Bump In The Night

Bump In The Night
Fear Beyond Words

Nick Cowen | 30 Mar 2010 12:32
Bump In The Night - RSS 2.0

Alan's mental terrors and doubts are more than a backstory to ground the character in the player's mind. They also provide the jumping-off point for everything that is to follow. While damaged protagonists in horror games are nothing new, Alan Wake seems determined to make the bruised nature of its central character complicit in creeping out the player as often as possible. Lake says the key factor in this is to find a balance between the mundane and the supernatural elements of the game.

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"When you're crafting an experience like this, it's important to have a 'real-world' normal side to things," he says. "It's also important to not plunge the player - and the character - into what is effectively a continuous nightmare. Eventually the player would get numb to this.

"If you keep shifting between the real and the imagined, you can switch effectively between an atmosphere where things feel safe and normal. Then you can suddenly drop the player into a situation where they're fighting for their lives."

Beyond its constantly changing mood, Alan Wake's splintered narrative blurs the line between what is and isn't real. Remedy continually uses the tension between fantasy and reality to wrong-foot the player. In one sequence, Wake needs to make his way from a car-wreck to a gas station on a ridge about a mile or so away. After a series of battles, which take him through the woods and then a lumberyard, Wake finds himself in a shack listening to a radio phone-in show where a caller reports a lost dog. The everyday nature of this affable exchange grates against his skirmishes with the supernatural creatures around him. Weirder still, upon reaching the gas station Wake comes across a static-filled TV set. When he tries to switch it off, he sees himself, pacing around a typewriter in a room back at his vacation cabin, muttering and yelling to himself. Is it all a dream? Or is it possible Wake's writing may be the source of the terrors lurking out in the woods?

"As the game progresses, the player starts to experience these vision-like occurrences of Wake struggling with his writer's block in mysterious circumstances," says Lake. "This goes back to a very basic questions in psychological thrillers: What's real? What's not? Which side of the screen is reality on? Are you seeing glimpses of the truth, or is this all in Wake's imagination?"

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