Back at E3, we had the chance to sit down with Khang Le, the Game Art Director for HAWKEN. By now you know that we absolutely love the game but Khang Le took some time to shed a little more light on the game itself and let us know a little background behind it as well.
So, First question. What inspired the game Hawken?
So Hawken, I basically grew up with a bunch of games like Mechwarrior and Virtual-On from Japan and Steel Batallion. You know, very hardcore but also very arcadey. Always loved the feeling of driving a big mech machine in a game but I never quite had fun with them. They were always way too floaty and arcadey or way too focused on simulation, which made it difficult to play, it felt like work.
So when we were still a small team we were wondering what we should do next and looking at our team, making a sci-fi game made much more sense to us. Since we were small, sci-fi was a bit easier to build than a fantasy game since you can repeat assets and things like that and we only had one animator. We didn’t want to bother with anything that had human characters involved so robots was an easier way to go. It all made sense, it was or passion and at the same time it fit the logistics of the team itself. I did a painting awhile back and with that painting, that was the starting point. We extrapolated from that and the UDK came out for free to the public and everything timed together perfectly.
I noticed that with Hawken, there’s a lot of cool little things that you can do in combat. Hell, I found out that I could heal halfway through a match. With that, there also seems to be a lot of customization with your loadouts. Will there be even more options available from what I got to experience?
The demo you played, we set things up in a preset setup. We wanted people to get to experience the game and not spend their time tinkering with options but once the game is available you will have 3 weight classes that will be fully customizable. We also will have skill trees that will allow you to do things like make your light mechs armored or make your heavy mechs faster. If you wanted, you could push everything to the extreme, make a light mech a speed freak or a heavy mech a tank.
If you liked mechwarrior gameplay, with a lumbering mech, you could take a heavy and upgrade all of it’s armor. It becomes a very different game, it would still be very much more mechwarrior but if you took a light mech and put everything into speed it would feel like Quake. This will allow for a wide range of players to find their style.
Initially, we didn’t know what we wanted to do. Should we go for arcade or or a heavy sort of mech? The more we thought about it, the more we realized that we should let the player choose what they want to be and how they want to play.
Dust and sand can kick up in combat, providing a crippling distraction or saving your butt from other pilots.
Can you tell me a little about how Hawken will operate as a free to play title?
The monetary aspects of the free to play model will mainly be visual and also different weapons. Now, weapons won’t overpower each other, so playing for things may allow you to play with a different style but not necessary any stronger than someone who hasn’t paid for anything. Even though it will be a free to play game, we are going to make sure it isn’t a pay-to-win game.
What about balance? How will Hawken keep a level playing field and what will happen with paying players? Will experiences vary?
The game experience should be very much the same for the paying and non-paying player. Like most free to play games, we don’t want to be the type of game where you are just paying for better things. What you will pay for is a way to just “get there faster”. We want someone who is so busy working and not able to spend time, like a young teenager may to invest 8 hours a day into playing a game, to be able to compete with everyone else by getting stuff quicker. If you can still play though, you can still get almost everything the paying player gets. In fact, there will be things that only the playing player can get and things that only can be purchased as well. Both types of players should be able to keep up with each other, just one will get to spend less time. I like to think of it like valet parking. You either pay for someone to park your car or you park it yourself.
As far as game modes, I saw that there were two, a deathmatch style mode and an objective mode as well. Are there any other modes that will be available at launch?
The 3 modes that we have already announced are the ones that you have played as well as a siege mode as well. It has a slight RTS feel to it and is very team based, you have to work from objective to objective. The whole idea is that you must launch a battleship and destroy the enemy base. You will escort need to escort your battleship across the landscape and will also need to gather resources. You will go to stations to collect energy units but it will take time to collect it, so your teammates will need to defend you. While you bring it back, the enemy can still steal it from you and bring it back to their base, so there will be a lot of teamwork involved. You’ll have really cool moments where you may have a lot of energy but really low health so you’ll be like “Fuck! I am going to lose all this shit I’ve collected!” but then your friend will jump in and protect you. Those are great moments, I really love siege mode.
When will Hawken be released? As soon as people hear more about it, they are going to be ready to get going!
You can find out everything you need to know about the release on playhawken.com, on 12-12-12 the open beta will start. We will have a closed beta for those that sign up and it should hopefully be around October. We hope to have everyone playing right before the apocalypse!
When I played Hawken, I used the standard keyboard and mouse. I know that many mech and vehicle combat style games find themselves getting different peripherals. Do you have any plans to collaborate on a peripheral for the more hardcore player?
As a mech game fan, I loved playing games like Steel Batallion and Virtual On with the dual controller, so the MEK-FU is going to support this. We will also work with any other peripheral company that comes to us and wants to make something that makes sense for the game. We want to have 3 monitor support. If you have deep pockets, we want you to absolutely get that immersion. Imagine having a motion chair, 3 monitors, 3D glasses and a MEK-FU controller! It would be the closest you could get to piloting a real mech!
I know we need to let you get back to making sure Hawken is staying awesome, so let me ask you; what is your favorite game of all time?
Favorite game of all time? Holy shit. That is a hard question! I’m going to cheat, I have to take two. As far as a visual experience and a sense of immersion, I would have to say Shadow of the Colossus. It’s not a game, it’s more of an experience. I find the jumping and riding your horse around to be very relaxing. The game I’ve played a lot though would have to be Sim City. It has to be my favorite, I love watching things grow. You know what, there’s also Duke Nukem. Holograms and trip-wires? We love the old Duke Nukem!
What would you like to say to the fans and readers out there?
Basically, we are happy for everyone’s support! It’s been incredible! We didn’t expect the support when we were garage-style developers and now we are at E3. I hope you check the game out, it’s been a labor of love of we have been enjoying playing it as well as creating it.
Thank you for the time Khang Le, I can’t wait to play Hawken again!