Khang Le, co-Founder of Adhesive Games, answers your questions.
HAWKEN is a free-to-play, online, multiplayer, mech-based first-person shooter that puts you in the pilot seat of a giant robotic war machine.
Customize and upgrade your mechs the way you want, then join your friends on the battlefield to rain destruction across HAWKEN’s beautiful and immersive alien landscapes. Best of all, HAWKEN is FREE!
..is the blurb on Hawken’s official website, and for once it’s a description refreshingly succinct and free of marketing clutter. Of course, this no-nonsense lack of pretence is what Hawken’s all about. Subtle characterisation and intricates plots be damned, Hawken is all about shooting your friend’s online Mech avatars in the face with massive guns, and as a result it feels like a breath of fresh air.
Update: This article should have been prefixed with a note that the Q&A was supplied towards the end of October 2012 (and held whilst we worked on the new website), and therefore some information may be out of date. Apologies for any confusion, we will however be working to clarify elements of the article which are now out of date.
The game has had quite an impressive run since it’s inception in 2010, with critical reception for it’s appearances at Expos and to it’s current open beta program almost universally positive. And as if that weren’t enough, Adhesive were among the very first to pledge support for the Oculus Rift HMD.
So, we got in touch with Khang Le, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Adhesive Games and asked whether he’d mind answering a few questions from the community and he said yes!
RoadtoVR: So, what’s Hawken about and why should we be care?
Le: Hawken is a multi-player online FPS set in a dystopian world in the not-so-distant-future. Greed has all but destroyed the world. You and your clan must venture into the wastelands that where once metropolitan cities to procure valuable resources. To protect yourself, you pilot a mech- a large, mechanized robotic transportation device. In Hawken, you have to fight to survive.
You don’t have to care, but if you do we will certainly care that you care.
RoadtoVR: When did development begin and was Hawken always destined to be a free-to-play MMO title?
Le: Development on Hawken began in 2010, but back then we only had 4 to7 people at the studio working on it. So our time and resources were limited. Originally, Hawken was slated to be a downloadable title, but after evaluating our options, we felt that the free-to-play model would fit best with Hawken. Free-to-play enables us to grow slowly, and evolve the game with the community. Hawken isn’t so much a MMO in the traditional sense, but more of a session based game like TF2.
RoadtoVR: What was the primary inspiration for the game?
Le: In my childhood, I was a huge fan of mech games,80s sci-fi like Bladerunner, and anime such as Akiraand Ghost in the Shell. We wanted to make a mech game that had all those influences, but was a little less like a simulation.
RoadtoVR: Hawken takes place in yet another dystopian future-scape. Given gamers’ familiarity with such settings, what have you done to ensure Hawken offer’s something new?
Le: In our dystopian future-scape, you can fly to the top of a building inside a robot, then rain fire and death down upon your enemies using the tank cannons you have for arms. If you’re too familiar with that, then you’ve led a good life and shouldn’t complain either way.
RoadtoVR: Hawken has a very distinct art style. Who on the team was most responsible for production design on Hawken and from where did they draw their inspiration?
Le: The look of Hawken was a collaborative effort that stemmed from influences such as Akira, Aliens,Tekkon Kinkreet, Maschinen Krieger, and Bladerunner. As Creative Director, it was my responsibility to make the look cohesive. We have a bunch of amazing concept artists and 3D artists who are instrumental in giving Hawken its look.
RoadtoVR: Describe the player’s motivation in the world of Hawken. What are you fighting for?
Le: You are fighting for survival. The world has gone to shit, and you need to pilot these mechs to obtain valuable, limited resources all the while, fighting off your enemies who will steal those resources from you.
RoadtoVR: Hawken is multi-player only, but is there any sort of character / story progression in the game?
Le: As of right now, we want to focus on the multi-player aspect of it. When we were starting out, we didn’t have the resources to create an elaborate world with story and character progressions. We are giving fans more insight into the Hawken universe with our graphic novel and in our future web series with Warner Premiere, along with many other forms of transmedia.
RoadtoVR: Can you describe the different multi-player modes and how they work?
Le: There are currently 4 different modes: Deathmatch,Team Deathmatch, Siege, and Missile Assaultmode. In the deathmatch modes, it’s quick and fast- paced. You’re there to kill or be killed. In Siege mode, you and your teammates try to defend your base, while also collecting resources so you can launch a battleship to destroy the enemy team’s base. It’s more strategic than the other game types. Missile Assault is our version of a Domination game type, where you must capture control points and hold them against the enemy team.
RoadtoVR: Historically, there have been quite a few attempts at bringing giant, fighting robots to life in games over the years; Cybernator [SNES], Mechwarrior [Multi] and of course Steel Battalion to name a few. Are there in any particular that the team have enjoyed and have inspired elements of Hawken?
Le: MechWarrior, Metal Storm, Phantom Crash, Virtual On, Steel Battalion.
RoadtoVR: What was it about the Oculus Rift that made you pledge out-of-the box integration for it?
Le: Mech games are all about immersion and simulation of controlling of a heavy machine. With the Oculus, we can allow the player to look around the cockpit which will add another layer of immersion. Up until the Oculus came along, the combination of head tracking and stereo 3D hadn’t been done as well.
RoadtoVR: Are you working closely with Oculus on Rift integration? What sort of help have they been giving you?
Le: As of this moment, we haven’t received the dev kit yet, but we started building certain assets like a 360 degree cockpit so we could be ready for the integration.
RoadtoVR: You’ve recently announced that you’ll support the Oculus Rift HMD on launch. There’s been some skepticism on whether this is even possible, given that the Dev Kits and SDK don’t even ship until December. Can you, once and for all, say when Rift support will be available?
Le: We can’t do much without a dev kit so I’m skeptical myself, but I feel the integration process should be pretty quick and painless. As long as we get it in a reasonable amount of time prior to Dec 12, it should be possible.
RoadtoVR: There’s coverage recently stating that motion sickness whilst using the Oculus Rift is an issue for a small percentage of users. Have you any experience of this? If so, what can be done to combat such things ‘in game’ (if anything).
Le: With head tracking and stereo 3D, the player is transported into a virtual world, so I would expect a bit of time for the brain to adjust. I had a bit of motion sickness myself, but it did wear off.
RoadtoVR: Will Hawken offer a single player V bots feature for training purposes?
Le: We’re currently working on a drone training map. I wouldn’t call it a single player feature. It’s more of a tutorial.
RoadtoVR: Do you think that those who use the Oculus Rift might have an ‘edge’ over non-rift users (FOV for example)? If so, will you be implementing a separate league?
Le: I’m not sure about that. We’ll have to test it out and see. I can see its advantages and disadvantages. Being able to glance around will allow for wider battleground information, but I can see not having your reticle (cross-hairs) being at the center of the screen can be difficult to target.
RoadtoVR: Will it be visible in the game if an opponent / ally is using an Oculus Rift?
Le: We could add a UI element to show it, that’s an interesting idea.
RoadtoVR: Will you scrap the in game HUD (will we have to read virtual gauges in the cockpit itself)?
Le: We don’t plan to ever swap out the physical HUD. That’s what I really like about FPS Mech games- the claustrophobic feeling of being inside a machine.
RoadtoVR: Do you plan to allow community mods for PC version of Hawken? If not, why not? If so, how will this manifest itself?
Le: We would love that, since many of the best game ideas out there came from the modding community,like League of Legends. We’re currently still a very small team. If Hawken is a financial success and we can grow the company further then I would love to see that happening.
RoadtoVR: When using the Rift, any ‘disconnection’ between your physical actions and the game-world can cause motion sickness. How will you ensure Network lag don’t induce gameplay pauses which could bring these symptoms on?
Le: I’m pretty sure there are clever ways to get around this problem. It’ll just take time to get the whole experience polished.
RoadtoVR: Will you overlay the HUD on the front glass window of your mech cockpit? Similarly, when your mech is damaged, the glass window starts to crack. While wearing the rift, will it appear as if the glass is cracking a couple feet out in front of you?
Le: The HUD is actually overlaid on the pilot helmet itself. Yes, the glass cracking should give a nice sense of depth.
RoadtoVR: Will you support the infamous Steel Battalion controller and would this plus the Oculus Rift blow my mind?
Le: No, we won’t be supporting the old SB controller, but I’m sure a hacker out there can get it done :)
Mek-Fu is in the works to create a controller. It gives off a similar badass feeling that the original SB controller does. The combo of Mek-Fu and Oculus will be awesome! Throw in a 6DOF motion chair, 3 monitors, surround sound speakers, and the player will be in Hawken mecha heaven!
RoadtoVR: Are you fans of the movie Robot Jox? If not, why the hell not!?
Le: I still have to watch that. I’ve seen the trailer and it looks awesome. I’m a big fan of Ron Cobb so it’s on my must watch list when I have some free time!
Many thanks to Khang for taking the time to talk to us and thanks to the VR community, in particular the regulars or r/oculus for their contributions.
Hawken is currently in open beta and is due for an official launch sometime in Q1 2013.