On Thursday Bethesda said the sequel to 3D Realms' resurrected shooter Prey was not canceled, but in fact still in development although the game wouldn't be released in 2012. The company then stated that the delay was due to "the fact that game development has not progressed satisfactorily this past year, and the game does not currently meet our quality standards." The explanation was a bit harsh, throwing Human Head under the creative bus. But now an unnamed source claims there's more to the story than Bethesda's formal lashing.
When Tom's contacted Bethesda, the company had this to say: "We aren’t releasing any additional information beyond what’s in the statement we sent our earlier today. However, we’ll certainly keep you posted when we have additional details to share." After that, we asked if Human Head Studios was removed from the project. We didn't expect to receive a response, and Bethesda lived up to those expectations (so far).
But a source contacted Shacknews and said that Human Head wasn't happy with its contract with ZeniMax, and decided to halt development on the game back in November 2011 so that the studio could negotiate a better deal. At the same time, numerous members of the development team were laid off, but there were plans to hire them back once the contract issue was resolved favorably. Negotiations seemed to be heading in the right direction until ZeniMax stopped responding in January.
Naturally for the ex-Human Head workers waiting in limbo, it seemed that the game would be canceled -- a factor that likely fueled the rumors. Yet by March 1 things were looking up again and it seemed that Prey 2 would be back on track. That changed on March 2, as negotiations took a turn for the worse. After that, little else is known about the negotiations or the the current state of the game, only that it currently doesn't meet Bethesda's standards as the company indicated.
At this point, we know that Bethesda has dumped loads of cash into the project and plans to see it go retail. But the company's silence on the topic of Human Head Studios serving as developer -- in additions to the info provided by Shacknews -- only leads to an assumption that Bethesda is looking for another developer to finish the job. It's not the first time Bethesda has switched teams: it pulled Rogue Warrior from Zombie Studios and handed development over to Rebellion in 2009.
While not as dramatic as Duke Nukem Forever, the Prey series has seen its own blend of drama since the late 1990s. The original Prey, under the helm of 3D Realms, was halted due to technical problems in 1999. Prey was handed over to Human Head Studios, thrown onto id Software's id Tech 4 engine, and released on the Xbox 360 and Windows PC in 2006. The sequel was just announced back in March 2011, but seemingly disappeared off the gaming news radar towards the end of the year. Now we know why.
"Prey 2 has shown great promise and we regret disappointing our fans," Bethesda said on Thursday. "We have made a substantial investment in game development to deliver the experience fans want. We are determined only to release the AAA game that fans rightfully expect, and are unwilling to compromise our quality standards to meet a release schedule."
Maybe Gearbox should finish it just like they pieced together Duke Nukem Forever.