Train2Game News: Danny looks back at his favourite interviews in his final day as Blog Editor

After over two years in the role of Train2Game Blog Editor, I’m leaving for pastures new after accepting a job at a major publisher based in London.

This role has allowed me to attend industry events including Develop Conference, Eurogamer and Gamescom as well as enabling me to interview some of the biggest names in game development.

With this being my final day with Train2Game, it’s a great time to revisit some of my personal favourite interviews from my time in the role of Blog Editor.

 26th August 2011 – RAGE Creative Director Tim Willits

Speaking to me at Gamescom, the i D Software boss talked about creating RAGE, his role as creative director and the huge benefits of modding to those looking to break into the games industry.

2nd September 2011 – Far Cry 3 Narrative Director Jason Vandenberghe

An interview recorded at Gamescom, in which Jason talks about game design in Far Cry 3, using motion capture technology and actors, improvements for Far Cry 3 and more.

27th September 2011 – Valve writer Chet Faliszek

Speaking to us Eurogamer Expo, Chet discusses development of CS: GO, beta testing and modding.

31st October 2011 – Deus Ex: Human Revolution writer James Swallow

In a huge interview, James Swallow talks writing Deus Ex: Human Revolution, game design, what makes a good games writer and more.

14th November 2011 – Brink Lead Writer Ed Stern

Splash Damage’s Ed Stern spoke to us in-depth about the design and art of Brink, narrative in games, what makes a good designer and breaking into the games industry.

24th November 2011 – Bioware co-founders Dr. Ray Muzyka & Dr. Greg Zeschuk

Recorded before the BioWare Lecture at BAFTA, Muzyka and Zeschuk talked about games as art, the history of BioWare and how they transitioned from working in medicine to working in game development.

22nd February 2012 Remedy Head of Franchise Development Oskari Häkkinen

Oskari Häkkinen talks game design and development of Alan Wake, life at Remedy and digital distribution, among other things.

27th March 2012 – SoulCalibur V game director Daishi Odashima

Speaking to The Train2Game Blog at a SoulCalibur V tournament, Odashima discusses development of SoulCalibur V , the importance of community feedback and what makes a good game designer.

July 11th 2012 – QA Veteran and Cheat Mode Author Dan Jacobs

In what must be the longest Train2Game Blog interview, Dan Jacobs talks about his book, Cheat Mode, QA Testing, life in the industry and much more.

20th July 2012 – Ian Livingstone OBE

In my final piece for The Train2Game Blog, Ian Livingstone discusses Make Something Unreal Live, Fighting Fantasy, what makes a good game developer and more.

Thank you to everyone who has read The Train2Game Blog over the last two years, commented on here, or on the Train2Game forum. Be sure to keep reading The Train2Game Blog for more great insight into the industry once my successor takes over in the role of Editor.

Danny Palmer – Train2Game Blog Editor April 2010-July 2012

As usual, leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum

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.

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.

Train2Game news: Alan Wake’s American Nightmare exists because Remedy devs told “Do what you want.”

Train2Game students may be interested to hear that Alan Wake’s American Nightmare came about as a result of Remedy developers being told to do what they wanted following the release of Alan Wake.

That’s according to comments from Remedy Head of Franchise Development Oskari Häkkinen, who was speaking to The Train2Game Blog in a soon to be published interview.

“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.” Häkkinen told The Train2Game Blog about the origins of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare.

“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.” he continued, before adding that allowing game developers to let their creative juries flow can be a great thing for a studio.

“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.” said the Remedy man.

And as part of The Train2Game Blog’s huge interview with Remedy, Häkkinen suggested that developers need to see games as a service rather than a one-off product.

“Think 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.” he said.

The Train2Game Blog interview with Remedy Head of Franchise Development Oskari Häkkinen will be published soon.

What are your thoughts on Häkkinen’s comments? How important is the occasional opportunity to go wild to game developers?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game news: Remedy – Think of video games as a service ‘that keeps on giving’

Train2Game students developing games should think of them as a service, rather than a one off product.

That’s according to Oskari Häkkinen Head of Franchise Development at Alan Wake developer Remedy, who was speaking to the Train2Game Blog in a huge interview that’s set to be published later this week.

“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.” responded Häkkinen when asked about  the future of digital distribution.

Alan Wake  was recently released on PC via Steam, and Alan Wake’s American Nightmare’s is soon to be released through Xbox Live Arcade.

And he added that digital gives developers the opportunity to listen to what gamers what from releases

“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.” said Häkkinen

“Think 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.” he added.

The Train2Game Blog interview with Remedy Head of Franchise Development Oskari Häkkinen is coming later this week, with Alan Wake, Alan Wake on PC, designing Alan Wake’s American Nightmare and much more discussed in-depth.

What are your thoughts on Häkkinen’s comments? Are games a service rather than a product? Which games do you think provide a good ‘service’?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.