Some people like Mechwarrior Online, and some people really, really don't. Numerous MWO forum threads are filled with complaints about the incomplete state of the game, and the announcement of Transverse, the new sci-fi MMO project from developer Piranha Games, was met with a deluge of fresh anger. That upset was driven in no small part by the multi-million-dollar, in-house crowdfunding campaign; yet according to Piranha Games co-founder Bryan Ekman, crowdfunding is one of the most effective ways an independent studio can build both a loyal following and a market for its games.
Mechwarrior Online scored a very respectable score of 83 in our October 2013 review, but it obviously hasn't been entirely sunshine and lollipops since then. Fans have complained loud and long about missing features, delays and a glacial pace of development that has left major aspects of the game in an incomplete state. But Piranha Games President Russ Bullock recently announced that publisher Infinite Games is no longer involved with the project, which he said has already increased the pace of the game's development.
"I'd love to see a big, new ten-hour single-player campaign for MechWarrior," Piranha Games co-founder Russ Bullock said during GDC Online. He's assuredly not alone on that wishful thought -- the MechWarrior franchise's bipedal chunks of armageddon typically came with colony and clan warfare. But speaking to Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Bullock cited the industry's "really tough" expectations for including worthwhile single-player as the primary reason for keeping the action multiplayer for now.
Worried that a free-to-play MechWarrior might be a cynical cash-in on a beloved franchise? So was I. But after talking with Creative Director Bryan Ekman and Russ Bullock, president of Piranha Games, I was not only more confident about MechWarrior Online, but genuinely excited about the direction they are taking the franchise.
Ekman and Bullock are serious Mech fans, and knew exactly where my questions were coming from. They were also crystal clear about one thing: this is the MechWarrior that PC gamers know and love. This is about taking the gameplay of MechWarrior 2 through MechWarrior 4 in directions those earlier games couldn't even contemplate.
The MechWarrior community caught fire in 2009 when Piranha Games released a trailer for their upcoming MechWarrior reboot, and it seemed like all Piranha needed to do was find a a publisher and relaunch the classic MechWarrior franchise.
But almost two years went by with no word on the project's status, and no publisher picked it up. I talked to Russ Bullock, president of Piranha Games', and asked about MechWarrior's missing years, and how MechWarrior Online emerged from their struggle to find a publisher. He explains how Microsoft's restrictions on the MechWarrior license made the property a tough sell, and how bad timing made a tough job impossible. Stymied by the traditional publishing model, Piranha started to take a hard look at whether free-to-play might let them make the game they wanted, without compromising its values.