MechWarrior Online Interview

A two-page interview with Piranha Games president Russ Bullock and creative director Bryan Ekman is online over at PC Gamer, bringing us a substantial amount of sought-after information about the newly announced MechWarrior Online. Here are a couple of snips about the game's setting, skill trees, and mech upgrades:
So I remember when I talked to [FASA founder and BattleTech creator] Jordan [Weisman], it looked like the plan was to set it in the 3015 BattleTech universe. Why the shift to 3049?

BE: We set the game in 3015 originally. And we really wanted to set it there because it was this time and place in the universe that didn't have a lot written about it. And we could really explore some new characters and some new storylines and have some fun with that. It wasn't a well-written area.

As any BattleTech fan knows, there's a ton of lore and a ton of history in this universe, and this was a great place to kind of restart and evolve the franchise.

When we started to look at the F2P game, one of the core pillars that emerged was this concept of community warfare. The fact that this was an online game that's primary component was going to be round-based combat. And how do we take that to the next level? How do we evolve that in a way that made sense in the MechWarrior universe? And that inspired us to set the game a little bit forward. A little bit further ahead in time, in the Clan Invasion era, because it allowed us the maximum amount of change on a regular basis.

So we have this concept of the Inner Sphere, which is galaxy that the BattleTech universe takes place in. And there's a lot change that happens starting in the year 3048 and right up until 3067. And we wanted our game there because our timeline is live.

So the minute this game goes live, every day that passes in our world, it passes live in the Inner Sphere world. So August 1st 2012 is August 1st, 3049. And so we had a live content stream with a live, evolving universe going on as time progresses. We wanted to set it during that period of time because there's a lot of change. The Clans come down, they invade, there's the introduction of new technology. There's lots of story pieces that are happening, and lots of territory change.


So you talk about upgrading skills, a leveling system, upgrading your Mech, and this is such a tricky area for F2P games. There are all these fears about pay-to-win games, and Mech aficianados, they know the specs on a Mech. They know what the Mech is capable of. How is progression going to work? It's F2P, but obviously money comes into it somewhere. What does your money buy you?

BE: One of the most important things in any F2P games, in my opinion, is not allowing players to buy skill. The fastest way to destroy your game is to allow your players to buy something that gives them a tactical advantage over an enemy. So we've been very careful about what you can purchase and what you need to earn.

Can you get into items and upgrades yet?

BE: You're going to to be able to purchase, using a variety of different methods, Mechs, Mech pieces, skills but I'll be careful with what I mean about skills.

When it comes to the pilot, you'll be able to train your pilot to fit the role that you like. But you won't be able to pay real cash for pilot training, for example. That would be through earned experience points or earned in-game cash. So you would actually have to play the game to upgrade your pilot. Anything that would affect or give your a tactical advantage, you can't purchase with real cash. You have to earn that by playing the game.

So we have a pilot tree, a skill tree. As you level up you can unlock new features and new abilities. So if you want to be a scout, you would get skills related to information technology, or being able to move faster, hide, things like that. If you wanted to be more of an assault person, it would be more related to weapon control and such.