May 19, 2006

Prey Weekly Update #19

Well here we are. Update #19. Since E3 was last week, seems about right that I update on the big show.

Before that, though, I first want to extend a huge thanks for Jason Blair and Eli Quinn for writing excellent updates over the past two weeks.

As usual E3 went by very fast. Always feels like I never have enough time to see everything I want to see, talk to all the people I haven't seen in person in a while, and still spend a lot of time showing off the game.

Last year at E3 we showed a 12-minute video showcasing some of the new gameplay elements we've created in Prey. It mainly focused on the single-player. This year, we focused on the multiplayer, with systems set-up for people to actually play the game.

Prey was featured in four places at E3:

  • The 2K booth, of course, had eight-player PC multiplayer set-up, with a major tournament scheduled throughout the show (more on that later).
  • Creative had a very nice eight-player PC set-up as well. They were running tournaments and giving away t-shirts and other prizes to the champions of each round.
  • Logitech had a four-player PC set-up of the game in a good location where people could very easily stroll up and play the game. They also had an announcer there who publicly called the matches and taunted the player. It was also conveniently located close to the Sin girls, so I imagine that helped, too.
  • Lastly, Microsoft had a four-player Xbox360 set-up, where people could frag each other in the console version of the game.

We took along enough Human Head people so we could make the rounds and ensure that there was a Human Head employee at each of these four places at all times. Turned out, though, that each location did such a great job showcasing the game, that our job basically turned into a constant wander around from location to location just making sure that nothing was going wrong.

We did spend a lot of time at the 2K booth, helping people and showing them some of the less obvious features of multiplayer. As mentioned in previous updates, I was still impressed with how quickly people acclimated to the wallwalking and gravity changes in the game. No one puked on their keyboards, so that's a good sign!

Here's a brief rundown of each day:

Tuesday, May 9th:

Our flight left at the crazy early hour of 7:40. I didn't get any sleep the night before, so I literally slept the entire flight. Fell asleep when we took off, woke up when we landed. I tell you, it's like a portal opened up in front of the plane.

When we arrived, we first had a panicked call from 2K asking when we were showing up, as the machine needed to be tested. We headed straight to the convention center to start setting up the game.

Of course, something went wrong right away. The map cycle script wasn't working. In fact, it appeared to not be included in the build at all! A bit more investigation and I realized that we had brought along the wrong build. See, we generated two builds for E3, the recent one and one from a week before (as a backup stability build in case there was anything wrong with the newest one). We brought along that older build, but neglected to grab the newest one. Oops.

No big deal. 2K had internet access so we quickly snagged the proper build and installed that instead. Problem solved.

We tested all the machines, dealt with minor issues with drivers, plasma tv setups, etc. All was in working order.

That night we had a great dinner at Fogo de Chao, then had a few drinks at the hotel bar before crashing.

Wednesday, May 10th:

Morning came way too fast. I still think I was sleep deprived from the lack of sleep the night before. Oh well.

We arrived at the show a bit late, so had to scramble a bit to set-up on all the various places throughout the show. But, we made it about on time as journalists started to pour into the convention center.

The first day was mainly us walking around and watching for any crashes or freezes or anything. No major problems, other than a few issues over at Creative, which we fixed by tweaking a few things in the audio settings.

The first day of the show is always more chaotic than the others. People are getting into the groove of explaining stuff about the game, kinks are worked out in the setups, and so forth. Overall, it went really well, though. The dedicated servers ran all day without any problems.

At 5 PM, James Sumwalt (co-owner of Human Head) and I were scheduled to be featured on G4's E3 special, showing off Prey on the 360.

We had to arrive at the G4 location around 1:30 for a tech check. Glad we did. See, Prey is a mature rated game, so there is a bit of swearing in there. There's a profanity filter in the PC version, but not in the 360 version we had with us, so we had to tech check the swearing for approval. Some of it was okayed, but a few lines were not approved.

Unfortunately, we had no control over some of the line (as they are randomly played when the player is damaged). So, to fix this, G4 had us on a seven second delay so they could bleep out any swearing that inadvertently gets into the broadcast.

If you've seen it, you know they didn't have to bleep us. Still, damn cool that they had to delay us just in case. :-)

At the end of the show, we removed the game from all the various machines at 2K, Logitech, and Creative, just as an additional step of security. This would mean that we would have to reinstall the game again the next day, but luckily the show didn't start until an hour later on Thursday.

Wednesday night, we had a fantastic dinner with some friends at Katana in Hollywood. Many good stories were told, many good drinks consumed. I'm not a tequila fan, but one of the shots we did was absolutely fantastic.

Didn't get to bed until late.

Thursday, May 11th:

Again, morning came way too fast. Seems that's another staple of E3: Not quite getting enough sleep.

This time, we got to the show very late -- turned out that we thought the show didn't start until an hour later than we originally thought. So, again it was a scramble to get everything set up on each machine. We got things done roughly on time, though.

Thursday was very similar to Wednesday, walking around, making sure that everything was in order. Again, the dedicated servers were totally solid, and no major problems occurred.

That night went to dinner with Scott Miller and few people he knows. It was an odd dinner -- the place was way too loud, and it was hard to hear people even sitting right next to me. Note to self: In the future for dinners like this, we definitely need a private room.

Thursday night, ended up hanging at the hotel bar again. And, once again, didn't get to sleep until late.

Friday, May 12th:

I was starting to get used to waking up without enough sleep.

Friday was the day of the big finale to the 2K tournament (the grand prize was a $5000 Prey-skinned VoodooPC decked out with tons of great shit).

The tournament was fantastic -- the final game came down to the wire. The top two players had 25 kills to 24 kills. Literally at the last second, right before the scoreboard pops up, there was the loud splat of the Acid Sprayer. On the final scoreboard: 25 to 25.

There was a stunned pause then the crowd erupted in cheers. It was a tie! So the top two guys would have to face-off against each other. Unfortunately, the maps we brought along were all designed for 6-8 players, so they would have been rather empty for just 1-v-1.

As a compromise, we threw in two Human Head people (James and me), and Luna from 2K. After a harrowing battle, one of the guys emerged victorious to win the Prey PC.

How did we do? Yeah, I came in dead last. Embarrassing, but these guys were damn good at the game. I was impressed!

After the tournament, there were a few on-camera interviews with various magazines, and then the show was over. We did our final install of the game, ensured that we had all the CDs with us (wouldn't want that getting out!), and left the convention center.

Overall, the show went very well for us. The feedback I received in person and online has been extremely positive. Plus, we've received two nominations and an award thus far:

That about wraps up the details of the E3 trip. It was tiring, but very much worth it.

So, until next week. Stay out of trouble.

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

P.S. Oh, and here are a few pictures taken during the actual trip!

Tuesday: Setting up the game in the 2K Prey booth.

Standing under the giant Prey display. This is on Friday, near the end of the show (can you tell we look tired?). The people are, left-to-right:

Chris Rhinehart (Project Lead), Tim Gerritsen, (co-founder & CEO), Nick Taylor (Animator), Jason O'Connell (Level Designer and LevelMaster), James Sumwalt, (co-founder and Senior Artist)

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 May 19, 2006 at 2:33 PM | Permalink | Discuss this story on our forums
News Categories: Prey | Weekly Updates