Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mechwarrior Online

Though I'm an avid WoW fan and player, my first love in video games is and always has been Battletech/Mechwarrior. I first started playing Battletech with pen and paper back in the late 80's and very quickly bought every Mechwarrior game that came out, spending hours and hours playing. Even the old clunky Mechwarrior 1.

Since I graduated to playing MMOs I've been impatiently awaiting someone--anyone--to make a Mechwarrior Online MMO. I'd be so there! And I'm absolutely sure that hundreds of thousands of others would be also. I've written about this subject at least twice before on blogs long since deleted (don't ask). While I don't have those previous posts to link back to, I've never really stopped thinking about the game I want to play above all others. So let me use this humble blog in an attempt to chide WizKids to kick it in gear, and describe how I would construct it.

First and foremost my MechWarrior online would favor PVP, though there would also be a very strong PVE end game. Set in the decade just prior to the clan invasion (classic time frame), Mechwarrior Online would be centered firmly in the intra-family wars that had been ongoing in the Mechwarrior universe for decades. PVP would primarily take place in the border regions, though that PVP could spill over into deeper zones. In fact that would be encouraged. A key component of the game would be taking and holding enemy territory and would bestow benefit to the outfits and faction taking territory. All of Mechwarrior Online would be built upon a strong player created economy, though strong central anti-inflationary measures would be built in. After all, taxes are as fundamental to life as death is.

Instead of static class systems that we see in games like WoW and other MMOs, I would instead create a system that starts with a small selection of core classes that each character would be able to choose from. Each of those core classes would have sub-specialties that players would gain access to as they advance in "level". And instead of "levels", characters would have ranks and steps. Ranks would open up technologies, assignments, and capabilities to the players, and steps would be loosely analogous to levels in current MMOs. With steps would come talent points, stat point increases, and minor abilities. There could be 10 Major ranks and each rank could have 10 steps (level 1 - 100) as an example.

Core classes could be something like Soldier, Scientist, and Tradesman. With each class enabling a vibrant career path to the player. In a PVP centric game, the obvious draw would be the soldier class, though there would be strong enticement to players to play a Scientist or Tradesman as well. The Tradesman class would be the basis for the economy, and Scientists would be fundamental assets to those tradesman by bringing new technologies and production efficiencies to the game space. I envision mercenary groups and factions keenly vieing for the services of tradesman and scientists.

As an example of how I would envision the rank/step system working, I offer the diagram below. As a new character is created you must choose one of the three core classes. If you choose Soldier, you would then be asked to choose a faction, or become a mercenary free to start your own mercenary group or become a member of an existing group. Either way you will be tied to a rank system that offers more and more to you as you rise through it.

As a basic soldier you would rise through the lower ranks until you attain an arbitrary rank, at which time you would become an infantryman, or some other sub-class. In infantry, you would continue to rise through the ranks until you again attain an arbitrary rank, at which time you could specialize in Armor, Anti-Armor/Mech, or Mechwarrior. Because Mechwarrior would obviously be the big draw here, there would have to be strong inducements to follow the Armor and Anti-Armor career paths. Those specialties would have to offer key capabilities that would be sought after in PVP.

The game would feature a strong factional system that would discourage faction/guild hopping. At character creation you enlist in one of the major factions, or become a mercenary. Mercenary groups are not tied to any one specific faction, though they're reputations are effected with the various factions depending on the contracts they take. Following that out to its logical conclusion, they could of course become de facto factional groups in this manner, though not tied directly to it.

PVE end game would closely parallel PVP end game. PVP end game is about intra-factional warfare, and the taking and holding of enemy territory. While that is envisioned as the primary goal of the game, players would not be tied to it if they did not wish to participate. For PVE players instanced battles of up to epic proportions would be created. All instanced and accessible to any faction. The faces and names of planets would obviously change depending on which faction you were, but the battles themselves would be the same.

I envision PVP being a little more on the brutal side. A la EVE online style. Destruction of a Mech means exactly that--destruction. There is a chance at salvage depending on battle conditions, but if you are on the losing side of a battle, which is run from the field salvage would most likely go to the victor. Mercenary groups and factional units would be able to recoup some of their losses through the PVE endgame however. As well as through the fees they will earn doing them. The higher stakes in PVP would encourage strategic thinking, and battle conditions more akin to reality than we normally see in video games. There are consequences to decision making after all.

As I said, I would start Mechwarrior Online in the decade prior to the clan invasion and would like to see expansions every 12-18 months. The first expansion would see the very beginning of the clan invasion and would grow from there. Each bringing new technologies and capabilities to the game. Including aero and space combat. Notice how I included Anti-Air in class graph above?

Of all the MMOs I've played and heard about, nothing rises to the level that Mechwarrior could. I'm almost positive that I am not the only person to have ever thought of this, so I can only surmise there are some legal impediments standing in the way somewhere. Whatever the real reasons might be that have apparently stopped something like this from even being thought about, I hope they are worked out sooner rather than later.