Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
 
Mech MMORPGs

Melmoth and Zoso from Killed in a Smiling Accident tried their hands, or rather voices, on their first podcast. It's a review of what happened in 2008, both in the world of MMORPGs and on their blogs. And one of the subject they talk about is that there aren't any good mech MMORPGs.

Well, the last good computer version of Battlemech I played was on an Amiga, I could never warm up to the real-time shooter versions on the PC. But Melmoth and Zoso have a point that mechs would make a good subject for massively multiplayer online role-playing games. Not just because of the setting, players walking around in giant robots. But also because of the heat combat mechanism. The big difference between mech games and other games is the concept that if you fire a weapon or do other special actions, that action is producing heat. Heat slowly dissipates via heat exchangers. But if you start firing without pause, sooner or later your mech will overheat and shut down.

But that isn't all. In most mech games you can design and build your own mechs, which is a much more interesting form of character advancement than gathering gear for your wizard in some fantasy game. In fantasy games there are no limits, you can always grow stronger. In building a mech you have a limited amount of weight and space. And you need to balance the equipment, if you put in too many weapons and not enough heat exchangers, you'll overheat after the first salvo. Different weapons are optimal for different situations, there is no one best build. All that would make for a rather interesting MMORPG.

Imagine a mech MMORPG in which players start with a standard, small 20-ton robot. Instead of leveling up, they gain pilot licenses for bigger and bigger mechs, up to the maximum of 100 tons. But from that point on, character development is horizontal, not vertical. During your adventures you gather various pieces, which you can use to build different mechs. Having every possible piece of gear in the game doesn't make you stronger than the other players, but gives you more options in building your dream mech.

It doesn't have to be wizards and elves all the time, you know.
Comments:
Damn you tobold, you got me thinking. And I was almost done plotting out the next WoW expansion for my own enjoyment...
 
That's a really great idea - I'd love to play a game like that. Not to mention that mech games are ready-made for teamwork with a small group, voice chat, and excellent PVP.
 
I think it would work in a way similar to EVE, expect you would build mechs instead of spaceships.

Use skillpoints to learn how to use better mechs and the pieces of equipment that go on them.

You then earn cash to buy the equipment and parts. Although they could be mission rewards.

Andy
 
Wow.. I haven't played a good Mech game in years and years. As an above poster said, the basic concept sounds very similar to Eve's basic ship load-out mechanics, with the whole 'heat' bit built in.

Definitely be something worth checking out. Not quite sure how well walking around in giant freakin' Mechs would work in an MMO setting, perhaps if you played most of the game with a normal avatar and only switched into your Mech when you left your base. Would lend itself to some interesting pvp mechanics as well. Not sure how death would be handled - it makes absolutely zero sense to respawn with all your fancy mech parts after you explode, but if equipment was done in such a way that it was a commodity rather than a means of character advancement, loss of stuff on death could be reduced to a wallet hit.
 
Mechs...

No need to say more. Giant robots smashing cities, mountains, forests and baby seals. Oh, the dramah of collateral damage!
 
Also, in many mech games bigger is not always better. A bigger mech can carry more guns and more heatsinks, but is a huge target for smaller, more agile mechs. A 100-ton mech could be defeated by a 20-ton mech using guerrilla tactics.

My favourite mech game is Mechwarrior 2 for it's flexible control mechanism (the mouse turns the arms and turrets, the joystick controls the legs and rotates the torso), but I've liked the Armored Core series as well. You could customize everything, so no two mechs looked the same. For example, choosing tank treads instead of legs or a hover module altered both stats and game mechanics.
 
do want.
 
FASA is no longer, Wizkids or Wizards of the Coast got the BT licence or so... I do not know exactly. Microsoft bought the MechWarrior-sim franchise. MW4: Mercenaries was really cool.

Are there really so many licence issues or why do people not even try a Mech MMO. I think the idea that a fantasy theme is a safe bet for at least some success inherently shows that publishers do not believe in their own product. But they do not dare to make a SciFi based MMO, despite the popularity of tabletop mech games and pop culture love for Mechs.
 
Force of Arms at http://www.forceofarms.com/ has been under development for awhile now using the Multiverse platform.
 
I blogged an idea on design of a MechWarrior MMO back in September of last year. I wish someone would take the idea and run with it (and hire me).

http://weblog.probablynot.com/2008/09/26/mechwarrior-an-exercise-in-game-design/
 
I'd play a Mech MMO, provided it was well done. It should be a no brainer, one would think.
 
What about RF Online?...check it out

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLZ2dG0Zie4

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RF_Online

It is supposedly being relaunched in the US/EU by the developers. Now whether it will be worth a darn is a whole other story.

Codemasters shut it down due to license issues (they say) but also the player base was so small..

It mixed Sci-Fi, Fantasy with Mech combat. 3 Races, with one being "robotic" as they say. They could upgrade their weapons...but I do not know much else.

Then there is NCSoft's title Exteel, which is more of a Halo style game with Mechs that are upgradeable.
http://www.exteel.com/us/

So, these games exist...but since Mechwarrior disappeared, not much else has worked out I guess...

Ah well...cheers
 
There was actually one...kind of. See below for some info on Battletech online - was under development for a while, then got canceled (T.T and I liked mechwarrior, too! Made me feel dismal when I saw the blurb in some magazine about it being shut down...)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiplayer_BattleTech_3025

http://www.mpbt3025.com/

Would have been awesome if it went through, I bet. Oh well.
 
It does have a lot of potential if done correctly. I remember playing co-op mech warrior back in college and it was a lot of fun and very tactical. We would play 5v5 games and each team would have a total weight limit which forces teams to strategize over who would be in each mech.

It could be the main stream version of EVE if the right developer gets ahold of it.
 
Exteel is fun. Not an open play MMO though. It's just a bunch of arenas/battlegrounds for people to shoot each other. But it's definitely fun. And it's free to play. You can pay money for some special aesthetic upgrades like colors and armor shapes, but I don't bother. The FPS style play is pretty nice though.

One of the awesome features is that you can switch from one big gun, to duel wielding smaller guns, or even a sword/shield for when your weapons are cooling down and you need to get up close and personal.

You should check it out.
 
I think you would still end up with "optimal builds" just like you do with optimal spec's in Warcraft. So everyone would have the same 2 or 3 builds it seems.
 
Lower tonnage = lower level. However, contrary to the design of WoW, a low level mech always has the advantage of speed over a higher level mech. In this scenario, "twinked" mechs could become very powerful and put a spin on what it means to progress.

Also, the bid system of the clan lore is perfect for PvP and perhaps PvE. Under this system, the team who bids the lowest dedicated toward completing an objective gets the right to complete a mission. One could imagine a more user friendly system where all bidders play, but the lowest bidder reaps more reward.

In addition to mechs, elementals, vehicles and aerospace could all enter the fray.

Tobold! I agree, BT MMO please.!

Well, if Blizz doesn't trump with a wicked cool World of Starcraft.
 
Mechs have always been something of a niche market compared to something like generic fantasy. It's a niche market that I'm very much interested in, but I don't harbor dreams that it's ever going to be as big as some other markets. I'd welcome a well crafted mech MMO (MMMO?), but considering the market at the moment, it really should be a smaller scale game with flexible monetization. Trying to make a Mech WoW clone would be a disaster.

That said, I'd be very happy working on a design and/or art team for such a game. I can do anything but the programming. ;)
 
I would play that game until my eyes overheated.
 
A few years ago, I got an idea for a BT MMO in my head, and couldn't get rid of it. I started writing down notes for it, researching game development, etc.
Mech games have been pretty decent business-wise for companies (Mostly Microsoft at this point), and I believe that is due to the loyal fan-base they have. MW4 sold upwards of 20M copies, BT novels have sold an insane number as well.
The issue with creating a game with a loyal fan-base though, is keeping them happy. See Star Wars: Galaxies for an example of what can go wrong when you dont.
The benefit of having an established canon to work from though: you have your story, now tell it to the players in a way that is fun, and addicting.

Making a game like this into a mech game only seems like it would be a mistake though. Why pigeon-hole the players, why limit your market? What if someone wants to be a multi-planet crafter? A uber-assassin? An Aero-jock? Infantry? The options could be (and should be) nearly limitless!

I had typed up a pretty decent design doc at one point, topped out at 25 or so pages...maybe I'll go dig that up, take a look at it again.

I'd need to find out what the laws / rules regarding licensing etc are, since I'm pretty sure MS holds the license for Mechwarrior, Wizards of the Coast (or whoever bought them now) has it for Battletech.

Then, I'd need to find a team of programmers to put together a demo of some sort.
 
My hope is that they could do Steel Battalion MMO =) - I still have the joystick and footpedal.
 
@ Openedge1

I tried RFOnline for 7 minutes before I gave it up. But if you listen to the excellent Pod-cast(-gram) from Melmoth and Zozo they'll actually talk a little bit about it. A very little bit... Something along the way of "It's bad, stay the hell away!"
 
How is my Rogue going to stab people if they're in giant robots?!

Does not compute.
 
There was actually one...kind of. See below for some info on Battletech online - was under development for a while, then got canceled..

EA was having a rough go of it in 2001. Majestic was a huge flop. Motor City Online hit the ground running, but ran out of steam very early on. Westwoods Earth and Beyond(which EA published and released in 8/2002) fared a little better; as it lasted almost two full years before being cancelled in 9/2004. 2001-2004 were fairly good years for the US economy, but I think the issue here was that EA just had its resources spread waay too thin development wise with a still maturing gamer market.

Several hundred people from EA's online division were laid off around the same time that BT 3025 was cancelled, so I'd assume it was affected by the layoffs. I was in the BattleTech 3025 beta, and was quite surprised by how well the game looked and performed. The battle system was unique, in that the battles made me feel like I was playing a refined first person shooter type of game with the way that targeting and weapon firing occured. The UI was a bit lacking though, with non combat waiting periods offering very little to occupy the gamers time otherwise. It was a great attempt at a Mech MMO for its time however, and with a little more depth might just be something that gamers would play today.

However, I'm not sure if technology has advanced enough though to support large scale MMO types of battles using the first/third person perspective that BT 3025 used. From what I understand there's a big issue with how much data is involved with aiming/tracking/per pixel hit detection and such. I wouldnt want to play a mech game where everything was based on the roll of a dice like how WoW is done. Any type of Mech game would have to overcome these issues IMO if it were to succeed in giving the player a proper feel of combat.
 
A mech game would basically be Eve on land (hopefully without the time-based skill training).
 
Chris, the clan bidding system could alleviate that, by putting caps on contests. Open war like WAR wouldn't work, but the small group tactics that we see often in the BT universe would be easier to solve things for. (Which isn't to say that I disagree that it's a concern, just that with savvy design it might not be as bad as it seems.)

Mechs tend to fight at long range as well, so that would be something to take into account, what with decreased "hit boxes" according to size. Though, y'know, much of that could be simulated with some pretty simple box-based collision detection stuff. It wouldn't be as precise as "burn a hole through the upper bicep", but gross locations like the BT structure hit point zones could work fairly easily. You know, torso, L/R arm, L/R leg, head.

Whatever the case, if we're talking about that type of game play, rather than dice rolls, I would prefer the game be completely about skill. No level grinding, no rep grinds, or any other such nonsense. A player's privileges and progress should be measured completely by the player's skill. Maybe incorporate some sort of fluff grind that people with absurd amounts of time can grind into, but if we're talking about using skill as a combat backbone, let's go all the way.
 
Battletech's own story and lore has always had mercenaries as an important part of the world. Perhaps these are the 'guilds' of any possible MMO?
 
i'd honestly prefer a dice rolls system for combat. why wouldn't a wow clone mech game work? you could have it be wow in every single sense of the word, action bar, potions (energy packs, whatever), talent trees, etc... but instead of rage or mana, you get various pools to pull from. ammo, plasma, ether, and the overarching heat gauge that ties is all together.

there's not a single reason why a stealthed unit with an energy blade couldn't cheap shot (EMP) a unit, or garrote it (Drain pack placed on the armor that slows movement and trickles your energy).

it would all line up, in a familiar environment, but be an entire different environment and lore. buildings instead of trees, factions instead of races... a whole new theme.

People love to hate wow, i get it. but I honestly wish Blizz would just license out the WoW engine like Epic does for the Unreal Engine, and allow someone to create a 'mod' of this type, without having to recreate the world from the ground up. WoW HAS a fluid combat system, and their net code and graphics engine is perfectly fine to be adapted to a situation like this.
 
I'd pay good money for a mech game like that. Think Armored Core without the lousy console controls.
 
the one point I forgot to make above (i was driving towards it, it just didn't come out) was that a dice roll system is inherently more forgiving of lag. if you want to make counterstrike with mechs, go for it, but MMO FPSes have historically fallen flat on their planetsiding faces once bigger numbers get thrown around.

Yes, more on the planet have braodband now, but I actually prefer the "autoswing with specials thrown in" pace of combat.

It would be fun as all fucking hell to cme up with cool mech-y moves too. Instead of a straight vanish, you could have one that boosts your mech 75 feet in the air, where you activate your restealthing tech, and come floating down to a area outside of melee range. perhaps if you crumpled trees on landing it would give away your location...

also, while I agree certain 'classes' wouldn't be overtly needed, I still think it wouldbe good to limit certain modles to certain frame types (not EVERYONE can stealth, scout classes ONLY can equip double boost foot upgrades, etc etc etc).

It would also be cool in this respect to have the different classes have unique cockpits... as it is, the vanilla UI in WoW is the exact same for a warrior and priest, with the only difference being a stance bar. Make it so the bars are in different locations, and there's different info presented, and it differentiates the classes, and makes you "learn the cockpit" of a new class.

awesome.
 
ugh, these just keep coming, i really should type up one on my own site, but:

on the cockpits, make it so vital information is displayed only in 1st person mode. Like you can see player health values if you're looking "out the windshield" but not if you're zoomed out to 3rd person. make each view serve a distinct purpose.
 
Ixo, there would be a market for such a reskinning of WoW, but more likely, it would be a flash in the pan, then people would go back to WoW. That's the problem. From a pure game design perspective, yes, it could work and could be fun. It's just not likely to be profitable enough to get it made in the first place.

That said, it would be cool if Blizzard would license their engine. *shrug*
 
I once had a "dream" so to speak of a mech MMO, and how you could get a variety of mechs into the game. Standard humanoid, anime style, tanks-on-legs, combining robots, transforming robots, etc.


Maybe some time, some day, some one will make a persistent world mech combat game. Until then, I can dream.
 
I was mulling over a similar idea some time ago, but using a different Sci Fi franchise than BT or Mechwarrior. I think the Transformers universe could provide a wealth of lore from which to craft a very effective MMO. A little more compatible with the current 'classes' model, you could pattern the characters into any of the multitude of Transformer types that have been created over the years. But instead of allowing all classes to be available at character creation, I would have everyone start as a generic transformer type, and through leveling unlock the different specialization paths. A major selling point of the game would be the transformation mechanic, wherein the player can select the alternate form of their character, and a very high amount of asthetic customization (City of Heroes level of detail).
 
I'd buy that game.

I played the old FASA BattleTech pen and paper with the cardboard cut outs on the Hexagon map, it was great fun. I enjoyed the lore of the BattleTech universe too. Building mechs, tracking Heat during battle, critial hits affecting the preformance of your mech, DEATH FROM ABOVE moves, were fun.

But I was always surprise at how sucky the series was a video game.

Amored Core for PS2 was fun, but too short.
 
I believe the makers of Runescape are making a Mech based MMO using the innovative name Mechscape. They were pretty tight-lipped about the project at last year's GDC, but they were spreading the name around quie a bit.
 
In Battletech, your rogue now carries a det pack that blows the legs off mechs and is able to jump up onto the head (cockpit)of the mech, peirce the cockpit window and then stab the pilot.
 
I would drop WoW for a game like that! And it would take some doing to drop WoW. Anyway, I have always loved the Mechwarrior universe and would love to see something developed like this.

I could envision PvP being a lot more satisfying in this type of game than in WoW, too. Not to mention that it would rock for PvE
 
Didn't read through everything so someone may have said this but I know Square-Enix released Front Mission Online in the East. I don't think it ever made it to the West b/c supposedly it flopped. Not sure though so maybe it's worth checking out. I know the Front Mission TBS games were great and had a good story to them too. Also I am WAY into RFOnline. Someone posted earlier that it wasn't a good game. It's a really good game as long as you don't mind a PAINFULLY LONG grind to cap level. When Codemasters ran RFO it was in the USA for about 3 years and I believe only about a dozen people made it to lvl 55. The thing that is really neat about RFO is the governing system they put into the game. Each race has 9 "leaders" all being elected once a week and each spot gaining a certain special power. I had been Sub Archon(2nd in command) on CM servers for about 5-6 months and am now Sub on CCR's servers as well. It adds more realistic values to the game and since its a PvP based game having people to command and organize makes it much more fun to play. I would have to say that it is the best PvP MMO on the market and since its free download and free accounts all you will lose trying it is a few hours. Go to www.playrf.com for the registration and download. If you do wind up joining I suggest playing Dahin server since Novus was mostly character transfers from CM servers so it is all high levels where as Dahin was everyone starting over. If you happen to log on Dahin and play Accretian race hit me up, Epyon is my IGN. I'm on 12+ hours a day so I'll be happy to give you a few pointers and some starter money. Hopefully I see some of you in game!
 
er..What about a live action GUNDAM MMO ,... the gameplay would pwn....
 
what about age of armor

its an all right mech mmo and its free to play

http://aoa.us.woniu.com/index.html
 
I find this:

http://www.perpetuum-online.com/

Not Battletech, but interesting:
custom fitting, market, production.
It looks very similar to eve

some videos on youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSKh9q6zHoQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvNslovTwNU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHzdyY3YsC0&feature=player_embedded

and an unofficial fanblog:
http://perpetuum-online.blogspot.com/
 
Hi All,

I work with a team here at Intelligence Inside Solutions and we have developed a new Mech MMO game called Mech Hero (www.mechhero.com).

This is a browser based real time strategy and the novelty is bring to the MMO and MMORTS world is that it allows the player to configure each mech uniquely and therefore gain tactical advantage over the enemy.

Check out more on the game website or forums as well as here:

http://intelligenceinsidesolutions.com/news/template.html

Hope you give it a try. We're new in the market and this game is our "preciousssss" :)

Thanks for reading this,
Andy
 
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