Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Russ Bullock just doesn't get Battletech

So this is going to be lengthy one because I am a little pissed with the developers of Mechwarrior Online right now.  I enjoy the game, I love the Battletech universe and really want this game to succeed but the way they are going about working this entire system of "balance" is stupid.  Below in italics is Russ Bullock and his most recent post regarding "Clan balance" (Ignore the hyperlinks, I just copy and pasted this wholesale)

Hello MechWarrior’s,
In light of the upcoming clan weapon changes today...

This is a long awaited update on PGI's latest feelings and plans as it pertains to Clan balance. I expect it to be a very lengthy post so please bear with me as we work through the entire logic of our balance decisions and plans.

First off, let's all go back to the initial clan announcement and postings of how the technology would work. We were very clear from the very start that we were determined to not make the same mistake of past MechWarrior games in establishing the Clan mech’s as the "end game". In other words we weren't making a second game but that these Clan mech’s needed to fit and exist within MWO. We let players know how the engines, armor and Omni pods would work as well as a general description of how the weapons would play. This was going to create a unique feel to the clans but hopefully very balanced with IS mech’s.

Now that things have settled in we can see that, yes, we have fulfilled the requirements of how the technology will work as well as attaining that unique feel. However we can also see that the balance between IS and Clans is further apart than we had estimated. So the question has been, how do we plan to address this?

We have come to the conclusion that, for the foreseeable future, this is NOT a viable option for MWO, here are some of the reasons why:

  • UI redesign of the pre-game, scoreboard and end of round screen.
  • New rules for tie breakers surrounding the uneven team sizes
  • Significant re-factoring of the match maker to develop team sizes that don’t match.
  • 'Mech chassis tonnage balancing will no longer work.
  • Elo will no longer work with 10 vs 12 team calculations.
These elements alone (not including other edge cases) represent at least several additional weeks, if not months, into refactoring and testing time before they would be ready for deployment. That is time that will directly impact the development and delivery of CW modules 2+.

So you can't just make a module of community warfare that is just the houses of the Inner Sphere fighting each other like the 4th Succession war until that work is completed?  I mean players would be happy to have something at this point even without clan 'mechs being in the warfare module, it's been over 2 years for clan tags, I think we have proven to be a somewhat patient lot.  It doesn't have to impact development time because you don't have to do it RIGHT THIS SECOND GUYS.  But as you can see this is just a cop out excuse so they can work on their new title alongside MWO. 

But perhaps more importantly than that, if we went down this path the overall message to the community is basically “Yes your IS mech’s are weaker, but if you put lots of them together you might win”. This is not what we communicated to the MWO community as to our plans for the Clan mech’s and how they would balance within MWO.

Oh shit really!?!?! Clan equipment is better than Inner Sphere?!!?! Let me check the original books..........HOLY FUCKING SHIT THE CLANS ARE WAY BETTER!  Seriously this is what is supposed to happen Russ when the clans attack.  It would be a pretty lame invasion story if a force from beyond the Periphery attacked that only had equipment on par with the Inner Sphere.  Seriously the entire point about the invasion is that the great houses have basically blown the shit out of each other for so long that their tech is very close to falling back into a dark age because of all the damage they have wrought upon each other.

The clans are the opposite.  The descendants of those who fled the warring states and created a much harsher but more stable society that emphasised skill, breeding, genetics and technology above all else.  They had no lord to answer to and fought each to better themselves.  So their return to the Inner Sphere is for them a holy crusade to liberate the Inner Sphere from the corruption of their old ways.  The whole point in their addition to Battletech was to create an enemy that players could not only be afraid to face but also provide a decent challenge too.

So what if players who run Inner Sphere 'mechs have to outnumber the clans, it's thematically correct that is what happened in Battletech.  I do not want a situation where a 45 ton Inner Sphere medium can go toe to toe with a 45 ton Clan medium.  That is why we have 10v12 in the tabletop, that is why clans run stars and house units run lances.  It's Battletech for fuck's sake.  The word balance and clans should never be used together in the same sentence.

Balancing Plan

At this point we cannot make the statement that we have a picture perfect solution to IS vs Clan balance, but we do have a solid plan of attack. First off just knowing that we are going to exist within a 12v12 environment is one of the major decisions we were waiting to make, and now that it has been decided, we can chip away at the problem.

The first step is to release this latest round of Clan weapon changes this week. We HOPE this is the last Clan weapon nerfs we will have to implement. Not because we feel like this will be enough, (in fact we know that it will not) but in an effort to keep the unique feeling of the clan mech’s strong we will look to other areas to bridge the rest of the gap. Such as the following POTENTIAL changes:

  • Clan Heat and Movement penalties if a Right or Left torso is destroyed.
  • Small increase in IS Mech heat efficiency.
  • Complete IS mech Quirk pass to give more uniqueness and ability when used within their respective roles.
  • Increase in IS and Clan mech armor and internal structure if time to death decreases too much.
So basically your super advanced clan battlemech gets slower when their super advanced XL engine loses a torso.  This isn't really correct but whatever, they already fucked the customisation up when they allowed IS 'mech to completely refit their engines but capped the clans with the stock engine.

The second point makes Inner Sphere 'mech even more heat efficient than they already are.  Given the pretty borked system using things like ghost heat this change is retarded.  People still maintain that the ghost heat system was a terrible change that didn't fix anything but created more headaches for players.  There are plenty of good alternates to this system but PGI don't give a fuck at this point.

Now the quirks I actually agree with here since the original Technical readout's gave every 'mech plenty of quirks about their design that could be easily translated into the game.  The few they have done have made some 'mechs more viable than ever.

The final point is one of the worst.  Making everything even more survivable will make players more flippant about tactics since they know they can take dual Gauss to the face and still have armour.  The game already has double armour and internal values so making them bigger doesn't make sense.  If we still had the tabletop values, people would use this thing called tactics, where light 'mech players wouldn't  just run off at the beginning of a match and ignore their team, assaults would be terrifying weapons on the field and not just slow moving missile fodder.

Our plan is to begin this plan of attack on the balance of the game this weekend with the implementation of the latest Clan weapon changes and then continue on with the other items systematically over the course of the next couple of months. With this command chair post shared with the public future updates on this subject should be possible much more frequently to discuss our progress.
In closing I still like MWO, it's the best battletech game out there for those of us who still love the setting and it's myriad of characters and events.  But this move toward a more e-sports style of play will only attract assholes who know nothing of the product and don't care.   It's a shame but at the moment I do feel ever so slightly like agreeing with those people who say the game isn't for us, the fans, but for the pro gamer who only cares about his KDR and W/L ratio.


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