Prey has evolved through “happy accidents” caused by creative linking of systems and powers
Three cups walk into a bar…
Members of Arkane Studios used a recent studio tour in Austin, Texas to tell Stevivor that Prey continues to surprise and impress its developers as a result of “happy accidents”.
“The mimics were one of the first creatures we started with and [their] history… is interesting because a lot of times when we discover things, [it’s] accidentally — like happy accidents,” Lead Designer, Ricardo Bare, explained.
The mimics, simple in nature, turned out to be far more complex than originally thought.
“We started with this premise of let’s have this creature that can hide from the player by transforming itself into objects in the environment, and then we will populate the environment with tones of [unscripted] physics objects. It’s systemic, so that means that if I walk into this room as the developer knowing what a mimic is able to do I still don’t know which object in the room is the mimic, we are surprised constantly by them,” Bare continued. “A premise of this game is that the player is able to do pretty much anything the aliens can do if they acquire their powers, so… that means the player can turn into trash cans and coffee cups and stuff like that.
“At first we were a little scared — we weren’t sure if that was going to be fun.”
As players themselves have experienced in titles like Arkane’s Dishonored and Dishonored 2, enjoyment came from using powers in ways that weren’t originally conceived.
“We prototyped it really quickly and it was just ridiculous amounts of fun to turn into objects in the game,” Bare said. “At the next level of the [mimic’s] rules is, well mimics just choose [to look like] objects that are in the room.
“Well, guess what? We then saw a mimic [transform into] something that I was mimicking; everyone just flipped out,” he exclaimed. “I turned into a coffee cup and the mimic ran up to me and turned into a coffee cup, so there were like three coffee cups, just sitting on the floor.”
Creative Director, Raphael Colantonio, added that the combination of the mimic’s power and the kinect blast can be used to explore and gain new items scattered about Prey‘s space station. This is, again, something that wasn’t thought of as the powers were designed and developed.
“[It’s] a great example of something that surprised us,” Colantonio said. “In fact, that’s why we showed it at Quakecon — I think one of the level designers found it right as we were working on this demo. You can use [the kinetic blast] to fetch objects in a way that was not really planned. You can place a kinetic blast on the other side of [an object] and it pushes [it] towards you which is kind of a cool way to use the system in ways that you’re not at all meant to.”
Producer Susan Kath recalled a combination of powers that was first termed as a bug.
“There’s so much that’s systemic — there’s all these permutations that we encounter as we play through the game,” Kath said. “A couple of days ago, I had a bug report from a QA tester come in and it was about how she was testing. We’ve seen the corrupted operators in the Quakecon demo — the flying robots — and in testing she was falling from a height and assessing her options. She pulled open her open her power wheel to look at the options she had and there was a group of operators down on the main floor.
“They saw her, they were going to shoot her, [but] she was out of weapons and ammo and she thought, ‘I can mimic one.’ So she hit mimic as she was falling, mimicked into the operator and all these enemies that had been aggressively trying to kill her [treated her as a friendly].
“They just immediately saw her as one of them and she just walked away. [The tester] reported it as a bug because she didn’t think it was supposed to happen like that; you shouldn’t be able to fake out the AI in this way by turning into one of them. Seth, the Lead Systems Designer and I were like, ‘No that’s cool! That stays, that’s awesome!’ and we kept it.”
We’ve just previewed Prey here. Stay locked to Stevivor from more from Arkane in the coming days.
Stevivor was flown to Arkane Studios in Austin, USA as a guest of Bethesda. As part of a studio tour, we played Prey and interviewed a number of Arkane’s staff.