Following on from our hands-on preview of Alan Wake, at a recent preview event in London, we sat down with Oskari Häkkinen, the Head of Franchise Development at Alan Wake's developers, Remedy, where he told us about the lengths the developers had gone to, to make the thriller accessible for everyone.
In terms of accessibility, how easy is it for a relatively new gamer to pick up Alan Wake?
So, you guys played the first episode – it starts with a tutorial, which is a nightmare scene – the nightmare scene works really well for a story driven experience. Having a traditional tutorial – you know, “press left button to shoot”, doesn’t really work for a story driven game. We wanted to immerse the player right away. We really thought for a long time about how we could make even the tutorial feel authentic in the storyline, so we had a dream sequence, and that dream sequence worked really well to let you learn the game mechanics, and immerse you in the story. Even though the story doesn’t start right away in the tutorial, it kind of starts – you know what I mean.
An easy learning curve then
I’d say it’s a fairly easy learning curve to get the basics – to get really good at Alan Wake is a little bit more difficult. There should be a progression in there. We have a dynamic difficulty system that adjusts the difficulty based on how well you’re playing. We don’t want people to die, because that’s a bad experience, so if you’re not doing so well, you’ll have less enemies – however, if you’re doing very well, we’ll push more enemies (at you). We’re going for that sweet spot of gaming for everybody. In an example earlier (one of our guys) played the poltergeist scene, and because he’d played the previous scene very well – you know, killed all the enemies - the poltergeist reacted very violently, and (our guy who was playing) took quite a few hits. It all adjusts to your playing ability.
We’ve heard that the Poets of the Fall are going to be collaborating with you on Alan Wake’s soundtrack – could you tell us a bit about that? We know that for Max Payne 2 (Remedy’s last game), there was a similar collaboration, where one of the developers wrote the lyrics for the game’s theme, Late Goodbye, then the Poets of the Fall put it to music. Is this a similar sort of deal?
Poets of the Fall are friends of ours. We’re a relatively small country, we know everybody – in a country like Finland, where you’ve got a little over 6 million people, you tend to know your neighbour. We had a collaboration with Poets of the Fall in the Max Payne games, which we think worked really well, and we bought it back for this. It’s a specially written song for the game – specially written – there (are) more than one. There are songs within the game that are really story specific.
We always think a good song really helps with the game’s more emotional parts
We’ve tried to push the envelope with storytelling, and that’s on all levels, whether it’s good music, (or otherwise). We have TVs in the game, we haven’t really talked about that – the TVs are "optional exploration content". What we’ve done there, is to use live actors in the TV, so when you go and (activate) a TV, we have an episode where it’s a flashback to happier times, when (Alan’s) back in New York. Everything's serene – he’s doing well in his job, his marriage is going great, he’s able to write, he's had huge success with his books – so you turn on the TV, and there’s a chat show, like a Jay Leno, Conan O Brian chat show, where we give a lot more depth to the character, and a lot more background. So something that happened two years ago, all of a sudden, you start understanding the dilemma he’s in. It goes with the music as well, and adds that story depth.
Alan Wake is set for release on May 14th. For our hands-on preview with the game, click here.