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Arkane Knowledge: Five Reasons Dishonored Fans Will Love Prey

by Ben Reeves on Dec 28, 2016 at 08:00 AM

Arkane Studios is a big fan of Looking Glass Studios. “I don’t think it’s a secret that with Dishonored we started with Thief in mind, and with Prey we started with System Shock in mind,” says creative director and president of Arkane Studios Raphael Colantonio. “You can call us fanboys of those games if you want.”

Like Looking Glass Studios’ classics, both the Dishonored series and Prey share a philosophy that allows players to find creative solutions to gameplay challenges. And while Prey is far more than “Dishonored in space,” here are five reasons why fans of Arkane’s other big first-person series will want to keep their eye on Prey.

Reason One: Actual Consequences
Those who played Dishonored quickly realized their actions had consequences. Dishonored players who ruthlessly left dead bodies in their wake only added to the city's disease-ridden streets, which ultimately created more rat swarms and plague victims, which in turn fostered a deadlier environment to navigate later in the game. On the other hand, some missions were easier to complete when you could just chop off your target's head. Fans can expect Prey to adapt similarly to their playstyle.

"One thing that we believe in very strongly is that the game should react to the player with actual consequences," says lead designer Ricardo Bare. "This is just a subjective point of disagreement, but I think that some people were complaining about, 'I picked powers and had fun killing people and the game said I did bad things,' and we were like, 'Yup. You did!' And we personally like that. We like the game to reflect back, 'Hey, you did a bunch of terrible things, and the world is more terrible now.'"

Reason Two: A Lore-Built World
The Dishonored games weren't praised for their storytelling, but they did create rich environments that felt alive. Arkane spent a long time building the world of Dishonored, but only a portion of that information went into the game's script - much of the rest was found in the library of books, letters, and diaries scattered throughout the game's environments.

Like in Dishonored, the lore of the world of Prey is much bigger than the game itself. Lore hounds will find plenty of information on the world, its characters, and its history buried into the game's environments. Some of this information is contained inside tiny PDA-like devices called TranScribes, and Arkane even researched the technology behind how these little recorders might work.

"Fictionally, it's like everybody's portable laptop slash PDA, which is proprietary to TranStar employees," says Bare. "I get that there's one dude who journals, but not everybody journals. It's a little thing, but it's a pet peeve of mine. Can we do this but not do the everybody leaves an audio log by their dead body kind of thing? Instead, everyone has an instant messenger device, and those things have conversation histories. Why not have an audio conversation history, so when you find this dead guy's thing here's his conversation history."

Reason Three: Clean Interface
This one doesn't sound sexy, but a good user interface goes a long way towards making a game more user-friendly. Dishonored kept its screen relatively simple, making things like health bars and ammo counts as unobtrusive as possible. However, Arkane realized sometimes players need certain information in order to have a better gameplay experience. Still, the studio believes that even when a game gives players information that its protagonist would never have, it still needs to deliver that information in an elegant fashion.

"We have less fear about having an interface that is exposing some stuff to the player," says Colantonio. "In Dishonored, we had the stealth indicator that showed when NPCs could see you. It took us forever to admit that we needed that. It's an abstraction the player character doesn't see. It's important information and creates a better game experience, but it's not like it's disrupting the immersion. There was a fear of that initially, but we decided we needed to give the player the information that's useful."

Reason Four: Deeper RPG Systems
As players explore the space station Talos I, they will discover a variety of chipsets, which they can use to upgrade their gear and abilities. These chipsets work a bit like the bone charms in Dishonored, in that players will be able to equip chipsets in several ways, upgrading the size of their inventory, granting them the ability to repair things, or using them to increase the strength of their alien powers. Another big change from Dishonored is that players will see the exact amount of damage they dish out, represented by small numbers popping of enemies during each attack.

"As you upgrade your firearms skill, as you upgrade your firearm itself, you see those numbers get bigger," says lead systems designer Seth Shain. "And range is a factor, because we don't want players to annihilate everything from across the level. Having the numbers present makes the whole thing feel a little more stat-based. That's another way we're a little more RPG-ish than Dishonored. In Dishonored it was a little more tactical, fast action stuff. You knew a city guard had about three sword slashes worth of health, whereas in Prey it's like you can shoot a mimic with several bullets from far away or a couple of bullets close up. Or one upgraded bullet."

Reason Five: Player Agency
With all its games, Arkane aims to empower players as much as possible. In Dishonored, players became supernatural assassins with an impressive array of uncanny powers. However, it was also possible for players to play through the entire game without killing anyone or without even using those powers. Prey isn't as stealthy as Dishonored, and at times, players will be encouraged to kill the aliens they encounter on Talos I. However, it is still possible to play Prey without using any of the alien powers. In fact, there are consequences for using these alien talents - it's a little bit of a trade-off. Arkane hopes players will feel a similar level of freedom to tackle the game's challenges in a variety of ways.

"We fight really hard for player agency, and we fight really hard to keep the player as empowered as possible, and sometimes we have to fight lots of constraints with tech or lots of little problems," says Shain. "Honestly, it's amazing. So many things that show up on YouTube that I've seen for Dishonored are these amazing moments where it's like, 'That's cool, but it never even occurred to any of us to try that. That is awesome!' We wouldn't see anything like that without Twitch, without YouTube. I'm sure we'll see a lot more crazy stuff when Prey releases."

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