I like giant robots. I like them a whole, whole lot, actually. But let's be honest here: their titanic clashes are nothing without heaping helpings of human intrigue. They need us and our elaborate, hilariously political squabbles as much as we need their impossibly large arsenals and devil-may-care approach to dealing with skyscrapers. Back in the day, single-player was the perfect middle ground between those exceedingly admirable goals. Now, though – as Piranha president Russ Bullock explained during GDC Online – things are a bit more complicated. Not to mention more expensive. A lot more expensive.
“I'd love to,” he told RPS when asked if Piranha's hoping to return to MechWarrior's single-player roots. “I mean, I think we'd all love it. I just think that it's really tough. The industry has made that tough. You know, what people expect today for a single-player game [is much more complicated than previous MechWarriors]. I've almost at times lost ties with some of my friends that the current state of the industry is almost the death of the single-player game. Now it feels like unless it's the latest Call of Duty, Halo, Assassin's Creed – each publisher may have one brand they put that kind of money into to make that single-player experience – [it's a huge risk]. I mean, it costs tens of millions of dollars to make a good single-player campaign now.”
Bullock and co are not, however, giving up hope before the battle's even really begun. But, unlike the metallic behemoths that butter its bread, Piranha's taking baby steps.
“We would love to believe we'll have enough success with MechWarrior Online that it will allow us those kind of opportunities. There's probably some in-between opportunities that we can take as a step to get there. One of them is, of course, the game we're making, but also looking at adding PVE encounters to MechWarrior Online. That's a half-way step of giving players the opportunity to play against AI with friends. And after that, you know, we'll see where things take us.”
“I'd love to see a big, new ten hour single-player campaign for MechWarrior.”
We also discussed the possibility of modding, another old-school MechWarrior cornerstone, and Bullock's response was similarly cautious – but with a glimmer of (largely decorative) hope.
“It's just really difficult in a PC free-to-play game to have the community make content and decide how and which ways that content will go into the game,” he said. “[Modding] is something we've thought about and we keep thinking about. We're looking into fan-made content that can be voted into the game. I think we even have a really small test case coming out soon with player unit decals. We're putting a system in place where players can upload their own custom decals to our customer support team. And then we can approve the decals so they can actually be put into the game. So that's kind of a first test, a first step to player-made content. We'll see where it goes from there.”
So it's a slow build, but to what? At this point, we can't really know. The intention's obviously there, and – based on a rough-around-the-edges but very promising beta – so is the talent. As for how they'll put those things to use, well, that all depends on MechWarrior Online, I suppose. Meanwhile, Bullock's counterpart, the President of Piranhas, has yet to comment.