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Inside the striking art and design of Hawken
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Inside the striking art and design of Hawken

June 3, 2013 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next
 

Hawken greeted the game-playing public with a video -- a simple gameplay trailer that quickly gathered almost 2 million views, and the interest of dozens of publishers. But the team at Adhesive games wanted to remain independent, so instead a publisher (Meteor Games) was formed around them with a $10 million investment from Benchmark Capital.

Perhaps the most striking aspect about this game is the art. It seemed "next-gen" before we even knew what "next-gen" would look like. This is due in part to the pedigree of the team, which was five people at the time of that trailer. Almost all of them had worked on the similarly-striking Project Offset, a fantasy game project that was acquired by Intel, but was never released.

Hawken leader and Adhesive game's CEO Khang Le has been doing visual development for movies and games for years -- and he took a unique approach to the game's art and design. Rather than aiming for the moon, he and his team tried to create a game that played to the strengths of its members.

Let's talk about art methodology -- you seem to be creating a high level of detail with a pretty small team. What is your production pipeline?

Khang Le: Originally we only started with five people. So, at the time we actually didn't have any idea of what to do, yet. One of the things I know from working on many previous art productions is that sci-fi is a lot faster to do than fantasy, because you can repeat assets. So, let's say you have a broken column in a fantasy game. You can't really repeat it that many times because, you know, it's very obviously being repetitive, that same broken shape. But for a broken sci-fi column, like a very tech-y looking column, you can repeat it as many times as you want to and the audience just accepts it.

That's one of the reasons why we went with sci-fi. We only have one animator, so, I didn't want to do anything that had a lot of complex humanoid animation involved. So, robots were the logical step. And I'm always very much been a big fan of designing robots. I love to draw and paint them... so, all those other things just came together.

That's where Hawken came out from. It sort of came out from working around the limitation of the team, instead of just blue sky-ing. It was less like, "What do we really want to do?" It's more about, "What do we have? What's possible? What can we deal with in such a short time that still feels impressive?" That was the decision we made.

Basically we focused more visually on the overall picture of the game. The specific assets, like the little props that a lot of bigger companies have time to put in... They put a lot of attention into little details, where we just sort of made the overall picture look good. If you actually walk up close, it's there, it's good, but it's not super-polished.

But since we do that, our assets are much lighter. They don’t have their own normal map or diffuse textures or speculars, so we're able to have a lot more objects than other companies can put into their game engine, because each asset is pretty light. Our scenes have more objects than most games, but each object itself is less detailed and intense on the machine. 


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