GDC Europe: Remedy's Myllyrinne Makes Plans For Alan Wake
Remedy's goal is "entertaining the largest possible audience with the best games", and in a GDC Europe keynote, director Matias Myllyrinne eloquently described the studio's development values, with pointed criticisms of "me-too multiplayer" and generic naming for today's games.
Outlining the 45-person studio's background, Myllyrinne admitted that the developer takes a long time on many of its games. The first Max Payne took four years, though its sequel only took 18 months. In addition, Xbox 360 title Alan Wake was signed with Microsoft in 2005, and the game will debut in Spring 2010.
But the Espoo, Finland-based developer said that retaining a culture of quality over quantity is one of the reasons for its long development cycles. This is also important for differentiating from generic "me-too" AAA games, which the Remedy executive condemned.
He particularly referenced "me-too multiplayer" as a major problem with today's games, noting that multiplayer modes of games that are simply a "rehash of Counter-Strike" aren't really worth making. Myllyrinne said of many of these titles: "People are not really going to be playing multiplayer on that game".
Additionally, Myllyrinne said that there's a lot of marketers who seem to believe that "the central idea of marketing is to blend in", particularly with regard to game titling. He cites generic titles such as War, Race, and Star as having "no impact" on the average gamer.
With a title like Race Of War 2: The Wrath Of Cthulhu, how is your game going to stand out on shelves? He also complained about the "tickbox list" method of marketing, listing numbers of vehicles and levels, rather than how the game makes you feel.
So Remedy's credo is, simply, to be "doing a few things, but doing those few things really really well." One way that they do this is with careful staff management. Myllyrinne referenced the necessity of playing to your employees' strengths, often focusing on cross-disciplinary teams working on a common problem. It can be "a bit of a collision... but the sparks spark innovation."
As for IP, Remedy believes in making a strong lead character -- the game's protagonist -- the focus of the entire franchise. It's also important, according to Myllyrinne, to have an active, key lead character that is not a cipher for the player, and avoids niche markets.
One of the litmus tests for Myllyrinne is whether the game can be pitched in 20 seconds to any non-game player without excessive explanation. The developer also eschews games featuring World War II, dragon-based, hardcore sci-fi, and misogynistic games featuring "women in tight leather outfits", believing that they simply aren't broad or inclusive enough to be truly mainstream.
Overall, much of any game's power is "about perception", says the Remedy exec. He referenced times in Max Payne where weapons that felt underpowered simply had their sound effects and model upgraded, without their damage setting changing. But testers were convinced that the game balance had changed, nonetheless.
Remedy believes that having a "deeper story and stronger atmosphere" is key, before introducing a never before seen trailer of the Microsoft Game Studios-published Alan Wake, due out early next year.
The trailer features Remedy writer Sam Lake introducing an extended trailer which explained that protagonist Alan Wake -- a writer himself -- is looking for his lost wife, while discovering missing pages from his manuscript that may or may not be coming true.
With a psychological thriller/horror feel that evokes elements of Silent Hill and shows like The X-Files and Twin Peaks, and some unique light and dark-related effects and gameplay elements, Alan Wake should exemplify Remedy's well-thought out attitude regarding IP creation when it ships next year.