Hi folks, just wanted to update you all on the topic of Clans and their technology/role in MWO. As we’ve stated numerous times, we do not want to bring Clan Tech into the game without seriously examining the potential for breaking the game in terms of overall balance.
Clan Technology was initially implemented in BattleTech Table Top rules as a base around a new breed of warriors that adhered to a certain set of combat “rules”. The term “zellbrigen” refers to a style of combat which restricted the type of activities a MechWarrior would do during a fight. MechWarrior Online does not include this rule set for two main reasons. First off, it is a rule set that not everyone will want to adhere to, and secondly it would not be very fun to anyone not familiar with the rules in the first place (a much broader audience). Even through lore, zellbrigen was essentially phased out due to non-adherence by the Inner Sphere MechWarriors on the field of combat.
It is due to lack of this rule set, and the fact that forcing players into a fixed way of doing battle would just not be fun, is how Clan Tech really becomes a balance issue. Past MechWarrior titles were primarily single player experiences so over powered Clan Technology was not really an issue. The other titles that had multiplayer components became arms races to get Clan Tech and once achieved, nothing changed from that point on. Inner Sphere technology became obsolete at that point if a player wanted to be competitive in a match. This is something that we do not want to happen in MechWarrior Online. We are aiming to make sure that all types of gameplay are available while keeping all current BattleMechs viable on the battlefield.
I want to ensure you that we will still allow the Clans to have their unique flavor without any type of knee-jerk, heavy handed nerfing. We (the design team) feel that laying out the design approach as we look at the incoming technology would help alleviate some of the concerns you may have while at the same time stir up some constructive discussions around Clans and how they can be a fun and functionally addition to MWO.
While the descriptions below are the most up to date plans for Clan Tech, please be advised that ALL numbers and examples are for demonstration purposes only. Any number or description can be changed in the future, but these are the most current plans for Clan Tech and we wanted to show you the plans for clarity and transparency.
Clan Tech – Design Approach
Clan Technology in the BT universe has always been an over-powered set of weapons and BattleMech builds. This encourages an arms race to get to Clan Tech equipment and makes Inner Sphere Tech rather obsolete. This is something we do not want to see in MechWarrior Online and we have decided to take some heavy hitting steps to make sure that this arms race does not come to fruition.
Balancing – Raw Numbers
The key elements that make Clan Tech overpowered include size reductions, tonnage reductions, range increases and damage increases over similar Inner Sphere weapons. The best way to discuss this is to look at some examples.
e.g. 1 – ER Large Laser
Inner Sphere Tech:
It is very easy to see how the Clan version of the ER Large Laser is significantly more advantageous than the Inner Sphere equivalent. The Clan ER Large Laser does 2 more damage, has 180m more range, weighs 1 ton less and takes up half the amount of space while maintaining the same amount of heat generation.
There are mechanics already in MWO that help us normalize the impact of this weapon without drastically changing the flavor and uniqueness of the Clan version.
As an example, what would will probably be applied to this weapon is the following:
Reduce the max range but still give it a slight edge over IS tech. Change from 750m to 660m for a 90m increase over IS tech.
Increase the beam duration of the laser to spread damage over more time.
Make the Heat Scale slightly higher than the IS version.
What the above changes allows to happen is that the Clan ER Large Laser still gets a reach buff, still gets to have higher damage, still gets the tonnage and space reduction but requires the player to hold targets longer and it will generate much more heat when Alpha’d. i.e. The weapon still keeps its Clan properties/feel but requires better skill and heat management to operate.
We will be applying this same design philosophy across all Clan weaponry and equipment as it makes its way into the game.
Balancing – Weapon System Upgrades
Things start to get a little trickier when dealing with weapon systems that are outright increased in their standard operation. For this example, let’s look at the Streak SRM/6. Yes, we all knew they were coming, and yes, the potential is deadly but let’s take a step back and see what can happen with current mechanics.
e.g. 2 – Streak SRMs
Inner Sphere Tech:
Always hit as long as the target is locked.
Fires 2 missiles dealing 2.5 damage each (total of 5 damage)
Always hit as long as the target is locked.
Fires 2, 4 or 6 missiles dealing 2.5 damage each (total of 5, 10, 15 damage respectively)
As you can see, this is a much bigger conundrum than changing some numbers like the previous section. This is where we may step out of the comfort zone that some players might not like to make sure we don’t bring in heavily overpowered missile launchers.
The following will probably be applied to this weapon:
Allow only 2 projectiles to leave the launcher at any given time. SSRM-4 will fire 2 volleys of 2 missiles. SRM-6 will fire 3 volleys of 2 missiles. This will stagger the incoming missiles allowing AMS to take down more if the targeted Mech has AMS.
Increase the cooldown period of refire on the larger launchers and allow the above staggered shots to happen during this time.
So again, the flavor/feel of the weapon is still there, it’s just going to require better trigger timing and the hope that AMS will not deter your volleys too much assuming that the enemy has AMS to begin with. An additional side effect is that people will be more inclined to carry AMS on their BattleMechs and at the same time, these bigger launchers will need more ammunition to counter the AMS effect.
Balancing – New Mechanics
Along with the above 2 sections, another cause for concern is a change in basic mechanics of a given weapon system. In this case we can discuss Clan LRMs.
e.g. 3 – LRM-20s
Inner Sphere Tech:
Damage: 1.1 /missile
Min Range: 180m
Max Range: 1000m
Damage: 1.1 /missile
Min Range: 0m
Max Range: 1000m
The fact that the Clan version of LRM-20s have no minimum range is a huge problem. What you effectively now have is a Streak SRM-20 available to you if we cut minimum range to 0. The fact that this weapon weighs half as much and takes up 1 less slot makes this a significantly over powered system.
The following will probably be applied to this weapon system:
Base heat increase to 
Minimum range stays at 180m but LRMs can be fired. The damage ramps from 0 to 1.1 in an exponential curve. i.e. Damage is minimal in the
- -m range and increases to full damage between  and m ranges.
Possible adjustment to  tons.
Now the weapon system still keeps it “no-minimum” range property and it still keeps a weight reduction and generates a little more heat. Again, this will translate into better piloting skills, fire timing and heat management to take full advantage of the Clan LRM-20.
That being said, when dealing with core values like tonnage or crits, we risk the chance of breaking a standard build in a future Clan BattleMech in terms of its weight capacity or space capacity. This is why this third area of balancing new mechanics takes the longest time and will have to be revisited now and again.
Now on to a more exciting informational release… I've asked David B. to explain how Clan BattleMechs will be built and customized...
Clan BattleMechs and How They’ll Be Built/Customized
First, let’s get the obligatory disclaimer out of the way. As with all works in progress, our OmniMech design is subject to change, especially any of the smaller details. Balance is key, as we wish for OmniMechs to be neither inadequately nor overly restrictive, and explained below is the path we aim to take to get there.
We will be designing and allowing customization of Clan OmniMechs in a manner similar to the OmniMech rules that are implemented in the BattleTech tabletop game. In the BattleTech lore, OmniMechs are capable of capable of mounting weapons and equipment in modular pods that can be swapped around with relative ease between battles. This is in contrast to standard BattleMechs where virtually every weapon and system is hardwired and fully integrated into the chassis, slowing repairs and especially hampering customization.
Because the standard Mechs within MWO are already essentially capable of instant repairs and a wide range of customization between battles, it’s been a little tricky to figure out how to introduce Clan OmniMechs that keep their Omni flavor. In the end we decided on a system that essentially uses modular hardpoints.
With a standard MWO BattleMech, you buy a variant of a particular chassis, for example, a Hunchback HBK-4G. The Mech comes with a set of default weapons and equipment as well as a fixed set of hardpoints in each location. You can customize your loadout however you wish, but will always be under the restrictions of hardpoints, critical slots, and tonnage.
With an OmniMech, instead of buying a variant, you’ll buy a configuration. The Clans tend to designate their configurations as Prime and then A, B, C, D, etc. (e.g. Mad Cat A). Buying a configuration is much like buying a variant. You’ll get a Mech, the default weapons and equipment, and a set of hardpoints in each location. However, not only will you be able to customize the weapons and equipment, but you’ll also be able to customize the hardpoints. Once you own the Mech you’ll be able to swap out each location (e.g. head, left arm, right torso, etc) with that of another configuration. This allows you to change the hardpoints within that location.
For example, let’s say that you purchase the imaginary OmniMech, the Irate Tapir. You decide to purchase the B configuration because its default loadout fits with your play style. However, it doesn’t have any missile hardpoints and you really want to be able to fit a Narc Beacon to help out your teammates with their LRMs. What you can do is swap out the B left arm, which has two ballistic hardpoints, for the left arm from the C configuration, which has a missile and an energy hardpoint.
This sort of swapping can be done for all locations except for the center torso. The CT will be what identifies the Mech for purposes such as XP and Mech efficiencies. You also will not be able to choose any hardpoint combination that you want, but rather the choices will be set, and determined by the design team, based on the canon configurations for theMech.
Now there wouldn’t be balanced unless it came with a cost. In this case, the ability to customize hardpoints comes with the tabletop OmniMech restrictions. All the configurations of a given OmniMech are based around a base configuration (not to be confused with the Prime configuration). This is the core of the Mech, with all the modular bits stripped out, and what remains cannot be customized at all. These include:
The engine type and rating
The number and placement of a minimum number of heatsinks
The amount and distribution of armor
The armor type and the location of any critical slots occupied by Ferro-Fibrous
The internal structure type and the location of any critical slots occupied by Endo Steel
Enhancements such as MASC
The occasional weapon or other piece of equipment (e.g. jump jets) that is included as part of the base configuration
We aim to follow these as closely as possible, but the restrictions may be eased if gameplay and balance require it.
We’re also looking at tying in systems unique to MWO, such as our quirks system, into OmniMech design, in order to even out certain configuration’s locations that may be seen as better to use than others. For example, each part of each configuration could have its own effect on the overall quirks of the Mech. This could mean that your choice of which configuration’s part you use in each location could change how your Mech plays.
We are being very careful when implementing Clan Tech and we hope this "Design Approach" post helps you understand the issues and how we will be dealing with them as we move ahead.