In the fourth installment of our MechWarrior Online interviews, we sat down with Matthew Craig, Technical Director at Piranha Games.
ZAM: In a dev blog update, you unveiled the levels of 'Mech customization available to players. Some of the locations in MechWarrior Online show skirmishes making great use of terrain. Do you think players will fine-tune their 'Mech load-out to take advantage of particular locations or terrain features?
Matthew: Definitely. You certainly don't want to be taking large numbers of lasers into battle on a map with a higher ambient temperature. We intend to make it easy for players to rapidly switch between configurations to customize their load-outs to fit the game about to be played.
ZAM: It's been noted that teamwork will play a larger role in this MechWarrior title than any other. Of course, on hearing that, we're already cringing at the imagined scenarios where everybody wants to blow things up, but nobody wants to play a supportive role by scouting, detecting or disrupting. Any insights as to how you plan to balance these roles, to make them feel unique and important without making them so mandatory that there's no way to win without them?
Matthew: As is commonly known, we have weekly play tests and are integrating analytics into the game so we can carefully track various statistics and look for genuine imbalances. The designers are doing a great job of bringing over the inherent balance in the TT rules while at the same time knowing when to bend the rules to suit an online gameplay experience.
Players also obviously have a degree of control over balance. Heading into battle without a diverse lance and not using tactics won't be considered an imbalance; players will be rewarded for working together to cover each other's weaknesses.
ZAM: Preparation seems to be key in MechWarrior Online, with players trying to find their optimal 'builds' to compliment their abilities in each game. What sort of map objectives or game modes are you aiming to have at launch?
Matthew: For launch our core game mode is Assault which is team play with base capture. We are planning additional game modes post launch and will certainly be looking into objective based game modes.
ZAM: Speaking of map objectives, I was just curious as to how big you plan to make your maps. Given that your target game size will be 12v12, do you hope to have small, tight combat spaces or large, varied maps for players of all types to utilize? If you say a mix of both, can you describe how big your biggest map will be, and how small your smallest map will be?
Matthew: The current maps being worked on represent a variety of play spaces of different sizes, though even our smallest map is a decent size by normal standards.
ZAM: In a community Q&A, you mentioned that, while MechWarrior Online's gameplay world would not be persistent (each game would spawn its own dedicated instance), the world that players inhabited would be persistently affected by the outcome of each match. Can you share any more information on how this system will affect players on a day-to-day gameplay perspective, or is it more aimed at the lore enthusiasts?
Matthew: On a day-to-day basis this system maintains persistent information about each player; their stats, ranks, accomplishments etc. Our goal is for battles to help determine the makeup of the Inner Sphere, and for players to engage with the ongoing timeline in the universe. In time we want to introduce the events that happened in the universe through multiple avenues, the biggest one on everyone's minds is the clan invasions.
ZAM: Final question here! Are we going to get a beta anytime soon? Should we be honing our 'Mech Piloting skills for the near future?
Matthew: I don't think the fans will have to wait too much longer. The weather's starting to heat up; so by all means start honing your Mech Piloting skills.
ZAM: And that about wraps it up for now. Thanks again for stopping by, Matt. We're all looking forward to MechWarrior Online!
Matthew: Thank you it's going to be a great year to be a MechWarrior fan.
Chris "Pwyff" Tom, Editor-in-Chief