Interview: Free-form climbing and alien hunting in 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.