Rumor: Prey 2 Development Stricken By Dev Strike?

It's been a while since I read it, but I'm pretty sure this is *exactly* how Hamlet ended.
Do you remember where you were when you first heard that Prey 2 might be dead? Me neither. But I remember where I was when I heard it emerged from the wreckage with a few bumps, bruises, and a sizable slip out of 2012  – mostly because that was yesterday. Bethesda chalked it up to the fact that “development has not progressed satisfactorily this past year, and the game does not currently meet our quality standards.” But why? Incredibly long national holiday, perhaps? Or maybe a hypnotically mesmerizing butterfly? And while those two options sound extremely plausible, Shacknews has a potential contender for third place: a full-on strike at Human Head.

According to the site’s source, development on the space-racing free-runner came to a complete halt in November. It apparently hasn’t budged since. Human Head, so the story goes, made an angry human face at its contract with Zenimax and effectively went on strike while renegotiating for a better one. The two sides, however, failed to see human-eye-to-human-eye, so the business folks (one of whom I’m really hoping was named “Hugh Mann”) more or less ceased talks in January. That was then followed by a brief moment of hope in March, which quickly hit the skids.

Admittedly, things could have improved since then, but Shacknews is speculating that a new developer could be brought in to complete the project. Presented in that light (probably with “Don’t Fear the Reaper” blaring the background), the news that Human Head’s mulling over a Rune revival is a tad worrisome. Obviously, it’s all speculation for now, but the puzzle pieces together a bit too nicely – though the final image is less kitten-prancing-through-a-sunlit-field and more sad-clown-holding-deflated-balloons.

Bethesda, meanwhile, refuses to confirm or deny, merely opting to say, “we aren’t commenting on the game’s development beyond what was said in the statement that was released this morning.” See as it’s announced an official delay and not an out-and-out cancellation, though, someone’s developing the game, right? Or at least, I’d assume so. More soon? Maybe? Here’s hoping.


  1. DevilSShadoW says:

    I really hate it when this happens. Especially to a game that I was looking forward to. Here’s hoping Human Head will be kept instead of bringing in someone else midproject. That could drastically change the game’s direction.

    • GriffinBalls says:


    • LionsPhil says:

      Quite. And if it falls through completely, Zenimax will presumably hold onto enough of the assets so far as to effectively block Human Head going their own way even if they called it something different and dropped the magical native American linking it to the first game.


    • Shuck says:

      Having seen first hand what happens when a new team takes over an existing project, I can say that it’s very, very ugly. Few projects survive such a transition, and certainly not intact.

  2. Optimaximal says:

    As most of the world have already said, Zenimax have no right to chastise developers for quality control when they let stuff like Rogue Warrior out of the door in the state it was.

  3. Post-Internet Syndrome says:

    Covering up a strike? Yay USA, stay classy.

    • sneetch says:

      So, what? Are you saying the US Government was involved in covering up the strike? Wow, I bet it goes all the way to the president!

  4. Bungle says:

    I’m sure the studio would have gotten shut down two weeks after the game was released anyway. They might as well try to get some money while they still have leverage.

    • Phantoon says:

      Indeed. Bethesda is pretty awful to the companies it either practically owns or actually does own.

    • Grayvern says:

      Zenimax do not own human head

      • Shuck says:

        Which means they have nothing invested in keeping them alive. I’ve seen more developers fatally screwed over by publishers that didn’t own the company.

  5. RedViv says:

    Evul communism.

    Seriously though, I thought that the team that made Prey would be unlikely to deliver anything of worse quality than Brink, Rogue Warrior, or *shudder* Star Trek Legacy.

    • Prime says:

      Oh god. Star Trek Legacy. *shudder*

    • LionsPhil says:

      I dunno, I woudn’t say Brink lacked quality. Splash Damage seemed quite capable of putting a game together—it just wasn’t a desperately compelling iteration of Enemy Territory, at a time when everyone is still largely smitten with TF2, with rage-inducingly bad bots.

      Or did I just luck out on technical woes?

    • CorruptBadger says:

      Brink wasn’t a bad game, just not what we were promised. It played like a charm in my time with it, a real gem of a multiplayer game. The only problems I had was that there had been all this massive hype by splash damage of a dynamic story that would twist and turn depending on what missions you failed and won, what objectives you got, and which you didn’t. As it turned out, if you failed a mission you failed, flat out, no failure state where you got a different ending or did a different map than what you would have if you won, no, you simply had to re-do it.

      The unlock system was okay in it, but with only 20 levels and very few perks to put points into to give sufficient variety, it felt clunky, I would prefer if you could have just had default load-outs that are all properly balanced, and just have a lot more unlockable clothing options to properly identify yourself.

      But the gameplay was great, the maps were designed excellently for the most part, bar the first map, due to awful paths and that fucking choke point with the turret, when I played a match I felt like It was a mission, with a purposeful objective, not just, plant bomb or take flag while also killing. Cut scenes also gave missions even more purpose and the world and art style they created were lovely.
      Hehe, by the looks of it im doing reviews now, hey John, hiring?

  6. coldvvvave says:

    I’m kind of sceptical here. The inintial responce about game not meeting quality standards fit things perfectly IMO. Everything but CGI looked just plain bad even for a pre alpha.

    • Dominic White says:

      Wait, what? The gameplay footage they were showing off was excellent, and it’s why everyone was so excited about the game and bummed out when rumors of its cancellation started going round!

      • Lilliput King says:

        Yeah, what they were showing at the last Eurogamer Expo looked great fun.

      • meatshit says:

        Quiet you. You’re supposed to swallow the anti-labor propaganda unquestioningly.

        This really does explain why the press release was so hostile sounding.

    • Milky1985 says:

      Do you know what pre-alpha is? I mean acutal pre-alpha not the marketing pre alpha which is dragging it kicking and streaming towards towards the marketing idea of a beta

      because bascailly as soon as you write your first line of code its effectivly pre-alpha, as it covers almost all of the inital development work.

  7. Alexander Norris says:

    I hope that the “someone” developing the game is Human Head and they’ve managed to get Zenimax to agree to their demands. Either way, good on Human Head for standing up for themselves – I hope things work out for them.

  8. CMaster says:

    That doesn’t sound like a strike, really. As described there, that isn’t employees walking out over poor conditions, but the business deciding the contract isn’t acceptable and instructing its employees to no longer work on said contract, which is quite a different situation really.

    • frightlever says:

      There’s generally a time and a place to determine whether the contract is fit for purpose, and it’s generally before it gets signed. Attempting to re-negotiate a contract after it has been signed doesn’t seem very professional.

      • Shuck says:

        Unfortunately the contracts between publishers and developers in the game industry aren’t so cut and dry. Once developers sign that contract they’re often at the mercy of the publisher, who is providing the funds needed to continue operations. Over and over again I’ve seen publishers not honor the contract (or “interpret” it in very strange, self-serving ways) and the developer can’t do much about it – they either accept the changes and continue working, or suddenly find themselves without enough resources to keep the company going. (It takes a while to fund a new project with another publisher, and most studios don’t have enough money in the bank to keep a full development team going for the length of time needed to do so.)
        Yeah, it’s another way in which the game industry is f*cked up. You can see why developers are so excited about the possibilities of Kickstarter.

  9. Kollega says:

    A strike, you say? It’s about time something like that happened in the game industry. After hearing horror stories like that of Team Bondi, i have become seriously convinced that developers need strikes and labour unions to protect their rights from greedy publishers abusers higher up on the chain of command.

    Of course, if Human Head aren’t in the right here, it’s a whole another matter.

    • Mungrul says:

      I’ve thought this for years, but unfortunately the US seems to have successfully demonised Unions, with many people associating them with organised crime or communism these days.

      • Reefpirate says:

        It’s not really a trick or much of a stretch to associate those three groups. They’re not all equivalent, but all connected in several ways. Unions are bad when they’re too powerful, which is simple and not demonic logic. A ‘scab’ is just someone who wants to do work for money, not an evil little imp to be spat on.

        • Mungrul says:

          Are you American by any chance? Because Unions in the UK have never really been associated with organised crime, and we’re a lot more tolerant of Communism and Socialism.

        • sqparadox says:

          They’re not all equivalent, but all connected in several ways. Unions are bad when they’re too powerful, which is simple and not demonic logic.

          That is only one way they are “connected,” not several. For that matter that statement is also true of all organizations of any kind. They are all bad when they are too powerful; it’s a redundant statement. Anything is bad when it becomes too powerful, otherwise we wouldn’t need the ‘too’ in front of ‘powerful.’

          Additionally, your “connection” is a far larger problem for corporations than for unions. So by your logic corporations are more connected to organized crime and communism than unions. Sounds like we need some good unions to get those corporations back in line.

          And what’s this about scabs? I didn’t see anyone else even bring it up… why did you? Did I miss something?

          • MastodonFarm says:

            Except that, historically, labor unions in the U.S. have often been very closely intertwined with organized crime. Read up on Jimmy Hoffa for one infamous example.

      • Jason Moyer says:

        I’m not sure what unions are like in other parts of the world (or the country for that matter), but my experiences with them in Pennsylvania have all been bad.

        Being part of a labor union at one time meant fighting for fair wages and safe working conditions; somewhere along the line it adopted a criminal underworld mentality where it’s actually ok to physically assault non-union members and where an uneducated laborer expects to make 6 figures a year with better benefits than a school teacher while holding a job where it’s literally impossible to be terminated for any reason whatsoever. I’ve lived on both sides of the state, and both were economically decimated by companies leaving and taking thousands of jobs with them because the costs of relocating the company were less than the costs of using overpaid, unskilled labor.

        Of course, I’m referring to specific unions here; I can’t really say anything bad about teachers’ unions or unions for skilled tradesmen.

    • Perjoss says:

      Its very good that staff are putting their foot down, people don’t usually strike unless something is making them very unhappy. But I fear that bigger companies will just look towards cheap labor from overseas meaning there will be less and lower paid jobs.

      • Reefpirate says:

        How benevolent you are when organizing other people’s money.

        • arccos says:

          He/she is right though; a strike, especially in a non-unionized industry, is a way of saying “What you’re doing is so wrong, I’m willing to risk my job and possibly my career over this.”

          It takes a special kind of person to go that far.

    • CMaster says:

      Except, the way this story is told, it’s Human Head, the company wanting to renegotiate the contract, not Human Head’s employees striking over unfair conditions. So it’s not really about time or anything.

      (That said, the employees may well all agree with the management’s decision here, but the story as repeated above does read as a management decision)

    • Surlywombat says:

      Wasn’t the Team Bondi issues caused by the Team Bondi management? I’ve noticed that Publishers always get the blame and never get any of the credit.

      • Kollega says:

        Yeah… sorry about that, i’ve re-watched a video that told a little about that and it was indeed the management. I fixed it.

        The explanation of publishers getting all the blame and zero credit is that their decisions tend to be motivated purely by money and their support usually is limited to money and advertising (traditionally considered evil), while developers are allowed some more leeway since they are the ones making all the magical stuff.

      • Shuck says:

        Publishers get a lot of blame because they have a lot of power to screw over (and even destroy) development studios. And they do so. With regularity. The whole publisher/developer relationship is highly dysfunctional.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I wish it had been a strike. Unfortunately tech guys in general seem to have a strong anti-union thread in them. That’s fine in other industries where you’re a valued resource and companies have to compete for you. In the game industry everyone wonders why some places have half a year long crunches even though it’s widely known to be the most expensive and costly way to produce them.

  10. BobsLawnService says:

    Trying to renegotiate that whole Metacritic score clause in the contract?

    • Dominic White says:

      For those wondering about this, Obsidian would have gotten a completion bonus on Fallout: New Vegas if it had scored 85+ on Metacritic.

      It scored 84.

      Why? Because reviewers knocked marks off for bugs.

      And why was it buggy? Because Bethesda was doing the engine QA, and mandated that the game use their own buggy, unrefined engine.

      You can see why developers might be a little on edge about working with Bethesda/Zenimax now.

      • fish99 says:

        That whole Fallout New Vegas bonus thing makes me mad, because IMO it’s a great game….


        The engine is the same engine from Oblivion and Fallout 3, and was already in a reasonably stable state when Obsidian started working on FNV, plus I’m sure Obsidian saw using that engine and all the resources from F3 as a chance to get the game to market a lot quicker and cheaper, so I’m sure they were happy to use it. Most of the issues with FNV were scripting problems, caused by Obsidian themselves, not engine bugs.

        Also, they signed a contract with that metacritic clause in it. Luca Brasi didn’t hold a gun to their heads.

        • Keeper_Deven says:

          ‘Also, they signed a contract with that metacritic clause in it. Luca Brasi didn’t hold a gun to their heads’

          Here’s what an ex-Obsidian employee posted in a thread discussing the Metacritic thing:

          ‘I don’t really have anything to add to this discussion. Instead I thought I would talk to about my favorite scene from Empire Strikes Back. You remember when Han and Leia go to visit Lando on Cloud City – and then Lando surprises them by having Darth Vader there. I love that line where Darth Vader says regarding the deal Lando had with him, “Pray I don’t alter it any further”, referring to the deal.

          Yeah, that was great.’

          • fish99 says:

            Well if that’s true then Bethesda suck, and maybe Obsidian should have taken legal action, but it still doesn’t change where the fault for the bugs lie.

        • Phantoon says:

          Bethesda came to them and said “make a Fallout game”.

          And you think they had a choice? They needed the work!

        • LionsPhil says:

          The launcher crashes immediately for me if I don’t delete the WAV file it tries to play.

          Scorpions regularly fall through the floor of the world, or do so halfway and start spasming about and contorting into impossible shapes as the physics engine goes insane.

          There are several bugs where loading a saved game will leave behind state from before you loaded, which can manifest as quest breakages, if you poke around the wikia.

          It does have a lot of quest script bugs, yes, but the engine’s still a goddamn mess too.

  11. bill says:

    Well, assuming it is true, all i can say is about bloody time!

    It really is about time that development studios started standing up for themselves and negotiating some vaguely human working and pay conditions.

  12. fearian says:

    Please take this as a critique and not as mindless trolling:

    It was slightly annoying to try and figure out what the actual story was in this article while trying to dodge puns and lame jokes every half a sentence . By the time I got to whatever don’t fear the reaper was about, I hopped over to the shacknews link and digested the whole thing in about ten seconds.

    Anyway, sorry for the negative comment, I DO THIS OUT OF LOVE.


    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      Yes it’s almost as if RPS articles have some personality to them, that makes me want to read them, as opposed to say, Gamespot.

      • copernicus_phoenix says:

        Gamespot is much too highbrow for me – I prefer the user reviews over at Metacritic.


        • Phantoon says:

          User reviews? You mean the people that hate the company so they rate it 0/10 and people that work for the company so they give it 10/10?

          • flexm says:

            Yeah they’re so silly, I once posted an obviously sarcastic comment over there about it and it just went straight over peoples heads

      • fearian says:

        No, I like the RPS style of writing, but I just felt this piece lay it on very heavily, to the detriment of the article. I’m a long time reader, I just believe in open critisism. :)

        • arccos says:

          You’re not the only one. This story was a bit more difficult to parse than usual, so I went to the Shacknews article and got the cold, clammy facts/rumor there.

          The worst are the sites that have neither the personality nor the details, so I’m grateful RPS usually does an excellent job juggling both.

  13. Mistabashi says:

    I agree, the whole article was quite pun-ishing to read.

  14. DrScuttles says:

    someone’s developing the game, right?
    Maybe Bethesda themselves have taken it upon them to finish up the game and deliver it to consumers with the level of polish they’ve consistently delivered since at least ’96?

    • Phantoon says:


      … Did you even play Oblivion at launch? Fallout 3? There were so many bugs that I started thinking an army of ants would eventually march out of the screen and all over my desk biting everything oh god the ants whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

      What I’m saying is Bethesda games are REALLY, REALLY buggy at launch.

  15. Volrath says:

    Zenimax is one of the worst publishers in the industry. Just ask Obsidan or Headfirst productions. Oh wait you can’t ask the latter that anymore because they’re bankrupt while the former is on constant life-support.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      To be fair, they’re better than Activision, EA, and Ubisoft in most people’s eyes… except that’s not exactly amazingly difficult.

      • Blackcompany says:

        Being a better publisher than EA – from the standpoint of development studios – is likely akin to being taller than the average blade of grass from the perspective of an ant.

        • Phantoon says:

          As in humans being taller than it? Because measuring individual blades of grass would be difficult.

    • Styles says:

      Agreed. They’re every bit as bad as Activition in the “sue ALL the people *insert meme pic here*” department, but release broken games as well. They have devolved into one of my most disliked publishers …they’re just as greedy and inequitable as the rest.

    • HilariousCow says:

      Guys, please! Can’t we all just agree that they’re ALL cunts?

  16. Jac says:

    Why would they sign the contract in the first place if they weren’t happy / knew they couldn’t fullfill it without throwing a wobbly. Given the information at hand I don’t really have much sympathy for them.

    I might try going on strike at work because they won’t change an agreement i signed up too. Although id probably be sacked.

    • Volrath says:

      Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? No contract = no work = no Human Head.

  17. Greg Wild says:

    Good on Human Head for standing up for their workers I say.

  18. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Unlike the fact that it’s not canceled, I didn’t see this coming, I wonder what kind of contract dispute could make them behave like that?

  19. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    Potential new devs for Prey 2: Don’t cross the picket line!
    I know Prey 2 is kind of exciting, but we have plenty to play without it. There is too much happening that is moving gaming in a direction away from publishers. This incident can help that move, especially if they have a hard time replacing the striking developers.

    • Reefpirate says:

      You mean you’d rather not have a company that’s willing to do the same job for the same or lower price? You don’t always have to side with the strikers, you know… Sometimes they’re just covering up incompetence, mismanagement and/or attempting to extort extra benefits from the other party. Maybe not the case here… But don’t go chanting ‘fuck you, scabs’ so quickly, eh?

      • Beelzebud says:

        And sometimes corporations screw over their employees, and turn their backs on contracts.

        I hate how the knee jerk reaction in America is to side with the corporations.

        • Soggy_Popcorn says:

          His comment was to not jump to conclusions. You respond by jumping to conclusions and lamenting the U.S.’s alleged propensity to jump to conclusions (against your favored group).

          Do you need a snorkel to breath through that irony?

  20. Hematite says:

    Two general responses:

    1. The press release about Prey 2 being unsatisfactory made no sense if there’s actually something wrong with the game. Business entities NEVER slag each other off unless they’re threatening to break the partnership and want to show the other party that they mean business by tarnishing their reputation. By that reasoning, the message about the state of Prey 2 from Zenimax was actually a threat to Human Head, and the fact that it was a public press release is merely the method of delivery and proof that they’re serious.

    2. Contract disputes don’t necessarily happen because someone changed their mind. It could be that Zenimax have made some recent policy decision which changes the way the contract would play out – for example decisions about which platforms will be supported at release and whether it will be digitally of physically distributed could have huge impact on how bonuses are paid out, and would be a sensible trigger for contract renegotiation or clarification. Obviously negotiations have broken down though.

  21. ResonanceCascade says:

    Replacement, eh? I’d recommend Arkane, but Harvey Smith doesn’t strike me as the scabby type.

  22. sneetch says:

    The second paragraph in the Shacknews article makes interesting reading. I’m surprised this wasn’t mentioned (my emphasis):

    “According to a Shacknews source who asked not to be identified, Human Head was not happy with the terms of its contract with ZeniMax, and deliberately stopped work on the game in November so it could try to negotiate a more favorable deal. While doing that, many on the development team were laid off, with the hope they would be rehired if the contract issue was resolved favorably. The process seemed to be gathering some positive momentum until January when ZeniMax’s responses all but stopped, causing some of the laid-off Prey 2 team to wonder if the game would ever see the light of day.”

    Another thing, is it still a “strike” if it’s the company and not the workers (many of whom were laid off) doing it?

  23. JoeX111 says:

    I suppose Bethesda could always give it back to id Software. It was originally their property.

    • LionsPhil says:

      3D Realms. So, er…maybe if you want it cancelled again in 12 years, then slap-dash finished off by Gearbox.

      Not that it didn’t get that treatment the first time, back when it was all spangly portal engine and people had heads like angry D4s.

    • Beelzebud says:

      Prey was originally 3d Realm’s property, not id Software’s.

      • JoeX111 says:

        Oh, crap. Well, screw that, then. I guess I got confused because Prey used the Doom 3 engine.

        Though I still think id Software could do something neat with it.

  24. Iskariot says:

    A new developer?
    That usually is very, very bad news. That always hurts a game.

  25. Styles says:

    I’ve never had the highest opinion of Bethesda and their ‘sue first, ask questions later” attitude, or their “buy up every I.P and turn it into a first person shooter!” modus operandi ….but now I’m really beginning to hate them.

    I don’t know the details of what happened between Human Head and Bethesda, but I’d bet big bucks on Bethesda being the bad guys.