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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mechwarrior Online Closed Beta: Some Pictures, Info, and Impressions

Now that the NDA is lifted I may share with you all my experiences in Mechwarrior Online, to my knowledge the fourth of the online multiplayer Battletech sims.  I have only played the 3rd of the other ones which itself was a private (ish) beta that never reached live play.  Note this game is in closed beta and is thus subject to change.

Unlike previous single player games in the Mechwarrior franchise, this game is best played with mouse and keyboard.  WASD is forward, reverse/slow, left right turn.  R works your target computer when a target is spotted.  P shuts down your mech, T and Y are global and team chats, B is big map (with options to put down waypoints and the like.  Nobody uses it really.), and H activates heat vision.  Weapons grouping is done using the Right Control key and your keyboard arrow keys.  Mouse controls torso aiming and weapons group firing.

Sadly there is no in game tutorial but I figured things out really quickly given my experience with the previous titles in the series.
Let's see some action!
Top picture:  When you die you can go into spectator mode.  You can still group and team chat which could be helpful to report what killed you, or just to kibitz.  At the top of the screen we have the timer and kill counter, with the fighting game like bar denoting base capture status.  The center HUD is what you expect.  Top right shows the general status of the enemy target and its armor/internal level plus weaponry.  (See the longer you have a target locked on the more information about it you get.  If a section has no yellow line around it you are in the internals.  Our pilot has the Atlas down to 78% status, and its almost 170 meters away in the bottom picture.   In the top the blue arrow denotes a friendly unit who has lost an arm.  We also see in the bottom right our mech's weapon status with range of fire.  (Green means in range, the rectangular box showing recharge status.)  Note he has lost one weapon.  On the bottom right we see our own armor status, and the center is our minimap.  On the left of the map is our speed indicator with a blue bar for acceleration and the yellow hard bar showing exact speed.  The red bar on the right is heat.  Going at or over 100 usually means shutdown if not causing ammo cookoffs.

In our next picture we see some smack talking in public chat.  Many people have silly names and do silly things.  Being in the Something Awful game group we tend to make fun of the stupid any way we can.  Hopefully my mocking isn't genuinely offensive.  Except making fun of Magic players.  They deserve abuse.

Under that picture is the mech selection screen.  Once you have earned enough in game money (or bought internet funbux to skip it) you can both buy and then customize your mechs.  The bars on the left show you your machine's rough levels and potential.  We see I have 3 mechs and 1 open bay.  (More bays mean more money.  You need at least THREE of the same chassis type to unlock all the power trees for your mech...)  On the far right we see me in a group getting ready to launch.  MC is said Funbux, the next number is in game money, and the last is General XP.

In the top screen we see me in heat vision mode raining down hell (we call thith: TSTEEL REIN!) on an enemy Catapult that offends me by way of not being me or my teammates.  LRMs have range minimums and need both lock on time, ammunition, and a relative line of sight.  They have some arcing and all but.. buildings can get in the way.  On the bottom we see my expensive repair bill, most of which comes from me firing off missiles.  My ride carries 1080 of them but I go through 40 a salvo.  Do the math.  If I stay alive and fire accurately I am still gonna go through gobs of missiles.

Next up is the mechlab where you can spend money to upgrade your big metal hooptie.  Its pretty easy to use, though each mech chassis variant has different allowances of equipment and type, as well as slots to store said equipment in.  You can buy and sell parts and keep up a little storehouse of them.  To save money I am using 1 XL class engine in my 3 machines.  Because I am a SpacePoor.   On the bottom picture we see me torso twisting (noted by the arrow showing where my feet are in comparison to my torso) with a shut down Jenner obsessed with killing me because like I mentioned my LRMs are useless in close.  And my ride is slow as sin, going almost 30kph backwards.  The names in the upper right are from the Internet Voice Chat system we play in.

In this top picture we see a breakdown of the win and loss of the match with bonuses for XP and Cbill (in game money) gain.  My Catapult A1 chassis machine is at the top of the board because of all the mayhem my 40 missile at a time spam causes.  But alone I would die and I cannot duel in the machine at all.  The game's matchmaker tries to form or match up groups with similar numbers and mech size classes.  The bottom picture shows what General XP is primarily used for: Unlocking Special Ability Modules.  These modules are very hard to come by as at best you get around 100 GXP per match.  Normal XP is much higher and is only for whichever machine you are riding in.  There are 3 tiers of XP boosts to your mech, generally of a 2.5% or so increase to things like torso twist distance, heat cooling, and the like.  You can use GXP for this but.. its not a good use.  (You can also buy premium time with real life money to get XP and in game money boosts.)   However to unlock all 3 tiers you need 3 chassis types of the same machine and must unlock all 3 tiers.   You could then sell off 2 of the machines and just use one now that you have unlocked it though.  This makes it bearable if you don't want to buy a ton of mech bays as you could master say, the Raven, sell off the 2 chassis you don't like as much (keeping the equipment off it in storage), and then work to master another machine entirely.  (Which is my plan.  Raven and Catapult for now.)

Next we see myself in third person mode as I have run into another mech of the same chassis type as me, though his is based around SRM 2 Streak close range homing missiles.  Falling over kind of sucks and its a tad buggy now for shooting at anyone on the ground as they tend to teleport a few meters when standing up making it a risk of hitting the wrong thing.  The glowing bits show damage we have taken, normally from beam weapons.  The graphics in this game are fantastic, and its plenty playable even at the 23 odd FPS I am getting with a quad core machine (its BRUTAL on duals right now).  Smoke and fires and sparks.  Its a sharp looking game.

And the victory screen showing how good mechs, good teamwork, and a little luck can even succeed when the sides aren't balanced due to disconnects or other errors.

The question is though:  Is it ready for prime time?


There is only a handful of maps to play on, only a handful of mech types, and many of the weapons are imbalanced as is their wont from coming from tabletop Battletech.  It IS getting better every week.  Less bugs, more features, more mechs.   But right now its mostly just 8 on 8 PVP with either a KILL EM ALL or BASE CAPTURE victory possible.

But given its a good month or two till Open Beta I am pretty confident its worth playing.  

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