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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Sean: When did you get into BattleTech?
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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!”.
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!
This week on Community Outreach, we talk to one of the talented artists bringing BattleTech into the modern era: Alex Iglesias. Most notably the artist to create the designs featured in MechWarrior Online, we ask him what brought him to BattleTech, his inspirations, and how he goes about reinventing these classic images. Enjoy!
Sean (Sarna): Hi Alex! First off, thanks so much for agreeing to do an interview. To start, who are you? Briefly introduce yourself.
Alex: My name is Alex Iglesias, I’m 32 years old, and have been a ‘Mech fan for a significant portion of that length of time.
Sean: When did you get into BattleTech?
Sean: What BattleTech games have you played?
Alex: Sega Battletech Game, MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, the Battletech CCG, MechWarrior 3, MechCommander, Virtual World Pods, Firestorm Pods, MechWarrior 4: Vengeance/Black Knight/Mercenaries, MechWarrior: Living Legends, MechWarrior Online, and Tabletop.
Sean: Your work in MechWarrior Online is pretty well known, but is there any other BattleTech products your art is featured in?
Alex: Creating art for the Tabletop books, doing some HUD design for MechWarrior: Living Legends, and I suppose the MWO designs carrying over to HBS’s Battletech game.
Sean: What’s your favourite ‘Mech?
Alex: Don’t have an all-around favorite, more like situational favorites. Urbies and Atlases (Atlii?) for humor, Crab and King Crab for looks, JagerMechs for dakka, and TSM equipped Berserkers because briefcases of doom are fun.
Sean: Was/is there any BattleTech artist you find particularly inspirational?
Alex: All of them to varying degrees, but especially Loose. He was probably my first exposure to BT art. The first fan art I started making back in the day was based off of his art.
Sean: What’re you doing right now? I mean, in terms of your work.
Alex: Working on MWO and MechWarrior 5 stuff.
Sean: I’m thinking I probably already know the answer to this, but could you tell us what stuff?
Alex: Sorry, can’t announce the specifics of what I’m currently working on. Suffice to say that it primarily involves ‘Mechs.
Sean: What’s your design philosophy when you recreate these iconic ‘Mechs?
Image courtesy of MechWarrior Online
Alex: Depends on a few factors. In general, I do like to try to incorporate design elements of modern military vehicle systems, and mix it with a little bit of ‘rule of cool’. In the case of designs for MechWarrior Online, I try to factor in gameplay aspects of ‘Mech bodyplans and balance that against preserving the aesthetics that make it recognizable as a particular ‘Mech.
Sean: Let’s talk MechWarrior Online specifics. What was your favorite ‘Mech to design?
Alex: Probably still the King Crab.
Sean: Why was the King Crab your favorite?
Alex: King Crab just has a very unique body layout that was a lot of fun to draw, I am a fan of ballistic weapons like AC/20s, and I also like the claws.
Sean: Which ‘Mech was the hardest to redesign?
Alex: Hard to say, but probably the Mauler. Trying to figure out how to get those LRM shoulders to not be bullet magnets, but still look like a proper mauler was a real pain.
Sean: Which one was the easiest?
Alex: Not sure, none seemed so easy that it stands out in my memory.
Sean: What ‘Mech do you really want to redesign for MechWarrior Online?
Sean: I would love to see you do up a Kraken. Alright, let’s take an example to see what your redesign process looks like. I’m currently a huge fan of the Wolfhound. How’d you go about redesigning that ‘Mech?
Alex: Typically, I grab as much existing art of the Wolfhound as I can, and sort of start trying to identify the design elements that make it visually distinct. In the case of the Wolfhound, you have the obviously canine inspired cockpit, a very polygonal laser encrusted torso, and a few other small elements in terms of armor panels and certain shapes throughout the body. I then start sketching a sort of blobby black-and-white silhouette that I try to get into a rough approximation of the body plan in order to start experimenting. I’ll then proceed to mess with and tweak the design for a long while, then proceed to start cleaning it up and increasing level of detail, though I’ll likely still keep experimenting well into this stage. Once everything is nice and clean in gray scale, I’ll start working on the lighting, color, weathering, paint-jobs, and such.
Image courtesy of MechWarrior Online
Sean: Were their any ‘Mechs you were asked to redesign, but had so little imagery it was hard to get a feel for? Any ‘Mech that made you initially say, “Well, what do I do here?”
Alex: Not really, as there would almost invariably be a mini of it, and potentially some old CCG art of it.
Alex: At first it kind of did, as there is some difficulty in preserving recognition of a certain chassis when giving a ‘Mech with no hips a pelvis, and for these ‘Mechs, no hips were very much a part of what made them standout. However, I never much thought that lack of hips made much sense. Seems like it would make for a very bumpy and clumsy ride.
Sean: Yeah, I never understood how they could move at all. So, when you finally got the green light to redesign the Unseen ‘Mechs, how’d that feel?
Alex: Like Christmas.
Sean: For the Unseen ‘Mechs, there were usually 2 very different sets of images to choose from when redesigning. On some, like the Shadowhawk, it seems very true to the original. For others, like the Marauder, it seems more heavily influenced by the Unseen version. What made you go one way or the other with these ‘Mechs?
Alex: Mix of reasons. In the case of the Marauder, it’s factors like the original’s dorsal AC/5 actually being mounted in the side torso according to the stats, needing a more animation friendly pelvis and leg structure, some elements of personal taste, and other stuff along those lines.
Alex: I can be reached pretty easily on twitter @Flyingdebrisguy, I try to respond if I can and love to talk about ‘Mech stuff with people. Sometimes I post doodles. Also check out White Dragon Miniatures, they’ve got a 3D printed mini version of my old Fiddler ‘Mech design in their game.
Sean: Well, that’s all I had. Thanks again for doing this interview, I really appreciate it.
Alex: No problem! I look forward to seeing it.
From the very beginning, BattleTech has been a game with a lot of controversy. Even the first edition name landed BattleTech in hot water. But another fateful decision would cast a long shadow over the fledgling universe, one that only recently has been put to rest. What I refer to is known colloquially as the Unseen ‘Mechs.
Cue spooky music.
Many of you older MechWarriors recall (or remember from our previous article) that the original ‘Mechs featured in BattleTech were actually all taken from Japanese anime, namely Macross, Fang of the Sun Dougram, and Crusher Joe. While these cartoons were middling at best, the mechas they featured were something the West had never seen before, and this novelty drew the owners of FASA to license the imagery from Twentieth Century Imports for use in their robot-inspired tabletop game.
That was 1984, the year the first edition of BattleTech (then called Battledroids) would be made. All seemed well at first; sales of the game were solid, and plans were already being made to expand the universe and release a second edition. Then, FASA got a letter in the mail from another company called Harmony Gold. The letter said they owned the rights to the mechas that FASA thought they licensed from Twentieth Century Imports, and they had to cease all use immediately.
Then, in 1985, a new show started appearing on TV called Robotech, which had robots that looked strikingly similar to the ones featured in BattleTech.
But it was the 1980’s, nobody had really ever heard of Macross, and FASA crumpled up that letter and threw it in the garbage. OK, we don’t know if they literally threw it in the garbage, but they essentially ignored it – at least, at first. Then, in 1985, a new show started appearing on TV called Robotech, which was essentially Macross recut and rebranded for the more refined American pallet, and wouldn’t you know, it had robots that looked strikingly similar to the ones featured in BattleTech.
Then, FASA got another letter from Harmony Gold, again saying they owned the rights to those ‘Mechs, and they had to pull them from their games. Now FASA was paying attention, and according to court documents, this “sparked an exchange of correspondence between the parties, including numerous cease and desist letters from Harmony Gold.” That exchange can be boiled down to a he-said, she-said where Harmony Gold argued they bought the rights to the Macross images, to which FASA countered by saying they owned them since they bought them a year earlier from Twentieth Century Imports. Lather, rinse, repeat.
In fact this went on for nearly a decade, and while there was a lot of animosity between the two companies, nobody was willing to sue. That is until 1994, when another company, Playmates, came out with a line of toys that looked suspiciously familiar.
Exosquad was a short-lived cartoon for which Playmates made little robot action figures. FASA had previously pitched the idea of a line of similar BattleTech-themed toys to Playmates, along with supporting sketches, but Playmates turned them down. Then, Playmates decided to throw a Timberwolf-esque design into their Exosquad line of toys.
That was enough for FASA, and they sued Playmates for copyright infringement, arguing the new toy line infringed on exclusive imagery owned and produced in-house. From the hindsight of 2017, it’s pretty easy to see that toy rather strongly resembles a Timberwolf. However, to a circa 1994 judge’s eyes, deciding a case between two long-feuding companies, the similarities weren’t enough, and the case was dismissed.
One good lawsuit deserves another though, and in a legal bait-and-switch, Playmates brought in Harmony Gold, who were all too eager to counter-sue FASA for copyright violations of their Macross-sourced imagery. “How’d they manage that?”, you ask. Well, Playmates also made a line of toys for Robotech, and they got their Macross image license from – you guessed it – Harmony Gold.
This case looked like it could go badly for FASA – having purchased the rights from Twentieth Century Imports meant that they were once removed from the original art production company, while Harmony Gold had gone straight to the Tatsunoko art studio to secure the rights for themselves.
However, part of that settlement meant that FASA could no longer use the ‘Mechs that were sourced from Macross.
Things were looking grim for our heroes, but lady luck was on FASA’s side. In a series of legal slip-ups, Harmony Gold provided FASA’s lawyers with quite a few letters during discovery that brought into question Harmony Gold’s sole ownership of the rights to Macross. The legal waters having been sufficiently muddied, Harmony Gold decided to settle rather than go to trial.
However, part of that settlement meant that FASA could no longer use the ‘Mechs that were sourced from Macross. This meant the end for the Wasp, Stinger, Phoenix Hawk, Crusader, Warhammer, Longbow, Rifleman, Marauder, and Archer.
The whole ordeal had left a foul taste in their mouths, so FASA didn’t stop at just Macross. They decided to end use of any art produced out-of-house for their ‘Mechs, which meant even the non-Marcoss ‘Mechs had to go. Thus, in 1996, the era of the Unseen ‘Mechs began.
For long-time BattleTech fans, it was a hard blow. Many had grown up with these ‘Mechs, and to have them yanked away was devastating.
Things stayed in that sad state for a long time. In 2001, FASA closed their doors and sold all their intellectual property, making the rebirth of these classics even more unlikely. But in 2003, a light shown from above on the poor Unseen. FanPro had purchased the license to the BattleTech tabletop game, and decided to bring back the Unseen ‘Mechs in a Technical Readout called Project: Phoenix.
Catalyst Game Labs would take up the mantle of BattleTech’s champions in 2007 and continue the fight for the Unseen.
Just because FASA wasn’t around didn’t mean that FanPro could start using the original Macross images though. To abide by the court settlement, they made brand new art based loosely on the original designs, but updated to match the technology used in 3067. While they weren’t quite the classics everybody remembered, the old boys were back, and better than ever.
Still, the pull of nostalgia is a strong one, and die-hard fans really wanted their old designs back. Catalyst Game Labs would take up the mantle of BattleTech’s champions in 2007 and continue the fight for the Unseen. In June 2009, for a brief, shining moment, it seemed like they’d secured the Unseen’s release, but those hopes were quickly dashed in August when they released a similar statement saying they may have spoken too soon.
For 6 more years the saga of the Unseen lingered on, until finally in 2015, Catalyst Games announced they would re-release the Unseen, this time with new art as true to the originals as they legally could make them. Considering the original art often seemed like it was drawn in pen on the back of a napkin (I kid, they have a delightful 80’s aesthetic), while the new art was clean, crisp, and often more closely corresponded with technical specifications, fans were pretty pleased with the new art, and the BattleTech community rejoiced. The Unseen had finally come home.
Now in 2017, it seems the tale of the Unseen ‘Mechs has finally come to a close. The Unseen have returned to the fold, and can be found in everything from the Alpha Strike table top game to MechWarrior Online, to yet to be released BattleTech and MechWarrior 5. We here at Sarna are certainly glad to have them back.
I should have the broad strokes right, but court documents from the 90’s can be hard to dig up. Got any juicy tidbits I missed? Leave a reply in the comments!
From its earliest days, the art of BattleTech has evoked a strong emotional connection from its audience.
Awe, fear, joy – the sight of these giant death machines has struck a chord with many a fan.
With such emotion, and with many companies paying for the privilege, the original board game has fueled the imagination of countless artists, each bringing a slightly different vision of our most cherished ‘Mechs.
Today we put in our fancy monocle, start sticking out our pinkie finger whilst holding a saucer of tea, and take a critical look at the art of BattleTech and how it has evolved over the years.
We begin our analysis with a classic design first seen in BattleTech’s second edition. I can think of no other ‘Mech that better exemplifies the evolution of design that has been a hallmark BattleTech.
First, on the left, we see the original work penned by Duane Loose, whose Crusher Joe inspiration can be clearly seen in this image from the 3025 TRO. Next we see a logical refinement, nearly identical but cleaner, more streamlined. Third we see the Phoenix design, a complete reimagining of the chassis due to a legal dispute preventing the ‘Mech’s original artwork from being published. Fourth we see the modern iteration of the Locust for the Alpha Strike miniatures game. Note the return of Unseen design elements, such as the chin turret, while retaining the somewhat bulkier legs and hips assembly of the “phoenix” design. Finally, the most modern incarnation by Alex “Flyingdebris” Iglesais, which takes consideration of MechWarrior Online’s mechanics for his version, removing the turret but retaining the squat legs and fuselage.
A ‘Mech that has seen perhaps less change but no less refinement is the Wolfhound. The earliest illustrations seem almost quaint when compared to the later works.
The first image is almost like a babe taking its first tentative steps, the artist’s perspective lines still showing around the shoulder cowls and large laser. The second has more bold movement, but still seems unsure and hesitant. Next we find the Wolfhound has finally found its stride, confidently surging forward while firing. The artist has clearly taken into account the design’s full-head ejection system by giving the cockpit the boxy appearance of a spacecraft. Finally we see the Wolfhound as a mature adult, striding with purpose and without the need for flashy fireworks. Game design considerations take the fore once again, as the rear-firing medium laser is moved to the front. The boxy cockpit also found a few additional angles while retaining its essential form. The Wolfhound’s evolution is subtle, and yet profound.
I have always found the Crab to be a delectably mysterious ‘Mech.
The earliest iteration’s right claw enclosed laser made perfect sense, but the closed fist of the left hand would always fly in the face of the technical readout’s insistence that the left arm actually possessed another large laser. Then we see what would appear to be a laser atop the left hand, but find the small laser mounted on the head to be absent. Our third refinement would not only find that small laser, but add a measure of symmetry to the design by giving it claws in both arms. And finally in our last work we find the elusive cockpit, conspicuously lacking from all previous imaginings of the chassis.
The Marauder is a delightful case study of law, game mechanics, and lore battling for supremacy in art.
The first presents the ‘Mech in all its imposing glory, 80’s stylized background providing a sense of scale. The second image gives us some insight as to the ‘Mech’s true personality, all carefree and whimsical. Dark days are ahead for our jolly death machine, as legal issues would force a drastic design change.
In our third picture we find the Marauder to be all business, having donned the serious attire of a BattleMech beset by lawyers. But as soon as the litigious atmosphere recedes we see our friendly Marauder has returned, perhaps somewhat chastened by his time as an Unseen ‘Mech. Finally, the MechWarrior Online version combines the earnestness of the Phoenix era design with the eccentric flare of the original; most notably one sees the autocannon slightly offset to the right, more in keeping with the technical design specifications of the chassis than an artist’s imaginings of the classic machine.
Few ‘Mechs are as timeless as the Atlas. Despite its years, we see that the overall look has hardly changed at all. If anything it has only gotten more brutal and monstrous – the eyes becoming sunken slits, the cockpit descending beneath and betwixt two shoulders more massive than its skull-like head. A truly fearsome sight.
Most interesting about the design is how long it took for the art to actually catch up with the armament. In the beginning we see clearly the arm-mounted laser, SRM-6 and Autocannon, but the LRM-20 is nary to be seen. In the next two works we see what appears to be two LRM-10s rather than the single LRM-20 the ‘Mech actually carries, and one of the rear-mounted medium lasers seems to have found it’s way to the fore. The most modern depiction of the Atlas retains the double LRM-10 as a nod to the artist’s which came before, while also bringing the other rear-mounted medium laser to the front so it can once again be with its sibling. Unfortunately, modern Atlas pilots will no longer have satellite television, as the dish antenna on the cockpit has been removed due to budget cuts.
All of these are fine examples of where BattleTech art has come from, as well as where it is going. We here at Sarna can’t wait to see what artists will imagine next.
We leave you with a question: what ‘Mech do you think has evolved the most drastically? Leave your reply in the comments!
3D printing is growing both in the areas of industry and as a hobby. Many tabletop gaming players dream of getting a 3D printer and printing up all the models they’ve always wanted.
While that may be possible for some, most 3D printing hobbyists can’t afford to by the level of printer that it takes to print models for games like BattleTech. Most of the 3D printers available to consumers are not suited for that kind of detailed printing. That’s not to say that these printers aren’t capable of some amazing things, but usually models in the BattleTech game scale are not something they can handle.
So what kinds of things can consumer level 3D printers do? In the roughly six months that I’ve been into the 3D printing hobby, I’ve printed some pretty cool stuff. Statues, terrain, Pokemon, and more. There are a ton of things to do with a 3D printer if you take the time to learn how they work. I don’t know near everything about 3D printing, and I’m having a great time with it.
A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing through Thingiverse, which is an amazing website full of free 3D printable files that creators have uploaded to the website to share with the community.
As I was browsing I found the page of creator LordNova2 who had shared a couple of really cool MechWarrior and BattleTech related designs. Among those designs was a Clan Ghost Bear medallion. Being a Ghost Bear at heart, I had to download it right away.
And then, I completely forgot about it, until a few nights ago.
One of my 3D printers (I have two) had just come off a big project I was working on, and I decided to print something fun. I thought I would share the process that followed my decision.
Some of you might have seen this thread on the official forums where user Ion Raptor has been working on a mobile 1/5th scale replica of a Ghost Bear Warhawk prime. I asked him what gave him the idea for this. He answered:
“The idea was from a sad lack of BattleTech costumes besides the occasional pilot cooling suit. The MW4 Warhawk itself was chosen because of its blocky and imposing design. The prime variant was a product of finding shipping tubes the perfect size for PPCs. The Ghost Bear scheme came from the pilot figure I bought, which was a Max Steel toy that happened to have grey and blue shorts on. If I ever do one again it will either be much smaller or through commission so that logistics are someone else’s problem.”