MechWarrior Tactics Developers Share Details on Battles, Gear, and Collectible Card Games «

In its infancy, before there was a huge series of novels and computer games, BattleTech was nothing but a board game about taking a squad of bipedal tanks and battling a friend’s squad to the death. MechWarrior Tactics developers Tarnie Williams and Chris Cleroux, at Roadhouse Interactive and Acronym Games, respectively, are returning to those gladiatorial roots. They hope MechWarrior Tactics goes to a lot of neat places, but for now it’s all about players picking four champions and squaring off in ranked matches.

Setting the Table

Of course, half the action happens before the battle even begins, as players select their Mechs and customize their loadouts. Hearing Williams and Cleroux describe it, it sounds a lot like the system used in MechWarrior 4, where Mechs can be customized but have weapons slots that only accept certain types of equipment. So you might want to swap out a set of medium lasers for a single, deadly powerful Particle Projection Cannon, but unless that set of sockets will take a PPC, you can’t attach it. However, even among Mech chassis, you’ll find special variants that allow for different configurations. So if you really want to swap out an Awesome’s third PPC for an SRM6, just to give it some low-heat infighting ability, you just might find a variant that will let you make such a radical change.

As if an Atlas isn’t a nasty enough surprise, this one seems to have a PPC.

This is where MWT’s “collectible card game” angle comes into play. If you want to deploy a Mech in battle, you have to own it. If you want to arm it with a better weapon, you have to own that as well. To get new gear, you purchase randomized booster packs stuffed with Mechs, equipment, and even appearance options. You can buy them with cash, or with currency earned in-game from fighting in battles, but the one thing you won’t be able to do is say, “I want a 100-ton Atlas,” and pay money to get one. There is no definite word on whether players will be able to trade items, except that it will not be possible at launch. However, Cleroux did leave the door open, saying, “I know that if I had a lot of cards, I would want to trade them. That’s all I can say right now.”

“We’re driving players to actually look for and collect components that work well together.”

One aspect of customization raised some red flags, however. “A laser isn’t just a laser,” Williams said. “A laser is going to be created by a certain manufacturer, and so if you have a number of components from the same manufacturer, you can actually have bonuses. So we’re driving players to actually look for and collect components that work well together.” I’m not sure item set bonuses will be worth the inventory bloat that comes from having Coke and Pepsi-flavored autocannons, but I’m even more doubtful that this will square with their intent to make skill paramount in deciding victory.

DropShips Inbound

There’s another wrinkle: when you commit a lance to combat, those units are no longer available for other games until their game is resolved. So if you like playing lots of games simultaneously — and with the pace of Tactics’ turn-based asynchronous combat, you probably will — you won’t be able to have one super-lance that you can use in every one. In this way, it pays to have a lot of Mechs and equipment in your virtual Mech bay.

I used to play BattleTech with an ammunition-dump house-rule, so our magazines didn’t explode. This is why.

While they admit that fans of the original BattleTech board game will probably have an easier time getting the hang of exactly how to play MechWarrior Tactics, Williams and Cleroux emphasized that they are not simply taking the board game’s complicated rules and adapting them to a “browser-based” PC game. (Note: this is a Unity engine game, which is launched within a browser but is a hell of a lot more complex than the typical Flash-based Facebook game.) Those rules are built for in-person play, and simply wouldn’t work for an asynchronous, online game. Instead, Tactics uses a simultaneous-resolution system, so both players will plan out a turn, submit it to the server, and then see what happens as their actions play out against one another. It’s all a bit “Mechs With Friends” as Cleroux put it, but with rather more hexes and giant battling robots. If want a more focused experience, you can set up a game with short time limits on turns.

More Than Deathmatch

“We want players to be able to engage in missions and matches that are about more than just blowing each other up.”

While the team is laser-focused on making a competitive 1v1 wargame, Williams and Cleroux definitely want it to be about more than deathmatch. “We want players to be able to engage in missions and matches that are about more than just blowing each other up,” Cleroux said. “We want players to have to make critical decisions and have choices about, ‘How am I going to go about planning my lance construction to best achieve a different type of objective?”

The initial setting is the year 3025, long before the Clan Invasion showed up (and inspired MechWarrior 2), but the plan is for regular content expansions to keep the game fresh with new technologies and designs. The promise is that after MechWarrior Tactics launches, we can look forward to a lot of new Mechs and equipment on regular basis. That’s great news, but let’s hope Cleroux and Williams learn from the board game’s mistakes and do a better job of preserving balance than the later BattleTech expansions did, when BattleTech turned into Gauss Rifle tag.


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