MMORPG: Tell us what it is like working with the Mech Warrior License for an online game. You have to be excited.
Russ Bullock: It’s really a little strange to think about and even harder to explain, but I will try. I was first introduced to the Battletech box set by my brother within a year of its original release. From that moment on, I fell in love with the setting and brand universe. I have many memories of pestering my parents to upgrade the aging family PC to play the original Battletech products like The Crescent Hawk’s Inception and Sequel. Then came the original MechWarrior and great follow u,p MechWarrior 2. In short I played them all and when I formed Piranha Games in January of 2000, this was one of those brands I looked into getting involved with probably every year on the year, but it wasn’t until 2008 that we started to work with the brand. Suffice it to say, it is very surreal to be working on the next title in this great franchise.
MMORPG: There are a lot of old school Mech Warrior fans out there. What would you like to say to them about the game and your goal for players?
Russ Bullock: I think it is important to tell those fans that we are indeed making the next true MechWarrior experience. It looks, sounds and feels like a MechWarrior product only with newer technology and design principles. When we launch open beta later this summer, come try out the game and you won’t be disappointed.
MMORPG: The demo we saw at E3 ran very smooth, tell us about the game play and polish on that demo.
Russ Bullock: The good news for MechWarrior fans is that there was nothing special about the E3 demo. It was the very same, live closed beta build. It should reassure gamers wondering if the game will launch this summer and how ready it will be. There is no shortage of work left to do before open beta, but we’re already successfully running the game in a large-scale beta environment.
MMORPG: Can you tell players a little about the Inner Sphere in the game? How does it impact the persistency of the game?
Russ Bullock: The Inner Sphere is an amazing setting for a game to take place. Thousands of planets the great factions of the Inner Sphere have been fighting over it for hundreds of years. In MWO players will be able to get involved in this conflict by selecting to align themselves with one of these great factions or with a mercenary unit. From that point, you will be able to battle with other groups of players for possession of planets and watch the Inner Sphere change in real time to reflect your actions. There are limits in place to ensure the canon of the universe continues to work and stay intact, but border worlds will change hands frequently while rewarding players for their actions.
MMORPG: How can players work with their pilots? Are there ways to spec pilots for different styles of game play?
Russ Bullock: In MechWarrior Online we have a concept of Role Warfare. Unlike past MechWarrior games, it won’t become an arms race where only the largest and heaviest Mechs will be effective on the battlefield. Scout Mechs and every other size and class will be effective on the battlefield through match making as well as abilities and roles those Mechs bring to the battle. All of this is further supported by the concept of spending pilot points in a way that compliments the play style you want to support on the battlefield. In summary, if you want to become the best scout pilot possible you will spend your time playing scout Mechs, earning and spending experience points (XP) on those chassis and spending your pilot skill points in a manner to support that further.
MMORPG: The maps are amazing can you tell us what goes into designing a map for the game?
Russ Bullock: Far too much J. The amount of work that goes into building a level for today’s games has changed drastically in the last 10 years. The detail level required to reach the potential of today’s GPU’s and engine technology can be staggering. Luckily we have a skilled set of artists and level designers up to the task. Even with a healthy team of developers working on a single map, it can still take several months to complete to a testable level. In short, the team first concepts a map multiple times, then works on a rough outline of grey block version. Once everyone is happy with how the map plays, the artists are free to start creating all the assets to populate and beatify the level. I’m sure we will be working on at least a couple maps for MWO at any given moment for years to come.
MMORPG: What different options do you allow on a Mech Warrior suit for players? Are there lots of customizations?
Russ Bullock: In MWO we have a full-featured Mech Lab experience. Players can change their weapon load outs, armor amounts, engine sizes, etc. MechWarrior is a balancing act where players find just the right combination that suits him/her best.
MMORPG: How can players band up and work together in the game?
Russ Bullock: You can group up to ensure you launch into the same battles as your friends. Beyond that, you really become involved in our feature called Community Warfare, which offers MechWarrior’s version of clan battles. Players can form Mercenary units or join one of the great factions of the Inner Sphere to join a common cause and battle over the territory of the Inner Sphere. Your actions as a player and as a group will be reflected in real time on the map of the Inner Sphere for all players to see.