IGN has slapped up the first eyes-on preview of MechWarrior Online that we've seen on the 'net to date, and it features a bit more information about the game's mechanics and free-to-play business model than we were privy to previously. An excerpt:
Ultimately the goal of a fight is to kill the other team (called a mercenary group), but your role can be as straightfoward as heavy weapons guy, to being the spotter or fast-moving scout. The challenge, then, is for developer Piranha Games to reward everyone for doing more than getting kills, something the team's been working hard on. At the end of the fight they want someone who spotted by monitoring radar and thermal imaging screens to feel like they contributed as much as the heaviest mech.
How each player fights will potentially depend as much on the environment as it does their loadout. The Mechwarrior universe takes place on hundreds of worlds, meaning battles won't always take place in serene mountains with grass and trees. Fighting in a desert means less cover for mechs to hide behind, but also, due to the extreme heat in the environment, makes thermal imaging less efficient. The reverse of this are ice worlds, where your weapons will be slower to overheat, and you'll easily stand out to a good mech commander who's watching their scanners. Water will also cool your mech's heat level if you strategically place your heatsinks on your legs, and can make the difference if you're fighting on a world with many shallow bodies of water.
MechWarrior Online will enter closed beta testing in the near future, with an open beta launch before year's end. Pirahna Games emphasizes that no one will be able to pay their way into power, and their microtransaction system will generally focus on giving players with less time and a bit more money additional gameplay options.