"We do have a launch date, or at least a fairly defined launch window, and that is late summer," Piranha Games president and cofounder Russ Bullock told Polygon of his studio's free-to-play title, MechWarrior Online. The game is currently in an open beta, so the release of version 1.0 is as much a marketing milestone as a software milestone.
"Of course between here and late summer, we'll have countless updates to the game but there are three in particular that I want to talk about," he said.
The first is the match sizes. "Right now the game is 8 versus 8, so you have eight mechs per side," he said. "But in the next 60 days, roughly, we'll be going to 12 versus 12. So you'll have a full company of BattleMechs, which is BattleTech nerd talk for 12 mechs."
The second is what Piranha is calling "UI 2.0" — a "completely revamped" user interface designed to help new players get more from the game. "We'll be breadcrumbing you a little more into learning the nuances of MechWarrior, making sure you make it to your cadet bonus and earn your first achievements that let you get your first mech," he said. "Once someone plays MechWarrior for a few hours, most of the time they're hooked." The goal of UI 2.0 is to help make sure new players spend enough time to get hooked.
And lastly, what Bullock calls the "big daddy feature" is community warfare. "This is what [MechWarrior Online players] have been craving," he said. "The overarching metagame, the faction gameplay is community warfare."
"We've identified three kinds of players," Piranha Games creative director Bryan Ekman adds. There's the lone wolf, "the guy who doesn't care about role playing, being a part of any organzational structure whatsoever.
"Then we have factions, and factions are NPC factions. They belong to the universe, they're a part of the lore. These are the great houses of BattleTech.
"These guys participate in territory control in a more passive way. Their matches affect the universe, but indirectly.
"And then you have the Merc Corps. These are the guilds, these are the clans, these are the guys who come together, band together, fight together and play together and actually want to control as much territory as they can through their actions.
The lone wolf play style is what players currently have in the game today; the NPC factions will be free-to-play; the Merc Corps, on the other hand, will be monetized. "We're looking at possibly charging a one-time setup fee," Ekman said. "This is just to make sure there's not a flood of one-player corps.
"We really want people who participate in this to be as engaged as possible. And we'll probably require them to have a premium time account, as a kind of dedication level." That premium time account can be purchased in quantities ranging from daily to monthly to bi-annually, with the 30-day pack costing $10.
When asked to define what the cutoff for "late summer" was, both Ekman and Bullock said "September 21" in unison. So it sounds like they're leaving themselves as much room as possible to hit 1.0.