I first heard about Alan Wake way back in 2005 and was initially quite excited about the release of psychological action thriller from Remedy, renowned developers of the successful Max Payne series.
The premise of the game, in which you play an eponymous best-selling suspense author suffering from writer’s block, who escapes to a small town only to experience the mysterious disappearance of his fiancée. Sounds quite intriguing doesn’t it? However the project has been delayed so often that I take their Spring 2010 release date with a pinch of salt.Billed as an intense psychological thriller with a realistic, interactive environment, and set in the town of Bright Falls, the hyper-detailed environments of the Pacific Northwest play an important role; even the change in daylight and weather will profoundly affect the characters and enemies. The game’s advanced rendering engine provides amazingly realistic environments that bring this world to detailed life; from the lush forest of evergreen trees to the quaint small-town buildings and streets. The world of Alan Wake is said to feel alive and real.
The mission-based structure of the game creates an episodic narrative similar to a deeply structured dramatic television series, such as Twin Peaks and X-Files. As the episodes progress, gameplay will evolve to introduce new elements and characters, escalating the level of threat and action in the game.
It has also been described as “the TV show Lost, as written by Stephen King, and filmed by David Lynch,” which sounds pretty bloody exciting to me, but then all of this was ruined by the words “story-driven like a TV series, Alan Wake will be told in episodes with even more episodes available on Xbox Live after its launch this year.”
The main concern for me, is that it’s beginning to sound like I may well only be getting half a game for my money, and the fact it could be technically be a never ending story means a canny way of inflating the price of the game over a period of time very subtly. If that indeed is the plan, it will backfire as gamers are more switched on than that!
Can you imagine getting to the end of a game only to be greeted with “To be continued… for only 1200 MS points”?
Andy recently expressed his concern with DLC hard selling becoming common place in the games industry when playing Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins, when he was prevented from playing a quest when meeting a character unless he purchased the required DLC, and I fear this latest announcement could prove that this will be a trend that will increase. I love the TV show Lost but I wouldn’t want to pay £8 per episode!
For a game that has been in production for nearly five years and still has no actual content, it seems a little crazy (not to mention downright risky) to announce it will be released with Digital Live Content episodes. The other concern is games that have been constantly delayed usually end up being really poor, but on this occasion I truly hope this is not the case.
Given the incredibly long development period the game will need to be hugely successful to turn a significant profit, so the DLC option makes sense as a long-term business plan; I just hope it’s not at the expense of the core game’s quality. Maybe I am overreacting, and the DLC will be handled in a positive way like Rock Star has managed with the GTA series.
Personally I want to play the game as a whole, not piecemeal, but if the DLC is unique, interesting and has been crafted as a labour of love after the game’s success, then I will be happy. I will be less so if the DLC episodes are simply offcuts from the main game that were removed because of tightening deadlines or as part of a cynical exercise in profiteering.
Generally speaking, Gamers will gladly play for extra maps and content in multiplayer games, but seem a little reluctant to pay for single player DLC, so this is another factor that could cause the Developers of Alan Wake a few problems by announcing content before the game is released already to savvy gamers.
Believe it or not, despite the warning signs, I have followed the production of this game for five years and I’m still genuinely excited about Alan Wake and hope it offers something new and exciting and lives up to its vibe of being the Donnie Darko of the gaming world the previews have evoked. The bigger question is: what does everyone else think?