Epic Diaries:Hawken

Epic Diaries:Hawken

By Mark Rein

August 4th 2011 at 8:00AM

Mark Rein turns his attentions to Adhesive's promising mech combat game

Hawken, Adhesive Games’ upcoming multiplayer mech combat game built with Epic Games’ Unreal Development Kit, is gathering an impressive amount of early buzz.

In development for about a year, the indie sensation has made fans all across the board, with The Escapist calling the preview trailer “quite simply amazing,” PC Gamer praising it as “insanely beautiful,” and IGN stating that the game has “visuals to challenge the very best games on the market.”

But when the Adhesive Games team set out to create Hawken, they had almost no experience using Unreal Engine 3. For Khang Le, art director at Adhesive Games, the focus was on finding a robust solution that could deliver the graphically intense vision he had
for the game on a tight schedule and with triple-A quality.

Le and his team decided to use UDK for the game because, when it came to Unreal Engine 3, he says: “We were familiar with its reputation as possibly the most licensed game engine in the industry. Being able to begin production using a cutting-edge game engine with no start-up cost offers an important opportunity to indie developers like us.”

AHEAD OF THE GAME

Adhesive Games considered other options before choosing UDK, but Le explains that it quickly emerged as the frontrunner.

“Once we decided to create a graphics-intense multiplayer game, then Unreal Engine looked like the clear choice. With Unreal you get a console-ready engine that has been proven with bestselling released games.”

Additionally, UDK provided prototyping capabilities: “Within a month of starting Hawken,” says Le, “we were able to test out a prototype.”

As for the actual functionality of the Unreal Engine 3 toolset, the art director found many useful applications.
“We noticed many of the features available with UDK would only be there because the engine was used many, many times in game production,” said Le.

“This includes ease-of-use stuff like archetypes and searchable property lists, nuts and bolts components like the packaging system, as well as major features. There is a lot of depth to the engine. Prefabs are great; our kitbash method used to create our levels requires a very robust prefab system and UDK delivered.”

When it comes to working with UDK instead of the full source code version of Unreal Engine 3, Le and his team were impressed with UDK’s flexibility in spite of early concern.

“We had some initial worries that using only what was available in UDK might limit us artistically, but overall the artists have been very happy with the ease and power of UDK. It enables our small team to create triple-A quality visuals.”

UNIVERSAL APPEAL

Hawken’s visuals have been praised universally and compared to big budget studios. And while the team was somewhat skeptical about using only UDK and UnrealScript, that changed through the course of development.

Working at an impressive pace, the Adhesive team leaned on the extensive documentation through Epic’s Unreal Developer Network and reached out to other developers who had used UDK for their projects.

“We’ve searched the UDN docs as well as online tutorials. Using a publicly available engine means it’s not only possible, but likely that there will be information online about whatever we’re trying to accomplish. Also, the UDK community has been very supportive. We often browse through the forum and read what’s possible or not before we make design decisions,” confirms Le.

The robust community and frequent updates behind UDK were also very useful for Le and his team. “The monthly UDK update is very valuable for us. Many times we have found that a feature we needed that wasn’t there when we started Hawken is now integrated in the latest UDK build.”

The Adhesive team is currently finalising plans for Hawken’s distribution and plans to release the game next year.