Remedy on Alan Wake: Past, Present & PC

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In recent times the Alan Wake series has been thrust into the limelight once again, with new releases on both console and PC. In anticipation of the newfound audience,  Electronic Theatre recently had the opportunity to discuss the franchise with Remedy Entertainment’s own Oskari Häkkinen, Head of Franchise Development, and below follows his thoughts on that which Alan Wake has already achieved, and what’s next for our everyday hero.

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare received significant critical acclaim upon its launch on the Xbox LIVE Arcade, not least from your very own Electronic Theatre, and the original Alan Wake has been given a significant makeover for its PC edition. Supporting these digital launches is Nordic Games’ retail packaged PC release, which Häkkinen was very keen to discuss. You can find details on these and more aspects of the Alan Wake franchise below in the full transcript of our interview, and  Electronic Theatre will keep you updated with all the latest details on the Alan Wake franchise.

 

 

 

Electronic Theatre: The original Xbox 360 version of Alan Wake was very well received by industry, but the reported figures aren’t so great in terms of sales. Obviously you had the PC version planned early on, which got cancelled, presumably by Microsoft. Was it always an ambition to get the PC version out eventually or has it become a case of needing to expand the franchise in order to recoup the costs?

 

Oskari Häkkinen (OS): Alan Wake has been commercially very good for us. I think organically it has sold quite well over one million copies and then we had the digital bundles which was almost equal to that. So it has done financially very well.

 

Electronic Theatre: So the attach rate for DLC is almost equal, is it?

 

OS: Not DLC, we had the DLC of course, but it we had the digital bundle as well, so it was bundled with the console and it was quite a considerable amount, I can’t speak numbers, but it was a large amount that was distributed and did quite well. But no, this isn’t just a cash-in, doing Alan Wake for PC. If you look at our heritage at Remedy from Death Rally to Max Payne to Max Payne 2 and on the announcement of Alan Wake we’ve always wanted to do Alan Wake for PC. It’s in our heritage, it’s that we’re PC gamers at heart, so it’s something that we’ve been wanting to do and as soon as the very moment that we’ve had the blessing to do it, we’ve tried our best to have these stars become aligned and now that they are we’ve been working extremely hard to do it and to do it right as well. So this isn’t just a simple port. Alan Wake was developed on PC so putting out on the PC in theory could have been done in a matter of days. But we literally wanted to get it right and we wanted to work hard on some of the features so looking from the Xbox; there’s features like hide-HUD on there which was a sought after feature on the Xbox, we took the feedback from there and gave that to the PC gamers. Supporting features like stereoscopic 3D, multi-screen… but in general you’re working with the Xbox, you’re working with the specific hardware parameters and you have to work with in those and your working with file size for disc and so forth, and when your working within those parameters you have obstacles at the same time so you have to make compromises, so when we broke down those parameters we automatically began to see some really exciting stuff happening. But at the same time when you see exciting stuff happening on the graphical side you also start to see not very exciting stuff, like ‘oh, that texture doesn’t look very good’ or we need to improve the fidelity in various areas so we’ve done that.

 

Electronic Theatre: So you have gone back and actually redrawn some of the original textures for this PC version?

 

OS: Absolutely. We’ve up-res’d a lot of stuff there and improved a lot of stuff. Doing the PC game right was our highest priority. And of course for any one to say there is no commercial interest in it would be ridiculous. We want the franchise to do well, we want it to expand and we want Remedy to live on so we can continue to tell our stories and make videogames. There is that but to speak from the heart it’s about making videogames and entertaining the biggest audience possible. PC is important and we’ve always wanted to do it and now we get the chance and we’re really excited about it, genuinely excited.

 

Electronic Theatre: Obviously there are gamers who are big fans of Alan Wake as a franchise and who will already have the Xbox 360 version. You’ve talked about stereoscopic 3D and upgrading the visual quality, but is there anything else you’ve got that could make these gamers consider buying it again for PC? Strictly speaking it’s the same videogame – is there anything else that you’ve added in there that’s going to convince them to buy it again?

 

OS: For those gamers out there considering buying Alan Wake again – thank you, if they are such big fans – then I’d certainly suggest to them to go out and get the retail version. These guys are obviously big fans of the franchise and I would definitely suggest that they get a physical copy.  We are doing a lot of exciting stuff going on the physical side. We’ve got two versions coming out there. We have the digital version coming out on Steam, shortly followed by some other digital channels like Origin but then the retail [release] has got two separate versions, so one version is the basic version, which actually is not that basic, it’s better than basic. It has the game, it has the DLC, it has a sticker set in there, it has postcards, it has a poster and it also has the score- the cinematic soundtrack. Then for the limited collector’s edition, we are doing all of the above plus developer commentary, plus developer diaries, and the Alan Wake Files, the book that we saw in the limited collector’s edition of the Xbox version, we’re bringing that back.

 

Electronic Theatre: So the exact same book, is it?

 

OS: Yes. So it’s a pretty nice package. And we’re working with Nordic Games on that. So for those fans out there, and if they have got a fantastic PC setup then it does look absolutely gorgeous on the PC. Like I said we have spend a lot of time and hard work getting it right so those players that want to play it with all the settings maxed out, PC’s the way to go.

 

Electronic Theatre: You mentioned that you had Steam and Origin, that you had it coming out, now obviously when it was originally an Xbox 360 and PC game it was a natural assumption that it would be coming to Games for Windows, and you’re not bringing it to Games for Windows. Is there any particular reason for that?

 

OS: I think the main reason that we’re not bringing it to Games for Windows is just a matter of team size and developing.

 

Electronic Theatre: But presumably it would be a fairly natural port from Xbox 360 to Games for Windows? Obviously the achievement API would be similar if not…

 

OS: It’s not as simple as one might think, but it’s not totally impossible either. We just haven’t announced that at the moment and to be honest I can say that we haven’t started working on it and I don’t know if we will. Steam is such a monster and I don’t know. We are not working on it and we don’t have any plans to work on it yet.

 

Electronic Theatre: You mentioned that you want to expand the franchise. Now, one way that we’ve seen you expanding the franchise already is Barry Wheeler appearing in Death Rally. Barry Wheeler is a character that we get a lot of feedback from, a lot of people love him, is there any chance that he might do anything in the future?

 

OS: That’s a good question. In Death Rally, we had a few cameos there… we had Duke Nukem, we had Barry Wheeler, amongst some others as well. Barry Wheeler makes an appearance in American Nightmare so you see him at the start of the game and he’s a little bit lost, lets put it that way, after Alan Wake disappeared, after the first game Barry Wheeler was of course his agent and he didn’t have a lot to do, so he’s now kick started the old band, if you remember the old Gods of Asguard –  if you remember from the first game, the rock band – so he’s kick started them, he’s now their manager and he’s taking them on tour with a new single that we’re introducing in American Nightmare.

 

Electronic Theatre: So Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, presumably this is the first in a new chapter for Alan Wake. The first videogame was obviously delivered as a series of chapters, is it your intention to do that with Alan Wake’s American Nightmare as well?

 

OS: The original game was delivered episodically – not delivered, it [was] all game in the same packaged but it was episodic in the way that we told the story. That was ‘season one’ if you like. Now American Nightmare is an Electronic Theatre Imageepisode of Night Springs, Now the back story goes early on in Alan Wake’s career he’d written a couple of episodes of Night Springs, it was the Night Springs TV show and it had this Twilight Zone feel to it. So Wake had written a couple of episodes of Nights Springs, now in American Nightmare you are playing an episode of Night Springs and it’s written by Alan Wake himself. So kind of a fiction within a fiction.

 

Electronic Theatre: So, it’s set after Alan Wake, but looking back at events before it?

 

OS: No. These events are after the events of Alan Wake.

 

Electronic Theatre: But it’s looking at content he himself had produced before?

 

OS: Yes. So Wake has learned a lot since we saw him last. Where as in Alan Wake fiction was kind of leading him, now Wake has learned to use fiction to his advantage. And that’s what we are seeing here, he’s using fiction that he has written as a pathway to save Alice and to get Mr. Scratch. Mr. Scratch was born after the events that happened in Bright Falls after the dust had settled, and Alan Wake had gone missing, Alice and Barry had left, then a local started to talk about Alan Wake and they were saying stuff like he was this rockstar writer that had come to their small town and brutally murdered his wife in the cabin. We know that that’s not true but that’s what the urban legend has become and we know that in Bright Falls fiction can become real and that’s how Mr. Scratch is born.

 

Now Mr. Scratch is Wake’s evil double, he’s a supernatural serial killer on his way to do horrible things to Wake’s wife Alice. Wake’s trying to stop him; he’s using Nights Springs as a path to stop Mr. Scratch. He’s also learned to rewrite reality, so it’s a kind of story puzzle in American Nightmare where he matched the things described on a piece of paper to those in a scene, that you make big things happen, you rewrite reality and that’s one of the tools that you are going to need to defeat Mr. Scratch.

 

Electronic Theatre: So is Alan Wake’s American Nightmare delivered in episodes again, or is it an episode?

 

OS: It’s just one episode of the Night Springs.

 

Electronic Theatre: So it would be quite easy to assume that there would be subsequent episodes…

 

OS: …Of American Nightmare? That’s a good question. There isn’t – I’ll be completely honest – there isn’t directly a plan to do more episodes of American Nightmare, or Night Springs. However, I definitely do see that as something that – if people like it, if Night Springs is popular – there is a possibility to do more Night Springs.

 

Electronic Theatre: Obviously, prior to the announcement of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, we had all expected Alan Wake 2. So would you be looking more towards another digital title, breaking it down into episodes, or would you prefer another retail release for a follow-up?

 

OS: Delivering episodically, you know… I’m being completely honest: I’m just not sure if people are ready for that yet. It’s not as simple as… there’s a lot of talk about it like from Alan Wake as well, people were saying ‘this would be a perfect fit to deliver episodically, why don’t you?’ One of the reasons that we didn’t deliver episodically was because there was a huge amount of risk, it could have been something that people loved or it could have been something that people just aren’t simply used to doing. You know, waiting just like with a TV series, you wait for a week and then comes the next episode and it would have required a huge amount of publisher support as well from a marketing perspective because people just wouldn’t know about it. They’d grab the first episode if it were for free and then they’re like ‘this was quite cool’ and then maybe not understand that this is episodic and it’s coming on a weekly basis because they’re just not used to the format. From a development perspective, doing games episodically you have to have a lot of episodes already in the can because it’s not…

 

Electronic Theatre: …not like Eastenders where you can go and make another episode in a week.

 

OS: Right. You’re not producing these in one week. It’s not just film and cut. It’s a lot of development and then it’s also… of course, that’s one aspect of it, and even if we got the format right as a business model for us as a development studio to get it done in two weeks or so there’s also the certification process with Microsoft which requires them three months, so you’ve got something ready in the three months and you’re like… ‘doh’.

 

Electronic Theatre: So with the original Alan Wake you would have had to have the whole videogame finished anyway prior to release.

 

OS: Right. There was a lot of discussion about it but it just didn’t seem like the business people out there that decide that sort of stuff didn’t feel that people were going to be ready for it.

 

Electronic Theatre: Well, one thing that we’ve noticed is that the people who seem to be the biggest advocates of episodic videogames are the people who shy away from it. Telltale games have had great success with episodic videogames, Valve not so much. And it should be that audience that should be the most keen to adopt it quickly and again something like Alan Wake has an audience more similar to Half Life than Sam & Max. It’s the kind of audience you are going for.

 

OS: Totally.

 

Electronic Theatre: One thing we have noticed is that this was originally an Xbox 360 exclusive and now you are coming to PC and you’ve got Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. Are we looking at Alan Wake’s American Nightmare coming to PC later? And also there’s the question of PlayStation 3. Has that been considered?

 

OS: PlayStation 3 is completely off the radar. We’ve got a very good relationship with Microsoft and this was very definitely an Xbox 360 exclusive. I don’t think you’re going to be seeing any PlayStation exclusives coming to the Xbox any time soon. It’s just the way that business people work.

 

Electronic Theatre: But coming to PC of course, you’re not coming through Microsoft, you’re coming through Nordic Games.

 

OS: For Alan Wake PC, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is through Microsoft.

 

Electronic Theatre: Yes.

 

OS: So the question is would Alan Wake’s American Nightmare come to PC?

 

Electronic Theatre: It’s both. Would Alan Wake’s American Nightmare come to PC and would the original Alan Wake come to PlayStation 3?

 

OS: Alan Wake as a franchise will never come to PS3. Hopefully that’s not your headline but for everyone that’s pretty obvious. If you would ask if Uncharted is ever going to…

 

Electronic Theatre: Well Uncharted’s a different kettle of fish, because that is a Sony owned franchise, you own your own IP. It’s a different ball park there.

 

OS: Yeah but there’s definitely a certain amount of respect as well for the publisher there. It’s something we would never consider for the Alan Wake franchise.

 

Electronic Theatre: So, if you were to go for an Alan Wake 2 or a successor to Alan Wake’s American Nightmare you would be looking to Microsoft to publish it presumably.

 

OS: For Alan Wake…?

 

Electronic Theatre: For a boxed sequel or for a further episode of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare.

 

OS: When I talk about Alan Wake as a franchise I definitely see Microsoft as a partner.

 

Electronic Theatre: And also, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare for PC, is that something that you’re looking at down the line?

 

OS: Well I did say that it’s very close to our hearts. PC gaming always has been and the very moment that we got the rights to do Alan Wake for PC we worked hard on it. Can’t say anymore to it…

 

Electronic Theatre: So are you going for a staggered digital distribution with Alan Wake for PC? Will they be beyond the retail release or is it just going to be…?

 

OS: It’s just going to be as soon as they can, as and when you can get it up there. So we’ve primarily been doing for Steam and been approached by other digital channels and asked if they can do it and of course they’ve said ‘yes’.

 

Electronic Theatre: I think this is a very interesting way of handling it, obviously, no offence to Nordic Games; it’s not going to be the kind of game that’s going to shoot up the charts on day one because of the scattered distribution pattern. It does put across the point that you’re not worried about the outward opinion of sales figures in that respect.

 

OS: I think the major thing for us, as I’ve tried to put across, is that for us is it’s important to put it out there for the PC gamer, as soon as we can. They’ve had to wait long enough as it is and we’re sorry for that, deeply sorry for that. Like I say it’s something that we’ve always wanted to do, we’ve always wanted to put it out there; we just haven’t had the opportunity to do that… Obviously with the retail side there’s some production things that take a little bit longer like getting stickers produced, getting it in a box, getting discs done and all of those things, so it’s coming on [it’s own] as opposed to just waiting for one day to say now it’s available everywhere which would have been a bigger bang. I think perhaps the idea that you’re getting from it is that of course there are commercial aspects to it but we’re not thinking about it in such a commercial way rather how to get it out the gamers, PC gamers have waited a long time and in a good way.

 

Electronic Theatre: It definitely puts forward the point that it’s not about the sales figures this time round.

 

OS: For Remedy, as a company, of course it is about sales figures because it keeps you afloat and allows you to do your next project. Already, after Max Payne the figures are out there: how much we sold the intellectual property for Max Payne. And a team of, back then, thirty five people, each one of them could be sipping cocktails on a beach, but we invested all that money back into a love of videogames to create Alan Wake so it’s not about a quick cash out for us. If it was we would’ve cashed out on [Max Payne] and everyone would’ve been living quite a lovely life somewhere on the Bahamas sipping Pina Coladas. So that’s just not the way it is, we invested as that back into making videogames and making the next franchise and Alan Wake’s success has been exactly the same, we are feeding it back into doing the work that we love doing. No ones going to be happy doing anything else but making videogames in our team.

 

-END-

Don’t forget: You can win your very own copy of Alan Wake for PC simply by visiting the Win a Copy of the Alan Wake Special Edition! page right here at Electronic Theatre.

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