Developer Blog: 0.5.0 Hive Hunt Game Mode

Dev Blog
October 10, 2023

Attention Troopers!

It’s time to take the fight to the Bugs and start delving deep into the caves of Valaka. Now that we have the intel and Hive locations, start preparing to dive beneath the planet’s surface brave Troopers of the Vanguard!

Before we send you on your way, we’ve got some more intel from the top brass to share with you about your next mission.

What is Hive Hunt?

Hive Hunt is a 4-player, timed game mode that drops a squad deep into the heart of the vast planetary cave systems found throughout the Starship Troopers Universe. Players need to navigate the caves of Valaka to seek out each Bug Hive location, and deliver a nuclear payload to eliminate the threat. It is shipping with 3 maps, with more to come before the end of the year.

The game mode is inspired by the tension and claustrophobia of the Arachnid tunnel scenes from the series. Troopers are moving into the Bugs’ home turf in this mode, where a Warrior can be around any tight corner or just out of sight at any time. Hive Hunt plays off that feeling and challenge of being deep into enemy territory where you need to be careful and quick on the trigger, before you’re face to face with the Arachnids on their terms.

Why is Hive Hunt only for 4 players? 

Our game was built around the fact that 16 players is the core experience for ST:E, to which we remain committed. However, it is important for us to explore new modes for different group sizes. We want players of any type to be able to come into the game and find an experience that matches their game style.

Also, we want to have experiences that offer different time commitments for our player base. When we looked at the design for our Hives feature, we knew right away that the deep tunnels and caves of a planet would be the perfect fit for the majority of these hunts. 

What Inspired the Hive Hunt maps in regards to Level Design?

Hi, my name is Tiemo, and I am a Senior Level Designer on Starship Troopers: Extermination and responsible for the first batch of Hive Hunt levels. 

My main goal of the level design was to create smaller, denser and more action-packed scenarios for the new game mode while keeping the same gameplay that’s familiar from the surface of Valaka. With this big change from 16 to 4 players, we explored different sized caves to see how gameplay would evolve. The initial idea was to have clear “arenas” for combat, with smaller sections of exploration leading up to it.

As we started to create the first blockouts, the cave sections were all similar in size and didn’t feel quite right. Even the bigger areas just weren’t as impressive or daunting as we hoped. By adding smaller sized zones we were able to create a certain build-up and contrast, where big areas really felt more grand and smaller areas felt slightly horrifying when all of a sudden a Tiger would storm your way.

Navigation within any cave system is always a tough task to tackle, especially where players are easily turned around and lose sense of direction amid hordes of enemies. Journeying through these caves efficiently as a player without any landmarks that can be seen from afar proved to be difficult. 

The general rule of the layouts would be to have objectives appear in a more linear pathway while keeping side pathways and detours optional. This main pathway in addition is dressed with gore and crystals to lead the player more naturally from objective to objective instead of having a simple marker that pops up at every corner. Nonetheless, players who stray from the main path to explore are rewarded with pickups in the form of weapon crates that feature various equipment from simple shock beacons to rocket launchers.

Map design iteration

What inspired the Art Direction for Hive Hunts?

Hello, my name is Shawn, and I am the Art Director on Starship Troopers Extermination.

As we explore new areas of Valaka, we started to ask ourselves what do the Arachnid hives look like? So far all we do is NUKE Bug holes, and in very few cases in the past have we delved into them. We also wanted to explore something almost as preposterous as a Bug that thinks…Bugs that think together!

Once we had our layout and first pass of cavern-like structures, I started to think about and look at the mood or feel of the hive. Again, this is at the front lines so I created a concept (pictured below) to look at what the hives’ upper layer could be. I wanted to show a battle worn section. Hive goo or Bug gore as we called it, appears all over the walls and torn up from combat. Dead trooper bodies lay limp throughout the caverns, possibly from previous hive battles or trophies/dinner of the Bugs.

Below is the concept artwork for Hive Hunt:

In the concept, I also gave it a bit of a “fake” dark lighting feel you see in most games or movies. Eerie glows of orange from the thick atmosphere and gasses of the planet are present. In early play tests, though, I felt the lighting was a bit too bright. Players were able to see everything clearly in a “dark” cave without the need of a flashlight. So I made a slight change and pushed the cave into more of a dark, thick atmosphere – almost horror in nature. This change allows the players to make full use of their flashlights. And it also allows us to use the thicker atmosphere as a way to show depth and punch out silhouettes of objects in the caverns a bit better. 

From there, I wanted something to help direct players a bit so we introduced the idea of the Ore that the Federation mines to be present in the caverns. Crystals reflecting the flashlight almost light the way through the caves. After all, isn’t this why the Federation is here: Ore crystals, precious gasses in the thick atmosphere of the caves…? Well I’m not the Sky Marshal and do not have the proper clearance to say anything more.

We hope you enjoyed this deep dive into our newest game mode, Hive Hunt. Thank you all for continuing to support our game! We’ll see you beneath the surface.

– Starship Troopers: Extermination Development Team