MechWarrior Online's Bullock on golden mechs and future content

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MechWarrior Online's Bullock on golden mechs and future content
MechWarrior Online screenshot
Pirahna Game's president Russ Bullock is listening to the playerbase of MechWarrior Online. He is very aware of the number of complaints that have come in after a recent announcement of the pre-order sell of Clan 'Mechs, with prices ranging from under $30.00 to $500.00 for a gold-plated version. Although the complaints come from a range of topics, many concentrate on the timing of the announcement. After all, the developers only recently announced the Project Phoenix pre-order program. Some players see this new DLC pre-order only as a chance to make more money in lieu of producing more content.

Other complaints stem from the prices of the pre-orders, and it's easy to see why. When we sat down with him recently, Bullock explained the costs in a few ways. First, the highest-priced items are simply collector's items. They look cool and do not have extras that go along with them that give them an advantage during combat. Second, all of the 'Mechs on the list can be paid for with in-game funds once released, minus some of the non-combat bonuses attached, meaning that any player who wants to can continue to pay nothing at all.

Bullock wanted to emphasize that despite all of this, he knows that what the playerbase is really asking for is community-based features.

MechWarrior Online screenshot
There have been more than a few community outbursts during the short life of MechWarrior Online. Recently, players threatened to ask for refunds when the developers added a third-person camera as an option during combat. Of the players who purchased the Phoenix Project pre-orders, only about 200 of them actually requested refunds of out 30,000 packages sold. Bullock mentioned that his team is still listening to those 200 and to others who showed their discomfort in other ways, even if they were in the minority. The developers tweaked the third-person options by not allowing them during competitive mode. The hardcore players still complain about the ability to peak over hills so more fixes are always due. To many, said Bullock, the third-person cameras were mostly an assault on the feelings of MechWarrior purists. Bullock was aware that the way that many players attempt to get their way is to make a "hell of a lot of noise" and that there is some truth to the strategy.

During our conversation, Bullock talked about the difficulty of balancing a game for hardcore players while outsider or newer players make their way into the game. There are players who have literally played between 4,000 and 10,000 matches in less than 14 months. That's roughly 500 to 1,000 hours of play! Players like those are happy to see new 'Mechs come up for purchase, but Bullock pointed out again that what they really want are more community options.

Moving on to the new Clan Collection, we talked about why some members of the community responded the way they did. Bullock admits that he was not 100 percent happy with the packages and arrangements of pricing. The team is making adjustments to them right now, adding options that will give the plans more pricing levels and flexibility.

Many players complained about having to spend $210.00 to gain access to the infamous Mad Cat, so one possibility is that they could move the 'Mech around to fit into a lower tier so players could pay less and get it for pre-order. We asked about purchasing the 'Mechs later, and as with other 'Mechs, a player could simply avoid the pre-order and buy the Mech individually from the shop upon release, although it will lack the special bonuses and other items that come with the pre-orders. The timing of the announcement of the new DLC had many players gnashing teeth, but "it's fairly normal in the industry to release one DLC after another," Bullock told us. It's also important to note that the announcement was for the pre-order, not for items that were being immediately.

In a surprising announcement, Bullock mentioned that the team will be giving the $240.00 Masakari package for free to players who buy the $500.00 gold packages. That will essentially cut the $500.00 package in half and will be retroactive to those who have already bought a gold package. In fact, some players have already bought a gold package and a Masakari package as well!

MechWarrior Online screenshot
Bullock closed with stating that the team is aware that even though players have been requesting Clan 'Mechs since the game was first announced, what they really want is community warfare. In a recent (and lengthy) forum post, Bullock lit up a half-a-year's worth of timeline to show just how serious the team is about developing the game further. One of the bottlenecks that held back other projects, the user interface "2.0," is now coming to completion. This will allow the developers to move on to these other projects readily.

While Bullock was clear that times can flex and that not everything on the timeline can be completed by the June 17th, 2014 Clan invasion, the team was confident enough to release the possible dates for release of two more pillars from Community warfare: Association, which is more connections in factions and loyalty points, and Planetary Conquest, which is fighting over territories.

With such a passionate community at its back, you better believe that the team will get an ear-full if these promises aren't met!

When readers want the scoop on a launch or a patch (or even a brewing fiasco), Massively goes right to the source to interview the developers themselves. Be they John Smedley or Chris Roberts or anyone in between, we ask the devs the hard questions. Of course, whether they tell us the truth or not is up to them!
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