Prey (2006 video game)

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Cover art
Developer(s) Human Head Studios
Publisher(s) 2K Games
Distributor(s) Take-Two Interactive
Director(s) Chris Rhinehart
Producer(s) Scott Miller
George Broussard
Designer(s) Ted Halsted
Programmer(s) Paul MacArthur
Kevin Franklin
Artist(s) Rowan Atalla
Jeff DeWitt
Writer(s) Scott Miller
Chris Treagus
Composer(s) Jeremy Soule
Engine id Tech 4
Platform(s) Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, Symbian, Zeebo[1]
Release Windows, Xbox 360
  • NA: July 11, 2006
  • EU: July 14, 2006
Mac OS X
  • NA: January 15, 2007
  • INT: December 7, 2008
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Prey is a first-person shooter video game developed by Human Head Studios, under contract for 3D Realms, and published by 2K Games, while the Xbox 360 version was ported by Venom Games. The game was initially released in North America and Europe on 11 July 2006. Prey uses a heavily modified version of id Tech 4 to use portals and variable gravity to create the environments the player explores.

The game's story is focused on Cherokee Domasi "Tommy" Tawodi as he, his girlfriend, and grandfather are abducted aboard an alien spaceship known as The Sphere as it consumes material, both inanimate and living, from Earth in order to sustain itself. Tommy's Cherokee past allows him to let his spirit roam freely at times, and gives Tommy an edge in his attempt to stop the Sphere.

Prey had been in development in one form or another since 1995, and has had several major revisions. While the general approach to gameplay, including the use of portals, remained in the game, the story and setting changed several times. The game received generally positive reviews and was a commercial success, selling more than one million copies in the first two months of its release and leading to the abortive development of a sequel.

Since then, the rights to Prey were passed on to Bethesda Softworks, an American video game company known for their award-winning Elder Scrolls series, and are developing a reboot slated for release in 2017, with Arkane Studios, also known for their award-winning Dishonored franchise, and subsidiary of Bethesda, heading development on the reboot.


A puzzle featuring wall walking

Prey is a first-person shooter with the player in control of the protagonist Tommy as he explores the gigantic extra-terrastial craft Sphere and fights its inhabitants aboard. During the game, the player will collect a number of alien weapons, some comparable to typical first-person shooter archetypes, others more alien in behavior.

The game's engine introduces two unique aspects to exploration. Portals in the game can transport the player from one area to another instantly; portals can be looked and shot through and can also be traveled in reverse. Unlike the later game Portal, the player cannot create portals directly without the use of mods,[2] and portals remain fixed in space. The game also features variable gravity. Special paths allow the player to walk along them, remaining upright regardless of orientation, though should the player fall or voluntarily jump off the path, gravity will reassert itself. Small planetoids inside The Sphere can also exhibit their own gravity fields, allowing the player to walk completely around the outside of it.

The player can detach Tommy's spirit from his body, allowing the spirit to roam freely for a short time. The spirit has limited interaction with the environment, though it is able to activate control panels and can use a spirit bow to strike at foes. The spirit force is often used to solve environmental puzzles within the game as well as to locate paths that are not visible to mortal eyes. Two vehicles make an appearance; one is a flying vehicle used frequently for travel and attacking (as well as puzzle solving), and one is only used for a short period near the end of the game.

The bar that the game begins in is interactive, with usable restroom facilities, a TV with various channels (including a clip from Duck and Cover), a fully playable Pac-Man-style game called Rune Man (referring to a previous game by Human Head entitled Rune), several video casino machines (including blackjack, draw poker, and a slot machine), and a jukebox that plays a small selection of licensed songs.


The story focuses on Domasi Tawodi (also known as "Tommy", voiced by Michael Greyeyes), a Cherokee garage mechanic and former United States Army soldier living on a Native American reservation in Oklahoma. At the beginning of the game, Tommy is in a bar owned by his girlfriend, Jen. Tommy is tired of living on the reservation, and constantly tries to push his heritage away, while at the same time trying to convince Jen to leave home, if only for a short while, which she refuses. After a bar fight, the entire building is lifted up by a gravitational force into a green light above. Tommy, Jen, and Tommy's grandfather, Enisi, are transported skyward to the massive alien starship called the Sphere. After docking, all three, along with countless other captives, are dragged through the upper levels of the Sphere. Tommy is freed in an explosion set off by a stranger who, despite being cybernetic like most of the Sphere's denizens, appears to be working against it.

Tommy witnesses Enisi's death in a brutal alien device. While trying to find Jen, he falls from a walkway and has a near-death experience to The Land of The Ancients, where he meets with his grandfather's spirit who bestows him with spiritual powers. After returning to the world of the living, Tommy gains the ability to spirit-walk, allowing him to separate from his body to pass through forcefields and operate consoles normally out of reach, as well as the aid of his spirit guide, the ghost of his childhood pet hawk Talon. Despite being entrusted by his ancestor's spirits with the mission to protect all of mankind from the sphere's invasion, Tommy cannot stop worrying about Jen, and he only cares about how to find and rescue her.

Artwork depicting The Sphere as viewed from space

Tommy finds out The Sphere is an organic alien ship. It has a small, concentrated star at its core, which is used to support itself and all life inside it. The origin of the Sphere is unclear, but its main goal is to maintain itself. It travels the galaxy searching for various alien races to maintain it. It also uses these races as food to provide much needed extra energy to sustain the Sphere and its star. The Sphere is fused with cybernetic enhancements, and has the power to manipulate gravity inside of itself and alter space (as demonstrated in the maze puzzle and in the numerous small storage boxes that, when entered, lead to entire rooms). Various walkways allow the occupants to walk on surfaces otherwise designated as walls and ceilings. Switches that change the direction of gravity, effectively changing the orientation of anyone in the area, are present in some locations, causing floors, walls, and ceilings to change their roles depending on the switch used. The Sphere also has the ability to produce portals to other sections at will. These portals allow occupants to move much faster around the Sphere and fulfill their duties more efficiently.

The Sphere houses many different alien races that were taken by the Sphere from other worlds. Most of them are cybernetically enhanced, and have a language of their own, unreadable until Tommy obtains Talon and their language is translated to English. It is implied along the game that the Keepers of the Sphere, who act as the leaders of the other races, plant the seed of life in certain worlds that they see have the potential to sustain such life. Once the seed is planted, they let evolution run its course while they go to other worlds. However, once the planet is brimming with life, be it intelligent or not, they come back to "reap" all resources, both organic and material from the planet. Multiple species may be consumed as more energy for the Sphere. The only group of beings aboard the Sphere who live relatively freely are a small band of humans who call themselves the Hidden. The members of the Hidden, individually known as "Hiders", are slightly enhanced with cybernetics, but nowhere near the extent of the other beings on the Sphere, and have not lost their individuality. Led by a seemingly young woman named Elhuit, the Hidden strive to ultimately destroy the Sphere, though what they want most is to return to Earth, from whence they were taken many years ago.

Tommy then finds out The Sphere is controlled by a superior being called the Mother (voiced by Tyne Turner) who communicates telepathically with him throughout the game. She reveals to Tommy that she was once human. She too once fought against the previous "Mother" of the Sphere and after defeating it, she took its place. At the end, after a very turbulent fight, Mother is defeated and, in her death throes, begs Tommy to take over her job, lest the entire Sphere die. As she dies, a burst of light engulfs Tommy and when vision is restored, Tommy finds himself inside the Mother's den with reams of data overwhelming him, making him numb with power. His grandfather, Enisi, contacts him from the spirit realm and tells him that such power is only an illusion, as the price is greater than what he has gained, and that he needs to look in his heart and make the right decision. Tommy heeds his grandfather's words and drives the Sphere straight into the Sun, and ends up in the land of the ancients to see Enisi and Jen once more. Knowing that when it is his time he will see them both again, Tommy goes back to Earth.

Six months later, Tommy finds himself in a rebuilt Roadhouse, apparently not yet open to the public. The official story is that people, buildings and objects vanished because of an unknown, unexplained natural phenomenon. He turns around and sees Elhuit. She and the surviving Hiders had escaped through their own portal machine just before Tommy plunged the Sphere into the sun. Elhuit tells him that while people on Earth do not know of the great deed he has done, there are those "elsewhere" who have taken notice and want to meet him. She opens up a portal and Tommy walks through it. The words "Prey will continue..." appear.


Prey has a long and storied development history that spans over a decade, starting in 1995. Since then, it went through several iterations of the game design and software technology before its eventual release in 2006.

False starts[edit]

In 1995, the first incarnation of the game was announced. Prey was envisioned by 3D Realms as the first of a number of games to be running on unique, cutting edge game engine technology, developed in house. In this sense the project played the same role as Unreal did for Epic Games, and it would retain this role in the company's strategy throughout its development time in the 3D Realms studios.

Prey as a game was to go through many different forms during this first development period. A rapid succession of different designs was outlined by Tom Hall (previously of id Software and later of Ion Storm), who was at that time fresh off the Rise of the Triad team at Apogee Software. After about a year's worth of work, however, Tom Hall abandoned the project and left the company to form Ion Storm with ex-id compatriot John Romero.

At this point, 3D Realms brought on Paul Schuytema to begin the next phase in the game's development. The new team would go on to create a new game design. The alien abduction theme from Hall's work was retained, but now the game was to be set on a massive, living alien space ship inhabited by a number of different alien races (three of them collectively known as the "Trocara" and a fourth called the "Keepers"), the player himself would take the role of a Native American hero, called Talon Brave.

A screenshot from the 1997 build of the game showing the main character "Talon Brave"

The game was the first in the genre to make use of moveable portal technology, a feature that allowed rips in space to be created, moved and reshaped in real time. This was to be a core feature of the gameplay, along with heavily destructible environments. It was also thought at the time this engine would be used for Duke Nukem 5 (the game after Duke Nukem Forever).[3] Demonstrations of these features drew widespread acclaim at the 1997 and 1998 E3 exhibitions – the television program Infinite MHz was able to capture exclusive footage of the game's private behind-closed-doors demo at both of the game's E3 showings. The public perception was very positive, the game looked impressive, and 3D Realms' name, fresh from the success of Duke Nukem 3D was a mark of quality.

German industrial band KMFDM was to create the game's soundtrack. 3D Realms posted on their website in 1997 that they received a sample of the soundtrack from KMFDM and highly praised the music, described as "ambient industrial". On December 19, 1997, 3D Realms also released two KMFDM songs in MP3 format (that are not on the Prey soundtrack), "Inane" and "Megalomaniac". However, despite the best of starts, Prey's development was troubled. Seemingly insurmountable technical problems ground development to a near-halt, and this version of Prey too fell apart. Later, on an Internet discussion board head engineer William Scarboro would comment that "in hindsight, portal tricks such as these should be used as tricks, not as an engine paradigm."[4]

Shortly after the Schuytema variant of Prey disbanded, 3D Realms attempted again to revive the project by bringing on tech programmer Corrinne Yu in November 1998.[5] Development of the game itself was not part of this effort, Yu was working by herself on the game engine exclusively. However, after a time, this iteration of Prey fell apart as well. 3D Realms and Corrinne Yu parted ways, and Prey began its long period of inactivity in 1999.[6]

The title was put on indefinite hold (although never formally canceled,[7] contrary to popular opinion). On March 8, 2000, (an early Prey site with a section about KMFDM) released a RealAudio file of a third KMFDM song: "Missing Time", which was going to be part of the Prey soundtrack[8] but was featured in the film Heavy Metal 2000 instead (under the name MDFMK which is a side project of KMFDM members during their temporary break-up).

Final production[edit]

In 2001, 3D Realms began development on a new version of the title.[9] This time, with the advantage of the necessary portal technology already being a stable and functional component of all modern game engines, 3D Realms was able to license the necessary technology instead of having to develop it. 3D Realms chose the id Tech 4 game engine from id Software, and Rune developer Human Head Studios was commissioned to develop the game using the previous designs as a base.

A screenshot from the final build of the game showing the main character "Domasi Tawodi", AKA "Tommy"

Rumors of this new project leaked out to the public in 2002, through the website Evil Avatar, but were at that time denied in the 3D Realms forums by Joe Siegler.[10][11][12] It was not until 2005, when the cryptic clue "Keep your eyes open for the unveiling of our next game very soon."[13] appeared on the 3D Realms website that the previous rumors were confirmed in any way. This was followed by a CNN article by Chris Morris, claiming that Prey was not only in development, but that it would be shown at E3.[14] Soon afterwards, the official Prey teaser site was launched, confirming the game's existence, and hinting that more would be revealed in the June issue of PC Gamer, which indeed featured a seven-page article on Prey.

Prey was officially announced in a press release by 2K Games on April 26, 2005.[15] On April 28, 2006, a July 10 release date was announced (although 3D Realms claims that is not the formal release date since it did not come from them or Human Head). On May 19, 2006, 3D Realms announced that a demo of Prey would be released on June 22, 2006—the PC demo was released on this date, but the Xbox 360 demo was delayed until June 30. On June 28, it was announced that Prey had officially gone gold.[16] A playable single and multiplayer demo of the game was released on June 22, 2006, for Microsoft Windows, and a downloadable Xbox 360 demo was released on the Xbox Live Marketplace on June 30, 2006.

The June 2005 issue of PC Gamer revealed that the game uses a heavily modified version of id Tech 4 capable of rendering "huge cavernous spaces as well as more traditional passages". The game also supports the dynamic portals that were seen in the 1997/1998 video clips, which are used by friends and foes alike. It also has the ability to change gravity in many parts of the game, via small items that need to be shot to become active, which is used to solve many puzzles throughout the game. Various landscapes in the game (large rocks, for example) have their own gravity that overrides the normal gravity in the game.

Cherokee culture[edit]

Domasi (Tommy) Tawodi's background was chosen due to the amount of mythology in Cherokee oral tradition, which 3D Realms aims to use for a number of games.[17] When it was first revealed that the game's protagonist would be a Native American, the response was mixed due to concerns that he would be a stereotyped caricature, and that players would have difficulty identifying with a Native American character.[18] Tommy is voiced by Michael Greyeyes, and Jen is voiced by Crystle Lightning, who are both Plains Cree. Greyeyes approved of the way that Tommy was depicted in the game, contrasting Prey to a film production:

I was impressed with the way [3D Realms] conceived of and wrote Tommy... Hollywood typically relegates our different indigenous cultures either into a single pan-Indian construct of some type — radical AIM protester type; slick, corporate, anglicized casino businessman type; etcetera — or, most commonly, as a historical figure, typically from a Plains culture. In fact, the overwhelming majority of roles written for native actors are in the Western genre. There are few opportunities for us to appear outside that paradigm, and when we do it is often equally narrow in focus... The writers [at 3D Realms] were always open to my comments — which I freely offered — and took my notes seriously, in nearly all instances changing dialogue or thematic content.[19]


The game went gold on June 28, 2006,[20] and was released in North America on July 11, 2006, and on July 14, 2006, in Europe. Prey was the only major title to utilize the new Triton distribution system, which went out of business mere months after the game's launch. Following the demise of Triton, Prey moved to distribution via Steam.

Prey also shipped in a Limited Collector's Edition for both PC and Xbox 360. It came with an embossed collector's tin, an upgrade to one DVD-ROM (as opposed to three CD-ROMs), two pewter figurines (Hunter and Tommy), "The Art of Prey" booklet, and a free soundtrack download from DirectSong. A third (Mutate) pewter figurine was available separately for purchase to complete the collection of three pewter figurines.


On November 29, 2006, Aspyr Media announced a Mac port, which was shipped on January 15, 2007.[21][22] On October 24, 2008, a Linux client for the Prey demo was released by Ryan "icculus" Gordon, who had been working on porting the game for several months.[23] Later that year, on December 7, 2008, the Linux client for the full retail version was made available.[24]


The soundtrack was composed by award-winning composer Jeremy Soule and his brother, Julian Soule. The Prey soundtrack was released in two volumes (nearly two hours of the game's three-hour score). The end credits feature the song "Take Me Home" by After Midnight Project.

There are several jukeboxes in the game which allow the player to choose from a small selection of licensed songs. In addition, radio host Art Bell lends his voice to several fictional segments of his paranormal-themed radio show, Coast to Coast AM, that play from radios throughout the game. In the segments, he talks with many callers about the various alien phenomena that occur in the game.


Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
Metacritic 83/100[25]
Review scores
Publication Score
Edge 8/10[26]
Game Informer 9.5/10[27]
GameSpot 7.5/10[28]
IGN 9.0/10[29]
X-Play 4/5[citation needed]

Prey has a Metacritic average of 83 and 79 on the PC and Xbox 360, respectively.[25] The game was highly praised for its graphics and gameplay. GameZone called the graphics "top notch",[30] while Play magazine[which?] called them "incredible".[31] GamerFeed lauded the gameplay system, calling it "nothing short of amazing", and concluding that "Prey has got everything anyone could want from a sci-fi shooter and more."[31] However, there was criticism directed at the multiplayer component, especially the fact that it only had two game modes. GamesRadar opined that the multiplayer "could have been much better if only there were more than two modes [and] a couple of maps small enough to play with less than five players."[32]

In October 2006, 3D Realms CEO Scott Miller announced that the game was a commercial success on both PC and Xbox 360 with combined 1 million copies sold worldwide to date.[33][34] Prey is ranked third on Game Informer's list of The Top 10 Video Game Openings.[35]


Main articles: Prey (2017 video game) and Prey 2

Shortly after the game's release, 3D Realms' Scott Miller confirmed that a sequel named Prey 2 was already in development.[36] On March 17, 2008, Miller's brand-management group Radar Group was officially launched, along with the announcement that it is managing Prey 2, slated for the PC and Xbox 360. The game was being developed in cooperation with Human Head Studios.[37]

In 2009, the rights to the franchise were acquired by Bethesda Softworks and id Software parent company ZeniMax Media.[38] On October 30, 2014, during PAX Australia, Bethesda Softworks vice-president Pete Hines confirmed that Prey 2 has subsequently been canceled. Pete Hines stated as follows, "it was a game we believed in, but we never felt that it got to where it needed to be – we never saw a path to success if we finished it. It wasn't up to our quality standard, and we decided to cancel it. It's no longer in development. That wasn't an easy decision, but it's one that won't surprise many folks given that we hadn't been talking about it. Human Head Studios is no longer working on it. It's a franchise we still believe we can do something with — we just need to see what that something is."[39]

During its 2016 E3 press conference, Bethesda announced a rebooted Prey to be developed by Arkane Studios, for release in 2017 on Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The new game is said to be a re-imagining of the Prey intellectual property rather than a sequel or remake.[40]


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  4. ^ torquemada (March 25, 1999). "Portal Engines". Google Groups. Retrieved 2006-06-23. 
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  17. ^ Michael Sheyahshe (January 2008). "Native Resolution". Games for Windows: The Official Magazine (14): 32. 3D Realms CEO Scott Miller says [...] "The lead character, Tommy Tawodi, is Cherokee, in part because there was a lot of research material, and also because they have many myths and stories that we thought could be useful over the course of many games..." 
  18. ^ Michael Sheyahshe (January 2008). "Native Resolution". Games for Windows: The Official Magazine (14): 32. According to [Tim] Gerritsen [...] "When we announced that our main character was American Indian, some people automatically assumed that we'd portray him in a comic-book fashion. Others derided us because they didn't feel that they could identify with an American Indian; it didn't fit in with their personal experiences." 
  19. ^ Michael Sheyahshe (January 2008). "Native Resolution". Games for Windows: The Official Magazine (14): 32. 
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  33. ^ "Prey sells 1 million worldwide, 3D Realms reaffirms Prey 2". Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  34. ^ "Game Matters: Casting a wider net". 2006-10-21. Retrieved 2013-10-04. 
  35. ^ "The Top Ten Video Game Openings," Game Informer 187 (November 2008): 38.
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  37. ^ "Radar Group Announced" (PDF). Radar Group. 2008-03-17. Retrieved 2009-06-03. 
  38. ^ Bailey, Kat (2009-09-08). "ZeniMax Media Acquires Rights To 'Prey'". Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  39. ^ Gamer Headlines. "Prey 2 has been officially cancelled, Bethesda confirms". Gamer Headlines. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  40. ^ Schreier, Jason (June 12, 2016). "Bethesda Re-Announces Prey". Kotaku. Retrieved June 12, 2016. 

External links[edit]