Hawken, a free-to-play first-person shooter, isn't out until December 12 — the once-in-a-century 12/12/12 — but it's already stirred some buzz, with more than 250,000 players reportedly registered for the beta release, and 1.2 million YouTube views for an early trailer.
The next step is a graphic novel anthology from Archaia Entertainment, the acclaimed publisher behind Return of the Dapper Men and Tale of Sand. Though not out until March 2013, Archaia has already announced much of the talent working on the book — writer Jeremy Barlow, familiar to the world of video game adaptation with his work on the upcoming Mass Effect: Homeworlds for Dark Horse Comics, is joined by multiple artists: Federico Dallocchio, Nathan Fox, Stefano Gaudiano, Michael Gaydos, Bagus Hutomo, Christopher Moeller, Moritat, Alex Sanchez, Brian Thies, Greg Tocchini and Francisco Ruiz Velasco, with more to be announced.The game already has significant ties to the comic book world, as one of Hawken's major creative forces is Khang Le, whose story "Monster Slayers," from the anthology series Flight, was nominated for the "Best Short Story" Eisner Award in 2006. Joe LeFavi, who heads up business development for Archaia's "Black Label" imprint, said Hawken has plenty of material to explore in a graphic novel, as the creative team composed 200 pages of mythology to flesh out the game's world. "[Le] and six other guys in Alhambra, California decided, 'We're going make a game, and we're going make a mech world like we've always wanted to see,'" LeFavi told Newsarama at the C2E2 convention in Chicago earlier this month. "A lot of the mech worlds are polished surfaces, everything's perfect, lens flares. Theirs is more Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell dark, dirty, wires, rust, imperfections."
The graphic novel aims to be a true co-production between Archaia and Hawken publisher Meteor Entertainment, with the book's backmatter containing maps, stats and codes relating to the game — but the stated goal is to tell a three-act story set in the world, rather than simply rehashing the experience of shooting up mechs.
"This is a story about mechs," said LeFavi, who's co-editing the book with Archaia publisher (and video game industry veteran) Mike Kennedy. "What it's actually about it so much more, and spans across so many genres. No matter who you are, we've designed it in a way where there's something truly human in their view to connect with. That's been our goal since day one."
To that end, the multiple artists working on the book is designed to match a different visual style with various moments in the story, as best fits."Every time we cover a key moment, and the mood of it changes — it's either lighter or darker — we found an artist that fits," LeFavi said. "When you see Nathan Fox, he's doing what Nathan Fox does best, in a story that deserves Nathan Fox. When you see Greg Tocchini, that's a certain type of artist, certain type of feel, he's supposed to be there and he's the only one who could have done it."
Though Archaia produces multiple original works a year, like Mouse Guard and the upcoming Cow Boy, much of their reputation has been built on their licensing deals, specifically with The Jim Henson Company. LeFavi said that Hawken's "artistic integrity" means it fits firmly into that tradition.
"It's a beautiful game. It's like playing concept art," LeFavi said. "The game's free. They just wanted to share the world with people. That speaks to what Archaia is."