Welcome to Dev Blog 0!
Why is it called Dev Blog 0? Well, a lot has happened in the two years since we first announced MechWarrior back in 2009, and we felt a quick recap would help bring everyone up to speed on the events of the last 2 years. In order to make this blog a little more personal, we have referred to many people by first name.
The usage of we generally refers to:
- Jordan Weisman founded FASA and co-created BattleTech. Jordan has also been responsible for numerous other ventures including WizKids, and Smith & Tinker.
- Russ Bullock, Owner/President of Piranha Games Inc.
- Bryan Ekman, Owner/Creative Director of Piranha Games Inc.
- And sometimes the entire team at PGI, some 50+ awesome developers!
So let’s go back to the beginning before the 2009 announcement, when Piranha Games first began working with the MechWarrior license.
Rebooting Piranha Games
Three years ago, during the summer 2008, we put in motion a new strategy for Piranha, one that would focus our efforts on building killer original action games. With this ultimate goal in mind, we focused on three key areas.
- Only take on action based work-for-hire games, such as Transformers 2 and Duke Nukem Forever.
- Build an experienced development team, capable of creating fun and engaging products.
- Develop a game by acquiring or licensing an existing intellectual property (IP).
With these goals in mind, we began identifying properties that fit the bill. In October 2008, while looking into the MechWarrior rights, Russ, learned that Jordan was working on a new venture at Smith & Tinker. Jordan, through S&T had licensed some of the digital FASA rights back from Microsoft. Not long after the initial call, we began working with Jordan on a new concept, a major update to the MechWarrior franchise.
The initial ideas revolved around revitalizing or rebooting the series by focusing on two areas:
- Increasing the overall graphical fidelity of the entire game, especially the BattlMechs.
- Solve some of the long standing gameplay issues from previous MechWarrior games.
From these two key areas, early design pillars emerged in the form of:
- Urban Combat to address circle strafing and long range sniping.
- Dynamic Battlefield further expanded on the concepts of Urban Combat and mechs having roles.
- Dynamic pacing, introduced an early version of one of the final pillars, Information Warfare.
It would be designed for the Xbox 360 and PC. The game would take place on the planet Deshler, in the year 3015. Single player would revolve around Adrian Kohl and his exploits during an invasion by Kuritan forces. A gritty series of missions, designed to draw people deep into the rich vibrant and treacherous world of BattleTech. Multiplayer was a blend of features from previous MechWarrior games and modern FPS experiences. The package as a whole was the first step in making MechWarior cool again.
We continued to iterate on the design for several weeks, then started developing a plan of action.
Early on we decided to produce a marketing video that would demonstrate many of the core features and rebooted art style. We had three goals:
- Announce the project and generate a major buzz within the gaming community.
- Generate publisher interest.
- Increase Piranha’s profile as a quality developer with publishers and the community.
The marketing campaign contained 3 teaser videos , the final full length trailer, and a feature interview on IGN. We rolled out the plan during the second week of July, 2009.
The reaction was overwhelming. We anticipated the announcement would generate a lot of buzz, however the end result outperformed even our highest expectations.
Oh Yeah, Harmony Gold
Contrary to all the press and speculation that Harmony Gold was getting in the way of a deal or development, this had no impact whatsoever on development or signing a deal for MechWarrior.
Closing a Deal
The hard work began in earnest after the video release. We had an aggressive schedule to visit publishers and gauge interest. In the month of August we met with all of the major publishers, pitched the MechWarrior game to a captive audience and waited. The answers rolled in slowly, starting with the smaller publishers. Then word showed up from the big five. The answer was no.
We knew going in, there were two major risks. No PS3 version due to a Microsoft restriction, and the epic market collapse and major recession. In the end, it was mostly the lack of a PS3 option that did us in. The scope and budget required to develop a console reboot needed the support of a PS3 SKU and we just couldn’t convince publishers to take a risk. By late fall 2009, our dreams of making a MechWarrior game, began slowly drifting away.
Through the end of 2009 and into 2010 we rallied numerous times, reducing scope and budget, re-pitching the concept as a LIVE only title, etc. etc. In the end, nothing stuck.
To be honest, 2008/09 were some of the hardest times this company has ever seen. We spent a lot of time, resources, money and energy on MechWarrior, and it wasn’t looking good.
Then, in the spring of 2010, we secured the Duke Nukem Forever contract. This was a huge achievement and a cornerstone in our development history. MechWarrior played a large role in helping us secure the deal. A few key hires filled out our incredibly talented multiplayer AAA team.
MechWarrior took a back seat, as we focused on a very challenging and time compressed project.
2010 ended, and we rolled into 2011 without much fanfare as Duke Nukem Forever entered the final phases of development.
The Birth of MechWarrior Online
In the winter months of 2011 we assessed the state of MechWarrior. We came to the realization that any further work on MechWarrior would come at great risk to PGI. If we planned to take on significant risk, we needed to control the IP. After several sessions of deliberation, we decided to plunge in head first. Russ approached Smith & Tinker with regards to licensing the MechWarrior rights and within a few weeks, we signed a deal.
Not long after signing, we quickly realized licensing the rights was one of the most important and future sighted decisions made by us in the last 12 years. Offers were coming in from all over the planet, especially to make or license a free-to-play MechWarrior game.
Because of the overwhelming interest, we decided to spend some time researching what a free-to-play (F2P) MechWarrior game would look like. We spent some design cycles adapting our previous concepts and quickly realized a synergy between F2P and the BattleTech universe. We worked hard through spring, negotiating, designing, and rejecting a few potential partners. As it turns out, we didn’t have to look very far.
During much of the past 12 months there was a local group that also had a large amount of interest in developing and publishing a MechWarrior title. Once Piranha had become the license holder they came over immediately and met with us. From this point onward we decided to combine our efforts with Piranha as the rights holder and with them as the Publisher. After about 6 months of hard work together, funding had been secured, Infinity Game Publishing was born and development could begin.
The most positive thing that can be said about the relationship between Piranha and IGP is that both companies wanted to make the same game and Piranha was free to execute upon our vision.
The road to this Blog was an adventure filled with many hurtles and momentous occasions. We are excited and proud of the direction MechWarrior is taking as a PC F2P game. It offers us the ability to make a successor worthy of the MechWarrior name, and one that fans will enjoy for years to come!
Welcome to MechWarrior Online.