MCL represents a sometimes dramatic shift from both the standard 'Spring'-engine indy game and RTS in general, as we have been inspired by many a different sources. It's no secret that the RTS genre is on a downwards slope, with only StarCraft remaining more-or-less relevant while other sub-genres-turned-full-genres have overtaken this classic game mode. So we've done our best to try and break new ground in terms of overall design.
Gameplay in MCL is straightforward in concept but very nuanced in practice. You control a formation of Battlemechs, fighting enemy players, seizing and holding strategic markers to wipe out your opponent's reinforcements. The number of units you can control at any one time is much more limited than most RTS games; games start with a limit of 4 Mechs, which can be increased to a maximum of 12 through heavy monetary investing.
Point-and-click mouse controls are utilized for this game. Like most RTS, moving your mouse to the edge of the screen will pan the camera while the scrollwheel zooms in/out. The best and easiest way to control the camera is probably by clicking the mousewheel; this toggles camera snapping and lets you pan around the map quickly.
When a match starts, players will have control of a single Nav Beacon - their Dropzone; this is the location their Dropship is assigned to land when it brings in reinforcements. You will have a menu containing all the mechs available to your chosen faction, and start matches with a pre-determined amount of money (C-Bills) with which to purchase your first Mechs. Once your 'order' is confirmed, your dropship drops from orbit, landing at your Dropzone-designated Nav Beacon to unleash your Mechs.
From there, it's all about tactically and strategically defeating your opponent. Capturing the neutral Nav Beacons spread out across the map is the primary method of ensuring victory; the more Nav Beacons you have compared to your opponent, the faster they will 'bleed' Command Tickets; one they reach 0, they lose.
Weight & Control Limits
At the start of a match players will be limited in the number of Mechs they can control, both the number and maximum weight. Every Mech's weight (in tons) is taken to account; this ranges from 20 tons for the lightest, to 100 tons for the heaviest. Players will be limited to 150 tons of weight, or 4 total Mechs, whichever comes first. So you could control a single 100-ton and single 50-ton Mech and be at the 150 ton limit; or control 4 Mechs of 35 tons each. There are ways to increase this limit via the C3 Array beacon Upgrade - see below.
Each time you capture a Nav Beacon (or neutralize an enemy Nav Beacon), you earn money. Every time you damage an opponent, you earn money. Every time you lose a Battlemech, you get a little bit back from 'insurance'. This money is used to buy new Mech contracts, upgrade conquered Nav Beacons with pre-fabricated Beacon Upgrades and call in Aerofighter sorties. You will also earn a small amount of C-Bills passively, a steady but small stream of income to help balance everything out. While this amount is rather tiny, over time it can add up.
Mechs have various aspects, attributes and abilities that you'll need to learn and master. Some are universal to all Mechs, others unique to a select few. As you only control a handful of units, this added complexity can be easily managed, but hard to master.
The Heat system in MCL operates similar to Battletech and most Mechwarrior games. Every Mech has a Heat Pool, the size of which differs from Mech to Mech depending on it's amount of heatsinks, and every Weapon generates Heat when it fires, the amount of which, again, differs from weapon to weapon. Non-ammo energy weapons usually generate more heat than their ammunition-dependant counterparts.
When a Mech generates Heat, it's colour-coded heat bar will appear letting you know exactly how hot the Mech runs. As long as the Mech stays below 75% maximum heat threshold, it'll operate fine. If it happens to go above that - many Mechs were designed to run "hot" - the Mech will automatically pace how often it fires, to try and keep it down. If it's Heat level manages to rise to 100%, it's emergency protocols will engage, and weapons will shut down until it falls back below 50%. There is currently no way to override this, but we may add this function in the future.
In summary, as your Mech engages enemies, keep an eye on its heat levels; you may need to turn some weapons off, or pull it out of an engagement to let it cool down.
Many weapons use ammunition, such as Autocannons, Gauss Rifles and Missiles. These generally produce less heat than their energy-based counterparts like lasers and PPCs -- that's the balancing factor, being able to maintain sustained fire better, but having an overall cap on the number of shots.
Ammunition levels are expressed on a unit's Info Card as well as visually around the Mech itself; you'll see its ammo go down every time it fires. When it runs out, that's it - the weapon will no longer fire, and you'll have to find somewhere for it to reload. This can be done via the Dropship, as it will automatically re-arm Mechs inside the Nav Beacon radius of your Dropzone (but only when the Dropship is actually there), or it can be done by upgrading a Nav Beacon to a Mobile Mechbay - a little machine that automatically repairs and rearms Mechs.
Many Mechs have special abilities other than simply moving and shooting things. These abilities can be toggled via keybinds (see below), or buttons in the Command Menu and/or Unit Card. These abilities, and their keybinds, are:
- Coolant Flush (Keybind: 'C'): Instantly dumps a large chunk of your Mech's heat, replacing it with fresh coolant. This can only be done a few times before it runs out.
- Radar On/Off (Keybind: 'R'): Turning a Mech's radar off makes it harder to detect (it will be virtually invisible to standard sensors), while simultaneously making it harder for that Mech to spot enemies (since it has no sensors!)and prevents it using lock-on missile weapons.
- Jumpjets (Keybind: 'J'): Mechs equipped with Jumpjets can make little (sometimes large) rocket-assisted hops. They can jump over hills, up or down cliffs, or just move quickly in a direction.
- MASC (Keybind: 'V'): MASC-equipped Mechs can sprint at faster-than-normal speed. Doing this generates a lot of heat, so be careful - you don't want to run into an enemy and find your heat maxed and thus unable to fire any weapons!
Along with these special abilities, other toggles for simple actions are also available, such as 'T' for Turn, 'G' for Guard/Defend, etc.
A Mech's weapons will be listed in it's Unit Card. This list is interactive - you can turn weapons on and off at your leisure. This is useful in helping Mechs manage their heat or conserve their ammo.
Nav Beacon Upgrades
As mentioned earlier, when you conquer a Nav Beacon (by standing a Mech inside its control area for a few seconds), you have the ability to upgrade it by dropping a pre-fabricated structure onto its location. These Upgrades cost C-Bills, and can give you some special benefits and abilities. To do this, you select the Nav Beacon itself, and get a list of upgrades to choose from. These include:
- Dropzones are the Nav Beacon assigned as the landing location for your Dropships; it will land here when you order new Mechs. If you lose your Dropzone Beacon it will automatically move to another available Beacon. If all your other Beacons are upgraded, you'll have to sell one of these Upgrades before assigning it as a Dropzone. You can assign a Dropzone to any Beacon at any time, but with a C-Bill cost and delay on your next Mech order.
- Garrisons don't offer any amazing benefits other than being an annoying brick-tanked bunker that your enemy will have to grind through before they can capture that Beacon.
- Vehicle Pads serve as secondary landing locations for non-Mech, vehicular forces; every 30 seconds or so a small landing craft will arrive to unload random vehicles for your faction - you can't control these units (you're a Mech commander! You command Mechs!) but they will patrol the map, pressuring the enemy's undefended beacons and being a nuisance.
- Mobile Mechbays as previously mentioned are a way to quickly re-arm and repair your Mechs away from your Dropzone.
- C3 Arrays expand your Command, Control and Communications capabilities - in other words, it allows you to control more Mechs. Each C3 Array built (you can build a maximum of 2) will add another lance (4 Mechs) that you can control, as well as increase your max tonnage.
- Uplink Relays serve as dedicated comms facilities for controlling orbital assets and unlock a variety of extra features. They will allow you to call in orbital strikes, dropping ordnance over a large area to damage anything within. They will also allow you to deploy small, automated weapons platforms. Lastly, they'll allow you to call-in Aerofighters from orbiting carriers, who will fly sorties over the map to bomb or strafe ground targets or intercept enemy aerofighters.
- Salvage Facilities contain all the equipment necessary to salvage undamaged components from destroyed Mechs and vehicles. This can give you a boost to your income, but the salvage vehicles they send out will be defenseless.
We hope this crash-course helps you in your first awkward and confused steps into the game.