Hawken Reborn Early Access has officially started and to say that we’ve hard landed back on Illal would be… an understatement. Making a video game is a hard enough endeavor for any company, but with Hawken, it’s even harder because you’re also making an emotion.
The emotion of piloting a nimble yet deadly mech for the first time against others experiencing that same adrenaline rush.
The emotion of hopping into a cockpit so realistic that you still feel its diegetic UI over a decade later.
The emotion of building comradery amongst your community only to have it thrown around from different industry hands with a fleeting hope that it’ll make a triumphant return.
We know it’s been an emotional rollercoaster for the Hawken community and we don’t blame you. Hawken Reborn in its current state is not meant to be that triumphant return. What it is however, is a first step in engaging with the community, both old and new, to bring Hawken back into the gamer conversation and ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself as we try to honor its predecessor’s legacy. And that discourse is the Vitrolium shot we need to make this a great game for the community, with the community.
Why did you go into Early Access?
There were two options we considered before going public. Continue to develop Hawken Reborn in our own bubble with private internal testing or go public to get feedback from the hardest of hardcore Hawken veterans and other gamers who might enjoy a different experience from the original. All this of course with the caveat that this is an “early Early Access” title.
We obviously chose the latter and it’s probably the best thing that could’ve happened to Hawken Reborn because it opened our eyes to how passionate the Hawken community is across the globe.
Why is the game in this state after all those years of development?
The last few years have not been the optimal world for anyone to live a productive life. Especially for a team as international as ours, developing Hawken Reborn outside the norms of production has not been an easy road to navigate. In addition to that, the ideation process of taking an iconic game from a PVP environment to PVE is an almost limitless sandbox in and of itself. After all these years, the co-op free roam & narrative driven single player approach was the route that we finally landed on as the potential glue we needed to stitch elements of the original Hawken into Hawken Reborn.
Why such a dramatic pivot from PVP to PVE?
Making a Hawken game is difficult and when creating a game without one of its original pillars, PVP, it compounds that difficulty. In our Early Access blog and PC Gamer interview, we stated that in order for a Hawken game to succeed, it needs a hard pivot to a PVE business model to ensure a long lasting player base. That’s a very difficult task to achieve with PVP and a hard barrier for an audience wanting to enjoy a game without the skill cap difficulty barrier.
There’s also a player base out there who appreciates great narrative and the world of Illal is ripe with them. This was an issue that the original game faced and left that narrative to fall on the shoulders of the critically acclaimed Genesis comics. Our aim with Hawken Reborn is to branch those narrative and gameplay pillars into an experience that casual players can enjoy slowly and hardcore pilots can still experience with an increased heart rate. It’s a tough balancing act, but the bones of what Hawken Reborn has to offer we feel can bridge those divides with our 6 current Story Arc missions, 30 narrative driven “Patrol Mode” missions, and a high risk/high reward increasingly difficult free roam mode for all pilots to explore.
AI Art and its usage in Hawken Reborn
Last week we briefly addressed AI’s influence in our in-game cutscenes and unfortunately, it only served to fan the flames of distrust since there were obvious signs that AI was used in the final images. We were looking at the conversation from a “who made the artwork” perspective, which was produced by multiple artists on our team instead of focusing on what the final image looked like. For that, we take the blame and want to confirm that yes, this cutscene will definitely be updated in the future. Meanwhile, we want to share the original Dr. Loomis storyboard character concept as well as the original A0E1 cutscenes that were in the game before going into Early Access.
Community First Feedback
The fervor generated by just one interview was extremely exciting to see and the tsunami of reviews into our Steam page has been sobering, but invigorating. You’ve told us everything that you hate about Hawken Reborn. You’ve torn it to pieces in almost every aspect. You’ve also given us a shot in our new yet familiar pilot seat and took time to acclimate to this new Hawken PVE experience. While Hawken Reborn is not the Hawken 2 that veterans were expecting, it is a Hawken game too and some players have flexed their mecha piloting prowess to take our toolkit to some breathtaking heights.
They’ve also used this Early Access window to help guide our team in the right direction in nearly all aspects of the game. From dialing in the “floatiness” of Hawken Reborn’s mechs with comparison videos to becoming our advocates in onboarding new rookie pilots, it’s an experience that has humbled us with the reminder that not all Hawken players have given up on us from this initial debut.
At the end of the day though, we all want to relive the original nostalgia of what it’s like to play a Hawken game. We just ask that you work with us as we continue to gather feedback, make changes, and dial in all of the mechanisms that make piloting a mecha such an exhilarating experience. We’re listening to player feedback and continuing to iterate on all the things that you dislike and like. Here’s only the tip of the iceberg of feedback that we’re already prioritizing once we get out of our initial Phase 1 of our roadmap.
- Movement movement movement. With a PVE free roam game trying to balance the frenetic feel of a PVP mostly close quarters combat game, movement is one of the most difficult areas to lock in and will continue to be one of our number one priorities. As development continues, look for more noticeable improvements in this area as we fine tune this critical area of gameplay.
- Repair Drones have been something we’ve seen players wanting to see back in Hawken Reborn. Although they won’t be returning in the same way, they will offer some limited healing utility to a few mechs. Why not all mechs? Because unlimited healing with a repair drone would essentially break our high risk/high reward Patrol Mode which is intended for players to hop in, play missions, gain more rewards with higher Threat Levels, and return to base for repairs.
- Mech Enemy Archetypes will start to slowly evolve more and more as we get out of our initial phases of Early Access. These changes will offer more combat variety as we start to instill a bit more personality into how they engage players. This feature will require a lot of time to bake, but will increase the degree of difficulty, make combat less repetitive, and increase the challenge players face.
4. Crit spots will be introduced to increase your options for attack as you engage your enemies. Not only will this add an additional layer of complexity to our Enemy Archetypes, but being able to see an enemy severely incapacitated across the battlefield after you’ve disabled their utilities is so dang cool!
Other than the sheer amount of feedback that we’ve received from fans, another pleasant surprise from going public was the GIGASIZED amount of tweets we received from the Japanese community! In what was such a “no duh!” moment, we were floored by the immense excitement for Hawken in Japan and look forward to engaging with these pilots in the future. Until then…
Finally, to all the players who downloaded Hawken Reborn, wrote impassioned reviews, hopped back into your old communities, joined new ones, and did all you could to bring the word “Hawken” back into the minds of gamers, THANK YOU! We’ve got a long journey ahead of us and can’t wait for you all to once again strap in for an action packed ride in Hawken Reborn to make it a title worthy of the “Hawken” moniker. We CANNOT do this without you.
To stay up to date on all the latest Hawken Reborn news and connect with fellow pilots, join us at our official social media channels.