Perhaps my favorite game of all time. I am not going to get into the details of the game; those can be researched on Wikipedia or some such outside source, but I am going to talk a bit about the BattleTech-accurate mod I am in the process of creating for it.
After uncompressing some of the files within the game and getting a good look at them, MechCommander was intended to be far more accurate with regards to the BattleTech universe than I think it eventually became. Things like heat management and critical slots (and even locations) seem to have been cut in favor of simply “load value”. There is little that can be done about this switch in concept, but that’s ok.
What the mod is being designed to do is take the weapons in the game and re-spec them to BattleTech standards, blurring the abstraction of the “10-second” BattleTech turn into a real-time engagement sequence. For example, in a game of BattleTech, an ultra autocannon can fire two shells in a 10-second turn, doing X damage with each shell. In this MechCommander mod, I’ve stepped back from that hard-lined 2-shots/10-seconds and halved it, so now an ultra autocannon will fire four shells in a 10-second period of time, but each shell does half damage. Additionally, heat is halved and ammo is doubled. All considerations have been taken into account to keep all the weapons BattleTech accurate while maintaining fast-paced and visually engaging gameplay.
So let’s get down to the gooey of it, shall we?
This project kicked off a week or so ago and is just now getting its proverbial feet wet. The first step was design: which weapons to use, how to balance them, getting them all spec’ed according to BT, taking all the firing rate multipliers into effect, figuring out ammo loads, load values, ranges… truly meticulous work all summed up in one glorious spreadsheet.
I had been bogged down in design for quite some time, making the critical desicions that would affect implementation in every way. Some decisions were not easy, but adjustments had to be made. For example, originally there were plans to include the incendiary Flamer weapons. Unfortunately, MechCommander cannot display more than 50 components, regardless of how many I add to the game. Components sorted beyond 50 on the list simply will not render on the in-game purchasing tab, leaving only black space where the weapons should show up. Due to this restriction, some items in the original game had to be nixed in favor of new, accurate weapons and other weapons I wanted to add had to either be dropped or… creatively worked around.
The Flamer simply got dropped. I couldn’t justify 2 of my 50 component slots going toward such a weapon when the Clans were lacking a long-range autocannon and the Inner Sphere were lacking a medium-range standard autocannon. So the Flamers were dropped in favor of the Clan Ultra Autocannon/5 and the Inner Sphere Autocannon/10 (yes, most of the weapons have the BT accurate names now).
But, you say, that’s stuff that’s more or less already in the game. Tell us something to get us excited, you say. Tell us about the new components.
Would you be excited to know that Clan Advanced Tactical Missiles are in? What about the Snub-Nosed PPC? Clan heavy lasers?
They are all in. So are MRMs. So are light and heavy PPCs. Even the Plasma Rifle made the cut!
And more. But first I want to talk sensors. What a mess! I don’t know how they locked the ECM and Active Probe to three ‘Mechs, but if I can figure it out, I plan on unlocking them. Unfortunately, I haven’t found it yet, so the 1.0 release of this mod may still have those restrictions. But enough about that. What I really want to talk about is how many component slots were being hogged by sensors! Inner Sphere: 3 sensors, 1 ECM, 1 Probe. Clan: 2 sensors, 1 ECM, 1 Probe.
For those following along at home, that’s 9 component slots out of 50, nearly 20% of the available component slots, dedicated to sensors and electronics instead of weapons. I cut that number down to 4. I hybridized the ECM and probe on either side to make one standard-issue component that both sides can use, and I repackaged the Basic Sensor to be used by both sides, nixing the Clan sensors completely (they will share the Inner Sphere ones now). The Intermediate sensor was repackaged as a Command sensor with the power of the Advanced sensor, which was dropped completely. This was a bit of a workaround to “unlock” the Advanced sensor, but it works.
In the end, both Clan and Inner Sphere have access to the BattleMech Sensor, and the Command BattleMech Sensor Suite. However, due to the high power of the Command sensor, it has been balanced by requiring additional load value (essentially acting as a Command Console in BattleTech) AND being limited to 1 per player. This prevents players from loading “teh uber-s3nsor” on all their ‘Mechs. Instead, each player will be able to designate a “command ‘Mech” to carry the powerful sensor, and the more players in the game, the more command sensors will be capable of deployment. I am a big fan of this concept and am really excited to see how it will turn out.
But right now, I’m still in implementation. After this comes preliminary testing, artwork, “beta” testing, tweaking, final testing, compression, and finally distribution. Of these, implementation and artwork I expect to take the longest, possibly 3 days for implementation and another 2 for artwork.
Oh, and as a treat for those who read through the whole thing, here are a couple of the more exciting weapons also in the mod: Rotary Autocannon/2, Rotary Autocannon/5, and Clan Hyper Assault Gauss Rifle (based on the HAG 20).
I also need to come up with a name for the mod, as the title implies. But I’ll have one by the time I package it up.