New MechWarrior 5 Teaser Video Showcases Gorgeous Biomes

courtesy of Piranha Games on YouTube

courtesy of Piranha Games on YouTube

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries is looking like it’ll be even prettier than MechWarrior Online and will easily hang with the current generation of games.

MechWarrior has always been a series on the forefront of technology. Back in the day, MechWarrior 2 may not have had textures, but it made those colored polygons look just like those towering Clan ‘Mechs we’d only previously seen in sourecbooks. At least, in our minds anyway.

MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries finally brought us the most basic of textures and made the surrounding environment look just a teensy bit more realistic. Not that we really cared, mind you, but it was nice to see the developers flex their graphical muscle.

courtesy of Piranha Games on YouTube

courtesy of Piranha Games on YouTube

MechWarrior 3 really brought environments alive, finally showing grassland and desert and rocky plateaus–basically anything that was mostly flat and didn’t have a lot of foliage. Roads, rivers, and waterways broke up the monotony with a bit of color, but most of the textures were spent on making the ‘Mechs themselves look prettier than the last generation.

Skip ahead to MechWarrior Online (I loved MechWarrior 4, but it was graphically mundane compared to games of its era) and we finally have something that brings atmosphere effects, lighting effects, and even fog. Snow whirls around your cockpit, smoke billows from shattered ‘Mechs, and the night sky lights up with laser and PPC fire.

courtesy of Piranha Games on YouTube

courtesy of Piranha Games on YouTube

Now we have MechWarrior 5. Last year at Mech_Con it was certainly a very pretty game, but the environments seemed rather dull. Sure, it was neat that you could smash through trees while walking through a forest, but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before, and the forest looked kinda dull.

Well, not anymore. Now it looks positively alive.

But it’s not just the forest that’s vibrant. You can pick out individuals blades of grass on the plains. There’s actual lightning bolts while you duel beneath a thunderstorm. There’s red dust storms on a Mars-like world.

I didn’t see any tumbleweeds, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them added to the desert biome before the game sees release.

Check out the new teaser vid and be prepared to be amazed. This game is gonna be purty.

BattleTech in 2018: Clan Ghost Bear vs Mercenaries

I recently took to the table again, this time with the trusty forces of Clan Ghost Bear.

ProbableKoz and I decided that we wanted a bigger Alpha Strike battle, so we each dropped 750 PV on the table. Having just completed my first battle armor project for the Year of Battle Armor, I wanted to bring along the Corona Heavy Battle Armor and give them a trial by fire on the tabletop.

Because of the nature of how this battle was covered, I’m going to change up a bit about how I’m covering this one. I’ll share some pictures below to show off the action and talk about what’s going on, but we actually recorded this battle! ProbableKoz did a full on Battle Report over on his YouTube Channel. I highly recommend heading over to his channel to check out his take on the action. 

 

Watch ProbableKoz’s Battle Report for this game!

Battle Pictures – Early Game

Rasalhague Dominion forces deployed heavy to the left flank, with the bulk of the Mercenary forces congregating in the trees across the field.

The Mercenary “Ost Lance” and other elements took positions near the power plant while the Ghost Bear Fire Support Star mobilized from the `Mech hangar.

Fore Moths and Vipers (carrying Battle Armor) advanced deep into the Mercenary flanks, preparing for a lightning strike, while the Ghost Bear Battle Star moved in to engage the Mercenaries.

Mercenary forces moved up to gain firing positions on the Ghost Bears attempting to leave the hangar.

There were early casualties….

….on both sides.

Mid-Game Plans Go Into Action

Then the Ghost Bears put their plane into action, deploying Battle Armor units at close range.

Off the other side of the table, the battle for control of the hangar intensifies. Neither side gives ground.

ERROR – Battlefield Surveillance Data Missing – Suspect possible data breach. Reporting incident to MIMIR and Watch Field Stations for analysis.

Basically, there is a whole turn of the game missing from my picture records. To find out what happened that turn, ProbableKoz’s video is a great resource.

Late Game, Sweeping Up the Rabble

Having cleaned up the Mercenary threat on the left flank, the Ghost Bears move in to route the remaining Mercenaries.

While having lost the entire Battle Star, one Mech from the Fire Support Lance, and a few units of Battle Armor, the Ghost Bears had managed to reduce the Mercenary forces to just two BattleMechs. The Mercenaries decided it was time to leave and sped off the table, back to their DropShip.

Victory for the Dominion!

The Mercenaries picked the wrong day to poke the bear, and they paid for it. While losses on the Dominion side were not insignificant, the Mercenary force just couldn’t handle the rate of loss subjected from the Ghost Bears.

As for the Corona Battle Armor, it served its purpose well, and a couple of the units actually survived the reprisal attacks from their hammer strike style deployment. The Corona that was able to attack at Short Range really messed up the Mercenary plan by applying extra Heat to the Mechs they hit.

As always, ProbableKoz was a great opponent, and I think this loss galvanized him to come back stronger in the future.

The Dominion will be waiting.

 

Devlin Stone’s Origins Revealed

Deviln Stone's Atlas II

Courtesy of flyingdebris on DeviantArt

There’s a lot of mysteries in the BattleTech universe. Who was the Bounty Hunter? What caused the HPG Blackout of 3132? What did Victor Steiner Davion like to have with his coffee? These are questions we may never have the answers to.

But every so often a mystery gets solved when a BattleTech line developer descends from on high into the depths of a forum and drops a bombshell.

One of those mysteries is the origins of Devlin Stone. You might recall Devlin from the least-liked era of BattleTech history, the Dark Age. After leading a rebellion on the conquered world of Kittery against the Word of Blake, he eventually became the general of an army that defeated the entire Wobbie army and retook Terra. Then he got installed as Exarch of the newly formed Republic of the Sphere and he lived was happily ever after.

Devlin Stone

That is until he announced his retirement. Then he sort of disappeared as mysteriously as he appeared and never came back.

As weird as it is for this monumental hero to just show up out of nowhere, it’s almost just as weird for him to step back from the limelight with little fanfare. I mean, it would’ve made more sense for him to just die of a heart attack like Hanse did.

But narrative criticisms aside (which we could lob at the Dark Age all day long), Devlin did play an important role in BattleTech history, so we should have some idea of his origins. For the longest time, there were only rumors perpetuated by sourcebooks and novels. The biggest one was that Devlin Stone was actually Arthur Steiner Davion returned from the grave.

There’s little hard evidence to support this, but what little there is can seem compelling. First, Patriots and Tyrants strongly implies that Arthur did not, in fact, die in the bomb explosion that supposedly took his life. Second, the sourcebook Jihad Secrets: The Blake Documents reveals that Arthur was in fact captured by Word of Blake and sent to Kittery, where Stone would eventually rise to prominence. Finally, the pair seem to share political views as revealed by Arthur’s speech just before he was assassinated and Devlin Stone’s actions in creating the Republic of the Sphere.

Arthur Steiner Davion

And that’s where Devlin’s story rested for many years until assistant BattleTech line developer Ray Arrastia dropped this news in the BattleTech forums a few weeks ago:

“Here’s the thing. Stone was a Rabid Foxes operative, and one of those four was Stone’s cover identity. While Stone was intended to be a ‘nobody,’ he wasn’t supposed to be ‘no one special.’

“But all that’s unofficial unless it ever gets published somehow, and any window for delving into Stone’s past likely closed years ago, IMO.”

When Ray refers to four cover identities he’s referring to documents revealed in Masters and Minions: The StarCorps Dossiers that link Stone’s physical characteristics with prisoners on Kittery.

And there you have it. Another BattleTech mystery solved by a benevolent line developer. Will this improve the Dark Age narrative in any way? Probably not, but it’s nice to know some of the details.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.  

stay syrupy

BattleTech Is Coming In April!

BT Wallpaper

via Harebrained Schemes

The day has finally arrived.

Well, not the day– that day will arrive sometime in April. But the day that we know when BattleTech will release is today, and that’s sometime in April.

On the latest Kickstarter Update, Harebrained Schemes has given us a launch window that we can all get excited about. They didn’t give us a specific day, so I’d expect the actual launch date to be later in April rather than sooner. But it’s coming, so it’s time to fire up the hype train because we are all heading into a dark tunnel with BattleTech at the end of it.

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, BattleTech is the upcoming turn-based game from Harebrained Schemes. If you’ve played any of their critically acclaimed Shadowrun games then you know the quality of game you’re in for (or if you’re a Kickstarter Backer and got in on the beta). This will be the closest the table-top has ever come to a video game port, so if you’re not about the whole ‘Mech-simulation thing that the MechWarrior series is all about, this just might be the game for you.

Shadowhawk Skin

via BattleTech Kickstarter

But Harebrained didn’t just leave us with a date. Oh no–there’s also freebies. Those that pre-order the game on Steam get a free Shadowhawk skin and wallpaper, which also means there’s going to be custom ‘Mech skins. That’s a bombshell right there. And if you’re a Kickstarter Backer, don’t worry: you get the skin so long as you’re at Recruit level of support or higher (that’s $25 or more).

The Steam page has also been updated with a lovely advertising video that features Weisman, Gitelman, and McCain talking about their digital baby. It’s some high-quality pandering, but it’s also some good info.

The Kickstarter page also has some great new wallpapers (of which we’ve linked at the top of the page and used as our header image), and the latest backer reward is out which features a short story from the one and only Michael Stackpole.

Did I mention you should get hyped? Because you should get hyped. And if you didn’t get in on the Kickstarter you should definitely pre-order. Unlike most pre-orders, I can assure you this game will be quality.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Blaine Lee Pardoe Provides Fascinating Look At “Twilight Of The Clans” Origins

ghost_of_huntress

courtesy of punakettu on DeviantArt

Blaine Lee Pardoe recently posted to his personal blog with a fascinating story of BattleTech’s most exciting era: Twilight of the Clans.

I think most of us can agree that Blaine is one of BattleTech’s greatest authors. For me, he’s right behind Mike Stackpole (sorry Blaine, I just like the political intrigue too much!), but Blaine’s ‘Mech battles were always the best of the best. And in a recent post on his blog, Blaine told the tale of what is perhaps the highest point of BattleTech lore, and that’s the lead up to Task Force Serpent and the Inner Sphere invasion of Huntress, the home planet of Clan Smoke Jaguar.

Exodus Road

Back in that era of BattleTech’s history, novels drove the universe forward and products were released in time with the novels so people could play out the battles they’d just recently read about. Lately it’s been sourcebooks that have been driving things, but hopefully that’ll change with the release of more fiction this year.

But I digress. As Mr. Pardoe tells it, the origins of the Smoke Jaguar’s demise came over meals at Gen Con with many of BattleTech’s greatest authors and creators sitting around a table and weirding out all the normies. Sam Lewis pitched the idea of the Inner Sphere turning things around and having the Inner Sphere invade the Clans, and Pardoe was given the task of setting that stage. Or as Blaine puts it, “kind of the sacrificial lamb role.”

But how could the Inner Sphere get the route back to the Clan Homeworlds? Rather than have a Smoke Jaguar work with a ComStar agent to betray the clans, things were originally going to be a lot different.

“The original plan I came up with was to hijack a Clan warship and take the information of the route to the homeworlds from their navcomputer,” writes Pardoe. “That was what I drafted at least. It was no more than three paragraphs at this stage. There was a ground battle at a spaceport (you had to have some ‘Mech combat after all) then the team would make their way to the ship in orbit, seize her in a furious shipboard battle against Elementals – and the route to the Clan homeworlds would belong to the Inner Sphere. I called it Exodus Road, the route back along Kerensky’s exodus route. More importantly, I got to play with a warship which was something I always wanted for Christmas but never got.”

Trent

While Blaine would eventually get to play with warships, the plot for the first book would change dramatically before the final draft got in. Instead of invading Strana Mechty and holding the main Clan genetic repository hostage, the attack was focused on the Jaguars and invading Huntress. The source of the exodus road was also changed to Trent, a disenfranchised Jaguar warrior, rather than the hijack of a Clan warship.

Eventually, things arrived at Exodus Road, the first book of the Twilight of the Clans saga.

There’s way more interesting behind the scenes stuff on Blaine’s blog post, so go check it out. He even drops a bombshell about the fate of Trent!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Year of Battle Armor: Unit 1 – Corona Heavy Battle Armor

Late in 2017, I took a good look through the unassembled and unpainted BattleTech models in my collection, and I came to a decision about something I really wanted to see in 2018.

One of my favorite parts of the BattleTech universe and game is Battle Armor, and I have collected a ton of it. But I have relatively little of it put together, and even less of that painted. Long story short, I spent some time evaluating what I wanted to do about it, and decided that 2018 would be known as the “Year of Battle Armor”.

Fast forward to half way through February, and I realized that I had not yet started into my plans for the year. January got swallowed up by so many other things that I almost completely forgot about my ambitious goal.

Developed by Clan Star Adder, the Corona Heavy Battle Armor was one of the first non-standard Battle Armors produced during the Clan Invasion.

So, I did something about it. And here we are, in the first article of the Year of Battle Armor series. This year (2018), I plan to complete 2-3 Battle Armor centric projects per month and write here about the progress of each project and the year as a whole. I also hope that many of the units I complete during the YoBA will in turn show up in my BattleTech battle reports, so we should get to see follow ups on how the units are being used after they are completed here.

So, introduction of mission completed, how about I introduce the first unit for the Year of Battle Armor, the Corona Heavy Battle Armor!

Rather than give an overview of the history of the Corona, you can click on the link just above to visit the Sarna article, which says most of what I would repeat here anyway.

 

Step 1 – Line ‘Em Up

25 Corona suits, ready to form up.

I chose the Corona as the first unit for YoBA for a couple of reasons. I believe that it is a great suit of battle armor that I think gets overlooked, even when compared to others of the underused specialty Clan battle armors. I think this is in part due to the when the Corona was released in the game, in TRO: 3075. During that era of the game, while the Wars of Reaving were reshaping the landscape of the Clan Homeworlds, the majority of people, both in-universe and players, was focused on the Jihad. This may have led to the Corona going a bit unnoticed, especially compared to other battle armors in that TRO, like the Clan Medium Battle Armor and Golem Assault Armor, which got to participate directly in the Jihad. While the Corona did migrate into the IS Clan General list during this time, most Clans just did not incorporate it in any meaningful way.

And since my primary faction is Clan Ghost Bear, of course this unit is joining my favorite Clan.

Step 2 – Getting Them on the Bases

Corona Heavy Battle Armor is easily distinguished by its shoulder-mounted Medium Pulse Laser.

I was pleased that I could fit five models on a standard sized hex base. The bases I’m using were 3D printed and are the same size and dimensions as the hex bases available from Iron Wind Metals.

Some modeling putty provided the perfect soft ground to sink the models’ bases into and saved me the trouble of having to cut off the bases. This won’t always be possible with all battle armors, In fact, fitting five models to a base will not be possible in all cases.

Step 3 – Primer and Colors

You want blue? We got blue!

I use Army Painter paints for my hobby projects. I quick spray and touching up with a basecoat of matching Ultramarine Blue, and the Corona is ready for colors.

Battle Armor is tough to paint!

Keeping the paint scheme rather simple, I went with my standard 2nd Bear Regulars scheme. Blue torso and head, grey limbs, and some metal for the metal bits. Also, not shown in this picture, I added some dull yellow to the view plates on the heads.

Step 4 – Shading, Basing, and Varnish

Almost there.

I washed the models with Army Painter Soft Tone, thinking that I could darken it up if I needed to. When it was done, I decided that I liked the shading and moved on to the next part.

Ready for action!

This was my first time using the Army Painter Snow basing material, and I really like it. I’ve worked with other snow basing materials before, and this stuff was my favorite to work with. I think the coverage was better than what I’d used before, and it seemed to stick better to the glue.

Once the glue dried, it was outside for a quick round of varnish, and there we have it!

Why Use Corona Heavy Battle Armor?

So it made sense to me to wrap up each YoBA article with some pros and cons and a little bit about why you might want to use the Battle Armor I’ve just discussed.

I won’t take the time to break down all of the BattleTech vs Alpha Strike differences, but instead focus on what makes the Corona an interesting choice.

Pros

  • Longer Range in BattleTech than most other Battle Armors.
  • Mechanized capabilities for OmniMech transport
  • Solid damage profile-to-PV balance in Alpha Strike
  • Opponents unlikely to anticipate the pick, for element of surprise.
  • IS Clan General beginning in Civil War time period.

Cons

  • Less armor than standard Elemental Battle Armor
  • No Jump Jet capability, leaving the Corona on the ground.
  • Only one variant apart from the standard version, listed as Star Adder available only.

If you would like to learn more about Corona Heavy Battle Armor, you can check out the products listed below.

BattleTech Technical Readout: 3075

BattleTech Record Sheets: 3075 Unabridged – The Cutting Edge

Parting Shot

And finally, I’ll leave you all with this teaser of the next Battle Armor, currently on the table. Thank you for reading, and I hope you’ll join me for the rest of the Year of Battle Armor!

What is this Battle Armor? Share your guesses in the comments!

Community Outreach – Interview With Brent Evans, Lead BattleTech Developer At Catalyst Games

Welcome to Community Outreach! This week we have a very special guest: Brent Evans, the lead developer on BattleTech over at Catalyst Game Labs. We talk about the future of BattleTech, what awesome new products are coming out in 2018, and a bunch of random stuff that I’ve always wanted to ask the guy in charge of things. Enjoy!

Brent

Sean (Sarna): Nic let me know that he’s reached out to you for an interview on our humble website, and tasked me with doing all the heavy lifting :)  

Brent (Catalyst Game Labs): Humble website – are you kidding?!? Sarna is the greatest single resource for BattleTech fans anywhere. In this is one of the most complicated IPs from a legal standpoint in existence. Don’t sell yourself short there Sean, there’s nothing humble about it.  Sarna is the best and literally every member of the creative team uses it extensively.

Sean: Aww, that’s so sweet of you to say! I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to meet personally at Mech_Con, as you were definitely on my list of people to say “hi” to and get a quick interview with. I’m glad for the opportunity to ask you a few questions now.

Brent: Yeah that would have been awesome. I love MechCon, great show, but with all the overwhelming stuff going on there I would likely have been too distracted by all the mech stuff around us to finish a sentence. This is likely a better forum for a Q&A. No sweat.

Sean: To start off, let me recap your announcements at Mech_Con. I’ve got new maps, new fiction, new box sets, and newly overhauled figurines coming out in 2018. Did I miss anything?

Brent Evans and Randall Bills at PGI Studios.

Brent Evans and Randall Bills at PGI Studios.

Brent: Oh yeah we have dropship-loads of awesome product coming out, and most of it is geared toward new players and getting minis on tabletop battlefields.

“There’s really just a whole bunch of awesome coming down on BattleTech for 2018.”

We’ve got the two box sets announce at GenCon – the Beginner Box and the Game of Armored Combat. We’ve got new Maps – the first six of which were used to run all the demos at MechCon (to fanfare and accolades). There are new Hex Pack products in the works to augment those maps, new MechWarrior RPG products that the DevTeam just found out about today, a new sourcebook moving the timeline forward (which I will detail in a few questions further down), and a whole host of reprints as we make big moves to keep every book from the core line in print on store shelves – starting with Total Warfare (which should hit store shelves in July). Plus there are new novels, new novellas, a hint at new audiobooks, PDF supplemental products, I have new ‘Mechs up my sleeves… There’s really just a whole bunch of awesome coming down on BattleTech for 2018. The year of BattleTech!

Sean: I think we can both agree that every year should be a year of BattleTech :) As a brief aside since I always wanted to ask: who is the artist that did all the redesigned classic or “Unseen” ‘Mechs? Like this guy.

“Anthony and Alexander delivered a truly spectacular new chapter for the game, and have shown us what can be done ‘in a perfect world.'”

Brent: Yes – every one of them was designed by legendary BT artist Anthony Scroggins. This was a massive effort, unlike any mech design efforts before, with Anthony handling art but editing direction done by myself, Randall Bills and Ray Arrastia. The three of us rarely agree on anything so to get each design past all three of us took a truly painful amount of work (Anthony was such a trooper). But he didn’t just create one image and call it done; Anthony designed the ‘Mechs from every angle, then worked with 3D master Alexander Immerzeel to build the 3D models so they can be used by the other BT artists (like Marco Mazzoni and SpOoKy) to make sure the ‘Mechs look right each time they are shown. It also allowed us to use the 3D models for our prototypes and production, ensuring the figures match the art perfectly.

It was a herculean task the likes of which we’ve never tackled before in BattleTech, but the results have been totally worth it. Anthony and Alexander delivered a truly spectacular new chapter for the game, and have shown us what can be done “in a perfect world.”  Mad props to all those guys.  I have big plans in store for these guys.

Sean: What kind of worldwide events does Catalyst have planned for 2018?

Brent: Actually, Mary’s team is working on that as we speak so even I don’t know yet. I’ve just sent her the bulk of the conflicts from Shattered Fortress but since Con events needed to be scheduled far in advance (I believe the deadline was in December) I don’t know what magic she will be able to work. She’s amazing so I’m sure the events will be awesome, but I don’t know which in-universe battles will make the WWE as opposed to the Canon/Feature Events. What I do know is there is a lot of Warfare going on here in the BattleTech universe so she’s likely spoiled for choice.

Box Sets

Sean: Do we have any concrete dates on when the new box sets will be available? I know you mentioned Spring of 2018 at Mech_Con, but is there a specific target date?

Brent: Honestly we never have concrete dates on anything coming out of China because, between the shutdowns around Chinese New Year and their generally unique approach to scheduling things, there are always curve balls and hiccups. So specific dates are a “no”. I do have a target window (June) and a worst-case-scenario window (October), so the reality will likely fall somewhere between the two. Expect them to show up sometime this summer, and for me to move hell or high water to get copies to GenCon, and you should be happy.

Sean: Yeah, that sounds like something I’d be happy about. Let’s talk about the new fiction. What stories are coming out in 2018? Who are the authors? Will they be novels or short fiction? And most important, what will this new crop of fiction be about?

Brent: Ah fiction… This part is equal parts exciting and scary as hell because there are so many epic stories coming up over the next 24 months – and truly amazing authors with potential fingers in the pot. But until all the details get nailed down I’ll have to stay mum on almost all of it.  So I will say what I can.  

“Everyone knows that I am committed to having fiction drive the narrative for the BattleTech storyline.”

Everyone knows that I am committed to having fiction drive the narrative for the BattleTech storyline. We’ve proven to be exceedingly good at getting books written and printed, but getting novels through distribution (which has a totally different channel from game product) has proven to be hit or miss. Our Novel Line Editor John Helfers is working to correct that but please know Catalyst is absolutely creating new novels for both print and ePub formats. We are also working on a series of new novellas, the launch of a new audiobooks line, and the Development team is tying the fiction plots into PDF supplemental products so that the conflicts on pages can be fought on tables with minis. Bringing in several authors to help map out our storyline plots surrounding ilClan is delivering a number of collateral benefits and I think the fans will love what we’ve put together.

A prime example of which is the upcoming short fiction from the Game of Armored Combat.  Getting Bill Keith back on BattleTech is a fanboy dream come true. Enticing the creator of the Gray Death Legion to write a new chapter of BT-Lore detailing the previous generation, with Grayson’s father’s unit… That’s just awesome. And I’m diabolically scheming plots to unleash him on to keep him crafting BattleTech. He’s still got it, and is just one of the many voices of BattleTech who will be bringing the storylines to life.

Battlemaster Figure

Sean: Why aren’t those giant versions of the figurines you showcased at Mech_Con available for purchase? 

Brent: Oh man those sure were cool weren’t they! Neither Randall or I have any yet, but believe me we want some.  But yes those are not available for purchase because they were personally created by the Demo Agents who attended the event. In fact, they were prototyped individually on a 3D printer, and they take a full 40 hours to make – each.  The only reason those are available at Mech_Con is that the DemoTeam who support the event pull strings with a friend and have one or two done every year. I’m trying to barter swag and maple cookies to see if I can get some, but so far it’s all to no avail. Gotta love how far our fans and Demo Agents will go to support their love of BattleTech.

Sun Spider

Sean: Recently PGI unveiled the Sun Spider, a brand new Clan Omnimech from Goliath Scorpion. How did Catalyst coordinate with PGI on that ‘Mech’s creation? 

Brent: Ah, that’s easy. Catalyst doesn’t coordinate with PGI at all – there’s no formal relationship there.  But they are obviously huge fans so when then need someone’s subject matter expertise they just reach out directly to whomever they need. It’s pretty much always Randall, who dabbles in a little moonlighting from time to time to offer build recommendations for the various video game companies working on our properties. PGI doesn’t need my insights because they have Alex Iglesias who handles all their visuals, and he’s awesome. But Randall’s build expertise and universe knowledge is pretty awesome, so he’s a great resource. I didn’t hear about the specifics of the Sun Spider until I showed up at MechCon and bought the shirt.  (Huh… I really should have arranged a swag trade for that shirt. Didn’t even think of that.)

Sean: Yeah, that was a missed opportunity bud. So what’s going on with IlClan? When is it coming out, and what will we find out about the new direction BattleTech is headed?

Brent: The answer to that one is both simple and immensely complicated. The short answer is that ilClan is turning from one modest book into a “Big Bang” moment delivered by two Sourcebooks, several playable events, a series of fiction products (novels/novellas) and a whole lot of in-universe collateral damage as lots of sh** hits many fans.

Brent-as-a-Clan-MechWarrior

The first of those two Sourcebooks is nearing completion now so I can totally talk about. Titled Shattered Fortress this ilClan lead-in is scheduled for release in early summer. What this means for the Republic of the Sphere – well, you’ll have to get the book to find out. But the creative team and Author Phil Lee have done an exceptional job of crafting this book! Whether it be the crescendo to Stone’s vision or the prelude to many nightmares, the denizens of the Inner Sphere are soon to find out. But know that it sets the stage for the titanic clashes that will unfold in the upcoming ilClan plotlines.  

Later in the year we’ll be announcing more info about the next ilClan release and supporting products. All of the BattleTech product lines (fiction, sourcebooks, supplementals) will have stories that spin off the events in ilClan – so expect implications to spread across the Inner Sphere. As Line Dev, I’m balancing the release of new material and reprints, so expect further details and ETAs later in 2018.

Sean: Sarna is sure to be waiting with baited breath. Finally, on a scale of 1-10, how badly do you want Harmony Gold to self-immolate?

Brent: HAH! I may burst into flames in excitement just thinking about it.  :0)

Brent, thank you so much for agreeing to sit down and chat with us. We here at Sarna just can’t wait to see all the incredible new products that CGL will put out this year.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

The Challenge With Balance in MechWarrior Online

The Challenge With Balanace in MechWarrior Online

via nerdgoblin.com

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.

Spider

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.

medium laser Hunchback

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.

Clan Mechs

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.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

First BattleTech of 2018: Republic vs Free Worlds League

This year brings with it new gaming goals and challenges. One of the chief goals that I have set for myself is to properly chronicle and record every game of BattleTech and Alpha Strike that I play on the tabletop this year right here on Sarna.

On December 31, 2018, I want to look back at all of the articles and games recorded and see a big year of gaming and fun times with friends.

With this first battle report of 2018, I begin my story.

“Hey, since I’m coming over today to pick something up, want to throw in a quick game of BattleTech?”

That was what my friend asked me the morning of January 6. Quick game of BattleTech? I shrugged when I considered it. We both knew that kind of thing didn’t exist, but he knew how to hook me. (Hint: It’s not difficult when BattleTech is what’s offered!)

And so, I set about pulling together a game.

Before I get to the Battle Report, let’s take a look at the forces. I used what’s become my default Lance from my Republic forces while my opponent wanted to take a stroll down memory lane with some well-known BattleMech chassis.

Free Worlds League Rabble

WHM-8D Warhammer – Gunnery 3/Piloting 4
CRD-6M Crusader – Gunnery 3/Piloting 4
MAD-9M Marauder – Gunnery 3/Piloting 4
TDR-9M Thunderbolt – Gunnery 3/Piloting 4

XII Hastati Sentinels

PRF-1R Prefect – Gunnery 3/Piloting 4
HVC-P6 Havoc – Gunnery 3/Piloting 4
DLR-O Doloire – Gunnery 3/Piloting 4
LMT-2R Lament – Gunnery 3/Piloting 4

We decided to keep things simple by just choosing `Mechs and taking all 3/4 pilots. The BV2 had a slight skew when I went to look at it later, but the game was interesting in spite of (or because of?) it.

Table and Scenario Setup

After deciding on the maps we would use, we wanted to come up with at least a basic scenario that would make it feel like we were doing more than lining up and shooting. We decided on an escape mission, with the Attacker trying to get one `Mech to the DropShip.

I rolled and won choice, and I set up as the Attacker.

The Hastati Sentinels set up to make their way to the DropShip.

Round One

The opening round saw Initiative go to the FWL, as the Hastati Sentinels moved into the base section of the map. The FWL `Mechs broke into teams of two, with the Thunderbold and Crusader exchanging ineffective fire with the main Hastati group.

The Hastati Sentinels exchange ineffective fire with the FWL Mechs in Round One.

Round Two

Seizing the Initiative, the Hastati move forward into the base and begin the setup for their breakout moves. No fire is exchanged this round as the FWL `Mechs move to cover as many angles as possible.

The Hastati and FWL `Mechs hope to outmaneuver the other team in a round of no shots.

Round Three

Keeping the Initiative, the Hastati Sentinels pause to regroup, in yet another round of no shots fired. The FWL `Mechs, sensing a ruse, move to press into the base should the Hastati be up to something sneaky.

The tension is high as `Mechs on all sides seek an advantageous position.

Round Four

Regaining the Initiative, the FWL is able to respond to a high stakes gambit employed by the Hastati, the Republic forces send the Havoc over the wall and try to throw the FWL forces off balance. The Doloire is able to help add to the maelstrom and the Lament and Prefect are caught trying to prevent the Thunderbolt and Crusader from vaulting the wall.

The result is mixed for both teams, with the Marauder and Havoc both taking heavy fire from enemy units.

The forces finally clash.

Round Five

The Hastati win back Initiative and push all-out, with the Havoc making a break for the DropShip, and the mission objective. The other Republic `Mechs move into support positions to attempt to cover their smaller friend’s run. The Lament and Doloire attempt to cripple the Warhammer that stands in their way, while the Prefect savages the Thunderbolt that has turned to give chase to the Havoc. Somehow, the already badly damaged, yet operational, Havoc avoids all incoming fire from the FWL Marauder.

The Havoc makes a break for it.

Round 6

The Hastati retain Initiative and continue their push out towards the Drop Ship. Unfortunately, the paved roads are more of a hazard than the entire enemy team, and the Havoc careens into a Hardened Building at top speed. The damage is not favorable, leaving a side torso badly damaged and vital critical spots exposed. Fortunately for the Havoc, no enemy was able to take advantage of the calamity.

The FWL Warhammer was able to forestall the advancing Hastati heavy elements for a turn longer, refusing to go down despite taking a withering amount of incoming fire.

With the Havoc down but not out, the Hastati continue to push the FWL `Mechs to try to gain a numbers advantage.

Round Seven

Tragedy struck twice in a row for the Hastati Sentinels, as the Havoc was able to stand and make another break for the DropShip. However, fate was against the pilot that day, as one slippery patch of asphalt saw the Havoc taking another dive, landing on its already badly damaged torso, and crushing the XL Engine in the process. The Havoc was permanently out of the fight and unable to win it for the Hastati, making it a 4v3 in favor of the Free World League.

With the Havoc a non-issue, the FWL turned to attempt to down the biggest threat on the field, the deadly Doloire OmniMech.

Havoc no more! Now outnumbered, the Hastati must defeat a numerically superior force.

Round Eight

The Free Worlds League wins back the Initiative for the first time in four rounds and is able to press the numbers advantage into the Hastati Sentinels, making the Republic forces adopt a slightly defensive stance.

Despite a heroic last stand, the focus-fired Doloire is unable to withstand the amount of firepower coming from all directions, and it goes down in a ball of fire and laser blasts. Trying not to make their companion’s sacrifice count for something, the Lament and Prefect are able to down both the Warhammer and Marauder, with the Warhammer‘s Center Torso completely vaporized by Heavy PPC fire. The Marauder, however, is not out of the fight just yet.

The Warhammer finally falls, and the Doloire joins the Havoc as the Hastati Sentinels are now outnumbered 2v3.

Round Nine

The Free Worlds League kept the initiative, but the Hastati Sentinels had no choice but to press the attack. Downing the Thunderbolt, the Prefect managed to help even the odds even as the Lament exchanged fire with both the Marauder and the Crusader.

The Prefect manages to down the Thunderbolt as the Lament tries to finish off the Marauder.

However, not all goes as planned for the Hastati Sentinels, as the combined return fire from the Marauder and Crusader score an unprecedented three head hits in a single round! The Lament sags to a stop as the pilot is dead in his cockpit. Well, what’s left of the pilot, anyway.

Faced with the horrible reality that the rest of his Lance is out of the fight, the Prefect surrenders, and the Free Worlds League wins by preventing any of the Republic forces from reaching their DropShip.

Alone on the battlefield, the Prefect surrenders to the Free World League Rabble.

Wrap Up

Some astute observers out there will notice that it was actually the Hastati Sentinels who had a distinct BV2 advantage in this matchup.

Discussing the game afterward, we agreed that the turning point was obviously the three head hits on the Lament in a single turn of weapons fire. The Lament and Prefect had more than a fair chance of defeating the remaining FWL BattleMechs before that happened.

What a fun game!

There’s no telling what will happen when the dice start rolling, and this game is a great example of that.

The Hastati Sentinels now have a new grudge to settle in future games, and hopefully, the Free Worlds League Rabble will have a paint scheme to show off for the next game.

So that’s it for BattleTech action for now. I can’t wait to hit the tabletop again and report on the next game.

Until next time, MechWarriors, don’t forget that no fight is decided as long as dice can still be rolled!

 

Want to learn more about BattleTech? Start Here:

Classic BattleTech Universe Book
BattleTech: BattleMech Manual

BattleMech Models from IronWind Metals

 

MWO Benefit Tournament For MechWarrior Family That Lost Home Due To Fire

Battle scene

courtesy of phoenixdominion.com and by spooky777

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.

solaris7_steinercoliseum

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

  • 4v4
  • 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

  • 8v8 teams.
  • 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.

HBS Merch

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:

Simpson Family

“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.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy