The big three console manufacturers – Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony – thrive on attracting gamers with franchises that are exclusive to their platforms. Sony has one of the year’s most intriguing proprietary releases with Starhawk for the Playstation 3.
This riveting third person shooter offers a complete package, striking a balance between a strong single player story mode and a robust set of multiplayer features. The unique gameplay is also enhanced by a gritty “space western” theme, with imaginative characters and landscapes that offer a fresh take on the genre.
It’s a fun world to lose yourself in, and one of the developers responsible for creating the look and gameplay mechanics for Starhawk is Game Development graduate William Kirkman III. William is a designer at LightBox Interactive, and recently spoke with us about the year and a half he spent at the studio helping produce the game.
Full Sail: Starhawk has a great design aesthetic, was it a fun world for you to create? What were some of the influences?
William Kirkman III: It was a blast working on a world based on a sci-fi western theme, there were so many different directions we could take things and so many unique ideas I feel we were able to pull off in the game. We drew a lot of influence for the setting from series like Firefly and Cowboy Bebop.
For the gameplay, Gears of War's Horde mode was a huge inspiration for our own Prospector mode, and we drew on both the Battlefield series and Unreal Tournament for our fast-paced vehicular combat.
Full Sail: What were some of the technical aspects of development you contributed to?
WK: When I first started I was working on the early prototype for a level in the single player campaign. This involved brainstorming encounters for ‘Mission 4: The Pipeline’, laying out some scripting groundwork to get the level running, and populating the level with placeholder objects and enemies.
I eventually moved on to putting all my time into getting the co-op mode, Prospector, fully up and running. I scripted all of the systems and enemy encounters, made several map tweaks, and maintained Prospector mode from its creation to the project's finish.
FS: Do you have a favorite gameplay feature that you think makes Starhawk stand out from other titles?
WK: I think our Hawks (the flying vehicles you use in the game) are pretty unique. The ability to go from jetting through the skies and blasting away foes to transforming into a mech that can wreck a base and stomp on enemies is awesome. I can't think of any other games that have something like it.
FS: Looking back on the development process, what are you most proud of?
WK: I'm really proud of my work on Prospector mode, I think it turned out great. It really plays well, and allows people to come together, build a base and work together to fend off waves of enemies. It's exciting and quite challenging on the harder difficulties, and it also features randomized enemy waves so most playthroughs won't be the exact same.
FS: What's coming up next for you?
WK: Currently I'm working on a patch for a new game mode for Starhawk, but I can't say much more about it since it hasn't been revealed yet!