Monday, 7 April 2014

Mechwarrior Online and the Clan Pack



Mechwarrior Online is in limbo at the moment when it comes to the introduction of Clan technology and it's battlemechs.  Personally I wouldn't add the clans until much later on and focus on Inner Sphere 'mechs and major features like Community Warfare and private matchmaking.  I don't hate Clan tech or their 'mechs, I just feel they made it too easy for some people to only pick the more powerful tech and ignore the stuff that made Battletech so popular to begin with, but that's more lore and setting related compared to gameplay.

The Masakari or Warhawk pack is everything, but very pricey
I understand that PGI as a company is out to do two things.  Make a game lots of people play regularly and make money.  The clan pack is one of the ways to make money from the players.  Since Mechwarrior Online is free the only way to make money is to have items for purchase to keep the game running.  I don't begrudge them this fact since so many other games work on the same principal and unlike some free to play games, the items purchased in Mechwarrior are not pay to win.  Some people think otherwise, but these are the same people who think Mechwarrior 2 is the original Battletech game and don't see what's wrong with a dual AC/20 Jagermech.

The main issue PGI are facing is the way the game works fundamentally and how it factors into clan technology.  In the original Battletech game the 'mechs of the Inner Sphere had a very restrictive set of variants to choose from.  Modifying a battlemech to use equipment outside of it's factory standard was a time consuming and more importantly expensive process that most house militaries would stick with the standard model.  Sometimes a house would alter a standard chassis enough to warrant an entirely new production model but these were not omnimechs in any form.  House Marik for instance would generally use the Awesome without it's PPC's because they where hard to produce and maintain, instead they would outfit it with large lasers and extra heatsinks.

The clans on the other hand brought powerful and highly advanced omnimech technology.  This technology allowed the clan military to freely switch out weapons and equipment as they saw fit by simply removing the arms and adding a different arm with different weapon configurations for specific roles on the field.  It's one of the clans many advantages on the field. 

One of the most feared clan 'mechs every produced
Mechwarrior Online however allows players to currently mix and match weapons on Inner Sphere 'mechs as they see fit.  This isn't how it works in the Battletech universe and now presents a challenge for the developers.  Since all Inner Sphere 'mechs can be as modular as their clan opponents, the distinctiveness of the 'mechs is lost.  The clans do still have better heatsinks and armour, while their equipment is lighter than that of their Inner Sphere counterparts and take up less critical space.  How much this alters the balance is yet to be seen.

The key part of clan tech we know nothing about yet is weapons and how they work compared.  The clans bring many new weapons to the game specific to their designs listed below:

Streak SRM 4
Streak SRM 6
ER Medium Laser
ER Small Laser
Ultra AC/2
Ultra AC/10
Ultra AC/20
LB - 2X
LB - 5X
LB - 20X

A significant list of very powerful and effective weapons compared to that of the Inner Sphere.  Many on the forums fear the clans will be dead on arrival here but I feel they will likely be balanced since clan tech will not be available for Inner Sphere 'mechs for quite some time.  The more powerful streak missiles of the clans will make light 'mechs cautious, extended range medium lasers will be as effective as IS large lasers with less heat and more damage while the ballistics offerings go without saying.  The first time a Daishi comes at you with dual Ultra AC/20's some players perspectives will change quickly.

The clan package has proven to be quite the divisive item on the forums with many users who previously demanded the clans be added now acting cautiously before purchasing.  The cost is the main issue, being over £140 for the full package it's a lot to drop on free to play game.  I will admit now that I have bought it simply to support the game I love.  I don't hold great love of the clans or how they pretty much ruined Battletech with their introduction, but this money will hopefully go toward keeping the game I enjoy running while providing me with big features and more Inner Sphere 'mechs.
PGI's addition of monthly rewards was a little too late

I won't disagree with people that the pack has been mishandled with the way they presented it.  The $500 gold 'mechs only served to anger people more after the initial shock of the prices and then adding later perks and a la carte options didn't assuage anger, only made people look at it with derision and further caution.  It's true PGI have a way to go in improving their public relations and announcements but it's not the end of the world. 

We still have some things to look forward too before the launch in June.  This month should see the release of the long awaited private match functionality a feature requested by the competitive community since the end of open beta.  New 'mechs are winging their way to us in the next couple of months in the form of the tried and true Vindicator and one of the first 3050 'mechs the Mauler.  Until then it's the same old same old.  See you on the field folks and thanks for reading.

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