Alan Wake PC: Better graphics compared to 360, looks great at 60 fps
Remedy is going to push out the PC version of Alan Wake in February 2012. PC Games Hardware talked to Markus Mäki, Chief Technical Officer at Remedy, and he reveals a lot of information about the engine and the renderer.
You might remember the Alan Wake drama (at least for PC players): The game was expected to be an exklusive DX10 title for Windows Vista but Microsoft decided to release Alan Wake exclusively for their Xbox 360 console in 2010. Now Remedy Entertainment is about to publish itself the PC version of Alan Wake including the The Signal and The Writer DLC in February 2012 for the Steam platform. PC Games Hardware had the opportunity to talk to Markus Mäki, Chief Technical Officer at Remedy.
PCGH: As far as we are informed the technical base of Alan Wake will be your inhouse technology the "Alan Wake"-Engine, right? Is this technology based on your well known MaxFX-Engine or have you build it up from scratch?
Markus Mäki, Remedy: The Alan Wake engine is built at Remedy and the technology was made 99% from scratch after the Max Payne games. We designed the tech based on what we learned while doing the Max Payne games (and their console ports) as well as what Alan Wake needed to best support the gameplay - lights and shadows were critical!
PCGH: Remedy's Markus confirmed that Alan Wake PC is DX9 but a few years ago there were rumors about DX10 support and Win Vista exclusiveness. So what are the reasons to do without DX10/11 in case of the PC version and can you confirm Win XP support?
Markus Mäki, Remedy: We aim to support Windows XP SP2. There are still some minor issues we need to solve, and it's not sure whether it can be an "officially supported platform" but the game will run on it. Remedy wants to support the widest amount of gamers we can.
PCGH: As far as we know Alan Wake features a state of the art Deferred Renderer including FP16-HDR, Screen-Space Ambient Occlusion, a great Motion Blur, amazing Dynamic Shadows, Depth of Field and more. Can you confirm that and can we besides these effects expect other rendering technologies like soft filtered Dynamic Shadows or over again better Lighting for PC version?
Markus Mäki, Remedy: The engine is pretty advanced, and there are some nice quality settings we can turn up on the PC - for example God Rays were enabled on the Xbox360 in only some specific locations, on the PC they can be on at all times.
PCGH: What is your personal highlight of the renderer? The Lighting and Shadows, the extremely far view distance (I guess it was about 2 km according to Remedy), the fantastic volumetric fog system or something completely different? By the way we love the Hide HUD feature!
Markus Mäki, Remedy: I'm proud of quite a few things in the renderer. My favourite perhaps is deferred shading combined with MSAA. I also like the dynamic range of tones and "feelings" we can get out of the engine. And of course the landscape and foliage system, how it's "procedural but artist controllable" allowing the wide range of scenery and large landscapes.
PCGH: Remedy's Markus confirmed FXAA in the company's forums and talked about MSAA in case of Deferred Rendering; the Console version utilizes Multisampling-Antialiasing and also Alpha to Coverage for Alan's hairs. Will the PC version of Alan in fact be shipped with support for MSAA, FXAA and A2C?
Markus Mäki, Remedy: Yes, Alan Wake PC will be shipped with MSAA, FXAA and A2C - on DX9.
PCGH: The Console version of Alan Wake is locked at 30 Fps with double-buffered Vertical Sync and Remedy confirmed double-buffered Vertical Sync also for PC version. Can we expect an unlocked framerate in case of the PC version or will there be a (Vsync) cap at 30 or 60 Fps?
Markus Mäki, Remedy: The frame rate is not locked to 30 or 60 and there is a option to turn Vsync off in-game. It looks great at 60fps.
PCGH: Will there be noticeable differences between the Console and PC version of Alan Wake as far as technology and visuals are concerned (e.g. high res textures)? What special effects, graphics and technical features can only be rendered by the PC's powerful hardware?
Markus Mäki, Remedy: While the content and engine are in principle unchanged, we can turn the quality and resolution up in quite a few areas - I mentioned God Rays earlier, and FXAA was also mentioned, but there are a few other settings that make the game prettier. On a high end graphics card you can boost the quality of things like volumetric light and SSAO.
PCGH: In year 2006 Intel showcased Alan Wake for their Core 2 Quad multicore CPUs and Remedy mentioned a 30 percent Fps benefit using four instead of two cores in our last mail interview 2008. Did you rework the multithreading or worker job system so that Alan Wake PC is able to utilize even six or eight cores for smoother rendering?
Markus Mäki, Remedy: The engine occasionally uses more than 4 threads, but the engine does not scale that well beyond four cores. A Quadcore PC features a lot of power, and the engine is pretty efficient! The bottleneck comes from feeding DirectX with data.
PCGH: The Physics in the games is based on the popular Havok middleware, is that correct? Does Havok use a dedicated CPU core or is physics calculation done via multithreading? What is your personal option about GPU accelerated physics effects like Nvidias PhysX in case e.g. Batman Arkham City or even accelerated gameplay physics via GPU?
Markus Mäki, Remedy: Yes, Alan Wake uses Havok Physics and Animation to great effect. Havok uses dedicated thread fort he physics processing.
I think GPU accelerated physics can be great for special effects, but it's harder to make these physics objects have an impact to the game world - it's mainly a visual benefit. Whereas the CPU physics are integral part of the players' interaction in the world.
PCGH: What is about Nvidias Stereo 3D? Does Alan Wake PC support this feature? Can we expect optimizations for Crossfire and SLI?
Markus Mäki, Remedy: We have internally tested that the game works very nicely on 3D Vision, but a very powerful graphics card is recommended. We've had so far had very limited resources to test Crossfire and SLI, but are working with the manufacturers to test how they work.