After years in the doldrums as Microsoft plundered FASA for all they were worth (read: not much), MechWarrior is coming back, courtesy of Smith & Tinker
The interestingly named studio (named for the Oz characters) is the new studio Jordan Weisman set up after leaving FASA, essentially making it FASA 2. S&T subsequently picked up the license to use all of the old FASA properties (including Crimson Skies & Shadowrun) which are still under Microsoft ownership despite the original studio closing.
MechWarrior is the first fruit of this deal and will be arriving on Xbox 360 & PC (presumably featuring Games for Windows: Live). Work on the game is being done in collaboration with Piranha Games and a pretty impressive trailer is after the cut, along with the IGN preview which broke the news.
July 8, 2009 – MechWarrior fans have been hoping, praying and anticipating a new game in the famed franchise ever since the last expansion pack for MechWarrior 4 was released in 2002. Now, seven years later, their prayers have been answered. IGN has the very first details about MechWarrior reboot that is currently in production at Smith and Tinker and Piranha games. Yes, that’s right, reboot. Instead of this game becoming MechWarrior 5, the developers have decided to completely re-launch the entire franchise, calling this new title MechWarrior.
We spoke to the two main players involved with MechWarrior. First there’s Jordan Weisman, co-founder of Smith and Tinker and co-founder of FASA, the company that created the BattleTech universe that MechWarrior is based upon. Second is Russ Bullock, president of Piranha Games. (For an in-depth discussion of the reboot and how it fits in the franchise, check out our exclusive interview.)
You may remember the MechWarrior games published by Activision, MicroProse, and Microsoft. The latter actually acquired FASA Interactive in the 1990s only to shutter the studio in 2007. However, the software giant retained the rights to the MechWarrior franchise. After leaving Microsoft, Weisman engaged in various pursuits before founding Smith and Tinker in 2007. That same year, Smith and Tinker acquired the rights to many FASA properties from Microsoft, including MechWarrior.
This new MechWarrior is set on the planet Deshler in the year 3015, and places players in the role of Adrian Khol, a wayward nobleman who prefers partying and shirking responsibility over his training and studies. However, when House Kurita launches a massive invasion to conquer Deshler, resulting in the death of his entire family, Khol discovers a purpose to fight for.
There are ambitious plans for this new MechWarrior. The original MechWarrior games were limited by technology; now with modern computing power, the developers are hoping to really capture the sense that you’re piloting a giant, walking war machine in the middle of an incredibly dynamic battlefield. While the two companies are still talking to potential publishers that could determine the final production budget, Weisman and Bullock explained that they plan to have a full single-player campaign, as well as support for a four-player co-op campaign, and a full multiplayer suite.
One of the key features is a sense of information warfare, using everything from unmanned drones surveying the battlefield from above to light scout mechs relaying information to teammates. Weisman and Bullock both explained how they want every class of mech to really matter in this game; it’s not just a race to the heaviest, most powerful mechs. The designers want to reward you for picking a mech and sticking with it — you will gain experience and become better at piloting your chosen mech, and that will translate into better accuracy and damage with weapon systems. This way, a player could specialize in a light mech throughout the entire game if they choose. It also means there are multiple playthroughs with different mechs. The developers also said the game will change based on your chosen mech class.
While the developers didn’t go into how many mechs will make the game, based on the video trailer and the discussions, we know of at least four. There’s the Jenner (light class), both the Warhammer and the Rifleman(heavy class), and an Atlas Prime, a feared assault-class mech.
The game is being developed for the PC and the Xbox 360, though there isn’t any idea of a release date yet, since the game is still in the middle of development and the companies are still talking to publishers. For more information, read the interview with Weisman and Bullock. We also dissect the trailer in a Rewind Theater. Check out the gallery for the very first screens of the game anywhere. Finally, keep checking back with us as we keep a very close eye on this exciting new project.