Hawken's next purchasable mech, the Technician, will make the game more accessible to new players when it launches with the game's April update, Meteor Entertainment producer Paul Loynd told Polygon in a recent interview.
The Technician possesses a unique ability that promises to turn Hawken's mechanized battlefield on its ear: It can heal and buff its teammates. Using a gun reminiscent of that of Team Fortress 2's Medic, the Technician can channel energy through its weapon to heal friendly units, charge that energy to provide them with damage-reducing buffs or turn the weapon on foes to drain their health, and reduce their armor.
It's a relatively simple weapon to use, whether you're targeting friend or foe. Loynd said that developer Adhesive Games has been planning on adding the Technician to the game even before it went into open beta last December — not just because of the added strategy that a healer would provide, but because it would make the game accessible to players of lower skill levels.
"We really feel this is going to open up the gameplay a lot for players that really want to play Hawken, but are uncomfortable with the high-skill mechs that are in the game," Loynd said. "A lot of the mechs that are really, really effective require a lot of skill, like the mechs with charge weapons. Being able to hold down that charge, track an enemy, aim and lead them at the same time to get the projectile to hit — it takes a lot of skill to be dodging around bullets while doing all that."
"A lot of the mechs that are really, really effective require a lot of skill..."
Though the Technician possesses some offensive capabilities, its main weapon lacks any significant punch — the mech "won't win many duels," Loynd confessed. It's engineered to be a supporter of allies, keeping its stronger teammates alive while making enemies more vulnerable.
That doesn't mean players will struggle to earn Hawken credits in battle, Loynd said. Healing, buffing and weakening all earn the Technician the same rewards as killing opponents.
"We want to show players you can bring value to the battlefield in ways other than killing other mechs, so we want to reward you for that," Loynd said. "We want to incentivize them to want to go out and play that way."
Adding a class to any game is risky, in terms of balance — especially when you place that class behind the microtransactional paywall. Hawken, a free-to-play game, has to avoid the "pay-to-win stigma" to retain its player base while attracting new fans. Loynd says the developer skirts that danger because of how unique the Technician is among its peers, and because the game's most dedicated players probably have credits to spare.
"People have been playing long enough now that they have enough Hawken credits saved up," Loynd said. "We don't feel like it's an issue where specific people are going to have Technicians — we feel like a lot of people are going to buy the Technician. It's a super unique mech; no one else can do what it can do. We feel like you're going to see an even spread of Technicians throughout the game."
"Each time we add a new mech, we want to throw a wrench in the spokes, basically."
Future updates will look to expand the game in the same horizontal direction that the Technician does, incorporating new strategies, gameplay elements and player skill levels into whatever mechs are added. Loynd said that strategy is not only going to make the core gameplay richer and more complex, it's essential to justify players' purchases of each mech that comes down the development pipeline.
"We feel like mechs should be individuals," Loynd said. "We feel like the core personality of each mech should be unique, so when each player buys a mech, he can easily point to the reasons why. 'Oh, I bought the Technician because he's a healer, and he debuffs guys, and I like to play support.' The other mechs we have coming this year, they're following that template.
"Each time we add a new mech, we want to throw a wrench in the spokes, basically," Loynd said.