After watching Human Head Studios' 20-minute E3 demo in June, I felt a strong pang of hopeful disbelief. There is just so much craziness going on in the demo that it's hard to tell exactly the game works. This speaks to the nature of hands-off demos, but, more importantly, it's an effect of Prey 2's ambitious, original design.
Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Human Head co-founder Chris Rhinehart and talk Prey 2: the limits of the open-world design, the history of the traversal mechanics and what (if anything) will remain intact from the original Prey.
Read on for answers!
What are you showing off at QuakeCon?
We are showing off two different levels from the game. One at the beginning of the game and one 25-percent into the game when the player is more established. The idea is that you play a bad ass bounty hunter in a sci-fi world. The demo we are showing shows off a lot of the cool gadgets, some of the open-area gameplay, and taking on a larger mission – going after a guy and trying to take him down.
Could you explain how the open-world works? How do you acquire weapons and missions?
There are a couple missions types you can take on. You can take-on a main story/narrative mission. You could also explore the world and find side-missions; there are ambient people that have missions you can take on.
There are a couple ways to get weapons and gadgets. You can go and purchase them, because there is an economy system in the game. You earn money by taking on missions and taking down targets, which you can spend on new upgrades. But, there are some missions where the mission giver will say you’ll get this cool gadget if you take on this mission.
As a fan of the first Prey what are some of the things we’ll see carried on?
One of the big things we wanted to do with Prey 2 is to show you a new part of the universe. There are some creatures you’ll recognize from the first Prey, and Tommy is still very much a part of the game. Tommy is still there; he was always intended to be there. It’s not a cameo. You don’t play him, but he is integral part of the story.
Is any of the perspective stuff –- being upside down and all that –- going to come into play at all?
Nope. We don’t have gravity and we don’t have any portals in the game. For me, Prey was about taking players to a world they haven’t seen before and having them experience new things in a first-person shooter. We are doing a very similar thing. We are giving you a new world to run around in, and gameplay where you get to be a crazy, bad ass bounty hunter with all these gadgets you’ve never seen before in a first-person shooter.
When did the traversal stuff become a part of Prey 2?
That was very early on. We knew we wanted to give the player more options with exploring the world. From an artistic standpoint we wanted to make a very vertical world so those two things lined-up very well. We want to give you climbing abilities and a world to climb around in. That was a thing we prototyped early on, and we knew we needed to make it integral to everything else in the game.
So the guys working on combat were like, "We need to merge these things together and make combat work, too." The end result is what we call agile combat. You are vaulting over things and sliding down pipes, and you can shoot the entire time. That was a core element of it.
What are you doing with the controller to trigger all these moves?
It’s super easy. There’s jump and there’s crouch. So when you’re running around all you have to do is jump and you’ll auto-grab things. If you crouch, you’ll slide and if there is cover near you’ll latch onto it.
There is almost an auto-aim to it. If you jump toward an edge, the game will detect it and you’ll latch on. The challenge isn’t that I need to make this jump. It’s that I need to make this jump that leads to this jump and slide under this thing and kill that guy over there. We want players thinking tactically.
Have you been talking to the Brink guys at all? Both of your games are running on the id Tech 4 engine and have similar traversal abilities.
What’s it been like working with id Tech 4 and making a game that looks fantastic with it? Was that a challenge?
We started with id Tech 4, because it's really good tech and we are very comfortable with it since it’s what we used to make Prey . Since we wanted to make an open-world game, we knew there was a lot more we needed to do with it to allow a lot more stuff. Prey was much more of a corridor shooter with limited number of enemies. We wanted Prey 2 to have more enemies and we wanted it to be open.
So, the rendering guys rewrote the renderer. The other thing we wanted was to have really cool lighting in the game. We knew the visual look we were going for. So, they spent a lot of time making lighting that is really easy to setup, making things properly bounce around to give us that really cool, realistic look.
At one point in the demo, you grab a guy and use him as a human shield. Can you do this at any point in the game?
Yes, you can grab anyone at any time. Certain guys you can grab but it will lower your reputation. If you just grab some random citizen and you get his head blown off, that’s not good.
Can I walk around with a human shield and hang out with other citizens. “Sup? Check out my sweet human shield, brah!”
Not exactly. You can grab a human shield and wander around with him, but people react appropriately to it. What happens is that your gun automatically comes up –
Right, there was that one point in the demo where you raised your gun to a citizen and it threatened them. It seems everyone reacts to what you are doing. When did that come into play?
We first just had the gun out by default, like a normal FPS, but it started to feel really weird that no one was reacting. It’s weird to walk into a bar and you are running around with your gun in everyone’s face, so we decided to have it holstered by default.
It’s the players choice to pull it out or not. After that, we decided we could threaten characters or not – it was the natural extension. So you can threaten anyone or try to mug them, if you want. One of the other big uses for it is for informants. You can go up to them and try to get information or pull out your gun and threaten them (the evil route).
At the end of the demo, you capture your pursuit by throwing him in this crazy, bubble cage thingy. Are there any other gadgets you’ll use to capture your bounties?
That’s the primary way you capture targets, but there are different ways you can incapacitate someone before you capture them. You can shoot them and maybe they’ll surrender.
One of my favorite ways is the Boa which you launch and they’ll wrap around the target and take them down. The target is only briefly incapacitated, so you have to run over and get him. Some targets have abilities that counteract the gadgets so you have to tailor which gadget you use based upon which enemy you are going after. The second target we go after in the demo teleports right out of it.
How do the chases work? Will the chase just keep looping until you capture your target?
In that particular one, it ends with you cornering him. Other targets will escape, if they escape it's mission over.
What other abilities will targets have?
The second target in the demo has mines that he drops so you have to keep a bit more space between you and him. They have different weapons obviously, while others have different abilities like jumping higher or running faster which taxes the player.