Starhawk goes wild wild Warhawk

Comic-Con 2011: Lightbox discusses adding sci-fi Western single-player story to multiplayer-centric franchise for upcoming PS3 exclusive.

Who was there: Lightbox Interactive creative director Lars DeVore was joined by writer Keen Wooten, as well as Sony Santa Monica studio director John Hight and senior producer Harvard Bonin. IGN's Greg Miller moderated the panel.

Emmett Graves is the star of Starhawk.

What they talked about: Rather than a sequel to 2007's online, multiplayer-only Warhawk, Lightbox is returning to the PlayStation 3 in a new direction with the markedly expanded Starhawk. Announced in May, Starhawk combines sci-fi and Western elements to tell a single-player story that augments the franchise's well-known online element. Taking to the Comic-Con 2011 stage today, Lightbox and Sony Santa Monica explained that from the outset, the team knew they wanted to go bigger.

According to DeVore, the team began with the idea that developing a deeper universe was the direction they wanted to take with the follow-up to Warhawk. However, they also wanted to keep many of the elements that make Warhawk what it is, including a variety of gameplay; large, open environments; and a central multiplayer formula.

It then took about a year to devise a direction for what would become Starhawk. One element the team initially struggled with was tone. Lightbox knew it wanted to stand out, so that precluded creating a generic military shooter or straightforward sci-fi game. However, the team did start with sci-fi premise and from there began to instill the universe with life by focusing on the conflict between two factions.

The nature of this conflict is where the Western elements began to come in. DeVore said that they began to study the American frontier to get a better sense of what creates conflict between two groups of people and then they layered sci-fi elements on top of that. To help with the art direction, they brought on Iain McCaig, who has done work for Hollywood on the new Star Wars trilogy and is now contributing to Respawn Entertainment's new game.

DeVore said that the lead character arose out of necessity from the single-player campaign. After experimenting with his appearance and style, the team began gravitating toward a strong black male. DeVore noted that this character design hit the right vibe, and they felt the universe would be postracial at this point in the future. DeVore also noted that they had help from God of War art director Ken Feldman to establish the game's look.

Wooten then took over to talk about the game's storyline, saying that the conflict centers on rift energy. This energy is like gold during the California Gold Rush, and prospectors--known as the Rifter faction in the game--seek out new planets to cap and mine areas. Though rift energy equates to money, it is also quite dangerous, and exposure to it is what created the Outcast faction. Rift exposure leads to the skeletal system pushing out through the skin, and it also corrupts the mind.

For those exposed to rift energy, it becomes a source of life, while Rifters see it as a source of money. Thus, the conflict in the game arises.

Emmett Graves is the game's primary protagonist, and he begins the story on the side of the Rifters. Some 10 years before the game begins, Emmett and his brother were in a mining accident that fully exposed his brother to the energy and partially exposed Emmett. Now, his brother leads the Outcast faction. Emmett is joined by his partner, Cutter, who operates a massive freighter in low orbit, which also provides the basis of the game's build-and-battle system, where players can call down armaments.

The conversation then shifted toward why fans of Warhawk should be interested in Starhawk. Bonin said that more than just being a spiritual successor to Warhawk, Starhawk has expertly incorporated strategy elements into shooter gameplay. Hight went on to say that much of the gameplay will feel very familiar to Warhawk fans, and the game's speed and accessibility will be immediately identifiable.

Returning to the game's story and design, DeVore said that much of the story will be conveyed through 2D cutscenes, in a vein similar to Sucker Punch's Infamous. This decision was motivated by the team's desire to tell the story through Emmett's eyes and to give the story a stream-of-consciousness feel. It also offered an interesting story-telling opportunity, as they were able to change these 2D elements as the game progresses to represent the deterioration in Emmett's rift contamination. DeVore also said that the 2D art design was inspired by artists like Shepard Fairey and Bill Perkins.

In the audience Q&A portion of the panel, DeVore said that the team is currently just working on the game's retail release. And while Lightbox does intend to support the game with downloadable content, the team first wants to see how people are actually playing the game before they commit to how they want to proceed with it. He also noted that the game was designed from the beginning to be more expandable than Warhawk was.

Other miscellaneous factoids that emerged during the audience Q&A included the fact that the game will support split-screen co-op, both locally and online. Additionally, Warhawk composer Chris Linux is responsible for sound on Starhawk.

Quote: "We've cracked the holy grail of light tactical elements with shooter elements."--Harvard Bonin.

Takeaway: Starhawk is shaping up to be a far larger game than Warhawk, with Lightbox layering on a sci-fi Western single-player campaign. However, Lightbox maintains that the single-player campaign will only be additive to what the Warhawk franchise was all about: fast combat, large environments, and lots of different ways in which to blow stuff up.

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Discussion

34 comments
xiaolanyi
xiaolanyi

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Master_Bassist
Master_Bassist

Props for split-screen. Too few games have that anymore.

Pete5506
Pete5506

I hope the MP is still strong, Warhawk had some great online

holtrocks
holtrocks

wtf is with is elbow in the beginning

MoNsTeR_zAcH
MoNsTeR_zAcH

Cant wait to see what kind of trophies it has

monson21502
monson21502

still wish sony did something about the cheaters on psn. i loved warhawk 1 untill those ubber health guys were on foot taking a few tank shots and killing tanks in seconds. or a warhawk just stand in the middle and own the whole base talking hit after hit. thats why i stopped buying online games for my ps3.. least on xbl it costs 50 bucks so the cheaters are less likely to risk getting banned. on psn they can just make a new account. you think after the hacker attack sony would take action against cheaters too. but i guess as long as it only effects us gamers sony could care less....

Wensea10
Wensea10

its great they put on foot action

ElFlechero
ElFlechero

Biggest news here is split screen. Sweet! That makes it go from a game that looked intriguing to one I look forward to buying.

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

Any news is good news when it comes to this game. Aside from the odd new release Warhawk still remains the game I play most on my old-school fat PS3. It doesn't matter what comes out, LA Noire, Portal 2.. you name it I allllways go back to Warhawk. Any of you guys doubting it want to check out either the official or unofficial websites, the gameplay looks surreal (in a good way). I know it sounds like I'm advertising for them or something, but serrriously.. it looks insanely brilliant. 2012 can't come soon enough, any other game that comes out before then will just tide me over :P Possibly excluding Skyrim mind.. that game will rock :D

fluffyninja4
fluffyninja4

@SocomElite22 although im a diehard uncharted fan, you cant say that there was a lot to do in the first one. that and bioshock aren't enough by themselves for a full year

Coolyfett
Coolyfett

This game looks way better than StarFox!!!! Sony has a great concept with this one.

wars45
wars45

just hope its like warhawk online loved that game

SocomElite22
SocomElite22

@monson21502 WTF do you mean cheaply made?....Lol. 2007?... Are you crazy? Was a great year for "gaming". Uncharted?.....Bioshock?......Those two by themselves should be plenty. IDK maybe its me....This game is gonna be EPIC

hi123454321
hi123454321

i realy liked the art style in warhawk, i wish they didnt decide to use the western theme in this game...i know they are trying to make it unique but the sci-fi/western thing is a bit wierd in my opinion. i hope that it will still turn out to be as good as warhawk =)

monson21502
monson21502

looks really cheaply made... im still getting it thoygh. because warhawk really helped me in 07 when there wasnt much else to play

MoNsTeR_zAcH
MoNsTeR_zAcH

Looks great. Excited to have a single player campaign and not just multiplayer. Also a great concept and story line. Always get excited for games like that.

phillkillv2
phillkillv2

I don't know about this one.. The whole Space theme isn't looking that good. I would have like it if the went to a modern perspective like 2012 or something. I would love to fly F22's and F15's around like Warhawk. Although I will check it out if I can. Too bad so many other games coming out during the year might overshadow this one. Hopefully not.Warhawk is still one of my favorite games.

fabz_95
fabz_95

Good to know there'll be a SP campaign for this one.

EdibleFood
EdibleFood

In case you didn't remember/know, warhawk was originally going to be released with a singleplayer campaign but incognito decided to focus on the multiplayer. You can find footage of the singleplayer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e67gYPLoxDo

EdibleFood
EdibleFood

@RobbySpry Warhawk was more than playable but now that i think of it i seem to remember there being a bit of a delay for aiming when you were on foot. The flight controls in warhawk were still fantastic.

perkinsj26
perkinsj26

sigh... PS3 exclusive! Looks interesting though.

Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

So they have add a single player story mode this time. Sure then I give this a try. Played Warhawk a bit borrowed a copy from a friend. I manage to get one trophy in Warhawk. Played only 10 games of Warhawk in 2007. Starhawk is not quite a sequel in the traditional sense, but looks to be fun.

shadowfox55
shadowfox55

A campaign mode was missing from Warhawk, so players could transition to online with ease. I hope this game is a worthy successor

RobbySpry
RobbySpry

As long as they fix the longest input-lag in history of the previous game, Starhawk might not only be playable but fun.

ArabrockermanX
ArabrockermanX

This game is going to have tanks, mechs/aircraft, jet bikes, jeeps, (possibly APCs), and traditional ground combat with a build and battle feature. What more could a gamer want?? As some one who played over 1000 hours on Warhawk this is a must buy.

djsundowner
djsundowner

Yeah, I've said this before: Starhawk is Firefly with Mechs (and it looks awesome)!