dice 2010

Alan Wake Dev On Living With Delays

by Nick Ahrens on Feb 18, 2010 at 11:58 AM

Matias Myllyrinne wrapped up today’s DICE lectures with a presentation about the long-delayed game Alan Wake. The Remedy Entertainment president spent the bulk of his presentation discussing some of the reasons why development has taken such an extended period of time.

He started out talking a bit about the company’s history, which started with 1996’s Death Race, and included Max Paynes one and two. Myllyrinne spoke on the importance of partnering with a larger company, which he likened as being a symbiotic relationship. (Remedy is partnering with Microsoft for Alan Wake.)

Myllyrinne says that Remedy isn’t a factory, and that the company wants to retain a culture of quality over quantity. By keeping the company small, Myllyrinne says Remedy has been able to be creative while reducing bureaucracy. People are able to play to their strengths within the company, which is something that can be difficult to maintain within a larger organization.

Moving on to the game itself, Myllyrinne talked about the tension between reality and the original plan for the game. Time was spent prototyping out odd ideas and other false starts, which Myllyrinne characterized as slack innovation. Once production began, he says there weren’t quite as many surprises. By running a lean operation in the beginning, Remedy was able to have a long development cycle and not break the bank in the process. Once production was in full swing, Myllyrinne says, the company mobilized teams scattered throughout the world, outsourcing production elements.

Myllyrinne showed off early footage of the game’s fighting with light mechanic, in which Alan uses light to tear away enemies’ shadow shields. An early prototype showed Alan lighting a flare to dispatch several enemies. The lighting effects were so overpowering that they obscured nearly the entire action, so they were toned down in later builds. Other elements such as a HUD were removed and controls were simplified over more than a dozen iterations. Early examples of the driving gameplay included a speedometer and minimap, but Remedy realized that the gameplay wasn’t trying to emulate Need for Speed. It was later changed to emphasize the power and immediacy of slamming into enemies who were stunned by the headlights.

In the end, Myllyrinne says the biggest mistake Remedy made with Alan Wake was trying to make a thriller fit into a sandbox world. The team had to abandon six months of development to put the game back on track, which was painful, but Myllyrinne says that it was clearly the right decision.