images courtesy of MechWarrior Online
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.