I will write my meaning in plainER English.... -I think this will be a good and solid game, but cause it isn't drastically "new", the reviews will probably reflect that by being nit-picky and pessimistic. Additionally the blahs and mentions of story and other such things were examples of what a reviewer would say, not myself.- On top of your serious misunderstanding of my statements you said (if I had an xbox)... obviously I would have to own a system to be saying such things. You had a thumbs down on your comment before I wrote this, showing that at least one person was intelligent enough to notice you were completely wrong in your acknowledgement of my opinions.

therealFrek
therealFrek

Why is this news in the PC section? I don't care to read about a game that I can't play.

Geris_F
Geris_F

@ BTroxell I have to disagree with you here. It actually does matter how solid the game is because that will show the game's progress with the criticts and the players around the world. I think you should restrict your opinions when it comes to how good the game could be. First you'll need to play it (if you have an xbox) so you'll be able to say if the it is the typical bla bla bla story...

BTroxell
BTroxell

Doesn't matter how solid this game is or how hard the people worked on it, if it does not make some grand new gesture it won't get much praise from the jaded critics/community. I can see it now. "Alan Wake is a good horror game with a dramatic sense of tension and mystery, but sadly, blah blah blah story blah blah blah one tiny aspect of game-play blah blah blah too familiar with silent hill blah blah blah."

doontime
doontime

Haha well @Ladiesman17 at least you said PC and 360, not just PC! ;)

Cobretti1818
Cobretti1818

No PC no sale for me :( Shame, looks pretty good.

alosborne
alosborne

@suicidalblues- I agree but unfortuantly there is a bottom to someone's pocket. Looks like a good game though.

Supabul
Supabul

Why is there always more PC and Sony fanboys posting comments on ever bit of Alan Wake news, I don't get it

Ladiesman17
Ladiesman17

If I'm head of Remedy, I'll give y'all PC version as well as 360 :) because I did not forget, who gave birth to me!! like my mom, LoL

Bahaa3000
Bahaa3000

"especially when Max Payne pulls a flare out to vanquish a group of enemies in what Myllyrinne called "a Statue of Liberty moment." SPELLING ERROR ! :)

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

The fact that this is being made by Remedy (and not Activision or an Eastern developer) simply means it will be a more action orientated and well paced experience, as opposed to walking around a bland envioroment trying to open doors that require specific keys, with 'set piece' effects that are triggered at certain points in order to provoke a 'scary' moment. Personally, i have faith in Remedy in providing an exciting and entertaining experience, and as Sam Lake as already stated, this is to be an action based psychological thriller, the fact that they are making it episodic makes it all the more interesting. Day 1 for me.

JillV
JillV

Not interested in this game even if I still had my xbox 360.

Glic2K
Glic2K

It's interesting to see how the development of this game has played out. Originally, it was supposed to be "Vista-only", then Vista turned out to be a disaster, so now Microsoft insists it be Xbox 360 only. And Remedy couldn't afford to develop it without MS, so their hands were tied. I still don't see why it can't appear on both platforms, though. Does MS really think that a few people will invest in an Xbox 360 just to play this game? I guess it worked for Halo, back in the day, but these days, I can't really see Alan Wake being more than a modest success at this point. After all, the players who have been anticipating it for so long are the PC gamers.

dark_rage864
dark_rage864

i agree with suicidalblues, Geris_F doesn't know what he is saying.

Makhdoom82
Makhdoom82

Looks interesting. Even though multiplay is the biggest thing at the moment i always keep looking out for games which give you this nice old singleplay fun

freestyler_85
freestyler_85

meh .. theres better games i'm anticipating for PC. looks fun though

s4dn3s5
s4dn3s5

PC version will come... maybe for xmas -_-

UnknownForm
UnknownForm

I do feel sad for the PC gamers looking foward to this game:(...I'm with you guys...

XanderKage
XanderKage

Well.... About M$'s "exclusives"..... Looking at Episodes from Liberty City, maybe Alan Wake will find his way onto a PC... eventually... Because despite my grudge towards Remedy for dumping Max Payne, this game looks awesome, and I really want to play it...

Ravenlore_basic
Ravenlore_basic

I wonder since there are a few million Moded Xbox 360 consoles if this game will sell well?? Its a non Live game that does not have MP content. Who is going to pay for it??? I wonder??

Elian2530
Elian2530

It's news like this I wish people would read so they may appreciate the hard work game devs put into their craft. They will celebrate come May 2010.

Geris_F
Geris_F

@ suicidalblues I'm really happy gamespot exists, i mean it's the meaning of your life. Now go play some PS3 and Xbox, guess you might have a Wii there as well, of course you do!

suicidalblues
suicidalblues

@Geris_F: Wow, my comment wasn't meant to be taken personal. But since you started it - and then mentioned "fat kid" - I think I should point out the avatar you're using as a fine example of fat (and fugly). I hope to God that's not an actual picture of you (but I don't blame you for denying it, I would too). Next time your bum hurts from someones comment, you'd be best to leave well enough alone.

Radium217
Radium217

Pre-ordered my copy yesterday, I'm still curious as to why people compare this game to Heavy Rain, they are so different. and I have no doubt they'll both be awesome (Heavy Rain is awesome)

Geris_F
Geris_F

@ suicidalblues Well I actually do have a job, but I wonder are you one of those fat kids that devour from mommy and daddy's pockets? I do have a step for you as way to show you my appreciation: - GET A F@#$ING LIFE!

awesome
awesome

Was hoping it would have been different to the other Linear Survival Horror games ala Resident evil, silent hill.. but this article has confirmed it isnt : 'Unfortunately, Myllyrinne said the decision to make the game an open-world sandbox was a poor one and had to ultimately be scaled back. The advantage of a more LINEAR story is that it allows for better pacing and emotional resonance.' :( LOL @Saturo123 Article says: "He declared he'd rather ship a game which sells 4 million units every four years than release a game that sells 1 million units every year." wouldn't that be the same thing? >_> I hope they know what they are doing...

suicidalblues
suicidalblues

@Geris_F: 1. Get job 2. Save $$$ 3. Get both systems 4. Enjoy all games and never have to be a fanboy of either system again. If you have already accomplished step 1, please move ASAP to steps 2-4 as these steps are necessary for total gaming enjoyment.

Geris_F
Geris_F

What I can say is that this looks like a "commercial war" between Heavy Rain and Alan Wake. Both games are only for the consoles and not for PC and I think everyone here knows why. As much as I'd love to play Heavy Rain on PS3 (yes i have an X360) I think games are better to be played on consoles, to give a much better feel and gaming experience. I just wish the games would be available for both platforms.

zaprct
zaprct

@onlymetal75 And since when does its mean a game is not good just because it gets 8 or lower? Do you bother reading reviews at all? Probably not, but it might help since you will notice some games can have fantastic gameplay but lose marks for graphics or length.

X-RS
X-RS

wow. always liked the look of this, but hearin the SOUND team is in germany makes me wonder. that will be a key selling point for me its more important than graphics in a thriller.

onlymetal75
onlymetal75

This gam,e will probably score an 8 or lower,long development dosnt mean it will be good. Not getting my hopes up....

faraany3k
faraany3k

I am a PC gamer. And you know remedy.. I HATE U FROM THE CORE OF MY HEART...

BioShockOwnz
BioShockOwnz

Remedy is a small studio, and they take a long time to develop each title, so I don't see why everyone is sooo mad that they canned the PC version. Some studios have to prioritize.

Ripper_TV
Ripper_TV

LOL, I highly doubt it'll sell 4 million copies, considering it'll be out only on Xbox and it's a new franchise. I also wonder, how long will be the main campaign. 10 hours? The last passage is funny. This means they celebrated (!) a full year outta five. =))) At least they're shipping the game as opposed to 3D Realms situation.

wyyldthing
wyyldthing

I kinda see it as an admission of defeat by the developers ~~ they've not only given into MSFT (still a necessary evil for all PC and Xbox developers and gamers), but they've sold their soul to the relatively small Xbox market in the bargain. Combined with the fact that they were formerly a PC~based developer, this tells us that they'll have to start from square one in rebuilding their market and reputation. Developed for Xbox is not a good sign for a possible PC port in future, and if it is released, I'll want to see some a demo before I buy and suggest you do, too. Xbox is still a relatively unimportant dept to Microsoft, as is pc gaming in general ~~ one gets the feeling that Redmond might drop the whole gaming effort at a moment's notice. The platform's history has been checkered with hardware problems which could have easily been solved if MSFT had spent an extra few dollars on configuring the Xbox hardware. The hardware itself ~~ IBM's CPU and ATI's GPU ~~ is of high quality, but by cutting cost corners on issues like heat dissipation and DVD drive scratching, MSFT's Xbox remains at best an expensive toy for kids. As for pc gamers, there's no "real" solution to the core problem til someone releases a desktop and laptop operating system that can compete effectively with Windows' market share. Whomever it is would have to be very wealthy and talented; I guess that points a finger toward Google's Chromium project. Let's hope it's good to go for Xmas 2010 so that, when shopping HPDellAcer's sites, we'll see "...recommends Google Chromium" lol.

Chalkman
Chalkman

It is treating the symptom not the disease. Xbox games can be pirated as well. Sure its a numbers game at this point, but call a spade a spade. Piracy may very well be the reasons behind this. That is screwing the legit pc gamers who have supported this game from day one. People who have gone to e3, updated their computers, bought Vista. It is an absolute slap in the face to every pc gamer such as that.

thedirtyleg
thedirtyleg

@ Chalkman I understand completely, and I owe you PC gamers an apology. I mostly stick to RTS games on the PC, and don't look forward to significant forthcoming PC titles like I do 360 titles. But, in light of your recent comment, I can totally see how you would be frustrated here. At the very least, Remedy owes you guys an apology, not the ominous non-acknowledgement of the current state-of-affairs that you get in the story above. If ME2 were suddenly made PC exclusive during development, I would have been livid.

santinegrete
santinegrete

Now I'm learning from piracy consequences: I have to play this in my duct-tapped "only use in winter" Xbox360, and not my gaming rig with mouse and keyboard :( I already have links to download a Bioshock2 PC pirated, but I'm not doing it.

lowerpass
lowerpass

Looks a lot of PC guys are pissed. Don't get me wrong I love my PC but don't you think that XBOX needs it's own exclusives. There are lot of great games for PS3 which never came for PC. So I know you guys are pissed but it had to be done.

mattg90520
mattg90520

i agree. enough with the conspiracy theories. there are really no compelling reasons for anyone to want to phase out the pc

Chalkman
Chalkman

dirtyleg, surely you must understand that PC gamers are extremely disappointed here. For a game that promised to be a PC game from the start, IE Vista only, and other statements. To string along PC gamers this long is unacceptable. PC gamers have every right to vent their frustrations in this case.

Incubus420
Incubus420

For some strange reason I think this game isn't going to live up to the hype. 1. The game is on the 360 and with these graphics, sound, and physics it will probably be 8 hours long. (based on the size of the 1 HD discs) 2. Having mutliple revisions of almost everthing usually never makes for a good game. How can you mix and match so many things and still have a polished well thoughtout game....I don't buy it. and 3. This is for the 360 which is comprised of 9 to 19 year olds that really don't car about a writer and his psychological problems. Most of these 360 kids want a cool looking gun and a group of equally good kids to fight with. They are not in it for the story. (Mass effect is the only good game on that system, which btw has 2 discs, improved gun play and less psychological intent)