<IGP_Mike> Omid, why not tell us a little more about yourself and your past work?
<[PGI]Omid> I've worked both QA and a diverse range of Engineering roles, so I have a pretty grounded perspective on what goes on in a game team. I joined Piranha in early 2011 as they were finishing up some contract work. I signed up because I knew they had the MechWarrior IP and, being a huge fan of the series, I was determined to get in and wait it out. Turns out I didn't need to wait very long - shortly after we secured a publisher and the rest is history.
<Chris K> Will there been any sort of firing range/testing grounds that we can use to test out our mech’s load outs for purposes of heat management etc before we take them into battle?
<[PGI]Omid> Yes, we have plans for this feature (though it currently does not exist in our current Beta implementation). It's our intention that you should be able to check out your 'Mech before going into a match. I should add though that these decisions usually come down from design (Bryan Ekman, etc) and we act on them according to their priorities.
<Steve S> How is chatting, either with the keyboard or by voice, handled in MWO (and does this include a global setting)?
<[PGI]Omid> You have Team/Lance/All chat available in game. We decided not to build our own VOIP implementation at this time, most people usually have their own solutions (TeamSpeak, Ventrillo, etc) anyways and we decided we didn’t need to reinvent the wheel while there were other, more important things to get done first. We do see the value in having built-in VOIP though, as it would let you talk to people you're matched with outside of a pre-made. It's just not going to be there at Launch.
<Mal> What, in your opinion, has been the biggest challenge with trying to keep MWO 'close' to the tabletop rules?
<[PGI]Omid> Whoah, good question. There's been quite a few. I keep a stack of the tabletop BattleMech Record Sheets at my desk for reference, it's definitely part of how we are building the game. However the table top gets to assume a lot of things that aren't true in the video game - the biggest, probably, is weapons fire. In the table top weapon hits are determined randomly, and this serves as a balancing factor against some of the really heavy, high-damage weapons. For example, an AC20 shot to the head in the table top is near fatal, but hard to get since you only have something like a 1/12 chance of landing it. However in [MWO], a skilled pilot could land that shot every time. This problem also surrounds the famous "Alpha-Strike", where you fire all your weapons at the same time and concentrate damage, something that is impossible in the table top since each weapon hits independently. One of the ways we're trying address this sort of thing is the split-reticule implementation you see in most of the screenshots. Basically you have one reticule for your arm-mounted weapons, and one reticule for your torso mounted weapons. Your arms and torso move at different rates (typically your arms are much faster) making it more of a skill-challenge to bring all your weapons to bear on the target. This was actually one of the changes I was most concerned about initially when I made it, since it was a fairly large divergence from the tabletop / previous MechWarrior games. However it has been very well received so far, and we're seeing a lot more strategy in the 'Mech Lab when considering loadouts and chassis with Arm Mounted vs. Torso Mounted weapon slots, etc.
We've added some more differences from the "tabletop", usually in directions that are unique to a video game implementation to even out these rough spots that come from a strict adherence to the tabletop numbers. But our policy is to always start with the tabletop implementation as the base, then experiment with it and make adjustments based on how it actually plays out in the game.
<Vi0x> What’s your favourite `Mech out in MWO ? Tell us why.
<[PGI]Omid> Right now I'm piloting a Hunchback 4SP almost religiously. The thing packs some pretty reasonable firepower in both its SRM-Mounted shoulders, and has enough lasers to make softening up targets prior to a missile-alpha viable. It’s also got pretty reasonable movement speed, so its flexible enough to get from one battlefield to another in a match in time to be useful (something a lot of the heavies aren’t fast enough to do), with a lot of front-facing armor that makes him surprisingly tough to kill, for a medium.
<Cosmo> How does MWO's physics handle `Mechs running down steep cliffs, any chance of tumbles?
<[PGI]Omid> Haha, funny you should ask. Our Animation Engineer - Peter Chea - once threw in an implementation like that. He had it setup so if you were dashing across uneven footing, your 'Mech could trip and send you flat on your face. It was absolutely hilarious to watch, but also got a little annoying so we took it out. I can't say it would never come back, but we want to make sure actually piloting the 'Mech through rough terrain is not aggravating.
<Allied> Will outfitting your `Mech with armaments be based on hardpoints (only certain types of weapons for certain slots) or will it be purely based on tonnage and slot requirements (place anything, anywhere, as long as it fits)?
<[PGI]Omid> It's a mix of both. The "Hardpoints" are another one of those video game inventions that help balance us out when we take the tabletop rules. Every armament takes up a certain amount of physical space (slots) on the `Mech, and counts towards your 'Mechs total weight (tonnage limit). These rules are in our 'Mech Lab just like they exist for the table top version, and as you customize your 'Mech in the lab you can see the available slots and tonnage. In addition to this 'Mechs only support mounting weapons to certain areas, much like MechWarrior 4. A `Mech will have a certain number of Ballistic, Missile, and Energy hard points and each weapon you equip (regardless of the size/tonnage) takes up one of those slots. What this allows us to do is limit how heavily you can stack certain weapons on a component, and helps alleviate the Alpha-Striking/Boating problem again. For example, it prevents people from stacking 10 medium lasers on one arm and circumventing the torso/arm crosshair mechanics. It also lets our Designers give the different available `Mechs different strengths and weaknesses, creating a cool variety to play with.
<Arcterran> What has been the most challenging mechanic to implement?
<[PGI]Omid> I'd say it's been getting the movement right, and mostly because of the approach we are adopting. At the outset we took a hard line against cheating - we figure an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure to that end we've adopted a server-authoritative model (as opposed to the client-authoritative model CryEngine uses), which has involved many changes to the net code. What all this means is that regardless of what cheating tools a hacker employs, we can ensure they'll never be able to turn their torso faster than the proper rate, or move/accelerate faster than a legitimate player can. This is pretty huge for a free to play game, and has definitely been one of the more challenging aspects since it didn't come engine-supported. Sorry if that answer as a bit technical.
<pending> Any plans for a replay system ?
<[PGI]Omid> Short answer: Not at Launch.
<palebear> Omid, would you say that the Agile development model has allowed for faster turn-arounds on bug fixes and added features than you had expected? Also, does this Agile model feel like it's going to scale well once your team begins to expand?
<[PGI]Omid> I think the best way to answer that question is to describe a bit how we work. The Gameplay team handles everything that happens in game from "all system nominal" to the moment you're staring at that steaming pile of wreckage which was the last enemy 'Mech on the field. We're basically a group of technical enablers. A typical day involves an Ambassador from the Design/Art teams coming by and asking us for some really cool feature.
Being kind, benevolent engineers we don’t' simply say "no" or "who let you out of your cage?" Or even remind them about the restraining order that keeps Designers away from Engineers when fixing bugs. Instead, we generally hear them out. Then after they wander back to their fluffly little clouds, we puzzle over the little details - like "how, exactly, would we make a fallen 'Mech stand up?" We scope out the work involved, figure out how much time it'll cost, what dependecies it has, etc. and all the things we think we need to get the job done right. Then I go and add it to our backlog - this is where Agile kicks in - where it eventually get scheduled into a patch and magic happens. There's a bit more structure to it than that, but thats the gist of it. It lets us keep current with new features while also balancing the need for bug fixing, and puts the decision making power into the hands of our Creative Director / Designers. And yeah, i think it's essential for the type of continually-updated software we are delivering.
<Pilot2543> How do you see the future maps in MWO? Will their size be closer to those we saw in videos (Forest and Winter City)? Or will they be closer to classic MW huge open maps?
<[PGI]Omid> This is one of the areas we're continuing to experiment with. In beta we are currently running a large number of 8v8 matches - maps like Forest Colony and Frozen City are more suited to this balance and game length that the huge, sprawling mw maps .
I should really leave the rest of this question to our designers, but I just want to say that the map fits the game mode - when/if we have game modes that need larger maps, that’s when we would consider them. Otherwise it's tuned to feel right for the number of people playing against each other.
<EvilTwinTepe> If you have ammo stored in your arm, and that arm gets blown off (and luckily, doesn't explode) - do you lose that ammo?
<[PGI]Omid> Yes, you do. Also any heat sinks in that arm, or anything else you've slotted that was giving you a benefit. And if you are unlucky enough to get that ammo explosion - it will rip through your side and center torso internal structure to core you. If you weren't smart enough to bring CASE.
<[PGI]Omid> Thanks a lot for the questions guys, it was fun chatting with you. Take care!
<FoxD> Thank you guys, from all of us here at PGI and IGP!
Chime in with your thoughts below, how did you enjoyed the chat? We want to know!
Edit 2012/07/12: You might also want to take a look at this topic from RAM: Paul Inouye's Afterhours Question and Answer
Edited by miSs, 12 July 2012 - 05:41 AM.