QuakeCon attendees that braved Dallas' scorching heat, were treated to a cool exclusive look at Arkane Studios' new vision of Prey a couple of days ago. The video bounced from one gameplay sequence to the next, bombarding viewers with quick glimpses at unique weapon and alien powers.
Last night I sat down with Ricardo Bare, the lead designer on the project, and hoped he would provide a little more clarity to my initial look at the game (which you can read here). Bare was open about what to expect, and his answers give us a good idea of the type of game Prey will be when it ships in 2017. He discusses everything from the openness of the world you explore to the little gameplay nuances the team hopes to achieve. You'll even learn that a coffee cup stare down is a part of the game.
Prey's protagonist, Morgan Yu, seems like a lab rat of a character. He isn't the typical empowered character that we usually see in shooters of this ilk. Who exactly is Morgan Yu? What can players expect from him?
Even though the trailers showed a male protagonist, we let the player select their gender. I'm hoping later that we'll show some stuff with the female version of Morgan. Secondly, Morgan is at the center of a series of experiments meant to change humanity.
At the start of the game, when you come out of those experiments, it's not the kind of game where the disaster happened a year or month ago – it just happened. You come out of the experiment and aliens are overruning the station. It happened like moments ago. Most of the people are dead, and they died recently, but not everyone is dead.
You'll occasionally run into little groups of survivors here and there that have either barricaded themselves in or are calling for help. Right off of the bat, you are like "What am I doing on this space station? I don't know how I got here or even why. I don't remember anything." The other question is: What are the aliens doing? They aren't just sitting in rooms waiting for you. They are up to something. Some of the survivors you meet can help or hinder you. You get to choose how you interact with them. How you treat them matters significantly at the end of the game.
You keep saying "aliens." These are extra-terrestrial beings? Not weird botched experiments?
We're going to release a little bit more later about the secret history of the space station, but there's definitely an alien presence, and they have these weird powers. A lot of the background research goes into aero science, paranormal psychology, and psionic stuff. I read so much stuff about actual scientists nowadays that are doing research into this stuff, and they are on the fringe, trying to prove that it's legit that humans have this paranormal ability.
I read tons of material on that and it sort of forms the background fiction. The aliens are basically that. What if they had these powers. Whenever you are progressing through the game, one of the things you can do is use this device called the Neuromod that basically lets you upgrade your skills. It basically rewires your brain with super learning. You can learn the alien abilities, but since their brains are alien brains and not human, you have to scan them. If you want the Mimic ability, you have to find a Mimic and scan it.
Do you have a scanning device?
Yes. We call it the psychscope. It's like taking an MRI mixed with paranormal sensors that show what is going on in the alien brain and is adapted to my brain.
Speaking of Mimic. We got that great example in the video of Morgan transforming into a coffee mug to navigate a small space. Can you turn into anything?
The rule is anything that is roughly your mass or smaller and isn't tied down – like a physics object. So the player can't Mimic the space station. If you walk into a room and it's roughly the size of a player, and it's loose, you can duplicate it. Mimics can too.
This is true to the spirit of Arkane, the Mimics aren't scripted. Some are at the beginning of the game, because we are teaching them about the game and universe, but they generally can do what they want to do. When they walk into a room, they go, "Oh, there are 20 physics objects I can become. The player is coming! Hide! They'll pick one."
I have to ask: Can a Mimic be a coffee mug at the same time as me? Can we battle as mugs?
Yes! We've seen in the game, where the player walks into a room, transforms into a chair, and a Mimic came into the room and mimicked the player mimicking the chair. so then there are three chairs sitting there.
Can these objects battle?
No. It's more of a staring contest of who's going to transform back and smack the other person first.
You described the space station as being open for exploration. Can you give me an idea of how the player will explore it?
It's an open-ended structure. The way I've been trying to describe it is it's an open space station game. If you say open world, people picture like miles of forest. The game is open in the sense of when you open areas, such as the shuttle bay, or repair the elevator that goes all the way up and down the station, I can go to those areas.
When I come back to them, because quests have you going all over the place, there are always new events in them. It's not a mission-based game like "the first mission is here, and I leave that area and I go to this mission." It's one connected continuous world.
If it's not mission based, what am I doing then?
It's almost like the whole game is one, big mission. You are moving through the entire space station to accomplish that mission. But you are also free to go off of the rails and do side quests like, "Oh my god. I just got a call from this guy who is trapped in a cargo container that is floating around the space station, so I'm going to exit the station and space walk over to him to try to rescue him."
That just unlocked another quest. Now, I'm not even paying to the main story any more. I'm just doing stuff with this other guy.
It looks like the player has a lot of choice in terms of how the space station is navigated. What about powers and weapons? Do you feed those to the player in a linear way, or are players sculpting their arsenals to their liking?
You can play the entire game without any alien powers if you want to. That's part of being an Arkane game. We want players to feel like they own the experience, and can customize their play style and tools around what they want.
There are some interesting consequences to the skills that you choose. If you choose to upgrade yourself by inserting alien material into your brain, then things like turrets will begin to recognize you as a threat that isn't human. At first they are on your side and will defend you, but once you start inserting that stuff, they'll think you are alien.
One of the most interesting shots in the E3 trailer was Morgan's eye turning blood red. We saw physical change. Are we going to see this throughout the game if we keep inserting alien material into the brain? Will we see his or her body change?
It's a first-person game, but I will say that you will see yourself in a couple of different ways. I don't want to talk about that specifically because that could be a spoiler.
You look into a mirror. Is that the spoiler?
[laughs] Exactly! Yes! The red eye thing in the trailer is a callback to the Neuromods, which are injected through the eye. One way you can recognize someone that is Neuromodded out is that person has red eyes. At least if they did it recently.
So you are running into other characters that have similar powers?