In the fourth installment of our MechWarrior Online interviews, we sat down with Matthew Craig, Technical Director at Piranha Games.
In this five-part miniseries, we sat down with the developers behind the highly anticipated MechWarrior Online to talk about everything you want to know about this upcoming action title. Be sure to check out our previous interviews in the series:
- Brian Ekman, Creative Director
- Russ Bullock, President
- Paul Inouye, Lead Designer
- Matthew Craig, Technical Director
- Dennis de Koning, Art Director
Sorry for the delay in our interview mini-series! We should now be back on track with an interview with Piranha Games' Technical Director, Matthew Craig, and boy does he have a lot to say! Read on for Matthew's thoughts on the future of MechWarrior Online (as well as his technical aspirations), as well as his inspirations and details on MechWarrior Online's launch day features.
ZAM: The next man up on the interview block is Matthew Craig, Technical Director of MechWarrior Online! Thanks for being here Mathew!
Matthew Craig: Great to be here.
ZAM: Let's get into the day-to-day roles of the Technical Director. What are you doing over there at the Piranha Games Studio?
Matthew: Well, currently my typical day veers between exhilaration and sobering reality. MechWarrior is one of the games I played growing up that convinced me that I wanted to work in the games industry in the first place so being able to come into work every day creating the next major iteration is truly exciting.
At the same time with gaming having moved on so far in the meantime, realizing a modern MMO successor worthy of the name represents many technical challenges, from the visuals to recreating the core gameplay experience in a modern online environment fraught with cheating and hacking, to the immense logistics of the backend systems that run both the individual games and the overall meta game that will make up the MechWarrior Online universe, so making MWO a reality is no small feat.
ZAM: Thus far, we've spoken at length about the creative vision going into MechWarrior Online, but I was wondering if you had a technical vision that you wanted to see played out with this game. It's been noted that the team wants MWO to be more of a game of tactics rather than twitch reflexes and instant headshots. Are there any technical inspirations you're pulling from, or any insight as to what players can expect from playing MechWarrior Online?
Matthew: I think it's always been the case that MechWarrior isn't your standard FPS. It's always been more simulation than twitch which I personally feel helps it to stand apart from the regular FPS crowd. I think the depth of the play experience can be much deeper in MechWarrior, battles aren't usually random fighting they represent factions vying for power with long standing histories and, while jumping in and blowing up Mechs is fun for many players, it's the connection to the BattleTech universe and being able to be fully immersed in it that we expect will keep players coming back.
Recently I've been inspired by EVE Online. It equally represents a rich world that aims to ensure you're able to have an impact, the combat is slower paced and you hear plenty of stories of unique player experiences. From a technical standpoint the key difference would be that Eve took the approach of having all players in the same world which can mean that large fleet battles are very taxing on their servers.
For MechWarrior Online we are not aiming to have all players in the same world at the same time, though over time I am interested to see how far we can push toward capturing the feeling of being in the same world without the technology behind the scenes needing to actually keep you in the same world. What I mean by that is what if you were in a battle and during the battle you were hearing events happening on the other side of the planet or from orbit?
This is not something that is currently planned but it shows how there are approaches that even without having all players on the same servers can give the sense of a cohesive real-time universe, I would love to see MechWarrior Online expand in scale over time. There is certainly plenty to support us in the canon if we are able to do so, jump ships, warships, orbital bombardment, aero fighters etc.
Some other examples we've discussed that show how we might be able to convey the feeling of being in an active universe would be invading player's games e.g. clan invasions, having options to play maps in sync with the time of day so playing at night would mean night time maps, triggering environmental effects only for players in certain sections of the Inner Sphere. Again, none of these are currently planned features but give a sense of how we are thinking and aiming not only to realize some of the events on the timeline but to add life, excitement and ongoing engagement to the universe.
Another goal we have for the technical vision of MechWarrior Online is in the areas of visuals and immersion. Early on we chose to go with CryEngine to really allow us to create the best Mech visuals yet seen in a MechWarrior game. We're also using Scaleform to help realize a great level of fidelity for the Mechs cockpit and displays. We really want to support the fans that want to get more immersed than ever; if you have 3 monitors and a great flight stick we want to ensure you can use them to play MWO.
Sadly high levels of fidelity always come at a cost and the art requirements are high so we've been working to find efficiencies and ways to do more with less but ultimately I think the fans will thank us for not holding back and really aiming to ensure we're making the best quality MechWarrior game we can that will look and play great for years to come.