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 →
It’s going to be a fantastic week for BattleTech video games.
The day we’ve all been waiting for is finally almost here. Steam codes have been sent to all Kickstarter backers, pre-orders are available for pre-loading, and on Tuesday, April 24th, we finally get our hands on the finished product, hot off the digital presses from Hairbrained Schemes.
We’ve had our paws on the multiplayer beta for some weeks now (and did a write-up on the experience a while ago), but this will be the first time we get our hands on the single-player campaign (unless you were one of the lucky few influencers that got an early download to show off on Twitch). As a connoisseur of Harebrained’s Shadowrun series of games, I have high hopes that the single-player experience lives up to the high bar set by their previous turn-based RPGs.
And while we of the BattleTech faithful are obviously hyped for BattleTech‘s arrival, we’re not the only ones. As of the time of this writing, BattleTech is number two on Steam’s top sellers list, beating out such juggernauts as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Far Cry 5. That’s high praise even for a game developed by giants in the industry, let alone a small developer like Harebrained.
We’ll have a preliminary review of the game up in the coming weeks after I’ve gotten a chance to play through a few hours of the campaign.
courtesy of MechWarrior Online
In other news, MechWarrior Online has released their latest update that brings Solaris 7 to their online shooter. As the name suggests, rather than 12v12 company-level brawls, or 8v8 strategic fights in the case of faction play, Solaris 7 pits MechWarriors in single combat.
The game changes drastically when you only have a single opponent. Suddenly you no longer need to consider bringing enough ammunition to last you an entire protracted battle. Rather, the goal is to pump out as much damage as possible as quickly as possible to bring your opponent down before he can do the same to you. This opens up a completely new meta in ‘Mech designs, and folks are already throwing up some creative new builds on the various online forums.
On top of that, Duncan Fisher‘s announcing brings a level of immersion that was previously missing to the game, and the MechWarrior Online developers PGI are giving away a free ‘Mech just for logging in: the UZL-3P Uziel!
There’s still time to get the rewards for pre-ordering BattleTech, and MechWarrior Online is still free to play so you can download that and start playing right now. There’s never been a better time to be a BattleTech gamer.
Good evening BattleTech fans! While we’re on the eve of BattleTech’s long-awaited release, we have some news on the lawsuit front for the ongoing legal battle between Harebrained Schemes, PGI, and Harmony Gold.
When we last left our intrepid heroes they were asking the judge for summary judgment against HG to find in favor of the defendants (that’s us) without needing to go into a lengthy trial. It turns out that PGI found the results of an earlier trial that proved Harmony Gold didn’t even have the rights to the Unseen ‘Mechs they were suing over in the first place. Those designs were in fact owned by another company called Big West.
What happened next was Harmony Gold decided to amend their complaint and remove some of the specific language from their suit against PGI and Harebrained Schemes. This was in order to buy time and stave off a summary judgment against them, which was seeming very likely due to the shaky legal ground HG suddenly found themselves on.
Not to be deterred, PGI refiled their motion for summary judgment with mostly the same language as before after HG amended their complaint. I’m no lawyer, but according to Reddit user GoodTry3067 (and with kudos for explaining all the legalese) we could be in for a long wait while the judge decides on the request for judgment Like, to the tune of 6 months.
I know, I know, that’s a bummer, but chin up! It’s looking like we might finally see the last of the much-reviled Harmony Gold.
But not so fast. In a last-ditch effort, Harmony Gold is throwing the legal equivalent of a long-bomb, 600 yard play (is that what they’re called? I know less about sports than I do about law) by requesting a letter of rogatory–essentially a letter from litigators in Japan asking them to confirm HG’s ownership of the Unseen copyrights.
They’re not likely to get it for a two reasons: A) Japanese companies rarely, if ever, come to the defense of American companies, let alone idiotic ones like HG who litigate themselves into a corner, and B) any litigator sending a letter to the judge opining that HG owns the copyrights would be lying since they do not.
How I imagine this all went down (courtesy of associated press)
Rightly smelling blood, PGI filed a motion to deny HG’s request for a letter rogatory from Japan on the completely reasonable grounds that they should have sent this request way back during the discovery process and not on the eve of trial. They also assert, probably correctly, that HG is just trying to delay a trial and waste the court’s time.
“Piranha opposes the motion for several reasons, but principally because the issue of who owns the copyrights asserted in this case has already been decided by three courts,” wrote PGI in their request for dismissal. “In light of those court rulings, the only apparent reason for Harmony Gold’s motion is to create confusion and cause delay.”
Ouch. There’s no word yet on when the judge will rule on PGI’s motion, which was filed on April 2, but here’s hoping the judge finally loses their cool and tosses Harmony Gold on their collective asses.
Before I end this update, I have a special request. It looks like Harmony Gold may finally get what’s coming to them, and on that day we’re going to need some appropriately smarmy art commemorating the occasion. If you or someone you know might be artistically inclined and can produce an image of Harmony Gold getting either crushed, blasted, or otherwise destroyed by a BattleMech–any ‘Mech, even one of the Unseen–then please send it on over so we can showcase it on what will hopefully be the best news update Sarna has ever posted.
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.
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’sMaskirovka 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.
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.
There’s a problem with MechWarrior Online. Actually, there’s probably over a dozen problems with MechWarrior Online, depending on who you ask, but the one we’re going to talk about today is one that is universal for any game, online or no, and that’s balance.
The subject of balance is something that has recently captured the attention of Russ Bullock, President of PGI, after an explosive video was posted by part-time playwright and full-time competitive MechWarrior critic Dane “Jarl” Crowton. The video brings a no-holds-barred message to the guy in charge of MWO in an impassioned plea to return something that has been sorely lacking in the game, and that’s game balance between various ‘Mechs, weapon systems, and even between the Inner Sphere and Clans themselves.
The Need For Balance
Now, before we even begin, we all know here at Sarna that the Clans were never supposed to be balanced. They were supposed to be vastly superior to the Inner Sphere in every measurable way, thus making for some interesting plot development. But MechWarrior Online is by design a competitive game, and when two sides square off in glorious battle neither side wants the other to have an unfair advantage as it’d take all the fun out of honorable combat. Like Clan MechWarriors or even Kurita pilots, honor is everything in MechWarrior Online.
But, as The Dane points out in his video, balance has been something that MechWarrior Online has struggled with and continues to struggle with today. And for good reason: it is vastly more complicated balancing a computer game than a tabletop one.
The Spider, a victim of of the infamous re-scale of MWO’s ‘Mechs.
For those of you who are non-MechWarrior Online players, a brief explanation. Let’s take the humble Medium Laser, a staple of both tabletop BattleTech and MechWarrior Online Inner Sphere BattleMechs. In BattleTech the tabletop game, a one ton, one critical slot weapon that deals five damage a pop is fine for several reasons having to do with the tabletop rules: fire rate is fixed at once per turn (as with many weapons), and since where you strike the enemy ‘Mech is (usually) decided at random boating up on an arsenal of 10 or 12 lasers isn’t as terrifying as even a third as many AC/20s.
Now let’s take MechWarrior Online. It’s the same one ton, one crit, five damage weapon, but the problem is the pilot can aim a bunch of them all at the same spot, making 10 or 12 of these weapons capable of coring all but the heaviest of ‘Mechs. Sure, the heat you generate will cause a shutdown, but who cares if your opponent is already dead? The incentive to boat is massive, which causes a problem when you want to encourage the equal use of the over 100 weapons systems found in MechWarrior Online.
The medium laser in action. Courtesy of mmobomb.com
To try and make the weapon remotely fair, PGI attempted all sorts of solutions: they increased the beam delay, requiring the pilot to hold their crosshairs longer on the target (and thus also increase the likelihood of either missing or getting shot in return). They tweaked range and damage fall-off numbers, penalized players with extra heat (called “ghost heat”) when fired in large groups, and reduced their cooldown so they couldn’t be fired as fast as either their larger or smaller brethren. And while all these adjustments certainly changed the Medium Laser’s performance, it remains open to debate whether or not they brought the weapon back in line.
Today the Medium Laser remains ubiquitous simply due to its efficiency – one ton, one crit, five damage is simply hard to beat when you have the available hardpoints for one.
A Tangled Web Of New ‘Mechs
No other game in existence has a larger challenge with balance than MechWarrior Online.
That’s just one weapon system that challenges PGI with balance. With the recent surge of Jihad-era tech, there are now over a hundred different weapons systems in MechWarrior Online, and each of them requires the same kind of tweaking to remain fair in an online, competitive game. It’s a monumental task for a small, independent developer like PGI.
A task that PGI makes even more monumental with each passing month. For some time now, PGI has released a new ‘Mech nearly every month in MechWarrior Online, and while few players would argue against adding additional content to the game, it makes the task of balancing every chassis nigh impossible. With hundreds of different ‘Mechs to consider (if you include each unique variant of a given chassis) ensuring that each new entry to MWO’s roster is fair in comparison to already existent ‘Mechs is a task for an adaptively intelligent supercomputer and not a small team with a few spreadsheets. No other game in existence has a larger challenge with balance than MechWarrior Online.
The Introduction of the Clans was the first major bombshell in MWO balance. Courtesy of mwomercs.com
Unfortunately for PGI, balance is a necessary component of any competitive game. If MechWarrior Online were primarily a PvE game, such as Warframe, overperforming weapons or ‘Mechs can be explained as simply being rewards for players who have unlocked enough of the game’s content to achieve them. But MechWarrior is a PvP game, requiring every weapon, every chassis, and every scrap of technology to be balanced for veterans and newcomers alike. No new player will be drawn to a fundamentally unfair game, and certainly not one as obtuse as MechWarrior Online.
Unfortunately for PGI, balance is a necessary component of any competitive game.
So how does a game with hundreds of thousands–perhaps even millions–of points of interaction achieve even a semblance of balance? I hate to use the word “unfortunately” twice in the same article, but the truth is there’s no easy way to program a computer to consider the player experience on top of all the hard math required in balancing a game. It takes years, a dedicated player base, and developers willing to listen to player feedback to achieve balance.
As small as MechWarrior Online is, there are still plenty of players willing to offer their two-cents when it comes to all aspects of the game. PGI has a public test server that allows certain players to test out larger changes, but that server hasn’t seen much use since the previous skill tree update, while there have been multiple changes to weapons and ‘Mechs in the eight months since then.
An expanded system which takes player feedback and turns it into useful data is certainly going to require a larger investment of resources from PGI than they’ve currently made, but it’s a necessary one for the continued ongoing health of the best–and the only–ride in town.
Well, at least until they release MechWarrior 5. Then it’s back to PvE madness and we can throw balance out the window.
I know it’s the beginning of the year and the last thing people are thinking of is another MechWarrior Online tourney, but this one’s a bit out of the blue for a good reason.
On January first, New Year’s Day, a fellow MechWarrior and his family lost their home due to an electrical fire. Now he, his wife, and two children have nowhere to live. There’s the usual GoFundMe set up for this sort of tragedy, but waiting for the goodwill of men isn’t really this community’s style. We prefer taking things into our own hands.
To that end, this MechWarrior’s clanmates on MechWarrior Online have organized a tournament where the proceeds will all go towards getting this guy and his family a new home. Frag some bozos in multi-ton death machines and help people out while doin’ it; what more could you ask for?
And it’s not just one tournament – it’s actually three, held on January 20, 27th, and February 3rd. Each tourney will have its own unique spin on it to keep things fresh and exciting, and everyone who enters will have a random chance to win loot from all the movers and shakers in BattleTech.
Let’s hit the deets!
First, for every $5 you donate to the GoFundMe campaign you get to pick which event you’d like to participate in. Fifteen bucks get you entry into all three. You can absolutely donate more if you like, but it’s a $5 minimum to take part in at least one tournament. Email your receipt to MYCROFT000@GMAIL.COM along with which tourney you’d like to sign up for. Your receipt is your entry ticket, so don’t lose it.
courtesy of mwomercs.com
Next, pick your tourney. January 20th will be a Solaris-style, 1v1 tournament, January 27th will be a 4v4 tournament where teams will be randomly assigned, and February 3rd will be a standard 8v8 tournament with similar rules to the World Championship.
January 20th Tournament
1v1, Solaris-style matches.
Single elimination, best of three games tournament.
No restrictions on tonnage, equipment, or consumables, so you can get an Atlas versus a Locust.
Once you choose your ‘Mech, that’s your ride for the duration of the tournament. No switching loadouts in between matches.
Registration closes 48 hours before the tournament begins.
Grand prize is an Ultimate ‘Mech Pack of the player’s choice, which gives you all the variants for a particular ‘Mech, the Hero variant, and a bunch of cosmetic stuff.
January 27th Tournament
Single elimination, best of three games tournament.
Each team of four will be randomly generated from all participants.
You may change your loadouts between matches, but max tonnage is always 300 tons per team.
Map will always be Skirmish on Canyon Network.
Registration closes 48 hours before the tournament begins.
Grand prize is Collector Mech Pack of the player’s choice per player on the winning team. Collector ‘Mech packs have 3 variants of the ‘Mech, a bunch of cosmetic stuff, but no hero variant.
February 3rd Tournament
Rules will be similar to the MechWarrior Online World Championships (ie. Each team can have two lights, two mediums, two heavies, and two assaults).
Map will always be Conquest on Rubellite Oasis.
The structure of the tournament will be round-robin or single elimination, depending on the number of entrants.
Registration Closes 96 hours before the tournament begins.
Grand prize is a Standard ‘Mech Pack of each player’s choice, which has 3 variants, no 30% c-bill bonus variant, no hero variant, and fewer cosmetics than either of the previous packs.
Now, say you’re a terrible MechWarrior and think you don’t even have a hope in hell of winning any of these three tournaments. That doesn’t mean you still can’t win a prize! All the big BattleTech names, PGI, Harebrained Schemes, Catalyst Game Labs, and Iron Wind Metals, have signed on to offer their support and have prizes available to all tournament contestants.
How will these prizes be given away? Throughout the tournament, various members of the MechWarrior’s clan, Sixth of June [6of6], will challenge you to a 1v1 fight “with various arbitrary and absurd rules imposed from stock loadouts to battling with nothing but machine guns and no front torso armor.” It sounds insane, but fun, and you get some sweet loot for participating.
All the details and rules are naturally on the MechWarrior Online forums, along with a heartfelt response from the homeless MechWarrior at the heart of the tournament, Safety Seth:
“I cannot offer thanks enough. Moments like these leave the grace of tongue lost for expression. Know that my family, my pregnant wife Tamra (Freebirth scum I know :) ), my 12-year-old son Raven, who loves the RVN-3L, Nyxxie my 6-year-old daughter, and myself are humbled at such a thing. Thank you so very much.”
January 20th is only a few days away, so be sure to donate, email, and sign up for your chance to win and help a fellow MechWarrior out while doing it. Win-win.
Welcome back to Community Outreach! This week we have TwinkyOverlord from EmpyreaL, the reigning champs of the MechWarrior Online World Championships. We talk about how he got into competitive MWO, how EmpyreaL came to win the recent championship in Vancouver, and what the future holds for the best team of MechWarriors in the world. Enjoy!
Now that the MechWarrior Online World Championships are over, it’s time to both look back at the tournament to see what worked really well, and also to look ahead to see what could be improved for next year. And I can think of no two people more qualified to speak to that subject than the two guys who have seen more of the tournament than anyone else, Ben “BanditB17” and Mike “mdmzero0”, the shoutcasters for the World Championship.
We sat down to chat about their thoughts on the most recent World Championship, the teams, and how things could be better for next time.
Good evening, ‘Mech fans! This is notDuncan Fisher, but now that I’ve mentioned his name you’re imagining the rest of this article in his voice, which was my plan all along.
The greatest competition in MechWarrior Online history concluded at Mech_Con 2017. This year’s World Championship finals was a fantastic display of skill from the best MechWarriors the world has to offer. Everyone was playing at the top of their game, and there were some real nail-biters that kept the crowd on the edge of their seats.
While the preliminary rounds were all posted on the Piranha Games Twitch channel, this year’s finals have been posted to YouTube for everyone to enjoy. Also unlike the preliminaries, things were a bit different for the finals. The top three teams played a double-elimination tournament, meaning once a team loses twice they’re out of the running.
Each of the top three teams came to play in the grand finals, and absolutely no punches were pulled.
So without further adieu, here are your MechWarrior Online World Championship Finals!
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!