How Remedy Built the Thrilling World of Alan Wake 2

The team from Remedy Entertainment discusses the benefits and challenges of developing a sequel and how it builds upon their previous work.

October 27, 2023
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It’s been a long 13 years, but Alan Wake fans can finally make their way back to the idyllic Bright Falls to explore the mysteries behind The Dark Place (where our hero has been trapped all these years). In the years since the release of the first game, the team at Remedy Entertainment has released a number of titles, including the critically acclaimed Control.

We recently had the chance to interview Remedy Entertainment’s Kyle Rowley, Co-Director of Alan Wake 2, and Molly Maloney, Principal Narrative Designer on Alan Wake 2, where we gained insights into how the process of creating a sequel differs from crafting an original game and the ways they've drawn inspiration from their previous titles like Control, Quantum Break, and, of course, Alan Wake.

The Evolution of a Sequel

Creating a sequel presents its own set of challenges, as it typically involves building upon an established universe while introducing fresh elements. "Development of a sequel is its own challenge, but there are certain things that are really fun to work with,” said Maloney. “You already have established characters, you already have an established space, you have things that you want to say about that space that maybe you didn't get a chance to say in the first. I find it's far easier to revise what is there, edit, and improve."

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Most importantly, Alan Wake 2 is far from just a rehash of its predecessor. Rather, it’s a refinement and expansion of the original game in many ways, particularly some of its core gameplay mechanics. For example, the team has transitioned from a "Fight with Light" concept in Alan Wake to "Survive with Light" in the sequel, which focuses on more strategic uses of light and the limited availability of Safe Havens. From the start, the team's commitment to improving and refining the game world they established in the first game, evolving it to feel familiar yet totally fresh.

A Game of Two Generations

Time played a big role in the development in Alan Wake, both in the real world and in-game. The original Alan Wake was released more than a decade ago. During that period, gaming technology and hardware have undergone significant advancements. "Two generations have passed on hardware on the console side, and there was a lot more we wanted to do for this game compared to the first one, mainly because games have been modernized a lot since the first one came out," Rowley explained.

In that time, Remedy has also developed two other titles, Quantum Break and Control, each of which offered unique experiences and learning opportunities. These lessons have been instrumental in shaping the sequel. "We wanted to take some of the learnings that we had from making those games and apply them to the sequel," said Rowley. Additionally, significant technological advancements allowed Remedy to overhaul their rendering tech and create a new entity component system, which adds depth and complexity to the sequel's gameplay.

Lessons Learned and Innovations Applied

Drawing from their past titles, Remedy Entertainment has found inspiration and valuable lessons to apply to Alan Wake 2, including a progression from their earlier linear experiences to a more open approach to world building, as seen in Control. "When we were doing Control, we definitely wanted to give more agency to the player in terms of how they explore the game world, how they interact with the game world, and how they interact with the story," Rowley stated. This shift toward more player agency in Control resonated well with their audience, and the team sought to integrate this element into the structure of Alan Wake 2. 

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With that said, it’s not as simple as just dropping cool features from one game into another. “It was a lot easier for us to take things that we know we've done well in previous games and then expand on them in Alan Wake 2, even if the genre is not necessarily the same,” said Rowley. “And it's not like we go, ‘Oh, you know what, this thing, it controls really, really well. Let's just put it in there.’ It obviously still has to work in the context of the game we're making.”

The development of Alan Wake 2 was a complex and, at times, challenging endeavor that builds upon the strengths of the original while incorporating innovative concepts from Remedy's most recent titles. The team's commitment to learning and adapting to the evolving gaming landscape looks to have delivered a thrilling experience for fans and newcomers alike.

Grab your flashlight and get ready to explore the mysteries of Bright Falls in Alan Wake 2, available now for Xbox Series X|S. Get Alan Wake 2 today in the Xbox Store!