DICE 2011 Interview: Remedy CEO on Alan Wake and Death Rally - NewsVGChartz Staff , posted on 11 February 2011 / 2,766 Views
Remedy Entertainment is the studio behind the first two Max Payne games and more recently, the critically acclaimed Alan Wake. Remedy's CEO, Matias Myllyrinne sat down with me at the DICE 2011 convention in Las Vegas to talk about Alan Wake and their upcoming remake of Death Rally on iOS devices. I even got to see him show off a pre-alpha build of Death Rally on his iPad which looks quite fun.
gamrFeed: You guys had a great year with Alan Wake and the subsequent DLC. Where did that initial idea for Alan Wake come from?
Myllyrinne: Originally, we had three different elements we wanted to combine. Even with the Max Payne games, we had a strong central character and we wanted to take that a notch further so we had a writer as a natural storyteller as one of the starting points. The second one was kind of the setting itself which was almost a character on its own. We wanted to have this kind of all-American small town, a beautiful setting, but obviously with horrible secrets underneath. Everybody else was doing larger and larger cities at that point, but we wanted to go where nobody else was going at that point. I think the third element was just the concept of using light and darkness as gameplay elements. Light is something very fundamental that we can all understand. I think with Max Payne we used time as a constant we all understand. With Alan Wake we wanted to use the concept of light in a different way that hadn’t been done in games before. That trinity started to emerge and even throughout a long development process, that’s what we wanted to do.
Of course there’s the element of wanting to build a real thriller and certain things that Remedy are known for. For example: contemporary settings and characters and obviously action, but I think those were the three key elements we started with: writer, small town, and light.
gamrFeed: Did Remedy pull some inspiration from different authors? It seems to me Alan Wake is very reminiscent of Stephen King.
Myllyrinne: We’re all huge movie buffs and read a lot, we’re all mass consumers of popular culture, for lack of a better word. We look for inspiration outside of games more than from games and try to bring something that hasn’t been done in games into our space and make it something of our own. Certainly I think huge inspirations for us are Stephen King, obviously a master of the genre, but also Lost (television) was somewhere in the development process. Lost came out and I think we saw a renaissance of good, quality TV as well. For example, going with the episodic pacing of the game, pacing after a season of a TV series, felt really natural. I think even Alfred Hitchcock with films such as The Birds, we kind of tip our hats to him as well. There are very many people we draw inspiration from, of guys who’ve paved the way in terms of telling stories. Whether it’s through clever use of the camera or foreshadowing or building compelling characters.
gamrFeed: Many of our readers were a bit surprised that the DLC ended at two with The Writer. Why the decision to stop?
Myllyrinne: That was very much our plan from the get-go to do two downloadable contents. There are a couple factors there. One is we’re a creative force. We really want to push the envelope and go further and look further into the future into our next big thing. I think that’s part of it. On the other hand, just the economics of downloadable content are such that you have a certain amount of people that complete the game. For us, it’s a phenomenal amount of people, actually that start it and finish it. There’s also economics of how much it really takes to deliver good quality content and digital, continuous story. There is a certain attrition that goes with that, just whether the numbers are there. On the other hand, the big thing is we wanted to do it. It’s the first one (DLC) we’ve ever done and it was really, really fun. Obviously after such a long project, it was really cool to do shorter sprints, if you will.
gamrFeed: Is Remedy done with Alan Wake or should we be anticipating a sequel?
I’d love to add more color into our future but unfortunately, I can’t do that right now. I’m really happy with the direction we’re going. The team is very confident in our vision for the future and I think it’s a nice place to be. There’s tons of good stuff happening. Our first game was Death Rally which was a top-down PC racer that gave us our break in the industry. We’ve come full circle now, we’re working with a local, small studio and have it running on iPad and iPhone giving those guys maybe their next big break. It’s awesome fun. That’ll be coming out already next month. It’s wild for me, the pace is so much quicker in that space. Remedy is and will always be cinematic storytellers. We like to take the best of the tech out there and use it to our best ability. I also think it’s cool to also be involved with bringing something over to the iPad and iPhone, it’s been good fun.
gamrFeed: Your current project is the Death Rally remake for iOS. Other than some obvious graphical updates, what tweaking is being done for this upcoming mobile release?
Myllyrinne: You need to cater these things to their target platform. I think the biggest thing for any game is that they’re interactive. It’s so blindingly obvious and it’s a bit trite to say, but how a game feels and how it plays is at least as important as how it the fiction or action you put people in. We’ve all played games where you might be really enthralled by the story and you’re really engaged with it but the camera’s broken and that really detracts from it. I think the key thing for us with Death Rally is making sure the controls feel sweet. Once you have that down, you can build a different metagame and build upon that layer. The fundamentals of the second-to-second gameplay are something that need to be tweaked really, really well. In that respect, you need to target specifically for these platforms (iOS). The development cycles are so quick, I’ll know a lot more already at GDC about what’s possible and what’s not possible, so I don’t want to hype something that we might not put in there, but there’s just an insane amount of potential when you’re focusing on a fixed platform like that.
gamrFeed: You already talked that you can’t really speak to future Remedy titles. Might we be seeing something new at GDC?
Myllyrinne: No, I think it’s a bit premature for us. We talked about (Alan) Wake really early. That’s one of the things that I need to look in the mirror and ask, ‘was it the right time to do it?’ We had something wonderful and we wanted to share it with the world, but these are long, big project and somebody turns up and says, ‘Where’s the game? Is it vaporware? Etc.’ There’s a certain element that I don’t want to revisit with the next thing, we want to be able to prove it’s here. So we want to come out slightly later with that information. The other thing is just the people we’re working with are big companies and they need to do their own things.