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GDC: Reviving MechWarrior with the CryEngine 3

Mar 11 // Daniel Starkey
   @dcstarkey

I was a pretty big fan of MechWarrior back in the day. I kind of have a thing for mechs, and I thought it was really awesome. What little kid wouldn't want to blow up giant robots with lasers and missiles fired from other giant robots? Still, it's been a long time since we've had a proper MechWarrior game.

At GDC, I sat down with Piranha games -- current holders of the MechWarrior license -- to check out their new Free-to-play title, MechWarrior Online.

MechWarrior Online (PC)
Developer: Piranha Games
Publisher: Infinite Game Publishing
Release: Summer 2012

MechWarrior Online takes place about two decades after the original title. All of the factions and all of the planets that have been established over the 27 year franchise will be present in some capacity, and planets will shift alliances based on in-game events. 

The use of CryEngine 3 gives some pretty substantive graphical improvements, with the level of detail looking amazing -- it definitely adds a lot to the package. If you fire a laser at another mech, for example, the metal will slowly melt and pour off. Some of the ground and tree textures aren't quite up to the models of the mechs and some of the other environments, but it is still a marked improvement over anything else in the rest of the franchise.

There's been a lot of emphasis placed on total immersion; making the player feel like an actual pilot instead of just the mech itself. If you move the camera far enough, you can see each of your arms, legs, and all of the panels and internals of the machine. Everything is rendered and all of the information is updated as your unit takes damage, builds up heat, etc. 

Piranha has been focused on trying to replicate the feel of many of the older games in the series while expanding combat and role-based combat. Players will be organized into lances which have four players each, and multiplayer allows up to three lances per side (grand total of 24 giant death machines on the field). 

The team also demoed some battles between several different classes running from the small and light, all the way up to the biggest frame in the game. They've been working on the viability of all classes, such that tiny 25 ton dudes will be competitive and useful in play against much larger pieces if played effectively.

Unfortunately, while I watched the game played for some time, I never got my nerdy little hands on it. It looks good, and I have some genuine interest in seeing how this will turn out, especially given that this is yet another hardcore "freemium" title. Look for the full release sometime this Summer.


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Daniel Starkey, PC Contributor
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