The Torso Cockpit has long been a dream of Mech designers. By moving the MechWarrior to a more heavily protected area, an army would be able to keep its more experienced soldiers in the fight a lot longer. The idea remained a dream until the unlocking of the Helm Memory Core provided a jump-start to many technological projects.
In 3044 the Federated Commonwealth started the Dark Mirage project, which was directed by Burke Kale. Though the team was able to create a prototype Torso Cockpit, limitations made it very unpopular and the project had been all but terminated by 3054. The key limitation was the inability for a MechWarrior to eject from a 'Mech equipped with a Torso Cockpit, but the cramped conditions made piloting more difficult, and proximity to the 'Mech's engine also affected MechWarrior performance.
The Torso Cockpit gained a reprieve in early 3055 however, appearing on several arena 'Mechs from Solaris. The additional sensor package allowed an arena pilot to keep fighting after head destruction, and the short nature of the engagements mitigated the hot conditions and lack of creature comforts. In addition, the nature of arena combat reduced the need to eject from a crippled 'Mech.
 Game Rules
Torso Cockpits weigh 4 tons and replace the standard Cockpit. Torso Cockpits occupy two spaces in the Center Torso, one for the cockpit and one sensor package. The head mounted Life Support systems are moved to the side torsos. This leaves four critical slots open in the 'Mech's head. The cramped conditions impose a 1 point penalty on all Piloting skill rolls. When the first sensor system is destroyed, add a 2 point penalty on all to-hit rolls. After the second sensor system is destroyed, impose a 4 point to-hit penalty. (If the destroyed sensor systems are both in the head, the 'Mech is effectively blinded and the penalty applies to Piloting skill rolls and physical attacks as well.) If all three sensor systems are destroyed, the 'Mech is completely blind and cannot make weapon attacks as well as suffering a 4 point penalty to Piloting skill rolls.
The proximity to the engine makes a MechWarrior's life difficult as well. The torso mounted life support systems are critical to the operation of the Mech. If one Life Support system is destroyed, the MechWarrior will take a point of damage each turn a Torso Cockpit equipped 'Mech is overheated by 1 to 14 points on the mech heat scale. If the Mech is overheated by 15 points or more and a Life Support system is destroyed, the MechWarrior will take 2 points of damage.