Behind Alan Wake's Engine - a recap of a seminar by Markus Mäki co founder of Remedy, and Olli Tervo lead programmer

By Reina Magica Markus Mäki, co-founder of Remedy, explained the timeline of his company and why they chose to build a new engine from scratch using eight programmers. With changes in the industry and the majority of gaming moving to console platforms, the company needed to make an engine that would support their next game, Alan Wake, and also improve the technology for console games.

The key features desired for the new engine was a smooth open world experience, with 100% dynamic lighting for indoor and outdoor. There was a choice not to use technology from a 3rd party, so with a small team, there were important choices on making the production manageable. They limited the scope of their engine to focus on one console, in this case, the Xbox instead of PS3, and decided not to build for multiplayer. Also, they used middleware whenever possible.

Olli Tervo, lead programmer, explained their coding philosophy and how they optimised their time. He explained how they approached building an open world engine and the problems that arose. They chose to divide the open world area in smaller blocks than originally planned, which was better for memory but caused longer loading times. There were many spotlights in Alan Wake, so they needed to create good looking lighting which would still render quickly, so the majority of lighting used deferred rendering. They made use of the multithreading in consoles, and optimised the dvd layout by use-pattern and by what needed to be loaded most often.

With that, they built a successful engine. In talking about improvements, he mentions that a future focus might be on content creation tools.