Jan
21

The Bowery District

1 month ago 0
Posted in: Games, Prey 2
*All ideas mentioned are from my memory and shouldn’t be considered official.
*All names mentioned are internal to be renamed if the game had ever been released.
*All material is considered Pre-Alpha.

It’s been awhile since I posted any Prey 2 bits. Now with Arkane’s version of Prey is out and living its own life, I rummaged through some old notes I had on Prey 2’s world.

What you’ll be looking at are top-down designs from the 3D environments. Areas the player could not reach in the distance are not included. So don’t interpret these layouts as small city islands. Central City on Exodus was a vast urban sprawl surrounding the player.

Forever Dark & Light

The planet Exodus is tidal locked, so districts had the same time of day for the whole day. Only the weather conditions changed. Spanning the equator was Central City at the edge of night. The Bowery was one of the many districts found there. Undercity was below the raised Central City, so it’s naturally dark surrounded by massive caverns. The Depot was just south at the edge of Central City in the cooler night. And Locktown was out in the baking white hot sun.

The Bowery’s the entertainment, neon-noir hub the public saw at E3 in 2011. It’s filled with lots of vice and wares. The layout went through 3-4 different versions.

Version 1

Here’s some scraps from an early version I did.  Various routes and population density provided diversity to different neighborhoods.

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The further north you went in this district the more elevated and opulent it became. The northern edge featured glitzy casinos and blood sport arenas. The southern edge featured seedy theaters and questionable gambling.

Solar energy collected on the light side of Exodus beyond Locktown fueled various Energy Hubs throughout Central City. These arched over the sky and were sometimes subject to raids. One of these planted itself down into the eastern edge of the district.

The Bowery was also the main market place for Central City. This huge hive of activity was right in the middle of the district.

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As with any district, it featured a lot of verticality. Primary streets tracked the player to different points-of-interest while more challenging routes shortcutted across, over, and under the neighborhoods.

More playtesting and ways to improve navigation prompted version 2. Then version 3 spawned next and was presented to everyone at E3.

Version 3

Here’s some of the larger skybox of buidings and skyroads overlapping the district.

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Think of this Bowery like a big block of swiss cheese. Where most games at the time provided some verticality, they relied a lot on moving horizontally across the game to get to new content. In the Bowery, events could be found on platforms layered above and below one another.

You could sprint over local rooftops, still dwarfed in the shadows of larger suspended buildings out of reach above you. You could slip underneath the main promenades to avoid detection. Some characters couldn’t be reached unless you had the right gadget or knew the right climbing path to encounter them.

Here’s the variety of things you would discover in the Bowery. You had various ways to travel to other locations on Exodus. Train and Taxi were the typical ways, some where unique.  You could take an elevator down to the Mining zone and you could Portal jump to the Casino building in view on the westside of the Bowery.  Both of these were “dungeons” you experienced in a more authored and linear way, contrasting the sandbox nature of the city hubs.

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Blade Runner inspired several locations in the game.  Several could be found in the Bowery…

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Below are all the shops you could purchase items in or contact aliens to track down quest info.  The blue text locations were owned by the Regime.  Those along with City-System locations could be sabotaged to cause chaos, distraction, and draw out enemies.  Some vendors gave you specific upgrades, some gave you credits for things you found or captured. Some simply let you mingle with the inhabitants, gamble, or drink. Others provide services like travel or protection.

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Later in the project, we were told Prey 2 suddenly had a lot of quality issues. One of the ideas discussed was changing the beginning of the game. One had you start out at the plane crash site from the first Prey. Another one had you working with Tommy sabotaging a location before he appeared to sacrifice himself saving you.

One that I favored was getting the player in as quickly as possible without a series of tutorials. A bombastic James Bond opening was the idea.  You play what you saw in the video Blur made with Human Head’s direction. Like a classic ID game, just drop the player in and let him figure it out. Similar also to Temple Run or one of Uncharted’s running sequences, you quickly chase down a bounty dodging enemies and obstacles. Of course this idea would need to be playtested.

Here’s the rough idea of expanding the Bowery to feature the Blur opening route. The video did a great job at introducing all the core mechanics.  At the time it was a rare trailer showcasing what you could actually do in the game instead of a story cinematic.

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Version 4

A more radical idea I did in the final days was to drastically change the layout of the whole Bowery. Neighborhoods were easy to move around because of how it had been built and designed. Below is a comparison image to understand how areas were moved between version 3 and 4.

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Now here’s how those areas were unfolded and re-arranged.  This was able to be playtested in less than a week.

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The Bowery was no longer a big block of swiss cheese. It was now a ridge of buildings that spiraled down to the slums. Just beyond the slums was massive Regime tower casting its presence over the district (the Regime was the authority on Exodus).

Before, players were traveling to points-of-interest right in front or above them and anything far away was only in the skybox and unreachable. Now, this new layout gave players longer vistas to locations they could actually reach. They were no longer in a box surrounded by other boxes.  This was my favorite layout because it let the Bowery breathe and showcase all the diverse areas the team created.

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