Author Archives: Sean

About Sean

Hooked on BattleTech at an early age, Sean honestly can't remember whether it was the cartoon, the serial novels or the short-lived TCG that did him in. Whatever it was, his passion for giant shooty robots never died, so now he writes about the latest and greatest in 'Mech related news.

Blaine Lee Pardoe Posts Treasure Trove Of Original ‘Mech Design Docs

BattleMaster

courtesy of Catalyst Game Labs

Blaine Lee Pardoe just posted a treasure trove of BattleTech artifacts.

This is pretty incredible for anyone who’s super into the history of BattleTech. Blaine Lee Pardoe, the legendary author and writer of the most recently released BattleTech novel, The Anvil, has uploaded a bunch of scanned copies of original tech documents from the founding days of BattleTech.

I already knew that Pardoe played a key role in much BattleTech’s narrative, but I had no idea he also got to write up the back stories of some of the most iconic ‘Mechs the game has ever seen. ‘Mechs like the Locust, Warhammer, Shadow Hawk, and BattleMaster all had Pardoe’s mark in their gritty backstories.

Besides just identifying what ‘Mechs were his to write about, Mr. Pardoe also posted the original drafts of the BattleMaster, including the very first image of the 85-ton death machine.

The text portion was a little light over on Pardoe’s blog, but with the power of some photo editing software I’ve darkened them up to be a little more legible.

It’s pretty amazing to see an entire ‘Mech design was nothing more than numbers of graph paper in the beginning. The text portion (most of which eventually made it into the 3025 TRO) is equally as neat, especially the later portions that had to do with notable pilots and variants. We know from previous posts that Pardoe will occasionally take real-life people to include in his fluff, so some of these might actually be real people (he didn’t confirm that in his blog post, however).

courtesy of Blaine Lee Pardoe

courtesy of Blaine Lee Pardoe

courtesy of Blaine Lee Pardoe

Although the only two variants posted were the BLR-1G and the BLR-1D, there is mention of the BLR-1S without naming it specifically. This was actually added later in the 3039 TRO, but here we get to see how Pardoe created the “rumor” that eventually became another cannon variant of the BattleMaster.

Blaine wasn’t able to name the ‘Mechs himself (the pictures and names were given to him by the FASA bigwigs at the time), but he was able to name some of the support vehicles, such as the Stuka, the Seydlitz, and the Chippewa. The first two are named after a German WWII dive bomber and a WWI battlecruiser, but the Chippewa is actually named after the old mascot for Central Michigan University.

There was one ‘Mech that Pardoe mentioned that apparently had a big kerfuffle when it was introduced: the Grand Titan. This must’ve been before my time because from the description it seems there were some mathematical errors, which Pardoe explained as being due to him not having his design docs when he writing up the Titan and creating the ‘Mech entirely from memory.

Personally, I always liked the Grant Titan even though as a 100-ton assault ‘Mech it doesn’t make sense for a big, tanky ‘Mech to have an XL Engine. But all those flaws were part of the original design’s charm.

After the Grand Titan snafu, Pardoe stopped designing ‘Mechs, but he’ll be coming back to the drawing board in his upcoming novella all about Wolf’s Dragoons.

There’s even more on Pardoe’s website, so check it out when you’ve got a chance.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Did You Know? – Retro BattleTech Games, “The Crescent Hawks’ Inception”

 

Welcome back to Did You Know?, the Sarna feature where we take a look at some of the more obscure corners of BattleTech history. We’re kicking off a series on retro video games, and what could possibly be more retro than the very first BattleTech computer game than BattleTech: The Crescent Hawks’ Inception?

Originally released in 1988, this bad boy was made for the original Commodore 64. I’m not nearly old enough to remember these ancient personal computers, but if they’re anything like the Nintendo 64, it must’ve been revolutionary for its time.

To get this game to function on a modern computer would require running a virtual machine on Windows and possibly some light computer engineering knowledge that I simply don’t have the time or inclination to learn. Luckily, we live in the age of the internet, and no matter how old or obscure the game, someone has done a Let’s Play series about it on YouTube.

We have MrTatteredRags to thank for this lovely Let’s Play that goes from beginning to end of The Crescent Hawks’ Inception, which I will henceforth shorten to simply CHI. Produced by Westwood Associates (the developer that would eventually become the legendary Westwood Studios of Command & Conquer fame) CHI followed the standard format for most Infocom games at the time–that being a text-based adventure game with a few basic animations and the most god-awful sound effects possible.

Just take a few moments to experience the game’s opening. This is bad, even by 1988 standards.

Full disclosure: I’ve experienced text-based adventure games before, but they were usually only in the form of a brief joke scene in a more modern game. The only game I’ve ever played that took the genre seriously was Space Ranger, a Russian top-down space adventure game that mixes RTS and RPG elements as well as the aforementioned text adventure portion.

Frankly, I don’t know how anyone can endure an entire game that’s just wandering around Legend of Zelda-style until you have to do some light reading and option selection, but the late ‘80s were a vastly different time for gaming.

In CHI, you play as Jason Youngblood, a young military cadet on the Steiner planet of Pacifica (aka Chara III). You’re the son of war her Jeremiah Youngblood, the Lyran HQ’s security chief and someone who oddly has the ear of Archon Katrina Steiner.

Crescent Hawk 4

He’ll soon die and leave you in charge of a guerrilla campaign to overthrow invaders from the Draconis Combine, but before then you’re just a cadet in training. So you can wander around and do some training missions to learn how to use guns, rifles, and even a bow and arrow.

Learning how to use a bow and arrow seems oddly low-tech in the world of BattleTech, but again, it was the ‘80s. You weren’t a warrior until you learned how to kill a man with a bow and arrow.

You can also go on training missions in ‘Mechs–ostensibly the whole reason why you’re there. Your choice of machine is either a Locust, Wasp, or the rarely seen Chameleon. There’s little to say for the animation of any particular ‘Mech with the 8-bit designs basically getting the overall outline correct without providing much detail.

Crescent Hawk 3

Eventually on one of your training missions, the Draconis Combine invades, destroys the training academy, and leaves you alone to assemble a crack team of Drac-fighting commandos including a ‘Mech tech, a field nurse, and even a former Kell Hound. This is when the game really picks up and where your earlier training determines how easy you find the game’s remaining tasks.

It turns out that the Dracs are on Pacifica to raid an old Star League-era weapons depot that your father discovered while stationed here. You also find out that your father was actually the commander of an elite covert operations team called the Crescent Hawks, and as you wander around Pacifica gathering allies you adopt your father’s unit name and assume command.

I guess “cadet” makes you the ranking officer on planet?

There are a lot of holes like this in the general plot of the game. Apparently the Crescent Hawks are also somehow related to the Kell Hounds (because almost everything good and noble in the Lyran Commonwealth is related to that mercenary company) and the Crescent Hawks were given carte blanche from Katrina Steiner herself to operate as an independent military unit.

Crescent Hawk 5

Another thing I found somewhat odd was how everything in the game costs C-bills. That’s fine, Lyrans are merchants after all, but you’d think being a guerrilla group operating on a recently invaded planet that the locals might be a bit more eager to help out with donations.

Perhaps the greatest sin this game makes, however, is how it ends with such an obvious setup for the sequel (SPOILER ALERT!). You barely resolve anything: Jason locates the Star League-era cache, finds his dad’s ‘Mech (a PHX-HK2 Phoenix Hawk LAM of all things), and you escape the planet via dropship with a communique direct from Katrina offering you a commission in the Lyran Armed Forces.

Phoenix Hawk LAM

But no, you refuse her offer to go looking for your father, who must surely still be alive since you found his ‘Mech (I know there are other reasons too, but that was the big “payoff” near the end-game).

As much as the whole game reads as BattleTech fan-fiction rather than anything even remotely approaching canon, it seems that Crescent Hawks’ Inception was well received by the fan base. So well received that it became written into canon in subsequent official publications from FASA.

Personally, I think that CHI got a lot of goodwill simply because it was the first of its kind. Looking at it with the critical eye of someone who came of age during the days of MechWarrior 2, the plot was flimsy and at times nonsensical, the sound effects were either hilarious or nonexistent, and the game’s visuals were what I’d imagine a coked-out pixel artist’s rendition of Robotech would look like.

On the plus side, CHI needed to happen in order for every other BattleTech game to come after it. Plus, the Phoenix Hawk LAM is always pretty cool.

I give it two stars out of five.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Shattered Fortress To Debut At GenCon

Shattered Fortress To Debut At GenCon

courtesy of Catalyst Games

Shattered Fortress is almost here! The new sourcebook detailing the end of the Dark Age era of BattleTech is set to debut at GenCon, with the .pdf files to become available the first week of August. 

We first heard about Shattered Fortress last February when we interviewed Brent Evans, the lead developer for BattleTech. He said that the previously developed ilClan sourcebook had generated so much content that the Powers-That-Be over at Catalyst decided to break it into two books, with Shattered Fortress being the lead-in to the fireworks display that will be ilClan.

As for what we can expect from this new book, a posting over at the BattleTech forums gave us a lovely little preview straight from the back cover:

Shattered Fortress To Debut At GenCon

“In 3146, the Republic of the Sphere hangs by a tenuous thread. The last fragments of Devlin Stone’s dream to shepherd humankind toward a more prosperous future hide behind the impenetrable defenses of Fortress Republic. As the interstellar communications blackout rages, the ambitious Great Houses vie for military dominance, and the bloodthirsty Clans strive to find a weakness in the Fortress’s armor on their path to conquering Terra and claiming the coveted title of ilClan. When the Wall comes down, will the Inner Sphere plunge even further into the abyss of interstellar war, or will this herald the dawning of a new age?

“Shattered Fortress chronicles the twilight of BattleTech’s Dark Age, as nations are thrown into turmoil and predators circle the broken remnants of the Republic of the Sphere. This volume provides a year-by-year look at pivotal turning points in the history of the Inner Sphere, offers a peek behind the curtain of Fortress Republic, and reveals the fateful decisions that will ultimately decide the future of humanity.”

This is, of course, good news for anyone who didn’t like the Dark Ages of BattleTech, which according to my research, was most people. The whole “everyone is back to using AgroMechs thanks to the general degradation of technology” was just really… well, dark. That, and it’s hard to get excited about people going to war with pitchforks and hand grenades.

We can only speculate on what will happen in each of those years mentioned, but hopefully something happens to the HPG Blackout. Whether that’s a slow rebuilding of the network or some other technology taking its place, we’ll have to wait and see. We’ll certainly get some high-level highlights of what’s to happen with the Clans, and maybe even get a few tales from the Great Houses that don’t involve just giving up planets to the Republic.

GenCon begins this Thursday, so fingers crossed those .pdf files will be available on the same day.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

BattleTech Box Sets To Be Debuted At GenCon 2018

Box Sets

courtesy of Catalyst Game Labs

Last March we got a sneak preview of the new BattleTech box sets that were set to come out later this year. A beginner box for $19.99 and a full-set box for $59.99, with both boxes filled to their respective brims with brand new miniatures, maps, and even a delightful new short story.

We had plenty of details, but we never received a date. We were left to wonder when–oh when!–our fair lady would finally arrive. Well, wonder no longer.

As updated on the Catalyst Game Labs news page, BattleTech Beginner Box Set and A Game Of Armored Combat will debut at this year’s GenCon.

The store release will still have to wait a bit, sadly. Wider release at your local neighborhood miniatures and game shop will follow “soon” after GenCon, but we don’t have specific dates. Here’s hoping they’re already in transit and just waiting to be loaded off the trucks.

As a quick reminder, the Beginner Box Set comes with two–count ‘em, TWO–all new miniatures: the Steiner favorite Griffin and the much more widely used Wolverine. The full-sized Game Of Armored Combat comes with eight new miniatures: the Awesome, BattleMaster, Catapult, Commando, Locust, Shadow Hawk, Thunderbolt, and previously mentioned Wolverine.

Classic Art

Both box sets come with an all-new, never-before-seen 48-page novella from William H. Keith detailing the saga of Carlyle’s Commandos and how their surviving members eventually formed the core of what would become the Gray Death Legion.

On top of that momentous news, Catalyst has also revealed new vintage cover art for their hotly anticipated rulebook reprints. Classic art from 1987 and 1994 will adorn the faces of BattleTech: Total Warfare, BattleTech: TechManual, BattleTech: Tactical Operations, and BattleTech: Strategic Operations, available now for $15 in .pdf format. See if you can spot the original books where these iconic pieces were taken from.

GenCon is set to begin August 2nd, so it won’t be long before we finally get to see these box sets in the flesh. Or rather, paper with a bit of plastic. Whatever.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Blaine Lee Pardoe Provides Some Clues On His Next Book

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story stated that The Anvil was the Dragoons novella. I have it on very good authority that this is actually incorrect, and that The Anvil is a completely separate book. So that would be three books total. Math is hard.

Blaine Lee Pardoe has just completed his first edit pass on his latest BattleTech novella. We know this because he said as much on one of his most recent Twitter posts.

But we got even more info from his blog, which told us that the new book will center around everyone’s favorite mercenary army, Wolf’s Dragoons.

Unfortunately, as this is a book that’s yet to be released, Mr. Pardoe was unable to spill all the beans, but he was able to give us a few tantalizing tidbits–as well as a look behind the writing curtain–in the form of an impromptu Q&A session between himself and the many BattleTech fans who email him on a daily basis.

The first question had to do with how he actually plans out a battle between the towering behemoths we call ‘Mechs and whether or not he uses the tabletop as a starting point. I’ve always wondered about this personally–whether or not the great BattleTech writers actually sit down and play out every war from start to finish with friends, or if they even boot up some old-school vidya games to gain inspiration that way.

In Pardoe’s case, the short answer to either possibility is ‘no.’

“I do not put ‘Mechs on a map, fight a battle, then document it,” Mr. Pardoe wrote. “Why? Because I believe that the characters, not the battle, need to drive the story.” I couldn’t agree more.

He did admit to tracking damage with actual damage sheets from the tabletop in order to ensure that no ‘Mech’s damage ever grossly exceeds what is possible according to the rules. However, Blaine further clarified that in the ‘theatre of the mind’ battle damage isn’t just a series of boxes and numbers, and that a PPC blast to a ‘Mech’s thigh isn’t considered cumulative with a laser blast to its shin as it is in the official rules.

Or as Blaine put it, “I am aware of the rules and apply them as appropriate.”

The second question answered was regarding just how much freedom he has while writing, which turns out to be quite a bit. However, the BattleTech overlords over at Catalyst still set guidelines that need to be followed with respect to what happens in-universe. This can mean that novels might sit in waiting while we wait for the BattleTech universe to catch up.

Dragoons

courtesy of Broke Low on Blogger

As it turns out, this has actually happened to Pardoe for another forthcoming book entitled Forever Faithful. We don’t know much about that one other than it’s all done and it’s been sitting in a file folder on his desktop just waiting for the universe to catch up to the point where publishing the book makes sense.

Mr. Pardoe does sit in Catalyst meetings where the BattleTech powers-that-be discuss far-reaching narrative plans, so he’s not entirely powerless when it comes to influencing the direction that the universe takes. Blaine also mentioned “there’s a big story arc in play” and that he’s one of the many architects putting it all together.

Finally, if you’ve read all of Pardoe’s giant stompy robot books as I have, you might have picked up on his tendency to throw in some random names here and there. Turns out those are indeed fan requests, but they’re most certainly not from people who email him asking to be written into his books. That’s a quick way to get on the persona-non-grata list.

Instead, you gotta use the BattleTech International fan page over on Facebook. Occasionally, Mr. Pardoe will post a request for names, to which you might be the lucky winner to appear in one of his stories.

Well, luck might be a strong word.

courtesy of shimmering sword on DeviantArt

“Just because you are in a novel doesn’t mean you are an awesome heroic character,” cautioned Pardoe. “You could be a douchebag, or a street, or a river, or a throw-away character that gets a freaking headshot with a gauss rifle at the start of the battle and becomes a gooey paste. Be careful what you ask for.”

Oh, and one more thing: Mr. Pardoe is working on “a BattleTech novel of immense proportion that is due next year.” So keep an eye out for that.

Check out Blaine Lee Pardoe’s blog for more. And if you’re a fan of true crime stories, then you’ll find a kindred spirit in the rest of Mr. Pardoe’s website.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

BattleTech Tips And Tools Of The Trade

Centurion

I’ve now clocked in a solid 100 hours in BattleTech, with my latest run being focused on using what I’ve learned from my previous character to run through the plot in an ideal way. No lack of ‘Mechs, pilots, or components will mar my perfect experience. I’ll always get the ‘Mech I want, and I even went so far as to mod the game so I started off with a bespoke lance consisting of a Firestarter, Jenner, Shadow Hawk SHD-2D, and a Griffin GRS-1S.

That was just so I could have a slightly different experience than my previous playthrough. Since everything is randomized, all ‘Mechs after the first few missions will always be different outside of the story missions, so I didn’t have any concerns about boredom after I got started.

But now that I’ve achieved what I’d like to consider as “veteran” status in the game, I felt it right that I bestow upon you, dear Sarna reader, some of the tips I’ve learned in my career as a mercenary lance commander.

Locust

To start, I’ve always found that grinding out a bunch of easy missions early on will make the tougher missions that much easier for you later. The reason here is that grinding simple missions gives you XP that will make your pilots better. Once a pilot reaches certain milestones they get a huge power boost which can help turn the tide of a battle in your favor.

“Being able to move and shoot first is huge.”

One thing I’ve found to be a huge boon is the Master Tactician skill. Found under the Tactics tree at level 8, it allows your ‘Mechs to move at a higher initiative. This means that Assault ‘Mechs move at the same time as Heavy ‘Mechs, Heavies move at the same time as Mediums, and Medium ‘Mechs move at the same time as Lights.

Being able to move and shoot first is huge. If you can take out a few dangerous opponents before they have a chance to fire it will allow you to take on waves of opponents that would seem impossible to defeat on paper.

Master Tactician will always come with Sensor Lock as a secondary skill, which leaves tertiary skill to choose. I like to have a mix of Bulwark, Evasive Movement, and Multi-Target for my pilots. Bulwark is good for heavies and assaults to belly up to the line and face-tank whatever the enemy throws at them, while Evasive Movement is great for scouts and fast-movers. Multi-Target is better for missions with a lot of soft targets such as tanks or structures, but it can be difficult to predict if a mission will throw a swarm of Galleons at you or not.

Spider

What ‘Mechs you use is far more dependant on what ‘Mechs you fight than anything else (unless you want to mod the game as I did), but there are a few to keep an eye out for thanks to their weapon-efficient loadouts.

The Shadow Hawk SHD-2D is a personal favorite. You can load it up with 1,000 armor, 3 Medium Lasers, 2 SRM-6s, and 2 Small Lasers to turn it into a tough and deadly brawler. For whatever reason, the Shadow Hawk deals increased melee damage compared to other Medium ‘Mechs–closer to a 70-ton Heavy–so it’s the perfect design to get up close and personal with.

Light ‘Mechs eventually become too poorly armored to use later in the game (although I’ve heard some skilled commanders have beaten the game entirely with Light ‘Mechs), but the Firestarter is another close-range brawler that is utterly terrifying. Keep the Flamers or swap them for a battery of Small Lasers, and either way, once it gets in close whatever it’s fighting is dead.

The Shadow Hawk SHD-2D is the perfect design to get up close and personal with.

The Orion is relatively common and can be customized to be almost anything: a close-range brawler, a long-range sniper, or even a missile boat. In the Assault category, I came across quite a few Highlanders in my first playthrough and found them all to be equally amazing.

Short Range Missiles are, ton for ton, the most weight-efficient way of dealing damage. Before the latest patch they were utterly devastating when combined with Precision Strike, the ability that allows you to use morale to target specific components, but since then their ability to core a ‘Mech in a single salvo has diminished somewhat. Still, they’re potent, and a personal favorite of mine.

Laser boats were previously too hot to be effective, but the patch has also lowered the heat cost of Large Lasers to the point where they might be usable. I’ll have to do more testing, but I’m looking forward to finding a Black Knight or a Grasshopper to test it out.

If you can find a PPC+++ then they might be worth using, but generally I found them to generate too much heat for too little damage to be of much use.

Long range weapons aren’t really all that great in BattleTech thanks to a fog of war that reduces visibility to barely a few meters in front of you. If you feel you must take something with some range, Long Range Missiles are your best bet. They can fire over obstacles to soften your opponents up, and they deal a ton of stability damage with the right mods.

Autocannons are certainly better balanced in this game than on the tabletop, but they’re still not efficient enough in terms of damage per ton to compare with lasers and SRMs. On Assault ‘Mechs it’s not so big a deal since they have tonnage to spare, but on Medium and Heavy ‘Mechs, it’s strictly worse than a loadout weighted toward missiles and lasers.

One last thing: the key to success in BattleTech is using your Precision Strike and Vigilance abilities to their fullest. This means that opting for some increase morale upgrades in the early game might be even more important than faster repairs or healing in the med bay. Just have a team of 8 or more pilots and swap them out when they get a little banged up.

A veteran I may be, but I’m still far from a BattleTech expert. Think you might be one? Then submit your tips and tricks in the comment section below to prove it!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.  

stay syrupy

Harmony Gold And Piranha Games Lawsuit Has Been “Resolved”

Atlas Punch

Harmony Gold’s lawsuit against BattleTech and it’s various creators looks to finally be over. And this time, just maybe, it’s over for good.

Piranha Games President Russ Bullock took to the MechWarrior Online forums to make an official announcement on the settlement between PGI and Harmony Gold. He was necessarily brief with his words as the exact details of the settlement were not disclosed. However, he was able to offer this approved wording:

“Harmony Gold and Piranha Games are delighted to announce that they have ended their dispute. Piranha Games will continue to use the “classic” BattleTech designs and Harmony Gold and Piranha Games look forward to continuing to serve their respective fans and customers.”

Standard disclaimer: I’m no lawyer, but this seems like a win. It essentially means that Piranha Games can continue to use the Unseen ‘Mech designs currently in MechWarrior Online, and likely can put a few into the upcoming MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries as well. 

Thanks to the kind folks over at the BattleTech subreddit, we also have a copy of the court documents for people to verify with more legally-trained eyes.

Robotech courtesy of Mecha Talk

courtesy of Mecha Talk

Note the use of “dismissal with prejudice” in the court docs. This means that whatever terms were agreed upon for the settlement, Harmony Gold cannot bring the same case before the courts again. In order to sue PGI they’d have to convince a judge that the new case isn’t the same as the old one, which would probably be a very tough thing to do after all this litigation.

And even if Harmony Gold convinced a judge that there’s a new case to argue, they’d still be right back where we last left them before the settlement: with PGI arguing that Harmony Gold doesn’t even own the copyrights and can’t sue as a result.

That’s not to say that a new lawsuit isn’t impossible. We don’t know the terms of the settlement, so whatever deal they worked out might only be for the current generation of games. A new game, say BattleTech 2 or MechWarrior 6, might not be protected by this settlement (if Unseen designs are used) and be subject to another lawsuit.

Another big deal is that this settlement drops the claims against everyone, including Catalyst Game Labs. We no longer have to worry about HG shutting down the tabletop side of things just because of a dispute in the virtual world of video games.

Now, there’s a lot of debate over on the official BattleTech forums about what suddenly brought this case to a settlement when PGI seemed like they were all-in on their arguments against Harmony Gold. Maybe HG managed to get that letter rogatory from Big West authorizing them to defend copyrights that they owned? Or maybe there was something even bigger hidden in HG’s arsenal that we might never know about.

All we can say for sure is that this looks to be the end of the road for this current spat of legal issues for now, and maybe, hopefully, forever.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

MechWarrior 5 Delayed Until 2019

courtesy of mw5mercs.com

courtesy of mw5mercs.com

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries has been delayed until 2019.

The news comes straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, with Piranha Games President Russ Bullock making the announcement on his Twitter page.

The move to delay seems to acknowledge the responsibility PGI feels in bringing the “the first single player experience MechWarrior title released since 2002″ to a competitive market. Delaying until 2019 will allow them to deliver the best single-player MechWarrior experience to date” and ensure MechWarrior 5 lives up to the high standards set by modern ‘Mech games.

As much as many a salty MechWarrior Online fan might see this as an indication that their previous online-only ‘Mech game is finally fizzling out, this is probably not the case. MechWarrior Online doesn’t publish it’s player counts, but Steam Charts has given the average number of Steam players at around 2,000 for years now, with undoubtedly thousands more simply playing directly via the MWO Portal.

What is far more likely is PGI’s understanding that a single-player game like MechWarrior 5 will need to be done right in order to capture the imagination of not just MechWarrior fans but also sci-fi sim-shooter fans in general. They’ve got their eyes set on a much larger prize than just the BattleTech faithful, and more power to them.

I got a very brief taste of MW5 at Mech_Con last year and it was… rough. Granted, it was a pre-alpha build that had been running on the same rig for most of the day, but it definitely suffered from lost frames and performance issues. It was also just a brief rampage through an enemy base without anything along the lines of an actual plot.

You can bet that story, level design, and all the trappings of a real single-player game are going to become a renewed focus for the developers with the extra time they’ve just given themselves.

courtesy of mw5mercs.com

courtesy of mw5mercs.com

Bullock confirmed in a response to a follower’s tweet that the delay has absolutely nothing to do with the ongoing legal issues between PGI and the despicable Harmony Gold. I might be reading a little between the lines (or letters, in this case), but my bet is this is all strictly so that the developers can make a better game.

Most of the responses on Twitter were positive, appreciating the move for quality over a rush-job. To be frank, I’m of the same mind here. Nothing annoys me more than a game I’ve waited to play for years only to find it delivered as a heaping pile of digital manure. That’s what PGI is afraid of, and rightly so.

We’ll get a better idea of when MechWarrior 5 will release at this year’s Mech_Con.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Harmony Gold and Piranha Games Have Settled – Probably

Harmony Gold and Piranha Games have settled according to recently filed court documents.

Unlike last time when Harebrained Schemes had their case with HG dismissed two months ago, we’re going to keep our champagne bottles firmly corked and the confetti safely ensconced in whatever container confetti is normally ensconced in (I don’t actually know anything about confetti–is it a tin? A can?).

According to court documents filed in Washington District Court on June 7th, MechWarrior Online creators Piranha Games have reached a settlement agreement with hated patent trolls, Harmony Gold.

“Plaintiff Harmony Gold U.S.A., Inc. (‘Harmony Gold’) and Defendant Piranha Games Inc. (‘Piranha’) have agreed to a settlement in principle of this case,” the document reads, “but need time to prepare the written settlement documents.”

The motion goes on to state that if things fall apart then the case will proceed as it had previously.

As for what that settlement might entail, that we don’t know. And we may never know–legal settlements are often subject to non-disclosure agreements that will prevent us from ever knowing for sure if Harmony Gold will rear their ugly heads to rain on our parade.

BUT, and I say this as a non-lawyer with absolutely no background to draw from (sorry, our resident lawyer is on vacation and wasn’t able to comment as of the time of this writing), it seems likely that PGI paid off Harmony Gold with a stipulation that they cannot come after them for their upcoming game, MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries.

Unless the settlement details get disclosed the only way to tell is to wait and see what ‘Mechs Piranha Games opts to put in their upcoming single-player MechWarrior game. If there’s no Marauders, Warhammers, or Riflemen, then we’ll have our answer.

On the plus side, the Shadow Hawk, Griffin, and many more Unseen ‘Mechs are still present in Harebrained’s BattleTech, so we know that whatever settlement they reached in April didn’t take those iconic ‘Mechs away for good.

We’ll be sure to keep you up to date as we get more info.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

MechWarrior Online World Championship Tournament Announced With Stock ‘Mech Restriction

courtesy of mechwarrior.com

courtesy of mechwarrior.com

The MechWarrior Online World Championship tournament has just been announced with a surprise twist.

Stock ‘Mechs. That’s right: rather than taking out the highly customized, tuned, and optimal loadouts that all these pro-MechWarriors are used to, they’ll be confined to using the as-stock weapons, ammo, and armor that you can find on any of the old TRO’s.

PGI announced their latest iteration of the MechWarrior Online World Championship tournament on Twitter, with CEO Russ Bullock writing that the team “wanted to do something different” when it came to this year’s competition. That difference evidently being to lock everyone into using the configuration that most ‘Mechs came in as they were originally purchased.

I say “most” since that’s not the only restriction. The tournament has been limited to Inner Sphere-only technology circa 3039, with PGI providing a list of eligible ‘Mechs and variants on their MWOWC rules page.

courtesy of mechwarrior.com

courtesy of mechwarrior.com

Teams are comprised of 8 players, just as last year, with no team being able to field more than three ‘Mechs in any given weight class. Also, no duplicate chassis are allowed, so if someone takes a Wolfhound then nobody else on that team will be able to. Quirks, skill points, and consumables will all be as normal.

The stock-class restriction was quick to draw both criticism and praise from the MechWarrior Online community. Many professional players lamented the fact that stock-class ‘Mechs are perhaps even less balanced than the current metagame present at the highest levels of competitive play. Most competitive builds are mission-focused to bring down opposing ‘Mechs, but stock builds are made for the larger BattleTech lore, which often pits ‘Mechs against other opponents such as infantry, tanks, and AeroSpace Fighters. Those sub-optimal chassis are likely to be overlooked entirely as competitive teams scramble to find the best anti-’Mech chassis available.

However, stock-class tournaments aren’t entirely new to MechWarrior Online, with many beer-league teams playing in such casual tournaments throughout the year. Those MechWarriors may be encouraged to give the competitive scene a try with these new rules and restrictions.

But while the unrestricted MWO strives for balance among all ‘Mechs (with varying levels of success), stock ‘Mechs were never designed to be equal. There will be clear winners and losers in the list that PGI has provided. For example, I think it highly unlikely that the stock Locust will see any amount of play. The stock version has virtually no armor, and without the benefit of 3050s-era weight-saving technology to give it a larger engine, it runs too slow to dodge any shots.

There’s also some clear winners on the list. The Wolfhound was already a favorite among pro-players, and the stock loadout of four Medium Lasers and one Large Laser is essentially a viable laser-vomit build even unmodified. It will certainly be much slower than we’re used to seeing on the competitive stage, and it will run vastly hotter thanks to single heat sinks, but as a light ‘Mech, it seems like the best of the bunch.

Other laser-vomit builds, such as the Crab, the Grasshopper, and Black Knight are also likely to be popular as they’ll allow for pinpoint damage without needing to worry about ammunition. Another possible ‘Mech to watch out for is the Archer. Without AMS or ECM to provide protection, LRM-boats such as the Archer could spell a quick death for any light ‘Mechs caught out of position, especially since those light ‘Mechs will be moving far slower due to a lack of XL engines.

As for assault ‘Mechs, the King Crab is likely to be popular, but with only two tons of ammunition split between either torso, each powerful AC/20 will only have 7 shots to connect with. Professional players are good, but even the pros might not be able to make 7 shots work in the long run.

courtesy of mechwarrior.com

courtesy of mechwarrior.com

As for why PGI decided to go with stock ‘Mechs, it seems likely to do with the upcoming release of their latest game, MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. Much like Harebrained’s BattleTech, MW5 is set to take place before the Clan Invasion around the year 3025. By showing off competitive players in ‘Mechs that will likely be found in MW5, PGI turns the tournament into a publicity stunt for their game’s release.

The tournament begins on June 21st, which gives competitive teams a few weeks to look over the approved ‘Mechs and see what might work in an 8v8 competition.

This will surely be a MechWarrior Online World Championship unlike any other. We’re certain to see some new faces and maybe even some new strategies thanks to this restriction.

Or it might turn out to be a boring fight between Wolfhounds, Grasshoppers, and Crabs. We won’t know for sure until later in June.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy