BattleTech at E3 and What Is The “Argo”

Concept Argo art

courtesy of Harebrained Schemes

As some of you may be aware, E3 is happening, and that means the developers of BattleTech are there to show off their latest build and drop a few more hints as to what the final product will look like. And oh boy did they ever, with Harebrained Schemes revealing 2 full minutes of never-before-seen footage of the single player campaign screens.

Hosted by PC Gamer magazine, the co-founders of Harebrained Schemes Jordan Weisman and Mitch Gitelman sat down to talk with Sean “Day[9]” Plott about the upcoming game. The conversation was mostly aimed at non-BattleTech aficionados, so I won’t bore you with all the minutiae of what was said, but I’ll make sure to give you the keynotes of the presentation.

Lady Kamea Orano

courtesy of PC Gamer

First off, we were given some additional details as to how the story will unfold. Lady Kamea Orano (the spelling of which is questionable as I’m transcribing from video) has been deposed by her evil uncle and has contracted the player’s mercenary company with restoring her to her rightful throne.

The throne, in this case, being to an interstellar nation called the Aurigan Coalition, which was revealed in a Kickstarter update to be a minor house nestled between the Capellan Confederation and the Taurian Concordat. This addition to the Inner Sphere circa 3025 seems to be made entirely for the game, but considering it’s being born from Jordan Weisman himself it is likely to be made canon upon BattleTech’s release.

After the campaign overview, the interview went into detail on the inner-workings of your mercantile ship, the Argo.

Argo

Courtesy of PC Gamer

What IS The Argo?

From the video, it can be very hard to tell what kind of ship the Argo even is. During the interview, Mitch described it as “a broken-down hulk of a spaceship” along with being “your mercenary command center,” and that “you can take it all over space, going from star system to star system.” That makes it out to sound like a JumpShip, however, the Argo doesn’t resemble any JumpShip in the known universe.

It turns out the Argo isn’t a JumpShip at all, but rather a massive mobile space station that was built before the Amaris Civil War. It was intended to follow behind the first wave of system surveyors as a sort of logistical hub, supporting colonization teams with her massive onboard hydroponics bays. The intention was for the Argo to remain in-system for months, if not years, and as such it has vastly larger living quarters, recreational areas, and passenger accommodation than any military DropShip.

Inside the argo

courtesy of PC Gamer

You can tell based on the screen grabs from the development footage that the Argo does indeed have a lot of room, with massive navigation and bridge stations. There’s also a folding grav deck that allows for artificial gravity, although anywhere else people are still forced to wear mag-boots to keep from floating off.

But it doesn’t have a jump drive, so it’s forced to piggyback on JumpShips like any other dropship. Well, not quite like any other dropship; much like the Behemoth-class, it takes up two docking bays of whatever ship it latches on to. Also, like the Behemoth, she can’t fly into atmosphere owing to her vast size. Smaller DropShips dock with the Argo in order to bring men and machines planetside.

Inside the argo

courtesy of PC Gamer

As an aside, it’s nice that HBS wants to expand the BattleTech universe and make the player feel like they have something unique in the BattleTech game, but it really doesn’t feel like the Argo was even necessary. The story could have been told just as easily with a mercenary band somehow getting hold of a JumpShip, or even just a regular Union DropShip. And considering the Argo can’t even go planetside, your mercenary company will also need a real DropShip or two just to get boots on the ground.

Oh well. I doubt anyone will complain about having a luxury liner for a DropShip, at least in comparison to what most House militaries field.

Salvage Details And Some Memorable Quotes

After a peak inside the Argo, viewers were treated to another demonstration of combat with BattleTech, which didn’t seem to offer much more than what is already available in the backer beta. We did get some information on the salvage system, which will be based on BattleMech damage and that MechCommanders will want to hit opponents “just hard enough to take them down”.

Inside the argo

courtesy of PC Gamer

We also got some pretty excellent one liners. After showing a Hunchback getting cored in the back, Gitelman commented, “Get around the back of a BattleMech and slap penetrate.” Wiser words were never spoken.  

Also, after Day[9] reminisced on playing the original table top as a child, Mitch responded, “As a kid, huh? Thanks, pal.” Day[9] will be 31 later in June.

No word yet on a final release date, but it’s looking closer than ever. I’d even bet on seeing BattleTech release just in time for Christmas.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

BattleTech Backer Beta – First Impressions

The much anticipated Backer Beta finally began last Thursday with Kickstarter backers receiving Steam codes to take part in beta testing BattleTech, the latest game from Harebrained Schemes. As a backer myself, opening that email felt like Christmas morning, and seeing mom and dad had gotten me just what I wanted. Then I played the game I’d been waiting for oh so long and found out I got even more than that. Many of you will know exactly what I’m talking about, but for you unlucky readers who didn’t get in on the Kickstarter let me tell you what you’re missing.

First off, a little bit of staging is in order. The backer beta is single player skirmish mode only, pitting one lance against its opposite. The default light assault lance features not one, but two UrbanMechs, showing us that Harebrained Schemes has a good sense of humour to troll everyone right out of the gate. You can select what ‘Mechs are in your lance but you can’t customize your ‘Mechs just yet, although that is going to be in the final version of the game.

Skirmishes are limited based on “Mech Value”, which is similar to Battle Value in that it’s based on the ‘Mech’s combat effectiveness. When picking a ‘Mech you’ll be presented with 8 stats that generally describe their performance: initiative, heat, speed, range, durability, firepower, stability, and melee. Most of this will be familiar except for stability and initiative which only describe how well a ‘Mech weathers fire and whether or not a ‘Mech goes first in turn order. Generally, the heavier the ‘Mech the more stable it is but it will act later in the turn.

Pilots have four attributes – Gunnery (which determines your to-hit percentage), Piloting (which determines melee and DFA hit percentage), Tactics (which determines line-of-sight range and sensor info), and Guts (which determines your heat capacity). Each pilot also has a special ability that can either be a passive, “always-on” sort of thing or something you can activate during your turn. There’s quite a few abilities so I won’t go through all of them, but I will say Sensor Lock proved to be quite important.

Alright, let’s get to a few games.

Round 1 – FIGHT!

My first game upon installation was just me using the default team and squaring off against the same ‘Mechs with the same pilots: 2 UrbanMechs, a Hunchback and a Kintaro. I had no idea what I was doing, so I felt that a game on equal footing would be a great way to learn – sort of a trial by fire. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, lots of things, but we’ll get to that.

The first thing you notice when you get in is the similarity between BattleTech and the old MechCommander series, but where MechCommander was 3D sprites on a 2D battlefield, this game is entirely rendered in gorgeous 3D. And when I say gorgeous I really do mean it – all the ‘Mechs are the same models as found in MechWarrior Online, but now you have the chance to zoom in and really examine them up close and from every angle.

I took a moment to just appreciate my massive machines before I set them off moving. The familiar hexes of the table top are gone, but instead you have these little points you can run your ‘Mech off to. They operate the same, with your ‘Mech being able to run further the faster it is and also taking more movement “points” to turn your ‘Mech in a specific direction once you get there.

I set my lance to run to the river with an UrbanMech staying behind to provide cover from the clifftop. Through the fog my lance’s sensors picked up my opponents charging in, and they wasted no time picking my lance to pieces. They used cover, abilities, and movement to their advantage, flanking my Kintaro and melting its rear armour until its fusion engine blew out its backside. My first UrbanMech died to a Hunchback blast to the face, and my own Hunchie fought valiantly before succumbing to the combined fire of the enemy. My remaining UrbanMech no longer had a spotter for his autocannon, and so dutifully charged to his doom at my command.

Even though I’d lost (rather spectacularly I might add) I loved how alive the combat felt despite the fact it was still a turn-based game. When missiles are fired the trees will sway at their passing. The ground will rumble more with the footsteps of larger ‘Mechs versus their smaller brethren. You’ll see armour glow and melt off a ‘Mech when struck by a laser, and you’ll see the camera switch to an over-the-shoulder viewpoint so you don’t miss a second of watching your giant death machine spew fiery destruction at its unfortunate target.

That said, the computer knew what it was doing, and I clearly did not. Time to ratchet down the difficulty.

Round 2 – Electric Boogaloo

There’s no actual difficulty setting in the beta, so I did the next best thing: I made my opponents into a lance of 2 UrbanMechs and 2 Locusts versus my heavy lance of an Orion, a JagerMech, a Centurion and a Shadowhawk. After stacking the deck sufficiently in my favour I also took a little extra time to read about my pilot’s abilities and try to match them to their machine. Satisfied, I hit the launch button and set my ‘Mechs on their way.

Since I already had a massive weight advantage, I decided to split my lance into two ‘Mech elements – my Orion and JagerMech went one way around the mountain and my ShadowHawk and Centurion took the longer way. My expectation was the medium ‘Mech’s speed would get them back to the heavies if they ran into trouble.

And they did. The enemy Locusts immediately pounced on the lighter elements of my forces. Once again the computer used tree cover to their advantage, but the massive firepower my mediums possessed obliterated one Locust and disabled the other with a shattered leg. But suddenly the UrbanMechs appeared and my enemy’s plan was apparent: the Locusts were bait, there to delay my mediums so they could fall prey to the UrbanMechs combined AC/10s. A lucky headshot took down my Shadowhawk, and the my Centurion was badly mauled as it retreated, but not before finishing off the lamed Locust.

Not quite according to plan, but by then my heavy ‘Mechs had ambled into range of the UrbanMechs and were raining ordinance with impunity. It was only a few rounds before all my opponents were reduced to scrap, resulting in my first victory! I relished the triumph, even though it was against vastly inferior forces. But I wasn’t some honour-bound clanner, so I didn’t let it get me down.

Time for round 3.

Round 3 – Where’s The Fun In Fighting Fair?

I still didn’t feel like I was up to a fair fight, so this time I went with a theme. My opponent would be a better balanced light lance against my own heavy assault lance. I swapped my JagerMech for an Awesome and my Shadowhawk for a Jenner that I’d use as a spotter for the Awesome, retaining my Centurion and Orion.  My opponents would be a Panther, a Commando, a Locust and another UrbanMech.

My Jenner had the clear speed advantage over every ‘Mech on the battlefield, and I made sure to give its pilot the Sensor Lock ability which would allow my heavy mechs to fire at anything my Jenner could see at the cost of my own Jenner’s ability to fire. This proved to be instrumental, as I was able to spot the opposing Panther and soften him up with a few PPC blasts from my Awesome that I had perched atop a cliff. My Centurion and Orion were both able to quickly finish off the Panther, but my Jenner ran into trouble when it was double-teamed by the enemy Commando and Locust. They managed to mangle my poor Jenner, removing most of its armour and its right arm, before my Awesome disabled the Commando and my Orion was able to take out the Locust using its long range armaments.

The final moments of the enemy UrbanMech played out like a holovid, with my entire lance converging on the unfortunate pilot while picking off bits of armor. My Orion finally managed to land the deathblow to secure victory once more.

It may have only been three lance vs lance battles, but each one felt epic in a way that’s never been achieved in a BattleTech game, and there’s going to be so much more once the final game is released. From experiencing the core of the game in these skirmishes, I can say without exaggeration this could be the best BattleTech game of all time.

BattleTech is set to release later in 2017 (but there’s still time to get in on the beta).

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

Meet The Streamers of MechWarrior Online

If you’re like me, then you can’t get enough robot action to merely be satisfied with the time you’re actually playing a BattleTech game. If you’re clever about it, you can stuff way more ‘Mech explosions into your day. Lunch or dinner is the perfect time to look up a caster for entertainment while you’re munching down chow. Or how about a streamer in the background at work? Bonus points if you work in an office and can somehow weave random fusion engine meltdowns into your phone calls.

Whatever you do, and wherever you are, there’s a MechWarrior Online streamer who’s there to help you get through your day with a sufficient amount of PPC blasts, and each one is just a little special.  Let’s take a look at a few of the better known streamers to see which one might be the right fit for you.

TheB33f

As a fellow Canadian, it’s my privilege to begin this list of MWO streamers with TheB33f, perhaps the most Canadian thing to hit MechWarrior since PGI bought the rights from Microsoft.

The first thing you’ll notice when you watch TheB33f’s stream is his accent, which is a Quebecois accent so thick you can practically taste the maple syrup. Besides the sweet and sultry sounds, TheB33f is also a very skilled player and a member of the 228th IBR “The Black Watch”, one of the top ranked teams in Division A of the MRBC.

While you can pick up many helpful tips by watching his Twitch stream, his YouTube channel is all about having as much fun as possible while playing MechWarrior Online. He has high quality videos featuring some hilarious builds, all edited with his characteristic enthusiasm and humor. His streams also feature some of the best music mixes I’ve ever heard.

He typically streams every Wednesday and Saturday at 6 PM EST, but keep an eye on his Twitter as he’ll announce impromptu streams when he can.

Trainsy

For a more dedicated streamer, check out Trainsy. This guy actually performs his streams to thousands of viewers for a living and his schedule reflects that, being online and gaming from 2:30 PM to 11:30 PM PST with only a half hour break in between. As a professional, he has also completely monetized his stream so that nearly everything a viewer does (besides chatting) has a small donation price beside it.

As the name might suggest, he’s taken the whole train theme to a level that might not seem healthy. But hey – strong branding is important, and this guy has it in spades.

He doesn’t exclusively play MechWarrior, but as a long time fan he’s certainly got his giant robot chops as a tier 1 pilot. He’s also a pretty chill guy, and is more than happy to answer any questions he gets asked in chat while he does mostly PUG drops. Check out his Twitch stream here, and a secondary YouTube channel here.

Molten Metal

If I were to crown a king of most helpful MechWarrior Online streamers, it would have to be Baradul and his channel Molten Metal. Something about a German accent speaking flawless English that just makes every explanation stick, y’know? Or maybe I just have a thing for accents.

Besides that, Molten Metal really is the best channel for new players to learn more about MechWarrior Online. His YouTube videos are filled with detailed analysis of every choice he makes – that means both his build choices as well as his in-game decisions.

But don’t let the German professor persona fool you – this guy has some skill, as his Twitch streams will show. He doesn’t have a fixed streaming schedule, but he generally plays every day around 2 PM UTC (that’s 10 AM EST).

LokenPlays

We stay in Europe but travel to Britain for our next streamer, Loken from LokenPlays. A semi-pro streamer, you can catch him online nearly every night at 5 PM EST (that’s 10 PM GMT), although MechWarrior is only played on Tuesdays. He’s also more here for entertainment than education, but he is sure to explain his builds in between matches.

He typically plays with a group of friends to keep the witty banter lively, and he’ll bust out some pretty hilarious voices – usually just before exploding. Seriously though, if you’re looking for a great streamer to watch as he screams obscenities at his mate’s antics, then this is the channel for you.

His MechWarrior videos don’t typically find their way to his YouTube channel, but you can watch some pretty neat Star Citizen videos there. He also has a Discord channel and Steam group for those who want to join the LokenPlays community.

NoGutsNoGalaxy

What list of MechWarrior streamers would be complete without No Guts No Galaxy? As the premiere community hub for all things BattleTech they stream far more than just MechWarrior Online, such as livestreams for the BattleTech developers at Harebrained Schemes, the No Guts No Galaxy podcasts, or whatever else Phil and Daeron feel like getting up to.

Of the two of them you’ll usually catch Phil playing MWO, and despite being a tier 1 pilot Phil has a penchant for creating some very non-meta ‘Mech builds. Expect to see a variety of chassis that you don’t normally see in game on this channel. He’s also got a classic MechWarrior playlist, so you may recognize some tunes from MechWarrior games of yore.

Right now there’s a donation challenge running where you can compel Phil to play as a particular ‘Mech or at a particular tonnage and then give him a specific goal, like killing 2 heavy ‘Mechs or only targeting light ‘Mechs. It can make for some pretty hilarious games, so why not throw them a few bucks?

Expect to see some BattleTech streams from these boys as soon as the game is released.

Got a MechWarrior streamer that I missed but really should be seen? Let me know in the comments!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy. 

MechWarrior Online Winners and Losers after the Skill Tree

It’s been a little over a week since the new Skill Tree has dropped on the May 16th patch, and while it has been as rocky an introduction as anything PGI has done in MechWarrior Online, it hasn’t resulted in any sort of wide abandonment of the game. It has however resulted in a lot of confusion as MechWarriors try to unravel the dense language that was given in the update and try to determine what it meant for their favorite ‘Mech.

The stated purpose of the Skill Tree was to enhance the customizability of pilot’s chassis, and in that regard the Skill Tree has succeeded. MechWarriors can now decide whether they want their Centurion to plod along and take hits relying on all of the armor and structure skills, or they can opt for a more nimble ride with a mix of weapons and sensors to keep your ‘Mech up and fighting.

Or you can just be crazy and max your jump skills, pilot a Spider, and fly around like a crazed Land-Air ‘Mech.

Whatever route you choose, the patch has certainly shifted the viability of certain ‘Mechs more than others in this competitive game. It’s still too soon to see how the new meta will shape up, but there are some definite winners and losers with the Skill Tree, and we take a look at a few of them today.

Winners

The Skill Tree patch had a number of changes besides implementation of the tree itself. One of those changes was a review and revision of all ‘Mech quirks to ensure that the skill tree wouldn’t suddenly provide highly quirked ‘Mechs the ability to increase those quirks with skills to the point of creating a super ‘Mech. Mostly the patch removed the big weapon-based quirks that incentivised certain builds in certain ‘Mechs.

While this change has resulted in some big losers (which we’ll get to later), it also has resulted in some big winners. In general, ‘Mechs that had few or no quirks have seen their abilities increase since the new patch.

Arctic Cheetah – All variants

ACH-Prime

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

The meta light ‘Mech is one of the few light ‘Mechs to come out ahead since the Skill Tree patch. The formerly quirkless chassis now receives all the benefits of the skill nodes with no downsides, essentially supercharging the little rascal into unquestionably the best ‘Mech in its class.

Hunchback HBK-4SP

HBK-4SP

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

The Hunchback has been a middling medium ‘Mech for some time, having long since been overshadowed by its Clanner cousin the Hunchback IIC. The Skill Tree has breathed new life into the original Swayback in the form of armor and structure skills.

The HBK-4SP retained its armor and structure quirks from before the patch that allowed the ‘Mech to remain viable, and these quirks benefit supremely from the new survival skills. How much do they benefit? With all survival skills taken, the center torso on the 4SP takes over 150 points of damage to destroy, turning the humble Hunchie into a tiny armoured assault ‘Mech.

Battlemaster BLR-2C

BLR-1G

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

With high mounts and tons of energy hardpoints, the Battlemaster BLR-2C has been a popular choice for competitive decks looking for a tanky bruiser. With few weapon quirks to lose, and retaining its massive structure bonuses, the skill tree turns the BLR-2C into the biggest zombie ‘Mech the game has ever seen.

Hellbringer – All variants

HBR-Prime

courtesy of MWOwiki.org

Having never needed quirks to be a danger on the battlefield, giving this Clan heavy ‘Mech access to skills that reduce its heat generation and allow it to fire its weapons faster just meant the DPS on this chassis got a big boost. The Hellbringer never needed the damage boost in order to be competitively viable, so watch out for this ‘Mech to receive some kind of nerf in future patches.

Losers

While many quirk-less ‘Mechs have won big in the latest patch, there are just as many quirk-full ‘Mechs that have lost out in a big way. With the introduction of the Clans some years ago, many Inner Sphere designs needed massive buffs to certain weapons in the form of quirks in order to keep up. Removing those quirks have resulted in some much maligned ‘Mechs being rendered next to useless compared to some of the big winners.

On top of that, the patch also introduced the engine desync, which altered how engine size affects performance. Instead of larger engines causing ‘Mechs to accelerate, decelerate, and turn faster, those qualities were rolled into the chassis itself while larger engines strictly affected maximum speed. This has resulted in some larger engine designs losing much of their maneuverability along with their firepower.

Locust – All variants

LCT-1V

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

The combined loss of weapons quirks and engine desync has hit the venerable Locust particularly hard. Previously, its small size combined with its ability to stop and start on a dime meant it was particularly difficult to target the little bastard. Now it’s both lost much of its bite and is much easier to target.

Blackjack BJ-1

BJ-1

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

The BJ-1 was of those Spheroid ‘Mechs that relied on its massive weapons quirks for its power, primarily in ballistics cooldown and heat generation. With those quirks much reduced and not enough skills introduced to replace them, the poor Blackjack is no longer the king Inner Sphere medium dakka ‘Mech.

Cicada CDA-3C

CDA-3C

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

The Cicada is another ‘Mech that relied on massive quirks for its usefulness. Although never popular, Cicada pilots definitely benefited from the -50% PPC heat generation quirk when plinking away with their particle gun. Now that quirk is gone, and there’s nothing in the Skill Tree that even comes close to approximating that massive boost, relegating the Cicada to the unused tier of ‘Mechs.

Quickdraw QKD-IV4

QKD-4G

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

The hero Quickdraw was another ‘Mech that had a ton of weapons quirks to give it a boost, but it also lost out due to the engine desync as well. It had massive acceleration and deceleration quirks to make it one of the more nimble heavy ‘Mechs, but once those characteristics were rolled into the chassis it lost much of the benefit its large engine provided. Never a popular design, it feels like the rug has been swept right out from under the QKD-IV4’s feet.

Any ‘Mechs you think were big winners or losers in the latest patch? Let us know in the comments!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy. 

 

 

Community Outreach – BattleTech CamoSpecs Online

Welcome to Community Outreach! This week we speak with Todd “Mastergunz” Farnholtz, a BattleTech Miniature painter and admin at CamoSpecs Online, the biggest site and Facebook group for miniature ‘Mech painting enthusiasts. We ask him about CamoSpecs, how it came about, and how he joined up to help define the unit colors of ‘Mechs the universe over. Enjoy!

Sean (Sarna): Who are you? Briefly introduce yourself.

Mastergunz: My name is Todd Farnholtz, but I go by the handle ‘Mastergunz’ on CSO. I joined the group in Summer of 2009 – just in time to get a single piece done and added to that year’s Gencon 2009 CSO diorama. It was a Word of Blake Raptor II and I rushed to paint it because the mini had just come out and wanted to display it on the board. I’ve been playing BattleTech since 93′,  so having an opportunity to be a part of the game I loved was a huge achievement for me.

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: What is CamoSpecs? That is, how would you describe it to someone who doesn’t know much about it?

Mastergunz: CamoSpecs.com is a 100% fan run organization that provides visual references to canon paint schemes for the BattleTech universe. While we do get support from IWM (Iron Wind Metals) and Catalyst for special projects, the site and its upkeep is 100% on us. We are a dedicated group of artists that comb all available canon sources to make sure what we paint is accurate to what is written. We have even at times been asked to create schemes for new units as they were created by the authors.

Sean: When did you join CamoSpecs?

Mastergunz: I joined in 2009 after 2 failed submissions; finally made it in on my 3rd attempt.

Sean: What was the original idea behind CamoSpecs?

Mastergunz: I wasn’t around for the initial inception, which was 2 years prior I believe. The site and what it sought to do was conceptualized and inspired by the old FASA Camo Specs book showing the various paint schemes of the units in the BattleTech universe.

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: When did you get into BattleTech?

Mastergunz: I started playing BattleTech in 1993 with the 2nd Edition box set after having played the old MechWarrior computer game.

Sean: And when did you get into miniature BattleTech making?

Mastergunz: I’ve always been a lover of all thing giant robots. Starting back in the 80’s with Transformers, Voltron, Robotech, etc… the 2nd Edition box set is what introduced me to miniature wargaming and painting. Kit bashing the various variants of the ‘Mechs was just something that we all did from the start.

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: How long does it take to make some of these miniatures?

Mastergunz: I can’t speak for the sculpting side of things but painting a single mini used to take quite a while. In the beginning I would spend 6-7 hours on a single piece to get it to tabletop standard. As with all things in life, practice makes perfect (and learning to use an airbrush didn’t hurt) so I can finish a ‘Mech from primer to seal coat in about 3 hours now and feel it is of display quality.

Sean: What’s your favorite ‘Mech? An all-important question.

Mastergunz: Hands down the AWS- 9Q Awesome. I’ve never been a finesse player so something that hits hard and can take a beating is right up my alley. The 9Q is the original zombie. I even have a licence plate frame on my truck that says ‘My other ride is an AWS-9Q’.  

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: And what’s your favorite miniature you’ve built?

Mastergunz: My favorite ‘Mech I’ve ever built and painted for BattleTech/CSO changes constantly as my skills improve, but I’d have to say my most recent favorite was the Zeus X4. It’s a solid model with a lot of dynamics to its assembly so it doesn’t have to be static.

ZeusX1

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: What parts of BattleTech do you play? Perhaps a better question, what haven’t you played?

Mastergunz: I’ve played all the computer and console games, tabletop (both hex sheet and miniature rules) and little bit of Alpha Strike. I never got into the Dark Ages Clix Game but do own a ton of the models for kit bashing purposes. And of course I was a backer for the recent Kickstarter from Harebrained Schemes and am super excited for the beta to release.

Sean: How has CamoSpecs collaborated with official BattleTech content producers, like Catalyst Games?

Mastergunz: Yes. Our group leader, Ray Arrastia (who was recently promoted to Assistant Line Developer for BattleTech), is our direct liaison with Catalyst. We have been tasked with working on art for almost all of the books released in the last several years, most recently the Combat Manual: Mercenaries book and Alpha Strike.

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: Let’s talk numbers. How BIG is CamoSpecs?

Mastergunz: CamoSpecs is currently a stable of about 15-20 painters, though only 6-10 of us are fairly active. You have to remember that this is a purely voluntary group and so we do what we can as real life allows.

Sean: What’s in store for CamoSpecs in the future?

Mastergunz: The million dollar question. Well I can say we have been working behind the scenes to keep things going via Facebook, mostly. Since we lost our server host in 2015 it has been a task to try and set up something that was as comprehensive and easy to use as the original site. Again, as a fan run volunteer group the time needed to essentially build a new site from the ground up is prohibitive but we are working on something right now.

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: Anything else you’d like to share? Feel free to get shamelessly self-promoty :)

Mastergunz: BattleTech is my first love in miniature wargaming, and so I want to say thanks to all my fellow artist who over the years have pushed me to be better and became very good friends of mine – meeting up at cons and such. I can honestly say I would not be the artist I am today if not for their constructive criticism over the years and seeing the stuff they were turning out and making me say to myself “I want to learn to do that technique!”.

Shameless self plug time! To see some of my more recent BattleTech work (as well as not BattleTech) you can visit my painting page, Mastergunz Paint Worx, on Facebook and YouTube.

Also, some of my fellow CSO artist have a pages as well: “Captain of the Watch” Ed Smith on his Facebook page, and “B1BFlyer” Ryan Peterson runs a YouTube channel for CSO with lots of very cool tutorial videos up.

Incredible thanks to Mastergunz for agreeing to sit down with us. Tune in next time for more Community Outreach!

Did You Know? – Laser Boats

In BattleTech there are many philosophies that guide ‘Mech designers in choosing their armaments. Some go for the well balanced approach, ensuring they have a good mix of long and short range weapons. Others look to have a mix of ammunition and energy weapons, ensuring the chassis has a brutal punch at the beginning of the fight but also retains combat effectiveness if the battle goes longer than expected. Still others opt for the long range sniper approach, mounting ER PPCs, Gauss Rifles, and Ultra AC/2s in order to pick off their foes before they can close.

Then there’s those engineers that say “to hell with it” and throw on as many lasers as the ‘Mech can carry. I of course speak to the illustrious and proud history of the “laser boat”.

There are many reasons to mount a solely energy based armament, such as never having any concerns for ammunition or resupply. Perhaps the greatest reason to load up on lasers is their sheer efficiency. Ton for ton, crit for crit, lasers are some of the most efficient weapons in the BattleTech universe, allowing even the lightest ‘Mechs to carry an armament that would strike fear into the hearts of much heavier opponents.

Here we take a tour of some of BattleTech’s most famous laser focused ‘Mechs. There are many ‘Mechs that contain lasers as their primary armaments, but today we will limit our discussion to ‘Mechs that solely mount laser based weaponry.

Nova Prime Configuration

 

Perhaps the poster child for laser boats, the 50 ton Nova Prime mounts a staggering 12 Clan ER Medium Lasers. While this armament gives the ‘Mech an alpha strike second to none in its weight class, it also runs the risk of cooking the pilot in their cockpit. With a mere 18 double heat sinks to combat a total heat per alpha of 60, the Nova suffers near catastrophic penalties to fire its full armament and is very likely to shut down immediately.

That said, whatever’s in the Nova’s sites is in for a very bad day. If all lasers strike, a total of 84 damage is enough to devastate all but the most largest of opponents. If fired from behind the Nova is almost guaranteed a kill on any ‘Mech.

Wolfhound

 

The Inner Sphere is no stranger to laser boats, with the Federated Commonwealth’s Wolfhound as an outstanding example. Armed with 4 Medium Lasers and a single Large Laser, the Wolfhound is much better equipped to handle its heat load than the Clan Nova. Even still, firing all of its weapons would result in massive heat buildup that would require it to stagger its weapons fire for the rest of the battle.

A common refit to the Wolfhound would see the removal of the rearward firing laser for the addition of an extra heat sink on the WLF-1A. The upgraded WLF-2 would give the Wolfhound double heat sinks and largely solve the chassis’ heat concerns altogether. Only the addition of the ER Large Laser in place of the normal one would cause the ‘Mech’s heat to increase substantially with sustained firing.

Firemoth Alternate Configuration D

 

Light ‘Mechs stand to benefit the most from the efficiency gains provided by laser-based weaponry. On no other ‘Mech is this more readily apparent than the Firemoth Alt. Config D. With 5 ER Medium Lasers tied to a Clan Targeting Computer, the Firemoth D is capable of a withering fusillade of precision fire that is able to punch well above the Firemoth’s 20 tons.

The standard 10 double heat sinks are sufficient to keep the ‘Mech cool even with sustained fire, and a single Flamer assists in anti-infantry duty when necessary.

Flashman

 

A ‘Mech affectionately nicknamed the “flashbulb”, the Flashman uses its heavier weight limit to stack even more efficient laser weaponry. The FLS-7K  comes armed with 5 Medium Lasers and 2 Large Lasers, giving it a punch at short and medium range. 15 single heat sinks allow the ‘Mech to fire either Medium Lasers or Large Lasers indefinitely, however alpha striking causes a debilitating heat build up for the pilot.

While the previous ‘Mechs have appeared in multiple MechWarrior games, the Flashman has only been seen once in MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries. A terrible shame given the ‘Mechs iconic design and devastating firepower. Here’s hoping we see a resurgence of the giant, death-dealing light bulb.

Supernova

 

Even the heaviest ‘Mechs stand to benefit from the use of laser weaponry. While it may seem that the Supernova is an upscaled Nova, the Supernova was actually designed first. Shortages of AC/20 ammunition lead Clan engineers to replace their King Crab’s weapons with clusters of Large ER Lasers, and from this the Supernova was born.

The Supernova does however share the Nova’s same design philosophy: mount far more lasers than it can effectively use for a single devastating alpha strike. 6 Clan Large ER Lasers allow the Supernova to fight at range for extended periods, however constant use of the full armament will lead to debilitating heat problems and inevitable shutdown. Most Supernova pilots stagger-fire one arm at a time in order to deal with the heat buildup.

Stormcrow Prime Configuration

 

Not every laser boat has heat problems to contend with. The Clan Stormcrow has a primary energy configuration while simultaneously mounting enough double heatsinks to fire all of its weapons indefinitely, even on the move. Only outside forces, such as Flamers, Inferno missiles or engine damage will ever cause this ‘Mech to overheat.

Armed with twin Clan Larger ER Lasers as well as a backup battery of 3 ER Medium Lasers, the Stormcrow is able to hit at all ranges effectively. The ability for lasers to be fired at both long and short range means the Stormcrow has an overwhelming sustained alpha strike that is capable of incapacitating much heavier opponents quickly.

 

What’s your favorite laser boat ‘Mech? Let us know in the comments!

Mech_Con 2017 Announced!

As was widely expected with the enormous success of last year’s convention, Mech_Con 2017 has been announced on the PGI forums as well as the Mech_Con website. The convention will be held on December 9 at the Pinnacle Hotel Harbor Front in Vancouver Canada.

Last year’s Mech_Con was an incredibly exciting time with the MechWarrior Online Grand Finals taking center stage. In addition to the culmination of the worldwide MechWarrior tournament there were presentations from Harebrained Schemes on the upcoming BattleTech game as well as the announcement of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. Last year’s announcements have paved the way for this year’s convention to have demo stations for both MechWarrior 5 and BattleTech, giving everyone a hands-on preview of these hotly anticipated titles.

As with last year we can expect to see cadres of developers from both PGI and Harebrained Schemes, along with contingents from Catalyst Game Labs selling the latest in BattleTech swag. Con attendees will also have their chance at prizes and giveaways from the convention as well as the chance to rub elbows with developers from all walks of the BattleTech universe.

While the announcement of Mech_Con didn’t provide any details concerning the MechWarrior Online World Championships, the listed events for Mech_Con includes “2017 MechWarrior Online World Championship Grand Finals”, so we can rest assured that further information is certainly forthcoming.

All indications seem that this year’s Mech_Con will be bigger than ever, so order your tickets now before they sell out!

24 Hour Mechathon in support of Covenant House – May 20

image courtesy of No Guts No Galaxy

It’s not often that videogames cross paths with noble humanitarian causes, but when they do it’s a Very Good Thingtm

Just announced on the No Guts No Galaxy Forums, the 24 Hour Mechathon is, as the name might suggest, a marathon game of MechWarrior Online with all proceeds going to charity. This year’s recipient will be Covenant House, an organization dedicated to the assistance of abused, runaway, and homeless youth.

The announcement comes with a touching story from the event organizer RJBass3, who at age 18 “was living homeless on the streets of South Florida”. Covenant House rescued RJBass3 from a life on the streets and made sure he and many other disadvantaged youth received food, shelter, and healthcare while they grew into independent members of society. He would eventually go on to join the 228th Independent Battlemech Regiment, a unit in MechWarrior Online, where he would rise through the ranks to become executive officer of the 318th Heavy Assault “Swamp Foxes”.

Now, 25 years later, RJBass3 will give back to Covenant House in the best way possible: a 24 hour charity stream of MechWarrior Online. Both he and many other MechWarriors will begin streaming on Saturday, May 20th to raise money and awareness for Covenant House. The fine folks at No Guts No Galaxy will be hosting the stream on their twitch channel, and there will be many prizes and giveaways from both PGI (the developers of MechWarrior Online) as well as No Guts No Galaxy.

If you can’t make the stream on May 20th then don’t worry – you can make an advance donation to the 24 Hour Mechathon on the Covenant House event page here.

So tune in on May 20th to watch a some giant stompy robot action until their pilots fall asleep in their neurohelmets. And while you’re there, consider a donation to Covenant House. It is, after all, for the kids. 

Latest Q&A With HBS + New Beta Date

It was good news and bad news at the latest Q&A session with Harebrained schemes.

The bad news is there’s still no new date set for the backer beta, which has now been delayed two months since the Kickstarter estimated test date. As reported in the latest session hosted by our good friends at No Guts No Galaxy, the developers are still hard at work ironing out the kinks in BattleTech’s armor before they feel comfortable releasing it to outside testing.

The good news is that HBS is back to firing on all cylinders from their disastrous build upgrade in March, and HBS co-founder Mitch Gitelman says they are “narrowing in” on a beta test date announcement in the near future.

Mitch also announced a live test of BattleTech’s multiplayer game mode between himself and game director Mike McCain which has now been posted to the Harebrained Schemes YouTube channel. This is our first real look at BattleTech‘s gameplay, and I’m sure you’re all eager to see a preview of what is sure to be the hottest ‘Mech game in recent memory. 

The hour-long Q&A took place with Mitch as well as audio director Rob Piersol and game composer John Everest.  As befit their professions, they answered mostly sound related questions concerning BattleTech’s development. One thing mentioned during the sound testing was the inclusion of a rotary Autocannon into the game and how that sound developed with respect to modern day weaponry.

The mention of the Rotary Autocannon is a tad surprising as the game is ostensibly dated in the year 3025, many decades before the introduction of the Rotary A/C into BattleTech lore. Mitch also commented that there will be different manufacturers in the game, some of which selling the single-shot Autocannons and others selling the Rotary type. Could this be an indication of a departure from the classic BattleTech rules in the name of added gameplay depth?

Also confirmed during the stream will be an action dependent musical score and pilot death-screams similar to those found in the MechCommander series of games.  

While it’s a bit of a disappointment not to have an updated backer beta date announced, it’s good to hear that development is once again proceeding apace. We here at Sarna will be sure you bring your more BattleTech related news as it’s announced.

Update 2017-05-12: According to the latest KickStarter update, the Backer Beta will start June 1st! Fantastic!

MRBC Season 9 Check-In

Welcome to another MRBC roundup. It’s been nearly 4 weeks since our last peak at the MRBC, and the league is starting to take shape and provide us with this year’s contenders. This early in the season it’s still anybody’s game, but we take a look at the front runners in the top divisions across each region.

Eon Synergy

In Europe the fight is turning out to be between Eon Synergy and Black Spikes Team 2 “Yellow Submarine” (which is easily the longest and most confusing title in the league), with both teams having a combined 15 drops won and 5 drops lost. Eon Synergy edges out Yellow Submarine in the all important reputation score but only by a mere 75 points, which can easily be regained by one team getting a few extra kills during a match. The two teams have met only once so far in a close game that saw Yellow Submarine the victor in 3 drops to 2. Notable in that game was a pair of drops where Yellow Submarine shutout Eon Synergy, destroying all their ‘Mechs. The two team are scheduled for a rematch on May 18th, and I’m sure Eon Synergy will be out for blood.

Osiriz

North America is becoming a three-way race between Osiriz, Dropship 5, and the 228th IBR “Black Watch”. While Osiriz leads the division with 5375 points, the other two teams have yet to play their fourth match of the season, which could easily catapult either of them into the lead. Osiriz has played the 228th once this season, resulting in a near blowout with 228th taking 4 out of 5 drops. Dropship 5 has fought neither of the other two leaders so it remains largely unknown how they’ll fare, but it should be noted that Dropship 5 has not had a single lost drop this season, leading some to speculate they are merely waiting for their victorious matches to take the top position in the division.

VETO

The Asia Pacific Region is also turning into a bit of a three-way race between the 228th IBR “The Wild Ones”, Veto, and The Cheapskates. The Wild Ones are currently in the lead with 4200 points, however both Veto and The Cheapskates have yet to have their fourth match. The two are set to have their first meeting on May 12th, which will surely leapfrog the victor into first place for the division. The Wild Ones are far from out of the race, and it’s anyone’s game in the Pacific rim.

Division B The Race To Watch

ISENGRIM

Interestingly, Division B in North America is looking to be a far more hotly contested race, with four front runners vying for dominance. In first place is ISENGRIM, a team which has crawled their way up from Division E and are looking to break into the Division A roster. Hot on their heels are three Division B veteran teams: Marine Mech’s: The Cabal, Blackstone Knights, and the 373rd Winged Viper Cluster (Smoke Adders). Most of these teams have met each other across the field of combat, and many of these matches have gone down to a single surviving ‘Mech.

MarineMechs

MarineMechs versus ISENGRIM was a particularly brutal match, with no team taking a ‘Mech off the battlefield that wasn’t fit for scrap. That is, except for the last match, where MechWarrior mdmzero0 suffered an unfortunate disconnect, taking his 100 ton Atlas essentially out of the drop. The sight of a rampaging and freshly painted Atlas would have been terrifying were it not for the match timer ticking down to ISENGRIM’s victory. A real heart breaker for MarineMechs. 

If you’re looking for some exciting matches, keep an eye on the Division B of MRBC’s upcoming shoutcasts. You’re sure to see some intense ‘Mech combat. 

That’s it for our latest recap of the MRBC season 9 standings. We’ll check back in later on the in the season to see if these tight races have any clear breakaways that could give us a preview for the upcoming MechWarrior World Championships coming this summer.

Until next time, ‘Mech fans. Stay syrupy.