Your BattleTech News Roundup For December, 2021

Well, another year has come and gone. This is where we normally wax nostalgic over the past year and look forward to 2022, but I’ll be honest, 2021 wasn’t all that great and 2022 isn’t shaping up to be much better. With COVID counts where they’re at, we’re certainly getting off on the wrong foot.

But I will offer some hope. Initial reports are calling Omicron slightly less deadly than previous COVID strains, so if the pattern holds with the 1918 flu pandemic, future COVID strains will continue to get milder and milder until it’s basically just another disease. To be clear, influenza still kills plenty of people each year, but it’ll be manageable to the point where things return to some semblance of normal, albeit where vaccines and masks are way more common.

It took two years for the 1918 flu to get to that point, so while 2022 probably won’t be great (certainly not at the beginning), we might see things improve by the end of 2022 and into early 2023. Hopefully.

In the meantime, Sarna will continue to be your one-stop shop for the best BattleTech news. Let’s see what happened in December.

Gingerbread Spider Goes Brrrrrr

The Gingerbread Spider: A Mechwarrior Dubstep Rock Opera
Watch this video on YouTube.

We’ll start off this last news blast of the year with some festive content sent in by a reader. Elfcat presents “The Gingerbread Spider.” It’s sort of like “The Nutcracker,” only the ballet is being performed by a light ‘Mech that was designed to fly. Almost.

I wouldn’t say that SPD-5K is a meta build, but it’s certainly effective as part of a light ‘Mech wolfpack. It’s also great for picking off stragglers that might have had most of their armor stripped from LRMs or taking fire. 

Personally, I think the Mist Lynx-G is the better Heavy Machine Gun platform, but to each their own. 

MechWarrior Online Is Giving Away A Lot Of Stuff Over The Holidays

MechWarrior Online Hellebore Outpost Preview
Watch this video on YouTube.

There’s a DropShip full of MechWarrior Online news to close out the year. First up, a patch was released earlier in the month that added MechWarrior Online‘s first new map in years. Called “Hellbore Outpost,” this map brings unparalleled verticality to an engagement. Cliffs, canyons, and raised platforms mean that fire can come from any angle, with geological formations providing ample cover for an ambush. I’ve only played it a few times, but so far I find it an interesting addition to the usual playlist.

Along with the new map comes the fifth quirk pass, and it hits some of my favorite ‘Mechs. The Quickdraw, JagerMech, Summoner, Firestarter, and Annihilator have all had their quirks adjusted. The Quickdraw in particular is finally viable in today’s meta and I quite enjoy my laserboat QKD-5K. It’s great when a bad ‘Mech turns good.

Single heat sinks also received a buff as part of this update, so certain Inner Sphere assault ‘Mechs will find it more useful to use single heat sinks than doubles.

And keeping with MechWarrior Online tradition, the holiday season brings back the Stocking Stuffer event for another year. The event is simple: play games and unlock rewards based on your match score. The more you get in a match, the more stockings you uncover. Stockings can include C-bills, MC, skill points, experience, premium time, and more. Now is the most rewarding time of the year to play MWO, but be sure to get your games in before Jan 4 when the Stocking Stuffer event ends.

But we saved the best part for last. MechWarrior Online is giving away two free ‘Mechs for everyone who logs in between December 26 and January 4 to play one match. The Mauler MAL-2P and Marauder IIC-A can be yours along with 25 Stocking Stuffers, 6.5 million C-bills, 1,250 MC, and seven days premium time. Oh, and both ‘Mechs come with a 30% C-bill boost too.

There’s also a new ‘Mech pack available with two new versions of the Sun Spider and the Roughneck. Go check ’em out on their website here.

Congrats To The 1st Jaguar Guards For Winning The MechWarrior Online World Championship Series

MWO CS2021 Grand Final - JGx vs 5JDx
Watch this video on YouTube.

The MechWarrior Online competitive scene got a big boost with the game’s renaissance this year, and although there wasn’t quite as much ceremony thanks to COVID and the lack of Mech_Con, the final games were still an exciting display of piloting from the best MechWarriors in the world.

Ultimately, the 1st Jaguar Guards came out on top, defeating the 5th Jaguar Dragoons in the final round. Ghosts of Nox came in third and the appropriately named “here 4 da loot” came in fourth. KDCM V: Trans Rights, the team that was initially told to change their name before PGI backtracked, came in seventh place.

I didn’t get a chance to see every match, but I did catch the final ‘Mech usage statistics and was incredibly surprised to see such a wide variety of chassis used by the world’s top players. Whereas previous years would often see the same ‘Mechs over and over again (I’m lookin’ at you, Hunchback IIC), this year had almost twice as many ‘Mechs make it to the finals.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the Firestarter, which has historically been one of those bad ‘Mechs that nobody really uses. I guess the recent balance passes have really shaken up the meta to the point where the Firestarter actually shines. Guess I’m going to have to give that ‘Mech a try.

The MechWarrior 5 Timber Wolf Mod Is Here

Timberwolf / Mad Cat Classic mod for Mechwarrior 5 Mercenaries Trailer #2
Watch this video on YouTube.

Remember that Timber Wolf mod that was mentioned in November’s news roundup? Well, The Art of BattleTech managed to get this beaut out for Christmas

Not only is the outside a highly detailed model that brings the classic Mad Cat look into the latest and greatest MechWarrior game, but it also has a custom cockpit courtesy of Alan Yeoh. Honestly, it looks a lot like a modern fighter pilot cockpit with a few extra screens on the ferro-glass windows. It can seem a little cluttered in first-person view, but that’s why MechWarrior 5 has a third-person camera. There’s also an alternate cockpit with fewer screens but more rearview mirrors. 

As expected, the Timber Wolf is pretty overpowered in comparison to most of MechWarrior 5‘s available chassis. That makes the Timby a great choice for pretty much everything that the game can throw at you. 

You can check out the mod in action here and then head to NexusMods or Steam Workshop to download the mod yourself. 

Also, Here’s A Mad Dog Mod For MechWarrior 5

Mad Dog / Vulture Classic mod for Mechwarrior 5 Mercenaries - Trailer
Watch this video on YouTube.

Not satisfied with just the Timber Wolf, Art is busy making the Mad Dog for MechWarrior 5 too. There should also be a Summoner on the horizon, but there’s no trailer of that delightful 70-tonner yet. Stay tuned. 

More Logistical Woes For Catalyst Orders

Don’t know if this has been shared yet from battletech

This really isn’t limited to Catalyst Games--lots of retailers are warning customers that orders aren’t arriving in a timely fashion this holiday season. Blame covid and the ongoing global logistical snafu, but if you didn’t get your Catalyst order in time for Christmas, you probably won’t get it until January.

On the bright side, the final two installments of the IlClan Recognition Guides have arrived, and since those are digital files, you can just download them now without waiting. 

Santa Nova Cat Is Coming To Town

https://www.reddit.com/r/battletech/comments/rnl9ok/santa_mech_is_here_to_bring_holiday_cheer_to_the/?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share

I don’t know where Reddit user h_ahsatan got a beard to fit this Nova Cat, but I’m glad they did. Hopefully, it doesn’t catch fire when this thing lets loose with all those energy weapons. 

Duane Loose Reveals How The Stryker Was Updated Got HBS’s BATTLETECH

It’s no exaggeration to say that Duane Loose practically defined BattleTech‘s visual style for decades. The artist that penned the original drawings that appeared in TRO 3025 recently shared an interesting story on his Twitter account about how he teamed up with Hairbrained Schemes to redesign the Striker missile tank. 

Working with Mike McCain, Loose helped create several redesigned vehicles, including the Striker. Loose also dropped several sketches of the Swiftwind and Demolisher tanks, but the Striker received special attention with a set of eight sketches. You can see how the missile tanks started out with eight wheels before shrinking those down to just six by the time they arrived at the final product. 

Strikers were always the worst in that game, but at least they looked cool.

Duncan Fisher Wishes Us All A Happy Holidays!

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM DUNCAN FISHER
Watch this video on YouTube.

The Black Pants Legion, ever patrons of the fine arts, asked George Ledoux to put on his Duncan Fisher persona and wish us all happy holidays. Thanks, Duncan. I think we all needed that this year. 

And that’s it for 2021! I hope you’re all staying safe, staying healthy, and are looking forward to a better year to come.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Charger

courtesy of Eldoniousrex

Gunjin Hataka gently wrapped the headband around his head as he knelt before a single candle and a burning stick of incense. He knew that this could very well be his last day alive, so he savored the sensations as he meditated on the nature of bushido. Of being a warrior.

And also why he was cursed with the regiment’s only remaining Charger

Technically, it was a promotion of sorts. He was now piloting the heaviest ‘Mech in his lance, almost double the weight of his Chu-i’s Phoenix Hawk. A proud Combine design that had served with distinction throughout the Succession Wars and bore the visage of a true samurai.

But Hataka knew the truth. Although his Charger massed 80 tons, it had the same armament as a lowly Locust. Five small lasers meant he must close to perilously short-range combat in order to be even remotely effective, and at that distance, he might as well start punching with his reinforced left arm. And with so little armor protecting him, the odds of closing to that distance was vanishingly small. His new ‘Mech made almost every assignment a suicide mission.

Hataka felt like a warrior of the divine wind about to attack in a war fought many centuries before he was born. Thus, it was only appropriate he honored their memories in a similar tradition. 

After several moments, Hataka bowed low enough so the rising sun on his headband touched the floorboards. Then he stood and walked away confident he would never return.

MW5 Charger

courtesy of PGI

Of all the ‘Mechs SLDF procurement somehow approved, the Charger CGR-1A1 is perhaps its biggest mistake. By the end of the Star League, corruption was so rampant that procurement officers rubber-stamped an assault ‘Mech that had so few weapons it wouldn’t concern most light ‘Mechs if one were to encounter one on the battlefield. The ‘Mech’s massive LTV 400 engine was also so expensive that you could purchase multiple traditional scout ‘Mechs for the price of a single Charger.

3025_Charger1

And yet, through grift, graft, or grit, Wells Technologies managed to secure funding to produce an assault scout ‘Mech–a battlefield role that never existed until Wells Technologies dreamt it up. Their proposal, the Charger, was an 80-ton ‘Mech equipped with the largest engine available, so large that it actually comprised more than 60% of the ‘Mech’s total weight. Ten tons of armor meant that the Charger was more than adequately protected in its role as a scout, but this left a mere 2.5 tons left for weapons. 

Wells did the best they could, but the end result was still so pathetic that the finished machine was almost immediately ejected from the SLDF after its introduction in the year 2665. A top speed of 86 kph was only barely acceptable for a scout, and five small lasers meant that the Charger was outgunned by nearly every ‘Mech in existence. 

Nobody saw the benefit of an 80-ton scout ‘Mech that couldn’t fight, so every Charger was returned to Wells Technologies en-masse. This resulted in Wells warehousing over a thousand Chargers as the company desperately tried to find a buyer. Lucky for them, the fall of the Star League and the start of the First Succession War brought forth an eager buyer happy to take every Charger Wells had in stock and more.

CCG_Unlimited_Charger

The Draconis Combine contracted Wells for an exclusive production contract in addition to every ‘Mech they had. Chargers were then distributed throughout the DCMS to fulfill whatever role was required of them, but because of their poor armament, the Charger was most often relegated to anti-insurgency work or garrison duty in low-conflict zones. Oddly enough, this led to numerous Chargers surviving the Succession Wars where many other designs didn’t.

Still, the DCMS wasn’t entirely filled with fools, and this meant that Wells Technologies would frequently receive requests for alternate variants that emphasized firepower over mobility. Most often this meant dropping the 400-rated engine down a few steps and improving the armament by adding a large autocannon. Several variants sold to the Capellan Confederation through the Kapteyn Accords did exactly that, and the Charger gained a reputation as a fearsome assault ‘Mech on the other side of the Inner Sphere.

Back in the Combine, the Charger would eventually serve as the base chassis for the vastly-superior Hatamoto-Chi, a ‘Mech that took the Charger‘s samurai aesthetic and dialed it to an extreme that wouldn’t be matched until well after the Jihad. While developing the Hatamoto-Chi, Luthien Armor Works also used newer technologies to retool the elderly Charger, coming up with the CGR-3K model. This replaced the standard engine with an XL version which added enough room to replace the Charger‘s armament with four medium pulse lasers and an LRM-20 with Artemis IV fire control. It also gained additional mobility thanks to five jump jets. 

CCG_Counterstrike_Charger

As for Wells Technologies, they were less successful than their machine. Although the Charger was ostensibly a Combine ‘Mech and Wells Technologies was under an export restriction, the company sold Chargers on the black market illegally to recoup its costs on several other failed ventures. Combine officials eventually found out and punished Wells with enough lawsuits to push the company into insolvency. Luthien Armor Works then purchased Wells for a steal, ending the centuries-old company in 3027. 

There’s absolutely an argument to be made for the Charger as an ideal melee fighter. Its mass and barrel fist could be employed to devastating effect if a foe were foolish enough to close the distance with a Charger. But few pilots would be foolish enough to close with a Charger after recognizing its distinctive silhouette even after multiple upgrades gave the ‘Mech vastly improved firepower.

The Charger remained in production by Luthien Armor Works until the factory’s destruction during the Jihad. After that, Charger numbers finally dwindled until they eventually disappeared for good.

Consider this Sarna’s Christmas gift to you, dear readers. We’ll have one more news update before the end of the year and then it’s off to 2022.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

Christmas Urbie

Community Outreach – Ben “Bishop Steiner” Myers, Concept Artist For Catalyst Game Labs

Bishop's Throne Room

Before we close out the year, I’d like to share this interview with artist Ben Myers, one of the concept artists working with Catalyst on the newly designed models for the Clan Invasion Kickstarters and recent resculpts. Instrumental in redesigning some of the best bad ‘Mechs, including the Assassin, the Sentinel, and the iconic UrbanMech, Myers and I discuss what it’s like working for Catalyst and how it feels to redesign these classic machines. Enjoy. 

Sarna (Sean): Good afternoon Mr. Steiner! I think we can start with introductions in case a Sarna reader doesn’t already know. Who are you?

Bishop Steiner (Ben Myers): Who am I? My real name is Ben Myers, but after so many years in MechWarrrior Online, Bishop Steiner just kind of is easier.

Pertinent details to my life? I’m Autistic. I’m an artist. Big fan of ‘80s / early ‘90s mecha anime. And I’m a huge Battletech (and tabletop role-playing paper game in general) nerd.

Bishop Steiner

I started gaming when I was 7, with basic D&D, and discovered Battletech around 1987, while in junior high. By the time I left high school it’d become my primary game and favorite IP for reading, and of course, to draw. Have played pretty much all the PC games, and was instrumental in pushing Russ Bullock into giving the Urbanmech a chance. I am the “UrbieDaddy” and patron saint of bad mechs.

And today, I sub-contract for Catalyst Game Labs (CGL) doing concept art primarily. Slowly working my way into line art, and hoping to convince the bosses to give me a shot at writing a TRO entry or two. And of course, do a fair bit of fan art of the Battletech community, both commission work and just because.

Sarna: Oh my! Well, if you’re the patron saint of bad ‘Mechs, what’s your favorite bad ‘Mech?

Bishop Steiner: Name it, I’m probably a fan. My absolute favorite medium ‘mech is the Assassin.  In fact, I pretty well love most of the 40 tonners. Big fan of the JagerMech in the heavy category.  Obviously the Urbie in the lights, but also its antithesis, the Hussar. I find “flawed” Omnis like the Mad Dog, Gargoyle, or Summoner a ton more interesting than ultra-optimized ones like the Timby

If pressed, though probably the Assassin. But the Vulcan is a close second. And when the new art is revealed, it might be neck and neck with the Assassin.

Sarna: We kicked off the Bad ‘Mechs series with the Assassin, so we’re kindred spirits there. I don’t recall the Mad Dog to be particularly flawed, it just didn’t have Endo Steel. I guess it was kinda hot in the primary config…

Assassin BattleTech

Bishop Steiner: Mostly people whinge about ‘Mechs with less than max armor. It’s not quite Hellbringer bad, but between that and the heat issues… Thankfully it’s a gorgeous machine, which is why I think it gets a pass with the public where others might not.

Sarna: The Hellbringer; now there is a flawed OmniMech.

Bishop Steiner: Indeed. Flawed enough that even I hesitate to run it. And I think the paper armor was one of the biggest things that pushed PGI to allow armor mods on the Omnis in MechWarrior Online. Pity that. Still, Anthony did a good enough job on the redesign that I might make an exception, even if I am not a huge Clan guy, outside of the Goliath Scorpions.

Sarna: Woof, we’re even getting into hipster clans already.

Bishop Steiner: Hipster? Isn’t that the Wolverines?

Sarna: That’s practically renaissance.

But before we go into which abjured Clan could beat up which invader Clan, we should at least discuss how you came to freelance for Catalyst. How’d you get involved in remaking so many iconic ‘Mechs in ilClan?

Bishop Steiner: Dumb luck? I’d made acquaintance with Anthony Scroggins, a bit on the side, between beating him on an art contest for fan redesigns of the Marauder over on the MWO forums, and some stuff on DeviantArt. Anyhow, as Shattered Fortress was approaching its release date, apparently CGL got in a bit of a bind for art and basically let Anthony cast a net for artists who might be able to contribute.

He shot me a message and asked if I’d be interested. To be honest, I didn’t think I had what it took, but also trying to do art for the actual game officially was too good a chance to pass. So I was given a pile of art briefs, and the moment I read the brief for the Battle of Dieron, the scene pretty much popped into my head, complete. Anthony had me reverse the composition and do a few tweaks, but apparently it was good enough. Don’t think they sent that same art brief to Jason Schmetzer, as his details in the new novella Shell Games differed quite a bit from what I was given, but what can you do? We are only stewards of the IP; can’t get too attached.

Anyhow, once the Clan Invasion Kickstarter was announced, Anthony knew from my past Urbie work that I had to be the guy to do the UrbanMech redesign. I pushed it into existence in MWO, nagged Mitch at HBS till they upped its frequency in their game, and even got my own “Hero” Mech in the K9.

That was going to be my only piece, but I guess they had another crunch during Wave 2, and just kept offering me more designs. And so I just kept drawing. I think one thing that Anthony appreciated is that while I have opinions and a “vision” for my redesigns, at the end of the day, I don’t get too attached. They aren’t my designs; they existed before my time, and will quite possibly be reinterpreted again, in the future. Sometimes as artists we can get our egos too involved in the work and forget that the designs belong to Battletech. And that can be an issue.

Lancelot

Sarna: Which is a pretty great segue into my next big question. How do you approach redesigning these ‘Mechs when some of the older drawings are super basic? Like, let’s take the Lancelot as an example. There were very few images of the Lancelot, and the ones that existed often didn’t even bother placing that torso-mounted PPC. How much is reinterpretation and how much is outright creativity?

Bishop Steiner: Really varies a lot with each ‘Mech. I always try to pick out what I consider the key aesthetic details of each design. Is it tall and lanky, short and stocky? What shapes immediately jump out?  What features have to stay?  Some, I also get told to basically blow up.  The Mercury was one. Others I push a little more–like the Enforcer–to not be sexy because it’s not a sexy mech, it’s a utilitarian one. 

And then I do have to look for those details. Are the weapons actually correct? News flash: for a ton of designs, that’d be a NOPE. Do the joints make any sense? TRO 3055/3058? Nope, nope, nope. And then I get as many of the official images, minis, the MWO stuff, even some of the better fan art, and look for what stuff is consistent through all the versions. 

The Lancelot for instance had to have a janky, angular torso, and be relatively lanky. The PPC I am not 100% in love with–the location made the most sense, but I think in retrospect maybe putting it coming from the lower glacis would have been more pleasing visually. And the legs maybe should have been a bit slimmer. But that’s the thing–after it’s done, I can go back and pick apart the “woulda/shoulda” elements of all my designs.

Sarna: Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. Let’s jump to the Assassin since it’s one of my favorite ‘Mechs too and it’s one that has always been at least a little mysterious in BattleTech for the cockpit. People have always been confused about the positioning of the Assassin‘s cockpit–what made you decide to stick with the teeny-tiny front-facing window over the more fighter jet-style cockpit that’s hinted at in the historical art?

Assassin

Bishop Steiner: One thing that helped was talking to Duane Loose on the regular, and I was able to ask him. But even before that, all one needed to do was read the lore texts. It’s constantly referred to as a cramped, dangerous place, one that even has crippled long-time pilots. It even suffers from the Cramped Cockpit quirk. That doesn’t line up with what the cockpit would be if one did the scaling and math of say a relatively spacious, F-16-like canopy.

Now in fairness, the “truth” as it usually is, isn’t that simple. In talking to Duane, he explained that the design was made before the rules were finalized and what he had in mind was a tandem cockpit like on an attack helicopter, with the gunner in front and pilot up top/behind. But when the rules were finalized and only single cockpits were a thing, it was moved to the front cockpit. Admittedly the emphasis has shifted in the various arts and minis, and nobody bothered to just ask the guy who designed it. It’s similar to the Commando head conundrum and why everyone screws up the location of the Dervish‘s medium lasers–which I then intentionally moved on the new version. To be a jerk.

But lastly? In my opinion, it just looks better. I always felt that with a big glass dome up top and the pointy “nose” it looked like Big Bird; kind of dorky. Along with being terrible for actual ground visibility, which seems like a bad choice for a ‘Mech jumping 210 meters at a pop.

Sarna: All great points. I kinda like the attack chopper look, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense for a ‘Mech. Not unless we start talking about external cameras and whatnot.

Let’s talk the Sentinel. Another fav, another bad ‘Mech, and another truly bizarre-looking ‘Mech in the historical art but one that at least had easily identifiable parts. Which of those parts did you really feel the need to focus on for the redesign and why?

Sentinel

Bishop Steiner: The Sentinel. Well. The biggest issue was it was a beach ball. With stick legs. So that took a lot of sorting through various reference pieces to try to salvage.

I knew the human legs were a non-starter. But I didn’t want to totally lose the silhouette, either.  The leg answer was one of the CCG pieces if I recall correctly. One done by Mike Jackson that had digitigrade-ish legs. And that kind of gave me the freedom to give some character to the legs. The upper body had potential, I just needed to tone down the “egg” effect.

I wanted to keep the big cylinder shoulders and as many little details as possible. The solution for the front was partially inspired by the version of the Sentinel Rudy “Shortpainter” Valle had done as fan art, to give the nose more of a harsh glacis. From there it was just adding more interesting shapes to things like the arm autocannon, which if I recall, I based off the chaingun from an Apache helicopter.

From there it was just finding a way to make the details serve a purpose like the odd bulbs on the side torsos, using one to house its laser, the other to do a sensor pack, and then the usual greebles, sensor pods, radars masts, etc. 

Sarna: We can’t possibly not talk about the UrbanMech. What do you think makes it so iconic? Did you worry at all about ravenous BattleTech fans angry at your take on the machine? Or has everyone been very supportive of the stylish new Urbie?

Bishop Steiner: Iconic or ironic?

I think it’s a mix of factors.  Some of it, like the Charger, the first glance “what were they thinking?” stat line. And then for those who actually gave it a shot in city combat, the “little engine that could” bit. And let’s face it, it was loveably derpy-looking in most of its renditions.

Did I worry about angry fans? Naw. Urbie fans are chill. It’s the haters who screech uncontrollably, and haters are gonna hate, either way. The fans I’ve seen have all been very happy, and it seems to have made some new Urbanites.

The haters? Still hating. And I just keep grinning and giving their “cool” Mechs the bad touch.

Urbie

Sarna: I don’t think the new Urbie is bad at all! It certainly is less dumpy, I think, but it’s got all the right bits where they should be. And maybe people would even be proud to drive an Urbie that doesn’t literally look like a walking trash can?

Bishop Steiner: Perhaps. I certainly wanted to make it still make sense as a mass-produced garrison machine, but that doesn’t mean it has to be dumpy or dull.

And I think if people actually gave some of the later models, be it the 68 with its MRM30, the FedSuns model with the RAC5, or the 96 series I designed for Recognition Guide 2, with its Hardened Armor, SN-PPC, and Improved Jump Jets, they might be surprised how effective it can be.

Admittedly, most of the folk who hate on it the hardest are usually min-maxing types, or your typical angry “get off my lawn” types.

Sarna: Were there any ‘Mechs that changed substantially between start to finish?

Bishop Steiner: I’d say the two with the most change, overall were the Mercury and Enforcer.  While Anthony did a fair bit of rework on the Crossbow Omni and Charger, in a lot of ways the details didn’t change massively. With the Merc and Enforcer, they were my first ‘Mechs after the UrbanMech and neither had nearly as crystallized in my mind as the Urb did.

The Mercury, because I wasn’t sure what Anthony, Randall, Brent, and Ray were looking for or expecting yet, I knocked out five rough concept sketches from close to the original to the out-of-left-field design we ended up with. I honestly didn’t expect that one to be chosen, but the decree was: “Nobody likes the Mercury. Blow it up.”  The Enforcer was mostly there on the body. Anthony had me make the biggest tweaks on the thighs, if I recall correctly. The fun was with the head; the original cockpit was similar to the final one, but a bit more complicated. The feedback from Ray was “the head is boring,” so I slapped together a concept list with 16 different head designs. And after much back and forth they settled on a simplified version of my first head concept.

Enforcer Heads

So overall, I guess I’ve been pretty lucky in that my concepts haven’t really changed much. With our group workflow, if either I or Anthony just don’t feel we have the right flow and feel going, he’ll reassign or take over the design. An example is the Crockett, which I just had zero clicking, so I handed it back to Anthony. I forget if that’s when I took on the Lancelot instead, but Anthony’s direction on the Crockett was very different and a lot better than where I was going. Being able to take ego out of it really allows us to (mostly) work toward just getting the best we can out of each design. There are probably a few places where egos maybe got in the way, but I’d say it was the exception.

Sarna: Let’s talk about the Mercury, Lancelot, and Sentinel for a sec. I’ve noticed a somewhat more insectile vibe from each of the Comstar ‘Mechs. Was that a running theme for your Comstar redesigns?

Bishop Steiner: Insectile?  Hmmm, I do see that now that you mention it, but it wasn’t really intentional. I did want to make them look more advanced than the Succession Wars staples.  More curves in various places, less flat angles, and such.  I think the Insectile aspect is just a happy accident.

Sarna: Fair enough. I did see the curves, but also that there weren’t any weapons discarded for the sake of maintaining a curve. Perhaps that’s what can explain away some of those earlier drawings. Do you have any particular favorites of your redesigns? Any that you’re particularly proud of?

Vulcan

Bishop Steiner: From the Clan Invasion designs, I think probably the Sentinel is the one I am most proud of the results. It’d be between it and the UrbanMech for my favorites.  With the Mongoose and Enforcer coming in just behind. Even though I’m most well known for my love of the UrbanMech, even I realize it’s not a scout. And for light mechs, the Goose has always been my overall favorite, so getting to redesign it was huge.

Of the ones that I’ve done since and haven’t been released, I gotta go with the Vulcan. And it’d be a coin toss between it and the Sentinel for the one I am most proud of. As much as I love the Assassin, I think my Vulcan and Sentinel redesigns are just probably my two overall best pieces, to date, period. 40-tons to freedom!

Sarna: Gotta love them trooper ‘Mechs.

Bishop Steiner: Yup. It’s a pity ‘Mechs like the Vulcan and Firestarter don’t see a little more granularity in their weapons systems in A Time of War or Destiny, as the AC2 on the Vulcan makes sense in fluff and reality, and not at all in tabletop mechanics. But basically having a 40mm Bofors for taking out barriers in infantry support makes perfect sense… except in the actual game, lol.

Sarna: Yeah, autocannons in general are just plain bad on anything less than 70 tons, frankly. Especially light autocannons. But they’re great fluff, and both authors and the modern games tune their damage output to better reflect that.

Is there any ‘Mech you’d love to redesign but haven’t gotten the chance, either because it just hasn’t come up or because it’s just not popular enough to really warrant it?

Firestarter

Bishop Steiner: Oh man. A lot. I’m a huge fan of TRO 3055. And I really want them to not just sweep Project Phoenix under the rug. Even with all these Kickstarter redesigns of the Unseens, too much lore is tied up in the whole Vicore Industries and Project Phoenix.

But instead of generalizations, let me think of specifics. I did cover quite a few of my dream ‘Mechs in my mad dash through Inktober. The Gurkha is one because I think as currently presented, it’s an insult to those amazingly brave Nepalese warriors, being that they didn’t give it a kukri. I have ideas for the Berserker, Naginata, and Hollander.

But probably near the top of the list would be either the Sha Yu or Jackal. The Sha Yu I really want to return to the ideas in the MechCommander 2 version. No offense intended to Franz Vohwinkel, but the TRO 3067 version just fell flat compared to the MC2 version I was introduced to.

And the Jackal… well, Anthony accuses me of having an “egg ‘Mech fetish”. I think it’s a killer design hampered by bad art. Even Matt Plog and Anthony’s versions were hampered by the edicts of the time, to not stray from the original too far. I have a piece on my Patreon right now where I preserve the details, but strongly re-proportion them that at the risk of sounding immodest, I think makes the Jackal look absolutely lean, mean, and lethal.

Beyond that, I would love to convince Brent and Ray to allow me to make some of my more wild ideas happen on existing redesigns, like my twin Thumper Cyclops or the “Einherji” variant of the Grand Dragon I made for the 3040s era KungsArmé of the Free Rasalhague Republic.

Einherji

Sarna: And what’s on the Einherji?

Bishop Steiner: It’s basically a Grand Dragon with a couple pieces of Lostech, with load out and aesthetics modified to fit the FRR. PPC in the right arm, hatchet in the left, SRM-6 in the center torso, medium laser in each side torso. Being a 3040s design, it had FerroFibrous armor and CASE

Non-canon sadly, though based on a description of mods the Drakons made to their ‘Mechs in Era Report: 3052.

Sarna: Ah, a Viking Grand Dragon for the FRR! I dig it. Always loved the Dragon, and the Grand Dragon in particular.

Bishop Steiner: Barely 100 made before Operation REVIVAL, with the factory lost along with most of the ‘Mechs during the invasion, was my explanation for the lack of records and examples in the TROs. Maybe a dozen left kept running due to major components compatibility with Grand Dragons

Anyhow, again, not canon, but the kind of idea I keep trying to float for Shrapnel.  Maybe someday. And yeah, Grand Dragon is a beast, with the 5K probably being my favorite ‘Mech on TRO 3050.

Sarna: Are you able to give us a preview for some of the ‘Mechs still yet to be redesigned? And is there anything else you’d like to promote while you’ve got the platform?

Bishop Steiner: Hmmm.  Can’t really promote anything we haven’t posted to Anthony’s Patreon yet, so aside from teasing what’s on there, like the Dervish, Charger, Javelin, Assassin, Vulcan, etc. There’s definitely other stuff on the works as we speak, and she will be a pretty welcome surprise, I think, but nothing I can comment on.

As for promoting, but really sure? Obviously I’d be happy for anyone to check out my Patreon, or my public gallery on DeviantART. Besides that? I don’t know. I’m terrible at promotion, self or otherwise. 

Bishop Horse

Thank you, Bishop Steiner, and be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He’s also got a Ko-Fi if you’re feeling generous. 

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy. 

stay syrupy

 

Your BattleTech News Roundup For November, 2021

I hope y’all had a good Thanksgiving weekend. Being Canadian, I already had my Thanksgiving a month ago, but that doesn’t mean I can’t eat a turkey twice. Or rather, two different turkeys. I don’t bury the turkey for a month to ferment and then eat what’s left a month later. That’d be weird.

Anyway, we’ve got a bunch of BattleTech news for you, so let’s get straight to it.

Last-Minute Halloween Video Serves Up A Spooky Hellbringer

HELLBRINGER
Watch this video on YouTube.

I didn’t manage to get this one into the October news blast because Farseer Animation released it on Halloween. Given the spooky themes, it was only appropriate of them to do so, but that meant it missed my deadline by a hair.

So we’ll have a brief throwback to Halloween in today’s news. Farseer has managed to create a believable and chilling campfire tale about a cursed Hellbringer. I won’t ruin the surprise ending, but I will say it’s pretty spooky. 

PGI Dev Says Those Datamined MechWarrior 5 Files Aren’t A Clan Expansion

Another follow-up to our October news about hidden files in MechWarrior 5 that might hint at a Clan Invasion expansion. Chris Lowrey, who worked as narrative director on Legend of the Kestrel Lancers, responded on Twitter to say that the files found are mostly future-proofing for modders who might want to add that sort of content themselves. They’re mostly blank faction files that modders can use to add whatever factions they want, and because PGI put them there to begin with, it makes the odds of a future update breaking those mods entirely a lot lower.

It’s plausible, and also fits with what PGI has been saying all along in that the Clans are not coming to MechWarrior 5. At least, not officially. More on that later.

On the other hand, Lowrey also recently told The First Circuit Podcast that he couldn’t entirely rule out the possibility of a Clan-themed DLC, saying “Nothing is decided on that front.” And so far I haven’t heard of any decisions one way or another. 

Catalyst Releases New BattleTech Companion App For Black Friday Sale With Force Packs Back In Stock

BattleTech Force Packs

Of course, Catalyst is cashing in on the consumerist frenzy that happens from basically now until December 25, but I won’t go into a full breakdown of what’s available because, frankly, it’s a lot. Clan Invasion Force Packs are available if you missed out on the Kickstarter, including ComStar Level IIs, Clan Stars, and a bevy of Inner Sphere Lances, including some that weren’t available the first time around such as the Clan Ad Hoc Star and Inner Sphere Heavy Battle Lance. There’s also a bunch of non-miniature items that are back in stock, so head on over to the Catalyst store to fulfill your intense desire to spend money on BattleTech merch.

But along with all those new toys, Catalyst brings us another. The BattleTech Tactical Companion App is now available for download for iOS and Google Play. The app contains digital record sheets for every ‘Mech in the Beginner Box Set and A Game Of Armored Combat that keeps track of ammo, heat, and armor, a custom MechWarrior creator as well as several pre-set pilot cards, a lance creator, and a full game state phase tracker to keep track of your games.

And if you prefer things on paper, you can always send your ‘Mech sheets to a printer to hold something other than your phone.

More Tiny BattleTech Stores? More Tiny BattleTech Stores

I’m not sure what a chain marketing itself as Solaris VII BBQ & Bar would be offering other than booze and barbecued meats. Do they just have Solaris VII matches playing on the overhead vids? Do they have holo tables where patrons can battle it out in miniature? Do they have simulator pods where they can get as close as they can to a real-life fight? I don’t have the answers, but I’d love to find out.

I had to look up what “Chava” is, and it’s apparently a beverage served on Trell 1. Nobody knows what Chava actually is, but given the name and context of it being drunk by military figures in Decision at Thunder Rift, it’s probably sort of like tea or coffee. I imagine Chava Garden is therefore something like Starbucks, only hopefully less obnoxious with its size names. Why the fuck is a “tall” a small? Truly baffling. 

A Discussion On Why You Should Be Okay With BattleTech’s Spheroid DropShips

I suppose the Union of the two ball-type craft we've talked about would require a joystick
Watch this video on YouTube.

Space travel is hard, atmospheres suck, so an armored re-entry vehicle with tons of weapons makes a lot of sense--at least, once you have a fusion reactor that can pump out the juice to power one. But why are most DropShips basically spherical? 

A good discussion on the subject can be heard from Sacred Cow Shipyards, a dude who’s been discussing the finer points of sci-fi space travel for some time. BattleTech isn’t often a topic over those parts, but recently he did a dive into the Union DropShips and the concept of spherical re-entry vehicles in general. There are a lot of good points raised, so you should listen. Because I listened and I thought they were good points, and you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t trust my opinion at least that much. 

Clever Title About More Pokemon ‘Mechs

Lightning Lance – fourth completed Pokemech Lance. from battletech

I’ve posted a lot of Pokemon ‘Mechs over the few years I’ve been doing this. I don’t think I’ll ever stop. If you want my attention, mash together Pokemon and BattleTech minis. That’ll get you a spot in the Sarna news blast for sure. Here we have an entry from feor1300 who deserves all the praise for turning a Turkina into a Magnezone. Bonus points for the Raichu Imp. I think that Awesome is supposed to be Electivire, but I’m not too sure. It’s mostly just an Awesome with tiger stripes. 

MWO Free ‘Mech, November Patch, And Annual Rewards Program

We’ve got the usual MechWarrior Online stuff, including a free ‘Mech, not-free ‘Mechs, and a patch. 

We’ll start with the free ‘Mech, which is the Ebon Jaguar Alt. Config B. This laser boat used to be a powerful meta choice in MechWarrior Online, and it seems to still be plenty powerful. Win enough games and accrue enough match score and you’ll get one of these 65-ton monsters for free.

Next we have the annual rewards program. If you’ve purchased any amount of ‘Mech Credits in MechWarrior Online over the past year, you get the Urbanmech UM-R80. It’s basically a K9 with ECM, which means it’s the strictly better ‘Mech. If you bought any ‘Mech pack, bundle, new player pack, or more over the past year, you get the Viper Alt. Config F. It’s a machine gun boating medium ‘Mech that can fly and is my personal pick of the litter. The third and final ‘Mech is the Atlas AS7-K3 which you receive if you’ve purchased either the Stryker, Warden, Hunter, or Predator packs. This Atlas also comes with ECM and has jump jets, which is pretty terrifying on a 100-ton ‘Mech. 

If you qualify for any of these ‘Mechs, you should see them injected into your account already. If not and you think you should qualify, contact PGI support.

Last but certainly not least, we got a new patch on Tuesday. This patch is a little smaller than previous ones with fewer changes overall, but it does bring the fourth quirk pass for some of the ‘Mechs that still haven’t been looked at. The Vulcan, Dragon, Cataphract, Hellbringer, and Executioner have all received buffs, some big, some small, and some much-needed. All Dragon variants, for instance, now have armor quirks that match the Grand Dragon that was issued earlier this year. 

Next month will bring a new map and a return of the Stocking Stuffers event, so stay tuned for December stuff. I’ll hopefully have an update out before Christmas this time. 

The Clans Might Not Invade MechWarrior 5, But The Timber Wolf Will

Timberwolf / Mad Cat Classic mod for Mechwarrior 5 Mercenaries
Watch this video on YouTube.

The Art of BattleTech reached out to reveal another new mod being made for MechWarrior 5 besides the one that replaces the male protagonist with a female version. It’s something that the Inner Sphere was totally unprepared for and possesses more firepower than even most assault ‘Mechs in MW5

I of course speak of the venerable Mad Cat. Or Timber Wolf, if you’re nasty.

And not just any Mad Cat. This mod is based on the original art by Steve Venters and has been modeled and textured by the “supremely talented” Alan Yeoh. It’s basically the best a Mad Cat has ever looked in a MechWarrior game.

Art tells me that the plan is to have the Mad Cat out by Christmas with the Vulture and Thor arriving in early 2022.

Lady Centrella Has Now Ported MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries To Tabletop

MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries

A little while ago, I interviewed Riley Centrella about her massive project to convert Hairbrained’s BATTLETECH into tabletop rules. Now she’s done it again but this time for the best MechWarrior game of all time, MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries. And best of all, you can download the whole thing for free.

This is certainly not a campaign for the faint of heart. It contains 43 Operations spread of a 98-page document. There are 43 maps, a special record sheet for the possibly fictional Commando COM-7X, and 165 Record Sheets for all ‘Mechs, vehicles, aerospace fighters, and battle armor featured in the original game.

You can download the whole thing from Magistrex Centrella’s Patreon. So long as I get to play Deadeye’s lines during the campaign, I’ll be happy.

Robert Thurston, Author of The Jade Phoenix Trilogy, Has Passed Away

We’ve lost a legend this month. Robert D. Thurston, author of the Jade Phoenix Trilogy, I Am Jade Falcon, Freebirth, and Falcon Rising, died on October 20 at the age of 84. A decades-long career that spanned over 40 stories, Thurston provided a unique voice to BattleTech that powered some of its most memorable and defining characters. 

“In his writing and thought, he was interested in exploring alternate worlds,” his family wrote in his obituary. “We hope he is finding some good ones now.”

You can read more about Robert’s life in Catalyst’s tribute here

Personally, I will always remember Thurston’s works as just being unique amongst BattleTech fiction. He brought a nobility and clarity to the Jade Falcons that has yet to be matched by any other author. Robert, you will be missed.

Microsoft Can’t Bring Back MechAssault Because Of Engine Troubles

MechAssault

Xbox recently celebrated its 20th-anniversary event by re-releasing a ton of old Xbox and Xbox 360 games via its backward compatibility program. Although there were quite a few big names on this list of over 70 titles, MechAssault and MechAssault 2 weren’t among them. Worse still, this was Xbox’s last hurrah at updating old games for modern hardware, which means we’re probably never going to see an updated version of MechAssault

Which is a bit strange considering MechAssault was basically one of the original Xbox’s launch titles. You’d think that they’d have a vested interest in preserving their legacy. Well, it turns out they tried, but there were problems with getting MechAssault’s engine to work. 

Answering ArtOfBattleTech, MechAssault game writer and designer Tom Dowd said that early iterations with Xbox Live didn’t play well with the game’s engine, so to get it to work Microprose had to cobble something together that just fell apart when modern Xbox folks tried to make it work on something like the Xbox Series X. Fixing it would involve a lot more than just mere emulation, so Microsoft cut its losses and just gave up on it. 

A shame for MechAssault fans, but don’t fret! There’s a new MechAssault game being made by some very talented individuals that you can play for free

A Lego Catapult You Can Build In Less Time It Takes To Read This Article

Catapult-Lego

Most of the Lego sets that I showcase have been fairly intricate affairs with hundreds, if not thousands of individual pieces. Here we have something that you could probably snap together in less than 20 minutes. And it still looks damn good.

This Catapult diorama comes courtesy of xig_brick, who also posted the instructions too. If you’re not into the Catapult, you can always go for the Marauder, although it’s somewhat larger. And if you don’t have the pieces because you’re a grown-ass adult who doesn’t have a bajillion Lego sets lying around (not me, of course), then you can purchase the pieces individually from Lego. Although the future is fast turning into the cyberpunk dystopia that games like Shadowrun warned us about, at least we have Lego on-demand. 

Unreleased Prototype Turn-Based BattleTech Game Debuts After 23 Years Of Waiting

Last, but not least, we’ve got a special Thanksgiving treat for you. 

MrTalida has just published a prototype build for a canceled turn-based BattleTech PC game that was being worked on by FASA Interactive and spearheaded by Asylum Entertainment way back in 1998. Unlike MechCommander, this would be a more faithful adaptation of the turn-based mechanic of tabletop BattleTech, with little digital ‘Mechs shooting over a hex-grid digital battle map. 

The game was never announced and judging by the Powerpoint presentation I saw, FASA had trouble getting investors to put money into a turn-based PC game. A shame, since then we might’ve had something before Hairbrained’s fabulous BATTLETECH from 2018. 

Over on the archive site is a Milestone 8 build of the game that was created in January 1998. The build comes with a playable scenario, ‘Mech editor, and map editor, but it doesn’t have all the planned ‘Mechs or assets. The final product was supposed to have 120 ‘Mechs, over 40 vehicles and infantry types, and have both multiplayer and a single-player campaign.

Getting this to work will be tricky as it was designed for Windows 98. I’m no expert, but you’ll need to at least start with an emulator and then cross your fingers. Even if you get it to work it’s still a prototype and not a finished game, so don’t expect much. But it is a very interesting look at what might have been. 

And that’s it for November! Join us next month as we go over your favorite Holiday-themed gift ideas. Although by then it’ll probably be way too late to purchase a gift and have it shipped in time for Christmas. Ah well.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Bad ‘Mechs – Quickdraw

Courtesy of Eldonious

“This thing is supposed to replace my Rifleman?” Sgt. Browning asked with incredulity. Although not intended for fire support, Browning had grown attached to his Rifleman’s imposing profile and powerful long-range armament. 

The tech never even looked up from her clipboard. “Yup.” 

“Doesn’t look like much,” Browning offered. “Does it have more guns?”

“Nope.” 

Browning’s look of incredulity turned into an outright frown. “Okay, how’s it for heat?” 

“Toasty if you use those jets.” 

“Armor?” 

The tech sighed and flipped a page on her clipboard. “A little more, but not by much.” 

“Range?” 

“You got a ten-pack of LRMs,” the tech scanned another page quickly, then shrugged. “The rest is medium lasers and a few SRMs.” 

Browning balked at the loss of so much firepower. “What the hell is this thing good for then?!”

“You can jump.” Another shrug. “And you can keep up with a Trebuchet. That’s about it.” 

The sergeant nearly gripped his neurohelmet hard enough to crack its casing. “Fuck that, I’ll keep the Rifleman.” 

“It’s already been reassigned,” the tech replied, already ducking to avoid the neurohelmet that had just been thrown at her. 

Courtesy of Alex Iglesias

A heavy ‘Mech that tries to do everything and thus does nothing particularly well, the Quickdraw began life as a replacement for the Rifleman, a ‘Mech that saw itself being used in roles it was never intended. The Rifleman was designed as an anti-aircraft ‘Mech, but Star League regiments fell in love with the design and started using them for everything from fire support to front-line assaults. It’s a testament to the Rifleman’s design that it was able to be employed in such a diverse array of roles, but its shortcomings also became clearer and clearer as the decades wore on.

Hoping to build on the massive success of the Awesome, Technicron Manufacturing submitted a proposal for a 60-ton ‘Mech with greater armor (although just barely) and better maneuverability than the Rifleman in order to replace it in front-line roles. Although the Quickdraw‘s armament was considered light for a heavy ‘Mech and much lighter than the beloved Rifleman, its array of medium lasers and missiles allowed it to engage at multiple ranges but maintained the bulk of its firepower at medium to close range where the ‘Mech was intended to operate.

The Quickdraw‘s speed and jump jets allowed it to keep up with many light designs and offered a range of tactical flexibility than the Rifleman did not. That said, the Quickdraw was not an especially fast machine and with its comparatively light armor and weapons complement, unwary pilots could find themselves in situations where their machine was grossly outmatched.

Perhaps most telling of the Quickdraw’s flaws was that it would often find itself crippled or stripped of armor after the first salvo from a Rifleman, while the Quickdraw’s return fire routinely failed to penetrate the frontal glacis of the Rifleman (not so its back armor, which was notoriously paper-thin). 

Quickdraw MechWarriors learned to lean into their machine’s strengths during combat. The Quickdraw was extremely fast for a 60-ton ‘Mech of the era, and pilots learned to appreciate not only the Quickdraw‘s jump jets but also its highly-articulated ankle actuators, which allowed the ‘Mech to stand firmly on slopes that would have sent other ‘Mechs toppling to the ground. 

Unfortunately, those same ankle actuators would prove to be just as much a weakness as a strength. The actuators themselves were fragile to the point where stray weapons fire could damage the ankle and leave the Quickdraw immobile. Once this information got out, MechWarriors learned to shoot for the ankles on a Quickdraw to earn a quick kill.

Another big issue with the Quickdraw was heat. The Quickdraw‘s 13 heatsinks were insufficient to dissipate heat from a prolonged firefight, often requiring the pilot to stagger their medium lasers and jumps or risk a catastrophic ammunition explosion. This flaw was largely solved by the introduction of the QKD-5M model with its double heatsinks in the 3050s, but Technicron never quite figured out a solution for the Quickdraw’s delicate ankles.

Ultimately, the Quickdraw never actually replaced the Rifleman. Units were to begin phasing out Riflemans for Quickdraws in 2779, but very few had been assigned to regiments before the outbreak of the First Succession War. House militaries were desperate for hardware and the Quickdraw soon found itself fighting alongside Riflemans along with many other designs. 

Unlike many manufacturers, Technicron was able to escape the Succession Wars largely intact and maintained Quickdraw production throughout centuries of conflict. As a result, Quickdraws can be found in all House militaries, as well as lesser houses, mercenary units, periphery bandits, and everything in between. A workhorse design that failed to live up to its expectations, the Quickdraw nevertheless managed to thrive in a turbulent galaxy where many other ‘Mechs didn’t.

On a personal note, the Quickdraw is one of my favorite bad ‘Mechs. It’s not one of the worst ‘Mechs out there by any measure, but it falls victim to the problem of jump jets on a heavy ‘Mech. That’s five tons that could have been better spent on more guns and armor, and indeed, the first thing I do with my Quickdraws in MechWarrior 5, BATTLETECH, or any other game is to remove those jets for exactly that. 

Keep on telling me which bad ‘Mechs you want covered, but I think next month’s Bad ‘Mech will be the baddest of them all.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For October, 2021

The cold and rainy weather has finally struck Southern Ontario, so that means it’s October. The spooky season gets dismally grey where I live, which is only appropriate for the spookiest of non-holidays.

Here’s hoping your personal pandemic experience has gotten to the point where it feels like razor blades and needles are the larger concern with trick or treating than catching COVID. Get vaccinated if you haven’t already, and keep an eye on the relevant medical organizations about potential boosters.

And now, on to your regularly scheduled BattleTech news for October 2021.

The Clans Might Be Coming To MechWarrior 5

This technically happened at the end of September, but by then I’d already hit publish on that month’s news blast, so we’re pushing it into October. A datamine into the most recent MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries patch revealed some interesting new content might be coming to the game, and it involves the Clans

Am I surprised? Well, not that there’s a Clan Invasion potentially coming, but that it’s happening so soon. We’ve only just wrapped up the Fourth Succession War with the Kestrel Lancers expansion and now we’re talking about a Clan invasion.

First, the evidence, courtesy of a Reddit post from neverfearIamhere. The datamine reveals references to the invading Clans, including Clan Wolf, Jade Falcon, Ghost Bear, and Smoke Jaguar, as well as the long list of non-invading Clans. There are also references to the Bushwacker, Hellspawn, Night Gyr, Osiris, Fafnir, Piranha, Thanatos, and Uziel. More recent tech like MRMs, Light PPCs, and Rocket Launchers are also mentioned. The weird thing here is that tech is from the 3060s while the Clan Invasion is supposed to be in the ’40s and ’50s. 

The other weird thing is how often PGI has stated that MechWarrior 5 wouldn’t go into the Clan Invasion, and indeed this sentiment was repeated on a recent No Guts No Galaxy video (which made it sound like MechWarrior 6 was more likely). But I gotta mention that datamines are not necessarily indicative of anything. There could be any number of reasons why that code is in MechWarrior 5, including potentially other DLC packs that bring the timeline into the FedCom Civil War era. I don’t know and PGI hasn’t said anything. But it’s there, and that’s maybe something. 

MechWarrior 5 Female Protagonist Mod Adds Much-Needed Representation

MW5 Female Protagonist with Voice-Over Mod
Watch this video on YouTube.

I always found it a bit odd that MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries doesn’t have an option for a female player character. I mean, it’s 2021; pretty much every franchise out there has gotten the message that gender equality in gaming is a good thing, and they’ve written their games so that the player can choose between male or female. Some have even started giving players the option of falling somewhere else on the gender spectrum.

Being able to play a trans MechWarrior is probably a little more than PGI can handle at the moment (more on that later), but c’mon guys. There are plenty of female MechWarriors in BattleTech, and fans should have the option to play as one.

But where PGI fails, modders provide. The Female Protagonist mod not only adds a female player portrait but also replaces the male voice lines with new ones. The voice is AI-generated so there’s a certain robotic monotone quality, but as mod creator SankaraSamsara says in the mod description, “It’s better than nothing, I think.” 

You can choose between several new player portraits including a few characters from Harebrained’s BATTLETECH as well as Yelena from Deus Ex and even Dr. Kynes from Dune. There’s also a “they/them” pronoun version of the mod that replaces all the appropriate pronouns in the text.

This mod is still in active development, and the creator has already confirmed on Twitter that there are plans to add real voice acting in a future update. Stay tuned. 

Renegade HPG Remasters TRO 3057 Cover

Renegade HPG collaborated with Emil of @ArtofBattleTech fame as well as Jayden Morris to remaster the classic cover of the TRO 3057 DropShips, JumpShips, and WarShips. This here’s the Leviathan, Clan Ghost Bear’s gigantic combined dreadnaught/transport ship. Emil resized the image using some fancy AI upscaling, while Jayden redid the Ghost Bear logo. Renegade HPG brought it all together in one tight little package for Gallery 3025. Which, by the way, you should join if you’ve got the funds.  

Catalyst Provides Update On Clan Invasion Packages

The question many BattleTech fans have been asking Catalyst lately has largely been “where’s my stuff!?” It’s a fair question to ask, given how long they’ve been waiting for their Clan Invasion packages to arrive. 

According to Catalyst, over 90% of Clan Invasion shipments have been delivered without a hitch as of the beginning of the month. That said, there are still quite a few folks who haven’t received their minis, pins, challenge coins, and the all-important UrbanMech plushie. 

Most of them are apparently in the EU. This is due to the fact that the Chinese factories creating the Clan Invasion box sets sent the entirely wrong box sets. Then there was a series of warehouse delays and logistical delays, and then GenCon… and more stuff. You can read the whole thing over on the Clan Invasion Kickstarter page

Bottom line, Catalyst is now all-hands-on-deck ensuring that everyone gets everything they ordered. At the beginning of the month, they received a report on all non-delivered items and will ensure there’s a separate shipment for everything that was missed. 

“We know there is still a great deal of work to do to get us through Wave 2,” Catalyst wrote, “and to keep fixing issues that have cropped up along the way (like Russia!) and on which we will continue to work hard until we have fulfilled and satisfied all 12,000 active backers.”

Of course, Catalyst has more than just Clan Invasion boxes to ship. They’ve recently gotten started with the fourth and final cycle of ilClan BattleMech Recognition Guides with Volume 19, and there are also these interesting figures of what appears to be a Stormcrow Alt. Config B. Prime variants are usually not my preferred OmniMechs, so variant figures are likely to be a pretty good moneymaker.

Living Legends 2 Looks Like It’s Coming Along Nicely

Living legends 2: Atlas boarding and power up scene concept.
Watch this video on YouTube.

Remember Living Legends 2? The team behind the MechWarrior: Living Legends successor recently posted a development update showing several new ‘Mech models in Unreal 5. There’s a Bushwacker, a Marauder, and of course, a big bad Atlas, all of which look fairly close to their classic TRO designs. 

So far, the team says they have a functioning game prototype, but everything is basically placeholders. They’ve got a fully animated Bushwacker and all the game’s systems and netcode working, but there are some systems that haven’t been implemented like ammunition and heat. 

But things definitely seem to be progressing at a pace far faster than you’d expect for what essentially amounts to a fan project. These industrious folks have even got a Steam page set up, although it remains invisible until they’re ready for open alpha testing. 

Oh, and they’ve also changed the name yet again to Living Legends 2: Armored Combat. It sort of evokes the BattleTech name without using the actual trademark. As always, we’ll be keeping a close eye on these guys to see how Living Legends 2 shakes out. 

Fast Food Of The 31st Century

Fast Food chains in the Battletech universe from battletech

Brutetuba shared this little ditty on Reddit recently, and I love it. I don’t know where this idea came from, and I don’t know how it was turned into the tiniest piece of game architecture I’ve ever seen, but it’s great and you all need to burn down Catalyst’s inbox to turn this into an official product. And y’all need to tell me where I can get a tiny hat for an UrbanMech. That shit’s dope.

MechWarrior Online Is Giving Away A Lot Of Stuff This Halloween

We got a lot to talk about in MechWarrior Online, so I’m going to try and speed through it. 

First up, the annual rewards program has been announced. If you played at least 100 matches between November 24, 2020, and now, you’ll get five million C-bills, a ‘Mech Bay, and 100 GSP. If you paid any amount of money in the same time period, you get a free UrbanMech UM-R80 and an additional 100 GSP. Buy any of the new player packs, bungles, DropShip Deals, ‘Mech Packs, or basically anything other than the recent Stryker, Warden, Hunter, or Predator packs, you get a free Viper VPR-F. Buy any of those previously excluded packs and you’ll get an Atlas AS7-K3, and if you bought one from each of these categories, you’ll get two decals, three Boosted cockpit items, and 200 additional GSP. 

Next, MechWarrior Online recently released its October patch which brought the Hunter Pack and the remastered Viridian Bog. The map was redesigned with feedback from the Cauldron to be more open, have more sightlines, and offer greater tactical freedom for the two teams to try and flank opponents. Several weapon systems and equipment have been tweaked, and we’ve got a brand new quirk pass for several ‘Mech designs. Commandos, Jenners, Vipers, Phoenix Hawks, Warhammers, Marauders, Stalkers, Marauder IICs, Corsairs, and Fafnirs have all had their quirks adjusted, so check out the patch notes to see if your preferred ride has some new tricks up its sleeve. 

And of course with Halloween around the corner, there’s a new event and a new free Mech. Loot bags are back, which rewards random goodies for every 100 match score you accumulate in each match. Crack open 250 bags and you’ll get a Hellspawn HSN-8P and a ‘Mech Bay along whatever items you receive in each loot bag. Events like these are great ways to restock your ‘Mech Credits and C-bills for free-to-play players, so be sure to play a few games and grind out that Hellspawn.

MechWarrior Online Says Trans Rights After A Bit Of Convincing

PGI did their very best to get canceled earlier this month after they denied a MechWarrior Online competitive team the use of the words “Trans Rights” and “Trans Fights” in their team names. Daalpacagirl outlined the whole situation in a long-winded Reddit post, along with screenshots of emails between herself and a MechWarrior Online admin, but the TLDR is that she tried to get into the MechWarrior Online World Championships with two teams called “KDCM V: Trans Rights” and “KDCM VI: Trans Fights,” and the PGI admin said “no.” 

What was truly bizarre was PGI’s explanation for declining the team names, saying MechWarrior Online was not an “appropriate environment” for “real-life political discussions.” PGI allowed the teams to go ahead and compete, just without the “Trans Fights” and “Trans Rights” tags. 

The whole thing blew up on social media with PGI co-founder Russ Bullock stepping into the fracas with some pretty awful things to say in support of the GM that denied the team names, calling the whole thing a “tough situation.” If you’d like to see what response THAT got him, PC Gamer picked out a few good examples.

It was at this point that live operations manager Matt Newman had to step in and eat crow, issuing a public apology on the official MechWarrior Online website and remedying the situation personally by restoring the removed team names. 

“Our actions obviously hurt and offended people, I apologize. We will do better,” Newman promised. “With the understanding that trans rights is not a political issue, we will allow the team to use either of their original choices as their team name.”

To her credit, Daalpacagirl graciously accepted the apology on Twitter and promised to continue competing in MechWarrior Online. Russ, meanwhile, wisely remained silent following PGI’s apology, although he offered no apology himself. Sort of explains the lack of a female protagonist in MechWarrior 5, huh? 

I Don’t Actually Love Hunchbacks, But I Kinda Love Hunchbacks

Finished a new Mech illustration, here’s a Hunchback for your enjoyment! from battletech

I know that my signoff is a Hunchback serving up flapjacks, and on more than one occasion I’ve commissioned art of Hunchbacks doing stuff like stirring cauldrons and experiencing explosive dysfunction (to the point where you could accuse me of trying to rebrand Sarna’s signature ‘Mech as the Hunchback), but it’s not because I have any particular love for Hunchbacks. I don’t really like Hunchbacks--they’re tough and dangerous, but they’re kind of a one-trick pony. They’re very good at that trick, but I tend to prefer ‘Mechs that don’t get ranged by a Whitworth

But I also can’t help but appreciate Hunchbacks for their iconic looks. They’re both instantly recognizable by any BattleTech fan and they’re incredibly versatile for their humanoid shape and fully articulated hands. For this reason, it’s easy to make a Hunchback look interesting and dynamic. 

Reddit user nickelangelo2009 showcases the Hunchback‘s dynamism perfectly with their newest illustration. This MechWarrior is very clearly trying to conserve their Hunchie’s limited ammunition, but that’s fine because blazing away with all three lasers still looks cool.

And that’s it! Join us next month as we stop being spooky and we start getting somber before the arrival of winter, my least favorite season.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy. 

stay syrupy

Community Outreach – Mark Nicholson, 3D Artist At MechWarrior Online Developer PGI

Courtesy of PGI

Welcome back to another edition of Community Outreach. This week, Sarna sat down to talk to Mark Nicholson, 3D artist at PGI, and one of the architects turning ‘Mechs from mere ink on a page (or pixels in a digital image) into an actual moving, stomping, Autocannon-blasting giant robot.

Mark has been talking about his work over on the MechWarrior Online forums revealing some of the finer aspects of his job, but I wanted to get a little bit more into some of the technical issues of building ‘Mechs designed for customization. MechWarrior Online is the first MechWarrior game that really changes the look of your ‘Mech as you change its loadout, which makes building modular 3D models an enormous technical challenge. I find the whole thing fascinating, and I hope you do too. Enjoy.

Continue reading

Bad ‘Mechs – Assassin

courtesy of Eldonious Rex

Welcome to a new series here on Sarna I’m cleverly calling “Bad ‘Mechs.” It’s a deep dive into some of BattleTech’s least appreciated, least effective, but most awesome designs. You might think some of the ‘Mechs are completely undeserving of the Bad ‘Mechs title but don’t worry–even bad ‘Mechs have a story to tell.

We’re going to kick things off with one of my favorite Bad ‘Mechs, the Assassin: a light ‘Mech hunter that was often no better than the light ‘Mechs it was ostensibly designed to hunt. Despite being born of corporate fraud to having the tightest cockpit of any ‘Mech in the Inner Sphere, It took over four centuries for the Assassin to finally meet its end, and man, what a wild ride that was. Let’s take a brief trip down memory lane and remember the Assassin.

Waiting in an underground parking garage, Jenson couldn’t help but feel the clandestine nature of his business was entirely appropriate for a ‘Mech called “Assassin.” Maltex Corporation would never officially condone his actions, but Jenson knew the project was in trouble. Maltex could try to woo SLDF procurement officers with performance reports that stank so bad that even he could tell they were bullshit, but none of that would matter.

Money talks. Money gets you noticed by the right people. Not the official kind, or the kind that cared about budget estimates and cost projections; anyone who could put two and two together knew there was no way Maltex could produce the Assassin at the same price per unit as a Stinger. The unofficial kind. The illicit kind. The kind that gets exchanged underground in the middle of the night.

Which is exactly where Jenson was, and exactly where his contact would be in the next 45 seconds.

Sure enough, a black hovercar approached the parking spot where Jenson was standing. No words were exchanged. The black tinted window rolled down, an arm wearing a pinstripe sleeve poked out, and Jenson handed it the briefcase. Then it sped off back up the ramp and into the cool, damp night.

Jenson let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. The project would be saved, the Assassin would get made, and he’d make his Maltex overseer a very happy lady.

To understand the Assassin, one has to understand the heady days of the Star League. With one central, major military power, the military-industrial complex had just one place to turn to for funding, and it was often easier to bribe one’s way to a new ‘Mech contract than to create a quality product. Star League procurement was sensationally corrupt at its height, with corporations greasing palms more often than a thirteen-year-old after midnight.

Hence, we get the Assassin, a ‘Mech that fulfilled a niche that never really existed to begin with. Maltex Corporation marketed the Assassin as a replacement for the Stinger and Wasp, proposing it as a cheaper and more cost-effective alternative. They managed to convince Star League procurement of this through false budget reports and overly optimistic service life projections–the actual price of the Assassin was over twice that of the Stinger or Wasp it was meant to replace.

Costs aside, much of the Assassin‘s marketing centered around how the ‘Mech would out-perform its intended replacements, and in this regard, the marketing wasn’t too far off. With greater speed, jump capacity, armor, and weapons, the Assassin could dictate the terms of engagement with either the Stinger or Wasp, assuring victory in the hands of any competent pilot. This led to the Assassin‘s undeserved reputation as a light ‘Mech hunter.

Even when the Assassin was introduced, several Star League-era light ‘Mechs could outrun, out-shoot, or outlast the Assassin. The Commando offered nearly as much armor and speed but far surpassed the Assassin in firepower. Both the Mongoose and Hussar could outrun the Assassin, and even the humble UrbanMech had immense firepower and armor in comparison, albeit at the cost of near-immobility.

A century later the Assassin was falling behind in most areas. The Draconis Combine’s new Jenner equaled the Assassin in speed but far surpassed it in firepower. The Valkyrie could out-trade LRM fire with the Assassin until both their ammunition bins ran dry, at which point the Valkyrie‘s tougher armor would carry the day in a direct engagement. The Panther‘s PPC could blow holes in the Assassin‘s armor while enduring what little return fire it could muster.

But the Assassin would lead a charmed life. The chassis wouldn’t see large-scale engagement until 2980, when the Free Worlds League repelled a Fed Suns assault on Rochelle during the Third Succession War. Taking less damage than their slower comrades (which was probably better explained by selection bias than any true durability on the Assassin‘s part), the Assassin‘s reputation remained intact even as spare parts meant that House militaries fielded fewer and fewer Assassins as the Succession Wars dragged on. By the time the Clans invaded, there were very few Assassins left.

Maltex would later attempt to revive the chassis during the FedCom Civil War. The ASN-30 variant replaced the missile weapons with an LB-X AC/5 while the medium laser was upgraded with an extended range model. However, during those combat-heavy years, Maltex found that performance was the only metric that truly mattered to Lyran military procurement in the middle of a war, and the lightly armed Assassin simply couldn’t compete on the modern battlefield.

Hellespont Mech Works would attempt to field a further upgraded ASN-99 with Stealth Armor and a sword, but by then the Assassin‘s luck had run out and no new variants have been produced since the Jihad.

The Assassin leaves a complicated legacy, proving that with the right connections even a bad idea can become a highly profitable reality. But time has a way of ending lies, and so time eventually caught up with the Assassin and ended it.

Don’t think the Assassin deserved to be a Bad ‘Mech? Let me know in the comments, and also let me know what next Bad ‘Mech deserves a showcase.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For September, 2021

courtesy of PGI

September will be a month to remember. This month, not only did many of us receive our Clan Invasion Kickstarter packages, but we’re also getting a very special present in MechWarrior 5. For the first time in a MechWarrior game, we’re going to be able to play giant rock ’em sock ’em robots.

And yes, I’m aware Hairbrained’s BATTLETECH did melee combat first (and also allowed shoulder charges and mule kicks, too), but there’s something viscerally satisfying about punching a ‘Mech in first-person. It’s going to be so sweet.

As usual, we got a lot to talk about so we’re not going to dwell too much on the arrival of melee combat in a MechWarrior game for the first time, ever. Don’t worry, we’ll pick that thread up later. For now, on to the news!

The MechWarrior Online World Championships Are Back

The MechWarrior Online World Championship Series is back, baby! This was technically announced at the end of August, but we’re pushing this into the September news just due to how amazing it is. 

The last time we saw an officially sanctioned competitive MWO tournament was back in 2019 when PGI held an invitational-style tournament due to falling player numbers. The 2020 tournament never happened, which was unsurprising given how PGI was hard at work on MechWarrior 5 and the pandemic was putting a stop to many game events and tournaments.

But that’s all in the past. The MWO Champion Series returns in 2021 in collaboration with the MWO Comp community, a group of die-hard MechWarriors who kept the competitive spirit alive while MechWarrior Online went through its Cauldron-fueled metamorphosis

The rules seem to be mostly the same as previous championships, with 8v8 games featuring all tech and ‘Mechs available with a maximum of 3 ‘Mechs in each class with no duplicates allowed. A 480-ton maximum is also applied, so there’s no loading up on heavies and assaults allowed.

The competitive queue is already available to all MechWarrior Online players who are part of a competitive team, with the queue open on Thursdays and Saturdays. The competitive queue closes on October 18, and then round one of the double-elimination finals begins on October 30 with the grand finals on December 11. Prizes will be both in-game and real-life cash prizes. 

It’s going to be a very interesting tournament with all the changes that the Cauldron have instituted. New builds, new ‘Mechs, and new strategies will be employed to account for the refreshed maps that have arrived throughout 2021. It’ll also be exciting to see if there are any new faces that have arrived in the competitive scene thanks to MechWarrior Online’s renaissance.

But speakin’ of new maps, a brand new refreshed Caustic map arrived on September 21’s patch, along with another quirk pass. ‘Mechs like the Griffin, Enforcer, Thanatos, Ebon Jaguar, and Rifleman are all getting revamped quirks along with many, many more designs. Check out the patch notes to see if your favorite ‘Mech just got a facelift that’ll bring it into the current MechWarrior Online meta.

See The Timber Wolf In All Its Glorious Variations

SU-SMD recently started on an expedition to draw every version of the Timber Wolf, from Prime to Z, along with unique camo schemes for various Clans employing each design. I like ’em, since you hardly ever see a Timber Wolf other than the Prime variant, with its big, boxy launchers and paired laser pods. I can’t wait till we get to the U alternate configuration for some underwater Mad Cat action [UPDATE: it’s everything I imagined.]

Sarna Unveils A Searchable Map Of The Known Universe

First off, I want to make it clear that I had absolutely nothing to do with this herculean effort. That credit all falls to Sarna Cartographer Gruese, founder and editor-in-chief Nic, as well as the team members of Operation: Doneve. This searchable map will be made available on the main site as well as in the Discord, which you can find here.

This map covers the Inner Sphere and the rest of the known universe right up until the year 3151. Additionally, each planet will have its own centered map which allows you to see which factions owned it during which period. Just click the little arrow over the map to bring yourself forward or backward through BattleTech‘s eras.

You can see the whole map of the Inner Sphere here, and get an example of the planetary-focused maps by looking at Park Place here. It took over 6 years to catalog over 3,000 planets/systems, but the results I’d say are worth it. 

MechWarrior 5 Generated 160,000 Sales For Steam Release

We don’t know how many copies MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries sold when it was first released on the Epic Games Store, but we do know how many it sold on Steam and Xbox. This comes courtesy of a recent financial report from EG7, developer PGI’s new Swedish overlords. An additional 160,000 units were sold when MechWarrior 5 was re-released on Steam and Xbox in May, with 75,000 Heroes of the Inner Sphere DLC purchases on top of that. About 81% of those sales were on Steam, so Xbox/GOG and Epic accounted for the remaining 30,000 in new sales.

That might not sound like a lot compared to all the many million-unit franchises out there, but EG7 considers this a financial success, and that’s all that really matters. EG7 will foot the bill for marketing and publishing, while PGI focuses on making new DLC and adding features to MechWarrior 5--such as the recently-announced Legend of the Kestrel Lancers. We’ll dive into that in just a second, but first… 

MechWarrior 5 VR Mod Goes Into Beta

Virtual reality compatibility was initially touted as one of MechWarrior 5‘s features back in the day, but the complexities of VR proved too much for PGI’s small development team. The feature was cut ahead of the game’s Epic release and there hasn’t been much discussion about it since then. Perhaps VR will get official support in the future, but in the meantime, we have mods.

Specifically, we have VRWarrior from modder Kitt, now available on Nexus Mods. This mod provides support for Oculus, HTC, SteamVR, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets to experience MechWarrior as never before. 

As someone who only recently got their first VR headset, there is nothing that compares to the level of immersion you achieve with VR, and especially for games that put you in some sort of vehicle. Games like Beatsaber and Superhot are fun and all, but when you can only move a few feet in any given direction before you hit an invisible wall, it sort of ruins the experience.

Sitting down in a chair with a headset and a game controller doesn’t have that problem. What VR does is allow you to move your head and look in the direction your head is pointing. This makes you feel like you’re really in the cockpit of a giant death machine, and that’s a feeling that’s difficult to replicate outside of VR. 

However, VRWarrior isn’t perfect. The mod only works when you actually get into a mission, with all the in-between menus and dropship scenes still happening on a flat monitor. It’s also still in very early beta, so expect there to be bugs (many of them are already noted on the Known Issues portion of the mod’s page). But either way you look at it, I’m excited for VR to finally find its way to MechWarrior

Gallery 3025 Brings Us Yet More Great Art

A little while ago, we saw this Archer as a work in progress, but now Jayden Morris has unveiled the finished product on Gallery 3025. It’s pretty amazing, and as always, I encourage you to assist Gallery 3025 by subscribing so they can bring even more precious BattleTech art like this into the world.

MechWarrior 5 Punches Onto PlayStation Along With New Legend Of The Kestrel Lancers DLC

MechWarrior5: Mercenaries - Legend of the Kestrel Lancers Expansion Pack Features.
Watch this video on YouTube.

Big, big news for MechWarrior 5. First, the game is heading to PlayStation. PGI senior community manager Daeron “Bombadil” Katz made the announcement on the official PlayStation blog earlier this month, noting that this will be the first time that a MechWarrior game has come to a Sony-branded console since MechWarrior 2: Arcade Combat Edition for the PlayStation. 

Besides receiving full crossplay with both the PC and Xbox versions, the PlayStation 5 version of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries will include support for the DualSense controller’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. It’ll also come alongside a free update that lets players swap control of lancemate ‘Mechs during gameplay--another all-new feature never-before-seen in a MechWarrior game.

There’s also one other new feature coming with the free update. Fans noted in the PlayStation 5 announcement that there were some UI tweaks, and in the weapon’s table there was something labeled “HANDS.” A follow-up tweet from PGI offered a tongue-in-cheek “no comment,” but basically confirmed that the game was getting melee-based combat--a first for any MechWarrior game. 

Fast forward a week and PGI announced the new Legend of the Kestrel Lancers DLC will arrive at the same time as the PlayStation launch of MechWarrior 5. This new DLC brings MechWarrior 5‘s timeline up to the Fourth Succession War, which saw the newly-formed Federated Commonwealth steal away planets from House Kurita, House Marik, but mostly House Liao. This all-new 14-mission campaign will bring “unique mechanics, authored missions, and custom dialogue and cinematics.”

There’s also going to be new ‘Mech skins, 23 new ‘Mech variants (with a lot of Archers, for some reason), three new biomes (Jungle, Tourmaline Desert, and Megacity), five new random mission types (Scorched Earth, Objective Raid, Targeted Kill, Guard Duty, and Battlefield), and seven new quest lines including the new “all-out-war” battle scenario.

Also confirmed with the DLC features trailer was what MechWarriors have been asking for since as far back as I can remember. Melee combat will finally appear in a MechWarrior game.

It seems like it’ll be limited to just punching, which means only ‘Mechs equipped with fists will get the option to play rock ’em sock ’em robots. However, ‘Mechs with fists are the ones that often needed a little extra to feel the most impactful in the game. My Quickdraw suddenly shoots from bottom-tier to top-tier heavy ‘Mech, along with the Commando and Panther.

The mighty Atlas probably didn’t need the help, but I doubt anyone is going to complain. 

We still don’t know exactly how melee will work, but I’ll assume it’ll be like a weapon system that you can bind to a button and then launch a haymaker at anything that’s close enough. 

Lancemate ‘Mech-swapping and melee combat are included in the free update that launches alongside the PlayStation release of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. Legend of the Kestrel Lancers will include the new campaign, sidequests, and 23 new ‘Mech variants. Both are launching on September 23. 

Hatamoto-Chi Is The True ‘Mech Of The Samurai

I couldn’t go without featuring SU-SMD’s other BattleTech piece, a commission from Everything BattleTech’s David for a Hatamoto-Chi in full Draconis Combine samurai regalia. This is the sort of thing that reminds you that the Dracs have a lot of very pretty ‘Mechs so long as you can get over the retro-futuristic aesthetic.

BattleTech Is Slowly Being Turned Into Audiobooks

I’m not sure if any of y’all knew this since I didn’t know it until a helpful Sarna reader pointed it out, but BattleTech’s many novels are slowly being converted into audiobooks. You can head on over to Audible to see which books are currently available, such as The Gray Death Legion saga, Wolves on the Border, and A Bonfire of Worlds. I’m a big podcast guy, so audiobooks are a great thing to slip into my usual listening habits. 

The narrators for books already converted are fine, but I’m holding out for Tex’s rendition of Michael Stackpole’s Blood of Kerensky series. Tex made the announcement on the official Black Pants Legion YouTube page, adding he’s under an NDA so he really can’t offer too much in terms of comments. All he told me was that he needed to upgrade his computer hardware just to render the audio of sufficient quality and that he considers himself an “ultimate amateur” in the audiobook biz, so don’t get too excited.

He also wasn’t able to offer me a timeline, so patience is a virtue and all that.

BattleTech Returns To GenCon 2021

Catalyst Game Labs was at Gen Con this past weekend to showcase many of the new miniatures that arrived with the Clan Invasion Kickstarter Wave 2 packages. I got mine, by the way, and the minis are superb. I hope y’all get your packages in the coming weeks. 

To really make these new minis pop, CGL, Arcturus Rising, and Iron Wind Metal set up a diorama featuring a mixed landscape battle bookended by boxes of Clan Invasion ‘Mech Packs. You can even spot a few new Iron Wind sculpts in there, including the Goliath C, Sojourner, and Archer ARC-9W. 

We’ve got Guardian982 on Reddit to thank for these pictures, which also show a brand new official Annihilator hiding behind a building. The Iron Wind Metals ‘Mechs are available on its website now, while that Annihilator comes as part of a brand new Wolf’s Dragoons Assault Star Force Pack available from Barnes and Noble. This is an exclusive item, so you can ONLY get ’em from Barnes and Noble, and it’s a pre-order item too. Shipping for these Wolf’s Dragoons Force Packs starts December 15. Inside you’ll find the aforementioned Annihilator, but also a Rifleman, Archer, Blackjack, and a re-posed Timber Wolf.

And that’s in for September! Join us next month as we head into the spooky season with some more scary announcements.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For August, 2021

No jokes, no quips, no higgeltybips. We’re jumping straight to the straight facts today because there’s a load of BattleTech news this month and it ain’t gonna get spoon-fed to your eye holes with flowery language about summer rains. 

Besides, we got some big news to start us off.

Clan Invasion Wave 2 Shipping Has Started

If you’re like me, you probably thought that combining all your Clan Invasion toys into a single shipment made sense. This was before a global pandemic, a global shipping slowdown, and that stupid tanker that got stuck in the Suez Canal. Time makes fools of us all, as they say, and I felt very foolish indeed for my naive decision from so long ago.

That said, our long wait is almost over. Clan Invasion Kickstarter backers will soon be shipping their Second Wave packages over the next few weeks, with deliveries expected to last into September. Emails have already started going out for people to confirm their addresses. If your address hasn’t changed, no action is required, but you might as well double-check that nothing weird has happened between now and what feels like a lifetime ago. 

Sarna has a Discord!

A few months ago, an official Sarna Discord was created.  It’s already grown to over 750 members, and is a great way to connect with others in the BattleTech/Sarna/Wiki community.

The focus of the Discord is as an aid to the wiki — join the #research-desk, or as #wiki-questions.  If you have any technical problems with the site you can post in #wiki-issues.

Of course you’re welcome to discuss is #general BattleTech stuff or about #videogames-general — we love talking BattleTech.

Most of all, we aim to be friendly!  Join us!

To Serve And Protect

Urban Tyrant from battletech

Our first artist spotlight is PhearTheHam on Reddit, who posted this phenomenal image of an UrbanMech in a police uniform. We’re not sure which planet this Urbie is on, but whatever it is, it’s got an urban center with a crime problem big enough to warrant an AC/10

So Detroit, basically. 

Wolves Remakes Terra In Its Own Image

Another month, another Wolves update. This one brings back one of MechAssault 2‘s levels using some of the original assets completely new, custom assets [ed. PajamaBoy has corrected me--sorry about that!]. Terra certainly looks a lot different in the 31st century thanks to ComStar rule. This is what the world would look like if a telecom company took over. 

I gotta say, for a completely fan-made game, the Wolves folks are better at keeping their players up to date than most AAA developers. 

Eldonious Rex Makes The Best BattleTech Paperback Cover Ever

Oh, Eldonious Rex, you’ve done it again. Eldonious recently released his Marauder Print Pack, a collection of original prints that would look great on a wall or the cover of the latest CGL novel. Here we see a Marauder II taking on two Hatchetmen in close-quarters combat. It’s gotta be one of the most dynamic still images of ‘Mechs fighting I’ve ever seen. Catalyst, I hope you’ve hired this guy to be your cover artist.

You can get this image along with several other Marauder-themed items (including a coaster) over on Eldonious Rex’s commerce site here

MechWarrior: Living Legends Releases Update 0.14.4

Development continues on the old Living Legends even as a new standalone Living Legends is also under development. Honestly, there’s not a whole lot new in update 0.14.4 but there are a few notable fixes. 

First, ambient temperature wasn’t updating correctly on vehicle HUDs, so that was fixed, and damage modifiers that were allowing splash weapons to crack through a ‘Mech’s head armor have been tweaked to stop providing quick and undeserved kills. Third, all ASF build timers have been set to 45 seconds from 10 seconds to prevent players from just Kamikazeing into ground objectives over and over again and wasting team tickets. 

There’ve also been a few tweaks to the Kagoshima map, including added ammo buy zones on the side caps, rolling fog has been added to the lower part of the river valley, and the Karnov has been moved from the middle of the map. You should see these changes live on servers now.

Games Workshop Drives Warhammer Fans To BattleTech 

I was a little late for this drama because I’m not much of a Warhammer fan, but apparently, Games Workshop has declared war on its own fanbase. 

Earlier this month, Games Workshop updated its intellectual property guidelines to have a “zero tolerance” policy towards infringements. This includes “pirating books, using a 3D printer to make copies of their models, and a ban on fan animations,” according to an article from Vice

The weird part here is that even though I’m not a Warhammer 40K nerd, I’ve still seen the incredible fan-made Astartes series on YouTube. Games Workshop actually hired that guy as well as a bunch of other talented individuals to make original content for a new streaming platform that Games Workshop is launching on August 25, so you can imagine how awful it looks for Games Workshop to suddenly turn around and say “no more fan animations, now you gotta pay for it.”

This led r/GrimDank, the official Warhammer meme subreddit, to switch to entirely BattleTech memes for an entire week, driving untold hordes of Warhammer fans to discover BattleTech for the first time. 

Tex wrote up a lovely welcoming post on GrimDank, while others have taken to trying to map Warhammer 40K factions to BattleTech factions (it doesn’t always work, but the effort is what counts here). As a reporter, I just report the news, but if any former Warhammer fans are reading this, welcome! Sarna is your one-stop shop for all the BattleTech info that’s worth keeping (which is to say all of it), and I’m sure you’ll come to love it as much as every other BattleTech fan does.  

MechCommander Mercenaries Returns For MechWarrior 5

Mechcommander Mercs – yeah, I'm just teasing you all now.
Watch this video on YouTube.

You remember MechCommander Mercenaries? The MechWarrior 5: Mercs mod that turned the game from a game where you command a single lance from the cockpit of your personal ‘Mech to a game where you command an entire company from the safety of your DropShip? Well, the Steam release of MechWarrior 5 and its Heroes of the Inner Sphere DLC sort of broke the mod for a while, but version 1.3 fixes it, and it’s available now over on Nexusmods.

Besides being playable again, MechCommander Mercs 1.3 adds a few new features, such as squadmates sharing sensor data for the purposes of long-range missiles, new empty/low ammo message on the game’s UI, and has better ‘Mech AI that should be compatible with other mods (like the TT AI mods). 

However, there are still a bunch of things left to do, and also several known issues in the current release. For example, if you decide you’re tired of being a bystander and you want to get back into the action by entering back into Mason’s cockpit via the F6 button, you’ll break the Mason AI if you try to leave again. 

There are other issues too, so read up on the 1.3 release notes before installing. 

Assassins Are Bad, But This Art Is Great

I love the Assassin. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a bad ‘Mech; it’s under-gunned and under-armored compared to anything in its class, and it’s not particularly effective in its singular role of hunting down and killing light ‘Mechs. It’s a poorly designed ‘Mech built by corporations that were looking to milk the Star League military-industrial complex and it honestly hasn’t gotten any better in the half-millennia since its introduction. 

But man, it just looks so damned good, and I just love me a recon-in-force ‘Mech that can fly (even though there are many, MANY other ‘Mechs that can do it better than the Assassin). 

So thank you, fed0tich, for indulging in my unabashed love of the Assassin. Please feel free to do so again at your earliest convenience. 

Tex, Stackpole, Pardoe, And HPD Renegade Talk All Things BattleTech

Tex, Michael Stackpole, Blaine Lee Pardoe and Renegade HPG Talk BattleTech
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What do you get when you combine two of BattleTech‘s most prolific authors, Renegade HPG, and Tex? Two hours of the most fascinating conversation interspersed with some amusing anecdotes and Tex’s… unique brand of humor. This interview winds its way from the Minnesota Tribe and Clan Wolverine to the author’s favorite missed opportunities for cover art to some interesting “what if” scenarios. 

If you’ve got two hours to kill, you could do a lot worse than Renegade HPG’s latest interview. Check it out in the video here.

Battle Bound Answers Who Would Win In A Fight Between The Black Widow Company And The Gray Death Legion

Battletech: Battle Bound S2E2 - The Black Widow Company vs The Gray Death Legion
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I stumbled across Battle Bound in one of my many jaunts across the wider world of BattleTech, which is to say it popped up in the subreddit and thought it was amusing enough to watch while I work.

What we’ve got here is a group of creatives that are essentially jazzing up a BattleTech playthrough with some nice editing, some video game-inspired effects, and narration courtesy of the one and only Tex. Frankly, I’m OK with Tex becoming the voice of BattleTech--it’ll give George a break from doing Duncan Fisher all the time.

Before the main event, Battle Bound shows us a bit of BattleTech history with an unboxing of the Gray Death Legion and Black Widow Company‘s Japanese sourcebooks and even goes deep into each company’s dossier, outlining each pilot, machine, and even their ‘Mechs unique quirks. This is circa 3025, so ‘Mechs often went into battle with damaged systems that just couldn’t be fully repaired. 

If you want to see a BattleTech tabletop game made as exciting as it basically can be, this is it. 

Boston Dynamics Shows Off Precisely The Wrong Kind Of Robot We Should Be Making

Atlas | Partners in Parkour
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It’s a little sad to see current robotics going in the direction of small and dextrous rather than giant and lumbering, but I guess we gotta start with baby steps, right?

Boston Dynamics is a name we’ve covered before around these parts. Being on the forefront of robotics design means we’re just itching for the folks over in Boston to invent myomer musculature, fusion engines, gyroscopes capable of keeping an 80-ton death machine from toppling over. 

Instead, we get Atlas running a parkour course and then doing a backflip. It’s impressive, yes, but I think we need to collectively remind Boston Dynamics that we’re not at all interested in the cyberpunk future of robot ninjas. Give me giant stompy robots, thanks. 

MWO August Patch Brings The First ‘Mech Quirk Pass And Revamps HPG Map

MechWarrior Online’s renaissance continues with yet more updates! This time we’ve got a first quirk pass to several underused ‘Mechs as well as a massively updated HPG map. 

You can see the new HPG over on MechWarrior Online’s website, but it looks like the giant satellite dish has been pushed to the side and the actual battlefield is going to be a collection of ramps and technologically infused boxes. This might make the map seem a little more boring from an aesthetic perspective, but this is all to prevent games from devolving into two teams constantly circling around the HPG in a maneuver affectionately referred to as “NASCARing.” 

In MWO’s first quirk pass since the Cauldron took the reins of development, a collection of underused ‘Mechs is getting a much-needed performance boost in the form of quirks. Although somewhat controversial to BattleTech purists, quirks are basically MWO’s method of balancing BattleMech designs. Because ‘Mechs come in all different shapes and sizes, some are just easier to hit than others. Some have big arms that protect the torso, some have no arms at all, and some are just giant boxes that are so easy to hit that they turn into a walking bullet sponge on the battlefield. 

On top of that, certain ‘Mechs have better hardpoints, better omni-pods, or other non-equipment factors that just make them better or worse than other ‘Mechs in their weight class. Quirks give MechWarriors a reason to use a particular ‘Mech that’s just objectively worse without a little help. 

In this first quirk pass, the Locust, Mist Lynx, Adder, Cougar, Arctic Cheetah, Javelin, Incubus, Spider, Arctic Wolf, Hellspawn, Ice Ferret, Cicada, Centurion, Shadow Hawk, Hellfire, Thunderbolt, Nova Cat, Timber Wolf, Awesome, Victor, Highlander, Highlander IIC, Supernova, Mauler, Atlas, Kodiak, Dire Wolf, and Marauder II all get revamped quirks--mostly buffs, although a few quirks were removed or reduced to make way for the new quirk set. 

I’m particularly interested in the Ice Ferret quirks, as it’s one of my favorite ‘Mechs and it’s going to be quite a bit tougher following Tuesday’s patch. The Incubus and Cougar also look very interesting, as does the Centurion, which looks like it’ll suddenly become the tankiest medium ‘Mech in the game.

Both the new quirks and HPG remaster are live now, so go out there and blast people with some of these quirked-out ‘Mechs!

But as they say, that’s not all! There’s a free Shadow Hawk SDH-2K available for those who play the game even a moderate amount between now and August 9, and MWO community manager Daeron “Bombadil” Katz recently did an interview with No Guts No Galaxy’s Sean Lang to discuss the future of the game. There’s apparently going to be a huge announcement for both MW5 and MWO sometime next month, and PGI is also looking into restarting the MechWarrior Online World Championships and even hosting a virtual Mech_Con sometime in the future. 

Now This Is A Helluva BattleTech Map

I saw this pop up in my Twitter feed and just had to share. Longino Garcia’s battle map for the city of Olalla during the Battle of Tukayyid is nothing short of sublime.

And that’s it for August! Man, the time sure does fly. I’m still waiting on my Wave 2 order, but I hear someone at the door and it could be the mail person with my box now.

Oh, and have you checked out Sarna’s interview with BattleTech Line Developer Ray Arrastria? ‘Cause you should.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy