Prey 2017 Part 3: The Story is Mostly Backstory

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Jul 21, 2021

Filed under: Retrospectives 125 comments

The weird thing about Prey is that it has almost no story, but it has absolutely tons of backstory. Most of the game consists of Morgan just trying to get from A to B and running into an endless series of hazards and complications because the space station is in such disarray. Morgan’s adventure is primarily a series of door-opening exercises, but there’s a ton of worldbuilding and history leading up to that adventure.

The author shows a lot of respect for the intelligence and curiosity of the player. There’s never a scene where someone grabs the player’s camera for a brute-force info dump. Very little of the history is revealed through direct dialog, and the little bit we do get is provided out-of-order. If you want to understand the world of Prey, then you need to read bits of in-game lore, listen to optional audiologs, pay attention to environmental cues, and extrapolate the whole based on these various hints.

I love it. The knowledge is there if you care about it, and the gameworld rewards serious inspection. At the same time, the game never force-feeds you and you’re free to run around and shoot shit in blissful ignorance if that’s more your speed.Although, if that’s the case then I can’t help but think you’d be better served by some other genre. 

For the sake of this retrospective, I’m going to present the important bits of historical context in order.

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Diecast Unplugged #7: The Steam Machine Reboot

By Shamus Posted Monday Jul 19, 2021

Filed under: Diecast 108 comments

My editor is on the road this weekend, which means I don’t have anyone to take our weekly podcast and wrangle the audio into something presentable. So no podcast. We might not get one next weekend either. The young people are making the plans around here lately, which means everything is disorganized last-minute chaos.

I really envy them sometimes.

At any rate, let’s talk about…

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Prey 2017 Part 2: Tram Legacy

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Jul 14, 2021

Filed under: Retrospectives 178 comments

In Prey you play as Morgan Yu, who can be either male or female. Both are equally valid. Both voice actors give solid performances and neither option feels tacked-on. I never noticed any conversations where people used male pronouns for female Morgan. I did notice a few awkwardly worded email messages where people went out of their way to avoid using pronouns for Morgan, but it wasn’t a big deal. To avoid having to perform similar grammatical contortions, I’m going to pick a gender for this series. 

I’m going to spend a lot of time talking about Morgan, and Morgan’s older brother Alex. It’s actually super-handy if I make Morgan a female, because then I can use “she” and “he” for the siblings and you’ll know which one I mean. So I’ll be playing as female Morgan for this series. 

Good Morning Morgan

Unlike Commander Shepard where I favored Jennifer Hale's performance over Mark Meer's, I don't have a strong preference between these two. They're both good.
Unlike Commander Shepard where I favored Jennifer Hale's performance over Mark Meer's, I don't have a strong preference between these two. They're both good.

The game begins with Morgan waking up in her penthouse apartment on the morning of March 15, 2032. From there she heads to the roof and takes a private helicopter to the nearby TranStar building where she meets up with her brother Alex. Apparently the Yu siblings are executives in the TranStar corporation. Morgan is about to travel to the TranStar space station in orbit around the moon, but first she needs to run through a battery of tests.

The helicopter ride here reminds me a bit of the…

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Diecast #350: Mailbag Melee

By Shamus Posted Monday Jul 12, 2021

Filed under: Diecast 90 comments

We’re reached another big round number of Diecasts, so I feel like I should… do… something. Or say something. So here’s a fun fact…

There are 79 episodes of the original Star Trek, 178 episodes of TNG, 176 of DS9, 172 of Voyager, and 98 episodes of Enterprise. An hour-long TV program in the USA is typically ~41 minutes. Which means there are, roughly, 480 hours of Star Trek television to watch. And no, we’re not counting the appalling new stuff like Discovery and Picard, which are action dramas with science words in them and not science fiction. Yes, there’s a difference, even if the dunderheads at CBS don’t know about it.

Anyway. 480 hours of trek. Diecast episodes these days are just a smidge over an hour. But back in the day when the cast was bigger, episodes regularly ran for an hour and a half. For the sake of laziness, let’s just assume the average is around an hour twenty. That means there is somewhere in the neighborhood of 460 hours of Diecast. So there’s almost as much Diecast as there is Star Trek.

None of that means anything. I just thought it was interesting.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

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Prey 2017 Part 1: The 451 Genre

By Shamus Posted Friday Jul 9, 2021

Filed under: Retrospectives 119 comments

I love this game. I loved it back in 2017 when I made it my GOTY. I loved it even more the following year when the Mooncrash DLC turned the game into a roguelike. Every time I come back to the game I appreciate it more.

No, this game has nothing to do with the 2006 videogame of the same name. The “Prey” branding doesn’t make a ton of sense here. The behavior of the antagonists is less predatory and more “viral infection”. Yes, they’re space-monsters who kill people so it kind of works, but we don’t usually talk about infectious agents / alien invasions in terms of predation.  It’s not that the name is invalid, it’s just not a great fit. The game was still untitled when the publisher came to the developers and suggested they use the name “Prey”, since they owned the trademark for it. And we all know how much Zenimax LOVES their trademarks.

Chris Franklin has suggested that the game could have been / should have been titled “PsycoShock”, which would have been thematically appropriateIt certainly would have fit better than “Prey”. and would make it part of the informal System Shock / BioShock lineage. There’s no evidence to support this, but it’s a really interesting ideaNeuroShock would also work, IMO..

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Diecast #349: Steam Summer Siege

By Shamus Posted Monday Jul 5, 2021

Filed under: Diecast 149 comments

I think I did okay with the Steam Summer Sale this year. I picked up a reasonable handful of games, but I didn’t add a bunch of crap to the Backlog of Shamefully Un-played Impulse Buys like I used to in the old days. I actually took this time to cull some stuff from my wishlist. I figure if it’s 75% off and I’m still not buying it, then I’m probably never gonna buy it.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

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Steam Next Fest 2021 Pt2: City of Beats / Neon Abyss

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Jun 30, 2021

Filed under: Industry Events 61 comments

So my plan was to play a bunch of demos for this series. But then Steam Next Fest ended, and a bunch of demos were removed from Steam. That’s just crazy bananas. If you’ve got a demo and it’s still representative of the quality of the full product, then taking down a demo is hurting yourself for no benefit.


(I know the claim is that demos supposedly lower sales. I have some serious concerns with the methodology behind that conclusion. Most importantly, I think it only applies to popular AAA titles in entrenched genres. I don’t need a demo for AssCreed or Tomb Raider, because I already know how those games work. This isn’t always true when dealing with a fresh genre blend from an unknown developer with an unknown property. I might actually enjoy your mashup of Cooking Mama with Batman Arkham combat and a dash of Tekken by way of Fruit Ninja. I don’t know. If you let me try a little of it, then it significantly lowers my risk. The study above claims that game demos hurt sales, but going by my personal buying habits that’s not the case. This study is basically saying, “Who are you going to believe, our statistics, or your own eyes?”)

Anyway. Like I said: I’d planned to review some demos, but they were taken down.

But! The Steam Summer Sale began just a few days after SNF ended, and basically my entire wishlist went on sale. So what I’m going to do is drop coverage of games that have pulled their demos and instead cover a few of these shiny new wishlist items I’ve picked up. And to be clear, I’m not trying to punish the games that pulled their demos. It’s just that, you know, I can’t cover them, because the demo is gone

Let’s start with one of the demos that’s still live:
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