February 10, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #5

Hello again. Welcome back to the Prey Weekly Development Update.

Last week, we talked about the voice recording in the game. This week, it's back to the usual status update - with something at the end of this update talking about the plans for next week. In the immortal words of Mills Lane: Let's get it on...

First big thing to update on is the huge number of Prey previews hitting the net. These are all the results of the press tour from a few weeks ago, both when I was in Los Angeles/San Francisco and when Tim Gerritsen was touring through Europe. Joe from 3DR has set up a great page linking all the previews (as well as other Prey news).

Check them out - the response has been very positive, and each preview has different skews on the game. Some talk more on the single-player experience, while others focus on multiplayer or 360. And, if you haven’t seen the newly released single player and multiplayer videos -- well, dammit, go check them out. Here’s a link. They're also in the videos section of the Official Prey Site.

Speaking of Europe: Prey’s lead programmer, Paul MacArthur, spent some time last week in England visiting Venom. Venom, you may recall, is working on the Xbox 360 version of Prey. Paul was out there to meet with them face-to-face to discuss a host of issues, ranging from recent bugs to optimizations.

Meanwhile, back in Madison, Wisconsin. We’ve been receiving a large amount of feedback from 3DR on the game - listing bugs, tweaks, and game balance issues. In addition, 2K Games' QA department has been steadily adding bugs to the database.

Overall, it’s been business as usual around here. Everyone is cranking on the game, fixing bugs, optimizing code and levels, and tweaking things based upon 3DR’s feedback.

A number of new portal puzzles have been added to Prey, especially at the beginning. We felt that the portal usage could get even more intense earlier in the game, so we’ve been adding in even more puzzles and mind-warping portal coolness. I’d go more into the puzzles themselves, but I honestly don’t want to spoil these.

We’ve also been focusing on the combat in the game. The combat is definitely fun as it currently is, but we’re working with 3DR to tweak it to be super-fun. We aren’t doing anything radical to the monsters - the main things that we’re doing to beef them up is based around feedback and around sustained intensity.

AI Feedback relates to the information the player receives during combat:

  • Pain noises from the creatures
  • AI chatter: The creatures yelling taunts at the player and issuing commands to each other
  • Louder and more dramatic damage noises (sticky thuds when striking something with the wrench, or a great sizzle when hitting something with the Acid Sprayer)
  • More visible and satisfying effects such as blood spurts and weapon damage effects
  • More visible pain animations on the creatures

Sustained intensity in a fight relates to keeping the battle going for a longer period of time. Now there are a few ways this can be done, but for simplicity think of it like this: CreatureLifeTime * CreatureCount. You could fight one creature that lives a long time during the battle, or four creatures that live only 25% of the time of that one creature.

Which battle do you think would be more fun? Both can be fun, but in my opinion, the second one - you get the reward of killing four creatures instead of the one. Of course, the issue is way more complex as this doesn’t address the number you are fighting at once (is it all four at once or do they chain in one at a time? Or do they chain in two-by-two?), nor does it address how you fight those creatures. A single boss with multiple attacks and stages is a vastly different battle from a hoard of melee grunt creatures even though both may take the same amount of time.

Bottom line of sustained intensity, though: We’re adding in more creatures for you to kill.

Getting a fresh perspective from 3DR has been extremely helpful. They’ve pointed out some areas of improvement, such as the portals and combat mentioned above. I would imagine that Max Payne 1 & 2 went through very similar phases near the end of their development, too.

So, we’re still in the cycle of bug fix, optimize, and tweak. Speaking of which, I need to get back to this.

That about wraps up this week’s edition of the update. Next week, I have something planned similar to the voice recording update from last week.

And, what I’d like to do in the future is answer questions that people might have about the game. How about we do this: If you have a question, email it to 3D Realms here: [email protected] (don't forget to remove the nospam and fix the email address before sending). We will read through them and pick the top few questions and will answer them in an upcoming update. Let’s pick a deadline, too. Say, one week from today. Have your questions emailed in by February 17th and we’ll go through and answer a number of them.

Until then, stay warm. It snowed last night here in Madison (not too terribly - been a mild winter this year). Still, it’s cold enough outside. I suppose that’s a good thing, though. It keeps us inside, working on Prey. :)

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

Nick Taylor, one of the animators on Prey, works on Tommy's pose while holding the Hunter Rifle.

Here Shane Gurno, Human Head co-founder and modeler, taking a break from working on a model in Prey.

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

Additionally, if you are a gaming news website, and wish to be updated directly with notification of these updates, please email us with a link to your website and a request to be added, and we'll email you with the next update.

Posted by Joe Siegler on February 10, 2006 at 2:07 PM | Permalink
News Categories: Prey | Weekly Updates