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Alan Wake 2

Night Springs promises a radical shift in tone from Alan Wake 2: "There were no rules or inhibitions"

Ketil sat down with a number of Remedy veterans to talk about the expansion that is out now for Alan Wake 2.

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One of the surprises among the many announcements at the recent Summer Game Fest was a shadow drop of the first expansion for Alan Wake 2. It's called, as we already knew, Night Springs, and is centred around three distinct episodes with three different protagonists, all of whom are alternate versions of familiar characters shaped by Alan Wake's imagination as he tries to escape The Dark Place.

In an online interview with four people from Remedy, we got to see the ultra-violent pastel dream Number One Fan, starring a certain waitress, in action, and realised that Night Springs' vignettes go for a noticeably more extreme look than the main game. We were also lucky enough to ask game director Kyle Rowley, lead writer Clay Murphy, level design co-lead Nathalie Jankie and communications director Thomas Puha questions about the expansion and the wider Remedy universe.

★ Gamereactor: What was the writing process like? Was Night Springs developed at the same time as the main game or afterwards?

Clay Murphy: "It was developed after the main game's release and the writing process was very "loose" and fun, there were no rules or constraints just pure experimentation of trying to find what was entertaining in each episode and pushing the envelope as much as possible."

Kyle Rowley: "We had the Night Springs concept ready before we finished the main game. We've always been attracted to the idea of playing as multiple characters, and in the concept stage of the main game we planned for more playable characters than we ended up having. We have two main characters and then Nightingale at the beginning. There were more in play, but we ended up focusing on the core ones. We decided to come back to it later, and Night Springs as a concept came into the picture, but got parked. And when we finished the game, we took it out again and said: "Let's write something crazy and wacky, people!"

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Clay Murphy: "The writing process is always very collaborative, but with this project in particular we had a lot of people involved."

Nathalie Jankie: "It was very 'yes and...'."

Clay Murphy: "Yeah, we try to have fun and make it bizarre, so not every idea has to come from the writing team."

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Is the looser approach to the material why you chose the vignette format?

Clay Murphy: "Yes! With Night Springs, which is a fictional TV show set in our universe, we can take characters inspired by the 'real' people and have vignettes that are looser in tone than the main game and take either the horror or the comedy in different directions in pretty extreme ways - as you'll soon see for yourself."

Kyle Rowley: "It's also a good palette cleanser for the team after working on a horror game for five years and being stuck with Alan in a Dark Place. We wanted to make something more light and free-flowing, and we had a lot of ideas for the main game that we ended up not using for one reason or another. We took those and used them here, and as Clay alluded to, we ran with them. There was no, "Is this too crazy?". It was more like: "Is it crazy enough?". That was our attitude and it was a nice shift after Alan Wake 2."

Alan Wake 2

★ What cinematic inspirations did you look towards with Night Springs? I know Control was inspired by Beyond the Black Rainbow, for example.

Clay Murphy: "We have cinematic inspirations for each episode that influence the gameplay, story and visuals. It goes from 50s/60s sci-fi to the pastel-coloured, almost Barbie-like look of Number One Fan."

Kyle Rowley: "For this release, it's a lot about finding pop culture references that people recognise and then putting the pedal to the metal and keeping it there."

★ How did you choose the three characters? Did fan reactions come into play?

Kyle Rowley: "Definitely! There's a lot of fan service."

Thomas Puha: "No shit..."

Kyle Rowley: "As Clay mentioned, the three characters are inspired by the real characters of the universe, but they're not them. So we could use our universe characters and put them in situations and environments where they could be exciting."

Clay Murphy: "It's also about nostalgia for us. Yes, it's about what fans want - Rose Marigold is a clear fan favourite - but it's also characters we have nostalgia for."

Nathalie Jankie: "One of the fun things about this expansion was going on Reddit and seeing what people had theories and wants."

Clay Murphy: "It's not like we take what they come up with."

Nathalie Jankie: "No, it's more like we have a plan and then we see what they come up with and it's funny that sometimes it aligns with our plans and sometimes it doesn't."

Clay Murphy: "There' s an enemy type in the Number One Fan episode called The Haters, they hate The Writer, and some of their lines I may have gone online and found among the less positive opinions of Alan Wake 2."

Alan Wake 2

★ The bit we just saw from the expansion reminded me a lot of American Nightmare, which deviated a lot from the main game. Was it an inspiration for Night Springs?

Kyle Rowley: "American Nightmare was tonally very different from the original Alan Wake, and in the same way we're creating a slightly different experience here. And as we just saw, the gameplay [in Number One Fan], although we use the same weapons and items, it's not really survival horror. It's more about shooting your way through hordes of enemies, like this person trying to save the love of his life. So we've changed the tone and the gameplay aligns with the tone. In other episodes, we've taken mechanics from the main game like the Light Shifter and changed the context to align with the episode. So it's about making the gameplay feel recognisable, but with a different style and context."

★ Finland is everywhere in the game, even though it takes place in the US. Was it a conscious decision to make it "more Finnish" than the first Alan Wake?

Thomas Puha: "I don't think we have a meter in the building that shows when we have enough Finland in the game [laughs]. Ultimately, we want to make successful games that appeal on a global level, but if you try to please everyone, it never happens. So we're pretty proud to have all the Finnish in the game, and Sam [Lake, ed] has a lot to do with that too."

Clay Murphy: "Yeah, Sam represents a lot of that effort to bring the Finnish into our game. This may sound strange, but we try to root our game in reality, and especially in the northwestern part of the US there are actual Finnish villages, so a place like Watery is rooted in something real."

Kyle Rowley: "We also travelled on trips to the Northwest like Astoria, which was also an inspiration for the first game."

Alan Wake 2

★ Which chapter from the main game is your personal favourite?

Kyle Rowley: "Mine is the opening. Basically from Nightingale to the first Overlap. Then the first two chapters. Mainly because we go against the things players often ask for, like combat, and slowly build up the atmosphere and the feeling of being an FBI agent. I was nervous about how players would react to that, but I think we managed to create an engaging opening, even though it takes a few hours before you really get into combat."

Clay Murphy: " Mine is the opposite. I love it all, but as a writer, the final chapters like Alan and Saga make the biggest impression. Saga's Dark Mind Palace section in particular gave us the opportunity to explore her character and deliver great payoffs for her character."

Nathalie Jankie: "I'm going to be really annoying and say I can't choose."

Clay Murphy: "Pick something in the middle."

Nathalie Jankie: "Valhalla Nursing Home because we have really great character moments, I love the horror possibilities we have in that chapter, and a lot of the Alan Wake 1 references are there. I also loved Saga's Dark Mind Palace section... "

Kyle Rowley: "Yeah, I really like Valhalla Nursing Home, but because it was the first thing we started and the last thing we finished, I'm really done with it."

Nathalie Jankie: "... And of course We Sing."

Kyle Rowley: "I think we were all trying to avoid saying that because it's become the obvious answer."

Thomas Puha: " I was going to say Saga's Watery section. Everything comes together here. There's a good amount of exploration, Koskelas is there, the action intensifies up to Coffee World. As a mission, it has what's good. It's a shame we didn't get room for one more mission in that area."

Night Springs is out now.

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