MechAssault: Idea Proposals for MechAssault 2

September 2, 2003

--Posted by Riposte101 @ 10:17 PST.

It is a testament to how well made and balanced MechAssault is that after a year since its launch my interest and playing time in this game has not waned. No game since Everquest has held my attention and interest so completely and over such a long period of time. I still find myself logging several hours almost every night. The game, while by no means perfect, still manages to be insanely fun, addictive and incredibly deep. Almost daily, I am still discovering many of the endless nuances to the game in terms of tactics, strategy and individual mech play. If you have not already picked up this game I would highly recommend that you do so. It is also going to come packaged with the $70 Xbox Live starter kit. With that I give you a few proposals for expanded features and fixes for a future patch or for the inevitable sequel. Some of the points of discussion in this article have already been areas covered in my older articles, but are relevant all the same.

This Feature is Working as Intended:

Wall Climbing = Good. Wall climbing is the ability for a mech to scale surfaces that are usually unreachable by non-jump capable mechs. This is achieved with the correct application of a cadence of running straight at the surface you are trying to climb, then going right or left then up again, repeat as often as necessary to reach the next flat area. Wall climbing takes a bit of practice to master, however once learned, it is invaluable. The designers may not have originally intended for wall climbing to exist, however, it goes a long way in balancing the game. As is evidenced by the selection of mechs by top tier clan matches, lighter mechs do not match up favorably to their heavier counterparts. The benefits of wall climbing are numerous especially for the faster mechs. This enables the lighter non-jump capable mechs to become the destructive nuisances that they were originally intended to be. Take for example the Hackman (my favorite mech in non-serious matches) and its compliment of speed, one gauss riffle and pair of crossbows. As many can attest to in facing my Hackman in Junk Yard, Demolition Town and Frosty, a pilot can wall climb up, fire off its weapons then hop to safety only to repeat the process. You can also escape from non-jumping slower mechs by wall climbing to safety. Wall climbing can also save your mech should it fall into one of the errantly misplaced lava-filled pits in the Number 51 map. Jump jets still provide a huge advantage over non-jump jet mechs in that they are faster (clock yourself wall climbing with a Catapult as opposed to simply jump jetting next time) and permit mechs to leave the surface. A common tactic in Junk Yard with a Catapult is to target jam then fly high enough to target and fire javelin missiles on opponents hiding behind the hill. Abilities such as these are not possible with wall climbing. The other benefit to jump jets is the mobility they afford to crippled mechs.

Radar: You will hear many of the top players state that "the radar is absolutely useless except for telling you youíre too close." This is of course an exaggeration, however I believe that the radar in MA covers just the correct radius. In the intense sniping matches that are played out in maps such as River City and Stone Cold, having your lock-on range just outside of the radar range builds suspense. There is nothing like walking forward seeking out the enemy and seeing volleys of javelins and gauss nail you from out of the mist. The opposite of that is true also. When I inch forward trying to spot an opponent and when finally doing so, letting go with everything and then backing out of range of their counterattack, it brings a smile to my face every time.

The one tweak I would have in this department is to have the option for toggling on or off or to have the radar be team only. Having the radar off or team only mode would promote different angles of attack in the attempt to avoid detection by the enemy. Team communication in these matches would become even more important as teammates would be forced to alert each other of enemies in their midst that are out of an individualís cone of vision.

Customizable mechs: Many people have been clamoring for customizable mechs, but I do not agree with the implementation of this feature. Not only will this make the game less accessible to the new player, it will prolong the start time of games. Players have a hard enough time selecting their mech from the available choices now without having to choose between chassis, weapon layout, jump capability and defensive measure selections. If this was implemented we would never be able to start a game.

General Fixes:

The Health Glitch (Bug): This is unforgivable. For those of you who do not know what this is, it is a bug that nullifies your health pick up if you are hit at the moment of picking up the health.

Fix the dropping issue! Specially the cursed two slot in the lobby.

When the host drops all the remaining players should be brought back to the lobby.

The boot feature needs to be accessible during the game. A system like the voting done in Return to Castle Wolfenstein would be preferable.

A ban feature both in lobby and in game needs to be implemented. Again this should be handled similarly to the voting system in RTCW.

Names of people sending you an invite you should be displayed on the top left side of the screen, so as to not to obstruct your display of who is chatting and more importantly so you do not have to press start in the middle of a game and check your friends list to find out who sent the invite.

Remove the indestructible terrain like the trees in Midtown Mayhem

Maps should affect heat dissipation in mechs differently, i.e. a mech in Ice Pack should cool down faster than a mech in Hell's Kitchen. This would add another dimension to mech/map selection.

The human camera in Last Man Standing/Grinder should move exactly like a regular mech, meaning that you should be able to back up, turn and strafe.

Posted 11/18/03: Stats should be updated even on droppers. This would prevent many gamers from dropping at the last second to preserve their stats.

Posted 11/18/03: Fix the glitch that boots everybody out of the game when a player drops out of a game at the exact moment that he dies.

Posted 11/18/03: Patch the bug that prevents players from hearing each other in the lobby until they unplug and replug their headsets into the controller.

Posted 11/18/03: There is a severe problem with jump jets and third party controllers. When certain third party controllers are used in conjunction with jump capable mechs in a diagonal motion the results are that they cause mechs to move faster as well as appear to lag on other players' screens. These third party controllers enable players to unfairly move faster as well as making them more difficult to hit. This is a theory forwarded by OMJ as to the cause of the irregular movement. "The reason that 3rd party controllers cause you to move faster is that they are less sensitive. The lack of sensitivity makes them surge forward faster than normal. The game is not meant to have mechs moving this fast and this causes the person using it to skip ahead on otherís screens. The game cannot keep up with the speed the controller gives the mech; therefore you skip forward and appear to be lagging. This lag effect usually happens once every three seconds or so but it depends on the controller." While I am not sure of the cause, I can however vouch for this phenomenon's validity. I can duplicate this glitch with my Mad Catz controller and can say with certainty that it is in some way related to the use of third party controllers.

Posted 11/23/03: Stone Cold is the same map as Ice Pack. Look at the maps and you will notice they are the exact same shape. This is a moot point because they both play very differently, however as they use the same template, Stone Cold shares the same glitch that Ice Pack has. This bug is that powerups occasionally disappear below the ice (ground). While they are still there and if you run over them you can pick them up, this is annoying because in the heat of battle they are not easily discernable. The importance of this on a game should not be dismissed because a missing set of health and powerups can turn the tide of a match.

Weapon Fixes:

The standard lasers need to be faster and more accurate. They are high heat weapons with moderate damage (when you hit) and are very inaccurate due to how slow their projectile speeds are coupled with their lack of tracking. This all adds up to a very lackluster weapon that needs to be brought in line with the other weapons in the game.

Warhammers: They require no skill to use at level three because of their huge explosion radius. What I propose is that the level one and two remain the same, while the level three is downgraded to the same explosion radius as a level two. This will leave the damage level of what is the highest damaging weapon in the game intact while requiring of the player a modicum level of skill as a trade off for the insane damage of the weapon.

There should also be a dumb fire option for warhammers. The computer automatically targets warhammers at the head of the mech. This is not only the smallest target on the mech, but also the part that moves the most. I would trust my ability to aim and to lead the target over the computer's any day of the week. At level three this does not matter (explosion radius), but at level one this is especially important because precision is so much more important. There should never be a time in the game where target jamming is more of a benefit to your opponent than yourself. I laugh at people who help me hit them with warhammers because they turn on target jamming.

The flamethrower should have splash damage and raise the heat on the opponent. Not only would this make sense from a logistical standpoint, but also it would make the mech more effective against the shield defense employed by the Ymir and Ragnarok.

Defensive Measure Fixes:

Null signature should cover the glow of the PPC on the Puma.

AMS should work instantly and missiles that are shot at you should be diverted at the moment the player uses AMS (chaff). See my additional reasons in the "new features" section of this article.

Mech Fixes:

Fixing the flamethrower would go a long way in helping the Hellbringer, but it is still not enough. Sniping with one javelin missile is the biggest joke going in MechAssault. Put another javelin in to make it have a respectable total of two.

Elementals should be made untargetable by the computer. You can still shoot them, just without the aid of computer targeting. This change would make Elementals the annoyance that they were originally intended to be.

The Timberwolf needs a slight increase in heat dissipation. Their amazing weapon selection is nullified by not being able to fire any of it because of constant heat issues.

The Mad Dog is underpowered, especially with the addition of the Loki. Furnish it with another autocannon (bringing its total from one to two) and give it some jump jets and if only to differentiate it from the Loki.

The Vulture leaves much to be desired. Try comparing the Vulture to a Catapult and there is little reason to ever use a Vulture. A remedy would be to give it another laser (raising its total from two to three) and adding another machine gun (to deal with close ranged fast mechs) to its arsenal.

The Uller is little more than a nuisance. My suggestion would be to make it an even greater nuisance by giving it a ballistic weapon, like a machinegun. This would improve its survivability because it would not leave ballistic upgrades around to be used against itself. While this mech already has decent heat dissipation, it needs a higher ceiling for its max heat to be able to dish out more damage in the initial exchange. Lastly, I would shore up its vulnerability to other light mechs by giving it another crossbow missile (raising its total from one to two.)

The Raven is ass. Let us compare this mech to other light mechs that are equipped with a pair of machine guns (Puma and Owens) and see what we come up with. The Raven ranks last in armor giving up over three hundred points to the Owens. Its speed is in the middle of the pack and heat issues are negligible on the three. The Raven's laser (you do not want me to start on the poorly conceived design of the laser), two machineguns and one crossbow is comparable to the Owens' two machineguns and two crossbows, but is a travesty when you compare it to the PPC, two machineguns and two crossbows of the Puma. The Owens makes up for this deficiency with two hundred points of armor on the Puma and the strongest defensive measure in the game, target jamming. The Raven has double duration null signature to the Puma's standard null signature (see my thoughts below on null signature). The longer duration null signature does not begin to close the ground between the weapon payloads of these respective mechs and throw in jump jets on the Puma and now you are beginning to understand the lamentable inadequacies suffered by the design of the Raven. A start at staunching the wound would be to give the Raven four-second duration/two-second recycle jump jets.

Cougars are essentially free kills. Improve their survivability by giving them target jamming.

The Ymir needs higher heat dissipation! This mech has the worst heat dissipation in the game, yet employs the three highest heat-generating weapons in the game. This all adds up to make this mech the garbage that it is.

Statistics:

Nothing leads to more arguments in Mechassault then what many call "kill-stealing." This occurs when a player has worked his opponent all the way down and a teammate shoots once and finishes off the opponent and notches the kill. This skews the final results of how an individual player did in many matches. The way I would address this issue is to have the kill awarded to the player that did the most damage to the opponent.

Another way to tackle this problem and promote positive discussions and camaraderie amongst players is that at the end of the game the statistics should be more in-depth. The end screen ought to have not only the kills listed but also the map played on, the color, the mechs used, overall damage done to opponents, overall damage received and overall friendly fire damage. This will have the added benefit of assisting in the process of organized clans keeping track of their records. The more statistics available in a game the more discussion there will be about the game.

New Features:

A lot more mechs!

More maps with water!

Bigger maps!

More city maps!

Online and offline CO-OP play through the campaign mode.

Posted 11/23/03: One of the faults that MA has is a mediocre soundtrack. The easiest way the remedy this would be to hire the original team (Kelly Rogers, Gregory Alper, Jeehun Hwang) that created the greatest video game soundtrack of all time in MechWarrior 2. Also allow players to create their own customizable soundtracks.

Posted 11/23/03: The game should be Xbox Live! aware even in the campaign mode. This way the player will not miss any invites while playing the campaign mode.

10 player connectivity: It is my belief that adding two more players to the current limit would not drastically affect the lag nor crowd the maps beyond what they can support.

Clan Flags need be added to Xbox Live.

Customizable mech logos.

Melee weapons for mechs.

Posted 9/23/03: New Game Mode: Add a game mode that will have two teams compete for control of different strategic points in the map. One team must defend these points, while the other team must destroy them. If time runs out, the defending team wins, while the attacking team wins by destroying all of the defense points.

Posted 11/23/03: MA2 should take the next logical step in its campaign mode and bring the squad based tactical feel of the online game play into the single player missions. Here you can command your lance of mechs strategically while utilizing your voice communicator to issue commands.

Posted 11/23/03: The game should be live aware in the campaign mode. This way the player will not miss any invites while playing the campaign mode.

Posted 11/23/03: MASC: A defensive measure that allows your mech to move at 1.5 times faster for a short duration of time.

Posted 9/23/03: The lack of purpose built strategic mechs that promote team play has always been a fault of MechAssault. These following new items would help in the creation of complementary mech role.

Beagle Active Probe: Light mechs equipped with this can pierce through the defensive measures of target jamming and detect null signature in a small radius around the mech. This will enable teammates to target these mechs so long as a mech with the Beagle Active Probe is close to the opponent.

Target Acquisition Gear (TAG) the MechAssault 2 version: Laser designators equipped on light mechs such as the Corvus and Raven that can paint a target so that team mechs can target them from afar with missiles. To balance this new offensive capability AMS should work instantly and missiles that are shot at you should be diverted at the moment the player uses AMS (chaff).

General Musings:

In serious match play, a general rule should be that the host not be allowed to use a Ragnarok, but anybody else is still allowed to do so. This will go a long way in nullifying the gross advantage that hosting offers.

When somebody complains about sniping, I tell them, "I just beat the game and one of the missions told me to use cover to my advantage."