Arkane Studios is re-launching the Prey name, taking nothing from the original 2006 first-person shooter but the title. We recently got the chance to sit down with Prey lead designer Ricardo Bare in a Q&A, where he gave more details on the studio’s re-imagining, including the game’s open world, multiple endings, and freaky shadow aliens. Check it all out below:
Does the fact that you can choose your gender in the beginning play out in any way in the game, or is it the same regardless?
You can choose to play as male or female Morgan, but it doesn’t change anything like, ‘because you made this selection now, the end game is totally different’ or something like that. It affects minor details like the way people address you, the way some emails are written, things like that.
I get the impression that you can’t really trust yourself or Morgan, because it seems like he’s the guy in charge of everything.
(Laughter) That’s a good impression to have.
It’s definitely the case that one of the main premises of the game is to really find out about yourself. Who are you? And then once you figure that out, what are you supposed to do? How do I survive? How do I get off the space station? And ultimately, you’ll be making some pretty big decisions about those topics.
Will people who played the original Prey find any connection between this game and the 2006 game?
Nope, not at all. The only thing it shares in common is the name and the high level premise of, ‘hey, it’s a science fiction game, takes place on a space station, there’s aliens.’
Then why call it Prey?
Because Prey’s a great name. (Laughter) It’s really hard to name video games and find names that aren’t taken. We were already working on an Arkane-style science fiction game kind of like System Shock, and the name just suited it.
Like Bethesda has this name, we’ll just use it.
Yeah. Their chocolate fell into our peanut butter, and we were like, okay.
Is it necessary to read every single email, every single note?
No, only if you want to. One of the things we love to do at Arkane is to really detail out the world so that it feels real and believable. We really nerd out on things a lot. But it’s not required. You can totally just play through the main mission, never look at an email. Even if there’s a quest or something like that with an email, it automatically adds it. It’s not seeing if you actually read the content or anything like that.
Have you designed it to be such that you can play the game without using any skills?
Yeah. One of the interesting choices, I think, that players will have to make is… Let me back up for a second. You were exposed to all the human abilities, but later the game opens up even more. There are alien abilities. Eventually, you find this device called the Psychoscope, which is a really fun tool, I think we’ve shown it in some of the trailers. It lets you scan the aliens. It’s this scientific device, you zoom in on the aliens, you scan them, and it gives you all this really cool lore if you want to read it, it tells you their vulnerabilities. But the best thing that it does is that it actually gives you their powers. Now I have the ability to install the mimic power. I can turn into things and camouflage myself. So you have access to that later in the game.
How many different aliens will we see?
I think there were two in the demo. We’ve shown five or six in the trailers, but there’s a few more I think that we haven’t shown yet.
To follow up, to answer your original question, one of the choices you will have to make is, do I even want to take alien powers, or should I just stick with human powers? Because there are consequences. The turrets — those things are scanning for aliens. So the more Typhon material you put into yourself, you will eventually cross a threshold where the turrets will begin to see you like the aliens. So it’s a trade-off; these are really powerful really useful powers, but now the turrets hate me. But then if you’re the hacker, you can even get around that.
Is there a way to tell what a mimic has become? I feel like I came across a coffee mug that I couldn’t pick up because it was too heavy. Was that because it was a mimic?
It could be, it’s possible, I don’t know for sure without looking at it.
I got attacked right after, I’m not really sure.
(Laughter) Eventually, one of the cool things about the Psychoscope is that it will give you the ability to detect mimics before they jump at you. It will basically bust the mimics. I mean, even before you have the Psychoscope, there’s little tells. Like they make noises, or you should be suspicious any time you see two of anything. Like, “why are there two keyboards on that desk?”
Is that randomly generated?
Yeah, that’s one of my favorite things about the game, about the mimics specifically. All that stuff is unscripted. We have a couple of scripted things at the beginning of the game just because we’re trying to teach you about the game, but the AI itself has a behavior, it’s just part of its behavior where it can turn into anything in the room that’s a physics object. So even the level designers don’t know where the mimic is. It sees the player, and it decides “oh, I need to ambush the player.” So it runs into a room and it knows what objects are in the room, and then it just picks one.
What do the mimics want?
They want to kill you. (Laughter) They want to harvest you like they harvested that one guy, because every time a mimic kills a person, they replicate.
I played Garry’s Mod, I play a lot of PropHunt–
It’s funny, because I heard that and I was like what the heck is PropHunt, because I had never heard of it. And then I looked into it, I was like oh my gosh, this is totally something very similar [to mimics]. But our idea actually came from, if you guys are Dungeons and Dragons nerds, there’s a monster called the mimic, a super old school monster that was at the bottom of dungeons and it was always a chest. And so you’d try to grab the treasure and the chest would grow teeth and start attacking you.
And so we thought at one point, man that would be cool, but what if it was any object and what if it was not controlled by us, it was just part of the AI’s behavior? And so the mimic was born.
Can you do spacewalks?
Absolutely. Once you get access to the exterior, it’s not a one-off level, it’s not like a gimmick or a special set piece. It’s totally open, totally simulated. You can spacewalk the entire outside of the space station.
How was it building that type of [zero-G] gameplay?
Really hard. It’s a weird line because you’ve got some guys on the team who want to be super simulation, true to science. And then you’ve got some guys who are like, it needs to be easy and understandable. And so we tried to find the right line so that it feels good but also obeys the laws of physics
What I will say is that once the whole space stations opens up to you — there are a couple of times where you have to go into a zero-G situation — but once the whole space station opens up to you and you’re doing quests and running around, it’s up to you. You’ll get to a point where you’re at the very bottom of the space station and there’s an emergency at the top, somebody needs you to go up there, and it’s up to you. Do I take the elevator that I fixed an hour ago and just ride it up, or do I pop out of this airlock and fly up because I know there’s some monsters by the elevator that I don’t want to deal with?
What can you tell us about different endings for the game?
Without giving you spoilers, I would describe the endings as essentially two main branches. You’re gonna be making some pretty big decisions about the space station and the people aboard the space station. But then within those main branches there are tons of permutations, and a lot of it has to do with what you did and how you treated survivors that you encounter.
I ran into a phantom down in the labs, and it was addressing me by name, and I found that highly disturbing. Is there some sort of backstory about the aliens knowing Morgan?
Yes. Those creatures have a cool backstory. Most of the creatures you encounter, like the mimics and some others later like weavers and stuff, they’re 100% alien. But what happens is when those little mimics kill a human, they drain it, it leaves behind this husk. There’s this other creature called the weaver, that will come around and it will turn that husk of the thing that used to be a human being, it will turn it into a phantom and use it as sort of a soldier, a defender. And so those phantoms have echoes of memories of what they used to be, so they’re just trapped almost and they’re sort of mindlessly repeating things they used to say when they were alive, and some of them remember you.
Will you be able to acquire all of the skills, or are you going to have to pick and choose?
Pick and choose. We tried to make the economy of neuromods such that it’s impossible to max out every skill tree. If you found everything, you could probably max out all the alien powers or max out all the human powers, or do half and half. But you wouldn’t be able to do everything in one playthrough.
Is the campaign — do you have any idea how long it’s going to be?
With all the games like this that we work on, the amount of time varies widely depending on the style of the player. But we’ve done a lot of playtests with people, and typically play times clock in around 16 to 22, 20 hours. Something like that
You talked a bit about the structure of the space station opening up. Sounds like it’s a lot different than something like Dishonored 2, where there’s very little backtracking. Can you talk about that?
Arkane actually made a game like this a while ago called Arx Fatalis. It’s not like Dishonored in the sense that you have a mission here in this location, you finish it and then you move on and you never come back. Instead, the space station itself is one huge mission.
When the game first starts, you have access to like 20% of the station, and the more you gain abilities, and the more you progress through the main story, the more that opens up. Until finally the whole, huge station is open to you, and by the second half of game you’re just running all over the place doing side quests, doing the main story, going up and down, all kinds of stuff. We like to call it an open space station game, basically.
Is the glue gun going to come into play for accessing different levels? Because it says that once the glue hardens, you can jump on it.
The fiction behind the glue gun is that it’s a tool made by the scientists to incapacitate the aliens. If they get out of hand, you just freeze them up. But players can come up with other ways to use it. You can spray it on a wall and make platforms to climb up. But there’s never anything required like that. I just finished a playthrough last night where I didn’t have the glue gun because of a bug, so I was just like, screw it, I’ll play without the glue gun. And the game totally works. You don’t have to be the person who uses the glue gun. There’s always more than one way to do anything.
Prey releases May 5 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. For more, be sure to check out our hands-on preview of the game over here.