Right now I've been on an almost 3 months break from MWO and honestly, I needed it. Yes, the combat and the core gameplay is simply amazing but the ugly stuff around it eventually gets to you. My last break was in May last year which lasted about two months.
Now after a few months have passed, I can see the "ugly" parts that frustrated me are more apparent and repulsive. For me they are in order of annoyance:
- Ridiculous amount of downtime between matches. Saving 'Mechs takes forever (30 seconds minimum for me), matchmaking takes at least a few minutes when I play, 30 seconds for voting and you wait another 60 seconds when you load because there's always that guy who disconnects/can't connect. My Alt+Tab keys have worn out from tabbing out so much. Also the UI is not very user friendly even after many iterations. I don't even mention module and engine hunting. I calculated this once by watching my VODs; you spend about 30-40% of your MWO time dealing with these. Much much more if you're in a group and you're waiting for others to ready up.
- PGIs "wait and see" approach to balance is simply frustrating. Their designers are extremely unresponsive and won't interact with/give explanations to the community unless they mess up in a spectacular fashion. How many years did it take them to touch AC2s? Flamers are only getting attention now after being irrelevant for years. ECM range halved after 4 years? Not even mentioning their Infotech implementation. God knows when they'll make MGs worthwhile again. /u/mcgral18 has written how easy it is to iterate on these by editing XMLs. Quirks are much better than last year, but there are still a lot of 'Mechs that are mostly irrelevant unless you like torturing yourself (Vindicators, Kintaros, Trebuchets, Cataphracts, Dragons, Victors, Mist Lynx and so on).
- The solo matchmaker is murderous. It's insanely frustrating to be placed with a bunch of pilots who lack the basic tactics for each map and for their own 'Mechs. MWO combat is very unforgiving and all it takes is a single derpy Assault pilot to mess up and you're looking at something of an 80% loss chance. Especially in a 12v12 environment where numbers matter and focus fire is vaporizing. You're always expected to carry your team and that means no fun time with your Commandos, Spiders, Awesomes and such. Tier system is a joke and it's too compressed to separate players properly,
- Speaking of which, the 'Mechs feel fragile. The main attraction of this game for me is because its has longer TTK than your average shooter. Longer TTK means more action and more time for skilled players to make their difference. More time to outsmart and not just MLGeesus right through their CTs in a few seconds. Right now, I rarely feel like I can take hits in my 'Mechs. You either go fast and dodge shots or go slow and make sure you shoot first. Most heavies/assaults run an at least 40-50 point damage alphas and all it takes is a single alpha to ruin your match with little you can do to come back. The TTK has been getting constantly getting worse over the years and only recently PGI did act on it (with structure buffs and quirk nerfs) but it's still too little. The first big jump was from 8v8 to 12v12, which increased the amount of firepower on the field significantly and it only got worse when they slowly fixed their crude netcode and people actually started applying those alphas.
- Group queue is equally frustrating. The competition is much more cutthroat here and matches generally take even less time (2-3 minutes on average at higher levels/with big groups). Big groups steamrolling smaller groups is not fun. Tryhards farming casual groups is not fun. Close matches are extremely rare. Wins don't feel like hard-earned since they mostly come in such an overwhelming way. You rarely get to enjoy an action-filled 15 minute match.
- Game modes are uninspiring and they all play the same. There are no official solo or team ranked queues. Absolutely no goal other than collecting 'Mechs, buying stuff and grinding. Community competitive stuff is a remedy, but not a complete solution. Faction Warfare is still the place where big groups farm pug teams and the whole map screen/factions do not matter one bit.
- As I said, once you get a decent 'Mech stable and a certain skill level, there's not much else to do (not that I think PGI cares because you've already given them so much money by then). Going competitive and entertaining self with the community drama is not a preferable option for some.
- The people. This game can be really heavy on your nerves and most people just can't handle it. Especially the losses can be so frustrating, since when you lose it's very easy to get into that "WHAT A TEAM BRO" mentality. Which includes the very teammates you're on with in Teamspeak that makes for a very awkward atmosphere. In every single group I've been in, there are always those guys who get sour after a loss/loss streak and I just don't want to listen to their moaning or worse, passive-aggressive stuff. It's so hard to find decent people (skill and mentality both) who enjoy the game for what it is.
- Competitive matches (of the dozen or so MRBC matches I've been in so far) have been incredibly stale. The meta when I was playing was to do snipy ERLL/Gauss shenanigans and just do whatever you can to deny the enemy a proper engagement. Yeah my team won our bracket, but most of us were left with a very "meh" impression of the competitive scene. Perhaps it's better now, I don't know. Though I'm sure people have come up with equally boring ways to maximize their chances to win/draw.
- The game is pretty demanding on the hardware and is not very optimized for low-end stuff. I recognize that this is my own problem for not having a better PC, but it's something PGI should have put more emphasis on nevertheless.
- No option to replay your matches. It's not a problem for many but for me, I want to record and publish those awesome moments from each match just like I can do on WoWs. It's just a great tool to get creative. This game looks amazing in third person/spectator view at high settings and we rarely get to see it. It's especially a shame because we're forced to use lowest graphics settings to be competitive.
- PGI's interaction with content creators. Holy cow, I've been putting out regular MWO content for years and there are many others around who are doing a great job, but PGI has never made an effort to at least confirm our existence. I really don't know what Tina does up there other than just carrying the title (and streaming occasionally). Absolutely no presence on Twitter, Forums, Reddit, YouTube. A few attempts to communicate with her were simply ignored. It always felt like they just outsourced the community management to NGNG("the unofficial official") ever since Niko was fired. Not that they're doing a bad job, but this ambiguity is hurting the community. When they offer something, you question if they're doing it to profit themselves (since they're not officially affiliated with PGI other than contract work) or really for the community itself? Stuff like Smurfy's Mechlab (which is absolutely essential) isn't even mentioned on the MWOmercs Community page, while NGNG gets to cover half of the screen plus a link to their latest podcast?
I tried a few times during the past weeks, but it just won't stick. The ugly is still too much. It's especially hard if you've been playing something else that does a much better job at these.
Hopefully I can ignite that MWO fever again, but right now, it's not happening. Probably not unless PGI shows an effort to do something other than new 'Mech packs.
Instead, I've been playing World of Warships and I've been having a lot fun. Probably because I haven't played it for 4 years exclusively and its flaws haven't poked my brain long enough yet. So far, so good.