Taking lessons: Revisiting Conquest in MWO

One thing I really like about WoWs is how their conquest game mode (called Domination) works. Whereas MechWarrrior Online's conquest can be described as "skirmish with distractions for inexperienced players", WarGaming actually managed to make people care about caps while also making killing viable. It's actually my favorite game mode in WoWs and every time I play it and I wish something similar was in MWO.

How World of Warships does it

They achieved this with a combination of mechanics:
  • First of all, the act of capping is handsomely rewarded. You can easily double your earnings by capping once or twice. This tempts ships of all kinds to get into the cap, sometimes even risking death. People who do nothing but go for caps can easily earn as much as a player who ignored caps and went for kills instead. A lot more if you do both.
  • Cap zones are pretty big, but just big enough to allow ships to brawl with enough space. They're not just tiny spots where you have to sit still to capture. You can easily move around and fight in them. They actually take up a decent chunk of the map, usually at chokepoints and dominant spots of the map. This way, capture zones become hotspots where the action revolves around on each map.
  • Since the capzones are big, capturing them essentially gives your team map control. You can fall back to the safety after capping, while your enemy has to extend and make a push to capture them. It also acts as an enemy detector.
  • Also, you decrease (or even reset) capture progress by shooting enemies inside the cap. This forces your enemies to play smart and only send nimble and less detectable ships inside. However, the amount of progress that is reset depends on how many enemies are inside. So if the whole enemy armada is capping, you can't stop it by simply shooting at them.
  • Now, the best of all; the scoring system. Take a look:
  • As you can see not only capturing nets us tickets, but so does kills. Killing an enemy carrier is extremely valuable and will give your team a +45 ticket boost, while removing 60 tickets from the enemy team. A team that ignores capping and focuses on kills can keep up with a team that only caps. Therefore you must carefully manage your aggression, fast ships darting off to caps and leaving slow Battleships (BBs) open to enemy flanks usually results in failure.
  • This scoring also allows skilled players to completely turn around a match from a disadvantage by getting multiple kills in a row from a disadvantaged position. This happens more often that you'd expect.
Overall, I find this game mode very engaging and enjoyable. It allows for multiple approaches in achieving victory and each ship class has a role. Fast destroyers zip around, spot enemies, capture zones and lay torpedo walls to keep enemies off of the caps. They put themselves in danger, but they're also handsomely rewarded for doing so. Cruisers act as support for destroyers (they can keep up) and Battleships act as ranged support with occasional push through caps (as I said, capping is very valuable). Epic comebacks due to the unique ticket system happens quite often.

How MechWarrior Online does it

This is the situation of the conquest mode in MWO right now:
  • The act of capturing does not bring much financially. You only get 2500 C-Bills for a capture and 50XP. Plus you get 100 C-Bills if you sit in the cap for a while. Absolutely pitiful rewards. 
  • The only useful reward come from actually winning by reaching 750 tickets, which nets you 56250 C-Bills plus 10.000 C-Bills for winning. However, the act of capping itself (=gameplay) remains unrewarded. As such, matches usually end by killing the whole enemy team and this full reward is rarely claimed.
  • Cap zones are very tiny which necessitate standing still for quite a while and you can't really fight inside them.
  • Cap zones are usually away from the natural map hotspots, that make for long traveling times and boring gameplay if you do intend to cap. 
  • Cap locations also essentially removes 'Mechs from the frontlines for quite a while (depending on 'Mech class), giving non-capping teams the numerical advantage and further reinforcing skirmish-like gameplay.
  • Therefore, the Conquest meta is essentially forming a deathball until you kill the enemy main force and spread around for caps afterwards while hunting for that occasional light 'Mech/disco. This means teams who actually send 'Mechs for caps actually gimp themselves because they'll be disadvantaged in the decisive engagement. People lament those who actually break off from the team for caps, sometimes even lights.
  • Scoring system is very rigid and also forgiving. 5 caps, each give you 1 points per second. Since the victor is usually decided during the decisive engagement that happens in the first 5 minutes, plenty of time time remains for the team to spread to caps and neutralize them. It takes tops 1-2 minutes for 3-4 'Mechs to spread around and neutralize everything even on the biggest map.
  • There's no clear "role warfare" in this gamemode. Every 'Mech is treated equally which is in stark contrast to WoWs.
So do we just copy paste WoWs Domination? Of course not. WoWs gameplay is much slower paced for once, so we can't copy-paste everything and expect it to work. But it really should inspire MWO developers to spice up this long-neglected gamemode. PGI nailed the 'Mech combat down, but the gameplay meta which the combat revolves around is very lacking. In fact, it's very hard to find people satisfied with gamemodes in MWO.

How would I do it?

This section is very subjective, but I will try and come up with a decent overhaul for MWO.

First of all the act of capping should be handsomely rewarded, not the final result. This means trimming down the "Conquest Bonus" you get at the end of the match and boosting the "Capture" bonus itself. Why should the whole team reap the rewards from the actions of a few idiots deciding to waste their time by running around? No, the guy who decides to run around capping should get what he deserves for his action. Coincidentally, when we reward handsomely for capping, this will result in more people deciding to cap. Which also means more action in and around the caps. So, capping itself will also result in combat and it will result in more enjoyable gameplay.

I propose a 30k C-Bills for each capture and 150XP. You also gain another 5k C-Bills if you capture the zone fully (full bar). This is a one-off reward that is only given for the first capture of that base. If the base was captured before (by the enemy), you get a "Recapture Bonus" for 15k C-Bills and 75XP to prevent abuse.

Secondly, we need to overhaul the caps themselves. I know MWO developers are going with the "capture resource extractors" theme for some kind of immersion. However how much immersion people get from standing beside a weird tractor in a tiny capture point is very questionable.

I really want capture points to be capture zones, areas that need to be dominated in order to be captured. They should create hotspots of action on each map. Teams should seek ways to dominate each caps with as few 'Mechs as possible while trying to sneak into the other teams' caps, block and distrupt them. Therefore, I want capzones to represent "areas of interest" on each map.

I also distinguished between big and small caps. Big caps cover more area, but they also give more points if captured. Small caps are well, much smaller. However there's still enough space for 'Mechs to maneuver and fight inside.

Here's what I mean in image form:

So docks and spaceport are the dominant, big zones that need to be held by both teams. Bridge is also considered a big zone and creates an area where it's high risk to capture, but also give a lead over the other team. Lastly there are two small caps one in upper city and one near the citadel which are meant to be used by flanking 'Mechs.

Obviously, we can't have 5 caps on each map. Some maps are just too big to create a meaningful distribution while keeping the action focused. Therefore the number of capture zones can be reduced for such maps, this will result in huge parts of those maps to be ignored. To alleviate this, there can be different Conquest versions of those maps with different zone distribution so the action happens at a different part each time.

Coming to capturing mechanics, I don't want to use WoWs' "reset capture progress if get hit" for MWO. Everything is much slower in WoWs with no hitscan weapons, so it works great in that game. Instead, I want to utilize a "numerical superiority" mechanic and it's really simple: The team which has more 'Mechs in a capzone starts capturing it. The more 'Mechs inside, the faster the capture occurs. So you can't block a whole cap with a single Spider hiding on a rooftop, but you can slow it down.

Lastly, tickets. Big zones give 2 tickets per second, while small zones give 1 ticket per second. Pretty simple. Victory limit is upped from 750 to 900 (subject to testing). However, I also copy WoWs' "death penalty" as well:
  • Light 'Mech kill: +30 tickets for your team, -45 for the enemy.
  • Medium 'Mech kill: +35 tickets for your team, -50 for the enemy.
  • Heavy 'Mech kill: +40 tickets for your team, -55 for the enemy.
  • Assault 'Mech kill: +50 for your team, -60 from the enemy.
So if a team decides to nascar and go for kills, they can do so and if they kill fast enough, they may be able to keep up with a team that decides to cap.

Obviously, this is just a quick suggestion but I imagine a gamemode like this would spice up the gameplay quite a bit.


Again, PGI nailed down the 'Mech combat with MWO but the gamemodes (with the exception of CW) are pretty basic and result in predictable and stale matches. I think Conquest is a great candidate to start experimenting with more complex gamemodes that offer each team a choice, rather than just meeting head on each time.
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About Rak

I'm an engineer who likes to write extremely long articles about games that border simulation and mainstream.
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