GDC 08: Prototype Presentation

Tim Bennison and Eric Holmes gave a presentation at GDC 2008 for Radical Entertainment’s upcoming Prototype. Below you’ll find our summary of the keynote.


Deep in the heart of San Francisco among the many numbered streets lays the Moscone Center. Go to the west building, take the escalator one floor up and walk into one of the various lecture halls and you might find yourself at Radical Entertainment’s lecture on their upcoming multi-platform game,
Prototype. At least, that’s where we found ourselves this afternoon.

Tim Bennison and Eric Holmes introduce themselves up on the stage then start off the lecture.

Tim tells us that Prototype is at the pre-alpha stage. Shows us a quick minute-long trailer.

The trailer shows the main character standing on the roof of a building, alternating between a shot of him backflipping off and standing among a fast-moving crowd. Showcases some of his abilities like shapeshifting, latching onto a helicopter, etc.

Radical’s goal: to give the player something new. How? By giving them more. It’s so simple!Eric talks about his appreciation for the movie The Prestige because of how it doesn’t just go from X to Y.

Eric shows a screenshot from Wolfenstein 3D, Goldeney, Call of Duty, and Call of Duty 4. Talks about how “getting better” is apparent but seems to be slowing down over time.

He beings to define what a next-gen game is. Radical believes that next-gen is a software change. Cites games like Populous and Max Payne as examples of next-gen for doing more and doing better.

Tim defines open-world as “systems interacting”, saying that systems interacting = fun.

Defines some characteristics of open-world gameplay – the playable character as your instrument, the collection of simulations, a non-linear story, etc.

Tim talks about how Prototype was built from the ground up as an open-world game.

The lights dim and the demo of the game finally begins. They seem to be playing the XBOX360 version.

Main characters begins at the top of a building and jumps down, killing an innocent bystander and absorbing him. Rinse and repeat on a female bystander.

Snap, this guy is one fast mofo. He’s running with traffic and keeping up, jumping onto (and crushing in the process) cars and trucks.

An explosion occurs nearby and the crowds run in the opposite direction. The player jumps onto a roof and initiates a cut-scene with military personnel.

The player mutates his arms into larger, orange claw-like things. Stabs a military man and absorbs him, using him as a disguise to sneak up on another soldier.

Player rips open the cover of a tank and kills the driver, taking over the tank and driving through the now-vacant streets in it.

Another cut-scene is triggered showing a helicopter taking off, most likely towards the player.

It’s tank vs. helicopter! An epic battle ensues resulting the player jumping out of the tank and running for cover.

He dons his soldier disguise once again, sprinting towards a tank before transforming back to his claw form and impaling the tank with his extendable claws.

Jacked! He jumps on the side of the helicopter and forces his way in, destroying the military base before jumping out of the helicopter.

The parkour influence is really apparent as the player runs up walls and vaults over fences.

A cut-scene shows off two red, semi-slimy, spiky creatures on the rooftops, jumping down and confronting the player.

The player drives his fist into the ground and spikes come up to impale one of the monsters.

The player makes his escape by running up the wall of a ridiculously tall building, reaching the top and going up one more building.

He jumps off the roof and hits the ground surprisingly unscathed. Even Spider-Man would have felt that one, yo.

Absolute chaos! The military tries its best to suppress the monsters. Explosions are all over the place and the sound of shrieks doesn’t seem to stop. The player rips off the door to another helicopter and hijacks it.

After a little more running around, the words “Game Over” flash on the bottom of the screen. The demo ends.

Tim begins talking about the main character, Alex Mercer. He has amnesia – his past is blank. Because of that, he tries to fill those blanks in his mind by absorbing the memories of the people he kills.

Inspirations for the character were Darth Maul and Hannibal Lecter.

Tim mentions that they like to think of the game as Tom Clancy meets Stephen King.

They want the game to be reality plus one fantastic element. The reality is present-day New York City and the fantastic element is the virus that’s causing all the trouble.

The story touches on real world issues like the distrust of government, martial law, outbreaks, conspiracies, viruses, etc.

The duo show off a video of some of their inspirations. A clip from Fight Club, some pictures of tanks, a clip from Gladiator, a little clip of parkour, some pictures of creep-looking creatures ending with the Prototype logo.

“The main hook is deadly shape-shifting action.”

Eric talks about the parkour system as a one-button system – just point him in the right direction and he does the rest.

Tim explains how certain areas of the city are divided based on who controls it – neutral zones (uncontrolled), outbreak zones (controlled by the infected), secure zones (controlled by the military), and war zones (both sides fighting over a zone).

Another video plays, showing off some of the various systems in action. The video showcases the motion aspect of the game, running through the streets and on top of cars, running on the sides of buildings, sliding on a dead body. A giant claw emerges from the ground at the end of the video and tosses a taxi cab.

Eric explains the basic game structure: kills guys and take their stuff. Shows off the structure using a simple diagram showing off the various interactions that a player can have with all the different aspects of the game.

Tim summarizes the entire lecture as the fight between “more” and “better”, saying that developers need to explore “more” more.

The End