Mechin’ A Move: Hawken Stomps Onto Steam

By Adam Smith on February 6th, 2014 at 6:00 pm.

Hawken is one of the most attractive games I’ve ever seen, all shuddering steel and clouds of debris, and it is exclusively about large robots fighting. There’s no cutscene-laden narrative, no downtime and no pricetag. There are maybe six people in the world who don’t like to see mechs fighting twenty four hours a day so Hawken should be the most popular game in the world. That’s not the case though and, ahead of its full launch, publishers Meteor are moving their multiplayer bot-battler to Steam. Current account-holders will receive codes by the end of this week, allowing them to reinstall through Steam without losing their progress and items. Once the migration has occurred the game will become publicly available, some time later this month.

There’s a full FAQ regarding the move here. I’ve already seen people (with some justification) pointing out that a previously DRM-free game is now tied to Steam, making this A Bad Thing. My view? Like any other multiplayer game of this sort, Hawken needs players to thrive and despite the early excitement around the early footage, the masses never arrived.

I like Hawken. It’s fast, beautiful and the mechs are suitably varied, providing a dollop of tactical consideration. As much as I like it, though, I rarely play it. If a bustling community of Steam users adopt it as their own, perhaps that will change.

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48 Comments »

  1. MrUnimport says:

    Does an online-only multiplayer shooter count as DRM-free in any incarnation?

    Might have to give the game another look, it’s gorgeous as ever despite them ruining the HUD by making it a floating screen element.

    Also, from the FAQ:
    “Tuning points have been removed from the game in the interest of creating a tighter balance between the different types of mechs. Previously, every mech of a specific class started with the same stats as other mechs in that class, and had different stats that they could improve by spending tuning points. Now, every mech type has a unique set of stats (and a distinct handshake with the player) that sets it apart from every other type, and is the same regardless of mech rank or pilot level.”

    “Countermeasures are no longer used in competitive multiplayer game sessions in HAWKEN. They have been replaced with consumable items that can be used in cooperative gameplay to give you an edge in the fight against AI opponents. ”

    Whew! Those are some of my main gripes gone!

    • C0llic says:

      Does an online-only multiplayer shooter count as DRM-free in any incarnation?

      Completely agree. The DRM argument is a little pointless when you need to be online to play it anyway.

      I remember hearing about this, then completely forgetting about its existence. It being on steam can only be a good thing really. If it’s good, it should attract a following. I’ll certainly be checking it out.

      • MadTinkerer says:

        Well technically any multiplayer game could be made LAN-functional if you have the source code. But ever since the mid-00s, when Activision and EA decided proprietary servers scratched their lunatic control freak itch (without actually doing anything to piracy) and everyone who wanted to play on LANs were dirty pirates by definition, almost everyone has forgotten that networks other than The Internet exist.

        Sarcasm aside, the DRM argument for multiplayer online-only games is proportional to the amount of people who still actually have LAN parties. And who knows how many that is these days?

        EDIT: Although there are actually programs like Hamachi that allow you to cheat and pretend that your LAN is the Internet to games that don’t understand what LANs are. You still need an actual Internet connection to make it work (as far as I know), but you get to keep the rifraff out.

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    • Xiyng says:

      Well, if you were one of the few people not using Steam but still playing computer games, you will now have to run Steam in addition to the game if you wish to play it. I’d say that’s definitely DRM.

      • Deadly Sinner says:

        But you have to connect to the Hawken servers, Steam or no Steam. I don’t think many people would call Sim City DRM-free if you didn’t need Origin to play.

        • Xiyng says:

          It’s a multiplayer game so have fun playing it without connecting to any server. SimCity on the other hand is pretty much a single-player game so it could easily work without any servers at all.

    • killmachine says:

      to me, the hud change actually was no. 1 reason to re-install the game. i really like it. it’s way more clear and better readable then the old hud.

      i hope the steam release finally resolves the population problem. in the EU region there barely are any servers and the few that are running mostly only run the TDM mode which i personally don’t like that much in any game. US is more populated and playable from europe but, again, mostly TDM.

      the game is really good though. the free2play model is really fair. all mechs can be unlocked with ingame experience and it doesn’t even take that long. i already have two additional mechs unlocked and maybe played 8 hours total, probably even less.

  2. Emeraude says:

    Does an online-only multiplayer shooter count as DRM-free in any incarnation?

    When, having no other form of DRM, it also allows players to create their own private servers (LAN included, but not limited) at their leisure ?

    • C0llic says:

      Listen servers have been a part of many steam games, Valve games included, as have privately owned dedicated servers at no cost (other than having a server of course). Using steam is no way an argument that this will no longer happen, it’s simply up the devs to make it possible.

      Most free to play games have ranking systems, unlocks and other things to drive purchases though, so I don’t see how completely privately owned servers, with no dev oversight at all, can really exist in the genre.

      Admittedly I dont know much about hawken, but I don’t really see it.

      Unless I’m misunderstanding what it is you mean ?

      • Emeraude says:

        For once I was not bashing Steam, I was just saying that a DRM free game that has an online component BUT lets you set up your private server is as DRM free as can get.
        You’re not dependent on any external infrastructure to access and play the game.

        • MrUnimport says:

          Is this true? That’s quite remarkable for an F2P grind-oriented shooter, do they let private players access all equipment?

          • derbefrier says:

            Last time I played Player owned servers didn’t exist niether did a LAN option. If that has changed I might have to give it another look

          • Emeraude says:

            I reckon it isn’t so in this specific case – which is why I’ve opted out of this game despite initial interest. That being said, my answer was as hypothetical and general as your original question – you weren’t that precise there.

            Oh, and some games are using a hybrid model where you can buy the game and have access to full content or use F2P, making the two solutions not mutually exclusive: pay the F2P version of the game on the publisher/developer’s host server, pay a version that allows you full access to content and the creation of private servers with the paid version.

          • MrUnimport says:

            Ah, I see, you were only discussing a hypothetical. My apologies for not making it clear I was asking about Hawken in particular.

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  3. Skiddywinks says:

    Should I check this out? I’d prefer something in the style of MW:O personally, but seeing as that game and developer gave me cancer, I have to look elsewhere.

    That said I am a fan of robots in general, and I do like fast paced games. I’ve just been burned with F2P in the past (like the aforementioned MW:O), so are there any major gripes with the game? Balance? Etc?

    • lautalocos says:

      game is pretty fun, looks great, and as far as i remember balance-wise it will only bother you if you are one of those people that say “see, this gun has a 0.1 more DPS than this one”

      still, i havent played it in a month because i had some update problems, but now that it´s coming to steam i may download it again

    • sinister agent says:

      I had a pleasant few weeks with it last year. It’s solid entertainment, and though it’s free to play, after a little practice I was consistently in the middle and sometimes top of the scoreboards using just the basic mech, which is about right for an average-but-periodically-quite-good FPS player like myself. I had unlocked a couple of new mechs but stuck with the default most of the time. It also lets you trial things before unlocking/buying them. It’s generally well-thought out and user-friendly like that. Never did I feel like there was a barrier to my fun due to the format/pricing model.

      If I had to criticise it, I’d say it needs more game modes, and while it’s very pretty and the mechs and environments impressively detailed and animated, I never really felt like it took advantage of its setting. There’s no locational damage or any kind of management of your mech, and enemies are automatically marked with HUD stuff when you fight them. It got so that I felt like I was shooting a health bar rather than a robot, and it was only a reskin and animation job away from being a regular mans vs mans FPS.

      Those were by no means fatal flaws though, and I enjoyed it a lot more than Mechwarrior Online, which I ditched after a day or two. I’d definitely recommend giving Hawken a try. At the very least it’s fun for a weekend.

    • bad guy says:

      Have a look at MWLL if you haven’t yet.
      Could be what you are looking for.

  4. MrThingy says:

    Aww… I misread title as “Making a movie”.

    Thought all the amazing art that went into it might get a decent backstory, rather than be relegated to mech combat. :(

  5. PopeRatzo says:

    Why won’t game developers let me pay them for their games any more? I want to give them money for games, but they keep insisting that I really want something for free.

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      John was onto something with that editorial the other day.

  6. CookPassBabtridge says:

    I would like a single player campaign Hawken, please. Thank you cheerio TTFN bye for now toodle pip ciao for nowwww

  7. Eldiran says:

    I played Hawken briefly many months ago, and found it rather enjoyable — but by the time I started getting bored of my mech, I found I was only about 1/50th of the way to getting access to any new content.

    Any Hawken players know if they sped up the progression at all?

  8. Shooop says:

    Any opinions on the game itself?

  9. TechnicalBen says:

    They took out tuning? The one thing making the game have a little variance? Gah. Every move since the Alpha just makes me cringe. :(
    Yes, that only leveled up players could tune a mech was a problem. But being able to decide on a slightly faster mech, over slightly stronger one was a bit of a meta game or thinking strategy.
    Still, if they have taken out the obvious pay to win they wanted to bring in the back door, it may help it.

    • MrUnimport says:

      Their justification according to the site is that 1) tuning gave the advantage to those who grind 2) diluted class role and made it harder to grasp what an enemy mech is capable of 3) generally resulted in theorycrafted optimal builds that dominated.

      What I’m concerned about is that they also appear to have reduced the TTK. Given that Hawken’s main draw appears to be that it’s a slower, chunkier arena shooter where you can’t move as fast but you get to unload on opponents with withering, brutal weaponry until they’re battered into shutting down, I’m a little concerned about the desire to make fights shorter and more lethal. Then again, this might fix the issue where racking up kills is best achieved by hanging around vulture-like and picking off enemies after your allies wear them down.

  10. Daedalus says:

    The game was NEVER DRM free as it always required an account system to play. Also, Steamworks provides better multiplayer infrastructure than any other online service, this is a good change.

    You still have to log into a piece of software (just like before) but now you get extra functionality that Steam provides along with an increased amount of people playing.

    • Brtt says:

      It’s quite a different beast when people *don’t* want to use Steam.
      Because Steam is not (yet) written in the constitution(s), so it shouldn’t mandatory to use it when you want to play a game (of whatever kind).

    • Xiyng says:

      Steam is an EXTRA piece of software in addition to the game itself. Also, that extra functionality comes at the cost of system resources and Valve having control of your data, if that’s a thing you’re worried about. Also, technically the game wasn’t DRM free even before but in spirit it was. No one considers it DRM when it’s used to track your progress in a multiplayer game. For all intents and purposes, the game was DRM free.

      And then an honest question. Does Steam actually provide multiplayer infrastructure?

      • Brtt says:

        My point (and problem) is that there’s a huge number of games that are *exclusive* to Steam.

        I don’t want to use Steam, and I shouldn’t be forced to, yet more and more games are becoming (or even worse, being created from the get-go) tethered to Steam.
        While they don’t get any money from me (and I did gave some to Meteor, back in the days), it’s still highly annoying to be repeatedly deprived of the freedom of choice.

        • Xiyng says:

          Oh, you’re not alone with your dislike for Steam. I, too, don’t like to be forced to use Steam because it IS DRM no matter what most people think. Sure, it has some fancy features but if Valve decides to screw us or something bad happens to Valve, those features will not help us. I hate it how Steam has in many cases become the only way to get a game.

          I want to play PC games and I do trust Steam to an extent, but a game being exclusive to Steam lower its value tremendously. I think I’ve never paid more than 20€ for a Steam with the possible exception of Half-Life 2 when it came out and I didn’t understand the whole Steam thing just yet. Not only that, I only rarely pay more than 10€ for Steam games, and I never intend to pay more than 10€ or 20€ for Steam titles. And yes, I take pride in that. I will gladly pay the price of a new game if I like it enough and if it’s DRM-free (and if I can afford it) but I will never
          1) pay much for anything that uses Steam as DRM
          2) pay anything for anything that uses any unreasonable for of DRM (for example, I’ve skipped Far Cry 3 because of this).

          I just don’t see much value in a game that I might not be able to play whenever I want. I don’t want to be at the mercy of the third party.

  11. goettel says:

    How’s the Oculus support been?

  12. Arach says:

    I haven´t really folowed Hawken all that much lately so I wouldn´t know but is there a reason why they haven´t released it on steam a long time ago?
    As it is(sadly),if your game isn´t on steam these days it generally recieves very poor atention from the media and even gamers(with notable exceptions like Minecraft,League and some MMO´s),and quite frankly,I barely heard anything about Hawken for the better part of a year now.
    I don´t know how big the playerbase is but hopefully with the steam integration it will grow a lot,I had a lot of fun playing it when it first became available(and for a couple of months after).
    Then again,they may be doing very,very well and It´s just me that hasn´t really been paying attention. In fact,now that I think of it,that´s a very likely assumption.

    • killmachine says:

      maybe they wanted to have enough content and the game in a polished state before they put it on steam so people get a good first impression of the game. if you put a unfinished free2play game with lack of polish on steam, people may get a bad first impression and probably never touch the game again.

      it’s hard to convince people to play your game again if they have a bad taste in their mouth from the first time they played it.

  13. XhomeB says:

    So… is a single player campaign still on the cards? The Hawken universe seems like a waste for a multiplayer-only game, it’s so impressive art- and atmosphere-wise.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      I would like this too, though I cannot for the life of me see how any story attached to it would be anything but silly

      • cheap_truth says:

        They released a Hawken comic but it was awful. Someone decided to explain all the structures in the game as a result of some kind of nano virus or whatever. No idea why they’d consider that a better explanation than “it’s just a big city on some planet.” I hope that garbage will never find its way to an eventual single player campaign.

    • MrUnimport says:

      I find the corporate colonies and the raging nanovirus to be story elements best left in the shadows, unexplained, untarnished by awkward writing and melodramatic narration. If that live-action trailer and comic book teaser are anything to go by, it’s better this way.

  14. Lemming says:

    I’ve been rather enjoying CS:GO deathmatch lately, so I may have to give this a go as it looks more my speed, unlike MW:O’s more ponderous approach.

  15. notlimahc says:

    Being on Steam does not mean a game has DRM. There’s even a handy list of Steam games that don’t have DRM: http://pcgamingwiki.com/wiki/The_Big_List_of_DRM-Free_Games_on_Steam

  16. Frank says:

    You know how RPS is often months late on a story?

    You should have tried that here. I’ll forget by the time it actually reaches Steam (where, as far as I can tell, it’s not up).

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  18. Dominic White says:

    There’s a lot of negative vibe on the official forum for the game. Their sweeping rebalance patch aimed to make the game more ‘immediately satisfying’. And by that, they mean that fights are over much, much quicker than they used to be.

    You’d think that two big honking robots would be able to beat on each other for a while before one falls apart, right? Beta players are clocking many encounters at under 2 seconds from first shot fired to kill.

    Have they turned it into another insta-gib twitch shooter? I really hope not. Earlier beta builds kept me coming back time and time again simply because survivability was so high. Skirmishing across half the map almost never led to a kill, and you had to maneuver and blitz to finish someone off. It felt more mecha-ish that way.

    I’ve not got my Steam key, so I’m waiting on a chance to play this new build, but the official boards are full of locked threads now from players saying that the game is a hollow shell now. That’s… worrying.

    • MrUnimport says:

      I’m worried myself. I understand that high TTK leads to a world where clusters of teammates beat lone flankers every single time, and this isn’t necessarily optimal: it’s not too difficult to group up, and often the team that’s better at grouping ends up stomping the other one that attacks piecemeal. And again, there was a point where the optimal scoring strategy was to hang back and wait for a teammate to soften up the opponent before waltzing in and stealing the killing blow. I don’t know if that’s a desirable thing.

      But I’m a little worried that you’ll no longer be able to batter on each other with sustained fire, and that the low-burst, sustainable DPS cannons will suffer for this.