|Publisher(s)||2011-14 Infinite Game Publishing 2014 Piranha Games|
|Genre(s)||Vehicular combat, action|
MechWarrior Online is a free-to-play vehicular combat video game, officially launched during September 2013 by Piranha Games for Microsoft Windows. The game takes place within the larger BattleTech universe.
Players control large bipedal combat vehicles known as battlemechs and compete against other players. Winning battles against other players grants the winner experience and "c-bills" for future purchases and customization. The game features a variety of gameplay modes, including deathmatch, King of the Hill, and Conquest mode in which each team must secure and hold locations around the map. The game also features a faction warfare system in which players align themselves with various factions and must secure control of planets on behalf of their own faction.
Jordan Weisman, founder of Smith & Tinker and previously founder of the disbanded FASA Corporation which worked on the MechWarrior series, negotiated the license back from Microsoft after that software company had left the property idle for years. Russ Bullock of Piranha Games, a longtime fan of the series, contacted Weisman in October 2008 to discuss a collaborative prototype project that eventually became the new iteration of the MechWarrior series. In March 2009, after coming up with a presentation for a prototype scenario, both studios assigned a team of full-time designers and programmers.
The game was officially announced in July 2009 with a three-minute debut trailer. At the time, the game was dubbed simply MechWarrior, as it was meant to be a reboot of the series and not a continuation of the previous four games. The official title of MechWarrior Online came later in development. In October 2011 a Twitter campaign was launched as the start of the advertising campaign.
On May 22, 2012, Piranha Games announced the start of closed beta testing for Mechwarrior Online. The game was scheduled to enter open Beta on October 16, 2012, but the date was pushed back due to stability and playability issues. Open Beta commenced on October 29, 2012.
The game was officially released on September 17, 2013.
On September 1, 2014, Piranha Games acquired the game's publishing rights from Infinite Games Publishing.
Marketing and release
As a pre-purchase promotion, MechWarrior Online offered three tiers of Founders packages—Legendary, Elite, and Veteran—all of which provided advanced beta access. Founders packages also offered exclusive perks scaled based on price, including months of premium account access, in-game currency and Founder's Mechs. The Atlas was the first Founder's Mech to be unveiled. It made its debut in the first week of August 2012. The remaining three Mechs were the Hunchback, Jenner, and Catapult, for a total of four. Each Mech sported a unique paint job and unique in-game bonuses. The Founders program officially ended on October 14, 2012. The Founder's Packs raised more than US$5 million.
Project Phoenix packages were announced on June 25, 2013. The package has four tiers, offering a new BattleMech from each weight class, along with premium time and cockpit items. The packages were delivered on October 15, 2013. An additional package, the Saber Reinforcement, including two further medium class BattleMechs, was unveiled on August 28, 2013.
On July 23, 2013, Piranha Games added a custom BattleMech for a player's daughter who died of cancer. The proceeds were donated to the Canadian Cancer Society. At the end of the charity drive, over $122,000 USD was donated.
On December 13, 2013, PGI introduced new Mech Packages that include Clan Mechs. Gold-plated mechs were also announced. Player backlash over the gold plated mechs noted the high price of the packages for a small free-to-play game, as well as the addition of such items while other player-requested features have not been addressed.
On September 14, 2014, PGI introduced a second Clan Mech Package that included the 2nd wave of Clan Mechs. Each package includes a custom chosen warhorn, mug and colors of any one of the chosen clans, increasing every time the next package was bought. If the player had previously bought the top tier package of the first Clan Mech package, they would receive the bonus Mech of the 2nd package. Clan packages would be sent to players who ordered them on December 16.
On October 22, 2014, PGI introduced an Inner Sphere Mech package, Named Resistance. Each package included a badge and a faction pack. Each faction pack was doubled for each higher tier.
On September 3, 2009, shortly after posting preview videos and images of the game, IGN was issued a cease and desist order by Harmony Gold USA (owners of the Robotech franchise), citing copyright infringement over the use of several BattleMech designs allegedly based on mecha designs derived from the Macross series. Specifically, the trailer for MechWarrior featured the Warhammer, which is similar in design to the Destroid Tomahawk from the Macross and Robotech Series. The Warhammer, as well as several other BattleMechs, such as the Marauder and Archer, were an important part of the early BattleTech universe and image, but were based on images from Macross and other mecha anime series that FASA had licensed from the original Japanese creators but which Harmony Gold claimed as their own property inside the United States. In June 2011, Bryan Ekman, from Piranha Games, tweeted that there was, in fact, no dispute with Harmony Gold, and that they were not responsible for the game's delay.
IGN gave the game a score of 7.3, stating that gameplay is solid and characterized it as an alternative to twitch-reflex based shooters in that MechWarrior Online rewards cautious play, thoughtful weapon use, and using advanced tactics. However, IGN criticized the games for being inconsistent in that matches swing between fast and furious and long and drawn out.
GameTrailers awarded a score of 6.0 out of 10 praising the ability for players to customize their BattleMechs, but criticizing the cumbersome user interface and that the game did a poor job at explaining its systems. GameTrailers also stated that though gameplay was generally enjoyable, it quickly became repetitive because only two game modes (Assault and Conquest) were available at the time of the review and that the game lacked a larger framework linking battles together.
GameSpot gave MechWarrior Online a score of 60 out of 100. GameSpot praised MechWarrior Online's graphics, gameplay, and customization, but criticized it for its high learning curve, lack of game modes, and lack of maps that supported 12v12 gameplay.
Delays of major features, design decisions, and lack of communication from the developers led to growing community backlash over the course of 2013.
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