Recently, I attended a special preview event for Alan Wake 2 in Los Angeles. While I’m still shaking with excitement from the gameplay, it’s even more of a pleasure to have been able to speak with the game’s director, Kyle Rowley. He was willing to give me some insight into Alan Wake 2, as well as his illustrious career in the video game industry. Check out my discussion with him below, and if you want to know even more about Alan Wake 2, read our written preview via the link here or watch our preview video below!
Gaming Trend: You moved on from Remedy and Quantum Break to CD Projekt Red and Cyberpunk 2077. Then you returned to be Game Director for Alan Wake 2. Are there any lessons you learned in your time at CDPR that have helped you in directing Alan Wake 2?
Kyle Rowley: Oh yes, most definitely! While I had dabbled in more open ended games while working at Frontier Developments on The Outsider (unfortunately this game was canceled) and Kinect Disneyland Adventures, most of my previous work at Remedy had been on more linear experiences – so working on Cyberpunk 2077 was quite eye opening.
The focus on giving the player more choice in how they experience the narrative on those kinds of sprawling RPGs really made me want to try and achieve something similar in Alan Wake 2 and was one of the driving factors for us experimenting with the dual narrative approach we have in the game.
GT: Similarly, is there anything you’ve utilized from your time on Quantum Break to raise the bar with Alan Wake 2?
KR: Quantum Break was the first game I worked on at Remedy, so it does hold a special place in my heart. We did a lot of things right in that game, but there were some elements – which may seem rather small in the grand scheme of things – that I really wanted us to improve on in Alan Wake 2.
First of all, how physical we wanted the characters and weapons to feel. In Quantum Break, we never actually animated any of the weapons due to technology constraints. The animators did a great job in hiding this fact as much as they could with clever cameras and character poses, but for Alan Wake 2 the physicality of the characters and animations was something really important to us. So for Alan Wake 2, we now have fully animated weapons, but on top of that we also – for the first time in a Remedy game – actually have those weapons visible on the character and simulated with their movement. I’m really pleased we got these kinds of details into the game!
Second of all was how we want to utilize Live Action in the game. We learnt a lot about live action production and what we think works well and what doesn’t work so well during Quantum Break and we realised that if we were going to do full live action sequences, they needed to be more integrated into the overall experience. They needed to feel connected to the world and story we were building. That was our goal for using Live Action in Alan Wake 2.
GT: Alan has spent a long time in the Dark Place. How do you think it changes a person, and also, how would it affect you if you were trapped there?
KR: Being trapped in a nightmare version of your past? I imagine it would affect a person quite dramatically, haha! I’m from Worcester, England, so I am trying to imagine what a nightmare version of that would look like. Probably a lot of flooding, made up of Worcestershire Sauce?
Waking up and not remembering anything you have done, who you have talked to, why you are even there. Knowing that someone you love is in danger and you need to escape? Yeah, not a good look for anyone.
GT: Saga already seems like an interesting character. How did you and the team come to the decision of another lead character being necessary, especially Alan is such a strong character? Were you worried about any blowback from fans?
KR: The idea has been there for a while, but we knew early on that we needed a character who had not have experienced what happened in Alan Wake. We needed someone who players that have not played Alan Wake or any of our other games, could relate to. We wanted those players to be able to go on the journey of discovering the events of Alan Wake with Saga. Learning as she learns.
Obviously this is an Alan Wake game so we knew we needed to make sure Alan had a large presence in the game too. It was never in our mind that Alan Wake would not be playable or anything like that, so we were not too worried about fan reactions – we knew we had enough Alan!
GT: How did you get your start in the industry? If someone were looking to get into the video game industry at your position, what advice would you give them?
KR: Phew, that was a long time ago! I actually started working at Lionhead on Black and White 2 in the QA department. I was hired to rewrite badly written bug reports by the dev team, so that developers could properly understand the issues and fix them. It’s been a long journey from there to where I am now.
When I started, the only tools available to me were level modding tools like Source Engine and Unreal level editor so proving you could be a designer was a bit more difficult. Nowadays, people have access to much more sophisticated software and online resources to help them learn.
So, pick a field you are passionate about and start working on your own stuff! Know and understand what goes into making a game and the different disciplines inside those crafts. For example, if you want to be a designer, design and make some simple games in Unreal, Gamemaker or one of the other engines out there. You don’t need to make something you want to sell, just something that shows your skillset as a designer – whether that be in levels, gameplay, narrative etc.
GT: Lastly, are there any stories or fond memories you have from the development time of Alan Wake 2 you can share?
KR: Moments that stick out to me are; when we finally got to announce we were making the game at The Game Awards in 2021 and obviously showing the game for the first time at the Summer Games Fest in 2023. The reception has been amazing and it really gives the team energy to see all the great reactions.
Development on this game has not been easy, what with the pandemic hitting just when we were in pre-production and all the complexity that came with that from a team health and remote working situation. That said, Remedy as a studio and the Alan Wake 2 team did an amazing job in adapting and finding new ways to work, so I couldn’t be prouder of working here with them on this game.
Again, my thanks to Kyle for a great interview! We can’t wait to see all he’s been working on when Alan Wake 2 releases October 27th. You can pre-order it now on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S|X, and PC via the Epic Games Store.
David Burdette is a gamer/writer/content creator from TN and Lead Editor for Gaming Trend. He loves Playstation, Star Wars, Marvel, and many other fandoms. He also plays way too much Call Of Duty. You can chat with him on Twitter @SplitEnd89.