is an upcoming first-person action-adventure video game developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. The game is scheduled for release in May 2017 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
In Prey, the player controls Morgan Yu while exploring the moon-orbiting space station Talos I, where research into a hostile alien collective called the Typhon is performed. As the Typhon escape confinement, the player uses a variety of weapons and abilities derived from the Typhon to avoid being killed by the aliens while looking to escape the station. The station is presented as an open world to the player, with progression through the world after obtaining key items or abilities similar in nature to a Metroidvania game.
Arkane’s Prey is a re-imagining of the original 2006 Prey developed by Human Head Studios. While Prey 2, a sequel to the 2006 game, had been planned, it fell into development hell following transfer of the intellectual property from 3D Realms to Bethesda Softworks, and eventually canceled in 2014. Arkane’s version does not use any of the planned sequels assets, and only incorporates the name and the broad theme of the protagonist being hunted by aliens of the previous games. Arkane built Prey as a spiritual sequel to System Shock, providing the player with several potential means of progressing within the game.
Prey is an action-adventure game with role-playing elements and strong narrative played from a first-person perspective. The player takes the role of Morgan Yu, a human aboard a space station with numerous hostile aliens. The player will be able to select certain attributes of Yu, including gender, and decisions made by the player that will affect elements of the game’s story. To survive, the player controls Yu to collect and use weapons and resources aboard the station to fend off and defeat the aliens. According to creative director Raphael Colantonio, the station will be completely continuous rather than having separate levels or missions, at times requiring the player to return to areas they previously explored. The player will also be able to move around the outside of the station in zero gravity and find shortcuts connecting parts of the station.Colantonio also stated that the aliens have an array of different powers that the player-character can gain over time; one such alien has the ability to mimic everyday items such as a chair.
The game will have multiple endings, according to lead designer Ricardo Bare; the endings fall into two major narrative structures depending on how the player broadly interacted with the station and surviving humans, but Bare said there are “tons of little permutations” based on specific events.
The success of the original Prey lead to the announcement of a sequel Prey 2 in August 2006, with continued development by 3D Realms. However, the project faced a number of issues, including the transfer of the IP rights to Bethesda Softworks (under ZeniMax Media) sometime by 2011. In March 2011, Bethesda announced that Prey 2 would instead be developed by Human Head Studios using a modified id Tech 4 engine.
On 31 May 2013, Kotaku reported rumors that development had moved to Arkane Studios and that the development had been rebooted, scrapping all of Human Head Studios’ work on Prey 2 with a targeted release of 2016. After about a year of further rumors, Bethesda officially canceled Prey 2, though as described below, Arkane had started working on a Prey game that would be considered a reboot rather than a sequel, using the Prey concepts but none of Human Head’s previous development.
On 12 June 2016, Bethesda officially announced the Prey reboot at its E3 press conference. The game’s development is currently led by Arkane Studios CEO and director Raphaël Colantonio and his team in Austin, Texas. Chris Avellone has also confirmed to be working on the project. The new Prey is not a true sequel but instead a “a reimagining of the IP”, according to Colantonio. The teaser trailer shown during E3 2016 showed the game’s protagonist in something like “a space horror version of Groundhog Day“, according to CNet’s Seamus Byrne. Bethesda’s vice president of marketing Pete Hines explained that the new game has no elements from the canceled Prey 2 outside of the player facing against aliens.
This version of Prey came out of Arkane Studio’s own ideas; as explained by Colantonio, after they finished Dishonored, roughly around 2014, they split their team to work on two projects, one being Dishonored 2 and the other a new IP based on similar gameplay ideas which would be “in first-person, with depth and simulation and narration”. According to lead designer Richard Bare, Colantonio had suggested they look back towards what they had done with Arx Fatalis, a fantasy title produced by Arkane in 2002 which featured “this big, inter-connected dungeon that the player could roam so long as they could unlock everything”. They took that concept, but now set aboard a space station and involved aliens, and would require the player to consider the “full ecology” of the game’s world. As Arkane started developing this, they recognized the similarities to the original Prey. Realizing that coming up with a name for a new property can be difficult, and that through Bethesda that they would have the ability to use that name, they opted to go with calling the game Prey. Hines explained that Arkane evaluated the Prey property to its core and built up a new game around it, calling it more a psychological game rather than a horror one.
Prey incorporates numerous gameplay concepts from Dishonored, which was itself inspired by the Looking Glass Studios’s games Thief: The Dark Project and System Shock, where players are encouraged to find creative solutions to overcoming obstacles. Borrowed elements from Dishonored include giving the player enough agency to determine how they want to proceed at the game, having in-game consequences for certain actions taken by the player, developing a game world based on a pre-established lore that can be learned by examining notes and computer terminals throughout the station, and a simple user-interface. However, Colantonio said that Prey will be less focused on stealth as Dishonored was, and will provide a more role-playing game-style improvement system through in-game chipsets that allows the player to customize their abilities for more tactical fast-paced action sequences in contrast to Dishonored‘s bone shard system. Arkane also considers Prey to have more in common with Metroidvania-style of games, where they consider the game to be one singular mission across the interconnected game world, rather than having separate game levels for each distinct mission as they had for Dishonored. To this end, the Arkane team had to make sure that players could not “break” the game, and account for all possible abilities and weapons that a player could have collected, or lack thereof, in each of the game’s sections. This also restricted how many horror elements they could include, since they could not predict where the player’s attention would be throughout the game, providing another reason why they opted not to consider Prey a horror game.
Narrative-wise, Arkane wanted to build as detailed a world as they had done for Dunwall in Dishonored, and started from considering how the future would have been different if Kennedy survived the assassination attempt, allowing them to flesh out the narrative and design of the space station. One of the Typhon aliens, the Mimic, was inspired by the creature of the same name from Dungeons & Dragons, and was programmed by Arkane to take the form of any object smaller than itself in the room, avoiding the use of scripted events and allowing the alien’s artificial intelligence in the game’s software decide what to replicate. Separately, one of the tools developed by Arkane was the psychoscope, which allows players to scan an alien and learn and then use its powers; when the programmers learned of this, they quickly found that having players be able to copy the Mimic’s power created a depth of new gameplay options, such as taking the form of a small object to sneak into small places, or taking the form of an non-flammable object to roll through fire-laden areas. Such emergent gameplay was a goal of Arkane: while they had given the players abilities to take on the game in a full action mode or full stealth mode, they wanted players to find a way to complete the game in their own manner. They recognized players may take one specific set of skills and weapons, and avoided including any enemies or obstacles that would be impossible to surpass because they did not specialize in the right skills, providing a means to bypass such areas.
Among other works, Prey was influenced by the films Moon, Starship Troopers, and The Matrix. As part of the game’s promotion, Bethesda partnered with the Alamo Drafthouse to show these three films during April 2017.
Prey was built using the CryEngine; whereas Dishonored 2 was developed with a new game engine and had been released with some noted technical problems on the Windows side, Colantonio anticipates that the use of the established CryEngine, along with additional time for quality assurance testing, will help make the Windows version “really flawless” on its release.
The game is scheduled for release on 5 May 2017.