Before you know it, 2012 will be here and with it comes a slew of new titles. One of the big titles on the agenda for the first part of the year is Sony’s Starhawk. The spiritual successor to one of the key titles from the first generation of PS3 titles (Warhawk) will take the battle(s) into a new direction: to the stars. I recently had a chance to chat with Santa Monica Studios’ Harvard Bonin and see just how things were going in the development of the new game.
Can you please introduce yourself and detail your role(s) on the Starhawk project?
My name is Harvard Bonin and I'm the Senior Producer at Sony Santa Monica for Starhawk. We are creating the title in partnership with a great development studio called LightBox Interactive (LBI) in Austin, TX. My job is to help guide the project and the LightBox team through the many winding passageways of Sony Computer Entertainment. I work with LBI on a fiscal, creative, and production level. At one time or another I get my hands on almost everything, but my main goal is to make sure that the road is cleared for the project to succeed.
Warhawk is easily one of the key titles in the PS3 library, and one that still garners a huge following to this day. Do you feel any sort of pressure in being given the reigns for the sequel?
We take working on this franchise very seriously. It's been around for quite a while and it has created a wonderful, loyal following. There is a lot of pressure associated with that, however, the pressure that we put on ourselves to make a great game outweighs that considerably.
What do you feel are the key elements to the Warhawk series and how do you intend on incorporating them into the new game?
Warhawk had its own unique recipe of run & gun gameplay that really doesn't seem to be anywhere else. It's fast....it's always "go! go! go!" in Warhawk. That said, it has a wide variety of combat situations that are pretty rare as well. We've retained the run & gun style, the speed, and the variety of weaponry - and then we added our "Build & Battle" system which really takes the Warhawk formula and turns it upside down. Now you can modify the battlegrounds on the fly by calling down structures and equipment from space. It really makes for a dynamic experience.
Warhawk was one of the first games to “nail” the use of the Sixaxis’ mechanics... we will be seeing similar usage in Starhawk? How about the PlayStation Move?
That is true. We were early adopters. SCEA is always coming up with creative ways to enhance this experience. This time, however, we're intensely focused on the game itself and making sure that it's great. We don't have plans for the SIXAXIS or Move. It's important for us to get the core experience to be top notch before we do anything else.
The addition of a storyline campaign to the game will make a huge difference in the experience from the previous game; can you tell us a bit about the world that you have crafted for this game and a little about the story that we will see unfold?
In Starhawk you'll experience the story of Emmett Graves. He's a hired gun and rift salvager who has been infected by this horrible thing called "Rift Energy." It can make a man rich but also cost him his sanity. We're really focused on unfolding a great story based campaign for the players. It was something we wished we'd been able to do in Warhawk, and now we're finally getting to deliver on that original promise. We think players will really dig the story and situations they'll find themselves in.
Combining cowboys / wild west style elements with space warfare is an interesting mix; can you tell us a little bit about how that concept came about?
We were looking around for something inspiring to work on after Warhawk, and we always thought flying through space would be pretty cool. Few games have done it in recent years. It reminds me of my days playing Colony Wars. It seemed to us that future space-farers would be a pretty tough lot...like working men out to make their fortune. We always think of the Rift Miners like men from the old gold rush days. I think you can see where this thought process ends up. It just made logical sense to us, and it's also really interesting putting it all together. Other fiction pieces have done it to one degree or another. I think we've been able to find our own recipe.
A lot of players, myself included, are a little skeptical at how the mix between third-person shooting and RTS style elements will mix... what would you say to ease our concerns?
There's nothing I can say that will convince players to invest their time and money on Starhawk. I can, however, give them a way to play it. We've seen it time after time. Once players get their hands on this game, they "get it" and that's all they need. We intend to give players plenty of ways to get hands on...and we'll have more info on that later. Whether it's a Beta, demos, whatever....just give us a bit of time and we'll make you a believer.
What sort of benefits, gameplay wise, will we be able to realize in the heat of battle from using the new “Build & Battle” system?
Each structure is a critical piece of the battlefield. It's important to know what they do and when best to use them. They'll also alter your approach. We often think of building our structures much as we think of pulling the trigger on a gun. And you can drop them on enemies... which is nice.
I know that this probably isn’t the time for details or official announcements, but is Starhawk being designed with options for expansion in the future? Will we see additional content coming to the game after the initial launch?
We know that a dedicated community must be fed and we'll take steps to make sure they don't go hungry. We don't have exact details, but we did a lot of free and paid content for Warhawk. I can't see why we'd change that philosophy.
Is there anything else that you think fans need to know about Starhawk?
We'll tell you more about our Public Beta really soon! 2012 is almost here!
Thanks to Harvard for taking the time to chat with us and for Eric Levine at Sony for setting everything up. We cannot wait to get our hands on Starhawk when it launches in early 2012.