Talking BattleTech Fiction with Philip A. Lee

A few weeks ago, Nic managed to catch up to prolific BattleTech writer Philip A. Lee at GenCon 2019, who graciously agreed to an interview. I’ve read a few of Philip’s stories, so it was my absolute pleasure to pick his brain on how he got into BattleTech, how he started writing BattleTech, and how he managed to kill a Jenner in the most hilarious way possible. Well, he didn’t really kill the Jenner, but it was still hilarious and you should read about it.

On top of that, we also get a grade A. Lee-preview of the next story we can expect from the prolific author. So once again, sit back, relax, and enjoy another story from the many corners of BattleTech.

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Community Outreach – Tex Talks BattleTech

Welcome to another edition of Community Outreach! It’s been a while since the last time we’ve taken a look at the wider world of BattleTech, one that is still as vibrant and alive as ever. This time I am honored to introduce a big personality and iconic voice in the world of BattleTech YouTube videos: “Tex” from Tex Talks BattleTech!

As usual, we’re going to get into Tex’s head to really find out what makes him tick, how he got into BattleTech, and why the Steiner Scout Lance is best filled with a quad-pack of Awesomes.

So sit back, relax, and imagine this interview happening between two ferns while a disturbingly close firefight between an UrbanMech and Commando takes place in the background. Enjoy.

Sarna (Sean): Who are you? Briefly introduce yourself.

Tex: Howdy, I’m Tex of the Black Pants Legion. I am a delusions-of-adequacy YouTube channel with a peculiar array of very odd things. I’m a huge lore nerd for BattleTech and sci-fi in general. I truly feel as though I’m really not altogether very remarkable. Over the years I’ve held a lot of jobs and had a lot of very strange adventures. At current, I feel honored to have the opportunity to be featured in your most magnificent periodical. I fucking love Sarna. You guys are great.

Sarna: Aww, thanks! So what exactly IS The Black Pants Legion? That is, how would you describe it to someone who doesn’t know much about it? 

Tex, pictured here as his alter ego, ‘Randolph P. Checkers’

Tex: From the outside in, people would probably see us as a cult or a very strange think-tank. In recent years I’d like to say we’re a ship of strays adrift on the ocean of our times. I’m the man on the tiller. The Black Pants Legion started as an experiment; I needed an outlet – to just create for the sake of creation. I’d then gone through some fairly challenging and traumatic life events and I just needed to do something to be creative, and goofy, and have fun.  Years later I’m getting interviewed by Sarna – again, something I can hardly believe. Through the years, I’ve met some phenomenal people in the Legion, and I’ve been lucky enough to use it to do some good in the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to make a major positive impact in other people’s lives and I treasure that opportunity. It’s tremendously humbling as an experience.

As for what it is? Hell, I couldn’t tell you. But I can tell you its fun, and sometimes that’s all something needs to be.

Sarna: Now, who is “Tex”? Is that a persona you put on or just a nom de plume? How would you describe it?

Tex: I achieved the appellation indirectly by nature of once-upon-a-time having a rather heavy Texas accent. Though I’ve since divorced myself of the southern drawl, the nickname has stuck despite my best efforts. In reference to is it a persona? I certainly hope not. That’s something I’ve consciously fought against my entire time in doing things online. I find our culture somewhat worships the idealized version of a character – what is sold to them. I loathe that.

Do I wind myself up or jump into some things with more energy? Sure. I think I do that because it’s my creative outlet and I’ll down an assload of coffee before preparing to do whatever awful madness I can come up with. It’s a lot like putting on a suit and tie for work, you do your best but ultimately you’re still you.

I’d hope to never willingly put on a persona; I can’t stand the notion of putting on a fake face for the sake of popularity or commercial gain at the expense of a fanbase. It very much runs against the grain of my character. People online call me Tex, but so do my friends. I’m the same person throughout. Though, perhaps I may venture that in “meatspace” I’m a great deal more shy or reserved. It’s one of my autistic tics I believe. Being able to see your audience makes things different for me, sadly. Randolph P. Checkers though…  That’s a different person altogether.

Sarna: What made you want to start the Tex Talks BattleTech video series?  

I had a long-standing desire to dive into the lore because I firmly believe BattleTech is a wonderful community, a wonderful setting, and supported by the best fans in the goddamn world.

Tex: I had gotten into an argument – as nerds do – over the internet. Specifically, we were furiously shitposting about good and bad tabletop settings. My counterpart was making the assertion that Warhammer 40K was the grandest space-opera ever written and my blood boiled. This aggression could not stand. My response I believe verbatim was, “You’re wrong, Fucko.” He, being my friend and a classic contrarian said, “Okay, prove it.”

And here we are. He admitted to being moved by the last stand of the Black Watch, or in his words, “Manly tears were shed.” I believe I won that bet. And yet I can’t stop making them…

Sarna: When did you start Tex Talks BattleTech?  

Tex: “Start” is hard to pin down. I think I had a long-standing desire to dive into the lore because I firmly believe BattleTech is a wonderful community, a wonderful setting, and supported by the best fans in the goddamn world. However, given the above-mentioned impetus, we started June the 5th, 2018. One day short of our channel’s 7th anniversary

Sarna: Now let’s go back. Waaaaaayyyy back. When did you get into BattleTech?

Tex: As a young lad with limited social skills in the vast desert of the modern social world, the outcome was predictable: I was a game store geek. Initially I wanted to get into 40K because, by God, it seemed glorious to me. The local game store had one of those enormous true to scale Astartes standing in the lobby with his bolter. It struck me with total awe. However, 40K required enormous sums of money and time for a handful of badly struck miniatures. When I was introduced to the BattleTech people, a kind neckbeard loaned me miniatures and taught me to play, encouraging me throughout. He even helped me select my first minis and helped me find out what I’d do best with. It was more inclusive and kind than anything else I’d ever experienced up to that point. 

I was, oh, perhaps 12 years old. That’d have made it late summer of 1996. The summer before I’d had a lot of fun with the masterpiece that was MechWarrior 2 but I really had no notion of the setting’s depth beyond stompy robots and “SYSTEMS ONLINE” giving me a wonderful feeling. It still does. 

Sarna: What’s your Favourite ‘Mech? An all-important question. :)

Tex: The AWS-8Q. The best 80 tons money can buy of Inner Sphere steel. Did I mention I like to run Steiner-esque scout operations? A lance of Awesomes will beat the brakes off anything you throw at it. Unless it doesn’t. But hey, dice are bastards. 

Sarna: What parts of BattleTech do you play? Perhaps a better question, what HAVEN’T you played?

Tex: The answer is yes. I’ve played the RPG(s), the PC games, MechAssault (ugh), and tabletop. Nowadays I play the Roguetech Mod for BattleTech (2018), Mechwarrior Living Legends (the fan project), and on occasion, I drunkenly stumble around in Mechwarrior Online quoting Macho Man Randy Savage. Because, to quote the Macho Man himself, “Sometimes you must expect the unexpected in the Kingdom of Madness.”

Sarna: How has “Tex” collaborated with official BattleTech content publishers, such as Catalyst, Harebrained Schemes, or PGI? If you haven’t, do you know if any of those folks have seen your work?

On occasion, I drunkenly stumble around in Mechwarrior Online quoting Macho Man Randy Savage. Because, to quote the Macho Man himself, “Sometimes you must expect the unexpected in the Kingdom of Madness.”

Tex: Insofar as I am aware, the only people “aware” of me in any real sense are the modding communities and by extension the BattleTech community. I often put in my credits the disclaimer: “If the people who invented this stuff found out about what I do they’d whip me with a belt.” I was made aware recently that I was mentioned or at least spoken of politely in the latest Kickstarter AMAs for BattleTech’s Clan Invasion Pack from Catalyst.

That being said, I would be truly humbled if they knew of my “work” and didn’t immediately click down-vote. Again, I am surprised to be featured here, let alone known by the greats who forged this magnificent setting. I see myself as just a voice in the choir. There are plenty of talented people very much interested in BattleTech and me surely least among them.

Sarna: Let’s talk numbers. What’s your most viewed video?

Tex: This is embarrassing but I had to look as I didn’t know off-hand and I highly distrust YouTube’s metrics. As it turns out, it’s the UrbanMech video. Figures, people love the damn trashcan. Then again, you rightfully should. It’s the most adorable platform for an AC/20 I’ve ever seen.

Sarna: And which video is your favourite?

Tex: That’s a hard one. My crew and I really love what we’ve done recently with the Amaris Civil War. Our storyboarding/editing/scoring process really brought that one together. We’re driving like mad to get part 2 out because we see part 1 as one of our greatest achievements yet. We spent our time and went overboard in a few sections but dammit, It’s BattleTech. It’s worth it. A very close second are all the memes we made for Steiner Scout Squad. Because “Scouting” something with 100 tons of Lyran ‘Mech is utterly brilliant.

Sarna: Which video didn’t hit as well as you thought it might’ve?

Tex: Easily the Catapult episode. We went with a lot more overt comedy than we should have, and in retrospect, some of the meme-ery was over the top. I mean, we had a whole JRPG spoof of a battle scene in which a Mad Cat trounces an inner sphere lance. While funny, it just was a bit much. Also, the Tukayyid video hit a bit softer than I thought it would, but we turned it around as fast as we could to make it release on the actual anniversary of the battle. Also, I think it may have upset a few Clanners as evidenced in the comments. Some people just hate Comstar I guess?

Sarna: How long does it take to create these videos? I know that something like the Catapult video (which I actually liked a lot) won’t take as much time and effort as the Kerensky-Amaris Civil War series, but if you had to give a rough estimate how many hours does it take per 30 minutes of YouTube video?

Tex: That is a HUGE variable. Here’s the basic breakdown from what notes I can gather.

Stage 1: Research. See what information is out there–sources, images, anything that can help us. This can take a month or two as was the case with the Amaris Civil War/Coup/Collapse of Star League as the subject is rather broad. However, with something like a single ‘Mech, that can take a week. 

We all love to create and that’s what brings us together. It’s a passion project.

Stage 2: Script. This can take a month or so, but sometimes as little as a week. Depends on what time I get as I tend to work an unhealthy amount of hours in the week. But I generally run 10-15 drafts. Each time I write I find something else I want to say or change how I say it. Sometimes things can be rather funny in your first run-through, but by draft 15 you just go “ugh” and delete paragraphs at a time. This also helps me control tangents. Kind of. Somewhat. Sometimes.

Stage 3: The editing. This is where Mike and Madasgardian come in. We start to storyboard and come up with ideas, themes, chapters. This is generally a 2-3 week process, though real-life events in “meatspace” can certainly delay it. 

Stage 4: Scoring, my guys Goat, Kumakin, and Dr Jekyll come in at this stage. Some music is from epidemic sound or other licensed sources, but we do create quite a bit of music in-house. They’re great. We sit around and watch the video without music and then obsessively try to match the “action” with themes that fit. This takes a few days at least.

Stage 5: Final cut, 2-3 days. This is where we add funny nonsense, usually. 

Some of these things can be done simultaneously, like writing and research. However, typically from start to finish, we’re looking at a month or so. As for hours? I can only guess. We try not to count because this brings us a lot of joy. We all love to create and that’s what brings us together. It’s a passion project. That and, well, the other things we’re interested in doing. However, those project(s) hinge on obtaining IP rights to even try.

Sarna: Can I request a video topic?

Tex: Sure. Anyone can. I do polls every so often to let people decide my list of topics and then narrow down from there based on what I’d find interesting. If you got an idea, shoot. I’d love to hear it. I see this as a community effort and I’m just some surly voice that likes his whiskey. 

Sarna: What’s in store for Tex Talks BattleTech in the future?

Tex: Immediately, Part 2 of the Amaris Civil War. At current it’s threatening to become a feature film. However, Amaris did a load of bad shit and that takes time to explain. Further, the Amaris Coup and Civil War sets the scene for what follows in the setting. I can’t just gloss over it and say, “Welp, and stuff happened,” or people would lynch me. Well, they still might. #RememberTheBlackWatch.

You have to inject something of yourself in everything you do. For me, it’s just goofy jokes and comedy.

Sarna: I noticed the ‘Mech-related Tex Talks typically has more entertaining fluff than the more historical reviews do. Why is that? Is it just easier to insert fun fluff when talking about a typically dry subject like a ‘Mech’s history? 

Tex:  Well, look at car reviews. Anyone can stand in front of a car and go, “This is a car, it possesses an engine,” and then drive it around a track to show how many seconds it took with your foot to the floor. Or, you can be Top Gear. Or Regular Car Reviews. You have to inject something of yourself in everything you do. For me, it’s just goofy jokes and comedy. For something like the UrbanMech, you can’t not have comedy. If I did a dry seriousness with the UrbanMech the community would smell a rat. Then they’d mail me loaded diapers or something.

Sarna: Where do you get all those great pictures you use in your videos? Besides Sarna, of course. I ask for my own future reference as much as I do this interview.

Tex: Sarna at first, but then we started acquiring a metric f-ton of original Battletech Technical Documents. The Amaris Civil War Part 1, for instance, drew heavily from the Liberation of Terra I and II supplements. Older BattleTech books can be had for relatively cheap. I happen to have a collection at the moment that’s rather impressive. 

Sarna: Anything else you’d like to share? Feel free to get shamelessly self-promoty :)

Tex: Oh hell, I’d like to thank Mike and Madasgardian (my editors), my gifted music people, my fans and the BattleTech community. Again, I feel superbly honored to have been given this outlet and place to express myself. There are many more that are deserving I’m sure. I just want to say this, for the record, there has seldom been a piece of fiction more meaningful, entertaining, and thoughtfully constructed than the BattleTech franchise and I feel at this juncture it is right to say it’s in the hands of the fanbase to keep it alive and well. We must be good custodians of it to pass it on to future ‘Mech pilots. Also, death to Clanners.


As usual, a thousand gratitudes to Tex for agreeing to sit down and talk about his work. I’ve been told Part 2 of The Amaris Civil War is going to be a big one and I can’t wait to watch it.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Clan Invasion Approaches $2 Million Stretch Goal, Teases UrbanMech Plushie

 

UrbanMech

So the Clan Invasion is barreling towards the $2 million milestone with about $50,000 to go as of the time of this writing (it will almost certainly be higher by the time this gets published, and hopefully be over the $2 million threshold). 

I think it’s safe to safe to say that this Kickstarter has been far more successful than anyone could have hoped. But in the waning hours of this crowdsourcing project, I come to you with a final desperate plea: we have to get over the $2 million mark.

Why? Two words: Plush. UrbanMechs.

In the utterly insane pace that this Kickstarter has been climbing, Catalyst has been adding more and more stretch goals. When it passed $1,500,000, backers unlocked the coveted Double Forces Rapid Redeployment, which allowed them to select what Star/Lance/Level II pack they’d prefer to receive rather than merely doubling whatever Star/Lance/Level II was unlocked at their backer level.

Then at $1,875,000, backers unlocked the “Beard-Off Rematch” which will see bearded Catalyst and Harebrained Schemes team members compete in a live-streamed tabletop game of BattleTech where the losers will ceremoniously remove their beards.

But the $2,000,000 mark is the true prize. The creme de la creme, the piece de resistance, the other-French-words-that-have-great-meaning-but-I-forget, is the UrbanMech plush toy.

I want it. I wasn’t going to back this Kickstarter. Even though I love BattleTech and certainly love the new designs that Catalyst has put out, I don’t really do much tabletop gaming. Worse, I don’t really have a whole lot of shelf space to display miniatures on, as pretty as they may be. 

But I don’t care. I will make space for an UrbanMech plush toy. I will store everything else in a box if I can cuddle an UrbanMech to sleep at night. I WILL REMOVE EVERY ANCILLARY PIECE OF TECHNOLOGY CONNECTED TO MY COMPUTER IN ORDER TO MAKE SPACE ON MY DESK IN ORDER TO BASK IN THE GLORY OF A PLUSH URBANMECH.

I have backed the Clan Invasion Kickstarter at the $75 USD level (which works out to something like $15,000 Canadian) in order to make this dream come true. I implore you all to do the same. If you have donated, up your donation. Convince your friends to donate, even if they’re not BattleTech fans. We have just two days left. Together, we can make the plush UrbanMech a reality.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

What’s up with Catalyst? at GenCon 2019

With GenCon 2019 behind us, I can share a few tidbits from the Catalyst Game Labs crew via their What’s up with Catalyst? session.

Present were John Helfers (fiction director), Bryn Bills (Leviathans line developer), Randall N. Bills (managing director), Loren L. Coleman (owner), Brent Evans (BattleTech line developer), and Jason Hardy (Shadowrun line developer).

Catalyst Game Labs crew

Highlights:

Additional booth and product pics:

The session was recorded! Click below to watch on YouTube:

GenCon 2019 What's up with CGL

MechWarrior 5 Confirmed As Epic Games Store Exclusive

Enforcer

Courtesy of PGI

So. MechWarrior 5 is going to be an Epic Games Store exclusive title after all. It’s also been slightly delayed, now releasing on December 10th instead of September 10th as previously hoped.

I can’t say I’m all that surprised. The writing was on the wall, which you can read all about in Sarna’s previous coverage on the matter. Suffice to say, what was once mere rumor has now become reality, with PGI making the official announcement on the MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries website on July 25th.

What does being an Epic Games Store exclusive mean? Well, it means that MechWarrior 5 will be available only to those willing to download the Epic Games Store launcher. It will remain there as an exclusive title for one year, and then hopefully release on Steam, GOG, and other game stores on December 10th, 2020.

As for the delay, that’s covered in the updated FAQ page on the MechWarrior 5 website. The extra few months will give PGI more time to complete localization for a few different languages and also provide time for some additional marketing before release—both of which are Very Good Things™.

An AMA held on July 25th with PGI President Russ Bullock also mentioned not wanting to compete with the release of Borderlands 3, which is set to release September 13th on the Epic Games Store. No surprise there–Borderlands is expected to be a pretty big deal. 

“Our partnership with Epic Games store allows us the opportunity to make sure MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries meets our internal goal of creating the best MechWarrior game possible,” PGI wrote on their FAQ page. And while few would have been upset with a 3-month delay in MechWarrior 5’s release, there are quite a few more MechWarriors absolutely livid at the fact that MechWarrior 5 will now be releasing on the EGS after promising since the game was first announced that it would release on Steam.

And it’s resulted in many pre-order holders demanding a refund. To PGI’s credit, they’re offering a no-hassle, no-questions-asked refund to anyone who wants one, even if those pre-order buyers already used their community bonuses that were tied to MechWarrior Online. PGI also pointed out in their development update that those Community Pre-Order bonuses represent $100, $180, or $300-worth of MechWarrior Online goodies (depending on the level you pre-ordered MechWarrior 5) which they are now giving away essentially for free.

That said, many view the sudden swap to Epic as a betrayal even with the refund policy. There are also some open questions on just when PGI decided to sign a deal with Epic. MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries was still selling pre-orders up until May, and Bullock was even fielding concerns of Epic exclusivity in AMAs as late as April 10th, saying that the game would release on Steam and GOG as planned and they had no intent to release on Epic.

Catapult

In the July 25th AMA, Bullock stated there may have even been “a couple of days crossover” between when PGI signed their Epic exclusive deal but were still selling community pre-orders promising a Steam release.

PGi didn’t exactly have the greatest reputation to begin with, but this bait-and-switch with Epic has truly pissed-off a lot of folks. The various MechWarrior and BattleTech-related subreddits are abuzz with people expressing their outrage and that they will make full use of PGI’s offer of a full refund. 

I don’t have numbers, but we know from the previous MW5 AMA that the game received roughly 20,000 pre-orders. You gotta think that a significant quantity of those pre-orders has been refunded by now.

To get your refund, email support@mw5mercs.com. All refund requests have to be in by Septembers 1st, and please give PGI 10 business days to process your refund. They’re probably dealing with a lot of angry people, so patience will be a virtue.

Battlemaster

What will this mean for MechWarrior 5 and the future of the MechWarrior franchise? It’s hard to say. Whatever deal they’ve signed with Epic has almost certainly secured PGI’s financials for the time being, and Bullock said in the July 25th AMA that Epic provided enough data to convince him that MechWarrior 5 will still sell as well—if not better—on the Epic Games Store than on Steam.

Maybe that’s true. Maybe Epic’s smaller, more carefully curated game store will give MechWarrior 5 the sort of visibility that would have been impossible on Steam. Maybe this will result in that injection of fresh fans that an old franchise like MechWarrior desperately needs. There are certainly more than a few people that think MW5 going Epic is the right call.

It’s just a shame it had to come at the expense of so many old-school MechWarrior fans who are now angrily demanding refunds. 

And as always MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Clan Invasion Boxed Set Funded In 7 Freakin’ Minutes, Catalyst Frantically Throwing Up Stretch Goals

Grendel

Catalyst’s Clan Invasion Kickstarter was fully funded in 7 freakin’ minutes. That’s pretty amazing. Then they hit all their stretch goals in just 20 minutes, resulting in Catalyst’s top brass frantically trying to create stretch goals to keep the momentum going. That momentum seems to show no sign of slowing down, even after having reached their stretch goal of $1 million on July 24th.

Currently, the Clan Invasion Kickstarter is sitting at $1.134 million as of the time of this writing, but that number is climbing so fast that I’m certain it will be out of date by the time this story gets printed.

The benefit of all this incredible support is an ever-expanding list of new ‘Mechs being added to other both Clan and Inner Sphere ‘Mech packs. You’ll have to go to the Kickstarter for the full listing, but a few standouts include a new Clan Fire Star pack with a Kit Fox, Cougar, Fire Moth, Nova Cat, and Warhawk. These, like every ‘Mech to be released here, are all brand new sculpts with Catalyst teasing their updated designs on both the Kickstarter page as well as their Twitter account. 

There’s also an Inner Sphere Direct Fire lance which includes an Atlas, Marauder II, Orion, and Crusader. Just before hitting the $1 million mark, a few unlocked stretch goals brought a pair of ComStar Level IIs, the first of which brings a King Crab, Highlander, Black Knight, Exterminator, Hermes, and Mercury, while the second contains a Crockett, Flashman, Guillotine, Lancelot, Crab, and Mongoose

If you didn’t read your favorite ‘Mech in the above paragraphs, don’t fret–it’s probably somewhere in the ever-expanding list of stretch goals. Head to the Kickstarter page to see what else might be in store and maybe make a pledge of your own to grab your ride in miniature form.

With 19 days left to go, the $1.5 million stretch goal seems totally doable, and $2 million isn’t outside the realm of possibility. There’s some really need stuff left to unlock, including a charity event stream of MechWarrior 5 and the potential to choose two different ‘Mech packs instead of just getting one for eligible backers. 

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

(UPDATE: Apparently a lot of these stretch goal ‘Mech packs have already changed. This Kickstarter is a very living project. The latest changes have been summarized on this Reddit thread courtesy of Cataphract40, but they could change even more over the next 2-and-a-half weeks.)

stay syrupy

 

Is MechWarrior 5 About To Go Epic Exclusive?

So MechWarrior 5 might become the next Epic Games Store exclusive title. Maybe.

Before anyone starts shouting, there has been no official confirmation from either Epic or PGI (the makers of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries and MechWarrior Online). What we have is some troubling changes to the MechWarrior 5 website and PGI President Russ Bullock saying they’re just due to a harmless website update.

First, a shout out to Reddit user Ironshards for making the original post, as well as user Vektorweg for making a comparison between the old MechWarrior 5 FAQ page and the new one

One thing that you’ll immediately notice is that the new MW5 FAQ is much smaller than the old one. You’ll also notice that there is no longer any mention of getting a Steam key from pre-orders that recently wrapped up and that any mention of Steam has in fact been totally removed. The pre-order beta has also been removed.

Getting rid of the pre-order info makes sense since you can’t pre-order MechWarrior 5 any longer (although they might have another pre-order closer to release). But removing all mention of Steam–ostensibly the platform that the game will release on–seems a little strange. Suspicious even.

In case you’re not up on the latest brawl to hit the digital gaming market, Epic Games is the maker of Fortnite (that battle royale game you see the kids playing these days), Unreal Engine 4 (which is the same game engine that MW5 uses–more on that later), and also a brand new digital storefront called the Epic Games Store.

The Epic Games Store works just like every other digital storefront, but with a big incentive for game developers. Rather than the customary 70/30 revenue split, Epic gives studios more of the gaming pie to the tune of 88/12 (that’s 88% revenue to the developer, in case that wasn’t clear). All of this is done under the guise of breaking the virtual monopoly that Steam holds on the PC gaming market.

However, the Epic Games Store doesn’t have anywhere near the same features as Steam, GOG, Discord, or other game stores have. They don’t have cloud save file storage, user reviews, wish lists, news feeds, or bundled prices that reflect already-installed DLC. They also don’t have multi-language support or support for payment in any currency other than US dollars.

To be fair to Epic, they plan to implement all these features within the next 6 months, but when it launched, the Epic Games Store was a barren wasteland compared to Steam. 

So to get people onto their store, Epic has adopted an aggressive strategy of gobbling up PC games as exclusive titles. They also don’t care if that game promised its Kickstarter backers or pre-order buyers a release on Steam. Just look at the debacles of Shenmue III and Metro Exodus for proof if this.

MW5 Screens

Here’s where I’m going to diverge from the facts for a second to insert some personal opinion, which I mention specifically because this is a very heated topic with a lot of misinformation floating around.

It seems clear to me that Epic’s plan is to replace Steam as the de-facto PC gaming platform. Steam makes TONS of money–enough that Valve hasn’t really released a real game in years (Artifact doesn’t count)–and Epic wants that bank all to themselves.

But to get it, Epic is spending a ludicrous amount of cash essentially guaranteeing the developer a reasonable amount of sales. This is based off a tweet from June whereby a Korean games community discussed how SNK was offered “hundreds of thousands” of pre-orders for Samurai Showdown to become an exclusive title.

The only games store looking for exclusive titles is Epic, so put two-and-two together and you get Epic’s gameplan.

Initially, there were some unsavory rumors that Epic was full of spyware and was actually a front for the Chinese government. So far, that’s all turned out to be bunk, but there was an element of truth to it. Epic is 40% owned by Tencent, a huge Chinese entertainment and media company, and I think it’s Tencent that is funding Epic with gobs of cash to throw at any and every game they can turn into an exclusive title all with the intention of eventually becoming the big kahuna of PC gaming. 

Anyway, opinion over, and now back to speculating on MechWarrior 5.

We already knew from last month that PGI was hurting for cash. New ‘Mech Packs being sold in MechWarrior Online had stopped being profitable, and Bullock basically admitted that the studio was going all-in on MechWarrior 5. If the game flopped, then PGI would be in serious trouble financially, to the point where the likeliest outcome would be the cessation of operations.

But if MechWarrior 5 went Epic Games Store exclusive and PGI got a cash infusion from Epic, they wouldn’t have to worry. Epic guarantees their sales to the point where they could at least continue as a business. On top of that, MechWarrior 5 already uses the Unreal 4 engine, making even more sense for an exclusive deal.

If this all turns out to be true, I can’t blame PGI for taking the money. Games development is a risky business and most studios are one bad game from going bankrupt. That said, they promised a Steam release with their pre-order, and judging by the MechWarrior subreddit, people would be mighty upset if MechWarrior 5 were to suddenly become an Epic exclusive.

Twitch Streamer Nuttyrat asked Bullock on Twitter about the changes in MechWarrior 5’s FAQ, with Bullock responding that they’re just the result of the community pre-order being over so there’s no need to have information about it on the site.

But again, it seems odd to remove all mention of Steam at the same time as removing the pre-order info.

Personally, I don’t have nearly as much hate for Epic as a lot of rabid Steam fans do, and if Epic is able to eventually provide the same sort of services that Steam does I’d have no problem with switching sides. However, the use of exclusives to get users is pretty anti-competitive and puts a sour taste on things, especially when those games already promised to release on Steam and other platforms.

We won’t know for sure one way or another until Russ or PGI make an announcement. Which will probably come at the upcoming MechWarrior 5 Developer Update and AMA scheduled for this Friday at 6 PM PST (UPDATE: Looks like the AMA was delayed to next week, according to MW5’s most recent tweet).

And as always MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

Clan Invasion Boxed Set Kickstarter Is Live!

courtesy of Catalyst Game Labs

Hey everyone! The Clan Invasion boxed set Kickstarter is live. Looks like it’s already well past its funding goal and Catalyst is busy making up stretch goals like a bunch of madmen. You should head on over there and show your support if you haven’t already.

We’ll have more coverage on this madness after the dust clears a bit. Promise.

Clan Invasion Box Set ‘Mechs Revealed!

You’re gonna love the news here, folks! Catalyst has revealed the ‘Mechs to be included in the upcoming BattleTech: Clan Invasion boxed set Kickstarter, and we’ve got a good spread on our hands.

The news comes from a recent update on the Catalyst website that gave us a sneak peek on what to expect. In addition to the box and rulebook art (which we saw in the earlier Kickstarter announcement), Catalyst has given us the five ‘Mechs to be included in the box set, and a few of them are personal favorites.

Starting with the Nova (or Blackhawk, to you Spheroids in the audience). I’ve loved the Nova since the early days for its pug-nosed and fireplug stance. The lack of torso to twist was never really a big deal, especially when considering the Prime configuration has enough firepower to core an assault ‘Mech in a single blast.

But more than that, the Nova appeals to my love of workhorse line ‘Mechs. The Nova was cheap (at least, cheap in terms of Clan OmniMechs) and fielded by almost every Clan in the Kerensky Cluster. It could fulfill almost any role and was never looked down upon by Clan warriors.

Next we have the Grundel–sorry, I mean the Grendel. This is perhaps my favorite Clan ‘Mech. As with the Nova, it’s a workhorse design fielded by many Clans, but unlike the Nova, it was a late addition to the Clan Invasion of the Inner Sphere.

The Grendel was created by Clan Diamond Shark and sold directly to other Clans looking to refill their touman before the Battle of Tukayyid. It was more common to find in Clan Smoke Jaguar, which had lost more machines in its drive to Terra than competing invading Clans due to their straight-forward and unwavering combat style.

Clan-Invasion-Star-All-Five - via Catalyst

What I love most about the Grendel is that it’s fast, powerful, and incredibly maneuverable. Seven jump jets let it jump over almost any obstacle, while its various loadouts allow it to strike hard at any range. If I had to pick any Clan ‘Mech of the 3050-era as my favorite, it would be the Grendel.

Frankly, it’s a little surprising for the Grendel to be included over something like the Ice Ferret or Viper. The Grendel didn’t take part in the initial invasion and really didn’t show up until Tukayyid. As much as I love the design and think it could beat a Ferret or Viper any day of the week, it seems inappropriate to include in a box set themed for the Clan Invasion.

Then again, there are still more than a few ‘Mechs left unaccounted for, so perhaps the Ice Ferret and Viper will still make an appearance.

Anyway, next up is the Adder, another surprise that I totally forgot about when the Clan Invasion was first announced. Twin ER PPCs make it quite the potent little ‘Mech and it’s definitely tougher than the Kit Fox, which was another common light design.

Next is the Timber Wolf, the quintessential Clan ‘Mech and poster child for Clan tech ever since the original TRO: 3050 dropped. And then there was MechWarrior 2 and MechWarrior 3 which again used the Timber Wolf for their marketing.

I get that it’s a favorite design for a lot of folks out there, but to me, the Timby is just totally overused. Give me the Summoner, the Hellbringer, or even the Linebacker over the Timber Wolf. But I can’t fault Catalyst for giving the fans what they want, and there’s no denying the Timber Wolf is a strong machine.

Clan Invasion

Finally, the Executioner. I’m not a fan of assault ‘Mechs in general, but I respect the Executioner for its speed and jump capacity. It’s out-gunned by many designs of equal weight, but nothing is able to withstand a blow and keep on coming than an Executioner. Perhaps best of all, it can keep up with the rush of smaller, faster designs thanks to its MASC. At least, for a little while anyway.

Catalyst has a full list of what you get with the Clan Invasion boxed set, including the 15-page Clan Primer, all-new 24-page novella, and Alpha Strike cards for the give designs mentioned. We also have a start date for the Kickstarter, which goes live on Wednesday, July 17th at 1 PM EST.

Head on over to the Catalyst site for the full deets. And maybe one of them can ship me the Grendel model before anyone else gets one. I’ve got a brother who would love to get his hands on one of these to paint ‘em up, and maybe do one for me too.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Harmony Gold Resurrects Itself Once More And Regains Rights To Robotech License

Robotech

courtesy of Bounding Into Comics

Just when you think you’ve finally slain the beast, Harmony Gold rears its ugly head once again.

Last Friday, Den of Geek reported that Harmony Gold had renewed its license to the Robotech intellectual property from Tatsunoko. In the tangled weave of BattleTech and Robotech, many of the famous Unseen ‘Mech designs were originally created by Tatsunoko and used in various anime productions, namely Robotech, The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, The Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada. In their mad dash to monetize these animes for a Western audience, Tatsunoko licensed off their IP piece-meal to both Harmony Gold and another marketing firm, Big West.

According to the publication, a California court held in 2017 that Tatsunoko and Harmony Gold’s license was valid, but also that it was set to expire on July 5th, 2021. That was a day many in the Robotech community were looking forward to as they blame Harmony Gold for preventing any new content from being produced.

Sadly, there dreams of a future where Robotech could be expanded were dashed when Harmony Gold announced their agreement with Tatsunoko would extend “well into the future”. The full press release is below:

“HOLLYWOOD, CA, July 5 – Harmony Gold USA, Inc. announced today that it has reached an agreement with the Japanese anime studio, Tatsunoko Productions, Co., to extend the worldwide, co-copyright ownership and exclusive management, excluding Japan, for its landmark anime series Robotech (including Macross, Southern Cross and Mospeada). This agreement was achieved after a lengthy negotiation and allows Harmony Gold to continue to exploit the animated Robotech franchise well into the future.”

There are a lot of flower statements from various HG executives over on Den of Geek, so if you care to listen to their horse manure you can head on over there to get it straight from the equine’s mouth.

Robotech

Before we get into what this might mean for the BattleTech community, I think it’s important to note that Robotech fans HATE Harmony Gold even more than we do. All they do is sit on the IP and sue people that come even remotely close to infringing upon it. For this reason, basically no new Robotech material has been produced in decades, and the Twitter replies are filled with angry Robotech fans shouting at Harmony Gold to take a long walk off a short pier–and that’s being generous.

So, what does this mean for us in the BattleTech camp? As a refresher, last summer PGI (the developers of MechWarrior 5 and MechWarrior Online) announced a settlement deal with Harmony Gold that allowed the use of the Unseen designs in pretty much all of BattleTech’s various forms, including Harebrained Scheme’s BattleTech, MWO, MW5, and the tabletop game.

Much of that settlement was predicated on the uncertainty of Harmony Gold’s claims to the various ‘Mech designs. There wasn’t any question that they owned the characters for Robotech, but Tatsunoko licensed off the various ‘Mech designs to Big West in a separate deal. PGI brought this uncertainty of Harmony Gold’s standing to even launch a lawsuit over the Unseen in court, which prompted HG to drop their case and settle.

Just because Harmony Gold now has a firm grasp on the Robotech IP once again doesn’t mean they have possession of the ‘Mechs too, as confusing as that might seem. So this likely means that nothing will really change for BattleTech.

Robotech

However, we don’t know the terms of the settlement with PGI. It’s possible the terms had a time limit and Harmony Gold will start coming after BattleTech’s creators for using Unseen designs in the future. Or it’s possible that the redesigns of the Rifleman, Warhammer, Archer, and others are now far enough removed from the original Robotech versions that a court would rule them different enough not to be infringing.

But as I always say, I’m no lawyer. If any of you legally trained folks want to go dig up this new deal between Harmony Gold and Tatsunoko to see what the specifics of that deal is and get back to me, we’d all be mighty grateful. For now, though, don’t panic.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy