Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Clan Invasion – Mechwarrior Online’s Latest Mistake

So it’s finally coming.

After being launched without many of the features it was touted to have, such as Community Warfare, the Clan Invasion is coming to Mechwarrior Online. The original plan for the Clan involvement was this: Have a form of persistent universe with factions relentlessly fighting one another. After a year of this, the community would be shaken up thanks to the invasion. The clans would consist of elite factions who were few in number, but with superior skills and mechs which could outgun anything the Houses could throw at them. The idea this was coming excited many people, even despite the relentless delays, and for some it was a sign of hope despite the title’s many problems.

Due to the sheer difference in power between the old mechs and new additions, how they were to be included had to be thought out carefully. Unfortunately, the Clan Invasion has been implemented in the worst way imaginable.

Members of the community have been speculating and suggesting ideas on how this could be added since the closed beta. A common idea I have personally heard more than once was to ensure that only the top members with the best K/D ratios were given access to the powerful machines. They would be few in number, but they would be powerful and skilled to offset this. They would also be fighting continually at a numerical disadvantage, perhaps six or eight Clan mechs against the usual group of twelve House mechs which were in the game up to this point. The chief problem here is obviously this would require a significant overhaul of the matchmaking system and would likely be giving PUGs the short end of the stick again.

Another suggestion was to have effectively the same happen but with players selected at random, keeping them in a minority.  There is a decent thread which can be found here outlining the problems behind implementing the Clan Invasion and some of the potential solutions. The point of these examples is that every time there were significant problems with including them and keeping the game fair. Just about every time someone did make a suggestion, it involved having a very controlled method of keeping Clan mechs limited to a handful of people. Well, Piranha Games has sort of done that. They have given the mechs to whoever has the most cash to burn.

If you look on now you’ll see a lot of mechs and a lot of price tags. These range from a single $30.00 purchase for a Fitfox (or Uller if you prefer) to $240.00 for the whole lot. Let’s ignore for the moment that fan favourites like the Timber Wolf are at the highest priced packs, an obvious effort to convince players to devote more cash to the game. Instead let’s focus upon the obvious:

If this is anything like what was established in every other Mechwarrior title, these are all supremely powerful mechs which can utterly outgun all current competition. If this is the case this is buying power, pure and simple. This won’t be like good free-to-play schemes where it’s to give you some minor edge, some variant which might suit your playstyle more, or to grind less, or even to give your mech a custom appearance. This will be exchanging chash for raw power as all the new guns, items and goodies will only be compatible with Clan mechs to begin with.

Worse still is that this is a blatant cash grab. Atop of all the usual bundles there are sales for a single gold plated mech going for the astonishing price tag of $500.00. Imagine for a moment how well this would go down in any other game. Imagine if League of Legends, Guild Wars 2 or The Secret World tried to offer up a slightly different skin skin for just a hundred dollars more than it costs to buy a brand new Playstation 4. There would be rioting on the forums, accusations of greed and insults thrown at the developers for trying to blatantly grab for the wallets of the customer. This is even worse than in those cases though, as unlike those games Mechwarrior Online is a niche market with only a relatively small devoted community. What PGI seems not to understand is they have a playerbase which they cannot afford to keep lying to, keep short changing at their expense and keep driving away if they want to stay afloat.

The fact this is being implemented so soon after the Phoenix packages suggests something else: Desperation. This is based purely upon opinion and speculation, but just consider the following for a moment. The game currently resembles nothing of what was promised. Community warfare isn’t in it, the new UI is still way off yet and Piranha Games themselves were forced to change MWO’s description at one point because it no longer resembled what had been advertised to players. All we have had was the PGI churning out new mechs and the occasional map. Perhaps that would be enough, but during the beta there was no advance towards anything we saw promised. No major, potentially costly, changes to the basic way the game was structured to make it resemble a continual war over territory to gain resources.

Between the lack of significant progress, the number of micro-transactions within the game and having two major mech sales very close together, if feels as if there is a warning light going up here. If you are going to purchase any of these Clan mechs, take note of the date you will get them and consider what we have seen over the past years. Remember all the broken promises and even outright lies PGI have stated since this game began. Remember that even after all this time there is still no lobby, still no way to set up matches against specific players and still no in-game chat. Remember that this was supposed to be a war between the Clans and the Inner Sphere, a massive conflict supposed to change everything, has been reduced down to selling new mechs to people.

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