January 20, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #2

Welcome to the second edition of the Prey Weekly Development Update. Last week, we talked about the history of the game. This week we're talking about some cool stuff going on with the game and here at Human Head. Lots to discuss, so let's get to it:

Head Trips: Prey Press Tour

Next week, a whirlwind press tour is planned for Prey. It's divided into two phases: American press and European Press. I'm headed to Los Angeles and San Francisco next week for the American press, and Tim Gerritsen is flying to Europe for the (surprise) European side of things. Both print and online press will be there - too many to list here (plus I wouldn't want to miss anyone and have them punch me in the neck when they see me in person).

The press will have the chance to see about 30 minutes of single-player action. For this demo, we're focusing on the earlier portions of the game - letting them see how the game ramps up in combat, puzzles, and the player's abilities.

After the single-player portion, we're going to play some MultiPrey deathmatch to give them a feel for that side of the game. We've picked out three maps for them to play - one that focuses on wallwalking, one that focuses on gravity flipping, and one that is all about spherical gravity (fighting on small planetoids). I'm looking forward to their reactions as those elements can be confusing at first, but most of our in-house testers have picked them up quickly.

The multiplayer has really come together - the weapons feel very balanced and nearly all the gameplay from the single player is available in multiplayer: spiritwalking, gravity flip, vehicles, and so forth. The only major gameplay element not in multiplayer is DeathWalk - and that was removed because it was more fun to simply respawn quickly so you can exact revenge upon the chump who killed you.

Also, I'm going to be a guest on Attack of the Show (airing on G4) next week. We'll be discussing Prey and will also probably show off some brief clips of the single player in action. Watch for it!

Deep Inside the Human Head:

This has been an especially busy week here at Human Head. Here's a brief peek into each department's recent tasks:

Programming: The programmers have been cranking on bug fixing, optimization, and working with things such as the installer and localization files (which are essentially a large file containing all the text in the game which is then translated into other languages).

Also, AMD was here helping out with game optimization for a few days this week. Big thanks to them for their help.

Here is this week's NASTY BUG OF THE WEEK*: Occasionally while playtesting multiplayer, the whole game would grind down to a halt for a few seconds before going back to normal. Crack programmer Rich Whitehouse tracked this down to an issue where one of our weapons (the three-legged crawler grenade) was causing some serious issues when it was thrown onto a switch that controls the direction of gravity.

* note that nasty bug of the week is not actually a weekly feature.

Level Designers and Level Scripters: The level designers and the scripters have also been very busy fixing bugs and tweaking parts of the levels. The tweaks range from simple lighting/texture tweaks to larger script tasks such as an ammo respawn system for boss battles.

The level designers were also charged with the task of taking single-player screenshots for the press tour next week. Screenshots are a difficult beast, because it's very tough to convey how cool the environment and creatures feel in motion just from a single static shot. As such, the designers spend hours in the game taking tons of shots - of which maybe 2 or 3 are up to the quality we want. Even though it seems like it should be simple, it's actually a very difficult job (and probably the bane of their existence).

Sound: The sound department has been working on last minute sound integrations and tweaks. Sound in games is similar to sound in movies; many sounds simply can't be done until really late in the project. Now that things such as animations and scripted sequences are getting finalized, the sound designers can go through and tweak everything without fear of having to redo work if the puzzle changes.

We've also received music from Jeremy Soule and we're integrating it into the game. We may show some progress of this sometime soon as it's very interesting to see how music changes the feel of the game and really brings out the mood in certain sequences.

Artists: The artists are still transitioning from art creation to playtesting. There's still a good chunk of art being finalized and tweaked. Despite that, many of the artists are spending their time playing through the game, looking for bugs, and giving feedback on the game balance.

Animation: The animators are reviewing all of the motion capture data we received from Red Eye, and are implementing it into the game and critiquing it and sending back the files we want updated.

So, to summarize: Tweak, polish, bug fix, repeat until When it's Done.

Well, that's it for now. Next week I'll be updating from the road (as I'll still be in San Francisco). I'll definitely be talking about my experiences on the press tour, maybe talking a bit more about the music in Prey, and a few other interesting things we haven't mentioned here yet.

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Software

Here is scripter Mike Flynn showing level designer Jason O'Connell a bug with one of the maps.

Click the screenshot to watch Prey in action on the videos page!

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Posted by Joe Siegler on January 20, 2006 at 12:11 PM | Permalink
News Categories: Prey | Weekly Updates