GDC 2011 – Remedy Reflects On Why Alan Wake Took So Long & Why It Needed A New Engine
Written Friday, March 04, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
“Nobody really plans to do a 5 year game or project and we didn’t either,” said Markus Maki, Remedy’s CTO at their Alan Wake talk at GDC yesterday, discussing why they created a new engine for Alan Wake and why it took them so long to get the title out the door.
Responding to the most obvious issue first, Maki posed the question: “So why didn’t we buy tech from this guy?” pointing to a picture of Epic Games’ VP, Mark Rein, on his Powerpoint slide.
“We looked at Unreal and other technologies out there,” said Maki, “but this was actually before the target consoles: the 360 and the PS3 were even released; and we also had all three platforms planned in the beginning: the PC, 360 and PS3.”
“I think it’s safe to say now that we had an over-optimistic view of the schedule,” he continued, “At that point we didn’t want to create our game on a third party tech before the developers of that tech had released a game on each of those platforms.”
“5 years later, on the inside, and the reasoning wasn’t solid, because these guys beat us to the punch easily,” revealing a line of text on the presentation slide that “maybe they should have” - used the Unreal Engine, that is. Maki was quick to add though that they were happy with the end result.
“That’s not to say we were unhappy with the end results of our tech”… but creating a new engine is inevitably going to extend the development cycle… especially when they only had 8 programmers working on it!
The first issue according to Maki when it came to creating the Alan Wake engine was that they had too many variables to consider from the off.
“We had a new IP, we had new technology and we had a new ambitious game design. Tackling one of these at a time would have been easy, but tackling them all together when each of them affected each other. That definitely slowed us down,” he continued.
“I think it’s clear right now that we were a bit ambitious with our goals,” he added, noting as well that “open-world wasn’t in our team’s comfort zone and we had clashes with the dramatic storytelling.”
Creating this new tech engine at Remedy caused them to rethink many things according to Olli Tervo, the Lead Programmer at the Finnish based developer. Not only had they shifted from indoor to outdoor environments and static global illumination to 100% dynamic lighting, but they also had to figure out how to load Bright Falls efficiently because memory on the consoles was a big concern.
“Only later did we learn the distance between “almost there” and “complete”,” said Maki, noting that because it was a new engine, every single facet of the game had to be created, refined and polished to the nth degree before it was classed as complete.
There was a shining light for Remedy though, as Maki told the crowd that Microsoft’s testing department had said that Alan Wake was “the stablest game that they have ever seen.”
“I think it’s pretty incredible that we shipped our first 360 game and first DLC packs without a title update,” said Maki… and that it is.
The future is brighter – and more efficient – for Remedy though according to Maki, commenting that there will be no need to rewrite the engine again and although the code isn’t PS3 ready, it is “doable” to adapt it for Sony’s console.
“We will be quicker in the future,” said Maki, remarking that they are “trying hard not to do it again.”
I’m not sure about you, but I personally thought Alan Wake was worth the wait…