87 Bazillion Mechs: M.A.V. Is A Gearhead’s Dream

By Nathan Grayson on July 28th, 2012 at 10:07 am.

No, no, I bet it's going to be fine. That? That's probably just fairy dust or something.

Do you enjoy meticulously tweaking the most microscopically tiny details of giant robots? If I cut you, will you bleed gears and heat sinks and perfectly balanced 47-ton rocket pods? Then perhaps M.A.V. – a customization-centric game of mechanized madness from one-man show Bombdog Studios – will strike your fancy. Its creator notes that he’s worked on both Borderlands games and cites Armored Core and the tragically under-appreciated Chromehounds as longtime favorites. Unsurprisingly, the current (read: pre-alpha) result wears its influences on its semi-cel-shaded sleeve. You can check out a demo of Bombdog’s progress so far right here, but obviously, there’s still a long way to go.

The current build is very, very rough. The fundamentals – a dizzying number of guns, a wide-open level, explosions – are certainly in place, but it remains to be seen if Bombdog’s mysterious unnamed operator can realize his colossal ambitions. The current mech customization screen, for instance, is abysmally imprecise, with no room to move the camera or items in multiple axes. And – while struggling to insert all manner of square pegs into square-ish holes – I constantly ended up grabbing the wrong pieces. It just felt clunky.

The resulting versatility, however, is pretty excellent. I, for instance, managed to create a robot with a mohawk made of cannons, machine guns, and missile pods. Sure, it was worthless in combat (each volley resulted in so much recoil that it was like piloting the head-banging lead guitarist of a crappy metal band), but that level of possibility is undeniably exciting. As is, however, the interface for parts needs serious work. Its filter, for instance, only allows you to search by name, weight, and defense – none of which are particularly useful when most items have names like “X-MINI-.Y6″.

My incredibly impractical masterpiece.

Combat and movement, meanwhile, still feel very stiff and awkward. I mean, I understand that I’m behind the 346-button control panel of a hulking mass of metal, but – even by that standard – M.A.V. hasn’t quite found its sweet spot yet. Also, there’s basically no damage feedback at this point, so I didn’t even die with a whimper – let alone a bang. That said, I do plan on watching this one. As it stands, M.A.V. seems like it could make for a nice mid-point between the hyper-complexity (and, as a result, absurd potential for customization) of Chromehounds and the more easily accessible action of other mech standouts. Meanwhile, a base-defending, mech-upgrading Siege mode and fully featured building system are on the way.

“The Alpha release will have a full game mode called Siege. This game mode will pit 2 teams against each other in a race to destroy the other team’s communications center. The game is played in rounds lasting 10mins (or until a base is destroyed). You will start the round with limited funds to purchase parts for your M.A.V. but you can gain more funds by damaging or destroying an enemy. You also get replenished with a minimal amount of funds every time you respawn. As you play, you can use your funds to buy better parts or you can invest those funds into purchasing and placing defensive structures (like turrets, repair depots, or walls).”

Basically, customization won’t just be restricted to pre-match menus anymore, which is a pretty cool idea for a game like this – where under-the-hood mechanized makeovers are so crucial to the way strategies unfold. So yeah, M.A.V. is nowhere near ready for primetime, but there’s potential here. And now, since you’ve been so patient and behaved yourself through this entire post, here’s a dev diary. Your mother and I are very proud of you, you know.

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26 Comments »

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  1. Was Neurotic says:

    Competition for MWO, brilliant!

  2. KDR_11k says:

    WANT!

    Between this and Vector Thrust it seems like cel shaded war machines are a new indie trend.

  3. RaytraceRat says:

    Idea sounds great, dev diary need a bit more enthusiasm :)

    • VikingZombie says:

      He literally almost talked me to sleep with the lack of enthusiasm.

  4. LionsPhil says:

    Haha, that walking animation.

    I guess it’s procedural and not at all ready yet, but the off-balance hover-feet fidgeting is comical.

    (More seriously, that shadowing is quite broken. Shadows don’t depend on the viewing angle…)

    • grundus says:

      What do you talk about? The shadows look fine to me, as he’s looking around the top half of the mech moves, hence the shadow moves. Got a bit bored and stopped watching after a couple of minutes (I can’t hear it right now, so) but what I saw looked fine.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I’m sure I saw the leg shadows move about too, but it’s possible I was thrown by the shape of the upper body.

  5. Dominic White says:

    You think movement is too heavy and slow? I don’t think it’s gone nearly far enough. The mechs in Chrome Hounds (which this is basically an indie remake of) were the size of battleships, and had petrol engines. They moved without grace, but a sense of terrible, unstoppable power.

    This feels a bit like Mechassault still.

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      tomeoftom says:

      Man, all I want is The Mech Sim in the same way that DayZ is The Social Collapse Sim, for PC, for a normal keyboard that doesn’t cost a shitload and thus excluse a million people, with a good tutorial, that lives on for a long time as more than a broken and inaccesible obscurity.

      I just want a heavy, horrible, creaking, overheating titan of desperate industrial death and I want to drive that shit around everywhere. I want to be able to have a round puncture through a weak joint and tear a high-pressure pipe in half, and to be able to get up out of my seat, clamber through the labyrinthine veins of the beast, and weld that fucking pipe shut with a torch that I hold in my hand. I want to lose my hearing from the sheer volume of the engine when the cockpit glass shatters. I want to be able to trip over my own severed mech arm and slam into the ground, stuck unless I can find a way to crutch the mech back up. I want to spend days designing a mech piece by piece, and have every component of it properly physically simulated and wired a la Garry’s Mod, but with contraints of resources and stuff like overheating and power distribution. I want a mech that fails, routinely, until you can hack together some wonky solution. It’d be completely open-world and continuous – as in you get out of your cockpit and have to climb to the floor to talk to people. To get raw parts, you’d scavenge by pulling some wreckage up with a winch and physically cramming it into your cargo cold, not magically absorbing a hovering fucking power-up. Like DayZ, with a vehicle that craps out and /that’s it/. Go get some coolant in a can. Get a pickup truck and bring back the heatsink replacements you need.

      Jesus, I want this game so badly and no-one wants to make it.

      • wodin says:

        Me too, Or a damn fine conversion of the tabeltop rules, I want what you want but on tactical level, with the sort of damage model your talking about in a War across a Galaxy. Where you manage and promote pilots, where your research and build your mechs, first by creating blue prints, then testing them in mock battle, then send them to the front.

      • Dominic White says:

        While not quite that crazy, CH was pretty hardcore. Probably moreso than the Mechwarrior series.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EISC-PqhWYY – Apologies for the awful genero-Youtube music.

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          tomeoftom says:

          That looks really awesome in terms of getting that aaaaaAAAAHGOD MACHINES vibe, but it makes me sad to see the way they have a health bar and just pop out of existence when their HP is used up. The slow and messy death is where it’s at. I’m not sure if you’ve played Cortex Command or Red Faction: Guerilla but it’s the messiness of their characters and buildings, respectively, that make them so great.

          The related video made my day.

          • Dominic White says:

            Only the AI ‘fodder’ mechs just explode like that. The Hounds themselves had full locational damage and various systems that could be knocked out – it was really involved stuff. Night fighting looked amazing, too.

            And yeah, the Planet Killer was hilarious – the result of a bug discovered in the mech-lab that allowed you to stack on way too many guns than should be possible. There was some sadly bullshit min-maxing even after patching, though, with people designing mechs with external armor plating covering up the cockpit entirely.

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            tomeoftom says:

            Ooooh, that sound amazing. Will probably spend all day looking at Chromehounds videos now; thanks!

  6. Jason Moyer says:

    Cel-shading has to be the most misused technical term I’ve seen in a long time.

    • mondomau says:

      Care to elaborate? Looks like cel shading to me.

      • Wedge says:

        Which is the problem. It was originally a specific method of gradiating your lighting to mimic the kind of lighting drawn in cel-animation. Instead it became a sort of catch-all term for anything cartoony looking, particularly anything that uses a black outline around the geometry. The lighting here is completely standard, nothing cel-shaded about it.

        • Jason Moyer says:

          Pretty much what Wedge said. Cel-shading is done to mimic 2 dimensional cel animation – Jet Set Radio being the most obvious example of this and the game that created/defined the technique. Zelda Wind Walker and XIII were also cel-shaded.

          Something like Borderlands uses normal 3-D rendering, they just used hand-drawn textures.

  7. Dreforian says:

    Anything inspired by Armored Core automatically has my interest although my preferences fall more into the constrained chaos method of customization. The creation in the screenshot looks like it wouldn’t just be hard to control, it would flat out tear itself apart eventually. Still, it could be fostered as a strength, like a hybrid of mech games and Burnout. See how many baddies you can wreck before you blow yourself to pieces!

  8. Brise Bonbons says:

    Hmmm. Intriguing, certainly, but it seems like an extremely ambitious project for a one-man shop. Best of luck to him, anyway.

    Personally I’m not really interested in a 3rd person mech game, it just doesn’t give me the sense of scale I want. Also I think I just want to be able to see the control panel with 30 million buttons.

    I’ll keep my eye on it, seems like a fun project.

  9. MythArcana says:

    It all comes down to hours of circle strafing. The Mechwarrior games all did the same thing because you can’t retreat without getting torn up and you can’t really charge forward in a linear fashion, either. The only offense/defense left is to circle strafe until your wrists snap.

    • wodin says:

      That is a major problem. I imagine if these things ever exist they’d be attacking at fairly long ranges, similar to the way tanks fight now. I expect if you end up close enough to have to circle strafe you’d both be very bad pilots.