MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries is looking like it’ll be even prettier than MechWarrior Online and will easily hang with the current generation of games.
MechWarrior has always been a series on the forefront of technology. Back in the day, MechWarrior 2 may not have had textures, but it made those colored polygons look just like those towering Clan ‘Mechs we’d only previously seen in sourecbooks. At least, in our minds anyway.
MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries finally brought us the most basic of textures and made the surrounding environment look just a teensy bit more realistic. Not that we really cared, mind you, but it was nice to see the developers flex their graphical muscle.
courtesy of Piranha Games on YouTube
MechWarrior 3really brought environments alive, finally showing grassland and desert and rocky plateaus–basically anything that was mostly flat and didn’t have a lot of foliage. Roads, rivers, and waterways broke up the monotony with a bit of color, but most of the textures were spent on making the ‘Mechs themselves look prettier than the last generation.
Skip ahead to MechWarrior Online (I loved MechWarrior 4, but it was graphically mundane compared to games of its era) and we finally have something that brings atmosphere effects, lighting effects, and even fog. Snow whirls around your cockpit, smoke billows from shattered ‘Mechs, and the night sky lights up with laser and PPC fire.
courtesy of Piranha Games on YouTube
Now we have MechWarrior 5. Last year at Mech_Con it was certainly a very pretty game, but the environments seemed rather dull. Sure, it was neat that you could smash through trees while walking through a forest, but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before, and the forest looked kinda dull.
Well, not anymore. Now it looks positively alive.
But it’s not just the forest that’s vibrant. You can pick out individuals blades of grass on the plains. There’s actual lightning bolts while you duel beneath a thunderstorm. There’s red dust storms on a Mars-like world.
I didn’t see any tumbleweeds, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them added to the desert biome before the game sees release.
Check out the new teaser vid and be prepared to be amazed. This game is gonna be purty.
There’s a lot of mysteries in the BattleTech universe. Who was the Bounty Hunter? What caused the HPG Blackout of 3132? What did Victor Steiner Davion like to have with his coffee? These are questions we may never have the answers to.
But every so often a mystery gets solved when a BattleTech line developer descends from on high into the depths of a forum and drops a bombshell.
One of those mysteries is the origins of Devlin Stone. You might recall Devlin from the least-liked era of BattleTech history, the Dark Age. After leading a rebellion on the conquered world of Kittery against the Word of Blake, he eventually became the general of an army that defeated the entire Wobbie army and retook Terra. Then he got installed as Exarch of the newly formed Republic of the Sphere and he lived was happily ever after.
That is until he announced his retirement. Then he sort of disappeared as mysteriously as he appeared and never came back.
As weird as it is for this monumental hero to just show up out of nowhere, it’s almost just as weird for him to step back from the limelight with little fanfare. I mean, it would’ve made more sense for him to just die of a heart attack like Hanse did.
But narrative criticisms aside (which we could lob at the Dark Age all day long), Devlin did play an important role in BattleTech history, so we should have some idea of his origins. For the longest time, there were only rumors perpetuated by sourcebooks and novels. The biggest one was that Devlin Stone was actually Arthur Steiner Davion returned from the grave.
There’s little hard evidence to support this, but what little there is can seem compelling. First, Patriots and Tyrants strongly implies that Arthur did not, in fact, die in the bomb explosion that supposedly took his life. Second, the sourcebook Jihad Secrets: The Blake Documents reveals that Arthur was in fact captured by Word of Blake and sent to Kittery, where Stone would eventually rise to prominence. Finally, the pair seem to share political views as revealed by Arthur’s speech just before he was assassinated and Devlin Stone’s actions in creating the Republic of the Sphere.
And that’s where Devlin’s story rested for many years until assistant BattleTech line developer Ray Arrastia dropped this news in the BattleTech forums a few weeks ago:
“Here’s the thing. Stone was a Rabid Foxes operative, and one of those four was Stone’s cover identity. While Stone was intended to be a ‘nobody,’ he wasn’t supposed to be ‘no one special.’
“But all that’s unofficial unless it ever gets published somehow, and any window for delving into Stone’s past likely closed years ago, IMO.”
Well, not the day– that day will arrive sometime in April. But the day that we know when BattleTech will release is today, and that’s sometime in April.
On the latest Kickstarter Update, Harebrained Schemes has given us a launch window that we can all get excited about. They didn’t give us a specific day, so I’d expect the actual launch date to be later in April rather than sooner. But it’s coming, so it’s time to fire up the hype train because we are all heading into a dark tunnel with BattleTech at the end of it.
Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, BattleTech is the upcoming turn-based game from Harebrained Schemes. If you’ve played any of their critically acclaimed Shadowrun games then you know the quality of game you’re in for (or if you’re a Kickstarter Backer and got in on the beta). This will be the closest the table-top has ever come to a video game port, so if you’re not about the whole ‘Mech-simulation thing that the MechWarrior series is all about, this just might be the game for you.
via BattleTech Kickstarter
But Harebrained didn’t just leave us with a date. Oh no–there’s also freebies. Those that pre-order the game on Steam get a free Shadowhawk skin and wallpaper, which also means there’s going to be custom ‘Mech skins. That’s a bombshell right there. And if you’re a Kickstarter Backer, don’t worry: you get the skin so long as you’re at Recruit level of support or higher (that’s $25 or more).
The Steam page has also been updated with a lovely advertising video that features Weisman, Gitelman, and McCain talking about their digital baby. It’s some high-quality pandering, but it’s also some good info.
The Kickstarter page also has some great new wallpapers (of which we’ve linked at the top of the page and used as our header image), and the latest backer reward is out which features a short story from the one and only Michael Stackpole.
Did I mention you should get hyped? Because you should get hyped. And if you didn’t get in on the Kickstarter you should definitely pre-order. Unlike most pre-orders, I can assure you this game will be quality.
I think most of us can agree that Blaine is one of BattleTech’s greatest authors. For me, he’s right behind Mike Stackpole (sorry Blaine, I just like the political intrigue too much!), but Blaine’s ‘Mech battles were always the best of the best. And in a recent post on his blog, Blaine told the tale of what is perhaps the highest point of BattleTech lore, and that’s the lead up to Task Force Serpent and the Inner Sphere invasion of Huntress, the home planet of Clan Smoke Jaguar.
Back in that era of BattleTech’s history, novels drove the universe forward and products were released in time with the novels so people could play out the battles they’d just recently read about. Lately it’s been sourcebooks that have been driving things, but hopefully that’ll change with the release of more fiction this year.
But I digress. As Mr. Pardoe tells it, the origins of the Smoke Jaguar’s demise came over meals at Gen Con with many of BattleTech’s greatest authors and creators sitting around a table and weirding out all the normies. Sam Lewis pitched the idea of the Inner Sphere turning things around and having the Inner Sphere invade the Clans, and Pardoe was given the task of setting that stage. Or as Blaine puts it, “kind of the sacrificial lamb role.”
But how could the Inner Sphere get the route back to the Clan Homeworlds? Rather than have a Smoke Jaguar work with a ComStar agent to betray the clans, things were originally going to be a lot different.
“The original plan I came up with was to hijack a Clan warship and take the information of the route to the homeworlds from their navcomputer,” writes Pardoe. “That was what I drafted at least. It was no more than three paragraphs at this stage. There was a ground battle at a spaceport (you had to have some ‘Mech combat after all) then the team would make their way to the ship in orbit, seize her in a furious shipboard battle against Elementals – and the route to the Clan homeworlds would belong to the Inner Sphere. I called it Exodus Road, the route back along Kerensky’s exodus route. More importantly, I got to play with a warship which was something I always wanted for Christmas but never got.”
While Blaine would eventually get to play with warships, the plot for the first book would change dramatically before the final draft got in. Instead of invading Strana Mechty and holding the main Clan genetic repository hostage, the attack was focused on the Jaguars and invading Huntress. The source of the exodus road was also changed to Trent, a disenfranchised Jaguar warrior, rather than the hijack of a Clan warship.
Eventually, things arrived at Exodus Road, the first book of the Twilight of the Clans saga.
There’s way more interesting behind the scenes stuff on Blaine’s blog post, so go check it out. He even drops a bombshell about the fate of Trent!
Mech_Con brought a lot of fantastic new developments to BattleTech, but one of the most interesting ones was the introduction of a brand new ‘Mech born of a collaboration between Piranha Games (the makers of MechWarrior Online) and Catalyst Game Labs.
Called the Sun Spider, it’s a 70-ton OmniMech from Goliath Scorpion, a Clan we really haven’t heard from much recently until the release of The Wars of Reaving sourcebook. In it, we find out the ultimate fate of Goliath Scorpion, how they were abjured from Clan space and ultimately founded their own nation in the deep periphery.
But the Sun Spider comes before all of that, having been first conceived shortly after Clan Coyote introduced the OmniMech. It was shelved after the initial prototype proved to be too unwieldy, and only saw limited production during Operation REVIVAL.
courtesy of Piranha Games
The primary configuration of the Sun Spider comes equipped with an Ultra AC/10, one ER Large Laser, and a whopping four Streak SRM-6, making it extremely deadly to anything that gets within close range. The chassis itself runs at a standard 81 kph (which I’m sure will get bumped up to 86.4 kph if it ever gets to the tabletop), and 14 double heat sinks keep the ‘Mech cool unless the pilot decides to start alpha-striking like there’s no tomorrow.
The Sun Spider‘s Quirky Birth
I spoke with PGI’s senior game designer David Bradley while at Mech_Con where he gave me the Sun Spider’s amusing origin story. Since the release of the Roughneck, PGI had been thinking of other ‘Mechs they could bring to MechWarrior Online that was developed completely in-house.
He described the original sketches for the new design as a “TIE fighter with legs”, something that would surely land PGI in BattleTech’s second legal spat with the Star Wars franchise. The design was refined after handing it over to the renowned Alex Iglesias, who both brought the ‘Mech to life and imparted his distinctive style to save PGI from a lawsuit.
The next step was choosing a name. Originally the ‘Mech was to be called the “Manul” after a species of Asian wildcat. It was then changed to Sun Spider to better fit the lore of the ‘Mech, while Manul was kept as the name for the Hero variant.
Speakin’ of lore, PGI decided to take a different approach when creating the Sun Spider. Their initial in-house ‘Mech, the Roughneck, was a good first effort but just didn’t quite have the same feel as other machines in BattleTech. Let’s be honest, nobody wants to pilot a converted Industrial ‘Mech, which is why Dark Age wasn’t a very popular era in BattleTech history. To get that feeling of authenticity, PGI decided to team up with Catalyst Game Labs to see where they could insert the Sun Spider into BattleTech lore, and also get Randall N. Bills to write it all up.
The final product feels just like an entry from a long forgotten Technical Readout, and has just the right tone and setting to feel like a natural part of the BattleTech continuity and not a fan-made ‘Mech roughly inserted into the universe. By using a little-heard-from Clan, PGI is able to attach that sought-after authenticity without needing to break any new ground.
The Sun Spider is an interesting and unique addition to BattleTech, and one that helps flesh out the universe. I could see this design, and how it was created, touching off a larger debate on what is considered official canon in BattleTech, especially if it takes CGL some time to include this chassis in a new and official TRO.
What do you think of the new ‘Mech? Is the Sun Spider a fine new addition to BattleTech lore, or an unappreciated interloper on BattleTech’s hallowed ground? Let us know in the comments!
Piranha Games had a rollicking time last Saturday, culminating with a slew of announcements at last Saturday’s Mech_Con.
For the MechWarrior Online fans in the audience (of which there were many) PGI previewed a brand new map and game mode all based on everyone’s favorite game world: Solaris VII.
Welcome To The Solaris Games
courtesy of Piranha Games
MechWarrior Online is typically played as a 12v12 slugfest, where companies of ‘Mechs all rush in to make mincemeat of each other. In the World Championships, those battles are reduced to 8v8, making each team a pair of lances. In the new Solaris game mode, those battles are reduced even further to be 1v1 duels or 2v2 tag team fights.
Rather than have competitive classes divided into the standard light, medium, heavy, assault, and open class, MWO will divide things up into divisions numbered 1-7. Each division is demarcated by specific ‘Mech performance rather than weight to account for the fact that some ‘Mechs are simply better than others. This means that some lighter machines might find themselves grouped with heavier chassis – and vice versa – in a very similar way to how MechWarrior Arena handles there balance issues in their unofficial Solaris-style tournaments.
courtesy of Piranha Games
Just like the Solaris Games, each MechWarrior will have their stats tracked and be placed on a leaderboard for their division based on their performance. And just like on Solaris, performance matters. You make money via patrons (similar to joining a stable) and the better you perform the greater your access will be to higher paying patrons. There’s also a “sponsor” system where you can be sponsored by companies like Defiance Industries and Vining Engineering (VEST) to give you a percentage bonus on your take-home pay.
courtesy of Piranha Games
It looks like they really tried to capture the feel of Solaris by also finally adding cosmetic additions to ‘Mechs. These cosmetics will be given randomly by patrons and sponsors (although, given the latest rulings against loot boxes in Europe we’ll have to see how that’s implemented), and they also don’t confer any real benefit. Strapping a giant ax to your Kodiakwill not make it into a Berserker.
Leaderboards will track for a season which lasts three months before a champion is crowned and the whole thing resets for the next season. One can likely expect to see some special events happen here as well, such as a Grand Tournament of champions.
In what appears to be typical Russ Bullock fashion, he gave a tentative release date of “spring-ish” at Mech_Con. You can check out the teaser video below.
Along with the Solaris game mode came a new map for the standard MechWarrior Online 12v12 games called Solaris City. This map imagines a raging battle happening in the actual Solaris City, with ‘Mechs battling it out around iconic Solaris monuments in a neon-filled cityscape. It looks like there will be a few destructible objects too, which is relatively new for MWO, and likely inspired by their work on the upcoming MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries.
You Get A ‘Mech, And You Get A ‘Mech
The biggest news for MechWarrior Online fans had to be when Russ announced the largest giveaway in MWO history. For anyone that logs in to play one game on December 27th, they’ll receive 25 Stocking Stuffer clicks, 3 million c-bills, 3 days of premium time, 1250 mc (which is the game’s equivalent of about $10), and two free Hero ‘Mechs: the Roughneckand the Sun Spider.
courtesy of Piranha Games
One of the biggest complaints surrounding MechWarrior Online is the heavy burden it places on new players, almost forcing them to spend real cash to make any progress. This giveaway is a fantastic way for new players to get into MechWarrior Online because it gives them a ton of resources absolutely free. If you ever considered playing MWO, download the client and log in to play one game on December 27th to get a ton of free stuff.
MechWarrior 5 Release Date Announced
Of course, the biggest news of the night is always surrounding the hotly anticipated MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. Bullock played a brand new trailer for the game at Mech_Con, and MechWarriors old enough to remember will find some distinct similarities between the opening moments of the trailer and the opening moments of MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries. Check it out:
It really seems that PGI is trying to take the best from the two previous Mercenaries games and make a definitive single-player MechWarrior experience. I managed to get my hands on a playable alpha build later in the evening to see what all the fuss was about, and I can confidently say the game has captured the best from MechWarrior Online and MechWarrior 4, and we’ll have to wait and see if it grabs the same kind of mercenary commander feel one got in MechWarrior 2.
Russ also announced a release date of December 2018. That gives them plenty of time to polish the game and work out the bugs, which they’ll need. Even with the beefiest hardware NVidia could provide, my time with MechWarrior 5 was marred by a truly abysmal frame rate. But keep in mind that I was the last person to play the build after a full day of gameplay on an Alpha version of the game. Likely there’s just a memory leak somewhere that needs to get plugged.
courtesy of Piranha Games
The extra year will also give PGI plenty of time to make good on their two big promises of the convention: full mod support and 4 player co-op. These are modern features never-before-seen in a MechWarrior game, and I cannot imagine the fun I would’ve had if only MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries had been a co-op experience. Details are scant, but Russ mentioned it would be like replacing one of your AI teammates with an actual human being – a godsend for any MechWarrior fan.
With 2018 fast approaching, it’s shaping up to be a fantastic year for all things MechWarrior. We’ll be sure to keep you in the know with every new announcement.
A couple weeks back the fine folks over at Polygon decided to run a huge spread on all things BattleTech, covering the latest from Harebrained Schemes and PGI (along with their latest teaser video for Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries), but also going way further than most mainstream publications ever go and actually interviewing the creators of BattleTech itself: Jordan Weisman, Randall Bills, and L. Ross Babcock.
For BattleTech history buffs (of which I know there’s quite a few of you around) there’s not a whole lot new being told in the interview, but there are a few nice tidbits to be had in the interview such as how Babcock and Weisman decided to demo their first edition of the BattleTech box set. Apparently, rather than merely mark down the battle damage their ‘Mechs were taking, the two of them would take it a step further and actually take a power drill to the figurines after they took a PPC hit.
“Those were the demo games we ran. They’d get good crowds going because everyone was saying, ‘Those maniacs are pulling apart these beautiful figures with a pair of pliers!’ So that was our first marketing campaign, just going around, doing those demo games and burning up our products for fun.”
On top of that, there was one pretty awesome story about a marketing stunt FASA pulled in 1988 at GenCon 21. Back then, the marriage between House Steiner and House Davion in the year 3028 was big news, and to commemorate the occasion Weisman and company invited everyone to a fake wedding held at the convention.
The whole thing was done as a radio event, with the announcer describing how the fictional wedding went down millennia in the future. They also served cake, and just as everyone was finishing, the announce dropped the big twist: that the Federated Commonwealth was invading House Liao, and on everyone’s plates were planets that were being invaded.
Those people then took part in a massive tabletop game, the results of which were used to create the next series of sourcebooks and novels.
Polygon also put out a very nice timeline of events, which of course Sarna has had for eons, but you can’t fault them for trying. Their timeline only goes up to 3049, which stops a bit short of the known boundaries of BattleTech lore. Again, can’t fault them for trying.
Catalyst Game Labs took over Mech_Con last Saturday to not only showcase their upcoming products but also put on a huge tabletop experience. And I am not even joking – an entire corner of the convention was entirely devoted to CGL’s massive game tables. Technically, Catalyst had more space devoted to them than any other company present.
But it’s not the size that matters – it’s what you do with it. Catalyst was certainly no slouch there, putting on a workshop for BattleTech veterans and newcomers to the tabletop alike, featuring incredible hand-painted miniatures and sprawling campaign maps. For new BattleTech players, it was a chance to see what inspired the computer games that were on center stage.
Catalyst wasn’t just there to put on a workshop though. They were also there to showcase the latest designs for their upcoming products, of which they announced many, and all of them to be appearing in 2018.
The first big announcement was two new box sets for the tabletop game. The first box, simply titled BattleTech: Beginner’s Box Set, is intended as a quick start to the BattleTech game. Consider it BattleTech on training wheels, very similar to the quickstart rules that were given in previous editions of BattleTech. The box will come with two minis – a Griffinand a Wolverine– and one map sheet to play on. This will also be one of the cheapest BattleTech boxes ever at just $25.
Randall Bills also said that these will be out before next year’s GenCon in Spring of 2018.
The new minis are currently only going to be available in the new box sets, so keep this in mind for the BattleTech mini aficionado in your life (I’m lookin’ at you, CamoSpecs).
Along with the new box sets, Brent Evans also announced brand new BattleTech fiction coming in the new year. He was mum on much of the details, but he did tease a new short story that deals with Durant Carlyle, Grayson Carlyle’s father, and his exploits as part of Carlyle’s Commandos. There will also be short fiction to be found in the campaign books set to come out in 2018 as well, of which precious little info was provided.
Veteran MechWarriors will also be happy to note there will be brand new map sheets available soon that will be based on the new fiction. They’ll also be included in the new box set, so if you want to kill two birds with one stone you can shell out for the latest version of the tabletop to save on shipping.
And finally, the biggest news of all for classic BattleTech fans: CGL plans on hosting a series of events in 2018 to take place worldwide. I don’t have any other details than that, but expect to find out more on that bombshell before the new year.
That’s it for Catalyst! Stay tuned as we hit all of the big names to attend Mech_Con in the coming days.
And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.
Note: An earlier version of this article stated that the redesigned minis would available separately, but they aren’t. So buy that new box set to get your mitts on them!
If there were any doubts as to what is the new mecca (hah) of ‘Mech conventions, they were put to rest on December 9th, 2017.
Mech_Con brought together the biggest names from all things BattleTech, from PGI and Harebrained Schemes in video games to Catalyst Game Labs on the tabletop, and there has been a slew of super exciting announcements that will give any ‘Mech-head the chills.
We’ll certainly get more in-depth with each announcement in future articles, but first a quick recap of what went down at Mech_Con 2017.