February 24, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #7

Welcome to this edition of the Weekly Prey Update. This week, we're focusing on some of the questions we've received recently from you in our "Ask Prey" question a few weeks ago.

We received some really great ones -- far too many to be able to answer all of them in this one update. I'll save the other questions and try to answer many of them in a future Prey Update.

Without further ado, here are the questions and answers:

Travis asks:

Prey's caught my eye for a lot of its original and forward-thinking ideas. But there's a couple in particular that I'd like to hear more about. I hear that the game has a self-adjusting difficulty level. This worries me, because it supposes that there is a set degree of challenge that all gamers enjoy. Some less skilled players may want to play the game at a higher level because they enjoy a better fight, and some experienced gamers might just want a cakewalk on the first time through. Will there be a way to "bias" to difficulty adjustment to skew it higher or lower?

Also, I was wondering how the game is being balanced to preserve challenge with the Deathwalking element? Will enemies heal or respawn while the player is deathwalking so that when he returns he still has a real fight?"

The Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment (DDA) system has several different layers to it, the main one of which is based around combat. As you fight the various enemies the DDA system constantly monitors your progress: how quickly you kill each enemy, how much damage each enemy inflicted upon you before you killed it, and if the enemy managed to kill you. After the battle is over, the game uses that information to calculate how skilled you are against that particular enemy and slowly adjusts that enemy’s difficulty.

The DDA system also has the ability to do "spot fixes" where it detects if you are dying repeatedly in a given section. In that case, the system will slightly adjust the game to help nudge you past the section. Again, just a slight adjustment. The key to the whole system is to never make any dramatic adjustments, as that would be obvious to the player and break the immersion of the game.

You will be able to turn the DDA system off if you so desire.

DeathWalk: Enemies do not heal or respawn, but we are building in systems so that the player has a few seconds to get their bearings before the battle resumes -- for example, enemies are more likely to ignore you until you attack again after you resurrect.

Hayden asks:

"Of all the features of your game, the spirit walking interests me the most. How does it work? Is it an automatic trigger or manual trigger? Does it time out? Do you need some form of item to support it? If it's a manual trigger, how to you keep it from overpowering the gameplay? It seems overuse of that feature could make the gameplay too easy, making the game rather boring."

Once the player has obtained the ability to SpiritWalk (you cannot do this from the start of the game), they can SpiritWalk at any time, whenever they want.

We decided to not restrict the player from SpiritWalking, because so many puzzles rely upon leaving your body behind and venturing ahead in Spirit form to unlock areas or transport your body.

However, to balance this, you do not always have the ability to attack when in Spirit form. Only if you have enough Spirit Power can you use the Cherokee bow to attack enemies. Without that power you can still SpiritWalk, but you cannot attack.

We are pretty generous with Spirit Power, though as it turns out that it’s really fun and useful to leave your body behind and kill enemies with the Bow. And, it all depends upon how you want to play the game. Some of our internal testers like to leave their body and use the Bow often, whereas others prefer killing enemies with the more conventional weaponry.

Super_CK writes:

"I'm really looking forward to Prey, it's gonna be one of the best FPS' to come out in awhile. One thing that really has me curious though is the music. Most FPS games aren't really known for great music, but with Prey, it seems like there's a great opportunity to really have some good stuff going, considering the story and the main character. It kinda seems like the kind of score Jerry Goldsmith might write, if Prey were a big sci-fi action movie. Anyway, who's doing the music for the game? I really hope y'all got someone good."

We have about two hours worth of level music composed by Jeremy Soule and his brother Julian Soule, which is used both for ambient environmental music, as well as specific music (for boss battles and level stingers).

In addition, we have licensed various popular tunes for the bar scene in the game. I mean, what better way to get the feel of a roadhouse bar than having Judas Priest or Ted Nugent blaring out of the jukebox?

Spooger writes:

"I've read that Human Head is trying to make Prey as emotionally-charged as possible. Without giving away much story, what exactly is Human Head doing to ensure that Prey establishes itself as more than just a shoot-'em-up in terms of the story, character development, and how those elements will be presented."

Great question. As you mention, I can't say much without giving away too much of the story -- especially about the emotional moments. But, in terms of character development, very early in the game we deal with the theme of Tommy rejecting his heritage as he's talking to his grandfather and his girlfriend.

In terms of fleshing out the character of Tommy -- in true 3DR fashion the main character talks throughout the game. However, he's not just spouting out one-liners (Tommy does, however, have a number of amusing comments). Tommy's dialog is intended to reflect how a real person would react if put into this horrible situation.

Also, dude, you need a new handle. :)

Kreg asks these three questions:

"Will Duke Nukem get a special appearance in Prey ?
Will there be puzzles in Prey ?
Will there be space war (dog fight) in Prey ?"

1) Probably not. There are some fun secrets in the game, though.

2) Yes, definitely. The gameplay mechanics of SpiritWalking, WallWalking, Gravity Flipping and Portals all lend themselves to making some really mind-bending puzzles. We'll definitely be releasing more videos showing some of these puzzles in more detail.

3) Oh yes. The main vehicle in the game is a flying shuttlecraft (it's shown briefly in the E3 video). In that ship, you engage in space battles against flying enemy creatures as well as enemies piloting other shuttlecrafts.

Lionel asks:

"I was wondering what kind of (new) tools/features are included with prey for the mod community?"

We will be releasing all of the primary built-in tools for the game. We've made a number of minor changes to the Doom3 level editor (now dubbed Preditor). But, overall, if you're familiar with Doom3 level editing, you'll have no problem making Prey levels. Although, it will take a bit of a paradigm shift to think about ways to structure your levels around gravity flipping, wallwalking and portals.

Jouni had this great question:

"I'd love to know how much of the original 3D Realms design can we actually see in the final game? I mean, are some monsters / weapons / settings based on the original designs, or was the entire game "re-imagined" (as Hollywood likes to say it)? And if so; Was it hard to improve something as solid and innovative as 3DR's original Prey concept?"

Not much. When Human Head started on Prey, we worked from the core concept of a Native American reluctant hero who is abducted by aliens, and must fight his way back home. This was the core element that 3DR required carry across from the original design (well this, and of course portal technology).

While working with Scott and George, these elements were the ones they required. A few times we started to stray from these core elements, but they ensured that we stayed on track.

Everything else in the game, we were given free reign to design as we wanted. So, all the creatures, weapons, and other gameplay elements (such as wallwalking and gravity flipping) were designed here at Human Head. Of course, 3DR gave feedback and suggested enhancements to all these gameplay elements as we they were designed and implemented.

Kevin asks:

"How many vehicles will be in the game? Will vehicles be featured in any of the multiplayer maps?"
The primary vehicle in the game is the Shuttle, which is a one-man hovercraft which has a rapid projectile attack and short-range tractor beam as a secondary ability. The Shuttle is featured heavily in several maps, as the player pilots across enormous outdoor spaces in the game, fighting flying creatures and using the tractor beam to clear away obstacles.

The Shuttle is also available in multiplayer -- two of the DM maps are based around Shuttle combat.

Daniel asks:

"I was wondering what the difference will be between the PC and Xbox 360 versions of Prey. The best example I can think of was in Doom 3, the levels were "shortened" but you wouldn't know it without a side by side comparison. Quake 4 had something similar, but nothing really that noticable."

The content between the two are identical. No drastic changes were needed for the levels to get them to run on the 360. When 360 development was just starting, we did split several of the levels in half for memory reasons, but that was done to the PC version as well.

That said, we aren't opposed to making changes to the levels if necessary. Ideally, though, we'd simply do those changes to both versions to keep them identical (and to reduce the headaches of maintaining multiple versions of content).

Doom 3 was on the original Xbox, so I can see why those levels were shortened and altered. If Prey had to fix on the original Xbox, we would have had to do some pretty radical changes to the levels to get them to fix and to run at a decent framerate.

Well, that wraps it up for these questions. Again a huge thanks to everyone who wrote in with such great questions.

Next week's update should be damn cool as we talk more about Prey on the Xbox 360, with an update by the Studio Head of Venom Games, Peter Johnson.

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

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Posted by Joe Siegler on February 24, 2006 at 12:00 PM | Permalink
News Categories: Prey | Weekly Updates