Alan Wake returned to Xbox 360 earlier this week in the shape of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, a downloadable spin-off which takes place within the first game’s fictitious Night Springs TV show. As you’ll hopefully already know, we rather like it.
But is the action-heavy American Nightmare any more than Remedy letting its hair down? What has the developer learned from the experience? And what of its “ground-breaking” unannounced console project? Here’s head of franchise development Oskari Häkkinen to fill in a few of the blanks.
Yeah, for the original Alan Wake we did play around with the idea that it would be a perfect fit for episodic release. We did see it like that, and it would have been viable to release it episodically – it could have been every day or every other week.
But I don’t think anybody was ready for a videogame which was going to be released episodically, and there is an element of that – you know, what gamers are ready for – and introducing something very pioneering in that area, something very new, there’s also a certain amount of risk.
Are players ready for it now?
It’s hard to say, certainly when you look at the TV side it’s the norm – the way a lot of people consume TV is either waiting for it to come every week, say they’re sitting down at eight on a Tuesday to watch their favourite show.
But on the other hand, there are people who don’t watch it on the TV, because they don’t have time, their schedule’s not really suited. So they go out and buy the box-set and they binge through it like I do. On the gaming side, I think there are certainly opportunities for episodic release, and of course with full retail boxes as well, just the same as on the TV side, but to answer your question I really don’t know.
If people are ready to go on a certain time and a certain date, sit in front of their Xbox and pull down an episode of a game to play through… It’s hard because people aren’t used to that.
It sounds like full boxed releases will remain crucial for the moment.
To some degree it would be possible, but you’d have to have quite a lot of episodes already in the can, because you go through certification, you go through quite a lot of processes before it actually gets to the gamer. It has to be ready at least four or five months prior to the release, so you’d have to have quite a few episodes ready in advance. From a development perspective, there are also challenges there as to how you would tackle this ongoing episodic TV-series format.
How did you come up with the idea of a game set inside a TV show? What influenced you?
Well, we’re not shy about talking about our inspiration from popular culture in general – a lot of our games are influenced by popular culture, various TV, movies, books, graphic novels and so forth, we kind of borrow from a lot of places but then we try and make it our own.
And hopefully once we’ve made it our own, we can then contribute back to that melting pot and other people then borrow from that. The reasoning around the TV shows and radio and in-game Alan Wake manuscript pages are the result of what our story team has asked for on the tech and tools side. Right from the get-go with Alan Wake and Max Payne, our story guys have been looking for better ways to communicate story in a video game.