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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 Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

It seems to have made an impression, because the game's early buzz was very much because of the art. Like you say, if you look at a screenshot or a video of it, it looks extremely impressive, but you tend to be zoomed out. I guess it's built more for scale and speed than for staring an asset real close.

KL: Yeah, especially, our game is not a single-player game where you just hang out and talk to NPCs. You're going to be focusing on just attacking the enemies on the screen and the other player. You're mostly going to be viewing the overall picture anyway. So we don't really put our emphasis on, you know, a light fixture to look good up close, we just make sure the picture looks good and impressive.

The camera frames everything you look at in the game -- and the cockpit camera and general motion seems very believable, even though you're piloting this thing that doesn't exist. How did you arrive at what you have there, and the tradeoff of visibility of the environment versus the aesthetic of shaking around and being in a mech.

KL: So, the cockpit -- I mean, you're right, especially, if you think about it, it's just going to distract you from looking at the world, right? It'll cover up, maybe 30 percent of the screen. But as far as a mech game goes, I think that's very crucial. Being inside a HUD is what I loved back in the day with the old MechWarrior and all the Steel Battalion; the feeling of being inside a machine. That's why we chose to go first person and not third person.

By creating these elements that block off 30 percent of the screen, we also try to make it make sure it's also functional somehow. So a lot of the UI elements are right on the HUD -- right on the cockpit. In order to make it feel like you're in a machine, I did a lot of research and watched tons of videos... I guess a lot of people, they record themselves when they're working those industrial machines, like bulldozers and things like that. And just really studying all the motion that's going on, the way how your head turns, your vehicle will get delayed behind. Things rattle. Every sort of physical detail like that, we tried to put in as much as possible. And there's a fine line between making it very realistic and giving someone headache. So, we're doing our best to find that middle ground, making sure it's fun, but at the same time very immersive.

How do you build in that sense of weight that a mech has, where every footfall has a lot of power to it and also when you're rocketing up into the air, you're falling perhaps even faster because of how heavy the thing is.

KL: For comparison, the mechs aren't that big in MechWarrior. They're actually about 18 feet, 20 feet tall. So they can move a build faster, but our turn speed is currently slower than a typical FPS now would turn, just because we don't want a mech head to whip around like a human's. It would look very cartoony like that.

Another thing is we delay how the cockpit follows the mouse slightly, and then we're also doing a lot of things like when a mech walks past you or another mech flies past you, it'll rattle the cockpit you're in. So, just the little details like that. Anything related to the physical mass and the sense of weight to the mech, we like to add in. At the same time, playing the game is all about... we're a much faster, twitch kinda gameplay. It's a fine line to walk in between them.

Right, that's what's made mech games an acquired taste for a while, because for some people -- it either feels too slow when they're walking or when they're boosting they're kind of on rails almost.

KL: Yeah, yeah, they have that sort of Armored Core feeling, like you're like on an airplane. The closest game that we might compare to is Heavy Gear, you know? Back in the day? It has a sense of weight but at the same it has a sense of speed. So we're pretty close to that. We're somewhere between Halo and, let's say, MechWarrior. Somewhere right in the middle. We're not as fast as Halo. But we're not slow. 

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