Prey, hands down one of the most gob-smacking first-person shooters to assault our senses at this year's E3. Not only did it impress visually, it also had the audacity to sling in some truly mind-bending set-pieces including strange alien portal weirdness, out of body experiences on board alien spacecraft, devil children with sharp pointy teeth and bundles of strange Native American shamanistic malarkey.
Prey's re-appearance was like finding a lost child again, many years after it had first gone missing. You'll remember of course how Prey first emerged on the 3D Realms' 'forthcoming attractions' list many many moons ago, before being unceremoniously dumped in favour of Duke Nukem Forever.
Make no mistake though, Prey is back - and with a vengeance. It's currently riding high in our FPS 'most wanted' list after being resurrected as a joint production between 3D Realms and Human Head Studios. We tracked down 3D Realms very own Scott Millar to give us the latest on one of the most intriguing FPSs to appear in many a long while.
We think what will surprise gamers most about Prey is the complexity of background, emotion and narrative that's going into the script. Why is narrative so important to Prey?
Scott Miller: Well, narrative is why we care. Would Max Payne have been nearly as entertaining without its story, leaving only the action parts? I really don't think so. The story is such a huge part of the equation because people inherently love a good story. Plus, the best stories affect people emotionally, so we've tried to create a story that does just that, with several emotional gut punches that we're not going to reveal before the game comes out.
Why did the original version of Prey never get a release?
Scott Miller: Sometimes you just need to give up, and that's what we did. At the time we were trying to expand internally as a company and make three games, and it proved to be too much, so in 1999 we ended up dropping Prey and moving the best people to Duke Nukem Forever. Prey stayed in limbo until late 2001, when we connected with Take 2 and Human Head to revive the project.
There seems to be a lot of playing around with physics, gravity and perspective in what we've seen of Prey...
Scott Miller: Well, the setting of an alien spacecraft gives us a lot of license to develop ideas that don't make sense on Earth. Gravity flipping and Wall Walk - which allows you to run on the walls and ceiling - both fit well and were prototyped very early in the project, which allowed the level designers to utilise them as soon as possible. They're pretty much integral to the design because of the alien setting and since puzzles based around gravity flipping and wall-walking are unique and fun. A simple room can have a completely different set of challenges once we start flipping the player up onto the ceiling. For example, one type of puzzle involves a large chasm the player cannot get across - but you can simply flip gravity to the ceiling, navigate past the chasm (which is now above your head) and finally flip gravity back to normal. The game is filled with moments like that.
Have there been any 'Eureka!' moments in the development of Prey, in which the whole team has been invigorated by the concoction of a new idea?
Scott Miller: The best example of something that just clicked with design is Death Walk. In Prey, death is not permanent. You die and you're transported into an alternate plane of existence, where you must battle for the right to come back to the land of the living. When you succeed, you come back to exactly where you died, to continue the game right where you left off. The team was really excited about it - it's unique to a game like Prey, it fits into the storyline and it's just a great feature. Now that I'm used to Death Walk, I find myself wishing it was in many of the other games I've been playing lately.