Fact-Checking Alan Wake's Writer CredI've only played a bit of Remedy's newest downloadable Alan Wake game—though Evan Narcisse liked it a lot, and I like what I've played, too.

But then, I have something of a soft spot for Alan, for some reason. The original game sticks with me more than I thought it would; it's the sort of game that I think of more fondly while I'm not playing it than while I am. That's in part because while I'm not playing it, the repetitive combat and endless wandering through the woods don't seem as interminable, and the game's best aspects don't feel as spaced out.

While the game itself does have some highs—that heavy metal concert blowout among them—the narrative setup is also something I really dig. I like the setting, which still feels fresh as a place to put a video game. And while Alan himself can be a bit of a drip, I like that he's a novelist, and dig how the game experiments (usually unsuccessfully) with that by using the scattered manuscript pages to flesh out characters and provide foreshadowing.

But how close is the game to accurately portraying the life of a writer? Alan wake isn't some internet writer like certain people I could name; no, he's a tweed jacket-wearing, typewriter-using capital-W Writer in the mould of Stephen King. Or actually, as I've always maintained, Dean Koontz.

Game designer and writer Matthew Burns, who in addition to being a fantastic writer is always good for a laugh, looked into this very question on his blog "Magical Wasteland" back in 2010, and the post has always stuck with me. First, Burns wrote the tongue-in-cheek "An excerpt from the novel 'Departure' by Alan Wake." Key bit: " I was relieved. As the twisted forms evaporated into slivers of light, I realized that my kill count with the flashbang had reached fifty. A sense of achievement washed over me.").

After that, he decided to see do a further investigation (tongue still firmly planted in cheek) of what Alan Wake gets wrong, and right, about being a writer.

Butns turned to who else but Tom "actual writer" Bissell for an interview on the subject. Is Alan Wake an accurate portrayal of the modern American novelist?

"I read that this fiction writer protagonist could sprint for only about ten feet or so," Bissell says, "and I thought, 'Yes! They've done their research!'"

Personally, I'm not sure I ever bought Alan Wake as a realistic writer. I grew tired of his plodding writing style, though I do like the theory that his manuscript pages are something of a joke, a commentary on how bad writers become famous every day in America. Burns brings up this question and Bissell mentions Dan Brown, who despite his huge success you may have heard is a fairly terrible writer.

I did like how Wake's writing improved noticeably between the first game and American Nightmare. Apparently, he's been working on his craft between games. And given the fact that he can finally run for more than a few seconds without running out of breath, I guess he's been hitting the gym, too.

What Alan Wake Gets Wrong, And Right, About Being A Writer [Magical Wasteland]


Please Change The Endings Of These Video GamesWarning, spoilers ahead, starting with the end of Casablanca:


RICK, only moments after watching the plane containing ILSA, his love, taxi down the tarmac and fly away forever, slowly walks away from the hangar with LOUIS.

RICK: Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

The two walk off together into the night.



The ending of Casablanca (1942) is one of the most memorable film conclusions in the history of cinema. It isn't necessarily a happy ending, but it leaves the audience on a hopeful note, with Rick (Humphrey Bogart) telling the French officer, Captain Louis Renault, that it's going to be "a beautiful friendship."

But I've been tossing around an alternate way this film could end; perhaps a conclusion that is a bit more powerful:


RICK, only moments after watching the plane containing ILSA, his love, taxi down the tarmac and fly away forever, slowly walks away from the hangar with LOUIS.

RICK: Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Louis: But what about ze plane?

Rick returns his gaze to the sky.

Louis: Ilsa will have a new life now. Using this oversized futuristic remote control, I will be rerouting the plane to...

Rick turns toward the camera.


A giant robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex grabs Ilsa's plane out of the sky, as we EXPLODE to the words "CASABLANCA" in flaming typeface.


We can all agree this is a better ending, and more appropriately sets up for the sequel, Casablanca 2: This Time More People Die.

Please Change The Endings Of These Video GamesAll of this nonsense regarding the unfavorable wrap-up of Mass Effect 3 got me thinking: Have video game endings really mattered that much to me? It seems that endings of books and movies stick with me moreso than their middle content, whereas the early levels of video games stick with me moreso than their endings.

Rhett Butler didn't give a damn. Bill Murray whispered a secret to Scarlett Johannson. Frodo destroyed the ring. Jack Nicholson's cabin fever convinced him that chopping up his family with an axe was probably a good idea. And what's in the booxxxxx?

Conversely, when it comes to some of my favorite video games, their endings are rarely at the forefront of my mind when thinking back on the experience:

  • How did Bioshock end? Didn't the bad guy get really bloated and angry or something? I only remember epic Big Daddy battles, shooting bees out of my fingers, and the big plot twist in Act II.
  • How did Bulletstorm end? Not sure, but I kicked a whole lot of people into cacti.
  • How did Red Dead Redemption end? Oh! I remember. I broke Bonnie's heart and then was forced to play as John's bratty, annoying son.

Speaking of that, Red Dead Redemption is a perfect example of the video game industry giving gamers what they consider to be an ending with a "tragic plot twist," but done in such a poor fashion that it just makes us bitter. We understand that Rockstar wanted us to really feel something, and realize that the Wild West was no "It's A Small World" ride, but the way the story's conclusion played out seemed more like a slap in the face than a well-crafted twist on a fantastic adventure. [Editor's note: Oh, Lisa... we're going to have a big argument about this.]

Please Change The Endings Of These Video GamesI'm not saying we always need "happy" endings; I'm saying we need to be satisfied.
The ending of Final Fantasy X was extremely sad, but gamers were still more than willing to cry those tears. Sure, it was resolved in Final Fantasy X-2, but the mere existence of that game is more depressing than X's ending.

As another example, I was fully prepared and content with the ending of Prince of Persia 4, when it appeared that Elika must give her life to save the world. It was her choice. It was beautiful. It was heart wrenching. …But just kidding! You get to bring her back to life and undo everything you've worked for since the beginning of the game. All your efforts have been erased so you can have a girlfriend! Isn't it great?

Nope. I found it sad, irritating, unsatisfying.

"But real life isn't always satisfying," you may argue. In my opinion, we play video games to escape the cruelties of reality. Getting audited by the IRS isn't satisfying in real life either, but the second it starts happening to me in my video games, I'm setting my consoles on fire and fleeing to wherever Margaritaville is.

So it's established. Basically every video game ending is terrible. Guys, I know we didn't want it to come to this, but please print out this letter and mail it ASAP:

Dear Federal Government,

Please change the original endings of the following video games to the obviously better and way more badass alternate endings provided. Thanks, and get your shit together regarding all the debt.

Sincerely, (Your Twitter Handle Here)

Fable 2

How it ended: You are left with the choice of either A.) returning the lives of all those who died, but losing your dog, B.) saving your dog, but letting all of those innocent people remain dead, or C.) giving it all up for a million dollars, you greedy, greedy jerk.

How it should've ended: Your dog becomes King of Albion and, as his slave, you are faced with the moral choice of feeding him overly-priced organic dogfood (recommended by 4 out of 5 veterinarians) or processed cornmeal, which will give him gas. You also have to find your own dig spots. (Sucker!)

Mario Kart

How it ended: Wait, do these games have endings? Other than you just win a fancy trophy and tell all your friends to "suck it?"

How it should've ended: We would turn the series into "The Hunger Games," so when you win, you are the only character still living. It is now your job to single-handedly carry on every Nintendo franchise left behind by your dead opponents.

Alan Wake

How it ended: "It's not a lake… it's an ocean!"

How it should've ended: No. It's neither. Alan, you're inside the snow globe of an autistic child.

Rock Band and Guitar Hero series

How they ended: You started out as a starving musician, but gig after gig earned you massive amounts of fans and upgraded your van to a stretch limo. Now, you're the world's greatest rockstar and nothing can stand in your way of achieving god status.

How they should've ended: Yoko Ono shows up during your final song and, if she is not defeated, breaks your game disc and renders your console forever unplayable.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

How it ended: Nathan Drake saves the day Indiana Jones-style, beating the bad guys and getting the girl.

How it should've ended: Right before the credits, you get a personal phone call from Nathan Fillion. He says he's glad you enjoyed the game, but he's not going to star in the movie adaptation, so please don't ask.


How it ended: Fontaine injects himself with a large amount of ADAM and attacks Jack as an inhuman monster.

How it should've ended: The REAL antagonist turns out to be that scary clown from The Circus of Values vending machines. He comes to life and has unlimited everything, and the only way to defeat him is with a carnival-style water gun hidden somewhere in Rapture. If you win, you get an oversized Tweety Bird doll filled with sawdust to give to the Little Sisters in exchange for their undying loyalty. [Editor's note: Lisa, you've redeemed yourself for the Red Dead Redemption thing.]

Batman: Arkham Asylum

How it ended: The Joker injects himself with Titan and transforms into a huge, ugly Super Joker, and then your typical boss battle takes place.

How it should've ended: How about something, anything that would have actually made sense in the Batman universe? You know, where The Joker doesn't really want to kill Batman? It's all mind games? Just spitballin'.

Super Mario Bros.

How it ended: Bowser takes princess. Mario beats Bowser. Mario saves princess.

How it should've ended: Once he comes down from the mushrooms, Mario realizes Bowser won and Peach died, so he has to go back to being a plumber all day. And for some reason, he's just really mad at Luigi all the time.


How it ended: You just spent the entire length of an RPG searching for riches beyond imagination inside "The Vault," only to discover there is nothing within its confines except a final boss fight. And then everyone was sad.

How it should've ended: Narnia. You enter Narnia with all your guns and shoot everything in Narnia.

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge

How it ended: After Guybrush's suspenseful cat-and-mouse game with the Zombie Pirate LeChuck, he exits the scene and realizes the entire game took place in a theme park and he was only playing make-believe with his older brother.


Please Change The Endings Of These Video Games

And finally…

Mass Effect 3

How it ended: The ending to Mass Effect 3 involves vast amounts of energy spreading throughout the galaxy via the Mass Relays.

How it should've ended: Instead of energy, it should be Skittles, with Skittles explosions erupting at each Relay. Then we find out the entire Mass Effect series was just another entry in the long line of those weird-as-f*ck Skittles commercials.

Got it? Now go write to your favorite federal official.

Kotaku columnist Lisa Foiles is best known as the former star of Nickelodeon's award-winning comedy show, All That. She currently works as an actress/web host in Hollywood and writes for her game site, Save Point. For more info, visit Lisa's official website.
Crossover: Find What Comics Inspired the Writer of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare

Part of Panel Discussion's mission is to look at the ways and places where comics and video games intersect and here in Crossover, we'll be talking to game creators about the comics stories and creators who've shaped their sensibilities.

In our first installment, we hear from Remedy Entertainment's Mikki Rautalahti, who—along with the dev studio's Sam Lake—puts words and ruminations into the head of Alan Wake. Given how the light-wielding writer battles a shadowy evil, you'd figure that Rautalahti would prefer his comics dark and gritty. But Rautalahti enjoys a broad variety of sequential art, including upbeat superheroics from writers like John Byrne and Mark Waid. Here's the writer describing his likes and dislikes in his own words:

I'm a big fan of the form. Don't get me wrong, I love video games, but if I had to pick just one of the two, there's a good chance that in the end, I'd end up with comics. To quote Harvey Pekar, "Comics are words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures."

In general, superhero comics are a kind of a safe bet, no matter what era we're talking about. I can be picky about which titles I like at any given time, and I do have standards of quality, but it's a safe bet to assume that a good superhero comic is a thing that I enjoy. I'll mention a few specific titles below, but whether it's Mark Waid's Flash, the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League or Peter David's Hulk, chances are I'm game.

This list could be endless, and my problem with something like this is always that I go, "OH GOD I'M LEAVING SOMETHING IMPORTANT OUT," so I've tried to just list things as they pop into my head.

So, some past favorites in no particular order:

Crossover: Find What Comics Inspired the Writer of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare • Will Eisner's Spirit (I love his other work like A Contract With God too, but man, I just love the Spirit).
• Peter Bagge's Buddy Bradley stuff.
• Joe Matt and Chester Brown
Love & Rockets
• The work of Hugo Pratt.
• John Byrne's Fantastic Four
Usagi Yojimbo
Mage, Grendel and almost anything by Matt Wagner.
Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson.
• Like most comics readers of my generation, I grew up on the Chris Claremont/John Byrne era X-Men.
Cerebus, until the rampant misogyny just got too ridiculous.
• Brian K. Vaughn's Ex Machina.
Daredevil by pre-nutcase Frank Miller — the "Born Again" arc in particular.
• Most anything by Alan Moore, for kind of obvious reasons.
• Harvey Pekar's American Splendor, which is quoted above.

Some current favorites:

Crossover: Find What Comics Inspired the Writer of Alan Wake’s American NightmareLocke & Key by Joe Hill.
• Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, of course.
• Mike Carey's The Unwritten from DC/Vertigo.
Hark! A Vagrant! by Kate Beaton
Morning Glories by Nick Spencer (not sure if I really like it, but still).
• Almost anything that Ed Brubaker writes.

I'm not a big fan of:

Crossover: Find What Comics Inspired the Writer of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare • The Image stuff from the 1990s. A lot of the ‘90s superhero stuff in general, actually. It just was not a great decade for that kind of material.
• Comics by people who are intent on creating art but don't understand anything about comics, which generally results in an unreadable mess.
• Mark Millar and Garth Ennis. Preacher? Great fun, until you realize that it's nowhere near as ironic as you think at first. Stupid shit.


Alan Wake's Boxed Edition Gets a Release DateAfter extending a collector's edition launch on Steam by a week, Remedy Entertainment has found a publisher for the boxed edition of its Alan Wake release for the PC.

Legacy Interactive will distribute the game and release it in North America on April 3. The boxed edition wil also include "The Writer" and "The Signal" episodes previously released as downloadable content on consoles.

Alan Wake extending launch deal on Steam for another week [Joystiq]


Alan Wake's American Nightmare: The Kotaku Review Going into Alan Wake's American Nightmare, I'd worried that I hadn't played the DLC that followed the 2010 game that introduced Remedy's literary action hero. I loved the long-brewing Xbox 360 exclusive but, after months of never being able to slot in The Signal and The Writer add-ons, I'd decided to skip them after repeatedly hearing how I didn't need to play, did I? That way, I could keep my memories brightly-lit. Still, when Microsoft announced this latest new downloadable return to Alan Wake, I fretted about shadows encroaching on the series' unique flavor. Turns out I shouldn't have worried.

American Nightmare feels like fringe cinema, a work that embraces all its messy roots and questionable creative decisions unabashedly. What I loved about the original Alan Wake—the core premise that turns a thematic conceit playable—gets blown open even more here. From a story perspective, the metaphor gets stretched as Alan Wake finds himself trapped in the fictional Night Springs universe he helped architect. The game takes place two years after the events of Alan Wake. You're hunting for the keys to re-write reality in the game's levels, just as a writer hunts for the right words to create mood and meaning. American Nightmare adds depth to the symbols at the core of the Alan Wake formula—writing, light, darkness, multiplicity of self—and also ramps up the combat in a satisfying way.

Nothing about the way you play an Alan Wake game has changed significantly. You're still burning off darkness with a flashlight and then shooting the Taken—humans subsumed by the evil Dark Presence—until they die. Despite that familiarity, I still found myself tense and nervous, jumping at the Taken who managed to sneak up on me. That I'd still respond that way is a testament to Remedy's skill at setting mood with their art and sound design. The Alan Wake games are among the few that startle me with my own breathing.

Alan Wake's American Nightmare: The Kotaku Review
WHY: You'll get the signature Alan Wake fusion of sharp two-tiered combat and assured storytelling, along with a terrifyingly fun arcade experience.

Alan Wake's American Nightmare

Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Version played)
Released: February 22nd (Xbox Live)

Type of game: Third-person action/adventure with psychological horror and shooting elements.

What I played: Completed Story Mode in about 8 hours; spent about 12 hours playing Fight Til Dawn mode across various maps.

Two Things I Loved

  • Mr. Scratch's smarmy screeds prove to be oddly hypnotic, even when the actor portraying him is clearly chewing scenery.
  • Alan Wake actually feels like he's grown as a person. The prickly, whiny writer of 2010's offers some compassion to those he meets and walks around palpable regret.

Two Things I Hated

  • American Nightmare's Story Mode offers a novella-sized experience which you can blow through in a night. If you liked the heft of the first game, you'll feel slighted here.
  • Unlocking new maps based on performance got to feeling tedious.

Made-to-Order Back-of-Box Quotes

  • ""I cursed out loud and screamed like a little girl in the office! People stared! Thanks, Remedy." - -Evan Narcisse, Kotaku.com
  • "I've never been so glad to see a blazer-with-hoodie combination go away." -Evan Narcisse, Kotaku.com

You get a real villain here, too. Mr. Scratch—the evil doppelganger created by every shitty thing ever thought or heard about Wake—breaks free of the darkness in Cauldron Lake, leaving Alan trapped there until he manages to pierce through a intersection of reality and the Twilight Zone-style Night Springs show he used to write for. Scratch gives sharp voice to what was once an amorphous enemy and also provides a bit of meta-commentary with which Remedy can poke fun at themselves and their critics.

Their lead character might be restricted but Remedy doesn't feel trapped at all. American Nightmare feels looser and more confident than the game that kicked off the franchise. The experiments with a more action-oriented mode pay off and the character of Alan feels more seasoned and less whiny than in the 2010 game. The goofy yet macabre FMV presentation of the Mr. Scratch sequences and Rod Serling-style narrator testify that this is a game made by people with taste, people who know how to pay homage to formative forebears and make their own craft zing at the same time.

American Nightmare rotates around the idea of life as a series of drafts for what you're really supposed to do, like the movie Groundhog Day. That means you're going to run through the environments more than once in the story mode. But, just because Remedy's re-using environments doesn't mean that it's the same feel every time. I'd lulled myself into think that my last-go round would be easiest, but its difficulty had me sweating and swearing out loud.

Manuscript pages actually serve a purpose now, as collecting them unlocks weapons in the Story mode. You can then use those weapons—after foraging for them—in the Fight Til Dawn mode. It's this interconnectedness that makes AWAN's design feel like an evolution and not just a crass cash-grab.

Fight Til Dawn comes across as a rangier version of the scare-suffused combat that you get in Story Mode. You're not being led around by plot. You can wander and explore, writing the chase scenes, desperate stands and unlikely survivals of your own story as you go. The fact that the levels are timed adds another delicious wrinkle of tension, as your mind does the formula of how many more minutes you'll need to stay alive. While the creepy Pacific Northwestern forests that made the Bright Falls locale work so well in Alan Wake aren't present here, the Arizona desert carries its own sparer sort of environmental terror.

The waves-of-enemies experience you get in Fight Til Dawn put me through a roiling churn of emotions. The triumph I felt at putting down one swarm of Taken quickly faded into sheer fear at the advance of another group. Fight Til Dawn also creates a great push-pull symbiosis between the two most satisfying parts of Alan Wake: do you venture and explore the dimly-lit scrub-brush for more manuscript pages, weapons or ammo or do you try to make a 10-minute stand on familiar ground?

Either way, it's a more chilling variant of the one-vs-many template many games are trying out. The only thing you can fortify, really are your own nerves.

New enemies—like Splitters, who cleave into two smaller dudes when you blast darkness off of them and Grenadiers that throw explosive chunks of shadow at you—change things up. Shapeshifters who burst into clouds of birds and hillbilly Giants round out the bad guy types you'll need to sear with your flashlight and blow to kingdom come.

The hints of what's happened after the first Alan Wake game dropped by American Nightmare tease that there might be more expansion for this action/horror franchise. AM feels like a game that proves the Alan Wake concept is sturdier and more flexible than just one game, ripe for the episodic updates a book-minded game series cries out for. It makes you yearn for more. More chapters of self-consciously (?) stilted writing, more run-to-the-light desperation, more of Alan Wake becoming increasingly likable while still not becoming a boring square-jaw. There's loads of self-aware texture in this little slice of downloadable experimentation. Open it up and rub your fingertips along Alan Wake's newest chapters to see what great psychological horror plays like.


Alan Wake's PC Version Pays For Itself in 48 HoursThe PC version of the 2010 Xbox 360 exclusive Alan Wake has broken even in just two days, said a Remedy producer on the game's official forums.

"We are very happy with the sales and hitting #1 on Steam at launch was nothing short of amazing," wrote Remedy's Aki Järvilehto. "We recouped our development and marketing expenses during the first 48 hours. And yes, we're certainly very excited about PC."

That's certainly heartening news for PC gamers who'd like to see ports of other successful Xbox games. Come on Rockstar, all eyes are on you… I know a good number of members of the glorious PC gaming master race who'd love to finally try out Red Dead Redemption

Alan Wake Forums [Official Site via Edge Online]

After playing a few hours with it, I can say that Alan Wake's American Nightmare's survival mode, officially dubbed Fight 'Til Dawn, feels spiritually closer to Resident's Evil's survivor mode than Gears of War's Horde mode.

The emphasis is on surviving, not on mowing down schloads of enemies with your chainsaw gun (though if you manage to do that, I'm sure you would get more points). Mechanically, the game is exactly the same as the previous Alan Wake. There are new weapons, the most interesting being the crossbow which doesn't require you to use your flashlight first in order to kill with it. The trade-off is that you can only shoot it once before having to reload.

In games that have some sort of survival mode, I usually just try to hole up with my back to the wall somewhere. American Nightmare's was different in that regard though, for two reasons. The first reason is the two step nature of killing a Taken. Flashlight first. Then gun. It's difficult to quickly kill multiple Taken when you can't backpedal, waiting for the flashlight to do its work. The second is that the maps encourage you to explore. They tend to be quite big and have goodies, like ammo or new guns, liberally scattered around, making it sort of like a zombie-adrenaline-fueled scavenger hunt. Which is the best kind.

American Nightmare's survival mode is tense, difficult, and fun. I probably couldn't play it for too long in one sitting (because I'm a sissy and this game stresses me out), but that doesn't mean it won't be worth your time when the game comes out next week.


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