Welcome fans to Mech Warfare month. This is the month you’ve all been waiting for where we finally spill the beans on the BattleMech combat systems and experience.
With a combination of simulation controls and specialize terrain modeling, Mech combat is about to take on a whole new movement mechanic and means of acquiring targets. As discussed in previous Dev Blogs, there are various systems in place that will affect your personal gameplay style but they will all lead back to the core of BattleMech combat. The core of BattleMech combat encapsulates 3 base principles, Mech Operations, Target Acquisition and Engagement.
Controlling a BattleMech is not unlike controlling a tank. The following is a list of locomotive directions and abilities of a BattleMech.
- Turn Left
- Turn Right
- Full Stop
In addition to the location based control, the BattleMech also encompasses torso-twist capabilities which essentially equate the upper actuated torso into a turret with a limited turn angle. Torso-twist angles, on the horizontal plane, vary from BattleMech to BattleMech due to construction constraints and the speed, at which the torso can twist, also varies from BattleMech to BattleMech depending on their tonnage and engine capacity.
The BattleMech is also capable of pitch angles for up and down targeting and sighting. The amount of pitch varies from chassis to chassis as well.
Because MechWarrior Online is more simulation than arcade, one of the more challenging things to learn is how to use throttle. There is no sprint/run button for MW:O. Once a throttle level has been chosen, the BattleMech moves forward at that speed until throttle is reduced. This is a little more confusing than your typical first-person shooter.
The last movement capability of a BattleMech is the arm/side appendages. The arms of a BattleMech can be moved independently of the BattleMech torso. The amount of movement depends on the BattleMech’s construction. For example, a Centurion would be able to move further than a Jenner due to the way they are built.
Under normal operating conditions, a BattleMech generates a nominal amount of heat. When a BattleMech starts firing its weapon systems, it starts generating higher amounts of heat. This heat is accumulative and will overheat a BattleMech if it is not managed properly. Heat sinks will dissipate this heat fairly quickly but will not be able to dissipate the heat generated by constant fire.
When a BattleMech overheats, it will automatically shut down to prevent catastrophic events from occurring. While shut down, the BattleMech cannot move or fire its weapon systems and will remain in this state until heat levels return to a manageable level.
The MechWarrior (pilot) does have the ability to override critical heat shut-down but they do so at the risk of catastrophic failure and can result in internal ammunition detonations.
Weapon Systems can be broken down into 3 categories; energy, ballistic and projectile. These categories encompass the entire list of weapon types found in the BattleTech™ Universe.
Lasers, Flamers, PPCs
Gauss, Machine Guns, AutoCannons
Weapon systems take up space and weigh various amounts depending on their size. This must be kept in consideration when thinking of upgrading weapon systems on a BattleMech. The weapon systems cannot make a BattleMech exceed its chassis space and weight limits.
It should also be kept in mind that energy weapons generate the most heat in comparison to ballistic and projectile weapons. How a BattleMech is fitted will determine the actual damage per second it is capable of outputting before heat becomes critical and the BattleMech is shut down.
With the exception of lasers and PPCs, all weapons require ammunition. Ammunition takes up weight and space on a BattleMech chassis and cannot exceed the chassis limits.
Ammunition is also susceptible to enemy fire. If an enemy is able to breach the armor surrounding ammunition and starts to damage the ammunition housing, there is a chance that the ammunition will explode causing high amounts of internal damage.
Ammunition must be replenished after every match and can be purchased using C-Bills.
The controls for a BattleMech are going to be the biggest learning curve in the game. It may take a few matches to get used to fluidly controlling how a BattleMech is able to traverse the terrain.
While we’re not going to lay out every control in the game, we do want to give you the basic mechanics involved.
This movement is achieved by the use of throttle. Throttle controls the forward and backward movement of a BattleMech. To make the BattleMech move forward, throttle must be set at a positive value on the throttle indicator. If throttle is set to neutral or 0, the BattleMech will come to a halt. If throttle is set to a negative value, the BattleMech starts walking backwards.
The player presses W to throttle up; making the BattleMech walk forward. The player presses S to throttle down; making the BattleMech slow down or reverse.
Turning Left and Right
This movement is achieved by pressing A or D on the keyboard.
Pressing the A key turns the entire BattleMech to the left.
Pressing the D key turns the entire BattleMech to the right.
Torso Twist Left and Right
This is done by sliding the mouse left or right respectively.
Sliding the mouse to the left twists the BattleMech torso to the left.
Sliding the mouse to the right twists the BattleMech torso to the right.
Pitch Up and Down
To change the pitch of the BattleMech torso, the player moves the mouse up and down respectively.
Sliding the mouse forward makes the BattleMech pitch downward.
Sliding the mouse backward makes the BattleMech pitch upward.
The pitch direction can be inverted in the control options layout and mapping menu found in the Options screen.
Pressing the T key will make a BattleMech target the nearest enemy within line of sight. Pressing T repeatedly will make the BattleMech cycle between any targets that are visible.
Two specialized keys provide a convenient way of helping to keep a BattleMech under control. The X key will bring a BattleMech to a complete stop whether it is travelling forward or backward. It essentially zeros the current throttle level.
Pressing the C key will auto center the torso to the leg rotation. This is a convenient way to re-center the player’s view if they become disoriented.
The 1-6 keys are used for weapon groups. Weapon groups or clusters of weapons can be assigned to each key so not all weapons fire at once. Properly setting up weapon groups is paramount to maintaining the BattleMech’s heat management operations.
Once the player has assigned weapon groups, they can cycle which weapons are fired when each key is pressed. Imagine if you will, a series of Medium Lasers assigned to keys 1-3. Tapping each key in succession with a slight pause between each will allow a player to continuously fire Medium Lasers while keeping heat levels at a manageable level.
A Different Perspective
As noted above, we will have the ability to choose to invert the pitch direction in the Options screen.
In addition to this, we have found that players differ in their preference in terms of which direction a BattleMech turns while reversing. This too will be added to the Options screen as a selectable choice.
A BattleMech is not impervious to obstacles or gravity/physics. This means that BattleMechs are susceptible to environmental effects that will decrease their performance levels.
For example, a BattleMech walking up hill will not be able to maintain their top speed due to the extra power required to climb the hill.
Walking through water will slow a BattleMech down but at the same time; it will cool the BattleMech a little faster than normal.
Trees and other larger solid obstacles can stop a BattleMech dead in its tracks.
BattleMechs will take damage if they fall from too high up. The amount of damage sustained will increase with the fall height.
The HUD provides the MechWarrior with all of the most important information that they need to effectively pilot their BattleMech in the heat of combat. It is comprised of several different elements that work in concert to provide critical information to the pilot.
(Note: This is an ACTUAL IN-GAME screenshot)
In the lower left of the screen is the ’Mech’s damage readout. It will be familiar to anyone who has played past MechWarrior games as it divides the ’Mech into its 8 hit locations (left and right arm, left and right leg, left and right torso, center torso, and head) as well as showing the rear locations for the three torso pieces. Each location is divided to show the state of the armor (the outline) and the internal structure (the solid shape inside). As the armor or internals of a location take damage, the corresponding image changes color, turning closer to red, until it is destroyed and the image goes dark.
In the bottom center of the screen are several elements that relate to the ’Mech’s navigation and heat management systems.
On the left is the throttle bar and speedometer. It displays where the throttle is set and, as the ’Mech accelerates, the bar fills until it reaches the desired speed.
Next to this is where the jump jet fuel gauge would appear on BattleMechs equipped with jump jets. This is simply a bar which drains while jump jets are being used and then refills while the ’Mech is standing on the ground.
Torso Twist and Mini-map
In the very center is the torso twist indicator and mini-map. The player’s BattleMech is represented by a small triangle in the center of the map. Coming out of this triangle are an arrow, to represent the direction the ’Mech’s feet are facing, and a large triangular shaded area representing the direction the torso is facing as well as the field of view from the cockpit. These rotate relative to each other so that, when overlaid on the map, it can easily be seen which direction the ’Mech is traveling and which way the torso is facing. The map itself is overlaid with a grid and coordinates to aid in navigation.
Right of the mini-map is the heat meter. This gauge is a bar that fills to show how close the ’Mech is to overheating, and automatically shutting down.
In the lower right of the screen is the weapons readout. Every weapon on the BattleMech is displayed here, though they are split into two groups. If the ’Mech has any weapons mounted in its arms, they are displayed at the top, next to an image of the arm mounted weapon aiming reticle (but more on that later). At the bottom of the list are those weapons mounted elsewhere in the ’Mech, next to an image of the torso mounted weapon aiming reticle.
To the left of each weapon name are the numbers 1 to 6. These are the weapon groups, and they’re what allow the player to manage upwards of a dozen weapons on the same BattleMech. Before we get further into them, let’s look at their controls:
Select the desired group with the left and right arrow keys. This moves the vertical bar that highlights one of the weapon groups. The currently selected group is also the active group; this is the group that will always fire when the player presses the Fire Active Group button (left mouse button by default).
Select the desired weapon with the up and down arrow keys. This moves the horizontal bar that highlights one of the weapons. The horizontal and vertical bars will intersect over one of the numbers and pressing Enter will toggle that weapon in or out of the weapon group.
When a weapon group is fired, all the ready weapons in that group will fire at once. Proper setup and use of the weapon groups will allow a player to better manage heat as well as group together weapons with similar ranges, or separate those mounted in the arms with those that are in the rest of the body.
To the right of each weapon name is a cool down bar. After a weapon fires, it may need time to recharge, reload, or cool down before it can be fired again. The bar fills when the weapon is fired, and then empties until the weapon is ready to go again.
At the far right of the weapon readout is the ammo count for those weapons that require ammunition to fire. This is simply a number that counts down as rounds are used.
In the center of the HUD there are two aiming reticles, a circle and a cross. The circle represents where weapons mounted on the arms will fire while the cross represents where all other weapons will fire. When the ’Mech’s torso is not currently rotating, the two reticles will align over top of each other and all weapons will fire on the same point. When the player rotates the torso’s pitch or twist, the ’Mech’s arms and their reticle lead the rotation while the slower torso follows. This decouples the two reticles, allowing the arm mounted weapons to fire at a different location than the ones in the torso, head, and legs. While separated, a line is drawn between the two reticles, so they can each easily be found. When the rotation finishes, the torso will eventually catch up to the arms and they will be aligned once again.
The player can separate the reticles without having to move his ’Mech’s torso by activating pilot look. As the MechWarrior looks around, inside the cockpit, the reticle for the arms will follow where he is looking. When the player finishes pilot looking, the view and reticle will automatically return to face forward.
Weapon Group Readiness Indicators
Surrounding the reticles are the weapon group readiness indicators. These are small markers around the player’s crosshairs that indicate the readiness of each of the 6 weapon groups. When all weapons in a group are ready to fire, the indicator for that group is yellow. If at least one weapon in a group is not ready to fire, the indicator for that group turns red. Note that this doesn’t mean that the group can’t be fired, just that at least one weapon in the group will not fire.
Off to the left side of the indicators is the range finder. This simply displays the range, in meters, to whatever the arm weapon reticle is pointing at.
Some distance from either side of the reticles are the pitch indicators. These are an artificial horizon line that move up and down the brackets that are around the center of the screen, to show the relative pitch of the ’Mech’s torso.
Spanning across the top of those brackets is the compass. The heading in the center is the direction the ’Mech’s torso is currently facing, and it scrolls left and right as the torso turns. Markers within the compass denote the direction of friendly ’Mechs, known enemy ’Mechs, waypoints, and other objectives.
Above the compass is a secondary torso twist indicator. The triangle above the center always represents the direction in which the player’s ’Mech’s torso is facing. When the player torso twists, a second triangle emerges from the first, with a line connecting them, indicating the direction along the compass in which the ’Mech’s feet are pointing.
Damage Direction Indicator
When the BattleMech takes damage, the direction the attack came from is shown as a red glow around the brackets and compass that surround the central portion of the screen. Attacks from the front show a glow at the top, those from behind show a glow at the bottom, and those from the left or right show a glow on their respective side.
In addition to what’s displayed on the actual HUD, the monitors in the cockpit will also display information about the ’Mech. While some of the monitors may be in the pilot’s normal field of view, they can all be seen by free looking around the cockpit. The information displayed on them is generally of a secondary or tertiary nature, like the status of the ’Mech’s actuators or heat sinks, or more detailed information about the distribution of ammunition within the ’Mech.
There are five different levels of targeting information that the player can receive about an enemy ’Mech.
Whenever the player can see an enemy ’Mech, or is receiving information about it from a teammate, it is marked with a red triangle that floats above it. This is technically not a targeting level, but simply what happens when the player is aware of an enemy ’Mech.
When the player presses a button to target an enemy ’Mech, they achieve the first targeting level and the enemy is framed by a set of red brackets.
After a few seconds pass with an enemy ’Mech being targeted, the player receives the second level of information which displays the name of the enemy player as well as the name and model number (e.g. Atlas AS7-D) of the enemy ’Mech above the brackets.
After a few more seconds pass with the ’Mech being targeted, the third level of information is revealed. This adds the overall health of the enemy ’Mech, shown as a percentage, along with the other information.
Finally, after a few more seconds, the final level of information is displayed. This adds a callout to the HUD showing a detailed damage breakdown of the enemy ’Mech, similar to the player’s own health readout. In the callout, each section of the enemy ’Mech is colored to represent the damage state of its armour and its internal structure. Alongside the damage breakdown is a list of the enemy ’Mech’s weapons and their locations. These are also colored to show the damage they have taken.
If the enemy ’Mech takes cover behind anything other than a ’Mech, so as not to be seen by the player or any of the player’s allies who can relay targeting information to him, for a few seconds, all of the targeting information and the red triangle disappear and need to be reestablished from the beginning of the process.
In addition to the targeting information system, the player can establish missile locks on enemy ’Mechs, if his own ’Mech is equipped with any guided missile systems. The player establishes a missile lock by pointing his reticle at an enemy ’Mech for the required time to lock. The missile lock will last until the player’s reticle leaves the enemy ’Mech for too long. Any homing capable missiles fired while a lock has been established, will home in on the targeted enemy.