Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Way Back When

Well, well, well
. . . imagine my surprise to read a preview for the upcoming Prey, only to realize, "Holy crap, I heard about this game, like, forever ago. Forever ago in video game years, which is, like, four, maybe five years."

3dRealms is responsible for Prey's resurrection. The same people that have been promising Duke Nukem forever for a period of time much longer than forever. Isn't there some kind of Nobel Tardy Prize they can win? 1

Of course, 3dRealms doesn't even want to deal with the property, so they've shoved it off on Human Head Studios, the same guys that brought us Rune. 2

When Prey was first being hyped, it was totally going to be the game that would make Unreal look like Stickybear Math. Then it just disappeared off the face of the earth. 'Vaporware', as it's known in the biz.
But now it's back, baby. Of course, all the cool new engine stuff they were touting is ancient history (colored lighting! shiny surfaces! slightly better textures than other games!). Instead they're using the Doom 3 engine, which isn't a bad choice, so long as you like to make ceaseless corridor-crawls with the world's muddiest palette.

What really bothers me, I suppose, is that the interview seems overly guarded. While this makes sense, as they are preparing for the big reveal at E3, it does little to excite me -- and when you've taken this long on a game that, when it didn't materialize, people quickly lost interest in, then you have to try much, much harder to wow at least some of us.

So many years, and all they can reveal about the story is that it involves an ex-Army Ranger/regular guy 3 Native American fighting on an alien spaceship that is alive and he fights aliens and portals open up and sometimes the aliens come through and sometimes he goes through the portals. I'm not going to dig at this story, because we're used to computer-created fantasy worlds like this by now (even if it does sound like a three-page comicbook I drew in fourth grade).

This better be the most refined fucking story in the history of video games. Seriously.

They tout the portal system and it sounds pretty awesome. An interesting way to provide surprising gameplay moments and link disparate scenes. Very postmodern. Except that was also their 'big deal' way back when, and looking at it now it seems more like a garnish than a meal, a way to add flavor to their gameworld.

To me the idea isn't too much different from the teleportation panels in the original Doom. Except that you can see to the other side. Whoop!

I would like to see if they are going to be doing any expansive terrains and how the Doom 3 engine handles those. I confess to not finishing Doom 3 4 , but I did get to see some of the Mars surface areas and, while not exactly huge, presented decent enough vistas (though confined).
What I really want to believe is that the original story was so compelling and the design document contained so many inventive gameplay mechanics that 3dRealms felt morally obligated to bring the product to the public, as denying the world such a game would have disastrous repercussions on humanity. Human Head Studios proved they had the creative vision to bring this game to life by devouring the hearts of oxen in a long-lost Norse ritual, and Odin himself deigned to lend his wisdom to the programmers.

Hmm . . .

1. 3dRealms is also the perpetrator of the game Shadow Warrior, a pretty typical First Person Shooter that stood out from the crowd by offering up horrendous Asian stereotypes with a side-order of chauvinism. Outstanding.

2. Rune being a merely mediocre third-person hack-hack-hack (maybe there was a slash command?) and key-hunt, only set in a surprisingly dull and unsurprisingly repetitive Norse environment.

3. I'd like to think that, at the very least, being an ex-Army Ranger prevents a person from being described as 'a regular guy' (though I'm sure there are many Army Rangers that would argue that point). But from a strictly story standpoint, that kind of statement seems both contradictory and cliche ("Sure, he may have jump wings, a scuba bubble, training in all sorts of weapons systems as well as hand-to-hand combat; he may know survival techniques, tracking techniques, reconnaissance techniques; he may know squad tactics and have MOUT training . . . but deep down, he's just a regular guy like you or me, he's no soldier.")

4. I stopped playing Doom 3 when I realized they were using the 'enemy materializes behind you in the shadows' trick that they completely overused in the original Doom, and they were using it constantly. I hate to confess that it took quite a few exclamations of "But I checked that corner!" before I caught on. Oh, and let's not forget the 'this wall will slide open, containing an enemy, as soon as you turn your back and cross an invisible line' trick.


n0wak said...

For more high opinion on 3DRealms, I suggest visiting this post over here.

n0wak said...

Er, right click + open in new window. Should be a link target for this popup.