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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.

7 comments

  • mechcommander-series-gold - May 15, 2012 3:18 p.m.

    hey guys check out the mechcommander gold community, were still alive and kicking multiplayer style. www.facebook.com./themechcommanderseries
  • GR HollanderCooper - April 25, 2012 9:03 p.m.

    Everything about this game makes me swoon.
  • Malakie - April 24, 2012 6:28 p.m.

    And yet another one coming out that will suck the money out of people by making us pay for things that SHOULD be already included. Making players pay for standard weapons, add-ons and so forth seems to be the new trend these days. Instead of releasing full games anymore, now companies are releasing a basic engine and you have to buy anything to make it work. I have no problem paying for DLC's and add-ons when they HAVE SUBSTANCE. I.E. special features, additional story line and missions, major enhancements or very specialized equipment. But I have started pulling back from buying, playing or paying for these kind of games anymore because I am not liking this new trend. If people continue to support this, then how far will this go? I mean think about it.. You pay to play the game. Then it costs you say $20 to buy a basic weapons and ammo pack for example. Then you want to add new sensors and new this and new that all at $20 a pop in the game. And suddenly a month into this awesome new game, instead of paying $14.95 a month to play, now you have paid $200, $300, $400 or MORE just to get the items and features that only a couple years ago would have been part of the base game!! No way am I supporting this.. even though an avid Battletech player AND in fact one that worked on the franchise in the late 80's and 90's in both hardware and software .. I just cannot see doing this again every time a new 'awesome' game comes out.. besides I just cannot afford it! I have learned my lesson about this with Star Trek Online and EVE. This new trend is bull crap and gamers need to wake up and smell the caffeine before this gets way out of control.
  • Marwynn - April 25, 2012 7:10 a.m.

    I think you missed the part where it says "with in-game currency or real-world cash". However, the fact that there won't be item trading at launch gives the impression that they want to squeeze players by forcing them to buy boosters. On the other hand, boosters seem to be part of the "extra" experience. Since it's F2P this is their only source of income. I'm guessing when they say it includes weapons and customizations that replacements for destroyed weapons and equipment don't require booster packs. Customization isn't really part of the core BattleTech experience, at least not the old "tournament legal" standard, or canon-only as it is now. You play with the designs as they are, and paying extra to customize them to min-maxed standards seems fair--considering you can do so with in-game currency. It'll probably cost millions of C-bills though... What really bothers me is the Asynchronous game turns. BattleTech isn't like that at all. Initiative determines if you move first or last, and going last gives you the advantage so you can place your units where they need to be. It's like playing chess where each player makes 4 moves unbeknownst to the other. Then the other players' pieces are revealed. The double-blind rules can be adapted for this, but you lose out on a lot of tactical depth. Also, the correct shorthand for a BattleMech is 'Mech, with the apostrophe in front of a capitalized M. It's actually copyrighted, so you go ahead and use it, Gamesradar.
  • ThundaGawd - April 24, 2012 5:01 p.m.

    This looks awesome, but wasn't there also a free to play first person shooter mechwarrior game also in production? I kinda really wanna try that one out, seeing as I haven't played a good mecha game in quite a while (I haven't played Armored Core 5 yet) but I forget the name of it =/
  • tacoman38 - April 24, 2012 2:18 p.m.

    rad.
  • GR_LucasSullivan - April 24, 2012 2:24 p.m.

    Lol my thoughts exactly.

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