Haden Blackman, one of the driving creative forces behind LucasArts’ (R.I.P.) Star Wars: The Force Unleashed games, has a mysterious new project in the works at 2K Games’ newly formed studio, Hangar 13. He and his team are tucked away in one of the many “hangar” buildings at 2K’s Novato, Calif. headquarters.
There’s no word on what Hangar 13 is working on specifically, but a prepared statement from Blackman hints at the studio’s vision:
“At Hangar 13, our mantra is ‘Every player story is unique. Our ambition is to create next-generation games that allow players to shape their own experiences, from the moment-to-moment gameplay, to the long-term impact on the world, characters and narrative. To realize this goal, we’re building proprietary technology and assembling a core team passionate about delivering mature experiences loaded with meaningful choices.”
While a lot of that is just the sort of high-level hype-building you’d expect from a new studio announcement, there are a few nuggets to think about, at least. Hangar 13’s vision seems to be wrapped up in creating the sort of emergent experiences that make games like Far Cry 4 and Grand Theft Auto V so exciting. At least, that’s how the new studio’s lead tells it.
“The reason why I got excited about games as a kid, and continually went back to games and played games, was because the games I was playing at the time did have this notion that the player’s story was unique. I could sit down and talk to my brothers about playing the game, and the experiences I had. And it would be different on some level than the experiences that they had,” Blackman tells Digital Trends.
“Sometimes it would be small things, like how we approached a certain puzzle or combat situation,” he continues. “Or, if it was an RPG, the way that we customized our character. If it was an action game, the abilities of the sequence of moves that we might have used to defeat an enemy. And then sometimes it was obviously a much more global thing: The way we constructed a party, the characters that we brought with us, the way that the narrative, if there was one, affected us.”
So Blackman’s vision for Hangar 13 is to create games that channel those early experiences of sitting and swapping stories with his brothers about the virtual worlds they inhabited. And he hopes to hit those buttons for players on every level, from the moment-to-moment choices we make to the macro-level planning.
There are lots of games that offer similar experiences these days, so we’ll have to wait and see how Hangar 13 plans to rock that status quo. For Blackman’s part, the team’s first project is wrapped in a veil of secrecy. It’s too early, even, to confirm whether or not the mysterious project is based on a known franchise, or if it’s something completely new.
“I think there’s a lot of games out there that are doing it in specific ways, isolated instances. Maybe they’re looking at the game mechanics, or how it impacts the narrative,” he says. “Over time, we want to get to a place where we’re known for doing it across the board, on every level.”
It’s also worth noting that the studio’s first project will be built on proprietary tech. Instead of using a known game engine like Unreal or Unity, Blackman’s team will create the foundational elements for its game in-house. And that makes a huge difference, as Blackman tells it.
“Throughout my career, the 20 or so games I’ve worked on, I think only one has been [built with] licensed tech,” he says. “Everything else has been proprietary. That, to me, is incredibly exciting and liberating. Obviously it’s not without its challenges and risks, but it allows us to build the tech that we need to build for this specific game. And to build a foundational tech for a studio.”
For now, it all boils down to vague, if exciting, promises. That’s not a bad thing coming from a guy with a background like Blackman’s. And he’s backed by a team that includes industry veterans from LucasArts, as well as the Dead Space, Splinter Cell, and other major franchises. Given 2K’s history of working with visionary creatives like Irrational Games’ (R.I.P.) Ken Levine, Blackman is in a good spot with his Hangar 13 team to fulfill the studio’s ambitious vision.
You can learn more about Hangar 13 at it’s official website, though it wasn’t yet active at the time of this writing.