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Interview: Remedy's Matias Myllyrinne on Alan Wake


X10 was a special day for Remedy's long-in-development Alan Wake: the release date was announced at last, officially bringing the psychological thriller within a few months of release. On this occasion, Matias Myllyrinne, managing director of Remedy, shared his thoughts with Joystiq about episodic gaming, the inevitabillity of digital distribution, and high-profile competition.

Joystiq: It was announced earlier that there would be episodes of Alan Wake.

Matias Myllyrinne: It was just announced in CES by Robbie Bach.

Did you guys take a look at the experiment with Fable 2? That was surprising. What are your thoughts on that?

I think it's interesting to see how those new forms of enjoying entertainment -- how to distribute that, and get through to people in the way they want to enjoy it. I think it'll be really cool to see what happens with the Fable episodic delivery stuff. I think the jury's still out on how people want to consume media such as games. I think it's also an evolving thing, as well. If you think back to music, it's not that long ago that we all bought CDs. That changed. I thought it would happen like in two years, but it actually took more like seven for the music industry to shift and tilt.

Gallery: Alan Wake (X10) | 5 Photos

Like HDTV.

First it doesn't seem to be coming forever, and then all of the sudden there's this tipping point, if you will, and it changes. So I don't know what the next phase for games will be, but I think episodic is an interesting development as well. It's certainly something we're keeping our eye on.

As a developer who has a title that's going to have literal episodes, do you see this as a logical step toward games being distributed digitally?

Absolutely. If you look at the long term, I think digital distribution is something that will eventually evolve and take place. I just don't see any form of entertainment that isn't going in that direction. It's a time span thing. How fast does the audience's purchase behavior change, and what do they prefer? As a small company, we're not going to be the pioneers in terms of business models. We're betting the farm on a game, and building it for years and years, so I think there's enough risk there. Once those models are proven and they start to work, we'll be right there. It's just very hard as a small company to take those pioneering steps in every move, so building new intellectual property ...

You can only pioneer in so many things at once.

Yeah. I'm hopeful as a gamer myself that digital distribution will emerge. We certainly have the broadband network and stuff for it. But that's just a personal preference thing. Right now, with Alan Wake, it seems that the mass audience still wants to buy their games on a disc and get the entire experience, and that's where we're at this time around.

I was actually going to ask you about that -- that idea of the entire experience. I don't think it's a generally held feeling, but I'm seeing more and more people that are saying, "If I buy this game for $60, am I getting the actual game the developer intended to release, or am I getting a truncated product that is just going to be finished later with episodes?" In your case, when you're done with Alan Wake -- when you're done with the physical, disc-based game, that was the game you intended to make.

Very much for us. We wanted to build a story that reaches a satisfactory conclusion. The gamer reaches his goal. There needs to be an arc; you need to have a certain type of closer. But on the other hand, we built Alan Wake to be something hopefully much larger than an individual game, like the beginning of a franchise that can hopefully grow into different forms of entertainment as well as we go along -- whether it's books, film, TV, and so forth. I think, for us, we do open doors into the fiction at the end of the game as well, but, I mean, it will be a satisfactory conclusion, and people will feel that they've gotten more than their money's worth. Sam [Lake]'s had a very ambitious vision for this story, and fulfilling that has taken a long time for us. Luckily, we've had the time, the patience, and the support from Microsoft to be able to do that.

That's a good thing to have.

It's unique. I think we're privileged, but that kind of privilege comes with responsibility. People lay down 60-65 bucks for a game -- the Remedy brand on that game needs to stand for something. That's really what's been driving us. There's an internal passion to create something cool and awesome, but on the other hand, you can't sell your audience short. And that's part of the reason why it's taken so long -- it's like, making something that's great as opposed to making something that's good.

I just recently finished Heavy Rain, and really enjoyed it. Have you or any folks on the team had any chance to play it? It's being compared to Alan Wake by the blogosphere/forumsphere. Do you think that's a fair comparison?

First off, it seems like a wonderful game. I haven't had the chance to play it. It's going to go onto the stack of games that I'll play once we ship this thing. I have quite a few titles there, including Uncharted 2, which is apparently a sin. There are games I definitely want to play, and Heavy Rain is one of them. That's just as a gamer.

We set out to build something that feels and plays like a Remedy game from the beginning. Any game is a reflection of the creative team that creates it. The team that we have, the core of which worked with Max Payne and Max Payne 2, and of course, we've grown a lot over the years ... I think Alan Wake is a natural progression of that into the thriller genre, applying some of the fundamental principles to a new genre. If you look at what we're doing with the camera, what we're doing with the storytelling, what we're doing with slow motion and special effects, but we're applying them to the thriller genre, and exploring new territory there and building something unique there.

I guess I'm not answering your question -- do I think it's a fair comparison? I think the media and gamers out there are looking at, probably, that these are on alternative platforms, both are games that are looking for story, so I think that's kind of the logical comparison there. But I think once people play them, they'll both stand on their own two feet.

Editor's note: Interview conducted by Randy Nelson.

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