August 16, 2010
Remedy Entertainment isn't a big studio, which is part of the reason it took over five years to get Alan Wake out the door. Yet according to long time art director Saku Lehtinen, the reason Alan Wake seemed to be so delayed was because it was announced too early, during the preproduction stages. At this time during the project it was still being considered how to even build the game, which is why there was often confusing messaging about whether or not it was supposed to be an open world experience. Based on some early map sketches shown by Lehtinen during his presentation at GDC Europe, there was a large expanse of fictional terrain set in the American northwest that was meant to be explorable. The team eventually had to abandon the idea and switch to a more linear style, a decision that was made because Remedy felt linearity meant a stronger story.
The approach Remedy takes to creating all its titles, says Lehtinen, is to try to generate its own niche instead of competing with everyone else. Third-person is very important to their games to deliver stronger characters, as well as ensuring influences from TV shows and movies factor in as well. Delivering gameplay hooks like bullet time in Max Payne and fight with light in Alan Wake is also important to the studio, along with producing games that stand out visually. For Alan Wake, the inky effects of the darkness were actually produced after observing how ink behaves when dumped into a quantity of water.
By creating a certain overlap of real and unreal, Remedy felt it was able to create psychological tension in the game, forcing players to question if what they were observing was actually happening. The cornerstone of this was building a realistic environment – the forests, gritty lumber yards, Wake's attire, and lived-in spaces found throughout the game. Remedy then mixed in elements that played upon childhood fears, such as being stranded in dark spaces with a flashlight and running toward light sources in seek of refuge, to attempt to connect with players, and contrasting the realism with supernatural elements for a more dramatic effect.
Lehtinen also touched on how the studio's characters are generated with a mindfulness of other mediums, though didn't go into deep detail about exactly what that means. Hopefully it means if it's a film adaptation of Alan Wake, it at least manages to avoid the mistakes of the Max Payne movie. What do you think, would you watch an Alan Wake movie or is it best as a videogame?
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