Welcome to Community Outreach, where we here at Sarna reach out to learn more about other BattleTech communities and the people that shape them. This week we interview Doyle, the founder of the Mercenary Review and Bonding Commission (MRBC) league for MechWarrior Online. Enjoy!
Sean (Sarna):So, to start off, how about we begin with “who are you?” Briefly introduce yourself.
Doyle: I’m Matt Doyle. I’ve been playing MechWarrior pretty much since the start, competitively since the start. I’ve been involved in top-level European competitive teams since very, very early on. Ex-SJR [ed. Steel Jaguar], we broke away to form our own unit, which its current iteration is 9th Sanguine Tigers, and of course, I’m the founder of MRBC League.
Sean: What is the MRBC?
Doyle: Well, I would say it’s the most accessible and biggest, player-run competition these days in MechWarrior Online. We’ve been around a long time, so I guess we’re now the longest running as well. And yeah, it works as a league, hence the name MRBC League. It’s accessible to teams of all levels from the very bottom right to the very top. You can always enter at the bottom division and have fun, just as you can be a top-level team fighting it out for the title of Division A as well.
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 havespent 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.
As reported in our last article, MWO World Championship tournament wrapped up last year to much fan fair at MechCon 2016. The team crowned best in the world was Empyreal, taking the championship with a stunning 81-0 record. We sat down to speak with one of the players of Empyreal, Nik “prtn_spz”, to learn about his journey from the cold wilds of St Petersburg Russia to the slightly less cold winner’s circle at MechCon in Vancouver Canada.
(Sarna) Sean: How about to start off we get a little about yourself? So who are you?
prtn_spz: Well, my real name is Nikita, or in short is Nik. I’m living in St. Petersburg. And yes, I’m a BattleTech fan. Been playing BattleTech games a lot and been reading books as well. So that’s how I came to MechWarrior Online. And, yeah, I set up with this game and met lots of friends, and that’s how I practice my English. It’s not perfect though, unfortunately.
Sean: It’s pretty good to me.
prtn_spz: Well, that’s good to hear.
Sean: So because it’s sarna.net we’re all giant BattleTech fans. What else besides MechWarrior Online have you played in the past?
In researching last week’s article on MechWarrior Online’s competitive leagues, I made an astounding discovery; reigning World champs Empyreal had a completely perfect record during their championship run. What made them an unstoppable force? To find out I reached out to Empyreal, and was able to sit down and talk to one of their players, Nik “prtNspz”, to get his epic journey to the winner’s podium.
The first thing you notice when you talk to Nik is he’s a pretty humble guy. When I brought up Empyreal’s record, he never let it seem like any match was anything but a hard-fought win. “There was always a challenge for me because it’s my first World Championship,” says prtN, who lets me know is short for “Proton”.
Despite the challenge, he certainly made it look easy, and I let him know. “I would say it’s not really, because we spend a lot of time practicing, and we got rewarded for that.”
We spend a lot of time practicing, and we got rewarded for that.
How much practice did it take for a perfect record? “We were practicing almost every day. And the only problem there for me is I am Russian, and the practices were in the early morning for me, like 5:00 or 6:00 a.m.” I know for me getting up that early would take some serious dedication.
It wasn’t all just practice. Knowledge of the tournament and which maps to focus on helped too. As Proton tells it, “We had a look at which maps are gonna be picked according to the [tournament] rules.” Each team captain would have the option to ban certain maps, and most teams eliminated maps that had balance issues leaving just a few options. “Tourmaline that is left, Canyon Network that is left, and, like HPG. So we [practice] those maps.” Although not quite to the exclusion of all others. “Of course we practiced the other maps just in case if something happens.”
That preparedness paid off. Undefeated in both the qualifying rounds and the regional finals, Proton was flown along with other members of Empyreal to MechCon in Vancouver to compete for the grand championship. The finals would pit Empyreal against the other regional winners, EON Synergy and the 228th Wild Ones.
Even with all their preparation, Nik knew they were in for a fight. “The best unit in the European region is EON Synergy. I know those guys. I know how they played […], and they literally had the same skill level as us.”
The final matches followed the qualifiers, with win after win going to Empyreal. Then, a surprise move from EON put victory in jeopardy. “EON just went all-in. They just rushed us, but we practiced”, and because of that practice they were prepared.
Instantly meeting their thrust, Empyreal arranged their lances atop Canyon Network’s rocky escarpments, giving each ‘Mech the perfect sight lines to reign fiery death on their attackers. “And after we killed the last ‘Mech I personally, I just, like, couldn’t believe that everything is over.” Empyreal accepted their accolades to screaming MechCon fans.
And after we killed the last ‘Mech I personally, I just, like, couldn’t believe that everything is over.
And for new players? Proton has some good advice. “You can’t just install the game and be good,” he explains, ”because MechWarrior Online is something different. It’s not just an FPS shooter. You need to be patient, you need to learn because the game has a long learning curve.”
Perhaps foretelling my own gameplay he adds, “You’re making mistakes, you learn from them because that’s how I learned. Even though I’m not considering myself as a professional player.”
I pointed out his World Champ’s medal, but he just scoffs. Like I said, Nik’s a humble guy.
You can read the whole interview with prtNspz here. You can watch prtNspz play and get helpful tips on his Twitch stream.
MechWarrior Online has been the pinnacle of simulated ‘Mech combat since its closed beta in 2012, and as a PvP game, competitive leagues have surrounded the game since its inception. Now, nearly half a decade later, the competitive scene for MWO is as vibrant and alive as ever, with the best MechWarriors duking it out for fame, glory, and honor. But it’s also grown significantly and knowing where or how to get involved can be daunting. Strap on your neurohelmet while we take a tour of MechWarrior Online’s competitive leagues.
The big kahuna is the one sponsored by the game’s developers, Piranha games. With 2016’s first place team taking home over $86,000.00, the World Championship draws ‘Mech teams from across the globe to compete for real cash. The previous year’s championship saw teams separated by region (North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific) compete in a round-robin qualifier held throughout the year. The top 5 teams from each region then went on to the regional finals, with the winner of each region being flown to Vancouver to take part in the final matches held live at MechCon.
For those familiar with MechWarrior Online’s 12v12 format, the tournament rules were a little different. Instead, matches were 8v8, and followed a strict format: 2 light ‘Mechs, 2 mediums, 2 heavies, and 2 assaults. Each match was held on a capture-the-point style Conquest map, with league enrolled teams voting on which maps would be used to compete. Unlike other leagues, which use the player’s own in-game resources, the World Championship gave each team access to every ‘Mech and weapon system available in the game to ensure player parity. With its emphasis on strict competition, the World Championship brought out the best the world had to offer. So far PGI has been mum on the possibility of a 2017 Championship, but with the success of the 2016 tournament there’s hope an official announcement is just around the corner.
While it doesn’t have the formal backing of the game’s designers, the MRBC takes the title of largest league in MechWarrior Online with over 180 registered teams. Founded in 2014, the league seeks to give players a fun competitive experience at a variety of skill levels. Much like the World Championships, the league is broken down by region (North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific), and each region is broken down into divisions defined by player skill level. Teams compete in a double round-robin format, and at the end of each season the top team from each division is bumped up to a senior division, while the last place team gets relegated to a lower division. Victories are scored not simply through winning a match, but also through a reward system that gives teams reputation points for certain actions during a match (like destroying a number of the opposing ‘Mechs). Although the MRBC is not officially supported by PGI, they have historically received in game currency that is awarded to the winners of each division.
In addition to ensuring participants have fun by competing against players of similar skill level, the MRBC also tries to add variety to their games. Each match is a series of games on different maps, 8v8, with an assortment of light, medium, heavy and assault weight classes. In order to achieve player parity, only ‘Mechs available for purchase with in-game currency are allowed (Hero ‘Mechs, those only available for purchase with ‘Mech Credits, MWO’s real world currency, are not legal). Teams are also only allowed to bring one duplicate chassis per match, meaning if one player brings a Timberwolf (regardless of variant) only one other player on the team is allowed to bring another Timberwolf, and all remaining ‘Mech choices must be the sole example of the chassis on the team. With these quirks, the MRBC emphasizes diversity and enjoyment over strict competition, explaining both its longevity and enormous following.
Run by the same people who run the MRBC and begun in 2016, MechWarrior Arena is a 1v1 competitive league that seeks to emulate the gladiatorial ‘Mech combat of Solaris VII. MWA follows a tiered division structure similar to the MRBC that matches players in the same region and the same skill level. Unlike Solaris VII, which broke down its tournaments by the usual ‘Mech classes of light, medium, heavy and assault, MWA breaks it down into 10 ton increments (a 20 ton Locust will fight a 25 ton Commando, but never fight a 35 ton Jenner). More in keeping with Solaris VII (and differing from the MRBC), players are allowed to bring highly customized Hero versions of ‘Mechs to combat. Winners of each division are also awarded in game prizes generously donated by PGI.
There are however some restrictions found in MWA owing to its 1v1 nature. First, streak missiles are not allowed as their presence tends to warp the format and also remove skill from determining the winner of a match. Flamers are also limited to two per ‘Mech so as to prevent each match from turning into a dance of pyromaniacs. Finally, certain ‘Mechs can be upgraded or downgraded a weight class due to their intrinsic performance (such as the Ice Ferret, which competes at the 50-55 ton level) or outright banned if they completely dominate a weight class. As with the MRBC, the emphasis is on variety of gameplay and fun.
Perhaps the oldest of MechWarrior Online’s unofficial leagues, Run Hot or Die began in the days of MechWarrior’s closed beta. For several years, RHoD was the premiere MWO competitive league covering North America and Europe, however saw its popularity wane in 2016 with the rise of the MRBC. The league returns with a fresh new format that will bring even more variety to the competitive scene.
RHoD is a single-day, Swiss Pairing, single elimination, bracket style tournament that pits warriors in 4v4 lance combat. Each match is a best of seven rounds, with each round having either a weight limit or a class restriction for the 4 ‘Mechs each team drops with (for example, one round may allow 200 tons of ‘Mechs, but another round will require each team bring one light ‘Mech, 2 mediums, and 1 heavy). Teams are also limited to 2 chassis per match, meaning if during one round a team brings two Stormcrows, they are unable to use any Stormcrows for the rest of the match. There’s no limitation on which ‘Mechs can be brought except they must be available for purchase either with in game currency or real currency (eliminating ‘Mechs that are only available via pre-order). There are also no restrictions on weaponry, giving RHoD players a wide array of options they can bring to each lance vs lance encounter.
Competitive play in MWO isn’t limited to leagues. Smaller, for fun tournaments are held all the time, and are advertised on the MWO forums and community page. Many have a charity focus, such as the MercStar Invitiational, which pits players in simulated ‘Mech combat to support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. There’s even a recently released Stock Class tournament that forces players into non customized versions of their favorite ‘Mechs, eliminating the need for costly upgrades in order to compete. No matter what your skill level or resources, there’s a place for every player in MechWarrior Online’s competitive scene.
On December 3rd, over in the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, Canada, Piranha Games is hosting a day long BattleTech and Mechwarrior themed convention.
A variety of events and fun stuff is planned. Many guests from various community members and companies are planning on attending, such as Jordan Weisman and Randall Bills or online media personalities from Twitch and such.
In the best traditions of the Solaris VII Games, one of the headline events is the first World Championship of MechWarrior Online. Don’t you want to establish dominance and win that trophy?
Hey look, everybody knows that we don’t always get a chance to flip some dice and push around metal the way it was meant to be in real life. I’m playing online with stuff like MegaMek. So, getting the chance to play live with real enthusiasts, purchase stuff from live vendors, get some autographs, and rub noses and talk shop with with all of you folks is a great opportunity.
So what about you? Are you heading over? Why not check out all of the information they have to see if you are interested in getting your ‘Mech on, Vancouver style!
After their unsuccessful Kickstarter in October of last year, the Oakland California-based MegaBots Inc. seems to have done the best thing they could do to stay active in the public arena. They picked a fight.
In late June via video, Andrew Stroup and Gui Cavalcanti challenged Suidobiashi Heavy Industries to a duel- Abatchall, if you will, to fight against Suidobiashi’s current combat mecha- Kuratas. Neither Stoup nor Cavalcanti are unfamiliar with either engineering competitions nor high media exposure. Both appeared in the 2012 Discovery Channel reality show: The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius.
Seeking more details from this project and from the veteran owned and operated BWC Films in general, we sat down with BWC Films owner Mr. Tim Everett and went over several questions that we were burning to ask.
After years of anticipation, the Clans are now finally coming to MechWarrior Online. Known to the lore as “Operation Revival,” the Clans returned to the Inner Sphere after centuries. Now their wonderful and iconic OmniMechs (not BattleMechs!) will be laying waste to a match near you.
As like previous pre-orders, you can buy up to assault-class OmniMechs and get all of the lighter weight ‘Mechs along with it. The full $240 dollar package (the Masakari package) gets you eight Clan OmniMechs: the Warhawk/Masakari, Timber Wolf/Mad Cat, Stormcrow/Ryoken, Adder/Puma, Dire Wolf/, Summoner/Thor, Nova/Black Hawk, and the Kit Fox/Uller. You also get all of the variants for each OmniMech.