Building and Battling: Dylan Jobe Discusses Starhawk

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Building and Battling: Dylan Jobe Discusses Starhawk

My first job when I joined PlayStation in 2008 was a piece of copywriting for Warhawk – if you received an email newsletter about the Operation: Broken Mirror expansion pack, then that was me. So it was with some nostalgia that I watched Dylan Jobe announce Starhawk – the spiritual successor to what is still a very popular online game, more than three years on.

The key innovation is Build & Battle, which lets the player place towers, launchpads, turrets and more wherever they like on the battlefield and in real-time, without ever taking their finger off the trigger or leaving the fray. This applies to both the full single player campaign and the 32 strong online multiplayer, the tactical implications on which are huge.

After the announcement, I sat down with Dylan to flesh out some more detail on one of the most exciting PS3 exclusives of 2012.

Starhawk for PS3Starhawk for PS3

How has the online shooter landscape changed since Warhawk was released in 2007?

Warhawk was timed great because PlayStation Network was relatively new; it was online multiplayer only, which was rare; and our approach to games was fun and novel at that time. I’d describe it as the lovechild of Unreal Tournament and Battlefield.

Fast-forward to 2011 and the landscape is different, with a tonne of shooters out there. I wouldn’t say the genre is bloated because I love shooters, but it’s competitive and that was both a concern and a motivator for Starhawk. It certainly forced us to be original and come up with genre innovations. Ask any gamer out there and they’ll say that they want to see something new. Too often, the only difference between one shooter and the next is the visual style of the gun and the scene that it is pointing at.

What were the best things about Warhawk?

Two core elements spring to mind: multi-dimensional, fast-paced action, where you’re running and then driving and then you’re flying and it’s all seamless. A lot of other shooters relegate vehicle use to compartmental sections where you come down a tunnel, drive a tank from point A to point B, get out of the tank… that’s not what our game is. You can summon a Hawk on a launchpad wherever and whenever you want.

My second favourite element is the huge landscapes and a vehicle, in the Hawk, with which to get around very quickly. At one moment you could be creeping around a base on foot and seeing great detail close up, and at the next you can fly miles down the road at mach 2. We’re glad to have carried that scale over to Starhawk.

What other Warhawk qualities have you carried over to Starhawk?

Warhawk players like that addictive, fast-paced gameplay and Starhawk has it too – you can have a great experience in 20 minutes if you want or you can sink months into the multiplayer. You should never second-guess your fans but I hope that they see Starhawk as an improvement that serves them proud.

People were expecting us to announce something like Warhawk and the rumours about Starhawk have been doing the rounds for a while, but I think people will be surprised by how much of the game we have shown to media and, having spoken to many journalists, nobody predicted the Build & Battle gameplay.

Starhawk for PS3Starhawk for PS3

Warhawk was multiplayer only but Starhawk has a full solo campaign with a story. What is the LightBox storytelling philosophy?

There’s a whole bunch of ways to skin that cat: there are many great ways to go about game storytelling and there are a few ways that, in my opinion, are recipes for disaster. If you have a story that is too grand then you might not be able to execute it properly. Our approach is to give the player a series of exciting and flexible combat challenges that are strung together with a tale about Emmet Graves and his brother, with missions blending into really cool 2D animation sequences.

It seems like every connected game comes with a set of ‘community features’, but what exactly is a game community and how should it be supported?

I think that there are a lot of people out there who think that if you create a bunch of features then you have a community and that’s just not true. Publishers need to know that if you don’t have a vocal fan base and a game that people are passionate about, then you don’t have a community. Sony understands this.

Our take on community is to listen to those passionate players to discover the kinds of things that they want to do, and develop those features. We develop community features that the players want and need; we’re not just saying, ‘here’s a bunch of community features… go be a community!’ That’s not the way to do it at all.

Starhawk for PS3

The in-game tournaments sound exciting. How do they work?

The tournament system in Starhawk is rad. In Warhawk we had a lot of people co-ordinating their own tournaments with third-party websites and gaming leagues, and they were successful, but we want to make it way easier for anyone playing the game to create a tournament. It’s completely integrated and allows players to choose from a variety of options.

To give an example: you want to have a tournament this weekend with your buddies to see who is best at flying a Hawk. You go in and create a private tournament and set it so that sign-up is on Wednesday but it’s going to begin on Friday, and it’s going to be based on Hawk kills in one particular environment. That sets up the server for the players you’ve selected as eligible and that server will automatically track results during the time window that you have set and then post the results afterwards. We also have the ability to create central tournaments that pay out little rewards, so you can go to your trophy room and see all the stamps that you got for participating or finishing in the top ten, and so forth.

Starhawk for PS3

As a new development studio, what is the LightBox ethos?

We’re a fun crew! We were originally a part of Incognito out in Salt Lake City and we wanted to have our own studio in a new location, so we moved to Austin, Texas, which is a really hip, fun town. We’re all very liberal and open-minded; we love music and, crucially, we’re all big gamers. We care deeply about our craft. A journalist asked me earlier about the Starhawk sales projections and, as the president of the company, I do care deeply about all that stuff. But truthfully it is Sony’s job to make sure it sells a lot of copies. My job is to make Starhawk a great game – the kind of thing that my colleagues and friends want to play.

Comments are closed.


  • Three thoughts come to mind:

    “Here’s a bunch of community features… go be a community.” Yeah, there’s Home alright. XD

    What’s going to happen with Incognito? Are they working on another game, or…? Seriously, is this a case of studio multiplication or migration?

    And @ kavewoman48 (7)
    Speak for yourself, except don’t speak at all. I’ve spent three weeks ticked off that the only thing we’ve been seeing is PSN apologies. This was always a site for game blogs and that’s precisely the sort of entertainment I could’ve used when PSN was down. They have a lot of catching up to do and it’s better they fill the silence than let the complaints wondering what’s going on fill up the comment sections. (Up to 4000 last I checked.)

    • Incognito evolved into two new, independent studios that are both working with SONY right now.

      Eat Sleep Play is a fantastic studio and they’re working on the new Twisted Metal — which looks sick BTW! And LightBox Interactive which is working on Starhawk.

      Pretty good deal for SONY i’d say ;-)

  • @8 Cagalli

    I have done that, thank you for your suggestion.

  • Sad… This just looks like Unreal Tournament now.. So I’m expecting crappy single player which is going to be basically multiplayer with bots..

    • Its good to be skeptical and let us earn your trust and excitement in Starhawk. But I can tell you that just “bot” play was something that we actively wanted to avoid and that our solo-campaign is not like UT with bots.

      Keep your eyes on the game and hopefully your interest in the game will increase :-)

  • Brilliant mixture of the classic Warhawk formula and RTS elements. I loved Warhawk but this blew me away. Day one no doubt and I can’t wait to give it a spin at E3. See ya there!

  • The 3,000 number included comments from the welcome back package blog, it’s well over that number now.

  • diz iz gona be a serious GOTY-CONTENDER!! NO DOUBT!! >;DD

    • Thanks for the kind words but the team and I still have *A LOT* of work. Sure, we’ve been very humbled but the sheer amount of positive opinion about the game, you gotta know that we never take it for granted. We’re going to work crazy hard on Starhawk and then we let the “judges” sort it all out after the game drops.

      And really, the team and I care more about what the fans think than just earning awards.

  • @NyPrince
    From what I’ve heard the AI is actually quite good It will flank you and strafe.

    And the bots don’t spawn in the same numbers/places every time you play the level.

    Should be epic.

    • Our Ai team has done some really amazing work on Starhawk and I’m really proud of them. As you all can imagine, it’s very challenging to engineer AI to not only be great troops, but have the “smarts” to know that if they are being attacked from the air, that they can go, find a Hawk, get in it, transform and then engage in a dogfight.

      That kind of stuff is actually crazy hard to develop.

  • @ 52 Kavewoman48

    Yeah, and have you read even half those comments?

    A lot of them aren’t actually saying anything that needs responding to. Half of them would be responded to with “Good to be back.” Half of the remaining half would be blank responses because Sony can’t afford to tell the commenters that with the system set up as it is, all resources allocated to whatever game is running, cross-game chat isn’t possible. And blended in with those would just be people who were indignant.

    It’s been four days since they started things back up and they aren’t even done yet. Patience is a virtue, and one sadly lacking in my generation.

  • 5,470 comments on two blog within 24 hours, the call center is backed up, the forum boards hold no new information just the same questions I’m asking and there is nothing new posted on the FAQ blog. This is why I’m posting my questions here and hoping someone notices there are still unresolved issues with changing passwords.

  • I watched the director’s commentary video over on the main PS site a few days ago and this game is crazy like warhawk on steriods. Can’t wait.

    • UGH… I look sooo tired in that video. I was running on not very much sleep there which is why I look like a zombie.

  • I think all that placed in recent WARHAWK tournaments should get beta invites.

    P.s. My Chanpions Blade is beastly and STARHAWK is going to be EPIC

    • We know that we are going to do some special stuff for all of our Warhawk fans and that’s a good idea.

      Starhawk tournaments are way cooler BTW. More info on that in the coming days!

  • Everything about Starhawk sounds amazing. My question is how the heck does build and battle work? Cause i can easily see alot of ppl spamming and abusing the system….it should not be unlimited in the battle

    • Good question and know that the team and I are always looking into how people might exploit or mess with other players using Build & Battle and developing ways to protect against it. Its a hard thing though ’cause there are always some players who are just always looking for clever ways of being, how shall I say it, “unsportsman-like”.

      i would use a different word there except I am trying to adhere to the BLOG’s posting policy :-)

      Definitely a topic that we can cover in a blog post because we get asked the question a lot!

  • i think they will

  • Starhawk, is looking very good, can’t wait to see more at E3.

    Yo, Jeff or Sid, if you read this, Since PSblog now returning to bringing some PlayStation news again, Can you get Nisa to talk about Disagea 4, Bleach: Soul Resurrección, and Atelier Totori and Team Bondi/ Rockstar to talk L.A. Noire PS3 exclusive content? I know you guys got a lot of catching up to do on the blog so it’s cool, no hurry. Hoping though this week will be filled with awesome news on the PSblog, not concerning the psn downtime.

  • i saw some videos about this game, looks hilarious bad!

  • Lead character Black (check), big explosions (check), flying transforming mechs (check), Multiple players (check), build and battle gameplay (check) and more explosions (check). I’m sold. 8-)

  • I’m so excited for this game! I loved Warhawk. It had some of the best dogfights and vehicle mayhem out there and Starhawk seems like it’s pushing it to the next level.

  • Sure hope they retain the best feature of Warhawk:

    4-player split-screen WITH online

    Had the best time with my buddies this way…

  • I’m impressed. Warhawk didnt win me over… but this game looks like its right up my alley.

    • Well keep watching Starhawk and hopefully we can make sure we get “up your alley”

      …that sounded awkward.

  • starshawk going be epic like warhawk was great wait on e3 now baby

  • I gotta say…I am looking forward to this quite a bit :)

  • @ Kavewoman48

    Calm down, besides your the only one complaining that i’ve seen.

  • I’m actually really hyped for this game which is surprising to me because I tend to not care about multiplayer centric games. The build and battle system looks like it could be the biggest thing to hit third person shooters since the invention of cover systems. I love the new Hawks, it reminds me of Robotech. Add the sci-fi/western setting and you have something really interesting.

    • Seeing your post is really exciting to me because we really want to open up the game to more players! And even if you never go online with Starhawk, you can still have a really fun time playing solo. There are so many different ways to play the missions that you’ll get a ton of enjoyment from it.

      But Starhawk multiplayer is wicked, wicked fun and I do hope you get a chance to go online and play some MP!!

      And you’re right, the Build & Battle system does add an entire new dimension to the game. It allows players to choose defensive tactics or offensive tactics. So if you’re the kind of player that prefers to support your team rather than be out on the “front lines” you can do that now in a very new way with Build & Battle.

  • its says its still under maintenance why and when will i get on the shop once more

  • There is no game I want to play more than Starhawk. It’s going to be a hard year-long wait for me T_T

  • @SmooshyKing

    “On the multiplayer side, Starhawk features 32-player matches, up to four-player online and offline co-op play, and split-screen gameplay within multiplayer and co-op modes against an endless attack of enemies.”

    I believe they stated that it’ll be 2 player split screen online, Maybe can Gallagher confirm it ?

  • As great as this looks, at E3, PLEASE show a mission with two mother ships in space duking it out Star Wars Battlefront II style, if I see that, I’m totally in!

    • Starhawk does have space environments but we are keeping them under wraps still — give you guys some tasty stuff to look forward to!

  • @Kavewoman48 Since the Store is not up, there’s no further information they can give you. They told you what would be in it, and now you must be patient until the store is up. It should be within a few days after the store is up that we get the package. SOE already gave out stuff on FreeRealms (and probably DC Universe Online, I only play FR). They can’t answer EVERY single question that people ask. Honestly, they’ve answered plenty. They don’t need to go into further specifics, what more do you need to know besides what they’ve said (besides anything about the welcome back package).

    Anyways, it’s nice to see game updates on here instead of the depressing PSN blogs. Hopefully we see the PS Store update soon, and then it ends the depressing blogs about someone’s pathetic attempt at tearing down a company that many of us love.

  • looks like a good shooter

  • might go to gamestop and find me a copy of warhawk

  • THIS GAME IS GONNA BE EPIC, I’M ALREADY HYPED UP! I just can’t stand when people ignore this game and are posting about something unrelated to the article. This is a gaming blog first not a FAQ about your PSN problems. I’ll also feel bad for the people ignoring this game thinking it’ll b crap i already know for a fact that this game will be the best multiplayer game in a long while, ut it seems weird how you guys seem to have posted all of this information based on everyone already knowng about the game, i think you should post another blog with more basic info about the game and some gameplay vids and trailers.

  • I’ve been waiting 3 weeks to say this, SOLD lol!!! 8)

  • It’s so good to see actual gaming news on the blog again. Oh, by the way the game is looking good. Looks leaps and bounds better then Warhawk.

    • I really loved Warhawk. It was fun and addictive but you’re right, Starhawk really is sooo much more.

  • @57 Jeigh

    Yes, I have read ALL of the comments on the FAQ blog, that’s why I’m appalled that Sony has yet responded to any of the inquiries about the password reset problem. On the first page someone asked if there is any new information about the password problem and there was no reply. Security is a priority, how secure is my account if I’m unable to change the password?

    @71 Ryan5147

    You missed comment 33 on the first page.

  • @77 azariaspice

    My comments have nothing to do with the Playstation Store. My comments (if you had taken the time to read them) are about the password reset problems.

  • Sounds very innovative…All these new concepts are amazing, I hope the execution does justice to them.

    • Execution matters to us — a ton! And you’re right, you can have a great idea but if you don’t execute on it well, it almost really doesn’t even matter.

      The God of War series is a great example of killer execution. Those games are just soooo tight and well done. The quality of their execution makes their world feel so damn immersive.

  • Double Points for Warhawk please. Or maybe a sale on the other DLC thru +?

    Its the game I just jumped back to. I can’t wait for this one. Will it release on PSN and disc?

  • Nice game sony make halo for ps3 please.

  • not interested in this topic. maybe a good RPG for us RPG fans maybe? i just want news on the psn store to be back up. is that so hard to ask? and when with this welcome back program?

  • This looks pretty awesome! Can not wait to hear more on it!

  • @88 Lol…

  • This game looks great! I have never played Warhawk, but I enjoy TPS and the occasional RTS, so here’s to hoping it becomes a big hit in 2012!

  • SO excited for this!
    It looks to have improved the “on foot” shooting mechanics too:D
    I love the art style of this game.
    Warhawk was an INCREDIBLE online multiplayer game. My favorite part was being able to play with up to 4 players ONLINE in split screen mode!
    Please bring back this feature for STARHAWK!!!

  • Wait till my buddies see this lol


    • 2012 is a good time to release — isn’t the world gonna end then anyway? We’ll all get to play Starhawk when the robot uprising, asteroid impact, zombie apocalypse or whatever comes!

  • Loved playing Warhawk with my friends.

    Can’t wait to play Starhawk !

  • that game sounds AWESOME!!

  • I’ve been salivating over the prospect of a new Warhawk since the damn servers merged and I lost my Official Fallen Star server. (I cried manly tears that day.)

    Speaking of which, I hope Starhawk still has the ability to ditch a Hawk and go sailing away on a rocket pack. That was the best thing they ever added to Warhawk, in my opinion. The game just wasn’t the same without it.

  • Truly looking epic

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