Announced back in early 2011, Hawken started as just a small, Unreal Engine-based mech shooter from an independent developer. Since then, the game has significantly grown in popularity, locking in high-profile partners like Nvidia, Oculus, and Asus; and racking up awards during its appearance at E3 2012. Developed by Adhesive Games, the game has since found a publisher in Meteor Entertainment. GamesIndustry International sat down with Meteor producer Paul Loynd, who talked up the leverage great partners have brought to the free-to-play title.
"Nvidia especially has been an amazing partner for us," Loynd told us. "The [Project Shield] announcement at CES, they were playing Hawken on a Shield device. We've also implemented their Apex Turbulence technology, their base PhysX technology for particles; it just makes the game look amazing. On top of just giving us the technology to use, they're also sending developers over to us to help integrate the technology so it doesn't set us back on the work that were doing. It's given us such an advantage to have those partnerships."
"We have hardware partners; we're working with Asus and Logitech. It's going to be a good year for Hawken. We're really grateful for those guys. We believe in their products and they believe in us. It's a great synergy and a great relationship, beneficial to both sides."
Loynd thanked the marketing team behind Hawken for making those partnerships materialize in the first place.
"We have an amazing marketing team. In the beginning, we were just this no-name company with this really cool-looking mech game. Our marketing team did a great job of getting us out there and growing the brand of Hawken, then [other companies] started calling us. We wanted to work with them," he explained.
The Nvidia partnership is a big one for the Hawken team, with the GPU manufacturer providing new core technology for the game with its latest update. Loynd showed us PhysX-based environment destruction, allowing players to destroy floors and walls in all of Hawken's expansive levels. The new PhysX technology isn't just visual, and Loynd promises that it'll change the way the game plays.
"It's not just about blowing up walls with missiles; I have a big 20-foot war machine, some concrete and rebar aren't going to hold me back. We think that's a really awesome experience for mech gameplay. It takes things to the next level," he said. "Obviously, there's some design implications here. When we originally designed our levels, we didn't design them with the idea that everything was getting blown up. So we'll have to tweak some things to make sure that the technology fits properly and doesn't break the balance of the game."
"Right now, you'll have to be using the Nvidia PhysX drivers. Because we want that to be a core element of the gameplay, we'll start bootstrapping so that players get [the drivers] as part of the install. Depending on what kind of card you have, it's not going to look as pretty. Once it starts to affecting core gameplay, it's one of those things where we want everyone to have it and everyone to experience it. We think it's really amazing technology; Nvidia has been a great partner for us."
Hawken is another free-to-play PVP title in growing segment that includes companies like Riot Games and Wargaming. Despite the competition, Loynd believes Hawken is a unique proposition for players.
"There's nothing else like Hawken out there. The thing that I think really sells Hawken is it's visually stunning and we really nailed the feeling of being in a mech. That core nugget is what's going to keep Hawken on the radar and help us get to that next level where we break out," Loynd said.
Free-to-play means that Meteor Entertainment and Adhesive Games need to be on top of content creation to keep users engaged. We asked Loynd about the studio's ability to not only create new content, but keep that content balanced for new and existing players.
"We don't want to be pay-to-win," Loynd stressed. "The first thing we always try to keep at the forefront of everything: don't make it so that a new mech comes out and everyone wants to buy it because it's better. We always try to make it obvious that each mech has their strengths, but it's based around what you prefer to do."
"It's more about options. Since Hawken is free-to-play, you can earn any one of those mechs. We base our business model around choice. If you value your time over your money, instead of having to grind for mechs, you just buy them outright. But buying any given mech isn't going to make you more effective on the battlefield. Buying a Sniper, you'll probably kill less people because you have to learn how to be a Sniper."
Loynd said that the team is aiming for a strong core gameplay and then providing a plethora of player options.
"We feel very confident that the best business model is to provide very high value content to the player, and that's where you're going to make your money. Make the core game fun and if they like the game the money is going to come afterwards. Look at League of Legends, they got it right. They really hit it on the head. They provide super-fun core gameplay, and then just keep coming out with well-balanced champions," he said.
"We're driving for each mech to be a unique gameplay experience, so that every time a player buys a mech they get attached to it."
"Players have tons of choice. They have all of these different options and each champion is a unique gameplay experience. The way those champions play with other champions is a unique gameplay experience. That's synergy. We're going for that same thing in Hawken. We're driving for each mech to be a unique gameplay experience, so that every time a player buys a mech they get attached to it. That's our vision for mechs over the coming year. I think the players are going to love the content that we're pushing out."
Riot Games and Wargaming both grew quickly in order to meet the needs of huge communities based around their games. Loynd said that Meteor and Adhesive understand their commitment to providing great content and are looking at a steady, reasonable growth rate.
"We're lucky right now because we're still growing. We're trying to grow at a pace that makes sense for us. We don't want to grow too fast, but we also have to keep up with the needs of our customers," he explained. "Providing content at a good pace, to keep them interested, to keep them coming back is important for us."
"We used to do bi-weekly patches; the idea with that is we wanted to be pushing out a lot of content. But there's a lot of logistics involved in doing a major patch, so we've moved to a monthly schedule because it gives us back a lot of time to spend on building content. We'll be able to provide more content on a monthly basis to players. At a minimum we'll always be providing a new mech per month. We're up to the challenge. As our community grows, we'll get more people to meet the needs, and we hope to be making more content for Hawken for a long time."
[Video via FPSGuru]