"It's not a lake. It's an ocean."

…but this time it really is Lake, Sam Lake that is (proof). I'm the Creative Director at Remedy Entertainment, the game studio that created Alan Wake and Max Payne. I can't reveal details of our next big thing, Quantum Break, yet, but I'd love to discuss anything related to our previous games, how we make games, our history and anything else crazy you can think of… so you can Ask Me Almost Anything.

Alan Wake Humble Bundle is out now.

Pay what you want and support charities! You can also check out my video announcement to you guys on the Humble Bundle page.

Edit: This was great, guys, thanks a lot for all the great questions. This was fun. Let's do this again!

Comments: 1009 • Responses: 50  • Date: 

bpc908472 karma

Hey Sam,

Could you do the face for us, one more time?

SamLakeRMD576 karma

I'm doing it now.

PessimisticCheer367 karma

Alan Wake was one of the more conceptually intriguing games I've come across, particularly plot-wise. Well done, sir.

As an aspiring writer, I would love to know how you guys go about developing your plot lines. Is there a certain process you follow to decide on what turns the story will take? On a related note, do you guys encounter writer's block, and if so, how do you deal with it? (I'm purposely being a bit vague because I'd rather have you answer the question how you want to, instead of having me lead you in a certain direction).


SamLakeRMD258 karma

For writing, we use the traditional screenwriting process: a pitch, a synopsis, a scene outline, and a screenplay. Lots of drafts of each and obviously lots of back and forth with gameplay and level design. Iteration and feedback loops are absolutely vital.

_TURbo232 karma

Would you ever have your face be a model for a videogame character now, like you did with the first Max Payne?

SamLakeRMD392 karma

Yes! If someone would only let me.

SamLakeRMD202 karma

This was great, guys, thanks a lot for all the great questions. This was fun. Let's do this again!

It's 11 PM here in Finland. Time to go.

McSpain132 karma

Concerning the novel "Sudden Stop" featured in Alan Wake, which is obviously a nod to Max Payne. Is it only a funny Easter Egg or did you feel you need to have some sort of "closure" on your Max Payne Character and used this to give us your version of the End of Max's Story?

SamLakeRMD196 karma

In part having fun, but there is a deeper reason as well. To me all the stories we make are connected and linked in weird ways, part of the same multiverse. It was not so much killing off Payne as establishing Wake, where he is in his career as a writer, wanting to change things. He kills off his popular character, and it leads into a crisis. Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes, but because of the outcry of the fans brought him back later on.

Baburo126 karma

What is the best thing in working at Remedy?

SamLakeRMD298 karma

The people here. Free coffee.

unacomn107 karma

Why is it an ocean, and not a lake?

SamLakeRMD216 karma

It’s bigger than a lake. The lake is just a hole to get to the ocean. It’s boundless, our world is just an island in that ocean.

Milkman0107 karma

Did you consider naming Quantum Break like your previous games? Using main charters name.

SamLakeRMD165 karma

Yes, but there is a very good, logical reason why we didn't.

AboutLastNight5100 karma

If you could make Alan Wake 2, what would you do differently? Was there anything specific that you learned from Alan Wake 1?

SamLakeRMD254 karma

In this line of work, you never stop learning. Each project teaches you a lot. And I hope that each new one is better in some ways than the previous one. For AW2, there would definitely be less dark forests and more gameplay variety.

rerational88 karma

Is there any part of the Max Payne character that could be considered autobiographical? How so?

SamLakeRMD373 karma

Max Payne kind of looks like me, or used to, I hope not so much these days. He thinks a lot, often in metaphors. I think a lot too. I can’t do bullet-time.

nagmine82 karma

Alan Wake was clearly inspired by Twin Peaks, I was wondering what other major inspirations did the game have?

SamLakeRMD173 karma

Stephen King stories obviously. For me, the stories of Brett Easton Ellis, Neil Gaiman, Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves.

Fizzzay60 karma

When is the Mr. Scratch spin off game coming?

SamLakeRMD119 karma

I'm writing this in a meeting room called Mr.Scratch at the Remedy office.

Messofanego58 karma

Does Remedy own the rights to Quantum Break? If so, would that make a PC port possible?

Thanks for restoring my faith in storytelling (specifically in-game) of video games with Alan Wake, a medium that's often maligned for it. That therapist dream interview with Alice on the tape and Alan Wake having a TV on his head was amazing.

Cheers, Moeez

SamLakeRMD55 karma

I will pass the compliments to Mikko Rautalahti, that scene was all him.

Joefosterx58 karma

Just wanted to mention that I loved Alan Wake very much. It is up there with Planescape: Torment as some of the best writing in gaming that exists.

SamLakeRMD87 karma

Thanks. I love Planescape: Torment.

timeiszzz49 karma

Is Remedy always looking for new talent?

vieras49 karma

How did Remedy end up in developing such story-driven games, even though you started with Death Rally back in the day?

Also, how would you shortly describe the current boom in the number of Finnish game developers? Is it something you're worried/excited about?

SamLakeRMD98 karma

I'm afraid I'm partly to blame for the story-driven thing.

The Finnish game industry is going strong and that's a wonderful thing.

Hubinator47 karma

Hey Sam! First, I wanted to thank you for doing this AMA. Alan Wake is my favorite game of all time, and I guess that many fans expected that Alan Wake 2 would be announced at the Xbox One event. Since this is not the case, I was wondering what's the deal with This House Of Dreams. It seemed to be pretty obvious that the blog is related to Alan Wake, but now it isn't? Does this have something to do with Quantum Break - Or better: Does this have anything to do with Alan Wake at all?

SamLakeRMD50 karma

Some things are us just doing things because we love what we do. The House of Dreams was that to me. It was continuing the story of Wake's world, and just having fun with a small side project. I had the time of my life writing it and it was a wonderful change of pace from the big projects. The excitement and attention it got came as a total surprise to me. Thank you for that!

ThePrower44 karma

Should we be expecting any Alan Wake easter eggs in Quantum Break?

SamLakeRMD109 karma

What do you think?

joshuaolake41 karma

My name is Joshua Lake... Would be sweet to be related to someone as awesome as you

SamLakeRMD140 karma


DoctorBat37 karma

What are you currently listening to music-wise and what about any favourite films or TV shows?

SamLakeRMD142 karma

David Bowie's new album. Florence + The Machine. Game of Thrones.

dusn32 karma

How did you get into this kind of business?

SamLakeRMD68 karma

By accident. I always wanted to write. I like to play games. A happy accident.

unbuckledpigeon30 karma

I just wanted to give a big thank you for creating a game that has to be one of the most suspenseful and wonderful games I have played in a long time. The moments of silence in Alan Wake led up to some of the best moments of terror for me and the storyline drew me into the world in a way I haven't experienced since I last picked up the book House of Leaves.

The soundtrack to the game is fantastic also. Was it tough deciding what music to use and what needed to be composed for the game?

SamLakeRMD52 karma

Petri Alanko is a brilliant composer, his soundtrack captures Wake's world perfectly for me.

Obviously, love working with Poets of the Fall guys, they had a lot of fun channeling Old Gods of Asgard.

Music is an important source of inspiration for me. Many of the licensed songs were something that have moved me in the past.

chipsnz28 karma

In all honesty, did you really enjoy the way Rockstar went with Max Payne 3? I found a lot of the writing was a bit try hard.

chipsnz25 karma

Also I hope it happens one day, In a town called Ordinary.

SamLakeRMD45 karma

You and me both.

collins2228 karma

What inspired you to create Captain Baseball Bat Boy and Lords and Ladies?

SamLakeRMD47 karma

For me, games are a great melting pot of ideas and different mediums. We are building worlds, and you can have a lot of different things in these worlds. It's great to hold up a twisted mirror to the story, characters and themes of the game. Just having fun, really, you can just have fun with these smaller things. And it's important to have fun, otherwise it's all work and no play.

LunaVorax27 karma

Nightmares take an important part in Max Payne and Alan Wake. Do you have a peticular fascination with nightmares ?

SamLakeRMD54 karma

I do. It's a wonderful way of getting inside the head of the character. Show rather than tell, and if possible turn it into gameplay.

coolstepdad29 karma

Sam, who came up with "Address Unknown?" First played Max Payne when it came out, i was 12, that scared the hell out of me.

SamLakeRMD55 karma

It still scares me. It was me.

McD41926 karma

What is Quantum Break about storywise and how will it play? if you cant answer said question then what did you have for breakfast?

SamLakeRMD77 karma

Oatmeal. The best way to start the day.

TonyLokes25 karma

Hi, Sam! There was a trailer released during E3 1998 that showed off Max Payne for the first time, and this is now viewable on YouTube. I notice that Vinnie was killed by Max in one graphic novel panel, and there was a gigantic man blocking the entrance to Deep 6 that Max also killed. Who was he, and regarding Vinnie originally being killed, were there any other major changes made to the story or game in general?

SamLakeRMD44 karma

These stories do go through many iterations along the way, for the better. Certain key things form the skeleton of the story and they often remain, but many things shift around along the way. It's a natural part of the process. I'm glad that Vinnie didn't die, otherwise the sequel would have been less fun. I'm glad the gigantic man didn't make it into the story :).

TheDudeWhoKnocks24 karma

Heh I'm one of the loyal ones that bought the game on launch back when it was a 360 exclusive. I remember when it was going to be open world and something that pushed DX10 and quad cores. :V No biggie the final product is amazing. Is Alan Wake as a series free from Microsoft? Do you guys get to call the shots now? I'd hate to hear AW2 being Xbox One exclusive.

SamLakeRMD99 karma

We own the Alan Wake IP.

Zom-B23 karma

Hi Sam.

I honestly just wanted to say thank you.

Thanks for Max Payne, for creating such a compelling character in a world soaked with noir charm. There really was nothing else like it in games at the time and I had a blast playing both titles over and over (plus the modding scene was amazing, remember Kung Fu 3.0 by Kenneth Yeung? All thanks to MAX-FX tools..!).

If I could ask a question, I supposed it would be "What had you interested in Norse mythology and inspired you to write the story of Max Payne's first game around it?"

After playing it I picked up the Prose Edda and got heavily into its short stories, which are of course even more popular now due to Marvel's Thor character.

Thanks again, mate. Seriously. Can't wait to see what you and the team at Remedy have in store for us with Quantum Break.

SamLakeRMD34 karma

Norse mythology: As a kid, I found Lord of the Rings, and that led me to the the Norse mythology and Edda poems. I fell in love with that. Then came along The Sandman, and Neil Gaiman using the old gods in modern settings.

Rahid19 karma

What was your inspiration for noir atmosphere in Max Payne? Any awesome films noirs to recommend?

SamLakeRMD30 karma

Old Film Noir movies, Humphrey Bogart classics, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett stories. But more modern stuff as well, William Gibson stories and movies like Seven and the Usual Suspects.

mrdude81718 karma

How much American television do you watch?

SamLakeRMD45 karma

Too much, way too much.

dhonk15 karma

Would you consider yourself a hard boiled writer on the EDGE?

SamLakeRMD47 karma

Sometimes, for a brief moment. Then the feeling quickly passes when somebody in the meeting wakes me up.

Kristovanoha15 karma

So is this your work? Also when thinking about first Alan Wake is there anything you would change in the story?

SamLakeRMD65 karma

Guilty as charged.

Maybe I'd add a couple of coffee thermoses.

ChrisHernandez13 karma

What exactly does your job of creative director enatail from day to day operations, and from beginning to end of the game.

Who influences your choices from coworkers to others in the industry?

SamLakeRMD30 karma

My background is in writing, for me, the high-level vision, the core gameplay and the story go hand-in-hand. I believe that the tighter you can marry these together, the stronger the experience will be. The story must support the gameplay and vice versa. As a creative director I try to make sure that this is part of the vision in the beginning and stays there all the way to the end.

Creating a AAA game is huge effort. It’s always teamwork. We have an awesomely talented team. Everyone makes a contribution.

More than anything, I desperately try not to be a bottleneck.

KimmoS12 karma

Hey Sam!

Would you ever consider setting a game in Finland and why not?! Come on!

(This is slightly off-topic but I was wearing a t-shirt today with the Remedy logo in the back. Only recently noticed that the logo has a bullet in it, "remedy" indeed.)

SamLakeRMD55 karma

There's a piece of Finland in all of our games. In Alan Wake it was when they get drunk.

skibblewarp12 karma

Have you read this? It's a crossover fanfiction of Alan Wake and... well, uh... My Little Pony. It's ridicilous, and super hilarious because of it.

SamLakeRMD30 karma

No, but now I have to.

hoologan11 karma

Would you rather drive a Viper or Corvette ?

SamLakeRMD111 karma

I'm a proud owner of a Volkswagen Polo.

classyshark11 karma

Hi Sam, what influenced you to set Alan Wake in the Pacific Northwest / Washington state.

SamLakeRMD28 karma

Twin Peaks, obviously. But at the same time, the similarities to the Finnish nature.

boundedwum10 karma

If you weren't working for Remedy, what studio could you see yourself being a part of?

SamLakeRMD35 karma

If you asked my colleague Mikki Rautalahti (an awesome writer), he'd say a dance studio. But the truth is, no studio probably, I'd be writing blogs like This House of Dreams, or novels. That's what I'll do when I retire.

jaypeeps9 karma

I have only played Alan Wake, but something that really struck me was the beautiful atmosphere achieved through the art and storytelling. Were you pretty pleased with how your idea was realized? Did the game accurately represent what you envisioned with the writing?

SamLakeRMD12 karma

The great thing about making game is that you get to work with a lot of talented people. How you imagine it in your head and how it ends up in the screenplay always changes along the way, when other people take that and run with it. Usually the end result is quite different from the picture in your head, and almost always it's better.

kleiner3529 karma

Sam, I just want to say that I am a huge fan of Remedy, but most of all a massive fan of Alan Wake. As a gamer, it's incredibly fun to play something that taps into the classic survival horror genre and didn't treat me like I was stupid. As a writer, it was wonderful to see the creative process and relationship issues that stem from it get so accurately portrayed.

I wanted to ask, which character is the most interesting to write for in AW? Who would you get the most excited to put into a scene, or reveal more of?

SamLakeRMD24 karma

I love all the old geezers in Bright Falls. But I'll say Wake himself. That said, we have a saying at the office, any scene becomes better when you add Barry to it.

mirfaltnixein8 karma

It's always the same with AMAs. Only one hour late and there are already hundreds of comments, ensuring I'll never get an answer :(

I'm gonna give it a shot anyways.

Hey Sam, huge fan here. (Note that I haven't had time to check all the extras from the bundle yet so sorry if that's in there)

I wanted to know, was doing a thriller like AW something you had wanted to do for a while? Was it an idea that came up while you were looking to do a new project after MP2, or did you always feel like you wanted to do something kind of like this? If yes, what was the reason you didn't do it earlier? Did you want for technology to catch up so you could have the visual fidelity you wanted? Because that seems to be something you guys really wanted to push.

That's all, thanks!

SamLakeRMD16 karma

In a small way, some of the themes of Alan Wake lurk in the episodes of Address Unknown in Max Payne.

SamZeee7 karma

Are you friends with Sam Houser?

SamLakeRMD24 karma

Yes, Sam is awesome.

SleepingLesson7 karma

Hey Sam!

When it comes to the future of Alan Wake, do you have any semblance of and idea of what the next step in the Alan Wake story might be? Or is it still a mystery even to you?


SamLakeRMD32 karma

Yes, definitely.

mayrpat5 karma

How did you start with Alan Wake? What idea brought you to it? Did you begin with the character, the story, the Alan Wake universe itself or whatever?

SamLakeRMD26 karma

Wake started from many different things. I wrote a film screenplay called Undertow and that's where the cabin by the lake, the Clicker, the Anderson brothers, Barbara Jagger and a few other things came from. It was a different thing, but I stole these things into Wake from that.

yotsit4 karma

Any chance you'll answer some question about AW plot? For example, the dark presence was created by Thomas Zane?

SamLakeRMD16 karma

The dark presence has always been there. Thomas Zane has not.

Broncoe4 karma

Did you have anything to do with the making of the prequel to Alan Wake? (The series called Bright Falls up on machinima's youtube channel)

SamLakeRMD8 karma

Yes, but it was more of a consultant role. We read through the scripts and gave feedback and made sure it fit into the overall story.

rojiura3 karma

Are there any disadvantages or problems in developing AAA games in Finland, or advantages, even? Anything that you can or cannot do if you were based in say, North America?

SamLakeRMD7 karma

The games industry in Finland is a great community. Lots of support and positive encouragement. It doesn't feel like we are competing with each other, a lot of exchange of knowledge going on.

Disadvantages: the dark months of the winter.

kharmakazy1 karma

I just paid $1 for Alan wake. Is it any good?

SamLakeRMD5 karma

Your money's worth.