Prey (2017) – A 20 Year History of Development Hell | NowThis Nerd

The summer gaming season is about to kick off with Prey from Arkane Studios It’s shaping up to be a gripping, first-person experience along the lines of Bioshock, where you explore an abandoned space station and experiment with alien powers

Prey is a reboot of a 2006 game of the same name, but that doesn’t come close to the whole story Prey is actually a reboot of a sequel to a reboot of a game that started production in 1995 In fact, it was pitched as a sequel to another classic 90’s game, but we’ll get to that later Before you beam up to Talon 1 and take on the Typhon, take a trip through development hell with us and learn about: THE THREE PHASES OF PREY The Prey-cursor Prey was announced in 1995 Publisher 3D Realms was looking for a flagship game for their studio after the success of Rise of the Triad and Duke Nukem 3D

They wanted a technical showcase, similar to Unreal by Epic Games Stunning new tech, developed in-house, with a brand new state of the art engine to blow everything else out of the water All they needed was an idea The only thing 3D Realms knew at first was that they wanted a “dark sci-fi” theme They hired Tom Hall, one of the designers of DOOM, to lead the project

Hall wrote the story for DOOM He came up with a big bible full of elaborate lore and character details, but almost none were used in the final game Lead programmer John Carmack famously said that story in a video game was like story in a porno movie– “It’s expected to be there, but not that important” Ultimately, Carmack won out and Hall left id Software, a studio he co-founded, before DOOM was completed At 3D Realms, Hall worked on Triad and Duke before he started on Prey

Details are scarce about this first version Mostly because it was scrapped entirely when Tom Hall left the company after a year, The only thing we know about Hall’s version is that the game revolved around alien abductions The new lead Paul Schuytema kept this angle but fleshed out the world Our hero would be Talon Brave, a Native American everyman trapped inside a mysterious space station with several hostile alien races When the first previews hit the gaming press, people were amazed by what they saw

We’re talking fully destructible environments Physics-based structures collapsing in real time Movable portals that you can look, walk, and shoot through Ten years before Valve’s Portal Don’t forget, this was the mid nineties

Mario 64 was barely a thing Games had just started to push polygons, but Prey was showcasing technology that seemed like science fiction The hype was very real So we waited And waited

Annnd waited Turns out 3D Realms wrote a check their asses couldn’t cash The technology, especially the portal mechanic, just wasn’t feasible for the hardware of the time Development slowed to a crawl Updates became scarce

Prey was never formally cancelled, but by 1999 it was on indefinite hold After years of hype, all we had to show for it was: A bunch of screenshots, some grainy preview footage, and this song KMFDM did for the soundtrack: This was the only evidence that Prey ever existed That is, until: 'Prey' at Last Rumors started circulating that maybe Prey wasn’t as dead as we’d thought After a surprise announcement, 3D Realms finally released the game in 2006, 11 years after production started They contracted Human Head Studios, best known for the Norse RPG Rune, to re-do the whole project

They used the previous designs as a base, but otherwise started from scratch Talon Brave is now the less culturally insensitive Tommy Tawodi, an ex-soldier living on a Cherokee reservation in Oklahoma The game opens with a really cool scene, where you just sort of hang around a bar You can play some video poker, watch TV, or flip through the jukebox filled with licensed songs You don’t just get to see what his normal life looks like, you get to play it

It’s actually pretty cool playing as your character before everything goes wrong After a quick bar fight, Tommy, his girlfriend, and his grandpa are captured by aliens to the tune of Don’t Fear the Reaper Remember the portals from the old version? They were so hard to implement that it literally shut production down for years, but technology had progressed by 2006 The Prey team was able to slap existing portal tech into their engine and beat Valve to the punch by a year The 2006 Prey was a decent game for its time, with an 83 percent Metacritic score for the PC version, but it doesn’t have much of a following anymore

In fact, you might have a hard time if you want to buy and play it today, but we’ll get to that later Still, Prey sold over a million copies, and so a sequel was announced just a month after launch The team at Human Head decided on a different protagonist, a bounty hunter in a 'Red Dead Redemption' style open world sandbox Things were moving slowly when the rights to the Prey IP were acquired by Bethesda in 2009 Bethesda is of course the studio behind Fallout and the Elder Scrolls, and they publish a lot of other stuff from smaller third parties

They kept Human Head on the project… for a little while By the end of 2011, Human Head ceased all work on Prey 2 The rumor mill started turning Was Prey cancelled again? Preying for a Sequel Bethesda said the “game’s development [had] not progressed satisfactorily” and didn’t meet their quality standard They didn’t cancel Prey 2 outright, but they “delayed” it past 2012 and removed any mention of it from their website

So there’s conflicting stories about what went down According to anonymous sources, Human Head wasn’t happy with their Bethesda contract They deliberately stopped working on the game as a form of “strike,” to try and force a better deal That didn’t work out too well for them Most of the team was was laid off and the relationship between Bethesda and Human Head came to an ugly end

Thanks to all the fighting over the rights, Prey completely vanished from the digital market Yes, including Steam The only way to play the 2006 Prey is a physical copy People just sort of forgot about it I’m sure that helped Bethesda decide to scrap the old game entirely and start something new

Again They started offering the Prey trademarks to different studios, leading to leaks, denials and drama Before granting the rights to Arkane Studios, developer of the Dishonored series Arkane didn’t sell them on a Prey sequel Instead, Arkane pitched that the new Prey would be System Shock 3 in all but name

1994’s System Shock, and its sequel, were some of the most innovative games of the era They were the precursor to the Bioshock series, first-person, sci-fi-horror RPGs that paved the way for narrative games today You know the audio logs that you find in nearly every single-player game today? Those came from System Shock Weapon and power upgrade systems to tailor combat to the way you want to play? System Shock Hacking minigames? System Shock

So, with Bioshock on hiatus after Infinite and the departure of creator Ken Levine, the new Prey might be the next best thing Dishonored was a really cool stealth game with an awesome steampunk setting A Shock style sci-fi action game seems like a perfect fit for the developer Yes, it’s a bummer they are scrapping the 2006 game and starting from scratch, but let’s be real: The only constant throughout the Prey saga is the theme of “fighting aliens on a space station” It’s a pretty broad concept, and you can build almost any kind of game around it, from portal puzzles to open world sandboxes

We’re excited to see Prey back, and we can’t wait to see what Arkane has done with the franchise Hopefully, the third try is the charm

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