Alan Wake 2 was ‘the right time’ for Remedy to invest in live-action video, says Sam Lake

Image via Remedy/Epic Games.

Spoilers from Alan Wake 2 to follow

One of the many, many reasons that Remedy’s Alan Wake 2 is an artistic triumph of a video game comes in the form of its mixed-media use of full-motion video. While wandering through Bright Falls and the horrifying realm of “The Dark Place,” protagonists Alan Wake and Saga Anderson will witness “echoes” and television screens that feature real actors on sets, blending the world of 3D-created characters and their live-action counterparts without breaking to a cutscene.

Remedy first experimented with in-engine video in 2019’s Control , using it to showcase characters like Doctor Darling, the Threshold Kids, “The Director,” and even Alan Wake himself. Like in Alan Wake 2 these videos appeared either transparently over the gameplay or on TVs and projectors that could be brought into fullscreen. In an interview with Game Developer at the 2024 DICE Awards, creative director (and Alan Wake 2 performer…and character?) Sam Lake explained it was “the right time” to expand on the technology when making Alan Wake 2 .

Lake had just stepped offstage after accepting the award for Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction on behalf of Remedy—and in typical fashion, was quick to praise other developers like Half Mermaid for also breaking ground in full-motion video gameplay. Lake explained that video production for games has always been “close to his heart” and that after its appearance in Control , the studio was able to “scale up” its capabilities and plan bigger setpieces like the rock opera from the level “We Sing.”

Related: How Alan Wake 2’s composer crafted the sound of The Dark Place

“With the Dark Place being this dream reality where you are meant to be kind of off balance…it was very suitable for the setting to finally make it kind of seamless,” he said.

Sam Lake elevated Alan Wake 2’s acting by playing…himself? Lake himself got in on the live-action performances. In Alan Wake 2 , he plays—and bear with me, this always take a minute to explain—a fictional detective in Alan Wake’s books called “Alex Casey” that appears in “echoes” that recreate the events of Wake’s novels. He also plays an actor named Sam Lake who plays Alex Casey in the movie adaptation of the novels during live-action talk show segments. He ALSO appears in a 10-minute film players can watch that’s directed by Thomas Zane, another key character from Alan Wake 2 . And for good measure, he does the motion capture performance for Saga Anderson’s partner Alex Casey (voiced James McCaffrey, the voice actor for Max Payne, a character whose face was initially modeled off of Sam Lake’s visage).

Okay now that that’s out of the way—we asked Lake why live action acting and video production is so near and dear to his heart. “I love working with actors,” he said. “There is something to be said about being on a set, in a costume, working with other actors. Often in motion capture or performance capture, the actor is alone in goofy shorts with no props. There is something more real in a more traditional [film shoot].”

“I love cinema, and being able to use that inside the game experience is important to me.”

Lake’s passion for in-game full-motion video and love for his collaborators is downright contagious. If you watch the Poets of the Fall performance of “The Champion of Light,” at the 2023 Game Awards you can see him beaming with joy as he jumps in on the choreography in front of a crowd of hundreds. It’s a fantastic display of his love for games, cinema, and music, and it gives us high hopes for how Remedy finds new uses for this technology in its future work.

About the Author(s)

Senior Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Bryant Francis is a writer, journalist, and narrative designer based in Boston, MA. He currently writes for Game Developer, a leading B2B publication for the video game industry. His credits include Proxy Studios’ upcoming 4X strategy game Zephon and Amplitude Studio’s 2017 game Endless Space 2.

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