Despite many setbacks and obstacles in its way, fan-made game “MechWarrior: Living Legends” still fights on. Many gamers grew up with the MechWarrior franchise. Sometime late in 2006 the idea for “Mechwarrior: Living Legends” was born. The lack of recent commercial releases led Microsoft to grant a non-profit BattleTech license to the development team. MechWarrior Living Legends made its debut in December 2009.
The game saw steady development and made releases with new content every few months. The mod brought a unique combined arms approach to the Battletech universe. This continued until January 2013 when the MWLL website announced the end of development. Anything new for the game would now have to come from the community of players.
MWLL always saw an increase in players when new content was released. Things would level off until the next patch. The challenge now is to keep interest in the game despite the end of development. There can be no changes or modifying of the game, so it is up to the community to keep things interesting.
This effort started when a team of developers formed to finish unreleased official maps. The small team released the terrain control map Harvest in July 2013.The team fell apart but individual mappers continue to release maps. The community then began to hold events to attract players. The first effort was the Phoenix Down event in July 2013. The game came alive for a weekend before returning to normal.
Meanwhile, a group of players were becoming frustrated with MechWarrior Online. A town hall meeting between parts of the MWO community and MWO developers did not satisfy hundreds of players. So that August an old MWLL group announced plans to return to the game and attract a few thousand fed up fans with them. The player base recovered for a while before the movement faded by the winter.
MWO had become attractive enough by this point that MWLL was dead to most fans. But a few members of the remaining MWLL community refused to give up on the game. Efforts began in November 2013 to start a 5v5 team tournament. Originally designed to be small, it eventually attracted eight teams when it began in February 2014. This Forever Legends event breathed new life into MWLL. Player participation and exposure of this event made the organizers hopeful for the future of the game.
Just as the tournament finished, Gamespy, the service responsible for MWLL multiplayer, announced it would shut down that summer.. The news of development halting at least left a playable game. But now the game was facing certain death. Many solutions were proposed. But it was unknown if these solutions would work since the game was itself a mod of Crysis Wars. Community leaders felt urgency to maximize the time the game had left.
A 2v2 player Team Solaris Arena Tournament kicked off the summer. Then came the crazy idea to hold a sequel to the most popular MWLL event with only two weeks preparation time. Operation Viper 2, a 72 straight hour event, was held on the last weekend before the shutdown. The event ended right before the scheduled shutdown.. The community had a blast with both current and returning players enjoying the event. Even a brief stay on the shutdown until July 16 did not change the uncertainty.
Luckily a few solutions did work. One of the old developers created a utility to connect to the servers. It required the player to manually input ip addresses but it did work. The other solution, Qtracker, provided a complete replacement for Gamespy. Qtracker required editing a system file. But then everything worked just as before the shutdown.The end of Gamespy means people not comfortable with editing system files or using an external tool will miss out on MWLL. The game can be downloaded with instructions on how to play with the new solutions on the official site.
The player base hit record lows after the shutdown as word spread slowly about the solutions. The previous event energized the community into trying something a bit different. The Chaos March was to be an event spread over multiple weekends. A new system similar to a deck of cards would be a radical departure from the typical manner of building drop lists.
Player participation has steadily grown over the past three months. Nearly forty players have participated in December. The player base is diverse with players hailing from around the world. The event is held every weekend. Players can get information on the event here.
A major challenge remains for the community in spreading word that mod is not dead, getting players to install it, and getting them involved in the community. The servers often look dead when players log in because most of the player base is from Europe and Asia. So players can go to this website to see when players are in game . MWLL also has a steep learning curve. But there are veteran players, a video tutorial series, and a new player guide all available to help learn the game. Players can find the guide here.
Nearly six years since the initial game release and two years after development ended, MWLL still shows some life. The small but dedicated community works hard to keep the game alive. It is a mod that keeps going despite facing a commercial competitor, the end of development, and the shutdown of multiplayer services. A genre once devoid of new games is now a crowded space of mech simulators. Despite the age of the game, there is still a place for the seemingly dead Mechwarrior: Living Legends.