Exclusive: Oskari Häkkinen on Alan Wake, online gaming, Twilight Zone
|INTERVIEWS - VIDEOGAMES|
With inspirations including Stephen King, David Lynch and The Twilight Zone, one could be forgiven for being excited...
For those unfamiliar with Alan Wake, can you give us a run down about what the franchise is and the ideas behind it?
Alan Wake is a psychological action thriller, a story driven experience. Alan Wake is a writer who has writer’s block, and in a hope to get back his creative flow, his wife Alice takes him away to the beautiful town of Bright Falls. But shortly after their arrival she goes missing without a trace and Wake finds himself trapped in a nightmare. Worst of all this thriller novel he doesn’t even remember writing is coming true before his eyes, word for word.
So, as it’s a psychological action thriller, we’re inspired by Stephen King, David Lynch, Paul Auster, various graphic novels and TV series...we take our inspirations from popular culture. There are very strong elements of light and darkness throughout the story and in the action; we play on subjective and objective reality. That’s the basis to what Alan Wake is, in a nutshell.
How do the mechanics of the light and the dark work in Alan Wake? It’s something that’ll be new to PC players.
Light and darkness are key elements in Alan Wake. Now, light represents safety and dark represents danger or terror, and that’s through everything in Alan Wake’s story. Alan Wake as a child was scared of the dark and his parents gave him a clicker which was essentially an on-off switch of a lamp, and they said to him that whenever he’s scared to click this light on with the clicker. Now later on in life, his wife Alice Wake is also afraid of the dark, so it’s written into the story very clearly, but also in the action elements, light and darkness play a very important role.
Wake’s enemies, the taken, have been taken over by this dark presence residing in Bright Falls. Protected by a dark presence, you must first separate them from said presence before you can use a conventional weapon. You know, light represents a lot of things in Alan Wake...it’s also a guide to you. So, if you see a light source in the distance, it’s kind of intuitive for you to know you’re going that way and that’s where you need to go. And it also represents safety, so any light source is a safe haven for you.
In the combat we have a flash light, a flare gun, hand flares, flash bangs and light related weapons. Light and darkness - you can these elements through pretty much everything in Alan Wake.
Is the Alan Wake DLC released for the Xbox 360 also coming to the PC version?
We’ve got nothing to announce on that at the moment but...like I said, PC gaming is part of the heritage at Remedy, right back from Death Rally and Max Payne and now we’re finally bringing Alan Wake, so you can certainly read between the lines about how we feel about PC.
Tell us about your new game, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare; it’s taken a different direction to the original.
Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is a standalone spin-off experience which means that anyone can jump on board even if they’ve never played Alan Wake before. But there are of course a tonne of fans out there that have played Alan Wake and they want to see the fiction go forward, so there’s a lot of optional story content in there in form of manuscript pages, radio shows, TV shows and so forth that do connect the dots to the first game; and we do take the story - and the universe - forward.
But there’s a different tone and a different feel to Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. Alan Wake was inspired by Stephen King, by Lost, Hitchcock, Lynch, Twin Peaks and so forth. Alan Wake’s American Nightmare however was inspired mainly by B-Movie classics - Quentin Tarantino, From Dusk Till Dawn – classic Americana, classic Sci-Fi, there’s very much a grind house feel to it.
It’s packaged around Night Springs, the fictional TV show within the original Alan Wake which had a Twilight Zone vibe to it and because of this everything’s a little bit crazy and you’ve got wilder enemies and wilder weapons. It’s really made for the medium; it’s an easy, pick up and play game for anyone and it's very accessible.
Oh, and there’s XBLA integration with the new ‘Fight ‘til Dawn’ mode as well.
Yeah. With the original Alan Wake we really wanted to push the envelope with storytelling in video games, and there were certain things we felt we could do and certain things we couldn’t do.
Is it available now?
Yes. Alan Wake’s American Nightmare costs 1200 Microsoft Points – that’s about £10 – so it’s massive value for money. There’s a five hour story there which is a pulp action adventure with a twisted story, something that people have come to expect from a Remedy game. In addition to that it includes an arcade action mode called 'Fight ‘til Dawn' which includes five unique maps, and if you beat those maps you unlock Nightmare Mode. We’ve got online leader boards and at the end of the day we really want to find out who is the number one champion of light.
Tell us about Wake’s enemy in American Nightmare, and a bit about its back-story.
The back story goes that early on in his career he’d written a couple of episodes of Night Springs. Now you’re playing an episode of Night Springs in American Nightmare, and it’s written by Alan Wake himself. So, he’s using fiction that he’s created previously as a channel to be able to stop Mr. Scratch.
For those who don't know, Mr. Scratch is Alan's evil double, an individual who came about after the events of the first game. Now, the dust had settled in Bright Falls, and the locals have started to talk about the events that happened while Alan Wake was there, culminating in the birth of a new, urban legend. People were saying that Alan Wake was this rock star writer who came to Bright Falls and brutally murdered his wife in a cabin. Now, we know that’s not true, but that’s the urban legend that’s being talked about; and in Wake’s world fiction has a habit of becoming fact, especially in Bright Falls, and that’s how Mr. Scratch is born. He’s a supernatural serial killer, on his way to do horrible things to Wake’s wife Alice, and Wake’s trying to stop him.
With Alan Wake’s American Nightmare being more action orientated than the original, was it fun for the design team to do something a little different, be more creative when it comes to zany weapons and new enemies?
Yeah. With the original Alan Wake we really wanted to push the envelope with storytelling in video games, and there were certain things we felt we could do and certain things we couldn’t do. For example, we couldn't give Alan an AK-47, couldn't make him into some kind of commando, because these things just didn't fit the aesthetics of the game. Alan's an everyday man, like you or I, and the game is certainly better for it.
As for AN, The story is very much grounded in reality and we didn’t want it to be jarring by having this weird escalation in Wake turning from a writer into some sort of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone, Rambo-esque person.
It took a lot of self control not to do that. Regardless of the fact that we could have done it, we just felt that it would betray the ideals of Alan's character - the audience related to his run-of-the-mill persona. The original instalment of Alan Wake was lauded with critical acclaim - three BAFTAs, Time Magazine’s Game of the Year and various other awards for the story - so why tamper with it?
Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is made for the medium, for Xbox Live Arcade. With this in mind, we have bumped the action elements up a bit - after all, it's sort of expected in a XBLA release. I think gamers are really going to enjoy the result, and look forward to hearing their feedback.
Alan Wake is available via Steam now, with a PC version due to be released via retail on March 2nd. Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is available to download on Xbox Live Arcade now.
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