How Marvel, Not Just Twin Peaks, Inspired Alan Wake 2
Twin Peaks and True Detective may be key inspirations for Alan Wake 2, but it's an even bigger name that's factored into the upcoming survival-horror game.
It's no secret Twin Peaks has served as a key inspiration for the Alan Wake series, but it's not the only piece of pop culture guiding Remedy Entertainment's upcoming sequel. Some are obvious, but less apparent are some of its bigger influences--the work of Marvel--that have factored into the upcoming survival-horror game.
Alan Wake 2's co-director Kyle Rowley told me in an interview that while the game's writer/director Sam Lake and many other members of the team use inspirations like Twin Peaks as motivation, Rowley's interests, on the other hand, aren't quite cut from the same cloth. Which, in turn, serves as a counter-balance to the game's more obtuse Twin Peaks-isms.
"You know I like David Lynch--he's cool. But personally, I'm not a massive Twin Peaks fan," Rowley said. Instead, he considers himself more of a Marvel guy, a benefit that allows him to view the game from a broader lens. "I'm trying to think about how we can bring slightly more--I don't want to say mainstream--but things that aren't such obscure references into the kind of games that we make. I kind of try and balance that a bit with like, 'Hey, I don't get this, this, and this. And if I don't get it, there's other people who aren't going to get it.'" There are still plenty of inspirations Alan Wake 2 is pulling from that tiptoe into the less surreal and obscure, like Coen brothers' Fargo and True Detective, for example.
A specific scenario in which Rowley's yin balanced Sam Lake's yang is how Alan Wake 2's profiling works--one of the game's supernatural-like investigative mechanics. In Alan Wake 2, co-protagonist FBI Agent Saga Anderson has the ability to profile suspects and put herself into a subject's head to reveal deeper clues not visible in the world around her. It results in flashing images and the ominous murmurings from its subjects. On its own, it borders on being incomprehensible, but with Rowley's input, it becomes more contextual.
"I was listening [to the original version of profiling], and I was like, 'Sam, no one's going to understand what the hell is coming from these profiling lines. We need to kind of find a way to kind of contextualize them for the player,'" Rowley said. "So we added after each kind of profiling question like Saga's interpretation of what the character is saying. And that's basically a gateway for the player to understand kind of what's going on with these profiling sequences."
Alan Wake 2 senior narrative designer Molly Maloney also acts as an important pillar in translating the more out-there ideas in a way that's digestible to the player. "We want to support [writers'] vision. We also need to have clarity for the player in a meaningful way, too," she said. "It's helpful to have somebody in the [writing] room whose sole job is to think about the story and how that translates to the player experience." For Molly, it is about being a "cheerleader" for the writers, supporting their ideas (no matter how weird they can be) and finding a way to make them work across departments and, of course, the player.
Even still, after seeing 30 minutes of Alan Wake 2 during my hands-off preview, the game is by no means cutting corners on the strange, unusual, and downright weird. The demo was filled with visual anomalies, ominous red lights that instilled a dreadful tone, and still left me with many head-scratching questions--something that is important to writer/director Sam Lake.
But for all the unanswered questions surrounding Alan Wake 2, we put together a gallery of 11 clues we spotted in its gameplay reveal trailer. Additionally, we talked with the game's writer/director Sam Lake about bringing Alan Wake back 13 years after the original. Alan Wake 2 is expected to release October 17 for Xbox Series X|S, PS5, and PC exclusive to the Epic Games Store.