Pray Tell: A Prey 2 Interview

By Adam Smith on September 28th, 2011 at 4:01 pm.

Prey 2 is not a fancier version of Canabalt

Following the story of US Marshall Killian Samuels, acting as a bounty hunter on an alien world, Prey 2 promises freedom of choice in an alien city. At the Eurogamer Expo we got to see two parts of the game in action, an early level with lots of shooting and a later area, about a quarter of the way through the game, that showed a mission in action. There was also time to see the downtime between missions, with Killian involving himself in random street crime and doing some shopping. We caught up with project lead and Human Head studios co-founder Chris Rhinehart to find out what freedom really means in Prey 2, how much of a rotter you can be, whether we can expect additional stuff and release date parity for the PC version, and what failing missions entails.

RPS: Linking us back to Prey 1, let’s talk about Tommy. We’ve already seen a picture of him and it was mentioned that the plot of Prey 2 will cover how Tommy and Killian met. So presumably we’ll meet Tommy in the game? Can you talk about that a little?

Rhinehart: I can tell you that. You definitely meet Tommy in the game. It’s not just a cameo, you run into him, your paths cross several times throughout the game. He is an integral part of the story and an important character. Also, part of the story is uncovering what you and Tommy were up to in the time leading up to when the player takes over as Killian.

RPS: Will Tommy be Killian’s partner at any point?

Rhinehart: There are no plans to have Tommy fight alongside of him but he is integral to the story.

RPS: And is the story divergent at all?

Rhinehart: It is a linear story. We have the one story we want to tell, one narrative, it isn’t going to branch off in different directions.

RPS: In the video demonstration, you showed us that Killian can act like a jerk, shooting innocents, shoving them off balconies. How will that affect the ways in which the inhabitants of the city treat him?

Rhinehart: There is a reputation system in the game. So if you go around and you’re shoving people, killing innocents, your reputation’s gonna go down. If you go around and you’re helping people, aliens getting mugged and so forth, your reputation will go up. And there are other things that will cause your rep to go up or down but those are just two more obvious ones, the more accessible ones. What your reputation will do is it will affect things in the mid-term or the short-term, not long-term, it doesn’t affect story but it will affect things like how cops react to you, maybe vendors will give you a discount if you’re more of a good guy. People will also be more willing to ask you for help when you’re wandering around the streets. If you’re more of a bad guy, people will be more wary around you, keep out of your way.

RPS: Is reputation set on a sliding scale?

Rhinehart: Yes, you can bring it up and look at it in the game.

RPS: The anti-gravity bomb, which lifts enemies from behind cover, is a noble invention.

Rhinehart: It’s really useful, yes.

RPS: I can’t imagine ever being without one. But you spoke of 25+ gadgets; presumably Killian can’t have them all so will players choose specific loadouts or will certain ones be useful against certain enemies and in specific situations?

Rhinehart: The number you can carry is limited. Part of it’s limited based upon your purchasing ability. A normal player won’t be able to purchase every single gadget by the end, so you have to make choices as to which gadgets you want. But then you’re also limited to the number you can equip at any given time and you’re also limited by which ones are activated to be deployed at that time. In the demo I was flicking between different gadgets and equipping them based on different situations as I was going through.

RPS: So if I played the same sections I could approach them my own way, with my own choice of gadgets?

Rhinehart: Yes, when you play through you’re going to find the gadgets that you prefer to use and I’ve got my own choices that I prefer and our situation’s going to be a little bit different. If you want to use more melee gadgets, get up close that will obviously be different than if you use grenade-type weapons and gadgets. We want the player to have the mobility to navigate the world how they want and the tools to take down their enemies how they want.

RPS: There’s an emphasis on collecting and upgrading gadgets in what we’ve seen so far. What about guns? Will there be a lot of variety and upgrades there as well?

Rhinehart: There are no upgrades to guns but there’s a pretty wide variety in the number of guns in the game so that, again, you’ll find guns that you like using. You’ll find some bizarre guns that are really powerful but you can’t use in every single situation, so you can pick some of those or some faster firing guns or sniper rifles and so forth, which can be used throughout the game. While the guns aren’t upgradeable, there are a number that have unique, crazy ammo types. Or functions that are inherently part of the gun, not necessarily ammo types. There are some that have interesting projectiles.

RPS: We’ve seen the alien noir environment but during the presentation it was mentioned that the planet has a light side, a dark side and an area in a permanent dusk, which is the one shown. Does that mean there will be three acts and three environments?

Rhinehart: It’s not divided into three different acts but there are different parts of the planet you’ll go to, so you will visit a brighter side, you’ll go to a much darker side and then there’s the Bowery which is along the equator, a perpetually dusk kind of rainy area. The reason we do that is to offer variety, breaking up where the player goes but it’s not a case of being here, then here, then here, the narrative weaves through all those levels. So I go to the bright side and then I’ll come back to the Bowery, based on the narrative. But just because you leave the Bowery, that doesn’t mean you can’t come back to the Bowery at any point. It’s not a case of leaving an area and then being locked out of it. If you want to go back and explore, you can totally do that as well.

RPS: There are events, like muggings, occurring around the city and Killian can choose whether or not to intervene. You call those ambient bounties, right?

Rhinehart: Yes. They’re optional and can help you earn extra cash.

RPS: Will every bounty act the same way on every playthrough, or will it be a surprise?

Rhinehart: It gets mixed up. When you approach them, they can fight back, run or surrender. Some will have henchmen. But it won’t always be the exact same thing. It’s possible you’ll encounter a bounty in the same place, or a very similar place, and the chase will follow a different route maybe. There’s a wide variety of bounty types and routes that they’ll take.

RPS: As for the actual missions, the non-ambient ones, are they all essential to the story, or are some optional as well?

Rhinehart: Some of them are optional.

RPS: And if I play a certain way, or accept certain optional missions, will others become available or unavailable depending on that?

Rhinehart: No, the side missions unlock over time. Technically both do, the main missions as well, as you progress through the storyline. But side missions unlock, become available depending on the areas that you’re in, so when you go to a new area, there may not be any side missions yet. But when you explore the world for a while, side missions will start to unlock.

RPS: But will I always see every side mission if I want to?

Rhinehart: Yes. One of our philosophies was that we didn’t want, just because of player action, to block out major chunks of gameplay like that. There are a few things that not every player will experience on their first playthrough, like guns and gadgets. By the end of the game you’re not going to have enough money to buy every single gadget, so you do have to choose, or maybe sell a gadget back to buy something else. Or you could just stick with what you have and then do another playthrough to try out some other gadgets.

RPS: On story missions, will enemies always follow the same plan of action, meaning we see the same set pieces every time?

Rhinehart: As far as the route that they take, it won’t always be exactly the same. In the code, there are certain areas we want them to go to in order to hit the major beats that we want them to take the player through so it will be a more designed experience, giving the rollercoaster feel we want to run through the game. But they will make different choices, sometimes jumping up a building, going through it or teleporting past and they will react if you find a way to cut them off. So it’s not like they’ll just ignore you if you get in their way, they will react to that appropriately.

RPS: And if a bounty escapes will we see a fail screen, or can we try to recover?

Rhinehart: If a bounty escapes during a mission you will get a fail screen and then you’ll go back to the checkpoint and be able to restart from there. Again, we don’t want to lock out content because of failure. There are exceptions though. If ambient bounties escape, they’re just gone. The game doesn’t reset back to let you try the ambient bounty again and then that character may show up again later but if it’s a main story mission and you fail it, you go back to the checkpoint. Or if you want to you can just abort the entire mission, wander round the world and come back later to try the mission again.

RPS: How big is the world? I haven’t seen a map yet, but will one be necessary?

Rhinehart: There is a map, yeah, you’ll definitely need a map. We’re actually going through user testing right now to make sure that everything makes sense so that people can figure out where they are in different areas. One of the things we’re doing is adding in plenty of landmarks, as many as we can, so as you wander around you see a certain statue or sign so you know what part of the city you’re in. We do have a minimap now that wasn’t shown in the demo, as well as the static map that you’ll use to navigate around but we want you to be able to use the landmarks in the actual world. As you start picking up missions in certain parts of the town, you’ll start learning.

RPS: During the demonstration, when a mission was accepted and a rundown of the target and parameters was given, one piece of text read “Collateral Damage Acceptable”. Presumably this means on some missions collateral damage won’t be acceptable. Would harming civilians sometimes lead to a fail state?

Rhinehart: You’re the first person to ask that actually. It’s actually a legacy thing that we’ve since removed. Originally, the idea was that you were free to kill anyone you want and there would be no ramifications for it but in playing through it we determined that we didn’t really want to have zero penalty for gunning down innocents. There had to be some penalty, such as the cops coming after you or the value of the mission payoff going down. But killing innocents doesn’t negatively affect the mission itself, other than the police presence and loss of ammunition!

RPS: So you could end up with three-way fights between cops, bounties and Killian?

Rhinehart: Possibly. We’re encountering some of that right now in tests. What we’re doing is, during this phase of balancing, is working out how difficult we want certain things to be and how powerful we want the police force to be. Right now we’re looking at that and one of the issues we’re looking at is how much we want the police presence to influence events when you’re in the middle of a mission.

RPS: And there are no plans for multiplayer?

Rhinehart: No multiplayer. We’re focusing on a strong, compelling single player narrative.

RPS: With the PC being a superior platform, Prey 2 will obviously support all kinds of advanced graphical wizardry, won’t it?

Rhinehart: We are looking into anything special we can do for PC users but no announcements yet as to what that may or may not be but we are looking into different ways that we can enhance the PC side.

RPS: And when can we expect to be playing?

All I can say at the moment is 2012.

RPS: Simultaneous release on all platforms though, right?

Rhinehart: Absolutely. Yes!

RPS: Thanks for your time.

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52 Comments »

  1. evilbobthebob says:

    When he says the dusk area of the planet (which I assume is tidally locked) is on the equator, I think he really means the terminator /astronomy student

    • Ultra Superior says:

      Exactly my thoughts – if the planet’s rotation and orbiting is locked with the star, then it can’t be equator.

      I read about such planet in a Comissar Ciaphas Cain novel ;D

    • YourMomIsPedantic says:

      I’m no astronomy student, but isn’t tidal locking of a habitable planet to a star impossible? As I understand it, tidal locking occurs because the dragging of the tidal bulges causes torque on the smaller astronomical body, which slows it down until it becomes locked to the larger body. For this to happen, there are certain requirements for the difference of mass and the distance between the two bodies. I could be wrong, but to me these requirements (of which I only have an intuitive sense in terms of proportions, which could be wrong) seem incompatible with a habitable environment, and maybe even physically impossible (I’m thinking that the planet would have to be very massive, and very close to the star).

  2. LionsPhil says:

    It is a linear story. We have the one story we want to tell, one narrative, it isn’t going to branch off in different directions.

    While totally reasonable, especially given Prey 1, a little disappointing—the nice, ambience-laden setting made me want something a little more immersive sim.

    But the rest of this sounds like good stuff and it still has some flexibility; moreso than, say, Half-Life. Good questions, too.

    No multiplayer. We’re focusing on a strong, compelling single player narrative.

    I wonder if (fake-)portals are gone.

    • Dervish says:

      In the demo I saw, the guy commentating explicitly said, “There are no portals in Prey 2.”

  3. JackShandy says:

    So what you’re saying is

    “RPS: Is this game Deus Ex?

    Rhineheart: Not really.”

    Disappointing.

    • Ringwraith says:

      If everything was like Deus Ex, Deus Ex wouldn’t be Deus Ex anymore.

    • caddyB says:

      If everything was like Deus Ex, I’d be a much happier man.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I think, pedantically, I would be a less happy man if Serious Sam 3 were more like Deus Ex. Variety is good ‘n’ all.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      Actually this sounds exactly like Deus Ex. Linear story and gadgets instead of augmentations.

  4. Buemba says:

    Very interested in this game. It got some great buzz during this year’s E3 and I’m pretty happy with most of what they’re talking about it (Though I’d prefer it if the story was brancheable).

    Anybody knows what engine it’s using? Since Bethesda is publishing it IdTech 5 is a possibility, right?

    • Dervish says:

      id Tech 4 is the base. How much they have changed it is anyone’s guess.

  5. Schadenfreude says:

    Sounds kind of Assassin’s Creedy.

    It’s certainly kilomiles ahead of the competition.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I see what you did there.

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      Agreed. It will carter the competition off to the landfill.

    • Xerian says:

      So did I… Nice pun. (Did you see the hillarious and utterly ridiculous comments on that article? Tis good fun.)

  6. johnpeat says:

    On the basis that there’s a sequel coming, I finally got around to playing through the original Prey and – erm…

    It starts well enough and I like that it’s an old-school game with no secrets, achveiments or side-quests – just slog through the story and like it – but it does become a total grind before it ends…

    There were times when I really felt like saying “Oh not ANOTHER corridor” or “ooh look, more aliens appearing from nowhere, right on cue”…

    It’s like the writer fell asleep about about 20 minutes…

  7. LionsPhil says:

    I like that it’s an old-school game with no secrets

    But…DOOM had secrets. And Duke3D.

    Oh, foiblous reply system. You got me.

  8. db1331 says:

    I think this is going to play out like Dead Island. Awesome CG trailer that gets everyone excited, then the game comes out and is nothing like said awesome CG trailer.

  9. Premium User Badge

    El_MUERkO says:

    I like their focus, no ‘finger in every pie’ development. Everything I’ve seen of Prey 2 has been positive and everything said in the interview sounds honest which is a positive in itself.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, I like how he very clearly demarked areas the game was not attempting.

  10. PleasingFungus says:

    “RPS: Simultaneous release on all platforms though, right?

    Rhinehart: Absolutely. Yes!”

    These days, I’ll believe it when I see it.

    • DK says:

      “RPS: PC-only month-long delay a week before release though, right?”
      “Rhinehart: Absolutely. Yes!”

      Now it’s actually the truth!

  11. povu says:

    Prey 2 sounds great. STALKER + Mirror’s Edge in a sci fi alien world. Win.

    Prey 2 and Dishonored… Bethesda Softworks definitely picked up some nice titles.

  12. Jimbo says:

    “With the PC being a superior platform…”

    Ha, how dickish of you :)

    • Xerian says:

      How is someone speakign the truth dickish? Meheheh. I liked that comment. And so did you. No matter what you say, you’ll always know; You love the PC more than any other platform. And more than your sister.

  13. caddyB says:

    I love sexy female aliens who are completely human, only with some strange make up and hairstyle choices.

    And some horns and stuff. I figure they are cosplayers.

    • MisterT says:

      I have to disagree
      As a marine biologist , I feel discriminated against with the lack of truly inter-species rommance options . I want space jellyfish waifus!!

  14. karthink says:

    RPS: And if a bounty escapes will we see a fail screen, or can we try to recover?

    His answer to this, and many other questions, is that basically it’s assassin’s creed in space. I am looking forward to it now.

    Isn’t the anti-gravity bomb basically lift from Mass Effect?

    • Luke says:

      Or the topsy-turvy gun from Armed and Dangerous. Minus the whole “turning the whole planet upside-down” thing.

  15. Paul says:

    “RPS: With the PC being a superior platform, Prey 2 will obviously support all kinds of advanced graphical wizardry, won’t it?”

    I love RPS :-).

  16. Burning Man says:

    “…and then you’ll go back to the CHECKPOINT and….”

    NOOOOO!!

    • LionsPhil says:

      Well, maybe he just means an autosave point. That doesn’t proscribe good ol’ manual saving with multiple slots.

    • Burning Man says:

      Nah, I think he meant checkpoints proper. Consider this snippet:

      “If ambient bounties escape, they’re just gone. The game doesn’t reset back to let you try the ambient bounty again”

      I do hope I’m wrong though. Or that they’d be willing to change this.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Checkpoint saving. Ugh.

      Strong negatives on that, here at least. Wouldn’t mind such a thing much, if it were just an option though.

      When it comes to picking up a game I am borderline on, checkpoint saving often tips it into the ‘No’ column. Story/gameplay has to be much better to make up for continually irritating user interface foibles.

    • MSJ says:

      Red Faction Guerilla sents you back to the checkpoint if you fail a story mission too. Basically, some missions will have a save at the beginning, but you can still save anywhere.

      Whining about the inclusion of checkpoints is such a naive thing to do nowadays. It’s like getting angry that a game has swords in it because it might mean the developers wouldn’t ever include guns in it.

    • Jhoosier says:

      Personally, Just Cause 2 is the minimum I’m willing to accept wrt checkpoint saves. There must be a save option.

  17. Iskariot says:

    So…. How big is the world?
    We did not get an answer to that question, or did I miss it?
    -
    I sure hope this game is going to be a positive surprise.

    The Star Wars franchise could and should have jumped into this genre long ago.

  18. strangelingo says:

    Young Smith, I sense great power in you, but you need to work on your img alt skills.

    • matrices says:

      My caption for image 2:

      “Killian soberly assesses the start-time-to-crate ratio.”

    • MSJ says:

      Actually, that’s Tommy in picture 2.

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  20. Post-Internet Syndrome says:

    You should have asked if it will have some form of new game plus!

  21. A-Scale says:

    “completely non-linear”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMZva__rU14

    “Rhinehart: It is a linear story.”

    Huh?

    • BoZo says:

      The main story is linear but the game is not on rails.

    • Jhoosier says:

      I didn’t play the first game, and not likely to play this one, but I honestly prefer the one-storyline games. I’m lucky if I finish a game normally, and my insane desire to see every possibility means that I never get very far in games like Fallout 3 or The Witcher. I haven’t finished the first, and it took me more than a year to finish the latter.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Hypocee says:

    Great questions, and kudos to Rhinehart (and whatever overlord is giving him rein) for simple, no-BS answers on their choices for the design.

  23. Vexing Vision says:

    Hmm. Interest is waning again. :( I was hoping for an actual free-form game, but no long-term consequences in choices doesn’t really make it as sandboxy as I’d prefer.

    Shame!

  24. eryynlhanu says:

    seo service
    Full steam support, graphics options and decent performance and you have a guaranteed sale from me Human Head. I’ve been gaming on the PC since it pushed my beloved Amiga into obsolescence but I shudder at the sense of entitlement I am witnessing in the PC gaming community these days. I mean… even expecting them to sit through a 15 second intro movie sends them into a fit of rage! They talk about ripping the intro movie as though they repelled a life threatening aggression!