Mech_Con Roundup Day 2 – Harebrained Show, Catalyst Announcements, And A New MWOWC Champion!

Day 2, electric boogaloo! After PGI had their big huzzah on the first day of Mech_Con 2018, the rest of the BattleTech companies got their chance at glory. We had Harebrained Schemes show off their latest BattleTech expansion: Flashpoint, Catalyst Game Labs revealed some fancy dice and that the new box sets aren’t a year-long fever dream, and the MechWarrior Online World Championships crowned a new champion! 

Harebrained Schemes Has Old Men Fight In Giant Robots

Once again, Harebrained decided to showcase their latest creation by making FASA co-founder Jordan Weisman and Harebrained co-founder Mitch Gitelman duel to the death, but this time, instead of mindlessly jumping on each other for a solid hour, they had Hatchetmen. Er, I mean henchmen.

So that went well.

I sadly did not get to see this hopefully yearly tradition when it was broadcast live on Twitch, but thankfully, PGI kept the whole 12-hour video from last Sunday online. So you can see the entire debacle so long as you’re willing to skip to roughly 6 hours in.

Which I can do for you. You’re welcome.

Watch MechCon Vancouver 2018 from PiranhaGames on www.twitch.tv

Like I said, rather than fight it out themselves, the two grandfathers of BattleTech picked two randos out of the audience to be there “advisors”. And by choose, it was more like Gitelman picked the best BattleTech player in Harebrained’s office, while Weisman got Willian von Wilhelm Helmut, the guy who won the Valhalla Tournament Of Champions. Whatever that is.

But here’s the thing: BattleTech is a game of random numbers. And on top of that, Weisman and Gitelman weren’t all that good at taking instructions. Weisman eventually fired his general, while Gitelman often ignored sound advice in favor of performing yet another DFA maneuver.

This year, the numbers were on Gitelman’s side. While last year he had to serve as Weisman’s bondsman, this year the tables are turned and it will be Weisman who washes Gitelman’s car and brews his lattes. They are from Seattle, after all.

Afterward the fight (and somewhat during), the two hosted a live Q&A session about the future of BattleTech. They revealed that more Unseen ‘Mechs are set to arrive, including the Marauder and Warhammer heavy ‘Mechs, but not to expect them in the next planned expansion which is Urban Warfare.

Catalyst Game Labs Answers Questions, Proves That Box Sets Actually Exist

The boys and girls at Catalyst Game Labs were also at Mech_Con to show everyone going gaga over MechWarrior 5 that there’s a simpler, slower, and lower-tech way of playing BattleTech that involves dice, miniatures, and a lot of reading. No, more reading than that–veritable textbooks of reading. Tomes, if you will.

I kid. I only wish I had the free time to play an actual, sit-down-and-roll-dice game of BattleTech.

But also as with last year, Catalyst answered a bunch of questions from the hardcore BattleTech faithful, chief among them was “where the hell are those brand new box sets you’ve been promising since last year?”

The answer: in the warehouse, and expecting to be at brick and mortar stores by the end of the month. It sounds like it might miss the Christmas rush, but maybe you’ll get it in time for New Years.

Box Sets

In addition to the new box sets, Catalyst Primary Randall N. Bills and BattleTech Line Developer Brent Evans also dropped a few new items on the horizon, such as new map pack called “grasslands” (to arrive sometime in March) as well as a reprint of the BattleTech Manual for BattleTech’s 35th anniversary.

We also got some news about Shattered Fortress, which will become a stepping stone to the hotly anticipated Il-Clan sourcebook. We also got a strong hint that the universe will go back to hammering the Capellan Confederation into space dust in the tradition of the classic BattleTech novels.

As always, new fiction is the top priority for BattleTech fans, which Evans was happy to reveal that there are no less than 30 fiction projects of varying length currently in progress. These will become available via electronic distribution (ie. Amazon) as soon as they’re done, which we’ll report on once we’ve got a title to share.

Oh, and since the whole Unseen business is finally settled, expect to see some new sculpts coming out. We don’t know when, but some redesigned Warhammer and Marauder minis could be here sometime next year.

MechWarrior Online World Finals Crowns New Champions

A new day has dawned in competitive MechWarrior Online. Two-time champions EmpyreaL have finally been dethroned by last year’s runner-ups, Eon Synergy.

Whereas EmpyreaL was the dominant force in competitive MWO for several years, EON Synergy displayed incredible skill and tactics during this year’s tournament that made them completely unstoppable. Despite EmpreaL’s team of veteran players, EON never lost a game, and the look of absolute relief after proving that EmpyreaL is not invincible could be felt even through an LCD screen.

This year’s winning team were awarded medals and a shared first place prize of $34,653. They also got a ton of in-game content, although, with the amount of ‘Mechs these guys probably already have, one wonders just how much value they’ll get with an extra 50 million C-Bills.

And that’s it for this year’s Mech_Con! Join us next year when I’ll hopefully get paid to fly to Vancouver on first-class tickets due to the incredible importance of Sarna’s first-hand reporting! And I’ll be sure to bring my BattleTech TCG cards when I do. I heard there were a bunch of you jokesters playing this year.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Mech_Con 2018 Roundup Day 1 – MW5 Release Date, Trailers, And A New ‘Mech!

MW5 Banner

Another year, another Mech_Con has come and gone. Sadly, yours truly was unable to attend this year’s convention due to financial constraints (and because I couldn’t find a couch to sleep on in Vancouver), but that doesn’t mean we won’t talk about all the latest and greatest announcements that came out of the biggest BattleTech-only convention of the year.

This year’s convention was a 2-day affair, which means instead of trying to jam 24-hours of BattleTech awesomeness into a single 12-hour period (which went well into the wee hours of the morning if I recall correctly), the organizers have spread the announcements over both Saturday and Sunday. As the first day is all about MechWarrior Online and MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, we’ll be talking about those first.

MechWarrior 5 Release Date Announced

Last summer, MechWarrior 5’s December 2018 release date was pushed back to be sometime in 2019. Now, we have a specific date in 2019 when we can expect to see the first single-player MechWarrior experience in nearly two decades.

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries drops on September 10th, 2019.

Along with the announcement at this year’s Mech_Con, developers Piranha Games dropped a brand new trailer to give everyone a taste of how it will feel to be a mercenary commander.

The trailer very much reminds me of Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries, and I suspect that’s very much by design. First, you see your female commander ride her Victor into battle against a Hunchback and a King Crab. Being out-gunned nearly two to one obviously doesn’t go well for the Victor, who blows up before even being properly introduced.

Next it switches to the player, who starts off in a Cicada. This again reminds me of MechWarrior 2: Mercs as my first ride after performing the Commando-required training missions was always the Cicada.

Of course, I was very young at the time and didn’t understand that the Cicada was a terrible ‘Mech. It went fast, had a few lasers, and weighed more than anything else on the field, and that was good enough for me.

After the Cicada, the player seems to upgrade to the Griffin GRF-1S, then follows that up with a Dragon, a Thunderbolt, and finally a Stalker. The clear implication is you build up your mercenary company from battlefield salvage as you go along, much like the old MechWarrior: Mercenaries games did.

Some of the big takeaways here are the sound effects, which seem vastly improved over last year’s trailer, as well as the graphics and environmental effects, which are also improved.

Of course, this is just a trailer and not necessarily indicative of gameplay. That’s why we also have a 20-minute gameplay demo that also shows how far MechWarrior 5 has come since last year.

This gameplay demo comes courtesy of Giuseppe over at Twinfinite, who was lucky enough to sit in one of the 4 “pods” that PGI set up for Mech_Con. Each pod had a full Thrustmaster joystick setup and was tied together to test MechWarrior 5’s co-op capability, which is sure to be a game-changer for the series.

The demo starts off which each pilot walking along a dropship gantry to pick which ‘Mech they’ll pilot. Giuseppe hops aboard a Thunderbolt, which is a fantastic choice if I do say so myself. I’ve gotta say, the dropship’s Mechbay is a very impressive addition to the MechWarrior franchise and really gives you a sense of scale for the ‘Mechs you’ll be piloting.

As soon as the game starts, you can see a drastic improvement in graphics from last year’s game. Last year, things looked very drab, dull, and plain. This year, the colors seem more vibrant and there’s a much greater emphasis on textures and greenery to make the terrain come alive.

Admittedly, it does seem that framerate issues remain, so optimization will be a big deal. But PGI has 10 months to figure that out, which should be plenty of time. If last year’s game was a playable alpha build, this year seems much closer to a playable beta build.

Of particular note was the voice acting, which seems to take a page out of BattleTech’s book and casts some memorable voice actors to belt out some lines when beginning a mission.

The music seems adequate if not particularly outstanding, but that’s also subject to change in a year, and I’m sure you can always replace the tunes with MechWarrior 2 covers if you prefer.

Along with the 20-minute demo, we also got a sweet piece of box art for the game. Although it seems highly unlikely anyone will actually buy this game in stores, you still gotta have something to put on a web page to advertise your game, and once again, the talented Alex Iglesias hits it out of the park with this terrifying image of a rampaging King Crab.

Since when did the King Crab become the poster child of the MechWarrior franchise? It seems all the marketing material is going King Crab over Atlas these days.

MechWarrior Online Reveals Brand New ‘Mech – The Corsair

Just like last year’s introduction of the Sun Spider, PGI is bringing yet another brand new ‘Mech to the world of BattleTech.

Corsair

It’s called the Corsair, and Catalyst Game Labs’ Randall Bills has once again given the new ‘Mech his blessing with another fantastic short story describing its origin. I highly recommend going over to the MechWarrior Online website to give the Corsair a quick read-through, or you can get the Cole’s Notes version on our very own Wiki here.

The Corsair is described as a classic “FrankenMech” made from the bits and pieces that periphery bandits and pirate groups can salvage from whatever is available. According to the ‘Mechs description on the PGI website, all of these pirate FrankenMechs are cobbled together from various heavy and assault ‘Mechs and given the blanket designation of “Corsair.” This would mean that Corsairs don’t have any particular weight or loadout and can be made of pretty much anything.

And the Corsair’s visuals certainly confirm its hodge-podge nature. Its chest looks like the blade of a bulldozer, its right shoulder seems to come from a Thunderbolt, while the legs are only vague symmetrical without having any symmetry to their armor plating. Your guess is as good as mine as to where those arms came from.

However, when the Corsair is introduced to MechWarrior Online later in March, it’ll come with a set of standard loadouts and designations much like every other Inner Sphere ‘Mech. This sort of belies the Corsair’s FrankenMech nature by making every version come with the same tonnage (95-tons) and one of 5 weapon loadouts, but it’s likely that a variable weight ‘Mech would require a drastic overhaul of MechWarrior Online’s base code.

With MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries only 10 months away, there’s no way PGI would pour that kind of manpower just to make one ‘Mech a little more flavorful. If we’re lucky, we’ll see some true Corsair-style ‘Mechs in MW5.

The COR-5R sort of looks like if an Orion had sex with a Thunderbolt and then ran headlong into a bulldozer. An AC/10, LRM-15, SRM-6, 3 Medium Lasers, and one Large Laser is surprisingly competent for a pre-Clans era Inner Sphere ‘Mech. It looks like there are enough hardpoints to allow for quite some variation too.

As with any MechWarrior Online ‘Mech, the Corsair’s true performance will all come down to its quirks, but we won’t know about those until closer to the ‘Mech’s ship date on March 19th.

MechWarrior Online Announces Huge Holiday Bonus

via MWO

Last year, if you played MechWarrior Online on December 27th, you got two free hero ‘Mechs (the Sun Spider and the Roughneck) along with a ton of in-game cash and free loot. This year, they’re doing the same thing by giving away the hero variant Corsair as well as the upcoming Warhammer IIC.

A lot of people have fond memories of the Warhammer IIC as the best damned 80-ton assault ‘Mech you could use in MechWarrior 2. Those same gamers are hoping it will be the best damned 80-ton assault ‘Mech in MechWarrior Online. You’ll be able to find out for sure on December 27th if you play just a single game. You don’t even have to win–you just have to play.

Along with the ‘Mechs, you get 6,000,000 C-Bills in spending money (which should be enough to customize one of the two ‘Mechs), 1,250 MC (which is game equivalent of real-world money), and 7-days of Premium Time to encourage you to play a little longer than one game.


And that’ll do for today! Join us next time as we cover the MechWarrior Online World Championship Finals, announcements from Harebrained Schemes and Catalyst Game Labs, and maybe even peek at a few of the posted photos over on Twitter.

And as always MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

Artist Photoshops ‘Mechs Into Classic Paintings, And The Results Are Hilarious

Apologies for the relatively click-baity title, but it sort of fell out of my head and it’s very descriptive. Plus, most of it comes from the Reddit thread where I found these works of art, so I can’t be entirely held responsible.

That argument holds up in court, right?

We have Reddit user TheTwist to thank for taking time out of his life to take some old MechWarrior Online clipart and paste it into even older classic paintings. Actually, that’s selling his work short: these were previously extremely detailed marketing drawings, and making them look like super old oil paintings must have taken a lot of work.

We’ll start with what will obviously be a fan favorite simply for including an UrbanMech, the most mysteriously popular ‘Mech in all of Battletech. Somehow, the Confederates seem to have gotten hold of 31st-century technology and are using it to hold on to… some sort of school. Maybe a church? I know nothing of this painting, and as a proud Canuck, next to nothing about the American Civil War.

So I reached out the artist themself and got the lowdown on how they did it. The painting is called “Tomorrow We Must Attack” by Dale Gallon, and depicts General Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson plotting before some sort of battle. Probably the one that they lost. Whichever battle that was. 

Moving on to another fan fav, the Atlas here is plunked straight in the middle of Vimy Ridge, a battle that as a Canadian I can take some particular pride for remembering the name. The painting is descriptively called “Battle of Vimy Ridge” by Richard Jack and shows the Canadian Corps bombarding the German-held ridge just before the Canuck’s relentless advance.

Somehow, I think the Canadians would have had less success if the Germans had a lance of Atlases on their side.

Next is “The War of the Worlds” by Terrence Cuneo, which was actually used as the cover art for an edition of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The Kodiak you see getting hit by a 24-pound artillery round would normally be a Martian walker, but somehow a giant Ghost Bear assault ‘Mech seems far more menacing.

In “Battle of the Somme: Attack of the Ulster Division” by J. P. Beadle, we see a Locust supporting British troops just as they head over the top, as they used to say. Instead of the first ever tanks deployed in military combat, we see a 20-ton scout ‘Mech. One wonders which would be more effective.

Ravens

“Trooping the Colour,” another painting by Terrence Cuneo, shows the British military on parade back when the British military still had parades. It somehow really fits the twin Ravens, which would surely appear in military parades in Liao space.

Finally, we have “The Tirailleurs De La Seine At The Battle Of Rueil Malmaison” by Étienne Prosper Berne-Bellecour. This one actually shows a scene from the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, with the Centurion lending support with its twin Medium Lasers.

I think these are great, and maybe even worthy of a desktop background if they could come in higher resolution. Which they do on TheTwist’s Imgur page, but not quite enough to be in HD. Still, a little blurring of the lines would only improve the effect of inserting a giant robot into historical battle paintings.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

Fan-Made BattleTech Comic Based On MechWarrior Online Coming Soon

Broken Teeth

We here at Sarna love ourselves some fan-made BattleTech projects. Comic books aren’t the usual fare for BattleTech fan content, but we’re not about to say “no” to an entire volume filled with beautiful robot art. And if we’re lucky, maybe even several volumes.

It’s called (or rather, going to be called) Broken Teeth, with the story written by Solzen and the pictures drawn by Fherot. I was personally tipped-off to this dynamic duo’s project thanks to the BattleTech subreddit, but I also know that the boys over at No Guts No Galaxy have been posting this on their social media accounts as well to generate some hype.

Not to be outdone by those two, we here at Sarna will generate our own specifically branded form of hype. It’s decaf and low calorie.

So far, all we know comes from the cover art that was dropped as a teaser image. It shows a Viper standing on a tarmac with its entire potential arsenal laid out before it. The specific stance and style is a callback to the Shadow Hawk that once adorned the Japanese version of BattleTech many moons ago, which as Tangowolf over on Reddit points out, is itself a reference to the specific style of military photography done to make jet fighters look super cool.

From the title, we know that the comic will be based on both Solzen and Fherot’s experiences playing MechWarrior Online, and it will feature Clan Diamond Shark in a big way. And there will be a Viper, which is a highly underrepresented but very awesome Clan ‘Mech I don’t see enough of.

Besides that, we’ll learn more as the comic is released.

We don’t have specific knowledge on where Broken Teeth will be released, but it’ll surely show up on my social media feeds when it does. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Community Outreach – Interview With BanditB17 And mdmzero0 On The 2018 MechWarrior Online World Championship Finals

It’s that time of year again, ‘Mech fans! The MechWarrior Online World Championship is just around the corner. The three final teams have crushed all others to become the best three teams in the world, and we sit down with MWO shoutcasters BanditB17 and mdmzero0 to get their take on this year’s tournament.

Continue reading

First BattleTech Expansion – Flashpoint – Arrives November 27th

We all knew this day was coming. Flashpoint, the first of hopefully many BattleTech expansions, has been given a release date of November 27th. You can pre-order now and save 10% off your purchase on Steam.

As we may have mentioned before (Hatchetman), there are several exciting new chassis to explore with this expansion (Hatchetman). First is the quick and nimble Crab, capable of operating for extended periods behind enemy lines thanks to it’s all energy loadout (still not a Hatchetman though). There’s also the Cyclops, another C-word ‘Mech that comes with a Lostech battle computer to help with team resolve throughout the fight (still waiting on my Hatchetman).

And of course, how could we forget: the melee-focused Hatchetman (YES!) which uses a 5-ton hatchet to carve its enemies into scrap.

Flashpoints themselves play out as new end-game short story campaigns that will test your skill as a commander but can come with some incredible rewards. Lostech and rare weapons are at the end of these multi-mission mini-campaigns that can range from two to six missions in length. You’ll need to bring many men and machines to take on these varied sorties as there will be no time to rest or refit before the next mission begins.

In the latest update, Mitch told us that there are approximately 30 hours of new content to be had in Flashpoint, but that seems to completely ignore the numerous hours to be spent grinding out flashpoints for that sweet sweet loot.

Also, apparently the tropical biome has spore clouds. I’m not sure what that means, but nobody has ever looked at a spore cloud and said, “Hey, that looks like a fun place to be!”

In even bigger news, Harebrained Schemes has confirmed there will be two more expansions on top of Flashpoint, with the first one being called Urban Warfare. There were a few somewhat urban settings found in the regular BattleTech campaign, but no true urban settings with enormous skyscrapers and densely packed city streets. That’s all set to change with the next expansion, coming out in the summer of next year (hopefully).

If you’re thinking there might finally be a use for the UrbanMech, then you might be right. Too bad we have to wait until the summer to find out.

Oh, and there’s a season pass available for 20% off on Steam too. I’ma get me that. Daddy likes to save his Canadian pesos.

And as always MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Update From Catalyst On The New BattleTech Box Sets

Courtesy of Catalyst Game Labs

Good news, ‘Mech fans! The upcoming BattleTech box sets, including the BattleTech Beginner Box and BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat, are on their way to America right now!

According to Catalyst’s most recent update on the matter, both board games have finally been printed and are on their way. They shipped on October 30th, and are due to arrive on the East Coast somewhere on November 26th.

Sadly, it is quite illegal to swarm the dock in order to grab a box before it passes customs, which is likely why Catalyst did not say just which port the shipment would arrive at.

It takes approximately one week to clear customs (and we’re being optimistic here), with the box set slated to arrive at the distributor by December 3rd. From there it will be shipped to various stores across the country.

Catalyst will provide further updates as the situation warrants. Keep in mind, these dates are subject to change due to weather, postal strikes, or the announcement of World War 3. But if we cross our fingers and pray to the Blessed Blake Himself real hard, we just might see these boxes under our Christmas trees this year.

In the meantime, there are a bunch of .pdf products coming out, starting with Touring The Stars: Hall on November 9th. As winter sets in with its icy fingers, sit by the fire with your favorite e-reader and a cup of hot cocoa and read about a fictional planet in a far-off solar system.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Harebrained Schemes Reveals BattleTech: Flashpoint Gameplay, Kills Dekker

Crab Flashpoint

courtesy of Harebrained Schemes

Harebrained Schemes and Paradox Interactive just finished their first livestream gameplay reveal of the upcoming Flashpoint expansion for BattleTech.

Last Thursday, Harebrained bigwig Mitch Gitelman and lead BattleTech designer Kiva Maginn sat down with Anders Carlsson of Paradox Interactive to do a live Twitch stream of an early development build of the upcoming BattleTech expansion, Flashpoint. And they barely made it out with a single ‘Mech.

Flashpoints are a new post-campaign mission type where the player will engage in a sort of BattleTech short story. Each contract is comprised of a series of missions varying between two to six. Since these all take place one after the other, there won’t be any chance for major refits or for pilots to recover from injuries. You’ll need to have an A-team and a B-team of both ‘Mechs and pilots to replace your losses throughout the Flashpoint.

Since these missions take place after the campaign, it assumes the player is an experienced veteran and is looking for an additional challenge. Thus, the missions are likely going to be harder than your average campaign mission. However, the rewards for completing a Flashpoint can include Lostech, rare equipment, and other such goodies that might make the sacrifice in man and machine worth it.

The initial teaser made it seem like Flashpoints weren’t available until after the main campaign, but Gitelman let it drop that there are some changes coming in patch 1.3 that might allow Flashpoints to occur concurrently with the campaign–so long as you’re at an “open sandbox” portion, that is.

Obviously things are still in development and subject to change, but this seems like it’ll greatly enhance the core BattleTech gameplay.

Kiva and Mitch showed off a single mission during the stream with a new mission type called “Target Acquisition”. This new mission type requires you to bring a lance of fast but tough machines since you’ll need to split your forces to grab several key locations in order to call in an artillery drop. Each ‘Mech needs to be fast enough to get to the location quickly, but tough enough to take a beating once they get there.

Our Harebrained heroes were up against two full Steiner lances, which meant they were up against a lot of heavy firepower. Also, since they were looking to show off the new ‘Mech designs, their composition wasn’t exactly ideal. Consequently, two pilots died and one ejected (and yes, Dekker was one of them).

We got our first good look at the new Crab, Hatchetman, and Cyclops designs before most of them bought it. The Crab is as expected: swift, low-slung, and filled to the brim with lasers. The Hatchetman can be a deadly combatant in melee but is vulnerable to long-range fire. The Cyclops comes with a Lostech Battle Computer that will greatly affect your lance’s resolve, but Harebrained is still tweaking by just how much.

From the looks of things, this Flashpoint would be hard even for a fully prepared mercenary commander. Mitch said that the team had actually nerfed the difficulty twice, so maybe this is a case where some more tweaks are still in store. At least the new tropical biome looked gorgeous throughout the video.

You can check out the whole stream on Paradox’s Twitch channel, or here where I’ve helpfully embedded it for you. I’m helpful.

Watch BattleTech from ParadoxInteractive on www.twitch.tv

We don’t know when in November Flashpoint will come out, but even if it’s a little later in the month that’s still just a few weeks away. If you’ve already gone through a few campaigns in BattleTech, be prepared to dust off your old save file to get ready to drop jokers with a hatchet to the face.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

The Art of War – An Interview with Matthew Plog, BattleTech Artist

They say a picture speaks a thousand words. That saying applies indescribably well to BattleTech. From the clean, sleek lines of scout ‘Mechs and vehicles to the thundering awesomeness of the largest assault machines, art brings the turmoil of the BattleTech universe to life. The images in our TRO’s and Source books lets us imagine these gargantuan machines storming across the battlefields of the Inner Sphere.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with one of this generation’s best BattleTech artists, Matthew Plog. Matthew was gracious enough to take some time out of his day to answer a few questions that gives us a glimpse into the mind of an artist and the workings of creating awesome BattleTech art.


Martin (Sarna): Let’s start from the very beginning, for all those budding artists out there who may read this. Where did you study art?

Matthew: First off I had a very creative mother and she was of course very encouraging to her young son.  Now that that’s out of the way :), I received my more formal art education in New Jersey at the Joe Kubert School for cartoon and Graphic design. 95-98′.

Martin (Sarna): It’s great on many levels to have that family connection to your passion. What got you interested in designing BattleTech equipment?

Matthew: I’d always loved machines, robots, tanks and the like.  Started with Saturday morning and weekday cartoons.  Ranging from G.I. Joe and all their gear to Voltron, Tranzor Z, even Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors.  Anything along those lines fed what I liked, and thus made me like that kind of thing even more.

Martin (Sarna): There are some great blasts from the past there and lots to draw from for inspiration. So what was your first experience with BattleTech work?

Matthew: Well, after time things get fuzzy.  I know I started picking up work with FASA, who owned BattleTech at the time, directly from school.  I believe it may have been work in one of the Battleforce boxed sets, BF2 if I recall correctly.  That was mostly just introductory type work and shortly thereafter I got a big slice of the TRO3060 roster.  As far as the experience goes, working with the BattleTech guys was always good.  They knew what they were after, knew the right things to say to get it, and usually paid on time.;)

Martin (Sarna): As a writer I find it easy working with words. As an artist and with only words to work with, how do you go about transforming those words into drawings?

Matthew: Having everything I’m doing take place in a universe that has already been established helps.  It gives you the framework.  But the words do the same thing to non-artists that they do to artists, we hear something, we see it in our head.  We just have the ability to get it back out.  Plus almost nothing ever gets to its end state on the first go. There’s almost always something that gets missed or minimized when it should be far more evident.  That’s why we have art editors.

Martin (Sarna): Can you describe your design creation process? Do you typically start from the ground up (literally) or work from the head down?

Matthew: Such things often end up being on a case by case.  If there’s an important structure to whatever I’m drawing I’ll start there.  But if we’re just talking general ‘Mechs then I start from the inside out.  Since the universe has an established set of rules for its technology they tend to follow biological rules a bit.  What with artificial muscle and man-mind controls.  So typically an arm is an arm and a leg, other.  Having fun with the sliders in the BT universe between straight machine look and more manlike is usually one of the fun parts of design.  But usually the most important thing when designing is to remember what rules you’re supposed to be following.  That tends to make the difference.  Of course, also when to ignore them.

Martin (Sarna): You create a lot of excellent commissioned art, particularly via DeviantArt. What’s the thrill for you in doing this type of work as opposed to an entirely new creation?

Matthew: BattleTech fans have always been a fine bunch to do business with, so they make it fairly easy.  Drawing something different every time has its appeal.  I’m unlikely to be able to complain of stagnation, at least on a one to one basis.

Martin (Sarna): Between business and commissioned requests it sounds like you’re kept pretty busy. Do you have a lot of back-work waiting to see the light of day or do you create upon request?

Matthew: There are some personal projects still in sketchy stages, but generally I share everything that I’d consider “done”.  Usually a good idea to show off the latest commissions and such.  But when I’m not working on one of them, likely I’m doodling something else for sure.

Martin (Sarna): Do you play BattleTech? If so for how long and how often?

Matthew: I haven’t played the actual board game version in every part of 15 years but I still love the miniatures, buying and painting them.  In keeping with the tone set by the first time I ever heard “BattleTech” I’ve played it most recently in the computerized form.  I played MechWarrior Online for a bit and am looking forward to trying out the BattleTech turn based game as well.

Martin (Sarna): I can vouch that the latest BattleTech game by Harebrained Schemes is well worth the time and money. I hope you have a lot of fun playing it and we would love to hear about your experiences with it in the future.

Thanks very much for your time, Matt. It’s very interesting to get a little glimpse behind the curtain of a well-established BattleTech artist. We all look forward to seeing more of your work in the near future.


For those of you wanting to keep up to date with Matt’s work (and you absolutely should!) or contact him about commission work, you can follow his DeviantArt account here: MattPLOG on DeviantArt

Original BattleTech Pods In Grand Rapids Michigan Moving To New Dedicated Site

courtesy of Virtual World Entertainment

courtesy of Virtual World Entertainment

Some original BattleTech Center virtual reality pods are moving to a new dedicated “Pod Site” in Grand Rapids Michigan.

Those old enough to remember the Virtual World Entertainment pods will be happy to hear that they’re alive and well, and the set located in Michigan are migrating to a new location where they will continue to be tweaked, preserved, and even played in.

A few weeks ago, current Virtual World Entertainment owner Nickolas “PropWash” Smith posted to the BattleTech subreddit that he’ll be taking a contingent of the original BattleTech: Firestorm pods from their current storage location and bringing them to a dedicated pod site in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Previously, your best opportunity to get insides one of these delightful relics was to go to one of the many conventions where Nick and the gang bring their portable pods. However, with the new site, you’ll have a chance to get a real taste of what it’s like to be in a “real” ‘Mech cockpit–minus the oppressive heat and need for a neurohelmet of course.

courtesy of Virtual World Entertainment

For those not old enough to remember, Virtual World Entertainment was the FASA off-shoot that dealt with turning the games that FASA made into “location-based entertainment experiences,” more commonly referred to as arcade games. They had a pretty nice heyday throughout the ‘90s, but as the demand for arcades began to wane in the early 2000’s (combined with FASA’s decision to abruptly cease operations in 2001), Virtual World was put up for sale.

Microsoft first acquired Virtual World Entertainment along with FASA Interactive, but then they sold Virtual World again to an investment group.

At the time, these simulator pods were state of the art arcade games that an investment firm would have seen no value except to sell for scrap. Some pods almost certainly were scrapped, but a concerted effort from Virtual World owners and a dedicated player community managed to save most of these pods from the scrap yard.

And while there are multiple former Virtual World pods out there operated by several different groups, the original Virtual World Entertainment company continues to remain operational under the ownership of one Nickolas Smith. Nick purchased the company in 2005 and has dutifully safeguarded these priceless pieces of real-life Lostech for 20 years.

courtesy of VGLU on Facebook

And upgraded them. The pods themselves weren’t originally meant to be carried from convention to convention, and only with diligent work from many dedicated enthusiasts were they able to become portable. This allowed Nick (as well as others pod owners) to bring their hardware to various BattleTech conventions.

Between conventions, these Michigan based pods were initially kept in storage at Nick’s house–a far cry from the public arcades they used to be found in. I myself remember getting my first lick at a BattleTech pod from a Dave and Buster’s over a decade ago. I’m nowhere near a convention that BattleTech is featured at, so without an arcade, I’d have never been able to enjoy pulling levers and pushing pedals as though I were a real ‘Mech pilot.

Obviously, keeping a bunch of VWE pods at a random house in Michigan is less than ideal. Nick moved his cockpits to Grand Rapids in 2010 and put them under the care of Jeff Perry at the Big Kidz Games retail store. Now they’re being moved to a new site storage in Grand Rapids that will open during select special events for public play or by private reservation. The new location will be called the Virtual Geographic League Underground, or VGLU for short–a call back to the fictional Virtual World origins story.

I had a chance to speak to Nick recently, and he says that the new location will operate by word of mouth and social media–sort of like a modern speakeasy. If you follow the Virtual World Entertainment Facebook group (or the VGLU Facebook group) then you’ll be able to ask how and when you can get your hands behind the control sticks of a piece of BattleTech history.

Currently there are 18 pods, all running both BattleTech: Firestorm–that’s the one based on MechWarrior 4. But these pods are running far more than the original software. They’ve been tweaked, modded, and improved beyond what you might remember. All the original ‘Mechs are still there, but there are also the MekTek ‘Mech Packs that expanded the MechWarrior 4 arsenal to over 100 chassis, and even more custom designs added after that.

The new Grand Rapids site will open during Brocktoberfest on October 12th through 14th (Brocktoberfest being a reference to the game Red Planet that I didn’t understand beyond the fact that Red Planet was another game run on the Virtual World pods). The best way to get involved is via the Facebook groups I linked above.

And while you’re there, consider making a donation–these pods are kept alive and even improved thanks to the hard work of some dedicated individuals, but MacGyvering replacement parts in an ever-dwindling supply can get expensive.

For those not in the Michigan area, there are plenty of other locations to try out these incredible machines, including locations in Albuquerque, Houston, Minneapolis, and a site recently opened in Montreal, Canada. Check out the link here for specific locations.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy