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Welcome to Alan Wake's American Nightmare

Chatting with Remedy leadership about the decision to go download-only, action-heavy.

Remedy Entertainment has made it clear to me that its upcoming flirtation with Xbox Live Arcade doesn’t mean the company is suddenly abandoning what it’s become known for.

“We love our big games, that’s what we do,” said Remedy CEO Matias Myllyrinne in a chilly, barely heated San Francisco office space last week, as part of a year-end press tour. “But it’s nice to be able to do this.”

“This” is Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, a downloadable, action-focused extension of the Alan Wake story that left on such a mean cliffhanger in last year’s game. The game was announced at this year's Video Game Awards, and is not Alan Wake 2.

American Nightmare came about after Alan Wake wrapped its five-year development cycle, and the team was playing around with combat levels featuring tweaked gameplay, a response to feedback about wanting more things to do in the game. A white board kept track of each developer’s scores, becoming a physical leaderboard altered day-to-day, as competitions heated up.

The team felt it was onto something, but it hadn't forgotten what garnered Alan Wake the most acclaim.

Fight 'Till Dawn is like other survival modes, with growing score multipliers, leaderboards, etc.

“Everybody loved the story,” said Myllyrinne, a sentiment quickly echoed by Oskari Häkkinen, head of franchise development at Remedy.

You can count me among the people who enjoyed Alan Wake for the story it was telling far more than its quickly tiresome combat, which became overbearing towards the end. The frustration was driven by a lack of variety, as each combat scenario played out exactly the same way over and over again.

American Nightmare won’t be ditching the action for more plot, however, as Myllryinne described Alan Wake as one-third action, two-thirds story and American Nightmare as the complete opposite.

Before you cross American Nightmare off your list, know that it does take place after the events of Alan Wake, and while the story is not front and center this time, it should provide some clarity.

When Remedy started mulling the idea of a download-only Alan Wake game, Remedy co-founder and lead writer Sam Lake looked for a way to slot American Nightmare into the larger Wake narrative.

American Nightmare finds Wake inside his own stories once again. This time, it's the episodes he penned for in-game Twilight Zone-spoof Night Springs. He’s tracking Mr. Scratch, an evil nemesis introduced in the original game’s second piece of downloadable content, The Writer (which is really worth playing!).

Manuscript pieces narrated by Wake are littered throughout the world again, revealing more about the lingering mysteries we’ve been obsessing over since the credits rolled. The manuscripts tie into the gameplay this time, too, as more manuscripts mean access to more powerful weapons and items. This is especially crucial in the new survival mode Fight 'Till Dawn.

“We’ve got tons of fans out there that loved Alan Wake,” said Häkkinen, “so we wanted to put this optional story content in there that takes the story and the fiction forward for them, as well. Really, essentially, people who have played Wake want to come back and they want to see more of it.”

Remedy is threading a thin needle that has potential to backfire, but as a skeptic of American Nightmare, I’ll admit the added weapon variety--nailgun, SMGs--and new enemy types--one guy multiplies when shot, another sucks up bullets like a shadowy sponge--provide confidence Remedy has made much-needed tweaks to keep combat continually interesting.

Then again, Alan Wake’s combat was terrific for first few hours, too. The combat became boring because it didn’t change enough, and the smaller, more focused format of American Nightmare could mitigate that issue.

Each "episode" takes you to another slice of nostalgic Americana, like an observatory.

“You just need to reflect the medium that you’re out on,” said Häkkinen. “I mean, making it a little bit lighter on the story, but having a cool and intriguing story there--not making it the main focus. For XBLA, we felt like we should go more on the action. That’s what people are going to enjoy when they pull down a digital title. We took that in consideration.”

Giant Bomb fans should be particularly excited about American Nightmare, too, since the game will feature a copious amount of full-screen FMV. Clearly, Remedy is listening to our irrational demands.

We didn’t touch on Alan Wake 2 much, as we got quickly sidetracked by talking about vicious Finnish winters, Dexter, and New York, but Häkkinen and Myllyrinne are acutely aware of what fans are demanding.

“Alan Wake is very close to our hearts,” said Häkkinen. “This is the next step forward in Alan Wake, and we’ll see where we go from there.”

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by patrickklepek

Remedy Entertainment has made it clear to me that its upcoming flirtation with Xbox Live Arcade doesn’t mean the company is suddenly abandoning what it’s become known for.

“We love our big games, that’s what we do,” said Remedy CEO Matias Myllyrinne in a chilly, barely heated San Francisco office space last week, as part of a year-end press tour. “But it’s nice to be able to do this.”

“This” is Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, a downloadable, action-focused extension of the Alan Wake story that left on such a mean cliffhanger in last year’s game. The game was announced at this year's Video Game Awards, and is not Alan Wake 2.

American Nightmare came about after Alan Wake wrapped its five-year development cycle, and the team was playing around with combat levels featuring tweaked gameplay, a response to feedback about wanting more things to do in the game. A white board kept track of each developer’s scores, becoming a physical leaderboard altered day-to-day, as competitions heated up.

The team felt it was onto something, but it hadn't forgotten what garnered Alan Wake the most acclaim.

Fight 'Till Dawn is like other survival modes, with growing score multipliers, leaderboards, etc.

“Everybody loved the story,” said Myllyrinne, a sentiment quickly echoed by Oskari Häkkinen, head of franchise development at Remedy.

You can count me among the people who enjoyed Alan Wake for the story it was telling far more than its quickly tiresome combat, which became overbearing towards the end. The frustration was driven by a lack of variety, as each combat scenario played out exactly the same way over and over again.

American Nightmare won’t be ditching the action for more plot, however, as Myllryinne described Alan Wake as one-third action, two-thirds story and American Nightmare as the complete opposite.

Before you cross American Nightmare off your list, know that it does take place after the events of Alan Wake, and while the story is not front and center this time, it should provide some clarity.

When Remedy started mulling the idea of a download-only Alan Wake game, Remedy co-founder and lead writer Sam Lake looked for a way to slot American Nightmare into the larger Wake narrative.

American Nightmare finds Wake inside his own stories once again. This time, it's the episodes he penned for in-game Twilight Zone-spoof Night Springs. He’s tracking Mr. Scratch, an evil nemesis introduced in the original game’s second piece of downloadable content, The Writer (which is really worth playing!).

Manuscript pieces narrated by Wake are littered throughout the world again, revealing more about the lingering mysteries we’ve been obsessing over since the credits rolled. The manuscripts tie into the gameplay this time, too, as more manuscripts mean access to more powerful weapons and items. This is especially crucial in the new survival mode Fight 'Till Dawn.

“We’ve got tons of fans out there that loved Alan Wake,” said Häkkinen, “so we wanted to put this optional story content in there that takes the story and the fiction forward for them, as well. Really, essentially, people who have played Wake want to come back and they want to see more of it.”

Remedy is threading a thin needle that has potential to backfire, but as a skeptic of American Nightmare, I’ll admit the added weapon variety--nailgun, SMGs--and new enemy types--one guy multiplies when shot, another sucks up bullets like a shadowy sponge--provide confidence Remedy has made much-needed tweaks to keep combat continually interesting.

Then again, Alan Wake’s combat was terrific for first few hours, too. The combat became boring because it didn’t change enough, and the smaller, more focused format of American Nightmare could mitigate that issue.

Each "episode" takes you to another slice of nostalgic Americana, like an observatory.

“You just need to reflect the medium that you’re out on,” said Häkkinen. “I mean, making it a little bit lighter on the story, but having a cool and intriguing story there--not making it the main focus. For XBLA, we felt like we should go more on the action. That’s what people are going to enjoy when they pull down a digital title. We took that in consideration.”

Giant Bomb fans should be particularly excited about American Nightmare, too, since the game will feature a copious amount of full-screen FMV. Clearly, Remedy is listening to our irrational demands.

We didn’t touch on Alan Wake 2 much, as we got quickly sidetracked by talking about vicious Finnish winters, Dexter, and New York, but Häkkinen and Myllyrinne are acutely aware of what fans are demanding.

“Alan Wake is very close to our hearts,” said Häkkinen. “This is the next step forward in Alan Wake, and we’ll see where we go from there.”

Staff
Posted by George_Hukas

I hit the trees when I write like Alan Wake

Posted by Vandersveldt

Neither the trailer nor the article said when it was coming out. Is the first episode out already?

Posted by Dany

2/3 action and 1/3 story is a bad decision. IDK if I'm going to pick this up.

Edited by Nevets

...Find the Lady of the Light...

It's been a while since Wake, I'm up for some more in bite-sized chunks.

Edited by Sooty

Action heavy? The action wasn't what I played Alan Wake for and if the new game will have even more action I can see that just being really boring, there's too many third person shooters.

I have a bad feeling about this.

*Finnish

Posted by morrelloman

Will buy, will play, no questions. The DLC was action heavy. I enjoyed the boss fight at the end where you...

Posted by Bawlsz

One of the biggest complaints about the first game was it's game play, so it seems that they are working on that, also this is an XBLA release and it is also a spin-off, its good idea going for the XBLA route because it can get more fans on board, also they can experiment more and take risks with the formula they normally wouldn't with a full blown sequel.

I also read the IGN preview, and the story sounds like an interesting take on Night Springs, its also unique and has a high production values compared to most other XBLA titles.

Also most people are forgetting this is a spin-off, not a sequel, this is a chance for Remedy to see where to improve the game, and see what works in the game, and what doesn't, and bring the franchise forward.

Posted by VibratingDonkey

Not entirely the direction I would've liked to see them take it. But they have to try and find a bigger audience I guess... Don't think Alan Wake was profitable.

I didn't mind the combat in Alan Wake though, found it entertaining throughout, despite it not evolving a whole lot. It just felt and looked good. But it was the atmosphere and story that drove that game, although Barry almost was the new Zeke.

+1 for FMV's anyhow.

The promotional shorts for Alan Wake were pretty good by the way.

Posted by Dunchad

@patrickklepek:

Hey, might want to go over the article over again and fix the name. It's not Myllryinne, but Myllyrinne. And near the end, you forgot an 'n' from the word 'Finnish', like someone already pointed out.

Posted by benjaebe

This isn't a true sequel, so going in a bit of a different direction (more pulpy like From Dusk Till Dawn) isn't a bad thing at all. It's still Remedy and they aren't going to ruin the series by making this one a bit more action heavy - it's not turning into Gears of War or trying to attract a new audience, they're just having a bit of fun with it and trying to refine the gameplay in the meantime.

Considering Remedy's history I'm always willing to give them the benefit of any doubt. Also, fucking full screen FMV.

Posted by TheSquarePear

@Bawlsz said:

Also most people are forgetting this is a spin-off, not a sequel, this is a chance for Remedy to see where to improve the game, and see what works in the game, and what doesn't, and bring the franchise forward.

I don't think spin-offs of franchises are a good sign especially when a sequel isn't confirmed.

Look what happened to Crysis after Crysis Warhead.

It still baffles me that people complain about repetitive combat when you can say exactly the same about COD or Red Dead Redemption or any other shooter. I think the aiming in Alan Wake is much better than in Borderlands or Red Dead.

I just wish they'd make the levels more open ended (the second DLC was pretty much a corridor shooter) and maybe revisit locations at different times of day.

BTW lose the QTE's and make more Night Springs please!

Posted by aXone

@Nevets said:

...Find the Lady of the Light...

It's been a while since Wake, I'm up for some more in bite-sized chunks.

me too

Posted by kishinfoulux

I will play this and probably love it like the first game but I'm kinda disappointed they are going a more action oriented route. Also dude is crazy if he thought the first game was only 1/3 combat. Far more then that.

Posted by Tally_Pants

oh man, this just reminded me that i really need to get back and beat Alan Wake! (i was half way through when my xbox RROD on me and i lost the save... its a sour spot having to go back and restart games i had half done...)

but I would welcome a twist on the Alan Wake gameplay, so long as this doesn't replace a possible sequel!

Posted by Bawlsz

@TheSquarePear said:

@Bawlsz said:

Also most people are forgetting this is a spin-off, not a sequel, this is a chance for Remedy to see where to improve the game, and see what works in the game, and what doesn't, and bring the franchise forward.

I don't think spin-offs of franchises are a good sign especially when a sequel isn't confirmed.

Look what happened to Crysis after Crysis Warhead.

It still baffles me that people complain about repetitive combat when you can say exactly the same about COD or Red Dead Redemption or any other shooter. I think the aiming in Alan Wake is much better than in Borderlands or Red Dead.

I just wish they'd make the levels more open ended (the second DLC was pretty much a corridor shooter) and maybe revisit locations at different times of day.

BTW lose the QTE's and make more Night Springs please!

Crysis Warhead, is not a spin-off, it tells the story of Psycho, at the same time as Nomad, and is more of an expansion, and Crysis 2 happened because they where making it for consoles aswell, so things had to be changed.

American Nightmare, is based in the world of Night Springs, and its going to be pulp horror action, and the concept of the story is interesting, also considering its a XBLA release, I don't think its going that expensive 800-1200mp

Posted by Roomrunner

Big fan of Alan Wake (my 2010 GOTY), so I can't wait for this. But two things...

1) Mr. Scratch was not introduced in The Writer. He's in the main-campaign's finale. But yeah, not enough people played The Writer, which was better than every chapter of the main game.

2) This dog piling on the game's combat has to stop. This and a couple product placements are brought up every single time Giant Bomb and GB fans talk about the game, as if there is nothing more to say about it. I only hear this combat complaint from GB and it's community. ... I know I'm going to sound like a mindless defender of a game I liked, but.. I just don't see the problem. I had fun with Alan Wake to the very end. There are a few "could use more of that and less of this"complaints I had with the game, but none when it came to fighting. The set pieces were great, and they threw guys at you at the most "oh shit" of moments. Also, the DLC chapters did a lot of innovative things with those word bubbles and wacky environments to make the combat fun.

I just don't get why people would expect or want the creators of Max Panye to make a game with little to no shooting in it. It feels like some didn't enjoy the game (which they are entitled to. no big deal there) but aren't content with simply saying "I just didn't like it?" because it hurts their cred as a journalist, critic, enthusiast, whatever. So they hang their opinion on this combat theory, which feels like an excuse you can create for almost every action game.

Posted by cstrang

Color me skeptical. Alan Wake's combat got old really quickly, especially evident in the DLC. Story is what I ended up going to AW for and, after being stingy with it's conclusions, even that wasn't enough to keep me going back for the DLCs. With story taking an admitted back-burner for American Nightmare, I think I'll have to pass.

Posted by Cirdain
Posted by Alphazero

Alan Wake is awesome. Best moody/creepy in any game I've played. Thumbs up for more.

Posted by Redbullet685

I guess I'm in the minority that actually enjoyed Alan Wake's combat. Oh, and this looks really cool.

Posted by Tondo

Loved the first one so im excited to see Remedy has not forgotten the series ! Also hope this one sells enough that we can get a proper full lenght sequel some day.

Posted by Slaker117

I liked Alan Wake's story, but not enough to suffer 1/3 more combat. Guess I'll just Youtube it.

Posted by ValiantGoat

Nobody seems to recall how much action was really in the first Alan Wake and the two DLC packs for it. I've played through all the content at least 3 times and there is a large portion of combat(fighting/fleeing). If you want to be down on a game before it has a release go for it, after all isn't that what comments sections and forums are for on the internet?...

Posted by Sooty

I did like the combat in the first game, but I was only really playing the game for the story, so that's why I am a bit annoyed that it's going more action oriented. As somebody said the first game had a lot of combat to begin with.

Posted by chilibean_3

Well, this article really tempered my excitement for the game. I'm still very interested in how t turns out though.

Posted by Ronald

Remedy may be using FMV, but they are missing that special BEARD tech.

Posted by Vexxan

I thought there was nothing wrong with the combat in Alan Wake so 'm looking forward to this. Sure, Alan Wake's story was what I came for but if Remedy want to go this way then I'm still gonna buy this game.

Posted by awagster

I really enjoyed most of my playthrough of Alan Wake, but really, more emphasis on combat is NOT what the game needed. I'll still grab it, because despite its flaws I really enjoyed the setting and atmosphere of the first game and DLC, but those comments don't fill me with a ton of hope.

Online
Posted by lockwoodx

Alan Wake is the best game that nobody played.

Edited by LiquidSwords

Finally played both DLC's 2 weeks ago and I fell in love with the game again! Can't wait for the continuing saga of Alan Wake!

Posted by Nightfang

@Redbullet685 said:

I guess I'm in the minority that actually enjoyed Alan Wake's combat. Oh, and this looks really cool.

Posted by PrivateIronTFU

I just finished Alan Wake last night. And I have no desire to ever return to it again. That game became tedious about half-way through.

Walk through a forest section, fight three or four guys. Find a house, fight three or four guys. Walk through another forest section, fight three or four guys.

The story wasn't terrible, but the repetitive combat was just mind-numbing.

Posted by Death_Unicorn

I love Alan Wake. It's one of those games, the memories playing it grow fonder and fonder as time goes by.

Posted by Seroth

I'm 100% sure Mr. Scratch was introduced in the original game, not the DLC. Was Mr. Scratch even in The Writer? I thought Alan was fighting himself in that, not his crazy doppelgänger.

Posted by Undeadpool

I like this notion of actually making the combat better instead of just throwing up their hands and giving up. I don't necessarily want a combat-focused Alan Wake sequel, but since this isn't a sequel I'd say they can knock some of the kinks out and actually make 2 a much better game.

Posted by ValiantGoat

@Seroth: not sure how accurate this is, but on the GBwiki in The Writer subsection it says: "After questioning by Zane, it is revealed that Mr. Scratch is not a representation of Alan, but something else entirely..."

It has been a while since I last played the game, so some story elements are a bit fogy for me. I'll likely play the game again looking for more info/clues regarding Mr. Scratch if there are any earlier in the main game.

Posted by Bawlsz

Mr Scratch is another name for the Devil.

Posted by Brackynews
Edited by Wrighteous86

@Seroth said:

I'm 100% sure Mr. Scratch was introduced in the original game, not the DLC. Was Mr. Scratch even in The Writer? I thought Alan was fighting himself in that, not his crazy doppelgänger.

@ValiantGoat said:

@Seroth: not sure how accurate this is, but on the GBwiki in The Writer subsection it says: "After questioning by Zane, it is revealed that Mr. Scratch is not a representation of Alan, but something else entirely..."

It has been a while since I last played the game, so some story elements are a bit fogy for me. I'll likely play the game again looking for more info/clues regarding Mr. Scratch if there are any earlier in the main game.

I wrote that entry. Mr. *scratch sound effect* was introduced in the main game. That's why, in The Writer, Alan and Zane talk about Mr. Scratch, and that's where Zane reveals, in one line of incidental dialogue, that Mr. Scratch is not a mental manifestation of part of Alan's personality, as the Alan in The Signal is, but something more. Scratch doesn't show up at all in the Writer, Alan asks if Mr. Scratch is another part of himself like the one he just fought, and Zane says no.

Posted by bslayer

@Bawlsz said:

One of the biggest complaints about the first game was it's game play, so it seems that they are working on that, also this is an XBLA release and it is also a spin-off, its good idea going for the XBLA route because it can get more fans on board, also they can experiment more and take risks with the formula they normally wouldn't with a full blown sequel.

I also read the IGN preview, and the story sounds like an interesting take on Night Springs, its also unique and has a high production values compared to most other XBLA titles.

Also most people are forgetting this is a spin-off, not a sequel, this is a chance for Remedy to see where to improve the game, and see what works in the game, and what doesn't, and bring the franchise forward.

Ummm... Pretty much this. This is exactly what I would have said if I wasn't so lazy, so thanks Bawlsz.

Posted by NMC2008

Alan Wake: The Case of the Midnight Hershey Squirts

Alan Wake & The Lost Pound Cake of Santa Maria

Alan Wake Goes To White Castle

Alan Wake vs Heavy Rain: Clash of Slow Walking White Dudes

Alan Wake's & The Souffle Killer

Alan Wake & The Stubborn Grass Stain

Alan Wake: The San Francisco Treat

When Alan Met Alice: With Billy Crystal!

Alan's Cakes: Baking Your Way To Success

Alan Wake's How To Lose Your Girlfriend In The Woods

Alan Wake & The Mysterious Red Scarf

Alan Wake's How To Improve Your Running Distance

Alan Wake: Not Without My Flashlight

Ok I'm done.

Posted by jakob187

I had no problem with the action. It felt good, and I'm down for more of it. As long as they also hold true to some good narrative and a thick, moody atmosphere, I will be allllllright with this game.

I think people should also remember Dead Rising: Case Zero in this scenario. Dead Rising 2, in and of itself, was not super great. Case Zero, however, proved that you could take a small chunk of what the game can be and make it work within a good seven to eight hour experience. It seems like that is what they want to do with American Nightmare.

Posted by plaintomato

@ValiantGoat said:

I've played through all the content at least 3 times

Wow. I never do that with anything. There are very few movies, books, or games I've experienced more than once. I'm always on to the next thing I guess.

I really liked Alan Wake - but I like a different experience, I guess some people just want more of the same tired shooters. And I didn't really find the action too repetitive, I thought it missed an opportunity to break things up with some cool boss fights, which the game seemed a perfect fit for, but it felt far less repetitive than a 5 hour military shooter campaign.

I skipped the DLC...but it might just be time to go back for more.

Posted by Dad_Is_A_Zombie

Ugh... Shooting and general gameplay were the game's weaknesses. Bad move guys going this route. Pass.

Posted by DeF

@Nightfang said:

@Redbullet685 said:

I guess I'm in the minority that actually enjoyed Alan Wake's combat. Oh, and this looks really cool.

I also didn't get tired of it. Maybe it was enough for me that combat like this (shining the flashlight on the enemy until you can finally shoot them) hadn't been done before. I played my first run on hard, maybe that kept me extra tense so I didn't mind that it didn't change much.

Posted by BrockNRolla

You let me know when you've decided to focus on the storyline and then I'll pick up another Alan Wake title.

Posted by ValiantGoat

@plaintomato: There are few things I play/watch/read multiple times. Alan wake wasn't very long so that really helped.

Posted by MikeGosot

Alan Wake is one of my favorite games ever. I REALLY enjoyed everything about that game. The combat, Barry... I just didn't liked the facial animations, but the game was GREAT! Also, they changed the HUD! WOW! It's more beautiful now... 
I'm just sad people are skipping on this DLC because it will focus on the combat. At least wait until you play it. It might sound like i'm the Ultra Fanboy Of Alan, but you can't bitch about a game you've not played.

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