A little Q&A for Prey

I had a little e-mail Q&A with Chris Rhinehart, the project lead from Human Head Studios, who worked on “Prey.” The review’s already HUGE, so I figured this would be a cool place to put what he said/wrote. Hopefully, you’ll get a little more insight into the game.

Q: What concessions, if any, had to be made to bring Prey to the 360?

A: Essentially none. All of the assets are identical in the 360 version as in the PC. The texture density is slightly reduced in the 360 due to the amount of memory needed for the game (but, not so much that people will really notice). The only other major differences are the menu and the loading screens are different on the 360.

Q: How did you go about crafting the character of Tommy? What kind of research did you guys do in implementing Cherokee legends?

A: The idea of a Native American reluctant hero originated with 3D Realms. Really, two types of research were done for the game: For story and for gameplay. From a story standpoint, we wanted the game to have a very
authentic feel and not feed into stereotypes, so a lot of research was done on Cherokee beliefs, mythology, and into the Cherokee language (as Tommy’s Grandfather speaks a bit of Cherokee throughout the game).
The research done for the gameplay side unearthed SpiritWalking (as we found evidence that Geronimo, who was an Apache, believed his spirit could leave his body for brief periods of time. He also believed that his spirit was impervious to bullets.

Q: What are some things you DIDN’T get to put into the game, due to time constraints or other factors?

A: A number of puzzles and environments were cut due to time constraints, mainly because we felt it was more important to have a polished game, than to pad the game out with mundane actions. You know, the old adage of quality over quantity. We also had a number of additional power-type abilities that Tommy could perform with his Cherokee Bow. If there’s ever a sequel, maybe we’ll resurrect those ideas.

Q: What was the thinking behind putting out a demo that’s much larger than standard one-level demos?

A: Well, 3D Realms mandated that the demo must start from the beginning of the game. We felt it important that the player experience SpiritWalking and DeathWalking. Since the player doesn’t obtain SpiritWalk until the
fourth level, we had to include a much larger demo. That, and we wanted to provide people with a longer demo experience so they could really get a feel for the game, similar to the shareware concept of giving away a third of the game.

Q: When it came to the portals and wall-walking concepts, how did you guys deal with trying to find a balance between an experience that messed with someone’s head and one that was just confusing?

A: We tried to introduce each element gradually: first give the player a relatively simple puzzle, and then ramp up the difficulty of the experience, and by combining the gameplay elements. For example, the first WallWalk is a simple walk up the walls. But the second one goes up the walls and onto the ceiling, so it’s just a bit more complicated. Then, after the player has learned how to WallWalk and then how to SpiritWalk, we combine the two where the player has to WallWalk onto an upside-down platform on the ceiling and then SpiritWalk (leaving the body up on the ceiling platform). The player then has to flip a switch to send the body across a chasm. Two relatively simple gameplay elements that are combined into a more complicated puzzle.

Q: What are some of the concepts you guys kept from the original idea about 10 years ago?

A: The two main concepts that carried across were the dark sci-fi theme of a Native American reluctant hero who is abducted by aliens, and the portals (and all of the associated puzzle and level craziness that seamless portals afford).

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On another side note, I also enjoyed the fact that actual Native American actors did the voicework for Tommy (Michael Greyeyes) and Jen (Crystle Lightning). You’ll also hear the voice of radio host Art Bell, who’s no stranger to talking about aliens.