Interview: Free-form climbing and alien hunting in Prey 2

Anthony Valva

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Prey 2

We just received an unmarked envelope with a lone cassette tape inside of it. On it, one almost-lost interview that our ill-fated Chris Comiskey was able to record at last week's Bethesda event before he met his grisly demise . Poor Chris, he sounds so innocent as he gets a first-look at Prey 2 and talks with Chris Reinhardt, the game's project lead and co-founder of developer Human Edge Studios, about the AI, vertical movement, weapons and much more.

PC Gamer: It wasn't immediately clear during the video which pieces of architecture you could climb and manipulate. Is there something that will be implemented to show players which piece of the environment they can interact with or climb? Or is it meant to be an experiment system that encourages players to try and climb over everything?

Chris Reinhart : One of the big things we have is that you can climb anything. If you it looks like you can climb it, you can climb it. That is our design philosophy.

In the future, everything looks like Blade Runner

PCG: So literally anything? Any building or anything you can see, you can climb it?

CR : If it looks climbable. There are certain things or ledges that you'll say “clearly I couldn't climb that.” So one of the things we are doing right now is user testing to make sure that it is clear. There's a system in the game that will highlight ledges that you can jump to but that isn't something we're going to make a requirement.

PCG: So it'll be a toggle switch in the options?

CR : Yes. We're experimenting with that just in case we think the players will need it. It's something that can be turned on, use it for a while 'til you get comfortable with what types of things you can climb and then they can turn it off.

PCG: What inspired that sort of game design? The acrobatics and climbing up everything--is that something you guys wanted to do from the beginning?

CR : It was very early, yes. One of the earliest things was when we connected with Bethesda, we were going through and bounty hunter emerged immediately. When we were looking at what types of things a bounty hunter could do in this alien world, early on was this idea of alien noire. We wanted this seedy, dark and nasty kind of world and as we were building out we said, "OK. We want to go horizontal and vertical as well.” And that came up at the same time when we were exploring the expanded movements.

No one said the life of a bounty hunter was easy

PCG: Is every single level vertical-orientated, or are there other levels that are focusing on a horizontal aspect?

CR : All the main, open-world worlds are very vertical. Say you are going into a hotel. In order to reach the hotel and capture a target that is in there, you'll need to climb over things.

PCG: When I was watching you chase after one of the marks that was escaping, as you were pursuing he would stop every now and then and a couple of guys would attack you. Is it possible for him to escape completely?

CR : Yes.

PCG: Are there any immediate consequences from that besides not collecting the bounty?

CR : If you fail to capture him, he will escape and you won't have to do the entire mission over, but just start at the last checkpoint and basically try to take this guy down.

PCG: So there is always that option.

CR : There is always that option, with one exception: the ambient bounties in the world. If you lose them, they're gone. If it's a particular alien who flees, he might show up later on in the game.

Sorry, alienphiles: your request for creepy alien side-boob has been denied.

PCG: How much has Prey 2 changed since you sat down and said, “We want to make this game?” Have you been surprised from the directions the game has taken?

CR : Very early on, we had the bounty hunter idea. We had alien noire. We had high level visions.

PCG: The big picture vision.

CR : We always stay true to that. Game design is about iteration. So as you're going through, you're trying things out and iterating on it. We didn't have the full scope with the combat system, other than knowing that we wanted to make something action-orientated. Once the player movement started to come online, we were looking at this saying, “OK, we need to merge combat with this movement stuff.” That's where the cover system came from. There's a lot of iterating and building up high ideas that came up.

PCG: You had also said that the players get rewarded by moving fast from cover to cover. Can you expand on what you mean by "reward for the player?" What are they getting?

CR : If you do something risky, like vaulting over cover, sliding to cover and popping up, grabbing a ledge and popping up, or sliding on your knees, you become a little more powerful in the amount of damage your weapons do. We want to encourage doing those risky moves.

PCG: What are the big strengths of an open-world game like in Prey 2 versus a more linear, scripted campaign?

CR : Player choice. Just the fact that I get to go where I want to, chose who I interact with, and which missions I do. A lot of the missions you don't have to take, if you don't want to. If there's a particular mission type, like escort missions, that you want to avoid, you can and it won't negatively impact the overall story. But the other thing is that you can pace it the way you want to pace it. If you want to do a bunch of missions in a row, you can. If you're getting sick of missions and want to hang in the bar for a while, you can do that. If you want to explore the world and collect collectibles, you can.

PCG: So you can just do the main quest missions in a row and not even bother with the side quest stuff?

CR : You can. We're trying to avoid as many bottlenecks as possible. Currently, there are a number of times when you get to a point where you need to complete one of the X number of missions to proceed. We want to avoid that funnel affect of "You have to complete this one mission before you can go on." And if you're saying “I hate this mission and can't get through it. I (as a player) am not good at this mission,” you can back up and do a different mission and continue the narrative there.

I hate these help-I'm-stuck-in-an-elecrical-bubble missions!

PCG: Is there any type of reputation system in place?

CR : Yes.

PCG: If I gun down every perp instead of questioning them, will people start to react to that in the future?

CR : Yes. Some of the ramifications are, if your reputation is higher, the higher-level citizens will contact you with their own jobs. You get jobs from factions and various special characters, and you get jobs from the average person on the street who'll say “I need help. I need a bounty hunter to do this for me.” If you have a more negative reputation, security systems will be more likely to come down on you faster.

PCG: Are the security systems everywhere in the world, and in all of the levels, or only in certain areas?

CR : It's everywhere, but with different distribution across the levels. The brighter area is a little bit more affluent, so there will be more cop presence there. You need to be a little more careful what you do. In another area, where the outcasts live, there is less police presence there.

PCG: Have you seen any particular memorable non-scripted events?

CR : Every time I play the demo, there are a couple of things that are memorable. Those little battles are not scripted. I only know the number of guys and roughly where they'll probably take cover. The one battle where I was ambushed and grabbed the ledge, every time I've demoed that, its been different every time. I've got an idea on how I want to play through it, but its been different.

PCG: So that is the same for all the battles? Can you elaborate on what it is different: the way the enemies behave, their location, or how they attack?

CR : How they attack you, which particular guy chooses to move forward, which cover they use or if they decide to throw grenades. One of the demos I was showing: when I was with my hostage, I turned the corner and after the guy teleports and says, “Someone shoot this son of a bitch,” one of his henchmen threw a grenade right away, which I haven't seen before while showing this demo. So I backed up immediately--I wasn't expecting that. It blew up, killed my hostage immediately and I had to run around the corner.

PCG: Can you always take a hostage? Is that always an option?

CR : Yes.

He's making the international hand signal for 'please take me hostage.'

PCG: So you can always walk around with a human shield?

CR : Yes.

PCG: Does it affect your reputation?

CR : Yes. A lot of times [the hostage] won't last too long. It depends on which character you grab. You can take every single character hostage and basically any biped your size. Not that big guy at the end of the demo though.

PCG: Will there be a lot of boss battles like that or more of just smaller mission focuses?

CR : I wouldn't say boss, but mid-boss character. That kind of guy you'll encounter multiple times, just because he's so cool. We didn't want just one encounter.

PCG: Are you planning on having huge, giant boss battles? Or is it more about focusing on just the narrative and script, instead of having that big explosive arcadie moment?

CR : We aren't going into that just yet. It does go into the narrative.

PCG: Is there anything you want our readers to know before we sign off?

CR : The biggest thing is I'm super excited about the fact that we're creating this new space. There are still a lot of Prey elements here, but we're creating this new space and taking players to this new place and it ties in to what we did well in Prey, which was giving players an interesting gameplay experience they haven't seen before.

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