Prototype, as you probably know by now, is one of the most-talked about new games of recent months. Dropping you into the shoes of mysterious loner Alex Mercer, you hijack, drive, climb, walk, run, kill and suck up anything in your path, in whatever order you like, across the whole of New York City. This week, we blow the lid off the game in an exclusive chinwag with lead designer Eric Holmes...
So, how did you come up with the concept for Prototype?
Well, we'd just finished Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and we were thinking about what we could do next. And the big opportunity was that we were moving to next gen. One option was we could have done a sequel to a game we'd already done. We were looking at ways to mix things up, different types of games. We probably had about 50 ideas going around at one particular time. That got thinned out very quickly to about ten, and of that ten we probably focus-tested about six or seven that we'd done treatments of - just to test the waters on some stuff and get a sanity check. Some of them were very, very positive and some of them were surprisingly negative, which is a good check, and I think at the end of the day there was really only two games we were looking at.
One of which was presumably Prototype. What was the other one?
I can't go into too many details about the other one, because we may still make it one day, but it was more of a horror-themed game.
So, what sold you on Prototype?
The thing that really sold us on Prototype was that we had all this technology that we'd built around what we'd done for Hulk, and we had this game system for the streaming open world. We had the massive destruction, and we understood a lot of what made that good. And with Prototype, we could leverage a lot of what was good about (Hulk), and we got to dump a lot of what didn't work. With Hulk, we had a character that only really hit one note; he was a big scary guy, and no matter where you were, everyone was just running in terror. And that's all he does. It was cool in itself, but it was quite constraining in how to design missions around that, how to get variety around that... so with Prototype we got to use all the physics systems we'd developed, the traffic system, the streaming world, destruction, some of the foundations of the AI, combat, but we also got to hit this whole breadth of new notes, with the idea that this character can melt into the crowd, just be a regular person, interact with vehicles. He can interact with firearms, interact with people in a new way - he can meaningfully interact with them - and with that we could disguise him, and deceive people. It was just very appealing to us because we were looking for something that was the essence of next gen - something new, something different, rather than a prettier corridor or a shinier-looking car.
On paper, the game is massively ambitious...
Yeah, but I'm sure you know as a writer, if you're working on a piece, you don't get all your ideas into the piece. You have to look at them and think, "these ones are stronger than those ones so I'll just focus on them". Prototype's development is very much like that. I think we would have been crazy to start this game without knowing a lot of (the basic technical things) at conceptual level. For example, just having a freeroaming world with hundreds of cars and pedestrians, and a character that can walk anywhere in that world - including vertically - that, in itself, is a major challenge and we'd already done a lot of that stuff prior to doing Prototype. We'd already made a lot of the mistakes so it made it a lot faster to get (Prototype) up and running on the next gen platforms.