The switch to four player maximum group size in MechWarrior Online has exposed some ugly strategies, abuse and exploits. PGI developer Bryan Eckman referred to these issues in his command chair post saying, "We are addressing several known issues with farming. Abusing this system is considered a violation of the TOS/COC."
The farm tactics PGI has acknowledged, however, are the merely the tip of the iceberg. Their list of changes only slightly inconvenienced the dedicated trial C-bill farmer, and many critical gameplay damaging issues have been left unchanged. Let us review some of the essential problems.
The first and most common farming issue was the trial 'mech suicide strategy. Players would jump into a trial raven, a 'mech with no repair cost, and would run at their top speed of 81kph directly into the enemy team. They then came to a halt and had themselves explode. This strategy was particularly effective from a C-bill per hour standpoint because players could exit the game, start up a new game in the same trial raven BattleMech while the previous game they joined wasn't even finished yet. Effectively, one player could play 20 games per hour at 60,000 C-bills per match, for 1.2 million C-bills an hour. Normal gameplay suggests six 10-minute games, which only yields ~800,000 C-bills per hour for a non-founder.
Trial suicide farming was so rampant that at one point it was quite normal to see 2 trial 'mechs from opposite teams running past each other, each to their own death. PGI's 'fix' to this issue by locking the trial 'mechs while previously joined games were still ongoing, only slightly slowed the rate at which trial suicide players make C-bills.
brb, my cat is on fire
Another common sight in MWO is the AFK player. This issue should be familiar to a lot of players, as it is regularly practice in games such as World of Warcraft, Battlefield 3, and League of Legends. There are a number of methods that can reduce this issue, like forcing players to click a button that says 'I'm here and playing,' or automatically kicking idling players.
In the Command Chair post on the forums, the developers have mentioned that they will be adding a mechanic so that "Players [who] fail to provide any input will be kicked from a match." This mechanic, however, is already in use to prevent players from launching matches with damaged 'mechs, so the effect it would have on AFK players remains questionable.
What repair bill?
Moving on to the subject of repair bills. Another common occurrence in MWO are 'no repair' players. Once a match is over, players need to repair the damage to their 'mech in order to join the next game at full strength. Many players, however, are starting to play matches without making these critical repairs. In effect, they handicap their team in exchange for personal profitability.
The argument for 'no repair' farming is that repair costs in MWO tend to be rather high, which has the unpleasant effect of penalizing newer players. Since the costs are 'too damn high', players often feel justified in not repairing their 'mech. High costs notwithstanding, purposefully handicapping your team hurts the gameplay for other players. Pointing this out to hardened 'no repair' players often is not enough to dissuade them.
Many farmers combine the 'no repair' trick with AFKing to farm EXP in addition to C-bills. This strategy is so effective that even PGI representatives have fallen prey to this temptation. Here is a short clip recording Community Moderator and Eridani Light Horse Commander RAM as he AFK-no-repair farms. The video was captured by a cReddit Merc Corp member.
Stop 'mech farmville
This intentional and systematic abuse damages both the new player experience and the gameplay of the most hardened closed beta tester. So far, besides acknowledging the issue, PGI's attempts at reducing this behavior have only shifted player strategies. Trial 'mech suicide is a technique that will not die, or at least, not without future changes. We can only hope that Bryan Ekman's efforts will continue.