There is nothing that players of online games will not complain about.

In MechWarrior Online, I've started a game and heard people complaining about how the new matchmaking system has given the other team a huge tonnage advantage, so their little 'Mechs are getting murdered by mobs of heavies and assaults.

And then, the very next game, someone's complaining that the matchmaker has given their side no light 'Mechs at all while the enemy has five of them, so this time their poor giant stompy monsters are getting pecked to death by a flock of lights.

Green Atlas
This picture isn't really relevant to anything in the post. I just thought you might like to see a high-visibility Atlas.

(Somebody's probably also going to find a way to complain about the MWO change that makes it more likely that seeing yourself shooting someone actually means you're shooting them.)

Many complaints about games, especially games that're still in beta like MechWarrior Online, are valid. But someone will also venture forth upon a discussion board and proclaim a game ruined if there's a slight change to the kerning of the menu font.

(In the MechWarrior Online font, capital I looks exactly the same as lower-case L! WORST. GAME. EVER.)

Which brings me to the latest source of rustled jimmies in my favourite imaginary giant Internet robot game:


MechWarrior Online is going to have special things you can stick on your 'Mech that you can use in a fight, a limited number of times. Then you'll then have to buy the special consumable thing again, if you want to use them again.

The first consumable they've announced in any detail is "Coolant Flush", a thing from the tabletop game which they're implementing as a widget you can put in a module slot on a 'Mech.

If you pay in-game "C-Bill" currency for Coolant Flush, you'll be able to buy a Small and a Medium version of it, each of which will take up one module slot.

If you pay real money for "Mech Credits", though, you'll be able to buy a one-module-slot Large Coolant Flush that has the effect of both of the C-Bill ones, but only takes up one slot.

Cue the outrage and misery. This is a free-to-play game, so like all the rest of them it's constantly trying to dodge the shadow of the "Pay To Win" monster. Special improved versions of things that you can only buy with real money invariably piss off the player base.

Whether this is actually a big deal or not in this particular case comes down to the numbers.

The first important number is what Coolant Flush, and other consumables like artillery strikes, will cost.

If these things are really expensive, so pay-to-win players with deep pockets can have them every match but nobody else can, and if they give you a real large advantage, then the complaint is valid.

If they cost very little, so the only real choice is between the advantage of the consumable or the advantage of a conventional module, then even if the consumable is very powerful, it shouldn't be a big deal.

So, is Coolant Flush likely to be very powerful?

Heat management is a central mechanic of all of the "proper" BattleTech games, from tabletop to computer. Most guns make heat when you shoot them. Energy weapons that don't need ammo make more heat than guns that shoot bullets (which are another kind of consumable, but which get reloaded for free every match). If your 'Mech gets too hot, it has to shut down or run the risk of stuff exploding. So, for almost all 'Mechs, anything that can dump heat quickly is highly desirable.

Piranha haven't completely explained what Coolant Flush will do, and it is of course subject to change. They say that the effectiveness of Coolant Flush depends on the number of heat sinks in your 'Mech, and that a 'Mech with ten heat sinks (which is what you get built into every engine) will get a total cooling of 35% - 15% plus 20% for using Small and Medium Coolant Flush in succession, or hitting the key twice for the real-money Large version.

If Coolant Flush operates like normal heat-sink function, then a 'Mech with 20 heat sinks (the ten in the engine plus ten more separate ones) will thus get a maximum of 70% cooling, and you'd need a somewhat crazy 18 extra sinks to get almost-100% cooling.

The pretty-much-essential Double Heat Sinks upgrade makes your ten engine heat sinks the equivalent of 20 single heat sinks, and somewhat confusingly gives you number-of-other-heat-sinks-times-1.4 on top of that. So with no extra heat sinks a 'Mech with the double upgrade will get 70% cooling from using both tiers of Coolant Flush, and it'd need only six extra heat sinks to get to about 100%, to take heat from 99% to close-to-zero.

It's actually more complex than that, because, I think, adding more heat sinks also adds to the total heat capacity of your 'Mech as well as how fast heat drains away, and I don't know how that'll interact with Coolant Flush. It does seem that normal 'Mechs with realistic numbers of heat sinks will be able to get about a total heat dump from the two C-Bill Flush thingies or the single real-money one.

That definitely would give many 'Mechs a big advantage. Even if you're just one player in a random pick-up game, dumping all of your heat so you can shoot all of your guns again right away is a duel-winning advantage. A whole team of laser monsters who can drop to zero heat whenever they want, even if they can only do that once, would have a big advantage in a brawl.

But you already have to pay money to put anything into a module slot on a 'Mech. Modules are bought with C-Bills, but to unlock a module type so you can buy it you have to spend "General XP", which is created from normal "Mech XP" by spending a small number of Mech Credits. Unlocking a fancy module like the Capture Accelerator or second-tier Sensor Range will cost you $US2.50 to $US3.00, depending on which of the Mech Credit packs you bought and whether there was a sale on.

People don't complain about that, though, because once you've unlocked a module it's unlocked for good, and three bucks is not a lot of money. Modules are also not Automatic Win Machines - they just give 10%-to-25% advantages in specialised areas like how fast you can capture something by standing on it, or how long it takes before an enemy you've lost sight of drops out of your targeting system.

If there are consumable three-dollar module-things that give a big advantage, and that cost as much in C-Bills as you can possibly make in ten consecutive games, then great and valid will be the outcry.

If these things cost 20 cents each or as much many C-Bills as you can make in one game, though, the inevitable whinging won't be as persuasive.

And if they cost little in C-Bills but a lot in real money - which would, I think, be a pretty clever way to do it - complaining would be the act of a crazy person.

That still wouldn't stop 'em, of course.

UPDATE: A rethink, and clearer explanation, of how consumables may work.

14 Responses to “OMG P2W BS IN MWO”

  1. Jambe Says:

    /edit: This became longer than I'd intended and, as a disclaimer, it's entirely tangential. I'm a long-time devotee of your writing!


    Am I wrongheaded because F2P models get my dander up? I'm conflicted about them; I don't universally loathe or love them, but I'm closer to loathing, I think (and I'm talking more about the F2P payment model than the mechanics or enjoyability of the gameplay, though they're interrelated).

    I have two broad problems with F2P models:

    1) they can seem nickel-and-dimey. If F2P games had more content than their non-F2P predecessors, I'd feel less iffy about them. But afaict they don't, so if all the purchases available in an F2P game combine to more than 50-60 USD (or whatever) then the F2P model is simply a way to charge more for the same (or less) content.

    2) the ability to purchase assets that would otherwise require an investment of time makes investing time seem less worthwhile. I realize this doesn't map to reality, though; if I forge a nail set out of free scrap steel and then I see that my friend simply buys hers, I don't feel like my time was wasted.

    I guess I'm just a fuddy-duddy wrt #2, because I like what Hi-Rez did with Tribes: Ascend — they put out a GOTY version which includes all classes, loadouts, perks and weapons for 30 USD or 20 if you were a VIP. And why do I like this? Because it's more like a traditional game!

    It's official: I'm a stodgy old gaming-gramps. "Damn kids with your freemiums and your tablet computers!"

    Again, this is not to say I don't like or enjoy F2P games; I like many of them! They just tend to sit wrong with me, and it's not entirely clear to me why this is (despite my attempts to understand).

    Also, I realize these games are essentially market experiments. Many people are obviously willing to pump lots of money into these games, so perhaps pre-F2P games were (broadly) underpriced. The more cynical side of me (which is like 90% of the total) feels F2P titles are more profitable than non-F2P titles for the same reasons that crack cocaine is more profitable than aspirin (i.e. it's not that crack is any harder to produce than aspirin but that it taps into some part of the human condition in a different, more potent manner...).


    • dan Says:

      I think this is just more of the various entertainment industries' flailing around in attempts to work with the digital world. You can, as you say, make a strong case that if someone buys a game for fifty bucks and then plays it for 500 hours then perhaps the price should have been higher, or there should have been a rental model, or whatever. But conversely, someone who buys a game, plays it for fifteen minutes, doesn't care for the "feel" of it and never plays it again, should perhaps get a refund.

      (I did that with Bioshock. Clunky-feeling shooter games rub me the wrong way. I probably would have gotten used to it if I'd stuck with it; lord knows I've put umpty-million hours into Oblivion-engine games which are hardly the smoothest Counter-Strike-esque experience.)

      There are also strong psychological elements. You hate the nickel-and-diming feel of Allegedly Free Games; reducing the nickel and diming to LITERAL nickel and diming, so even a fanatical player only pays four bucks a week, would still alienate a portion of the player base. (This'd be related to Charlie Munger's "bias from deprival super-reaction syndrome"; audio, PDF.)

      Similarly, I think if anybody ever did manage to implement my half-baked idea about getting paid to play, then even insultingly tiny Mechanical-Turk-ish payment rates might bring in a lot of players, even from affluent countries.

      • Fallingwater Says:

        Bioshock had questionable gameplay for me as well; mildly fun, but not by itself enough to keep playing it all by itself. What really kept me glued to it was the atmosphere, though. Rarely have I felt that much "in" a game.

        • RobL Says:

          For atmospheric gameplay I cannot recommend enough Metro 2033. Utterly brilliant. Oh and BioShock 2 is one to avoid even at steam sale prices.

          • Fallingwater Says:

            I actually played Bioshock 2 as well. I had to force myself to the end, but I can't call it bad - it's basically moar Bioshock 1. I did hate the stupid "protect the sister" gameplay mechanic though.

            As for Metro 2033, the undeniable greatness of the game was ruined for me by one annoying detail: the stupid gas masks. When I'm outside is exactly when I want to gawk at the Scenery Gorn around me while taking my time, so having to pay attention to the goddamned filters took a lot of the attractiveness away.

            I tried a trainer to make them unlimited, and all it did was to screw up the whole thing - I kept using them up, but I couldn't pick up any new ones. Needless to say, that playthrough ended really quickly - and demotivated me enough that I never restarted it. One day, perhaps...

  2. Fallingwater Says:

    Y'know, I'm aware that there are people in the world whose food conflicts are less like "all that's left in the fridge is zucchini and fish and I like neither" and more like "I can have garbage leftovers or roadkill roasted on a trashcan fire and I wonder which is less likely to kill me", but I'll still grumble if I have to eat fish. (And I won't even touch zucchini.)

    So I'm not beyond understanding relatively superficial problems that us privileged first-world dwellers have to contend with daily. I mean, how can I switch from my aging Maemo-running Nokia N900 to something that isn't similarly Linux-based? Clearly this is a problem deserving of small but not insignificant slices of my thought time.

    (Yes, I know Android has a Linux infrastructure; it still doesn't count).

    But even I can't help but hear my inner voice screaming "FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS" whenever I see people write and write for multiple forum/reddit pages on deep ponderings and calculations (and let's not forget the trolling) about the latest tweaks in a MMO. It seems such a large amount of effort for something so transient and irrelevant in the grand scheme of things that my inner self goes all get-off-my-lawn in spite of myself.

    Meh. Perhaps I'm just getting older.

    I swear, one day I'll just give up and get an iPhone.

    (Bwahahaha! Man, I can't say that while keeping a straight face.)

    • Fallingwater Says:

      Addendum: I should mention that I don't consider Dan's writings in the irrelevant category on account of being, at the very least, entertaining to read and always informative about many (not necessarily immediately relevant) topics by way of links. But man, that subreddit...

      • Jambe Says:

        Yeah, I think you're getting older. While enthusing over leisure-time activities is often a First World Problem, it's nothing new. Enthusiasts will always spend inordinate amounts of time and energy enthusing, and the thing enthused over often won't be volunteering at soup kitchens or mentoring. You simply have a different idea as to the value of your attention and effort.

        Also, people who obsess over leisure activities can also dedicate time to charity or more "effectual" or "meaningful" endeavors; being a gearhead or an MMO-enthusiast doesn't preclude other activities (and, fwiw, spending time playing a game with another person can itself be a meaningful activity).

        Are you bothered by groups which do nothing but discuss the ins and outs of creative writing? Being able to support oneself simply through wordsmithing is largely a First World phenomenon, right? Are you bothered in the same way by inscrutably-exhaustive collaborative analysis of jet skis, billiard tables, pianos, etc?

        People: they do silly things.

  3. RobL Says:

    This is just what mwo needed. More complexity. Between juggling a mouse button bashing half a dozen weapon groups. Independent torso and legs and arms, heat, ammo, ecm and radar I really have so much spare attention I NEED more stuff to look after. I think a hardcore QWOP mode is should be included for the hyper coordinated l337 where my D-DC strides like Mars amidst a sea of flailing beetles.

    Hopefully the saving grace of this potential cluster**** is Elo where even if P2W/consumables are effective I'll rarely have to deal with them if I never use them to boost my own performance.

    • dan Says:

      They're also now making clear that they intend the real-money consumables to be "Level 2" stuff, with the basic in-game-currency versions being "Level 1", and the upgraded in-game-currency versions being "Level 3". Which looks pretty good to me.

      Also, I dislike games you have to play like a piano as well, but I seldom find MWO overwhelming in this respect, even when I'm playing while drunk. It helps to deliberately restrict the number of weapon groups you have; I seldom use more than two. This is somewhat limiting, especially if you want to drive Atlases, but it's surprisingly workable for most 'Mechs.

      • jaranath Says:

        I greatly prefer two groups as well. Having them instantly available on the mouse buttons helps a lot with accuracy. Even using my nostromo for left-hand control, I'm a little slower with the buttons I've configured there for groups 3 and 4. I can kind of make that work for something like LRMs or streaks, but that's about it. I tried your hamburger pedal and that seems too clunky as well (but ideal for jump jets, I'm thinking).

        Speaking of controllers: I picked up an MS Strategic Commander cheap per some forum discussions on the thing. I was thinking of using it to handle steering and throttle (basically, legs left hand, torso right). I should have read further: MWO didn't support analog steering input, and the third-party driver that is necessary to make the decade-old, unsupported controller work with Win 7 handles the controller's analog motion as digital--either on or off, no better than the default keys. Supposedly the latest patch has enabled analog steering, and I'd very much prefer being able to do so. Any recommendations on an alternate controller, or software to make my MS relic work right?

  4. RobL Says:

    In truth I've never been able to juggle more than three effectively and I'm inevitably slower on the third mouse thumb button by a beat. The fourth mouse button I've only ever used for Tag and it will be nice when tag is toggleable.

    Presumably this person is playing an MWO keyboard duet.

    As for consumables, I still think they will be annoying and now Pgi has laid out temptating bait to use up my precious 15kGXP and their will be much raging should tier 3s ever be nerfed.

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