MechWarrior Online Interviews: Paul Inouye

In the third installment of our MechWarrior Online interviews, we spoke with Lead Designer Paul Inouye!

In this five-part miniseries, we sat down with the developers behind the highly anticipated MechWarrior Online to talk about everything you want to know about this upcoming action title. Be sure to check out our previous interviews in the series:


And we're back! After the team took a hiatus to prepare for GDC and the summer convention season, it looks like things are now back on track with our MechWarrior Online interview series! Up today is Piranha Games' Lead Designer, Paul Inouye, here to talk about his role on MWO, the proliferation of third-party VOIP programs (and why you won't get some really cool in-game voice comm jammers), griefers in MWO, and more. Read on!

ZAM: We're here today with Paul Inouye, Lead Designer on the hotly anticipated MechWarrior Online (MWO). Thanks for taking time out of your day to talk with us.

Paul: Thanks for having me and it's always a pleasure to talk about the game to interested parties!

ZAM: I'd imagine things are starting to get really hectic with MWO's release date on the horizon. Can you talk a little bit about your experiences as lead designer of one of the most storied franchises of the past fifty years, and what your role entails?

Paul: Yes, things are ramping up quickly as we prepare the game and assets for public showings and then on top of that the release of the game to the gamers.

As for my role on this project, we've designed MWO around four key pillars known as 'Mech Warfare, Role Warfare, Information Warfare and Community Warfare.  It's my job to ensure that any feature we put into the game does not break the boundaries set out by those pillars.  I take into account the vast history and technology base that makes up the BattleTech Universe and make sure we stick to it as closely as gameplay will allow.  We are very lucky to have Randall Bills on board to help us with the volumes of historical background and data that have been generated in the past.  I then take all of this information and apply it to a modern, premium, Free-2-Play development model and work the gameplay meta-game and subsystems into the entire mix.

I also directly assist Bryan and the crew in terms of releasing information to our voracious community.  This is akin to a giant pool of very hungry sharks and Bryan telling me to stick my arm in there and see what comes up.  Luckily it hasn't been too bad so far with our great and supportive community members.

ZAM: There's been a lot of chatter recently about the inclusion of a cash shop in MechWarrior Online. What sorts of items will players be able to find in the shop? Will players be able to purchase c-bills or modules through the microtransaction shop? Anything new you're hoping to do with MWO's microtransaction model that nobody else is doing?

Paul: We cannot talk about the cash shop at this point.

ZAM: One problem with progression-based games is striking that balance between progression and skill, where players feel they're advancing and getting stronger, while still putting skill at the forefront of each competition. Do you have any systems in place to help with achieving that balance?

Paul: We do this on two levels; the Mech XP tree and the Pilot Tree.  As players play the game, they gain XP for the BattleMech they use.  This allows them to unlock technology for that BattleMech's chassis.  For every tier that they level, they earn a pilot point.  These pilot points are then spent in the pilot tree where players unlock modules that enhance the piloting aspects of a BattleMech.   The modules are unlocked and placed in the store where players can purchase them with C-Bills, the in-game currency.

Modules can be considered as an interface between the BattleMech control and targeting systems that the pilot has modified based on his/her experience with the BattleMech chassis.  This is the progression part of the equation you're talking about.

Skill will always be skill in MWO.  The underlying meta game does not affect the efficiency of the player.  Players will always need to bring their own skill to the battlefield in order to be successful. 

ZAM: Let's talk about an individual game in MechWarrior Online. Will players be able to swap out their Mechs during a live match, or must it all be set up in advance?

Paul: Due to the nature of MWO focusing on building a decent group of BattleMechs for the various roles, it is imperative that we allow players to choose their BattleMech just prior to entering a match.  To accommodate this, there is a staging room/lobby prior to dropping into the match where the player will be able to select a BattleMech and the modules that he/she wants to take into the match.

ZAM: Given the proliferation of VOIP programs like Ventrilo, Mumble and TeamSpeak, will there be voice chat support in MechWarrior Online? Either way, given that many of the modules in pilot trees involve communicating key information (location, mech details, etc), how do you prevent some modules from becoming obsolete as players learn to use voice chat or third-party voice chat programs to communicate that same information?

Paul: This was a discussion we had early on in the design and engineering phase of MWO.  We had thought it would be cool to have VOIP interrupted by scrambling signals or have a snooping device that would let you listen to the other team's VOIP channel.  But immediately, those of us who play competitive multi-player brought up the 3rd party solutions like TeamSpeak and Ventrilo as a means to bypass these distortion and snooping mechanics.  It was decided that we would not include VOIP with MWO as most players would have their own TeamSpeak/Ventrilo running  anyhow.

As for the voice coms affecting the game; the information found on the BattleGrid is a lot more precise than what a player would be able to communicate via voice.  The optimal means of sharing enemy information will be a combination of both voice and in-game Information Warfare.

ZAM: For our final question, what about players who just want to see the world burn? By that, I mean that, given MechWarrior Online's big focus on team play and communication, are there any systems in place to prevent some players from simply disrupting games or taking bribes from the other team to "throw" a match?

Paul: Well there are two systems in place to make sure this kind of stuff doesn't happen.  The first system addresses the second part of your question (yeah, I like to switch it up like that).  We have taken all steps necessary to prevent "gold farming" in MechWarrior Online.  This includes the fact that players will not be able to share currency with each other, so being paid off isn't going to happen.

A kick and report a player system will be active in the match which will help alleviate the grief players.  We will eventually allow the player to use a direct to Help Desk live interface to help/support.

ZAM: And that wraps up our Q&A session for now, thanks for your time and good luck in the coming months leading to launch!

Paul: Thanks again for having me and I'm looking forward to any feedback you guys may have in the future!  Cheers!

Chris "Pwyff" Tom, Editor-in-Chief


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