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24th May 2013
Reddit Conversation with Sam Lake

Following Remedy's announcement video yesterday, Sam Lake (Creative Director and Lead Writer) took to Reddit to answer questions submitted by Alan Wake fans.

Dialogue from Reddit conversation on 23rd May 2013.
CLICK HERE for original page.

rerational: Is there any part of the Max Payne character that could be considered autobiographical? How so?

SamLakeRMD: Max Payne kind of looks like me, or used to, I hope not so much these days. He thinks a lot, often in metaphors. I think a lot too. I can’t do bullet-time.

unacomn: Why is it an ocean, and not a lake?

SamLakeRMD It’s bigger than a lake. The lake is just a hole to get to the ocean. It’s boundless, our world is just an island in that ocean.

McSpain: Concerning the novel "Sudden Stop" featured in Alan Wake, which is obviously a nod to Max Payne. Is it only a funny Easter Egg or did you feel you need to have some sort of "closure" on your Max Payne Character and used this to give us your version of the End of Max's Story?

SamLakeRMD: In part having fun, but there is a deeper reason as well. To me all the stories we make are connected and linked in weird ways, part of the same multiverse. It was not so much killing off Payne as establishing Wake, where he is in his career as a writer, wanting to change things. He kills off his popular character, and it leads into a crisis. Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes, but because of the outcry of the fans brought him back later on.

timeiszzz: Is Remedy always looking for new talent?

SamLakeRMD: Yes!

deadaxis: Hire me and I will bring you coffee whenever you need it. I am also good at drawing butterflies.

hoologan: Would you rather drive a Viper or Corvette?

SamLakeRMD: I'm a proud owner of a Volkswagen Polo.

AboutLastNight5: If you could make Alan Wake 2, what would you do differently? Was there anything specific that you learned from Alan Wake 1?

SamLakeRMD: In this line of work, you never stop learning. Each project teaches you a lot. And I hope that each new one is better in some ways than the previous one. For AW2, there would definitely be less dark forests and more gameplay variety.

_TURbo: Would you ever have your face be a model for a videogame character now, like you did with the first Max Payne?

SamLakeRMD: Yes! If someone would only let me.

Fizzzay: When is the Mr. Scratch spin off game coming?

SamLakeRMD: I'm writing this in a meeting room called Mr.Scratch at the Remedy office.

Milkman0: Did you consider naming Quantum Break like your previous games? Using main charters name.

SamLakeRMD: Yes, but there is a very good, logical reason why we didn't.

PessimisticCheer: Alan Wake was one of the more conceptually intriguing games I've come across, particularly plot-wise. Well done, sir.

As an aspiring writer, I would love to know how you guys go about developing your plot lines. Is there a certain process you follow to decide on what turns the story will take? On a related note, do you guys encounter writer's block, and if so, how do you deal with it? (I'm purposely being a bit vague because I'd rather have you answer the question how you want to, instead of having me lead you in a certain direction).

SamLakeRMD  For writing, we use the traditional screenwriting process: a pitch, a synopsis, a scene outline, and a screenplay. Lots of drafts of each and obviously lots of back and forth with gameplay and level design. Iteration and feedback loops are absolutely vital.

Hubrinator: Hey Sam! First, I wanted to thank you for doing this AMA. Alan Wake is my favorite game of all time, and I guess that many fans expected that Alan Wake 2 would be announced at the Xbox One event. Since this is not the case, I was wondering what's the deal with This House Of Dreams. It seemed to be pretty obvious that the blog is related to Alan Wake, but now it isn't? Does this have something to do with Quantum Break - Or better: Does this have anything to do with Alan Wake at all?

SamLakeRMD  Some things are us just doing things because we love what we do. This House of Dreams was that to me. It was continuing the story of Wake's world, and just having fun with a small side project. I had the time of my life writing it and it was a wonderful change of pace from the big projects. The excitement and attention it got came as a total surprise to me. Thank you for that!

Baburo: What is the best thing in working at Remedy?

SamLakeRMD:  The people here. Free coffee.

Weedwacker: This is a damn fine cup of coffee!

RichdichulousRichie: And hot!

TranslyvanniaBoogie: Diane, never drink coffee that's been near a fish.

eelehton: I used to work at Rovio and we would have functionally died without our coffee. So true and so Finnish :)

DoctorBat: What are you currently listening to music-wise and what about any favourite films or TV shows?

SamLakeRMD: David Bowie's new album. Florence + The Machine. Game of Thrones.

vieras: How did Remedy end up in developing such story-driven games, even though you started with Death Rally back in the day? Also, how would you shortly describe the current boom in the number of Finnish game developers? Is it something you're worried/excited about?

SamLakeRMD: I'm afraid I'm partly to blame for the story-driven thing. The Finnish game industry is going strong and that's a wonderful thing.

 R3loaded: Well you should take the blame with much pleasure, sir! I absolutely love story-driven games, and Alan Wake is my favorite of them!

TonyLokes: Hi, Sam! There was a trailer released during E3 1998 that showed off Max Payne for the first time, and this is now viewable on YouTube. I notice that Vinnie was killed by Max in one graphic novel panel, and there was a gigantic man blocking the entrance to Deep 6 that Max also killed. Who was he, and regarding Vinnie originally being killed, were there any other major changes made to the story or game in general?

SamLakeRMD: These stories do go through many iterations along the way, for the better. Certain key things form the skeleton of the story and they often remain, but many things shift around along the way. It's a natural part of the process. I'm glad that Vinnie didn't die, otherwise the sequel would have been less fun. I'm glad the gigantic man didn't make it into the story :).

nagmine: Alan Wake was clearly inspired by Twin Peaks, I was wondering what other major inspirations did the game have?

SamLakeRMD: Stephen King stories obviously. For me, the stories of Brett Easton Ellis, Neil Gaiman, Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves.

TheDudeWhoKnocks: I'm one of the loyal ones that bought the game on launch back when it was a 360 exclusive. I remember when it was going to be open world and something that pushed DX10 and quad cores. :V No biggie the final product is amazing. Is Alan Wake as a series free from Microsoft? Do you guys get to call the shots now? I'd hate to hear AW2 being Xbox One exclusive.

SamLakeRMD: We own the Alan Wake IP.

bpc908: Hey Sam, Could you do the face for us, one more time?

SamLakeRMD: I'm doing it now.

unbuckledpigeion: I just wanted to give a big thank you for creating a game that has to be one of the most suspenseful and wonderful games I have played in a long time. The moments of silence in Alan Wake led up to some of the best moments of terror for me and the storyline drew me into the world in a way I haven't experienced since I last picked up the book House of Leaves.

The soundtrack to the game is fantastic also. Was it tough deciding what music to use and what needed to be composed for the game?

SamLakeRMD: Petri Alanko is a brilliant composer, his soundtrack captures Wake's world perfectly for me. Obviously, love working with Poets of the Fall guys, they had a lot of fun channeling Old Gods of Asgard. Music is an important source of inspiration for me. Many of the licensed songs were something that have moved me in the past.

unbuckledpigeon: Thank you for taking the time to answer. Also thank you for introducing me to Poets of the Fall. I live in the US and had never heard of them until I played Alan Wake. I use much of that soundtrack as inspiration when I'm writing. And it was great hearing Poe's Haunted again. I dug that CD back out of storage after it came up in the game. You have great taste in music.

Sam Zeee: Are you friends with Sam Houser?

SamLakeRMD: Yes, Sam is awesome!

Arma104: We're talking about Houser right?

mrdude817: How much American television do you watch?

SamLakeRMD: Too much, way too much!

collins22: What inspired you to create Captain Baseball Bat Boy and Lords and Ladies? 

SamLakeRMD: For me, games are a great melting pot of ideas and different mediums. We are building worlds, and you can have a lot of different things in these worlds. It's great to hold up a twisted mirror to the story, characters and themes of the game. Just having fun, really, you can just have fun with these smaller things. And it's important to have fun, otherwise it's all work and no play.

Kristovanoha: So is this your work? Also when thinking about first Alan Wake is there anything you would change in the story?

SamLakeRMD: Guilty as charged. Maybe I'd add a couple of coffee thermoses.

DoctorBat: "Why can't I hold all these coffee thermoses?"

ChrisHernandez: What exactly does your job of creative director entail from day to day operations, and from beginning to end of the game. Who influences your choices from coworkers to others in the industry?

SamLakeRMD: My background is in writing, for me, the high-level vision, the core gameplay and the story go hand-in-hand. I believe that the tighter you can marry these together, the stronger the experience will be. The story must support the gameplay and vice versa. As a creative director I try to make sure that this is part of the vision in the beginning and stays there all the way to the end.

Creating a AAA game is huge effort. It’s always teamwork. We have an awesomely talented team. Everyone makes a contribution.

More than anything, I desperately try not to be a bottleneck.

LunaVorax: Nightmares take an important part in Max Payne and Alan Wake. Do you have a particular fascination with nightmares?

SamLakeRMD: I do. It's a wonderful way of getting inside the head of the character. Show rather than tell, and if possible turn it into gameplay.

coolstepdad: Sam, who came up with "Address Unknown?" First played Max Payne when it came out, I was 12, that scared the hell out of me.

SamLakeRMD: It still scares me. It was me.

Zom-B: Hi Sam. I honestly just wanted to say thank you. Thanks for Max Payne, for creating such a compelling character in a world soaked with noir charm. There really was nothing else like it in games at the time and I had a blast playing both titles over and over (plus the modding scene was amazing, remember Kung Fu 3.0 by Kenneth Yeung? All thanks to MAX-FX tools..!).

If I could ask a question, I supposed it would be "What had you interested in Norse mythology and inspired you to write the story of Max Payne's first game around it?"

After playing it I picked up the Prose Edda and got heavily into its short stories, which are of course even more popular now due to Marvel's Thor character.

Thanks again, mate. Seriously. Can't wait to see what you and the team at Remedy have in store for us with Quantum Break.

SamLakeRMD: Norse mythology: As a kid, I found Lord of the Rings, and that led me to the the Norse mythology and Edda poems. I fell in love with that. Then came along The Sandman, and Neil Gaiman using the old gods in modern settings.

skibblewarp: Have you read this? It's a crossover fanfiction of Alan Wake and... well, uh... My Little Pony. It's ridicilous, and super hilarious because of it.

SamLakeRMD: No, but now I have to!

boundedwum: If you weren't working for Remedy, what studio could you see yourself being a part of?

SamLakeRMD: If you asked my colleague Mikki Rautalahti (an awesome writer), he'd say a dance studio. But the truth is, no studio probably, I'd be writing blogs like This House of Dreams, or novels. That's what I'll do when I retire.

ThePrower: Should we be expecting any Alan Wake easter eggs in Quantum Break?

SamLakeRMD: What do you think?

dusn: How did you get into this kind of business?

SamLakeRMD: By accident. I always wanted to write. I like to play games. A happy accident.

Joefosterx: Just wanted to mention that I loved Alan Wake very much. It is up there with Planescape: Torment as some of the best writing in gaming that exists.

SamLakeRMD: Thanks. I love Planescape: Torment.

jtraub: Hi Sam, thank you for doing this AMA session and your wonderful promotion together with Humble bundle. My question is following. Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck?

SamLakeRMD: Bring it on, all 101 of them.

chipnz: Also I hope it happens one day, In a town called Ordinary.

SamLakeRMD: You and me both.

kleiner352: Sam, I just want to say that I am a huge fan of Remedy, but most of all a massive fan of Alan Wake. As a gamer, it's incredibly fun to play something that taps into the classic survival horror genre and didn't treat me like I was stupid. As a writer, it was wonderful to see the creative process and relationship issues that stem from it get so accurately portrayed.

I wanted to ask, which character is the most interesting to write for in AW? Who would you get the most excited to put into a scene, or reveal more of?

SamLakeRMD: I love all the old geezers in Bright Falls. But I'll say Wake himself. That said, we have a saying at the office, any scene becomes better when you add Barry to it.

kleiner352: Thanks for the reply! And yes, Barry really does add to scenes. If I can ask a follow up question, have you considered doing any other things similar to This House of Dreams, simply exploring the AW universe without the constraints of a game or scheduled release? Could we hope for more bursts of storytelling, or was that a one-off event?

SamLakeRMD: Yes, maybe.

mayrpat: How did you start with Alan Wake? What idea brought you to it? Did you begin with the character, the story, the Alan Wake universe itself or whatever?

SamLakeRMD: Wake started from many different things. I wrote a film screenplay called Undertow and that's where the cabin by the lake, the Clicker, the Anderson brothers, Barbara Jagger and a few other things came from. It was a different thing, but I stole these things into Wake from that.

jaypeeps: I have only played Alan Wake, but something that really struck me was the beautiful atmosphere achieved through the art and storytelling. Were you pretty pleased with how your idea was realized? Did the game accurately represent what you envisioned with the writing?

SamLakeRMD:  The great thing about making game is that you get to work with a lot of talented people. How you imagine it in your head and how it ends up in the screenplay always changes along the way, when other people take that and run with it. Usually the end result is quite different from the picture in your head, and almost always it's better.

Rahid: What was your inspiration for noir atmosphere in Max Payne? Any awesome films noirs to recommend?

SamLakeRMD: Old Film Noir movies, Humphrey Bogart classics, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett stories. But more modern stuff as well, William Gibson stories and movies like Seven and the Usual Suspects.

TheLastGunslingers: Thanks for doing this Mr. Lake! The video you released yesterday was bittersweet. It was nice to see how much you and obviously care about Alan Wake but at the same time it was like watching parents tell their child they're getting a divorce ("We love each other Alan Wake but we need time apart, here's a puppy humble bundle to make you feel better).

Have you considered continuing the Alan Wake universe in other forms of media? Microsoft seems to be on board with TV being a big part of Xbox One...
SamLakeRMD: Other mediums: yes, we're open to that and we've definitely looked for opportunities to do that, but it needs to be done in the right way, making sure that Alan Wake stays Alan Wake. 

 yotsit: Any chance you'll answer some question about AW plot? For example, the dark presence was created by Thomas Zane? 
SamLakeRMD: The dark presence has always been there. Thomas Zane has not.

KimmoS: Hey Sam! Would you ever consider setting a game in Finland and why not?! Come on!
(This is slightly off-topic but I was wearing a t-shirt today with the Remedy logo in the back. Only recently noticed that the logo has a bullet in it, "remedy" indeed.)

SamLakeRMD: There's a piece of Finland in all of our games. In Alan Wake it was when they get drunk.

rojiura: Are there any disadvantages or problems in developing AAA games in Finland, or advantages, even? Anything that you can or cannot do if you were based in say, North America?

SamLakeRMD: The games industry in Finland is a great community. Lots of support and positive encouragement. It doesn't feel like we are competing with each other, a lot of exchange of knowledge going on. Disadvantages: the dark months of the winter. 

Joshuaolake: My name is Joshua Lake... Would be sweet to be related to someone as awesome as you

SamLakeRMD: ...daddy?

kharmakazy: I just paid $1 for Alan wake. Is it any good?

SamLakeRMD:  Your money's worth.

dhonk: Would you consider yourself a hard boiled writer on the EDGE?

SamLakeRMD: Sometimes, for a brief moment. Then the feeling quickly passes when somebody in the meeting wakes me up.

classicshark: Hi Sam, what influenced you to set Alan Wake in the Pacific Northwest / Washington state.

SamLakeRMD: Twin Peaks, obviously. But at the same time, the similarities to the Finnish nature.

mirfaltniein: It's always the same with AMAs. Only one hour late and there are already hundreds of comments, ensuring I'll never get an answer :( I'm gonna give it a shot anyways.

Hey Sam, huge fan here. (Note that I haven't had time to check all the extras from the bundle yet so sorry if that's in there) I wanted to know, was doing a thriller like AW something you had wanted to do for a while? Was it an idea that came up while you were looking to do a new project after MP2, or did you always feel like you wanted to do something kind of like this? If yes, what was the reason you didn't do it earlier? Did you want for technology to catch up so you could have the visual fidelity you wanted? Because that seems to be something you guys really wanted to push. That's all, thanks!

SamLakeRMD: In a small way, some of the themes of Alan Wake lurk in the episodes of Address Unknown in Max Payne.

I_Make_Photololz: In your video to us you, in connection with Alan Wake sequel, you say that you could have just gone ahead and made something less ambitious but you felt that wouldn't have done the franchise or the fans justice. But isn't that what American Nightmare was? Also, are you proud of American Nightmare and is the story line in that game cannon to the franchise?

SamLakeRMD: I'm very proud of Alan Wake. I'm also very proud of American Nightmare. But American Nightmare wasn't a sequel, more of a spin-off. What we want from a proper sequel is a lot more ambitious. And, yes, it's canon.

Broncoe: Did you have anything to do with the making of the prequel to Alan Wake? (The series called Bright Falls up on machinima's youtube channel)

SamLakeRMD: Yes, but it was more of a consultant role. We read through the scripts and gave feedback and made sure it fit into the overall story.

SleepingLesson: Hey Sam! When it comes to the future of Alan Wake, do you have any semblance of and idea of what the next step in the Alan Wake story might be? Or is it still a mystery even to you? Thanks!

SamLakeRMD: Yes, definitely.

Messofanego: Does Remedy own the rights to Quantum Break? If so, would that make a PC port possible?

Thanks for restoring my faith in storytelling (specifically in-game) of video games with Alan Wake, a medium that's often maligned for it. That therapist dream interview with Alice on the tape and Alan Wake having a TV on his head was amazing. Cheers, Moeez

SamLakeRMD: I will pass the compliments to Mikko Rautalahti, that scene was all him.

McD419: What is Quantum Break about storywise and how will it play? if you cant answer said question then what did you have for breakfast?

SamLakeRMD: Oatmeal. The best way to start the day.

88288: You heard it here first folks, Quantum Break is about oatmeal.

SamLakeRMD: This was great, guys, thanks a lot for all the great questions. This was fun. Let's do this again! It's 11 PM here in Finland. Time to go.

Thanks for taking the time out to do the Q&A, Sam!


Formerly "Vanguard"

The Crossfire Series

The Control Series

The Quantum Break Series

The Alan Wake Series

The Max Payne Series



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