I think players should get a set amount of starting cash that is assumed to be your current Body of Work in your young career thus far, with your House alignment influencing a roll that determines a pick list of 5 or so low-quality 'Mech to choose from as your starter machine.
It can be laid out for the player at the outset that this is either a hand-me-down or your prized clunker that you've been doing well to score at all since this is the Inner Sphere, where life is cheap but BattleMechs are priceless. Leave the specifics of this detail ambiguous when handing out the initial bit of lore in the game UI to help us swallow what would otherwise be a very large pill in an immersion/suspense of disbelief sort of way (ie, not everyone is here from the same cliche -- parents died, inherited family 'Mech, etc). Better to have us use our imaginations on this point, so our backstories can be suitably varied.
As for leveling, please make sure that it reflects canon; life as a merc should not be padded with a plethora of cushy choices where we can easily access our choice Mech after 5 days of playing. The Inner Sphere is a hard and unforgiving place, especially for mercenaries. It is a general human truth that loyalty comes often when we become attached to things in our life for which we have shed tears and spilled blood -- our children and old trucks for example. I believe this maxim should be applied here as well -- players should scrape, scratch, and claw their way from mission to mission such that they are doing good to remain operation and solvent, with the smart ones putting away a little extra cash each time.
The idea here is that you work it out with what you have, just as people do with their own vehicles in the real world. Perhaps you can slap the equivalent of some NOS stickers on your Whitworth, or one of those cheap-sounding import exhausts, or possibly even give the cockpit a mirror tint job along the way to personalize your precious clunker. If you are able to score a new 'Mech, make sure it reflects established BT lore: salvage and collect the parts for one over time, steal one, or (if you are a successful saver) you buy one, so long as you can find someone who is selling.
The point is that players will fall in love with what they have, or they'll work hard to earn what they dream to have. And probably both at the same time. There is no reason to give us CushyTech where 'Mechs are like ice cream flavors. It is my fervent hope that the game feels like the hard knocks lore of the Inner Sphere. If it doesn't, I'm probably going to be out.
Edited by Jaren Ward, 07 November 2011 - 10:29 AM.