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Alan Wake Remastered Interview with d3t and Remedy Entertainment

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Alan Wake Remastered brings the magic of Alan Wake back in a gorgeous-looking AAA title for this generation. Much like other smash-hit personality-based action titles by Remedy Entertainment, such as Max Payne (of the old), Quantum Break, and Control; Alan Wake is as much a literary experience as it is a challenging action game. You play as title character Alan Wake, a writer struggling with writer's block, out on holiday in the Pacific Northwest with his wife. Following her mysterious disappearance, Wake finds events from his unfinished novel coming to life, including its many horrors.

When it came out in Spring 2012, Alan Wake—then exclusive to the Xbox 360 and Windows PC—was already considered path-breaking in terms of its visual splendour, however, it was limited to the technology of the time, and more importantly, to just a couple of platforms. Remedy Entertainment decided to wipe the dust off the title, and remaster it for the current generation. Developing this is game studio d3t, while Epic Games is the publisher, who very kindly gave us a chance to interact with Andy Booth, Studio Technical Director, d3t, and Thomas Puha, Communications Director of Remedy Entertainment, on the technical aspects of the remaster. Boy did we learn a lot.



TechPowerUp: Why Alan Wake? What was the thought behind remastering this title for today? Do you feel the title was under-appreciated when it came out? It was visually pretty cutting-edge for 2012 already?

Thomas Puha (Remedy): There were a few reasons, but thank you for saying that the game was already visually quite cutting-edge back in 2012! We agree and that was partly why it was challenging to create the Remaster, because the old graphics on PC hold up pretty well to this day. This is because the art direction, the quality of the art and the rendering tech was so good.

However, Alan Wake was only available for Xbox 360 and PC. The game has, naturally, aged in many ways, so once we got the publishing rights from Microsoft in 2019, we started working on the remaster. We wanted to bring the game to a bigger audience and especially to PlayStation where Alan Wake was not available before.

I don't think we've ever felt that Alan Wake was under-appreciated, on the contrary. The amount of people who tell us they love Alan Wake, how it resonated with them, never ceases to amaze me. It's the fandom of the game that has kept the franchise alive and that's partly why we are making the Remaster happen.

Did we hope the original game would have sold better on the Xbox 360 back in 2010? Sure, but the game's done well over the years, people remember it, like it…so it's all good!

TechPowerUp: Is the remaster based on the Northlight engine?

Thomas Puha (Remedy): The Remaster is not based on the current Northlight engine that Control uses.

Alan Wake Remastered is running on its original engine, which was created by Remedy—it just wasn't called Northlight back in 2010. Now with d3t, that original "Alan Wake" engine has been reworked to take advantage of modern technology. So, a huge number of things were rewritten—from rendering systems to foliage. It was somewhere around 14-16 months of work to create Alan Wake Remastered.

There is some irony in how much work it takes to try to make the game look like it did originally, to stray true to the vision, yet almost all the systems are completely redone.

TechPowerUp: Could you briefly walk us through the visual enhancements that make up the remaster? The announcement press-release talks about improved cinematics. Are the videos simply upscale remastered or re-rendered from the original's motion-capture data?

Andy Booth (d3t): From a tech point of view, we've added a lot of new features, but some of the biggest ones include:
  • New motion blur
  • Blend-shape animation system
  • HBAO+ (replacing the legacy SSAO)
  • New volumetric lighting system
  • New tone-map
  • Subsurface-scattering skin shader
  • Anisotropic hair shader
  • Material improvements across the board
  • Temporal Anti-Aliasing and upscaling
  • Improved wind simulation
  • Improved shadow quality
  • Improved tessellation and draw distances
  • DLSS (NVIDIA PC)
  • Haptics and Activities (PS5)
  • Controls, camera and accessibility improvements
The cinematics are re-rendered. The original cinematics were 720p - upscaling would have been possible, but in moving all the way to 4k, the final results wouldn't have been acceptable. Not only that, but we planned to improve character models in the game, and this would have created a disconnect between in-game and cinematics.

The animation in the cinematics has also been improved. The biggest issue with the original cinematics is the facial animation. The original game used a traditional skeletal animation system for all facial animation. Nowadays, a preferred option is often to use blend-shape animation so the decision was made early in the project that this is the approach we should take.

To achieve this, we had to first rebuild all the characters for blend-shapes. Some of the more important characters such as Alan Wake have over 600 individual blend shapes which really helps to add more detail and nuance to the characters. All of the content in the game was then performance captured by actors, and mapped to these blend-shape facial animation rigs. We have also touched up the body animation in various places, improving fidelity and adding nuance.

TechPowerUp: The release mentions facelifted character models. Could you elaborate? Is this a geometry enhancement? Any cloth physics or hair effects added? Improved ragdoll FX?

Andy Booth (d3t): The character geometry has been completely reworked, with a roughly 5x increase in polygons. In addition, all the textures have been remade at a much higher resolution.

We've also added wrinkle maps to simulate the wrinkling of skin as it moves during animation. Finally, the character materials have been completely re-engineered. We've added a sub-surface scattering skin shader which simulates the translucency of skin, and an anisotropic hair shader which accurately models the reflectivity of hair. All these things combined help make the character look more realistic and ensure they light correctly within a variety of situations.

TechPowerUp: The release also mentions support for newer display formats such as 4K@60. Any word on ultrawide (21:9) formats, given that Alan Wake is an immersive, ambient horror title that would look incredible on a curved ultrawide?

Thomas Puha (Remedy): The PC version supports 21:9.

Alan Wake is possibly the juiciest subject for a remaster with real-time ray tracing effects, given that the scenes are mostly in the dark, with scope for ray-traced shadows, reflections, GI, and AO. It's also the perfect title to implement variable-rate shading. Is any of this part of the remaster? If not, why not?

Andy Booth (d3t): Early in the project we evaluated ray tracing for inclusion within the remaster, but ultimately, we decided it was better to spend the time available on all the other new rendering features that would be visible to all players.

Adding ray tracing to this engine would not have been a trivial piece of work - remember that we're still using what is fundamentally a 10+ year old engine so adding new technology carries a range of additional challenges that wouldn't be encountered if you were adding ray tracing to a brand-new engine.

Performance was another concern. Alan Wake was a beautiful game at the time it was released, but that came at a cost. The original Alan Wake shipped on Xbox 360 at 540p - lower than a lot of other games released around that time. The truth is that an average Alan Wake scene contains a lot of layers and a lot of full-screen effects. These don't scale so well with resolution, so rendering costs get high very quickly.

Because we wanted to maintain the original artistic vision and look of the game, we weren't ever planning to fundamentally change the renderer, so we knew that we'd carry these costs in the remaster. Our projections showed that adding ray tracing on top of these costs would become quickly impractical for most gamers' hardware.

Thomas Puha (Remedy): On top of what Andy said regarding the technical challenges, there is always a limited amount of time, money and resources.

Our main goal was to ship Alan Wake Remastered on previous and current-gen platforms, make sure the game is as optimized as possible within our constraints on all these systems…building ray tracing capabilities would have compromised this.

TechPowerUp: Any other performance enhancements such as NVIDIA DLSS or AMD FidelityFX Super-Res?

Thomas Puha (Remedy): We are currently supporting NVIDIA DLSS which is generating noticeable performance improvements. We do not currently support anything similar on AMD GPUs.

Any VR mode included or planned? This game would look awesome in VR.
Thomas Puha (Remedy): No.

Are the game's default controls the same, or mapped similar to "Control"? Any cosmetic touch-ups to the menu UI and HUD?
Thomas Puha (Remedy): Same controls and the UI layout is the same, but refined to take advantage of higher resolutions and we tweaked it a little here and there to make it look more fresh.

[Interview Concludes]

That was a great chat, and we thank Remedy Entertainment and d3t for the technical rundown. It reveals the tough technical choices studios have to make, to remaster their titles for the day, particularly resisting the urge to use tick-box features such as ray tracing, or at least sincerely evaluating the cost against what they'd like to accomplish within a reasonable time and budget.


If you like what you see, get Alan Wake Remastered on the Epic Games Store.

View at TechPowerUp Main Site
 
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Wake me when it's on Steam.
 
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Wake me when it's on Steam.

this would not have been possible without Epic's funding it. so I am thankful for Epic as I always wanted to play this game and I finally will get around to it now. I hope previous steam owners do get a discount if it ever comes to steam though
 
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i saw the gameplay, the difference is not that much difference...
will not purchase
 
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Wake me when it's on Steam.
Screw that. Wake me when it's on GOG.
this would not have been possible without Epic's funding it. so I am thankful for Epic as I always wanted to play this game and I finally will get around to it now. I hope previous steam owners do get a discount if it ever comes to steam though
While that's cool, the original's are on GOG and that's where I spend my gaming money..
 
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Uh d3t they made the mafia 2 remaster :fear:
 
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I've been playing it, if you already own it on Steam/GoG save your money.

Its only the guys on Playstation, and maybe Xbox who should look into this IMO.
 
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I am dissappointed this wont have RT, especially coming from the team responsabele for Control, the parade horse of Nvidia RTX.
I know RT isnt the end all be all but if any title would make good use of it, I think that would be alan wake with the constant flashlight usage and layers of vegitation.
oh well...


and on this part:
TechPowerUp: Any other performance enhancements such as NVIDIA DLSS or AMD FidelityFX Super-Res?
Thomas Puha (Remedy): We are currently supporting NVIDIA DLSS which is generating noticeable performance improvements. We do not currently support anything similar on AMD GPUs.

I wish you guys went in on that response, "we do not currenlty support anything similair on amd"... ok...what does that mean? are you saying it will come in the future? it might come in the future?
Why would you not have it when its so easy to implement? RT we can get, that requires a LOT of work but FSR specifically does not.....
Honestly right now im thinking Nvidia just paid them off to have DLSS in it and specifically NOT have fsr.
 
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2 problems I see with this remaster,
1. Given that they did very well with Control, it is hard not to draw comparison when it comes to visuals. Which is why people will ask if there will be RT effects
2. EPIC only is an epic fail. I've stopped using my EPIC account, and have no intention of using it again even for a game I may want to try.

this would not have been possible without Epic's funding it. so I am thankful for Epic as I always wanted to play this game and I finally will get around to it now. I hope previous steam owners do get a discount if it ever comes to steam though
The problem with EPIC funding and being an EPIC exclusive is that they will lose sales for sure. So while you have funds to remaster the game, aka, make it look nicer graphically, and likely a guaranteed amount for the exclusivity, they are not going to make as much money.
 
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I'm mad this PoS remake doesn't work on my computer without crashing. I can't play 10 minutes of the game without it crashing or the screen going black. I'll see if I can do something later to REMEDY this problem...
 
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2. EPIC only is an epic fail. I've stopped using my EPIC account, and have no intention of using it again even for a game I may want to try.
To be fair, it's a little better than everything except GOG. Steam has become a crapshow with the forced updates and other such BS. Screw Steam..
 
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An exclusive? Go TPU! :lovetpu:
 
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The game was not that old, and held pretty well on it's own. Meanwhile they could have Remastared Max Payne that now looks like ass. These companies are run by idiots.
 
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It need to be patched asap. I saw a friend playing it and it does weird glitches with black lines and some object turn bright cause of the dlss. Did they even test it before release? It was bad the remaster of Mafia 2 so they had to ruing Alan Wake too.
 
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I tried the game out briefly but quickly refunded it.
This is one of the worst remasters produced right along side the Silent Hill HD collection.
I have an RTX 3090 and even at 4k with DLSS the game drops below 60 fps.
During those drops my GPU usage is less than 40%
This game runs worse than Cyberpunk 2077.
There is also a ton of graphical glitches with constant black rectangles stretching across the screen and flashing green textures on models popping into frame.
There is no way they didn't know this was an issue.
This tells me they decided to release a heavily bugged game to make a quick buck.
In my opinion (besides the improved textures, select objects and ambient occlusion). The remaster looks worse than the original on PC.
The night time in the remaster is way too bright and faded. The original had much darker nights which improved the atmosphere.
This looks like the devs removed a lot of the prebaked elements then added a new lighting system without doing any extra work to see if the new lighting actually works well in individual scenes.
 
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I have the original game, but I don't mind if the visual improvements is worth it (imo). That this 'Remaster' has DLSS (I suspect they took money from nVidia for DLSS, so FSR is out, much like Metro Exodus) has caused me to lose all interest, so I'll be giving this a hard pass.
 
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I have the original game, but I don't mind if the visual improvements is worth it (imo). That this 'Remaster' has DLSS (I suspect they took money from nVidia for DLSS, so FSR is out, much like Metro Exodus) has caused me to lose all interest, so I'll be giving this a hard pass.
You aren't missing much. IMO overall I think the original on PC looks better than the remaster because the devs did a poor job of implementing the new lighting when they carried the game over to a newer engine.
The game is also very buggy and poorly optimized.

And I hope everyone who bought the remaster gets a refund.
Companies only listen to money so if you buy unfinished buggy games you send a message to these companies that it is ok to release trash.
 
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Alan Wake didn't need a remaster, the original still looks great and at no point did the graphics interrupt the immersion.

Also, whilst it was a good game, I felt a little let down because the review scores led me to believe it was something special. I give it a 7/10 - worth playing but the gameplay was pretty repetitive and simple; the story is what (barely) managed to hold my attention to completion. Remedy have done better and there are other games in Remedy's stable that deserve the remaster more than Alan Wake.

If you only have a Playstation and have never played Alan Wake, then I guess this makes sense.
 
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If it's a free update for owners of the original, I might try it... seeing how I still haven't found the time to play the thing...
 
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If it's a free update for owners of the original, I might try it... seeing how I still haven't found the time to play the thing.
It's EGS-exclusive, and the original was never sold on EGS, so no.
You would be insane to buy the remaster unless you'd never played it. Assuming they fix the bugs, the remaster is probably the preferred way to experience Alan Wake for the first time.
 
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The game was not that old, and held pretty well on it's own. Meanwhile they could have Remastared Max Payne that now looks like ass. These companies are run by idiots.
Have to agree here, since I played it just last year and with settings cranked to the max, it still looks very decent or in other words not in any desperate need of an overhaul at all, especially when, as you say, they could (and should) have done Max Payne instead.
 
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I bought the original back when it was released and I still haven't gotten to it. Even when I'm interested enough to purchase the game, a 3rd person title usually gets tossed in the "I'll get to it later when I have a chance" pile, only to never see the light of day.

I literally have dozens of these games in my account right now....essentially, haunting me from the past.

If I recall correctly, the graphics in Alan Wake were quite good for the day, stellar even? I'm beginning to wonder if "Remaster" really means cash grab. Not that I'm saying that I believe this title is attempting one...I do not know. Although...a few other titles as of late?

Nothing but...

Best,

Liquid Cool
 
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I'm beginning to wonder if "Remaster" really means cash grab.

So Control introduced Alan Wake into the Control universe, so I can see a reason why they did the remaster.

As for if you'd buy this though.

On PC -> Nope, play the original. It runs better and looks almost as good. Give modders a month and they'll probably rip the assets from the remaster anyway. Also you don't get American Nightmare in the remaster so continuity wise, still probably better to play the original.

On Xbox -> Bit harder as the 360 version in BC has a resolution and filtering bump, but only runs at 30 fps. Still, if 30 fps plays fine for you, I probably wouldn't buy the remaster.

On Playstation -> Only way to play Alan Wake so the remaster is a no brainer I guess.
 
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I think it's weird when they spend all of this time and money remastering such old and meh games, like Alan Wake. Like with the movie industry, it tells me they've mostly given up. Will we see a AAA game worth buying this year? Next year? I'm not going to hold my breath.
 
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