MechLab is a game interface which allows players to customize their BattleMech loadouts and visual representations. Due to the number of customizations found in BattleTech, MechLab is very robust and has a lot of features that will be covered here.
Paul Inouye - Lead Designer - Game Systems and Presentation (Wrote the Blog)
David Bradley - Game Designer - Overseeing 'Mech combat and BattleTech® Rules (Double-checked the Blog and smacked Paul around when errors were found)
Bryan Ekman - Creative Director – Head of Design and Vision (Slammed a rubber stamp of approval for publishing to the community)
Garth Erlam – Community Manager – Edited this whole monstrosity
What can be done to a BattleMech?
BattleMechs can have various components swapped out/upgraded at the cost of C-Bills. The systems that can be swapped out include:
- • Weapons
- • Armor
- • Engines
- • Heat Sinks
- • Jump Jets
- • ECM equipment
- • Modules
MechWarrior Online incorporates a “Hardpoint” system which dictates, above all other customization, that weapons can only be swapped out with weapons of the same weapon type. For example, energy weapons cannot be swapped with ballistic weapons.
Each location on a BattleMech, such as the Right Arm or Center Torso, may include a number of hard points. The number of hard points in a given location is determined on a per variant basis, and is based on the weapons included in the variant’s default loadout. For example, a ’Mech that, by default, comes with 2 Medium Lasers and an Autocannon/2 in its Left Torso may actually have 3 energy weapon hard points and 2 ballistic hard points in that location. So, if the player is able to satisfy the weight and critical slot requirements, they could equip an additional energy weapon and ballistic weapon into that Left Torso, or swap out the Medium Lasers for other energy weapons, etc.
How do Hardpoints work?
Locations on a BattleMech contain hardpoints that a player can customize with various equipment/systems provided the new equipment falls within allowable space and tonnage limitations. Hardpoints also dictate what can be placed where on a BattleMech. For example, a player cannot put a weapon system into a location on a BattleMech unless it has an appropriate hardpoint there.
Figure 1 – Hardpoints
Case Study 1 – Swapping out Weapons
Let’s assume that the player want to configure a new weapon layout for the McMech above. We see that the BattleMech is a 75 ton BattleMech and is currently maxed out in terms of available weight.
The first thing the player does is select a location. In this case it will be the BattleMech’s left arm. You will notice that upon doing so, a list of all items associated with the McMech’s left arm is displayed.
The key items displayed that cannot be modified in any way are the top three items; the shoulder, the upper arm actuator and the lower arm actuator. Those systems must remain in place for the appendage to work correctly.
In the diagram, we can see that the left arm of the McMech has a Large Laser equipped. The Large Laser takes up two critical slots on the McMech’s arm as shown by the two blue blocks. (Please note, the graphics indicated here are for demonstration purposes only… duh). If we were to examine the properties of the Large Laser, we would find that the weapon system weighs five tons.
Let’s have the player remove the Large Laser and replace it with some other weapons.
When the player selects the Large Laser, as list of available replacement parts appears. In this case they are the; Small Laser, Medium Laser and the PPC.
The player’s inventory is brought on screen at this time as well so they can pull items from their inventory that may or may not be displayed in the possible replacement part list.
You will notice that the possible replacement parts are colour coded. In this example, the green items indicate that they will fit into the slot occupied by the Large Laser, and they are within tonnage limits for the BattleMech, and lastly that the player has one of the items in their inventory. Items that are listed in red indicate that the item exceeds space/tonnage limitations or that the player does not currently own one of the items, or a combination thereof. In this case, the PPC both weighs too much and exceeds space limitations.
As the player drags the Large Laser off the Hardpoint, two things happen. First, the available space after removing the Large Laser is revealed.
Next, the overall tonnage of the BattleMech updates to indicate that there is room for additional weight.
The stats of a Large Laser are five tons, two critical slots, energy weapon. We can put in its place, any energy weapon(s) that stay within the maximum weight and space threshold.
Both the Medium Laser and Small Laser take up one critical slot and weigh one ton and ½ ton respectively. This means both systems are viable to be put into the space provided. For this demonstration, let’s have the player put two Medium Lasers in the available spaces.
As the player adds the Medium Lasers, you will see them drop into the applicable slots and the tonnage of the BattleMech update. Once the player is satisfied with their weapon layout, they simply save their configuration and are set to go.
What about equipment like AMS?
Equipment swaps are performed exactly the same as weapons. As long as there is space and tonnage available, things like AMS, ECM, TAG etc. can be put into any appropriate spot on a BattleMech.
How is Armour going to be handled?
The way armour is being treated in MechWarrior Online is very similar to how it’s done in the tabletop game. That is, for every one ton of standard armour, the chassis is given 16 points of armor. These 16 points can be assigned to the various sections of a BattleMech. If the player purchases 8 tons of armor for their BattleMech, they can assign 128 armour points throughout.
As per tabletop rules, each weight class of BattleMech has a maximum amount of armour it can sustain and this will be reflected in MechWarrior Online.
One last thing we will be carrying over from tabletop is the ability to distribute armour between the front and back torso of a BattleMech as well.
Case Study 2 – Armor Distribution
Each BattleMech is broken down into the locations listed in Figure 2.
For this example, we will assume that the player wishes to distribute Standard Armour across the Duck-O-Tron 2C BattleMech. This is a 60 ton BattleMech and has a maximum armor point value of 201.
By default, a BattleMech can only hold so many armour points in a given location. For a 60 Ton BattleMech, the breakdown is as displayed in the diagram to the left.
Players can distribute the 201 available armour points to the various locations until they reach their max armour capacity.
By clicking the arrows on the BattleMech locations, players will be able to increase/decrease the amount of armor on that location as they see fit.
There will be button options on the MechLab interface that will allow a player to “Strip All Armour”, “Maximize Armour”, and “Reset Armour to Default”.
One thing to note is that when it comes to torso armor, the points available are split between the front and back of the torso.
The above image shows the Duck-O-Tron 2C BattleMech maxed to full armour values.
What about Jump Jets?
Jump Jets in MechWarrior Online are chassis specific. If a BattleMech comes with Jump Jets, then a player can add/remove as they wish.
What about Heat Sinks?
Heat Sinks can be placed anywhere on a BattleMech where there’s room and enough space.
Modules come from the Pilot Tree as outlined in Dev Blogs 3 & 4. Once a Module has become unlocked, it will appear in the store. Players can buy these Modules using C-Bills, which are then deposited into the players’ inventory.
In figure 3, we see that there are three slots available on the Mouse-A-Pult 4A. The number of available slots will vary on a chassis by chassis basis. An example might be that the variant of a chassis may have a different number of slots than the prime version of a BattleMech.
A list of all available Modules in the player’s inventory will allow the player to navigate through the Modules they may wish to bring into combat.
Selecting a Module will bring up more detail about what the Module does to gameplay.
The best way to think about a Module is a pilot’s ability to come up with software hacks that he/she equips between his/her neurohelmet and the BattleMech he or she is piloting.
These hacks are meant to augment the pilot’s natural piloting skills in a way tailored to suit the player’s needs.
Once a pilot has selected the Modules they wish to take into combat, they save their configuration and proceed back to the MechLab.
Modules can be equipped and unequipped while in the MechLab but not during gameplay.
Unequipped Modules can be used on other BattleMechs.
Customizing Visual Appearance
Customizing the visual appearance of a BattleMech happens in various ways. Players can change the colours/camo/decals on their BattleMechs or they can apply an overall skin.
As seen in figure 4, there are a number of different sections that make up the custom appearance of a BattleMech. Players pick a primary, secondary and tertiary colour set, then apply camo and decals as they wish. The player can also choose a premade skin that takes care of all of the options in one button click.
Case Study 3 – Visual Customization
First, the player selects a primary colour. This is the base colour of the BattleMech.
This underlying colour also affects the primary colour in a camo pattern as well.
The available colours will vary based on default colours provided by the game and possibly purchased ones which are more exotic.
Players then select the secondary and tertiary colours. These colours can be considered the highlight colours of a pattern.
Note: Selecting bright pink as any colour level results in Paul’s weapon systems automatically locking on to your ‘Mech whether visible or not. Just a heads up.
Once the player has chosen their colour scheme, they can apply the colour scheme to any available camo pattern by selecting one of the camo swatches.
You will notice in this illustration that the primary colour is the main colour in the camo pattern. The secondary colour is the first level of highlight, and the tertiary colour is the last highlight level.
Not all camo patterns have 3 levels of colour so colour selection is determined by order of selection. i.e. Primary > Secondary > Tertiary
Next up, the player can select a decal to place on their BattleMech. Decals can only be applied to predetermined locations based on the BattleMech/chassis type.
The locations in which a player can place a decal will automatically highlight when a decal has been selected. The player then drags and drops the decals into the available slots on the BattleMech.
Now if this seems too much for a player to bother with, players can also simply just select a skin. Skins are unlocked via the meta game and can also be purchased from the Store. In the image below, the player has selected the Piranha Games theme skin. You will notice that decals are automatically placed and it does not matter what the player has selected for colours or camo.
Players can choose to place decals on top of a skin if they so wish by simply following the decal process outlined above.
This concludes our current discussion on MechLab. It is quite in-depth but there is still more information to share but that’s going to have to come at a later date when we start talking about the Store.
Now read this over carefully, and head over to the Q&A thread here with a question you want answered in the Q&A