We sat in on a roundtable interview with Tarnie Williams of Roadhouse Interactive and Chris Cleroux of A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games to talk about combining BattleMechs with asynchronous turn-based tactical warfare.
While much of our MechWarrior coverage here at ZAM has been on Piranha Games' MechWarrior Online (you can check out our interview series with the folks at Piranha Games, starting with Creative Director Brian Ekman here), there appears to be another MechWarrior game, titled MechWarrior Tactics (MW:T), that will be making its way to browsers around the world this year. Developed by A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games and Roadhouse Interactive, MechWarrior Tactics is a free-to-play online browser-based game that combines a tactical hex-based asynchronous combat system with those giant metal mechs that we all love. To get more details on this title, I hopped in on a roundtable call with Tarnie Williams, President of Roadhouse Interactive, and Chris Cleroux, Lead Designer for A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games Inc.
MechWarrior Tactics is a free-to-play browser-based game being developed on the Unity Engine that focuses on hex-based combat, where players will fight tactical battles against one another, with four mechs (otherwise known as a lance) per side. MechWarrior Tactics is also an asynchronous turn-based game, where players will queue moves independent of each other and the game cinematically playing out each round at the end of the turn (think Frozen Synapse but with gorgeous mechs throwing out missile salvos, lasers, machine-gun fire and what have you).
Outside of MW:T's combat system, Roadhouse and A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. plan to utilize a free-to-play revenue model that takes some inspiration from trading card games while mashing it up with the standard free-to-play inventory of decals, custom paints and, potentially, skins. At the end of each battle, players will earn an in-game resource, "scrap," which can be used to purchase STACs, otherwise known as "Surplus Technology Armored Containers" or, in trading card game terms, booster packs containing anything from parts, weapons, customizable mech frames (chassis), or even the rare fully-equipped mech that can be used out of the box.
Customization was one of the first topics we got into with the roundtable discussion, with Chris Leroux getting into mechs and how the team is approaching variation. He says that the plan is to start with a combination of stock pre-built mechs that adhere specifically to the lore of the MechWarrior universe in addition to providing different variants of those shells (mechs) that can be somewhat customized to focus on a specific specialty. In other words, the team wants to offer that right balance of mech customization while still ensuring that each mech fulfills a recognizable role.
Collecting and customizing your mechs will be a key focus of MechWarrior Tactics, and the random loot system employed via the booster pack-esque STACs will certainly work to that goal. As players purchase these STACs - either with in-game scraps or real money - the assortment of parts they receive will typically dictate the new strategies they'll try to employ in future matches, especially if they get lucky enough to find a rare pre-assembled mech. Taking a page out of games like World of Tanks, MechWarrior Tactics will also allow you to engage in as many matches as you want - provided you have enough mechs to field. Each asynchronous battle you partake in will take those four mechs out of your garage until that match is completed, so gamers who want to power-grind for scraps have the option to field half a dozen poorly assembled lances, while the real connoisseurs of MechWarrior Tactics will may find themselves playing only one or two matches at a time as they continue to iterate seeking that perfect strategy.
Speaking of strategy, when asked about different game objectives beyond straight combat, Chris had this to say: "The short answer is... Yes to different game objectives. We have kicked around lots of ideas, internally, about how we would reward players for those things but, at a high level, we want players to be able to engage in matches - different game modes - that are more than just blowing each other up. We want players to make critical decisions and have choices as to how they go about planning their mech construction and lance configuration to best achieve different types of objectives. We're not going to go into any detail as to what those game modes are . . . but we are going to be planning more game modes than just a standard "death match."" While it seems like death matches will be a staple of the MechWarrior Tactics gameplay, adding objective-based gameplay does open up a world of depth, and depth is something the MechWarrior Tactics team really wants to offer.
Looking to the future beyond the basic facts, there were a few things of interest which couldn't be expanded upon at the time, but definitely merit watching over the course of this game's development. Specifically, MechWarrior Tactics is being set in the same time period as Piranha Games' MechWarrior Onlines, in addition to being published by the same company (Infinite Game Publishing). Given that all three companies (Piranha, Roadhouse, and A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.) are based in Vancouver, there is very strong reason to suspect that there will be some level of tie-in across these two titles. While this could neither be confirmed nor denied (we got a "you'll have to wait and see!"), a potential tie-in like this just makes me even more excited to see the MechWarrior Universe revived in the gaming world.
Chris "Pwyff" Tom, Editor-in-Chief