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MechWarrior Online devs talk Update 15, new UI, new mechs


Mechwarrior Online is about to hit its fifth month of open beta, with promises of a late summer launch. With that launch comes continued production, new content, plenty of bug fixes, and tweaks. With all of the new content -- said to be delivered on a regular schedule -- comes plenty of challenges for the developer team.

We sat down with Piranha Games' creative director, Bryan Ekman, and president, Russ Bullock, to talk about how things have been going and where they're going in the future. Not only did we get the scoop on the next community-designed Mech to be released, but we also found out about new HUD improvements, aid for players who suffer from high ping, and much more. Click past the cut for all the details!

MechWarrior Online screenshot
One of the most important changes coming with the latest update, number 15, is the implementation of Commanders, Lance Leaders, and a deeper structure to command that will eventually lead to 12v12 battles. A company commander can issue orders for the lance -- a group of four Mechs -- but can also command the other group of four that makes up the usual match of 8v8. The commander can also move players from one lance to the other to make up for poor performance or to tweak damage output. All of this will be a foundation for the much more complex action that is involved in 12v12.

Improvements to the UI will also help smooth out the sometimes confusing combat. There will be new, helpful pop-ups and more information like UI readouts that show the health, location, and name of the other players on the team.

The matchmaking system is due for a sweep of fixes and recalculations to make player matches go more smoothly. As it is right now, a single player can jump into a group of random players to face off against hopefully equally skilled players, but it is a work in progress as anything else will be in a multiplayer game. One issue that players often complain about is having a high ping, and the team has come up with a decent solution: Host state rewind phase 2 will affect ballistic weapons. Essentially, it acts to sort of alter time when it needs to, so a player with high ping will see her shots hits as though the ping were not an issue. It's hard to explain, but according to the developers, there have been "no issues whatsoever" in its implementation.

MechWarrior Online Dragon MechThere are also going to be some new Mechs to choose from for those who need to add to a collection. There's the Highlander Mech, a massive 90-tonner with jump jets that will act as a long-range sniper. It will pop over a hill, shoot you in the face, and then scurry back down. There's also the limited edition purchasable "Champion" Mech, the Dragon, ehich was designed by players and comes built for long-range combat and efficient heat use.

During this "charge towards launch" the developers will be working to bring new skins, patterns, mechs and other purchasable items like bobbleheads and fuzzy dice to decorate the cockpit with. There'll be no shortage of new content like maps and Mechs rolling out every month, so players will be kept on their toes. Factional play will eventually allow players to swear loyalty to favorite houses and build up prestige, and it might even allow those players to contribute to holding territory. It will definitely add a grander scale to the game.

We had to ask about the inclusion of some form of PvE, in the hopes that players could bind together in a fight against NPC opponents. Sure, it goes against everything that the game stands for, but it might be a draw for people who would enjoy a good match against a machine. We were told that it's something the team would like to look at, but only after launch. We have trained ears around here, so we took that as a "not anytime soon".

MechWarrior Online Highlander MechWe also had to ask for some advice for those new players who think the massive universe and sometimes complicated combat of MechWarrior Online would be too much for them. Bullock told us that the first thing to remember is that there is no need to buy a Mech right away as players are given four free Mechs to try out. Next, get to the testing grounds to get used to how the Mech steers. Remember that the movement scheme works similarly to that of a first person shooter. The W key moves your Mech forward while S makes it move backward. The A and D keys turns the Mech, but the trick is to remember that your mouse turns the torso. It can be tricky, so take your time in the practice area. Also remember that new players get a cadet bonus that helps them gain much more in-game currency for their first 25 matches, resulting in a nice chunk of cash to purchase a "real" Mech later on.

It looks as if many of the changes that players have been asking for are finally coming to MechWarrior Online. The new maps and Mechs will come out at a steady pace, making the wait for an actual launch date a bit easier.

We'd like to think Ekman and Bullock for sitting down with us, and we look forward to jumping into a massive metallic beast to gun down our enemies!

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