The Clanners are coming! The Clanners are coming!
What's a Clanner?
What do you mean, what's a Clanner? Fine, a history lesson then. Back in the early days of Battletech the only factions in play belonged to the Houses of the Inner Sphere. The Inner Sphere (IS) was made up of five nations, all of which hated each other, and all of which had also forgotten how most of their technology worked due to a huge war several hundred years earlier. Back then, they were all part of the Star League which was watched over by the Star League Defense Force (SLDF). The bulk of SLDF, however, had buggered off beyond known space after their leader decided he was sick of the politics and posturing that resulted in his troops being wasted again and again by The Houses of the Inner Sphere.
After hundreds of years of infighting, the descendants of the SLDF, now calling themselves the Clans, suddenly showed up in the Inner Sphere. While the IS has been trying to work out how the guns they use actually work and wasting all their resources shooting at each other, the Clans had been developing and improving all their tech. Their weapons were smaller, lighter and had longer range. Their engines were less vulnerable to being shot out. Their pilots, thanks to genetic engineering and eugenics, were better shots and better robot drivers. They were a huge threat, clearly intended (from the game designer's perspective) to shake up the established balance of power and existing tactics and breathe new life into the game. "They were an outside context problem," to borrow from Ian M. Banks, "something out with the experience and knowledge of the society that encounters it that usually results in that society abruptly ceasing to exist."
The clans, though, had a number of flaws. They were bred and conditioned to avoid waste in battle, so all fights were conducted according to a set of rules called zellbrigen. These rules were, frankly, ridiculous. Before a battle, various clan leaders would bid for what resources they would need to win, with the honour of fighting going to the lowest bidder. During a battle, clanners would be in violation of zellbrigen if they fired on a target that was already engaged by a comrade, if they didn't fire a weapon when they were able to, and if they made use of cover. In their eyes, winning dishonourably was considered worse than losing. In theory, these societal flaws were supposed to balance out the superior technology and piloting skills, and in the orgional fiction surrounding the Battletech Clans, they were beaten back by the Inner Sphere by manipulating the Clans into fighting on a battlefield that they were almost certain to lose upon.
Of course people actually playing the game came up with ways to use clan mechs and tech without the downsides (usually by saying they were using captured clan mechs with IS pilots) and so there was absolutely no downside to them. Which was ridiculously broken, and which is why there are plenty of tabletop players out there that hate clan tech with every fibre of their being. That's also why there's been both anticipation of the Clans' arrival in the MWO universe and concern as to how the introduction of a potentialy hugely imbalancing force will be handled. PGI has said they're not looking to replicate the strictly superior tech of tabletop in MWO, but, other than some comments a while ago, that they plan to make them short range 1v1 specialists, there's not been a lot else forthcoming. Until now.
Which Mechs Are Available?
PoptartsNinja did a series of articles a while back on which Clan mechs he thought we'd see in game, so I'm going to link to what he has to say about them here. In essence, they're all pretty solid choices.
What You Get In The Packs
There's eight packages on offer, as well as eight "Gold Khan" mechs, which are just one mech from each package with a gold skin and costing $500 for said gold skin. I'm not going to talk about the gold mechs much. They're overpriced silly things so people can show off that they bought an overpriced silly thing. It's ludicrous to even attempt to compare them against anything else in the games in terms of value for money because they don't have any, and no amount of words will convince someone to buy or not buy one. Fair play to PGI for putting these out there. They're ridiculous and will only sell to people that want to say they spent five hundred dollars on something that doesn't exist, and that's worked out great for Star Citizen.
What's in the REAL packages then? As stated already, there's eight tiers this time around, going up in cost $30 each step. Each tier adds another mech, with three variants per mech, as well as adding bonus premium time and additional items like concept art, wallpapers, medallions and the mysteriously named "Warhorns". Some of this I can put a value on, and some of it I can't, so I'll stick to what I can. How much a wallpaper is worth to you is between you and your wallet.
I'm going to have to make a few basic assumptions to judge what each pack is worth. Firstly, I'm going to assume that "Prime" variants in MWO for clan mechs are the same as the Prime variants in tabletop, and that the cbill values for those mechs are roughly equivalent to tabletop as well. Secondly, as omnimechs usually have more than two variants and we don't know which ones PGI has chosen, I'm going to assume that each variant costs the same in cbills as the prime variant. A quick check of the Timber Wolf shows that the cbill values for each variant are between 23.5m cbills and 24.2m cbills, so this seems a reasonable assumption.
As I did with Hero Mechs a while back, I'll see if there are any mech costs that are not accounted for in a straight MC/$ conversion (assuming 2,500 cbills to 1 MC, as is the exchange rate for mech purchases since the game launched and at the time of writing) and look at what that means in terms of the assumed value of cbill bonuses and skins. I WILL be including the cost/value of the mech bays. I know when Phoenix came around some people on the Reddit and MWO forums didn't think it was fair to include these for some reason, but if you were buying the mechs with cbills you'd either have to buy the mechbays for them or have already bought them. I'll also be assuming that each 30 days of premium costs 2,500 MC. There's no 60 or 90 day package for premium, so that's the only fair way to do it. Finally, to convert MC costs into dollar amounts, I'll be assuming that the MC was purchased in the largest possible 25,000 MC packs. For Hero mechs I provided equivalent dollar costs based on buying each different sized MC pack, but in this case you could only buy the mech variants from the lowest tier pack for less than 20,000 MC, so telling you how much it would cost if you bought multiple 1,250 MC packs seems needless.
So basically the only pack that isn't really "worth it" is the Kit Fox/Uller one - although that's purely on the value of the mechs and mechbays and doesn't take into account the 30% cbill bonus that the Prime variant will get you. Every single other package gets you between 47% and 205% more value for your money than spending on MC. The best returns on your investment come from the Dire Wolf and Warhawk packs (at 199% and 205% of the value you'd get paying in bought MC respectively). Compare the Clan packs with the Founders or Phoenix packs and (based on the currently available information), it comes out really well.
Should You Give PGI Money?
This is where it gets tricky. I want to state here that I do still like MWO. The visuals and the sound design are still great, it has a pace and a sense of weight that you don't get anywhere else, and I really do get the impression that the people behind it want to make it great. If I was coming into the game as a brand new player having missed out on Founders and Phoenix and with not a lot of playtime under my belt, I can see this sort of offer being a complete no brainer.
If you've been playing for a while, though, it's a bit harder to recommend. Once you've got ten or twenty mechs littering your mechbay, unless you've got that collector's mindset you're probably going to be pretty happy with your choices and just play for the sake of playing. So, once you find your groove in a particular chassis, there's no huge urge to buy a ton of other ones. The proposed new matchmaking system where players choose between mechs at the beginning of the round to meet a given tonnage limit may provide more reasons to have a big stable of mechs, but that brings another consideration to the table.
Tonnage limits are one of many features that has been in the pipe for a long time, along with the new user interface and overarching community warfare. UI 2.0 in particular has been bottlenecking the rest of the development for months now. If you buy a Clan package, you're buying it on the assumption that you're still going to find the game interesting in six months' time, which for some people is going to be contingent on those features being completed and in game. Russ Bullock has tweeted that this will be the case (here and here ), but they've also failed to hit self imposed deadlines before. Plus we've currently got absolutely no idea how Clan weapons and mechs are going to function compared to their IS counterparts, or, for that matter, what a "Warhorn" is.
The Clan packs, right this minute, feel like some sort of psychological experiement to see how many people they can get to buy in without actually explaining anything about what they're selling. Doubtless there will be more information released in due course, but it's interesting that they've set the packs on sale on a Friday afternoon with very little communication other than this FAQ, which, from what I've seen on the forums and Reddit, doesn't appear to actually answer the most frequently asked questions. Regardless of your feelings towards PGI and the current state of the game, the smart thing to do at the moment looks like to wait for more information. There's no end date for the sale at the moment, and both Founders and Phoenix packs were available well into the content actually having been delivered, so being an early adopter doesn't make an awful lot of sense, objectively speaking. It's probably best to hang on for a month or so and see what additional information PGI puts out there to help make a more informed choice.