Human Head Studios made a big splash at E3 2011 by unveiling the sequel to Prey, its hit 2006 sci-fi shooter. Not only was Prey 2 marking the return of a series that was met with both critical praise and commercial success, but it was setting out in a completely new and compelling direction. Starring a gun-slinging bounty hunter stranded on an alien world, Prey 2 represented the open world sci-fi bounty hunting game Star Wars fans had hoped for long before Star Wars 1313 was announced. Unfortunately, Prey 2's development, much like LucasArt's now seemingly doomed next-gen Boba Fett adventure, has become shrouded in a mist of nervous anticipation.

Journalists and gamers alike were nothing but impressed by Prey 2's blockbuster CGI trailer and debut gameplay footage. Both made hunting down alien scum in a dark neon light-lit cityscape of seedy night clubs and black market vendors look like a blast. Abundant gadgets, including augmented targeting systems, deployable energy shields, anti-gravity grenades, electric bolases, hover boots and shoulder-mounted rockets, promised to make each player into a one-man arsenal. Meanwhile, agile combat, including the ability to slide between cover while firing, and fluid first person platforming, made traversing Prey 2's vertical cityscapes look effortless and energizing.

Intense action wasn't the game's only highlight. Gathering information and tracking bounties would have added strategic layers to each hunt. Stealth options for more subtle hunters were also a rumored possibility. Regardless, Prey 2 seemed to have something for every sort of gamer imaginable to latch onto.

Unfortunately, Prey 2 now seems to be jostling for the position of the next game industry enigma. New information on it has been hard to come by since its major showings in 2011. Even the game's once enthusiastic developers have seemingly gone underground with possible updates. Human Head's Twitter account has been silent since September. Additionally, the last update on the studio's website was in December, and concerned the release of an iOS game.

Prey fans yearning for even a morsel of news have grown used to being let down. A website once thought to be a teaser for the game, complete with cryptic imagery and a countdown, was revealed to be a fan site hoping to promote the game. Likewise, every rumor of a major Bethesda announcement on the horizon has raised hopes only for them to be crushed. Most recently, Bethesda launched a teaser that led to the reveal of a new Wolfenstein game. Though new game announcements are always welcome, Prey fans are still waiting for an update on a game that was originally set for launch in 2012.

Although it was unlikely from the start that any of these internet rumors would result in a Prey 2 update, the fact that fans latched onto them is proof of their desperation. A petition on the Prey 2 Alien Noire fan website has garnered 3,909 signatures supporting the game, despite the site's obscurity. Furthermore, Bethesda's official forums for the game remain an active meeting ground for fans to voice frustrated dissent.

Game cancellations can be messy affairs, and usually the publisher or developer will want to promptly clarify their position moving forward. The fact that Bethesda is not being open about what's going on with Prey 2 suggests that they either have not made a final decision on the project's fate, or have a future announcement planned. Lending credence to this theory is the continuing presence of Prey 2 media being hosted on official sites. Not only does the game remain front and center on Human Head Studio's website, but Bethesda has yet to close the game's official Bethesda Softworks hosted forum.

All this does not mean the game's development is going smoothly. Human Head Studios still lists the game on their web site for a TBA 2012 release date, which suggests they aren't preparing for launching the game anytime soon. Bethesda's last update on the game affirmed that the game was not meeting the company's quality standards at the time. A Tweet from Human Head level designer Nathan Cheever again stated that development was in limbo. Back in April 2012, Game Rant reported that Human Head deliberately stopped working on the game to protest their contract. Although all these sources agree the game hasn't been cancelled, none have stood out to resolve its fate.

The wrangling between Human Head and Bethesda seems to have continued without resolution up until the present. Cheever has continuously posted on his Twiiter account that "the ball is in Bethesda's court" as far as Prey 2 moving forward is concerned. In one of his most recent posts on Twitter, from May 1, 2013, Cheever voiced clear frustration with the situation.

All of this suggests a strained relationship between Human Head and Bethesda. Conflict isn't altogether uncommon between developers and publishers. Bethesda has previously been known for holding their second party developers to rigid standards. The publisher refused to pay Obsidian royalties due to Fallout: New Vegas missing a score of 85 on Metacritic by one point. Prey 2's stalled development could therefore very well be the result of a disagreement over compensation or royalties. This would at least be more likely than the game making a jump to next-gen systems, like some have suggested.

It is, however, strange that negotiations with a major publisher like Bethesda would become drawn out over such an extended time. What makes it especially odd is that the parties involved are sitting on a potential AAA game that made a strong impression in 2011. Gamers have continually shown interest in Prey 2 despite the lack of updates, an interest that seems to exceed that of its sponsors.

It would be a terrible shame if Prey 2 became vaporware because of obstinate business shenanigans. For all appearances, the game seemed far along in development when it was last shown at E3. Many of the game's features were on display, and its detailed graphically rich environments were proof of the effort Human Head had put into the game. Furthermore, according to this Tweet by Cheever, there is possibly loads of content, "cities, aliens, gadgets" that has been kept behind the scenes. 

Zenimax, Bethesda's parent company apparently extended the Prey 2 trademark in April 2013, so the company likely hasn't disallowed all interest in the game. A troubled development cycle certainly isn't unfamiliar territory for Human Head Studios, or the Prey franchise itself for that matter. The first Prey was in development in one form or another starting in 1995 before finally being released in 2006. During this time the game jumped not only systems and iterations, but entire generations. Still, its stay in development hell did not stop Prey from being released triumphantly. There is nothing to suggest the same wouldn't be true for its sequel.

Secrecy, although sometimes a necessary consequence of strained development, will never make a company popular with its followers. Likewise, surrounding a project with ambiguity is never ideal. Someone eventually needs to step forward to settle the confusion pervading Prey 2's development. In a world where Duke Nukem Forever can see the light of day, it's still too early to lose all hope for this promising game. However, the time for misleading and frustrating fans has long passed.