MechWarrior Tactics we talk booster packs, customization, and heat management with the devs

As you might’ve guessed from our MechWarrior Tactics preview, we’re pretty stoked about its potential for mind-blowing robotic warfare on apocalyptic battlefields. Based on the BattleTech tabletop game, this hex-grid, turn-based strategy title from Roadhouse Interactive and A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games looks like it could do wonders for the world of free-to-play browser games, which until now have had a pretty shaky reputation. We had a chat with Tarrnie Williams (the president of Roadhouse Interactive) and lead designer Chris Cleroux to get into the nitty-gritty on customizing mechs, booster packs full of weapons, and the all-important responsibility to manage one’s heat.

To recap: encounters in MWT take place on average-sized maps covered in hexagon tiles, where two teams of four mechs will fire volleys of rockets, lasers, bullets, and every other deadly projectile imaginable until only one team’s left standing. Turns are asynchronous, so you can dip in every few hours to make your plays (Cleroux dubbed this “Mechs with Friends”), or you can play hotseat-style with more zealous, like-minded opponents. Whichever route you choose, the game will play out the same: strategically position your mechs and gain incremental advantages to destroy your enemies before they reduce you to scrap metal.

For those unfamiliar with the BattleTech universe, there’s not much barrier to entry; all you need to know is that this is a world where battlefields are dominated by giant robots with guns all over their shoulders. The same goes for the basic rules – Cleroux stresses that newcomers won’t feel like they have to read a 500 page manual before they can get into the action. “The learning curve isn’t that high,” says Cleroux. “That’s something we focused intensely on: making sure that the game’s accessible and pick-up-and-play. You don’t have to do any mech customization if you don’t want to, so anybody can join in.”

Though they weren’t ready to talk prices, Williams and Cleroux stated that mech’s weapons and customizations will be distributed via booster packs, which can be bought with in-game currency or real-world cash. Items will come in common, uncommon, rare, and ultrarare varieties, just like Magic the Gathering. We were a bit confused when we were told that there wouldn’t be any item trading at launch, though Cleroux did hint at an auction house system to be implemented later down the line. We would’ve liked to see these kinds of systems implemented at launch – nobody wants to buy dozens of boosters in the hopes of getting the one item that they need.

Above: The devs give us a walkthrough of MechWarrior Tactics at GDC

MechWarrior fans and BattleTech lore buffs will find plenty to bite into with Tactics. The main objective, outside of conquering your enemies, is to assemble a battalion of mechs using the parts you collect through battles or boosters. “What we’re doing in MWT is creating varieties of mechs, for stock, built-in mechs that players are familiar with in the lore,” says Cleroux. “We also created these empty shells, which we call chasses. Each mech type has different variants of those shells that dictate the type and size of weapons and upgrades that can be put into them.” Pilots who like to customize their machines to the smallest detail will be in heaven, and the upgrades are divergent enough to make each choice matter. “We want every mech to feel like it fills a unique role,” Cleroux says.

For those who can tell the difference between the Mad Cat III and a Mad Dog Mk IV mechs, the devs have included the kinds of combat detail you’ve grown accustomed to. Things like heat management are crucial – go overboard with your firepower, and your mech will overheat, making you a sitting duck for the enemy. It’s these kinds of awesome subtleties that get us all aflutter over MWT’s combat, where gun placement and terrain can make the difference between victory and defeat. “Where you put your weapons matters, for line of sight,” notes Cleroux. “There are elevation rules, blocking terrain rules – we even have water features [regarding heat management]. If you’re standing in the water, and you have submerged heatsinks, you’re double-cooling for those sinks.” That is, in a word, rad.