In the short term there's rocking pink -Mechs, but in the long term there's a whole Clan invasion.
The beta for MechWarrior Online (MWO) started last fall, but it's already hosted a whole bunch of crunching metal and hot Mech-on-Mech destruction. If you're not familiar with the franchise, MechWarrior is based on the tabletop game called BattleTech where the future of human warfare means piloting a suit of varying weights and customization. MWO is the first persistent multiplayer game for the franchise. The development team under Creative Director Bryan Ekman has stayed pretty strict about biweekly patches and updates to the client, and tomorrow's patch is no different. Ekman is excited about showing off the new Lance Command feature or squad of 4 Mechs with its corresponding UI and the tactical mastery it will allow players to utilize on the battlefield.
"[Tomorrow's] patch is really exciting because we bring into the game for the first time the concept of a Lance Command and the ability to join different lances. This is a huge feature," Ekman told me. "When you first look at it, it may not seem like a big one but from a tactical point of view and from a UI point of view it was a big undertaking for us. Because now our players can actually organize on a sub team level whereas since we released an open beta, they have only been able to have one commander.
"Now you can have up to three commanders per side, each in control of their own Lance," Ekman continued. "That comes with some nice UI elements where you can see the health status and the location of members inside of your lance so it really gives definitely the core guys who love to group together in eight man teams the ability to further control their different units and separate off and have different commanders for each lance. For the casual player it really allows, experienced players kind of bring casual players into teamwork on a much more granular level so we're really excited to bring that online."
As a pilot known as a "MechWarrior", you are about to take control of the most powerful mechanical battle units the universe has ever seen: BattleMechs, heavily armored combat platforms that utilize an internal structure similar to a skeleton, along with actuators (joints) and myomers (muscles) that, when combined, take the form of a giant, rough, bipedal humanoid. The game is set in a 1:1 timeline with the BattleTech universe, meaning that the current year 2013 equates to 3050 in BattleTech lore and each day that passes in real life also passes in the game. This means we are on the brink of the upcoming Clan invasion and utilizing the latest in technology available in the 3049 timeframe. And when the Clans come - everything changes.
Another big addition for the beta patch tomorrow is a bit technical, but Mech pilots should really appreciate it. A feature called Host Stay Rewind will ensure that players without a super fast connection will still be able to score hits. "When they shoot, it actually rewinds the game based on their ping to where the player would have been so that high ping players actually score hits," Ekman explained. "It makes their experience very similar to a low ping player, which is nice. We've done some backend optimizations that help with performance, we fixed some matchmaking bugs so there should be a more accurate ELO score for players."
In addition to consistently patching MechWarrior Online's beta as the team marches towards the planned release this summer, new Hero Mechs are introduced. These are custom loadouts you can purchase for real cash that are plucked from the immense lore and backstory of the MechWarrior universe. For example, the more recent one released was called Heavy Metal, a bright pink Mech that plays a snippet of rock music with each enemy killed. "It's pretty funny when you kill somebody you actually blare a little song out there, kind of a little jibe," Ekman said. The Heavy Metal Mech came out a few weeks ago and it's been very popular among fans. "It was funny. I was sitting on the other side as a developer going, 'I don't know guys this is a risky Hero Mech, pink and speakers. Okay you go for it.' I was so happy I was wrong because it is our number one selling Hero Mech."