Our Alan Wake interview continues with Matias Myllyrinne and Oskari Häkkinen from Remedy explaining the role of light and Alan’s everyday guy characteristics.
The other thing interesting about Alan Wake is the protagonist is an everyday kind of guy. In my opinion, it seems like developers try to make superstar action heroes as leads, especially for action games. Maybe it’s difficult to put Joe Anyone in the lead. So, why did you make this decision?
Matias Myllyrinne, Managing Director: It’s the very reason characters portrayed in computer games don’t exactly have the emotional depth that’s possible in our medium. We have an every man as you say, almost like a young Harrison Ford, and it’s easy to relate to that person. That person can evolve, his relationships with the other characters and supporting cast can take the story further.
We think the characters are very interesting. I mean you can take characters to different situations, different locations, and you can learn more about them and they can develop. Where as if it’s more of a cardboard cutout character — "I’m evil because I’m evil!" then it doesn’t really resonate, at least what we think, a mature audience wants.
I like my space marines as much as the next guy, but really games can tell a wider and more compelling stories as well. It doesn’t always need to be a ninja or a highly trained ex-seal who finds himself armed to the teeth with a rocket launcher. I think we really wanted to go for that every man approach and I’m glad you picked up on some of the challenges that go with that.
Who did the modeling work for Alan?
We used a local actor called Ilkka Villi for the model. Some of the voice acting will be done in New York.
We didn’t want to go for that kind of model beautiful. We wanted him to be a real person. We wanted him to be someone that you can relate too. Also, there’s a bit of ruggedness in the way he’s modeled and to the way he looks. Perhaps, if you look at the first models in 2005 he looks more like an outdoorsman, almost as if he’s going camping. Then, we felt it would be closer to the character if he was slightly more…
Oskari Häkkinen, Head of Franchise Development: …rugged.
I know you don’t want to give too much away, but what can you tell us about the concept of the dark presence? The enemy seems almost intangible.
MM: The dark presence takes over the locals, we call them “taken.” There’s a kind of shield of dark presence around them, but by light you can remove that.
OH: In a state of heightened reality, brought on by terror and fear, Alan Wake believes he can will his light source to burn brighter. And that’s what I was doing [during the demo], I was willing away the dark presence quicker. You saw in the HUd there a red bar and a blue bar. The blue bar was my willing, so to speak. I have batteries as well and I can change those. That is a limited resource so I can only do it so long. It takes time to regenerate so I have to be resourceful with it and use it wisely.
MM: There are different tactics you can use, which I think is quite cool. You can play around, whether its the headlights of a car or a generator or setting up fixed light fixtures to create…
OH: … really the player will have to use very smart thinking of how he’s going to taken on the challenges laying ahead of him and utilize his environment to create lights.
MM: The concept of light is so powerful and easy to grasp. It’s almost like with the Max Payne games, we played around with the concept of time, which is a constant for everybody. As kids we learned that’s a dark corridor, something might be there. Light as a safe haven, if you will, opens loads of opportunities.
When you first talked about this game you mentioned it was the start of a series. What can you tell us about that?
MM: We definitely set out to build something that’s larger than one individual game. We wanted to build something that can translate into different forms of storytelling whether they be books, films, graphic novels, or other games. We certainly want to build that, but right now we are fully focused on making this the best possible game for the 360 in spring 2010. Really, that’s our soul focus at this point. We’re not even worried or bothered by anything else. As you said, it’s been long enough and we want to get it in the gamer’s hands and viewers living rooms so they can enjoy it.
We’re storytellers as Oz says and it’s time to tell this story.
You mentioned that you’re doing a linear story, but you’re leaving it open that you can expand it?
MM: There’s a lot of fiction, there’s deep fiction. If you look at a lot of our inspirational material – let’s just say it’s a linear story, there’s a satisfactory ending. On the other hand we’re not at a dead end. We have loads of things we’d like to talk about and explore.