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A Really Good Game, But Take Note...

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  • A Really Good Game, But Take Note...

    Sup. First time on this forum.

    I made an account just to make a short review and point out some things that I think need pointing, regardless if everyone and their grandmother already wrote about it. I don't know Remedy's relationship with their forums, so I won't come here expecting developer posts or anything, but if they are active, comments would be cool. I don't even know if it's the right place to post.

    Anyway, here goes:

    Overall, Alan Wake is perhaps one of the best games I have ever played. Stellar narrative, consistent and solid game-play, jaw-dropping special effects and visual techniques, an atmosphere like no other, and especially, an eerie style that will probably be the franchise's trademark for years to come. I also applaud the designers on many of their efforts, such as including an enemy health monitoring system in lens flare effects to minimize HUD.

    It's in my top five favorite games of all time certainly.

    However, with all these great elements that make a great game, there are some nagging little inconsistencies that drive me crazy thinking about them. I'm somewhat of an amateur game designer myself (hey, hire me!), and although I understand it's a process of iteration and evolution of the thought process throughout development, some things I just don't get.

    Maybe there were economic, temporal, or corporate constraints, but nevertheless, I feel like I have to talk about them... they give me a hard time sleeping at night sometimes:


    -Combat: There's too much of it. As simple as that. Alan Wake being mostly a horror game (although marketed an action thriller), has trouble pacing itself at times. I understand that a lot of effort has been put in dynamic enemy spawning (from what I can tell, there may be such a system, but I don't know for sure) and also detailed scripted encounters, but the fact of the matter is that it feels crammed.

    Spawning enemies while the player lurks in the woods for coffee thermoses, for instance, is directly counter to the explorer player mentality and it makes it a disincentive to chase collectibles: Collection should be, in my mind, a time where the player can breathe easy, although this does not mean scripted scares once in a while should be excluded.

    At times, it also feels like scripted enemies are spawned in conjunction with non-scripted encounters, which does not make for foolproof moments. Simply put, it's too much.

    As solid as the combat is though, it's put at the forefront of the game when the player roams the world, instead of the staple story. Emphasizing on combat simply reduces the scary factor and makes the player feel like Rambo when they get used to the jumpiness of the game.

    In this case, less is more: That means encounters AND weapons.

    Flash-bangs are cool, but it's a pain navigating between them and Flares. I'd much rather have throw-able Flares (Tap RB), but still allowing them to be held (Hold RB) and dropped as well (Hold RB and Release). Increasing their power could compensate for the Flash-bangs and they'd still fit their role of area denial.

    Permanent two-handed guns and Flare Guns aren't even much of a necessity either. Making them expendable (pick up, empty ammo, drop) would reinforce a sense of urgency and vulnerability that the game needs. They would basically work like power-ups this way and could occupy the same inventory slot, freeing a slot for a new function.

    Reducing the frequency of combat would also reduce the player's glitch frequency perception.


    -Puzzles: Less combat, more puzzles. Everyone loves a creepy puzzle or a mystery object. I felt there was not enough of this is the original release and it would fill for combat rather well, if not better.

    Combat can also be puzzle-based: Different light weapons for different creatures and limb damage from light maybe?

    I want to see word puzzles (with those lit words that become objects near the end of the game), too.


    -Animation: It could be sharper. Of course Alan's is almost perfect, but all lip-sync could be improved.


    -UI: With a lot of effort put into minimizing UI, I'm curious to know what prevented the crew from killing it entirely:

    *You could have removed the mini-map entirely and just put a glimmer at the edge of the screen and in the direction of the objective. When you point at an objective, why do you need to describe it anyway?
    *You could also display Flares on Alan's belt (a bit difficult with the coat, but whatever) instead of a number to the right of the screen.
    *You could add a sound that changes progressively after discharging a bullet as to indicate it soon requires a reload and remove the bullet counter entirely.
    *Object interaction could be made obvious on the model itself rather than in the UI. For instance, when a player has to tap A, the object could display "Panel A" on a green background with a larger "A" and you could zoom on the generators and use a similar method for the timed mechanic.
    *Etc.


    -Camera angles: Over time we tend to depend on them to show us enemies flanking us. It needs a little work as it sometimes forgets entirely.

    Which is to say it doesn't mean you can't add different camera tricks for other events:

    What I want to see is the camera trick in LoTR: The Fellowship of the Ring (movie) just before they encounter the Ring-Wraiths: The one that seems to change the field of view while un-zooming and moving the camera at the same time. With a shriek from a Ring-Wraith, that's creepy.



    So, these are a few things just off the top of my head. Hope they can help. If I'm in the wrong area, please point me in the right direction or move post.

    Thanks.

    I'll add more if I remember them later

  • #2
    Re: A Really Good Game, But Take Note...

    Welcome to the forums my friend!

    You have some very good points and I agree with most of them.

    But actually most of those point's weren't that bad for me or I didn't noticed them at first. What bothered me was the repetitive gameplay and the day missions that were too short and with nothing to do just walk or drive.

    Also the scenarios were repetitive. I still like the game and I'm hoping for a sequel but I would like more exploration and as you say also puzzles rather than walking in a straight path. Alan Wake is supposed to be a super natural thriller so I hope they add more mystery and puzzle solving.

    About the HUD I think it could be fixed because to be honest the game is way to linear. Why you need a compass telling you where to go if the game is a straight path with no open world? You always go forward and never need to return back. Maybe a map that can be displayed when you pause the game would guide you to the goal but I guess more exploration could be achived in the next game.
    Alan Wake will be missed, Welcome Quantum Break
    Once you realize what a joke everything is, being the Comedian is the only thing that makes sense

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    • #3
      Re: A Really Good Game, But Take Note...

      Originally posted by Danzaiver View Post
      Welcome to the forums my friend!

      You have some very good points and I agree with most of them.

      But actually most of those point's weren't that bad for me or I didn't noticed them at first. What bothered me was the repetitive gameplay and the day missions that were too short and with nothing to do just walk or drive.

      Also the scenarios were repetitive. I still like the game and I'm hoping for a sequel but I would like more exploration and as you say also puzzles rather than walking in a straight path. Alan Wake is supposed to be a super natural thriller so I hope they add more mystery and puzzle solving.

      About the HUD I think it could be fixed because to be honest the game is way to linear. Why you need a compass telling you where to go if the game is a straight path with no open world? You always go forward and never need to return back. Maybe a map that can be displayed when you pause the game would guide you to the goal but I guess more exploration could be achived in the next game.
      Thanks for replying.

      These points weren't very apparent to me either at first, but as the game progressed, they began to flesh themselves out bit by bit. On Nightmare, they became very obvious and the game, having been probably just scaled to difficulty, had many random moments that could be characterized as glitches, especially in combat.

      The scenarios were fine in my mind, but as your signature suggests, supporting Open World might be better. In Assassin's Creed 2 for instance, they kept a linear mission structure and story progression in an Open-World game with success. They simply gave the player a world and added these linear scenarios in it, in a fitting way. This might be the way to go. Just remember to avoid branching stories and "choose in which order you do them" missions.

      I don't think a map would be necessary though. It would be simpler to just make the player familiar with the world so they can navigate in it without needing a map. Starting an area at a high point, for instance. Also, reusing areas with obvious changes (visuals, blocked paths, etc.) would save some development time and allow both the players and the story to be rooted in familiarity. Which might be even creepier in the end.

      That's just me though.

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      • #4
        Re: A Really Good Game, But Take Note...

        Good points.

        Personally I felt that it was only slightly too much combat. My main complaint would be that all the encounters seem to take place in fixed places, which takes away from suspense when replaying. Apart from these darkness areas where they just keep coming until you get out of there, every encounter seems to be scripted.

        I really felt the compass in particular provided way too much comfort. It's much more stressful if you don't know where to go. That way you don't know whether you're exploring or following the path. Having to find your way would add to the sensation of accomplishment. Running away from Taken might cause you to get lost, which would add to the suspense.

        Another major factor that really spoiled the suspense for me is the regenerating health. It would be KILLER if health would only recharge in the light. It would make reaching the light so much more important! If this isn't done in the next sequel at least make it an option! Pretty pretty pretty please with cherries and whipped cream on top!

        More puzzles and mystery would be great.
        "Following a typical nightmare pattern, I was late, desperately trying to reach my destination – a lighthouse – for some urgent reason I couldn’t remember."

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        • #5
          Re: A Really Good Game, But Take Note...

          Originally posted by Nelsh View Post
          Good points.

          Personally I felt that it was only slightly too much combat. My main complaint would be that all the encounters seem to take place in fixed places, which takes away from suspense when replaying. Apart from these darkness areas where they just keep coming until you get out of there, every encounter seems to be scripted.

          I really felt the compass in particular provided way too much comfort. It's much more stressful if you don't know where to go. That way you don't know whether you're exploring or following the path. Having to find your way would add to the sensation of accomplishment. Running away from Taken might cause you to get lost, which would add to the suspense.

          Another major factor that really spoiled the suspense for me is the regenerating health. It would be KILLER if health would only recharge in the light. It would make reaching the light so much more important! If this isn't done in the next sequel at least make it an option! Pretty pretty pretty please with cherries and whipped cream on top!

          More puzzles and mystery would be great.
          This is true.

          I also found that the first time I ran out of ammo in the middle of a cramped fight in the woods, my entire brain went "OH SHI--" and that's the kind of feeling I like in a horror game. It just fit at the perfect time.

          Limiting ammunition could also encourage players running for their lives, giving them more of a thrill and less forced combat. Some enemies are way too fast to confer to the player that stressful experience though, and sometimes you get more frustrated then afraid because instead of a near miss, you take damage and are left open for more.

          If I had to choose one thing only though, I'd pick less combat. It would be necessary to obtain the quintessential horror feel.

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          • #6
            Re: A Really Good Game, But Take Note...

            Less combat would've been good indeed. Like you said, it felt 'crammed' at times.

            The thing that still bothers me most though are some of Alan's in game animations. They sometimes look precisely as in Max Payne 10 years ago. Doors should actually be opened for example.
            Open up the broken cup
            Let goodly sin and sunshine in

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            • #7
              Re: A Really Good Game, But Take Note...

              Some very very valid points there OP, in fact I can't really find a fault with any of them, and I think if they had been implemented a better game would have been delivered, however...

              With Microsoft backing them, Remedy had to make sure there were plenty of things to shoot, lets be honest the 360 is a shooter console, the demographic that use the machine want to shoot things in the head.. a lot.

              I think if it had gone the other way and the game would have gone to the PS3 then maybe they could have experimented more, but we'll never know now.

              I would have loved more puzzles, or exploration of creepy areas/buildings as opposed to another battle with 4 or 5 Taken, as probably a lot of the Remedy staff did as well, and I'm sure after the 5 years it took to develop this had been discussed at length.

              I agree a LOT with resenting being put under pressure when going after collectibles, but if they didn't add enemies there then people would have called it boring, as a developer you can't win, someone will always have a problem with it.

              Glad you loved that it though, as did I, best game I've had the pleasure of playing in a long, long time, hopefully we'll get a sequel and some of these issues get addressed.

              *Edit* By the way Remedy's relationship with this forum is fantastic, at least one of the dev's WILL read your post trust me, they have been awesome at replying to users throughout the entire development process, definitely one of the better developers out there that genuinely and honestly interact with their customers.
              Last edited by GameScares; 07-22-2010, 05:42 PM.
              Shane: Editor-in-Chief - GameScares.com - (now offline)

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              • #8
                Re: A Really Good Game, But Take Note...

                I read your post shortly after I joined the forum, and it instantly made think that pretty interesting discussions could take place here.

                I agree with pretty much everything you said, particularly the bits about navigating between flash-bangs and flares, expendable guns and too much combat reducing the scary factor.

                However, that last part also depends on how you play the game. The first time I played Alan Wake I stopped to inspect everything, I listened to every radio show and I tried to talk to every character. I didn't always follow the path, therefore, I felt like there was more time between fights.

                On the other hand, crowding the woods with enemies can be a good thing, since it really makes those areas feel dangerous as hell... which is probably more important than making the player feel safe so he can go look for collectibles. You may get used to seeing Taken and they might become less scary eventually, but that doesn't change the fact that you'll always see the woods as some dangerous place where you don't wanna spend too much time. I think that's more important than anything else in a game like this.

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                • #9
                  Re: A Really Good Game, But Take Note...

                  The thing that made me want to sometimes punch the wall in frustration was when you dodge too early then have 5 consecutive blades hack you from full health to zero in less than one second. You have to time that one dodge perfectly and it's hard when the camera doesn't show those taken that are either right behind you or standing so close next to you that you could feel their breath in your ear. Maybe add multiple dodging?

                  I know this isn't Tekken or you're not Sam Fisher, but seriously, having to time one dodge perfectly with 4 taken right on you is ridiculous.

                  Another thing about running...why is Alan Wake such a weak douchebag? He runs for like 10 seconds and gets tired... I know he's a writer and all but he looks like a tough guy and if you can survive a car crash, survive blades hacking at you, survive cars being hurled at you by a giant hurricane...surely you can run for more than 10 seconds? I know that if they allowed you too run for too long you would simply run your way through the game but that could be countered easily by adding that carrying a 2 handed weapon slows down your running or have the taken jump you from nowhere.

                  IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO OUTRUN THE TAKEN!!!! GAAAAAAARGHRGGHRJHR

                  /end rant

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                  • #10
                    Re: A Really Good Game, But Take Note...

                    Sorry for teh lateness, guys.

                    Thank you for replying, though.

                    Originally posted by Liberance View Post
                    I read your post shortly after I joined the forum, and it instantly made think that pretty interesting discussions could take place here.

                    I agree with pretty much everything you said, particularly the bits about navigating between flash-bangs and flares, expendable guns and too much combat reducing the scary factor.

                    However, that last part also depends on how you play the game. The first time I played Alan Wake I stopped to inspect everything, I listened to every radio show and I tried to talk to every character. I didn't always follow the path, therefore, I felt like there was more time between fights.

                    On the other hand, crowding the woods with enemies can be a good thing, since it really makes those areas feel dangerous as hell... which is probably more important than making the player feel safe so he can go look for collectibles. You may get used to seeing Taken and they might become less scary eventually, but that doesn't change the fact that you'll always see the woods as some dangerous place where you don't wanna spend too much time. I think that's more important than anything else in a game like this.
                    I agree that the devs intentions was probably to make the woods feel like a dark and forbidden place, but at the same time putting collectibles in it is counter-intuitive.

                    See, people like me don't give a damn about how many times we die if it means we get the collectible/achievement

                    At the end of the day, swarming the player with NPCs if they steer away, while a good psychological way to keep players on the right path, is only a variation of "You have 10 seconds to return to the battlefield!" as you eventually run out of ammunition and can't stay there indefinately. Worse, it's punishing since you might need those precious ressources later on, in the area where the game was actually fine-tuned to utilize them.

                    I really want the woods to be scary though and give the player a reason to leave as quickly as humanly possible, but not punishing them for staying if they can.

                    Maybe we could have eerie sounds coming from all directions, confusing the player in a way. Over time (something around 2 minutes), the sounds would get more and more powerful and grow into a hypnotizing symphony of chaos that assaults the player's ears so much they want to leave. So players don't thwart this withmute, could add some dizzying filter effects too.

                    If you want we could also add enemies in a different way. Like if the player can stand the sounds until the apex, the source appears even as the sound continues: a very tough-to-kill Banshee that moves as fast as the quick "boss" Taken, if not faster, but much more agressive. She'll try to get a hit on the player every couple of seconds, but for very little damage as to encourage the player to run out of her domain. She can also avoid all lethal throwables like Flash-bangs or Flares by sheer speed. If somehow you manage to kill one, two will appear.

                    Could even make a lame "arena" achievement out of it
                    Last edited by Noccifer; 07-22-2010, 11:30 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Re: A Really Good Game, But Take Note...

                      I agree that the devs intentions was probably to make the woods feel like a dark and forbidden place, but at the same time putting collectibles in it is counter-intuitive.
                      I know what you mean, since I did collect all those thermos, pages and stuff myself. And I remember thinking 'god, what's gonna be like to enter those woods on Nightmare mode to look for extra manuscript pages? those shadow psychos will probably kill you in one hit.'

                      However, if you think about it, most collectibles are not in dangerous zones or lost deep in the forest. Even during driving sequences, most thermos and whatnot are a few feet away from the road and are easily visible from the car. It's ironic, though, since in a way this goes against the logic of exploration. In fact, I'd say that the only real problem with collectibles in Alan Wake is that there are WAY too many and they are not that hidden.

                      There's one exception though. Signs. Some of those were certainly not in places where you'd stop to read as if you had nothing better to do right there. That was the last achievement I got, to my surprise.

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                      • #12
                        Re: A Really Good Game, But Take Note...

                        Originally posted by pollypp View Post

                        IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO OUTRUN THE TAKEN!!!! GAAAAAAARGHRGGHRJHR

                        /end rant
                        Just do a flash-and-run. Quickly turn around, let off a brief flash with the torch and keep going - this will give you a second or two for the Taken to recover from the blow.
                        Remedy's currently known projects:
                        Quantum Break - 2016

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                        • #13
                          Re: A Really Good Game, But Take Note...

                          Originally posted by Morry View Post
                          Just do a flash-and-run. Quickly turn around, let off a brief flash with the torch and keep going - this will give you a second or two for the Taken to recover from the blow.
                          That's what I do, but it's more frustrating than thrilling to be honest. I get the concept, but it doesn't necessarily strike me as a positive design choice because they always catch up eventually or flank you because of sheer numbers.

                          I'll have to think about this one though.

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                          • #14
                            Re: A Really Good Game, But Take Note...

                            I've read other people complaining about how fast the Taken are and I just don't understand that point of view.

                            I think running from the Taken is actually more fun than fighting them. I'd even say that there's too much ammo on Normal and Hard modes, always giving you the option to kill all the enemies if you know what you're doing. Running from them should be a more frequent situation, because it just works great.

                            You know you're outnumbered, you know they can easily kill you and you know your only hope is to reach some light. This forces the player to think about the batteries, bullets and flares he has left. Will they be enough to kill all of them? If they are not, will they be enough to slow the Taken down when they start chasing you?

                            You must think about that precisely because you know they will catch you and you can only dodge their attacks so many times until one of them finally kills you. It just makes the game more interesting and I think it's a really good design choice.

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                            • #15
                              Re: A Really Good Game, But Take Note...

                              Originally posted by Liberance View Post
                              I've read other people complaining about how fast the Taken are and I just don't understand that point of view.

                              I think running from the Taken is actually more fun than fighting them. I'd even say that there's too much ammo on Normal and Hard modes, always giving you the option to kill all the enemies if you know what you're doing. Running from them should be a more frequent situation, because it just works great.

                              You know you're outnumbered, you know they can easily kill you and you know your only hope is to reach some light. This forces the player to think about the batteries, bullets and flares he has left. Will they be enough to kill all of them? If they are not, will they be enough to slow the Taken down when they start chasing you?

                              You must think about that precisely because you know they will catch you and you can only dodge their attacks so many times until one of them finally kills you. It just makes the game more interesting and I think it's a really good design choice.
                              I remember in normal the first time I ran out of ammo, running from the Taken was thrilling, so I get that point of view.

                              There's just one thing I can't put my finger on...

                              Could it be that you have less breath on Nightmare? If so, that may be the reason. I always felt like the game was balanced more around normal and maybe that is one little change that comes with difficulty that was overlooked.

                              I'll have to play in Normal again, now that I've finished Nightmare, just to see the difference.

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