New to MechWarrior Online’s open beta? The mistakes to avoid, and how to choose and mod your Mech
Ben here! MechWarrior Online is now in open beta, which means anyone can sign in, make an account, and start blowing the ever-loving hell out of everyone else. I suggest you do so, as the game has become something of a favorite around these parts. MWO is also very different than most first- or third-person shooters, and I wanted to share the three most common mistakes new players make, as well as provide some hints for people new to the game or franchise. This was written by Paul Inouye, the game's lead designer, and I'll be providing my own thoughts in italics throughout the article. Enjoy, and get started!
Mistake #1: Thinking you’re going to “lone wolf” your way to greatness and carry your team to victory…
The glaring problem new players run into when starting MechWarrior Online is the run and gun mentality of other first-person shooters. This mentality will have you dead and sitting in a smoldering pile of metal within the first few minutes of a match starting. In MechWarrior Online, it is important that players keep their teammates informed of what is happening on the changing strategic battlefield. Information sharing and strategic gameplay are the key components to success in the game. A breakdown of information sharing will spell failure for you and your team plus a lot of cost in repairs! Remember this: YOU will NOT carry your team by getting the most kills. Doing hit and run attacks on your enemy’s flanks, not only softens them up for you and your teammates, but relays valuable intel to your whole team. Your TEAM will then carry YOU with good communication. This is why I love piloting a Jenner. My role is often to run ahead of the rest of the Mechs, find out where the enemy is located, and either spot them for long-range missiles or continue to share strategic information. Voice chat isn't optional in MechWarrior Online, so make sure your crew has headsets and a way to speak with each other during the round. During one match I was harassing a larger Mech, until I was told that they had little to no short-range weapons by a team mate. This information gave me the confidence to move in, and slowly chip away at their Mech with my relatively under-powered weapons. I got the kill, based on the information given to me by a team mate. Always be talking, information is the most important weapon.
Mistake #2: Not understanding that MechWarrior Online is about proper management of your BattleMech
Managing your BattleMech’s weapon and heat systems is critical to staying effective on the battlefield. Every weapon in the game has its pros and cons and it is up to you to realize the differences. Energy weapons do not use ammunition; however they do produce high amounts of heat. Excessive heat build-up can lead to your BattleMech shutting down to prevent it from being effective in battle. Ballistic weapons generate no heat but require ammunition to use. Ammunition can be critically hit and detonate inside your BattleMech causing high amounts of internal damage and possibly the destruction of your BattleMech.Another thing is to set your weapon systems to fire at different intervals using the Weapon Groups system. This system allows the player to assign specific weapons to various weapon groups that can be fired through associated key presses. This prevents the player from firing all weapons at one time (known as an ‘Alpha Strike’) and possibly overheating instantaneously. There are six weapon groups in the game that can be fired using keys 1-6 inclusive, so it is advised that players utilize these especially when carrying a large variety of weapons. Knowing how to group your weapons and knowing which groups you're using in the heat of battle is crucial. Always pay attention to exactly how much heat you're going to be using with each group, so you can keep an eye on your heat and ride the edge of overheating without going over. You can set each group to fire a selection of weapons, and good players know how to keep track of each group and what they do. Also, don't be afraid to bust out that Alpha Strike to finish off an enemy Mech, even if it does cause you to overheat. If you take out the only threat in the area you'll often have time to recover before you're back in action, and there's no better feeling than unloading everything you have into an enemy and taking them out of the fight. Every fight in MWO feels like a boss battle, and each kill is worth celebrating.
Mistake #3: Not being aware of the entire battle vs. just the skirmish you’re involved in
Being situationally aware of the progression of the battle will help you decide where to engage the enemy or assist your teammates. Sure you could go head-to-head with that 100 ton Atlas or you could assist your teammate who is being pestered by that scout Raven BattleMech. Calling out your targets for focus fire by your teammates will evaporate heavy threats if done correctly and this normally tends to lead to easy victories for your team. Making use of long range support players will soften enemy BattleMechs before they close the gap to brawling distances. Any BattleMech can scout for a long-range support player by being their eyes and feeding target data to them in order for them to launch a Long Range Missile shower using indirect fire (though obviously dedicated Scouts are best suited to this role). Knowing the most opportune time to attempt a base capture also plays into this. If the majority of the battle group is engaged in combat and you’re a fast mover, feel free to run to the enemy base and start capturing. The enemies will be notified of this and you have the chance of pulling some of their members off the main front to come and defend, giving your front line an upper hand. If the enemy team is not wise enough to send some defenders back, you can reap the rewards of a win and extra rewards for that win being a base capture win. This is another reason I love piloting a Jenner. My weapons don't do much damage, but I'm fast as hell and hard to hit. You can drive a much larger Mech crazy by popping up, taking a quick shot, and then running away. Less experienced pilots will sometimes get angry, forget their objective, and spend time chasing you. That's when you call in one of your friends to come in and finish them off; like lions who know how to separate a gazelle from the herd. If you know how many Mechs are left on the opposing team and they're all busy fighting near your base you have a wonderful opportunity to run away from the battle and begin capturing their base with little to no resistance. If they begin to turn around to attack you, your team mates can hammer them into extinction, if they let you be you'll win, and if they only send another scout you have a good chance to win the stand up fight. All this ties together: Keep communications open so you have this information, pay attention to the larger battlefield vs. your own skirmishes, and make sure your Mech is up to whatever task you're going to attempt.
Which BattleMech is best for you?
Deciding which BattleMech to pick is completely dependent on your play style. If you want to be a scout on the battlefield while providing invaluable information to your teammates, then a Light BattleMech (20-35 tons) might be the one for you. If you want to throw massive amounts of damage down range, you might want to look into a Heavy (60-75 tons) or an Assault (80-100 tons). If you want to support your main battle group, then the mid/short range battlers Mediums (40-50 tons) and Heavies may be what you’re looking for. And going by just armor and weapon loadouts, unless you want a long drawn out skirmish or to be evaporated from existence, generally it’s not a good idea to stand toe-to-toe as a Jenner vs. an Atlas. MechWarrior Online is free to play, and you'll be given a few Mechs to try to pilot before you gain enough in-game currency or pay for your own, so be sure to get familiar with each type before you start making permanent decisions. Each Mech does many things well, and at least some things poorly, and once you find the right fit of Mech and loadout you'll be in heaven. Once you begin to fall into the roles you really enjoy, you can begin to play with different configurations in the Mechlab while using your in-game or real world currency. But first experiment and get a feel for things; this isn't a game you'll understand in the first hour, so just relax and have fun at first.
Where should you use your first upgrades?
Besides picking out your BattleMech from above, you will want to start customizing your BattleMech to suit your play style as well. Want to have your lasers do damage over a shorter period of time? Try changing your lasers to the Pulse versions. An example would be swapping out your Medium Lasers for Medium Pulse Lasers. This lets you do your damage per shot in a shorter duration and have a larger amount of that damage land on a single component. You should also note that Pulse Lasers generate more heat and weigh more so you always have to keep your checks and balances in mind. Maybe Short Range Missiles aren’t working out for you. Try swapping out the SRMs for Streak-SRMs which have a lock-on ability at the cost of decreased damage due to the number of missiles fired at once being lower. Perhaps the re-fire rate of the Autocannon/20 is too slow for you? Swapping to a smaller autocannon, such as the Autocannon/5 or Autocannon/10, might be more up your alley or even to the long range, rapid fire, Autocannon/2. The Mechlab can be intimidating, so be ready to spend some time learning what your Mech can and can't do and how to swap weapons in and out. Be aware that everything you do will help you in some ways and hurt you in others. More power brings with it more weight, which takes down your speed. Everything impacts how much heat you generate, which affects the firing of your weapons systems. Knowing how to create a good loadout means balancing everything, and it's not easy. This is a good time to spend some time on the forums and talking to fans about what works for them, and then experiment with well-tested builds and making tweaks to suit your own play style. Above all, have fun! The game is in open beta right now, so anyone can begin playing, and the free to play model means that it should be easy to convince your friends to give it a go as well. Get a crew together, jump on voice chat, and have some fun. I've also been told that there will be no server wipes in the move from open beta to final release, so all the virtual currency, experience, and upgrades you earn or buy now will stay tied to your account. I'll see you out there.