I linked to the previous article to lay out what’s been going on and why there’s the huge uproar over Mechwarrior Online itself, but kept a lot of my own thoughts out of it aside from my disappointment. It’s excessively aggravating to see the development team fucking around with its fanbase like that, and that’s a major reason for my upset over the ordeal, but in truth my disappointment goes a lot deeper.
When I first heard about MWO, it was still early discussions over Mechwarrior 5. Screenshots and demo videos showed some of the big lumbering stompy space robots that I’ve always loved, so of course I was all a titter. When the news of it came around again, that it had gone from MW5 to Mechwarrior Online, I nearly pissed my pants in glee. How cool would that be? When the founders program spun up, I did decide to go whole hog and went for the larger of the pledges. After all, this was the resurgence of a game series I absolutely love! In truth I was also coming down from the middling high of some of the other crowd sourcing events that had been going around. Neal Stephenson’s Kickstarter for his project Clang had succeeded and was actually going well. The Double Fine Kickstarter had vastly over-achieved its funding goal (that one, incidentally, has been delayed, which is disappointing). Surely this would go well too? And it did. The Founders program went over like gangbusters amongst giant robot aficionados.
When the closed beta started, I certainly had fun with it. Big robots! Shooty lasers! Missiles fucking EVERYWHERE! It was quite a lot of fun and I was surprised at how easy it was to get used to. My old knowledge and preferences for Mech builds from the old days largely still worked, but the controls were simple as you could like. Sometimes I did very well: my best in a round was 5 kills in an 8 vs. 8 match.
But a few things started to nag at me. One, all I was playing was a robot version of Counter Strike at this point. It was fun, sure, but it was too early for the deeper features I looked forward to to be finished. I craved the greated intensity that could be gained by having those matches mean anything at all.
And two was when they changed the rules. See, they had taken the equipment ruleset from the old old Battletech board game and just copied them straight into the game. I was cool with that, because as I mentioned above, I was quite familiar with them. Because of these rules, most equipment could be applied to most Mechs provided you had the room for it. It allowed for some silliness, and for some serious tweaking. I was happy with that at first. The group I ran with had worked out a custom build that I came to love: we called it the Super Lunchback. In the game there’s a midsize Mech called a Hunchback due to it’s shape. We removed all the normal weapons and piled on a load of lasers (hence Lunchback), and replaced the internal engine with a much, much more powerful one. This little beast was fast as hell, and was built for skirmishing. Get in, blast a load of lasers at something, get out before they can finish targeting you. This was the vehicle of my best performances, including the 5 kill round. It could, properly used, devastate even the largest and most heavily armored things out there.
The rulechange destroyed the Super Lunchback, though. Although the old Battletech rules permitted for this, they ratcheted the rules down so that we couldn’t fit that oversized engine in it anymore. The change felt arbitrary at best, and it disheartened me a great deal. Since I couldn’t play my wacky mini murder monster anymore, and the matches didn’t earn me anything of interest aside from more kills, I lost interest and drifted away from it. I uninstalled and went to play other games, figuring that in a while when they were closer to launch there’d be more to come back to.
I spent the intervening time freaking out at Star Citizen and throwing vast wads of money at that instead. Shows how well I learned that lesson (though I do still have faith).
It was a couple months ago (about six months after uninstalling) that I remembered my big stompy robots. I reinstalled and began digging in to get to grips with what I had assumed would be a stack of new content and new gameplay.
What I found was more mechs, a couple new maps, and one new mode of gameplay that was only slightly different than the other one. In addition, more rules had changed, more had been tweaked. The open beta had started and people who hadn’t tossed money in for Founders access were playing.
No more wacky mini murder monster. Loads more of the same assault mechs, over and over, with the same weapons, over and over. And over. And if I wanted to compete, I largely had to follow suit. My favorite tactics of the earlier game were no longer viable, because you couldn’t survive in a superfast mech for very long at all anymore. And then I started reading about the other game changes listed in the other article: I had to read about them in my group’s private forum, because there wasn’t any explanation of what had changed or what was going on within the game itself.
From there on the other article just covers the bouncing from one disappointment/aggravation/insult to the next. Even the dumb fun that had been a part of the robot Counter Strike gameplay has gone, or faded enough to be eclipsed by the assorted frustrations that otherwise spring up.
Yesterday, the game “launched”. To coincide with this they introduced a new forums rules thread that is ridiculously strict and states explicitly that criticizing the devs isn’t permitted, among other things. Funny timing, that. They also opened a thread to ask those people with Founders access how they wanted to be recognized in the credits: real name, pilot handle, or not to be listed at all. I chose not to be listed. I’m actually quite ashamed for having paid for this and somehow helped it become what it is.
I’m not certain I’m ever going to touch it again.