Mechwarrior Living Legends Wiki:Community Interview

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Ed. Note: This is a very old interview from spring 2010 and is saved here for archival purposes.

The MWLL Wiki have a pleasure to invite You for an interview with Lead Developers of Mechwarrior Living Legends. KingLeerUK, Seraph and Toth agreed to answer several questions from the Community, so here is now a chance to get known some of the facts from behind the scenes, in a time before patch 0.3.0 will be released. Enjoy the lecture!

The Interview

Question: In Terrain Control do you plan on placing the capture points evenly across the map to facilitate an even leap frog battle or spread them unevenly to favor light or heavy Mechs depending on distance and terrain — XInVicTuSx

  • Answer: We don't want to give away too much about TC, but at a high level there will be three different types of capture points in terrain control: bases, outposts and "strategic points of interest" which will be minor capture points. They will all be spread around the map strategically, but not necessarily to favour specific 'Mech or vehicle classes.

Q: Are there any plans yet as to how the Mechlab is going to work? Just putting weapons into their slots MW4-style, or a crit-based system (still taking into account weapon slots)? Will we be able to change reactor type/size, armor, internal structure and such things? Will Battlemechs be distinguished from Omnimechs? What about the cost associated with the modification itself (in addition to equipment cost)? — Haarp

  • A: We are still heavily invested in designing a system that allows for a fair amount of customisation without compromising balance. Additionally, within the team there are certain voices (like 'Leer) that want to have systems in place for 'MechLab that enforce "canonical" roles for 'Mechs and vehicles. There are a few ways to go about this and we haven't really made a decision about it yet.

Q: Is there a specific time and ruleset MWLL is supposed to play in? Currently, we seem to be around 3067 lvl2 with some lvl3 thrown in. Can we expect Jihad-era equipment and advanced lvl3-stuff? Is the tech-tree for lvl2/3 planned to be completed or will stuff only be added on a this-game-could-use-this basis? — Haarp

  • A: MWLL has never had a specific BT era that is corresponds to. Most of the 'Mechs and vehicles have been selected based on our ability to update them visually in a cool way. MWLL is a bit of a grab bag when it comes to included technology. As example, the Osiris is in the 3067 TRO, which the same year the Jihad started (referencing your Jihad-era question). So, in answer to your question, tech and vehicles in MWLL are selected somewhat ad-hoc. That said, we don't have any intentions of including anything from WizKids, like Age of Destruction 'Mechs. Also, as we have stated a number of times in the past, we don't have any plans to include non-bipedal 'Mechs (like quads, or tris) or LAMS. The amount of effort required to bring those into reality using our 'Mech system would be enormous.

Q: Can/Will vehicles be fixed so they don't get stuck everywhere, flip like coins over invisible obstacles or receive the ability to turn/brake properly? — Haarp

  • A: To be fair, some of the invisible walls and barrel-roll flips are inherited from Crysis. We are always looking to improve mobility of existing vehicles but defining what is appropriate can be somewhat subjective. We have recently improved the handling of the Harasser, making it faster and have better control through turns. At the same time we are resolving asset issues and tweaking handling variables for wheeled vehicles. What would be really helpful in those cases is to have a detailed bug report submitted noting the specific asset location and map on which it occurs. General threads about "I'm getting stuck on rocks!!!" are of little value in tracking down these issues

Q: Could you tell us about the game modes that are in the works? — SquareSphere

  • A: Terrain Control and Free For All (FFA) have been implemented into playable modes and we are testing them internally. We have recently completed a design document for our version of Capture the Flag.

Q: How is the "mech lab" going to affect tanks, vtols and planes? — SquareSphere

  • A: Tanks, VTOLs and aerospace will be accessible in 'MechLab and offer the same customisation options as would be present for 'Mechs.

Q: When can we expect BA to get a fleshed out HUD? — SquareSphere

  • A: We have been hindered in our HUD development efforts due to a lack of development resources in that area. We have some very exciting HUD concepts prepared, but no way to get them in just yet. If it helps, improvement of the BA HUD has the highest priority in the HUD department right now.

Q: Is making missiles non-objects a limitation of the game engine or a dev decision? — The Saint

  • A: Yes.
    We have experimented with making missiles physical entities that could be shot down with ballistic of laser weaponry but encountered numerous bugs within CryEngine2 as a result. The feature was backed out of the build and has been tabled for the foreseeable future due to focus on other development efforts.

Q: What is the envisioned role for VTOL-Transports? It seems like they represent many delicious BAs wrapped in a relatively big, slow, lumbering suicidal package in the face of the current effectiveness of AAA units and the over all limited size of maps to fly around. — The Saint

  • A: The Karnov and Anhur both need to be heavily refactored before they can be reintroduced to the game. These assets were sidelined during the latter part of Alpha development and were not taken into consideration when some of our other assets were developed. CryEngine2 also appears to have issues with vehicles carrying other vehicles, which resulted in some comical moments during testing (APCs being bodily launched from a pinwheeling VTOL transport). Survivability is also an issue that would need to be taken under consideration, but as already mentioned, development efforts on the heavy VTOL transports have been paused. Until there is a gameplay need to reintroduce them, they will probably remain so.

Q: Compared to the official art on the subject, the current heavy gauss seems like it's on the short side. Barring game engine limitations, is there any consideration of potentially increasing the size of the heavy gauss model, given that the size of the model is another way to balance a weapon? (Bigger weapons being easier to hit and destroy) — The Saint

  • A: This is the first time we've heard this concern. We don't feel that the Heavy Gauss is undersized. Making it longer could pose some mobility/clipping issues for navigating certain maps, and that combined with other asset development concerns puts it very far down on the list.

Q: Could you tell us about some of the Battle Armor equipment and weaponry/new battle armor that is planned? — Karuik

  • A: This is sort of a duplicate of a question later in this list. See the below question/answer on this topic.

Q: What is your input on tanks and vehicles not having heat/overheat to bring them closer to vehicles in the lore? — Karuik

  • A: We feel that removing heat from tanks would create more imbalance than it would solve. Removing heat from tanks would lend them towards "boating" energy weapons which is not something we want to happen. With MWLL we also have to account for ambient temperatures on our maps as well as localise heat zones. If tanks were unaffected by these features it would give them unnatural advantages over 'Mechs. Although you can't see it in the current 0.2.0 balance, going forward tanks will have a more specific niche than they currently occupy in the public beta. We can't be more specific than that right now.

Q: Right now the only means of determining who other players are is by targeting them. This presents problems when people are very far away, and their target box is nearly impossible to read. Any plans on implementing player names somewhere else, such as the enemy damage indicator? — Aresye

  • A: HUD programming is our kryptonite. We have a great many features we want to implement, including player name in the targeting data would be quite feasible, even trivially easy.

Q: Are there plans in the works to create a chat box/chat history? — Aresye

  • A: Possibly. Again with the HUD! :) When we get a full-time HUD resource, that guy will be busy!

Q: Has there been any discussion of introducing critical shots that damage subsystems (as opposed to potentially straight bonus damage which seems unrealistic)? — Korbin

  • A: No. We are considering creating an association between the functionality certain equipment features and damage to their resident components. As example, if your head component was destroyed, perhaps it would disable Light Amplification. This is very nebulous right now, so we don't have a firm answer.

Q: Do you have any current plans to introduce more mechs/vehicles/aero into the game than is currently listed on the wiki? — Korbin

  • A: Yes. Our focus right now is on filling in the medium 'Mech ranks and then adding some additional tank and VTOL options. But don't hold us to that, we are a fickle bunch and become easily distracted by shiny things and bright colours. For now, consider the wiki to be inclusive of what we consider a 1.0 release to be. Could be more, could be less. Wait and see.

Q: Are there any plans (if so could you elaborate) on making BA a more specific role - i.e. Armor upgrades (or alternate armor) to withstand / deal more damage but at a cost near that of current mechs and such? — Korbin

  • A:
    (KingLeerUK) - "yes"
    (Seraph) - "yes"
    (Toth) - "did you say I had to do more work?"

    We do want to eventually give BA a "dedicated BA" role that is paved with upgrade equipment and specific objectives in new gameplay types.
    That's all we have to say about that.

Q: Is there a reason why VTOLs cannot hover in place? While I don't particularly like the overall flight controls, I think VTOLs would be far easier to use if it were allowed to hover in the air. — Freakazoid

  • A: For one, hovering in place has proved to be unwise in the world of MWLL. The change in the controls with the 0.2.0 was step in the right direction, but we have continued to tweak on the controls a little bit. That said, we don't want to create a vehicle that can hold station in a nose-down hover and snipe at ground targets. (KingLeerUK - "YES WE DO!") But, 'Leer has a bit of a lover affair with the Hawkmoth that we have to take into consideration when balancing it against other vehicles. (KingLeerUK - "Hawkmoth D! Hawkmoth D!")

Q: How far is the team willing to go beyond lore for the sake of gameplay? — Freakazoid

  • A: Gameplay will always win out over "lore" or canon. We do try, as best as possible, to use CBT as a guide, but as has been stated numerous times before the ruleset that governs a turn-based boardgame cannot be directly applied to a real-time shoot simulation. Damage values in CBT were chosen based on hit percentages and chance rolls of dice. As such, those values perform very poorly when they are grafted on to a system that allows for players to hit exactly what they are aiming at every time.

Q: When 0.2.0 was released, Toth made a comment about the Long Tom not getting the testing it needed before the deadline. Considering that deadline hampered your ability to fully test the LT, will you be partnering again with fileplanet for the next patch anyway? — Freakazoid

  • A: We have no intention to repeat the deadline release mistakes of 0.2.0; all future releases will be thoroughly tested internally before release. Also, as we had mentioned back in April, we have developed a very robust dynamic balancing tool that will allow use to create relatively quick changes to balance and deploy them as hotfixes if the need arises. The Fileplanet release was beneficial in that it exposed the mod to a wider audience that we had ever achieved before, but as Toth had said the demanding timelines precluded us from testing the release as thoroughly as we liked. Now that the mod has been established for a while, we would still welcome a chance to partner with a release portal for additional exposure, so long as we have a bit more control over the delivery timeline.

Q: For a patch, do you set out to do a small amount of work on a large number of things (i.e, assets, maps, sounds, balance, bugs, you name it) or a large amount of work on a small number of things (1 new mech, 1 new tank, untold bug fixes)? — ~SJ~ Xarg

  • A: For each patch we set out with some high-level features that we want to implement. We do make flexible lists of "nice to have" and then try to prioritise them based on community appeal, relative difficulty and available resources. The real determining factor is who is available on the team to do proposed work. For example, if we have a surplus of mapper time we might be able to produce 2-3 new maps and fix issues with the existing set. Unfortunately this is one of the things we struggle with as a volunteer team. For the upcoming patch we set out to have "2 new 'Mechs, 1 new aerospace, 1 VTOL, 1 tank, 2 new maps, and 1 new game mode" along with necessary bug fixes and various bits of new gameplay features and assets. The reality is that we fell short on some of those, and exceeded in others. You won't be disappointed though!

Q: Will the community maps (Palisades, Paradise, Desolation, Glacier Front etc) ever be added to the main download, assuming current version compatibility and Map Author permission? — ~SJ~ Xarg

  • A: This is difficult question to answer. Community maps produced for MWLL are always appreciated because they fill a lull in official team output and give the public something new and different. That said, they often vary quite widely in quality and are not subject to the same level of playtesting that we apply to our internally produced maps. In order to include community maps we would need to setup a process of submittal, review and approval that the team currently does not have the bandwidth to provide. The other side of this discussion is that community maps often include a large number of vanilla Crysis or other non-MWLL mod developed assets. This approach is contrary to our aim to be a Total Conversion mod for Crysis. Of course, the end message here is that if you have the mapping chops fill out an application and join the team. Your maps will not only be included with future released, but you'll have access to our full development team to implement features that you might otherwise have not though possible. Resistance is futile, JOIN US.

Q: Feel like telling the community what kind of feedback you're looking for the most, to get the most done on the mod? (examples being, perhaps, balance threads/bug threads/crash threads/attendance on the crash logging server etc) — ~SJ~ Xarg

  • A: We benefit most from bug reports and reproducible crashes that the userbase reports. Commentary on balance or userbase attendance can be very subjective depending upon the background of the reporter. These sorts of things have to be taken with a grain of salt. The same is true for any comparisons to legacy MW games or CBT values. We understand that there needs to be some nod towards these things, but we won't sacrifice the overall gameplay experience to achieve that. The most relevant example is the inclusion of aerospace. When the mod was first released, a good portion of the playerbase screamed bloody murder about their inclusion and their relative balance against ground units. Aerospace balance was subsequently patched 0.2.0, resulting in a situation where the pendulum was swung too far in the opposite direction (almost reactionary), rendering aerospace mostly ineffectual. Aerospace do have a place in the BT universe, and with the next patch we believe we have found a proper balance for them. That's not to say you won't lose your 'Mech to one some day; as some of the aeros are quite fearsome, but they are important to the overall balance of the game and we hope that the community understands that.

Q: How much influence community feedback and suggestions have on game design decisions? — Siilk

  • A: We attempt to review most suggestions by the community. Trying to have every suggestion reviewed would be a full-time job and we wouldn't ever get any development done. Many of the suggestions we have seen already reside on long-term to-do lists, we just have to figure out when, how and who will get them done. Although there was no one specific feedback response that was responsible, we did recognise that the overall balance of the game needed a serious overhaul and it was made a priority for the upcoming release.

Q: Have you thought about MWLL going commercial? — Siilk

  • A:Due to the nature of our creative commons license with Microsoft this is not a possibility.

Q: Who are you guys "in real life" and how did you get involved with the MWLL project? — MechMonkey

  • A: KingLeerUK - I am a project manager for a web applications development company. I was brought on to the project by our Flash programmer, Ravir back in early 2009 with the initial response of "so, which 'Mechs turn invisible?" Yeah... I was young and näive, but look how I have grown!. I started an Alpha Tester, then at some point along the line I said something about knowing how to do basic audio design and then moved up to Audio Designer, then Lead Audio Designer, and here I sit today trying to figure out where all my free time each week goes. Within the MWLL project I do audio design, game design, general project management, public relations, copywriting and resource coordination.
    Seraph - I am a 28 year old German guy currently running my own business as a System Administrator taking care of Linux machines. I am married and have two kids. I got involved with MWLL back in 2008 when I heard that a few volunteers decided to make their own MechWarrior game based on the Crysis engine. Shortly after I joined their forums they invited me as a tester for the early stages of the mod. While hanging out with the developers they realized that my job was taking care of servers. Since they had nobody at that time dedicated to their machines I decided to step up and do it. I am now responsible for the stuff you see (website, forums, gameservers) and things you don't see (development servers).
    Toth - I am but a shadow hiding in the dark, biding my time.

Q: Other than Terrain Control and Free For All, what other game modes can we expect in the future? (and when) — MechMonkey

  • A: As mentioned above, we anticipate having a working Capture the Flag mode relatively *soon™

Q: Have you given any thought to going onto a regular patch release schedule, like every 3 months? — MechMonkey

  • A: This is difficult given the variable nature of our members’ availability. We do like to set reasonable targets for releases, but it really comes down to what the userbase will bear. You don't want to have a new patch released every other week because it becomes very tiresome with the constant updates (looking at you Steam) and resultant client/server incompatibility, but at the same time 1/2 a year between releases isn't acceptable either, the userbase will atrophy. The most recent drought of updates has to do with some unforeseen circumstances and some internal restructuring as much as it does development resource availability.

Q: In the FAQ on the website, you mention that you'd like to add "the squad system from BF2" to the game at some point. Is it still a plan to add some sort of squad/ command and control system to the game at some point? If it is, could you give us some idea of how it might work? Also, would it include a BF2 style commander mode? — sgnl05

  • A: We have only considered this at a very high level. Our primary goal is to bring MWLL closer to feature completeness in terms of gameplay first.

Q: Have you considered the possibility of moving MWLL to CryEngine 3 since the announcement that it could be released for free for indie titles? — sgnl05

  • A: While this sounds exciting, we do derive a lot of benefits by sitting "on top of" a commercial game. There are already a lot of assets created for us (textures, particles, sounds, etc.) that we can use as placeholders while developing our own custom Total Conversion replacements. With a free engine you get a lot of great features, but all of those crutches that can get your project off the ground quicker are missing.

Q: a/s/l? — sgnl05

  • A:
    Toth - 28 / Male / Kentucky, USA
    Seraph - 28 / Male / Kiel, Germany
    KingLeerUK - 36 / Male / Orlando, FL, USA ("GET OFF MY LAWN YOU DAMNED KIDS")

Q: Can we have a high-level summary of the highlights planned for the next release and a general time for the next release (next three months, next month)? — Deathyacht

  • A: The next release includes a nice mix of maps, assets, new gameplay, new sounds and assorted bug fixes. You know we can't be more specific, we never are. As far as release... we're hoping to make the end of May at the latest.
    Also: Long Tom Mk3 - "Ender of Worlds" (KingLeerUK j/k... sorta)

Q: I understand multiple cameras and "looking around inside the cockpit" is a significant challenge. Recognizing how much features like these create the simulator atmosphere, are they being worked on or is it just too complicated? — Deathyacht

  • A: It would be quite complicated, but not impossible. The main problem is that we have to update the player view with an additional first person camera perspective that is not tied to the reticule. CryEngine2 makes this challenging and it will require a lot of custom work. I personally believe that the effort would be justified as it would add a lot of utility, and if done properly, remedy some of the "issues" that players have with not having 3rd person camera. — KingLeerUK

Q: How much is the mod influenced by Steel Battalion? I noticed one of your developers is a member of that community. Are there more Steel Battalion inspired features planned? — Deathyacht

  • A: KingLeerUK — Steel Battalion is unique among console games in that it actually captured the true spirit of a simulator without any real nods towards its console roots. To say that Steel Battalion doesn't influence me and some of my input would be a lie. There are aspects of that game that would be outstanding additions to MWLL and I have no problem pushing to add them if they don't do a disservice to the gameplay. Also, I know that MWLL is a project rooted in the BT/MW universe, and our license also limits us to not expanding beyond that. So don't expect to ever see an m-Vitzh or a Garpike tearing across SA_Clearcut in MWLL. ;-)

Q: I have heard different rumors about the potential future platforms for the mod. Knowing no one can tell the future, is there any effort currently underway to migrate to another platform like Crysis Wars or Warhead, or is that still in the planning stages, either way, which platform? — Deathyacht

  • A: We have done test builds against Crysis Wars and the results have been very positive. Per our research, almost all custom assets can be directly ported to Wars, which is awesome. We still have every intention of moving to Wars at some point, but we can't provide a specific date as yet.

Q: Will you add more Betty voice to the game? — MechMonkey

  • A: Yes, we have a significant amount of Betty audio to add to the game. Much of it will be present in the next patch. To give you an idea, I have over 150 lines of Betty script currently integrated into the MWLL FMOD project.

Q: What would need to happen to have some kind of persistent campaign server or user ladder? — MechMonkey

  • A: Well, one of the main issues would be having a server platform that: 1. allows sufficient customisation in code to run a non-game process, 2. had sufficient bandwidth to support many hundreds of simultaneous connections, and 3. robust database support. Creation of a persistent campaign system would need to tie multiple remote gameservers together for stats collection and campaign progress control. We would also need an admin team to setup and monitor the system. Finally, the campaign would need to be engaging enough to have a recurring userbase. Creation of this sort of system is a massive undertaking, and the hope all along has been that motivated members of the MWLL community would rise to the occasion and setup their own league and campaign systems. We do recognise that there is a bit of "chicken or the egg" with this though, in that the game itself needs some more polish and features before it would become fully embraced by the league community. In terms of MWLL development, we have not done any design or development work to this end, but would be open to collaborating with league developers if they were to come forth.