The E3 Announcement for Hawken on Play Station 4
and Xbox One is finally released! We hope you're just as excited as we are about the news.
Ever wondered just what was going on for the past year or so? We figured a high level timeline might be of interest :)
The long and short of it is that the console port is a fantastic addition to Hawken. It brings the gameplay we all love to a very wide audience, and we’ve all kinds of good plans for the future. The PC platform is going see all kinds of benefits; we’re in the process of getting all platforms up to feature parity, and from that point on, the Illal sky is the limit.
March 2015 – Reloaded Games acquires Hawken assets
- This was the big rescue-style emergency recovery action to make sure Hawken didn’t disappear.
June 2015 – Console port starts to ramp up
505 Games happened to notice when we acquired the Hawken assets. They pretty quickly mentioned they thought a console port would make a lot of sense, and so after some negotiation time and some exploratory research, an agreement was signed that put Hawken on the road to becoming a console title. Prior to then, we had to sort of remain in a bit of a holding pattern, because depending on the possible console port work, the nature of immediate development efforts would have been drastically different. This is probably when you may have noticed capnjosh becoming a little less-than-precise in his communications ;)
July 2015 – Initial code merge for PlayStation 4 port
This involved merging some 26,000 files. I'm sure you can imagine how mind-numbing that can be. Our tech director had done this a number of times before, so when he finished, the game was surprisingly close to running. Things generally compiled, but, as you can guess, it becomes a hugely painful process of addressing every compilation problem, adding more logging, iterating, and generally going into super-focus mode for hours and hours and days and days. If you don’t mind doing that, then, well game dev may be for you.
August 2015 – First raw PlayStation builds
This phase took the longest, since it had to set things up to work with the upcoming Xbox One merge. It also was where we had to also port the Hawken-specific online subsystems; this proved to pretty time-consuming on its own. All throughout, we made sure it ran on PC, which helped with testing overall, and it also allowed for faster dev work for the rest of the team.
September 2015 – Xbox One code merge and first builds
During this process we had to upgrade to DirectX 11. We had to merge 3 different rendering pipelines into one so future development could be faster.
October 2015 – Significant playable builds for console. UI starts to become a challenging little beast
Here’s where the development started to get interesting. Talk about complex.
November 2015 – UI proves to be far more of a problem than anticipated.
The problem essentially boiled down to pretty old tech debt. The UI code had had to be structured to handle a lot more than ActionScript 2 was really well-suited to handle, so there were added layers of complexity that made work very slow for people unfamiliar with all the context behind where and why things were coded the way they were. Clean, well-engineered code, yes, but very complex.
December 2015 – Started a UI rebuild; winter illness
The idea behind this was that we could not get satisfactory console controller input. Shifting focus between all the elements on the existing UI was proving near impossible. So, we sort of had no choice but to try rebuilding a new UI framework using all the experience of past console port work and current best practices. This process was very time consuming, and I’m sure our publisher can emphasize how worrisome it all was ;)
January 2016 – Revert to old UI with help of original U programmer; framerate gets better
Out of nowhere, Jay Elwanger happened to become available. He knew how and why code was the way it was and he loved Hawken. He was able to do a proof-of-concept UI update that indicated we did not have to scrap the entire old UI. This work allowed us to put focus back on the engine-specific porting work.
February 2016 – Services layer updates, continue UI, reschedule launch dates
We upgraded frameworks for the back-end services, we improved handling, created all the server-to-server communications systems required for console authentication and purchases. Kind of a complex bundle of things there, let me tell ya. Good thing is it’s all fairly reusable and pretty clean.
March 2016 – More services updates, hosting and deployment adjustments
The services layer saw upgrades to things like processing efficiency, security, and compression of data in transit over the network. Hosting systems and the services layer had to updated to handle the now-multiple platforms per environment. Deployment systems, build servers, gameserver hosts, and services machines all saw changes. And all the while we had to keep in mind how we can ensure the live PC game is supported.
April 2016 – First certification checks on Xbox One
The Xbox team at Microsoft was excited to see Hawken on the Xbox One, and they actually did a few pre-certification reviews for us. And then they even had an expert do an analysis of some PIX captures. You know when you get to hear a true expert on some topic sort of explain what they’re seeing, what they suspect could be a cause, and then some historical background on why something could be happening? Yeah, there are some really smart people over at Microsoft.
May 2016 – First certification submissions, massive bug fixing
Having a game build in certification testing is nerve-wracking. You go for several days fearing the worst – dozens of
Condition For Resubmission items (in Xbox parlance) or Must Fix items (in Play Station testing terms). The stakes are high at this point ; it takes a week or two from the time you do final commits for a build to when that build is done with submission testing. Getting fixes retested and approved can be that long plus the time it takes to find and fix the issues. It was in May that we lost someone who had become a great friend and huge Hawken supporter, Jay Elwanger. We were all stunned and we still miss him. He loved Hawken, and he poured some fantastic work into this game. I’m proud to have known him.
Summer 2016 – Launch, relaunch, and updates
There will undoubtedly be some cleanup and fixes required after the console launch, but during all that we will be preparing for the PC relaunch. Why didn’t we do the PC first? A commitment to launch the console version first and the desire to solidify that release before we tackle the task of making sure all the existing data in the PC game is handled right. We also have what we expect to performance improvements, a new patcher, and the new faster services layer. Most importantly, we have structured the project so that any development efforts apply across all platforms, so once we have all the platforms up to the same version, all future development should proceed in lock-step.
Future development targets, roadmap, and more will be released over the coming weeks.