Category Archives: Editorial

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

Harmony Gold vs. BattleTech – An Actual Lawyer Weighs In

courtesy of marcomazzoni.dunked.com

courtesy of marcomazzoni.dunked.com

There’s been a lot of speculation on the Harmony Gold v. BattleTech lawsuit, and I’m sorry to say some of that speculation may have come from this very publication. Previous articles from yours truly may have made it seem like the ongoing lawsuit is on its last legs and that we were all moments away from our triumphant victory.

That may have been more wishful thinking on my part, as it turns out. But, rather than me preface every article with the now-standard “I’m not a lawyer, but”, we’ve reached out to an ACTUAL lawyer to get his professional two cents.

Let me introduce you all to Robert Spendlove, an intellectual property lawyer and partner at the law firm of Laubscher, Spendlove & Laubscher. In his own words, Robert “has worked extensively in the gaming and toy industry, for and against such companies as Nintendo, Zuru, Disney, Turbine, and Sony.”

But more importantly, Robert is also a huge BattleTech nerd with over thirty years of losing countless hours to various iterations of the franchise on either tabletop or personal computer. This guy knows two things: BattleTech and IP law, and he’s also pretty damned good at explaining the two.

So good, in fact, that he wrote a big long essay on the current state of the lawsuit that I just couldn’t bear to slice and condense. Thus, to correct my own mistakes and give us all a unique insight into what’s going on, I present to you Robert’s take. Enjoy! Continue reading

An Ode To The Flea, Finally Coming To MechWarrior Online

flea

courtesy of MechWarrior Online

My friends, I bring tidings of great joy. MechWarrior Online is finally getting a ‘Mech that has been ignored for far too long given it’s illustrious and storied history. Finally, loyal ‘Mech fans will be able to pilot perhaps the greatest ‘Mech to ever grace the pages of BattleTech.

I of course speak of the noble Flea.

TP-1R Trooper

A rare sight in the Inner Sphere for centuries, the Flea had a troubled childhood. Initially known as the Trooper, it was developed by the Free Worlds League in 2475. The initial prototypes were so heavily flawed, however, that it took twenty-five years of additional development before the prototype could even be considered by the League’s Ministry of Defence, and even then it’s rumored to have required some hefty bribes before they agreed to take on the Trooper as their dedicated reconnaissance ‘Mech.

The design was rechristened the Flea in order to distance it from its troubled development. The Flea proved high maneuverable and effective against infantry and lightly armored targets, but utterly incapable of engaging ‘Mechs more heavily armed than itself. Excessive losses deterred the League from ordering replacements, and it wasn’t until Wolf’s Dragoons arrived did the Inner Sphere see the Flea in action again.

With the Dragoons using the Flea to great effect, the little ‘Mech gained a notoriety that eventually climbed to fame. It eventually became such a desired design that the Capellan Confederation’s Maskirovka raided a League factory for the ‘Mech’s schematics. Fleas began popping up in Capellan militias and then in planetary armies across the Inner Sphere.

Despite its obvious capabilities, the Flea suffered from several flaws. The FLE-17, by far the most common variant, was considered too slow after the arrival of the clans and technology allowed for XL engines to become the new standard in light ‘Mechs. Its armor was, likewise, insufficient for all but the lightest of combat duty.

Flea

courtesy of confracto.com

But largest of all was how most variants of the Flea lacked jump jets, preventing a ‘Mech named after a famously jumping creature from actually jumping at all.

The Flea was originally intended to be included in the first batch of ‘Mechs released with MechWarrior Online but was sidelined for reasons that were never explained. In all likelihood, the game’s developers were concerned with what such a small and maneuverable chassis would do for the overall competitiveness of light ‘Mechs.

That doesn’t explain why the Locust was eventually introduced before the Flea, but that’s neither here nor there.

The point is, the Flea is finally set to arrive, and I for one am very glad for it. It’s been a very long time coming.

Pre-orders bonus rewards end on March 31st, with the Flea itself arriving in game June 19th.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Did You Know? – Scout ‘Mechs

Scout Mechs

courtesy of shimmering_sword on Deviant Art

There’s a certain class of ‘Mech that doesn’t get a whole lot of appreciation in BattleTech. The humble Scout ‘Mech is a much-maligned chassis, especially on the tabletop version of the game Mostly because both players can see where the opponent is moving their machines, thus making the role of forward scout rather pointless.

In computer game circles, such as MechCommander and the upcoming BattleTech turn-based game, the role of the Scout far more important. As Adam Steiner always said, “information is ammunition”, and a forward scout provides critical information regarding enemy troop movements. Knowing where your opponent is located is always the first step toward victory.

Of course, satellites still reign supreme for gathering intelligence, but you can’t always rely on satellites – especially when trying to invade a planet with a hefty complement of aerospace fighters. In situations where you can’t have eyes in the sky, you need eyes on the ground. Preferably eyes that have as much electronic enhancements as possible.

Today, we look at some iconic Scout ‘Mechs and pay them more appreciation than they have ever received.

Continue reading

Was the Early Portrayal of the Capellan Confederation an Example of Yellow Peril?

In a previous article, I discussed the portrayal of the Capellan Confederation early in the lore and fiction of the universe as evocative of the yellow peril anti-China trope common in Europe and American beliefs, fiction and culture.  My supposition was only a quick paragraph, and then we moved on to other topics, and the basic premise was initially dismissed by some.  But let’s take a moment to delve into the topic and explore it fully, because this is an topic worth considering in full detail.

Continue reading

How Many Missiles Can A ‘Mech Really Fit?

How Many Missiles Can A 'Mech Really Fit?

courtesy of imgur

After writing up our recent ode to Missile Boats, it got me thinking about missile technology in the BattleTech universe. Not how each missile seems to do about as much damage as a modern-day bottle rocket, or how it can fly just about as far before running out of gas. No, it made me think about just how many of these missiles you can stuff inside a ‘Mech.

Think about it: a single ton of LRM ammo is 120 missiles. That seems like a lot considering a modern jet fighter has trouble carrying 10 of the things. Even the somewhat modern M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle doesn’t carry more than 7 missiles in its magazine, so where does a ‘Mech get enough room for 120?

To find out, I decided it was time to do some math. But before we could bust out the calculator, I’d have to pick a missile-toting ‘Mech to be our scientific guinea pig. I chose the Mad Dog for its distinctive silhouette, and because it’d be relatively easy to calculate the volume of those boxy missile racks it has for shoulders.

MadDog_Cutaway

Now that we have our ‘Mech, it’s time to see how big those missile racks are. We know that a Mad Dog is roughly 12 meters tall, and those missile racks are about a third of its height, so we know they’re roughly 4 meters in height. Eyeballing the thickness I’d get about 1.5 meters wide, and roughly another 4 meters in depth. That gives us a total volume of about 24 m3.

But that missile rack isn’t a perfect cube; it’s got an angled side, and all these fiddly bits cut out, so I’d say we’ve only got a triangular prism to work with. That halves the volume we have available, so we’re down to 12 m3.

Not to worry – we still have plenty of space to work with. Each of these side torsos has 120 missiles, and if we assume each missile to take up an equal amount of space we know that they have to take up at maximum 0.1 m3 per missile.

Now that we know how much volume each missile can take up at a maximum, it’s relatively simple to calculate the possible dimensions of a single LRM. Since the height and width of a missile are the same (since it’s a cylinder, they’re both just going to be the diameter of the missile), the only question is how long the missile could be.

missiles

courtesy of mwomercs.com

Let’s say the missile is 1 meter long (which is actually close to the length of a modern-day missile). The formula to work out the diameter of the missile would be:

0.1 m3 = L x W x H = 1 m x W x H = 1m x (W2) = 0.316 m

0.316 m is roughly 12.5 inches or a little over a foot in diameter. For a 1 meter long missile, a diameter of a foot is a bit chubby (maybe more closely approximating an artillery shell than a missile) but totally within the realm of possibility.

But we know that side torso isn’t just dedicated to missile ammo. There’s the LRM-20 launcher itself, a few crits of XL engine, and double heat sinks stuffed in there too. So let’s say that there’s really only half the available volume for missile ammo. The formula then changes to be:

0.05 m3 = L x W x H = 1 m x W x H = 1m x (W2) = 0.224 m

That still gives us a 1-meter long missile with a diameter of close to 9 inches. If we compare that to a modern-day missile, like, say, the AGM-114 Hellfire (which is 64 inches long and 7 inches in diameter), we’d see those numbers are roughly in the same ballpark and still very reasonably missile shaped. Cool.

Hellfire

courtesy of turbosquid.com

Of course, we should also consider the fact that each missile isn’t a perfect rectangular prism, and each cylinder can save space by stacking in between the cylinder below it. My math wizardry is far from able to calculate how much space we’d save, but I’m sure one of you mathematicians could figure it out in the comments below.

So it seems a big ‘Mech like a Mad Dog doesn’t have any trouble carrying around 120 missiles, but what about a smaller missile ‘Mech? Let’s take a Javelin and see if it still can carry around a full complement of missiles like its heavier brethren.

JVN-10P_Javelin

Once again, we have to figure out how much of a vaguely man-shaped ‘Mech’s chest can be devoted to missile ammo. I don’t have an exact height for the Javelin, but since it’s a lighter ‘Mech I assumed it to be around 8 meters tall. Given that height, those boxes in the chest look to be around 1 meter wide and 1 meter high, and it has a 2-meter depth to its chest. Thus we get an available volume for missiles of 2 m3 for a single ton of SRM ammo, which is 90 missiles, and each missile can take up 0.0222 m3.

Since these are SRMs, let’s assume they’re going to be shorter than the long-range missiles and give them a length of half a meter. Using the same formula as before, we get a 0.21 m diameter missile or 8.26 inches. That’s still very reasonably missile shaped even on a tiny ‘Mech, and once again if we’d stacked those missiles properly we’d have even more volume available for an even bigger missile.

Archer

Before we all start celebrating this miracle of a single aspect of BattleTech that makes physical sense, there is a condition where a ‘Mech’s capacity for missile ammo starts to break down. When a chassis starts to horde ammunition, such as the Archer and its 4 tons of ammo, suddenly you go from hurling missiles to throwing shoe boxes that explode.  

But hey, I’m happy to find out that my favorite ‘Mech designs can carry as many missiles as they say they can (unlike autocannons, which still make no sense).

And as always, Mechwarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Did You Know? – Missile Boats

Catapult

courtesy of Battletech Community user Dragonmack

One of the oldest military strategies ever created is to hurl rocks at your opponent until they quit. In the thousands of years of human evolution since then, the rocks may have gotten more technologically advanced, but the strategy has remained largely the same: keep chucking rocks and encourage your foe to go bother someone else.

To that end, BattleTech has seen a number of ‘Mech designs follow the same philosophy. Except instead of hurling rocks, they hurl long range missiles, and instead of throwing just a few, they toss dozens of missiles into the air at once. Gather a bunch of them together, and you’ve got yourself a firing line worthy of an 1812 Overture.

Although some may find the term derogatory, enthusiasts of the strategy have given these particular designs the descriptive name of Missile Boats. Their ethos is simple: load up on as many LRMs as you can carry and let the lesser ‘Mechs get their hands dirty while you send long-ranged destruction at the enemy from a very safe distance.

Some Mechwarriors call Missile Boat pilots cowards, but who do they call when their position is about to be overrun by a combined arms company? The forward artillery lance, comprised almost entirely of the tried, tested, and true Missile Boat.

Here’s a few of the more famous Missile Boat ‘Mechs throughout the ages of BattleTech.

Whitworth

3050U_Whitworth  

We begin with one of the smaller designs to call itself a Missile Boat, the WTH-1 Whitworth. Although capable of carrying a respectable 20 LRMs at 40 tons, the Whitworth was never a particularly popular design as it was both slower than most ‘Mechs in its weight class and unable to outfight enemy ‘Mechs that got in close, being armed only with 3 Medium Lasers for close ranged combat. This lead many House militaries to give the Whitworth the unflattering nickname of “Worthless”.

That said, the Whitworth saw combat from its inception in 2610 right up until the Jihad era of the 3070s. But by then the factories which had been producing replacement components for the Whitworth had moved on to more capable and modern designs, and now the Whitworth can only be seen amongst pirates, some of the poorer mercenary groups, and Periphery nations.

Trebuchet

3025_Trebuchet  

The TBT-5N Trebuchet seems to correct many of the Whitworth’s shortcomings by being nearly 15 km/h faster, and by carrying a larger contingent of 30 Long Range Missiles. It is however armed with the same 3 Medium Lasers as the Whitworth, which make it vulnerable to enemy ‘Mechs that manage to sneak inside its missile umbrella.

For this reason, the Trebuchet was designed from the outset as a ‘Mech that was supposed to operate as part of a lance rather than a single machine. Often paired with the Centurion for greater flexibility in combat, lances comprised of both machines were highly effective, able to severely damage most opponents at long range before using their lasers and autocannons to finish off their foe.

Various factories around the Inner Sphere obtained the license to produce the Trebuchet, and it would remain a popular sight amongst all House forces for centuries.

Catapult

Catapult  

One of the most distinctive designs ever created, the CPLT-1 Catapult is what most Mechwarriors think of when they hear the term Missile Boat. The Catapult is armed with 30 LRMs, just as with the Trebuchet, and mounts 4 Medium Lasers as well as 5 additional heat sinks to deal with close in threats, making it capable of defending itself when necessary. It does, however, sacrifice some mobility over the Trebuchet, having a top speed of only 64.8 km/h.

Notable for the Catapult is how its popularity led to several retrofits that often had nothing to do with its original role as a long range missile delivery platform. The CPLT-K2 variant fielded by House Kurita swapped out the twin LRM-15s for paired PPCs as well as enough heat sinks to fire them almost continuously. The CPLT-C3 swapped the missiles for a more dedicated artillery system, the Arrow IV, giving the Catapult a true over-the-horizon weapon. Taking a different tack, the CPLT-C2 swaps out the medium lasers for paired LB 2-X Autocannons, albeit with help from Endo Steel internals and an extralight engine.

Crossbow

  Crossbow

The only Clan ‘Mech to appear on this list, the Crossbow is a highly unusual design amongst the Clans. Most Clan Mechwarriors find the sort of long range combat typical of Missile Boats to be dishonorable, preferring direct fire weapons. The entirely missile-based Crossbow, with a primary configuration of 40 LRMs, is thus a rare sight amongst any Clan Touman.

It should be noted that this doesn’t mean there aren’t Missile Boat variants of other OmniMechs (the Alt-D configuration of the Stormcrow and Alt-B configuration of the Summoner come to mind), only that the Crossbow is unique among OmniMechs for having most of its configurations feature LRMs.

That said, the lack of flexibility in the design has made it unpopular with the Steel Viper Touman, to the point where it is often relegated to second-line or garrison Clusters.

Salamander

Salamander

When you think of ‘Mechs capable of putting out a wall of long range missiles, no ‘Mech comes more immediately to mind than the Salamander. Armed with a whopping 60 LRMs, the 80 ton PPR-5S Salamander is capable of fulfilling the role of fire support all on its own without any additional Missile Boats to help it.

All that long range firepower comes at a steep price, however, as the Salamander is virtually defenseless against enemies that manage to slip into close range. Armed with a pair of Medium Lasers, and too slow to escape, the Salamander is easy prey to lighter ‘Mechs that go unnoticed by an unwary pilot.

This flaw hasn’t seemed to keep the Salamander down, as it saw service throughout most of House Davion’s conflicts, serving with distinction as the primary fire support ‘Mech in most of their regiments. The Salamander would remain a popular choice through the Jihad and into the Dark Age era of BattleTech.

Was there a Missile Boat ‘Mech that we missed that you really think should be mentioned? Let us know in the comments section below!

And as always, Mechwarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

MechWarrior Online Winners and Losers after the Skill Tree

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

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

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

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

Winners

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

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

Arctic Cheetah – All variants

ACH-Prime

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

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

Hunchback HBK-4SP

HBK-4SP

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

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

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

Battlemaster BLR-2C

BLR-1G

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

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

Hellbringer – All variants

HBR-Prime

courtesy of MWOwiki.org

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

Losers

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

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

Locust – All variants

LCT-1V

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

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

Blackjack BJ-1

BJ-1

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

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

Cicada CDA-3C

CDA-3C

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

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

Quickdraw QKD-IV4

QKD-4G

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

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

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

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy. 

 

 

Did You Know? – Laser Boats

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

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

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

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

Nova Prime Configuration

 

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

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

Wolfhound

 

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

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

Firemoth Alternate Configuration D

 

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

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

Flashman

 

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

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

Supernova

 

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

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

Stormcrow Prime Configuration

 

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

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

 

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

Solving the Range Problem with Armor Piercing Pancakes

There are two types of sci-fi universes: there’s the universe that provides no explanation and uses science as a substitute for magic (like Star Wars), or there’s the universe that tries to justify its awesomeness with plausible explanations. BattleTech has always erred on the latter side but for a few exceptions (the largest, of course, being the Kearny-Fuchida Jump Drives). However, one logical inconsistency in BattleTech has bugged me more than any other.

The guns.

I can understand from a game balancing perspective why the range of your cannons will decrease as the bore size increases, but from a pure physics perspective, this makes absolutely no sense.

image courtesy of Taurus Manufacturing Inc.

Allow me to illustrate. Here, we have a standard 9mm pistol, available anywhere in the United States (depending on the state), and available nowhere in Canada. Effective range: ‘bout 100 meters, if you’re a reasonably good shot.

image courtesy of warfaretech.blogspot.ca

Moving on up, here we have a much larger round, the 30mm M230 cannon (of Apache attack helicopter fame). Effective range: 2000 meters.

image courtesy of turbosquid.com

Next up, the 155mm howitzer. Effective range: well, it’ll depend on which round you use, but the standard M107 HE is 24,000 meters or 24 kilometers.

Anyway, you see the pattern here, right? As a general rule, the bigger the gun, the further your projectile goes.

Now let’s go to BattleTech. The actual bore size of autocannons vary by manufacturer and can range from 25mm to 203mm. Curiously, however, the range on these autocannons decreases as you go higher, with the 25mm AC/2 having an effective range of 720 meters, while the massive AC/20 has an effective range of a mere 270 meters.

Thus, the question for the BattleTech universe becomes what happened to cannons to make them lose range instead of gain it as the bore size gets larger?

The answer, my friends, is in the math.

Curiously, however, the range on these autocannons decreases as you go higher, with the AC/2 having an effective range of 720 meters, while the massive AC/20 has an effective range of a mere 270 meters.

We all know that 1 ton of ammunition gets a standard amount of ammo completely dependant on the size of the autocannon; AC/2 gets 40 shots per ton, AC/5 gets 20, and so on and so forth. On the surface, this seems to make sense, as the bore size also decreases at a similar “divide by 2” rate – 203mm for an AC/20, 101mm for an AC/10, etc. But ammunition doesn’t just take up a linear length – it takes up volume. Simply making the diameter of each round smaller by half doesn’t allow you to keep jamming in half as many rounds in the same amount of space.

I’ll show you what I mean. We’re going to compare the volume of ammunition taken up by an AC/20 versus an AC/2. We’re also going to simplify the shape of each bullet into a rectangle to make the math easier (also to avoid the whole “stacking” problem), and also assume that the length of each round will grow proportionately to the “divide by 2” rate we saw in the bore sizes. Also, since the bore size is in metric, and BattleTech is a metric universe, we’re going to stay metric.

We begin with the AC/2. We know the diameter of the round is the same as the bore size (25 mm), so let’s assume the length of the round is about twice that, so 50mm. A rectangle is length by width by height, and through the power of math we get 31,250 mm3 (or 31.25 cm3)

I’m not going to bore you with the math for the AC/20 – because the numbers are vastly larger, it comes out to 16,730,854 mm3 (or 16,730 cm3, or 0.01673 m3).

Now we do a little more math. An AC/2 is 31.25cm3, times 40 rounds, means we need  1250 cm3 of space to hold those 40 rounds.

For an AC/20 with 5 rounds, we’d need 83,605 cm3. That’s actually 66 times larger than the space needed to house 40 AC/2 rounds.

But if a ton of ammunition holds a proportionate, “divide by two”  number of rounds, how can they not also take up the same space?! The only possible answer is one of our assumptions is wrong; the volume of each round does not remain proportional as you go up from AC/2 to AC/20.

In fact, we can work out what the proportion should be based on our above math. In order for the five AC/20 rounds to take up the same volume as forty AC/2 rounds, and keeping the known variable of bore size fixed (203 mm), then the length of each round would have to be a ridiculously short 0.76 mm.

Thus, through the power of math, we have determined that the reason an AC/20 range is so vastly reduced compared to an AC/2 is simply that instead of shooting bullets the AC/20 fires armor-piercing pancakes.

Tasty, tasty Hunchback pancakes. Servin’ ‘em up, hot ’n fresh!

Alright, I know at 0.76 mm the thickness of these pancakes is a shave wider than a human hair, but you cannot deny the amazing image they produced.

‘Till next time, Mechwarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy