Welcome to Community Outreach! This week we have a very special guest: Brent Evans, the lead developer on BattleTech over at Catalyst Game Labs. We talk about the future of BattleTech, what awesome new products are coming out in 2018, and a bunch of random stuff that I’ve always wanted to ask the guy in charge of things. Enjoy!
Sean (Sarna): Nic let me know that he’s reached out to you for an interview on our humble website, and tasked me with doing all the heavy lifting :)
Brent (Catalyst Game Labs): Humble website – are you kidding?!? Sarna is the greatest single resource for BattleTech fans anywhere. In this is one of the most complicated IPs from a legal standpoint in existence. Don’t sell yourself short there Sean, there’s nothing humble about it. Sarna is the best and literally every member of the creative team uses it extensively.
Sean: Aww, that’s so sweet of you to say! I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to meet personally at Mech_Con, as you were definitely on my list of people to say “hi” to and get a quick interview with. I’m glad for the opportunity to ask you a few questions now.
Brent: Yeah that would have been awesome. I love MechCon, great show, but with all the overwhelming stuff going on there I would likely have been too distracted by all the mech stuff around us to finish a sentence. This is likely a better forum for a Q&A. No sweat.
Sean: To start off, let me recap your announcements at Mech_Con. I’ve got new maps, new fiction, new box sets, and newly overhauled figurines coming out in 2018. Did I miss anything?
Brent Evans and Randall Bills at PGI Studios.
Brent: Oh yeah we have dropship-loads of awesome product coming out, and most of it is geared toward new players and getting minis on tabletop battlefields.
“There’s really just a whole bunch of awesome coming down on BattleTech for 2018.”
We’ve got the two box sets announce at GenCon – the Beginner Box and the Game of Armored Combat. We’ve got new Maps – the first six of which were used to run all the demos at MechCon (to fanfare and accolades). There are new Hex Pack products in the works to augment those maps, new MechWarrior RPG products that the DevTeam just found out about today, a new sourcebook moving the timeline forward (which I will detail in a few questions further down), and a whole host of reprints as we make big moves to keep every book from the core line in print on store shelves – starting with Total Warfare (which should hit store shelves in July). Plus there are new novels, new novellas, a hint at new audiobooks, PDF supplemental products, I have new ‘Mechs up my sleeves… There’s really just a whole bunch of awesome coming down on BattleTech for 2018. The year of BattleTech!
Sean: I think we can both agree that every year should be a year of BattleTech :) As a brief aside since I always wanted to ask: who is the artist that did all the redesigned classic or “Unseen” ‘Mechs? Like this guy.
“Anthony and Alexander delivered a truly spectacular new chapter for the game, and have shown us what can be done ‘in a perfect world.'”
Brent: Yes – every one of them was designed by legendary BT artist Anthony Scroggins. This was a massive effort, unlike any mech design efforts before, with Anthony handling art but editing direction done by myself, Randall Bills and Ray Arrastia. The three of us rarely agree on anything so to get each design past all three of us took a truly painful amount of work (Anthony was such a trooper). But he didn’t just create one image and call it done; Anthony designed the ‘Mechs from every angle, then worked with 3D master Alexander Immerzeel to build the 3D models so they can be used by the other BT artists (like Marco Mazzoni and SpOoKy) to make sure the ‘Mechs look right each time they are shown. It also allowed us to use the 3D models for our prototypes and production, ensuring the figures match the art perfectly.
It was a herculean task the likes of which we’ve never tackled before in BattleTech, but the results have been totally worth it. Anthony and Alexander delivered a truly spectacular new chapter for the game, and have shown us what can be done “in a perfect world.” Mad props to all those guys. I have big plans in store for these guys.
Sean: What kind of worldwide events does Catalyst have planned for 2018?
Brent: Actually, Mary’s team is working on that as we speak so even I don’t know yet. I’ve just sent her the bulk of the conflicts from Shattered Fortress but since Con events needed to be scheduled far in advance (I believe the deadline was in December) I don’t know what magic she will be able to work. She’s amazing so I’m sure the events will be awesome, but I don’t know which in-universe battles will make the WWE as opposed to the Canon/Feature Events. What I do know is there is a lot of Warfare going on here in the BattleTech universe so she’s likely spoiled for choice.
Sean: Do we have any concrete dates on when the new box sets will be available? I know you mentioned Spring of 2018 at Mech_Con, but is there a specific target date?
Brent: Honestly we never have concrete dates on anything coming out of China because, between the shutdowns around Chinese New Year and their generally unique approach to scheduling things, there are always curve balls and hiccups. So specific dates are a “no”. I do have a target window (June) and a worst-case-scenario window (October), so the reality will likely fall somewhere between the two. Expect them to show up sometime this summer, and for me to move hell or high water to get copies to GenCon, and you should be happy.
Sean: Yeah, that sounds like something I’d be happy about. Let’s talk about the new fiction. What stories are coming out in 2018? Who are the authors? Will they be novels or short fiction? And most important, what will this new crop of fiction be about?
Brent: Ah fiction… This part is equal parts exciting and scary as hell because there are so many epic stories coming up over the next 24 months – and truly amazing authors with potential fingers in the pot. But until all the details get nailed down I’ll have to stay mum on almost all of it. So I will say what I can.
“Everyone knows that I am committed to having fiction drive the narrative for the BattleTech storyline.”
Everyone knows that I am committed to having fiction drive the narrative for the BattleTech storyline. We’ve proven to be exceedingly good at getting books written and printed, but getting novels through distribution (which has a totally different channel from game product) has proven to be hit or miss. Our Novel Line Editor John Helfers is working to correct that but please know Catalyst is absolutely creating new novels for both print and ePub formats. We are also working on a series of new novellas, the launch of a new audiobooks line, and the Development team is tying the fiction plots into PDF supplemental products so that the conflicts on pages can be fought on tables with minis. Bringing in several authors to help map out our storyline plots surrounding ilClan is delivering a number of collateral benefits and I think the fans will love what we’ve put together.
A prime example of which is the upcoming short fiction from the Game of Armored Combat. Getting Bill Keith back on BattleTech is a fanboy dream come true. Enticing the creator of the Gray Death Legion to write a new chapter of BT-Lore detailing the previous generation, with Grayson’s father’s unit… That’s just awesome. And I’m diabolically scheming plots to unleash him on to keep him crafting BattleTech. He’s still got it, and is just one of the many voices of BattleTech who will be bringing the storylines to life.
Sean: Why aren’t those giant versions of the figurines you showcased at Mech_Con available for purchase?
Brent: Oh man those sure were cool weren’t they! Neither Randall or I have any yet, but believe me we want some. But yes those are not available for purchase because they were personally created by the Demo Agents who attended the event. In fact, they were prototyped individually on a 3D printer, and they take a full 40 hours to make – each. The only reason those are available at Mech_Con is that the DemoTeam who support the event pull strings with a friend and have one or two done every year. I’m trying to barter swag and maple cookies to see if I can get some, but so far it’s all to no avail. Gotta love how far our fans and Demo Agents will go to support their love of BattleTech.
Sean: Recently PGI unveiled the Sun Spider, a brand new Clan Omnimech from Goliath Scorpion. How did Catalyst coordinate with PGI on that ‘Mech’s creation?
Brent: Ah, that’s easy. Catalyst doesn’t coordinate with PGI at all – there’s no formal relationship there. But they are obviously huge fans so when then need someone’s subject matter expertise they just reach out directly to whomever they need. It’s pretty much always Randall, who dabbles in a little moonlighting from time to time to offer build recommendations for the various video game companies working on our properties. PGI doesn’t need my insights because they have Alex Iglesias who handles all their visuals, and he’s awesome. But Randall’s build expertise and universe knowledge is pretty awesome, so he’s a great resource. I didn’t hear about the specifics of the Sun Spider until I showed up at MechCon and bought the shirt. (Huh… I really should have arranged a swag trade for that shirt. Didn’t even think of that.)
Sean: Yeah, that was a missed opportunity bud. So what’s going on with IlClan? When is it coming out, and what will we find out about the new direction BattleTech is headed?
Brent: The answer to that one is both simple and immensely complicated. The short answer is that ilClan is turning from one modest book into a “Big Bang” moment delivered by two Sourcebooks, several playable events, a series of fiction products (novels/novellas) and a whole lot of in-universe collateral damage as lots of sh** hits many fans.
The first of those two Sourcebooks is nearing completion now so I can totally talk about. Titled Shattered Fortress this ilClan lead-in is scheduled for release in early summer. What this means for the Republic of the Sphere – well, you’ll have to get the book to find out. But the creative team and Author Phil Lee have done an exceptional job of crafting this book! Whether it be the crescendo to Stone’s vision or the prelude to many nightmares, the denizens of the Inner Sphere are soon to find out. But know that it sets the stage for the titanic clashes that will unfold in the upcoming ilClan plotlines.
Later in the year we’ll be announcing more info about the next ilClan release and supporting products. All of the BattleTech product lines (fiction, sourcebooks, supplementals) will have stories that spin off the events in ilClan – so expect implications to spread across the Inner Sphere. As Line Dev, I’m balancing the release of new material and reprints, so expect further details and ETAs later in 2018.
Sean: Sarna is sure to be waiting with baited breath. Finally, on a scale of 1-10, how badly do you want Harmony Gold to self-immolate?
Brent: HAH! I may burst into flames in excitement just thinking about it. :0)
Brent, thank you so much for agreeing to sit down and chat with us. We here at Sarna just can’t wait to see all the incredible new products that CGL will put out this year.
And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.