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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.
Below you will find the 25 best horror games ever released on PC. To ensure the list was as accurate as possible, the compiler was locked in a dark cellar with a copy of every game in existence and a computer capable of running them all. Two weeks later, the following article was found written on the walls in blood (the postscript was recorded on an audiolog). The writer was nowhere to be seen.
Well, no. However, Remedy had started prototyping an Alan Wake 2 soon after finishing the first game, and whipped up a fancy gameplay video to pitch to publishers. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet (and a Polygon interview), you can now watch thirteen minutes of the Wake that never was. Some of its ideas, you may notice, were later reused in American Nightmare. But is Alan Wake dead and gone? Oh, you never know, Remedy say.
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."
Do you have between one and infinity dollars? Are you waiting for Alan Wake to be ‘bundled’ up with the expansion and extra materials, where the costs are distributed between the developers and charity? Those are some very specific conditions you have there. Gaming welcomes you, but if that’s your criteria for every game then you might want to relax it a bit. Just buy games in sales and give money to charity, okay? This week’s Humble Bundle sale presents Alan Wake, Remedy’s love letter to Stephen King novels and lovely naps. But it’s more of a nap that a baby has, where it wakes up screaming and smelling of poo, because the bundle also marks the end of Remedy’s work on an Alan Wake sequel. (more…)
In mid-November, Quantic Dream registered the domain singularityps4.com, suggesting a title and system for the second of two games the Parisian developer is said to be developing for Sony. Despite Cage declaring a lack of enthusiasm for the next generation of consoles, it's been evident for a while his company is eyeing future platforms.
"Singularity" is a rather curious and possibly revealing title. David Cage acknowledged futurist Ray Kurzweil's recent book The Singularity is Near as a chief influence on Quantic Dream's "Kara" tech demo, and Kurzweil's exploration of the synthesis of man and artificial machine is very much up the wheelhouse of what Cage likes to focus on in his games. When asked in an interview about whether he would elaborate on Kara's themes and milieu in a future game, Cage delivered a rather evasive non-answer. And Cage's games do sometimes have titles that are rather on the nose.
The singularityps4.com domain falls very much in line with past Quantic Dream domains heavyrainps3.com and beyondps3.com, and mirrors SCEE's general preference for domains that indicate a game's platform. Given these domain trends and Quantic Dream's status as a valued second-party Sony developer that would presumably privy to the overall strategy of their publishing partner, "singularityps4" could perhaps indicate that Sony will opt for the name of PlayStation 4 for their next console (a surprise to probably no one)—and the current codename of Orbis will vanish.
It is, however, quite unlikely that the game will come to market simply titled "Singularity." Singularity was, of course, the title of Raven Software's commercially unsuccessful time-travel-themed 2010 shooter, and Activision holds the "Singularity" trademark in multiple territories. ("Singularity" was also, oddly enough, the name of an apparently now-scrapped big-name action film at Sony Pictures about nanotechnology that Roland Emmerich and Kurzweil were collaborating on in late 2011—something that makes me wonder if Cage possibly consulted with Kurzweil for his project.) In order to use the name in commerce, Sony and Quantic Dream will have to add some sort of subtitle or additional words to make sure their name doesn't infringe on Activision's already existing mark, assuming "Singularity" is anything more than a working title.
According to Remedy Entertainment's recruitment page, the studio is now working on an "unannounced iOS project" alongside the previously known "unannounced AAA project for future generation consoles," which many believe to be a full-fledged sequel to Alan Wake.
This new iOS project is quite possibly a sequel to Remedy's first mobile release, a remake of their 1995 combat racer Death Rally that broke even in three days. Last August, Remedy's Oskari Häkkinen told VentureBeat that his studio is "going to be doing more Death Rally."
Häkkinen hinted that Remedy hopes to bridge the gap between Death Rally and the company's other franchises by placing a greater emphasis on cinematic storytelling as to "bring more life to the cars and the drivers." In terms of gameplay, he also hopes Remedy can tailor the next Death Rally with "user-generated content" in mind to allow players to realize "the craziest cars and the craziest weapons." (Additionally, a publicly accessible sitemap for Remedy's website reveals a page with the URL "death-rally-2.")
But a few weeks later, Häkkinen said in another interview that Remedy had not yet decided what its next mobile title will be. And despite the commercial imperative for a Death Rally 2, he said Remedy still wants to "create new themes and franchises" that suit its creative ambitions.
It appears XSEED is the American publisher for Suda 51's recently-revealed PS3 and Xbox 360 action title Killer Is Dead. Last week, the niche publisher registered the domain killerisdead-game, as well as presumably marketing-related sites killandlove.com and
The game is yet to be confirmed for release outside of Japan, where it is slated for release in the summer. If one wants a very iffy suggestion for a possible American release timetable, the domains are set to expire in about a year.
Also of note: XSEED seemingly almost dipped its toes into the mobile free-to-play market last year. The company very quietly put up a site, trailer, and Facebook page for a "free to play action RPG for iOS and Android" that was intended for release last summer. The game, which was developed by Japanese mobile studio Blockbuster, seems to have been a fusion of Infinity Blade-esque touch and slash gameplay and a JRPG aesthetic.
Finally, amid THQ's troubles, Alex Peters, who was the studio head at THQ subsidiary Relic Entertainment, states on his CV that he left the Vancouver developer this month to join Activision. Peters was at Relic for two years, and prior to joining the studio, he served as game director on the ill-fated RPG Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned and chief operating officer at DICE.
superannuation is a self-described "internet extraordinaire" residing somewhere in the Pacific Time Zone. He tweets, and can be reached at heyheymayday AT gmail DOT com.
Top photo: It's not a screenshot! It's a futuristic-looking dentistry robot. Photographed by David Guttenfelder | AP.
Read more Assorted Scoopery! Secrets lurk within.
When it released for PC in February 2012, Alan Wake came with no mod tools. Developer Remedy Entertainment said tools wouldn't be released because of their complexity, and their dependence on third-party tools which would presumably require permissions or licenses.
That hasn't stopped Alan Wake's community from hurling itself at the task, which, to change textures, requires unpacking and repacking a 2.9 gigabyte file, using a community-released tool. Against these odds, modder Xymbiot3 has defiantly released this, which gives Alan's flashlight... a Hello Kitty pattern. And Alan a Mike Tyson face tattoo. Problem is, because it all has to be repacked into a 3GB file, it's impractical to distribute. But here, at least, you can say that you have seen Alan Wake running around like Ed Helms in The Hangover II.
Alan Wake Flashlight Mod Images [Remedy Games Community, h/t Matt.]