Stomps are Normal or Why Most Players Don’t Understand Tiers, the Match Maker, Weight Class Balance, or Game Design Features

Time and again I see the same stupid complaints on the MWO Forum – ‘Match Maker is Broken‘, ‘Tiers are Broken‘, ‘Potatoes are Ruining MY Game‘, ‘Lights are OP‘, and other whiny crap. Now it’s a fair point that one purpose of forums is a place to give players who’ve been screwed over or had an unlucky streak a place to vent their feelings but that doesn’t mean that a total misunderstanding of vital game features is excusable.


Seriously. Tier has absolutely no relation to skill whatsoever. None, zip, nada, eff all. What tier represents is WEALTH. By which I mean total amount of c-bills earned ever. Each match rewards you with c-bills, experience, and a small increase towards the next tier (or occasionally a tiny step backwards). as you earn these rewards you are more and more capable of fielding optimised mechs, optimised meaning ‘fully kitted out with a decent build, 80+ skill tree nodes, suitable consumables, and a player familiar with it’s use‘. Each optimised mech costs many millions of c-bills and a large number of matches worth of experience (I’ll leave it to the stats experts to work that out).

There aren’t really any tier 5 players other than the rare newbie who has just started and is making a complete hash of it. Even a few moderate successes in your first few battles is going to put you at the bottom of tier 4. Thus we cannot expect that a tier 4 player has earned much in the way of c-bills or experience so is unlikely to have many optimised mechs. A tier 3 player however, after many matches, likely has at least one optimised mech and probably enough for a drop deck. Tier 1 and 2 players should have plenty of optimised mechs and sufficient wealth to have tried out different ideas and find the mechs and builds that are ‘just right’.

At no point does tier directly relate to skill, how can it possibly? Tier, total like c-bills earned, will slowly increase for even the worst players thanks to it’s built in upwards bias. Tier is never a measure of skill and attempting to conflate the two shows a lack of understanding of the game design. The only way to measure skill from tier is to see how fast/how many matches it takes for a player to climb from their first match to tier 1 and as that’s not a stat that’s recorded it’s thus impossible to know.


Really. Once you understand that tier is not skill then the match maker makes perfect sense by matching similarly wealthy players against each other. Players without optimised mechs and twenty odd matches fought shouldn’t be playing against players with a dozen or more optimised mechs and thousands of battles under their belts. Matching players based on their tier gives matches where all the players have fought a roughly similar number of battles and have earned a roughly similar amount of c-bills and thus should have a roughly similar stable of optimised mechs. It’s actually quite fair from a measurable point of view even though it takes no account of skill.

The particular implementation we currently have is however flawed, because the various tiers are too often mixed together. That doesn’t matter because…


Honestly. Stomps are normal. If you don’t believe me go play a few thousand World of Tanks matches… Good, now you’re back did you notice that stomps occur just as regularly in WoT as they do in MWO? This is because the game design of the two games leads inevitably to stomps occurring on a regular basis. Whenever you have an arena type game that features multiple players on each side (probably at least 6) and no (or limited) respawns the outcomes will always feature a large percentage of stomps. It’s the nature of the design. No respawns means that if a player makes even a single mistake they are out of the game and their side is down a player which immediately puts them at a disadvantage. This early disadvantage then rapidly snowballs into a stomp almost every time. In games where the player has ‘hit points’ and/or limited respawns there is some small measure of recovery but what that does is generally just delay the snowball effect until later.

There is always a tipping point, generally quite early in the match, where the outcome is pretty much decided bar some heroic or lucky comebacks. If we had the ability to analyse every game from every players viewpoint it would become obvious where and how the tipping point happened and I expect that it would usually be down to one or two players making one or two bad decisions or just getting unluckily caught out making a perfectly sensible decision.


I had to include this as it seems to be the same silly ass(ault) players who whine about tiers/match maker who also whine about light mechs. In table top Battletech assaults are definitively at a serious advantage, they have the most armour and the most weapons and the random hits make hard to take down. It’s usually only on heat where they suffer. Lights tend to be easily taken out even though they are generally fast and thus harder to hit. The TT rules favour heavier mechs and the lore is based on that:

Light < Medium < Heavy < Assault

MWO on the other hand is a completely different game because each mech in a match needs to be equally effective so that they are played equally and we do not end up with the situation where everyone is playing assaults but nobody can get a match. Thus  in MWO lights are as good as assaults:

Light = Medium = Heavy = Assault

Unfortunately a lot of the players of this game are hung up on the TT based lore and have a lot of trouble comprehending that for MWO the rules are different. Hitting a mech relies on actual player skill ratehr than random dice rolls and as lights are both fast(er) and small(ish) they are actually harder to hit a lot of the time. They can still be taken out by a single good shot, especially one from an assault wielded heavy ballistic. Even if they get close in they are still just as vulnerable especially if the assault mech is in company, keeping out of the firing arc(s) of an assault mech is not as easy as most assault mech favouring players say it is.


SORRY I CAN’T STOP SHOUTING BECAUSE I’M SO ANNOYED. Ahem. These are all basic game design elements that anyone with a lick of experience with this game should be able to understand, but time and again players come up with these silly complaints and even defend them to the hilt. It’s really time that these moaners should be mocked mercilessly.

Castle Tower Games Office

The offices of Castle Tower Games are located in a new high rise office building in the Edinburgh West Office Park in the Corstorphine district. The building is home to a number of other businesses and has excellent T1 internet connectivity allowing the game servers to be located here.

The servers are located high up the tower near the top whereas the MMO offices are near the ground.


Fiona Glendinning

Very pretty blonde personal assistant

Dave McIntosh

Software developer – back end

Rotund blonde and beardy goth nerd

Hates Apple products with a passion.

Scott ‘Don’t call me Scotty’ Jones

American game developer – client

Contracted talent nerd

Jason Golding

Game Graphics Developer

Arty Scottish nerd

Clan Crocodile Tears and Propaganda

There’s a certain type of character on the MechWarrior Online forum that are always complaining about how badly off their much superior mechs are. They deliberately cry crocodile tears and pretend to be sad in order to make sure not only that their precious mechs are not nerfed but that the other factions’ mechs are never as good and they’re a plague on any balance discussion.

In case you weren’t aware, dear reader, MechWarrior Online (MWO) is a game of giant stompy robots, aka mechs (short for battlemechs), and has been around in various forms since the eighties. The latest version is played online and is a first person arena battle game.

There are two main technologies in the game, the Inner Sphere (IS) is the ‘original flavour’ that the boardgame started out with. Some time later the Clans were added with new higher tech equipment that was much better than the original. In the boardgame they eventually balanced this out with a points system but MechWarrior Online doesn’t do this with the result that Clan mechs are significantly better than IS mechs.

Normally this isn’t a problem as the game mixed the factions when creating a random team to play a battle, but when faction on faction play gets involved the difference becomes quite obvious.

MechWarrior Online players tend to fall into a couple of stereotypes: older players who started with the boardgame favour the IS mechs, a bunch of which are copied from various manga TV shows of the eighties. Younger players, who cut their teeth on the various incarnations of MechWarrior games, tend to favour the clan mechs featured in those games. Naturally there’s a bunch of people who like both types of mech but we’re not going to talk about those weirdos!

So when the older, IS favouring, players come to the forum to complain that their mechs are getting hammered, the younger, Clan favouring, players get stuck in too, and within their numbers are members of a secret clan: Clan Crocodile Tears.

Members of Clan Crocodile Tears are out to make sure that the Clan mechs are always the best, regardless of wether or not that’s good for the game. They want to maintain, or even improve, the face wrecking advantage that Clan mechs already have thanks to the poor design of the game.

So Clan Crocodile Tears are always coming up with weaksauce propaganda about how the very minor drawbacks that Clan mechs have are so overwhelmingly important that they outweigh all other considerations.


When clan mechs lose one side of their engines they are not destroyed but IS mechs are – but clan mechs get an awful 20% movement penalty when that happens which more than balances it out.

Actual Quote – ‘Omnimechs are inferior to Battlemechs in MWO because of the rigid locked equipment that you have to build around instead of being able to full customize’. Yet all clan equipment is lighter and uses fewer slots than IS meaning you can mount a lot more weapons on those omnimechs while being faster and more agile…

So I’ve drawn up a logo for this clan that shows a crocodile head in front of a blue banner of tears over a sea of salty tears that wash over the forums:

Here’s some more bonus quotes and propaganda, now with videos:

‘A pilot with an IS mech who knows how to play it doesn’t have much problems versus clan mechs. Since I started playing this game, clans have been nerfed constantly, but we adapt to the changes and get it done. So maybe you IS dudes think about improving your play style instead of blaming tech differences that are supposed to be there?’

‘Our concern is getting our asses handed to us because we can not match ton for ton with the IS during faction play due to our gutted drop decks on both scout/invasions.’ Lances107

‘by the skill tree… It seems like every IS mech is transforming into assault tanks!’


Rogue One Review with Warning and Spoilers!

Just to fill some space before I get onto the topic at hand it’s well worth warning parents with children that the UK certification for Rogue One (12A) is possibly a bit low, it’s almost a (15), so definitely shouldn’t be seen by anyone under 12 and sensitive kids over that age may find certain themes within the movie to be disturbing. If you’re not sure, go see it first before letting your kids see it.

Rogue One Movie Poster

So I squeezed in a viewing of Rogue One and it is an excellent movie but it’s also nothing like a typical Star Wars movie while having all the ingredients (bar one) that we’ve come to expect.

As we all know the original Star Wars movie, with it’s U rating, is basically a war movie, combining elements from ‘The Dam Busters’ and ‘633 Squadron’, as well as influences from a diverse range of films such as ‘The Hidden Fortress’.

Rogue One goes back to the war movie influences of Star Wars to provide the drama too.  Unlike the 1977 movie the sources here are more like the shocking opening sequences of  ‘Saving Private Ryan’, the hell on earth of ‘Cross of Iron’, and the end of the recent ‘Fury’ movie.

There’s a great cast of eminently likeable misfit warriors from the morally torn Cassian (Diego Luna), the overly frank droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), the blind monk Chirrut (Donnie Yen), and his best friend the heavily armed Baze (Wen Jiang), to the supremely talented Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). They get up to all sorts of hijinks in pursuit of the McGuffin of the movie, the plans for the Death Star.

It seems, at first like any other Star Wars movie, a series of adventures and escapades, set backs and breakthroughs, leading to the inevitable win for the good guys and a happy ending as they ride off into the sunset.

and then we hit the third act…

To be frank it’s a fucking slaughter. Everyone, every single likeable character, everyone, dies one by one and the only thing resembling a sunset is a nuclear fireball. There. Is. No. Happy. Ending.

It’s a complete change of tone for a Star Wars movie, halfway through the slaughter you’re starting to wonder what the fuck is going on, and then they lift your hopes as one of the characters comes back from the dead, only to plunge a knife into your heart as the film’s relentless death toll keeps going up and up and up.

We’ve gone from war film to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and on to Cabin in the Woods and Dr Strangelove.

I’m not  sure I can watch it again. Don’t take your kids.

Stack Exchange is the Worst Place Ever to Ask a Question

For my new campaign I wanted to get a word similar to Necromancer that I could use as a Class name as Necromancer has been overdone. So I asked a question on Stack Exchange but I should have known better. One hour later and the question has been down voted to oblivion, closed, and a minor war has erupted in the comments:


There is something deeply, deeply wrong with the majority of people who answer questions on Stack Exchange, they’re rude, opinionated, pedantic beyond all reason, and just complete failures at answering questions, which is the one thing that they should actually be useful for.

This is not the first time I’ve tried to ask a simple question on Stack Exchange, I’ve been similarly horrified several times in the last year or two and always deleted the question as soon as possible. This time I decided not to use my own Stack Exchange ID and simply use a throwaway email address. Thank goodness.

There is something terrible that has happened to Stack Exchange, the inmates have taken it over and they are a seriously toxic group of unpleasant people.

Wildstar, not so Wild and not so Shiny

I’ve been playing Wildstar for a week or so now and I’m starting to think that it’s not all that. It doesn’t do anything ‘new’ just attempts to use all the popular stuff that everyone else has done and spin it with attitude.

Which would be fine for a free to play MMO but this is a full price subscription game and in the current gaming climate I think that most people will want something new and interesting in order to pay for a subscription not recycled concepts that are put together nicely.

It’s not that Wildstar is a bad game it’s just that it lacks a certain something to make it a total winner in my book. It’s bland and a bit boring.

A Million Years from Home

A million years from home ReRebekha Windmourner sat on a lump of rock gazing out over the ancient plains and shielding her eyes against the sun. A little ways away, in a muddy stream, the professor was exclaiming over some large footprints left in the mud while the ape looked on in patient puzzlement.

Raising her musket at a shadow on the sky Rebekha relaxed after a moment. The thunder lizards could be dangerous and even for an experienced shooter like her it could take several well placed shots to down a moderately sized one. That gave the faster ones plenty of time to get close so the sooner they were spotted the better.

In many ways Rebekha was glad to be away from the charnel house stink of the beachhead. Although it was dangerous for small groups out in the wilds at least it was better than herding enormous lizards into the slaughterhouse, which is why she had jumped at the professor’s offer of employment.

It was only a few more weeks until Rebekha and her ape friend would be able to ship out with enough cash in hand to pay for repairs and hire crew for another venture. This time, she vowed, things would be different.

DDO Traps by EllisDee37

This is from a post by EllisDee37 one of the best forum contributors I have seen:

The traps in DDO are marvels of game design. For a long time when I started playing, I thought an area was trapped and the animations were just window dressing. I was wrong.

The individual elements of the traps are very finely designed. You can maneuver in between blades/spikes/whatever or time them to avoid all damage completely, no saving throws (or evasion) needed. Some specific examples:

Some spinning blades spin for a few seconds, then fold up and disappear into the ground for a couple seconds, then come back out and start all over again. When they disappear in the ground it is safe to run through that area. If there are many spinning blades of this “disappearing” variety, watch them for a minute or so and you’ll invariably see a pattern to their specific design that allows a safe path through them with proper timing.

Other spinning blades move while they spin. In almost all cases, their movement opens up safe pathways through even without waiting for them to fold up and disappear, since not all moving blades disappear.

Spike traps are the most obvious traps with safe lanes. Once activated, it is trivially easy to move between the rows of spikes to avoid all harm.

Guillotine-style blade traps have a fixed timing pattern. Watch them for a bit to see if there’s a longer pause at any point. If so, use that longer pause to navigate through. If not, well, it’s a video game, time to dust off your fine motor skills. heh. You can get through without it hitting you.

Most jet traps (acid, fire, poison, etc…) can simply be jumped over. As a general rule, the closer to the wall the jet is coming from the less high your jump needs to be. Stock up on jump potions from the market and you should be good to go.

Dart traps are similar to spike traps but the safe lanes are a bit less forgiving.