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18th October 2023
Alan Wake 2 Fireside Chat with Sam Lake at EGX 2023
[On-Site Report]

On Friday 13th, Sam Lake (Creative Director at Remedy) took to the EGX Theatre stage to talk Alan Wake 2 in a special fireside chat with Christopher Dring (Head of The discussion took place over an hour in a packed venue of 400 players eagerly looking forward to hearing what was next in store for Remedy. Thanks to a press pass provided by the incredible event organisers, we were able to travel to ExCel in London, to hear Sam's perspective on the upcoming game firsthand! 

EGX 2023. Before the talk, it was pretty obvious how highly anticipated the fireside chat and the sequel were at the show. I had joined the queue forty-five minutes early, but doubt was beginning to rise that I had gotten there too late. The line was absolutely packed with fans wearing Alan Wake Remastered and Control t-shirts, a mix of different ages and genders. As I looked around, I found someone dressed in a brilliant Max Payne cosplay at the front, who I would later discover was Scott. As the line began to fill up, the black curtains parted, and we were able to take our seats. I sat down in the fourth row next to someone who was also on their own, and we nerded out about the upcoming game to fill the wait. As it came up to 3pm, the lights dimmed, The Dark Place trailer was shown, and Sam was introduced to the stage. 

Sam Lake, standing on stage at EGX 2023, in front of the Fireside Chat audience.

Thirteen Years Later. As he sits down, Christopher introduces the game, describing the thirteen-year journey to get from the original to the sequel and Sam's clear love for the series. The Creative Director nods to his comments, stating that it's a "whirlwind getting a game done and shipped", especially one that would go on to have a "long and winding road getting it even started", such as Alan Wake 2. Over the years, Remedy created multiple different prototypes for the sequel, a story that they never lost faith in. "It always felt like a very special project for me, and I really really wanted for us to be able to create a sequel for it. So, we kept on trying!" Each new version brought more ideas, but it would take a decade for those "pent-up ideas" to become the best versions; the stories, ideas, and concepts to become "better, more refined", as he describes. This version of Alan Wake 2 could have only existed now. "Now, being this close to the finish line, I have to pinch myself now and again that we are here."  

Endurance of Video Games. It's Alan Wake's endurance that leads Christopher to bring up Sam's original uncertainty over the endurance of video games. It's a suggestion that, at this event, may have raised some eyebrows. "Yeah, I had that impression, especially in my early years, that the content that we are creating, because it is so much based on technology, it will be short-lived, and then it will fade out with new platforms, new games will come." My mind immediately went to Remedy's CrossfireX and Agents of Storm, two games which had a more definite end following server closures. Those experiences are no longer available to play, but with a growing passion to archive and document games, they're not entirely lost. Sam, now at the end of a thirteen-year journey to return to the series, smiles as he admits that he "I've been really happy to discover that I was looking at it totally in a wrong way. That, even after twenty years, Max Payne still is something that people keep bringing up and loving, and Alan Wake ten plus years being just the same."

Fermentation. Alan Wake 2 had always been on the books, and while ideally, the studio would have found a new publisher for the sequel after the original, the longer development time allowed the story of Alan Wake 2 to ferment. Sam describes that his career has been a lucky one, comparing the different adventures and stories he's worked on to being in a candy store. From Death Rally, he jumped into hardboiled detective stories, and then to horror, to time travel, and to the new weird. "Maybe it's also a thing of not being able to do it, and then stubbornly wanting to do it even more." Alan Wake 2 is a result of "pent-up ideas and ambition", exploration into what a Remedy game could be, and experimentation with different forms of interactive storytelling. 

Sam describes, "I feel like the ideas around the story and the concept have only been getting better and more refined. Also, with all the projects that we've done in between, there's been a lot of learning. A lot of iterations on what a Remedy game can be, and how games are built, and how they can work, and how interactive storytelling can work in them."

Interactive Storytelling. The topic of interactive storytelling is something that Sam jumps on eagerly. As a writer, "You want to control everything, every small bit of it, so that it's exactly what is the vision in your head", but "you have to give it up". The statement is particularly poignant for Alan Wake 2. With two worlds and two narratives, the game allows the player to choose between them and control its pacing. The story can change based on the player's own experiences; you choose the order, so references can either be foreshadowing or illuminating callbacks. There are multiple layers to the experience. Control's development also paved the way for certain interactive storytelling decisions. For Sam, that lingering question and desire to understand more is what intrigues him, and he hopes players do, too. By replaying the game, players will discover things that they missed during their first run and see things from new perspectives. Like with the Federal Bureau of Control, the clues are "in the world, and you need to go out and piece it together", promising, in positive terms, a "dense experience" packed with content.

Golden Era of Horror. With the opportunity to return to the series, the team wanted to build on interactive storytelling, on top of improving upon feedback from the original title. Combat was an early suggestion and allowed the team to deliver unique combat that fed back into the story. "We wanted to fix this. And then, personally, I really, really - as already been said - wanted to be ambitious with the story and storytelling." Sam's personal passion for horror, mixed with research into the survival horror genre, particularly with recent hit video games such as the Resident Evil remakes. "I feel like we are living, in some ways, in the Golden Age of Horror. Horror used to be a very niche thing. These days, a much wider audience is looking for horror experiences."

Saga Anderson fighting a creature in Alan Wake 2. The chest of the enemy has been broken open.

Combat Revised. Focus was given in particular to the slower pacing of the genre, leaning into the atmosphere, with less encounters but more suspenseful combat. "Combat can be really brutal and up close and personal. In a horror game, usually, you have the strategic element of resource management; you're struggling with that because you're not supposed to be any kind of superhero. You are trying to survive."  With the slower pace, it also allows there to be more room for story, exploration and new and exciting mechanics. "Saga Anderson, being an FBI agent investigating; we can have clues, we can have her case board, we can have her profiling, all as mechanics which are about discovering the story and being engaged with the story." Limited originally by its teen rating, the series could now expand beyond to a mature rating, "we don't need to hold back, we can go as far and as extreme as necessary for telling this story." 

Alan Wake as Autobiographical. There's an inevitable comment that with what we've seen so far, the team doesn't make it easy for themselves. Sam laughs, "There's a weird split between being excited about ideas, deciding to build a concept around them, and then down the line, the versions of us needing to make it happen, and struggle with it. 'Who came up with this stuff!'" There's an undeniable connection between that moment and the interaction with Thomas Zane and Alan Wake when Mr Scratch is introduced: a possible solution, but also a problem for down the line. Alongside creating the next Alan Wake adventure, the team was also introducing the Remedy Connected Universe. 

The Remedy Connected Universe. While Alan Wake is technically the first instalment in the RCU, Alan Wake 2 will mark the first full game released under the umbrella. "We wanted to give Control a full chance of standing on its own feet, but from the very beginning of concepting Control, we knew this was going to be in the same world as Alan Wake." At the studio, the events at Bright Falls and Watery are considered to be a crossover event, with Sam teasing that those who are familiar with the studio's previous work may be surprised by the amount of connections and references. "Control is very much a part of this, and the Federal Bureau of Control is a key faction in this story." For new fans coming in, that ability to join the adventure fresh was a vital element. "It's critical for us really." For those players, they will experience the game and learn through the fresh eyes of Saga Anderson. 

Saga Anderson, in silhouette, walks gingerly deeper into the woods at sunset. The trees are increasing the darkness, creeping in from the corners. In the foreground is a puddle catching the light from Saga's flashlight beam.

Paging Mr Wake. But while newer players will be following Saga, long-time fans will come into the game with an emotional investment for a certain tweed-wearing writer. When it comes to Alan, his experiences within the Dark Place have taken a toll, living in what Sam describes as a "living nightmare around him". Throughout the past thirteen years, the Dark Presence has been drawing from his mind, dreams, and fears in an attempt to stop him from writing the "perfect piece of fiction to change reality so that he can escape". A cycle which has seen him fail again and again. "We do find him more tortured, we do find him in a raw state, and we will be as part of the psychological horror story peeling away layers of his mind and discovering things." 

Ambitions. The discussion moves along to ambitious choices, perhaps stemming from industry pressures. It's a subject that Sam takes a moment to think about. "I feel it's important to be ambitious and push yourself when it comes to creating, just to be excited about it because it's a lot of work, and you need to be fully invested, you need to be excited about it."  While Remedy has been growing steeply in recent years as it has become a multi-project studio, the game teams are kept relatively small, with 130 approximately working on Alan Wake 2. When it comes to standing out, Sam admits that "it forces us to be ambitious, it forces us to be creative, it forces us to find unique solutions that excite us."  

Close to Concept. In terms of ambitious ideas, something which stands out for Alan Wake 2 compared to its predecessors is how close the final version ended up becoming compared to its original pitch. As Sam explains, "Even Control, and all of our previous projects, getting to the final vision and design has taken quite a lot of iterations and rounds, and sometimes changing in a big way. This one, we have never been this close to the concept vision we created and went to Epic Games Publishing, presented it to them, that this is what we want to build. The actual finished game is really close to that." At the time, the Alan Wake 2 team was relatively small, with Sam working with Kyle Rowley (Game Director) and Janne Pulkkinen (Art Director), "I feel really happy that as a vision it was so strong that all the trials along the way, didn't end up with us starting to doubt it or change it." 

DLC. As the fireside chat section draws to a close, Sam teases the upcoming DLC. Two pieces of DLC have already been announced alongside the pre-order bonuses, including Night Springs and the Lake House, although, like Control, that's not the only additions to keep an eye out for. As Sam teases, "We do have free DLC drops coming, and they too are pretty significant, and I'm expecting us to be going more into detail pretty soon after the game is out. But all of that will be free for everyone who gets the game."

Stay tuned for our second part covering the Alan Wake 2 Fireside Chat audience Q&A!

Photo Credits: Sam with Fireside Chat audience. (Taken by Christopher Dring)
Screenshots: Remedy Entertainment


Formerly "Vanguard"

The Crossfire Series

The Control Series

The Quantum Break Series

The Alan Wake Series

The Max Payne Series



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