Train2Game interview with Remedy’s Oskari Häkkinen: Part 1 – Alan Wake PC and Alan Wake’s American Nightmare

Train2Game recently sat down for a chat with Remedy Head of Franchise Development, Oskari Häkkinen. In an in-depth interview, Häkkinen discussed Alan Wake, Alan Wake for PC, and their brand new XBLA release Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. He also offered various insights into the industry that Train2Game students will no doubt find very interesting.

It’s a big interview, so we’ve divided it into two parts. Part one sees Häkkinen discussing the design and development of the Alan Wake games. Read it below here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game Scribd page.

Part two of The Train2Game Blog interview with Oskari Häkkinen is here. As usual, leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

When it started in development, Alan Wake was going to be an open world title, what pushed Remedy into streamlining the game?

As a vision for Alan Wake it was always a thriller; it was one of the high level visions that we had to do the first thriller in video games, horror has been known in video games but there’d never been a thriller. Certainly that vision stayed the same, but as you said, it was announced as an open world title and that changed into a more linear structure. The reason for that was because we wanted to do the first thriller in video games, and we found that we didn’t have enough control in the open world setting. So when you have the player turning up to a love scene in a monster truck you know that you’ve got something going on that’s not quite tapping into the emotions that you want to create this thriller. So we went for more linear level design with Alan Wake after some time with trying open world, and the game is certainly better for it.

The PC version of Alan Wake is finally here, but why has it come so much later than the Xbox 360 version? And has developing it for PC provided Remedy with any extra challenges?

Yes, it’s been just under two years since Alan Wake came out for Xbox 360. Alan Wake was originally announced as a title for Xbox 360 and PC, but somewhere along the line the stars became unaligned for the PC version, unfortunately. But I will say this; for us, we’ve always wanted to do the PC version, it’s something that as soon as we got the blessing from Microsoft to do, we started on immediately. It’s taken about five months of development.

We really wanted to do justice to the PC version, and we’ve worked really hard on bringing it up to speed with what PC gamers are expecting from a PC game coming out in 2012. So we’ve done a lot of improvements – higher fidelity, higher resolutions, even gone so far as changing some of the textures to improve their resolutions. We’re supporting features like stereoscopic 3D, like multi-screen, we’ve added in features that were long sought after on the Xbox version like ‘Remove Hud’ and FOV.

We’ve done a lot of work, and I think that PC gamers out there that unfortunately weren’t able to get their hands on Alan Wake at the same time as when the Xbox version came out will see how important it is for us to do the PC version, how important it is for us to do it right for them.

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, the new release from Remedy, is much more action orientated that the original. What is the story behind deciding to move in this direction?

It actually started from the arcade action mode. We were looking at some of the things people were saying about Alan Wake and the story was universally loved, the characters were loved, the atmosphere, the setting…but like you said, some people said they would’ve liked more action.

So After Alan Wake we white box out these levels and said to the team “Go wild, we don’t know how we’re going to use this stuff but maybe it inspires some ideas for something in the future for Alan Wake.”  The thing is, we did that and it turns out it’s a tonne of fun and we’re all playing at the office saying “This is great, let’s get this out to people! It’d be a perfect fit for XBLA.” And that’s fine, but story at the end of the day is part of our DNA. So Sam Lake, our Creative Director and Lead Writer, decided that “OK, we can do this, I’m going to think up and create a story mode for the universe of this and how it would fit in.” And of course using Night Springs as a channel for that, it made perfect sense to go wild with the enemies and wild with the weapons.

You mentioned Alan Wake’s American Nightmare came from a splurge of creativity, was that from an internal game jam or were the team just given a chance to do what they like? Is it good for a game developer to go nuts and do what they want?

This was definitely a case of telling the team, “Do what you want. Every thought and crazy idea you’ve had, now is your time to give it a go in these white box levels.” And of course there was a tonne of ideas that have always been brewing there, and those ideas came out in those levels. Those were things that were a little bit too wild for the original game, but fit in here perfectly. I think giving people the opportunity and the freedom to show skill is something that we at Remedy are very conscious about allowing, and I certainly think that it spurs very good and creative things.

How did the design team go about writing not the game script itself,  but the Night Springs TV shows and the manuscript pages, and isn’t the narrative Alan Wake finds on the pages a little different in American Nightmare?

Um, yes. So in Alan Wake, Wake is finding pages of a novel he apparently wrote, but he doesn’t remember writing. And every time he finds a page and reads it, those events that are described on there seemingly come true. So in Alan Wake, it’s fiction that’s dictating Wake in a way. He’s learned a lot since we saw him last, and he’s learned to use fiction to his advantage.

The manuscript pages are also part of the optional story content in American Nightmare that really connects the dots to the first game, and the overall fiction.

Part two of The Train2Game Blog interview with Oskari Häkkinen is here.

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is available to download from XBLA now. Alan Wake PC is available to download via Steam, and is released at retail by Nordic Games from March 2nd.

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