Alan Wake 2 Interview: Sam Lake Didn’t Want to go ‘Neck and Neck’ With Spider-Man 2 | gamescom 2023

Alan Wake 2 Interview: Sam Lake Didn’t Want to go ‘Neck and Neck’ With Spider-Man 2 | gamescom 2023

Remedy Entertainment has come a long way since the original Alan Wake released on Xbox 360 way back in 2010. In the intervening 13 years, Remedy has released Control, built up a universe, and fully established itself as one of gaming’s sharpest and most ambitious big-budget developers.

With Alan Wake 2 set to arrive in October, we took a moment to sit down with creator Sam Lake at gamescom 2023 to talk horror instructions, not wanting to go neck and neck, and the need for a little bit of comedy in your horror games. Read on for the full interview, and make sure to check out our hands-on preview as well as our recap of all of our gamescom 2023 coverage so far.

Sam, Alan Wake 2 looks incredible. We got a brand new trailer last night, which really messed me up because it actually took me a bit to figure out what was live action and what was in-game. So bravo. Tell me about how that came together, the decisions behind using real footage and in-game footage. It all melted together. I loved it.

Sam Lake, Director: Thank you. Yeah. We have used different mediums for storytelling in our games in the past and live action in particular, I really, really like using live action. And this time around, we were looking for stylization and ways to integrate it seamlessly into the experience. The Dark Place is this shifting dream reality, kind of a layered place where Alan Wake is churning through these layers and it just felt very suited for switching the medium to keep you off balance. And he’s confused. You are confused. And we are going into seeing some live action and then jumping back into the game and-

You’re trying to keep the audience on their toes a bit there, right?

SL: Well, it’s very much overall survival horror, but the Dark Place experience is very much psychological horror because it’s drawing from his head and he’s been there for ages trying to find a way to escape, write the story to escape. So it’s taking from his story, from his thoughts, from his fears, and everything is in one way or the other, echoing in that way. So this crime in New York setting, walls covered with graffiti and all of that graffiti is coming from…some sort of an echo or a twisted mirror. So it’s full of messages.

He is not doing great. Right?

SL: Yeah…13 years stuck in a nightmare that kind of just keeps on hammering you with all kinds of horrible things and he’s trying to control it, write a story to control it in order to change the reality around him to escape. He has failed for 13 years.

Thirteen years stuck in a nightmare, that’s like public school for me. The interesting sort of spectrum between psychological horror and survival horror, one of them is obviously historically more grounded, especially in video game form. And the other one gets you a lot more crazy and kind of outside of the, “Hey, we’re in the forest and I sort of have an idea what’s happening here.”

Can you tell me about how fun it is to build on those different spectrums of horror? Because I love both of those things equally in film.

SL: Yeah, me as well. And the Remedy team overall, big fan. And that has been our approach through all of these years. Remedy just turned 28 years, a long journey… Pop culture, being fans of many things and just drawing ideas and inspiration out of that soup and horror being one of them. And certainly we’ve kind of had bits and pieces of horror vibe and atmosphere in our experiences, but this time we just wanted to go all in. And different films and books and all, as part of it.

I always feel that a single game is such a big world of its own, that there is room for different tones and different vibes to kind of dig in and discover. We have a lot of comedy in this as well, and I feel that that’s essential to give you a bit of relief and release before we kind of chunk you back in to the horror bits.

Alan Wake 2 is meant to be an unsettling experience.
Alan Wake 2 is meant to be an unsettling experience.

It’s got historically a great place in horror. I think that the timing element of comedy in horror matches a lot. Right?

SL: Yeah.

That’s great. Obviously picking up some David Lynch, some Shinji, Mikami, but you guys have been around for 28 years and this is now a franchise that has influenced other games and other things like that. So what do you want the game developers of tomorrow to be inspired by from Alan Wake 2? What’s in this game that you’re like, “I hope this becomes something that people latch onto in the future?”

SL: We really wanted to explore, and I feel that that’s an important part of a creative process. And I hope that experiencing this game also gives people ideas on the level of like, “Oh, you can do that as well? Or you can go this crazy on this idea?”

There really are no rules, in a way you can do anything if you just decide that this is where we are going to go with this and just go as far as you can; don’t hold back. And that to me, I mean it’s been energizing and refreshing in this, that there is a ton of crazy ideas. And then finding a balance between them.

Speaking of other games, you moved the release date by a week and in an active transparency, I don’t think I’ve ever seen before in-game development. And we’re so used to, “Here’s the JPEG on Twitter of the big text.” And you see it and you’re like, “Oh no, it’s going to get delayed.” And I saw yours and I was like, “We’re in trouble. It’s going to go all the way to next year or something.” And it was like, “No, it’s just a week.”

Sam Lake: October is very crowded with awesome, brilliant games coming out.

Yeah, I just appreciated that you were like, “There’s other games out there. Go play them, but also play ours too.” What was the decision behind that? Because I loved it. That’s the transparency we love.

SL: Well, we were looking at the week and we were looking at these brilliant, brilliant giant games coming out, Spider-Man 2 and all, and just felt like, well, we don’t have to go neck to neck. We can just kind of shift it a couple of days…

We’ll give Mario a few days to hang out and stuff like that. I love it. I love it so much. Gameplay-wise, everything in this game is bigger and crazier than we’ve seen in the past, but it’s not a full-on third person shooter. You’re not running around with a machine gun running and gunning zombies and stuff like that.

SL: No. Yeah, that felt like a big revelation to us through the years we’ve been trying to make this happen, done other games in between. And the original Alan Wake was very much an action-adventure with a kind of horroresque story, and it always felt like they’re not an exact match. It turned into an interesting experience, a unique experience for sure.

But there were several reasons that we were getting criticism on combat being too samey kind of through the whole experience because there was a lot of it like you have in an action game. So that was one thing that we wanted to fix. But at the other time, we really, really wanted to do more with interactive storytelling and merging gameplay with story and having elements of gameplay that are about the story.

There really are no rules, in a way you can do anything if you just decide that this is where we are going to go with this and just go as far as you can; don’t hold back.

Right. Because those things are always so disparate in games. It’s like cutscene, shoot people, cutscene, shoot people.

SL: Exactly. And we wanted to merge that more. So we were looking for solutions and then we just realized that survival horror, the pacing is slower. It leans much more on building up to an encounter and then having more strategical resource management and all. So giving more variety for combat, but having less of combat…to do things with the story. So all of those, like, “Wait a minute, why haven’t we not thought about this before when we started going into this?” And yeah, it’s been great.

Any specific horror movies that you’re a huge fan of while I have you, because I know this is a genre. Not even stuff that made it into the game, but just horror movies you love because I love to geek out about that stuff.

SL: There is a lot in this, a lot of different inspirations. And because we have the Pacific Northwest side with FBI agent Saga Anderson, and then we have the Dark Place with Alan Wake, it allowed us to bring in influences like on Saga side, well, Twin Peaks of course, and I count that kind of as a horror experience. Lynchy stuff overall, like Lost Highways is one of my favorite films. And Silence of the Lambs.

Sam, that’s just a short list. I love it so much. Thank you so much for coming, man. This has been a blast.

SL: Thank you.

Alan Wake 2 is out October 27th for PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S.

Kat Bailey is IGN’s News Director as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Have a tip? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.

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