This week's MWO patch has settled in and it's time to have a look and see if the things it brought have had a big impact on the game. Broadly speaking, this patch was much more about tidying things up and making things neat than it was about adding massive game changing features. No major mechanics were changed, and the only publicised weapon balance change was a roughly 5% increase to the damage of each LRM fired. That puts LRMs back to about where they were before The Great LRMageddon of the November 6th patch, so they're usable but not all conquering.
Content wise, PGI delivered a new map, the actually rather nice Frozen City Night. While it's nearly identical to the daytime Frozen City in terms of how the cover and buildings are laid out, the all pervading snowstorm that reduces visibility on the daytime map is gone. Instead we get broad sightlines and very clear visuals. It's actually very reminiscent of some of the old Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries missions that take place on a moon, and manages to provide a different experience to the daytime version.
We also got the first official release of Bitching Betty (previously it was possible to turn this on by messing with the game's configuration files), the onboard computer that tells you when your mech is about to overheat or get cored, when you're running out of ammo and most infuriatingly, when you've switched target. This is a welcome addition and allows you to concentrate more on shooting things and less on those irritating gauges that get in the way of shooting at things. There are a couple of issues with it at present though. Firstly, as alluded to, it's slighly irritating to have it tell you whenever you changed target. This doesn't really add anything to the experience and doesn't tell you anything you don't already know - you pressed the button to change target after all. Secondly, in some situations it seems to get a bit overwhelmed and stop saying anything at all. This mostly seems to happen when theres a lot of sound effects firing at the same time. Overall though, it's good to have Betty back in a Mechwarrior game, and PGI have even managed to secure the services of Carole Ruggier, who provided the Betty voice for Mechwarrior 2.
As well as those additions there were a swarm of bug fixes covering everything from a specific desync issue to the correction of a bug that caused dead players to be stuck with a motion blurred view of the world as they spectated the rest of their team. This reflects PGI's recent comments that they're going through a period of code refactoring and generally trying to get things more stable. This will presumably slow the process of adding new content for a while, but it's almost certainly a worthwhile trade off.
Painting is Fun
That's not to say we didn't get any big content this week though. The patch brought with it the first round of visual customisation options. Specifically there are now two or three patterns to choose from on each mech, an array of colours to slot into those patterns and a bunch of cockpit items to make your cockpit feel like a home away from home. Assuming your home contains model dropships and House Liao banners, that is. Furry dice are apparently very much on the to do list, but there is as yet no word on a Tetatae bobblehead. In terms of the colours themselves, the costs currently feel a little high. A "basic" colour can be bought with cbills (the currency you earn by playing matches) and costs around 10% of the cost of a decent light mech at 312,500 cbills. All the other colours need to be paid for with Mech Credits, the currency you can only get by spending real money, and come in at 125 MC. To put this in perspective, you can buy a pack of 1,250 MC for $6.95, so each paint costs you around $0.70 (if you buy larger quantities of MC you get a better return on the investment, with a 25,000 MC pack costing $99.95 and meaning your paint costs you $0.50 instead of $0.70). There are two camo patterns right now, Dazzle and Phranken, costing 250 and 750 MC respectively - so if you want to kit out your space robot with Phranken and three non basic colours, it's going to cost you 1,125 MC. That's getting on for the entire $6.95 MC pack to paint up a single mech. Now, this probably wouldn't be that bad if once you'd bought the camo and paint you owned it for that mech, or even had a limited number of applications. Right now though, whenever you make a change you wind up having to pay again. Hopefully this is just going to be the first attempt at the pricing structure, as it's difficult to see them getting that much revenue out of this. The painting interface itself works fine, and it's easy to see a lot of potential in the camo designs, but not being able to OWN anything is probably going to count against it.
A Decent Package
A good patch this time around from PGI. Incremental changes rather than huge sweeping ones were aboslutely what was needed this time around, and bug fixes are always very welcome. It doesn't look like slow and steady is remaining the order of the day though, as the next patch is due to include both the return of eight man groups AND the beginnings of the much talked about Information Warfare part of the game with the inclusion of the ECM module. More on these when they arrive, of course. Finally, this patch also rotated the trial mechs around, so look out for a roundup of those on themittani.com soon.