Interview with John Nguyen on Heavy Gear Assault

Hey everyone. This time I have an interview with John Nguyen, once of Heavy Gear’s Dream Pod 9 and now Vice President of Stompybot; publisher of developer MekTek‘s new project: Heavy Gear Arena.

Ron: I last saw an update on Heavy Gear Assault in a video last year from the 2013 Game Developer’s Conference where a demo version of the game could be played. What’s changed between then and the new alpha test about to launch?

John: We’ve come a very long way since GDC 2013. Back then, we unveiled a very early prototype of our game running in Unreal Engine 4. This was a feat in and of itself because the engine was still evolving. Since then, the engine has gone through a number of updates. We have continued to polish our core game mechanics and implemented key features such as internal skeletons to the Gears that can be damaged independently, the Gear’s unique movement systems as well as general combat mechanics.

Ron: I take it you mean the Secondary Movement System (motorized wheels or treads in the Gear’s footpads used for high speed movement over flat terrain). What’s involved with the Alpha test?

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I’ll say this, the backgrounds look pretty amazing, especially compared to 2013′s prototype.

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Review of Star Traders 4X: Empire in Exile

Having mainly missed PC gaming in the ’90s (with a few exceptions) I only recently discovered the 4X empire-building sub genre. According to the Wikipedia entry, 4X is described as: “a genre of strategy-based video and board games in which players control an empire and “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate”. The term was first coined by Alan Emrich in his September 1993 preview of Master of Orion for Computer Gaming World. Since then, others have adopted the term to describe games of similar scope and design.”

Empires in Exile, like Star Traders RPG before it, is a 2D grid-based game set in space. Unlike RPG where you navigate established shipping lanes and take jobs or explored colonized or surveyed worlds, this time you are the hand that establishes and guides an empire of your own. It seems similar in scope and concept to BattleTech’s Interstellar Operations, if it were played during the Star League era since you are essentially the Star Lord. Different factions within your empire quarrel, sometimes with trade restrictions or clandestine operations. And sometimes with open warfare. Either way, it’s in your interest to quell the problems at home while expanding your empire.

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RetroWarrior: Heavy Gear

It wasn’t long after the last expansion pack for MechWarrior 2 hit disc drives across the US when gamers-our teeth newly cut on 3D graphics, craved more. Even though I had no PC of my own yet at this time, I’d had dozens of hours of time running ‘Mechs. Then I ran into something called Heavy Gear, and my PC-imbued friends began to be mooched upon once again.

The first Heavy Gear was released in 1997 by Activision; fresh off their MechWarrior 2 game. HG1 used quite a bit of MW2 Mercenaries source code sound effects, and other features, so for us MechWarrior freaks it was a rather smooth transition considering ‘Gears are more like protomechs in size and loadout.

Can't get enough mid '90s combat 'mech action? Gear Up!

Can’t get enough mid ’90s combat ‘mech action? Gear Up!

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New MegaMekLab Release

On July 4, the developers announced a new release of MegaMekLab version 0.1.29.  While the new version does not squash a lot of bugs (just 5) it has been altered to work better with the latest stable version of MegaMek.

MegaMekLab is a java-based freeware program that allows you to build various units, such as BattleMechs, Infantry and Vehicles, and those can be transferred to MegaMek. Add your favorite designs to the latest stable version of MegaMek. And get your Mek on!

MechAssault: Phantom War

MechAssault: Phantom War. This is a game I actually picked up and own to this day for my Nintendo DS. Instead of the masculine no-named Wolf’s Dragoon MechWarrior from the first two games, the player gets Vallen Brice, A multi-talented pilot from the Lyran Alliance. Her unique (from a video game perspective) blend of technical and physical skills in addition to her affinity for piloting ‘Mechs leads me to believe that Brice is a Loki agent, though I don’t specifically remember it coming up in the game itself.

I also think it’s an interesting departure from other games from within the BattleTech Property from this time. The FedCom civil war was still very much a thing. And with games like MechWarrior Vengeance, Black Knight, and MechCommander 2, House Steiner was very much a vilified organization. I like that instead of going with a Mercenary or Davion protagonist. Though it would be more refreshing still to see some even more underutilized factions in a video game. I digress.

Mobile Kit Fox action. Unless you have an Apple Product you won't find better for now.

Mobile Uller action. Unless you have an IOS device you won’t find better for now.

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Product Review : Technical Readout : 3145 Republic of the Sphere

product-TRO3145LyranCommonwealth_09de_cIn this edition of Product Reviews, we take a look at Technical Readout : 3145 Republic of the Sphere, the last of the faction TROs in the 3145 series covering the late “Dark Age” era.

The Republic of the Sphere is somewhat unique in that there was no equivalent whatsoever in the “pre Jihad” era. We had years to become accustomed to the Successor States, ComStar, the Clans, the major mercenary units and the Periphery States. Even the Word of Blake itself was a faction that slowly built up to be the ultimate big bad. They all developed their own identities, and they all had their fans among the community. Heck, I’m sure somewhere there were players who decided Clan Fire Mandrill was their cup of tea. It’s all good. The Republic of the Sphere, however, is a different animal. We got a glimpse of it when MechWarrior: Age of Destruction was an active system, and then it was effectively defunct until the “current” Classic BattleTech line moved into the “post Jihad” era. Even then, after the 3085 releases (including a Technical Readout and Field Manual) we received few updates on the Republic itself, due to the Fortress Republic. We heard a good bit about how bad things were in the former Republic, but virtually nothing from behind the wall. Having never read the Dark Age novels, I don’t have much of a connection to this faction.

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A Hobby Project: Clan Coyote Star

Inspiration

I recently found myself with three leftover Clan ‘Mechs. They didn’t make it into my Ghost Bear or Jade Falcon forces, so I sat them on the shelf and started looking through Clan RATs (Random Assignment Tables) from a few different books to see what kind of theme of which they might be the start.

After a little bit of searching, I came upon an opportunity. One of my favorite OmniMechs since I first saw it is the Savage Coyote, but not really having much of an interest in the Homeworlds Clans, I had never had the opportunity to pick one up. The three ‘Mechs for which I was trying to find a home were a Guillotine IIC, a Highlander IIC, and a Timber Wolf from the latest Intro Box Set. Seeing all of these ‘Mechs on the RAT for Clan Coyote, I saw my chance to finally get a Savage Coyote, and I immediately went to Iron Wind Metals’ website to see about filling the remaining spots in what was now designated as a Clan Coyote Star.

The Savage Coyote was an easy pick, and though I had to pay the archive fee, I thought the extra price would be worth the payout for the project.

The remaining spot in the Star came down to a choice between two ‘Mechs, a Rabid Coyote and a Septicemia. I like both ‘Mechs a lot, and I really wish I could have added them both to the roster. But I only needed one of them, so I did a little re-reading about Clan Coyote and ultimately came to the conclusion that the Septicemia was the better ‘Mech to fill the spot.

I liked it more for a few reasons. First, it contributes to the Star being a little heavier overall, which is a Clan Coyote trademark. Also, it put the composition of the Star at three OmniMechs and two BattleMechs, also a hallmark of Clan Coyote, who is known for fielding a large percentage of OmniMechs. Also, I really liked the idea of throwing in the slightly controversial design. Being associated with the Society, the Septicemia (also known as the Pariah) is the only ‘Mech chassis associated with the Society that is still approved for use by the Grand Council after the Wars of Reaving.

All of this culminated into placing a minis order from Ironwind Metals and a small hobby supplies order from The War Store.

The Project

I am not a master level painter. I usually paint for what I consider to be “tabletop standard,” so for the more serious hobbyists and painters who may read this, I know I cut a lot of corners (I don’t mind mold lines!), don’t pay attention to enough details, and rush through several steps. Here, along with pictures, is the story of my Clan Coyote Star Project.

1. Assembly

PrimerCoat2

The first step was to get them put together and primered. I used the Army Painter Primer and Basecoat in Crystal Blue for this step. My plan was to use Army Painter’s Quickshade product for this project, so I counted the spray primer as the basecoat for these models and did not paint on an extra coat. As you will see in the next few pictures, I use a Hobby Lobby brand acrylic paint for my miniatures.

2. Colors

Colors

In this step, I picked out the parts that I wanted to be metal as well as applied grey and a few other colors to match the chosen scheme. The Silver color was a bit brighter than I would have liked it to be, and I was curious to see how the Quickshade would tone it down. The paint scheme for the Star is derived from Clan Coyote’s Alpha Galaxy, with the noted exception that I did not include the double stripe that is usually painted down the left torso and leg of each ‘Mech. After doing a rather bad job on one of the minis and having to cover it up, I decided that I did not have the patience to try to do that part of the paint scheme well, and I skipped that part of the scheme in order to have the minis look a little better.

3. Quickshade

Quickshade

This was the part of the process about which I was most nervous. I had never used Quickshade before, but I did know one thing: I was not going to dip the minis. I elected instead to paint it into the minis, and I ended up letting them dry for over 48 hours. I’m sure they would have been fine with the recommended 24 hour drying period, but I was unable to get back to the project for two days after this step. I was very pleased with how the Quickshade worked, giving a good, worn shading effect to the models.

4. Finishing Touches

Finished1

After some basic basing, which included just painted the bases brown and using some simple flock, I applied a coat matte varnish. I didn’t use the Army Painter matte spray, just some generic spray that I’ve had around for a while, but I don’t think the result was any different.

Finished2

The matte varnish muted the shiny Quickshade nicely, and I think the minis turned out looking like I spent far more time on them than I did.

Finished3

Overall, I am very pleased with how this project turned out. I will probably take a little more care as I launch into painting my other units, but I am not at all disappointed with anything about how the Coyote Star turned out.

5. One Last Thing

I do plan to order decals for these ‘Mechs, so at some point in the future they will have Clan Coyote markings. It’s just a matter of getting them ordered and in, but for now, I’m considering the project completed.

Wrap-Up

Painting minis for the tabletop can be a daunting task, but I hope that I demonstrated that it doesn’t have to necessarily take a massive amount of time and effort to achieve good looking results that will make for great games on the tabletop whether playing on hex maps or tabletop terrain.

- Dave

MekWars: Dominion Begins New Cycle

MekWars Dominion LogoOn Sunday, June 8, the Dominion server of MekWars launched its 3rd Cycle.  This is essentially a reboot of the campaign which is often accompanied by some rules tweaks to shape the new campaign differently.  Dominion is set during the 2750 time period of the Star League.  Players can play as actual units in that era, ally with various factions, and then fight using the MegaMek client.

In order to play, or find out more, just head on over to their main website and download the client.  You only require the one program, it has everything else.  Just extract it and you are good to go!

When the Cycle begins anew is a great time to join the campaign.  Since it’s fresh again for everyone, you are all starting at the same level.  MekWars is an online Java-based program that runs a campaign for various players and controls the units you have, repairs, cost, and more.  It matches people to play against each other, and then they play using MegaMek.  Factions vie against each other, and the results of battles impact the ongoing campaign. So check it out.

CGL Adding New Lance Packs, Intro Set Reprint

CAT35710 Assault Lance Packaging

Assault Lance assaulting stuff.

Assault Lance assaulting something or the other.

Announced today, Catalyst Game Labs is issuing a reprint of the successful Introductory Box Set to meet demand, and should be back on game store shelves by late summer of 2014.

Also announced is a line of Lance Packs, using the same improved plastic miniatures found in the Introductory Box Set. Each set will be retailing at $19.99, and although no specific release date has been given it is expected to hit the streets late this year. The Assault Lance Pack and the Pursuit Lance Packs are the first ones to be going out the warehouse doors, each one also packed in with eight Alpha Strike cards as an added bonus.

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RetroWarrior: MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf

Like the original MechAssault, the sequel MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf centers on a no-named Wolf’s Dragoons MechWarrior supported by Lieutenant Foster from the original. The graphics are a few years more advanced of course, as are the sound effects.

But I feel that even more than the new BattleMechs, the dismounted gameplay in Lone Wolf is far more important for both the series and the genre of action games in particular. Never before had I seen the ability to crawl out of a ‘Mech and interact with the environment on a smaller scale in a BattleTech themed game.

Lieutenant Foster developed the armor after the events of the first game when the player recovered a memory core from a fallen ‘Mech. Given that the enemy was Word of Blake, the player’s armor could possibly be a derivative of the Purifier. It’s armed with an arm mounted small pulse laser, a mortar- (an autoloading large caliber grenade launcher really), a claw, and jump jets. Unlike the Purifier, this armor doesn’t use any kind of stealth capability, but has the ability to “hack” security protected ‘mechs- even while they’re in operation by means of a mini game.

I think I'd prefer SRMs, but at least you're better armed than in the HALO games.

I think I’d prefer SRMs, but at least you’re better armed than in the HALO games.

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