Retrospective: Alan Wake inspiration

R U A Wake?

I love Alan Wake. I love the setting, that quaint little town in the American Northwest. I love the “something in the woods” story. I also love the TV episode design style and the fantastic soundtrack. 

Before I reviewed the game for Game Console, I wrote a little piece about the inspiration behind Alan Wake. The game is full of little nods and tips of the hat for the amusement of the initiated. Whilst the game was overly ambitious and didn’t really find its commercial audience, I still believe it to be one of the best games of  2010. I’m not sure if this was ever published, if it was, it would have been in the Game Console section of Anyway, here it is.

Remedy Entertainment’s upcoming Xbox exclusive, the long-awaited Alan Wake, promises a psychological action adventure tale like no other.

The developers previous Max Payne games drew inspiration from hard-boiled detective pulp novels, creating games within a noir graphic novel setting. With Alan Wake, Remedy has paid homage to the horror mystery genre, this time designing their game as if it were a six episode television series. The developers have even described the DLC (a free token for which is included in the game) as a TV special that bridges the gap between season one and a possible season two.

Throughout the game, Alan Wake has very overt references to the developer’s inspirational material. Is it pretty clear that the game’s writer, Sam Lake, is a fan of Stephen King and shows like Twin Peaks and the X-Files. As an

Welcome to Twin mean Bright Falls

aside, as well as penning Max Payne game, Sam Lake was also the face of Max in the first game. Look for Sam’s grinning cameo in Alan Wake.

In the game’s opening voice-over Alan Wake paraphrases Stephen King as he explains the importance of the unexplained to perpetuate fear in a horror story. Unfortunately, one of my (very minor) criticisms of the game is that it spills the beans too early; Alan Wake should have heeded Mr Kings advice. Look out for another Stephen King reference, this time to The Shining, early in the game.

The way that light dances between the trees at night and that whole “something in the woods” flavour to the game, clearly borrows from the imagery of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully hunting for clues by torchlight in The X-Files.

"Got to find out what kind of trees these are. They're really something"

One of the first characters Alan runs into in the town of Bright Falls is a little old lady holding a lantern as if it was a baby, warning of the foreboding that lies ahead. Twin Peaks fans will recognise her as being very similar to the show’s stump clutching Log Lady.

The Night Springs TV show that seems to be shown continuously each night in Bright Falls owes its existence to the genre defining horror anthology TV show, The Twilight Zone. Interestingly it was in writing for Night Springs that Alan Wake got his first big writing break. You can watch a few episodes of Night Springs (complete with Rod Serling style narration) in the game.

The developers have gone to great lengths to incorporate these little nods to fans. Throughout the game, you will find coffee-filled Thermos flasks; their relevance to the game maybe that whole staying awake, caffeine thing.  What‘s more likely is it was a great way of incorporating the “Damn good cup of coffee” achievement into the game after collecting enough flasks; another sly wink to Twin Peaks and Special Agent Dale Cooper’s obsession with his favourite beverage.  According to one of Alan Wake’s manuscript page found in the game, FBI Agent Nightingale, cares very little Bright Falls, its trees or its coffee, the polar opposite to FBI Agent Cooper’s fondness for Twin Peaks.

It’s nice to see this level of passion in a game that will certainly appeal to fans of the genre.