FiringSquad: First...how did Human Head get involved in the development of Prey?
Once upon a time in the mid 1990's there was a sci-fi first persons shooter game called Prey that was under development at 3D Realms. The game was supposed to be revolutionary in terms of gameplay and in graphical looks and features. However, 3D Realms pulled the plug on Prey a couple of years later. Now its 2006 and a new version of Prey, developed by Human Head Studios and supervised by 3D Realms, is getting close to release by publisher 2K Games. FiringSquad got a chance to ask some questions of Human Head CEO Tim Gerritsen to find out if this new version of Prey will be worth the long wait.
: When we finished Rune, we sent a copy to 3D Realms at their request. They were big fans and approached us about working on something together. Eventually we discussed reviving Prey. After id unveiled the Doom 3 engine, we decided that reviving Prey using the Doom engine was the direction to go. We approached Take 2 about publishing the game and started on the project in mid-2001, though we didn't get the Doom engine until the end of August of that year.
We knew that Prey had a storied history, and knew that the Doom engine was far from finished, so we were very concerned about leaking the news of the production since we honestly couldn't predict how long the development cycle would take. Therefore we worked in absolute secrecy until last year when we decided the time had come to unveil the game.
FiringSquad: Even though Human Head is making the game, how much influence does 3D Realms have in its creation?
: 3D Realms gave us a very free hand to take the game where we wanted to. They wanted us to retain the concept of a Native American warrior who gets abducted to an alien starship as well as portals, but everything else left for us to design and develop. They were very involved in initial story discussions and we pitched them ideas and concepts for the final features, but for the most part they left us to develop the game as we desired until very late in its cycle. We came down to visit a few times and showed them our progress, and they gave us feedback on the ideas we presented. They were aware of the design features and how things were being implemented, but it wasn't until we had hit beta that they gave us detailed feedback and got involved directly in the final polishing of the game. We then began to incorporate that feedback and are polishing the game for release.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the storyline for Prey and does it follow the same basic story that the original version of the game did?
: We incorporated bits and pieces of the original story, and the high level elements are similar, but the implementation of that story is very different in the details and execution. The current game is a horrific sci fi story along the lines of X-Files or Fire in the Sky where people are abducted to a living starship that is experimenting on people, or worse. You enter this story as Tommy, whose Cherokee name is Domasi Tawodi (Domasi is the Cherokee version of the name Thomas). He's a modern day Cherokee living on the reservation in Talequah, Oklahoma. He and his girlfriend and grandfather get abducted onto the starship with everyone else and are just looking to escape. Tommy isn't a space marine or a martial artist. He's just a guy. He was in the army, but he was just a grunt- not a green beret or anything. He can handle a gun, but he's no killer. He's a bit of an anti-hero. He just wants to survive and go home.
FiringSquad: Much has been made of Prey keeping the original game's use of portal technology as a gameplay device. How hard is it to incorporate those elements in the game?
: From the get go we and 3DR wanted to keep portals. It actually took surprisingly little time to get the initial portal tech going, though it took considerably more time to refine it to where we wanted it to be in terms of features. The biggest issue was then how we wanted to use them in levels. Performance is a potential issue with them, so you don't want to put a bunch of portals in a wide open area or you run the risk of bringing your system to a crawl as it creates a series of infinite loops. So we had to develop a set of placement rules for the internal designers to live buy via trial and error. Some programmatic methods of restricting the performance hits were developed as well and eventually we got the hang of it. 3D Realms had some great ideas toward the end of the development cycle as well, so we put in a full court press to include those. As to how they work and what they do, you'll just have to see for yourself. Some are obvious, some are playful, some are actually used for mundane tasks and others are really, really subtle.