MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Interview – Campaign Length, Epic Games Partnership & More

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MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries is only a few days away from its December 10th launch date. The game, developed and published by Vancouver-based studio Piranha Games (MechWarrior Online), is the first single player focused title in over a decade and a half to be released in the franchise.

Needless to say, plenty of hardcore fans of the popular BattleTech universe have been eagerly anticipating it for a very long time, even more so since MechWarrior 5 had its fair share of delays. Now, though, it is locked in for its PC release on the Epic Games store (which has one year of exclusivity), and we thought we'd reach out to Piranha Games to discuss some of the key features of the game. Below you can find our interview with Producer Alexander Garden.

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MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries has had a full year of delays from its original December 2018 release date. Which improvements made in this timeframe would you say will be more significant for the full game?

The main campaign has benefitted from dialogue and story event rewrites, along with general polish in how the story is presented to the player inside the DropShip hub. We were able to implement additional mission types and complete some biomes that would have otherwise been cut from the initial release. The additional time also enabled us to make some key revisions to the MechLab and the overall metagame, giving the game greater mechanical depth. The improvements have been significant.

How did your community take the Epic Games store timed exclusive news? Is there anything you can share about how the deal took place with Epic?

Generally, the initial public response was negative. It’s always a range though, and as usual with these things, the negative voices tend to be some of the loudest. We did receive a good share of positive reactions from our community, often through our player support channels. The topic of distribution platform exclusivity in general (timed or otherwise) is a contentious one, the Epic Games Store debate even more so, and our handling of the situation could have been better. I understand why it frustrated people. Execution aside, however, we stand by the decision itself. The extension and the partnership with Epic have resulted in us being able to make and ship a better game.

Let's talk a bit about the campaign of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, since it is the main draw to the game after all. What's the overarching theme and what kind of foes can players expect to encounter?

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As a Mercenaries title, the core is focused on building up your mercenary company. Starting with just two ‘Mechs and your DropShip in the wake of the destruction of your family’s mercenary company, you’ll be taking contracts with the various factions throughout the Inner Sphere in your journey to rebuild. Payouts, battlefield salvage, contract negotiations, combing the markets, and maintaining your stock of BattleMechs and MechWarriors are what the mercenary loop is all about. All the while you’ll have that thread of revenge to follow on the story side of the campaign.

The campaign begins in the year 3015 but will extend over the years and potentially decades depending on the pace of the players’ playthrough, and as that timeline advances, you’ll encounter new technologies and new ‘Mechs. With the salvage system, every ‘Mech you face becomes an opportunity to leave the battlefield with a significant reward.

You’ll also be facing off against an array of other enemy vehicles and turret defenses. Some are basically 'cannon fodder' to a fully-equipped BattleMech, but others are significant threats in their own right.

Can you share an estimate on the MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries campaign length?

Internal playthroughs clock in at around 25-30 hours for completing a campaign-focused run. That said, you’re free to run the ‘mercenary loop’ for as long as you like, taking procedural contracts throughout the Inner Sphere and living the life of a mercenary outside the core story. With that freedom in mind, we expect campaign completion times will vary quite a bit.

What can you tell us about the modding tools that are shipping with the game and what can be done with them?

The mod tools will essentially be the Unreal Editor itself, with much of the associated power one would expect from it. On day one, players will have access to this mod editor and will be able to get started on building their content. As some examples, you’ll have access to all the usual content-based mods, such as ‘Mechs, weapons, environment assets and so on. At a deeper level, a large portion of the core systems that drive the game at almost every layer – such as the many metagame systems or the Inner Sphere StarMap – are exposed to Blueprints and accessible for modding. The system we used for building the Campaign will also be available, so you’ll be able to make their own campaigns quite easily. With this initial release of the mod editor, you’ll be able to package out a new version of the game that features your mods, but support for packaging out and injecting individual mods into the main game will be coming early next year.

During our previous conversation, you told us the ray tracing optimization only allowed 1080p@60fps at the time, or 1080p@30fps with reflections enabled as well. Were you able to optimize this further to allow higher resolution gameplay with the raytracing features enabled, at least on top of the line GPUs such as the RTX 2080 Super and RTX 2080Ti?

We’ve been able to push the resolution ceiling a bit higher, and we’re continuing to work with their RTX team to optimize further. There’s likely to be a few post-release updates to make the experience even better.

Back then, you were just about getting started with NVIDIA DLSS. What kind of performance improvements are you seeing on average?

Paired with RTX the performance improvements are significant.

Last year you also mentioned you'd love to look into an Xbox One port for MechWarrior 5. Now that development on the PC release is winding down, is there anything more you can tell us about that? Or would you rather wait for Project Scarlett at this point?

Nothing I can comment on at this time.

Speaking of next-generation platforms, PlayStation 5 and the next Xbox are coming in about a year. Game developers seem to be torn between calling them more of the same or a substantial leap forward. Where in that spectrum would you position your opinion? Also, do you think having an SSD will be as much of a game-changer as Sony and Microsoft are suggesting?

I agree that SSDs becoming a storage standard for consoles has a potential for significant results, though I expect we’ll see a range in terms of how successfully they’re utilized. So much thought goes into how loading is handled, much more than some might think. It’s a skeletal system in game development, so many other things are built around it.

Elevators, narrow crevices, long hallways…you can point to so many conventions in games that exist in part to handle the loading problem, which ripples into so many areas of design and art. When those circumstances change and console titles can start relying on that speed, there’s some potential for new approaches to old problems.

Another big platform launch just happened for Google Stadia. What do you think of their platform and the potential of cloud streaming/computing as a whole?

I think it’s promising, but the quality of network infrastructure and available service options varies a lot by region. So I think it’ll be great for some. The success of streaming with TV shows and movies makes it seem like an inevitability for games, but it seems like there are still hurdles to jump.

Thank you for your time!

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