A GOOD PUT DOWN

As many of you know, I’m working on a game called Prototype 2, which you can guess is a sequel to a game called Prototype. In the first game, you play as Alex Mercer. He wasn’t exactly like your normal video game protagonist. Some people found him difficult to like as a character. Mercer spent most of the game in a quest for truth. Powered by amazing and destructive abilities, you could leave behind a swath of utter mayhem as you drove Mercer closer to the truth. He was morally ambiguous. The game didn’t really punish you for killing innocent civilians. It was hard to play him as a good guy. This was most evident when you picked something up. In Prototype 1, picking something up meant death or destruction for that person or thing. There was no way to just simply drop that item. If you picked up a person, you only had two choices: consume that person (it’s as bad as it sounds) or throw that person with enough force for to kill them. If you picked up an object, you could only rid yourself of that object by destructively throwing it away, even if you were holding say a car with a civilian in it. I remember playing the first game and accidentally picking people up. As they dangled helplessly in Mercer’s right hand, I was dismayed to see the game giving me just two options: “consume” or “throw”. Either option meant death.

In Prototype 2, the protagonist is a new guy named James Heller. Heller is a family man who is driven by revenge. He basically just wants to kill everyone he thinks is responsible for the death of his wife and daughter. His backstory makes him easier to like and identify with. Unfortunately, until recently, the game play features didn’t exactly fit in with this dude who knew the value of family and morals. I remember starting work on the game and then realizing Heller had the same “pick up” limitations. He could only consume people or throw objects/people to their deaths. It just didn’t feel right.

Then just a few days ago, I received some release notes. Someone had put in the ability for Heller to put down objects and people. Amazing! I tried it out immediately. I went to a busy intersection and grabbed a random pedestrian. As people scattered in fear around me, my helpless victim dangled in the air in Heller’s right hand. I then pushed the button to let him go. Heller put the pedestrian down gently and they ran away. It was very satisfying. Heller doesn’t have to be a cold-blooded, indiscriminate killer and we just gave the public a way to express that. We now give them a choice. Not everything has to be destroyed. I then tested it on a car. I picked up a sedan with a driver in it. As Heller held the car up over his head, I easily could have thrown the car into the side of a building. I chose to put the car down. Heller didn’t just drop it to the ground, he actually bent his knees and placed it rather gently back on the pavement. Having a choice felt right.

I know it may seem silly but for all the games I’ve seen over the years, this little feature stands out in my mind as one of the more memorable ones.

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