Raphaël Colantonio has revealed that nobody at Arkane Austin wanted Prey (2017) to be titled Prey, and how it felt “gross” to have release something under someone else’s IP.
Colantonio, known as the founder of Arkane Studios, served as the game’s director and writer. He announced his departure from the studio shortly after the game’s release, citing burnout and a desire to spend time with his son.
The fact that the game was never envisioned to be a part of the Prey IP isn’t new for fans of the game or Arkane. It was documented by NoClip last year, in which Colantonio and other leads on the game explained that Bethesda was insistent that Arkane’s next project had to be called Prey. Colantonio described the decision as a “non-negotiable compromise”.
In an interview released a couple of weeks before Noclip’s documentary went live, Colantonio said that he was “a little bit resentful” and bummed that Bethesda had mandated the project be called Prey, but stated that he maintained a friendly relationship with Bethesda.
Now, in a new interview with The AIAS Game Maker’s Notebook Podcast released earlier this week, Colantonio shared more about his own thoughts and the sentiments within the development team as they had to transform their original sci-fi space pitch into a part of the Prey IP.
“I think that I was a little at odd[s] with some of the management [regarding] the decision of calling Prey  ‘Prey’, that was very hurtful to me,” Colantonio revealed. “I did not want to call this game Prey and I had to say I wanted to anyway in front of journalists,” he continued. Colantonio said he hates lying and although it wasn’t a “personal” lie, he still felt bad fronting to press that he had wanted to continue the Prey IP.
The decision wasn’t unpopular with just Colantonio. “Not only me, but nobody in the team wanted to call this game Prey,” he said. He stated he was grateful for the financial security of having a corporation behind him and his team, but was insulted when he was told the game had to be called Prey. “You go like, ‘I don’t think it should. I think it’s a mistake’.”
Colantonio already knew that the idea it would help with marketing the game would not be true. “It’s a sales mistake,” he called it, “because it backfires from older [fans], [they] are not going to be happy. Then the [people] who did not like Prey, they’re not even going to look for our game, [so] they’re not going to find our game.” He was right, as the sales for the game were “horrible”.
He continued to describe his discomfort with the situation, stating that he wanted to apologise to the team behind the original Prey of 2006. “It was also a kick in the face to [them],” he stated. “I wanted to apologise to them many, many times. I didn’t really have a chance because I don’t really know those people. It was never our intention to steal their IP and make it ours. It’s gross and that’s not what I wanted to do.”
Colantonio said at this point, he knew he had to leave because he had realised he was “not in control of [his] own boat” anymore. This was a direct contradiction to the “full artistic control”, with no interference from higher up the chain, Arkane had been promised in their acquisition deal with Bethesda in 2010.
The corporate structure took its toll on Colantonio, but burnout wasn’t the only reason why he decided to leave Arkane. He felt that his time with the company was at an end, having seen it from birth to winning GOTY awards. He wanted to start something new, but he didn’t know what. At the time, he said he was “exhausted and frustrated”, and wanted to take a break to travel, make music, and spend time with his son.
After parting with Arkane, he spent a couple of years consulting. He stated he didn’t know if he wanted to make video games anymore, but couldn’t go back into development yet as he was under a two year non-compete clause with Bethesda. He consulted for various different studios and leads, including Julien Roby who was previously an intern under Colantonio during development of Arx Fatalis.
“The itch was there again,” Colantonio said, after speaking with Roby, “but this time I wanted it different.” The two of them formed a new studio together, WolfEye Studios, and Colantonio set out his goals to Kusters. “I wanted to stay independent for real and make games that are cheaper… The more you have to make a game, the more budget you have, you never make great decisions. Everything has got so much pressure.”