Welcome to Community Outreach! Many of you were impressed by last week’s teaser video of a brand new animated MechWarrior series on YouTube. To find out more, I reached out to the teaser’s director, RoA Nitrox, who was kind enough to answer a few questions about the video’s development and how he became a BattleTech fan. Enjoy!
UPDATE: It looks like the video has been taken down. According to Nitrox, Black Plasma Studios received a cease and desist letter. Rumor is there’s some internal negotiation happening, so hopefully, it’ll be back soon. The response – before it was taken down – was certainly good enough to warrant a real animated series.
BattleTech: The Animated Series was easily my favorite Saturday morning cartoon growing up (surprised? I thought not). Now it looks like independent YouTube video makers are bringing BattleTech back to our TV screens with a teaser for a new animated series.
The teaser is on the Black Plasma Studios YouTube page and is being spearheaded by MechWarrior Online enthusiast RoA Nitrox. Much of what’s on the teaser appears to be taken directly from MechWarrior Online, including the models and sound effects. It looks like they tossed the textures in favor of smoother animation, and it’s really brought these multi-ton death machines to life. These ‘Mechs move far more fluidly than anything seen in the game and even take part in some hand-to-hand combat.
Curiously, it seems like they’re using meta-builds from the game rather than stock ‘Mechs. For example, the Cicadashown carries six Medium lasers, while the Hunchback IIC that opens fire on it sports four Ultra AC/2s – known colloquially as a “dakka” build amongst MWO players.
The Timberwolf briefly shown appears to be a laser-boat build, while the Dire Wolfis the most ludicrous build possible: 11 ER PPCs. Which, by the way, will shut you down for an entire minute if all fired at once, but only if you don’t immediately explode from the heat spike.
Black Plasma Studios seem to typically create Minecraft videos for public consumption as it remains the second most popular video game of all time. The videos are actually pretty good, with silent protagonists and music that’s all top-notch. Their “Blocking Dead” video has over 30 million views, so this is a studio that’s making YouTube money.
I don’t think BattleTech can put up those kinds of numbers, but I know I’d love to see some BattleTech animations on YouTube, and I’m sure you would too. So click the link, like, and subscribe to Black Plasma Studios and help this teaser vid become a fully-fledged animated series.
If you’re like me, then you can’t get enough robot action to merely be satisfied with the time you’re actually playing a BattleTech game. If you’re clever about it, you can stuff way more ‘Mech explosions into your day. Lunch or dinner is the perfect time to look up a caster for entertainment while you’re munching down chow. Or how about a streamer in the background at work? Bonus points if you work in an office and can somehow weave random fusion engine meltdowns into your phone calls.
Whatever you do, and wherever you are, there’s a MechWarrior Online streamer who’s there to help you get through your day with a sufficient amount of PPC blasts, and each one is just a little special. Let’s take a look at a few of the better known streamers to see which one might be the right fit for you.
As a fellow Canadian, it’s my privilege to begin this list of MWO streamers with TheB33f, perhaps the most Canadian thing to hit MechWarrior since PGI bought the rights from Microsoft.
The first thing you’ll notice when you watch TheB33f’s stream is his accent, which is a Quebecois accent so thick you can practically taste the maple syrup. Besides the sweet and sultry sounds, TheB33f is also a very skilled player and a member of the 228th IBR “The Black Watch”, one of the top ranked teams in Division A of the MRBC.
While you can pick up many helpful tips by watching his Twitch stream, his YouTube channel is all about having as much fun as possible while playing MechWarrior Online. He has high quality videos featuring some hilarious builds, all edited with his characteristic enthusiasm and humor. His streams also feature some of the best music mixes I’ve ever heard.
He typically streams every Wednesday and Saturday at 6 PM EST, but keep an eye on his Twitter as he’ll announce impromptu streams when he can.
For a more dedicated streamer, check out Trainsy. This guy actually performs his streams to thousands of viewers for a living and his schedule reflects that, being online and gaming from 2:30 PM to 11:30 PM PST with only a half hour break in between. As a professional, he has also completely monetized his stream so that nearly everything a viewer does (besides chatting) has a small donation price beside it.
As the name might suggest, he’s taken the whole train theme to a level that might not seem healthy. But hey – strong branding is important, and this guy has it in spades.
He doesn’t exclusively play MechWarrior, but as a long time fan he’s certainly got his giant robot chops as a tier 1 pilot. He’s also a pretty chill guy, and is more than happy to answer any questions he gets asked in chat while he does mostly PUG drops. Check out his Twitch stream here, and a secondary YouTube channel here.
If I were to crown a king of most helpful MechWarrior Online streamers, it would have to be Baradul and his channel Molten Metal. Something about a German accent speaking flawless English that just makes every explanation stick, y’know? Or maybe I just have a thing for accents.
Besides that, Molten Metal really is the best channel for new players to learn more about MechWarrior Online. His YouTube videos are filled with detailed analysis of every choice he makes – that means both his build choices as well as his in-game decisions.
But don’t let the German professor persona fool you – this guy has some skill, as his Twitch streams will show. He doesn’t have a fixed streaming schedule, but he generally plays every day around 2 PM UTC (that’s 10 AM EST).
We stay in Europe but travel to Britain for our next streamer, Loken from LokenPlays. A semi-pro streamer, you can catch him online nearly every night at 5 PM EST (that’s 10 PM GMT), although MechWarrior is only played on Tuesdays. He’s also more here for entertainment than education, but he is sure to explain his builds in between matches.
He typically plays with a group of friends to keep the witty banter lively, and he’ll bust out some pretty hilarious voices – usually just before exploding. Seriously though, if you’re looking for a great streamer to watch as he screams obscenities at his mate’s antics, then this is the channel for you.
His MechWarrior videos don’t typically find their way to his YouTube channel, but you can watch some pretty neat Star Citizen videos there. He also has a Discord channel and Steam group for those who want to join the LokenPlays community.
What list of MechWarrior streamers would be complete without No Guts No Galaxy? As the premiere community hub for all things BattleTech they stream far more than just MechWarrior Online, such as livestreams for the BattleTech developers at Harebrained Schemes, the No Guts No Galaxy podcasts, or whatever else Phil and Daeron feel like getting up to.
Of the two of them you’ll usually catch Phil playing MWO, and despite being a tier 1 pilot Phil has a penchant for creating some very non-meta ‘Mech builds. Expect to see a variety of chassis that you don’t normally see in game on this channel. He’s also got a classic MechWarrior playlist, so you may recognize some tunes from MechWarrior games of yore.
Right now there’s a donation challenge running where you can compel Phil to play as a particular ‘Mech or at a particular tonnage and then give him a specific goal, like killing 2 heavy ‘Mechs or only targeting light ‘Mechs. It can make for some pretty hilarious games, so why not throw them a few bucks?
Expect to see some BattleTech streams from these boys as soon as the game is released.
Got a MechWarrior streamer that I missed but really should be seen? Let me know in the comments!
A lot of us will look back at Saturday morning cartoons from our childhoods and wish they’d bring them back. Sometimes it even happens – just look at Samurai Jack and Power Puff Girls. For most of us it remains just a wistful dream.
But not for everyone. Some of us decide to take action. And one of us decided to remake the BattleTech cartoon.
It may be just the first 5 minutes, but it’s something to build on, and in all the technical ways certainly an improvement over the original. Try comparing the two:
I managed to track down the man who spent the blood, sweat, and tears to bring this classic back to life and asked him a few questions on his work.
“When I first saw the BattleTech cartoon some years back I was completely blown away,” Vux tells me in an email interview. “That epicly badass introduction scene for the clans sent a die-hard clanner like me completely over the moon.”
Vux had been a BattleTech fan for a long time. An avid MechWarrior Online player, he’s done quite a few tongue-in-cheek introductory videos for new players on his YouTube channel already. Then, years later, he had an idea to bring back some of that original Saturday morning BattleTech magic.
“The vision I had was a shot-for-shot remake of the cartoon, with adaptations and additions as appropriate,” he writes, thus beginning a labour of love. “I started planning it with my MWO pals October of last year. I wanted to keep the script and dialogue very faithful to the original, with the intent being to mirror the style/attitude of the show (and its cast) as well as we could.”
The first step would be to get actual footage to use. “Luckily all the ‘Mechs featured in the cartoon were available to pilot in MWO,” so getting that footage would be as simple as gathering a group of friends to do some robot inspired acting. “All the battles and ‘Mech-y scenes were recorded with a group of nice players I knew, who volunteered (after only the tiniest amount blackmail and threats of lasery death) to assist me in some private lobby games.”
“We went with a slower moving ‘massive steel beasts’ feel, like in the cartoon,” which presented a challenge as the ‘Mechs in MechWarrior Online are generally significantly faster, and most pilots just jam the W button to go full throttle. Training his volunteers was difficult, as it went against everything they’d ever learned. “This meant dozens of (painful) retakes for scenes like the Inner Sphere ‘Mech charge scene with spinning camera, and the scene where Redmond’s ‘Mech dramatically steps into frame.”
Things got even more difficult once the shooting started. Since they were using a game to record all the footage, they had to work within the game’s constraints, which meant, “If the scene didn’t go right, we had to restart the entire map since there’s too much battle damage on the ‘Mechs to suit continuity of the scene at that point.”
As Vux tells it, this resulted in “A lot of strained nerves from my ‘Mech pilots, but we got them done just before people got completely fed up with me saying ‘okay guys, back to positions and go again’ for the 20th time.”
From Strained Nerves to Building Worlds
Not all aspects of the cartoon could be recreated in MechWarrior Online. Certain models, like the Batu fighters and the Dropships, just don’t exist in game. What’s a budding director to do? “I scoured the interwebs trying to find 3D models for the Battletech fighters and Dropship featured in the cartoon,” Vux writes, however most of what he found “were either not compatible with my 3D program or restricted in usage rights.”
“Then I discovered MWO player Kilroy’s archive of Battletech models and he was cool with me using them in my project,” he adds, proving once again how close-knit the MechWarrior Online community can be.
Next came the added challenge of adding this models into the footage already taken from the game. “I had zero previous experience working with 3D models, but I learned to use a plugin for Adobe After Effects called ‘Element 3D’ for the actual 3D work.” Still, learning on the fly was slow going, or as Vux tells it, “I spent many evenings experimenting with animating and compositing the models with the MWO footage, hoping to make it both look decent and match the original scenes as closely as possible.”
Other scenes, such as the conversation between Andrew Steiner (Adam Steiner’s older brother) and Star Colonel Nicolai Malthus and the establishing shots of the Somerset Military Academy, presented their own difficulties. Once again, video games come to the rescue.
“I used Star Wars: The Old Republic to record the indoor scenes as it had the perfect military-type environments and big computer consoles I needed. I was able to create a Steiner character in the game who looks very close to his cartoon self, down to the scar and 5 o’clock shadow. I used what emotes were available in-game to get the lip-sync as close as I could to his lines.”
Unfortunately, Star Wars didn’t have anything that even remotely looked like Colonel Malthus, which was a problem. “I discussed options with my creative assistant (chrx) and we concluded it would be way too difficult to reproduce those scenes in any decent manner.”
After weeks of intense deliberation, Vux came up with the solution: “[I’d] introduce the clanners in a more suspenseful way – only showing a brief initial flash of Malthus’ ‘Mech and his transmission readout, not showing their faces at all. This way I could keep the attacking force very mysterious until the very dramatic scene where the clanners are revealed and Malthus makes his entrance with that deliciously over-the-top, ‘Your insolence has provoked the fury of the clans!’ speech.”
The voice acting is intentionally a bit cheesy and somewhat over-the-top, just like in the cartoon.
The last ingredient to bring his project to life would be to give it a voice. As Vux tells it, “The cast is basically just a bunch of BattleTech fans I managed to sweet-talk into doing the lines.” Just like shooting the ‘Mech scenes, the voice acting had it’s own set of issues as not everyone in the cast had access to a professional microphone forcing “a few people to record their lines with their phones as that was all they had available.”
Nailing the dialog was also tricky as the cast couldn’t use their normal register when speaking to get the true 90’s cartoon camp. “This meant that the voice acting is intentionally a bit cheesy and somewhat over-the-top, just like in the cartoon.”
All that was left was months of editing and then it was released upon a wider world.
Wrapping up, Vux left me with a few words for his adoring fans. “I’d just like to thank all the fluffy people who have left nice feedback and supported my channel, you guys (and gals) rock!”
Historically, rocket munitions have always been more effective when fired in swarms. From the 15th century Korean Hwatcha rocket propelled arrow launcher to the MLRS or Grad rockets of today to the Itano Circus prevalent in ’80s Sci-Fi anime- and by extension, BattleTech. Rocket swarms can be brutally effective- if a not very efficient means of hitting your target. But those are artillery type weapons. Equipment covered in BattleTech by Arrow IV Missiles. What about something closer in?
The mainstay of western rocket direct-fire weapons for the past 60 years has been the Hydra 70 2.75″ (70mm) rocket pod. The Hydra rocket series weighs in at a hair over 6 kg, has an effective range of 8,000 meters and has an absolutely ridiculous selection of warheads to choose from (19 from the Wikipedia list). White Phosphorus, Flechette, cluster munition, HE, smoke, you name it.
M261 Hydra 70 launch pod with two different munition payloads.
Ever since Jules Verne and H.G. Wells enticed citizens and warmongers alike with talk of energy-based beam weapons, mankind has been struggling to catch up to its own imagination. And naturally, BattleTech is chock full of it – mainly in the form of lasers, and mainly seen from the view of a 1980s-era war game designer as a futuristic weapon.
Which it is… considering that compared to projectile, missile, and even flame weapons, lasers (especially weaponized ones) are to quote Val Kilmer in Real Genius “a young science.”
If only Jordan Weisman and team FASA could have seen the advance of real laser weapons in the past ten years from the ’80s. Israel is probably the most advanced so far, with several types in operation, mainly for air defense. Didn’t think the laser AMS got its start in the 21st century did you? The Iron Beam, as it’s called, is the close-in part of a multi-tiered air defense system called the Iron Dome. Iron Beam is reported to have an 80-90% success rate, and can engage even artillery and mortar shells in mid-flight with “into the hundreds” of kilowatts of energy. It’s essentially a land based version of a laser/projectile defense system like those used on the USS Ponce – which can also engage surface targets. But these are massive units the size of inter-modal shipping trailers. Next up, laser weapons that can be mounted on a light vehicle.
ATHENA: Looks like something you’d fight in MechWarrior IV.
I follow world geopolitics pretty intensely. I credit epic, political space opera settings like Dune and, of course, BattleTech for my many years of interest. I was browsing some of the latest Russian shenanigans in Ukraine and Syria when I saw a Russian armored vehicle that made me wonder if they’ve been buying from Quickscell.
The TOS-1 Buratino really is a mobile warcrime waiting to happen, as it uses only incendiary and thermobaric 220mm munitions in the 30-tube launch system. The rockets have a minimum range of 400 meters and a maximum effective range of 3.5km. Short enough of a range that the system and crew are quite protected by the armored chassis of a T-72MBT. Well armored by artillery standards anyway. This video shows that they can expend their loadout very quickly:
By contrast, in real life, most prosthetic limbs seem more ornamental than functional. The can be cheaper and useful in the age of 3D printing, but they are still mainly wire and pulley affairs. The few electronic prosthetic limbs out there are usually specially-made affairs so expensive only the super-rich could afford — and are still clumsy and slow.
Hands are more than simple bone and meat clamps to hold things with. The motor cortex of the brain dedicates a full quarter of itself just to hand control- most of which is for fine motor control. The skin of the hands; particularly the fingertips and palms have some of the highest concentrations of nerve endings in the body. Simulating that in a prosthesis has been pretty much impossible. Until now.
Perhaps more refreshing than the water is the sense of accomplishment in regaining control and a sense of touch.
Did you know that powered active camouflage has been around since World War 2? Perhaps inspiring such things as the Star trek cloaking device, shift suit from Predator, and of course the Chameleon Light Polarization field from BattleTech, clever military planners used what was later called Diffused Lighting Camouflage to reduce the visual signature of naval vessels and aircraft at range.
The system consisted of a series of installed light fixtures with carefully calibrated light bulbs that mimicked the ambient brightness of a sunlit sky. The ship or aircraft didn’t need to be completely covered. In the case of the Yehudi lighting used in U boat hunting aircraft, just the leading edges of the aircraft were rigged, to make it less likely to be spotted by German crewmen during an attack run.
PL-01, Poland’s new mini stealth tank looks the part of a science fiction battlefield.
With both the challenge and acceptance videos from the MegaBots crew and team Suidobashi numbering nearly ten million views in little more than a month, it looks like this good-natured rivalry is turning more heads than just those belonging to us big stompy bot fans. Especially with BattleBots back on the air… which, of course, brings me to some of the heavy-hitters getting involved. It’s no longer just a team of spirited ‘mecha-nauts’ anymore.
I mentioned in my first article about the challenge that the co-founders of MegaBots were no strangers to the media. But the crew they’ve managed to put together for this undertaking honestly reminds me of a 21st century Team Bonzai. And going by the new concept artwork for the redesign, the new Mk.II looks like a mashup between Robot Jox and Rocky IV- just dripping with ostentatious patriotism.
All this concept art needs is Captain America’s shield and Hasbro would be all over this.