Category Archives: BattleTech Game

BATTLETECH Multiplayer Review – A Battle Of Titans

BATTLETECH

It’s certainly taken some time, but as promised in our previous look at the game, I’ve finally found someone to test out the BATTLETECH multiplayer experience. Tony “Deux” Wendover agreed to be my honorable opponent-cum-guinea pig, and we shared a grueling hour-long battle, putting every aspect of BATTLETECH to the test. How’d the game hold up? Read on to find out!

The Setup

We decided to stick with a relatively light engagement believing that it would allow us to get more than one game in (which we were very wrong about, as it turns out). I decided to go with a pair of Centurion CN9-As, a Panther PNT-9R, and a Commando COM-1B as a scout ‘Mech. Unlike in my vs. PC games, I wouldn’t know what my opponent decided to field until I met him on the field of battle.

Setup

Before commencing our duel I took special care to ensure that my Commando pilot had the Sensor Lock skill, as I knew from my previous experiences that it would prove invaluable for long-range combat. Without it, it can be very difficult to exchange fire at extreme range.

I should have known this wouldn’t be as easy as fighting a computer, but this was why I’d brought a dedicated scout ‘Mech.

The drop counter ticked down, and then I was presented with a brand new map as our combat arena. The terrain was basically a rocky desert much like Arizona, filled with buttes and mesas, as well as curious mineral fields that Deux kindly explained to me acted as amplifiers for energy weapons. Not only would the crystal formations make any ‘Mech’s energy weapons more powerful when standing inside them, it also made that ‘Mech harder to hit for the enemy. I tried to keep that in mind as I ran my lance north trying to stay on top of a ridge.

My Commando scouted ahead as it was significantly faster than the rest of my lance. The game gave me a general direction of where my opponent would be coming from, but besides that, I had precious little information until I made contact.

The Battle Begins

As my Commando passed what appeared to be a gas station and approached a butte its sensors rang out with contacts: two light ‘Mechs of unknown type. Excited, I gathered my lance on top of a small hill on the opposite side of the butte and ran my Commando into a nearby forest for cover and so he could keep his sensors on the approaching ‘Mechs.

My enemy must have detected my lance as well since the two blips stopped approaching just as I’d gotten my lance into firing position. I should have known this wouldn’t be as easy as fighting a computer, but this was why I’d brought a dedicated scout ‘Mech. I ran my Commando into a mineral field to the east of the butte and used the pilot’s Sensor Lock ability to identify one of the enemy ‘Mechs: a Panther.

The confidence I’d gained from knowing one of my opponent’s chassis was short-lived, as that same Panther jumped forward and fired its PPC into my own Panther. It struck the right arm and exposed its own PPC to critical hits as all the armor had been melted off.

Missed Panther

I’d thought the jump into combat would prove risky for my opponent as it brought it well within the range of my Centurion’s AC/10 and LRMs, but my return fire proved ineffective as the AC/10 missed wide as did most of the missiles fired.

Then from the west, a mysterious flight of 5 LRMs struck my beleaguered Panther in the side. My sensors hadn’t picked up anything that far out, so it caught me entirely by surprise. An LRM-5 I knew could mean a Shadowhawk or a Vindicator, both capable long-ranged designs. It also left me in a strange position: I knew there was a ‘Mech far enough to the west to be out of range of my sensors, but there were two light ‘Mechs just ahead of me within firing range. I could split my forces as my opponent had, or I could press onward and try to take the light ‘Mechs before they could retreat.

Two centurions in a forest

I decided to press, jumping my Panther forward into a mineral field to get it out of the sights of the mystery ‘Mech and into cover, while my Centurions juked into a nearby forest. Along the way they opened fire on the enemy Panther, again missing with their AC/10s. This would become a theme for the rest of the game.

For their part, the enemy decided to start targeting my Commando that had been using Sensor Sock and allowing the rest of my lance to fire on them. Their PPCs missed, and only a few errant SRMs managed to touch my forward scout. My light ‘Mech then crept forward to continue to bear witness to the enemy when the fourth and final ‘Mech appeared on my sensors behind the butte. I now knew where my enemy was, but I only knew that one of them was a Panther.

LRM raining on Panther

Sensor locking the Panther again allowed my Centurions to fire indirect LRMs as it retreated behind the hill, with around half pocking armor all over the enemy light. One Centurion opened up with its deadly AC/10 and finally struck its target. The savaged panther limped back into cover while my Commando dogged it, while the mystery ‘Mech in the west tried to provide covering fire by lighting off its LRM-5 on my scout, again with most missiles missing.

The tag team of LRM carrying ‘Mechs like my Centurions and a scout ‘Mech with Sensor Lock was proving to be my best asset, and I was loathed to lose it so early in the engagement.

Then, in a surprise move, a second enemy Panther jumped on top of the butte and fired down on one of my Centurions. It managed to do some damage, but the tactic left me confused as it exposed this newcomer to fire from my entire lance. But game mechanics managed to save him as he jumped away before my heavier ‘Mechs could open fire. The enemy Panther took a shot in the leg from my own Panther before firing its PPC at my Commando, pegging it dead in the chest and exposing its center torso before jumping back behind the butte.

With my scout ‘Mech grievously wounded I decided to maneuver him to behind my side of the butte so as to avoid enemy fire entirely. The tag team of LRM carrying ‘Mechs like my Centurions and a scout ‘Mech with Sensor Lock was proving to be my best asset, and I was loathed to lose it so early in the engagement.

A Change Of Tactics

We were once again in a bit of a stalemate, with three of the enemy ‘Mechs on one side of the butte (two of which were certainly Panthers), my lance on the other, and a still unidentified LRM-5 carrying ‘Mech somewhere to the west of me. I decided it was time to move on that mystery ‘Mech and get out of this silly business with the butte.

I kinda wish there was another word to describe it, but it’s too small to be a mesa and too big to be called a hill. Butte is basically it.

Anyway, my paired Centurions began to maneuver to the west while my damaged Panther and Commando stayed behind to keep the enemy at bay. My Panther and an enemy Panther traded fire, with mine ending up the worse for wear, while my Centurions closed to within sensor range to ID the mystery ‘Mech as a medium. No surprise there – Shadowhawks and Vindicators are both medium ‘Mechs.

One of the enemy Panthers exposed itself a little too far around the butte and took fire from my Centurion’s LRM-10 and AC/10 for its trouble, taking its PPC-carrying right arm clean off. Sensing blood I doubled my Centurion’s back so they could continue to wail on the open Panther.

Firing On Griffin

Suddenly, the western mystery ‘Mech decided to make a break for it and managed to get itself close enough to my Commando that I could finally identify it: a rare Griffin GRF-1S. Not what I was expecting, and certainly a tough foe to handle as it was faster and more armored than most of the ‘Mechs I was fielding.

While I was distracted by the Griffin a third enemy Panther peaked around the opposite side of the butte and managed to get a bead on my Commando. The PPC blast took the right arm Large Laser clean off, while the SRMs further damaged what little armor remained on my poor scout.

Commando Arm Blown Off

My Centurions again chased away the encroaching Panther, but not before the Griffin launched a spread of LRMs into my Commando, taking off its other arm. My armless Commando then tried to bury itself into the wall of the butte to save itself and just use sensor lock for the remainder of the engagement.

Frustrated, I decided to take a move out of the enemy’s playbook and jumped my Panther on top of the butte to fire it’s PPC down on its closest foe. The PPC missed, but the SRMs savaged armor all over the previously damaged Panther as well as providing targeting data for my Centurions to rain LRMs from afar. I was also finally able to identify the last enemy light ‘Mech: yet another Panther PNT-9R. 

Panther Shot on Butte

Deux had more tricks up his sleeve. He jumped his previously PPC-less Panther not just on top of the butte, but on top of my own Panther as a Death From Above maneuver. Both ‘Mechs took damage and fell over in some sort of hilarious synchronized dance. Unfortunately, my ‘Mechs were too close to the butte to fire on the toppled Panther, while my opponent’s ‘Mechs could pump fire into my downed Panther. Which they did, destroying it. One ‘Mech down for the good guys.

Panther on Panther DFA

I responded with more LRM fire but my enemy sensed blood in the water. He brought Panthers around both sides of the butte to try and get a bead on my crippled Commando. His Panthers took devastating fire, and I sensed my Commando’s days were numbered. I did what any good commander would and decided to suicide charge my Commando into the enemy, firing its remaining SRM-2 as it went.

Commando Headbutt!

Surprisingly, the Panther’s return fire all missed and my Commando got into melee range, headbutting a Panther from behind. As the Panther turned to face its wily foe it exposed its back armor to my Centurions, allowing me to savage its rear armor and blow off a leg. It fell over, but while I was distracted the Griffin came back into range and fired its Large Laser and LRM-5 at my Centurion. It still had plenty of armor and shrugged off the assault while returning fire with everything it had. Again, my AC/10 missed and only a few missiles and a Medium Laser struck the target.

I was beginning to think my Mechwarriors would need to hit the gunnery range rather hard after this engagement. If they lived through it, that is.

Shin kick

The Panther on top of the butte got up and rained down SRMs but received a battering from my Centurion for its trouble, losing both side torsos and a leg. Meanwhile, my Commando continued to melee attack, kicking the shins of the downed Panther in front of it. Despite some setbacks, things were looking up for our heroes.

That’s when the third enemy Panther jumped on my Commando, killing it.

Dead commando

I was in a bad spot. Although two of the enemy Panthers were little more than hobbling torsos, having lost both arms and a leg, they still had an SRM-4 to fire with and jump jets to continue an aerial assault. There was also a completely fresh Panther and a mostly undamaged Griffin to contend with, while my Centurions were starting to feel a little worn from combat.

I swung my remaining forces wide into a forest for cover while the enemy Griffin and Panther continued to trade long range fire. My AC/10 again missed the mark again and again while the enemy’s PPC never seemed to miss.

Close Range Griffin Combat

In desperation I split my forces, leaving one Centurion to contend with the pack of Panthers while the other hunted down the Griffin. My Centurion pilot managed to finally catch the Griffin in the open, savaging its right torso to the point where it cooked off the remaining LRM ammunition. Unfortunately, it had already spent most of those missiles, leaving too few remaining for an instant kill but still removing the arm and leg. It was almost defenseless, or so I thought.

Down, But Not Out

Meanwhile, the Panther pack had done a number on my remaining Centurion, taking off its AC/10 right arm (not that it was doing me much good). The crippled Panthers were doing their best to hop from one side of the butte to the other, while the mostly fresh Panther on top kept raining fire down into my medium ‘Mech.

Griffin Headbutt

The opposing Griffin proved to still be in the fight as once again a Death From Above maneuver was performed, only this time on my Centurion. Somehow it managed to take off my Centurion’s leg despite the fact it was jumping on top of it, and both players scratched their heads in confusion at the sight. Worse, my Centurion was knocked over, losing precious time righting itself while the Panther pack closed in.

My other Centurion finally managed to kill one of the damaged Panthers, but the pack had closed and was now within jumping range. The remaining crippled Panther jumped on top of my armless Centurion, committing honorable seppuku in its quest for victory. I respected its decision to give its life for the cause but hated the fact it had knocked over my only upright Centurion.

Suicide Panther

A normal commander would have surrendered at this point, but I am no ordinary commander. Even while my Centurions were being kicked and blasted with PPCs, we fought on to the last. My Centurions rose like the mighty gladiators they were and continued to fight back, taking aim at the dangerous PPC-toting Panther but again failing to disarm the deadly opponent. The Centurion tangling with the Griffin also took a point-blank shot with its two Medium Lasers, and despite the fact that they were separated by mere inches one laser shot wide.

Stupid Centurion

In return, the crippled Griffin ducked its head and charged, headbutting my Centurion in the chest and disabling the engine. I was down to a single ‘Mech.

Never give up, never surrender. My remaining Centurion blasted away at the Panther while the crippled enemy Griffin did what the previous two Panthers had and hopped one-legged to within melee range. Overheating, and unable to split my fire between two targets, the Griffin closed to within headbutting distance.

Then the medium ‘Mech bowed, as though honoring its foe, before it thrust its deadly head straight through my Centurion’s chest. I had lost.

Last Mech Down

I was heartened by the fact that there was barely a single enemy ‘Mech between the two surviving chassis, and that each of our engagements had devolved into fisticuffs. Had my AC/10 shots found their marks, it could have been a very different game. Also, I’ve determined that a ‘Mech’s head is actually the most deadly weapon it possesses and will base all my future ‘Mech choices on the size of its metal cranium.

Thanks again to Deux for the delightful game, and I hope to get another one in by the time the next big BATTLETECH patch hits.

And as always, Mechwarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

An Interview with Jordan Weisman at GenCon 50

So yeah, this one is coming is pretty late. I do apologize to the readers out there. After GenCon got really hectic for me professionally, and, well, it is what it is. 

At this point, the game has progressed a bit past the improvements of the then new patch that Jordan and I discussed, so I’m going to re-tool my original interview to be my impressions of the interview and of Jordan and what we talked about. 

GenCon 50 has come and gone. Wow. I have to pause and let that sink in every year.

I spend the better part of six to eight months in a year planning for and making sure that I get everything in my professional and personal life squared away in order to make sure I can make it to GenCon.

Now, that’s not to say that I do so at the peril of myself or those around me. No, GenCon is for me that one time of year when I don’t have to explain anything about what I do professionally or for fun to anybody. Everyone there understands it. So I tend to make sure I can go.

With the Post-GenCon Recovery Period (I swear it’s a thing!) still affecting some of us (mostly in the finance region), I need to take the time to share some key aspects of the experience. In particular, I want to share with you all the hour of time I spent talking to Jordan Weisman, creator of BattleTech and one of the heads of Harebrained Schemes, about the new computer game version of BattleTech.

A note on how I am going to reflect on this time. My recording app malfunctioned during the actual interview portion, so I only have the notes that I took from the interview. As such, I won’t directly quote Weisman unless I wrote down his exact phrasing.

First, BattleTech had a huge development release the day that I spoke to Weisman. They had just released the first multi-player backer beta build for the game, so the Harebrained booth was abuzz with fans playing the new version as well as many people standing around to watch the action on the screen, stand behind their friends, and just chat about BattleTech in general.

I met Jordan Weisman a little before our interview, stopping by to verify the time, and he said he was looking forward to sitting down, playing a round of the new release, and then talking!

Wait.

What?!

I was going to get to go head-to-head against Jordan Weisman in BATTLETECH?!!!!

I was already excited about the interview itself, but finding out I’d get to actually play a game with Jordan Weisman was icing on an already delicious looking cake.

So, the time came, and we sat down to play. We selected out Mechs and dove on in. My experience with the BattleTech Beta at that point had been in the 10-12 hour range, so I knew I was at an extreme disadvantage going up against Weisman.

I was right.

The following thirty minutes was a whirlwind of back and forth not-quite-trash-talking as I sent my Lance in hard and fast….straight into the wall of strategy and effective tactics that was Weisman’s way of war. My Lance got picked apart one `Mech at a time, and it was glorious!

After his pyrrhic victory, Weisman humbly asked if I’d enjoyed it, and of course I did!

Because I foolishly didn’t fanboy hard enough, I don’t have a selfie with Jordan Weisman for the article! This will have to do. Weisman is seen here showing off the Kickstarter flight jacket reward.

So then we sat down and talked about the game, much of which is old news at this point. But the highlights that remain with me can be summed up in a few points.

  • The BattleTech community is great, and Weisman and Harebrained love every bit of interaction they get with us. They live off of our energy, and then they give it right back us in the best ways possible.
  • The next phase for Harebrained and BattleTech in general is what Weisman called “outreach,” continuing to get the word out, and the established community is a huge part of that. Harebrained want BattleTech to find every gamer and to read out beyond the pull it has now to get even bigger.
  • Now that the core mechanics of the game itself are established, there’s still much more to do in the way of developing the story, lore, and the extended campaign. Even though we’re a couple of months down the road from when I spoke to Weisman, I know they’re still hammering away at making the campaign the best experience it can possibly be.
  • There is nowhere else that Weisman and his team would rather be than right where they, making BattleTech. They’re pumped up. They love our excitement for the game and universe, and they look forward to much more BattleTech in the future.

For me, this short game and talk with Jordan Weisman will be one of only two or three stand-out moments from GenCon 50 that I know I will keep in my memory for many years to come.

It’s not just a fanboy moment. I mean, yeah, it’s a little bit of that, but it’s also more. Jordan Weisman’s enthusiasm for BattleTech is amazing, and that really has kept me charged up for everything to do with the game(s), on the table and on the screen.

Thank you to Jordan Weisman and Harebrained Schemes for working to bring us this amazing gaming experience in our favorite universe. We look forward to its release, and hope for more after it!

BATTLETECH Backer Beta – Second Impressions

BATTLETECH

It’s been a few months since our first look at Harebrained Schemes upcoming BATTLETECH turn-based RPG, and I thought it a good idea to see how things are progressing. As reported last month there are lots of changes made to the game since its initial release in June, and while the original beta version had just as much giant stompy robot action as one could have hoped, it was still certainly a rough first draft. Let’s take a look to see how the second draft has shaped up.

As you may recall from my initial foray into BATTLETECH the AI handed me my metallic ass on a silver platter, forcing me to tip the scales in my favor with a massive weight advantage. I remembered too, so my first game did exactly the same thing, pitting my Centurion, Kintaro, Griffin, and Victor against an enemy lance consisting of a Jenner, Locust, Centurion, and a Commando.

From my first game, I’d come to appreciate the Centurion as a tough, workhorse medium ‘Mech, able to dish out as much punishment as it can take in return. The Kintaro, Griffin, and Victor were new designs (in terms of never having used them before) but seemed to make a good mix of long and short range firepower. My enemy would be highly mobile but vastly outgunned, and I hoped to use that to my advantage by simply barreling up to my foe and alpha-striking until they all dropped dead.

Nobody ever said I was a subtle tactician.

Game 1 - 1

Going into the match I remembered there were a lot of changes between the September version and June version of the game. To start, all MechWarriors now have two abilities to contend with rather than the original one. There would also be an increase in frequency and severity of critical hits, something that might drastically affect lighter ‘Mechs without nearly as much armor as my heavier units.

I was very right on that point.

My lance ambled up to the river and made a firing line while the enemy AI ran towards me at full speed. The Locust appeared first, firing its SRMs and medium laser into my Kintaro, which shrugged off the damage. I would continue to be impressed by the Kintaro’s toughness throughout the fight.

Of course, having run head-long into a firing line of 240 tons of guns and armor, the poor Locust did not survive the return salvo from my lance. One down, three to go.

Gif game 1 - 1

The enemy lance continued to approach, but still in a piecemeal fashion. Next up was the Jenner who, while tougher than the Locust, suffered grievous rents in its armor from a full blast of my Centurion’s weaponry. My Victor, which had been hiding in the forest that lined the ravine, then pounced on the poor Jenner, sealing its fate.

Compared with June, I noticed that the light ‘Mechs went down significantly easier than before. Three crits to the center torso are enough to destroy the engine, and it was knocking out lighter machines much faster than the heavier ones. Whether or not this will remain in the final product is yet to be seen, but for now I’d certainly recommend more heavily armored light ‘Mechs for survivability.

This left a Commando and a Centurion to contend with. The Commando took a full barrage from my Griffin as it peaked over a hillside, crippling it. It then suicide-charged into my Kintaro, who greeted it with a full fusillade of 18 SRMs. He never stood a chance.

Game 1 - 2

With my full lance encroaching on his position, the remaining enemy Centurion attempted to flee. The combined long-range firepower of my Griffin and Centurion managed to tag it before it could get too far away, and my Victor stepped behind it to wrench off the ‘Mech’s AC/10 with a few well-placed shots. My Kintaro then provided the coup de grâce.

Along with the ease by which lighter ‘Mechs succumbed to fire, I also noticed that the enemy AI seemed much easier than back in June. Also, the heat effects around a ‘Mech were much more noticeable, with an overheating ‘Mech glowing orange and a simmering machine displaying a hypnotic mirage as it dissipated its head load.

Gif game 1 - 2

Now that I’d been convinced I wasn’t about to get my ass kicked by a bunch of silicon, I decided a fair fight was in order. I queued up another game with both of us in roughly equivalent machines. My paired Centurions, a Panther, and Commando versus their Locust, Commando, Vindicator and Shadow Hawk. I hoped my Centurions would be able to tough out the worst of the damage thrown my way.

This time the two lances danced around each other for some time exchanging LRM fire, before a lucky shot from the opposing Shadow Hawk’s AC/5 blew out my Commando’s center torso. Horrible visions of my previous defeat danced through my head, and I desperately pivoted my remaining ‘Mechs away from the deadly Shadow Hawk.

Gif game 2 - 1

Lucky for me the enemy pursued with their lighter elements leading the charge, which allowed me to pivot back and pummel both the Commando and Locust into scrap with minimal damage to my own forces.

Thus began a long exchange of ranged fire as our lances faced off over a large gorge. My first Centurion was crippled, then killed by combined autocannon and PPC fire, but my brief ‘Mech advantage proved telling. The enemy Vindicator lost its PPC, and my own Panther’s PPC took the Shadow Hawk’s right arm off.

Game 2 - 1

To finally end the battle I decided to use the replacement to the morale mechanic called “focus”. I’m still not 100% sure how it works, but it seems to allow surviving, toughened MechWarriors to fire a hyper-accurate shot. I told my Centurion to focus and fire all remaining weapons, which finally took the Shadow Hawk down.

Gif game 2 - 2

The crippled Vindicator was easy prey for my Panther, who managed to perform a Death From Above maneuver successfully to further damage the already defeated machine. Risking overheat, I ordered my Centurion to alpha strike again and finally put the Vindicator down.

Obviously, given my stunning come-from-behind victory, the enemy AI in this game has been heavily tweaked since June. The survey that popped up following the match confirmed this by asking questions about enemy ‘Mech performance. I naturally answered the AI was perfect, since I’d just won, but at no point did I feel like I was facing a complete pushover. Only when I vastly outweighed my opponent did I feel like I was invincible, which is probably the way it should be.

Game 2 - 2

I had intended to make my third game a review of the nascent multiplayer experience, but unfortunately, the servers were down when I clicked it. So if you’d like to be featured on the next BATTLETECH Backer Beta, let me know in the comments and we’ll see if we can arrange a game!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

BattleTech Multiplayer Beta Is Coming, Final Release Pushed To 2018

beta_update

courtesy of Harebrained Schemes

The BattleTech Single Player Beta is in full swing, with Harebrained Schemes crunching numbers and parsing data like no other developer has done before! Actually, I’m sure lots of developers have done it before, but this developer is working on a BattleTech game, so we’re giving them extra props.

It’s been nearly 2 months since the last Kickstarter Update after the release of the Single Player Beta, so that means it’s time for everyone to check in and see what’s happening next in terms of development. And what’s next is both exciting and a little bit disappointing, but mostly exciting. We’ll cover the exciting bits first.

As previously mentioned, HBS has been using feedback from the Single Player Beta to refine the player experience, and they’ve got a “significant” number of changes planned for the next update. Some of the weightier changes to be made include “major revisions” to the Evasion, Sensor Lock, and Evasive Move abilities, various balance tweaks to loads of weapon systems, a global heat reduction of 10%, and UI enhancements both in and out of combat.

That’s not all! There are quite a few other major changes on the way. The Morale mechanic is being completely replaced by a new system after survey feedback revealed that it unbalanced battles in favor of whichever side got the early kill, providing a snowball effect for that team. What the new system will be is anybody’s guess, but it was redesigned specifically to remove that snowball effect.

Critical Hit

courtesy of @kentnlsn on Twitter

Another major revision is the way critical hits work, becoming both being more frequent and more powerful. Only one lucky shot is required to set off a deadly ammo explosion from the previously required two, which means you should find ammo dependent ‘Mechs to be a little more vulnerable than before. Vital components, like weapons, actuators, and gyros will now take one shot to become damaged, and then become destroyed on the second crit.

Perhaps the most impactful revision is enhancements to enemy AI. Now instead of just being lumbering robots that move and shoot they’ll be lumbering robots that move, shoot, and use abilities. Also, all MechWarriors are getting a second ability, so this is sure to jack up the difficulty level to a place where I might feel inadequate, but I’m sure the rest of you will appreciate the challenge.

Finally, hot in from the BattleTech game forums comes Mitch with an update to the ‘Mech roster: the Firestarter is coming to BattleTech!  Get ready to light the world on fire with this highly flammable light ‘Mech. Fire retardant clothing is recommended.

Expect to see the Single Player Beta receive these updates by the end of the week.

Also coming up is a “Double-Secret” Multiplayer Beta Test, where the nascent multiplayer mode will be made available to eager beta testers who sign up for it. The Kickstarter Update did mention this is a very early test, which is why they’re not just rolling it out to everyone. Expect crashes and disconnects as they work out the bugs.

The Multiplayer Beta will be running for a few weeks while they work out the worst of the issues before rolling it out to the rest of the backers on a future update. Sign ups will be coming in a future Kickstarter update, so stay tuned there.

MechWarriors

courtesy of Harebrained Schemes

And finally a bit of a bad news to round out all the good. This one comes straight from Jordan himself to soften the blow somewhat; the release for BattleTech has been postponed to the early part of 2018.

As Jordan writes in his update, “The message we’ve received has been clear, ‘Don’t rush it, just make it great.’” Truer words were never spoken. I’d far rather receive a fantastic game a year late than receive a crappy game a few months early. Nobody wants to see BattleTech get the EA treatment of being rushed out the door just to meet some corporate bigwig’s deadline.  

Once again HBS has shown that the community is developing this game just as much as the coders are, and they’re both willing and eager to accept feedback to make the best game possible. While nobody wants to hear delays, the open communication is something both rare and essential when creating a game for a community as passionate as BattleTech’s.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Harmony Gold Is At It Again…

Yup. You read that right. Harmony Gold is at it again with another round of lawsuits aimed at BattleTech IP.

The story broke a few days ago (thanks to user Clanfighter for the comment tip!), and the Harebrained Schemes (HBS) and MechWarrior Online forums are ablaze. There’s a lot of vitriol being spewed (rightly) against Harmony Gold for being litigious parasites and trying to cash in on BattleTech‘s and MechWarrior Online’s success, and while that’s certainly true, there’s a little more to it than that.

First, let’s take a look at the actual lawsuit itself. Court documents filed last March by the law firm Calfo Eakes & Ostrovsky PLLC reveal that Harmony Gold is suing both Harebrained Schemes and PGI for copyright infringement on their Robotech imagery, which so far sounds just like what happened with the Unseen saga. That ended with Catalyst Game Labs releasing new artwork for the unseen ‘Mechs, and we all thought everything was done for good.

Harmony Gold apparently felt differently. The new suit names PGI as the primary defendants, saying the current models used for the Rifleman, Archer, Warhammer, Marauder and Phoenix Hawk are similar enough to the original Robotech images that they infringe the copyright. It also names HBS as another defendant saying that their use of the Atlas, Locust, and Shadowhawk are too similar to their property to be used in the upcoming BattleTech game.

Marauder PHawk

via unitedstatescourts.org

I took out some of the images filed in the court documents so we can take a look. For the complaint against PGI, you can maybe make an argument they’re similar but so similar they infringe? That’s harder to say. I’m no lawyer, but I do know that courts often look to specifics rather than general shapes when determining these kinds of cases, and you can easily spot dozens of differences between the two designs being compared.

Warhammer Archer

via unitedstatescourts.org

Rifleman

via unitedstatescourts.org

The pictures being used against HBS look even less alike. In fact, the whole argument seems spurious at best. An Atlas looks like a Crusader? A Shadowhawk looks like an Archer? A Locust looks like a Marauder? These ‘Mechs don’t even share the same silhouette, let alone any specific details. It’s like Harmony Gold is trying to say that nobody else can have giant robots since they have a passing resemblance to their giant robots.

Atlas Shadowhawk

via unitedstatescourts.org

Locust

via unitedstatescourts.org

The case against HBS is sure to be tossed as soon as it goes before a judge. The case for PGI might linger on, but I’m fairly confident that PGI has prepared for this day and has numerous counter arguments to keep their game safe.

The case against HBS is sure to be tossed as soon as it goes before a judge.

There were a few more interesting tidbits to be gleaned from the court docs. Apparently, PGI had been in contact with Harmony Gold in 2013 when they were planning on releasing the Warhammer and Marauder ‘Mechs in MechWarrior Online. Both times Harmony Gold said the submitted designs were too similar and infringed on their copyright. We don’t know what those earlier designs might have looked like, but you can see from the images above that the current models for the Warhammer and Marauder are very different from the original Robotech designs.

Also mentioned in the suit is how Harmony Gold “discovered” the infringing materials. Evidently, it was an old news post by Catalyst Game Labs on their partnership with PGI in creating some “lore vignettes” in 2016. The blog post featured a schematic image of the Warhammer, which was released in MechWarrior Online in January 2016. Both the Marauder and the Marauder IIC were released later in 2016.

Warhammer

via unitedstatescourts.org

It says something about how confident PGI is in their position that they still released both the Marauder and Warhammer despite having the court documents filed just before their release in MWO.

So why is Harmony Gold pursuing this case when they seem to have a very good chance of losing? Well, they could be hoping for a quick settlement with both PGI and HBS, however, given the strength of their defense, I doubt either would be inclined to let Harmony Gold win this time.

On the other hand, Harmony Gold has a very good reason to pursue this case as aggressively as they can. The Robotech live action movie is going full steam ahead, and there are probably plans to have both game and action figure tie-ins with the movie. Nevermind the fact the movie has no script, no cast, and has just recently changed directors to the same guy that did Stephen King’s It adaptation.

Harmony Gold could also be using this case as a means of testing the legal waters for a future lawsuit against MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries.

Harmony Gold could also be using this case as a means of testing the legal waters for a future lawsuit against MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. We know that PGI’s upcoming single-player game will feature some of the Unseen designs, and if it’s as financially successful as it’s expected to be (and if the Robotech movie doesn’t crash and burn like every other live-action anime movie) then Harmony Gold could stand to make a bundle.

One thing for certain is that neither PGI nor HBS is likely to comment on the case anytime soon as the trial is set for September of 2018. Here’s hoping they lose, and badly.

BattleTech at E3 and What Is The “Argo”

Concept Argo art

courtesy of Harebrained Schemes

As some of you may be aware, E3 is happening, and that means the developers of BattleTech are there to show off their latest build and drop a few more hints as to what the final product will look like. And oh boy did they ever, with Harebrained Schemes revealing 2 full minutes of never-before-seen footage of the single player campaign screens.

Hosted by PC Gamer magazine, the co-founders of Harebrained Schemes Jordan Weisman and Mitch Gitelman sat down to talk with Sean “Day[9]” Plott about the upcoming game. The conversation was mostly aimed at non-BattleTech aficionados, so I won’t bore you with all the minutiae of what was said, but I’ll make sure to give you the keynotes of the presentation.

Lady Kamea Orano

courtesy of PC Gamer

First off, we were given some additional details as to how the story will unfold. Lady Kamea Orano (the spelling of which is questionable as I’m transcribing from video) has been deposed by her evil uncle and has contracted the player’s mercenary company with restoring her to her rightful throne.

The throne, in this case, being to an interstellar nation called the Aurigan Coalition, which was revealed in a Kickstarter update to be a minor house nestled between the Capellan Confederation and the Taurian Concordat. This addition to the Inner Sphere circa 3025 seems to be made entirely for the game, but considering it’s being born from Jordan Weisman himself it is likely to be made canon upon BattleTech’s release.

After the campaign overview, the interview went into detail on the inner-workings of your mercantile ship, the Argo.

Argo

Courtesy of PC Gamer

What IS The Argo?

From the video, it can be very hard to tell what kind of ship the Argo even is. During the interview, Mitch described it as “a broken-down hulk of a spaceship” along with being “your mercenary command center,” and that “you can take it all over space, going from star system to star system.” That makes it out to sound like a JumpShip, however, the Argo doesn’t resemble any JumpShip in the known universe.

It turns out the Argo isn’t a JumpShip at all, but rather a massive mobile space station that was built before the Amaris Civil War. It was intended to follow behind the first wave of system surveyors as a sort of logistical hub, supporting colonization teams with her massive onboard hydroponics bays. The intention was for the Argo to remain in-system for months, if not years, and as such it has vastly larger living quarters, recreational areas, and passenger accommodation than any military DropShip.

Inside the argo

courtesy of PC Gamer

You can tell based on the screen grabs from the development footage that the Argo does indeed have a lot of room, with massive navigation and bridge stations. There’s also a folding grav deck that allows for artificial gravity, although anywhere else people are still forced to wear mag-boots to keep from floating off.

But it doesn’t have a jump drive, so it’s forced to piggyback on JumpShips like any other dropship. Well, not quite like any other dropship; much like the Behemoth-class, it takes up two docking bays of whatever ship it latches on to. Also, like the Behemoth, she can’t fly into atmosphere owing to her vast size. Smaller DropShips dock with the Argo in order to bring men and machines planetside.

Inside the argo

courtesy of PC Gamer

As an aside, it’s nice that HBS wants to expand the BattleTech universe and make the player feel like they have something unique in the BattleTech game, but it really doesn’t feel like the Argo was even necessary. The story could have been told just as easily with a mercenary band somehow getting hold of a JumpShip, or even just a regular Union DropShip. And considering the Argo can’t even go planetside, your mercenary company will also need a real DropShip or two just to get boots on the ground.

Oh well. I doubt anyone will complain about having a luxury liner for a DropShip, at least in comparison to what most House militaries field.

Salvage Details And Some Memorable Quotes

After a peak inside the Argo, viewers were treated to another demonstration of combat with BattleTech, which didn’t seem to offer much more than what is already available in the backer beta. We did get some information on the salvage system, which will be based on BattleMech damage and that MechCommanders will want to hit opponents “just hard enough to take them down”.

Inside the argo

courtesy of PC Gamer

We also got some pretty excellent one liners. After showing a Hunchback getting cored in the back, Gitelman commented, “Get around the back of a BattleMech and slap penetrate.” Wiser words were never spoken.  

Also, after Day[9] reminisced on playing the original table top as a child, Mitch responded, “As a kid, huh? Thanks, pal.” Day[9] will be 31 later in June.

No word yet on a final release date, but it’s looking closer than ever. I’d even bet on seeing BattleTech release just in time for Christmas.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

BattleTech Backer Beta – First Impressions

The much anticipated Backer Beta finally began last Thursday with Kickstarter backers receiving Steam codes to take part in beta testing BattleTech, the latest game from Harebrained Schemes. As a backer myself, opening that email felt like Christmas morning, and seeing mom and dad had gotten me just what I wanted. Then I played the game I’d been waiting for oh so long and found out I got even more than that. Many of you will know exactly what I’m talking about, but for you unlucky readers who didn’t get in on the Kickstarter let me tell you what you’re missing.

First off, a little bit of staging is in order. The backer beta is single player skirmish mode only, pitting one lance against its opposite. The default light assault lance features not one, but two UrbanMechs, showing us that Harebrained Schemes has a good sense of humour to troll everyone right out of the gate. You can select what ‘Mechs are in your lance but you can’t customize your ‘Mechs just yet, although that is going to be in the final version of the game.

Skirmishes are limited based on “Mech Value”, which is similar to Battle Value in that it’s based on the ‘Mech’s combat effectiveness. When picking a ‘Mech you’ll be presented with 8 stats that generally describe their performance: initiative, heat, speed, range, durability, firepower, stability, and melee. Most of this will be familiar except for stability and initiative which only describe how well a ‘Mech weathers fire and whether or not a ‘Mech goes first in turn order. Generally, the heavier the ‘Mech the more stable it is but it will act later in the turn.

Pilots have four attributes – Gunnery (which determines your to-hit percentage), Piloting (which determines melee and DFA hit percentage), Tactics (which determines line-of-sight range and sensor info), and Guts (which determines your heat capacity). Each pilot also has a special ability that can either be a passive, “always-on” sort of thing or something you can activate during your turn. There’s quite a few abilities so I won’t go through all of them, but I will say Sensor Lock proved to be quite important.

Alright, let’s get to a few games.

Round 1 – FIGHT!

My first game upon installation was just me using the default team and squaring off against the same ‘Mechs with the same pilots: 2 UrbanMechs, a Hunchback and a Kintaro. I had no idea what I was doing, so I felt that a game on equal footing would be a great way to learn – sort of a trial by fire. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, lots of things, but we’ll get to that.

The first thing you notice when you get in is the similarity between BattleTech and the old MechCommander series, but where MechCommander was 3D sprites on a 2D battlefield, this game is entirely rendered in gorgeous 3D. And when I say gorgeous I really do mean it – all the ‘Mechs are the same models as found in MechWarrior Online, but now you have the chance to zoom in and really examine them up close and from every angle.

I took a moment to just appreciate my massive machines before I set them off moving. The familiar hexes of the table top are gone, but instead you have these little points you can run your ‘Mech off to. They operate the same, with your ‘Mech being able to run further the faster it is and also taking more movement “points” to turn your ‘Mech in a specific direction once you get there.

I set my lance to run to the river with an UrbanMech staying behind to provide cover from the clifftop. Through the fog my lance’s sensors picked up my opponents charging in, and they wasted no time picking my lance to pieces. They used cover, abilities, and movement to their advantage, flanking my Kintaro and melting its rear armour until its fusion engine blew out its backside. My first UrbanMech died to a Hunchback blast to the face, and my own Hunchie fought valiantly before succumbing to the combined fire of the enemy. My remaining UrbanMech no longer had a spotter for his autocannon, and so dutifully charged to his doom at my command.

Even though I’d lost (rather spectacularly I might add) I loved how alive the combat felt despite the fact it was still a turn-based game. When missiles are fired the trees will sway at their passing. The ground will rumble more with the footsteps of larger ‘Mechs versus their smaller brethren. You’ll see armour glow and melt off a ‘Mech when struck by a laser, and you’ll see the camera switch to an over-the-shoulder viewpoint so you don’t miss a second of watching your giant death machine spew fiery destruction at its unfortunate target.

That said, the computer knew what it was doing, and I clearly did not. Time to ratchet down the difficulty.

Round 2 – Electric Boogaloo

There’s no actual difficulty setting in the beta, so I did the next best thing: I made my opponents into a lance of 2 UrbanMechs and 2 Locusts versus my heavy lance of an Orion, a JagerMech, a Centurion and a Shadowhawk. After stacking the deck sufficiently in my favour I also took a little extra time to read about my pilot’s abilities and try to match them to their machine. Satisfied, I hit the launch button and set my ‘Mechs on their way.

Since I already had a massive weight advantage, I decided to split my lance into two ‘Mech elements – my Orion and JagerMech went one way around the mountain and my ShadowHawk and Centurion took the longer way. My expectation was the medium ‘Mech’s speed would get them back to the heavies if they ran into trouble.

And they did. The enemy Locusts immediately pounced on the lighter elements of my forces. Once again the computer used tree cover to their advantage, but the massive firepower my mediums possessed obliterated one Locust and disabled the other with a shattered leg. But suddenly the UrbanMechs appeared and my enemy’s plan was apparent: the Locusts were bait, there to delay my mediums so they could fall prey to the UrbanMechs combined AC/10s. A lucky headshot took down my Shadowhawk, and the my Centurion was badly mauled as it retreated, but not before finishing off the lamed Locust.

Not quite according to plan, but by then my heavy ‘Mechs had ambled into range of the UrbanMechs and were raining ordinance with impunity. It was only a few rounds before all my opponents were reduced to scrap, resulting in my first victory! I relished the triumph, even though it was against vastly inferior forces. But I wasn’t some honour-bound clanner, so I didn’t let it get me down.

Time for round 3.

Round 3 – Where’s The Fun In Fighting Fair?

I still didn’t feel like I was up to a fair fight, so this time I went with a theme. My opponent would be a better balanced light lance against my own heavy assault lance. I swapped my JagerMech for an Awesome and my Shadowhawk for a Jenner that I’d use as a spotter for the Awesome, retaining my Centurion and Orion.  My opponents would be a Panther, a Commando, a Locust and another UrbanMech.

My Jenner had the clear speed advantage over every ‘Mech on the battlefield, and I made sure to give its pilot the Sensor Lock ability which would allow my heavy mechs to fire at anything my Jenner could see at the cost of my own Jenner’s ability to fire. This proved to be instrumental, as I was able to spot the opposing Panther and soften him up with a few PPC blasts from my Awesome that I had perched atop a cliff. My Centurion and Orion were both able to quickly finish off the Panther, but my Jenner ran into trouble when it was double-teamed by the enemy Commando and Locust. They managed to mangle my poor Jenner, removing most of its armour and its right arm, before my Awesome disabled the Commando and my Orion was able to take out the Locust using its long range armaments.

The final moments of the enemy UrbanMech played out like a holovid, with my entire lance converging on the unfortunate pilot while picking off bits of armor. My Orion finally managed to land the deathblow to secure victory once more.

It may have only been three lance vs lance battles, but each one felt epic in a way that’s never been achieved in a BattleTech game, and there’s going to be so much more once the final game is released. From experiencing the core of the game in these skirmishes, I can say without exaggeration this could be the best BattleTech game of all time.

BattleTech is set to release later in 2017 (but there’s still time to get in on the beta).

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

Latest Q&A With HBS + New Beta Date

It was good news and bad news at the latest Q&A session with Harebrained schemes.

The bad news is there’s still no new date set for the backer beta, which has now been delayed two months since the Kickstarter estimated test date. As reported in the latest session hosted by our good friends at No Guts No Galaxy, the developers are still hard at work ironing out the kinks in BattleTech’s armor before they feel comfortable releasing it to outside testing.

The good news is that HBS is back to firing on all cylinders from their disastrous build upgrade in March, and HBS co-founder Mitch Gitelman says they are “narrowing in” on a beta test date announcement in the near future.

Mitch also announced a live test of BattleTech’s multiplayer game mode between himself and game director Mike McCain which has now been posted to the Harebrained Schemes YouTube channel. This is our first real look at BattleTech‘s gameplay, and I’m sure you’re all eager to see a preview of what is sure to be the hottest ‘Mech game in recent memory. 

The hour-long Q&A took place with Mitch as well as audio director Rob Piersol and game composer John Everest.  As befit their professions, they answered mostly sound related questions concerning BattleTech’s development. One thing mentioned during the sound testing was the inclusion of a rotary Autocannon into the game and how that sound developed with respect to modern day weaponry.

The mention of the Rotary Autocannon is a tad surprising as the game is ostensibly dated in the year 3025, many decades before the introduction of the Rotary A/C into BattleTech lore. Mitch also commented that there will be different manufacturers in the game, some of which selling the single-shot Autocannons and others selling the Rotary type. Could this be an indication of a departure from the classic BattleTech rules in the name of added gameplay depth?

Also confirmed during the stream will be an action dependent musical score and pilot death-screams similar to those found in the MechCommander series of games.  

While it’s a bit of a disappointment not to have an updated backer beta date announced, it’s good to hear that development is once again proceeding apace. We here at Sarna will be sure you bring your more BattleTech related news as it’s announced.

Update 2017-05-12: According to the latest KickStarter update, the Backer Beta will start June 1st! Fantastic!

BattleTech Backer Beta Delayed

 

In sad news, Harebrained Schemes have announced the planned Kickstarter Backer Beta will not be available on their target date of March 15. In an update on the BattleTech Kickstarter page, senior producer Chris Klimecky reported that planned upgrades to the game’s engine as well as development infrastructure went a little off the rails, necessitating the game’s delay while HBS worked out the bugs. However, Chris also wrote that they’re back on track, and working diligently to meet a revised release date of Late Summer/Early Fall.

While certainly unfortunate, the update shows Harebrained Scheme’s commitment to transparency and open communication with a community that is waiting eagerly to get their hands on a hotly anticipated title. Waiting a few extra months is a small price to pay for a polished and bug-free game.

For the full release, check out the Harebrained Schemes Kickstarter page here.