Remedy deep dives into Northlight engine, which powers Alan Wake 2

Remedy Entertainment's mighty impressive Northlight engine powers Alan Wake 2, one of THE best-looking games ever made, truly shining on the PC.

2 minutes & 50 seconds read time

Remedy Entertainment has written a detailed article that showcases the Northlight engine technology that was used in Alan Wake 2 and arguably has some of the best graphics that have ever been created.

The developer said its Northlight team is super-excited to have Alan Wake 2 out in the wild, where they've created and polished off a lot of new technology just for Alan Wake 2 so that it doesn't just look amazing. It feels great to play. The article that Remedy has covering Northlight is just covering some of the pieces of technology it has perfected but teased that Northlight engineers will be "back with more in-depth topics in due course."

The Northlight team starts by talking about its new data-oriented game object framework during the development of Alan Wake 2, with a new entity component system (ECS) based model that enables memory-efficient storage and makes parallel execution efficient and safe.

The Dark Place with visual effects OFF (source: Remedy)

What you (the player) see in Alan Wake 2 (source: Remedy)

The Dark Place with visual effects ON (source: Remedy)

What the Northlight engine is doing in Alan Wake 2 (source: Remedy)

The team explains: "This means that the engine can support a varying number of target hardware cores efficiently, enabling bigger, more dynamic and fuller worlds. ECS also played a supporting role for our tools development, simplifying the building of the new Scattering tool for mass-authoring vegetation - ECS allowed us to simply have a lot more entities without the need to invent any custom solution for scattering objects in the world".

ECS framework helped the team build out Sara's visual storyboard in Alan Wake 2 -- the Case Board in her mind -- for gathering evidence. ECS allowed the Northlight team to enjoy quick iteration and testing "because adding new or modifying existing systems or game objects was easy, and performance gains were clear when saving and loading the Case Board".

I've pumped some hours into Alan Wake 2 running on an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 graphics card maxed out with all graphics settings -- including path tracing and ray tracing -- to their maximum, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Hands-down the best graphics I've seen out of the box without mods used.

Effects are a vital part of Alan Wake 2's visuals, expanding on what Remedy did in Control, which was already fantastic. Remedy explains that the node-based VFX tools in Northlight have "evolved significantly in terms of supported features and runtime performance. Visual effects artists are now able to author complex and dynamic effects like rain, wetness, water simulation, and character wounds. VFX tools also benefit from GPU-driven rendering and can push a lot of geometry through the GPU. This is required, for example, when rendering rain blocker objects to a dynamic mask that prevents rain from appearing indoors or under cover".

You can see some of the best of that comparison below, with visual effects off and then on in the screenshots below:

The Dark Place with visual effects OFF (source: Remedy)

The Dark Place with visual effects OFF (source: Remedy)

The Dark Place with visual effects ON (source: Remedy)

The Dark Place with visual effects ON (source: Remedy)

Remedy explains the PC side of Alan Wake 2: "We have added support for fully ray-traced direct lighting and combined this with improved denoising and indirect lighting algorithms with NVIDIA. Ray tracing in Alan Wake 2 is more accurate and robust than what has been seen in Control. Ray tracing also makes the animated foliage look amazing, now that all the geometry animation (foliage) is authored and simulated using skinning".

"With Alan Wake 2, PC players can experience (GPU and CPU setup permitting) the latest NVIDIA DLSS innovations - DLSS Frame Generation, DLSS Ray Reconstruction, Path Traced Indirect Lighting - all the things that enable us to say 'never before' once more".

Get your nerd on about the Northlight engine and Alan Wake 2 here.

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Anthony joined the TweakTown team in 2010 and has since reviewed 100s of graphics cards. Anthony is a long time PC enthusiast with a passion of hate for games built around consoles. FPS gaming since the pre-Quake days, where you were insulted if you used a mouse to aim, he has been addicted to gaming and hardware ever since. Working in IT retail for 10 years gave him great experience with custom-built PCs. His addiction to GPU tech is unwavering and has recently taken a keen interest in artificial intelligence (AI) hardware.

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