Game 'Hawken' Gets Its Lush Look from Meager Resources
A screenshot from an early version of the game 'Hawken.'
CREDIT: Adhesive Games
Hollywood special effects wizards have always cobbled together movie magic out of scraps, whether building the sets for ″Alien″ from radiator parts or assembling lightsabers for ″Star Wars″ from engine components and faucet knobs. Now independent game developers have used a similar approach to create the online battlefields of "Hawken," an upcoming game that manages to look like a blockbuster title despite a limited budget.
Players may end up focusing on the game's intense battles between giant walking robots, or mechs, in a futuristic world of flying cars and aerial floating battleships. But innovative art design has helped the small game studio create expansive city environments for "Hawken" where players can romp around during big multiplayer fights.
"The buildings are made from reusable pieces," said Jonathan Kreuzer, technical lead for Adhesive Games Ltd. "We build prefabs of various sizes out of the pieces, and build entire buildings and city blocks out of prefabs."
"The fact that there's a professional 3-D game engine available in its entirety for free is awesome," Kreuzer added.
A science fiction legacy
The practice of mixing and matching pre-made pieces to create new models, known as ″kitbashing,″ sprang from model plane and train hobbyists who mixed pieces from different model kits to make their own creations. Sci-fi filmmakers later applied the same approach to create spaceships for films such as "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the original "Star Wars," and even the Tumbler Batmobile from "Batman Begins."
The "Hawken" art director, Khang Le, combined kitbashing with his clever art design to get huge results from a small team. Entire cityscapes are built upon the set number of pieces, not unlike Legos building blocks, while unique signs or textures complete the illusion of having a completely new environment in which players can hunt online opponents.
Buildings in the background of the action fade to low-detail textures, then flat-painted features, and finally just the sky. Hand-placed fog helps hide some of the background clutter when the overall view gets too busy for players' eyes.
Such a hodgepodge technique fits well with the alternate world envisioned by "Hawken," where not everything in the future is "shiny and sterilized." Many of the mechs have the look of well-used robotic war machines, similar to battle-tested tanks or artillery from World Wars I and II.
"We want our mechs to feel like real world machines, and not perfectly built ones, either," Kreuzer told InnovationNewsDaily.
Blockbuster visual effects
The graphics of "Hawken" are built upon the popular Unreal Engine 3, a powerful 3-D game engine that even has been appropriated to create computer animation for an online animated Web series. That game engine has also proven a powerful tool for small game developers, because they don't need to pay an expensive license fee upfront to use it.
Total development time for the game probably won't go beyond the usual two or three years needed for big studio games, according to Kreuzer. That's a tribute to the team's efficient world-building approach, as well as the choice to avoid experimental game design that might lead to dead ends or small details that players wouldn't notice.
"From the large and overwhelmingly positive fan reaction to our videos so far, it looks like we've done a good job on focusing effort where it's needed, and we hope the reaction to the game will be just as great," Kreuzer said.
This story was provided by InnovationNewsDaily, a sister site to TechNewsDaily.