MechWarrior Online developers share details, explain how MWO evolves the series

Going back to some of the things I talked about with Jordan. He said you guys had some very nifty simulation aspects, almost. Things like lance members being able to share recon data. You could send your light Mech forward and it could pull line of sight and send that back to your fire support Mech. Things like that, being able to work with air support units. Are you still planning on weaving some of these elements into the combat?

BE: Absolutely. That's another one of our core pillars, which is what we call "information warfare." Which basically boils down to controlling the flow of information on the battlefield. Whether it be your own information, or the information of your enemies. So we really want to establish more roles on the battlefield. We want to make gameplay be less about an arms race, where you start in a light Mech but you really want to get into an assault Mech, because it's the best thing there is. What we want to do is make that light, and those mediums and those heavy Mechs, have a purpose on the battlefield and give players the ability to have fun with them. And actually have a tactical advantage by creating well-composed lances and well-composed mercenary corps.

So the answer is yes. We have a core feature called information warfare that fits into what Jordan was talking about.

RB: It's really about making sure that we overcome some of the problems or challenges that some of the past games had. And one of those, frankly, is as Bryan said, it's an arms race. Some of that was due to the technology limitations at the time. With the wide-open terrain maps, it would quickly degrade into everyone has one of a couple different Mechs decked in one of two different ways.

And you're laughing because you know just what I mean. And we're just determined to make sure that the lance unit needs to be well-balanced. And you said it yourself: there's going to be opportunities for that light scout Mech to become such a valuable member of that lance, for him to go ahead through terrain that he can be well-protected in, find out where the enemies are, and relay that information back to his lance mates. And that's just one example of one class and role of Mech, and how they're going to become useful to their lance.

So, in an ideal world, a well-balanced lance would have one of each weight class, and one of each role, and there's going to be limitless ways of composing your lance. But the best lance is not going to be four 100-ton Assault Mechs.

How many players will be involved in these engagements? Is it just going to be lance on lance combat, or Mech company combat? How many people per team?

BE: The final numbers we're not announcing just yet. We are going to support multiple lances per session on at least two teams. So yes, there will be multiple lances and multiple team combat.

You name at least two combat modes here, Conquest and Versus. Am I correct in assuming that Versus is a deathmatch, and can you get into Conquest a bit?

BE: Yeah, Versus covers team deathmatch, deathmatch, one-on-one, and any type of head to head with no objectives other than to kill the enemy.

Conquest is more about controlling the battlefield. It's a mix of Conquest and Rush. You might need to occupy and advance, so it's a much more tactical gameplay. And this is going to be our primary mode that we roll out with, and the one I think players are going to enjoy the most. It offers more than just going out there and killing each other. You actually have to work together, work with the tools you're provided, control the information flow on the battlefield, and so on, so forth. So it's a much more detailed combat mode.

So you talk about upgrading skills, a leveling system, upgrading your Mech, and this is such a tricky area for F2P games. There are all these fears about pay-to-win games, and Mech aficianados, they know the specs on a Mech. They know what the Mech is capable of. How is progression going to work? It's F2P, but obviously money comes into it somewhere. What does your money buy you?

BE: One of the most important things in any F2P games, in my opinion, is not allowing players to buy skill. The fastest way to destroy your game is to allow your players to buy something that gives them a tactical advantage over an enemy. So we've been very careful about what you can purchase and what you need to earn.

Can you get into items and upgrades yet?

BE: You're going to to be able to purchase, using a variety of different methods, Mechs, Mech pieces, skills - but I'll be careful with what i mean about skills.

When it comes to the pilot, you'll be able to train your pilot to fit the role that you like. But you won't be able to pay real cash for pilot training, for example. That would be through earned experience points or earned in-game cash. So you would actually have to play the game to upgrade your pilot. Anything that would affect or give your a tactical advantage, you can't purchase with real cash. You have to earn that by playing the game.

So we have a pilot tree, a skill tree. As you level up you can unlock new features and new abilities. So if you want to be a scout, you would get skills related to information technology, or being able to move faster, hide, things like that. If you wanted to be more of an assault person, it would be more related to weapon control and such.

What variety of environments can players look forward to? Will different climates pose challenges?

BE: Absolutely. Because heat is a huge part of this game, we have selected a range of maps, from very cold worlds to very hot worlds, to everything in between. And scenarios that take advantage, and force the player to think about heat in different ways. As for the specific differences between maps, one of the things we can do these days that previous games weren't able to do well is urban combat. And it's a cornerstone of MWO, this ability to actually fight in detailed urban settings. So we have a smattering of urban maps, and some open terrain maps, and all require different tactics, and different roles, and different Mechs. So on a big open field, with huge open ranges, the Assault Mech might have an advantage. But in the city, the scout mech with its maneuverability might have the advantage.

Is there any chance of, say, cooperative missions? Where you're playing through a story mission, or a fun challenge mission with scripted events?

BE: We have considered co-op. We've discussed single-player. We're looking at how those will play out. But right now, as part of the initial launch, those will not be included.