It was with that baggage that we sat down with Alan Wake writer Mikko Rautalahti and franchise development head Oskari Häkkinen to discuss The Signal, the next DLC The Writer, a potential PC version, what went right and what went wrong, Alan Wake being a dick, and, of course, review scores. You have been warned.
Eurogamer: What did you set out to achieve with The Signal?
Mikko Rautalahti: We wanted it to be an exciting piece of adventuring and action in the Alan Wake world... Alan Wake is a specific thing. What we wanted to do with the DLC is let our hair down a little bit and get a bit more exciting.
Eurogamer: Are you happy with the reception?
Mikko Rautalahti: I haven't read all the reviews yet - I haven't had the time. But what I have read has been pretty positive. In general, you people struggle when it comes to reviewing DLC because you never know whether you're judging it as a standalone thing or a part of the whole thing.
But in general people have been having a good time with it. The fan reception has been good. So yeah, perfectly happy.
Oskari Häkkinen: We've been pleasantly surprised. It's unusual to see a DLC only a 10 Metacritic lower than the actual game, or less than 10 in fact - it's at 75 right now.
That's good, to be only a few points down from the main game on the Metacritic. That means people enjoyed the main game, and the continuation with the DLC has fed some of their hunger for the fiction.
Eurogamer: How important is Metacritic to you? Does it bother you when you get lower than expected review scores?
Oskari Häkkinen: On the big scale, we look to our core fan base and how they've enjoyed it, and then what they're talking about, whether it be story, game mechanics, environments, location, the general fiction of the characters.
But Metacritic is something that's standardised in the industry. Of course we look at it. It's one of the only real metrics that you can compare with on a general scale.
Mikko Rautalahti: I would love to be able to say that I don't look at the Metacritic score at all, but of course I do. It's nothing more than a great way to bring a total bunch of links to a bunch of reviews. Obviously, I'm interested in that.
At the same time, it doesn't track whether the stuff we did resonated with people. It's just a score. It's not representative, necessarily.
As a writer, I'm interested in whether people like the story. A lot of people love the story, and that may or may not be reflected in the score they give the game.
Eurogamer: When will the next DLC, The Writer, be released?
Oskari Häkkinen: At the moment we can't communicate more than it's coming out in the fall.
Eurogamer: Can you tell us anything about the gameplay?
Mikko Rautalahti: It's going to pick up where the first one leaves off. It's a two-parter.
If you play through The Signal you can probably get a lot of ideas about what we're doing with the second one. But the second one is not going to be similar in terms of the level design. It's going to be a little different.
In terms of level design, Alan Wake is... I don't know if it's realistic because you've got shadow guys throwing axes at you, but it is treading this line of believability.
In The Signal we could let go of that because we aren't in the real world anymore. There's a lot we can do with that. You'll find that we'll be doing a lot more of that with The Writer.
You will be seeing a lot more weird stuff. And we've learned quite a bit from making The Signal, and we'll be applying that to The Writer quite a bit.
Eurogamer: Will The Writer be the final Alan Wake DLC?
Oskari Häkkinen: I can't confirm whether this is going to be the last one or not.
There are some things in the pipeline that we're looking at, and we're balancing out how we will move on with this.
Eurogamer: What word would you use to describe the experience you had creating with the original game?
Mikko Rautalahti: I could describe it as a rollercoaster, both in terms of personal experience and actually getting the game out.
I like rollercoasters. They're fast and they're exciting. You get your ups and your downs. But it was certainly worth the price of admission for me, and I think it was worth the price of admission for the people who bought the game.