Piranha Games is sneaking out a final content update for MechWarrior Online before the holiday break. Next Tuesday, Conquest will become MWO's second mode—a long-awaited addition for beta players like myself who've put dozens of hours into the game's fun-but-meager map pool. Read on for more details, and for other changes coming in the upcoming patch.
FPS players should find Conquest familiar—like the Battlefield mode by the same name, it's a multiple-capture-point template. Conquest will repurpose MWO's existing Assault maps, dotting them with five capture zones. Each team begins the match with an owned capture zone, with three zones in the middle of the map up for grabs. Owning a zone accrues resource points, and the team that reaches 750 first wins. You can also, of course, win the old-fashioned way: knocking out the enemy team.
MWO lead designer Paul Inouye says that the mode draws on the differences between mechs' speed and durability. "Players will need to be a lot more aware of what is happening on the dynamic ownership of collection points to keep ahead of the competition," he says. "Light, fast Mechs will have the ability to swing the tide of the game while the heavier Mechs have the ability to defend and hold points behind their defensive lines. The brawler medium or heavy Mechs will mostly be fighting it out over contested collection points."
As with Assault mode, piling more mechs into the zone will accelerate the rate of capture, and a lone enemy can halt capture by occupying a zone. If the match is decided by one team reaching 750 resources, C-bills (MWO's in-game, non-cash currency) are doled out based on the resources each team gained; whatever your team earns will be multiplied by 25 and awarded as C-bills.
Speaking of imaginary mechmoney, Piranha is also aiming to make MWO more new player-friendly by upping the rate of C-bill gain for players' first 25 matches. This "Cadet Bonus" should allow players to buy their first mech in about half the time it currently takes. Next week's patch will also address my biggest MWO annoyance: the quiet scourge of AFK players. Inouye says that "AFK players will now be earning little to no C-Bills/XP per game. The large rewards for winning or losing have been removed and only a fraction of what was there before will be rewarded at match end." Take that, you lazy goons.
I also asked Inouye if Piranha is happy with the recent implementation of the ECM (electronic counter-measures) system to MWO, which allows some mechs to equip radar and lock-on jamming equipment. "The effect [of ECM] is working as intended and forces players to play a lot smarter," he said. "Specialized Mechs still have their place on the battlefield but they are going to need the assistance of their teammates to succeed. If you plan on taking specialized Mech into a match, plan wisely and have alternate weapon systems that will help you with mid to long-range combat. People are thinking we need to severely 'nerf' the ECM. This is not the case at all. There is already 1 counter-ECM item in the game (TAG), and likely there will be a couple more involving modules and weapon effects."