There’s a little truth to that – I laughed when I read that the graphics team actually used a plant foliage shader – but it’s not entirely accurate.

In addition to the basic “black flickering” effect, Typhon enemies are also distinguished by size, shape, movement modes and speeds, and in some cases additional particle effects of differing colors/styles.

There’s also a class of non-human/non-Typhon enemies that have similar appearances but different attacks.

So I suppose if one wanted to be extra-reductionistic, one might say there’s only two kinds of active enemy in Prey, and all the members of each kind look similar. But IMO that’s unfair; there’s a good amount of visual and functional variation among the enemies in Prey, even if all the members of the two types share some visual characteristics.


I do think the enemies could have distinguished themselves more in terms of combat approach. With the exception of the mimics and those little popper things, most of them are varying degrees of bullet sponges.

Also, I agree that the hacking mini game stinks. Why couldn’t they just rip off a moderately fun old Amiga game like Irrational did? :slight_smile:

Actually, the only hacking mini game I’ve truly enjoyed was in Human Revolution. Most are meh at best.


I found the enemies to be fairly interesting in Prey - they could have done more to accentuate the differences between them though. I do think difficulty level plays a part in this as well, on harder difficulties it does push the player to understand and approach each enemy type in different ways that just isn’t necessary at lower difficulty settings.

I didn’t mind the hacking mini game in this - it wasn’t particularly groundbreaking but it served its purpose generally. The main problem I found was that the difficulty curve was backward - the higher the level of the hack the more time left over I seemed to have to finish it.

I wish a game could produce something a bit more involved where hacking is concerned - make me feel like I am actually hacking, circumventing something to achieve my aims. Also I always feel a bit disappointed at how skill-gated things like this are - it’s a L13 lock so you need to have level 3 hacking or you can’t do anything. I’d prefer if there were a base skill or item available that allowed you to initiate a hack, but beyond that you can attempt to hack anything without arbitrary level locks. Yes have skills or upgrades that make the hacking process quicker/easier, but also provide the option for someone to be really good at the process to open a L4 lock with only the L1 hacking mod. Obviously this would throw up potential problems with controlling the flow of the game, sequence breaking etc. but it just feels more in line with the philosophy of openness and player empowerment that these types of games promote.


I noticed the same thing about the difficulty level. It got the point that I was happy to see a Level 4 lock and grumpy about a Level 2 lock, because the timer for the latter felt considerably shorter by comparison.

Three other things real quick about Prey, while I’m still thinking about it:

[SPOILER] 1. Danielle Sho, a character from the supposed “game design document” that was going to be Prey 2, survived into what became the Prey reboot. I kept expecting some hints that her character would survive the events of Prey to become the basis for an AI aboard a more distant space station (DANielle SHO … DANSHO … SHODAN), but Arkane decided, probably wisely, not to go there. [/SPOILER]

  1. When I guess that the Prey team must really enjoy world-building, I’m not just imagining things. If you look carefully at the stars when you’re outside Talos 1, you will discover that they are correct. That is, the starfield of Prey pretty accurately represents what you can see if you go outside on a dark night. I first realized this when I saw a small cluster of stars that seemed similar to the Pleiades… then I recognized the belt of Orion nearby, and the horns of Taurus, and then it was off to the races. In addition to using a heightmap for the Moon, I thought this effort to replicate the stars as seen from Earth orbit was a nicely immersive touch.

  2. Remember Raphael Colantonio’s complaint about “press sneak f*cks” in the Arkane emails about Prey 2 that were leaked to Kotaku?

Yeah, that made it into Prey as an easter egg, too. :smiley:

This would make an excellent starting point for a thread in the System Shock 3 sub-forum regarding how hacking might work in that game. :wink:


Not Bioshock. To be a good game the game rules must work in tandem and engage the player. Those that don’t recognise Bioshock’s shortcomings in this regard are obviously dazzled by spectacle and the weak illusion of choice. Super Mario Bros? System Shock 2? those are good games, as two examples.


I didn’t think Bioshock was weak. But I could only give it a high 6/10 compared to it’s predecessor, System Shock 2. Once you’ve drawn the Mona Lisa, why would you want to draw it again on inferior stock?


Maybe I’m dense… It’s an option.
While, yes, Super Mario Bros was a good game just as System Shock 2 I still don’t fully comprehend what you mean by “game rules” (is it game design? constrictions/limitations?) and how they must work in tandem (must… follow? support? work in synergy?) with the player.

Not pulling anyone’s legs, just interested…


What do you mean?


I had a really great time with Prey. Probably about the best Immersive Sim in the last decade. I was a little blown away that it didn’t get more recognition this year. The level design is top notch; interconnected locations on Talos 1 made the world feel like a coherent whole. It follows faithfully in the Looking Glass philosophy of world design. Everything makes sense, and is functional in a real way. Verticality and traversal are given a great deal of care. Environmental storytelling is leveraged using the world, bits and pieces of story all around, and every crew member is accounted for, where you could literally track anyone on the station and find out their fate if u wanted to. I had a lot of fun tracking down little bits of story here and there, discovering the crew’s nerdy little DnD game, or a foam snowman someone at the office built. Game has a ton of character.

The skill trees were fun and varied. Albeit, the gunplay could’ve used more work. There aren’t enough guns to warrant different playstyles. Prey’s fault boils down to lack of feedback in the enemies, and a lack of variety. I thought the story twists were a little predictable, even though it works in the context they were going for. Characters overall aren’t as memorable maybe as System Shock 2 or Bioshock. Still, despite that, it’s a solid modern take on the Immersive Sim in 2017, and we don’t get a lot those these days.


I also think the enemy types in Prey were pretty limited… but what if the intended fun of the game was exploring the world (the station), and shooting critters was just a secondary thing.

Would that make the lack of enemy variety a little less of a defect for Prey?


Certainly. You’re probably right in that the focus was more on the other aspects of the game. Either way, it’s not a huge detracting factor, just a personal preference.


Did you guys see the noclips short documentary about Prey?

Really interesting design insight, and relevant as ever as we think about immersive sims…


I didn’t play Prey, though I own the game, but part of where Arkane falls flat is their very vanilla storylines, that rely heavily on narrative cliches, and their flat delivery. Also, from watching gameplay, there wasn’t enough variation between creature textures. It seemed like kinda a one-note. If S3 wants to top that, it can do that through better narrative delivery, and a clever plot full of plot twists (see Metal Gear Solid). Part of it is about letting the environments tell a story (see: ghosts in SS2), and part of it is by further characterizing SHODAN. She is, IMO, the best villain in video game history. I would focus on making SHODAN a more rounded character, who learns from her mistakes, and whose motives evolve over time. Detail her personality a little more densely, and give players a few mysteries to cliffhanger over (and tie together in future games), and I’m sold! Oh, and more variation between creature types. And enemies that attack and have patterns like Dark Souls would be a dream. I like to memorize enemy tactics and react. It helps if enemies telegraph their moves. Painkiller, despite being a shooter, had a lot of this. One second you were being shot at by an enemy, the next you were facing mutant ninjas with fierce katana strikes. Different types of enemy attacks and attack patterns help break things up. The ServBots that chase you and explode in SS2 are one perfect example.


Also, I’ve tossed around the idea of making SHODAN an actual AI, who reacts to the player’s moves.


Another perspective: the enemy mobs in SS and SS2 were never of much interest to me. I didn’t mind that they all basically had the same AI: shoot at player character if possible, close on player’s position if possible, engage in melee if possible.

I had a blast playing original DOOM where the enemies had visibly different tactical styles to perceive and counter and exploit. That deeper tactical AI makes sense in a pure shooter.

But I don’t think the System Shocks and the new Prey were ever meant to be pure shooters. Their worlds are too complex and interesting to just shoo players through them to the next Epic Fight. In fact, this remains one of the big complaints about Bioshock Infinite: it simplified the world to pastel façades with nearly-literal roller coasters in order to emphasize exciting shooter gameplay. At this point it basically divorced itself from its System Shock ancestors, whose relatively complicated dynamic worlds and datalog-delivered story rewarded careful and thoughtful exploration that just happened to be interrupted occasionally by gunfire.

Combat-focused games are fun. I support making more such games. There are numerous excellent shooters (and meleeers, if that’s a word) available, and that’s a Good Thing.

What there aren’t many of is world-exploration games. I also support making more games of this kind, where the shooting and stabbing isn’t the main attraction but a thing you need to do to be able to see and interact with the next part of the world and new parts of the story.

I see both original System Shocks as world-exploration games with some combat, not the other way around. I also see Arkane’s Prey as trying to achieve that balance. Opinions can vary on how well Arkane Lyons achieved that goal, but if they didn’t it wasn’t because enemies weren’t varied enough visually or didn’t have Dark Souls-like tactical moves. While (as I’ve said) I wouldn’t have minded more diverse enemies in Prey, I don’t fault Arkane for not doing that because I don’t think enemy appearance or mechanics are the main thing Prey was about.

And likewise for the System Shocks.

So I think it’s important that System Shock 3 build on the world > combat balance of the original games. It also wouldn’t hurt if SS3 was influenced a little by Arkane Austin’s Prey, whose world-building was pretty darn good.

Finally, a practical point: how much of the Improvisation Engine toolkit developed for Underworld Ascendant is the OtherSide Austin team expected to use for System Shock 3? If the intent is “a lot,” then it wouldn’t make sense for SS3 to ignore those exploration-centric capabilities to build an excitement-centric game focused on tactical combat events.

Really, the biggest question in my mind is whether SS3 is going to include something like SS2’s RPG mechanics or return to SS’s gear-based progression. :smiley: My money’s on SS3 having some RPG elements because character-depth and world-depth can support each other… but we’ll see.


When I brought up non-combat approaches and AI, people criticized me from detracting from the “combat-focus” of the gameplay. When I start thinking in terms of how to branch out and expand strategy within combat situations, people think I trying to turn SS3 into a combat sim. There really is no win condition with this crowd, is there?


I don’t know about “people”; I don’t think I criticized you for suggesting non-combat gameplay! (I wouldn’t criticize you personally, anyway; I prefer to talk about ideas, not people.)

If I seemed like I was hammering your suggestion, that wasn’t intentional. As usual, I was just thinking out loud, trying to poke at my own perspective from several angles to see if it holds up.

I do think that the System Shocks – and Prey – really are a different breed of cat from games that emphasize detailed tactical combat. (Strategy is another thing entirely.) So all I’m really advocating is caution not to make combat in OtherSide games so full-featured that it starts to become the primary play experience versus exploring the world to discover what happened.

That said, I understand that many people who played Prey had a similar reaction to yours – they found the combat underwhelming, and they criticized the game for that. It probably took a hit in sales in part because this criticism spread.

So it seems like Warren and his team have a tough decision to make: stay with the exploration-centricity that made the original System Shock games inspirational classics? Or amp up the combat because that’s what today’s gamers expect, even if that means less time to craft a big, complex, reactive world and a game that’s a bit less fun (because more hardcore combat) for the gamers who love exploratory games?


I’ve already mentioned the idea of integrating double-jumping and wallrunning from UA as unlockable skills for the player-character to experiment with. This would add more verticality to the levels, an aspects I like to accentuate, since System Shock shares a lot of DNA in common with Metroidvania platformers. This could translate into sensible platforming, ala Half-life. But I digress. What I’d really like to see is more, and more crazy, enemy types. I would like to see what crazy experiments SHODAN has been up to since Citadel Station, and the Von Braun.


It’s still pretty early in development, so I can’t say much about what the team officially has planned for SS3.

But, based on the thoughts at OtherSide and the general approach they’ve been taking, I think the game will lean closer towards “an exploration game” rather than a combat game. There’s a lot of great and fun shooter games out there, and System Shock doesn’t need to be another one of those. There CAN be combat, if a situation is hostile, but it shouldn’t be the main focus. You’re not hunting for trouble, you’re scouting for clues!

Currently, the UA and SS3 development teams haven’t shared too many resources aside from optimization pipelines. It may be interesting to share mechanics or physics-based actions, but I think their worlds are pretty separate, and thus require different things. In the wall-run example, it would make SENSE for the player to be able to run across walls on a space station, but… would the gravity be different? Could you bounce off of the walls instead of constantly running on them? How many areas have a large amount of wall-run space to utilize in SS3? etc.


I actually would be totally fine with that. I’m digging pretty deep at this point to come up with these ideas. SS2 was nigh-perfect, though I’d still like to see more enemy variety; and a little more vertical scale, ala Half-life (there were platforms you could jump across, vents in ceilings, light platforming elements, etc). Certainly light platforming and more vertical scaling would mesh well with an “exploration-style” game.

Also, I’m admit I am a little lost when it comes to you & Flatfinger’s terminology. What do you define as an ‘exploration game?’ I’ve played SS2, albeit 10+ years ago, but are you referring to the wide, but winding areas; the audio logs; deepening the simulation; something entirely different; something new; or all of the above? Or is “exploration game” just another title for Immersive Sim?

I probably need a refresher on System Shock. I’d be better able to come up with ideas if I could remember some of the more subtle nuances of gameplay.