Alan Wake EP6: The Taken Are Filled With Bullets!

By Shamus
on May 2, 2012
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

It’s going to be really embarrassing if Rutskarn, Chris and I are the only ones who ran out of ammo here. But let’s talk about this: The game is entirely gunfight focused. If you lose the ability to shoot, you lose the means to progress through the game.

In most games I’d suggest some sort of Valve-style adaptive bullet supply where the game will give you more if you have less and vice-versa. (In Half-Life 2, health kits heal more if you have less health.) But I can see why you wouldn’t want that in some quasi-spooky game. But any game where ammo scarcity is an issue (survival or not) needs to have some kind of fallback system. Like I said, these mooks overshadowed the bosses in this part of the game, simply because I didn’t have the resources to proceed.

A running system might be dangerous to add. Given the overabundance of combat, it might feel like the game was encouraging you to run away from all fights, no matter how many bullets you had.

Adding melee weapons would have required adding new game mechanics. You’d need to make allowances in the AI so they didn’t just swarm you. (Their current brainless frontal charge AI makes melee completely impractical.) But having enemies stand around and take turns Assassin’s Creed style would really kill what little spookyness they have. I mean, you’re already just fighting guys in ballcaps. The darkness particle effect is all that separates these fights from a bar brawl. Having these guys line up and wait for their turn to axe you a question would cross the line from “not very scary” to “absurd farce”.

To sum up:

  1. Most games solve this by having foes drop bullets. I’m sure we can all see why that solution wouldn’t make any sense here.
  2. Melee would add to the expense of making the game, and would undercut the foes by letting you see the taken up close and forcing them to fight all sportsmen-like.
  3. Making bullets plentiful would remove the need to manage your resources.
  4. A running mechanic would encourage you to skip most of the game.
  5. Having players run out of ammo and get stuck on simple mooks, then blast their way through bosses will invert the intended tension levels and lead to frustration. (Which is what the three of us experienced.) Mixing ammo scarcity with checkpoint-based saves is a volatile combination that can result in the player losing hours of progress, which is often a game-killer. Playing the same sequence again and again destroys the tension, pacing, and flow of the game. Unless the player is in it for pure challenge, “stuck” is a failure state for both the player and the game.
  6. Adaptive supply might help reduce the chances of encountering an impossible situation, but it wouldn’t completely prevent it. And adaptive supply would nudge the game away from “survival” and more towards “shooter”.

I suppose I might suggest having minimum ammo counts at checkpoints. If you die, it restores you to the most recent checkpoint with whatever the intended ammo count is. That way complete ammo depletion results in replaying a section instead of a chapter.

This is a tough problem. I’m not saying you can’t solve it, but I can see how we ended up with what we have.

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From the Archives:

  1. Joush says:

    I’m surprised you managed to run out of ammo. It’s not really generous, but the supply of bullets isn’t too limited. The game takes away your gun or resets the supply of lead relatively often to avoid the problem.

    If low on supplies you can always scavanage around a bit, and in a pinch the rest of your inventory can also hold off or kill taken. Flares, flashbangs, flaregun ammo, ect.

    • Warrax says:

      Probably wouldn’t run out of ammo so quickly if Alan Wake got training from “Front Sight Firearms Training Institute,” which is the ad that I am seeing in the sidebar for this post. Maybe it’s just me, but I figured I’d mention it just because I found it hilarious, gogo google adsense;)

      edit: then it switches to an ad to help you get a concealed weapons permit, even better. Is part of this because I’m in Arizona? I’ve heard we love guns here, idk.

    • Eric says:

      Funny, I never once ran out of ammo the entire game. Maybe I’m just a better shot or maybe I searched more. I did run out for a few specific weapons once in a while, but never entirely. Once you get the Shotgun/Hunting Rifle/etc., you can swap between them to manage your ammo count pretty effectively.

  2. scowdich says:

    I never really ran out of ammo during the course of the game, except with the higher-powered weapons (and those only rarely), with which I could always fall back to the revolver and its 42 cartridges.
    An interesting thing to note is that the shooting mechanic in the game is not all that challenging – the flashlight acts as a crosshair (though it would be far more frustrating if it didn’t), so if you’re playing the game as intended and approaching things calmly, it’s very hard to miss.
    That was just my experience, though; your mileage may vary.

    • Even says:

      That’s mostly because the bullets magically always zero on the flashlight beam. Once I figured how many shots each enemy type takes, the resource managment became simple mathematics. Making those shots count, it really is kinda hard to run out of ammo.. unless you happen to miss vital supplies like they did. Shotgun is about the only weapon you need to use some tactics with due to the massive long range spread.

      • Vic 2.0 says:

        I’m very glad they used the flashlight’s beam as the reticle. It really is a clever way to aim without subtracting from the realism (outside of first person shooters, crosshairs really don’t make much sense). They should’ve also gotten rid of the entire HUD. Don’t need it. Ever. Checking your ammo should’ve required the pressing of a button, after which a subtitle pops up briefly to tell you how much ammo you got.

  3. Dasick says:

    Huh. This seems to be one of those issues that are inherent to the game design.

    As far as I see, running away from the monsters would actually increase the tension the player expereinces, so that would be my first choice if I was to mess around with the game. You already have the dodge function, and the game’s level design does seem to have a lot of “open-world” feel already in it.

    EDIT: So far it seems like you guys are in for one heck of an embarrassment…

  4. Eärlindor says:

    Haven’t watched the episode yet, so maybe this was mentioned, but I would just cut the number of enemies you have to fight waaay back.

    • Gamer says:

      ^This. The later level become much more of a TPS anyway because of the vast amount of mooks the player is expected to mercilessly gun down. These parts look downright boring to play through, neither scary nor particularly thrilling.

      Having an escape mechanic and/or only a few enemies in any given area that are tougher, but do not always attack and play mind-games with the player, would reduce the monotony and add to the tension, making these areas more fun to play (or at least look it).

      • Vic 2.0 says:

        The ‘later level’, as in the last level? That was very thrilling! And intense. Every time it seems you actually have to fight, you’re given an onslaught of enemies you’re not even sure you can survive through, and then the very last stretch is just a matter of running for safety… the very thing you guys said would increase the fear factor.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I agree.That fight in the beginning of this episode seems interesting.That fight later with a bunch of axe wielding mooks seems just boring.If they would simply remove all the second type and gave you just a few of the first,it would be much better.

    • Deadfast says:

      In preparation for this season of Spoiler Warning I watched the subtitled Let’s play and I have to agree. I found the combat parts tedious and ended up just skipping through them. I know, the obvious argument is that I would feel different if I actually played it myself, but I’m not so sure. The combat seems to be your bog standard third person shooter with a weird-positioned camera and a twist (flashlight) that gets old within the first hour.
      What I did enjoy, however, were the parts where you are alone, deep within the foggy forest. The atmosphere is thick, by large part thanks to the how beautifully the surroundings are rendered. It isn’t necessarily scary, but I certainly felt tense. And then the game ruins it by throwing a seemingly neverending supply of lost tourists and forest workers at you. Shame.

      • Klay F. says:

        Yeah the combat gets old pretty fast, with one caveat: The Children of the Elder God bit. That (for me) was the one section where the game’s combat really came alive, of course that bit came because the developers abandoned even the pretense of tension, and became completely ridiculous.

        • scowdich says:

          “They didn’t…no, they wouldn’t…oh hell yes they did. This is stupid and amazing.”

        • Vic 2.0 says:

          The whole game was riddled with tense predicaments, the battle at the Anderson farm included. You’re either on guard when you know the Taken are coming or caught off guard when you don’t, you know you have to be watching their every move when they surround you while fighting, and then you can only feel relieved momentarily when the fight’s over.

          Your comment’s just odd; while it’s fun to look back at, I’m usually dreading the battle here on every playthrough.

  5. Phil says:

    I ran out of ammo at about this part. I managed to run and dodge to the next safe haven. Almost just quit the game before that though.

    • Timelady says:

      Me too! I finally figured out that if you don’t kill all of that first group of three, no one else spawns on the way to the safe haven. So I (somehow ended up with exactly the right amount of ammo to) kill the guy coming out of the tree and one of the other two, then letting the last guy chase me to the light, turn around, shoot him, and start up the generator. Honestly, probably about the most complex strategizing of the game.

  6. Gamer says:

    “This is a tough problem. I’m not saying it you can’t solve it, but I can see how we ended up with what we have.”
    Typo.

    I’m going to be honest, I found the quotes from the Taken to be hilarious as well. Especially Rusty’s “bears and wolves” quote.

  7. AlternatePFG says:

    I don’t want to be that guy, but when the game came out for PC, I played through it on Nightmare mode without a HUD (There’s a launch command that lets you unlock Nightmare off the bat) and found that dodging the Taken and just legging it to the next Safe Haven was totally a legitimate strategy. A lot of it was blind dodging, but the game is actually pretty forgiving with dodging as I’ve found. Once you get to a Safe Haven, you can just plan your next sprint if you still don’t have enough ammo.

    To be fair, I had played the game once before when I rented it, but that was about a year back and I had forgotten everything about the game.

    • Eric says:

      I agree, running was a completely legitimate game mechanic. There are a lot of places in the game where you’ll see a safe haven just ahead, either one that is active or requires you activate something (like a generator), and booking it straight to the safe haven is much more efficient than fighting. The enemies will all disappear when you enter and often go away permanently.

      I think the Taken were made slightly faster than Alan because, while running is a viable strategy in several parts of the game (not all), it could also render some parts of the game much too easy. Unless you’re interested in exploring or grabbing achievements, there is zero reason to ever stray from the critical path and thus you can often bypass combat entirely (as much of it only occurs if you linger in an area too long). If the player could just run from every single fight without trouble, then that’d be a serious problem.

      I like the compromise they reached. Running for a safe haven feels legitimate, but it isn’t always going to save you, and chances are you will be caught or at least will have to do some crowd control on the way. Short of creating some sort of stupid quick time event or mini-game to dodge enemies and escape to safety, I think Remedy did about as good a job as they could have.

      That said, I do think Alan Wake was ultimately hurt a bit by being just a little too much of a straightforward shooter. If ammo was just a little tighter, I think running would have been a much more obvious choice for players. You really wouldn’t have to tweak the level designs or mechanics, just make resources more limited. It’s that creeping tension that makes a horror game, and without strict resource management, much of that tension is lost. Remedy wanted to have both their trademark third-person intensity as well as their horror game, and I don’t think the two can be easily reconciled. It’s telling that the newest Resident Evil games have gone either all-out shooter or all-out survival horror lately, because I think Capcom arrived at the same conclusion.

      • Jingleman says:

        I think the compromise was close, but I would have liked it if they had detached the “dodge” function from the “sprint” function. Sprint too far and Alan gets exhausted, slows down, and can no longer dodge. At least, that’s how it is on the Xbox 360.

        It’s punishing to be overtaken and mobbed, unable to avoid attacks, just because you misjudge the sprint distance to a safe haven. I might have preferred speeding up enemies a little to compensate if it meant that I wasn’t sprinting myself into certain death.

  8. Amnestic says:

    Could always make the flashlight do minor burn damage to the taken even after they’ve had their shields shattered – as stated, it already staggers them – maybe add a small amount of actual damage to it?

    It’s not really reliable as a fallback though since that runs the risk of simply making players hoard bullets while using their flashlight to burn them down instead. It’d have to be awkward enough to be a last resort and not an attractive option when put up against shooting with the gun. Perhaps include some sort of limitation so they only take health damage when using the Focus which drains your batteries fast? I actually forget if your last battery (should you ever run low) can run out completely or if it’s like Jensen’s where his last battery will always recharge.

    On a sidenote, another problem with the Rusty encounter’s scariness is that Stucky was doing something very similar in the lumberyard, I think his topic was hotdogs? It can be creepy the first time, but that creep factor is gonna be diminished no matter what the second time you see it.

  9. Thomas says:

    I’m really liking this game at the moment. As to the tone I can’t pin it down, the thing is it’s not they needed to put more work in to make it scary, they just needed to do less and it’s hard to see it as a design mistake either. I can’t see anyone sitting down and thinking ‘okay it would be really scary if we give all the enemies a cool slow-mo entrance instead of just having them appear’ or ‘how about we pay someone to narrate events in the game without ever expressing shock or fright’

    My theories are either maybe this is the result of it being a fractured game, design goals changed it, or the lead-dev was a poor communicator and didn’t manage to get everyone on the same page, or finally it was a horror game made for/by people like me who don’t really like horror. I’d play this game now and it feels at my kinda level with the tension I can make.

    I think Chris is right, except maybe not campy because I don’t think it’s campy. To me this is to horror what Max Payne was to Noire/Crime/Thrillers, it’s a very similar style and design and it sits at about the right sort of level. It’s not serious, a bit over the top, you have these funny TV shows but at the same time you’re not meant to be laughing at it but enjoying. I mean the themes of Max Payne were several steps lighter than what Noire is meant to be in some ways.

    Also I know we’ve gone over this but I still can’t get over the visual design of that minigame. It’s the most abrasive thing ever, it’s like you stuck a little man in the moon drawing oggling the Mona Lisa above her shoulder. Everything in the game has got quite a nice asthetic (apart from that weird round/highlighty feeling I mentioned before) at least on paper it all fits, all the icons, all the menus, the interface everything in the environment has the same style, the same colour themes and then they’ve got this obnoxious Windows 8 loading screen icon?

    • Eric says:

      I’d say those problems simply stem from the reality of making a big-budget triple-A game for the dumb, drooling masses as well as an artsy horror title that deconstructs the genre. The obviously forced and cobbled-together tutorial sequence, the slo-mo highlighting of new enemies, the abundance of ammunition, etc. are all there to make the game more accessible.

      My guess? Playtesting showed their target demographic was full of action junkies who got frustrated by significant challenge and needed to have their hands held, or the publisher demanded the game play more like a traditional shooter… probably a combination of both.

      • Thomas says:

        I’m going to say no to calling large amounts of people who aren’t me inferior.

        The publisher theory might work I guess but it’s such core stuff it’s hard to believe they managed to tack the majority of the game at a publishers request, because the combat seems fundamentally pretty unscary generic, I could see them demanding more enemies though I guess, but since there hasn’t really been any sign of them trying to have alone tensiony bits it’s hard to see what they would be doing with those long featureless bits of levels if they didn’t put enemies in them.

        What’s more there really is almost nothing anywhere completely horrory and it’d only explain the shooting, not the narration etc. I don’t really think they’re being artsy either because as people (me :D ) have said, it’s fairly similiar to the Payne’s and I don’t know that those were artsy games in any description.

        There might be something in them trying to deliberately tone it down but I guess that kinda what I meant when I said it was made for people who don’t really like horror.

    • Soylent Dave says:

      I really don’t think it’s accidental that the game isn’t particularly scary.

      They’re not going for scary – all the references, all the nods, all the winks – they’re from Thrillers, not Horrors.

      They occasionally want you to feel unsettled, or to go “ooh, that’s a bit eerie” (and a lot of the time they want you to think “this is just like the Twilight Zone / Twin Peaks!”)

      It’s probably a few parts homage and a few parts “we desperately wanted to write Twin Peaks but we can’t so we wrote this instead”

  10. Naota says:

    Though I never actually got stuck, I very nearly ran out of ammo in a crucial place several times during the game. While a limited resource system like this could always potentially fail, what makes it such a crapshoot (pun fully intended) in Alan Wake are the enormous wilderness areas devoid of designer-driven enemy placement.

    As far as I can tell, in many places the developers simply dragged a 3D volume over half a mile of woods to designate it as “scary”. Taken literally spawn in groups of exactly three out of thin air 20 feet away in an infinite loop so long as you’re in the area. There are endless numbers of them and only so many bullets to go around, yet the game expects you to explore and frequently rewards you for going off the beaten track.

    It would be so much easier to design around a system of limited bullets if the things you had to shoot with them weren’t so frequently unlimited.

    Short of simple laziness or time constraints I honestly do not understand why the developers did this. It made the combat feel cheap and artificial since there was absolutely no hope of approaching it intelligently and no risk of worsening the odds by making bad decisions. It also completely removed any chance for something unexpected to happen – the very essence of both horror and suspense. You enter an area, the lighting gets spooky, the music kicks in, you get attacked by the same three Taken in predictable intervals over and over until you leave the area. Maximum predictability, zero suspense.

    You can even break the system completely by leaving one of your attackers alive and kiting him MMO-style across the entire zone with the flashlight stun. So long as that lone Taken survives, no other groups will spawn. The mechanics are that simplistic.

    I see no problems with simply putting wandering Taken into the wilderness between Alan and his destination. At the very least, designated spawn zones would have made the combat feel less engineered and video-game-y. Remedy’s decision to make a JRPG-style random encounter zone minus the random has always baffled me.

  11. Destrustor says:

    Taken Josh:
    STop illUMINATing ME!!!!

    Taken Mumbles:
    ca-CANNIbalism! CAnNibalISM!!!

  12. Fenix says:

    Give revolver infinite ammo, make it take 4 shots instead of 3 to down a foe, make it take about 1/2 second longer to reload fully, make flashlight take twice as long to recharge and always can recharge even on the last battery. Done.
    Still will have ammo pickups for Flaregun, Shotgun, whatever other things there are in the game later (don’t know, never played it myself), so those will still be rationed because they make fights easier (since it takes 4 shots with the revolver to down a foe it requires a reload of at least 2 bullets to take out 2 people, making the revolver very inefficient).

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Or just give infinite ammo and make Allan take damage whenever he fires the gun (due to his weakly writer phisique). Suddenly you really don’t want to fire the gun more than you have to.

      • harborpirate says:

        Just remove the guns entirely. They give the player an element of constant safety, like a security blanket.

        Powerful light sources (like floodlights and those generator powered safe zones, but not your flashlight) should incapacitate the taken, and force the player to run the gauntlet to make it to those.

        That would be interesting.

        As it is, combat is just something boring that you have to do between the interesting parts.

        • Vic 2.0 says:

          That would be a disaster. No, less ammo if not more enemies would solve the entire problem. You would no longer feel obliged to hang around areas you’re not meant to, and would have added incentive to run away.

  13. Littlefinger says:

    Yes, the guy passed by the window in the first cabin. Also, from the wikipedia page: (this is actually from the tutorial)

    picture

    Yeah, there’s a couple of stephen king homages here..

  14. Marlowe says:

    Max Payne had the option to pistol whip opponents yet I don’t recall running out of ammunition in those games.

    Japanese designers would no doubt have given Wake the ability to smash heads with his typewriter.

    They named Max after the dog, obviously.

    I expect Kathy Bates to show up at some point making wonderful taunts. “I don’t think so Mr. Doodyhead.” “YOU! YOU DIRTY BIRD, HOW COULD YOU! She can’t be dead, MISERY CHASTAIN CANNOT BE DEAD!”

  15. anaphysik says:

    Potential fixes:

    > Get rid of nearly all the combat. “And then I shot another 20 ‘scary’ dudes” is a pretty meh story, especially in a game about writing.

    > Add a melee attack. Even if it’s not a really viable strategy, you should always be able to fall back on *something*. Getting killed because you were punching a guy (or running away because your punches are weak) is better than getting killed or running away because you literally can’t do anything.

    > Make all the combat part of dream-style sequences. You have unlimited ammo in them (heck, if writers and moviemakers frequently cut corners on ammo counting, you’d better believe that dreams do). If you want, the gun jams every so often or you still have to reload after 6 shots but have unlimited reserve or something else for tension. Special guns could probably still use limited ammo.

    Haven’t played the game myself, but from other posters’ spoiler tags, it sounds like everything that happens is part of some weird ‘what I write becomes reality’ or ‘it was all a dream’ situation, or something similar. In which case, Alan running out of bullets and dying makes no sense as a part of normal combat anyway, and doing some ‘unlimited ammo + gun jamming’ thing would actually make sense.

    > Flashlights do continual damage. No focusing needed (draining the battery only when you focus on enemies makes no sense, nor does the rate – this doesn’t jive with the realism of the bullet-counting gun mechanics). Alternatively: All combat against the Taken is done via the flashlight; there’s no gun. Taken are also only visible within the some cone of illumination, though the flashlight only damages them along the cone’s axis – under these conditions, the tension would be about whether you focus on killing one enemy or watching out for others that approach you. The player would also need to be on constant lookout for Taken, and you can’t really zoom away to show them appearing. There would be every incentive to have fewer fights and enemies, but more tension. Also, even a single Taken could give a combat tension, since the player doesn’t know if there are others they need to watch out for.

    • Jake Albano says:

      I like that last idea. Kind of like how ghosts in Metro 2033 are only visible if you have your flashlight on.

      • IFS says:

        Could the muzzle flash of the gun still be dangerous to them then?

      • Adam says:

        I also like this idea, although I feel like there would need to be subtle visual/audio cues to the presence of the Taken, like quiet footsteps or breathing, or the occasional room with puddles of water on the floor so you can see their footfalls, or something. Otherwise you end up with a game that vacillates between very scary and very annoying constantly.

        • anaphysik says:

          Good point.
          Something in the mould of the radio static from Silent Hill (2, I presume) could be good as well/instead (haven’t played them, but know of them from Shamus’ discussions on the matter). Perhaps it could be tied in with the flashlight mechanic, like it flickering, or fog setting in around you and scattering its light much more. Another benefit of fog: you can use shadows, footsteps, etc. to greater effect. Also, there’s no need for the Taken to make a beeline to you in the fog as well, particularly as your wandering around in it could make you run into them yourself. The designer could even make foggy parts with no Taken in it at all quite easily (to mess with the player, since apparently people enjoy that or something); plus, that keeps the Taken less revealed and the enemy sections more atmospheric than actiony.

    • TraderRager says:

      My idea would have been to completley redo the entire combat system to work like this-

      You have 2 weapons. This can be a Pistol and a Flaregun, or an Axe and Shotgun, whatever. All weapons have upsides/downsides.

      Batteries do not recharge at all and are more limited.

      Shooting/attacking enemies would stagger them, but not kill them unless you use your precious flashlight power to make them vulnerable, where-in they would die easily. (Flares would be the exception here, of course.)

      These changes together wouldn’t make Alan Wake a better shooter, it would make it better survival horror. Running wouldn’t be a way to skip combat, it would be the way you survive the hordes of evil monsters trying to kill you. Straight up murdering every Taken you run across wouldn’t be viable- You would just slow them down while you RUN THE FUCK AWAY.

      The reason Alan Wake isn’t scary is the combat. Sure, you may have monsters trying to kill you, but they aren’t that threatening, ever. Just wave your hand-held recharging laser at them and then pop them with your revolver.

    • Jingleman says:

      What if the enemies were vulnerable to friendly fire? Then, you could use the dodge mechanic as an offensive fail-safe option. Maybe you would have to make some adjustments to the dodge move or AI, but without much tweaking I can imagine the player trying to induce enemies to hit one another, especially with thrown weapons.

      Even with one-hit kills, this would be too difficult to use except as a last resort, or to supplement gun play opportunistically. Hopefully, that would leave the normal combat mechanics pretty much unaltered.

      The biggest problem would be that you would generally only get down to the last enemy and then lose the option to induce friendly fire. I think that one enemy is manageable with just the flashlight, though; just stagger, flee, repeat.

    • Vic 2.0 says:

      “Add a melee attack”

      *buzzer* Not reading you from now on.

  16. RTBones says:

    I can honestly say, I didn’t expect a Balki Bartokomous reference in a Spoiler Warning episode covering Alan Wake.

    • Chris says:

      If you liked that, then you’re gonna love this!

      • Neil D says:

        That… what… wow. I need to go away for a while and figure out how I feel about that. It may require therapy.

      • TJ GoofyFoot says:

        That was absurdly surreal…

      • RTBones says:

        So, two things:

        On cursoring over the link and seeing it title,my first thought was NOT Perfect Strangers, but this. And where I remembered it from was not the film, but here.

        Second – don’t be ridiculous!

        EDIT: It is odd the way the brain works sometimes. Given the topic of discussion at hand, I -should- have made the logical leap that the link would be tied to Perfect Strangers in some manner. Instead, it made a hard right turn, downhill, and into the wind. Further, the link says …stopMEnow…not stopUSnow…. Stupid brain, what were you thinking?

      • bigben says:

        I honestly don’t konw if this site is purposefully not working (which would make it hilarious beyond any reason, given it’s URL) or if it’s just down.

      • Mr Guy says:

        Whereas I was SURE it was going to be the “Don’t Stop Me Now” sequence from Shaun of the Dead….

  17. Jingleman says:

    Academic consideration of fail-safe mechanics aside, it seems like the problem the cast was having with this section had more to do with the level design than with the combat mechanics.

    That is, the three of you who ran low on ammo had trouble because you missed the unlimited ammo crate in the shed, not because the combat system lacked a fail-safe.

    The ammo supply was actually tuned pretty well for the level, but only if you access the crate in the Rusty fight arena. Remedy screwed up by not highlighting the crate. They could have lit it directly, or designed the combat arena to subtly direct the flow of the fight toward it, or gated the player off from the arena just before the fight in a room with the crate, or any number of other ideas.

    Instead, they put it in a shed that cuts off visibility from three sides. It also blends in with the colors, lighting, contrast, and set pieces of the rest of the arena. I’m not surprised that many players miss it in the frenzy of the fight with Rusty.

    • Klay F. says:

      I think the problem is that people might not even know that the crate contains ammo at all. If I remember correctly, this is the first ammo crate the game gives you, and from a distance its very easy to mistake for clutter.

      • Jingleman says:

        Exactly. The ammo crates are poorly designed and poorly introduced, and they don’t contrast with their environment.

        Compare them with the infinite ammo crates from Half-Life 2. The HL2 ammo crates were unique in a game chocked full of crates. They had recognizable ammo symbols on them. They were relatively brightly colored and less distressed than other art in the game, so they contrasted nicely. NPC’s even pointed them out during certain important combat sequences. I’m not saying they were always done right, just that they tended to be more intuitive.

        The point is that the ammo crates in Alan Wake were not particularly distinctive, and the level design did not otherwise highlight them. Could have saved our three hosts a few restarts.

      • Vic 2.0 says:

        “I think the problem is that people might not even know that the crate contains ammo at all. If I remember correctly, this is the first ammo crate the game gives you, and from a distance its very easy to mistake for clutter.”

        No, it’s the third. There’s one in the tutorial area, and another right before you fight Stucky. But even if this were the first ammo crate, that’s still no excuse for not doing some minimal degree of exploring in a game surely known by now to leave ammo/batteries in odd places.

        Let’s not blame the game for “our” shortcomings, shall we?

  18. anaphysik says:

    Obvious point: Why the hell doesn’t Alan pick up one of those numerous axes that are just lying about, and use THAT for melee? Huh, why not, game?

    EDIT: Arrrrrgh, ninja’d by Rutskarn less than a minute after I thought of it. Should probably have finished the rest of the video first.

  19. IFS says:

    On the subject of fleeing from the taken, I think it would be interesting to see a horror game where the enemies are faster when you aren’t looking at them, sort of like offscreen teleportation in movies (though not as extreme). This would make the player have to choose between watching the enemy and thus being faster than them or seeing where they are going to better avoid them. I’m sure there are various reasons why this wouldn’t work, such as enemies constantly ambushing the player faster than they can react, but I think it could work as a mechanic.

  20. Alex says:

    Good thing he didn’t run into a Taken who was a sex-ed councillor in the woods.

    “..toooDAY we will LEARN ABout the UTerAN waLL!!!”

  21. PurePareidolia says:

    You know who is brilliant at making things terrifying, but then interjecting moments of campy goofiness and having it not feel jarring? Steven Moffat. When you see a Doctor Who or a Sherlock episode you know which parts are supposed to be funny, and you know which parts are scary or dramatic and they both work really well. You can have an episode where Amy is stuck in a forest of treeborgs filled with Weeping Angels and the Doctor makes them say “comfy chairs” using a torn out and reanimated copy of someone’s consciousness.

    What I’m saying is I want to see a Doctor Who episode made of this.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      Wouldn’t the weeping angels make a great horror game enemy?

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Depends on how you handle them.These enemies in alan wake couldve been scary if they were treated differently,but this way they just end up being completely non-scary mooks.

      • PurePareidolia says:

        Yeah, they definitely would if you make sure you get the line of sight thing right.

      • Mumbles says:

        oh fuck the weeping angels oh fuck oh fuck. i was in this one written RPG and someone made “don’t blink” angels as an enemy and it was the most frightening shit ever.

        • X2Eliah says:

          Ahem. NEEEEEEEEEERD! ;)

          On a more serious note – how do ‘dont blink’ enemies work in a *written* rpg? I mean, the idea of blinking and sight relies on, well, physical interaction and state rather than intentional one-progress-step activities (e.g. “take”, “use”, “sit”, “swing weapon”).

          • Mumbles says:

            I wish I could link you the best interaction from the RPG, but it’s all hidden and private cause we’re ashamed of our hobby. It’s a lot like D&D, but it’s written and doesn’t involve rolling dice.

            A lot of written RPG is more detailed than just simple written commands. Think of it as people writing a book together. One person sets up the scene, the next person pushes the action and so on. A lot of the time, it’s more interesting to have a character fail horribly than succeed, so there’s much more give and take than say a standard D&D campaign. Does that explain it?

            • anaphysik says:

              Generally we call those ‘RPs’ instead of ‘written RPGs.’
              (Personally, though, I prefer something more like a ‘collaborative writing’ myself, since most things labelled as RP consist of boring, go-nowhere tiny dialogue posts. Plus, RP people get far too attached to their special character, rather than focusing on writing a neat story (frex, most people don’t trust each other with writing each other’s characters).)

              (Has a little bit of experience with this.)

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            You can always just introduce willpower/constitution checks.You need to roll one check every round with increasing difficulty,unless you decide to blink manually.It would be tedious though.A much easier solution would be to simply wing it and say “You succeed in not blinking for a minute,but then your eyes strain too much,and when you open your eyes again,etc,etc”.

    • scowdich says:

      Does the term Vashta Nerada mean anything to you?

      • PurePareidolia says:

        Yes, and that’s where I got the idea, but Alan Wake also has the whole manuscript predicting the future thing from “Blink” and the malevolent zombies reduced to base desires from “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”. It’s a veritable cornucopia of good Steven Moffat episodes brought together.

  22. Jupiter says:

    Was it my crappy connection, or were there a lot of dropped frames in this episode? When Josh was running through the cave, and especially when he was starting the one Safe Haven generator, it seemed like the video skipped a couple of frames.

    Was that Josh’s editing for time, or was it just my slow internet/slower computer? I’ve never noticed those kind of dropped frames in the past…

  23. X2Eliah says:

    The thing that jumped at me in this episode is how utterly nondescript and featureless the environments seem to be. The insides of houses are pretty similar, the forest tracks are completely identical, there’s no clear difference between north/south/east/west (no landmarks, no colour differences).. Most of the time, I couldn’t tell if Josh was running towards an objective or away from one, or if he was on a sidetrack or the main path – it all just looks the same.

    Also, what is up with the amount of enemies? It seems far far too large for this kind of game – it almost looks like a generic shooter, by the amount of mooks you have to shootify. And their spawning mechanic seems weird – looks like they can spawn right behind you, which is a really bad (lazy?) thing, especially if they have almost-onehitkill axe swings that stagger you.

    • Even says:

      The forest areas don’t really get much more exciting than that for the rest of the game. I kinda grew sick of them towards the end game. The buildings fortunately do get better in the next episode.

      “Most of the time, I couldn’t tell if Josh was running towards an objective or away from one”

      There’s the objective compass in the top left corner you can follow. The cave and the cabins were just little sidepaths not critical to the plot. The levels are otherwise fairly linear.

      • X2Eliah says:

        Myeah, Josh keeps spinning all over the place, so that objective-marker compass wasn’t really much of a help, tbh – especially when camera direction and character movement direction are two independent vectors.

    • Vic 2.0 says:

      “The thing that jumped at me in this episode is how utterly nondescript and featureless the environments seem to be. The insides of houses are pretty similar, the forest tracks are completely identical, there’s no clear difference between north/south/east/west (no landmarks, no colour differences).. Most of the time, I couldn’t tell if Josh was running towards an objective or away from one, or if he was on a sidetrack or the main path – it all just looks the same.”

      Now you people are just reaching. Every single building looks plenty different, inside and out, and the environments vary even moreso. And I was actually surprised to find that identical areas of forest were quite rare compared to what could reasonably be expected from a psychological thriller set in a town surrounded by forests. You spend half your time a good distance away from the woods, and the majority of it in areas that are in fact very distinguishable.

      “Also, what is up with the amount of enemies? It seems far far too large for this kind of game – it almost looks like a generic shooter, by the amount of mooks you have to shootify.”

      Not at all. There should’ve been more, if anything. More in each group, to be precise. Maybe then people would be inclined to run instead of hanging around trying to kill everything and then hang around some more. But generic shooters have far more all at once and almost steadily throughout the game. I thought AW kept a nice pace.

      “And their spawning mechanic seems weird – looks like they can spawn right behind you, which is a really bad (lazy?) thing, especially if they have almost-onehitkill axe swings that stagger you.”

      How is that a bad thing, in this sort of game? Again, I say they should have a bit more of it, so go figure.

  24. Soylent Dave says:

    I didn’t run out of bullets at any point, but mostly because I got so fed up with the tedious combat I turned it into a ‘dodge as many enemies as possible’ game, which makes those runs through the forest a bit more interesting (you only have to keep dodging until you hit the safe haven, and usually you have flares and stuff to keep the taken at bay if you need to start a generator).

    The dodging and running to circles of light gameplay works so much better than the ‘standard’ combat, it feels like it’s intentional, so I don’t know if ammo was meant to be limited or not (i.e. you’re supposed to be so short of ammunition that you have to dodge most of the enemies).

  25. lurkey says:

    ~12:40 – It’s Will Scarlet O’Hara, thank you very much.

    Still don’t get this game. There are them biggish chunks o’cutscenes stringed by clicking on stuff that initiates them, biggish chunks of combat against some unreals stringed by manuscript pages, there’s no coherent connection between those and Alan Wake acts as if it’s a completely normal thing for him to shoot entities that dissipate into smoke and light. He talks to himself about everything all the time, but a natural “Ohshitohshitohshit I am going crazy ohgod” never crossed his mind?

  26. Daimbert says:

    Fatal Frame solved this pretty well, since your only real weapon is a camera. You can fill up on the weakest film at any save point, and you can pick it up in the game along with all of the other types of film and items as well, so it’s really hard to run out. But it’s weak film, so it works okay on regular random ghosts but is a challenge to use on bosses. So, for that you want to save and use the really, really good film. If you run out of that, then you’re in trouble, and you can only get that by looking around and picking things up in the game (although they’re pretty good at making items obvious). So, it’s really, really hard for it to be the case where you’re stuck on a weak ghost and laughing at a boss, but without careful film management you’re likely to have a really tough time at a boss if you don’t have the right film.

    Something like that could be done here, where at every checkpoint you can fill up on ammo for the weakest weapon but you need to conserve ammo for the really good weapons. So, then, you’re never stuck on a weak monster if you’re any good at the combat, but tougher monsters mean that you have to be careful about what ammo you’ve used earlier.

    • anaphysik says:

      So, then, you’re never stuck on a weak monster if you’re any good at the combat…

      A better version of that mechanic would have a weak weapon that never runs out of ammo (example: fists, flashlight, Rutskarn puns), and then more powerful tools that do have limited counts. That way you’re *never* completely out of luck, no matter who you are.

      • Daimbert says:

        Yeah, you can do that, too, although whether it’s better or not depends on how good that weapon is and if it can fit into the game well enough.

        • anaphysik says:

          It’s ‘better’ because it prevents the player from *ever* being completely out of options (unless you count ‘reload a save from who knows how long ago’ or ‘frak this game imma go play some tf2’ as options.)

          • Daimbert says:

            Well, the issue is, as I said, if you can fit that weapon into the world without breaking immersion. It’s always easier to fit in a “the ammo for this weapon is as common as dirt and you can get it from all checkpoints” into almost any type of game than a weapon that just happens to never run out of ammo even though it really should.

            It also depends on how good the weapon is; if it’s too good, this makes it far too powerful.

            And, finally, a player will learn quickly to always stock up to full for that weapon at any checkpoint/save point. In Fatal Frame, you can hold 99 instances of the weakest film, and will usually find more film along the way; that’s usually enough to get you to a save point, even if you have to backtrack a bit.

  27. Mr Guy says:

    You guys missed the most insane thing about The Taken using their axes to destroy the payphones. Alan HAS A CELL PHONE!

    And it’s not like he doesn’t have reception – he’ll use it more than once in this chapter, even in this location.

  28. webrunner says:

    Here’s an idea:
    Regular reload if you have bullets,
    Really long animation (of him, like, checking his pockets) that give you a random number of bullets if you’re out of ammo.

  29. GHbacon says:

    Not sure what Josh was referring to about the live action stuff, but Alan’s model and motion capture is some Finnish actor named Ilkka Villi. He’s the one we see in all the live-action scenes.

  30. Jarenth says:

    Yeah, I haven’t got much to add. This ‘episode’ just drags on and on, wearing out its welcome about an hour before it actually ends.

  31. Johan says:

    “Why would Alan Wake be played by the guy from Robinhood Men in Tights?”
    I don’t know, why would The Dark Knight be played by Luke Skywalker?

    Maybe it’s just because I haven’t played this, but watching the SW makes me feel that just about everything is screaming “I am scary, be afraid!” And not “I am a reference, please ‘get’ me”

    • Amnestic says:

      Turn in your nerd card ;p Mark Hamill plays The Joker, not Batman. He’s arguably one of the best and most prolific Jokers too.

    • Chris says:

      I don’t think it’s a reference, per se. But I think it’s a casting choice that certainly didn’t focus on getting a terrified performance. He has a history performing broadway acts and comedy, not in terrorizing people in horror films. And you can see that in the performance they coaxed out of him – as Shamus points out, it’s a calming narrator that philosophizes on the nature of horror as a genre. No part of this writing, casting, scripting, or performance seems to imply they wanted Alan Wake to evoke fear in the player by being a petrified, borderline-out-of-his-mind nutcase who sees reality shattering around him. Instead they use him as a tool to comment on horror tropes and concepts, especially since he’s a writer and would be qualified to do so.

      This game has a lot in common with Scream or Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (and I haven’t seen it yet, but I hear Cabin in the Woods also works along similar lines). It’s not so much a scary game, it’s a slightly spooky game with an emphasis on talking about horror movies and stories (and in particular the suspense/thriller works of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, H.P. Lovecraft, Rod Sterling, etc).

      Every facet of the game is there to give some sort of commentary on the genre, either through criticism, parody, satire, flat out narrated analysis or, yes, straight up reference (like The Great Old One).

  32. Mr Guy says:

    Didn’t we already cross the line into deus ex machina in the tutorial where the light comes right out and speaks to you? Complete realism doesn’t seem necessary.

    Why not introduce a mechanism where the light “helps you out” if you get completely stuck? Being completely out of bullets will spawn a flickering safe haven somewhere nearby (far enough you have to run, close enough you can make it) that will last maybe 15 seconds, and has a pistol in it (which comes with 6 bullets). Acts similarly to flare–it doesn’t kill enemies, they just need to keep their distance. When the time runs out, the enemies rush you again, but you’ve hopefully got a fighting chance again.

  33. wererogue says:

    Those twilight zone-y tv episodes make this feel more and more like Max Payne to me – and given that, I’d probably have to assume that the game was nodding and winking. Max Payne isn’t a laugh-out-loud game – it’s celebrating an absurd genre at the same time that it acknowledges the absurdity. It seems like Alan Wake is on exactly the same page, but for supernatural thrillers, and maybe a sprinkling of horror, instead of noir.

    Think I’m going to have to pick this up for the consolebox to play with my wife’s biting commentary :)

  34. Vic 2.0 says:

    Umm, where did you run out of ammo? No area featured in the video should you ever find yourself ammo-less in… unless you just plain need practice.

    Generally speaking, I never thought “They should give more ammo in this game”. Even the very few times you’re completely without ammo are not enough to whine about. Typically, you’re given a bit too much ammo, IMO.

  35. Vic 2.0 says:

    5:45 – “There’s no way, really, to run away from the enemies. Uh, even sprinting, they sort of just catch up with you. So when you run out of ammunition, you’re screwed.”

    I’m sorry, I couldn’t help but laugh at this one. Not only is it very possible to play the vast majority of the game without using any ammunition, but you’re supposed to be using your flashlight and dodging to evade the enemies as well. The combat would be incredibly boring if you could outrun these enemies, or if just breaking the dark shield and shooting them were sufficient in every attack. Not to mention it wouldn’t make sense that you can outrun supernatural enemies such as the Taken. There’d be no suspense in that whatsoever, IMO.

    Put simply, you guys ran out of ammunition in this sequence because you needed more practice. There’s no other explanation possible. There aren’t even any infinite enemy respawn areas in this episode. You get far more ammo than the provided enemies require so… yeah.

    8:40 – Presumably, the ammo crate is written into the story by Zane or Wake. No, it doesn’t explain it, but by the time you feel confident enough to critique the game, you should’ve beaten it and therefore had enough knowledge of the game to draw that conclusion.

    9:10 – It doesn’t take long to figure out why they added the weird (slightly humorous) spiel by Rusty while you’re fighting him. There’s been so much drama recently, they just plain needed a light-hearted moment. This is what decent writers do. They don’t drown you in sorrow from start to finish. But anyway, I can see why you found it ridiculous; you thought it was supposed to be a taunt… for some reason…

    No. Not everything in the game is supposed to be scary, not even lines from the Taken. Some are creepy, some are comedic commentaries on characters, jobs, stereotypes, etc.

    14:50 – “If it’s campy homage, then shouldn’t I be laughing?”

    You mean, like you just said you were doing when you played that scene?

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