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Interviews

Looking Back... Prey

Peering through the sphinc-door with Human Head Studios

Human Head's physics-bending, portal-strewn shooter had a rickety ride to release. It was 11 years from brave theory to shop shelf - and who in 1995 would have imagined that the final game would feature ghost-on-child murders, tiny planets, vomiters coughing rejected limbs into your face, and thick pipes pumping around what might be muscle, or could well be excrement? It's time to catch up with Human Head's CEO, Tim Gerritsen, and co-founder Chris Rhinehart, to find out what's happening with the folk who kicked off the portal revolution...

ABDUCTION
Rhinehart: The level of interactivity in the initial scene in the bar had always been a major part of the storyline. We wanted to fi rmly entrench the real-world Earth aspect to the game, to give you reason to understand what Tommy's situation was and how he got into the situation he was in. Originally, we were going to make it less linear - you'd start the game with all of you being abducted, and you'd move back to the bar in a flashback sequence. In the end, we decided it was best to go the linear approach.

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JENNIFER OH JENNY
Rhinehart: Will you see her again? Well, you see her at the end of the game. She's like the ultimate annoying girlfriend; she can come back spiritually like Obi-Wan. You can be hitting on a new girl, and all of a sudden she'll show up. Selfishly, I hope that Jenny's back in the sequel, because I want to hang with Crystal Lightning again - she's the voice actress who played Jenny. I definitely wouldn't mind seeing her again.

ART BELL
Gerritsen: Art got it right away. Myself and Ed Lima, the audio director, had contacted him to see if he'd be interested. Being games developers, we tend to be up late at night, so a lot of us had listened to Coast To Coast AM and thought it would be a nice touch to get it in there. When we contacted him, he was all for it right from the get-go. He's receptive to the idea of aliens, but at the same time he's sceptical enough to make it fun to listen to. We took him the initial scripts and told him to make them his own - it was completely natural to him. He's this crazy, consummate professional, and he did everything in one take.

LIVING WALLS
Rhinehart: Getting the ship to look like it did involved a lot of people. We had this core idea that we wanted the ship to be alive, like you're crawling through this thing that's utterly alive. We split off into different teams, and made sure the texture artists had to build gross, gloopy walls, and the level designers had to work with this flesh feel in mind as well. We always wanted something moving in your view - tentacles, vomiters that spew out stuff. It was also really important to get this atmospheric feel, to give everything this misty feel. It took us a while to figure out how to get that from the engine though - at its basic level, the engine wasn't suited to our look.

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JUKEBOX
Gerritsen: A combination of things influenced what we had on the jukebox. We originally wanted it to be full of old Roadhouse music, with what we Americans call 'shit-kicker music'. Just the kind of stuff you'd hear in a typical backwater bar in the States. That's what we were going for, but then we were told we could have some modern acts as well. So our audio director worked with the guys at 2K and tried to figure out what we could get hold of. We picked the old classics, but the newer tracks came towards the end. If you hang around and listen in the later scene where the aliens are in your bar, you can hear one of the Hunters say, 'I love that song'!

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