Category Archives: News

New Details Emerge For MechWarrior 5

New Details Emerge For MechWarrior 5

courtesy of mw5mercs.com

As Mech_Con once again fast approaches, we’re being teased with more details on the upcoming single-player BattleTech simulator, MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. Just this month, PC Gamer revealed they will be running a feature article in their November issue which provides us with tantalizing info on what to expect in the first new single-player MechWarrior in over a decade.

We know from a PC Gamer article earlier this year that MechWarrior 5 will take place in the classic era of BattleTech, between the years 3015 and 3049, and much like its spiritual predecessor MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, you’ll start with a single beat-up light ‘Mech and work your way up to becoming a full lance of the biggest and toughest ‘Mechs the Inner Sphere has to offer.

What the upcoming PC Gamer issue reveals is that unlike previous MechWarrior titles, this one won’t allow nearly as much customization as previous entries in the series. Gone are the days when you can buy any old ‘Mech and turn it into a one-man army with some Endo Steel and XL Engine upgrades, as many aspects of a ‘Mech’s anatomy will be fixed to the chassis. Instead, prospective buyers will have to scour the constantly changing market to find a ‘Mech with the specific features they want, and then tweak the existing weaponry to get it just how they like it.

Shadowhawk

courtesy of mw5mercs.com

While ‘Mechs themselves won’t have nearly as much customization when it comes to their weapons loadout, the weapons themselves will have slight variations for pilots to play with. Each weapon system will have multiple manufacturers with each manufacturer giving slightly different performance. One AC/5 might have a bit more power, but another manufacturer’s AC/5 might reload a second faster, and so on. It’s not what we’re used to, but it does seem to fit more with the lore than the anything-goes customization of games gone past.

Everything about MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries will be dynamic: missions will be dynamically created, terrain will be randomly generated, and armor and structure will have multiple stages of destruction (rather than going from “chipped paint” to “on fire” all at once). Perhaps best of all, the entire environment will be destructible, so if you want to walk your 55-ton engine of death through a building to surprise the tank platoon on the other side you can do that too.

Finally, we’ve got two new ‘Mechs to add to the known list of machines included in the game. The Shadow Hawk and Raven were revealed last year with their pre-alpha footage, and now we know the Jagermech and Atlas will also make an appearance.

The PC Gamer article goes into way more detail, as well as providing a first-hand account of the author’s time with the playable alpha, so I encourage you all to pick up a copy of the November issue when it releases. Or you can get a digital copy here.

Giant Robots Finally Set To Do Battle In September

Megabots

courtesy of qz.com

After 2 years of waiting, it’s finally going to happen: giant robots from Japan and America will engage in Solaris-style combat to determine which nation is the greatest ‘Mech builder on Earth.

You may remember from our previous articles on current technologies that mimic those in BattleTech that MegaBots Inc., the builder of the formidable Mk. II MegaBot has challenged Suidobashi Heavy Industries to a duel against their impressive Kuratas quad ’Mech. The original challenge was issued in August of 2015 to take place a year later, and that deadline came and went with not much in the way of giant robot combat.

Well, apparently the delay was because MegaBots was designing an all new robot, the Mk. IIIEagle Prime”, to take on the Kuratas. I guess multi-million dollar machines take more than a year to both design and manufacture. Who knew?

The new date is set for September 2017, and we can’t wait to see the new robot in action. Eagle Prime is a significant upgrade over the Mk. II, weighing nearly 7 tons more and over a full foot taller than the older ‘Mech (that puts Eagle Prime at a whopping 12 tons and 16 feet tall). It’s powered by a 430 hp Chevy LS3 V8 engine which drives a pair of tank treads much like the Mk. II, but while the Mk II. had a pair of air cannons firing massive paintballs, the Mk. III has a double-barreled paintball cannon in the left arm and a massive crusher claw in the right.

Eagle Prime

courtesy of qz.com

Eagle Prime even takes a page out of the OmniMech textbook with swappable armaments. Either arm can be replaced with an enormous chainsaw or an armor shattering drill.

The cost to create Eagle Prime was just over $2.5 million, with $550,000.00 coming from Kickstarter backers and the rest coming from corporate sponsors.

While it certainly seems like a significant upgrade, I can’t help but feel that the Mk. III has lost some armor protection over the Mk. II. It has gained some speed, according to MegaBots, but given the fact that the ‘Mech weighs twice as much as its little brother but is powered by a similar sized engine it’s a little hard to believe them.

Kuratas

courtesy of Suidobiashi Heavy Industries

Development of Eagle Prime has been well documented on the MegaBots YouTube channel, but there hasn’t been much response from Suidobashi Heavy Industries as to what development, if any, has occurred with the Kuratas. If it remains the same design as debuted in 2012, it will be nearly a third of the weight of Eagle Prime while also having a significantly smaller power source. On paper, it looks like the Mk. III will wipe the floor with the Kuratas – provided MegaBots manages to work out all the bugs in their software.

The duel will occur at an undisclosed location, and no spectators will be allowed. Unlike on Solaris, there are no Star League-era defense systems available to protect the public from two multi-ton death machines on a rampage. As for the safety of the pilots, that’s also something that hasn’t been discussed much. Neither ‘Mech has an ejection system, so I’m guessing it’ll be Queensberry rules when it comes time for hand-to-hand combat.

Fans eager for their first taste of giant robot fighting will be able to check out the fight on the MegaBots YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Monkey King

courtesy of BOOM on YouTube

And in a strange twist, it seems that China has also thrown down the gauntlet and announced its arrival in the giant robot fighting game. Shiqian Sun, a Chinese artist known for creating multiple giant robot statues, has created the Monkey King as China’s first gladiator robot. The Monkey King is due for completion next year, so won’t be done in time to take part in the Kuratas/Eagle Prime duel.

The exact date of the duel is not yet known, but we expect to learn more in the coming days. Could this be the beginning of a global giant robot fighting league? We can only hope.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Mech_Con Details Revealed On Fancy New Website

courtesy of mechwarrior.com/mechcon

Mech_Con is making its triumphant return next December and has recently released their schedule of events along with ticket sales on a fancy new website.

We knew Mech_Con would return as early as May, but PGI hadn’t yet ironed out the details back then. It looks like they have now, as revealed in the aforementioned fancy new website recently posted in the new mechwarrior.com portal (itself being a new development in PGI’s web presence). This year looks like it’ll be better than ever, so let’s go over a few of the highlights on the schedule.

Banners

courtesy of mechwarrior.com/mechcon

First off, and most excitingly, there will be a MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries development build available for attendees to try out all day long.The first new single player MechWarrior experience in over a decade is a highly anticipated new game from PGI, and this may very well be the first time anyone outside the company will be able to get their hands on a demo.

Along with MechWarrior 5, BattleTech and MechWarrior Online will also have development builds available for trying out the latest iterations of both games before they go live, as well as 1v1 “Solaris style” MWO battle stations, where you can duel your friend mono a mono to see who is the best MechWarrior. Catalyst Game Labs will also be demoing their latest and greatest creations, as well as having a tabletop BattleTech game running all day long.

Bombadil

courtesy of mechwarrior.com/mechcon

The Main Stage will be home to the MechWarrior Online World Championships, where the top teams in the world will be duking it out for the title of best MechWarriors in the world. In between matches will be presentations by Catalyst Game Labs, Harebrained Schemes and Piranha Games on the latest developments each BattleTech company has to share. Each company will also have 1 hour a meet & greet and Q&A session throughout the day, followed by an autograph table.

The full schedule of events (as well as when the all important munchies will be provided) is available on the Mech_Con website here.

It’s not all presentations and MWO tournaments of course. There will be a merch booth set up for you to purchase the best BattleTech swag around, as well as prizes, raffles, and giveaways. Keep an eye out for your favorite YouTube and Twitch streamers too, as they’ll be wandering around the convention floor and maybe even taking on would-be champions at the Solaris stations.

Tournament Casters

courtesy of mechwarrior.com/mechcon

Tickets are on sale now, and Mech_Con begins at noon on December 9th. If you can’t attend, consider picking up the 2017 Tournament Supporter Pack. Proceeds go towards the World Championship prize fund, and you get a ton of awesome in-game loot and an extra 10% to all your c-bill and experience gains.

We hope to see you there!

Harmony Gold Is At It Again…

Yup. You read that right. Harmony Gold is at it again with another round of lawsuits aimed at BattleTech IP.

The story broke a few days ago (thanks to user Clanfighter for the comment tip!), and the Harebrained Schemes (HBS) and MechWarrior Online forums are ablaze. There’s a lot of vitriol being spewed (rightly) against Harmony Gold for being litigious parasites and trying to cash in on BattleTech‘s and MechWarrior Online’s success, and while that’s certainly true, there’s a little more to it than that.

First, let’s take a look at the actual lawsuit itself. Court documents filed last March by the law firm Calfo Eakes & Ostrovsky PLLC reveal that Harmony Gold is suing both Harebrained Schemes and PGI for copyright infringement on their Robotech imagery, which so far sounds just like what happened with the Unseen saga. That ended with Catalyst Game Labs releasing new artwork for the unseen ‘Mechs, and we all thought everything was done for good.

Harmony Gold apparently felt differently. The new suit names PGI as the primary defendants, saying the current models used for the Rifleman, Archer, Warhammer, Marauder and Phoenix Hawk are similar enough to the original Robotech images that they infringe the copyright. It also names HBS as another defendant saying that their use of the Atlas, Locust, and Shadowhawk are too similar to their property to be used in the upcoming BattleTech game.

Marauder PHawk

via unitedstatescourts.org

I took out some of the images filed in the court documents so we can take a look. For the complaint against PGI, you can maybe make an argument they’re similar but so similar they infringe? That’s harder to say. I’m no lawyer, but I do know that courts often look to specifics rather than general shapes when determining these kinds of cases, and you can easily spot dozens of differences between the two designs being compared.

Warhammer Archer

via unitedstatescourts.org

Rifleman

via unitedstatescourts.org

The pictures being used against HBS look even less alike. In fact, the whole argument seems spurious at best. An Atlas looks like a Crusader? A Shadowhawk looks like an Archer? A Locust looks like a Marauder? These ‘Mechs don’t even share the same silhouette, let alone any specific details. It’s like Harmony Gold is trying to say that nobody else can have giant robots since they have a passing resemblance to their giant robots.

Atlas Shadowhawk

via unitedstatescourts.org

Locust

via unitedstatescourts.org

The case against HBS is sure to be tossed as soon as it goes before a judge. The case for PGI might linger on, but I’m fairly confident that PGI has prepared for this day and has numerous counter arguments to keep their game safe.

The case against HBS is sure to be tossed as soon as it goes before a judge.

There were a few more interesting tidbits to be gleaned from the court docs. Apparently, PGI had been in contact with Harmony Gold in 2013 when they were planning on releasing the Warhammer and Marauder ‘Mechs in MechWarrior Online. Both times Harmony Gold said the submitted designs were too similar and infringed on their copyright. We don’t know what those earlier designs might have looked like, but you can see from the images above that the current models for the Warhammer and Marauder are very different from the original Robotech designs.

Also mentioned in the suit is how Harmony Gold “discovered” the infringing materials. Evidently, it was an old news post by Catalyst Game Labs on their partnership with PGI in creating some “lore vignettes” in 2016. The blog post featured a schematic image of the Warhammer, which was released in MechWarrior Online in January 2016. Both the Marauder and the Marauder IIC were released later in 2016.

Warhammer

via unitedstatescourts.org

It says something about how confident PGI is in their position that they still released both the Marauder and Warhammer despite having the court documents filed just before their release in MWO.

So why is Harmony Gold pursuing this case when they seem to have a very good chance of losing? Well, they could be hoping for a quick settlement with both PGI and HBS, however, given the strength of their defense, I doubt either would be inclined to let Harmony Gold win this time.

On the other hand, Harmony Gold has a very good reason to pursue this case as aggressively as they can. The Robotech live action movie is going full steam ahead, and there are probably plans to have both game and action figure tie-ins with the movie. Nevermind the fact the movie has no script, no cast, and has just recently changed directors to the same guy that did Stephen King’s It adaptation.

Harmony Gold could also be using this case as a means of testing the legal waters for a future lawsuit against MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries.

Harmony Gold could also be using this case as a means of testing the legal waters for a future lawsuit against MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. We know that PGI’s upcoming single-player game will feature some of the Unseen designs, and if it’s as financially successful as it’s expected to be (and if the Robotech movie doesn’t crash and burn like every other live-action anime movie) then Harmony Gold could stand to make a bundle.

One thing for certain is that neither PGI nor HBS is likely to comment on the case anytime soon as the trial is set for September of 2018. Here’s hoping they lose, and badly.

24 Hour Mechathon in support of Covenant House – May 20

image courtesy of No Guts No Galaxy

It’s not often that videogames cross paths with noble humanitarian causes, but when they do it’s a Very Good Thingtm

Just announced on the No Guts No Galaxy Forums, the 24 Hour Mechathon is, as the name might suggest, a marathon game of MechWarrior Online with all proceeds going to charity. This year’s recipient will be Covenant House, an organization dedicated to the assistance of abused, runaway, and homeless youth.

The announcement comes with a touching story from the event organizer RJBass3, who at age 18 “was living homeless on the streets of South Florida”. Covenant House rescued RJBass3 from a life on the streets and made sure he and many other disadvantaged youth received food, shelter, and healthcare while they grew into independent members of society. He would eventually go on to join the 228th Independent Battlemech Regiment, a unit in MechWarrior Online, where he would rise through the ranks to become executive officer of the 318th Heavy Assault “Swamp Foxes”.

Now, 25 years later, RJBass3 will give back to Covenant House in the best way possible: a 24 hour charity stream of MechWarrior Online. Both he and many other MechWarriors will begin streaming on Saturday, May 20th to raise money and awareness for Covenant House. The fine folks at No Guts No Galaxy will be hosting the stream on their twitch channel, and there will be many prizes and giveaways from both PGI (the developers of MechWarrior Online) as well as No Guts No Galaxy.

If you can’t make the stream on May 20th then don’t worry – you can make an advance donation to the 24 Hour Mechathon on the Covenant House event page here.

So tune in on May 20th to watch a some giant stompy robot action until their pilots fall asleep in their neurohelmets. And while you’re there, consider a donation to Covenant House. It is, after all, for the kids. 

Latest Q&A With HBS + New Beta Date

It was good news and bad news at the latest Q&A session with Harebrained schemes.

The bad news is there’s still no new date set for the backer beta, which has now been delayed two months since the Kickstarter estimated test date. As reported in the latest session hosted by our good friends at No Guts No Galaxy, the developers are still hard at work ironing out the kinks in BattleTech’s armor before they feel comfortable releasing it to outside testing.

The good news is that HBS is back to firing on all cylinders from their disastrous build upgrade in March, and HBS co-founder Mitch Gitelman says they are “narrowing in” on a beta test date announcement in the near future.

Mitch also announced a live test of BattleTech’s multiplayer game mode between himself and game director Mike McCain which has now been posted to the Harebrained Schemes YouTube channel. This is our first real look at BattleTech‘s gameplay, and I’m sure you’re all eager to see a preview of what is sure to be the hottest ‘Mech game in recent memory. 

The hour-long Q&A took place with Mitch as well as audio director Rob Piersol and game composer John Everest.  As befit their professions, they answered mostly sound related questions concerning BattleTech’s development. One thing mentioned during the sound testing was the inclusion of a rotary Autocannon into the game and how that sound developed with respect to modern day weaponry.

The mention of the Rotary Autocannon is a tad surprising as the game is ostensibly dated in the year 3025, many decades before the introduction of the Rotary A/C into BattleTech lore. Mitch also commented that there will be different manufacturers in the game, some of which selling the single-shot Autocannons and others selling the Rotary type. Could this be an indication of a departure from the classic BattleTech rules in the name of added gameplay depth?

Also confirmed during the stream will be an action dependent musical score and pilot death-screams similar to those found in the MechCommander series of games.  

While it’s a bit of a disappointment not to have an updated backer beta date announced, it’s good to hear that development is once again proceeding apace. We here at Sarna will be sure you bring your more BattleTech related news as it’s announced.

Update 2017-05-12: According to the latest KickStarter update, the Backer Beta will start June 1st! Fantastic!

Real Life ‘Mechs

method v2

image courtesy of Weekly.fr

BattleMechs, the giant, hulking kings of the battlefield, have been a cornerstone of the BattleTech universe since its inception. Powered by fusion engines and controlled by neurotransmitters, these enormous walking tanks have always been more science fiction than science fact. But what if I told you that’s no longer the case?

In the BattleTech universe ‘Mechs aren’t supposed to be invented until the year 2351, however many of you may be surprised to know that we’re making astounding advances in the field of giant robots even today. Here are just a few examples of how close we are to one day having a real ‘Mech of our very own.

Method v2


Height: 4.15 m
Weight: 1.6 t
Power Source: Electronic Battery Pack
Price: $8,300,000.00

The first of our robots to look like a real ‘Mech, the Method v2 is made by South Korean Hankook Mirae Technology. It was designed by Hollywood effects designer Vitaly Bulgarov (whose previous works include Transformers, Robocop and The Terminator) and then handed over to a team of 30 engineers which brought this giant robot to life.

The Method v2 is piloted by a single passenger who has paired joysticks to move the Method’s giant arms. Each joystick includes a set of small buttons aligned with the pilot’s fingers to open and close the Method’s fists. Forward and backward movement is controlled via foot pedals and powerful electric motors rather than myoelectric musculature.

“Our robot is the world’s first manned bipedal robot and is built to work in extreme hazardous areas where humans cannot go (unprotected),” said company chairman Yang Jin-Ho in an interview with the Telegraph, who has invested over $200 million in the project since 2014. That said, it’s still very much considered a technology testbed, and it has only ever been seen with a heavy duty suspension system keeping it upright. The Method v2 still has a long way to go before its first untethered steps.

MegaBot Mk. II


Height: 4.57 m
Weight: 5.4 t
Power: Gasoline Internal Combustion
Price: Unknown

Our next robot hails from the good ‘ol US of A, and it really shows. It’s a massive, 12,000 lb gasoline engine-powered robot that looks like an AgroMech with delusions of grandeur.

Less of a testbed for technology and more a vehicle for entertainment, MegaBots Inc. created the MegaBot Mk. II to compete in Solaris VII-style combat with the Japanese Kuratas (more on that robot later). So far it has only been seen armed with massive paintball guns, however the plan is to upgrade the Mk. II to become the Mk. III, which will have a chainsaw, massive crusher claws, and BB miniguns. All of it is more for show than real destruction as the intent of the Mk. II is for spectacle over slaughter.

As befits a ‘Mech that’s bound for destruction, everything about the Mk. II is low tech. Power is from a 430-horsepower gasoline burning engine powering a caterpillar system, along with powerful hydraulics for the limbs and torso. A gyroscope isn’t required as the Mk. II’s “legs” act more like a crane to extend the torso from its tank-like feet.

MegaBots so far hasn’t released the development costs of the project, but with powerful investors and $500,000.00 from a kickstarter campaign, the final price tag is well into the millions.  

Kuratas


Height: 4.1 m
Weight: 4.5 t
Power: Diesel Internal Combustion
Price: $1,353,500.00

When Kogoro Kurata was a child he always dreamed the future would have giant fighting robots just like in anime. After he grew up and became a blacksmith (a job that apparently still exists in Japan) he grew impatient with a future totally devoid of giant robots, so he set about building his own. Then, in 2012, he unveiled the Kuratas to screaming crowds, and the era of giant robots for the masses was born.

The Kuratas is controlled by 30 hydraulic actuators and powered by a diesel fueled engine. Its armament includes a 6000 round per minute rotary BB gun and a power fist controlled by a glove the pilot wears. The controls of the Kuratas are perhaps the most advanced of all: the Kuratas uses a combination of control stick and facial recognition to pilot (the Gatling gun is actually fired with a smile by the pilot). It can also be controlled via remote from a handy downloadable app. Movement is done by 4 wheels on the ends of the quad ‘Mech’s legs, but the designers hope to make the Kuratas fully ambulatory without wheels in the future.

So far the Japanese Kuratas is the cheapest of our ‘Mechs with a downright affordable price tag of a mere $1.35 million. Not only that, you can actually buy one yourself if you have that much money burning a hole in your pocket – the Kuratas is for sale direct from Suidobashi Heavy Industry and can be shipped direct to your door. You can even ask for a custom paint job.

The Kuratas is set to duel the Megabot Mk. III in August of 2017.

Big Dog


Height: 0.76 m
Weight: 101 kg
Power: Gasoline Internal Combustion
Price: $120,000.00

Our next quad ‘Mech is more like a quad Elemental (which I guess would just be a Sloth), but instead of having a human pilot Big Dog is completely autonomous. The plucky little robot is controlled by a human operator who tells the Dog where to go and what to do. It can be ordered to sit, lay down, run and climb over all sorts of terrain just like a real dog.

Created by Boston Dynamics after being awarded a contract from DARPA (to the tune of $33 million), the intent of Big Dog was to assist soldiers in the field as a sort of pack-mule. Soldiers have to carry a lot of stuff, and having a robot help out would sound appealing to any grunt. Big Dog is able to carry up to 400 lbs and is less likely than even the most trained soldier to fall over.

Powered by an internal combustion engine that feeds to an enormously complex system of sensors, gyroscopes, and hydraulic actuators, Big Dog took decades of development and partnership with MIT to make it the most stable autonomous robot the world has ever seen. Sadly, the military didn’t bite, and Big Dog was put back in the doghouse in 2015.

ANDROS Mark V-A1


Height: 2.43 m (with arm fully extended)
Weight: 0.36 tons
Power: Electronic Battery Pack
Price: $180,000.00

The last of our robots and the first to see actual military use is the Mark V-A1 bomb disposal robot. This little guy was designed by Northrop Grumman in 2004 for the express purpose of handling explosive or potentially hazardous material without risking any human lives.

To accomplish its job, the Mark V comes equipped with a hydraulically actuated extender arm that allows it to manipulate objects in its surroundings. It also has a 72x zoom, 360 degree camera that feeds to an operator equipped with a 15 inch LCD screen. It can be operated via wireless radio or by tethered cable if there’s concern that a technologically capable foe is in the area and might try to hijack the signal.

The Mark V sees use not only in the US army, but also in police forces around the world. Most notable in the Mark V service history was its use by the Dallas Police Department to kill a gunman that murdered 5 officers in 2016. The robot was armed with a pound of C4 explosive, and although the gunman tried to shoot the Mark V and disable it the little robot proved to be too tough to stop.

MechWarrior Online Skill Tree Round 2

Skill Tree

images courtesy of MechWarrior Online

After a brief hiatus as PGI reviewed player feedback and concerns, MechWarrior Online has begun another round of public testing on the proposed Skill Tree changes in an announcement on their website.

The previous Skill Tree was planned to be implemented in the April patch, however vocal opposition to the proposed changes to player progression caused the game’s developers to place a pause on its implementation. Players complained of lost progression, wasted c-bills tied to piloting modules set to disappear from the game altogether, and the potential for disaster as ‘Mechs with performance enhancing quirks were rendered useless when said quirks were similarly removed.

The developers have returned with a second offering of the Skill Tree which they hope addresses these concerns, however players remain cautious of this contentious change.

MechWarrior Online is no stranger to controversy. The history of the game is filled with poor communication and developer decisions that ran at times contrary to the will of MechWarrior fans. The introduction of “ghost heat” and pay-to-win consumables were rightly factious additions, however those did not engender nearly as much backlash as the addition of a third-person camera during the game’s release in 2013. At the time the MechWarrior Online forums were nothing but an endless stream of vitriol directed at the developers, only made worse by a lack of response with the broader community.

This lack of communication angered the founding player base, causing many die-hard MechWarrior fans to give up on the game altogether. Those that stayed would see the player base slowly dwindle as players either moved on to different games (a natural occurrence with all online games), or soured to the idea of paying hundreds of dollars for a few additional ‘Mechs. Those financial missteps can be well summarized by the gold-plated ‘Mechs offered during the Clan Invasion sale, a cash grab so blatant as to make headlines around the world.

Much to the relief of fans, the game saw a revival in 2015 with its release on Steam, where thousands of potential gamers would be drawn to the irresistible allure of big stompy robots. For their part, PGI has vastly improved in player communication and community support, with frequent weekly events that give loyal players a much needed boost to their in-game coffers.

The current opinion of the Skill Tree could be best described as skeptical. While there was certainly no opposition to the implementation of a skill tree, per-se, the player base was quite content to retain the current method of skill progression.

Once again there are vocal MechWarriors expressing deep concerns on the Skill Tree, such as the removal of ‘Mech enhancing quirks that may leave certain chassis helpless on the battlefield without ‘Mech specific skill nodes to save them. Others are concerned that a skill tree with hundreds of possible branches adds yet another layer of obfuscation to an already dense game, making the barrier to entry for new players insurmountable.

There is one thing for sure: PGI is right to be extremely cautious as they roll out the enhanced Skill Tree. The consequences of a misstep here could result in a mass exodus of players angry at the ruination of their beloved ‘Mechs.

And this time there’s no other Steam-like platform left for the developers to release the game to.

MRBC Season 9 Has Begun!

The MRBC, the largest MechWarrior Online league, has officially begun. This latest season has a record breaking 79 teams signing up to take part in the carnage, and after action reports are already coming in. While that’s way too many teams for us to cover on a regular basis, we’ll hope to give a regular roundup of the top level teams duking it out in Division A, as well as notable highlights from the lower divisions.

First, let’s take a look at the teams from Division A of each region. Starting with Asia Pacific, we have the 228th Wild Ones, one of the finalists for last years MechWarrior Online championships and a very strong team having been in Division A since their arrival in season 5. Next up, a newcomer to Division A, team Spud Shed. Having taken first place in Division B for season 8, they’ve moved up to Division A and are ready to take on all comers. Then there’s the Oceanic Merc Corp, aka “The Cheapskates”, another longtime Division A team who can’t afford to lose (not for fear of relegation – they’re just cheap). Finally we have team VETO, another new Division A team that is comprised of Division A veterans looking to make a name for themselves under a new banner.

9th Sanguine Tigers

In Europe we have 6 teams vying for the title of Division Champion. The 9th Sanguine Tigers return to Division A having taken the Division B title in Season 8. The Black Spikes Team 2 (Yellow Submarine) have been bouncing between Division B and A as well, but are looking to solidify their top division standing. Eon Synergy hopes to continue their domination in Europe for a third straight season. Russian Jade Falcon are ready to sink their talons into unsuspecting teams, and Tikonov Commonality Armed Forces prepare to defend the Capellan border (or I guess it’s the FedCom border in the current MWO timeline). Rounding out Europe is the White Death Mercenary Company, one of the longest running teams in Division A.

North America has a grand total of 8 teams, making it the largest of the three regions in MRBC’s Division A. First we have the 228th again fielding the “Black Watch”, season six champs seeking to repeat their prior performance. Standing in their way is the 42nd Scorned, newcomers to the MRBC made of division A veterans. Dropship 5 returns for their second season, and newbies Osiriz are anything but new as the seasoned MechWarriors burst on to the scene. SiG comes from Division B for their first Division A season, and finally we have Steel Jaguar looking for an unprecedented fifth Division A title.

White Death Mercenary Company

All these teams are chomping at the bit, and there have already been a few matches. So far in Europe the 9th Sanguine Tigers edged out the White Death Mercenaries in a nail-biting victory of 3 to 2, with many games coming down to one or two ‘Mechs for either side. 9th Sanguine leads the leaderboard with a reputation score of 1325, but the Black Spikes Team 2 are hot on their heels with reputation score of 1250 (for more on reputation rewards check out the MRBC’s rules under “rep rewards”).

North America has already had a number of games, and so far Dropship 5 has pulled into a comfortable lead with 3500 points and not a single round lost, however being a full game ahead of the pack means it’s still very much anybody’s race.

In Asia Pacific The Cheapskates defeated team Spud Shed 4 to 1 to take the early lead with 1475 reputation points, with team VETO close behind with 1225.

The league is well under way in it’s 9th season with matches occurring almost every day. For up to the minute scores and live webcasting, check out the MRBC website as well as their twitch channels. We’ll come back to the MRBC later in the season to check on the scores, and from all of us here at Sarna: good luck, Mechwarriors!

All images courtesy of their respective teams and the MRBC.

MechWarrior Online Skill Tree Implementation Indefinitely Delayed

In an announcement on twitter as well as the MechWarrior Online forums yesterday, Piranha Games Inc. President Russ Bullock announced that the implementation of the planned Skill Tree Enhancement will be delayed as the game’s designers continue to develop and refine the Skill Tree.  

The overhauled skill system has been a contentious issue for the MechWarrior Online Community. The stated goal of PGI was to enhance the player experience by allowing the player to customize their mech’s performance to fit their goals, while also promoting a ‘Mech build diversity in the game. Additionally, the skill system had the long term goal of phasing out the “quirk” system, often criticized for adding a layer of obfuscation to ‘Mech performance that is difficult for new players to understand.

However, many players felt the Skill Tree enhancement were an attempt by PGI to roll back pilot progress and introduce a pay-wall for veteran players in order to regain their standing. This was considered especially galling, as some players have spent thousands of dollars on MechWarrior Online already. The player backlash was mounting, resulting in some pretty intense YouTube and twitter rants.

With yesterday’s posting, PGI has told players that they recognize the deficiencies of the proposed Skill Tree build, and will be taking into account player concerns regarding lost progress and pay-walling. With no updated release date provided, the intent is clear that PGI will go back to the drawing board in order to correct these shortcomings. Hopefully this marks a turn in the conversation, one which MechWarrior Online players will be quite happy to hear.