#SaveMWO - Town Hall Meeting

(Author's Note: I am in no way impartial about this topic. I am dissatisfied with the game as it stands, the direction it appears to be taking, and have signed the #savemwo petition. This is by no means a propaganda piece, but it is not written from a neutral point of view.)

It is increasingly hard to find nice things to say about Mechwarrior Online. 

A lot of people are very unhappy with the direction MWO is taking at present. At higher levels of play, the game is dominated by PPC sniper builds, the recent 12v12 tests only emphasised this metagame, the developers admit that the eight-man queue (intended to segregate the more organised players from the ones that play more casually) fails to find a match up to 30% of the time because it's deserted, and third person view (a feature that a large portion of the community said it didn't want based on their experiences with multiplayer Mechwarrior 4) is on the way shortly. Communication from the developers is sporadic, with important news about the game sometimes buried in an hour long podcast. The new "Ask the Devs" format asks people to vote for questions they want answered, but the devs still answer whichever ones they want to regardless of votes.

For a good chunk of the community, the final straw came with the implementation of a new heat penalty for "boating" certain weapons. The actual purpose of the penalty hasn't been made clear, and it's difficult to work out what it might be as the specific weapons and the quantities that will attract a penalty don't appear to line up at all. More than two PPCs, or more than one AC/20 will attract a punitive heat increase, but so will more than two large pulse lasers and more than four SRM-2s (the former of which already received a kick in the teeth a little while back, when its heat was increased to be higher than the already-ubiquitous PPC). Criticism of the game on the forums and on Reddit runs the gamut from detailed point by point critiques of particular systems with constructive feedback to wild, unfocused, badly spelled rhetoric that directly insults the parentage of the development team and provides startlingly graphic explanations of what they can do with their heat scale penalties. The former is often at risk of being lost in the noise of the latter.

In this midst of this, WoL members Stalkerr and Jade Raven decided to try and do something productive. Contacting representatives from many of the groups that are still active in MWO, they pulled together a town hall event. Thirty speakers representing groups totalling over 5000 members, and three hundred people listening in and discussing the issues for three hours in jabber. Groups as diverse as The Word of Lowtax, Eridani Light Pony, KONG, SJR and KaoS Legion (to name but a very, very few, and no insult intended to groups not mentioned) sat down and managed a civil discourse and even managed to come to agreement on the things they felt were not as good as they could be.

Community concerns in #savemwo Jabber chat by frequency

The ultimate output of the event was a three hour long Soundcloud stream of the event (an edited version is being worked on by VCRS' very own Allen Wren), an enormous chatlog and, more importantly, an open letter that at the time of writing has been signed by over 600 individuals and 11 group leaders, listing out five key issues and six ways forward that they would like to see. This is broad, constructive feedback, with no ranting or demands that the dev team perform biologically impossible acts on themselves. The letter itself and the Reddit thread provide a summary of the events and links to the recording and other documentation, as well as contact details if you represent a unit and want to be part of the next one, tentatively scheduled for a couple of weeks time. 

It's too soon to say if this will have any effect on MWO's direction, or, indeed, if the concerns are baseless and that PGI have it all worked out and by launch everyone will be eating their words. All that said, it's the first time anything of this scale has been done in MWO's community, and that such a diverse group found anything to agree on at all is noteworthy in itself. Community Manager Garth Erlam has confirmed that he's passed the feedback on to the appropriate people at PGI. The next move is theirs.

I've been writing words on the internet for years at www.tatp.org, but until I came to themittani.com, no one bothered to read them. I like robots, space and the internet and am therefore perfect for the MWO desk.