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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 4 of 4

And do you plan the sound and animation for these things simultaneously? The sound design is very integral to the mech experience.

KL: Yeah, we're really lucky. Our original sound designer, back in the day, was Sean Neri. He did the initial sound for the first trailer, but since then it got super popular and he got his own job somewhere. We have another sound designer here now, so all the latest trailers you've been watching now is from another guy named Shadi Muklashy, and he's awesome. He's our sound guy, all the music you hear, and all the current UI interface guy, he does it all.

For example, we love Battlefield 3, the sound quality they have in there, which kinda teaches us that everything has a sense of weight and variety. Like, the machine-gun sound is very different in the distance compared to up close. So it's not just about muffling or fading out the volume. The sound actually changes in the distance. It actually gives off a different sound in the distance than when it makes a sound up close.

So for us, when you go into a tunnel, they become very echo-y, and even the footsteps of the mechs, we want to make sure they feel very heavy and machine-like, but at the same time it doesn't give you a headache. Because if you ever think about it, if you were to actually drive in a mech, you might get that groaning metal sound consistently pounding through your ears, and your ears will get very tired of it. So we have to make it sound heavy and very metal-like at the same time, so it's musical and pleasing to the ear, so it doesn't get tiring for the player.

When there's changes in distance between, I mean, with machine-gun fire or moving in and out of echoy spaces, do you use blends between them or do you just switch between the two?

KL: For echo and, you know, for normal stuff, there's different ways -- like the volume, and in the Unreal engine you can change it to make it kind of more echo-y. But for, let's say, a distant machine-gun sound compared to a close-up one, we actually create two sounds and we just change it by distance.

Let's go back to the launch of that first trailer, and where you are now.

KL: When we first launched that video, we just sort of released it on YouTube and we emailed a couple of small indie sites to let them know we have a video up. We didn't expect much of anything. We woke up the next day and it was, like, 200,000 views. And I think in a week or two it became 600,000. That was our first video.

And within three days we had 80 percent of the large publishers out there contacting us: EA, Activision, Sony, Square Enix. Basically every company came out wanting to publish the game, and eventually we found that it's awesome to get that sort of support, but we still want the freedom of being an independent team, and the creative control, and the fewest middlemen possible between us and the consumer. We just want to go directly to them without going through, you know, Best Buy. Without going through a publisher.

The best business model for that -- at the same time, like, bringing new content, updating all the time for the consumer... since we're such a small team we're unable to bring out a finished product immediately. With free-to-play we can actually bring to people in small chunks at a time and grow our team slowly and that was kind of confirmed by someone at benchmark capital, who was heading our funding at Riot. At the early stage, he approached us and he pitched us the idea of being free-to-play. We always had plans to make a free-to-play game, but our plan was more like Valve, with Team Fortress. You know, going digital download first and then free-to-play later. But he recommended just going straight to free-to-play and making it our focus so we don't have to keep changing our product. And, yeah, it worked out. 

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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