There once was a time when new players would be exposed to Stock Mechs in Mechwarrior Online’s trial mechs, and they would routinely get destroyed by Mechs that were much better fit, and this lead to an incredibly poor experience. This has since been amended, with the trial Mechs all being “Champion” variants that are better fit and carry double heatsinks, but it still raises the question:
These Mechs worked in BattleTech. Why do stock Mechs suck?
To answer that question adequately, let’s take a look at several factors that play into their performance.
In the universe of BattleTech, Mechs are fitted with a variety of weapons to fulfill a variety of roles, which can sometimes give the appearance of Mechs lacking specialization. In most cases, that was intentional. In the universe, a Mechwarrior had very little intelligence as to what they were going to face when jumping into action, and a variety of units were possible to experience in a single battle or campaign. Infantry, aerospace and VTOLs, tanks and hovercraft, battleships, Mechs, etc. So, BattleMechs had to come fit to handle a wide variety of situations, especially away from MechBays where supplies may be limited.
Prime examples of this were Mechs like the Atlas that would actually fit rear-facing weaponry in case they were ambushed. Some Mechs were, of course, more specialized, such as the machine gun-toting Locust for anti-infantry, or the Rifleman for anti-air, but even they carried medium lasers in case of Mech-to-Mech combat.
This is obviously not something that a Mechwarrior is concerned about in MWO; they know that they’ll be dropping against BattleMechs each and every time, and will thus fit their BattleMechs to fill a specific role or range bracket. Stock Mechs are then at a disadvantage with their less-focused loadouts.
But I’ve been able to prove that stock-like builds are quite possible to have perform well with my Serious Bracket Builds. Why, then, are true stock Mechs still suffering in the hands of capable pilots?
HEAT AND WEAPON MECHANICS
The big, bad mechanic on the block that makes this a problem is the way heat is handled in Mechwarrior Online, but it plays in to the way weapons work, as well.
In Table Top, the heat system was a lot easier to understand and made sense: for every heatsink, your Mech would dissipate 1 heat per turn, 2 heat if it was a Double Heatsink. A Stalker STK-3F, for instance, could fire both its Large Lasers (8 heat a piece for 16 total) and an SRM 6 (4 heat) for a total of 20 heat. At the end of the turn, his 20 single heatsinks would dissipate that heat, and he’d start again at 0. If he fired both SRM 6s with both Large Lasers, he’d have 4 heat left over, and have to run some checks based on his remaining heat (though 4 left over was never a danger).
The big catch between that heat system and Mechwarrior Online’s, however, is that each one of those turns represented 10 seconds of time. And suddenly things start clicking together.
Mechwarrior Online clearly does not have each weapon cycling over the course of ten seconds, which is why weapons like the AC/2 are practically useless in Table Top, but significantly more powerful in Mechwarrior Online. It’s also the reason why armor values had to double to ensure combat lasted a more satisfying length of time.
The heat values, however, remained largely unchanged. A Large Laser, for instance, generates 8 heat in Table Top, and can only fire once per turn (10 second recharge time). The 20 heatsinks on the Stalker would easily handle both that without a hint of an issue. In comparison, the Large Laser in MWO generates 7 heat, but has a recharge time of 3.25 seconds, meaning in that same length of time, it’s fired TWICE (1 second beam duration, 3.25 recharge), generating 14 heat. Fire both Large Lasers twice, and you’ve generated 28 heat. MWO single heatsinks still dissipate 1 heat every 10 seconds (20 heatsinks means 2 heat per second), which means the Stalker’s only dissipating 20 heat for the 28 that’s generated in the same amount of time. The MWO Stalker would shut down in under 40 seconds firing ONLY it’s Large Lasers.
So because the heat system in MWO is largely unchanged from Table Top as far as single heat sinks go, but weapon firing speeds are drastically changed, stock Mechs are going to be practically unplayable.
So we’ve identified the problem: stock Mechs suck because Single Heatsinks can’t keep up with the change in firing rate. Is it possible to fix that? If so, how so?
A couple of solutions immediately spring to mind. The low-hanging fruit, if you will, on what might make them more viable.
Solution 1 is to change the heat system in MWO so that the heat generated by each weapon is equal over 10 seconds to the heat generated by the weapon in Table Top. This way, Single Heatsinks would function in accordance to their values in Table Top, and would immediately become more viable. BUT THIS WOULD BE VERY BAD FOR GAMEPLAY WITHOUT OTHER CHANGES. Why?
Weapon damage values haven’t changed for most weapons to compensate for the 10 second rule. Remember the AC/2 we mentioned earlier? This weapon does 2 damage every half second, which is drastically superior to the 2 damage every 10 in Table Top. The damage values of each weapon would instead have to change so that their DPS was equal to their listed values in Table Top if the heat were to follow suit. Otherwise, heat would become a non-issue in-game and every Mech would simply pack the biggest possible weapons they could, and heat would be a non-issue. But that has to be followed up by armor values being reduced back to their normal values, or fights would last an unbearable amount of time… TL;DR, I think it would be a mess for gameplay. The Table Top is Table Top, and I think Mechwarrior Online is better served and more fun by straying away from those prescribed formulas.
The other solution, then, would be to give single heatsinks a unique purpose or functionality over their fatter, more popular brethren, something that would make heatsink choice a compelling one, rather than a no-brainer, required purchase on every Mech. Options might include better, faster dissipation than Double Heatsinks while not increasing a Mechs’ heat threshold, which might make it more popular for DPS-oriented brawlers.
The ultimate conclusion from all of this is that Stock Mechs suck because nothing changed for Single Heatsinks between table top and MWO, but all of the weapon firing rates DID. If Single Heatsinks were to be modified in such a way that they better fit the MWO combat style and were made a choice rather than something to immediately upgrade out of, I believe that new players would not suffer so badly from Stock Mech Shock when they get killed for being shut down after 6 seconds of sustained combat.
Whether or not that’s worth it is ultimately up to PGI to decide.
Next time, we’ll be looking at stock Clan Mechs to see if they’ll be suffering from the same problems or fair better than their IS cousins.