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Arkane, Prey 2, System Shock, and Lies?

#1
I'm really not sure what to make of this, but it ties into so many fascinating things that it feels like it's worth a mention here.

Rather than a wall of text, maybe the best way to sum up the recent strangeness is as follows:
  • Arkane, headed by Raphael Colantonio, wants to make games like the ones Looking Glass made: Ultima Underworld, System Shock, Thief.
  • Arkane, which was acquired by Zenimax (owner of Bethesda), made Dishonored.
  • Unlike Bioshock: Infinite, Dishonored actually got some of the environmentally-emergent gameplay that make the Looking Glass games special.
  • Zenimax recently acquired Human Head Studios, makers of Prey. (There is Reddit speculation on how this happened.)
  • Numerous gaming journalists, including some at Rock Paper Shotgun, separately asked Pete Hines of Bethesda and Colantonio whether Arkane had been given the go-ahead to make Prey 2.
  • Hines and Colantonio both directly said, "No," followed by the equivalent of "we don't know where such rumors come from."
  • Internal emails from Arkane were leaked to Kotaku.
  • One email gave the news that the Austin, TX, office of Arkane had been green-lit by Zenimax to reboot Prey 2.
  • Arkane's Prey 2 would be some form of "spiritual successor to System Shock 3 [sic]."
  • When Kotaku told Colantonio they knew about this email, Colantonio sent another email (also leaked to Kotaku) referring to "press sneak f**ks" and instructing Arkane teams members not to speak to the press about it.
Although even they have strayed somewhat from the true path of Looking Glass "dungeon simulator" design, I can't think of anyone I'd rather see make a true successor to System Shock than Arkane, backed by Bethesda developers. And I absolutely do understand the desire to keep some game development business information secret so that it can be revealed within a planned marketing strategy.

But surely "no comment" would be better than deliberately misleading the gaming journalists who, in a way, are the voice of gamers?

[Edited to delete link to RPS.]
Last edited by Flatfingers on Mon Jun 15, 2015 11:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Arkane, Prey 2, System Shock, and Lies?

#2
A very interesting read Flatfingers. Thanks!

I remember looking at the original Prey game mainly because it had a soundtrack by Jeremy Soule (and his brother). I purchased the soundtrack but not the game.

I will certainly be keeping an eye on the development of Arkane Studios new game especially when I see it being referred to as a spiritual successor to System Shock.
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Re: Arkane, Prey 2, System Shock, and Lies?

#4
The System Shock factor also matters to me. It was one of the things that kicked me over the edge into writing up this little article. (Along with the gaming journalism weirdness.)

System Shock, along with Ultima Underworld and Thief and culminating in Deus Ex, represented what I believe was a critical branch in the evolutionary tree of computer games. This branch of games took full advantage of the RAM in the PCs of the day to create worlds -- they simulated places filled with things expressing relatively complex interacting behaviors.

What this meant was that it was possible to create game worlds in which the environment itself allowed multiple viable solutions to gameplay challenges. The world of the game enabled different kinds of players to solve challenges in ways that satisfied their preferred play styles.

For example, is there a robot blocking your way? A game designed with the Looking Glass interactive-environment philosophy would let you solve that problem in many ways. Off the top of my head, you could:
  • destroy the robot by shooting it
  • destroy the robot by throwing an EMP grenade
  • sneak up on the robot to use your Deactivate Electronic skill to turn it off
  • toss a useless object to make a noise that distracts it to a different location
  • use your Hack skill to switch local robots to an offline state
  • use your Hack skill to make local robots friendly to you
  • use your Hack skill to activate a nearby forcefield that traps the robot
  • use your Hack skill to overload a power conduit that blows up next to the robot
  • lure some other opponent into the robot's range and let them destroy each other
  • bypass the robot by activating your Stealth skill
  • bypass the robot by crawling through a conveniently human-sized airduct
  • bypass the robot by crawling through the sewers
  • talk to a nearby human to convince them to give you the robot's shutdown code
Whether you prefer action, or conversation, or stealth, or exploration, the thing that distinguishes a Looking Glass-style game from others is that many or all those play style preferences are supported. The focus was on you, the player, and how you like to have fun.

That way of thinking about how to design computer games changed drastically after the emergence of the PlayStation and Xbox. Games after 2000 -- perhaps because of the RAM limits on the new (not-PC) primary target platforms -- started to sharply limit what the player could do. The gameworld got a little prettier but much shallower. You were given one path to follow and not much problem-solving freedom beyond one or two ways to just destroy everything along that linear path.

Modern games have taken away much of your creative liberty in an attempt to guarantee that you always know exactly what you're supposed to do next, and that you never need to introspect about how to do it because there's only one way available. We got fewer games encouraging real interactivity with a dynamic world, and more games consisting of a developer-dictated (and frequently overblown) story punctuated by long theatrical cutscenes. The player-focused System Shock was eventually stripped down to the showy and literally "on rails" BioShock: Infinite, and probably was the Marketing-driven source for the painfully dumbed-down Dead Space.

In short, AAA computer games became moderately interactive big-budget movies.

If you happen to be the kind of gamer who defines a game as a set of rules to beat, who hates not knowing what you're "supposed to do" to win as quickly as possible, and who enjoys action over thinking or feeling, then this transition was just giving you more of what you like. And there was nothing wrong with that, as far as it went. The action-oriented playstyle is just as valid as any other, and it is good that there were lots of games made that cater to it...

...but it was never the only valid playstyle. The only thing wrong with the shift to action games was that the gamers who do enjoy conversation and stealth and exploration -- solving problems by thinking and feeling -- got fewer and fewer of the games that they could enjoy. There certainly wasn't much publisher support for making Looking Glass-type games that were designed to support and reward multiple play styles!

Beyond Bethesda's open-world Elder Scrolls and Fallout games, and the occasional throwback (STALKER), the evolutionary branch of games implemented as systems generating emergent behaviors seemed to die out. And that was a huge loss to the whole game industry (and gamers) for the important reason that these games used the full power of the computer.

An interactive movie is an extended cutscene in which you have a little low-level freedom to make some tactical gameplay choices that won't affect the plot of the movie that the developer has decided you're to experience. The consoles have had just enough power to run games like that.

A true computer game is one that harnesses the power of the general-purpose computer to simulate a world, and then lets you solve playful challenges in that world in your own way.

We need developers who will make more games in the Looking Glass style because those are the products that will distinguish computer games from different/older forms of entertainment such as movies. If computer games are ever going to be their own unique art form, they cannot just copy movies and slap a coat of mildly interactive paint on them. They need to use the full simulationist power of a real computer to create new worlds and unleash the creativity of players to interact in deeply human ways with those worlds.

It is important that Arkane/Bethesda/Zenimax appear to be ready to make a true spiritual successor to a Looking Glass game like System Shock because making player-centric games is the healthiest course for the whole computer game industry. This is the kind of game that, as other developers follow, will keep the industry alive by giving it its own identity apart from movies. Computer games that are highly responsive environments are something only computers can do. They are what computer games should be.

I hope Arkane can get past their self-inflicted PR wounds. I hope the next game from Arkane Austin really is the first of many true spiritual successors to System Shock and the other Looking Glass-style games.

Games that use the power of the computer to simulate dynamic worlds and free players to enjoy their own kind of fun in those worlds will save the game industry. Interactive movies won't.
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Re: Arkane, Prey 2, System Shock, and Lies?

#7
HowSerendipitous wrote:
Flatfingers wrote:Snip - good post
This. A squillion times this.

Bloody consoles. :|
I agree.

Another example? Deus Ex, the first one vs the sequels. While I did like Human Revolution, it still wasn't the same.
Image
Early Spring - 1055: Well, I made it to Boatmurdered, and my initial impressions can be set forth in three words: What. The. F*ck.
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Re: Arkane, Prey 2, System Shock, and Lies?

#8
I wanted to update this thread with a couple of interesting links I saw today.

These are (apparently) the pitch documents for Arkane's possible "spiritual successor" to System Shock.

You probably shouldn't read them if you just want to play that game. But if you're interested in how the sausage gets made, read on....

http://www.scribd.com/doc/227321234/Prey-2-Document-1
http://www.scribd.com/doc/227321489/Prey-2-Document-2

Aside from being an interesting look inside Arkane/Colantonio's game vision process, there are some very strong hints in these two documents that Prey 2 is meant to be more than just a spiritual successor to System Shock:
The player awakes in a high tech apartment - Bankok [sic] 2072 (A month before the events in System Shock 1)
...Danielle survives as a fledgling super AI that's been deeply damaged by her contact with the Aliens.
In the latter document, this character's name is said to be Danielle Sho.

DANielle SHO.

SHO. DAN.

:)
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Re: Arkane, Prey 2, System Shock, and Lies?

#10
So I've been playing Arkane's Prey, which is out now. I'm a couple of hours in (game clock), and there are two things of interest I'd like to mention, which I'll spoilerfy for those who want zero info.
Spoiler:      SHOW
1. There are certain opponents you encounter in this game, and I hate them. I'm playing on Normal mode, and Arkane has made them (IMO) unfairly damage-causing: they do their thing without you having the opportunity to defend yourself, and they basically instantly teleport behind you after doing damage so that they can do more damage. Difficult I don't have a problem with; this is just unfair and doesn't feel like fun.

2. Let me first quote something I wrote above:
Flatfingers wrote:
Fri Jun 06, 2014 2:04 pm
Aside from being an interesting look inside Arkane/Colantonio's game vision process, there are some very strong hints in these two documents that Prey 2 is meant to be more than just a spiritual successor to System Shock:
The player awakes in a high tech apartment - Bankok [sic] 2072 (A month before the events in System Shock 1)
...Danielle survives as a fledgling super AI that's been deeply damaged by her contact with the Aliens.
In the latter document, this character's name is said to be Danielle Sho.

DANielle SHO.

SHO. DAN.

:)
And now here's something I just saw:
Image Oh, and in the filepath for the game, under the /Binaries folder the only folder is /Danielle . :D
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Re: Arkane, Prey 2, System Shock, and Lies?

#12
Flatfingers wrote:
Sun Jun 18, 2017 4:23 pm
Maybe halfway through at this point, and mixed feelings.

It's not a bad game. But I'm not sure it got all the polish it needed.

There have been several "whoa, that's cool" moments, though. I won't spoil them for you, but there is one thing I want to mention: the stars are accurate.

:thumbup:
I didnt know that. Thats really neat. :D
Talk to me when you finish the game. :D
°˖◝(ಠ‸ಠ)◜˖°
Toba - A Development Dump
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Re: Arkane, Prey 2, System Shock, and Lies?

#13
Another thought, about which I will speak more anon:

The mechanics of the hacking minigame need to die in a fire. That is then quenched with radioactive napalm to be burned again, and then cast into the fusing heart of a type O star until it burns down to a cold, dead cinder. And then punished again with antimatter until the universe itself returns to a singularity.

I'm really not enjoying how Arkane implemented the hacking minigame in their Prey reboot, is what I'm saying.

And yet... I can't stop playing.
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Re: Arkane, Prey 2, System Shock, and Lies?

#14
Flatfingers wrote:
Thu Jun 22, 2017 10:48 pm
Another thought, about which I will speak more anon:

The mechanics of the hacking minigame need to die in a fire. That is then quenched with radioactive napalm to be burned again, and then cast into the fusing heart of a type O star until it burns down to a cold, dead cinder. And then punished again with antimatter until the universe itself returns to a singularity.

I'm really not enjoying how Arkane implemented the hacking minigame in their Prey reboot, is what I'm saying.

And yet... I can't stop playing.
Yeah, the hacking was dumb. Honestly it could have just been a plain gate. Either you unlock it or you cant.
They dont have minigames anywhere else.
°˖◝(ಠ‸ಠ)◜˖°
Toba - A Development Dump
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Re: Arkane, Prey 2, System Shock, and Lies?

#15
I get that it's there. It's a feature that can trace its lineage back through all the *Shocks, right back (in a very simplified form) to the original System Shock of which the Prey reboot is obviously fond.

My problem is that when BioShock's "hacking" minigame is more thoughtful than the version in a game released in 2017, something is wrong.

But again, this is a minor gripe. It's certainly annoying, but the game overall is holding my attention. So it's also doing quite a few things right IMO.

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