Remedy Entertainment - A Genre-Defining Studio
In a world filled with thriller and action games, none came close to recreating the iconic genre-defining titles Remedy Entertainment has released.
Founded in 1995 by Samuli Syvähuoko, John Kavaleff, Markus Mäki, Tero Virtala, and other like-minded individuals with a demoscene background, they started their video game studio based in Finland.
With their first mainstream title being the gritty and dark Max Payne series, preceded by the horror and mind-bending Alan Wake series and their newest title, Control, they’re pushing hardware limits and what it means to tell stories that will stick with you for the rest of your life.
Embark on this exciting journey through the company’s history and building blocks of the foundation they built from the ground up to become the behemoths they are today.
The Beginning and Foundation of Success
Remedy Entertainment (Remedy) was founded by individuals who shared a demoscene background, where they created demos for PC programs. Inspired by Finland’s first official commercial video game studios, like Bloodhouse and Terramarque, they joined together to start the company. The company would be named Remedy, with founding members being Samuli Syvähuoko, Markus Mäki, Sami Nopanen, John Kavaleff and Sami Vanhatalo.
After graduating from business school, Samuli Syvähuoko got a job in the demoscene, where he ended up being the main organizer of the demo group called Future Crew. With their success and their Second Reality demo winning Assembly’s PC demo competition, Future Crew was constantly asked the question of when they would start making games.
With his passion being video games and money from demos being limited, he contacted John Kavaleff, both of whom would be the foundation for Remedy.
Markus Mäki's dream was to make great video games with experiences that will be remembered forever. He started studying at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and graduated in 1997 with a degree in B.E. Computer Engineering. He was also in the PC demoscene when he got in contact with the other founding members of Remedy and got the title of project lead on Remedy’s final Reality 3D-Benchmark software in 1997. He was part of the small group that kicked off Remedy as a company and was part of the management team. He is currently the Chairman and CTO of Remedy.
Sami Antero Järvi, known by his artist name Sam Lake, is the creative director at Remedy Entertainment. He attended the University of Helsinki, studying English literature in 1995 and was introduced to video games by Petri Järvilehto, who was part of the early group at Remedy. With Remedy needing a good writer for their first game, Death Rally, they offered Lake a place at the company, where he has remained ever since.
Sam Lake is also very well known for his writing on Remedy’s blockbuster title - Max Payne. He was the lead writer and scripter; he also helped design in-game levels. The game had a limited budget, and because of that, Remedy couldn’t hire actors; because of this, Sam Lake and other members of Remedy opted to play the roles themselves and use their likenesses for in-game models. Sam Lake became the face of Max Payne, the protagonist in the Max Payne series, and because of that, he became an internet icon, loved by fans.
Bullet Time and Painkillers
Following the release of their first game, Death Rally, Remedy Entertainment started pitching their next project - an isometric shooter named Dark Justice. They got the funding for the project, but there was a condition, the game should have a strong central leading character, 3D graphics and a new name. They decided to use the name, Max Payne.
Inspired by Hong Kong action movies, Petri Järvilehto wanted slow motion to be one of the main core gameplay elements, which later became the series's signature feature called bullet time.
Sam Lake was appointed as the game’s writer and took inspiration from dark film noir and crime fiction themes. As a result, the game felt like playing a dark noir detective movie.
The studio also wanted to use real-life textures for a more immersive experience; because the game was set in New York City, the team sent out a few expeditions to capture New York in its full beauty and grittiness.
Max Payne was released in 2001 to critical acclaim and won many awards, selling over 7 million copies. The game is a work of art, and Remedy didn’t expect to succeed as much as it did. It became a cultural phenomenon, where combining adrenaline-pumping action and a dark and depressing police story would result in players being mesmerized.
Max Payne as a character wouldn't've won the heart of fans if it wasn’t for the poetic way he describes even the most basic things in the game; a deep inner voice with specific writing immerses players in the world even more.
A sequel to Max Payne was released, Max Payne 2, in 2003 to very positive reviews and the core mechanics in the first game were revised and improved even more. With a more heart-wrenching story and a shiny new engine with advanced physics, the game was loved by fans and newcomers alike.
Remedy Entertainment Games Dive Into the American Northwest
After working on the Payne series for 7 years, Rockstar Games purchased the property rights to Max Payne. With this, the team wanted to try something even more ambitious, an open-world sandbox game, but due to limited resources, they opted for a more linear experience set in the American Northwest, a psychological thriller and horror game called Alan Wake.
Released in 2010, players take control of the main protagonist - Alan Wake. The main element of the game, a mysterious force known as ‘Darkness’, is taking over objects, humans and animals. The player must face it head-on and fight many monstrosities in order to survive. Wake always carries a flashlight with him because the light is the opposite of darkness, and when light shines on them, they disintegrate.
Alan Wake received positive reviews on all platforms, with Remedy announcing in 2012 that the game has sold over 3 million copies worldwide.
A spin-off was also developed, titled Alan Wake’s American Nightmare.
A New Generation of Games
In 2016, Remedy released Quantum Break. Directed by fan favorite Sam Lake and utilizing a brand new in-house game engine called Northlight Engine, players were shocked at the level of detail and at the new destruction system they created; with a gripping story and fast-paced action and shockingly good graphics, the game was a sure success.
Then in 2019, Remedy launched Control. An excellent psychological shooter where players explore a huge building complex owned by the fictional Federal Bureau of Control, set in the Oldest House in New York. The game features elements of paranormal activity, unexplainable events and conspiracy at the highest level.
The game is very well received by fans for its very immersive atmosphere and mind-bending story. As of 2021, the game has been played by over 10 million people and has sold over 2 million copies worldwide.
Remedy Entertainment’s Bright Future
The company currently has over 200 employees and is headquartered in Espoo, Southern Finland. With Remedy becoming a public company in 2017, Remedy announced a few rearrangements inside the company, where single-player games will be the focus, with the company's core values being to create games meant for all people with movie-like realism and storytelling. Their newest projects are a sequel to Alan Wake and a full-on remastering of Max Payne 1 & 2. The company transformed itself into a multi-project studio, with each title having a shorter development time but still uncompromising quality. A new Remedy launch would be rare, but when the time comes, it will surely be impactful.