2011-14 Infinite Game Publishing2014 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.
In MechWarrior: Online, the player takes the role of a "MechWarrior", piloting large bipedal combat vehicles known as BattleMechs ('Mechs for short). Players can customize their BattleMech with an array of weapons and equipment and engage 12 versus 12 battles, the outcome of which earns the players experience and c-bills for future BattleMech purchases and customization. There are currently seven game modes that involve protecting and attacking a single base (Assault), capturing and holding several points (Conquest), take and hold the center of the map (Domination), leading a VIP to a pickup point (Escort), attacking a space defense system (Siege/Counter-Attack), protecting and attacking field bases with turrets and walls spread across the map (Incursion), and team death-match (Skirmish).
Other features include Community Warfare, which will allow players to align with one of six factions or mercenary corporations to impact a galactic map, as well as the addition of new Clan factions. Community Warfare was originally stated to be due out within 90 days of open beta (i.e. by January 2013). Subsequently, the release date for this feature was stated by the creative director of Mechwarrior Online to be all 3 phases inclusive by launch. Details about Community Warfare and a preview of the new user interface were revealed during the official launch party on September 26, 2013.
Since the official launch in September 2013 did not include either the updated interface or long-awaited Community Warfare, a new roadmap was announced in December 2013 stating a goal of getting Community Warfare implemented by fall of 2014, stating a worst case delivery date of October–November 2014. These goalposts were subsequently moved by Bullock to December 21, 2014 during a Twitter AMA (Ask Me Anything) session, while the scope of feature delivery was also reduced from 'Complete' to 'Version 1'.
The Beta release of Community Warfare was released on December 11, 2014.
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.
Initial problems over finding a publisher were resolved when a new Canadian publisher in Vancouver, Infinite Game Publishing (IGP), who had been interested in developing and publishing such a title, agreed to back the project. This was precipitated by the purchase by Piranha of the licensing rights to MechWarrior from Smith & Tinker, which it was hoped would create more positive responses from publishing companies.
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. Packages ranged from $30 up to $240. Special mechs with a gold-plate skin were also announced, costing US$500 and included bonus items. 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. Packages ranged from $30 up to $120. 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. Packages ranged from $20 up to $80. 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, with commentators suggesting that the developers were totally out of touch with the community and the needs of the game (Murff, James (August 30, 2013). "A Cautionary Tale: The Rage of the Mechwarrior Online Community". Game Front. Archived from the original on September 3, 2013.) Comments from senior engineers within the company in 2014 revealed that technical debt stemming from the game's aggressive release schedule had played a role in the delays, as had the user interface that served as a bottleneck for both new features and dynamic support of community events, which then demanded more of the devs' time to run manually. It was also brought up that PGI's choice of CryEngine 3 for the game engine had contributed to ongoing performance issues. Russ Bullock, in a podcast later in the year, cited the publisher's lack of support for Community Warfare and its decision to suspend production of new maps in favor of shuttling resources to development of the Clan 'mechs. From 2014 onwards, development and iterations of existing features became steadier.
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