On Tuesday, PGI dropped probably the most anticipated patch yet on the MWO community. We'll talk about why in a little while, but let's get some of the less important (but still welcome) patch additions out of the way first.
There's a new hero mech in town, the "Ilya Muromets." It costs 5250 MC (or roughly $20), gives a 30% boost to cbill earnings, and has a decent hardpoint layout. It's also able to mount a 300 engine pushing it to nearly 70kph. Expect to see a lot of these out and about, probably with a ton of autocannons on them. It's the only mech in the game that's technically able to mount three Gauss rifles, but realistically, you'd have to sacrifice most of your speed and armour to do it - and you'd only be able to bring a few tons of ammo. If you see one with three Gauss rifles, just sneeze at it. You'll probably melt all the torso armour.
Other things designed to suck the cash from your wallet are also on offer, in the form of festive cockpit decorations. Snowmen, trees, and best of all, “Holiday Lights” are in the shop now for a limited time only. These do precisely bugger all in terms of game mechanics, but come on, look at this guy! Isn't he adorable?
As for balance changes, the autocannon screen shake has been reduced for everything apart from the AC/20, so if you’re getting your cockpit rocked to hell and back now it’s because you’re getting big chunks of your armour blown off rather than being plinked at with the ballistic equivalent of a pea shooter. On top of that, the Gauss rifle’s hitpoints have been cut down to three, and it now has a 90% chance of exploding when destroyed. This is probably going to hit everything but the Gaussapult hard; the K2's side torsos are pretty good at protecting the rifles right now, and most Gaussapult builds use XL engines so a side torso getting blown is usually going to kill them anyway.
On to the real meat: there’s two big ticket items this time around. First up is the long awaited return of eight man teams. Many organised groups have been clamouring for this, and it should open the door for the return of the Steel Jaguar organised Red Hot Or Die tournament. In fact, it should make the tournament easier to organise, as eight man groups get queued up against other eight man groups, so there’s no chance of your premade group getting matched up against a team the matchmaker has randomly thrown together. Currently you can drop as a group of two to four people OR as a group of eight - there’s no provision for between five and seven people. This is problematic right now if you’ve got a group going and someone needs to leave. If you can’t find another person, you’re forced to disband the group and reform it as a four person and a three person team. Hopefully, at some point down the line, PGI will either introduce provision for five to seven people to drop together or at least an easier way to split an existing group into two. As it stands, it’s still a big improvement for both the organised groups and the PUGgers.
Secondly, this patch brought us the much anticipated introduction of ECM. PGI’s been touting information warfare as a big part of their planned endgame, and it certainly makes a big difference. Currently only available on four mechs, in its default mode, ECM hides the unit carrying it and everything within 180m from enemy sensors. In addition, any enemy unit walking into that 180m bubble will have their ability to share sensors with teammates disrupted, and have weapon locks and target data gathering speeds reduced. This can be countered by an ECM equipped mech switching their ECM to countermeasure mode, which can in turn be countered by another ECM mech being in disrupt mode and so on and so on. (A more detailed look at ECM will be posted soon.) The short version, though, is that LRM heavy groups and Streakapult drivers are going to find things very different now.
In summary, this should prove to be one of the most interesting patches that we've had in MWO. The separation of 8 man groups from the general population seems to have been successful, and ECM seems to have shaken up the old strategies while also thoroughly nerfing the once-terrifying streakapult. Two solid and well-received patches in a row for PGI - roll on the next one.