GDC 2013: Hawken updates and the Oculus Rift

softonic GDC iconI had been playing a bit of the open beta in Hawken before I met with Adhesive Games and Meteor Entertainment at the Game Developers Conference. The mech action game was a lot of fun, offering a lot of customization and solid gameplay. With both keyboard and mouse as well as gamepad support, it’s easy to jump into the game and learn the basics.

The big difference with Hawken is that the game isn’t a one level game. Multiplayer maps are multi-tiered so you have to look vertically as well as horizontally to find your enemies. The hovering ability gives players the chance to attack from above as well as escape from combat quickly. There are still some balancing issues in the game, but Hawken is presenting a multiplayer mech action game for fans who have been missing the ability to jump into a customized mech and play against other players online.

In the meeting with the Hawken team at GDC 2013, we saw an update to the game, which adds a healing class mech (The Technician) and new level destruction mechanics. Adhesive is also adding new levels. As an added bonus, we got a hands-on with Hawken on the Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles.

New mech and new levels

The main update for Hawken was a new mech called the Technician. This mech is designed to heal other mechs and play a support role. Normal gameplay consists of players using very offensive mechs. Even though each mech has a healing ability, this must be enabled outside of battle and you are very vulnerable to attack while healing.

The Technician has one arm that heals mechs. Used in combat with experienced players, you can constantly heal them while they are playing offense. The mech isn’t only for support as the other arm is an offensive weapon. While not as powerful as standard attack arms, it will allow players to escape combat. When it is added into the game, players who favor support roles will find the technician a perfect fit for teams who work together.

Hawken is also adding new levels. While the first new level is a white-version of an existing map, I had a chance to see a map in progress that was being tested. While not featuring textures, the level was designed for closer combat in a smaller area. The new maps will require players to work as a team because of the various choke points.

Another update is improved destruction in maps. An update from NVIDIA and PhysX, levels in Hawken will be destructible. The wall that you previously hid behind can now be destroyed leaving you open to attack. The demo video also showed how floors can be destroyed giving you the ability to attack from above or below. While not everything is destructible, the demo video shows that a good majority of the level can be destroyed. Through the use of PhysX, rubble will be processed individually. It’ll be interesting to see how much destruction Adhesive includes in the game. I did ask if Adhesive had thought about the width of certain walls so it would take additional shots to get through. I was told that they were thinking about it, but it wasn’t difficult to layer destruction in the levels.

Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift was available for the public to try out during GDC and I got a closed door demo of Hawken using the goggles. Adhesive made a custom build of the game to support the Oculus Rift demo. Wearing the headset is a little disorienting at first, but after a minute of looking around with it on, things become second nature. The Hawken build allows players  to look around the cockpit in full 360 degrees. You can look behind you and see the back of the cockpit or look around at all the instruments inside.

Playing with a controller was interesting since there’s no reticule. It was easy to adapt to moving around and shooting in the mech. The demo was in debug mode so it was possible to fly above the level and look around. The Oculus Rift demo showed how games like Hawken can be made better with virtual reality.

Since the Oculus Rift has only begun to ship to developers, it may be a while until a finished product natively supports the Oculus Rift. But the new interface could make games a lot more immersive.

Hawken is still in beta so balancing and fixes are common. The upcoming updates will add more content to the game and they are continuously working on more mechs and maps. Adhesive did say that a member of the Halo 4 team joined the team to work on map design and that may lead to a bigger variety in the coming months.

You can join the Hawken open beta now to experience the action firsthand.

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