Alan Wake

Twin Peaks returned to television screens this weekend after a 26-year absence. It's the miraculous result of a vocal viewership who loved it during its short 1990-1991 run, and a far younger fanbase that discovered the show later through their parents, Netflix or its popularity on platforms like Tumblr. Alan Wake, meanwhile, a horror shooter from Remedy whose Pacific Northwest setting and offbeat characters are clearly influenced by the show, was recently pulled from Steam after its music licenses expired—triggering a surge of support in its final weekend on sale, and its most played day in four years. 

If there's one thing I've noticed about the spread of games inspired by David Lynch and Mark Frost's mystery drama, it's that they emulate its ability to generate a passionate cult audience. Something about the strange magic of the setting, themes or characters rubs off on the games it inspires. I can't think of any other television shows that have had the cultural impact to influence two mediums in this way.

Twin Peaks is the mystery of who murdered Laura Palmer, the high school homecoming queen in a fictional Washington town, and the way that affects a community of oddballs and morally questionable individuals. There's a ton more going on beneath the surface, though, including a slowly-building lore of demonic entities and other realms, as well as a strange infusion of soap opera-style melodrama and offbeat comedy.

It revolutionised the look of television through its cinematic presentation, as pioneered by Lynch, and arguably acts as the blueprint for the modern serialised TV drama—for better or worse. Across just 30 episodes, it had moments that are among TV drama's greatest highs, as well as a bunch of hideous lows. Twin Peaks didn't change the form of games in the way it did with television, but it's left artistic and thematic influences all over the place. For me, the real pleasure of playing games inspired by the show is how they deliver their own vision—or how they mix in other influences—on top of that.

Deadly Premonition somehow manages to be more idiosyncratic than the TV series in a bunch of ways.

Alan Wake is one example, but so too is the endearingly rough Deadly Premonition, which is as close to taking Twin Peaks' setting, premise, tone and characters as you can get without simply plagiarising them. Deadly Premonition somehow manages to be more idiosyncratic than the series in a bunch of ways, though, and this successfully differentiates it from the show. Despite being dreadful to play, its ability to flip from drama to bizarre comedy on a dime is enormously enjoyable, and also feels like a result of Lynch and Frost's influence. Its own oddities are the reason it has such a large following, then—enough to Kickstart a boardgame based on the game that I will likely never play, seven years after it originally came out.

There's so much to be inspired by in Twin Peaks that developers can pick and choose the elements that suit the game they're trying to make. In smash teen drama Life Is Strange, Dontnod uses a similar setting to the series, but also explores Lynch's running theme of the dark secrets lurking beneath an idyllic town—which Andy wrote about last year. I disagree with Andy's assertion in that piece that the influence of Twin Peaks is mostly superficial or cosmetic in games other than Life Is Strange, however. I think a lot of projects inspired by Twin Peaks replicate its ability to produce distinctive, well-liked characters, or pull out one particular element that help makes a game feel more unsettling, comforting or even funny—and sometimes all three simultaneously. This is a curious but effective balance that the show pulled off frequently at its peak.

Remedy's Alan Wake is not entirely indebted to Twin Peaks, of course—there's a lot of Stephen King in the idea of an author protagonist—but the Bright Falls, Washington setting deliberately evokes the show, as well as locations and characters that are specifically inspired by it. This wasn't Remedy's first game to be inspired by Twin Peaks in some fashion, either. Both Alan Wake and the studio's other famous work, Max Payne, notably borrow the idea of Twin Peaks' Invitation To Love, a TV show within the TV show where the storylines parallel the series' own twists. Max Payne 2's version actually comes in the form of four TV shows which variously mirror the story and Max as a character: the very Peaks-y Address Unknown, Dick Justice, Captain BaseBallBat-Boy and costume drama Lords and Ladies. The show's influence even reaches as far as narrative presentation in games.

There are plenty of other games that recall the show, too. The town of Silent Hill is filled with similarly odd residents across the series, and the show's favourite concept of the 'double' is explored in the second game, as protagonist James Sunderland searches for Maria, a woman who looks identical to his deceased wife. Slow-paced adventure game Kentucky Route Zero has Lynchian vibes in its relationship between a small town American setting and the surreal. And last year's Virginia uses a similar setting and premise, but with very different characters, and a novel dialogue-free narrative approach. Twin Peaks isn't just a wallpaper and a set of quirky elements like damn fine coffee and cherry pie to be copied: it can be a starting point for other stories that are similarly worth talking about. 

I watched the first two episodes of the revival this morning, and without spoiling anything, I thought it was extraordinary. Twin Peaks has re-entered a medium that it's shaped on many levels, and yet it stands entirely apart thanks to Lynch's capacity for the horrifying and the absurd. It's a continuation of the show, but also contemporary-feeling. It's so unsettling and mesmerising that I didn't touch my phone during the entire opening two hours, and that's rare these days. 

 Once again, I see the enormous potential for it to inspire another generation of game developers—whether that comes in the form of a comparable vibe, imagery, abstract lore or characters. Even when developers have come close to ripping off Twin Peaks, they never end up with exactly the same thing. But it's no coincidence that they earn a similar place in players' hearts.

Alan Wake

As you may have spied Andy reporting a couple of week's back, Remedy Entertainment's Alan Wake was removed from Steam on May 15 as a result of "expiring music licenses." 

As Andy notes here, the inclusion of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Roy Orbison, David Bowie, Depeche Mode and similar top-flight bands/musicians forced the Finnish developer to remove the game from online stores—an unfortunate occasion it celebrated with a so-called Sunset Sale, whereby the action adventure 'em up was discounted by 90 percent. 

It's now gone from Steam, however if you're yet to pick up the game Jon "Log" Blyth awarded a hearty 86 in his 2012 review, know that the Humble Store is still selling DRM-free keys for £22.99/$29.99. 

As a reseller, Humble's stock is of course in limited supply, but this still provides those who missed out last week a chance to get in on the action. Head in this direction to do so. 

Some online stores give us a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Read our affiliate policy for more info. 

Alan Wake

According to a tweet by Remedy Entertainment, Finnish creator of Alan Wake, its atmospheric horror game will be "removed from stores" (including Steam) on May 15 because of "expiring music licenses."

One of my favourite things in Alan Wake is the song that plays over the end credits of each episode, including Up Jumped The Devil by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and In Dreams by Roy Orbison. But it seems the inclusion of these songs has forced Remedy to remove the game from Steam.

The developer is 'celebrating' this news with a so-called Sunset Sale, offering a 90% discount on the game from May 13 (10am PST) until the game vanishes for good on May 15. If you own the game it'll remain in your Steam library, so this is your last chance to grab it before it vanishes.

PC Gamer

Finnish studio Remedy Entertainment has been around for more than 20 years. In that time, it's managed to release Max Payne and a sequel; Alan Wake and a sequel; and, earlier this year, Quantum Break. (There's also its first game, Death Rally, which it remade in 2011, but nobody's ever heard of that one.) It's not exactly a blistering pace of development, which is why Remedy's decided to split itself into two teams, working on two separate projects at the same time!

First things first: we ll continue supporting Quantum Break, which became the 'biggest-selling new Microsoft Studios published IP this generation.' It s something we re extremely proud of, so thank you to all of our fans for making the game a success and our long-time partner Microsoft for helping us create something unique, Remedy wrote in a State of the Studio blog post.

As for the future, we have some very exciting news to share. Moving forward, we want to create more games and hopefully get them out more often. In order to achieve this, Remedy has expanded into two game development teams, the message says. For a while now already, we ve been developing a brand new Remedy game with a new partner. Our second team is working on an early concept, which will turn into another Remedy game sometime in the future.

Sadly, neither of the two projects Remedy is currently working on is a new Alan Wake game, although it added that we re exploring opportunities in other mediums to tell more Alan Wake stories. Beyond that, though, it plans to keep a lid on what it's getting up to for a good while yet.

We can t wait to show and tell you more about these new projects, but if there s anything we ve learned from the past, it s that we should have the patience to announce games when they re ready enough, Remedy said. So don t expect us take the stage at E3 or gamescom this year.

The PC Gaming Show returns to E3 on Monday June 13, featuring game announcements, updates to existing favourites, and conversation with top developers. You can find out what to expect here, and also book free tickets to attend in person at pcgamingshow.com. The PC Gaming Show will be broadcast live through twitch.tv/pcgamer from 11:30 am PT/2:30 pm ET/6:30 pm GMT, but be sure to tune in beforehand to check out The Steam Speedrun, in which one lucky winner will buy as many games as they can in three minutes.

PC Gamer

The excitement around here ratcheted up noticeably when word went out that Remedy might, maybe, be thinking about getting to work on a new Alan Wake game. The first hint was dropped by way of an application for a trademark on something called Alan Wake's Return, and the theory firmed up with the discovery of an Alan Wake's Return video in a preview of Remedy's upcoming Quantum Break.

It all seemed so clear—until Remedy Creative Director (and original Max Payne face) Sam Lake told Kotaku UK that the trademark isn't for a new game, but for the live-action television series that will appear in Quantum Break.

A big part of the trademarking process all in all is the legalities of it," Lake said. "Just making sure everything is covered." Remedy is exploring possibilities and concepting different things, he added, but lots needs to click into place for anything to happen.

And anything can happen—remember, there was a time when the original Alan Wake wasn't going to make it to the PC, nor was Quantum Break for that matter—but right now, Lake said, there's no real news about anything future Alan Wake-related." Sorry, folks.

PC Gamer

I largely stuck to the beaten path for my Quantum Break hands-on last week, which it now turns out was a terrible mistake. Polygon reports that if you decide to go wandering in the game s opening section set on a university campus, you ll eventually stumble across a student demonstration, and a tent with a flat screen TV inside, on which a trailer for Alan Wake s Return is playing.

The footage sounds like it s full of the pulp horror portentousness that was the delicious signature of Remedy s horror-flavoured game: Crashing waves… He's been gone for five years ... Spooky forest… We're just a speck of light floating in an endless ocean of darkness ... Detectives with torches, dead bodies, bloody knives, inevitably jazzy music.

Whether the trailer s existence means the game is really set for a sequel remains unclear. It could equally just be a cool piece of fan service, laced throughout Quantum Break as Remedy is wont to do for its games. However, giving credence to the idea it could be an actual sequel, we learned late last month that Remedy has filed a trademark for Alan Wake s Return. As an inveterate horror fan with a high tolerance for florid writing and Americana, I d certainly be up for it. How about you?

PC Gamer

The last we heard, an Alan Wake sequel was not on the cards. Remedy tried, built a prototype, pitched it to publishers, but no one was biting. Remedy's talks with Microsoft ended up spawning Quantum Break, which as we now know, is on its way to PC. Could something else accompany it? Remedy has now applied for the trademark 'Alan Wake's Return'.

It's not so far fetched to believe a sequel is in the works. "I would love to do that," Remedy creative director Sam Lake said when the prototype footage emerged. "It feels that time has only refined the ideas of what the sequel would be, which is great. It's almost, in some ways and on some level, that all of this extra time to think it about it has made it tastier and more exciting."

In addition, the Xbox edition of Quantum Break comes with a free copy of Alan Wake. It could just be a random act of generosity, but it might as easily lay the groundwork for, well, Alan Wake's Return.

We've got a few Alan Wake diehards on the PCG team—the conjunction of fast-paced survival horror with the meditative forests of the Pacific Northwest and the hallmarks of classic horror fiction more than makes up for the delay it endured coming to PC.

PC Gamer
WHY I LOVE

In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, Andy savours Alan Wake's Lynchian influences.

America s Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, but there s also something haunting and mysterious about those dark woods and forested valleys. This landscape inspired David Lynch when he created supernatural soap opera Twin Peaks, and ultimately Finnish horror game Alan Wake. 

Remedy s love of Lynch has been apparent since the Address Unknown theme park in Max Payne 2, but Wake is its most overt homage to his work. Like Twin Peaks, the game uses a place of stunning natural beauty to tell a grim, twisted horror story, and it s this contrast that makes Bright Falls such an evocative setting. 

You arrive by ferry, in a disarmingly peaceful introduction to the small town and its picturesque surroundings. The fir trees and foggy mountain peaks are realistic enough, but Remedy s take on the geography is exaggerated. It s almost a caricature of the region: what you imagine it looks like, rather than the reality. The valleys are a little too deep, the mountains a little too steep. 

Alan Wake began life as an open-world game, and there are still traces of it. The tallest mountain in the region can be seen from most places, which helps you keep track of where Wake s journey is taking him. Brief driving sections let you travel long distances, giving you a limited taste of what the game could ve been like had Remedy kept to its original vision. Access the game s built-in free camera, pull back, and you ll see that the whole world is always there, but that you re confined to a relatively small corner of it. 

Wake s travels take him to the Oh Deer Diner, a homage to Twin Peaks Double R, and Cauldron Lake, which is based on Oregon s stunning Crater Lake—seen recently in Jean-Marc Vall e s wonderful film Wild. Other landmarks include the historic Bright Falls Coal Mine, the Sparkling River Estates Trailer Park (most likely inspired by Twin Peaks equally rundown Fat Trout Trailer Park), and the Bright Falls Dam. It s a quintessential slice of rural Americana, albeit one haunted by shadowy, murderous ghosts. 

Remedy is based in Espoo, Finland, but the team spent a lot of time in the Pacific Northwest, taking reference photos and getting a feel for the geography and climate. 

We drove about 2,000 miles around it for a period of almost two weeks, says Saku Lehtinen, art director. We went to places like Astoria, a very typical Pacific Northwestern coastal town, where the movie Ring was made. We went to North Bend, where Twin Peaks was filmed, which is just outside of Seattle. The story in Alan Wake has fantastic elements, but it has to be rooted in reality.  

It s a naturally exciting setting, says writer Mikko Rautalahti. It s also something you don t see in games a lot. We wanted wide open spaces instead of corridors and underground complexes. The nature there is beautiful and rich, but it s also perfect for a horror game. Take those deep, dark woods, add something weird and horrible lurking there, and you re all set.  

Remedy even went as far as using NASA star maps to make sure Bright Falls s night sky was accurate. Night is a big part of Alan Wake, and you spend much of the game traipsing through foggy, moonlit forests. Remedy s proprietary Alan Wake Engine is, even now, stunning to look at. The way the cold, pale moonlight shines through the swirling mist is really atmospheric. The weather effects are superb, with trees swaying in the wind and forks of jagged lightning lighting up the sky. Creating their own bespoke tech delayed the game for several years, but the results are still spectacular.

Alan Wake is a flawed game. The handful of enemy types makes combat repetitive and frustrating, and it s often stiflingly linear. But, for me, the setting makes up for its shortcomings. The Pacific Northwest is a place we rarely get to visit in videogames, and Remedy captured its essence perfectly. A sequel to Alan Wake was in the works, but was cancelled so the team could start work on Xbox One exclusive Quantum Break, so it s unlikely, sadly, that we ll ever visit Bright Falls again. 

But with Twin Peaks returning to television screens in 2017, perhaps that would be the perfect time for Remedy to revisit its town and continue the story of troubled horror writer Alan Wake.

PC Gamer

Alan Wake took his sweet time to arrive on PC from Xbox 360, but went down well once he did. The game quickly hit the top of the Steam charts and Remedy said it recouped its development and marketing costs within two days of release. Alas, though Remedy planned to make a sequel, it's not actually going to happen. But over at Polygon you can at least get an idea of what was in store, in the form of a prototype video which Remedy created to pitch Alan Wake 2 to to various publishers, including Microsoft. 

Microsoft, it turned out, was looking for something different. "Quite quickly our discussion about Alan Wake 2 turned into something else and that something else turned into Quantum Break, which was great and very exciting," Remedy writer and original Max Payne face Sam Lake explained.

The 13-minute video features quite a bit of gameplay, but Lake described it as "more like a mood piece," setting the stage for the famed fictional writer's deeper descent into the world of darkness, which he's now more properly equipped to face. And even though the sequel wasn't made, the video wasn't a complete bust either: Some of the elements on display, like the Birdman, actually found their way into the stand-alone expansion Alan Wake's American Nightmare.

Though Alan Wake 2 is seemingly lost in limbo, Lake left open the possibility that it could happen some day. "I would love to do that... it feels that time has only refined the ideas of what the sequel would be, which is great. It's almost, in some ways and on some level, that all of this extra time to think it about it has made it tastier and more exciting," he said. "Only time will tell."

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