June is almost over. E3 has come and gone, and with it came basically no news about BattleTech, MechWarrior 5, or anything else ‘Mech-related. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t news to report! And now that I’ve got a minute to get caught up, here’s what’s happening in the world of BattleTech video games.
BattleTech Releases Urban Warfare Expansion And The Raven Was OP AF
Urban Warfare is out, and with it comes a bunch of new things including Flashpoints, a new biome, and new ‘Mechs. The Javelin arrived with the 10N and 10F variants, which allows you to boat up on SRM-6s or Medium Lasers, depending on your preference. But the ‘Mech that made the biggest splash was easily the RVN-1X Raven.
Why? ECM was busted, my friends. With a Raven in your lance, every ‘Mech is effectively cloaked until they move or fire. While this seemed like it would only be useful for guarding assault ‘Mechs that move last in the turn order, if you simply reserved your movement until the enemy had gone, it actually just made your lance completely untargetable unless your opponent was already inside the ECM bubble or they used Sensor Lock.
Also, there was a bug in the game that prevented the enemy AI from using Sensor Lock or just charging the Raven as soon as it appeared. This had been noted by many in the BattleTech community as a completely busted mechanic that needed fixing.
Here’s my man Baradul with a pretty good example of what I mean.
See how the enemy AI was basically helpless against the Raven‘s ECM? That bug has since been fixed as of the June 20th 1.6.2 patch. Gone are the days when a single Raven could take down an entire enemy lance single-handedly, and good riddance. Ravens should be fragile balls of copper wiring and heatsinks liable to explode at the slightest provocation.
With Urban Warfare out of the way, all eyes turn to the next expansion, titled Heavy Metal. We already know that Unseen ‘Mechs are lurking in this expansion, although we don’t know which ones. But judging by the name, we’re guessing they’re heavy ‘Mechs like the Marauder, Warhammer, or even the Archer.
Did Microsoft Announce MechAssault At This Year’s E3?
Nope. Guess the rumors were false. Moving on.
MechWarrior Online Might Be Dying
At the end of May, PGI President Russ Bullock went on No Guts No Galaxy TV to provide an update on MechWarrior Online, MechWarrior 5, and Mech_Con. While there was plenty discussed on all three topics (which you can read a summary of here), the big bombshell Bullock dropped happened roughly 17 minutes into the broadcast when he basically just came out and admitted that new ‘Mech packs in MechWarrior Online weren’t paying the bills anymore.
“We have something like 1,000 different ‘Mechs between all the variants and everything. Frankly, it’s a lot,” Bullock said. “It’s been quite a while now--I would suggest maybe even a year-ish--since the last time a ‘Mech really was a good return on investment for us.”
Watch Developer Update w/ Russ Bullock from NGNGtv on www.twitch.tv
Before May of this year, MechWarrior Online stuck to a schedule which saw the release of a brand new ‘Mech every month. It was the cornerstone of MWO’s monetization model: a new ‘Mech every month to spend money on and keep the game afloat. While this model has seen a lot of rare and esoteric designs finally find their way into a MechWarrior game (where else can you get inside a Vulcan or a Dervish?!), it hasn’t been worth PGI’s time to create these new designs for some time.
If people aren’t buying ‘Mech packs, then MechWarrior Online isn’t generating money. If MWO isn’t generation money, then PGI’s survival now depends entirely on the success of MechWarrior 5. Even when asked point blank on how MWO would make money going forward, Bullock replied: “I think you can put two and two together.”
First, let me say this isn’t exactly a big surprise. MechWarrior Online has been in decline for years. Steamcharts reports an average of 1,122 players in January of 2018. By January 2019, that number had fallen to 818 players. In the last 30 days, that number declined to just 635 players.
You can pick and choose whatever reason you want for MWO’s slide, but ultimately the game is just old. MWO first arrived in open beta in 2012, and very few games last 7 years at all, let alone make enough money to fund the development of a completely new single-player, campaign-based MechWarrior game.
As for all the eggs being put into the MechWarrior 5 basket, that’s how most game studios do it, so why should PGI be any different? They’ll take out a loan or team up with a publisher if things get tight between now and September, but then the game will come out and they’ll be rolling on dough again. Probably.
Also, it should be noted that people are still buying new ‘Mechs, just not in volumes that make it worth PGI’s time to make. To turn that around, PGI will release fewer ‘Mech packs but choose popular designs that haven’t already made it into MechWarrior Online (might I suggest the Crusader, Wraith, or Stone Rhino?)
Bullock said that MechWarrior 5 got an exceptional number of pre-orders given the current climate against pre-ordering anything in PC gaming, so we’ll have to wait and see how this shakes out. MechWarrior 5 is out September 10th, with pre-orders available now (EDIT: actually pre-orders are over! Don’t ask me why, I thought that developers liked getting money).
As for MechWarrior Online, if it does die, well, then it had a good run. It leaves a complicated legacy filled with missteps, but it also brought about an incredible revolution in ‘Mech simulation, phenomenal art design and assets used in other ‘Mech games, and created a community of loyal ‘Mech fans from around the world. You can’t really ask for much more than that.
But before we start singing MechWarrior Online’s dirge, I just want to point out that PGI is still hiring a writer for MWO’s Faction Play, so they’re not planning on closing up shop anytime soon. Heck, I might even apply.
And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.
MechWarrior5 is scheduled for release on September 10th, not September 5th as stated in the article.
My opinion: MWO certainly brought a revolution in Mech art and assets. I would describe much of the community as a “love to hate on PGI” group. As far as a Mech sim, I was disappointed by the lack of a feel of weight in the game. It feels less like a huge armored machine and more like your standard FPS shooter guy running around at various speeds shooting opponents. That lack of the proper feel was the only failure for me.
I am hoping for better with MW5 .
Whoops! I think I had “5” on the brain from writing MW5 so often.
I tend to agree; I thought MWO was fine for what it was if a little too much on the FPS side. But that’s probably unavoidable without going back to MW4’s janky, badly dated mechanics. #1 mistake in my book was pinpoint fire, it really should have been a cone or something to cut down on CT drilling. Not that the HBS game also has that problem or anything though…
I don’t particularly relish going back to the BT dark age so hopefully MW5 is at least reasonably successful. Time will tell.
On a separate note, I have an idea for a news article. Who can I contact about it?
Well, let’s be clear, MWO is not sunsetting because it’s old. It’s rapid decline is due to a long series of disastrous strategic and conceptual decisions made by PGI’s management beginning in 2014, and extending right up to Russ Bullock’s latest podcast, in which he more or less finally came clean and admitted that MWO was entering end of life maintenance mode and that PGI was gambling everything on MW5. The game could have lasted 20 years if PGI had not screwed up so badly and torqued off its playing community. Now the queues are rapidly dwindling as the last holdouts are finally leaving the game and moving on to other things.
“MechWarrior Online Might Be Dying”
Good. That game is a blight on BT gaming history that should have died years ago. If it weren’t for whales inflicted with Stockholm Syndrome, MWO would have been long gone by now and a competent dev might have taken up the gauntlet. As it is, PGI has presided over what might very well be the death of Mechwarrior video games, at least for a long while. MWO is no longer profitable because they have rung every bit of good will out of even the most diehard fans, and the community’s response to MW5 could best be described as guarded, and at worst, indifferent. As for myself, I have zero interest in MW5 at this point. It would literally have to be a blockbuster with a 90%+ user score across the board for me to even consider buying it, on sale.
Not to mention the continued exercise in mediocrity that is HBS’s Battletech. I have rarely seen a game hyped so much that has just continuously disappointed over and over.
Now, with the upcoming Heavy Metal DLC, they expect us to pay for mechs that were originally promised in the starting lineup. No, thank you. If I continue to play Battletech, it will be because of the modding community, which has drastically improved the gameplay with various quality-of-life improvements. But I won’t be buying the DLC.
Unlike the people who relentlessly support all things Battletech regardless of quality or ethics, I’m not so attached to any IP that I can’t set it aside and wait for competent people to come along and take a crack at it.
You must be fun at parties.
Actually, I am fun at parties.
I just have no more patience with the continued mismanagement of Battletech video games. Twenty years ago, devs were putting out Mechwarrior games that, while they were not flawless, were enjoyable and playable. They are still enjoyable and playable.
Now we have one studio that exploited the fans’ love of Mechwarrior for seven years to fund their crappy FPS while dangling the promise of the game everyone actually wanted in front of their noses, and another studio that can’t seem to stop screwing up their already barely-functional game while selling overpriced DLC at the behest of their corporate overlords.
What exactly about that scenario am I supposed to feel cheery about? You tell me, because I don’t see any upside for Battletech fans here. It’s certainly not increasing the size of the fanbase by enticing new players.
“at the behest of their corporate overlords.”
I got BINGO!
I think it’s a shame. Had MWO been managed better, this wouldn’t have happened. Since it’s strictly online game, no one will be playing it beyond this.
Frankly, I find people who still play it love the game. This properly only good way to interact with them.
Now the problem is there no way to pay for it stay online unless someone else takes it over. I did find the Faction Warfare being not easy to do, frankly not lot people using it aside i feel was Scout Missions. Given it’s small number players need to play it.
Since i grew up with the grand-daddy of MechWarrior games, including Multiplayer Battletech on Genie (which was pay 5 bucks every 15 minutes???) mod of original MechWarrior PC game, i found MWO could been like that had they been paying attention came up different way pay for it.
MW5 maybe last hurrah for PGI, unless they get another completely different game help keep lights on.
I will be amused if MechWarrior Living Legends out lives MWO.
“… the Marauder, Warhammer, or even the Archer.”
With you on the Hammer. The small lasers and MGs would have a more profound impact in the video game than the tabletop game. But if you had Warhammer, would you need Marauder as well? At range these are mostly identical fighters, but the melee-range weaponry of the Warhammer would make it immensely more fun to play in the HBS game (which is opposite from tabletop where the AC/5, armor, and extra heat sinks of the Marauder are more useful than the short range weaponry.) Liao’s “Hot Hammer” with flamers in place of the MGs would be devastating.
Archer might be fun, but its dedicated missile-boat role seems filled with the Catapult, or JM6-A Jagermech already. The Crusader is more well rounded and has Liao, Davion, and Kuritan refits so you’d get four models (with one of them jump-capable) to the Archer’s three. (Unless HBS continues to disregard canon and makes the ARC-2W available.)
Phoenix Hawk or bust though. Three models between base, Davion, and Kuritan refits, and we don’t have any mediums in the 6/9/6 movement profile yet. And with machines in the arms, it adds melee bonus which outside the Locust’s pair and the Vindicator’s and Hunchback’s small laser, is underrepresented in the lighter mechs. Its also supposed to be the most common non-light mech in the periphery.
For the sake of canonicity I’d like to see the ubiquitous Stinger and Wasp as well, but I realize the game isn’t set up at all for 20 ton mechs to survive, and mechs like the Javelin and Spider more or less replace both. Rifleman might make a good unseen addition as there isn’t any other AC5-Large Laser combos on current stock models. And while not unseen, I wouldn’t mind getting the Vulcan or Hermes II as another 40 tonner to supplement the Cicada. (Only the Banshee and Commando are unique at their tonnage, but 25 and 95 are already pretty rare tonnages to start, while 40 is standard fare.)
“MechWarrior 5 is out September 10th, with pre-orders available now.”
Actually, pre-orders are no longer available since at least a month.
About HBS Battletech : I hope they include in Heavy Metal at least those mechs which are inlcuded in the Arano sourcebook.
The coalition itself is supposed to field the following currently not included mechs : Stinger, Wasp, Phoenix Hawk, Ostol, Rifleman, Warhammer, Marauder… but I doubt that we get the two light mechs.
I have a hypothesis of my own. I believe the mech packs that were being released on MWO were also helping to provide the cash necessary for development of Mechwarrior 5 as a means of additional funding in case the pre-orders did not hit expectations. With what Russ has announced, they should be able to create a better game than Mechwarrior Online.
I hope your right, things don’t sound solid. Fortunately combat is still not delayed if your doing a Quick Fight on MWO. It’s everything else that’s bit slow to for people to join it like Faction fighting.
PGI is a blight that ruined Mechwarrior by turning it into a standard FPS instead of a Mech Sim. So all the Battletech people boot up decades old Mechcommander and Mechwarrior 3 CDs while PGI chased the FPS that now go to Fortnite. Screw you PGI, Burn in Hell.
I have an idea as to why pre-orders for MW5 may have ended. As someone who pre-ordered MW5, and has access to the exclusive Discord server, believe me when I tell you that *dozens* of other people were extremely, extremely angry when the devs announced that MW5 would be an Epic Games Store exclusive product for…forgive me, I can’t remember exactly which..either a year or indefinitely upon PC release. And given that as of right now there’s been no concrete yes or no for Console release, PGI had better pray enough people are willing to put up with EGS or wait out the exclusive period.