Last year, Remedy Entertainment created a lot of buzz when he revealed the FEAR expansion to his acclaimed action adventure game Control.
The plugin featured a crossover with Alan Wake, the fan-favorite Xbox 360 game from Finnish studios, connecting them via an official ‘Remedy Shared Universe’.
Fast forward a year and Remedy offers fans and newcomers a chance to jump into the definitive version of Alan Wake. Pay in Alan Wake Remastered, which includes the original Alan Wake experience, its double-deck expansions, and a host of technical enhancements such as 4K / 60fps support.
Yet fundamentally Remedy says she wants to deliver the same experience, which centered on a suspense novelist searching for his missing wife and must face the dark forces he supposedly created. As Remedy himself has described Alan Wake, is a mix between “the body of an action game and the mind of a psychological thriller”.
According to Thomas Puha, director of communications for Remedy, a Alan Wake remaster has been a long time coming. “We had talked about doing a remaster for a while, but once Remedy got the publishing rights back from Microsoft in 2019, that really made it possible to start working on the remaster,” he says by email.
Once the rights were returned to Remedy, Puha says the developer looked to “various partners” to help with the remastering before settling on d3t, an English studio that has worked on projects such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Mafia II: Definitive Edition.
“D3t’s technical expertise and understanding of what we needed made a very good impression on our team, so we started working together,” he says.
While there are many remasters that are handled by studios other than the ones that created the original game, Alan Wake Remastered You are in one of the most unique situations in which the original developer is actively involved.
“The really great thing about this remaster was that a lot of the key developers who created the game in the first place are still on Remedy. Several of them worked closely on the remaster to make sure we stayed as true to the original game as possible, ”says Puha.
“When an outside party starts digging into the code base of a game they didn’t create, it’s extremely helpful to be able to talk to the people who wrote the code in the first place. The same goes for images that were very unique in Alan Wake, not just in terms of how everything looks, but also how those images were created in the first place. “
“Not only is the hardware different, but the tools and technology used to make games have also evolved.”
Puha raises an important point. In the past, remasters of beloved games like Batman’s Arkham Asylum and Silent Hill 2 They have been criticized for lighting up environments and removing elements such as fog to the detriment of the general atmosphere. It’s easy to see how Alan Wake – being as inspired by David Lynch and Stephen King as he is – he could theoretically fall victim to a similar fate while undergoing a visual overhaul.
It’s a risk that Remedy and d3t say they have been working closely together to avoid.
“Respecting the original vision was key. The game’s art direction holds up very well to this day, so the focus has been on making sure everything is streamed in higher resolutions as well, ”says Janne Pulkkinen, Remedy’s art director. “Many of the assets have been completely rebuilt with this in mind. The rendering has also been improved across the board, but with great care not to lose what has already worked so well. “
“A key factor in this remastering was preserving the original artistic intent. This meant looking at what Remedy wanted to do 10 years ago but couldn’t for technical reasons, ”adds Andy Booth, studio technical director at d3t.
Remedy has spoken extensively on how he had to create a completely new engine to Alan Wake, and Booth is quick to point out that expanding on that original work has been difficult in its own way.
“The sheer number of rigs and the challenges that come with a custom engine should not be underestimated. The original game shipped to Xbox 360 and released for PC a few years later. They both used a DX9 renderer, and most of the code was the same between PC and Xbox 360, ”he says. “For the remastering, we are targeting Xbox (Xbox One, Xbox One X, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X), PlayStation (PS4, PS4 Pro, PS5) and PC. This has required a major refactoring of the game engine and a lot of targeted optimization for specific platforms. “
That’s because, as he mentions, “a lot has changed” since the original’s release. Alan Wake – two new generations of consoles, to be precise.
“Not only is the hardware different, but the tools and technology used to make games have also evolved. To make sure our art team could use the tools they were familiar with, we had to move the tool chain and pipeline into modern art creation packages, ”he says. “It was a similar process for the code team, which meant moving to a modern compiler; one of the most interesting parts of this was going from 32-bit to 64-bit, as this presented challenges across the entire code base. However, the most difficult area was porting the scripting system. The game uses a custom scripting language, and a custom virtual machine is processing these scripts, which required some fairly extensive changes to be 64-bit compatible. “
It says “a lot of engineering effort” has gone into “moving large parts of the rendering code to run asynchronously” in Remastered. “From a technical point of view, we have tried to make specific improvements without fundamentally changing the way the renderer works. The remaster is using the original engine, but almost all of the rendering technology within it has been modified or built on. “
If that’s a bit heavy for you, Remedy and d3t have provided some practical examples of how the technology has been updated while remaining true to the original game.
A “good example” of this, Booth notes, is Alan Wakevolumetric lighting, a computer graphics technique used to add lighting effects such as rays of light to a rendered scene. In the original game, volumetric lighting was used to create the ‘Safe Haven’ spotlights under which Wake can take refuge from his supernatural enemies.
“Inspired by this, we have added a completely new volumetric lighting system that works globally – you can see the moonlight streaming through the forests and it really makes the scenes feel more dynamic and alive,” says Booth. “The volumetric lighting has been balanced to be complementary to the existing lighting, allowing us to maintain the original artistic intention.”
The visuals update also brought benefits when it comes to character models. As Pulkkinen points out, Wake’s appearance is based on actor Ilkka Villi. With the “utmost fidelity,” he says, Remedy was given “the opportunity to match his likeness much more precisely than in the original.”
Additionally, Puha says that graphical improvements allow for greater parity between multiple “versions” of the Wake game. “The live-action Alan, for example, looked different from the game’s character model,” he says. “With the remastering, we can be much more consistent with the character.”
Ultimately, Puha says that Remedy is excited to have the opportunity to give Alan Wake greater exposure.
“The fans had a great reaction to FEAR and now with the remastering, especially the PlayStation audience who haven’t had a chance to play Alan Wake before. [who] may [now] play the game, ”he says. “We are excited to have the opportunity to obtain Alan Wake to a wider audience. “
Alan Wake Remastered It will be released on October 5 on Xbox, PlayStation and PC.
Image Credit: Epic Games / Remedy Entertainment