Underwhelming ‘MechWarrior Online’ Launch Falls Short of Expectations

Sep 18, 2013 by  

Teased with a concept trailer years ago and officially announced in late 2011, MechWarrior has come a long way since Microsoft gave up developing the franchise with MechWarrior 4 over a decade ago. Developer Piranha Games and publishing partner Infinite Game Publishing officially unveiled the online-focused free-to-play, mech simulation title MechWarrior Online in October of 2011.

In the months following, the first details on MechWarrior Online promised a new type of experience for long-time fans, one that focused on the pillars of role warfare, information warfare and community warfare where players battled on their own or as part of larger mercenary groups and factions for planets across the galaxy. That game, the persistent universe and story, and those features are not exactly what launched yesterday on September 17, 2013 when MechWarrior Online officially dropped its “beta” status.

Since introducing players to the general gameplay of MWO last summer via the closed beta (read our preview – open beta launched last October), the game has always revolved around PvP. It began with 8 vs. 8 team battles where one team wins by killing all of their opponents or capturing their base. Later, a second mode called ‘Conquest’ was added where one team wins by killing the opposition or by earning 750 tickets by capturing the majority of five bases on the map. Over the last few months, MWO has grown to feature 12 vs. 12 combat, later adding a third-person play option, with the goal of letting newcomers have an easier time acclimatizing themselves to piloting a mech whose torso can twist in the opposite direction of the mech’s feet.

Third-Person Gameplay:

This is where the game – at least from a community and PR standpoint – began to stumble. The developers had initially stated that the game would always be first-person only, later changing their tune and explaining that they’d add a separate mode for third-person players. The compromise was generally accepted as players could still play in first-person against players also only playing in first-person, since the fear was that the more arcade-like third-person mode would give users an advantage of seeing around corners and seeing light mechs up close behind them. When third-person was added, none of this was the case and the player pools were shared.

On one hand, the perception was that the developers had gone back on their word twice where on the other, the reality is that third-person doesn’t offer any advantage and the devs explained as much in an apology letter to the community which had begun vocally expressing their dissatisfaction with the game and how the situation was handled. It’s harder to aim and players lose a pair of key HUD features (the map and team status displays) when playing in third-person. Still, judging by the forums, in-game chatter and what the media picked up on, there was a clear misstep in communication between the developers (busy at work) and the players (some who have high expectations after sinking significant amounts of cash into the game based on a set of promised features).

[Click to Enlarge]

MechWarrior Online Epic Wallpaper Art

This was just the beginning and clearly wasn’t what PGI (the developers) wanted to deal with in the road leading up to the launch. For a long time now, the launch of MWO was built up to be the long-awaited beginning of the actual meta game, dubbed Community Warfare. This is the big feature set touted, promoted and described in detail in the months following the game’s announcement in late 2011. We covered it extensively here:

Up until a few weeks ago, we were sure that the official release date of MechWarrior Online would mark the launch of Community Warfare and we were wrong, corrected via a series of mentions on the official MWO forums, in emails to us and even a few comments on our site. How is it we had no idea that the launch of the game wasn’t actually the launch of the game announced two years ago? Why is this even a launch?

As it turns out, the “launch” is nothing more than a milestone where the “beta” label could be dropped from the official website and game client. Not only is Community Warfare nowhere to be found, even after a year of a playable beta, but the much-needed user interface upgrade (dubbed UI 2.0) is also not here yet. This information on the lack of new features was only revealed less than two weeks before the game’s release date on the No Guts No Galaxy podcast where PGI’s Bryan Ekman guested for three episodes (beginning here).

Instead, the launch update of MechWarrior Online maintained the status quo and the devs feel the core gameplay mechanics are at a place where they feel satisfied enough to introduce the game to more players. No new mechs, no new map, no new features, no overhauled interface and no beginnings of Community Warfare. The game is the same as it was in the beta, so we wonder why – at a point where the forums are a place of hostility – the game is launching without its most-needed upgrades and without its high-profile features? Should the “launch” of the game be when the “full” game, as originally envisioned and advertised is ready to go?

“Our official launch is a jumping off point for a continuous stream of meaningful content updates to the game. We are looking forward to implementing the next round of major features for our pilots, including an entire new interface, new pilot tutorials, new Mechs and Maps and the long-awaited Community Warfare pillar. This is only the beginning. There is no final product.” - Russ Bullock, president of MechWarrior Online developer Piranha Games.

If the forums (here, for instance), reports of forum moderation, user reviews on metacritic (here), Reddit jokes, and the fact that comments are disabled on the official MWO channel’s launch trailer are of any indication, probably. By launching the game now, the bigger issue the devs face is that they’re inviting publications to review a product that’s not reflective of the entire game (when it’s truly ready for launch) and worse, new players will be entering a situation where in-game chatter and forums are poisoned with community uproar. The timing couldn’t be worse. We were hard-pressed ourselves to find a match yesterday (launch day) where players weren’t being sarcastic about the game’s launch and expressing dissatisfaction with the current status of the title. Again, it’s all about expectations.

The good news, is that despite the negativity, those vocal players are still seemingly playing. The bad news is, it’s truly awful to read nothing but borderline trolling when jumping into a new game experience just to have some fun. Developmental hurdles and overcoming the stigma of high-priced goods in a “free-to-play” game is one thing- and trust us, there are sales being pushed on gamers on a weekly basis – but inviting players into an online game that’s not always welcoming and doing something(s) to upset existing players as much as they seem to be, is another. It’s legitimately worrisome as much as it’s depressing to read the negativity and it all comes down to the devs managing expectations through communication.

Next week is the official MechWarrior Online launch party where details on UI 2.0 and Community Warfare will finally be discussed. Hopefully that will shed light on what’s coming and when, and more importantly, get the disappointed fans excited and positive about the game again. The game is a good one, and fans of mechs and team-based PvP will find a lot to like about the gameplay. There’s a long way to go however, in making MWO more than that though. Expect our full written review in the coming weeks and for now, check out some gameplay of us playing from the early days of beta and present.

Early Beta Gameplay:

Current Build:

The MechWarrior community is a strong and vocal one – and they can be united for good. Just look at what the devs and players accomplished together in raising money in the fight against cancer with the Sarah’s Mech fundraiser. And they will have to unite again – because the clans are coming…

[Update: Piranha Games boss Russ Bullock explains to NGNG why the game launched when it did despite his personal wish for an official release a little further down the road, pointing to PR pressure and business reasons. Inexplicably, the date chosen was the same as the biggest game launch of the year in GTA V and without its two biggest features - As we know now, it's  resulted in minimal video game media coverage and a lack of reviews (still zero publication reviews on Metacritic) in the first week]

Have you tried MWO and if not, will you give it a shot? Let us know your thoughts on the game and franchise in the comments below!

MechWarrior Online is available now (for free!).

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.

37 Comments

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  1. The devs seem to have staffing issues, but the game is slowly getting better luckily. Unfortunately for the sane players half the forum community are self-entitled gits who should never be taken seriously, and the other half are brown-nosers.

    • Many of those self entitled gits gave this company money to ensure that the game would be a success.

  2. MechWarrior Online launched the same day as Grand Theft Auto V…

  3. I’ve been excited for a while now about the release of community warfare. Since finding out the release isn’t a release and includes nothing (not even a new map or mech), I was very disappointed. The game is still fun, but, to let the community get its hopes up that the full game would be coming out only to pull the rug out from everyone only a couple weeks before hand and leave us all with nothing is a bit of a slap in the face. Rather than playing MWO tonight, I’m going to go play Hawken or WoT instead.

  4. IF you cannot find an advantage by using 3rd person to peek over ridges and around corners you have no business reviewing a game.
    Here watch this;
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNshX7pUUck

    I would love to point out that the clans are not coming, except i know that clan mechs will be rushed out just as fast as PGI can slap together MC only variants for the next grab deal.

    Game was launched in a state not fit for a demo.

    PGI doesn’t have enought time to fix core issues, yet never fails to roll out new MC only content and grab deals EVERY WEEK.

    • That’s because MC only content takes little time to model and complete. Same goes for rolling out grab deals. Core issues aren’t that simple, otherwise they’d be done long ago. 3pv also isn’t as big a deal as you’re yelling about. Use common sense before posting.

    • Clan mechs are coming and no info has been revealed beyond that.
      http://i.imgur.com/j2pw30U.png

      • #rd person providing an advantage in terms of scouting and information warfare (PGI stated “Core pillars of MWO”) over 1st person is an objective fact. To say otherwise is something akin to tho not as extreme as saying a wallhack provides no advantage agasint legit players.

        Now if you were locked into 3rd person or first person for the duration of any given match you might have a case, but you are not locked into one or the other and can switch back and forth at will.

        Providing a PGI twitter post as proof of an upcoming feature in MWO? Have I just landed in the twilight zone? If the developers statements on twitter/facebook/redit could be believed we would not have had 3 forum meltdowns and a metacritic rampage.

        I get the impression you have not yet played MWO, I advise you to do so. First because you really should play it before writing articles about it and second becasue now is the best possible time to be a new player. PGI rolled out a set of trial mechs that consists of 4 “champion” mechs, these are not true trial mechs these are in fact kitted out customs. Mathematically and historically speaking a single champion mech will be in the trial rotation once every 3-4 rotations. There are currently 4 of them, there has never before been more than one. This is an attempt conceal how bad trial mechs are (stock mechs from the BT universe) and thereby give reviewers a false impression of the new player experience.

        P.S. first thing you should do is go into options, disable arm lock and disable throttle decay.

        The hotkey for toggling third person and first person is “F4″

        • Geeze dude, did you not read the post? I get that you’re unreasonably angry at the devs, but now you’re trolling us – who wrote the only complete and objective article about the launch of the game.

          I’ve been sharing gameplay videos of me playing for over a year. Where do you think those vids up top came from?

          Playlist: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVS_O4VOTQ7jOCO25EEwgby7SaWoHIGce

          • I did in fact read the review up to the point you posted this,

            “On one hand, the perception was that the developers had gone back on their word twice where on the other, the reality is that third-person doesn’t offer any advantage and the devs explained as much in an apology letter to the community which had begun vocally expressing their dissatisfaction with the game and how the situation was handled. It’s harder to aim and players lose a pair of key HUD features (the map and team status displays) when playing in third-person. Still, judging by the forums, in-game chatter and what the media picked up on, there was a clear misstep in communication between the developers (busy at work) and the players (some who have high expectations after sinking significant amounts of cash into the game based on a set of promised features).”
            At that point and having watched the video, I didn’t pay attention to the name at the start (I almost never do,) I assumed based on your level of understanding of the game that you had browsed the forums, watched a few videos and decided to write an article.

            Your response further added to that assumption as most people who have been around for more than a few months in this game know that what the devs say means slightly more than nothing.

            Having reached that conclusion would you expect a player who has been around since closed beta to bother reading the rest? What would be the point of reading such an article?

            I am Sorry about that I should not have assumed.

            Now I have read the rest of the article I have one further response

            This vocal player is no longer playing, and has not played to do anything more than check the new meta for a few (less than 5) games once or twice a month in a a very long time, praying the entire time that something ANYTHING has been done to fix the game. This is from a player with several thousand matches played on a stat sheet that does not include the games from closed beta.

        • I do find it somewhat interesting that many people (including yourself apparently) have based the foundation of their ragequit of MWO on 3pv. I’ve been there since the beginning, so I understand the disappointment that has been several design reversals by PGI. What I don’t get, however, is the amount of venom directed at 3pv when it is arguably the least problematic aspect of the game to date. 3pv gives no advantage to anyone using it because EVERYONE CAN USE IT. It’s like saying 4x zoom gives an unfair advantage because i disagree with it’s implementation and refuse to use it. Right now I would give MWO a 5 or 6 out of 10 because it simply isn’t a completed game, but grousing over 3pv when there are many more glaring issues seems silly.

          • BbadAK, I assume (and hope) that’s directed at “Nothatguy”

            For me I don’t care because ANY player including myself can use it. The video he sent shows a scout using it… chances are the other team has a light too. It makes no difference.

            It’s like complaining about introducing LRMs when you hate LRMs. You don’t have to use it… but you can. One team can still counter it depending on how they play and what they equip.

          • We are mostly livid not because they added 3PV, but because they did so against constant outcry, they added a feature they assured would not be added long before any of the still-missing features that would be added, and because we remember the problems in MW:4 where you either used 3PV to peek and pop-tart, or you were a terrible player.

            I don’t want to have to use 3PV to compete. Hell, I’d be happy if the 3PV drone was destructible and susceptible to ECM to at least keep the feature immersive, lore-friendly, and a tactical choice to make.

            They went back on their word several times on several features, and them not implementing the split queues as promised was, simply, the final straw that pushed many of us from “Really, PGI?” to “OK, enough is enough, @#$% these people.”

            To the extent that I, for the second time in my entire life, opened a case with BBB. The last time I did that was against Bally’s over their deceptive contract practices.

  5. you forgot to mention a few little details in your review …
    just to name 2

    first:
    the shooting part in this multiplayer online shooting game is buged and broken (hitdetection not working / hitbox errors / “lag shield” for fast moving players)

    and second:
    abysmal chat and in game communication options … in a team game

    and this are by far not all shortcomings

    • It’s not a review. It does specifically state a review will be coming in the next week though.

  6. Leave Rob alone guys. Games are never 100% perfect when they come out, nor will they ever be complete. I think most people need to take the time to embrace the fact that this game just came out, so expect things to be broken, buggy, etc. Give it time and you will be finding yourself with your own foot in your mouth before you know it.

    Good job Rob, I am looking forward to the review! :) I think this game is good fun just a baby yet lots of room for improvement.

  7. >4 new maps, a dozen new mechs excluding variants, a tone of new features, a tone of improvements to balancing and the source code.

    “They didn’t launch with anything new.”

    You can’t be serious. It says ‘no personal attacks’ but, to write an article about this, with this level of ignorance, is just a whole other level of stupidity.

    This shows a severe misunderstanding of development. Maybe to try and explain it, in the hopes that it would be understood is asking too much. To withhold features, specifically for a “launch,” it just doesn’t work that way.

    • “They didn’t launch with anything new.”

      Moromillas i hope you are taking that quote from somewhere other than this page because nowhere in that article do those words come together to form that sentence.

      What the community sees as “a whole other level of stupidity” (see what I did there?) is the so called launch of a game that still deserves a beta tag, especially when it was stated time and again that key elements of the game needed to be in place before the game could be considered a complete foundation. The fact is that this launch patch was no different than any other bi monthly patch they have been putting out for the last year. That is why there is nothing “new” in MWO

      • Maybe you should read the article. You want a direct quote, ok: “No new mechs, no new map, no new features, no overhauled interface and no beginnings of Community Warfare. The game is the same”

        Saying that paraphrasing this into the smaller “They didn’t launch with anything new.” is way off, is absurd. Read the article.

        Ah, the community. Indeed there were many saying the same thing, it doesn’t make it any less hilarious or ignorant. X amount of features doesn’t make a game, or inversely, a lack of features doesn’t qualify for beta, there will always be new things to develop, always things to reiterate. Maybe you should try and find an article on how it works, it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to get anything across.

        • Moromillas,

          Just so we can clear up facts before having a discussion, you need to check the patch notes here:
          http://mwomercs.com/game/patch-notes

          Before continuing, you need to know that on launch day, the Tuesday update did NOT add a new map, nor did it add any mechs. All of what’s said there is accurate. The trial mechs were changed and the Orion variants became available for purchase via C-Bills but new content was not added.

          • The patch notes are accurate. This article however, is incredibly inaccurate.

            You keep using that word “launch” when it probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. Yes, marketing kicks in, but. Imagine, starting with nothing, going through all the concepts and redesigns. Then having something semi-functional, and having to crawl through the mud that is beta. Compiling a tone of feedback, metrics along the way. Each day, the bugs, implementing as may new features and content as possible. To finally get to the other side, the light at the end of the tunnel. To hold in your hands, something pristine, stable, recommended. Then imagine everyone saying “Aw, what? It doesn’t have anything.” It is one hell of a facepalm.

            Players were expecting new features (Community Warfare and UI 2.0) to be included in the patch close to launch, what? This doesn’t happen, anywhere. Everything that is developed has to be scrutinized, especially if players are going to be using it, and one way of doing that is beta testing. You can’t just grab everything on everyone’s computer, chuck it in the build/upload and hope for the best, it just doesn’t work that way.

          • Just stop trying to cater to these guys and write an honest review. There is a faction that wants nothing but 0/10s for MW:O when its clearly not a 0/10 game. By the same token, the game at launch isn’t 10/10 mostly because its missing key features.

            Honestly, I’m more interested in see what MW:O looks like in a year.

    • Moromillas is a damn troll. Can’t read, and accuses accurate and objective article of being inaccurate when there’s not one single incorrect piece of info in it.

      It’s players like you who are actually, and I mean literally, ruining the community. Can’t even communicate without being dishonest and trolling on everything.

      Trolls are the worst and they make issues that are fixable, worse.

  8. I am so stoked to have MWO.
    I have a lot of cheese to go along with all the wine-erz.
    Shut u and play

  9. PGI is asking Metacritic to take down reviews it doesn’t like. Hard to trust any source these days…

  10. I think this was a pretty great article for the most part. I believe it accurately depicted the community’s outlook on the official “launch” of MWO. When it is all said and done, Community Warfare and UI 2.0 are two VERY significant items that make practically change the entirety of the game.

    As of now, in-game communication is absolutely terrible, the mechlab has worse functionality than web-browser mechlabs, the drops (or game joining) is flawed and lacking, and UI 2.0 is deemed (by PGI) as superfluous to the development of the game.

    Furthermore, the lack of implementation of Community Warfare essentially means that they a releasing a COMPLETELY different game than what they originally advertised. I am not talking just missing a couple features, i am talking about a MASSIVE feature. Anyone that trivializes just how much of a difference CW would make on this game is sorely lacking any amount of measurable reasoning capabilities. Right now, we have nothing more than a mechwarrior call of duty, wins and losses have no more meaning than how much money you take home – they have no impact at all in this game world. Community Warfare is, absolutely, a critical to the launch of this game, and, the lack of it, should be considered as completely disingenuous.

    Thanks for the article, Rob Keyes. If there is any constructive criticism to pass out, it would be to not pull any punches when your game review comes out. I understand you were trying to be reasonable and try to see both sides of the issue without applying too much personal value, but i hope you know that that is the entire point of a game review when the time comes.

  11. Its on OK game. It’s a lot more role based than the other MechWarrior games than I can remember, and more than what I would like. But the graphics are nice, weapons feel about the same just with new effects. But since yesterday (my 2nd day playing) its be constantly crashing. Both ingame and the launcher just sputtering out. And I know this sounds dumb but I have no AV programs to block it and I did a repair on it already. That fixed the ingame CTD but now the launcher has started acting stupid, and ive yet to find a solution on my own or on the forums. But a reboot fixed it the first time and this PC doesn’t take long to restart so it isn’t a huge issue.

    The Mech Credits. I never did like or approve micro transactions. Sometimes, oh wait correction. Most times, it is way too expensive than what its worth. Yes, I understand some games are F2P and developers and producers and the like have to make money through other methods besides subs. But its rare that you actually have a mmo that uses “credits” or “coins” to buy special content that has REASONABLE prices. For example. The new Boar’s Head Atlas they have for sale. Looks nice, has a good loadout and it gets you extra c bills during games. BUT, its 7500 MC. The amount of MC you would have to purchase this mech is 12,000 MC. Or FIFTY DOLLARS. For one Mech. Let me think about… Yeah, no. And I did the math, even if you purchased certain MC packages for less and more close to its MC value it would still be over $30. $40 is what my parents payed forMechWarrior4:Vengeance when it came out. A whole game with over 15 mechs. And then there was a free release of MW4:Mercs WITH the mech packs and WITH even more mechs and weapons made and added by modders. I understand that they are running F2P, but unless me buying that MC to buy that one mech involves them sending me a replica of it made out of gold, im not going to buy it and it isn’t worth it. Even Bioware has tuned down the pricing on certain thing in the Cartel Market to where I actually might get some cartel coins for it because its ‘reasonable’. Personally I think they have it priced that way due to the fact that many veteran MechWarrior fans are playing it, and some are up in age by now and have jobs. Well im sorry to burst their bubble but I am a veteran player too. But I don’t have a job and am still in highschool. Ive been playing MW3 since I was two, and then got MW4 in kindergarten, and have played both since, and even have bought MW2 now and am working on getting it to run, which I have and its awesome beyond measure despite its graphics. Not all long time fans are in their mid 20s and their 30s or even 40s, even then not everyone has a bunch of money to blow on something like that. They would be better off buying another MechWarrior game they don’t have for about 5-10 dollars on amazon. Call this whining if you want. But a resourceful financially aware person would understand how that kind of price for something on an online game, that you cant keep or use if you loose internet is quite ridiculous considering how one can go to walmart and buy COD:MW2, an actual whole game for $25. Now that that rant is done…

    MWO is very promising. They just need to polish up some of their work so that way people quit crashing at one stage or another, and also need to tune their price on content WAY down. Gameplay is solid and realistic and nostalgilistic. And according to their site because of the year the game is taking place the Clan invasion is about to happen, I can expect to see some Madcats/Timber Wolves and Thors/Summoners stomping around. Then I can get my Warhammer IIC and pop Atlases in the pilots eye with my dual ER PPCs.

  12. I just want to say the MWO Is great ! It has it flaws like any other game. Things can be better and Iam sure they will. All company’s at one time or another change what they say is going to be in thier game . As for the third person a lot of people wanted it ( not me ) but all I have to say is you don’t like it don’t play Everyone has their opinion

  13. I just want to say the MWO Is great ! It has it flaws like any other game. Things can be better and Iam sure they will. All company’s at one time or another change what they say is going to be in thier game . As for the third person a lot of people wanted it ( not me ) but all I have to say is you don’t like it don’t play Everyone has their opinion

  14. ..of course it could been better at the launch, but it is just great fun and for me the best game ever.

  15. IM done with giving PGI a chance, time to take action.

    started a petition to have MicroSoft rethink it’s next extension to PGI.

    https://www.change.org/petitions/microsoft-corp-remove-the-mechwarrior-franchise-rights-from-piranha-games-inc

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