in the wake

Alan Wake's door
With Alan Wake a new, albeit concealed door to the anthropological understanding of online-communities appeared for me. Striding through this portal hopefully will allow me to shed light on the issues my project is concerned with, by swimming in the wake of a new community. There is the chance to ‘be there’ from the very beginning, to follow every phase of community-building, appropriation, change, and so on. I dropped into the original Max-Payne community quite early, but never was a first-hour member. With Alan Wake I dare say I am. And now the situation is different, because meanwhile—after struggling to develope the project, strategies and methods of online-fieldwork since 2002—I know what to do and how. So I threw my paraphernalia into cyberspaceworthy shipping crates and am off shore in the limbo of my field again. Nevertheless I will go on to keep an eye on Max Payne modding, complete, and write up my meanwhile almost historical material. But now to contemporary action: The first stage of cognitive and emotional appropriation of Alan Wake by the modding community already has started by compiling information on the game. All the tiny, sometimes hidden, valuable pieces of straylight are gathered in order to feel closer and closer to the new, desired game-universe. And the creator gods assist. Some members of the developer team dropped by at the alanwake.net-forums, said hello to everyone, and announced that new screenshots may pop up on the official site during E3. Some more screenshots indeed went online, permitting a good look into Alan’s haunted eyes, and showing changing light and ambiance of the landscape:

Light is completely dynamic, including the day & night time cycles, trees and foliage and water reacts to the wind. Morning, day and dusk all feel completely different and the transitions in weather and time are completely seamless. […]

On the tech side, we’re doing things like complete modeling of atmospheric scattering, fully volumetric shadows that are projected through the entire world, high dynamic rendering, full weather modeling, day/night time cycles, ambient occlusion, normal mapping and so on.

We’re pretty keen on making the world feel real, so we’re pushing the envelope to get the content creation to a new level as well. In addition to all of the basic research stuff like texture shooting on location and so on, the elevation data in the environments is based on satellite data. Even the stars on the sky are procedurally generated to be completely accurate in position and brightness.

(Petri Järvilehto in Alan Wake Q&A)

It’s fun to follow this play of teasing between developers and online-fanhood/modding-community. And it’s fun to roam around on the new community’s premises. At alanwake.net I already met again quite some old-schoolers from the MP-community whom I haven’t seen for quite a while (which may well be my own fault). And there is all the joking around and crazy stunts like the 10.000 posts plus thread, just as it was in the times of thriving MPHQ—I feel at home.

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