Today’s interviewee is one I’ve had on my list for quite a while now: kaffeangst. He’s one of the few pilots I hold in high enough regards to avoid or attempt to kill immediately; I’ve lost countless PUGs and more than a few of my own ‘mechs to his steady aim. Left unopposed, he’ll wreck your entire team in his Highlander.
He’s got the philosophy of a true competitor: rely on no one, fight smart, and carry hard. kaffeangst is a member of Hell’s Black Aces, but you’ll often find him dropping with the boys from DV8. His favorite things in MWO include popping lights, calling drops, and winning.
As far as tournaments go, he’s an absolute beast; I don’t think I’ve seen kaffeangst miss a leaderboard since the events started running. He doesn’t play for fun – he plays to dominate, and that’s exactly what he does:
Q: What’s the story behind your name?
When Battlefield 3 was released, I found myself searching for a new moniker. The name “kaffeangst” was suggested by my brother; it was unique and the meaning fit, so I stuck with it. In Scandinavian (Danish) it refers to consuming too much coffee. Many of the European MWO players have commentated on my name, as in German it can also mean – to be afraid of coffee.
Q: What is your history with Battletech?
Limited. In the mid-to-late 90′s I was exposed to the Mechwarrior 2 and Mechwarrior 3 video games. Ended up playing these, and then forgetting about the series until I learned of Mech Warrior Online. As for the board game or novels, I have no experience.
Q: What’s your preferred playstyle?
Drop commander. At the front-line, dictating strategies and calling out targets. It’s the role I’m used to as it’s my position in the Merc Corp. Team-work and communication is paramount; one must lead by example.
Q: What’s been your favorite time period in MWO’s development and why?
Match-Maker Phase Two, prior to the introduction of ELO. The game was fun, and I didn’t feel obligated to run an Assault mech every match. The ELO system is great in theory, but has failed to work, at least in my opinion. I’ll gladly face top-tier players every match, but not in the current state of weight-balancing. Now it’s “go-big, or go-home”. If you’re not running a Heavy or Assault mech, you’re likely to be out-tonned in the match. Personally, I go into the games expecting to see 8 Assaults; knowing that I’ll have to do high damage and take few hits in order to win. At least with Match-Maker Phase Two you knew exactly what you were going to face on the battlefield. Classes were balanced 1-to-1: if you had two Lights, they had two Lights. Win your battle, and you’d be free to help the rest of the team win their match-ups. I could feel confident taking a sub-optimal build or chassis and still be able to best my paired opponent. Now, my Commandos, Dragons, Awesomes, etc go unused, because they’re more detrimental to the team than beneficial.
Q: What are your favorite maps?
River City: both Day and Night versions. Great setting for brawling in team coordinated fire-fights. Usually the team that best utilizes cover and fire lanes will win. The city environment is well suited to both fast and slow mechs alike.
Q: How many ‘mechs do you own
Currently 53 mechs, 7 of which are Hero variants. I tend to keep any mech I purchase, and rarely will sell a chassis unless the variant isn’t viable.
Q: What’s your favorite?
HGN-732 – the mech I’ve used to win the last three tournaments. The Highlander is surprisingly mobile for a 90 ton Assault. Use the jump-jets correctly and you can spread damage well across all torsos, arms, and legs. Even with the minimum range of normal PPC’s it’s still good in a brawl. Find a way to separate from your foe using the mobility, and you can still deal damage close-range.
Q: What one ‘mech do you want to see come to MWO?
Maybe the Pillager. 100 ton Assault mech with jump-jets; standard variant comes with Dual Gauss Rifles, 4 Medium Lasers, 1 Large Laser.
Q: What is the most satisfying experience in the game for you?
One-shotting a circle-strafing Light mech.
Q: What’s one thing that makes you sweat?
Dropping solo during the tournament against a 4-man pre-made on the opposing team from one of MWO’s elite units.
Q: Clan or Inner Sphere
Q: Brawling or Sniping?
Ideally both, but with the current state of game balance, it’s sniping. In fact, before the Highlander was released in April, I didn’t own a “pop-tart” or sniping mech – now I have a few. One must adapt, so I built a typical Cataphract CTF-3D and Highlander HGN-732. Waiting for the SRM fix/buff to start brawling again. My Atlas D-DC brawler has been gathering dust in the mechlab for far too long. In terms of average damage per match, the D-DC still holds a lead over the HGN-732: 640 vs. 600 average.
Q: Cheese Build or Troll Build?
Neither. I build my mechs to be heat efficient and to be effective on the battlefield. You won’t find me wasting my time in a six PPC Stalker, six Large Laser Stalker, dual AC/20 Jagermech, or any typical all-or-nothing build. Too much risk involved, if you don’t have a proper team, these builds can be worthless in a match.
Q: Honor or Victory?
Victory at all costs.
Q: Mobility or Firepower?
Mobility. I’m always striving to build mechs with the largest engine possible, while maintaining an efficient/worthwhile loadout. This doesn’t mean I use XL engines at every opportunity – most of my mechs run standard. I won’t sacrifice survivability to increase firepower by a few points. Mobility will save you far more than extra firepower at the expense of speed.
Q: Tell me about your experience with Assault vs the World.
Participating in these tournaments regularly, it seems that each new challenge becomes easier than the previous. My strategy is to start early and establish a good baseline score; from there you can set about to improve. There’s no point grinding the first day/night because eventually the score will be surpassed – forcing you to repeat the process. Once placing atop the leaderboard on the first night, I called it, and waited until the morning to see if my position held. Saturday afternoon, I played for a few more hours, to increase the lead. After a masterful session of solo dropping (77 Kills / 4 Deaths | 27 Wins / 6 Losses) I figured that my score of 2258 on the Highlander board wouldn’t be threatened. Sure enough, the total held, and I didn’t have to play Saturday evening or the entire day Sunday. It would’ve been nice to have the Overall Assault score, but that’s not really a necessity in this tournament, so I didn’t chase.
One interesting aspect of solo-dropping for tournaments, is that my statistics actually tend to rise, instead of what most people would expect. By exercising caution and playing to win rather than to score well, one can match, or even surpass their 4-man numbers. Without having to share the kills and damage with unit members, I was able to average closer to 3 kills per match and maintain a 13.0 K/D in the HGN-732 during this tournament.
Q: I’ve seen you at the top of the assault leaderboards more often than not; what’s your motivation to compete?
If the scoring formula is acceptable, and not easily exploitable I will compete. I don’t compete to finish other than first. If I’m playing to my own standard, that shouldn’t be difficult to accomplish.
Q: How many hours did you invest in the tournament?
I ended up playing about 75-80 matches in the Highlander for the Assault leaderboard to achieve a score of 2094. Decided that after a Saturday spent watching the 24 Hours of Le Mans and competing, I deserved a break, so I didn’t play on Sunday. Logged in with a few hours to go, played four matches and increased score to 2106. Figured that was plenty. Logged off.
Sadly, I wasn’t fully prepared to compete in the Medium Leaderboard as well. Used my Centurion with a pair of Medium Lasers and SRM 4′s – damage was fine, but the finishing firepower was lacking. In the current state of the game, true SRM brawling Medium mechs are more of an annoyance than a real threat. Plenty of support and assists, not a lot of kills. Held both the #1 Medium and #1 Assault positions after the first day of play; I guess that’ll have to do, for now… I wasn’t about to buy a Hunchback 4P or Blackjack 1X in order to compete. Maybe next time.
Q: For the tournament, do you prefer dropping with or against skilled players when they’re in your round (if you had to pick)?
Dropping with a so-called “stacked” team during the tournament, one can often tell a matches’ outcome at the beginning. These type of one-sided matches are pointless, and the best thing to do is end it quickly and move on. The times when the teams are equally balanced provide good close battles, where each side is determined to do well for the tournament. Some of my best matches (score-wise) were against other top players. If I had to choose, I’d drop with skilled players on my side – a win is a win.
Q: Tell me a story about an awesome round.
Dropping on Canyon Network against a team with 5 Light mechs, including one BananaNutMuffins. Normally a sniper-loadout Highlander (with normal PPCs) will have trouble against swarming Lights, but I welcome the challenge. Finished the match with 7 Kills, 1 Assist, and 932 Damage. Cored the last Light mech, but someone “secured” the kill before I could follow-up and make it an 8 kill match.
Q: Do you have any particular strategy for racking up the high-point rounds?
I don’t change my style of play for the tournaments. Dropping solo is scary – you never know what the matchmaker will pair you with, mech-wise or player-wise. If I played aggressively, it’s more risk-reward. I’ll take a win and survival over a good tournament round any time. If at the end of the match, the score is good, then all the better. Playing solo, it is up to me to carry the rest of the team to victory, and I play the games accordingly. I won’t take unnecessary damage and waste heat/ammunition to chase one kill, if I can damage two more in the mean-time.
Q: What do you think of the current format and what would you change about it?
In my opinion, the scoring formula of the Spring Clean ‘Em and Medium vs. The World tournaments was the best thus far. Good balance between valuing kills and damage. With the last Heavy vs. The World tournament, they adjusted the value of assists and lessened the importance of outright damage. I was not a fan of this change. Do you know how difficult it is to “tag” all eight mechs on the battlefield with an Assault mech? Especially if the map is Alpine/Tourmaline with multiple Light mechs. The scoring formula should increase the significance of damage again, while maintaining the added value of assists. If they did, an individual could have a great tournament round score despite missing that last enemy mech.
Q: What’s your advice for future tournament competitors?
Don’t change your play-syle for the tournament alone. If you rush into firefights in search of damage/kills, you’re a determent to your team and fellow competitors. During the tournaments, you’ll often see players charge recklessly into battle; if they die, they immediately abandon the battle and switch mechs. This will often put the rest of the team at a disadvantage for the remainder of the match. Team-play > Tournament-play.
Q: Any plans for what you want to do for Community Warfare?
Lead my Merc Corps to a respectable position. We may not have the sheer numbers or raw talent to make it to the top, but we’ll give it our best shot.
Q: What do you do when you’re just playing for fun?
I don’t have fun playing MWO. It’s serious business. I play to win every match, and require the same of my lance-mates. If we’re winning, I’m happy, so I guess that’s fun enough for me.
Q: What are the top three things on your MWO wishlist?
Community Warfare. Weight-balanced Match-Maker. A working Host State Rewind system.
Q: Anyone you want to give a shout-out to?
Hell’s Black Aces (my Merc Corps) and DV8 with whom I play for on occasion.