How Arkane is approaching zero-g in Prey

Chris Stead 5 January 2017 NEWS

prey-zero-g

The upcoming Prey reboot will feature a significant amount of zero-g gameplay, but how will it play?

Similar to games like BioShock, the upcoming Prey for PS4, Xbox One and PC will unfold in a big, open, living world. Only it is set in space rather than the ocean and has aliens instead of grotesquely mutated humans. The space station will open up almost like a metroidvania game, too, with the player able to explore and revisit areas previously inaccessible as they gain more powers and a bigger inventory.

Perhaps the most exciting feature of the setting is that outside the space station is part of the playing space. Players are encouraged to float off into space and find their way to other areas of the station, be it simply to make a shortcut to a known location, or to discover something new. Zero-g gameplay is always a bit hit and miss, with the feel of travelling through a space devoid of gravity a challenging one to get right.

When I caught up with Arkane co-founder Raphael Colantonio, and Prey’s lead designer Ricardo Bare, I asked for more information on how this component will play.

Can you talk about the technical challenge of getting the zero-g sections to play well?

Bare: We’re not done with the game yet and we are still working on it, but it is one of those features where you want to find the sweet-spot between realistic and fun. That is one axis of the challenge. The other is what the interface should be. We’re not trying to make a full-on NASA simulation that will lose 90% of players! We’re still in the middle of it, but we feel like we have something that is pretty fun. It’s fun to cruise around outside the space station because it’s just one big, open environment. You can navigate to different areas, you can find hidden things, and there are even sidequests out there.

So what happens if you just jet off into space?

Bare: This is going to get super nerdy, but the space station has a magnetosphere around it – kind of like the Earth does - that protects it from radiation. So if you go too far out you leave the envelope of that magnetic shielding and you will die pretty quickly. You cannot fly to the Earth or the moon, I’m sorry.
Colantonio: Even though we did model the Earth.

It sounds like the experience outside the space station, floating within this magnetosphere, will be a much bigger part of the game than I had first anticipated. The fact that there are hidden areas, collectables and even full sidequests out there means it will be a lot more than just a fancy way of shortcutting between internal locations. It puts pressure on Arkane to get the physics and mechanics just right - seeing somewhere and getting there must not become an exercise in frustration. Zero-g is definitely a part of the game I am looking forward to trying.

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