Posts Tagged ‘battletech’

Puzzle Pirates has a deliciously useful way of letting players pay with time or with cash.  Their dual currency microtransaction model lets players either buy doubloons with cash from Three Rings directly, or from other players with in-game gold via the in-game blind currency exchange.  It’s a great way to let players either pay for their stuff with cash or time.  (Yes, that simplifies it a bit, and every single doubloon has to be purchased with cash at some point, but still, it’s a great, fungible system.)

Out here in the real world, gamers who have paid in time (patience, really) can get their hands on a couple of great games:

Valve’s meme-tastic Portal is free until May 24th

MechWarrior 4 is now available for free

Sure, your anguished cake jokes will be a little stale these days, but in many ways, these are games worth playing, years after release.  That just costs a little… time.

It was worth the wait.

Edited to add:

Oh, and Myst Online: Uru Live is now open source, an interesting take on the “death” of an MMO.


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Will it blend?

Combine three parts Guild Wars, one part Legend of the Five Rings, and one part Battletech and what pops out?  In this recipe, I’m hoping for a great Episodic Massive Multiplayer Online… game.  (Which should be EMMOG, but “leggo my EMMOG” just doesn’t flow that well.)

Guild Wars has a lot of great features, but the ones I want to emphasize here are the 8-skill limit, easy respecs, and the business model.

Players are stuck with only 8 active skills at one point, but can potentially choose those 8 from hundreds of skills.  This allows for variety and focus in builds and makes choice and specialization important, without gutting customizability.  The easy and free respecs make this limit work, since players can change their skills and even class focus for free in any town.  (Primary and secondary class choices are permanent, but almost everything else can be changed.)  Fairly quick missions and map travel (instant travel to any hub you’ve visited before) allow for short play sessions, and if a skill build isn’t working, it won’t take long until you can shuffle skills to try another idea, or long to get back where you were.

The GW business model is a thing of beauty; you buy the game, you play the game.  No maintenance fees, no subscription, no microtransactions.  There are optional things to buy, sure, but nothing necessary, and still, no subscription.  As long as the servers are up, you can play.  (That link is highly recommended; Shamus pontificates on online activation and server life… relevant for MMOs, as well.)  It’s a lovely throwback to simpler times when gamers and publishers weren’t in a DRM arms race, and subscriptions were for magazines.

There are expansions to the game as well.  These aren’t exactly sequels in an overarching storyline, but more like standalone novels that occur sequentially, set in the same fictional world.  Players can have a rollicking good time in any of the standalone expansions, or play all of them together, cross pollinating and cherry picking the best parts.  It’s like buying ice cream and then buying a chocolate pie.  Either is great alone, but together, they can be more than the sum of their parts.

Legend of the Five Rings is a multiplatform game world celebrating its 15th anniversary.  The tabletop RPG and CCG in the L5R world are both interesting, but it’s the CCG that I want to look at for this recipe, specifically the player-designer interaction.

The L5R collectible card game is much like many others, in that it is comprised of a large collection of cards that were released in different sets.  Players buy various products that have a small semi-random collection of cards selected from given sets.  One product purchase will not give the whole game library, then, but usually, an entry-level “starter” set will give players enough to actually play with.  Other cards from the entire product line add depth and strategies to the game.  Again, you buy it, you can play it, no permission necessary, no logins, no recurring fees.  Buying more products tends to open up gameplay options, but players can have fun with a single purchase and never spend another dime.

So much for the CCG business model, though it should be noted that the semi-random purchases tend to prompt further purchasing, thanks to the unholy fusion of the collector’s gene and the gambling gene.  In practice, people don’t usually stop at the starter… but it’s definitely possible to play the game with the starter alone.  This doesn’t track especially well in MMO design, but it is certainly possible that a publisher could sell in-game skills in “booster” packs, not unlike CCG boosters.  Single skills could even be microtransaction sale items… but that’s not a direction that I’d advocate.  The randomness of the CCG business model really does put off a lot of people, myself included.  (Though I do adore MTG Drafting and Sealed Deck… and GW has experimented with Sealed Deck-type mechanics for PvP… but that’s another article.)

The most interesting thing about L5R for this particular experiment is the way that the game incorporates players in its design.  Characters, lore and events are built at least partially around player choices in tournaments.  Players register in tournaments by swearing fealty to a particular clan in the game.  Their tournament play affects their clan in future expansions of the game.  Devs even plant certain cards in sets to see what players will do, planning stories around what might happen.  These stories then have a significant effect on future card design.  In a very literal way, the players have become important actors within the clan stories, and the interaction between the devs and the players makes for a more immersive sort of gaming experience.  Player choices matter beyond the immediate match.  Factional differences actually mean something.  Your clan matters.

That interplay is what I really want to see in this EMMO recipe.  Player action in aggregate, changing the direction of the game design in future expansions.  To be sure, crafting a CCG is a very different animal from crafting an MMO, but the design ethos of letting player choices matter beyond immediate combat is what I’m getting at.  Those of us who live in the real world tend to leave a stamp of our passing in one way or another, even if it’s on the road less traveled.  The world is changed for our presence and our actions.  An MMO that offers a living world, indelibly changed by its inhabitants, not just the devs, may well be worth exploring.

The L5R game isn’t entirely built on player choices, since the devs have some pretty clear ideas what they would like to do in the game, but it incorporates player choice far more than a typical MMO, what with the “perpetual now” they have to use to make things technically feasible.  An EMMO would by definition be developed in episodes, not unlike L5R sets, to allow for devs to take player choice and do something fun with it between expansions.  Players could play any given chapter of the story, or all of them, and each chapter would have its own “perpetual now”, but the world itself would advance in time in between chapters, and the way it advances would be at least partially influenced by player choices in the previous chapter during the window of time in the “real world” where the devs are working on the next game chapter.  So a player playing chapter 1 might not affect chapter 3.  If you miss the influence window, the game moves on without your input… though you can still reread and play older chapters.  This means devs don’t have to craft a wholly dynamic world, but can still let player actions mean something when the world’s timeline advances.

This is crucial to making this actually feasible, by limiting the scope of the project by limiting what players actually can do, and what devs need to allow them to do.

The Battletech contribution to this particular delicacy is the separation of the pilot and the vehicle, where the vehicle is the main gameplay avatar, but the pilot is the player’s presence in the world.  Separating the two allows for the flexibility we see in EVE, where the player’s character isn’t stuck with a class choice at creation that they are locked into for the life of that character.  If players playing an MMO are playing characters who can switch between ‘Mech weight classes and models between missions, they can tailor their approach to the particular situation they are playing in, rather than find situations that they can shine in with the only hammer they have been given.  This also allows for a separation of gameplay mechanics (combat, specifically) and the political game.  The mercenary life of many MechWarriors is a great place to tinker with the meaning of allegiance and what it means to the interaction between immediate gameplay and long-term citizenship in a game world.

So, add these five key ingredients to a bowl, blend it up with a fine tooth comb, sift out the bugs, cook at 40hrs/week for a few years.  What are we left with?

Things really could go in a few different directions, and the frosting on the cake (the lore and setting) could be any of a couple different flavors.  What I’d hope to see is the following:

  • Player choice drives future development
  • Flexible approaches to mission-based gameplay
  • Bring the player, not the class (whether this means role swapping on the fly or a classless system, either is fine)
  • Episodic content, where time actually moves on, and some stories have a real end
  • Location matters, and allegiance has gameplay ramifications (more than a faction rep grind and unlocking vendors)
  • One-time monetization of chapters (like Guild Wars expansions), and the ability to play any as standalone games or mix and match

I’d wrap these up in a Steampunk-Battletech lore cocktail, m’self, but that’s more a matter of taste than functionality.

What think ye?  What are the best ingredients of an episodic MMO, and how would it be presented?

Oh, and what if this sort of thing (the reclaiming of Gnomeregan) were built on player actions?  At my office, we’ve talked about flow tracking, where devs can take a look at where gamers tend to play and how long they tend to do so, especially where they have problems or memorable moments.  I doubt that Blizzard is unaware of such technology, but who knows if they are using it on WoW.  BBB also suggests that the Trolls could get a capital; what if that were determined by where Troll players have been playing and how long they did?  By aggregate Troll player reputation, either social or faction rep?

There are all sorts of subtle (or gross) ways like that to take player choices into account, whether in aggregate or high profile individual player or guild choices.  Not only could that make the game seem alive, but also make it more interesting.  (Though maybe more addictive, though, which isn’t always the best idea, duly noted by Callan in the Home Town Pride article’s comments.)

Still, it seems like a good way to make the virtual world more interesting, increasing the quality of feedback between players, devs and the world they share.

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Our home access to the internet died a while ago, and once the company fixed it, it died again a short while later.  We wound up with no internet access for about 3 weeks total.  (Of course we’re not getting our money back for that time, even though the errors were entirely the company’s fault.  Go, go subscription service business model!)  At first, it was an annoyance, but it did coincide with my dwindling interest in MMOs, so we really only lost out on email access and bloggish stuff.  More than once, my wife noted that she wasn’t as bothered by the loss as she thought she would be, and that she actually kind of liked it.  (Facebook detox can be rough, but it’s worth it.)  I concurred.

During this time, I dived into some offline games I’ve been meaning to pick up, namely Final Fantasy 12, Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume and Disgaea.  I have thoroughly enjoyed them, and I’m more annoyed than ever that I have to check in via internet to play some games that I own.  (Even my beloved Guild Wars could and should have an offline mode.)

Specifically, when my daughter wanted to play World of Goo and Audiosurf (her favorites), she couldn’t, because I got them via Steam, and while we were offline, Steam wouldn’t cooperate.  Yes, there’s an offline mode for Steam, but we happened to be behind the curve on updating the client (thanks to being offline), so it refused to start up, even in offline mode, because it wanted to be updated first.  This was deeply annoying, and I’ve made it a practice to leave Steam in offline mode as a result.  As it happens, even that doesn’t help, though, since *any* connection to the internet lets Steam do a little backdoor checking (even in offline mode), and if it needs an update to the client, it refuses to work until you restart it in online mode and update it.

This ticks me off.

A lot.

And honestly, how fantastic is that deal when I’ve got to pony up almost $50/month for internet access just so I can play a game that functions perfectly without the internet?  I just have to verify that I’m a legitimate customer and get permission to play.  …for a game that I paid forThat doesn’t need the frikkin’ internet.  Seriously, this isn’t exactly DRM, but it’s pissing me off almost as much.  I’m no pirate, but I sympathize emotionally with those looking for CD hacks or private self-hosted in-house WoW server tech.

Good Old Games does it right.  No DRM, no hassle, no checking in, old games reworked to function on new machines “out of the box”.  Valve might make impressive games, but Steam stinks.

Back to MMOs, though, I’ve argued strenuously against the subscription model before, and will probably do so again, because it doesn’t offer me good value.  I don’t doubt that it’s good for some people, but it’s not good enough for me.  There isn’t enough “value added” to these MMO things to make it worth the aggravation and costs, and that’s just to actually play the blasted things.  Never mind all the idiots that are online that make gaming a pain oft times anyway (LFG IQ>72, PST).  Or the weak storytelling and stupid treadmill design.  Or the atrocious time sinks that they have to be to keep people paying for underwhelming design so that they can pay back the investor sharks who thought they could get in on the next WoW cash cow.

So yes, I’m happy to be gaming offline again.  I’ve discovered an interest in tabletop Warhammer and Battletech (though it’s stupidly expensive for those dumb little plastic miniatures and paints so I’m not buying in, I’m digging into the rulebooks and finding all sorts of interesting game design… I’ll make my own minis if it comes to that, thanks).  I’m working on my own games more (and the illustrations for my mother’s book).  I’m having more fun with my family.  And when I do play video games, I play on the DS more often than not, and the liberating freedom of being away from the internet permission overlords (and the desk!) is refreshing.  It helps that the DS has a lot of good tactical RPG games.  Disgaea is the latest one I’ve been playing, and there are a lot of good ideas in that game.

So when I see something like this, complaining that StarCraft 2 will not have LAN play and is toying with DRM, I shake my head, and go dig up some of my Good Old Games (OK, mostly in boxes on CD, but some from GOG that I never have to bother them for past the initial purchase and download) or just work on the Bee Hive board game that I’m making with my daughter.  I’ve lost touch with internet gaming, and while I agree that aspects of the battle.net revamp and lack of LAN are exceedingly stupid, and has likely cost them my patronage (even though I loved StarCraft and played it a ton), I doubt that Blizzard cares about that loss.

So I think to myself, why should I care either?

Aion, WoW Cataclysm, SWTOR, EVE, Jumpgate Evolution, Star Trek Online, Guild Wars (even the sequel, despite how awesome it looks), Puzzle Pirates, Wizard 101… it’s all just so much static now (even the games I love on that list).  And you know… it’s nice, tuning it all out for a bit.  There are still things about those that interest me as a cog in the gaming machine (I work in the field, so it’s good to keep up to date), but as a gamer… not as much as they once did.  Oddly enough, they would interest me a LOT more if they were offline games, especially SWTOR, Cataclysm, GW2 and EVE.  (I do love Privateer and Freelancer.)  They just don’t offer me enough value in their “onlineness” to make them worth getting riled up too much about or feel like paying a sub for.

Will that change what I write about here?  And how often?  Probably.  I never said this was just a place about MMOs, that’s just what I’ve written about so far (more or less).  I think I have some interesting things to say still about game design (board, card and digital) and art (traditional, digital and photography), so that’s probably what I’ll get into a bit more.  If I do get into Cataclysm as a result of the Arthas contest, I’ll probably have fun with it for that month, and I really do want to look around at the world changes (and take pictures, lots of pictures) and write up a few articles about the experience (not unlike the Death Knight articles), but I’m certainly not signing in for a long haul.  Though Blizzard, if you do make an offline “Old Azeroth” retail box, I promise to buy at least one. It’s the perfect time to do something like that, after the Cataclysm… there’s a strong nostalgia streak out there.

You could call it “burnout” if you want, but I take a critical look at the genre as a whole, and just don’t see that it offers me anything that I want enough to put up with the aggravation or the costs of playing online.  Perhaps it never really did (I never did dive into WoW even when I first played it years ago), and it just took a bit more experimentation to confirm that.  It should probably be noted that for the duration of this blog, I’ve never been all that happy with the status quo.  This isn’t really all that radical of a mindset shift, it’s just… shifting gears a bit.

And y’know… it feels like a weight is off my shoulders.  I wish current and future MMO players and devs well, to be sure.  I’ll certainly play W101 a bit here and there (yay, Access Pass business model!), maybe dabble in DDO, and will probably pick up GW2 when it goes on sale in 2012, so it’s not like I’m /ragequitting the whole shebang.  It’s just time for something else for me, at least as a major focus of what I do around here, at least for now.

Maybe more pretty painted pictures.  🙂

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Tip o’ the tam o’shanter to Zoso over at Killed in a Smiling Accident for this one:

Four for Free

So not only are they rebooting the MechWarrior franchise (with the Jordan Weisman neck deep in the process), but they are offering MechWarrior 4 for free.  Like the offering of MechCommander 2 before it, this is good news.  Some do consider MW4 to be a pretty weak entry in the lineage, but hey, a free game that was once a commercial release is worth at least checking out, especially for this BattleTech fan.

Now, if MS would just get the file download set up already

And yes, this is probably a scheme to show that there is demand for a new MechWarrior.  So… maybe I’ll download it twice… and send them a few sketches of ‘Mechs in steampunk style…

I can pick out a couple, but it might be fun to do a request or two.  I need to do some more portfolio pieces anyway, in a different style from the book illustrations.  The new MechWarrior looks to be all Inner Sphere ‘mechs, but as far as I’m concerned, pretty much any ‘Mech is open game for steampunking.  (Though if I don’t have the specs and some visuals on it, I may request such for reference.)

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Following up on a comment from Spinks over in the Dual Wield Healing comments, I’ve wondered for a while why “players LOVE classes”.  I suspect there are a handful of reasons, and I’d love to hear what some of you think.  I’m not really disputing that assertion, since I’ve seen plenty of evidence thereof, but I am always questioning why that might be, and if there’s an alternate way (or three) to scratch the underlying psychological itches.  While thinking a bit about those itches, I’ve been thinking of other ways to approach the scratching.

One game that I’ve looked to for good ideas is Final Fantasy Tactics.  FFT has character “Jobs” that function much like classes:  The characters have a core Job that defines their gear permissions (weapons and armor, anyway) and their primary combat abilities.  Soldiers are melee fighters, Black Mages are ranged magic cannons, etc.  Characters can learn abilities from their active “main” Job, eventually Mastering the Job.  They can also use skills they have learned from other Jobs to customize their approach.

Overall, I like FFT’s system, as it allows you to build up a character with a wide variety of abilities that cross-pollinate and synergize, but filters them through the ability to only use a handful at a time.  It’s a nice compromise between learning everything and making tactically relevant limited choices.  Players can make characters specialists or generalists, and anything in between.  This works largely because you tend to field a handful of units in any given skirmish, rather than just a single character.  You can build a team that works well as a whole, rather than just try to do everything yourself.

Battletech works in a similar fashion.  There are several different ‘Mech chassis designs, and several weapons to put in those ‘Mechs.  Players are encouraged to customize their machines by swapping weapons, armor, heat sinks and such, trying to optimize their machine (or team of ‘Mechs in some iterations of the IP) for how they play.  Certainly, there are “stock” configurations of the machines, but half of the fun of the Battletech universe is tinkering with the delicate balance of heat, ballistics, energy weapons, range, mobility, size, and half a dozen other aspects, trying to build the most powerful ‘Mech for its weight.  The stock designs are not usually optimized for greatest potential, which I suspect was intentionally done to give an impetus to tinker, and a reward for those who master the tuning system.

The rough analogue to MMO class design is the Battletech ‘Mech chassis, and the “spec” for a class (minor tweaks to how the class plays) are the loadout of the ‘Mech.  Of course, a MechWarrior need not be tied to a single Mech for his career, which is where the Battletech variability wins out over a class design; it’s like the ability to change your class (chassis) at a whim (or limited by experience/story permissions/bankroll, whatever), allowing for a much greater gameplay variety over the course of a single character’s “life”.  This is also where FFT shines; it allows a single character to change their class/spec/loadout often and completely.

I really like this sort of customizability, as I love the freedom it offers, and I can get more invested in my characters since they really are mine.  Their progress is dictated by my choice, and ultimately, those choices affect how I approach the game as a whole.

Still, that depth does put off some people.  I suspect that it would similarly put off people in MMOs who LOVE their class and can’t imagine playing anything different.  It’s a lot to keep track of, and some people don’t want to bother with learning that much.  There’s nothing wrong with that.

*Quick tangent… I also see class distinctions as yet another way to artificially extend playtime, since you can’t take an existing character and just change their class like you would a Job in FFT.  You must start a whole new character and grind through the levels.  The ability to change your class completely in an MMO doesn’t rob you of identity any more than the ability to change your spec or gear.  It’s your character, and you can always just stick with one class, even if there are options to change.  When there are no options, though, the player interested in exploration of game mechanics is unduly forced to jump through altitis and grind hoops.*

One of the game designs that I’ve toyed with in the last few years is a Tactics-esque game that has a FFT/BT level of depth for character customization, but has what I’m calling Autopilot Character Development.  For those who don’t want to make those choices of how to build a character, there would be “templates” that could be assigned to a unit, automating that progress, allowing the player to just focus on the tactics and strategy inherent in a larger campaign/storyline.

For example, a unit might be given the Scout Template, which would automatically assign them to the Scout class for a while, as it learns some Scouting abilities, then later, assign it to a Ninja class where it can learn some greater evasion and attack abilities.  At any point, the player can turn off the Template and take control of the progression, but if they just can’t be bothered with the minutae inherent in the system, the Autopilot lets them get on with playing the upper-level game.  (Here “upper-level” meaning higher concepts, like tactics and strategy, not high unit level.)

Put another way, this sort of Template system could be overlaid on an open skill system to create a loose sort of “streamlined” class-based system.  UO could become Diablo, as it were.  The key here is that you would always have the option to go back and take the reins, mixing and matching to make your Scout dabble in magic or your Barbarian toy with bows.  This, of course, means that you would also be able to change pretty much everything about the character, from the most basic stats (the prototypical SRT, DEX, whatever) to skill levels to combat skillset (a limited set of usable abilities, like the FFT system).

Is it a lot to keep track of?  Of course it is.  Is it a lot to dig into and potentially have fun with?  If done well, definitely.  Is it good design?  I think so, largely because of the experience I’ve had with games.  (Of course, this mostly applies to those games that require a huge investment of time and character building.  Team Fortress 2 and Smash Bros. work because each round of playing with a class only takes a few minutes.  When that play session extends to hours, weeks and months, it’s onerous to think of “replay” as “rolling another class”.)

I played Titan Quest through as a Sage, a Hunter/Storm ranged DPS machine.  I used Hunter as my “main” class because arrows are infinite, and I could attack at range without burning through mana reserves.  I used Storm to augment that plan, buffing my offense with elemental punch, making my basic ranged attacks sufficiently powerful to kill all but the hardiest enemies long before they got to melee range to bother me.  Ranged enemies went down even quicker since I had great range and high damage… and they were typically slow casters with little defense.  I had a blast, but once I finished the game, I wanted to try another class build.

I didn’t want to spend the time grinding through the lower levels of the game building up a new character, though, playing old content just to see how another class would approach it.  So I found a little program called the TQ Defiler.  It let me edit my character, changing his class to anything I felt like.  I would not have played the game as much as I did without that freedom.  In my younger, stupider days I might have jumped back in with another character from the very start, but with life constantly intruding on my gaming time, I don’t have that luxury any more.  Of course, the TQ Defiler also allows for other sorts of hacks which make the game much easier or harder, but the part that interested me was the class swapper.  There is a “respec” option in the game, but it only allows you to change the way you’ve allocated your skill points, not change your class or secondary, and the cost in game currency increases with each use of the service.

Why?  What does that add to the game?  “Replay value”?  In my time-constrained world, playing through the same content with a different approach is pretty low on the replay value scale.  Yes, it’s technically “replay”, but the bulk of that sort of replay is just repetition, which never sits well with me.  (Mostly because DIKU design is very repetitious to start with; repeating the repetition just gets too stupid too fast.)

“Class identity”?  Thing is, if you have the option to change, you don’t lose that identity; those classes and builds are still there, you just gain the ability to make more choices in the game.  Remember, I like choices.  Purist players in a freeform system will always have the choice to stick with their initial choice, but it doesn’t work the other way; those who want freedom can’t drag it out of a class system without a hex editor.  (Which is effectively making the game behave in ways it wasn’t built for, but arguably should have been.  That sort of hacking doesn’t work in MMOs, since the admins tend to frown on it, banhammer in hand… understandably so, if disappointingly so.)

In a freeform system with Autopilot, you could let the Templates handle the minutae of maintaining a “class identity”, and just go ahead and play your class.  Those who want to do something more freeform could use the Autopilot a bit, or just go all in and do their own thing.

Guild Wars already has something somewhat like this with their Build Templates that you can save and load when you do your “free respec” thing in any town.  They are shorthand precooked “builds” that can be used at any time you would respec, so you can quickly change from a “farming” build to a “questing” or PvP build.  You can also change around your “attribute” numbers willy nilly, to accent your particular build of the moment.

I’m just extending the concept to push that freedom into more aspects of the game, all the way down to the most basic of character customization, the “class” choice.  I’ll reiterate, though, I’m talking about adding choices, and adding an Autopilot for those who want the more constrained experience.  This system wouldn’t destroy the ability to make a killer Rogue or buffalicious Tank, it would augment the game as a whole to allow for more variety and player ownership of one of the few things they truly can control; their character or team.  And yes, this design ethos would apply equally well to a Tactics team-based game as to an MMO.  Any game that uses classes or jobs could benefit from this sort of freedom.

I know, some people wouldn’t like that sort of freedom.  Some want strict predictability and/or relatively simple decision making.  That’s the point of the Autopilot, to let those players just get on with playing the game.  For those who want to dig deeper, though, why not let them do so?

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I’m still not sure how I happened across it, but a new MMO titled Project of Planets caught my attention this last weekend.  I’ve downloaded the beta client, and will test it out when I can carve out time.  In the meantime, I’ve prowled the (obviously translated) documentation.  The game looks a bit like Armored Core writ large and multiplayer, so as an old Battletech/AC fan, it’s worth exploring a bit.

What caught my eye prowling through the relatively scanty data is the existence of a rudimentary Tank/DPS/Healer trinity.  They call it Defense/Shooting/Command, but at a glance, it looks to be much the same sort of core philosophy.  I can’t help but be a little disappointed.

Yesterday, I was perusing an old MechCommander manual, and noted that there really isn’t much in the way of a trinity in Battletech.  There are three ranges, an elaborate interplay between heat and firepower (DPS throttling, of a sort), mech tonnage which limits armor/structure/weapon builds, and a ton of customization options.  (Options that I have spent WAY too many hours tinkering with.)  Combat itself is more about dancing around in certain ranges, maximizing your weapon use while trying to minimize exposure to enemy fire.  There is no healing.  There are no classes.  There are a few mechs that serve as fire support, and some that specialize in single weapons, but that’s about as focused as it gets, since most mechs are fairly general in their approach.  They have to be flexible because of the combat range dance.  Overall, it’s a pure endurance match, kill or be killed, driven by pilot skill with evasion and firing accuracy.

I miss it.

I’m not the only one to wish for a Battletech MMO, to be sure, but in a world of DIKU trinity design oversaturation, a little simple toe to toe combat where pilot skill is key would be a breath of fresh air.  I’m not certain that I’ll see that in PoP, but I’m going to at lest dabble to see what they have going for them.  If it’s just a mech-flavored reskin of typical DIKU grinding, it will find an audience… but I really could go for something a bit more in line with the core design concepts of Battletech and/or Armored Core.

Perhaps it’s time to pontificate a bit on mission-based MMO design.  Muckbeast has blasted the degeneration of quest-based MMO design lately… but what if we embraced the inherently chunky  (mission based) gameplay of the Battletech/MechWarrior/AC gameplay?

…I’ve burned up most topics that I want to rant about regarding the current state of affairs in the MMO genre.  It’s time to dig a bit more into creating, not dissecting.  As much fun as I’ve had throwing darts at sacred cows, I’m itching to do something more constructive.  Wiqd’s projects are one place to spend a bit more time, but for the occasional moment when I want to write here, I’m thinking this might be fairly fertile ground for a while.

Loading the dropship…

…oh, and is it terrible of me to be thinking of ways to crossbreed Steampunk and Battletech?

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