Fans of the MechWarrior franchise have lots of reason to be happy this year. Two upcoming PC free-to-play titles are expected to launch later in 2012. One of them is the action-sim game MechWarrior Online (look for our interview with their developer Piranha Games tomorrow). Also coming up is MechWarrior Tactics, a turn-based strategy game from developers Roadhouse Interactive and A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games. Both games will be published by Infinite Game Publishing.
We got a chance to ask some questions to the development team about MechWarrior Tactics and received some answers from Tarrnie Williams, the president of Roadhouse Interactive, and Chris Cleroux, Lead Designer for A.C.R.O.N.Y.M Games.
First, how hard was it to secure the rights to the MechWarrior franchise for the game?
Tarrnie Williams: While we already knew some of the founders of Infinite Game Publishing, we still needed to prove that we were the right team to build the game. IGP had previously tracked down and acquired the MechWarrior publishing license from Piranha, and now wanted to create a strategy game as well. With my background in strategy games from my days leading Relic, our strong team at Roadhouse, and the great developers at Acronym, we were able to put forward a concept and proposal that they liked, and then the work began.
How much of the lore of MechWarrior's fictional world will be involved in MechWarrior Tactics?
Chris Cleroux: MechWarrior Tactics uses the rich setting of the universe as its backdrop. As there is no single player narrative, it is important that the player still feel immersed in the universe. We are using planetary settings, timeline events and technology to create a setting where the MechWarrior player will feel at home. As we continue to advance the game’s timeline, the player will get to experience some of the awesome events that occur and get to help write some of their own history into the MechWarrior universe.
What can you tell us about the different types of mechs that will be available in the game at first?
Chris Cleroux: MechWarrior Tactics will have an awesome variety of mechs at launch. We wanted to ensure that some of the favorites made it in and that there were some mechs that would surprise the community. Overall, we wanted to strike a balance across of the weight classes (light, medium, heavy and assault) and also provide a breadth of utility to players and how each of the different mech chassis can be customized. We’ve announced only a few of the mechs that we’ll be launching with, so stay tuned for more reveals!
How will players gain access to more weapons and mechs?
Chris Cleroux: Players will acquire the majority of their weapons and mechs by earning and opening S.T.A.Cs. These are Surplus Technology/Armament Containers and serve as a randomized booster-pack of resources. S.T.A.Cs contain all of the cool bits that you can use to customize your mechs, as well as new mechs themselves. S.T.A.Cs can be purchased either using in-game currency that is earned by the player or through using a paid premium currency. It is important to note that players will not be able to directly purchase specific weapons or tech. We want to avoid as many pay-to-win mechanics as possible in MechWarrior Tactics.
MechWarrior Tactics will have a turn-based strategy design for gameplay. How hard was it to adapt the MechWarrior franchise for this kind of gameplay?
Chris Cleroux: Since MechWarrior is based on a turn-based strategy game called Battletech, it wasn’t hard to adapt a framework of rules to work from. Of course, this served as the initial inspiration and we have spent a lot of effort trying to inject the intensity of the previous MechWarrior games into Tactics. We want to expand on the tactical feel of a tabletop experience and do all the things that a video game can do that a traditional tabletop cannot.
How big will the battles be in the game in terms of the number of mechs that can be used?
Chris Cleroux: At launch, MechWarrior Tactics will focus on smaller Lance vs. Lance battles. This means that each player will be able to customize and field up to 4 ‘Mechs.
What will the game's maps be like? Will we see a mix of urban and more outdoor levels?
Chris Cleroux: The initial maps will focus on outdoor terrain, where we can introduce more variety in the overall geography. Hills, cliffs, various wooded areas and water features create many strategic choices for players. MechWarrior Tactics will launch with more than one terrain set.
What can you tell us about the multiplayer modes for MechWarrior Tactics?
Chris Cleroux: Players will have the option of creating and playing Custom or Ranked matches. Custom allows players to specify all of the match parameters and invite your friends to play, while Ranked will pit you against a random opponent with your preferred match settings. We’re not quite ready to talk about specific game modes yet, but we are working on objective based modes that allow players multiple victory conditions. While blowing every enemy mech off the map is definitely one way to win, we want players to explore other strategic options available.
How will the game handle features such as matchmaking and clan support?
Chris Cleroux: For launch, players will have to handle their own clan support as this feature isn’t built into the game interface. Matchmaking will be used to join players of similar skill when attempting to join a Ranked game. As a secondary condition, players will be matched up by using the strength of their Lances, as determined by the Combat Value (CV) rating of the Lance. Each component added to a mech increases the overall CV of the mech and the overall CV of the Lance. The Lance CV is used to determine its combat ability. Only Lances with closely matched CVs will be pitted against each other.
How customizable will the mechs be in the game?
Chris Cleroux: Mech Chassis will be highly customizable. Players will be able to modify their mech’s layout of weapons, tech components and armor allocations. Players will have restrictions on which weapons they can place on their mech according to how much free space that weapon takes up on the Chassis as well as how heavy it is. Mechs cannot exceed their maximum tonnage nor can they attach more weapons than they have mounting points. The number and size of mounting points, called Crit Slots, are different for each Chassis.
After the game's official launch, what plans does Acronym Games have to add content to the game?
Chris Cleroux: Acronym Games and Roadhouse Interactive plan on releasing regular content updates that introduce players to new events in the game’s timeline with themed content that supports those events. This new content can include new weapons, mechs, MechWarriors, technology as well as new game modes and maps.
"Free-to-play" is a term that some people don't care for in terms of games. How do you feel about this trend and how does MechWarrior Tactics handle both the free and paid players?
Chris Cleroux: We think that “free-to-play” is awesome. The largest complaint about “free-to-play” that we hear and that we’re actively working to address, is the issue of “pay-to-win.” That model allows players to spend real money and pay directly for an instant advantage in the game. MechWarrior Tactics does not allow this. Players can earn S.T.A.Cs with in-game currency that is earned by playing. If it is more convenient for them to accelerate their acquisition of S.T.A.Cs, they can spend real money. It is important to note again that the contents of S.T.A.Cs are randomized and players won’t be able to directly purchase any specific resource that affects gameplay.