Developer Q&A 1

by InnerSphereNews in [ Community Update ] on, Nov 16, 2011 10:43 AM UTC 218  comments

Developer Q&A 1 – The Reboot of MechWarrior®



Bryan Ekman – Creative Director – Head of design and vision.
Dennis DeKoning – Art Director – Head of art.
Matt Craig – Technical Director – Head of engineering.
Matt Newman – Producer – Project planning and management.
Paul Inouye – Lead Designer – Game systems and presentation.
David Bradley – Game Designer – Overseeing Mech combat and BattleTech® rules.

What are you doing to get the sense of scale right for piloting a giant BattleMech?

[DENNIS] Right from the beginning, the importance of accurately representing the scale of the ‘Mechs was evident.  Depending on the world assets alone for size comparison was not enough; the ‘Mechs had to be able to stand alone and still be convincing in their scale.  Adding a variety of smaller, ancillary objects achieved this goal as long as they were recognizable and therefore bases for comparison against the overall bulk. I.e. Ladder rungs, hatches, tie-down cleats etc. provided they were to the appropriate scale and appeared to be usable to a human.  Another way was through the use of appropriate texture scale such as scratches, gouges, paint patterns and details too small to justify geometry.

I assume that game play will be in the form of some type of match system. If so, how long would you estimate a typical match would last?

[PAUL] Right now we’re thinking a normal match with objectives would take approximately 20 minutes.  But please keep in mind, this number might change through gameplay testing.

What is your definition of tactical advantage; can you provide examples? Is there an end game (themepark) or is it open ended (sandbox)?

[PAUL] A tactical advantage gives a player more information than his/her opponent.  This can also relate to the strict numbers game, in which the calculated odds of winning are skewed to one side of the 50/50 chance of success.  When dealing with tactical advantage in MWO, we look at it from both perspectives.  The first is that we want to make sure that teamwork will provide a tactical advantage, as it should.  A team that works efficiently with each other should have a higher chance of success compared to a bunch of players doing their own thing.  The second perspective is where we want to make sure that players do not have a statistical, tactical advantage where their chance of winning is increased by bad tuning/balancing.

[MATT N] If I can see you before you see me that is a tactical advantage.

Can players start a Merc Corp that is already canon? Or will you protect canon faction/unit names? I.e. I want to start the Eridian Light Horse Merc Corp, I’m the first to register the Merc Corp’s name so is it mine or will I be able to join the Waco Rangers and interact in it like I would a House unit?

[PAUL] Merc Corp names are registered names.  Once it’s taken, it’s gone.  As for canon protected faction/unit names, we will be locking out some of the key players in the BT timeline.

At this point, how often would you guys like to introduce new content/store items/features/etc. per year?

[PAUL] A bi-weekly release schedule would be ideal.  I’ve played numerous on-line games where content stagnated and it became very frustrating waiting for promised items and not having them show up.  We’ll be working with our art team and content teams to make sure we get items and maps out in a timely manner.  Content is the longest game development process so we’ll be working diligently to get you the stuff as soon as possible.

[MATT N] I would like to introduce new items all the time.  New Content takes the longest but it would be great to have weekly patches.

Are we going to see new elements to the cockpit, such as the 360 degree squeezed into 180 degrees view bar mentioned so many times in the novels?

[DAVID]  The most prominent new addition to the cockpit will be elements dedicated to managing your InfoTech.  Some of these, like different vision modes, have been seen before in other ‘Mech games.  Others, such as data and images from your UAVs and remote sensors will be brand new to MechWarrior® Onlineâ„¢.

[MATT C] While we are very conscious of the games canon we are equally conscious of drawing from the canon the aspects that are fun when translated into a game. Say we were testing out having a 360 degree view and it made the game less fun during play testing I think it is safe to say we would cut it, at the current stage of development we are still trying out new ideas relating to the cockpit design so you never know what may end up in the game at launch.
One of the beautiful things with the F2P model that we’re growing to love as developers is that unlike a boxed product where our options to make changes based on consumer feedback are severely limited, with this model if the community demands a feature enough post launch then there is every possibility and intention that that can happen. As excited as we are to see the game upon launch we are just as excited to see what the game will look like a year from launch.

[MATT N] How about Hula girls? You like Hula girls right?

Is this game going to have lots of servers like a WoW or are you hoping for a single persistent server world like EVE Online?

[MATT C] Each game spawns its own dedicated server, these are not persistent like WoW, as mentioned that would take us into MMO territory. There is persistent game world information, i.e. match results are communicated to affect the balance of power in the Inner Sphere, who owns what planet etc. but there is no true persistent world, more of a persistent meta-game.

[MATT N] Lots of Servers Lots and Lots of servers

How much attention is being given to audio fidelity and is there a particular MW game you will be drawing sound effects from?

[MATT C] We are very focused on giving MWO the best audio fidelity within the project constraints; we don’t plan to pull sound effects from any particular game.  As with most aspects of the game we are drawing from the best that has gone before and then adding our own Piranha twist.

[PAUL] I’ll add that we firmly believe that nothing will kill the gameplay experience faster than bad game audio.  We will be generating all new audio content for MWO.  Remastering old sound from previous MechWarrior® titles would not do MWO justice and it wouldn’t be too appealing to you the player either.

[MATT N] What was that? I can’t hear you over the sound of my Hunchback’s AC-10!

Do you guys have any idea if you will be hitting any Cons next year with early versions of the game? I need to know so I can figure out which to go to (Please say PAX)

[PAUL] If Bryan pays, I’ll go to whatever cons he mentions in his reply.

[BRYAN] Future announcements will reveal our marketing plans.  We are going to be a key trade shows next year.

With the release timeframe you have, are you planning on releasing a fairly compact but well developed game and adding lots of content in the months following that?

[PAUL] Herein lays the beauty of the F2P model.  We will be releasing the compact but well developed game that we want players to experience with the ability to expand on the core presentation to give you the AAA quality title that we want to share with the awesome community that has been waiting for so long.  Our use of agile project development and listening to community feedback allows us to steer and correct our designs and implementation as needed.

[MATT N] In my mind Quality has always trumped Quantity. Especially when you can continually add content and respond to what the users want with updates.

How long has the game been in development? how far along is development? (is more of the game on paper or code currently)

 [PAUL] The game has been in development for a short period of time following a fairly lengthy pre-production cycle.  That being said, our internal engineering team is burning through code faster than words can describe.  There’s a passion driving them to make the best MechWarrior® game for the players and fans around the world.

[MATT C] The key goal with the release schedule is, to release a solid chunk of core gameplay and content that reflect the pillars that have already been described.  Beyond that, we’ll be very anxious to see how it is received by the community.

[MATT N] 2762.5 , Not Alpha Yet, We don’t use paper.

Do you have plans to support head tracking, such as the popular-in-the-sim-community TrackIR 5.0? In previous FAQ's, you have stated that it will be possible to destroy certain buildings in urban areas. What other types of destructible terrain are you planning on implementing?

[MATT C] Stay tuned for future announcements regarding technology partners.  We’re not at a stage currently to discuss everything with regards to destructibility in the game. Just know that we want to blow everything up as much as you do!

Will the MechWarrior® (that is, the player's avatar within the 'Mech) be subject to any particular effects during missions (e.g. injury resulting from hits to the BattleMech's head, falling, ammo explosions (injury as the result of an electric shock from feedback through the neurohelmet), and/or prolonged extreme overheating of the 'Mech)?

[PAUL] We are continuing to investigate what we will be able to do, but it’s a fine line between providing detail and obscuring gameplay and HUD information.

[DAVID] The MechWarrior® won’t actually take any sort of damage or be at risk of dying separately from the ‘Mech itself.  However, we hope to have some visual effects like the ones that you’ve mentioned.

[MATT N] If you get shot with an AC-20 in the head the hula girl has real Hula girl Physicsâ„¢!

Will you have PvE elements on MechWarrior Online?

[PAUL] I may or may not pass out depending on Bryan’s answer to this.

[BRYAN] Not at launch.  We're looking at ways to incorporate PVE post launch and withing the framwork of the MWO concept.

What difficulties have you had transferring the mechanics from the tabletop game to a PC game, and what mechanics have you had to change or modify? Since this is a reboot, will history change in-game or do you mean reboot in the same way as a movie franchise is rebooted?

[MATT N] Hey you said REBOOT! You win a prize! Someone knows how to get their questions answered! Good job!

[PAUL] Challenging question and I’ll try my best to answer.  There’s been a common misconception amongst the community that I’d like to clear up.  While MechWarrior® Onlineâ„¢ does refer to BattleTech® for historical and canon reference, it does not mean that it’s a direct port of the table top rules to a videogame.  The table top rules are laid out to make sense for a turn based strategy game.  Some of those rules just don’t apply when dealing with a real time game environment.  Core rules such as munitions accuracy, heat management and movement speed will have to be tuned for real time gameplay and will differ in varying degrees from the table top rules.  How far they differ will come out of gameplay testing and tuning and at this point I cannot comment further on how that progress is going.  It is an exciting time in the studio right now and I don’t want to release information too soon and have it change on you, the community, later.  I am quite vulnerable to pitchforks and torches.

[DAVID]  While there hasn’t been anything that I would call a great difficulty, the thing that we always have to keep in mind is that we want to capture all of the flavour of the tabletop game but need to be aware of when a direct translation of a tabletop system won’t work for a real time computer game.  Though I would say that the biggest impasse we’ve come across is melee combat; that’s a system we don’t want to tackle until we know we can do it right.

I know the original trailer had a Warhammer in it, so will the reboot have the un-seen, re-seen or will the 12 not be seen at all?

[MATT N] I remember that trailer and I don’t think there was a Warhammer in there... I think it was an Urban Mech. Man I love those trash cans.

[PAUL] And you guys think I should be medicated?!?

Do you have plans in rebooting the series to take it past MWO like books or movies? Has there been anything that has been added or removed from the series to make the reboot more appetizing to newcomers? Are there any fears that you have about rebooting the franchise?

[PAUL] There will always be some fear when dealing with such a large franchise that has a huge and loyal fan base.  We are all fans of the franchise and want to put out the best game we can and we also look to you, the community, to help us achieve that.  The passion that has been demonstrated throughout the community really drives home the importance of our decisions here in the studio and we hope you can bear with us as we detail design and implementation to make the final feature set rock solid.  As for any changes made for newcomers, I think the level of accessibility (controls and training) will be the determining factor of keeping them interested.  I’ve been working with the design team to make sure we address anything that my turn a newcomer away on their first day.

[MATT N] No comment. And we have NO FEAR! We are MechWarriors®!

[BRYAN] The MW rights are scattered across the known universe.  The chances are low that anything we do here in MWO will translate into other mediums.

In regards to the Unseen, does this mean we will see the Marauder, Archer, and the rest of the 'Unseens'? Will they be the original formats, the 'Reseens' or will they be Alex's own variations on these iconic ‘Mechs?

[MATT N] If we are going to make any Mech, it is going to go through Alex’s treatment.

Reboot can mean many things to many people, from changing the entire storyline, system, and everything else to just making small changes here and there to some of the ‘Mechs weapons, etc. My question is this, what specifically, does “Reboot” mean to you and the creators of this game? What do you plan on rebooting as a whole? The entire game world from the ground up? Cosmetic changes to most of the units? What direction do you plan on taking when rebooting MW entirely?

[MATT N] For me it means, the ‘Mechs get a visual overhaul and the gameplay is tweaked to mitigate: always knowing where the enemy is, the arms race, circle strafing and legging being too viable.

[PAUL] For me it’s the opportunity to bring the franchise up to date in both graphical and gameplay capabilities.  Yes, the various incarnations of MechWarrior® were fun and a lot of nostalgia comes with it.  One of the fun tasks of being a designer on this project is the ability to keep that sense of nostalgia while bringing forth modern gaming features.  Leveling, skill trees, persistence, economy tracking and stat tracking are just some of the features that we all love and would love to see in MechWarrior® Onlineâ„¢.  It’s really a chance to add features, to a game that we’re all familiar with, that really round out the experience as a whole.  As a systems designer, I look forward to the challenge of keeping the core experience of MechWarrior®, mixing in some new game mechanics and give you MechWarrior® Onlineâ„¢.

From the DevBlog on the reboot, what do you mean by: “Solve some of the long standing gameplay issues from previous MechWarrior® games?”

[PAUL] For me it’s the open expanses of flat terrain that evolved into circle strafing madness.  While it will still be part of the game, our new environments will allow us to curtail that type of gameplay while opening up new avenues of exploration and Information Warfare bringing every class of ‘Mech to the front lines of combat.  Yes you will be able to form a team of all assault class ‘Mechs, but you’re going to end up as fodder to a co-ordinated team of mixed class ‘Mechs and an orchestrating commander.

Beyond being online and persistent; how will MWO bring the MW concept forward, or will it be more of the same simply updated? Second will the game be more sim-like than previous titles that show barren cockpits and play like driving tanks in FPS games?

[PAUL] We used to throw around a tag line here at Piranha.  “This is not your father’s MechWarrior®”.  There are so many aspects of gameplay that are being added to MechWarrior® Onlineâ„¢ that the game will feel different in a very good way.  Our ability to feedback information to a player has evolved drastically since the last MechWarrior® title.  This includes updated HUD displays, cockpit displays and if you have the toys, force feedback and more!  Our cockpit is not barren.  We are implementing new technologies to allow you to look at various instrument panels and get tactical information by doing so.  Combat between ‘Mechs shouldn’t be just spotting an enemy and shooting.  Logistics and battlefield awareness should play a role as well considering you’re piloting a massive powerhouse into combat.

Is there any particular aspect of the combat which you felt needed to be radically revised and/or updated?

[DAVID]  The greatest challenge when it comes to combat would be properly implementing melee combat.  As a result, this is something that we’re going to put on hold until we know we can do it right.  As for more traditional aspects of MechWarrior® combat, we want to make sure that there exists a proper balance to the different weight classes of ‘Mechs, so that they each have their own distinct uses, and encourage good team play when used together.

[PAUL] To touch on David’s comment, we are also bringing in the ability to skill up your pilot.  Your pilot is the actual avatar sitting in the cockpit.  The dude or dudette that you’re viewing the world through.  This brings a whole new level of pilot awareness to the battlefield and you’ll be hard pressed to see why it wasn’t included before.  You will be able to fine tune your pilot’s skills into one of the various roles we have planned for MechWarrior® Onlineâ„¢.  This includes scouting and commanding for your team mates.

How much influence is the forum and its participants having on your decisions, if any?

[MATT N] The Forum creates great catalysts for Discussion on how we implement the planned features and sometimes inspire unplanned features.

[DAVID]  We do check in on the forums from time to time.  There are a lot of interesting ideas that come out of the debates on there, and we do keep some of those considerations in mind.

[PAUL] I frequent the forums on a semi-daily basis.  A lot of the conversations have a lot of thought put into the suggestions and opinions and I find that the conversations provide us with a lot of insight into our target audience and what you the gamer is going to expect in our final product.  There are a lot of great ideas that are simply out of our scope for this project but it’s good to know that we are not far off base when looking at our current feature set and what the community is asking for.  I do however have a deep burning hatred for all things “My Little Pony”.

What do you consider the fundamental core of the BattleTech® Universe that you feel can't be touched during a reboot? What do you feel needs to be changed the most?

[PAUL] I don’t think we want to change anything behind the lore of the BattleTech® Universe.  The story lines and rich history of the Great Houses and families that drive them along with the politics and controversy are just something we think is at the heart of every MechWarrior® fan.  You can even see this right now in the MechWarrior® Onlineâ„¢ forums where the various House discussions show how the community can identify themselves with one of the factions involved in the universe.  Another thing we wouldn’t want to change is the elite status of the MechWarrior® themselves.  To say a MechWarrior® is just a pilot/driver of a ‘Mech is like saying that a ‘Mech engineer is just a tinkerer.  As for what would need to be changed the most, I think some of the technology and industrial designs need to be updated to meet today’s understanding of future technologies.

Targeting in the table top game had no group fire, and damage from each weapon was randomly distributed across different areas of the 'Mech. Will you be "rebooting" group fire? PS: Do you like my location?

[GARTH] He says he's on top of the TNT roof with binoculars, I think we should answer that.

[PAUL] I won’t answer squat unless he has a gun.

Okay seriously, the topic of pin-point accuracy/concentrated damage is something we are going to have to watch very carefully.  There’s no real reason why lasers shouldn’t be pin-point accurate and ballistic shot munitions shouldn’t do area damage.  We could go into numerous physics debates discussing how particles (including energy) disseminate over distance but that is not going to be conclusive to balanced gameplay.  As for group fire, there’s nothing really wrong with the model and it provides a means of making a MechWarrior® tactically think about what gets fired and when.  Needless to say, gameplay tuning will drive how we approach targeting and concentrated/area damage.

Have you any plans to add new material to give a unique MWO perspective and enhance the end users experience?

[PAUL] There are two pillars in our design mandate that target this question directly.  The first is Role Warfare where we make sure that players of any play style will find their niche and each niche is a positive supplement to their Lance or Team.  The second is Information Warfare where we bring in our InfoTech systems which help players relay information back and forth between forward scouts and the rest of the team.  This information relay system allows scout and commanders to pass information to assault and defending ‘Mechs.

In rebooting the MechWarrior® game what was the game designers’ rationale for the year 3049 being chosen?

[DAVID]  I think that starting just before the Clan invasion allows us the greatest opportunity to really dive into BattleTech setting.  We get to start with just the Inner Sphere, who are experiencing a surge of newly (re)discovered technology, and their inter-House politics, and then we get to shake things up when the Clans arrive.  Running the game through the Clan Invasion allows the players to experience for themselves what is arguably the best known period in BattleTech history.

[PAUL] We want the player base to be able to experience Inner Sphere tech combat and really to get used to how ‘Mech technology works.  We want players to really get into this game and create builds that they can share with friends and allow the community to share strategies in combat and creating/customizing BattleMechs.  We figured that the exciting time following the Succession Wars just prior to the Clan Invasion would allow us to really create some intense House vs. House tensions.  We also want to introduce other aspects of instability that happened during the introduction and subsequent invasion of the Clans.  Starting the game in 3049 made the most sense as we will be able to front load the experience of MechWarrior® Onlineâ„¢ to the first two years of the game being live.  Who knows what kind of interesting bits and pieces might appear in the game as time progresses? 

Is the trailer for the game really in game footage? Because if it is, then the game will be amazing!

[PAUL] The 2009 video teaser is not the trailer for MechWarrior Online.  It was a technology and inspiration piece that we created and yes it was all in-game footage.  DevBlog0 and the FAQ on this site explain in detail the creation of the video and what it was used for.



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