How ‘Heavy Gear Assault’ went from concept to demo in 8 weeks (with a little help from Unreal 4)

Heavy Gear AssaultThe annual Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco can be a tough place for a small developer to get noticed, but it can also be a place of opportunity. Developers in need of cash have more options than ever thanks to options like crowd funding, but they still need to draw attention to their project, and show people why anyone should give an unproven developer support. A demo helps, but therein lies a Catch 22: You need money and time to create a demo, but you need a demo to generate money and the time to properly use it. There are exceptions though. Exceptions like Heavy Gear Assault, which went from an idea to a playable demo in just two months using the new Unreal 4 Engine.

The next generation of consoles have mostly drawn attention for their high-power hardware, but they’ll also bring new development software in the form of new game engines. The vast majority of games developed today rely on just a handful of engines, even if many of those engines are heavily modified. That means the new game engines designed for the next gen – like id’s id Tech 5 (we saw just a fraction of its potential with Rage), Square Enix’s mysterious Luminous Studio,  and Dice’s Frostbite 3, could end up having a bigger impact on the gaming industry than even the new hardware. They offer more tools for developers to make better games, and those tools can also speed things up significantly. It can even mean the difference between having a demo ready for GDC or a pile of concept art.

HGAUsing the impressive Unreal 4 engine, Canadian developers Stompy Bot Productions and MekTek Studios appeared at GDC Play in support of their upcoming game, Heavy Gear Assault. The mech-combat game will offer PvP gameplay and work within a free-to-play financial model. The demo being shown was rough around the edges, but it looked fairly impressive (you can see it in action below), especially when you realize that the developers put together the entire demo – from the gameplay mechanics to the mech design to the arena itself – from scratch in under eight weeks.

Unreal 4 is a powerful tool, enabling developers to create prettier games with more impressive effects and more fluid mechanics. But it’s also a tool that has been streamlined to make it as easy to use as possible without limiting the options available to the developer using it. That doesn’t mean anyone can pick up the Unreal 4 Engine and make their own game, but the work that would have once taken several people to complete can now be handled by only a few very smart, and very determined, people, like the developers at Stompy Bot and MekTek.

The heart of the game will feature a very sophisticated ranking system to support the combat. Because it is free-to-play, there will also be a robust economy built around microtransactions, but it goes beyond just purchasing new parts and mechs.

H Gear Assault

The game is tailored for eSports competition, and as with all eSports, there will be those who rise to the top while everyone else is left on the sidelines. That has always been the steepest hurdle to the rise of eSports: How do you get people that play games in an active capacity to accept a role as a passive observer? One idea is in-game sponsorship. 

If there is a top player in Heavy Gear that you think is a good bet, you can officially sponsor them in coming fights. Your sponsorship will then allow the sponsored to purchase new parts and upgrades. You can then watch the fight within the game, on a mobile device, or possibly through a video platform service (negotiations are ongoing with at least one major company that has its toes in the eSports broadcast pool). If your player wins, you will receive a bonus of your own, including credit rewards that you can then spend on your own mech.

heavy gear

The game will offer both individual sponsored matches as well as official tournaments, where competitors can enter and face off against the best gamers in the world, competing for prizes. Many of the details on this are still being worked out, including what type of prizes and how you pay for sponsorships

Esports are a growing industry within an industry, but they still need to find a way to convince people to put down their own controllers and accept a role as a spectator. Sponsorships give fans something to be invested in even, even when they aren’t playing.

There are still plenty of details that need to be worked out, but Heavy Gear Assault is still very early in its development life. It recently began its own crowd-funding campaign to raise $900,000, and it has already reached $116,000 at press time. A companion Kickstarter project will also be announced soon.

Using the Unreal 4 Engine, the game will be state of the art, and include everything from destructible environments to realistic damage of the mechs – shoot an arm, and that arm will become non-functional, hit a leg and watch the mech limp. Despite a huge amount of items available to purchase, no mech will be perfect. They will all have flaws, and finding those flaws will be the key between victory and the scrap heap. That makes confrontations as much about strategy as who is better with a controller.

The next generation of game engines are going to create several new ideas that weren’t even considered before. The idea of a small team putting together a AAA-quality, free-to-play, eSports game would have been ludicrous a few years back. The wave of next-gen hardware isn’t even here yet, but in its wake we are already seeing a glimpse at tomorrow.

Photography

MIT science photographer isn’t an artist, but her work could fill galleries

Felice Frankel is an award-winning photographer, but she doesn't consider herself an artist. As a science photographer, she has been helping researchers better communicate their ideas for nearly three decades with eye-catching imagery.
Gaming

How to make a clan in ‘Destiny 2’ and where to go from there

Want to know how to make a clan in 'Destiny 2'? Here's everything you need to know, including how to design your clan's banner, earn extra loot, and help other players with guided games.
Gaming

‘Fortnite’ adds sword from ‘Infinity Blade,’ which disappears from App Store

Epic Games has added the Infinity Blade melee weapon to Fortnite just as it pulled all three games in the Infinity Blade trilogy from sale. The games are still available to download if you bought them.
Product Review

‘Just Cause 4’ is mindless fun that leaves little room for much else

Just Cause 4 revels in explosions and over-the-top action, but its world feels empty and hollow. With few new ideas and a stale open world, it's a fun but shallow piece of escapism.
Gaming

Still trying to unlock your main in 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'? Try these tips

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is Nintendo’s biggest entry in the series to date with over 70 characters to unlock, but the process can feel tiresome. Here are our tips to unlock your roster as quickly as possible.
Mobile

Put down the controller and pick up the best phones for gaming on the go

Which phones are the best if all you want to do is play some mobile games? We've done the hard work and put together a list of the best gaming phones on Android and iOS, so you can keep playing and winning.
Gaming

Ditch the meditation app. 'Katamari Damacy Reroll' is pure gaming zen

Katamari Damacy Reroll brings the magic of the PS2 classic to Nintendo Switch and PC. With updated visuals and the same great, singular loop, Reroll stands the test of time. Katamari Damacy is the ultimate relaxation game.
Gaming

Need help getting the Sleeper Simulant in 'Destiny 2'? We’ve got you covered

The Sleeper Simulant is one of the coolest new Exotic weapons you can unlock in the Warmind expansion of Destiny 2, but it's an involved process that will take awhile. Here's everything you need to know.
Gaming

Xbox One S vs. PlayStation 4 Slim: Which console is worth your money?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?
Deals

Check out the best Xbox One deals and bundles for December 2018

Microsoft's consoles are just as capable of streaming movies as they are of playing the latest games. Check out our top Xbox One deals and bundles, which include new and upcoming triple-A games like Battlefield V and Fallout 76.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Deals

The NES Classic is back in stock just in time for the holidays

The NES Classic is back in stock at multiple outlets at its original launch price of $60 in time for Christmas. Retailers offering it online are Walmart, GameStop, Target, and Best Buy -- if you're looking for the perfect holiday gift for…
Gaming

Some ‘Fortnite’ players aren’t too happy with the new Infinity Blade weapon

The most recent update for Fortnite added the Infinity Blade melee weapon to battle royale, and some players aren't happy with how much it has changed the game during competitions.
Gaming

Soulja Boy’s ‘new’ console appears to include stolen Nintendo games

Rapper Soulja Boy recently released his SouljaGame console, and it includes several emulated games that appear to be stolen from companies like Nintendo, SNK, and Capcom. A handheld version is also available.