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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. 

Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

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Abel Bascunana Pons
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I wonder what programming language did they use to make the game: C++? Did they use any Game Tool or middleware? Pretty amazing job being so few team members!

Jane Castle
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They used the unreal engine to make the game. As to whether they used C++ or just straight up scripting, I have no information.

Freek Hoekstra
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this was (atleast originally) made with the UDK, which does not allow for source code Access, and thus all code must be made in UnrealScript. (and some things can be done in Kismet Unreals visual scripting language)

the game does look fantastic, I think what helped a lot there is the Kitbashing that was possible due to the type of strutures omnipresent in the game, the artstyle was clearly chosen to facilitate rapid high detail development, and more developers should take this approch imho.

best of luck with the game, and hope you guys strike it big :)
(and I have every reason to assume that you will :))

Erin OConnor
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"...we still want the freedom of being an independent team, and the creative control, and the fewest middlemen possible between us and the consumer." = Awesome.

Quentin Preik
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Such a great looking game - amazing ambience!

Nick Harris
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Kitbashing is both a well established method for rapidly prototyping a physical model...

...and a way to recycle 3D assets within a comparatively small team:

What interests me is the potential to use parameterised Constructive Solid Geometry to allow the artist to specify a range of related procedurally generated forms, then fuse these together using Kitbashing, add a variety of material textures and decals (such as scratches, historical bullet holes and location sensitive rust), then let a community of users build balanced battlefields out of this library of prefabs and then procedurally generate the geographic location of that type of battlefield on a much larger map - even a planet within a solar system within a galaxy, all of which is procedurally generated and only requires storage to track where your character has been recently and what they have changed about their environment when there. Using, PCG to redistribute UGC arenas built from a library of UGC prefabs kitbashed from PCG CSG seems AOK to me...

Andy Lee Chaisiri
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Ah, I was waiting for him to say "Kow Yokoyama" hahah.

wonder if he played Carnage Heart or Steel Lancer Arena International, both were mecha games with Kow Yokoyama designs.

I disagree with his classification of American mecha though.
American is:
-Michael Bay Transformers

Mechwarrior's foundation is copying Japanese designs.

Clara Dina
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Such an amazing game. Graphics are extraordinary.. you can play some best motorbike games at motorbike

Chris Crawford
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Great article, Hawken ended up being one of my top games of 2012.

I think they could go heavier sounding with the footsteps and the machine guns, it doesn't quite have the punch of a game like BF3 or BC2 (but it's getting there.)

One thing I think they need to fix is the UI when your outside of matches, it's a bit of a mess now.