Train2Game interview with Remedy’s Oskari Häkkinen: Part 2 – digital, life at Remedy and getting into the industry

Train2Game recently sat down for a chat with Remedy Head of Franchise Development, Oskari Häkkinen.

In an in-depth interview, Häkkinen discussed Alan Wake, bringing the game to 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 two sees Häkkinen digital distribution, life at Remedy Entertainment and offers advice on getting a job in the industry. Read it below here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game Scribd page.

Part one of our interview with Remedy Entertainment’s Oskari Häkkinen is here. As usual, leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

With Alan Wake’s American Nightmare being released on XBLA, and coming to PC via retail and Steam, what do you think the future is for digital distribution?

As a studio we’re looking at digital distribution quite seriously, and we’re learning a lot about it. Hence we have titles coming out on i OS, like Death Rally, and we’re moving it to other digital space as well. Now, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is coming out on XBLA which is another digital channel, Alan Wake is coming out for Steam as well. We’re not forgetting retail, obviously Alan Wakeis coming out in a box, the PC version coming out retail on March 2nd.

But we definitely feel that digital is going to be important in the future and that for us as a studio it’s extremely important at this time to learn and understand what digital means and what are the basic things that need to be done in a digital space, and one of those things is of course listen to the gamer. The gamer plays and gives you feedback. Analyse that feedback and see if other people are of the same opinion then react to it. Think as a video game more as a service that you’re constantly providing, it’s a gift that keeps giving and if you keep giving, the gamers will keep giving back to you too.

And does digital distribution allow studios to take more risks? As they don’t need to spend years on one thing, they can push out a game in a shorter amount of time and see if it works.

It depends on the type of game, but I certainly think so for certain games, or for specific genres it works exceptionally well. Then if it gets a good reception and people want more then keep doing more.

A little about you now, what does your role at Remedy actually involve?

I’m the Head of Franchise Development, quite a mouthful. What that means is I’m in charge of our franchises at Remedy. For Alan Wake there as a book, a strategy guide, an art book, we had a music CD, we had the cinematic score, so all those little bits and bobs that hopefully the fans out there love. They are part of the franchise in some shape or form and have at one point or another come through my desk. Then also, kind of being part of the overall thinking of where the franchise is going and making sure that stays true to what we’ve always wanted to do with Alan Wake.

So, when we do things like Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, how does that fit into the universe of Alan Wake? What are the things we want to achieve? And one of the things we want to achieve is that it’s pick up and play for anyone. What we hopefully do is get more people in Alan Wake as a franchise, to give Alan Wake as a franchise more possibilities. But then at the same time you’ve already got people that are invested in the fiction and you want to make sure that you’re pleasing them also.

So it’s little things like that which mean I’ll be part of discussions about how to keep our current fans happy, you know, you don’t want to lose them, they’ve already been loyal. And how do we perhaps get more fans to give Alan Wake a brighter future.

Fans are of course very important to a studio, but what would you say are the other key values of Remedy?

Cinematic is very important, character centric with a lead character. Action; with Max Payne it was about Hong Kong action and slow motion bullet time, with Alan Wake it was about using the light and darkness as the elements, action elements that are familiar to people but haven’t been seen in video games before.  Then of course being story driven goes without saying, pushing the envelope telling stories in video games, every one of our games has taught us something, taught us new methods of telling stories in games. With Alan Wake the episodic structure, we feel is an excellent way to tell stories in video games. Those are the kind of basic key principles that makes a Remedy game.

Alan Wake

So if an upcoming game developer wanted to join Remedy, what advice would you give them about getting into the studio, or indeed, the studio as a whole?

That’s an open ended question because it isn’t specific to the role. There’s a tonne of different roles in a studio. If they’re fantastic at animation, just knock on our door. We’re looking for an Art Director at the moment so if you’re fantastic at art just knock on our door. And we’re looking for another writer for the writing team, so if writing is your thing and you like what we’ve done with Max Payne, with Alan Wake, you see the type of writing we do for our games, so if that appeals to you then apply for that. We have a number of roles open.

But Remedy is a very small team – a lot of people don’t know that – we have about 60 people. Max Payne 1 was made with about 25 people, Max Payne 2 with about 25 people, Alan Wake peaked at about 55. So, we’ve grown a bit and we’re growing a little bit more but we consider ourselves a smaller developer. The idea is never to grow to 200, even 100 is scary for us, we want to keep very core competence so that every single recruitment that we make is a carefully thought out decision of what that person brings to the team and how that person fits in.

We don’t expect to lose people either, so we expect to bring people on board and be able to give them enough creative freedom to be happy for a very long time.  Very few people have left Remedy since they’ve started, and we’ve been going on since 1995, so we’ve gradually grown extremely slowly to maintain that core competence.  We feel that if every person on the team understands exactly what we’re doing, and what are the principles of making a Remedy Game, that’s great. But as soon as you go over 100 you don’t know the person that’s sitting next door to you.

Thanks for your time

Alan Wake is available via Steam now, the PC is released via retail on March 2nd, and Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is available from XBLA now.

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