January 13, 2006

Prey Weekly Update #1

Welcome to the first installment of the Prey Weekly Update! We'll be updating this every week with juicy information about Prey and about the development behind the game. We'll be talking about anything interesting that's happened over the past week -- whether it is some new cool feature we've put into the game, or a milestone that has been reached. We're also planning some cool special features, talking about some cool highlights during the game's development. Hey, and you might even hear some interesting news about DNF from me, but probably not. :)

First, a brief history of the game since Human Head has been working on it. For a full history of Prey, check out Lon Matero's excellent Prey history page here.

Human Head started working on Prey in May 2001. We had recently finished Rune and were looking for our next project. George and Scott from 3D Realms enjoyed Rune quite a bit, and wanted to work with us on something. Prey seemed like an interesting project to resurrect.

3DR was interested in maintaining a few key elements from the original Prey design, specifically the main character (although he underwent a name change) and some elements of the plot. They gave us the freedom to rework the weapons, creatures, and levels. So our initial tasks were working with 3DR on the story and brainstorming the various features of the game.

For years, we worked on implementing our design. We went through a lot of visual iterations on creatures and levels, reworking things and throwing things out until we achieved a look and level of quality that we were happy with.

The design underwent many changes as well - mostly being streamlined into simpler systems. For example, originally Tommy had seven different spirit powers that he would gain through the game. We were concerned that the powers wouldn't be fully used, so we simplified the design to a single power: SpiritWalk. Eliminating the other powers allowed us to concentrate more heavily on SpiritWalk, and also simplified the control of the game (since a single button is needed for SpiritWalk instead of an inventory system for multiple powers).

Fast forward to May of 2005. E3. Our first public unveiling of the game. PC Gamer released an exclusive story announcing Prey. The rumors flying around were finally validated.

At E3, we showed off a 12-minute video highlighting the new gameplay we implemented in Prey. Gearing up for E3 was quite an ordeal. We knew which areas we wanted to show and roughly how to show them. It was an incredible crunch getting things ready for the first public showing -- so many things needed visual and audio polish. The programmers were crunching to get the demo playback robust and optimized.

The demo worked by recording our control input, which was then used during a real-time playback of the game. As such, we had to have perfect recordings -- Mike Flynn and I spent hours upon hours recording sequences of the game. One of the sequences was recorded over 200 times before we finally got the one we wanted. It was worth it -- response from the E3 video was overwhelmingly positive.

Expect to see much more press and previews on Prey over the next few months, as we finally start to unveil more details about the game, including information on MultiPrey, and information about the Xbox 360 version.

So just what the hell has been going on lately at Human Head? Prey is completely playable from start to finish. The team has been crunching on bug fixing and optimization. The testers have been finding tons of little bugs here and there -- ranging from clipping issues to creatures not behaving correctly, to an incorrect piece of art. Those bugs are typical for this stage in the project and we're diving in to fix these problems.

We have a major press event coming up at the end of this month. I'll be flying out to L.A. and San Francisco to demo the game for several different magazines (both print and online). Some of them will probably even get some hands-on time with the game. Tim Gerritsen (Human Head Biz Guy and internal Prey Producer) is flying out to Europe to cover the press there. More information about whom we'll be seeing will be released in the next couple of weeks.

Despite this crunch, we found the time to wander out into the snowy wasteland here in Wisconsin a few weeks ago to snap this Prey team photo. Ladies, some of these guys are single, if you find any of these guys overly handsome just drop me a line and I'll set you up with them.

And, here are a few of the topics I'll be covering over the next few weeks in this weekly update series:

  • Voice Recording: Several months ago we recorded all the voice acting in the game. I'll be talking about the process of voice acting, how it went for Prey and put up a bunch of behind-the-scenes pictures of the session, and maybe even put up a few audio samples of the session.
  • Motion Capture: Prey uses motion capture for many of the humans in the game, but not the monsters (If anyone knows how to motion-capture a giant four-legged half-alien monster, please let me know). This was the first time that Human Head had used motion capture in our projects, so I'll talk about that process, and a few of the things that went right and wrong.
  • Focus Testing: I'll take you behind the scenes on how we do our internal focus testing for both single and multiplayer.

Anyway. My Prey to-do list is still huge, so I need to get back to it. Until next week....

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Software

Posted by Joe Siegler on January 13, 2006 at 12:00 PM | Permalink
News Categories: Prey | Weekly Updates