Prey 2017 Part 10: But What Do They SLEEP?

By Shamus Posted Thursday Sep 9, 2021

Filed under: Retrospectives 72 comments

A few entries ago I made a big deal about how much I love the design of Talos-1 and I’m impressed with the attention to detail that went into building this world and making it feel real. So now it’s time for me to do my predictable face-heel turn and obsess over some nitpicky detail. Specifically, the sleeping arrangements on this space station are ridiculous.

I realize this is one of those details we’re not supposed to notice, but the crew quarters are absurdly, comically undersized. They are so undersized that I find it really distracting. I don’t mean they seem too small in retrospect, I mean they are flagrantly, outrageously undersized in a way that I can’t help but notice while playing the game.

I’m making a big deal about this because the population of Talos-1 is a known thing.

Bring Out Yer Dead! (Bonk!)

You okay buddy?
You okay buddy?

In the days of System Shock and BioShock, the level designer just scattered corpses around and called it a day. But here in Prey, everyone is accounted for. Every corpse is a named character with a defined appearance, an assigned job, and a uniform that matches their duty station. The bodies aren’t scattered around at random like office clutter. These people have stories and you can work out which people got ambushed while sneaking around in the dark and which people died in groups behind makeshift barricades. They’ll even have inventory items that make sense based on their job.Although the entire crew has an unusual affinity for carrying around fresh fruit in the pockets of their jumpsuits. If they have a desk job, then somewhere in the world you’ll be able to find their workstation with their email history. If they left any audiologs, then in addition to a dead body they’ll also have a portrait and a voice.

You can walk up to any security computer and see a huge list of the crew. You can then pick someone at random, have the computer locate them for you, and follow the waypoint marker to their swiftly cooling cadaver. (Or in exceptionally rare cases, you might find them alive. We’ll talk about the survivors later in this series.)

On top of all of this, you can learn about all of the countless little interpersonal dramas that were interrupted by the Typhon containment breach. These two people were dating. These five people are playing the D&D-esque Fatal Fortress. This guy was blackmailing this woman over smuggled goods. This guy did a half-assed job of repairing something with improvised parts and then was kinda flippant when his boss called him on it.

A lot of work went into this! According to this achievement guide, there are 250 crew members stationed on Talos-1. Imagine the effort that went into coming up with all of those people and their stories, making sure everyone is accounted for, that all of the bodies look like who they’re supposed to, and that there aren’t any duplicates.

Miniature Worlds of Adventure

We’re used to games that play fast-and-loose with size and distance. You can jog across the entire continent of Skyrim in under 15 minutes. The city of Whiterun is supposedly this ultra-important location, but the total population would fit on a typical city bus without anyone needing to stand. Half the population is comprised of town guards who have no names or families or places to live. Everyone in town lives off of the same three-acre farm, which is within shouting distance of a bandit cave so populous that it rivals the civilian population of Whiterun.

We exaggerate the number of bad guys so we have lots of dudes to fight. We compress wilderness distances so the world feels full and different activities are only thirty seconds apart. We leave lots of open spaces between buildings to make spaces easier to render, even though most cities are pretty dense. We make cities feel big by using construction styles and materials that are typically only used in densely populated areas, regardless of the actual size and density of the place.

When the game designer is done bending space to make their tiny world feel big, they turn around and bend time as well. Games with a visible day / night cycle often run at some absurdly accelerated speed, so that a minute of playing is worth an hour or two of in-game daylight.

It’s fine. We’re used to this sort of thing and we recognize it as a compromise in the name of fun. Game designers aren’t lazy or stupid. They know how big stuff ought to be, but they also know that holding down the W key for an hour is a dull and cramp-inducing way to spend your time.

This is common in videogames and the only reason I’m making a big deal about it is because Prey is otherwise meticulously constructed. A lot of thought went into the history, construction, layout, and usage of Talos-1. Most games don’t bother to realize their worlds with so much attention to detail. This extra care and attention spoils me, so that when Prey falls back into standard videogame level design it can feel sort of childish.

So let’s talk about the sleeping arrangements on Talos-1.


This is part of Alex's apartment. On top of this, he has an 'office', which is basically a house at the top of the arboretum. Morgan has similar space, PLUS the whole simulation wing was dedicated to housing her for the past N months. These two take up a lot of space!
This is part of Alex's apartment. On top of this, he has an 'office', which is basically a house at the top of the arboretum. Morgan has similar space, PLUS the whole simulation wing was dedicated to housing her for the past N months. These two take up a lot of space!

Like I said above, there are 250 regular crew members stationed on Talos-1. In addition, there are 18 “volunteer” prisoners doomed to die like lab rats, plus the Yu siblings.

Alex and Morgan Yu, being the highest-ranking people on board, have their own living spaces, which feel like luxury apartments. You could argue that’s a pretty decadent waste of space in these circumstances, but whatever. This place is run by a private corporation. What did you expect?

There are ten beds in the volunteer quarters. I guess this means that the 18 prisoners need to engage in hot bunking to make sure everyone has a place to sleep. That makes sense. These people don’t live here for very long and I doubt their comfort is high on anyone’s list of priorities. My one quibble with how the volunteer spaces are set up is that they live in the Neuromod Division but they’re ultimately sent to Psychotronics to “take part in the experiments”. (Die.)

This is where the 20 or so 'volunteers' sleep. As you'll see, these disposable slaves get better sleeping arrangements than nearly everyone else.
This is where the 20 or so 'volunteers' sleep. As you'll see, these disposable slaves get better sleeping arrangements than nearly everyone else.

The thing is, there’s no direct route from the Neuromod Division to Psychotronics. The only way to travel between these two places is to pass through the open common area of the lobby. The prisoners, the Typhon, and the experiments involving the two are all highly classified. Some prisoners go to Psychotronics and die right away, while others bounce back and forth between their living spaces and the test chambers many times. I just don’t see how all of that traffic could remain a secret, particularly when the prisoners would need to be guarded and restrained.

The Neuromod Division is physically above Psychotronics, and so it seems like there ought to be a special security elevator between the two. I wouldn’t mind if it was broken and unusable during the course of the game, I just wish the level designer had created an apparent way to move the prisoners around that didn’t involve parading them through the lobby.

In any case, we’ve worked out the sleeping arrangements for the executives and prisoners. Now we just need to figure out where the 250 regular crew members sleep.

The crew section has 12 beds like this one for the 250 station inhabitants to use. If they all shared, then everyone gets a bed for about an hour a day.
The crew section has 12 beds like this one for the 250 station inhabitants to use. If they all shared, then everyone gets a bed for about an hour a day.

Here in the Crew quarters we have dedicated rooms for twelve people. These fancy rooms are spacious single-occupancy deals, and feel a bit like hotel rooms in terms of space and furnishings. These rooms are personalized and clearly belong to specific individuals. We can’t entertain any notions of hot-bunking here.

At the end of the corridor is the “Habitation Pods”, which is an open room with an additional 14 beds.

That’s it. That’s all of the beds on the station, leaving us short 224 beds. The level designer gives themselves a tiny fig leaf justification in the form of a sealed door in the Hab Pods room. The area on the other side has decompressed, but there’s a sign indicating that the door should lead to more hab pods.

If you’re looking to be exceedingly generous, then I guess you could assume that the hab pods room is the first in a long chain that would account for the remaining 224 beds. And if that’s what you want to do, then go ahead and skip the rest of this. I appreciate your willingness to go easy on the level designer, but I can’t do the same.

This pressure door supposedly leads to the missing 224 beds, but I'm not buying it.
This pressure door supposedly leads to the missing 224 beds, but I'm not buying it.

My problem is that it strains credulity to imagine there are 224 beds on the other side of this pressure door. If we assume this first room is representative of the others, then that means we need a whopping sixteen more rooms like this one. That would make for a very long chain of rooms. That chain would certainly protrude from the side of Talos-1. In fact, it would more than double the total footprint of the crew quarters.

More importantly, there is a map of the Crew Quarters in the common area, and that map very clearly shows that there aren’t any rooms beyond the hab pods, not even beyond the pressure door. Also, the shape of the Crew Quarters forms this nice compact layout that fits within the volume of Talos-1 as seen from the outside. That falls apart if we try to glue sixteen more large rooms onto the given floor plan.

Here is the in-world map of the crew section. I've placed a red X where that sealed pressure door is. You can see there was never anything on the other side of that door, much less space for 224 beds.
Here is the in-world map of the crew section. I've placed a red X where that sealed pressure door is. You can see there was never anything on the other side of that door, much less space for 224 beds.

Also, this would make for a horrible layout. If there are sixteen more rooms beyond this door, then that suggests a chain of 17 hab pod rooms in total. The last thing you’d want is to stick them in a long chain like the level designer has suggested with this locked pressure door. The one hab pod room we see would be overwhelmed with foot traffic, since all sixteen of the other rooms would need to pass through here. Also, that would be quite a hike for people on the far end.

Now, arrangements like this do exist in extreme places. In particular, submarines are notorious for having shitty sleeping arrangements. But Talos-1 feels more like a cruise ship, and it doesn’t make any sense to create this long linear chain of rooms (that is never hinted at on any map) and introduce all of these problems with noise, privacy, and travel times. Particularly when there doesn’t seem to be any reason for doing so.

But What Do Yu EAT?

Everyone just leaves all these dead bodies and bits of Typhon gore for the kitchen staff to clean up. Not to mention setting all these tables. Nobody ever thinks of the kitchen staff.
Everyone just leaves all these dead bodies and bits of Typhon gore for the kitchen staff to clean up. Not to mention setting all these tables. Nobody ever thinks of the kitchen staff.

While we’re being unfair and nitpicking trivial things, let’s take a look at the cafeteria and see how Talos-1 does in terms of eating arrangements.

The place is in quite a bit of disarray, but it’s not hard to get a feel for how this place was originally laid out. It’s clear that while many tables have been flipped, turned into barricades, or otherwise moved from their original positions, we can tell that none of them have been destroyed. There are enough tables to reasonably fill the space, and I don’t think we need to entertain the notion of vaporized tables to figure out where everyone ate.

The cafeteria has seven round tables, which – going by the place settings – hold 4 people apiece. In addition there are twenty-one rectangular tables, which hold 6 place settings.

(21*6) + (7 *4) = 154 seats.

That’s just about perfect. The place can hold about two-thirds of the crew at any given time. Most cafeteria settings don’t want to attempt to feed everyone at once because you run into throughput problems in the kitchen. But this dining room is just right if we assume the cafeteria is open for about 90 minutes per meal. That’s enough time for everyone to rotate through, without the kitchen needing to feed everyone at the exact same moment.

Likewise, the Yellow Tulip bar can hold about two dozen people. The theater can hold 36. The television area, card tables, ping-pong, and pinball machines in the rec center can probably occupy another dozen or so people. The upstairs area can hold another dozen people reading, playing chess, or following other quiet pursuits.Although there’s a group that plays rowdy D&D here, which probably bothers the readers and chess players. The fitness center has enough equipment for a dozen people, and the adjacent pool can comfortably hold that many again before things start to feel a little crowded. Again, all of this feels just about right for a crew of 250.

Two dozen seems to be the magic number here. That’s about 10% of the population, and that’s about how many people these various facilities can hold. I’ve never run a hotel, convention center, or cruise ship, so I don’t know if these percentages make sense. Even if you want to argue that they’re too small, they’re at least properly sized relative to each other, so everything feels right on an intuitive level when you’re exploring.

But while it makes sense that we only have enough treadmills and pinball machines to serve 10% of the population at any given moment, that number is too low when it comes to beds. Like, everyone should have a bed.

I’m not sure what happened here. Everything else about Talos-1 is so carefully thought out. How did the designer manage to get all of these other details right and then leave out 90% of the beds?

Fixing This

Here are the hab pods. If we could expand this, maybe we could hide the bed shortage from the player?
Here are the hab pods. If we could expand this, maybe we could hide the bed shortage from the player?

To be clear, I don’t think we literally need 250 beds to fix this. Without looking at the wiki, the player doesn’t know the exact number of people on the station. And there’s no way to know the exact number of available beds short of walking around and counting them.

The problem is that the number of people and the number of beds are very obviously out of whack. Without needing to count, the player can tell there are “a lot” of people and only “a few” beds. To fix this, we just need to create the impression that there are “a lot” of beds, even if they’re still mismatched according to strict arithmetic.

What I’d suggest is taking the existing hab pods room and making it as big as the current floorplan will allow. It’s surrounded by a good bit of void space so we have plenty of available cubic volume to make this room larger. Get rid of the pointless open area in the middle of the room and fill that space with beds. Turn the lights off so the player can’t see the whole place at once, and can only view the beds through their flashlight beam. If polygon counts are a problem, you could cut the room in half with a baffle wall.

If you did all of this, I think you could turn this room of 14 beds into something between 30 and 40. The player could then run through this maze of bed racks. In the confusing darkness, this would leave the impression that there are “a whole lot” of beds here, and the only people to notice the remaining bed shortage would be lunatics like me who go to the trouble of counting.



[1] Although the entire crew has an unusual affinity for carrying around fresh fruit in the pockets of their jumpsuits.

[2] Although there’s a group that plays rowdy D&D here, which probably bothers the readers and chess players.

From The Archives:

72 thoughts on “Prey 2017 Part 10: But What Do They SLEEP?

  1. MerryWeathers says:

    Maybe most of the crew members just slept on the floor? I remember reading about how Silent Hill’s CGI director had to live in his team’s office for two years just to render the highly detailed (for its time) cutscenes but then wouldn’t the employees constantly complain or acknowledge this in the emails or logs?

    Eh, I got nothing.

    1. Grudgeal says:

      That works somewhat better for an Earth-based company than a space-based one. The people working on Talos are, presumably, made up of many highly paid and educated private sector professionals, who have been brought into an enclosed, high-stress environment where they need to be at their best. Those are the kind of workers who get disgruntled very quickly in my experience (unless they’re working on a passion project at least), and when combined with an enclosed environment where management literally live next door to them, well, things would get ugly pretty fast.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        If there’s such a high degree of stress, I don’t think the pods would work as well then. You’d want at least to give half of everyone a small bachelor-suite, where the only separate room is a washroom and maybe a closet. Judging by the screenshots, those would be about a quarter to an eight the size of those luxury apartments Shamus showed, but I still think that would be too much space for 250 people. You could maybe mitigate it with extra lockers in the bachelor suites and pod hotels, and some emails of people complaining about the hot-bunking, but I think a large portion of the station would need to be redone.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          And don’t get started on privacy and abuse concerns with mixed gender crew sharing sleeping space.

    2. Melfina the Blue says:

      I was kinda thinking that, but in a space sense. At some point, I watched a space doco that showed astronauts wrapping themselves up and strapping to a surface to sleep, so I figured Talos just had no gravity in the pods and thus you could strap people in on all 6 surfaces for sleeping. If you’re only in 0 g for 8 hours out of every 24, it should be fine (maybe?). Granted, no privacy and yeah, it would not be the greatest sleep conditions, but that’s what I came up with.

      Wait, how does Talos have (simulated?) gravity? Are they doing the rotational thing and if so, does it properly fluctuate? Now that would be wicked cool to see in a videogame! Probably difficult for players to get used to, but sounds awesome to just play with.

  2. Ronan says:

    I may be misremembering, but isn’t there at least one other hab pod room that has been breached and is accessible from the outside of the station?

    1. Alarion says:

      Yeah, there are several pods on the outside you can access with your space suit. I haven’t counted them, but there’s at least another 20 beds or so? Still doesn’t give everyone a bed, but it’s a start.
      In fact, one of the pods is shot away from the breach and floats a few meters off the breach. In that pod is a list of locations for a sidequest, which I really liked. It gives you a reason to look in the decompressed crew area, and after not finding the pod you exit the area and see another floating nearby. Very cool.

    2. Fizban says:

      There’s also some more VIP/high tier rooms in a different section you can visit from outside the station, IIRC where Yuor parents were staying.

      The semicircular layout and presence of multiple floors, as well as the mentioned destroyed pod section you can visit outside, gave me a sufficient impression that there were more pods around. The part that caught me is more that when exploring the crew quarters and getting all those little vignettes, it makes it obvious how small a slice of the people you’re looking at, and how many of them seemed to have all their business centered around their place of business. So many people you see evidence of in the crew quarters also happen to have quarters right there that you can visit, but only a few rooms for a few mentioned people elsewhere. There just happens to be a precise smattering of people of various backgrounds that all happen to live in the best/closest rooms to the food and entertainment, and hang out with each other.

      I wonder if perusing the crew list could reveal that entire divisions are completely unrepresented in the “main” crew quarters, suggesting that there are other pod sections, say tucked away in those divisions, that could/should have been noted with their own little blocked corridors.

    3. Addie says:

      Speaking as a Dwarf Fortress player, having 17 identical sleeping pods in a row housing 250 sleepers sounds like you’re off to a good start. Maybe they’d only attached it to the station with a single bar of soap, and it’s broken off and floated away into space?

  3. Henson says:

    There was a lot of reasonable criticism in this section. So let’s talk about something good:

    Crew Quarters is probably my favorite section of the game.

    Usually, in these sorts of Immersive Sim games invariably involving a disaster of some kind, walking about the ruins of a civilized world, the audiologs that the player finds typically fall into certain types.

    Last Words. “I can’t believe I have to go into this crawlspace again. Susan is supposed to fix this, but just my luck, she thinks she saw something in here, and now is just scared. Obviously, she’s so tired she’s jumping at shadows. Wait…what’s that noise?”

    Hint to Progress. “I changed the door lock to the Storage room again. Apparently, some idiots have been using it for late-night trysts, so now the code is 5523. You got that? If for some reason you need to get into Storage, the code is 5523.”

    Plot Exposition “My God. I’ve just learned that the Epsilon Project, our main goal here, which the Company told us was so promising and happy, is actually using human test subjects as fuel! If this gets out, the entire project will collapse. What should I do?”

    Essentially, the audiologs exist for the player’s sake, to give them a sense of what was going on here, and what Went Wrong. In Crew Quarters, however, the audiologs exist for no other reason than to get samples of Danielle Sho’s voice, so the writers don’t need to make them relevant to the player’s perspective. Instead, they made them into a slice of life story. For the first time, I get the sense that Talos I is a place where people actually lived, not just died. This was a community, where people sang and played games and just hung out with their co-workers, day to day. It’s great.

    In addition, like Shamus, I often have trouble keeping people’s names straight. Games like this, where characters only exist through their voices, can get very confusing very fast. Each character only exists for a few short snippets of dialogue, and there are often so many names bandied about, they all blend together. (This was a HUGE problem for me in SOMA, too). By making all these little audiologs in Crew Quarters about Danielle’s life, I actually get a better sense of who these people are (were). It’s easier to remember them, and boy do I appreciate that.

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      Another way that the game helps avoid the “I can’t remember who anyone is” problem is that by meticulously accounting for everyone, they also reused names where available so you’re more likely to pick some of this stuff up by repetition. You can open an email on one person’s computer, then find the same email on the computer of the person who responded to it.

      Or, for an example who’s showed up in the last few posts; Emma Beatty, the character who emailed Alex trying to talk him into working out, is part of the tabletop gaming group. And she starts the game as one of the mind-controlled humans in the gym. She’s actually one of the hardest people to save if you’re trying for a “nobody dies” playthrough; normally the stun-gun is good enough to save mind-controlled people, or if not that then a nullwave grenade, but the problem is that she starts at the other end of a hallway that’s on fire and the Telepath is willing to march her through the fire. So you have to simultaneously keep her from head-exploding at you and standing in fire. But it can be done.

      But yes, I love this section for the exact reasons you stated. It provides a great contrast to what came right before it. If the player has just been beelining the main quest, the progression looks like:

      * Escape the simulation
      * Navigate from the Neuromod Division and take care of business in Hardware Labs
      * Navigate Psychotronics, possibly uncover some dark secrets
      * Navigate the GUTS which is almost entirely traversal and combat in zero-G
      * Traverse the Arboretum (most people will at least consider sidequesting here but the sidequests that open up here are some of the hardest ones)
      * Enter the Crew Quarters

      There hasn’t been much story content in awhile, especially in the last couple of major areas. Getting here is like getting to the next major town after a dungeon in an RPG. It’s exactly the kind of relative break the game needed at this point.

      I’ve said elsewhere that the game opens strong but the spell wears off at some point. Not that I stopped liking the game, I just started liking it less. I think this is the last major area before that happened for me, and the parts you’re responding to played a big part in that.

      I think Prey becomes far more transparently a video game in Deep Storage, which is coming up next and which is one of the few areas that offers essentially nothing to connect with at all. It’s a filler video game level whose most interesting feature is a monster who not only can appear in sidequests, but probably already has (it’s clear from January’s dialogue that she expected you to clear the one in the elevator first)

  4. Asdasd says:

    People don’t need beds when they can sleep in antigravity, so clearly most of the crew bunked in those tunnels with those exploding mollusc things.

  5. BlueHorus says:

    Heh. The beds aren’t something I thought about at all while playing Prey, beyond noticing the disparity between the large executive suites and the tiny cubicles for low-level employees. Which I presume the game wanted me to.
    Still, questions like “but what do they EAT?!” are a large part of why we come here.

    Ironically, Shamus is rubbing off on me – I had a similar complaint about Wasteland 3 yesterday, while doing a repeat playthrough.
    Y’see, there’s this faction called the Gippers. They have a problem with a faction of raiders called the Godfishers, who are camping on their doorstep. Literally. As in, it takes less than 30 second to walk from the centre of Gipper territory to the closest Godfisher encampment.
    But hey, the Gippers are outnumbered, and they’re asking for help, so I go and slaughter all the Godfishers* for them. Get my reward. Great.

    But then! I leave the area and go spend some time with a neighbouring faction. Story reasons; I need a MacGuffin for the Gippers, so that they’ll then give me [etc etc etc]. When I come back, though, I find that all the Godfisher camps are absolutely crawling with [Wasteland 3’s version of mutated radiation-zombies] and agressive wildlife – including the oil fields that give the Gippers their power and relevance!

    I was gone an hour, you Gipper chucklefucks. What the hell were you doing while I was away?! ‘Cos it clearly wasn’t taking care of your territory…

    *Don’t ask me how there are so many Godfishers. Their culture is so over-the-top Chaotic Evil that they shouldn’t really be able to create a lasting society at all, let alone field armies big enough to threaten actually useful factions. It’s the Raiders from a Bethesda Fallout game all over again.

    1. Damiac says:

      I can’t help but imagine the “gippers” as a society of elderly Ronald Reagans.

      1. John says:

        Haven’t played the game, but I think that may be the actual plot of Wasteland 3.

        1. JH-M says:

          I haven’t gotten to that part yet, but according to “Desert Rangers Wasteland Survival Guide”, a lore book presented as in-universe and part of the game download, they are an oil cartel, which is religiously dedicated to Regan.

          I also seem to remember a screenshot of a giant Regan statue with laser eyes, and their leader always being named Nancy.

      2. Gautsu says:

        They worship an A.I. version of him, complete with an animatronic version of him with eye lasers. All the women have to take Nancy as a first name

      3. BlueHorus says:

        As others have said: Yep, they’re crazy cultists who worship Ronald Reagan like a god and have an AI version of him ‘leading’ them. Which makes it slightly MORE aggrivating that they do nothing, since most of them are heavily armed and tak a lot about how they’re willing to fight for freedom and America.

        Of course, with factions this ‘wacky’, it feels kind of unfair to apply real-world logic to the game….but then again, ‘who controls the oil that everyone needs?’ is a problem explicitly brought up in the story, and who’s left in charge directly affects the ending. So…?
        It would be nice if the game remembered that it’s a story as well as a game, I guess.

    2. Joshua says:

      There’s a bug there where WAY too many of those mutant things will spawn and aggro once you clear out the godfishers. I ended up in a fight from hell where I had to retreat to the starting area so I could get my vehicle and the Gipper forces involved in the fight, which ended up killing most of the Gippers.

      The fight took over an hour, but I was eventually victorious….and couldn’t save because two of my characters were stuck in combat.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I’m late to the post so not sure you (or others playing the game) will see this but I’d like to ask if this is representative of the quality of the game and if so has the dev been working on squashing the bugs? I don’t remember mention of the game being very buggy in the reviews I’ve seen but this sounds problematic.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          It’s getting better. The most egregious bugs have been squashed and there are fairly regular updates and patches – including implementing a crafting system in the base game, which was a nice surprise. I get the impression it was a planned feature that wasn’t quite ready at the time of the game being released.

          I still get some lag and occasional issues. but nothing a pause/unpause or a (worst-case scenario) restart doesn’t clear up. And I’m not sure those aren’t my fault, since I’m using a save editor and ALT-TAB-ing in and out of the game fairly frequently.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            Noted, thanks for the answer. Seems to be within reason for bugs_on_release by today’s standards. Will keep it on the list and it’ll probably be mostly fine by the time I get to it.

  6. Smith says:

    More importantly, there is a map of the Crew Quarters in the common area, and that map very clearly shows that there aren’t any rooms beyond the hab pods, not even beyond the pressure door.

    I like to think the map software auto-updates to remove the extra pods when the decompression happens, because the system sees the telemetry showing they can’t be functional.

    I have no reason to think this. The idea just amuses me. Entire sections of the station being electronically unpersoned, and the bureaucratic hiccups it would cause.

    Imagine if you were in such a module during a decompression event. By the time you managed to claw your way back inside, you are officially listed as dead. Your family’s already been paid a settlement, determined by an AI working off the actuarial tables, and confirmed by some first-year law associate just before he left for lunch.

    He had five minutes, tops.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Sounds like something from paranoia:

      A: We need somebody to repair habitat X-17
      Computer: There is no habitat X-17
      A: It was removed from the map because it’s broken
      Computer: Can’t repair what isn’t there and it ain’t on my map so it doesn’t exist
      A: Aaaagh

  7. kikito says:

    I think the crew quarters you showed are still too “luxurious” for a space station. Sealing all that volume just so a worker can relax while they are not working isn’t very … efficient.

    My bet is that “Crew” is corporate slang for “middle-managers”.

    The rest of the workers aren’t “Crew”. They are … “Contractors”, maybe. They get to sleep in the “Habitation pods”. It would not surprise me one bit that those were carbon copies of the prisoneers’ sleeping arrangements. Maybe with some small cabinets for personal belongings and an upgraded bathroom. And that they had to pay part of their salary back just so that they can use them. That would be the efficient, corporate thing to do.

    1. ContribuTor says:

      Yeah. If you want to get down to it, luxurious spaces don’t even make much sense for the higher ups.

      Consider one of the following 2 offers I can make to an academic researcher type:

      * In addition to the amazing research opportunity, I can pay you triple your academic salary (say $500k) for the year, and give you a 10×10 private unit on the station.
      * in addition to the amazing research opportunity, I can pay you $10 million for the year. Quarters are a bit cramped and privacy is a bit hard to come by, but the common spaces are very nice!

      Option 2 is almost certainly more cost effective for the corporation. Space stations are expensive!

      1. bobbert says:

        You have it backwards.

        Academics aren’t payed for work that they do. They pay for the privilege of working on a prestigious project.

        1. Philadelphus says:

          Aha, that solves the missing beds problem! 90% of the crew are PhD students who are paying for the privilege of being there and hot-bunking in supply closets to afford it!

        2. Tom says:

          Well, sometimes? I gather the way it roughly works for career academics is that whoever’s paying the bills gets to choose what you study. So, unless you luck out and find a corporate sponsor or other patron who happens to want somebody to research exactly what you, personally, also want to research anyway, you either pay your way yourself, or you find someone to pay you to study something at least vaguely adjacent to what you want to research and hope that it’ll turn out to overlap into your preferred topic, or that you can find a way to shoehorn things into a “dual-use technology” approach that’ll satisfy both parties.

    2. Gethsemani says:

      It isn’t efficient and, as was discussed in the earlier entry about Talos I itself, that’s an important point about TranStar. Talos I is ridiculously inefficient and even with a space elevator it would be prohibitively expensive to ship a lot of that stuff to a research station. But Talos I is a testament to TranStar’s success and the Morgan family’s ambition. You are meant to look at it and be awed.

      It should also be noted that the idea of small sleeping quarters and large common areas is actually what NASA’s research into long-term space travel suggest as the most efficient for keeping mental health and morale up. The idea is that spacious areas makes the confinement less stressful and that large common areas reduces isolation tendencies, since everyone will be there even if they are just sitting in the corner reading, especially if your private area is little more then a bed and thus unsuitable for anything but sleeping. So that’s actually Arkane showing their research.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I think the recycling technology might also factor into it. Obviously the station is extravagant but as some people pointed out earlier it might be ever so slightly more justified if large portions of the construction materials can be effectively treated as emergency supplies.

    3. Chad+Miller says:

      The ones with the actual beds in “hotel rooms” tend to be higher-ups within their respective departments. e.g. Danielle Sho is the head of IT, Will Mitchell heads the kitchens, Abigail Foy is head of sanitation, Sylvain Bellamy is head researcher (he’s important enough that his office was right next to Morgan’s until she went in the simulation)

  8. Philadelphus says:

    That floor directory sign made me wonder (not having played Prey), is Talos-1 set up like a “hard” sci-fi station where artificial gravity comes from spinning it, or is it “soft” sci-artificial gravity that always points in one direction? That’s not meant to be a jab at the game, just curious, as it would drastically change how things are laid out. Going by the directory and the screenshots I’m guessing the latter, but I’m not sure.

    1. Ophelia says:

      I don’t know the science of it, but down in the G.U.T.S tunnels, there’s a Magnetosphere (or its called something similar) that gives the station its gravity. It looks like a huge spinning orb that moves up and down a pole.

      1. Gethsemani says:

        The Magnetosphere doesn’t create gravity, it creates a magnetic field to keep solar and cosmic radiation at levels which makes Talos I long-term habitable.

    2. cannongerbil says:

      They use artificial gravity for the station, there’s an ingame text that talks about the creator of the antigravity tech and how it revolutionized space habitation and travel.
      I presume it’s done to make lives easier for the level designers.

      1. Addie says:

        …and also, it get switched off at a couple of points, which lets you fly through a couple of the environments you were restricted to walking in before.

        There’s also a terminal message from someone asking if he can get the gravity switched off in his bunk bed for an evening, and he gets told where to go by someone in the life support team, so that’s presumably not the answer to ‘where are all the missing beds?’.

    3. Nick-B says:

      It’s soft. There are no aspects of the station that spin to provide centrifugal force gravity. The entire station is actually just one long (lumpy) rectangular box, vertically. There is a dual elevator that has 3 stops (Lobby, Arboretum (plant area with crew quarters and control room off of it), and basement mechanical area), and a long winding grav-free tunnel called the G.U.T.S.

      It can’t be spinning on its long axis to give the central GUTS area zero grav, as that winds back and forth and up and down with no change. The gravity sections are all oriented the same way, with zero curving floors. Between the gravity and zero gravity sections is a kind of light-distortion-ey 10-foot deep “airlock” that kind of picks you up, shunts you forward (and re-orients you if going from null-grav to grav), before freeing you to move on.

  9. Geebs says:

    Headcanon answer: there were originally far more beds all over the place but they all got dumped in the recycler and turned into gun turrets when the Typhon invasion happened.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      The fact that most of the rest of the station seems to have survived the Great Recycling implies that this was because specifically the beds happen to be made out of exactly the same materials used in gun turrets.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Nah, the bedswere turned into ammo. The best bullets are made of bed linen, right?

  10. Trevor says:

    See, I thought the gripe here was going to be about transit. I realize the station probably operates on round-the-clock shifts, but at any given shift change you’ve got a bunch of crew members who all have to go up one of two staircases from the crew quarters, down the same path (which is sensibly short) to the elevator. The elevator itself is fairly small, so I imagine the lines get pretty long around the beginning of shifts. And then I don’t know how long after someone gets in a grav shaft you have to wait to get in yourself, but I bet there are some lines for those.

    There are also only 12 showers in the crew quarters – four in each of the bathrooms at the end of the corridors with the private rooms and then four in the fitness center. So I guess you’ve got to schedule your shower time really carefully. And like Shamus said, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal if they didn’t put a ton of thought into level design elsewhere. I’m not usually one to complain about lack of bathrooms in a dungeon, but here you have to ask “Where do they get rid of what they EAT?”

  11. Joshua says:

    Didn’t an earlier entry specify that a couple were in a relationship? Presumably, with 250 people that would not be uncommon.

    That makes me think of the question, “So where do they #&[email protected]?” if beds are this limited.

    1. Coming Second says:

      They get all up in those GUTS, obviously.

      1. Sjonnar says:

        I guaran-damn-tee you they have. There’s no way every couple on station wouldn’t try zero-G sex at least once, even considering how bad a logistical nightmare it would be to make it work.

    2. Chad+Miller says:

      There’s no way this was viable for anyone in the long term, but there is actually a sidequest where you can find a storage closet that got converted into one couple’s love nest right before the attack.

    3. Half a pizza stripe says:

      Having worked on a cruise ship…

      Roughly half the crew is “gettin’ it on” every night.
      A small percentage are sleeping with the officers for perks (access to officer’s mess, private cabins, booze etc), others hook up semi-seriously for the duration of a contract (and break up when one partner leaves the ship), and there’s more than a few one-night-stands (both drunken and stone-cold-sober).
      And a small number of long-term relationships spanning multiple contracts.

      The bunk arrangements on Talos 1 make no sense though.
      The 200-or-so ‘normal crew’ have far worse accomodation than on a modern cruise ship, yet there’s a couple of orders of magnitude more crew-specific space.

      Most cruise ships have basically four classes of crew cabin:
      – Luxury suites for the master, captains, chief engineer etc (3-4 stripes)
      – Single cabins (one double bed + desk) for 2-stripe officers.
      – Double cabins (one bunk bed + desk) for 0.5-1-stripe officers. If you’re lucky you have a porthole, but probably not.
      – Quad cabins (two bunk beds + desk) for everybody else.

      And yes, you can hook up on a narrow bunk bed. It’s quite the squeeze, but it does encourage a certain amount of… shall we say flexibility?

  12. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    I found the cities in Skyrim very immersion breaking actually, they really stuck out like a sore thumb. Witcher 3’s Novigrad is a much more solid example on how to abstract a city. Diablo 3’s Caldeum is pretty clever as well, just show one neighborhood and have a ton of unreachable city in the background.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Yeah, Skyrim had the population, distances, and size of small towns and rural life, but then had the architecture, society and status symbols of large cities and kingdoms. If they weren’t trying to build an open-world simulation-heavy game, this wouldn’t be a problem. Just have discrete locations on a map with appropriate travel times[1], and you’ve decoupled the distances from the story you’re telling. Have each location be a self-contained map with impassable walls and hints of more beyond those walls[2], and you’ve decoupled the map and population sizes from the story you’re telling. Hell, you probably reduced your workload as well.

      [1] Like Mario, Shovel Knight, or countless other games. You can sauce up the map too so it fits with the serious nature of your story of invaders, dragons and politics; This type of map is not tied to cartoony games.

      [2] Like the Diablo games, so many FPSs, and other RPGs that have come before.

      1. Coming Second says:

        Turning the world into a series of discrete clusters like that is antithetical to the atmosphere Bethesda games are going for. For me, the initial experience of travelling through the wilderness continuously from point A to B, seeing the city rise over the horizon, is one of the best Bethesda games have to offer, and I would sorely miss it. Something along the lines of what they did with Mournhold in Morrowind would go down very nicely, though.

        RDR2 suggests it’s perfectly possible to create a very large continuous world with a large-feeling city to go along with it, but you have to ruin the mental health of a small army of programmers to make it happen.

    2. baud says:

      One city that really gave me the illusion of being way bigger than its actual available size is Taris in KotOR, but mostly because of how you can see all the high rises from upper Taris and, unlike Skyrim, there’s no expectation of fully exploring the city: you’re just here to find Bastilla, do a few side quests and flee. Abstracting parts of the map (like in Dragon Age: Origins) can also work.

  13. Mattias42 says:

    We exaggerate the number of bad guys so we have lots of dudes to fight.

    Honestly, I wish at least a couple more games out there would NOT do this.

    Like, take that one Dead Rising Achievement for instance, where you can kill the city’s population in zombies for something cool.

    Imagine how cool it would be if you’d mix that with the zone system in Undertale, where you just plain stop getting random encounters after enough kills. Like, you’re kicking so much arse, that it’s literally starving the Evil EmpireTM, or something, and they HAVE to pull out of an area due to heavy loses. And if you do that for enough zones, it actually starts shifting the story, as everything starts breaking down because a one-man/woman/whatever wrecking crew is stomping EVERYTHING while aiming square at the dark lord’s throne.

    Don’t think we’re quite there yet in terms of interactivity in games, aside from the odd non-standard victory/game over conditions, but it’s one of those stories I’ve hoped that a game would let me enjoy for years now.

    1. Fizban says:

      You’d simply have to break it down into 2-3 levels of depletion, and make that the main driver of the game. You kill nearly everything, you kill a middle amount, you kill barely anything. Three branches which feed into mostly the same stuff anyway, just like any other game with “choices,” or 2-3 actual branches for a game with a properly branching story. And I’m given to understand some games kinda already do this- aren’t there a bunch of stealth/combat games where after you’ve done enough the enemy steps up their guard presence? And tons of games have foes that stay dead when killed, to the point that those with endlessly magically respawning enemies still generally stick out. Ye olde-school DnD with entirely site-based dungeons with a fixed roster of foes (which the DM uses “realistically” as desired) and maybe some limited new recruit capacity, lead pretty directly into computerized DnD games where you clear the dungeon and then the dungeon is empty because you cleared it: they just assume that you cleared the dungeon, because gameplay, and thus have nothing to say on if you somehow did it without personally killing the entire army. Even Dark Souls 2 has a mechanic where killing respawning enemies enough times actually depletes them (which people complained about).

      There is absolutely no reason this game couldn’t be made, aside from a lack of interest from a significant enough developer to make a game centered on it rather than as an incidental partial feature alongside their actual story. And the fact that making such a system to central demands that you also address the reality-warping prowess of this main character. The biggest problem is the world-building where you have to either write a world that is suddenly shocked by essentially the dawn of “nuclear” weapon-heroes, or one where such existences are actually properly accounted for (which I’m pretty sure ends up in very poor taste to modern sensibilities).

    2. Alex says:

      You’d have to be careful not to push this idea too far, because apart from completionists the people most likely to hit your genocide threshold are people who really like fighting things. Maybe you’d clear friendly areas to make them safer, but enemy territory would become more heavily defended.

    3. JakeyKakey says:

      Fallout New Vegas has a bit of that Skyrim-scale problem when it comes to the general economy/settlements, but the raider enemies are appropriately sparse in ways that make sense compared to Bethesda’s nonsensical approach.

      Plus you can totally just murder every single named NPC in the game and have it meaningfully affect the outcome of the story.

    4. Paul Spooner says:

      Can I interest Sir in this finely aged Dwarf Fortress Adventure Mode?

  14. eldomtom2 says:

    The level designer gives themselves a tiny fig leaf justification in the form of a sealed door in the Hab Pods room.

    I do like it when games do this sort of thing. It really does help to make the world feel much larger than it actually is.

    On a unrelated note, my favourite example of bizarre level design in an immersive sim is Arcadia in Bioshock, where the entrance gates are on the opposite side of the level to the actual exit.

    1. Melfina the Blue says:

      Arcadia’s like IKEA, you WILL SEE IT ALL. Yup, that’s why I didn’t think Arcadia was weird, the designers (not game designers, but whoever Andrew Ryan hired to design it) set it up so you have to go through it all since it’s a park and they wanted to show off all the greenery. Also, I assumed there’s like employee-only exits and entrances that we just don’t see.

  15. RFS-81 says:

    But what do they SLEEP? And, did the writer even think about what dreams may come?

    1. Coming Second says:

      “I keep having this dream, a shadow beyond the glass, asking how can there be 268 people on board this space station when there are only 36 beds… hates us.”

  16. Dev Null says:

    How to fix this: 10 more identical levels to the Crew Quarters, all accessible by elevator only, and the elevator is busted. *dusts hands*

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, I was thinking the same thing, just set it up hotel style.

  17. Rack says:

    1 bed per crew member seems pretty luxurious, each bed should be able to serve about 2.7 crew members. If you imagine there are two more hab quarters behind that one and they are twice as dense (the nearest one being for higher ranking crew) that means that out of a needed 85ish beds they have 70. That’s not too out there and while I’m consciously trying to rationalise things I don’t think any of these are that unreasonable. I do think the first hab should have been denser so the player has an easier job feeling that the number of beds is right but it doesn’t fall apart for me.

    1. Richard says:

      The crew are living and working there for many months at a time.
      Everyone needs a small space that’s “theirs” and theirs alone, or they’ll go potty.
      The bunk is basically the cheapest way to do that.

      Every military knows this, and make sure everyone does have their own small space – even back in the days of square rigged sailing ships everyone had their private locker.

      I gave them a pass for the locked door though, as it was a kind of fig-leaf.
      A broken lift would have been better though, there’s at least three floors of unused vertical space around the habitation pod area.

  18. Paul Spooner says:

    Wait, hang on. You all don’t obsessively carry fresh fruit with you everywhere? You know you can just buy fruit, and then not eat it, and keep it in your pocket where it will quickly get bruised and start attracting fruit flies so that you soon have a cloud of gnats hovering over you at all times as if you were Pigpen from Peanuts?

    1. Philadelphus says:

      At least they might’ve been able to keep gnats out of the station (depending on their biosecurity protocols, and I haven’t played the game so maybe they do have various animals on board).

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        They don’t intentionally have many animals on board (and you don’t encounter any pests like mice in the game). In fact the only animal life I can think of is the eels that make up the few non-vegetarian meals on the station.

  19. Tom Shannon says:

    I’m not much of a commenter but I felt it was important to provide some feedback on this series and the site and general.

    This Prey series has been a joy read. Like many others here I’m a fan of the Looking Glass Linage Studios and this game really lived up to it’s heritage. I’ve been enjoying the deep dive you’re taking into it’s various aspects. It’s a fun spot for my thoughts to dwell during portions of the week.

    As the web has seemingly morphed into a series of grabber headlines followed by fluff, my appreciation of twentysided has really grown. Each post has legitimate substance to it. I’ve been a Patreon supporter since you’ve adopted the system and I find real value in that support.

    Thanks for all you do Shamus!

  20. Tom says:

    Given that the pressure door not only apparently opens against an exterior wall of the station but is also very awkwardly wedged into the corner of the room in a way that would make an interior designer twitch, I’m inclined to suspect that the shortage of beds on the station is a genuine mistake on the part of the designers that they noticed too late before release to change major assets for, and they just had to frantically slap that fig-leaf door in anywhere they reasonably could find an unused wall and hope not too many people would notice or care.

  21. CannibalGentleman says:

    Speaking of the title of this post, whatever happened to MrBTongue anyway? He was writing Baldur’s Gate articles and now he proofed from existence.

  22. JH-M says:

    Since no-one seems to have noticed, or didn’t find it important, I want to mention it here: the role-playing game Fatal Fortress is a reference to another immersive sim, Arx Fatalis.

  23. Dreadjaws says:

    Here in the Crew quarters we have dedicated rooms for twelve people. These fancy rooms are spacious single-occupancy deals, and feel a bit like hotel rooms in terms of space and furnishings. These rooms are personalized and clearly belong to specific individuals. We can’t entertain any notions of hot-bunking here.

    At the end of the corridor is the “Habitation Pods”, which is an open room with an additional 14 beds.

    That’s it. That’s all of the beds on the station, leaving us short 224 beds.

    Not quite correct. There are actually a few more (at least 4 dedicated rooms and about 8 or so more pods that I remember, but I think a few more) only accessible from the exterior due to hull breachs. Granted, that’s still a ridiculously low number, so unless entire rooms where jettisoned into space or the station owners decided that most sleeping arrangement were only accessible from the outside just to be dicks there’s still no explanation.

    Which is silly, because they didn’t even need to waste graphic space with it. All they needed was a permanently boarded door leading to a larger, secondary pod area with a note explaining that it had been destroyed in a fire or something like that.

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