August 11, 2006

Prey Weekly... Er... Monthly Update #24

Hi all -- Welcome to the latest edition of the Prey Weekly update. Er, hasn't really been weekly for the past few weeks, though.

Things around here have been busy, but not nearly as busy as when we finished Prey. What have we been up to this past month?

Well, we've still been settling into our new offices; preparing the Prey patch and additional content; we had a fantastic Prey release party; many people have been taking vacations and sabbaticals (after you've been with Human Head for six years, you're granted an extra month off vacation. A lot of people are exercising that vacation now that Prey is done); and we're preparing for future projects (training, rethinking the design process, etc).

Prey Release Party

On July 20th, we threw a rockin' Prey release party in downtown Madison at the historic Orpheum Theater. More than two hundred of our closest friends and business associates attended, socialized, drank a lot and generally had a great time. There was an eight-player Xbox360 set-up for people to play deathmatch that was constantly busy throughout the night. Music was provided by Kid Beyond who was amazing! The things that guy can do with his voice were simply insane.

Overall, it was a damn fun night. Huge thanks for the group here who set the whole thing up, and a huge thanks to everyone who attended and helped us celebrate this monumental occasion.

Big thanks to Scott and George for attending as well. Although George's camera should be banned from all future parties where there's booze involved! :) We'll try and get some pictures online if we can pry them from George's hands. :)

Prey v1.1 Patch

We're currently working on a 1.1 patch for Prey to fix several bugs and a couple of additions. Here is the (not final) list of changes:

  • Fixed a crash at startup on some machines
  • Fixed an occasional crash on the dedicated server
  • Fixed a crash when using image_usecache cvar with very big textures. Textures whose lowest mip map doesn't fit will be default texture.
  • This was causing a crash when a modified prey was loading "Mother's Embrace".
  • Fixed a crash on some machines when reading savegames.
  • Some timedemo features not appearing if you restart between record/playback
  • Added widescreen resolutions to menus
  • Updated multiplayer browser to fix servers not showing up due to DNS resolution
  • Updated multiplayer browser not keeping join button up to date when server summary wasn't the active tab.
  • Updated multiplayer browser so punkbuster icons show up in their column properly
  • Updated multiplayer browser so mod games' icons show up properly
  • Updated multiplayer browser so server scanning is more consistent on slower connections
  • Fixed multiplayer weapon exploit

Venom is working on a 360 patch for Prey which will address the network lag issues on the 360 as well as fix several bugs there as well.

No ETA yet on the release of either of these patches, other than we hope to have them resolved and out very, very soon.

New Content for Prey

There's also new content for Prey coming soon -- still in the process of finalizing the new maps. We've read online that some people have requested maps that function well as 1v1 maps. So, we've taken that to heart and have been working on four maps that work better with a smaller number of people 2-4 players. Of course, you can still play with more than four in the maps, but they can get pretty insane.

Also, we're adding in six new player characters:

- Four female characters: Jen, Elhuit, Mother, and Becky (the blond victim you see occasionally on slabs in the single player Prey)
- Two Hunter characters: Hunter and Elite Hunter

Similar to the 1.1 patch, no ETA on the release on this, other than soon. We're still working on finishing the maps and play balancing them. We'll announce the release date for this, once we're closer to final. Watch 3DR's page, or for that info.

Yes, this additional content will be released on the 360 as well. Further details about possible points cost of the extra content for the 360 has yet to be determined.

Well, that's all for now. We'll definitely keep everyone posted on the status of the patch and of the new content.

Until next time, stay out of trouble.

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

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

Visit our Prey Downloads Page to get the PC Demo!
Visit Xbox Live Marketplace to download the Prey 360 demo!

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 at 12:47 PM | Discuss this story on our forums

June 30, 2006

Prey Weekly Update #23: GOLD Edition

Welcome to an edition of the Weekly Update that I've been dying to write for a long time. Prey is officially GOLD!!

After five years of development, Prey is done and on its way to manufacturing.

It's a good feeling. No, it's a great feeling. Of course, like any project, there are a hundred little things I wanted to fix. But there comes a time when you have to stop and agree that it's time for the game to escape into the world.

Understandably, spirits are really high here at Human Head. We just went gold, and last week the PC demo was released to an amazing amount of praise (a huge thanks to everyone who emailed us to say congrats -- we all truly appreciate the letters of encouragement).

And other good news today -- the Xbox 360 demo has finally been released! If you have a 360, go grab it! See what that kid up the hall with the PC has been raving about lately.

The demo was, in a way, an interesting experiment that's paying off very well. I mean, think about it: how many games these days release a demo before the full version is released? We noticed that trend that felt that we could get a demo out before the full version. Nothing markets a game better than the game itself.

Not only that, but I've heard a lot of people are happy that the demo contains so much content. Why did we choose to release a fairly large five-level demo? Well, we've always wanted to release the demo from the start of the game. At the same time, we knew it was important for people to experience SpiritWalking and DeathWalk. But neither of those features come into play until the fifth level of the game. So, it was pretty obvious that we needed to include all of those levels in the demo. And, of course, we needed to show off MP. So that added on an additional two levels. End result: A pretty big demo.

A few people have mentioned that we've shown off all the tricks in the game already in the demo. Not by a long shot. There are still a lot of things that we held back: the shuttle vehicle, a lot of other cool portal and gravity puzzles, more creatures, and different environments. But, this is starting to sound like a marketing pitch...

So what's going on here at HH now? Well, many people here at HH are taking well-deserved breaks, before we dive into our next project. But, we're committed to supporting Prey. We're also working on additional content for both PC and the 360 -- nothing concrete that we can announce right now, other than some new DM maps (especially some maps designed specifically for one-on-one matches!). No estimate on when this content will be released, but we hope to start internal testing of at least one of the new DM maps next week.

We've also been spending some time online deathmatching in the demo. So if you see a Human Head person online, you know, take it easy on them. :-)

Until next week, stay out of trouble and enjoy the Prey demos!

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

P.S. Sorry there was no update last week, in the aftermath of the PC demo release, we totally forgot to do one last Friday!

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

Visit our Prey Downloads Page to get the PC Demo!
Visit Xbox Live Marketplace to download the Prey 360 demo!

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 at 6:19 PM | Discuss this story on our forums

June 16, 2006

Prey Weekly Update #22

And we're back. Apologies for missing last week. Things were pretty busy leading up to Friday and I wasn't going to be able to write the update on time.

But I'm back this week and writing this early. Very early. Right now, it's 2:30 in the morning and I just woke up. Admittedly, I'm still rather tired, so apologies in advance if this update is a bit rambly. No, I'm not in some crazy crunch mode right now. I just have to be up early to catch a plane to Dallas.

So what has been going on lately in the world of Prey and at Human Head? A ton of stuff. Mainly, we've been playing the PC and 360 versions, as well as tweaking the 360 demo (the PC demo was wrapped up a bit ago). Time is getting tight with this, since the demo will be released next week.

That's right. The Prey demo is going to be released in less than a week. Are we nervous here at Human Head? Yeah, admittedly a bit. But mostly we're excited to finally unleash the game we've been working on for the past five years.

Although a bit of history about those five years: Technically, yes it's been five years as we signed the project in May of 2001. But, we didn't actually get the Doom 3 code until fall of that year, so the first few months were all design work. When we received the Doom 3 code, there was a huge shift in learning the new tech.

Then there a pretty big Design Apocalypse around 2003 where we threw out a lot of stuff and started from scratch. Not the most efficient way to develop (and I would prefer to avoid so much wasted work in the future) but in the end it was a huge learning experience that paid off as the game turned out great. Of course, I'm just the slightest bit biased.

Anyway, back to the present: Things are starting to slow down a bit at Human Head. We're still busy, but a few people are done with their Prey tasks and have been taking their end-of-project vacations, and others have started some research/learning projects in between testing Prey.

Some of the level designers have been creating new DeathMatch levels for the game. They've been working on some new looks as well as creating some levels that are better designed for one-on-one battles (most of the levels in Prey are designed to work well with 4-8 people, although a some also function pretty well with fewer than four players). We don't have an ETA when these maps will be available. They've just started on them and aren't at the testing phase yet.

Next week, I'm headed out to San Francisco and Los Angeles for a Prey PR tour. The demo we'll show during the tour consists of about 40 minutes of gameplay from various parts of Prey (showing both PC and 360 versions). I'm looking forward to it -- especially since I'll be showing off some areas never before shown to the press. Should be a pretty interesting trip.

Speaking of trips, I see now that I need to get ready as my flight leaves in only a couple of hours.

Remember: Next week the Prey demo is released. Grab it, play it, and comment on it. I'm very much looking forward to what everyone has to say.

Until next week...stay out of trouble.

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

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 at 10:56 AM | Discuss this story on our forums

June 9, 2006

Prey Weekly Update Update

Just a short note about this week's Prey Weekly Update. There isn't going to be one this week. Chris sent over an ICQ message saying they're just too busy to take the time to write one today for the update.

This is understandable, as they're incredibly busy at this point as they race toward finishing the game and the gold announcement that we're sure people are waiting for. Chris wanted to pass along his apologies for not doing an update this week, but we're sure you'll understand.

In the meantime, if you haven't seen it, make sure to check out our Camera Captioning Contest, where you can win a free copy of Prey!

Posted by Joe Siegler at 4:33 PM | Discuss this story on our forums

June 2, 2006

Prey Weekly Update #21

Well, it's June 2nd, and we're twenty days away from the demo launch on the PC & Xbox 360. The game is closer to release, and as such, Chris Rhinehart has had to ask for backup for this week's weekly Prey update. This is again not Chris, this is Joe Siegler of 3D Realms. Chris asked me this in an email.. "Would YOU like to do the weekly update this week? Give 3DR's perspective on what you've been working on over the past couple of weeks or so?"

While my personal involvement outside the forums is mostly deathmatch testing, I said I'd take a stab at it. So without further ado, here goes the Prey Update for this week.

Recently at 3D Realms, we've spent a bunch of time on MultiPrey both in the full version as well as in the demo. It's a real hard job being forced to play deathmatch at work, but hey. Someone's got to do it. Because of the repetitive nature of testing games close to completion, you tend to know the source material pretty well. Since most of what I do in testing now is MultiPrey, I'll give a few of my own insights into that.

The MultiPrey Server Creation Screen

The "Prey stuff" that is in deathmatch definitely brings a whole new world to the concept. I started playing Deathmatch in videogames with most other people, back in 1993 with Doom. To most of us that were around back then, it's still held up as a great game with great deathmatch. Sure, there's been plenty others over the years (Dukematch and WangBang come to mind). Online play has expanded over the years into all kinds of various modes, but Prey Deathmatch is a really cool mix of old school deathmatch feel, as well as being more up to date with the gravity flipping and portals in the current technology.

It's all pretty darn cool. The first few times you play, if you play against someone else who knows the concepts introduced with Prey Deathmatch, they'll school your ass, as you're not used to looking in every direction for incoming fire generally. Back in the old days with Doom, ROTT, and the like you had just left and right to contend with. Quake introduced up and down to the mix, and it's pretty much stayed that way until now. While Quake allows for incoming fire to come from almost every direction, the base play remained the same, as you had to be "on" something - up and down were constants for the most part, despite the Z axis now being brought into play. Prey changes that with gravity flipping and wall walking. Quite frequently I play one of the levels with a bunch of wallwalks, and as I'm being shot, it's sometimes hard to tell where the shooting is coming from when the guy is above your head shooting straight up at you. It's quite interesting to be in a map looking straight up, and seeing another character doing the same thing to you - up and down are quite different concepts here, and seriously impact how you play deathmatch.

Portals also bring an interesting twist to the party. I was playing MultiPrey in one level, and kept shooting myself, but I didn't realize it at the time. You see, there was one bit where the level designer constructed the layout of the portals such that when you came out of one portal, you saw what you think is someone else going into another one. This being deathmatch, you shoot at everyting, so you fire at it - and it ends up being yourself! What's brilliant about this particular bit of level design is that you get to see just enough to let you know someone is there, but not enough to know who it is. So if you're heavy into deathmatch and aren't paying attention to what you're shooting at, you're likely to be shooting yourself. It's quite funny.

The maps that come in the Prey demo for deathmatch most definitely show off the cool wallwalking and gravity flipping aspects of Prey. There's a couple of screenshots below showing a few of these things from MultiPrey. Prepare for something new to the genre of good old fashioned deathmatch.

Some other things we've done at 3DR recently have been design issues like approving the box art. It might not seem like a lot - just put a picture up there, but there's a million small fiddly bits regarding box art, placement of logos, names, images, etc. I've been here a long time and have seen a lot of games come out, and box art design has always been an issue where the smallest most minute detail gets a lot of discussion.

The game manuals are also underway - there will be a print manual both with the PC & 360 versions. They all have to be read over many times for accuracy as well as other things again like placement of images, things of that nature.

One other section that has been tested a lot is the Triton delivery system. Sure, you can go to the store and buy a box, but you will also be able to buy the full game over Triton, and this needs testing. The last few beta builds we got at 3DR have come through Triton, which is kind of cool. What's nice about the Triton system is that you don't have to wait for the entire title to come down to play. After a certain percentage of the game has been downloaded, you are asked if you want to start playing right away. You can choose to start playing (depending on your download speed) after a short while, and the remainder of the game will be streamed to your computer in the background while you play.

We're also testing the Xbox 360 version, too. In previous updates, others have mentioned testing going on. At 3D Realms we get the builds from Venom in the UK - they get copied to the dev kit 360's, and away we go. While I personally haven't played it, I've watched others, and I have to say it looks as smooth as the PC games do - Venom has done a great job here. You can't really tell the difference, and the hitching that seems to plague Quake IV on the 360 is not in evidence here. It's a smooth title. Looks good and feels good on the 360.

Builds have been coming pretty frequently the last few weeks (in some instances multiples in one day), it ends up being a lot of work. Yeah, it is work at a game company. Yeah, it's fun, but when you're told "OK, you have to focus on such and such a level in this mode", and you want to play another level... Yeah - I know what you're thinking. Shut your whining, you work for a game company. You get to play games. :)

Venom has been crunching hardcore over the past few weeks to get the 360 version of Prey together. Some of the highlights they've done recently:

  • Tons and tons of bug fixes
  • Overall gameplay tweaks based upon feedback from HH and 3DR. Some creatures were designed for the fast movement of the mouse, so we had to rework some of the gameplay values for those creatures
  • Greatly improved texture resolution (there were some memory issues for a while, and as a test, Venom reduced the overall texture resolution on the game.) But, they found the memory issues, fixed them, and now have bumped the resolution back up higher.
  • Tweaks to the feel of the controls
  • A few tweaks to the default gamma/brightness
  • Tweaks to the autoaim system to make it fair and useful
  • Overall, they are kicking ass on the 360 version of Prey. Visually, it looks identical to the PC version.

Prey is close, my friends. You're gonna want to visit back in 20 days when the demo is released, and you can check out all this stuff on your own.

Until next week,
Joe Siegler - Webmaster
3D Realms (aka not Chris Rhinehart)

P.S. Just because he didn't think I'd actually post this, here's a picture of myself getting totally schooled by someone else up here. Check out this score. There, I did it Bryan - you happy now? :)

A couple of shots during loading from MultiPrey showing some of Wallwalks and gravity differences.

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 at 5:20 PM | Discuss this story on our forums

May 26, 2006

Prey Weekly Update #20

I'm writing this amidst the dust and piles of unopened boxes of our new offices. That's right, Human Head has moved offices -- not to a new city, just across town. We're still here in Madison, Wisconsin.

Why did we decide to move now? Well, there were these stalkers... no, just kidding. We decided to move office space about a year-and-a-half ago, because we wanted a larger space and a better layout for our workflow. That, and we were just getting sick of the old place and wanted a change. We tried to schedule the move until after Prey was complete, but due to various timing issues as the place was built, the move was eventually scheduled for this week.

Overall, it's going smoothly -- we packed everything on Monday, the movers moved everything on Tuesday, and then we started the process of unpacking. There's still a ton of stuff to do, but we finally have the server back up, and we all have internet access again.

Only a few annoying moments so far -- they didn't have the air conditioning up until late yesterday, so the movers had to move everything in the sweltering heat. Glad that none of them collapsed from heat exhaustion -- it was pretty rough.

Two nights ago it rained horribly -- turns out they hadn't completed everything with the roof yet so we were getting leaks in about seven places here in the office, including directly onto my desk. So now I'm typing this with a very large bucket sitting on my desk to catch anything should it rain again today.

Still, the new offices are considerably better. Our old space wasn't optimal, because it was divided in half (the reception area was in the center of the space, so the team was split up). Interestingly enough, we divided into artists/animators on one side and programmers/level designers on the other side. So, Human Head was unconsciously split into a right brain/left brain arrangement. Weird.

The new space has no more cubicles. We have decent-sized offices, in which we have 2-3 people per office. Sliding doors adjoin many of the offices to facilitate cross-discipline communication.

And, of course, there are the nice amenities such as a large breakroom, multiple conference rooms, showers, and a theater room (of which the inaugural movie we watched was BloodRayne.)

Once the space is finished and we're all moved in, I'll post up a bunch of pictures of the place.

Anyway, on to stuff about Prey: The move ate into our development time, of course, but we are doing our best to not let it sidetrack us too much.

Venom is cranking on 360 bugs and tweaks -- they fixed a couple of pretty heinous bugs relating to memory management, and they are working their way through their bug database, eliminating bugs or throwing them our way should the bug turn out to be in the PC version of the game as well.

We're also still working on the PC demo. Nearly everything is together for it, we're working on the intro and exit screens for the demo. Once we have everything together, all the text in the demo has to be sent out for translation, and the demo itself has to go through QA.

Venom will be working on the 360 demo, which should be pretty much identical to the PC version.

And, let me say, it's a pretty big demo. It's not exactly like the shareware days of old -- we aren't giving away a third of the game, but there's still a ton of content there. I estimate it should take the average person an hour or two to get through it.

I'm very much looking forward to everyone's reactions to the demo. Not that much longer now!

Anyway, I need to get back to unpacking and going through my mountain of email. Until next time, stay out of trouble!

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

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 at 12:22 PM | Discuss this story on our forums

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 at 2:33 PM | Discuss this story on our forums

May 12, 2006

Prey Weekly Update #18

Hi everyone, welcome to another Prey Weekly Update. I'll have you know that this is not Project Lead Chris Rhinehart speaking (or typing) to you right now, he is currently a bit swamped at E3 showing off the madness and mayhem of Prey. This here's Eli Quinn, I am an artist at Human Head Studios. I worked mainly on the environmental textures in the game, along with various skins, GUI's, etcetera.

The art tasks for Prey are pretty much wrapped up so the art staff is focused on playtesting right now. We have a number of XBox 360 development kits in the office so we're banging on Venom's version of the game. It looks and sounds great. Although I'm a PC gamer at heart it is a refreshing change. Speaking of the PC version, we are certainly still tearing into it as well. With a portion of our staff gone at E3, Prey Art Lead Rowan Atalla has taken on the not-so-glamorous burden of compiling the list of bugs and fixes. I'm sure that his nigh-legendary coffee intake has only increased in light of that!

The single-player version of Prey has truly come together. I've worked on the game ever since 3D Realms decided to relaunch it with us as the development team in 2001, which feels like roughly a billion years ago. The learning curve with the Doom3 engine was pretty fierce for all departments. You see, back then us texture artists had to paint all the highlights and shading onto one layer, like a photograph. We had to walk twelve miles to school in a blizzard and it was uphill both ways. We had dirt for breakfast. Lead paint scrapings for lunch.

Where was I? Oh yeah...

All of a sudden this new technology came along and we were able to model normal maps and paint diffuse, specular and height maps. Needless to say, it took a while to perfect the look we wanted. It was both intriguing and frustrating much of the time but all that toil has certainly paid off.

Multiplayer Prey (or MultiPrey, as it has been so coyly coined) is one hell of a good time. I can't say I'm the greatest at it compared to others on the team but I still have fun. I don't really sweat when I'm sitting still but I've found that after a good deathmatch round I am covered with a sparkling sheen, like a nerdy James Brown. It's intense, man! A really fun trick that I haven't mastered yet is to hide your body and spirit walk out to the battle, you can't be harmed by a physical body in that mode so you can essentially chase everybody around. Until someone finds your body of course, then you get violently pulled back into the physical realm and you're probably toast. I look forward to getting my ass handed to me by all you deathmatch experts out there once the game is released! Or "pwned" or whatever the hell you kids say these days. Learn to speak English! Pull up your pants! Put that visor right-side-up and turn it around! Pardon me, I have misplaced my cane...

Congratulations are in order for Human Head Concept Artist/Level Designer Ashley Welch, whose dazzling rendition of the sphere in Prey was chosen for the "Into The Pixel" show at E3 this year. What is that, you say? Well, from their site, "Into the Pixel is a juried exhibition of the art of the video game, curated by experts from world-renowned art museums, cutting edge galleries and interactive industry veterans." You can read about it and see Ash's art at this site:

Well, that's about all the rambling I am capable of. I'm not a writer really, I just draw the purty pitchers. Chris will be back next week to fill everyone in on the happenings at E3. So far it sounds like the reception is amazing so he should have some good news for us.

Take it easy y'all, I'll see you on the Prey Forums where I can rid myself of this dastardly punctuation.

Eli Quinn
Texture Artist
Human Head Studios
(still not Chris Rhinehart)

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 at 2:44 PM | Discuss this story on our forums

May 5, 2006

Prey Weekly Update #17

I'm not Chris Rhinehart. That's my usual greeting when meeting people, not just the opening of this weekly update. I just like to make sure there's no confusion. My name is Jason L Blair, though, and I'm the Director of the Adventure Game Division here at Human Head Studios.

Chris asked me to write this weekly update because, as you can imagine, everyone here is going through a hardcore crunch right now--not only with finishing the game, but preparing for next week's computer and video game extravaganza, E3.

Prey will have a strong presence at this year's E3. It will be shown not only at 2K Games' booth but Creative Labs' and Microsoft's booth as well. All three spots are amazing traffic centers and I'm confident folks will be blown away by what they see.

Both the PC and Xbox 360 versions will be shown at E3. A MultiPrey tournament will be going, showing off Prey's mind-bending Death Match experience. As you're reading this, you are probably fully aware that Prey plays hell with gravity, wall-walking, and even allowing your spirit to leave your body during game play. Not only is that an amazing part of the single-player game but it opens up entirely new dimensions in MultiPrey. You'll have enemies coming at you in true three-dimensional space. The potential to frag and be fragged by people behind you, in front of you, above you, and underneath you cranks up the tension and anxiety that make Death Matches so much fun. And be sure you stash your body someplace safe if you decide to let your spirit roam.

The Xbox 360s that will be running the game will also be sporting a snazzy Prey faceplate, made exclusively for the show. There is a picture of what this faceplate looks like at the bottom of the update. Future public availaibility of this item has yet to be determined (in other words, we don't know if you can buy them or not), so there's your answer before you ask it. :)

If you're a person who is not going to E3, like me *ahem*, you needn't worry about missing out. Prey will be receiving full coverage by the major video game news outlets and I'm sure Chris will be back next week with a full summary of everything that happened.

As part of finalizing Prey, we've had some beta testers from 2K Games in the office the past six weeks. This is an official shout-out to Larry and Darren who did phenomenal jobs in working first-hand with the development staff to knock bugs out of the game. While, yes, this made more work for the poor developers, it also helps make Prey that much more of a great gaming experience.

My main job is creating and overseeing the development of board, card, and roleplaying games for Human Head, and I am a writer at heart - that's my passion - so I felt very fortunate to be brought in on some of the writing of Prey. With a script already in hand, the task of the in-house team was to focus on bringing together the artistic "big vision" of Prey's story with the technical realities of creating the game.

The core story of Prey is a classic hero's tale so the work that needed to be done was punching up the dialogue and making Tommy's transition from reluctant hero to possible savior smooth, gripping, and dramatic. Tommy is a guy with a lot on his plate and, working with the original script, the in-house team was able to fully meld the narrative with the game aspect of Prey.

Of course, Prey is also a love story and it is Tommy's love for Jen that propels him into the world of Prey and, once in, even more starts to unfold as he encounters obstacle after obstacle and even becomes embroiled in another, overarching plot that truly puts the weight of the world on Tommy's shoulders.

As a gamer and a writer, I find Prey fully satisfying. Folks may think I'm biased but this isn't my game. This is just a game I was fortunate enough to assist with - from helping with dialogue, to writing ad copy, to writing the manual. But the game play experience is what I'm talking about here, and Prey delivers. I'm excited to read and hear the reactions from E3 and, later, from gamers and reviewers who get a chance to play the final game.

This is going to be an exciting time for Prey, from E3 on through gold, now is the time where Prey truly gets to shine. I can't wait for you guys to see it.

I'd be remiss not to talk about what I do here at Human Head. As stated above, I'm the Adventure Games Director and it's my job to produce our company's traditional games. This spans from the latest entry in our GOTHICA line of horror-themed board games, released last year, to VILLAINY - The Supervillainous Card Game, coming in July, to our upcoming pen-and-paper roleplaying game, NORMAL, TEXAS. You can read more about what I do at

So, that's the update; the outside-insider's view of Prey. Thanks to Chris for asking me to write this and thanks to me for giving Chris this update off to get back to the grind.

Thanks to you for reading. Chris will be back next week, exhausted from all the debauchery at E3. If he doesn't have pictures, I'll kick him for you.

Jason L Blair
Adventure Games Director
Human Head Studios
(aka Not Chris Rhinehart)

The Xbox 360 Prey Faceplate created exclusively for E3 2006

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 at 6:41 PM | Discuss this story on our forums

April 28, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #16

Hey all,

Welcome to the 16th edition of the Prey Weekly Update. Today, we're covering many of those great Ask Prey questions that people send to us. A huge thanks to everyone for writing in with your questions. A few things to mention first:

  • We received our shipment of the pewter figurines that will be included in the collector's edition of Prey. They're pretty kick-ass little figurines. Very nicely detailed. They look great sitting on my desk :)
  • We're gearing up for E3. It's coming at a really weird time, though, as we're deep in crunch. On a positive note, there isn't a special E3 crunch going on like last year. This year, it's as easy as making a special copy of the game to take along for demoing.
  • We're planning on releasing regular videos of Prey, as we count down to release. The videos will be anywhere from a minute to three minutes long, each showing off some cool sections of gameplay. The first one (which was released an hour ago) showcases a number of things, including wallwalking, portals and planetoid gravity. You definitely have to check it out.
  • Hey, VoodooExtreme has had a Prey poll going on this whole week. Quick swing over there and vote!

Anyway, on to the questions:


Hi, may you can tell us what inside the collectors edition?

Markus Beier (Germany)
PS.: good luck - for a fast release!!!

Answer From Chris:

Hi Markus,

It just so happens we announced the contents of the collectors edition yesterday. The quick version is that the collectors edition is in a kick-ass metal box, comes on DVD, contains two pewter figurines (Tommy and the Hunter) and also had an "Art of Prey" book which contains some of the concept art from the game.

Check out for more details and the longer version. :)


just wanted to ask the simple question:

Do dead bodies stay forever in the level or does they soon disappear? Is there a Cheat Code or can i modify a file to let them stay on ground forever?

Thank you very much!

Greetings from Germany!
Roman Masic

Answe From Chris:

This is something we experimented with for a while throughout Prey's development. We originally wanted the bodies to stay around forever, but realized that we would run into framerate issues (especially in combat heavy areas where the player is assaulted by waves of enemies).

In the early parts of the game, the bodies stay around forever. In later level (after the player has obtained the ability to SpiritWalk) the body will dissolve after the player retrieves the creature's lifeforce.

Amusing story about this -- a couple of years ago, a few of us were having an impromptu design meeting over dinner. Just discussing the game and some lingering issues that hadn't been resolved. One of them was the body dissolving. We knew we needed it, but we wanted a rational explanation for it.

We came up with all sorts of ideas, things like: alien tentacles that came up from the ground and sucked the body down, little creatures that would scurry out and consume the bodies, dark spirits that would come out and pull the body away (much like the unfortunate end of the bad guy Carl in the movie Ghost). But, all of those ideas had reasons why we couldn't use them (plus, I really wanted something that could be easily explained).

Someone suggested simply dissolving the body -- but only when the spirit was picked up. Simple, elegant, and easily done. Forgetting that we were in a crowded restaurant, I loudly exclaimed "Finally, a way to get rid of the bodies!" Which of course, caused the neighboring tables to give us some pretty freaky looks. :)

Such is the world of game development.


Dear Madam/Sir,

I have quick question regarding spirit-walking in Prey. I havent been able to find much information on it, but can spirit-walking be done anywhere in the game (like in Soul Reaver for example when you shift to the spectral realm) or can it only be done in specific places?

I hope you get time to answer my question, and I look forward to finally (!) getting to play this game. I remember reading the cover feature of it on an old Ultra Game Players mag in 1997!

And I'm still looking forward to it.


Answer From Chris:

Hi Patrick,

SpiritWalking is one of the key features of the game -- so you can do it anywhere you want (well, after you've actually obtained the ability to SpiritWalk, of course).

We experimented with a lot of different ideas for the SpiritWalk mechanic, but finally ended at making it something the player can do all the time for as long as they want. There's no time limit to SpiritWalking, as there are some puzzles you have to solve while only in Spirit mode. It was confusing and frustrating for testers to be almost about to solve a puzzle when the time runs out and they are kicked back to their body.

Because of this, it sets up an interesting mechanic, where you can explore for quite a distance in Spirit mode I've seen some testers go into Spirit mode before every single room of the game. They drop their body in a safe location, and scout ahead -- trying to dispatch any enemies they encounter using the Cherokee Bow.

This doesn't mean that you can just run thorough the whole game in Spirit, though. The player is limited in other ways -- doors won't open for Spirit players (because the proximity detection for opening doors is based upon the proximity of a living entity).

Similarly, the Cherokee Bow is limited -- the Bow is only available if the player has Spirit power (obtained from the lifeforces of fallen enemies). Spirit power is depleted by using the Bow, or by taking damage from enemies.


Christopher Wilson writes:

Will Prey be able to make full use of the Creative SoundBlasterX-Fi? I mean, will it be able to utilise both the on-board RAM and EAX 5?

Answer From Chris:

Hi Christopher,

Yes, definitely. We support the X-Fi through OpenAL, so we have pretty cool EAX support in the game. Interestingly enough, Liam Byrne from Creative Labs is here at Human Head today, working with us on level-specific EAX implementation issues.


Is there going to be a pre-release demo of Prey? If so, when will it be released?


Answer From Chris:

Hi Meharry,

There will definitely be a demo for Prey. The timing of it has yet to be fully determined, as it may be shortly before the game is released or it might be shortly after. Regardless, it will definitely be around the time the game is released.

I've never understood the idea of releasing a demo so much later than the game -- by that I mean like two months later. Seems that you should get the demo out at least around the time that the game comes out. I can understand that a lot of people might be on the fence about a given game, and a kick-ass demo might be just the thing to convince them to buy that game.

That said, as a developer I can understand how difficult it is to try to create a demo at the same time that you are crunching to finish the game in the first place.


Hi again

Thanks for answering my questions.

I got a bit old PC, like over 3 years old: 2000+ cpu, 512 mb ram and a geforce ti 4200 128 mb ram graphic card. I've played DOOM 3 to the end with this PC, so I'm hoping that I can play Prey on it too.

I'll admit that I did experience some lag with DOOM 3, but I managed it anyways.

So my question is: Will Prey run on my pc ?

I'm thinking about buying more ram and a better graphic card. As a real 3D Realms fan, I don't care that much for the graphics, as long as the game has some cool gameplay. And it sure sounds like Prey has some fun gameplay!

Keep up the good work.


uhm...yeah...hoping to see duke on E3 or a trailer of duke nukem forever on the Prey dvd.

Answer From Chris:

Hey Kreg,

Your PC should be able to handle the game, although parts of it are getting outdated. If Doom 3 was a bit laggy on your system, then Prey will be even more so. Our system requirements are higher than Doom 3's were.

What you identified there are too good places to target: More RAM is always a good thing, and getting a better video card will definitely help, too.

I certainly hope you like the gameplay in Prey. We've spent a lot of time developing it, and tuning it to be unique and fun. But, you'll have to be the final judge of that yourself!

DNF at E3: Not this year -- 3DR wants to concentrate on hyping Prey at this point.



I'm webmaster from czech web site about pc games and I made game section Prey. I like your game very match, becouse has someting different, then other. I have a few questions to next weekly update.


- You said. We can meet creatures, who won't be always enemys and helps us in game. How it will be make? How we can recognize on the first meet up who is enemy and who isnt(?

- Doom 3 was disapproved to small arenas in Multipaer Maps with small variability to play and have a fun. In Quake 4 it was be better, but not incomplete. You promise fights in arenas with changing gravitation and teleports. But, do you thing about Quake 3 Arena(Q3A)? It is steel one of the best multiplayer game, and fans stay playing Q3A although Qauke 4 more modern and have newes technical processing. Are you shure, you will not do same mistake?

- When do you publish official hardware requirements?

- How long will game takes in hours for a play?

- When do you make new screenshots for fans? Because there are only few places of whole game which we can in screens saw.

- And last qauestion. Are you preparing some mapeditor, or modding material for community?

Thaks you for answers.


Answer From Chris:

Hi Vokr,

Whoa...quite a few questions here. Let's see if I can answer all these decently:

- Friendly characters in the game: We haven't really been talking about these friendly NPCs, primarily because we don't want to give away too much of the story. Suffice it to say that you will most definitely know which characters are friendly or not. Mainly because the friendly characters actually help you through the game. :)

- Prey's Multiplayer: I'm a huge fan of Q3A's MP. That was damn fun and highly polished and balanced. It still has some of my all-time favorite MP maps. I can understand why it is still the favorite of so many people out there.

But, we didn't try to model Prey's MP after Q3A, so you really can't compare them. They're both DM and Team DM based, but they definitely have a different feel to them while playing. We've taken all of the single-player core elements and carried them over to MP: SpiritWalk, WallWalk, Gravity Flipping, Portals, etc. All of these show up in DM, so it really gives the game a different feel and gives us a lot of opportunities for unique situations.

- Hardware requirements: We'll be putting this out very soon. Up until now we've essentially said that if you can run Doom 3 or Quake 4 decently, you should be able to run Prey. Our requirements are slightly higher than theirs. Of course, you could also get the 360 version (which is running very smoothly -- Venom is doing a kick-ass job).

- Gameplay hours? Depends upon the player. I think the average player will be in the 12-15 hour range. Some people who crank through the game will get through in less than that. Other people who really take their time will go over that.

- Screenshots: Man, we have something much cooler coming -- we're planning to release regular gameplay videos of Prey. So many things in the game just have to be seen in motion. A single screenshot just doesn't convey the experience of walking around on a mini-asteroid while sniping enemies.

- Map editor/mod stuff: Yes, absolutely. We plan to release all of our tools with the PC version of the game. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what people do with portals and gravity. There'll be some pretty wild mods out there!


Hey Chris,

First time writer, long time reader (sorry had to write that hah). Just a quick question.. when you guys first started Prey in late 2001 did you expect the end result (or near end result of course) to look like what Prey currently looks like now? Are there things that you guys have had to drop because current tech wouldn't allow?

If so any that you can mention?


Answer From Chris:

Hey ADM,

Great question. The game looks better and plays better than we originally conceived. There was a long learning curve to the tech, and a lot of experimenting. In fact, I recently looked at a build of the game from late 2002. It's remarkable how much it has changed (maybe someday we'll release some screenshots from that old version for a laugh).

As far as things that were cut along the way -- many of the ideas cut were due to overreaching and inappropriate planning. We tried to do too much too soon right away (the original plan called for some 40 levels or so). We quickly realized that was way too much for the scope of this game.

One of the big things we dropped that I really wished could have been in the game is multiplayer co-op. The original design called for it -- and in fact, we have most of the puzzles and battles planned around what would happen with multiple players in them. But, there were some tech issues we ran into -- issues that would have required some significant changes to the code. At that point, we decided to shelve co-op in favor of putting our resources towards making stronger single-player and competitive multiplayer experiences.


Shival Sheran Sooknanan writes:

Really excited about the game, but is there going to be a "making of" video documentary as an unlocakbale or feature??

Answer From Chris:

Great question -- but, no, there will not be a making of video included in the game. There will be the "Art of Prey" book included in the collectors edition, though.


Alexander writes:

Since Prey has lot's of dialogs and oneliners, will there be an option to turn on english subtitles? To lighten the understanding of the speech itself for non-english speaking gamers.

Answer From Chris:

Yes, there definitely will be this ability. The game doesn't actually have foreign language voices, it's always English, but with the option for subtitles for each language. And, of course, English subtitles will be available.

On a similar note, one of the people who tested the game for us is deaf, so we received some invaluable feedback from him on the subtitles about ways to make them less confusing for someone who is deaf or who doesn't speak English.


Adam Konrad writes:

Can you tell us a little more about the multiplayer component? How many player models will the game contain? Is there an autodownload (from http or game server) and punkbuster support? What about server scripts and configuration? Do you plan to make some guide for these things?

Answer From Chris:

This answer is actually from Rich Whitehouse, network programmer on Prey:

We have a total of 13 multiplayer models to choose from. We have retained the autodownload functionality from Doom 3, which allows downloading via HTTP and directly from the game server. We've also worked with Even Balance in getting PunkBuster fully integrated, and it will be right there and ready out-of-the-box. As for scripts and configuration, we still have the custom map cycle script (among other things), so all of those surprisingly robust things that were in Doom 3 will be ready for tinkering. :) Generally, Doom 3 and Quake 4 server guides will answer all of your questions about setting up a Prey server, but we'll certainly be making sure we get info out there on anything that is Prey-specific.

Again, a huge thanks to everyone who wrote in with questions. I very much enjoy reading these and talking to people interested Prey. It so easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day issues with game development, so it's nice to be reminded what this is all about: You, the game player.

Next week, we'll have something new and interesting, I'm sure. Scott Miller had a few ideas for a weekly update, so we'll see if next week is a good time to unveil those.

Make sure you watch GameSpot tonight, too! :)

Until then, stay out of trouble....

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

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 at 5:17 PM | Discuss this story on our forums

April 21, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #15

Welcome to the fifteenth Weekly Prey Update. I apologize for being so late today, but I think this picture pretty much sums up this week:

Script Manager Mike Flynn annoyed at having his brief sleep disturbed ....

Make sure you read to the bottom of this update for some cool Prey news later tonight!

We have a guest update from Nick Murray of Artistry Entertainment. The band MXPX specially recorded a song for inclusion in Prey. The song is called "The Setting Sun", and here's a brief update from Nick about the recording session earlier this week:

Recording `The Setting Sun' with MxPx.
By Nick Murray, Producer "Bite Me! Music inspired by Prey,"

I, like many people have been a big fan of the popular punk rock band MxPx for years. Quite familiar with their song "Move to Bremerton" I was excited to spend a day with the band in their hometown - Bremerton, Washington. But first I had to find out where in the world Bremerton was.

On a beautiful day in Seattle, I made my way to the ferry pier and drove my car onto one of Seattle's famous ferries. During the 60 minute ferry ride across the Puget Sound, I saw 2 sea lions and 1 bald eagle. This was going to be a good day!

When I arrived in Bremerton I noticed some US Navy ships. In 1891 a German immigrant named William Bremer sold some of his land to the US Navy and founded Bremerton. The US Navy still has a base there.

I followed my map to MxPx's studio and they were just beginning to record the drum track for their new song "The Setting Sun." When recording rock songs, bands will always record one part at a time (drums, vocals, guitars, etc.) in order to get the highest quality sound. With Yuri playing the drums, Mike recording the session, and Tom practicing his guitar parts, I knew these guys were professionals.

After only 3 or 4 takes, Yuri nailed the drums, yet stayed the rest of the day to support the band and help out with recording the other band members.

Besides listening to my own free punk rock show all day, I was impressed with their speed that they were able to fly through the recording session. They moved from drums to rhythm guitars, to bass guitar, to vocals, and then to lead guitar and they did it all like clockwork, without any cutting remarks, squabbles, or wasted time.

One thing was evident, amidst their professionalism and ability to write, play, and record a song, they were obviously friends as well. They are a true rock band from their roots in Bremerton, Washington to their sell out crowds in Chile, Japan, Europe, and across the globe.

Be sure to check out their new original song "The Setting Sun" only in `Prey' and on `Prey''s compilation album "Bite Me! Music inspired by Prey" available for download only at

Find out more about MxPx including their latest album and tour dates at

MxPx is:
Mike Herrera - Vocals, Bass Guitar
Tom Wisniewski - Guitar
Yuri Ruley - Drums

And of course, the ever-popular changelog:

  • SpiritArrows can go through forcefields, spiritbridges, chaff
  • Bullets now hit spirit secrets instead of going through
  • made shuttle headlight smaller/faster
  • deny invalid punkbuster joins with dialog box
  • new shuttle crosshairs
  • added auto weapon switch to mp menu
  • made crosshairs not highlight consoles.
  • Made the blood splats on the rifle and auto-cannon bigger.
  • fixed health and spirit pulses happening when they shouldn't on client
  • added more randomness to the spawn logic, since apparently spawning from the most distant point is being counter-productive and making people think they're spawning near their killer just because it's repeatedly picking the same point. spawning from a random point (still tries to pick > 128 distance though) will probably feel better.
  • fixed lowhealth sound not playing properly on the client in mp
  • Fixed gasbag damage material problem.
  • Fixed wallwalk traces to prevent players from falling off in some situations.
  • Added code to crush movables blocking harvester passageways.
  • long wait idles for rifle and crawler going in
  • Finally received the last music update from Jeremy
  • New Tommy dialog added in all maps
  • salvage: added hound doors script support for ted
  • changed fade time for music coming back from deathwalk
  • salvage: added dialog for abducted in wallwalk puzzle room
  • fixed talon model so he actually looks like a hawk
  • talon attack code is fixed, and talon properly banks as he flies around
  • slowdown when close to portals fixed
  • lots and lots and lots of bugs fixed

I apologize for not getting to those Ask Prey Questions -- they will definitely be posted next week. Things have been completely insane around here. The good kind of insane.

Also, huge news! Later tonight, a new Prey Trailer will be released through IGN. Watch for it to be released around 8 PM CST. More info will be posted soon on the 3D Realms site. You won't want to miss that.

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

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 at 5:31 PM | Discuss this story on our forums

April 14, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #14

Hey all -- welcome to the fourteenth edition of the Prey Weekly Web Update.

This week is a bit different in that I've enlisted the help of other Human Heads. I asked several people to write up a typical day for them to post in this update. Well maybe not entirely a typical day, I suppose, since the company is deep in crunch mode. But a day in their lives nonetheless.

The responses were all interesting, some of them rather hilarious stream of consciousness type of ramblings. I hope you find this to be a fascinating insight into the minds of people in crunch mode who apparently are slowly going insane. :-)

I should warn you that there are a couple of minor spoilers in here, but nothing that will ruin the game -- just some references to some level names and characters we haven't really discussed before.

Tim Gerritsen, Business Director

My days are a blur at this point as I'm juggling lots of constantly moving balls all at once. After seven years in the same office park, we're moving to a brand new office space across town. It's a old railroad roundhouse that was renovated for office use. It's a really unique office space and much better suited to our style of development than our current space. There's even a huge caboose in the front foyer since the builder left that in place when they renovated the building. The space is being custom fitted for our use so there's a million things to keep track of and make decisions on. It's like building a house, only worse since you'll have dozens of people working there when you're done. In addition, I've been managing the 360 efforts on our end, and we're putting the latest 360 build through its paces. I'm very happy to report that the 360 build is looking fantastic at this point. The frame rate is looking great, and the controls are being honed down to a fine pitch. The Venom guys are doing a great job on their end and I think people are going to have a hard time deciding which version to buy. Of course they could just buy both! :) Then there's juggling all the last minute details on the PC side, and that's just my three most important tasks right now.

Eli Quinn, Artist

Wednesday 4/12: The art tasks are slowing down so we've been trying out new software such as ZBrush 2. It utilizes a unique sort of terminology that's difficult to wrap your head around at first but it's very interesting once you get into it. The art team is also playtesting various sections of the game, as well as participating in deathmatch brawls. Of particular note was our deathmatch today where we had to test for a bug using the wrench weapon on an asteroid, so we were just sprinting around like fools and bashing each other's brains out with the wrench. Fun stuff. Occasionally people would whip out their guns again and wreak some havoc, until finally programmer Rich Whitehouse had to page the testers and remind us that this test was "WRENCHES ONLY, ON THE ASTEROID."

Brian Shubat, Animator

Don't really have time for this, due to our crunching deadline, and Leath Furniture having an inopportune moment to auction of the remainder of their "going out of business" crap at low low prices has taken it's toll. I'm finishing with all the rest of the maddening details on Grandfather's LotaD dialogs and finessing and fixing Talon. Also in progress is finishing off the hider bombing sequence in FeedingA, I think it's the single most longest sustained animation that is playing in the game. I've slept here two nights in a row on the floor already, brought in a bed roll and blankets. I woke up this morning but my leg didn't, it was the strangest "fell asleep" feeling I've ever had in an extremity before. It didn't tingle and it turned on and off like a switch, at first it was paralyzed, then it functioned, then when I stood up from my chair it gave out totally laying me out on the floor. I laughed it off and made coffee. Oh, shit! it was garbage day today! And did I forget to feed the cats?! I'm not even sure I know where they are.

Jeff DeWitt, Lead Animator

Now that all the Motion Capture clean up is done we're finally able to get back to the fun stuff.the stuff that adds personality to the game. This week I've worked with Jimmy on the Hunters (tweaking speeds, adding knock backs and pains), worked with Brian on some rifle anims (adding more personality to the weapons), implemented new models and fixed anim bugs on both creatures and weapons.tweak tweak tweak. We're getting closer and closer.which seems a bit surreal.

More on the Studios side - Ben G hurt his back again this week - poor guy. Crunch mode is hard enough without having to work through something like that. He's doing better, but as active and energetic as he normally is; to see him walking around like and old man was kinda funny (in a sick way I guess). Ed L is under the gun. That guy has really been a champ on this project.tons of behind the scene's stuff.

Let's see, what else. Ryan R cut his own hair the other day. People people.please.leave the hair cutting to a stylist.we're not in college anymore! J (I hope he doesn't read this.he's twice my size and he's been known to knock animators on their cans.just ask Shubat). AND speaking of Shubat!!! He's becoming an auction addict.seriously folks.he's developing a problem. Leath furniture (just down the road) is going out of business and they had the final day of their sale on Monday.since then every night they've been auctioning off the rest of the stuff in the store and Brian has been front and center. All I hear all day long is, YOU SHOULD SEE THE DEALS!?!? He's a crazy little man.

There have been more and more "schinc door" jokes circulating the office lately.OH.and Rich W had the "page of the year" the other day. He's running a lot of multiplayer tests and yesterday he had a bunch of guys testing "wrench only battles". So he does a company wide page and says, "Could all of you testing multiplayer go to the center sphere room and beat each other with wrenches only please". We all laughed out loud and I thought to myself. who's got a better job than me?

Chris seems to be holding up pretty well too.which is impressive. That guy is pulled in 10 different directions a way I could do his job. Scott and George want this thing.but Take Two wants this OTHER thing.and then he's got all of us in the studio asking, "Well what are we doing? Huh? Huh? What about this? And this?!?!" Yea, if Chris has a full head of hair at 35 I'll be impressed. But all in all we're wrapping up.lists are getting shorter and shorter. We still have a handful of things that we want to tighten up but really.the game is very close to finished. That's it.oh, congratulations to the Badger's Men AND Women for wining National Titles in Hockey this year. Beauty eh!

Mike Flynn, Script Manager

I overslept today due to late night crunching. I got in late, checked my e-mail and grabbed some food and coffee. I ate my food and updated everything to the latest version of the game while checking the latest news and going over my tasks for the day. I got most of my direct tasks done over the weekend so all that is left is the pickier more difficult stuff. Before getting into those, I entered some new internal bugs and tasks into our wiki for myself and the other scripters. There are only a few and they are thankfully minor; this week is crazy enough with crunch mode.

Coffee. Need more coffee. Hopefully I won't get screwed with the pot having only a half a cup left and have to make more. Ah, the coffee gods smile upon me with a freshly brewed pot. I cue up some Captain Beefheart, Arcade Fire, and Daft Punk, hit random and get to work. Man, Neighborhood #1 is a great track. The day goes well into the next morning, with many bugs found and fixed, dialog added, and various game play tweaks implemented, tested, reimplemented, and tested again. In between map builds, which are needed for a conclusive test of most changed or added elements, I geek out on netside attractions or check my task list to see what needs to be done next. Sometimes building a map will take 15 minutes. If a BSP isn't needed, the turnaround time is more like 15 seconds. Amidst the more mechanical and repetitive tasks are the many gems that make it all worth while : each sweated over detail and change being instantly playable in a real time engine and finally finishing up scenes that are composed of dozens of people's work and input.

Nick Taylor, Animator

This week I am working on the main characters third person / multi player animations. This is a challenge unto itself as they must look good when the player is standing still as well as when he is running, strafing, etc... At the same time I am working on the lower body movement animations so that all of these approximately 220 upper and lower body animations all work well together.

Rich Whitehouse, Programmer

"Started the day at 8:45am when my alarm went off. Hit the snooze button. Woke up again at 8:53 upon the next alarm trigger, then hit snooze again. Somehow managed to hit snooze while in a sleep state until 10, at which point I finally got up. I stumbled through several accumulating piles of trash at my bed side, checked my e-mail on my desktop machine, browsed around for a while, then took a shower. I got to work at 11am. Upon arrival, I began re-evaluating some optimizations on a render volume tree function, and after observing through disassembly that the compiler was using stack-relative offsets to access some memory already, I proceeded with planned changes. This worked out happily. After that, I worked on some clipping performance issues on our giant sphere deathmatch map, and then began working closely with our in-house QA tester to coordinate some internet multiplayer testing, and work out issues with our Master Server. I then went home, and played Prey until 2am while noting new bugs and issues. This concludes the glorious day in the life of Rich Whitehouse."

Well that was certainly different, wasn't it?

If you enjoyed this, let me know -- post something to the 3DR forums. If people liked it, we'll see about doing more of these for future updates. I'm sure I could coerce more people from HH into writing up a day in their lives on this project.

Speaking of future updates. The deadline for the next round of the Ask Prey questions was today. So, I'll be tackling them next week for next Friday's update. We've received some pretty damn good questions, so it should make for an interesting update.

Until then, stay frosty.

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

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 at 12:00 PM | Discuss this story on our forums

April 7, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #13

Hello again -- welcome to the thirteenth installment of the Weekly Prey Update.

This week, we have the usual weekly status, an update on in-game dialog, some talk about the 360 version, and something a bit special: pictures of the Human Head visit to Art Bell's house to record his voice for the game.

We're in full-on crunch mode here at Human Head Studios. Many people are burning the midnight oil as they work to finish their tasks before our next major deadline.

I read the last few Weekly Updates, and it seems that my mantra lately has been "bug fixing and tweaking". Well, this week is no different -- there's been a ton of bug fixes and a lot of tweaks.

We're pretty much over the feature hump, as all of the major features we wanted are now implemented. From here to end, it will mainly be bug fixing, tweaking, and any remaining minor features as needed.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Michael Greyeyes was here recording new lines for Tommy. This week most of those lines have been processed and are being added to the game. Probably half of the new lines are now in the game with the rest planned to be implemented next week.

Today we're recording a few new lines for the epilogue of the game -- and probably getting a few more screams out of the voice actors. Can never have enough screams in a game.

Of course, this time we'll inform our neighbors of the voice recording session so they don't call the cops.

Speaking of voice recording: Several months ago, Ed Lima (Audio Director at Human Head) and Tim Gerritsen (Business Development Manager at Human Head) flew out to Las Vegas to meet with Art Bell to record specific dialog for Prey.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Art Bell, he's the infamous host of "Coast to Coast". "Coast to Coast" is a radio show where people call in with tales of the fantastic -- they cover things ranging from Bigfoot to werewolves to alien invasions. The show is regularly hosted by George Noory, but Art Bell still occasionally hosts on weekends.

Now how does this fit in with Prey? Well, when designing the game we realized we needed some way for Tommy to connect with Earth even though he's trapped on an alien ship orbiting many miles above the planet. What better way to get information about Earth than to have Tommy come across places where the aliens are intercepting Earth's transmissions?

When we discussed this idea, someone mentioned how awesome it would be to have those transmissions actually be Art Bell broadcasts. We contacted Art's people and he thought the idea was great and agreed to provide his voice for Prey.

After a few months of playing phone tag to set things up, we finally nailed down a date to record the lines. Ed and Tim visited Art at his home -- where he actually broadcasts his show. Since Art already had high quality recording equipment set-up in his studio, they literally recorded the Prey lines by having Tim call into Art's studio from a separate phone.

Art was a total professional. Without even looking at the script in advance, he nailed the whole thing in almost literally one take. There were only two times that he stopped to re-record a few lines. The whole process took about 45 minutes.

In the end, the new lines turned out great -- they convey at some information of what is happening back on Earth. Some of them even manage to inject a bit of humor into the game.

Art Bell and Ed Lima

Art Bell and Tim Gerritsen

A number of people here (and at 3DR) have been testing the Xbox360 version of Prey -- we both have several test kits throughout the office, so people can play when they have time. Ted Halsted, lead level designer on Prey, has been going through the 360 version looking for any really slow areas. I watched him play through a particularly complex level, and the 360 appeared to be handling it just fine.

Time for the weekly changelog:

  • Portaling is considerably smoother. It's pretty much impossible to detect when you go through a portal now.
  • Fixed some bugs with the functionality to retain the ammo type in dropped leechguns in MP.
  • Fixed Prey window sometimes getting resized when using the menu options to go to driver pages and possibly other things.
  • Now checking Creative driver version, and disabling on old versions so that we don't cause bluescreens.
  • Tracked down and fixed a crash bug in AI navigation
  • Cleaned up some client prediction misses with the acid sprayer.
  • Globalizing remainder of Tommy's v/o.
  • Extracting additional Tommy pickup v/o
  • Selecting more licensed music to round out in-game jukebox song selection
  • Writing/prepping epilogue dialog for recording
  • auto detection revamp texture quality setting and removed global video quality setting.
  • Changed proxdoors so they no longer snap shut when a monster dies inside one.
  • Fixed IK while crouching in players in multiplayer.
  • Some save / load fixes.
  • Added code to prevent Harvesters from getting stuck in passageways.
  • Fixed a rare crash bug related to reactions that would show up on save.
  • Fixed Gasbag death time.
  • made shuttles show crosshair even when no tractor target.
  • plaque under "Game Saved." messages
  • made normal projectiles hit spirit secrets
  • made spirit arrows pass through chaff
  • Misc art tweaks
  • Finalizing cinematic animation cleanup
  • Fixed a bug with the Spiritwalk overlay not working well with other overlays
  • Bug fix so Talon properly lands on moving targets
  • System in place for Tommy making comments to Talon
  • Removed redundant ammo types from the levels

Well, that's it for this week --

We decided to extend the Ask Prey submission time by another week. The original deadline was today, but if you still have any questions or anything you'd like to see covered in these weekly updates, feel free to email them to [email protected].

Until next time, stay out of trouble.

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

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 at 3:31 PM | Discuss this story on our forums

March 31, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #12

Wow... Friday already. And time for the Weekly Prey Update. Let's get right to it...

The animators are working hard on cleaning up the motion capture data, and tweaking the cinematic animations to blend together smoothly. It's been a hell of a lot of work, and they're doing a great job.

Well, I use the term cinematic loosely -- as Prey doesn't actually have any cutscenes. The game is always from Tommy's point of view, and the story unfolds around the player as they progress through the game.

So, I use the term cinematic animation to apply to any animation for a specific NPC. An example of this would be if a character has to point in a certain direction, or run over and kneel by another character. That type of stuff.

As mentioned in a previous update, we recorded around 250 new lines for Tommy. A good chunk of those were re-recording old lines to either fit the story better, or because we were unhappy with the previous takes, as opposed to totally "new" dialogue.

And of those 250 lines, we recorded multiple takes of each. Depending upon the line, there were anywhere from two to six takes of each. Ed, our audio director, will go through and choose the best take of each and add them into the game.

However, the level designers were ready now to start adding in the dialog. To multitask, we set up temporary sound shaders for each of Tommy's lines, which the designers can then incorporate immediately.

The end result is that there are a lot of default beeps throughout the game now -- but in less than a week, all of Tommy's new lines should be in the game.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing how the game feels like with all this additional dialog.

We've also been incorporating all the latest music from Jeremy Soule. There's still about a quarter of the music yet to come, but they are cranking away on it, and we should be getting it very soon.

If all goes as planned, we should have all music implemented in the game by next week as well.

Talking to 3DR, we discussed reviving the Ask Prey email address, and answer questions again in an up-coming Weekly Update.

I still have all of the unanswered questions from last time, so I'll look through them again. However, if you have any other questions, or anything you'd like to see discussed in these updates (that hasn't been discussed before), feel free to email us: [email protected] (Make sure to remove the NPSPAM. before sending)

Please have your questions in by next Friday, April 6th. We will answer as many as possible in a future Weekly Update.

The changelog for this week is pretty sizable, as we didn't send a new build to 3DR last week. Here it is:

  • New music system implemented for fading and crossfading
  • Grenade throw button - bind a key to _impulse25, should default to G
  • New directional damage indicator
  • tips for zooming in on the HUD
  • low-health (< 25%) HUD effect
  • Fixed problem with harvester gibs being nonsolid in some cases.
  • Reduced grace period for ragdolls to resolve being stuck in solid.
  • Fixed problem with wrench showing up in roadhouse mirror.
  • All levels end with a portal fade now
  • Door system: * Unlocked doors are light blue * Locked doors are red and play a locked sound when you approach * Doors that never open are dark and play a locked sound when you approach
  • GUI pass throughout the level, new guis added
  • Tommy Voices in progress--putting in placeholders; sound not yet ready
  • SpiritWalk symbols being added throughout the levels
  • All leech nodes now have a screen tip
  • Adjustments of items/characters/geometry to accommodate level fades
  • All music we have so far implemented (volumes need tweaking)
  • FTA crouch portals can be walked around now.
  • three fodders are now in the lighting training hallway
  • new exit from FTA to FTB
  • Item cabinet moved away from the forcefield
  • The door with the raving guy banging on it is now locked
  • First pod puzzle no longer has a pod right near the gak
  • Vomiter removed from first wallwalk area
  • Multiple Hunters now after the player wallwalks after the hologram
  • Moved the autosave in the mutilated human room, so you don't fall into it.
  • Art Bell gui moved to a new place
  • New Tri-flip combat room w/portal crates
  • Optimizations in several rooms and corridors
  • Hunters on vent in breakaway room
  • New airlock with keypad GUI
  • Portal Crate in Catwalk Hunter Combat room
  • combat chains increased in several levels
  • Added in additional security mounted guns.
  • Dimmed the lights in the BonusCloset area to give more broken/emergency feel.
  • Added in Thin-Thing (tm)
  • Lighting adjustments in Big Asteroid room to allow for smoother enemy lighting
  • Additional deathwalk map added

And that wraps up another Weekly Prey Update. Next week will be a bit of a detour from the usual updates. And, the week after that, will be the next Ask Prey questions. So, if you have any questions, make sure you email them to [email protected].

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

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 at 1:47 PM | Discuss this story on our forums

March 24, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #11

Hey all; welcome to the eleventh edition of the Prey Weekly Web Update. As usual, this week has been rather busy here at Human Head. We've been splitting out time between implementing new feature requests from 3DR and fixing bugs.

At this point, though, many of the feature requests are fairly simple tweaks, things like adding in screen tips in sniper mode so you know how to zoom in and out, changing the HUD damage feedback system to something more intuitive, etc.

Check the changelog at the end of this update for even more info on what's happening with the game.

Typically (at least on nearly all the projects I've worked on), there comes a point where staff members start wrapping up their normal duties and transition over to game testing. We're nearly at this stage with the art staff. Oh, there's still a number of art tasks remaining and things will still crop up as we're headed towards gold, but many of the artists have been transitioning over to bug-finding.

Rather than have them try to play through the entire game over and over, we've split the maps up into groups and are having each artist concentrate on a group of maps for a short period of time. We'll then rotate them into different groups of maps to keep putting new eyes on each set of maps.

Next week, we're planning a more hardcore test of deathmatch. We have been regularly testing deathmatch both for bugs and balance, of course, but next week we want to get into it hardcore. There are a couple of bugs that QA is able to reproduce that we have yet to see in-house. Next week's hardcore test should flush out those issues.

2K has sent a tester on-site to work with the team directly for the next few weeks. So far, he's been working out well, and has been diving in and showing us bugs that we've had difficulty reproducing, as well as helping out with regression testing bugs after we've fixed them.

In case you aren't aware of how the process of QA works, here's a quick outline:

  • QA reports a bug, and enters it into a centralized database
  • We look at the bug, and determine if it really is a bug, or if there is a mix-up. If it's not a bug, we mark it the very obvious: "Not a Bug"
  • We then determine if we will be able to fix the bug. Occasionally a bug cannot be fixed due to engine limitations and so forth. We mark it "Will Not Fix"
  • We then try to reproduce the bug. If we are unable to reproduce it, or don't have enough information to recreate the bug, we mark it "Need More Info", and wait until we hear back from QA with the additional information
  • Finally we fix the bug. And mark it "Fixed."
  • Even though we fixed it, it's not closed out and considered final until QA has retested the bug. They retest it, and either mark it "Fix Verified", or if they still can reproduce the bug, then they mark it "Fix Denied"
  • If the bug is kicked back to us, then we swear repeatedly and the process starts over.

We received more music from Jeremy Soule last week, and are expecting more music from him early next week. We're close to having all music for the game in our hands for implementation. All told, we should have close to 2 hours of music in Prey.

A few Human Heads attended GDC this week, shmoozing with other developers and attending talks. As mentioned last week, our very own Ed Lima is giving a talk today (the 24th) on sound in the Doom 3 engine and on many of the enhancements that have been added both by us and by Creative Labs.

Yes, Ed will be showing some sound stuff in-engine. Don't expect a huge Prey demonstration, though -- it's tailored towards the sound, so he's just showing off a couple of rooms as he's demoing the sound enhancements. But, we did choose two pretty cool rooms. :-) One of them has one of my favorite portal effects.

Speaking of GDC. Every year, when I realize that GDC is upon us, I always start thinking about E3, since it's a bit less than two months away. We've already started discussing what we'll be showing of Prey at E3.

No final plans as of yet, so I can't mention anything in this update -- but we will be showing off Prey in some form at E3.

Okay, arguably the most popular feature of the weekly updates: the changelog. As we've been working on a number of things near the end of the game, quite a few spoilers had to be removed this week:

  • hunters have new projectile effects so the projectile stands out better
  • XXXXXXXXXX at the start of the map has a new texture on it
  • Tons of tweaks in the Harvester maps, in terms of creature placement and bug fixes
  • New combat room added to Salvage: a cool room involving multiple portals and many enemies
  • New animation for Tommy's intro
  • Preparation for a door color unification pass across all levels
  • New damage HUD, giving better directional feedback during combat
  • Lots of great AI tweaks and fixes to the Hunters
  • Animation work on various cinematics and to XXXXXXXXX-X scene
  • Removal of a poster in the Roadhouse that contained unlicensed images
  • New graphic effect on the health spore: much cheaper, and pretty much looks the same
  • New GUIs throughout the levels, providing more information about the ship and the inhabitants
  • New creature placements, providing more locations for wallwalk combat
  • HUD tips for sniper zoom

As always, thanks much for reading our Prey update. We have some pretty exciting Prey related things happening over the next few weeks -- can't talk about them just yet, but just keep your eyes peeled! Until next week....

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

And for no good reason at all, Joe Siegler insisted upon another picture of Crystle Lightning. ;)

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 at 1:26 PM | Discuss this story on our forums

March 17, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #10

Hello again and welcome to this week's edition of the Prey weekly update!

First off a huge thanks to Peter Johnson at Venom for taking the time out of his schedule to write the great update last week on the Xbox360 version of Prey.

Wow, so what's been going on here? It's been a crazy busy week:

In terms of production, we've been focusing on:

  • bug fixes from 3DR and Take 2 QA
  • map optimizations: Over the past couple of weeks, there's been some pretty large optimizations done to the maps. Visually they are essentially the same -- most of the optimizations have been ensuring that entities in other rooms cease thinking as necessary, additional corridors or doors added as needed for vis purposes, removing redundant geometry where found, etc.
  • feature tweaks: a number of game feature tweaks as requested by 3DR to polish the experience. For example, things like tweaks to how some of the weapons function, a screen effect when you are very low on health, some AI tweaks, etc.
  • level tweaks: similar to the feature tweaks above, the level designers have been adding in sections as needed to expand the gameplay in levels, and also moving elements around so they are properly introduced and utilized.
  • animation tweaks: The animators have been crunching hardcore to clean up the motion capture data. A lot of work has gone into cleaning up the motion capture data. The data had a lot of hitching, and issues when blending between different animations. So far the animators work has fixed things up pretty well -- only downside is that it's very time-consuming for them. Once the cinematic animations are complete, the animators have a good-sized list of things to tweak throughout the rest of the game, from weapon animations to creature animations.

A new contract animator has joined us to help finish Prey. Eric Weiss has a background in both film and computer game animation, having worked on such movies as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Godzilla, and most recently, Superman Returns.

On Prey, he's been focusing first on learning the animation pipeline from Maya into Prey, and has been doing work on one of our boss creatures. Very cool having him aboard and helping make the animation rock.

Check out his IMDb page here.

Michael Greyeyes, the voice of Tommy, was here at Human Head on Monday and Tuesday recording new lines for the game, and re-recording some older lines. It was a busy couple of days, but we managed to record around 250 lines. Will we use all of those? Probably not -- our goal is that Tommy comment mainly about critical things. While it's very cool to hear his voice as you're playing, you obviously wouldn't want to hear him comment every 5 feet - you'd likely be saying "Shut up Tommy!" :)

As always, Michael was ever the professional who clearly enjoys his job. He nailed most of the lines in only a few takes, and had fun joking around a bit and ad-libbing a few lines.

Ed Lima, Audio Director at Human Head, along with some folks from Creative Labs will be giving a presentation at the Game Developers Conference next week on audio in Doom 3 engine games. Ed will be discussing some of the audio features added to the game to not only make things sound more realistic, but also features added to make the game more enjoyable. An example of this is voice ducking technology which lowers surrounding sounds when an NPC is talking, so their voice stands out above ambient sounds.

If you are at GDC, make sure you stop by and check out the presentation by Ed and Creative Labs. Additionally, Ed's talk at GDC will be next Friday the 24th at noon EST, so if you happen to be there, check it out to hear Ed's insight into Prey.

From the "No TV and no beer make Homer go something-something" department:

Of course, during all this hardcore crunching, we still have to take the time to blow off some steam. Now that the Guitar Hero craze seems to have all but died down here at the office, it's been replaced by some new sounds: The clang of swords and howls as heads are lopped off. A few of the guys here have taking up playing Rune Deathmatch again. Brings back such memories to hear those sounds once again echo through our offices.

We received some great feedback on the changelog from two weeks ago, so here's this last week's changelog as sent to 3DR. Warning, some spoilers might be in here -- but any major spoilers have been removed:

  • Leech node hints now give you an icon of the gun itself
  • Glowing blood sprays are visible when sniping an enemy
  • SpindleB: Turbine Room has gotten major optimizations
  • "Thin thing" portal trick added to Salvage (still requires some cleanup).
  • Pretty large optimization pass across most of the maps. Still more optimization to be done.
  • Key default changes:
    - Lighter defaults to F key
    - SpiritWalk defaults to MMB and E
    - Crouch defaults to C and SHIFT
    - Leech gun is now on key #4
  • Leech gun auto switches when out of ammo
  • Hunters can lean around corners to attack now. They occasionally decide to do the lean attack during normal attacks, too, to mix things up.
  • tweaks to hud tip system
  • added tips when entering a shuttle
  • made spectators show up on scoreboards
  • allowed spectators to go through forcefields
  • added "Resume Game" to out-of-game menu
  • put player portraits on scoreboard
  • added gametime played to loadgame screen
  • added "ready" tip to MP hud
  • made shuttle not thrust until transitioned in
  • tweaks to the motion capture animations for Grandfather and Jen.
  • added music volume control
  • tweaks to help screen
  • new negative feedback sound when shooting teammates in team dm, got rid of colored flash on teammates as well
  • New recorded lines for Tommy yelling at Grandfather as he is XXXXX XX XXX.
  • More save/load fixes
  • Playtime now displayed for savegames
  • Made vacuum robot explosion do radius damage
  • Spirit bridge updates throughout the levels
  • Ambience passes to newly added areas, thin thing, XXXXX XXXXXXXXX, etc.
  • Low health screen effect added

Thanks as usual for reading, and make sure to check in again next week.

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

Here's level designer, artist, and prolific toy collector Ash Welch testing Prey DM.

Jimmy Shin, programmer takes a break from working on
creature AI to read a recent forum about Prey. You'll also notice that he's not a prolific toy collector.

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 at 12:39 PM

March 10, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #9

Welcome to the latest edition of the Prey Weekly Update series. A few weeks ago you were told you'd get an update from Venom games in the UK on the Xbox 360 version of Prey. That's what we're bringing you today. This week's update is not from Chris at Human Head, but it's by Peter Johnson at Venom Games in the UK.

Chris will return next week with the next Prey Weekly Update. There's plenty to read in Peter's update, so let's get right to it....

We started work in earnest on bringing Prey to the 360 in late June 2005, although we had been looking at the code a little before that to ready ourselves and plan our attack. It was amusing to see on some gaming forums that some posters seemed to think that the announcement about it last month meant that we had just started work on it, this is far from the case.

As our aim was to keep everything as faithful to the PC original as possible, we knew it would be mainly a coding job, with relatively little work needed on the art side. It broke down into a number of tasks - converting the engine itself to get it running on the 360 platform, and the areas where we needed to make changes to better suit the platform - such as the control system, the front end and the integration of Xbox Live.

Peter Johnson, Venom Games
Peter Johnson of Venom Games


As I am sure regular readers of Chris’ column will know, “Prey” is based on an enhanced version of the Doom3 engine. It was initially suggested to us that we would use the conversion of this engine that was being done over at Raven to bring “Quake 4” to the 360, but after waiting nearly 3 months for sight of that code, and it being apparent when we saw it that those guys were very much still in the process of development, shall we say, at the time- we felt that we had little choice but to do it ourselves rather than spend the next six months simply merging their code with Human Head’s without any forward progression ourselves. Taking this approach meant it was then much more likely that we would be in a position to resolve any problems we encountered.

In the last week of June 2005 Kevin Franklin, our lead coder here, and Ben Cosh rolled up their sleeves and started to convert the Prey code base from scratch. Their first move was to get the engine running on the PC in Direct X rather than Open GL, and then port that code across onto 360. The approach of hitting the PC first had the advantage that the turnaround time for compilation and execution could be much shorter than it currently was on 360 at the time. The guys did a great job- getting it running on 360, albeit at a low framerates, in around 8 or 9 weeks. There were still plenty of effects and graphical tricks to add at this point, but already it had the distinctive look of “Prey” and now we could let the rest of the programming team loose on it.

Prey really stretches the Doom3 engine, sometimes in ways it wasn’t designed for. It aims to create a convincingly organic-looking alien world full of curves and natural shapes from an engine designed around box-shaped rooms, and features many additional shaders and special effects that take the visuals far beyond the original Doom3 engine. This extra load meant the coding team had to work hard on optimising the code, removing bottlenecks and spreading the load across the three cores at the heart of the 360 to hit our target of a constant 30fps framerate. We have also had one coder, Mick, working for the best part of 6 months using the 360 performance analysis tools to identify the slower areas of code and rewrite, or in many cases replace routines with low-level machine code to squeeze the best from the machine.

I feel confident in saying that we are now graphically pixel-perfect with the PC version.


After the departure of our network programmer in the last week of November 2005, we had a difficult choice to make - whether to take his code and complete it, fixing any bugs we found and hoping we could patch around any problems we uncovered, or throw it all away and start again. This was a difficult call, as time was running short for an area of the game which is always known to be a challenging one to implement.

We took the option we all felt was right, which was the braver/more foolish one of replacing it all. Steve Sharp, the coder we tasked with it has done a great job in a short time in a coding area he was previously unfamiliar with, and we now have all of the Live support in place and working well. The recent addition of speech to the online game over the past few weeks has also added greatly to the player experience.

Screenshot showing controller layout


Over to Mark Sample, normally our game designer/ producer here, for a little on the controller code.

Our task for Xbox 360 was to make sure the game played right with the console controller. This is harder than most think as many gamers take the highly responsive keyboard and mouse feel of the home PC for granted and we knew from the outset that we wanted to be as faithful as possible to the way the game plays on PC rather than changing the experience for the gamer.

Assigning the action buttons to the pad was easy, however the fun started with getting the feel of the player movement and looking around right with the sticks. Using a vast array of tweakable values we set about tuning the turn-rate and acceleration. From the get-go we knew it was vitally important that the player felt completely in control at all times. They need to have enough low-down sensitivity to make small delicate moves, as well as fast response for sweeping, super-quick 180’s – as you never know who might pop up behind you =). After much testing and tuning, the stick controls now feel robust and razor-sharp; we’re really pleased with the results and think the gamer will be ready in no time to take out a hunter or two with what we have delivered.

Our QA team in LA recently suggested that the game could also benefit from a facility for user-assignable weapon switching on the D-pad, and we added this into the game. We designed a method which allows the player to assign and re-assign weapons to those buttons quickly at any time as they play, as simply as programming stations in on a car radio. It works great, and we confidently expect to see other games following suit soon.


Over to Phil Nixon, the artist redesigning the front end for 360.

“We had to replace the existing front end to allow for input via gamepad rather than mouse-driven “point and click” of the PC, and the idea behind the user interface we chose to adopt for 360 was to try and get as far away as possible from the established look of PC FPS’s.

I like the idea that the user interface should relate to the theme of the game itself as much as possible. I'll try and explain a little better what I'm on about...Tommy is aided throughout the game by Talon, his hawk, and we thought it would be cool to use this idea as a concept for the user interface. We focused on a super close-up of the eye, making the pupil dilate and contract in response to flashing lights around it (representing gunfire, or perhaps a smashed up computer). Occasionally the eye looks around too, adding movement in the background. The deeper you get into the interface, the deeper you zoom into Talon’s eye.

Stylistically, as far as the menu graphics, framing graphics and fonts are concerned, I tried to draw cues from the GUIs and designs that are featured in the game, again trying hard to ensure that our front end matched the 'look' that Human Head already had in place. Overall it works well, and I like to think it ties the game elements together a little better than some titles out there manage to do.”


Achievements are becoming a big thing within the Xbox 360 community, with websites springing up to cover the topic and gamers competing for bragging rights based on which achievements they have unlocked in the games they are playing, so we wanted to make sure we included a very full implementation of achievements in Prey. Over to Bruce Brodie who helped design this part of the game.

“The achievements have been a lot of fun to create! Currently there are 33 achievements in “Prey” which will be worth a total of 1000 points to a player’s Gamer Score. These achievements are spread out between single and multiplayer modes. Major achievements such as game completion and death match kills are all present and correct, level-specific awards have also been included for players that attempt the game on the “Wicked” difficulty – we want people to explore the world of Prey and really master it in order to unlock some of the harder achievements – be warned, some of the multiplayer ones will take a lot of skill to unlock!

There are also a number of secret achievements that players will have to look harder to find, which will be worth a good haul of points when discovered.

Our artists have created some great icons for the achievements, and they are looking good (I hate it when a game uses the same icon for everything). The final number of points to be awarded for each is still in discussion and tends to change depending on how evil the designer is feeling that day.

Here are some of the achievements that we have created, one from the single player, one from multiplayer and a secret achievement that we will leave to you to discover for yourself!

Young Blood
Unlock this achievement by killing 25 rival players on Xbox Live in a deathmatch game.
Scrap Yard Master
This achievement is won by completing the Salvage levels on wicked difficulty!
Grease Monkey
Can you guess what this achievement is for? Discuss it in our forums!

And finally...


Doing “Prey” has necessitated putting progress on our other, unannounced, next-gen title on hold for over 6 months, and I’d like to acknowledge the patience of our art team assigned to that project for soldering on with their work on it whilst almost all of our programming resources were diverted to bringing “Prey” to 360. Thanks Guys!

Peter Johnson - Studio Head
Venom Games - Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

The Venom Games gang gathers for a company picture.

Screenshot from Xbox 360 version of 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 at 3:01 PM

March 3, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #8

Hey all -- welcome to the latest Prey Weekly Update. Originally, Peter Johnson from Venom was going to update this week on the status and progress of the Xbox 360 version, but due to their crunch his update will have to wait until a future update (possibly next week).

Like Venom, we're in crunch here at Human Head as the game is in late beta. We're getting tons of feedback from 3D Realms, Take2 QA, and other beta testers. Every day the game improves pretty noticeably.

I'm going to update with little snippets of thoughts on various things that have happened around here. Like I said, we're incredibly busy, so there's way more than this happening, but here are just a few:

Last week I was in Dallas visiting 3D Realms. Tom Chick from CGM flew in for the first single-player hands-on demo of the game. We showed him the first two hours of Prey, and then jumped around and showed him a few cool areas later in the game.

The game pretty much shows itself off now. In the past, it was 80% talking and 20% showing -- as we discussed the story and what we planned to do in certain sections. But now, those numbers have flipped. Most of the demo was just seeing the game and experiencing the story -- the 20% was us talking about what we had yet to fix and tweak, and talking about the history of the game and its development.

Recently I speed-ran through the entire game, taking stock of the following items:

  • Action/Puzzles: Any long stretches of the game without any action or puzzles? (not many!)
  • Tommy comments: Making notes of additional comments needed and which current comments could use reworking.
  • Combat frequency: Is there not enough combat in areas, or too much? Do certain creatures show up too much?
  • Death frequency: Did I die too many times in a given area before I was able to get through?
  • Animation tweaks: Which animations could use reworking
  • Sound tweaks: Any sounds that could use tweaking, or any places where the volume mix is off.
  • General bugs: Just anything that seems wrong or is broken.

Michael Greyeyes (the voice of Tommy) will be visiting us in a couple of weeks to record new lines and re-record some previous lines that didn't work well, or had to change due to story tweaks. I'm compiling a (pretty large) list of comments culled from suggestions here and from suggestions from 3D Realms. I doubt we'll have the in-game Tommy say everything from that list, but we're going to record all these lines just in case.

More voice recording fun:

We brought in a local actress/singer named CJ Schellback to provide additional female voices and screams for the game. She did a fantastic job, with some excellent screams of pain and yelling such things as "Help me!", "Where am I?!", "What's going on?!"

Our recording booth is apparently not entirely soundproof as her AMAZINGLY LOUD screams of pain heard by one of the offices directly below us.

After several minutes of her screams -- someone from the office finally came up stairs and asked "Is someone being raped up here?"

Seriously. They didn't ask if someone was hurt or needed help. They go straight to raped.

In the future, we'll be sure to inform our neighbors of our voice recording sessions.

We're reworking the final sequence of the game. The previous version was a bit abrupt and didn't properly convey the story in the way we wanted to wrap things up -- the new version is longer, better explains things, and is damn swanky-looking, too.

Can't mention more of this, though -- as it would be spoilers. I will say, however, that the end sequence has the coolest Earth model I've seen in a game yet!

Music: We're incorporating the latest Jeremy Soule music into the game. Very nice stuff. It's amazing how the mood of an area changes radically when music is added. There's still quite a bit more music from him coming soon -- all in all, Prey will have about 2 hours of music from Jeremy.

We're also looking at getting more bands for the jukebox (which is in the Roadhouse near the start of the game, and also makes an appearance a few times on the alien ship). We already have some major label stuff in the jukebox and Ed is looking at some more indie-bands as well. Also, music related and interesting: Killer music from development materializes.

Later today, we're having a multiplayer stress test here at Human Head. We have weekly multiplayer tests to check for bugs and generally playtest the levels. Typically it ranges from 4-6 people playing (whomever is free at the moment to test). Today, we're focusing on all 8 players in the game, and are looking for bugs and any places in the maps where the flow chugs down.

Each week, 3D Realms receives a new build from us. Typically, I include a changelog of some of the more interesting things that changed (based up their feedback of what they wanted changed/fixed). George mentioned that it would be a cool thing to include in this update. So here it is:

  • New weapon selection menu
  • Multiple quick save slots
  • New wrench alt-fire raise animation
  • DeathWraiths now have a probability of 50% blue, 50% red
  • Many more mutilated humans working on stuff and shuffling around throughout the game
  • You have three seconds of invincibility when you return from death walk
  • New initial load screen
  • Beer bottles no longer float in Roadhouse
  • Jenny properly holds and throws the sponge now
  • JukeBox should always have a mouse cursor
  • Roadhouse: Timing is different on the dialog now, so you can play with the games all you want, going back down by the bar will continue the dialog scripting
  • Drunks have fight animations -- still need stagger around animations, though.
  • FTC: New Hider sighting -- dialog is temp, though
  • Art Bell radio sequences now start and end with music snippets. Recognize it? :-)
  • Hunters are toned down slightly -- bigger pauses between their shots. Maybe toned down too much right now, though?
  • Spirit Arrows are much more dangerous now. Also, more spirit power is given from enemies. This seems to be creating a positive feedback loop that we don't necessarily want, though.
  • Leech Gun: The tips are in, but we are going to add a picture of the leech gun itself to make it more clear.
  • Swipe animations are in for using things (especially in Roadhouse). Anims will be tweaked further.
  • Many more leech nodes added throughout the game. Pass isn't final, though...will still be more added.
  • You can shoot the robot vacuums (done especially for George)
  • Laser beam eye stalks can not longer be shot. You have to avoid the beams, trigger them, or spiritwalk through them now.
  • LOTA D: In progress, but new set-up for Grandfather. Play it to see where he's located now.
  • Cilia are triggered by spiritwalking players (so you can't walk through them)
  • Jetpacks rockets are slower
  • Four-legged Harvesters have been debuffed slightly
  • Head shots from the sniper rifle decapitate the mutilated humans
  • Poker/blackjack rules fixes in Roadhouse
  • Lots and lots of bugfixes

Well, that's all for this week. Next week (hopefully, if he can tear himself away from crunch time), Peter from Venom will update on the 360 version and anything he feels like talking about with that. In the meantime, stay out of trouble.

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

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 at 2:40 PM

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

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 at 12:00 PM

February 17, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #6

Prey is the first product in which Human Head has used motion capture. In the past, we've always hand-animated our characters for a few different reasons - we know the time and effort it takes to animate a given character, we know what the results will look like, and because we needed the ability to easily tweak the animations. In Rune, the attack animations required a lot of tuning and tweaking throughout development. Now, in Prey - we decided during development to try using motion capture on our human characters, Tommy, Jen, Tommy's Grandfather, and various human NPCs that Tommy encounters on the Sphere.

Since we had never done motion capture before, honestly, we flew a bit blind at first. We first developed a comprehensive list of all animations in the game that would benefit from motion capture, this included such things as:

  • Player animations (carrying each weapon, running, crouching, etc)
  • Human NPC animations (idles, walks, runs, attacks, etc)
  • Humanoid Creature animations (idles, attacks, runs, pains, etc)
  • Experimental animations - ones that we felt might be better to hand animate, but wanted to try motion capture to see how that would work (a character floating inside of a tank is an example)
  • All cinematic animations of characters walking from a specific point to a point, body language and gestures, etc.

Jeff DeWitt, Lead Animator on Prey, developed this comprehensive list from the creature AI list and from the script.

A small group of us then sat down and went over this list, expanding it as necessary by discussing what was needed, and even acting out parts of the script to get a better feel for what we would need.

Finally, with list in hand, Jeff and I headed down to Red Eye Studios, in Chicago for the actual mocap session.

Here's a shot of the overall mocap studio. We're reviewing a previous animation at this point, so Geno (the actor who plays all the male character roles) is standing in the center waiting for direction. You'll notice that his suit contains a lot of reflective balls, each of these are recorded by the motion capture system to translate his body position into animation data.

The motion capture only lasted two days - the first day consisted of all of the female motion capture, and a few scenes where we needed multiple actors interacting with each other.

Grace McPhillips performed the role of all the female characters in the game - she did a great job despite the abuse she took (at one point, we hoisted her up in the air - for the floating in tank section I mentioned before) and then motion captured her while she was dropped to the ground. Yes, there was a mat there to protect her.

The next day, Geno Kett showed up to perform the male character roles. Like Grace, he did a great job acting out what we wanted and he took his abuse really well. One of the more interesting parts was getting the runs for multiplayer - in MP the player actually runs at an unrealistically high rate (the MP is designed for fun action, not 100% realism). We marked out the run speed on the floor in chalk and did take after take until Geno got as close as possible to the speed we wanted.

Speaking of chalk: We learned a pretty valuable lesson (one that other people who have done mocap before will say sounds like common sense): plan out your animations around foot placement and make sure you chalk the foot placement right away. A few times we would be a few animations into a sequence and realize that the foot placement had moved - and then would have to go back and reshoot the previous animations again to guarantee that the actor’s feet had not moved.

Here Geno is acting out the role of a scared human trapped on the Sphere cowering for his life. Jeff DeWitt of Human Head stands in the background directing him.

If we use motion capture again, we’ll definitely plan things a bit more around foot placement, so that we record a series of animations in a row before the actor has to move their feet.

For cinematic purposes, we brought along the entire dialog to play for the motion capture actors. In directing these sequences, we explained the situation, and the general mood of the scene. Then, we played the audio of the dialog a few times so they were comfortable with it, then they simply acted along with the dialog. Typically it took a few takes but eventually we hit upon something that worked.

In the end, the motion capture has been a mixed issue - some sequences worked out really great when motion captured and definitely saved some time. Other sequences turned out okay and are currently undergoing in-house tweaking to get rid of some motion capture artifacts. A few animations probably shouldn’t have been motion captured in the first place, so they’ve been thrown out and replaced with hand animation.

Will we use motion capture in the future? Yes, we will - but, like most aspects of development, it’s a tool that can be used in certain places for certain things. Now having a better knowledge of the overall system and the planning required for it, we certainly will be more efficient next time.

Next week on the weekly update, we’ll be answering some of the questions that were emailed over this past week on Prey. And in a couple of weeks, we’ll have a special update focusing on the Xbox 360 version, written by the studio head of Venom Games. Venom are responsible for the 360 version of Prey. Should be great stuff!

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

At one point the motion capture system's hard drive was full. So we had a few minutes while they cleared out some space. I talked Jeff into Max Payne'ing onto one of the stunt mats. Six jumps (and a bruised shoulder) later, we snapped this fine shot.

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 at 2:53 PM

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 at 2:07 PM

February 3, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #4

Welcome back, everyone. This week is going to be another divergence from the usual updates. Instead of talking about specifics this week at Human Head, I'm going to talk about something that happened a few months ago - namely, the voice recording sessions.

After spending a few months listening to audition tapes for the various characters in the game, we nailed down the final list of actors in Prey.

Of course, many of the characters interact with each other in-game, so we wanted to record them at the same time. Luckily, their schedules coincided so we were able to fly all the actors out to the recording studio during the same week.

That studio we chose was one that 2K Games had used in the past - Rick Fox Studios in Cincinnati. So, last year Ed Lima (Human Head's Sound Director) and I flew out to Cincinnati to meet with the actors and go through the process of the initial sound recording session. There are several pictures in this article, and you can click on any of them for a larger image.

Rick Fox Sound Studios

Recording went very smoothly - all the actors were total professionals and usually nailed their lines after only a few takes. In fact, we were ahead of schedule the entire trip.

The process went like this: The actors were given the script to read through the day before. Then, at the actual session, they were given shooting scripts (which is variation of the full script, which contains each line, numbered and broken down by scene). Before recording each scene, Ed and I explained the situation and the character's motivation as well as the general reaction we'd like out of them (anger, fear, sorrow, etc). We'd then have the actors run through their lines three times. If we were happy with them, we would move on. Otherwise, we'd explain the changes we want and the process starts over again until we were happy.

Of course, the real test for the voice acting is actually getting it in game - if the recordings don't work out, then that calls for a pick-up session where we fly the actors out again (typically for a day or two) to re-record the lines and any new lines we may need.

The first evening there we met with Michael Greyeyes, who plays our hero Tommy. Over dinner we discussed the game with him (since due to secrecy, we only gave the actors small amounts of character information during their auditions) and explained how the week would play out. Since he's the main character, we'll need him to be there the whole week to interact with all the other characters.

Michael Greyeyes mentally preparing for his next line
Wav File: [ Something bad is about to go down in front of Tommy ]

The next actor to arrive was Crystle Lightning - who plays Jen in the game. We wanted her and Tommy in right away so we had plenty of time to record their lines both apart and together. When she first showed up, we had her record some of her lines in which no other actors were needed - general comments, pain sounds, screams, etc.

In hindsight, we should have recorded her screams last, as we became worried she might blow out her voice right away. But, she has a damn good voice and was careful not to overdo it with the screams.

Crystle Lightning acting out the part of Jen
Wav File: [ Jen talking to the player in the bar ]

Next, John William Galt showed up to record the voice of Grandfather. You may remember John as the voice of Lo Wang in Shadow Warrior, plus he was the original voice of Grandfather in the E3 Prey video from 1998. We searched around for other voices for Grandfather, but honestly, none were as expressive and unique as John's rendition of Grandfather.

John William Galt posing with me (with Rick the sound engineer in the background). My shirt, of course, refers to convertible cars.
Wav File: [ Grandfather admonishing the player. ]

Over the next couple of days, things went pretty fast, as we quickly recorded the other characters in the game (which tie in heavily into the narrative, so I'm not going to reveal them just yet). But those characters were played by Tyne Turner, Eleni Valasis, and Lee Ernst (who you may remember as the voice of both Odin and Loki in Rune). They all did an amazing job as they nailed their lines.

Ed instructing Michael on the next scene

At the end of the week, the recording session was over. We had all the lines we needed to do a first-pass implementation in the game (up until that point we had speech synthesized robot voices and various voices of people around the office in the game!). But, before going home had to explore the fine city of Cincinnati. We wandered into a nearby bar and relaxed with a few drinks and played some pool.

Crystle Lightning posing while we played pool

Until next time - stay out of trouble.

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Software

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 at 11:56 AM

January 27, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #3

Hi and welcome to the third entry in the Prey Weekly Update series. This entry will be a little different than the ones that preceeded it. This will detail some of my experiences on the press trip for Prey this past week via a couple of journal entries I made during the week - it got pretty hectic there, so there isn't a report every day, but I think most everything got covered. Enjoy!

Jan 23rd, 11 PM

Well, I arrived in Los Angeles this morning to a very welcome climate change. It's damn cold in Wisconsin (although, it has been an unseasonably warm winter. Still, it was like 20 degrees when I left). A lot of driving today. LA is too damn huge. I'd assume lots more driving tomorrow, too.

Today was a fairly busy day of demoing. The first few demos are always the most chaotic as it takes a couple of demos to get into the groove. I usually elicit enough feedback from the first few demos to shape the demos for the rest of the trip.

Today was also the first time that someone not working on the game (or testing for us) has played the multiplayer. Very cool to see people’s reactions to the gameplay in MultiPrey. They picked up the mechanics of the game very quickly - I had expected them to take longer to understand wallwalk and gravity flipping, but they were running around the levels like champs within just a few minutes.

Jan 24th, 11:30 PM

Another long day today. Didn’t have as many demos today (although I looked at the schedule and the next two days are going to be action-packed when I get to San Francisco).

Two demos this morning, which went very smoothly. The game pretty much shows it self off now. The levels are so packed full of stuff that it’s really easy to simply walk through the game and point out all the features that set Prey apart.

I was a guest on Attack of the Show today. While I haven’t yet seen the footage of the episode, it felt like it went well. We showed some live footage of the game being played as well as some footage of multiplayer in action. If I had to complain, I would only say that the segment went really fast - I wish I had more time to talk about the game!

Overall, a good experience. Big thanks to everyone involved in the show. I look forward to seeing the footage of the episode.

Flew into San Francisco today. This part of the tour is slightly different in that the journalists will be visiting us in our hotel suite. So, tomorrow morning we need to set up the machines and get everything ready.

Jan 27th, 7 AM

Set-up yesterday morning took a bit longer than we expected as we ran into some issues with a couple of the machines. Unfortunate, but that meant that we had fewer systems for the multiplayer demo than previously expected.

The demo consisted of three parts: We showed a portion of the single-player game, showed a short bit of the 360 version in action, and then a hand-on demo of Prey multiplayer deathmatch.

Nearly all the features in singleplayer (wallwalking, gravity flipping, spiritwalking, the vehicle, etc) show up in multiplayer. When designing the maps, we ran into issues where the levels became really dense and chaotic due to all of these gameplay elements. Eventually, we decided to selectively emphasis elements in each map. So, for instance, we have maps that focus on wallwalking and other maps that focus on flying around in vehicles.

We showed the journalists three of the multiplayer maps, each based around different Prey gameplay: wallwalking, gravity flipping, and spherical gravity (where the combat takes place on giant spheres). Lots of swearing and smack-talk around the table. Again, very interesting to see how quickly they picked up on the design of the maps and the mechanics of the gameplay.

Overall it was a great time, and we managed to pack in a lot of demos in a short period of time.

Now, I’m looking forward to going home and getting back to work!

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Software

Level Designer Dave Halsted hard at work with the Preditor.

Sound Lead Ed Lima working on the copious amounts of audio for the game.

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 at 11:58 AM

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!

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 at 12:11 PM

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 at 12:00 PM