Author Archives: Sean

About Sean

Hooked on BattleTech at an early age, Sean honestly can't remember whether it was the cartoon, the serial novels or the short-lived TCG that did him in. Whatever it was, his passion for giant shooty robots never died, so now he writes about the latest and greatest in 'Mech related news.

Your BattleTech News Roundup For November 2020

There’s a sense of anticipation this November. We’re all looking forward to good things that are coming, whether they be Cyberpunk 2077, our Clan Invasion packages, covid vaccines, or even winter. Personally, I hate winter, but I acknowledge the fact that some people might like it.

I’m a terrible Canadian, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Anyway, we got a lot of big news this month so there’s no sense dilly-dallying. Let’s get to it!

MechWarrior 5 & MechWarrior Online Developer Piranha Games Purchased By Swedish Games Publisher EG7

EG7 Investor Presentation Q3 2020 - Acquires Piranha Games
Watch this video on YouTube.

Big news for MechWarrior 5 and MechWarrior Online fans. Piranha Games, the Vancouver-based developer that made both previously mentioned games, has been bought out by Swedish publisher EG7 for a purchase price of $31.4 million CAD.

There’s a couple of very interesting figures produced in the press release from EG7. PGI’s net sales for the one-year period prior to September 30, 2020, totaled $22.7 million, with MechWarrior 5 selling “hundreds of thousands of copies on Epic Games Store alone.” Over MechWarrior Online‘s lifetime, the game has generated $75 million CAD in net revenue, which sounds like it was quite profitable.

So who’s EG7? A cursory glance around the interwebs reveals them to be a relatively new Swedish games publisher with a history of working with some pretty big names in the games industry. They have their hand in a little bit of everything, but they mostly seem to handle marketing and publishing with a few developers under their umbrella. They’ve done marketing for Call of Duty, Destiny, Fortnite, and Angry Birds, so they’ve certainly handled IP way bigger than MechWarrior

For PGI, EG7 offers financial stability and resources to fund MechWarrior 5‘s future development and also get them started on their next big thing. In EG7’s third-quarter financial presentation, PGI President Russ Bullock revealed that his company will work on a “new live-service IP” in the next five years while simultaneously supporting MechWarrior 5

In return, EG7 gets a Candian developer with 65 employees as well as access to the MechWarrior license. Since PGI is going to be working on a new IP, this means EG7 might hand the next MechWarrior game over to a different developer to see what they come up with. Or they might sit on the IP and do nothing. EG7 gave no indication in their presentation of what they plan to do either way.

The press release states that PGI will continue to operate as an independent studio with the financial backing of EG7. That’s great news for PGI as it means they get to continue on as normal while still collecting salaries as they make their new live-service IP--whatever the heck that is. 

All we know for sure at this point is that whatever game PGI makes, it won’t be MechWarrior. I’ve reached out to EG7 to see if they’ve got any plans for the license.

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Coming To Xbox Series X/S In Spring 2021, Steam Release Delayed

Hot off the heels of that news, the MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries and its attendant DLC, Heroes of the Inner Sphere, won’t release December 10th on Steam as previously planned. PGI pretty much came right out and said that releasing on the same day as Cyberpunk 2077 was “less than optimal,” so a delay seems prudent. 

The new release window for Steam is Spring of 2021. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there’s going to be more than just a Steam release. MechWarrior 5 is now also going to be released on GOG.com and, surprisingly, the brand-new Xbox Series X/S consoles. 

I’m a PC gamer, so I don’t have one of Microsoft’s newfangled consoles, but it sure looks like it could run a game like MechWarrior 5 just fine. PGI notes this’ll be the first MechWarrior game on a home console since MechAssault 2, which is kinda neat. The extra time will also give the developers time to polish MechWarrior 5 until it’s gleaming, “including [improvements to] AI, UI, art, customization, and content.” 

And if you don’t have an Xbox Series X/S, there’s going to be an Xbox One version too.

But What About MechWarrior Online?

Podcast 217 - Beard Cast w/ Daeron Katz
Watch this video on YouTube.

Last month, we learned the MechWarrior Online was in for a bit of a revival. PGI had resecured the rights to the MechWarrior license from Microsoft and was thinking of ways to reinvigorate their oldest MechWarrior game. To that end, they hired Bombadil to be the new community manager, who then went to work talking to the community to generate some ideas on what they could do to make MechWarrior Online a better game.

Bombadil posted a list of those ideas on the MechWarrior Online website, which range from simple server-side changes that might improve the new player experience to sweeping overhauls of the MechWarrior Online matchmaker. As discussed last month, the idea here is to improve MechWarrior Online with as little effort as possible, so some of the more labor-intensive ideas seem less likely to occur than others.

On the latest Beardcast with No Guts To Galaxy, Bombadil basically said that he’s going to take this list to the PGI heads to further discuss, but not to expect any additional news on this topic until next year. Considering MechWarrior 5 and its expansion, Heroes of the Inner Sphere, arrive on both Steam and Xbox Series X/S next spring, PGI is probably going to have most of their programmers working on MechWarrior 5 for the next little while and won’t have a lot to spare for MechWarrior Online

Catalyst Has A New Assistant Line Developer

Catalyst has a new assistant line developer. Aaron Cahall got the job as per an October 28th announcement that got in just after I’d already posted the October supplemental news dump, so we’re going to cover it here.

According to Catalyst’s press release, Cahall was previously the BattleTech line editor for the past two years, helping to make new products, help new writers, and keeping developers on tight deadlines. 

“I’m pleased to be able to continue supporting Ray and the entire BattleTech team during this exciting time for the game,” Cahall said. “I’ve been a BattleTech fan for a long time, but it’s the people involved in making it who have come to mean even more to me. I’m looking forward to moving into the new ilClan era alongside them.”

Judging by the job description, this sounds to me like mostly a title change. Cahall will still do mostly the same stuff he’s done before, but maybe we’ll see his name at the bottom of those new BattleTech product emails instead of current line developer Ray Astaria.

Also, CamoSpec‘s has a new leader in Matt Frederiksen. He organized the annual CamoSpecs GenCon diorama (back when GenCon was still a thing), and now he’ll be recruiting new artists to join the CamoSpecs team.

Tukayyid Returns In New Fiction And Sourcebook

Tukayyid 1

It was perhaps the greatest battle in BattleTech history. When seven invading Clans arrived on Tukayyid, they were stopped dead in their tracks by ComStar‘s Com Guards. Cutting edge Clan tech wasn’t enough to overcome good old fashioned Star League designs and Inner Sphere guile. And now Catalyst is celebrating Tukayyid with new fiction, a sourcebook, and all-new miniatures.

First off, we’ve got five new novellas coming that tell the story of Tukayyid from multiple sides. A few of them are already out, including Blake’s Own by Jason Schmetzer and Two Roads Diverged from Michael J. Ciaravella. Both tell the story of the Com Guards’ clash with Clan Smoke Jaguar, and we all know how that turned out.

Clan Rec Guide 08

Nine stories will be released in the lead-up to The Battle of Tukayyid Sourcebook which arrives on November 27th. Catalyst is giving us a 200-page hardcover volume that covers each of the seven campaigns. Expect a “full overview of the battle, including a map of the regions; the specific combatants involved, along with insignias; and details to allow players to experience each campaign on their tabletop.”

And just for a little extra, the Battle Of Tukayyid Supplemental PDF provides record sheets, counters, and a worksheet for the Battle Support: Combined Arms rules.

There’s not a lot of info on the miniatures, but I expect them to be the same ComStar minis that were included in the second wave of the Clan Invasion. I’ll be sure to report more as soon as I find out.

Oh, and one more Catalyst thing: the Clan Recognition Guide is up to Volume 8 now. Go get it on the Catalyst store

People Are Getting Old MechWarrior Games To Work On Some Pretty Weird Stuff

MW3 on my Samsung Note9 with mouse and keyboard from mechwarrior

I noticed a bit of a trend on the MechWarrior subreddits this November. People are getting very old MechWarrior games to work on some pretty esoteric devices in much the same way people have been getting Doom to work on technology that has no business playing Doom (such as a pregnancy test). 

First up, Reddit user Nakele got MechWarrior 3 working on a Samsung Note9. For something without a dedicated graphics processor to run any game is a technical achievement, so kudos to Nakele for getting MechWarrior 3 to work at all. That said, there’s some noticeable slowdown in actual combat, and the overall frame rate isn’t exactly what I’d call “smooth.” 

But it works! And that’s what’s important.

Finally got all the MW2 games running on my z fold 2 with controller fully mapped – mobile MW is awesome! from mechwarrior

Topping that is user benchallenger10 with MechWarrior 2 running on a Samsung Z Fold2 with additional controller support. This makes the whole setup look like a Nintendo Switch, only it’s playing some classic MechWarrior. Sadly, we don’t get to see the game in action, but benchallenger10 reports that they’re getting 60fps at 1024x868 resolution. They also managed to get MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries working too, but the slightly more “advanced” textures made the frame rate drop below 60fps at times.

Both of these are fantastic, and I encourage other techy MechWarriors to get old MechWarrior games working on even more humble devices. If Doom can play on a pregnancy test, maybe we can get MechWarrior 2 to play on a programmable microwave or something. 

You’ll Love This 3D-Printed Magnetic Catapult

All systems nominal! from battletech

Here we have a 3D-printed Catapult model that uses magnets to swap between the arm-mounted PPCs of the CPLT-K2 and the LRM-15s of the CPLT-C1. There’s also a magnet that lets the torso twist, too. It’s great, and I want one. We should all message Reddit user Philbobagginzzz for the details.

The Pikachu Urbie Gets An Upgrade

"When you hire the Pocket Monstrosities Mercenary Company you know you’re getting the very best, like no one ever was." -Ashton Cottem, company commander from battletech

You remember my article discussing the possibility that BattleTech might have what I described as a “Pokemon problem,” right? Well, forget about that argument and just click on the link to see the cover image. I didn’t know who made that adorable Pokemon-themed tableau at the time of writing, but now I do. And they’ve come back with an even better version of the PikachUrbie thanks to the new model redesigns sent out with the Clan Invasion Kickstarter.

Reddit user feor1300, you are hereby officially recognized for your creative genius. Please let me know how much Nintendo intends to sue you for copyright infringement and I’ll start the Go Fund Me page to pay for your legal defense. I won’t actually contribute, mind you, but I’ll at least start the page. 

Wolves Announced Wave 2 Expansion Coming In Spring Of 2021

Wave 2 | All But One Teaser
Watch this video on YouTube.

Wolves, the fan-made MechAssault remake that has the tacit approval of Microsoft (provided they don’t actually sell anything) is getting the Mad Cat Mk II. That’s neat, right? 

Wave 2 will also include the Raven, Raptor, and Hellbringer. Although, given the screenshots posted last month, I’m pretty sure that’s actually the Raptor II, which was also introduced in MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf

There’s also some pretty sweet animation improvements coming in Wave 2. You can’t discount animation when it comes to ‘Mech games--there’s a fine line between the lumbering gait of a 75-ton death machine and the wobbling stumbles of a chicken-legged robot. 

I’m Actually Not Getting My Clan Invasion Wave 1 Kickstarter Package Because I’m A Fool

Support Lance

So I still haven’t gotten my Wave 1 package even though pretty much every Canadian has received theirs, and now I know why. Back when I was choosing my shipping options, I selected “ship all at once” rather than “ship as products become available.” So now I gotta wait for Wave 2 to ship before I get everything that I ordered. 

This was all happening just as the first wave of the COVID pandemic was really hitting home, so I’m sure I was thinking it’d be a noble sacrifice to let mail services deliver more important packages than little robot figurines, but now I haven’t seen my friends in months and I could really use the pick-me-up that only ‘Mechs can provide.

Ah well. Just a few weeks until Heroes of the Inner Sphere drops and then I’ll have plenty of distractions. Oh, wait. 

That’s it for November! Join us next time as we contend with a pandemic and winter. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay at home.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Did You Know? – There Was A BattleTech Card Game, And It Was Great™

Way back in the ‘90s, collectible card games (or CCGs) were a big deal. Wizards Of The Coast had hit it big with Magic: The Gathering and they were hoping they could get lightning to strike twice with a brand new game. Or several new games, like Xena: Warrior Princess, Netrunner, C-23, and many, many more. 

But It turns out it’s really hard to get lightning to strike on command. While Wizards was frantically creating as many CCGs as possible, they eventually reached out to FASA to make a BattleTech card game. And so, in 1996, the BattleTech CCG was born.

I’d like to say that it was just as big as Magic was; that it was just as creative, just as colorful, and just as successful, but it wasn’t. The game lasted through about 5 years of official support from the manufacturer, and then like so many unsuccessful card games from the era, it sort of just disappeared.

But not entirely. The BattleTech CCG is still around, and people still play it in their socially distant way. There are even people making unofficial expansions and suggesting that BattleTech (the CCG) could become a living game just from fan support alone. 

I guess I should say right off the bat that I really hope this happens. I loved the BattleTech CCG when I was a kid perhaps even more than I loved the tabletop and Clix-based games combined. There’s just a certain magic to trading cards that’s hard to describe--it’s like holding something that’s part playing figure and part tiny TRO. I sometimes still find myself going through my old collection just to see the art one more time. 

So today on Did You Know, I bring you my ode to the BattleTech CCG. A retrospective look at where it came from, where it went, and where it might go from here. 

Making The BattleTech CCG

There’s really no way to discuss BattleTech without first touching on Magic: The Gathering. Magic, as it’s often shortened, was a phenomenon that put Wizards Of The Coast on the map. It became so massive that almost 30 years later, Magic is still being played both online and on tables all over the world. 

Rather than pour all their resources into making Magic: The Gathering as good as it could be, Wizards set their sites even larger. They wanted collectible card games targeting genres beyond just the high fantasy tropes that Magic relied upon, and science fiction was one of those genres that Wizards definitely wanted to branch into. 

Wizards reached out to two companies to make their sci-fi card game a reality. The first was Talsorian Games, makers of Cyberpunk 2020 (which will soon be adapted into the massive video game, Cyberpunk 2077), while the other was FASA. Noting the wild success of Magic and always up for another game product, FASA was quick to agree and a partnership was formed. Cyberpunk 2020 was adapted into Netrunner, while FASA got a collectible card version of BattleTech.

This is where things got handed over to Richard Garfield, prodigious card game maker and original creator of Magic, BattleTech, and many other tradeable/collectible card games. Garfield was certainly proud of Magic and its monumental success, but he never thought it was perfect. Deciding to do things entirely differently with his next game, Netrunner had virtually nothing in common with Magic and was, therefore, a complete flop upon release in 1996. This is mostly attributed to people coming from Magic who were expecting some similarities in the rules but were surprised to find none.

Having learned his lesson, Garfield decided to make BattleTech in a Magic-like mold but with some key differences. “With BattleTech,” Garfield said in an interview with the BattleTech CCG Facebook Group’s Michael Cohen, “we were starting to get pretty good with choosing what standards to break in order to generate the most play interest and flavor accommodation.”

Magic players found a lot in common with BattleTech. The tap mechanic reappeared to designate when a card had been used for that turn; resources subbed in for Magic’s lands while “assets” replaced Magic’s color wheel; the turn order followed a familiar sequence of events like untap, upkeep, draw, and attack; and of course, ‘Mechs were used in place of summoned creatures to attack your opponent.

However, BattleTech differed from Magic in a number of ways. Rather than attacking an opponent’s “life total,” players could send ‘Mechs to attack anything on the board from opposing ‘Mechs to resources (or “sites,” as they were referred to in-game). The ultimate goal was to run your opponent out of cards by attacking their “stockpile” (ie. their deck), meaning that every game had a built-in timer as each player draws two cards per turn--double the number of Magic.

There was one other major factor that set BattleTech apart from Magic. As a licensed property, Garfield and his developers had to work with FASA to create the game, and this caused quite a bit of tension during the development process.

“I worked with some folk at FASA and had dicey relationships with them,” Garfield recalls in that same interview. “In my opinion, they were not respectful of the needs of CCGs and wanted to make decisions which would make the game worse but fit their idea of the flavor. I am sure from their perspective I was not as thoughtful about the world and was willing to sacrifice the story to make what I thought was the best game. 

“An illustration of that was the Clans: they wanted all the decks to be one Clan, and that simply doesn’t make sense for a CCG and it was like pulling teeth to get compromises made to make the game playable. Our eventual compromise was a larger number of neutral cards than they otherwise would have liked and framing of the Clan rules as an alternative way to play.”

Wizards and FASA eventually settled on the five Great Houses and the invading Clans as the initial factions available, along with keywords for certain mercenary groups such as Wolf’s Dragoons and the Kell Hounds, and another for ComStar. The initial rules didn’t even require decks to stick with a single faction other than House or Clan, and it wasn’t until much later in BattleTech‘s development did enough cards even exist to allow players to make competitive decks with only a single faction represented.

Richard never got to see that eventuality. As Wizard’s chief game designer, he and his primary development team had already moved on to the next project after the first core set of 283 BattleTech cards was released in 1996. In Garfield’s view, it became clear that “our development team after the first set didn’t have nearly the support they needed” to keep up with the problems that soon appeared as BattleTech hit store shelves.

BattleTech: The Early Years

Problems with BattleTech started appearing almost immediately. It became clear that the game was designed only with casual collectors in mind and as soon as enthusiasts started organizing tournaments and battling it out with 60-card decks, BattleTech had serious flaws that could be exploited for a competitive advantage. 

In the initial rules, there was no limit to the number of any particular card that could be placed in a player’s deck. This likely would have been a minor issue had the Counterstrike expansion not arrived with a completely free ‘Mech (the Sentinel STL-3L) that required absolutely no resources to play. This meant any player could have had an entire deck made up of 60 Sentinels, played two per turn, and simply overwhelmed their opponent.

By the time Wizards Of The Coast held BattleTech‘s first official tournaments in 1997, the rules had been updated to limit decks to only six of any given card, but the strategy of swarming opponents with low-cost units remains popular in BattleTech even to this day.

However, we don’t even need to get to BattleTech‘s first World Championship tournament to see another flaw in the game, and that’s the inherent advantage that fast ‘Mechs have over moderate and slow ‘Mechs. 

Because fast ‘Mechs can attack anything slower than they are (ie. moderate and slow ‘Mechs), a pack of cheap, fast ‘Mechs can pick off moderate and slow ‘Mechs, denuding an opponent of defenses should they lack their own fast ‘Mechs to counter. This wouldn’t be a problem if each faction had an equal distribution of ‘Mech speeds, but because BattleTech is set essentially during the Clan Invasion, the vast majority of efficient fast ‘Mechs were Clan, while Inner Sphere ‘Mechs were moderate or slow.

Fast Clan quickly formed as a winning strategy that allowed decks full of fast clan ‘Mechs to pick apart Inner Sphere opponents who were virtually defenseless. Cards like Effective Groundwork and Elite MechWarrior supercharged this strategy to the point where no other deck was even competitive, resulting in those cards being banned along with the infamous Dasher D

Even still, Peter Sundholm’s Fast Wolf deck, filled with Dasher and Fenris Primes, was BattleTech‘s first-ever World Championship-winning deck, and it would go on to define the Fast Clan deck archetype from that point onward.

If 1997 was the year of Fast Clan, 1998 was the year of Inner Sphere Swarm. While swarm decks had always been a popular option in BattleTech, the arrival of the Arsenal expansion brought ultra-cheap, fast VTOL and hovertanks. Cards like the Cavalry, Cyrano, and Saladin finally gave Inner Sphere factions a fast unit that could be deployed before Fast Clan could send in their own fast ‘Mechs like the Dasher and Fenris, giving the Inner Sphere a distinct edge. 

However, the BattleTech designers made the mistake of pricing these units too cheaply. Many of them could be deployed for free without even taking up one of the player’s precious two deployments, making the Vehicle Swarm Deck an insurmountable force. Wizards Of The Coast quickly changed the rules again to limit decks to just 10 non-‘Mech units to keep competitive play even remotely fair. 

Ten non-‘Mech cards were more than enough to crush Fast Clan when they were combined with the ludicrously cost-efficient Nightsky NGS-4S and the Sandhurst Royal Military Academy. Davion Sandhurst Royal Military Academy Swarm, as the deck would come to be known, swept the 1998 BattleTech World Championships taking both first and second place. In fact, the championship game was a mirror match-up with both Terry Border and Shiu-Yik Au playing the exact same deck.

BattleTech: Those Troubled Middle Years

It’s around 1998 that we can’t really talk about the evolution of card games without discussing the Internet. Suddenly, strategies, tactics, and above all, decklists could be publicly shared for everyone to learn, iterate, and in many cases, outright copy. Alpha Strike became the number one website for net-decking in BattleTech, with articles and tournament-winning decklists posted there for every BattleTech fan to see. 

That’s not to say that all unique ideas immediately disappeared from BattleTech starting in 1998. Zvi Mowshowitz’s famous ‘Mechless deck made headlines by relying on subterfuge and BattleTech‘s few direct damage cards to eliminate opponents in a single, massive airstrike. Wizards Of The Coast also continuously pushed BattleTech fans on their own website to discover new strategies, such as the Quasimodo Deck that featured the mildly insane Hunchback IIC and its enormous Alpha Strikes

But the internet meant that ideas traveled fast. Winning strategies were copied, tested, and then perfected soon after the release of each new set. And one of the things that became increasingly clear was that there wasn’t a lot of variation when it came to BattleTech’s best ideas. 

Once again, we start 1998 off with several bans and errata. After the phenomenal performance of Sandhurst Royal Military Academy at Worlds, ComStar became its own faction so that it couldn’t be combined with efficient Davion medium ‘Mechs and overwhelm all opposition. Later errata would further clip Sandhurst’s power down to a level where an outright ban was deemed unnecessary, although it was still considered a powerful card.

And Sandhurst was hardly alone. Disguised Coordinates was a card so oppressively un-fun to play against that Wizards decided to outright ban it instead of issuing errata. Ditto the original NGS-4S Nightsky which was deemed so under-costed that it was banned in favor of a revised version with twice the resource price.

However, the original Nightsky wasn’t banned at first. This brings us to the mass confusion of Commander’s Edition, released in the summer of 1998. A sweeping revision of the game, not only did Commander’s Edition change BattleTech‘s card design to be more distinctive amongst Wizards’ other products, but it also attempted to correct some of the mistakes made in the initial printing. This resulted in a number of “revised” cards with adjusted resource costs, modified attack values, added keywords, or in some cases, entirely different rules text.

Not wanting to completely invalidate a player’s collection up to that point, Wizards ruled that both revised and un-revised cards were legal to play. This somewhat got around the six-card maximum rule in that it allowed players to play both versions of the card in the same deck. It also resulted in the somewhat hilarious possibility of playing a deck of 24 Owens despite the fact only two variants of the OmniMech were ever made into BattleTech cards.

Wizards would eventually see the lunacy of this compromise and declared that all older cards could only be played using the revised text. That said, competitive BattleTech was filled with confusion right up until the 1999 World Championship. 

The 1999 BattleTech World Championship saw the rise of Marik GorgeMaster. A deck designed specifically to combat against Fast Clan and early swarm strategies, it used C3-equipped ‘Mechs to present an extremely tough defense that was further augmented by a sideboard filled with Rocky Gorge and Falsified Maps

Falsified Maps allowed GorgeMaster to search for Rocky Gorge almost at will, while the Rocky Gorge itself would deal two damage to each attacking ‘Mech. This was enough to outright destroy Dashers and other free-deploy units common in Sandhurst Swarm decks while also severely weakening larger units, often to the point that they’d be forced to sacrifice themselves in a second attack.

What made GorgeMaster such a powerful deck at the time was how it specifically countered BattleTech’s best strategies but was adaptable enough to deal with others as well. However, it was an extremely difficult deck to play requiring immense knowledge of other decks and playstyles. GorgeMaster was the height of the BattleTech tournament scene. After that, it was all downhill from there.

The End Of BattleTech

The last expansion to arrive in BattleTech was Crusade, which took the collectible card game right up to the era of the reborn Star League and the Inner Sphere’s counter-invasion of Clan Smoke Jaguar. It saw the addition of a new clan, the Steel Vipers, as well as powerful Alliance cards that allowed players to use multiple factions in a single deck.

These Alliance cards dramatically enhanced the quality of existing strategies by not forcing decks to sacrifice quality in order to remain within the bounds of their faction. Now, Fast Clan had access to the best fast ‘Mechs from every Clan, whereas Solaris Contacts and swarm decks didn’t need to limit themselves to a single House. 

Alliances were found in several top-placing decks in the 1999 World Championships. At the final Worlds tournament in 2000, Chad Edwards’ Invading Clans deck took first place using a mix of Crossbows and fast Clan Wolf ‘Mechs as well as Hidden Reserves and Improved Construction Facilities to simply out-pace his opponent both economically and tactically. 

After that, the BattleTech card game was over. Wizards announced their intention to stop supporting the game with expansions after Crusade, and while they supported BattleTech‘s professional scene for a year or two, without new cards to keep the game fresh, both professional and casual players abandoned BattleTech for greener pastures (which was usually Magic: The Gathering).

And so the world moved on. Alpha Strike continued to operate for a couple of years before eventually closing up shop. The secondary market thrived for some time before dwindling to a trickle, although you can still find unopened boxes of BattleTech on sites like eBay and Craigslist

But much like the tabletop game, BattleTech has a way of creating die-hard fans. The BattleTech CCG Yahoo Group maintained the largest depository of BattleTech articles, rulings, and card lists for over a decade before moving on to the BattleTech CCG Facebook Group. They’re still in operation today, where you can not only discuss the old BattleTech card game in whatever detail you want but also peruse an even larger depository of resources, including FAQs and starter decklists to bring new players into this very old game. 

Not Quite As Dead As You Think

You’d think that a game that has been out of print for over 20 years would be extremely difficult to play. You’d also be mistaken.

To start, there are still unopened boxes of cards out there. If you’re not willing to pay the price for a dwindling resource, all the cards have been individually scanned and placed online in a number of locations, including here at Sarna. The legality of printing those scans onto new cardstock is questionable, but there are a number of sites online where you can print custom playing cards to bring BattleTech back from the dead.

But why bother with printing old cards when you can print brand new ones? Besides getting around the whole copyright issue, these unofficial expansions bring far more of the BattleTech universe into the trading card game than ever before.

You might remember Michael Todd from such glorious fan creations as the unofficial TRO 3028 and TRO 3049. Well, he’s also devoted a not inconsiderable amount of his life to making a fan-made BattleTech CCG expansion, and one that I absolutely adore. Mostly because it includes all of Unseen ‘Mechs, but also because there are several Locust variants that would make a Logistics-based Inner Sphere swarm deck absolutely busted.

Next, we have Michael Cohen and Chester Hendrix of the BattleTech CCG Facebook group. They jointly made an even more comprehensive fan expansion that includes not just the Unseen, but also Aerospace, ProtoMechs, tanks, and more Missions and Command cards than I can count. This is easily the largest fan expansion I’ve encountered, and one that’s definitely worth considering adding to your collection. 

Renegade HPG’s Travis Gardner has also been hard at work creating custom cards over on his YouTube channel. Instead of focusing on entirely new cards, Travis seems to fall into a different camp within the BattleTech CCG community that believes BattleTech’s in-game resource pricing is fundamentally flawed and requires correcting in order to end the utter dominance of Fast Clan and Inner Sphere Swarm. To do that, he’s devoted several videos to creating ‘Mechs that are priced based on a formula developed by the community to ensure a fair playing field.

Expansions and revisions are great, but what if you just want to play the old game in the old way? Well, you’ve got two options. First, there’s Tabletop Simulator, where someone has helpfully created a BattleTech CCG add-on that lets you play with all those cards in a virtual space. 

Unfortunately, Tabletop Simulator can be oppressively cumbersome to play virtual card games. Instead, the BattleTech CCG Facebook community recommends using Lackey, a free-to-play card game app that lets you play almost any old card game, so long as someone has the scans for it. You’ll need to spend some time getting the BattleTech plug-in for Lackey set up, but as always, Michael Cohen at the BattleTech CCG Facebook Group has got you covered.

Battletech TCG | Building a Custom Card (Episode 9) Black Knight
Watch this video on YouTube.

Some Parting Thoughts, And Some Thanks

Unlike most of my articles, this one wouldn’t have been possible without the help of a few notable individuals and one group as a whole.

First off, I’d like to thank the BattleTech CCG Facebook Group for keeping this game alive long past its expiration date. I’d also like to thank Mark Roberts for maintaining a collection of scanned BattleTech memorabilia, including full-page magazine ads that have really added a nice touch of color to what would have otherwise been a pretty drab jaunt down memory lane. Kudos to Travis for putting me in touch. 

And an even bigger thanks to Michael Cohen for interviewing Richard Garfield so I didn’t have to. You can read the whole interview over on the BattleTech CCG Facebook Group, but just be aware that he’s a guy who has spent more decades designing card games than I have spent breathing and he can’t really remember much of the nitty-gritty details of BattleTech anymore.

Also, literally any of the subjects I touched on over the past 3000 words or so could have their own 3000-word article, so I apologize if it seems like I glossed over some of the grittier topics covered here.

It’s probably safe to say that without the BattleTech CCG I would never have gotten into the BattleTech fiction, and without that, the BattleTech video games likely wouldn’t have resonated with me nearly as much as they did. I really do hope that this game sees a resurgence, either with more expansions or with a completely revamped pricing formula that makes it a little fairer for every faction.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

October News 2020 – Supplemental

Urbex

courtesy of EldoniousRex

I knew there’d be more news before October was done, and I wasn’t disappointed. Here’s all you need to know before November hits and our COVID quarantine turns into shelter in place due to armed insurrections. 

I’m kidding. I hope. Anyway, on with the news!

Michael Stackpole Interview On Renegade HPG

Michael Stackpole Talks BattleTech
Watch this video on YouTube.

First up, a rare interview with Michael Stackpole courtesy of Renegade HPG! Travis is really making headway amongst BattleTech’s old guard, and it doesn’t get much more prestigious than Stackpole. He wrote the Blood Of Kerensky Trilogy, The Warrior TrilogyHeir Apparent, and most recently the Kell Hounds Ascendant Trilogy. He’s had a hand in building some of the biggest characters that BattleTech has ever seen, and he talks about that and much more in the interview with Renegade HPG.

Perhaps more interesting is his advice for potential novelists. He goes over how he got into BattleTech and how you too could do the same, plus become a famous freelance novelist for some of the biggest franchises in science-fiction and fantasy.

Mobile BattleTech Phone App Under Development

Here’s an interesting little development. Someone’s making a BattleTech app. Not just a mobile repository of ‘Mech information, not just a handy way to look up the rules, but an all-in-one app that lets you play a virtual game of BattleTech on your phone.

It’s from Maik Rehorst, who goes by TheDeathCrepeer on Reddit. They’re using a mobile app prototyping site called MarvelApp to get an idea of what the final product will look like and let BattleTech fans like you and me futz around. It has a ‘Mech database similar to Mech Factory (which is a great resource I encourage you all to download), but it goes beyond by adding voice chat, virtual dice rolls, and a virtual game board.

It’s important to note that this is just a prototype currently. It’s mostly a series of connected menus that provide structure but aren’t really all that functional. The ‘Mech database page goes to an image of the BattleMaster, but notes indicate that the plan is to automatically grab the relevant Sarna.net article in the finished product.

A recently concluded survey hopefully provided helpful feedback to make this idea into a reality. 

RogueTech Got A Massive Update That Lets You Salvage Tanks

RogueTech, the total conversion mod that changes Hairbrained’s BATTLETECH into a roguelite, just got a massive update.

It’s called Operation Treadnaught, mostly because the big feature here is tanks. You can now salvage and deploy tanks in your company, which brings you up to 12 units (8 ‘Mechs, 4 tanks). Those tanks have all been retrofitted inline with classic BattleTech rules, so expect a few differences when you’re both fighting with and against armored vehicles.

To check out both your ‘Mechs and vehicles, there’s a new toggle that lets you switch between the ‘Mechbay and Vehicle Bay. 

Although tanks are nice, they’re hardly all that’s new in Operation Treadnaught. The entire skill system has been overhauled along with the pilot background system. You can choose between two abilities at levels 5 and 8, with level 8 skills being so powerful they have an active cooldown. 

There’s also a complete shop overhaul where your reputation with local factions will get you access to better stuff. Commander quirks, improved melee attacks, and a host of performance improvements round out Operation Treadnaught’s offerings. Get the latest version over on Nexus Mods.

Everyone Is Getting Their Clan Invasion Kickstarter Packages Except Me

Battletech Clan Invasion Unboxing
Watch this video on YouTube.

I’m not really mad or anything--I live in Canada, the mail isn’t particularly fast, and I frankly don’t have time to paint a bunch of minis anyways. I plan on pawning that job off to my brother over the Christmas break. But I do want it, especially since there’s so many people posting their unboxing videos online over the past few weeks. 

I’m sure I’ll get it in the next few days. Or something. Maybe I should call Fed-Ex… 

And that’s it! I don’t expect a lot of news to arrive in November, but December is already shaping up to be another big month for BattleTech. Let’s all hope we survive that long.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For October 2020

October has been exceptionally busy for BattleTech! So busy, in fact, that I’m pushing our big monthly news update out a few weeks earlier than usual. I’m also leaving my customary existential dread at the door since there’s just no room to concern ourselves with elections or pandemics will all this incredible BattleTech news sitting right in front of us.

Expect to receive a supplemental news dump later in the month if things keep dropping at the same pace they have been for the past few weeks. But for now, let’s get to the news!

Catalyst’s Clan Invasion First Wave Is Away!

The day we’ve all been waiting for is finally here! Wave 1 of the Clan Invasion Kickstarter has finally started shipping according to the most recent update from Catalyst, with 23 out of 26 shipments having arrived (the remaining three will probably have arrived by the time this article is published). That means the first shipment is being sent out to backers as we speak, with backers from the EU and UK expected to receive their shipments before everyone else because the customs office there was lucky enough to not suffer any setbacks.

Catalyst also gave us a bunch of fun stats: 9,824 backers, 268,797 physical items, and 31,543 UrbanMech Salvage Boxes, with another 3,000 or so expected to be sent out with Wave 2. This is an enormous logistical undertaking, and Catalyst is hard at work making sure everything goes as smoothly as 2020 will allow. 

With Wave 1 on the way, all eyes now turn to Wave 2. Catalyst is still making the 3D designs for Wave 2 ‘Mechs, and they’re hoping to have everything done and off to the manufacturer in time for shipments to be sent out before Chinese New Year (which is February 12, 2021). 

In the meantime, the Pledge Manager will be reopened on October 15 (which is right now as of the moment I’m writing these words) to allow people to edit their pledges or add one of the eight new items that Catalyst just couldn’t wait to get into people’s hands. I’ve got no idea what those items are, but we’re surely going to find out when the Pledge Manager reopens.

New Patch For MechWarrior Living Legends! Update 0.13.0 Is Here

MechWarrior Living Legends update 0.13.0 has gone live, and with it comes some new tanks. Big tanks. Like, the largest tanks that BattleTech has ever seen.

First up, the Behemoth, a 100-ton assault-class tank that certainly lives up to its name. Although the overall design follows the same general theme of the Behemoth combat vehicle, its prime variant is armed with the new Hyper Velocity Autocannon 10 which provides super long-range suppressing fire. This comes at the cost of the two SRM-6s, while the machine guns are replaced by two of the new Autoflamer turrets. 

The Clans are represented by the equally massive Mars assault tank. As with the Behemoth, some liberties were taken with the principle armament of the tank as the twin Streak SRM-6s were replaced by dual Streak SRM-4s, and the extra weight used to install two Autoflamers. 

In case you were wondering, the Autoflamer turret will automatically target opponents within 150 meters, and is the ideal way to convince battle armor to keep their distance.

There’s a bunch of other new toys to use, such as the C3 Master Unit, Sniper Artillery Cannon, and Stabilized Thumper Cannon, as well as even more balance and game mechanics changes. Check out the full patch notes over on ModDB here.

Renegade HPG Interviews My Boss (And Sarna.net Owner), Nic Jansma

Behind the Scenes of SARNA.NET with Creator Nic Jansma
Watch this video on YouTube.

Travis over at Renegade HPG contacted me a little while ago and we engaged in a little bit of journalistic trading. In exchange for his contacts with the BattleTech CCG community, I agreed to forward his email to my boss so he could have Nic on the show. And then it happened! You can check out the whole 45-minute interview here

If you were ever curious about how Sarna works, including its origins, site operation, and monetization, you’ll get it all here. I even got a shoutout for writing up all this lovely news for you lovely people. 

Alright, enough with the self-plug, back to business. 

Bombadil Is Back And Working For PGI Now

Bombadil Is Back

Daeron is back! But he’s not working for No Guts No Galaxy anymore. He’s been hired by PGI to be the new MechWarrior Online Community Manager.

This was our first indication that MechWarrior Online would be getting a revival, with more details to follow in the No Guts No Galaxy podcast that came days after the announcement. Daeron “Bombadil” Katz was a longtime host of NGNG but left in February to pursue other interests. Those interests apparently didn’t stray too far from BattleTech, as Bombadil was the top guy for PGI when it came time to start planning on how to reinvigorate MechWarrior Online.

Bombadil gave us a bit of an update on how he’s been doing in his official announcement on the MWO website. The plan is for Bombadil to lead PGI in developing a plan to bring MWO into the year 2021 by refreshing the fanbase and maybe convincing lapsed players to give the game another try. More on that in exactly one embedded video and one subheader.

MechWarrior Online’s Future

Podcast 204 - Mechwarrior Online's Future
Watch this video on YouTube.

Last time I checked in on MechWarrior Online, I’d basically written the game off. Player counts were dwindling, content updates had stopped, and PGI had announced that it was all hands on deck for MechWarrior 5. So imagine my surprise to find out that MechWarrior Online is not nearly as dead as I was led to believe.

I mean, MechWarrior Online has certainly seen better days from a player count perspective, but it’s still very much alive and kicking. In fact, PGI CEO Russ Bullock recently did a podcast with our friends over at No Guts No Galaxy to discuss a MechWarrior Online revival. 

This all comes from PGI renewing their MechWarrior license from Microsoft for another five years. This wouldn’t have come cheap, so PGI is looking to make back their money by investing in the license, and that includes both MechWarrior 5 and MechWarrior Online.

Bullock, PGI marketing head Matt Newman, and recently appointed community manager Bombadil talked to Sean Lang about what may or may not be coming to MechWarrior Online. All options are on the table, with PGI specifically focusing on content that will bring lapsed players back to MechWarrior Online. This might include new features like ‘Mech knockdown or melee weapons, or silly event queues like games where everyone is in an UrbanMech.

Don’t expect to see MechWarrior Online 2, however. Although all options are on the table, remaking MechWarrior Online in MechWarrior 5‘s engine is likely to be more of an investment than would be profitable, which is a shame since Unreal 4 is a vastly superior engine. But we might see some fundamental changes to MechWarrior Online, including changes to its monetization model and its byzantine and unpopular skill tree.

This might be an unpopular opinion to MechWarrior Online fans, but for me personally, I’m not going to really get interested in an MWO revival unless it starts catering more to casual fans. The days of me spending hours and hours grinding for new ‘Mechs are long gone, and unless MWO improves its monetization model to give me WAY more content than I’ve ever had access to, I’m probably not going to bother. That content would also have to be faster to get at, which would mean some overhauls to the ‘Mech bay, skills, and likely the core gameplay loop to be less dependant on matching 8v8 single-life games, something I don’t really see happening. 

But then again, if everything is on the table, who knows? I’d love to see MechWarrior Online adopt a game mode that mirrors MechWarrior: Living Legends--a persistent battle with constant respawns from your personal ‘Mech bay. That’d be both a fun and fresh take on a very old game.

MechWarrior 5 DLC—Heroes of the Inner Sphere—Arrives December 10

RazerCon 2020 MechWarrior 5 Merc DLC Heroes of the Inner Sphere
Watch this video on YouTube.

Announced at RazerCon 2020, Heroes of the Inner Sphere will finally arrive along with MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries releasing on Steam. That’s December 10th, exactly one year since MechWarrior 5 released on the Epic Games Store.

I know many of you have been waiting for this day, so lemme once again offer my two cents: the game is absolutely worth playing with the right mods, and Heroes of the Inner Sphere is expected to bring a free update that will totally overhaul the MechWarrior 5 experience. This will include better ambient heat effects, an additional biome for random missions, new skill trees, and more. 

Best of all, those that purchase Heroes of the Inner Sphere can sort of share it with friends. If the host of a co-op game owns Heroes of the Inner Sphere, friends that join that game will have access to the same new ‘Mechs and story missions that the host does. 

Check out Sarna’s previous coverage of the Heroes of the Inner Sphere to get more details on what to expect from the DLC, along with a list of new ‘Mechs. Heroes of the Inner Sphere will be priced at $19.99 USD. Expect to find a package deal with the Steam release (hopefully with a bit of a discount for everyone patient enough to wait for the game to release on Steam).

Oh, and one more thing that was discussed with the MechWarrior Online revival podcast: MechWarrior 5 is getting more DLC, with an extremely tentative date set for next April. No idea what that might entail, but the concept of a Clan Invasion was definitely mentioned at least once. Take that for what it’s worth.

More Mod Tools Coming To MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries

Mechwarrior 5 Mercenaries Modding Resources
Watch this video on YouTube.

Yet another breaking story from our friends at No Guts No Galaxy! MechWarrior 5 is getting additional mod tools to help with mission scripting. This includes “tutorial videos and associated documentation” that explain “level setup, markup levels and locators, area specification setup, mission flow nodes, and finishing the mission and deploying the mod.”

As discussed in Lang’s interview with Bombadil and PGI level designer Thaddeus Jantzi, a lot of these tools are the same ones used to create MechWarrior 5‘s missions in the Unreal 4 engine. And that’s basically the extent of my knowledge since I’m not a programmer and have no idea what these tools might look like, but they certainly sound cool and they open up a whole new world of custom campaigns in MechWarrior 5--something I’m totally on board for.

Modders can grab these new modding resources here.

Would You Like To Bring BattleTech To Roll20? Then Support This Kickstarter!

BattleTech Kickstarter

I’ve never really dealt with the RPG side of MechWarrior and BattleTech, but I know it exists, and it has its appeal to those that are really into tabletop RPGs. However, with COVID-19 ending in-person group sessions and sending everyone online, folks are looking for their favorite virtual tabletop to support their RPG habit for the foreseeable future.

Roll20 is one such piece of software that’s gotten to be pretty popular--mostly because a base account is free and a DM can share all their paid-for resources with their players. Roll20 already has tons of stuff for Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder, and now one dedicated BattleTech fan is looking to add our humble universe to Roll20’s list. 

However, getting BattleTech/MechWarrior added to Roll20 takes money. Joel Janni has taken it upon himself to start a Kickstarter campaign to get someone to code up the MechWarrior and BattleTech sheets so that people can actually play the game virtually via Roll20. This will include a basic macro that will allow for skill checks and weapon/damage rolls. 

Janni needs $500 to get the sheets made and pay for Kickstarter’s fees, but stretch goals can include a ‘Mech builder function to make your own custom ‘Mechs and even a character builder function. 

There’s still plenty of time to contribute, so head on over to Kickstarter to make this Roll20/BattleTech dream a reality.

Someone Is Reverse Engineering MechWarrior 3 In Unity

Unity 5 6 5f1 64bit Builder unity UnMech3 PC, Mac & Linux Standalone DX11 2020 10 03 17 59 1
Watch this video on YouTube.

So remember a few months back I spotted someone trying to recreate MechWarrior 2 in Unity? Well, now we’ve got someone else trying to do the same thing with MechWarrior 3

Judging by the teaser trailer, there’s still a lot left to do before the engine is working right in Unity, although it looks like they’re off to a great start. The slight skip in the Bushwacker‘s gate is probably wrong, but so adorable that I hope they keep that animation bug in. 

Of all the MechWarrior games since MechWarrior 2, MechWarrior 3 was probably the one I played the least. Mostly because it came out around the same time as Diablo 2 and I spent a lot of my high school years playing Diablo with my friends than I did playing MechWarrior by myself. That said, a reborn MechWarrior 3 in Unity might be enough for me to take another crack at the single-player campaign.

Check out the MechWarrior 3 Community Project Discord for updates and to shout encouragement, which you should totally do.

That’s it for October! Join me again probably in the next few days as October keeps racking up newsworthy items faster than I can even keep track.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Does BattleTech Have A Pokémon Problem?

Pokemon-BattleTech

So there’s a question out there that I’m sure has been bandied around the upper echelons of Catalyst Game Labs more than once: does BattleTech have a Pokémon problem?

It’s an honest question, and one I’m probably going to have to explain before I dive into the weeds. BattleTech is obviously not competing with Pokémon in any way–I can’t imagine there’s much overlap between Pokémon and BattleTech fans (although feel free to prove me wrong). I refer to the “Pokémon problem” to point out how BattleTech and Pokémon are two game universes with a very similar issue and one that gets to the core of what each franchise is even about.

Late last year, Pokémon fans were in an uproar when they found out that the latest video game installment wouldn’t feature the full list of nearly 900 Pokémon. Instead, Nintendo decided to pare back the list to 400 individual monsters, citing issues with maintaining game balance when there’s close to 900 separate Pokémon to keep track of.

Simply put, there are just too many Pokémon for a franchise to keep adding more and more with every new game. Eventually, you’d have a game with thousands or even tens of thousands of Pokémon, making it impossible for anyone–even the game’s designers–to properly keep track of them.

While there’s certainly an argument to be made on the player’s side that having thousands of options would keep every game fresh thanks to the abundant variety of Pokémon to choose from, the logistical challenges of an ever-expanding roster are undeniable. A game just can’t keep getting bigger and bigger forever without something, somewhere, breaking.

Urbanmech Evolution

The number of Pokémon weighing down the franchise had become a problem. The solution was to cull some, relegating them to past games where they would stay until future games decided to bring them out of retirement for another romp.

Now let’s talk about BattleTech. There are currently just over 650 ‘Mechs, according to my quick addition on Sarna’s BattleMech portal, although that number might be a bit low as I’m basically eyeballing each tonnage category. When you add in Aerospace fighters, DropShip classes, types of Battle Armor, tanks, VTOLs, WarShips, and everything else that makes up BattleTech, you get a number so high I’m not even going to bother to try and calculating it because I don’t get paid by the hour.

But we’re going to keep our discussion limited to ‘Mechs. So, just like Pokémon had too many Pokémon, does BattleTech have too many BattleMechs?

Too Many ‘Mechs. Maybe.

I’m going to say right off the bat that I don’t have the answer to this question. I think it’ll be a different answer for different people, but it’s definitely something worth considering as BattleTech continues into the future.

One of the problems that has always existed in BattleTech is the desire for new content, and for the tabletop game, that means new maps, new stories, and new TROs filled with new ‘Mechs. If a TRO came out and it didn’t have a new ‘Mech or a new variant, it just wouldn’t be a TRO, and crucially, it probably wouldn’t sell. So from Catalyst’s perspective, you can probably never have too many ‘Mechs since you can never sell too many TROs.

MWO banner

Or can you? Just like with Pokémon, each new ‘Mech has to be tracked. Luckily, we have Sarna here to continue expanding the BattleMech portal, so keeping track of all these new machines isn’t a problem. Likewise, tracking for the sake of balance isn’t a problem in BattleTech because the game isn’t designed to be balanced, it’s designed to simulate warfare, and warfare is rarely fair.

Now, if all those 650+ ‘Mechs were to ever arrive in a video game, it would be a different story. The rules of a tabletop game keep things from getting out of hand, but the multitude of factors that go into creating a ‘Mech in a game like MechWarrior must be balanced for the sake of multiplayer. If one ‘Mech can simply have more weapons, armor, and speed than any other, everyone would just use that ‘Mech.

Here, the tabletop rules again largely save MechWarrior the trouble of balance, but that doesn’t mean everything is fair. Just look at MechWarrior Online to see the trouble that an ever-expanding roster of ‘Mechs can cause in a multiplayer game. In MWO’s case, there are definite tiers that have emerged as certain ‘Mechs prove to be superior to others due to quirks, movement profiles, and just overall shape and size.

Even MechWarrior Online doesn’t have 650+ ‘Mechs in it though. In fact, most MechWarrior games throughout history have handled the Pokémon problem by limiting the era in which the game takes place. MechWarrior games that take place before the 3050s, such as MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries and MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, have largely overlapping rosters where certain ‘Mechs reappear again and again (I’m looking at you, Centurion). Whenever the Clans appear, ‘Mechs like the Timber Wolf, Summoner, and Mad Dog are never forgotten by the developers.

These fan favorites tend to ensure that even as the tabletop game keeps adding ‘Mechs by the truckload, BattleTech video games tend to stick with the machines that MechWarrior fans most recognize. It’s as much about good marketing as it is about good game design.

But even still, BattleTech keeps getting new ‘Mechs from fiction, TROs, and video games (such as the Bull Shark and Corsair). I know that when I read a BattleTech book I always have Sarna open on my browser to quickly lookup a name I don’t recognize. That’s not really a problem, per se, as I always love refreshing my memory or even learning about a ‘Mech I’d never heard of until that point. I can’t help but wonder, though, if that’s the same for everyone.

So, can there be too many ‘Mechs? Does BattleTech have a Pokémon problem? And if so, what’s the solution? Let me know in the comments below.

PS: And if you find any more Pokémon X BattleTech memes, send ’em my way!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For September 2020

courtesy of Eldosiousrex

Welp. It’s September, and you know what that means.

Now that we’ve gotten that crucial meme out of the way, welcome to September. I’ve got more than enough existential dread to make writing this intro extremely difficult. So instead, I’m just going to rely on that cheap laugh and jump right into the news. Because nothing blows away anxiety over the potential fall of Western Civilization than a game universe about constant, unending warfare. And giant robots.

Hire Steel Pilot Episode Drops On YouTube

Hired Steel: A Mech Machinima – Pilot Episode
Watch this video on YouTube.

Hey, remember that Hired Steel poster we got last month? Well, TMC is back with a pilot episode for its brand new MechWarrior machinima.

This has a whole lot of potential. The animation is only two minutes long, but the quality is superb. They’ve even got a DropShip flight deck where people move around and stuff! MechWarrior 5 could take a lesson here. Hint hint.

Not a whole lot happens; a lance consisting of a Shadow Hawk, a Catapult, a Hunchback, and a Rifleman land on a nameless world before the screen lets us know that this story will continue later. What is this lance of medium and heavy ‘Mechs doing on this apparently verdant world? Find out next month, hopefully.

Also, TMC got George Ledoux to do the opening narration, and that’s just sweet of ‘em. 

Lostech: 30 Years of Heavy Metal Mayhem

Lostech 30 Years of Heavy Metal Mayhem
Watch this video on YouTube.

Last month’s preview has given way to the real thing. Lostech is here, and it’s a story about Virtual World and FASA’s BattleTech Centers, two places I’ve sadly never had the pleasure of attending because I live in Canada. But I have at least experienced a BattleTech simulator pod, so I know a bit of what I’m missing.

Lostech explores not just the construction and evolution of those simulator pods, but the business side of things as well. With BattleTech and FASA founders Ross Babcock and Jordan Weisman, Virtual World developers Greg Corson, Dave McCoy, JM Albertson, and Bill Redman, as well as Virtual World staff David Abzug, Jose Corpuz, and Paul Tierney, Lostech is a meandering romp down memory lane directed by Chris “Lynx” Chapman (whom you might know from a certain MechCommander game).

There’s a wealth of information here that I am almost certain to source when it comes time for me to revisit Virtual World and the BattleTech simulator pods. It’s also great to see where FASA and Virtual World fit into the wider arcade phenomenon back in the early ‘90s. Check it out when you get the chance! Just make sure you’ve got a spare two hours or so--this is definitely a dense documentary.

Tex Impresses Again With New Documentary On The Mackie

Battletech/Mechwarrior Lore : The Mackie, The Rise of the Battlemech
Watch this video on YouTube.

I’ve probably said enough kind words about Tex’s videos to fill an entire article on its own, but I’ll say ‘em again because the Black Pants Legion just keeps getting better and better. The latest video features the same wonderful writing and narration we’ve come to expect from Tex and company, but now goes one step further thanks to community support.

In the latest Tex Talks BattleTech, we have the wonderful voice stylings of BB Wolfe and George Ledoux, as well as all-new art from D.C. Bruins, Spacer, and Eldosiousrex, plus a ton of music from Goat, Kumakin, and Jekyll. The production value has really gone through the roof thanks to all these collaborations, and I can honestly say this is the best BattleTech content being made and distributed for free anywhere on the internet.

Plus, the full story of the Mackie is truly fascinating. Not just because it’s about the BattleTech universe’s first ‘Mech, but because it’s also about the story of how all of human conflict came to be dominated by giant stompy robots. With a clear sequence of events, Tex and the Black Pants Legion make a rational case for how all war went from space-based warship battles to ground-based robo-fights without making the whole thing sound hokey or downright stupid. That’s a talent I’m not sure I could replicate.

Anyway, go check out this video and subscribe if you haven’t already. You won’t regret it.

The Unofficial MechWarrior Online World Championships Are About To Start

Sadly, COVID-19 has rendered it impossible for PGI to host an actual live tournament, but that hasn’t stopped players from organizing an unofficial MechWarrior Online World Championships anyways with their support. 

The competitive queue opens to all-comers on September 29 and closes on November 10. Matches are every Thursday and Saturday, with the top teams moving on to the finals starting on November 13. The grand finals will take place on December 12.

MWO Championship

There will be both in-game and cash prizes, with the cash portion being crowdsourced over on Matcherino. PGI will supply the in-game rewards, which can be pretty substantial. First place gets a 3x Ultimate Pack consisting of 25,000 MC, 74 million C-bills, 2,500 GSP, and some titles. The top 500 players get a consolation prize of five ‘Mech Bays, 3 million C-bills, 373 GSP, and some free paint colors.

Rules are similar to previous years, with matches being fought with teams of 8 on Conquest mode. There are five maps to choose from along with a map ban phase, with air and artillery strikes allowed on both sides. Each team is limited to 480 tons, must have 3 ‘Mechs from each class, and all weapons, tech, and ‘Mechs are allowed, including Hero ‘Mechs.

Sign-ups are available via the Comp Play tab in-game, but also head on over to the MWO Comp Discord to verify your roster and ensure you’re signed up for the many rewards this tournament has to offer. The fine folks over there would also be happy to answer any questions you may have. You can read the full rules here.

Let’s Show Some Quickdraw Love

I’m currently maining a Quickdraw in my MechWarrior 5 playthrough, so these images couldn’t have better timing. 

Finished the Lineart for my Quickdraw redesign! What do you guys think of it, overall? from battletech

First, we have this one from RedCometComith. This is technically a redesign, but I can see a lot of MechWarrior Online/MW5 influence in the arms and chest. I think I like this one a little more though. MechWarrior 5‘s Quickdraw is sort of squat while this one stands a bit taller and retains some iconic features from the tabletop like those rounded ankle actuators.

Quickdraw 3D model from battletech

And then we have judosavarnas with a 3D model released on the exact same day. This one is far more traditional but no less amazing. They’re both great, and they’re both fueling my love of the Quickdraw as my current favorite ‘Mech. But to be fair, my favorite ‘Mech changes more often than the seasons, so next month it’ll probably be a Doloire or something.

Catalyst Clan Invasion Shipping Update And Shrapnel Issue No. 2

Clan Invasion

via Catalyst Game Labs

Catalyst gave us an update earlier in the month to let us know how things are going with the Clan Invasion. The big takeaway was this: “All hubs are expected to ship to backers in the early weeks of October.” So people should start to get their first wave orders sometime in October, provided of course that the USPS hasn’t been completely dismantled by then.

In the meantime, we’ve got yet more photos, yet more 3D renders of second-wave ‘Mechs, and other merch that will get shipped with the first wave. My only problem is that there’s absolutely nothing here about the UrbanMech plushie, and I’m starting to get desperate. Who do I gotta suck up to in order to spend every waking moment with a soft UrbanMech toy surgically grafted to my ass?

In other Catalyst news, the second issue of Shrapnel magazine is out now with new fiction from Michael J. Ciaravella, Jason Schmetzer, and Michael A. Stackpole, as well as “a technical readout of an unusual 55-ton Centurion variant.” There’s lots more, of course, so go order your copy and subscribe for future issues.

Oh, and there’s a new book coming out on Friday: Icons of War by Craig A. Reed Jr. This one takes us back to the home Clans to see what they’ve been up to leading into the invasion of Terra. And in typical Clan fashion, they’re all trying to kill each other. At least, I assume.

Wolves Is Gearing Up For A Big Update, So Here’s A Few Teasers

I’ve been keeping tabs on Wolves, the free-to-play fan-made MechAssault game, and it looks like there’s going to be a new update soon. There will be new ‘Mechs, new skins, a brand new HUD, and some visual effects, according to the game’s Twitter page.

One of those ‘Mechs is definitely a Hellbringer, a ‘Mech so cool that it’s mentioned with both its Inner Sphere and Clan name on our page for MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf.

I might be wrong since you can only see the ‘Mech from behind and it (of course) bears a strong resemblance to the Summoner. I’m sure Pajama Boy will correct me if I’m wrong. 

Anyone Up For A ProtoMech Webcomic?

protomech issue 1 cover (description in comments)(my art) from battletech

Geergutz over on Reddit recently posted this, and I felt like it was something worth sharing. They plan to start a BattleTech-inspired webcomic about ProtoMechs, of all things. These much-maligned overgrown battlesuits aren’t really something that gets a lot of attention these days, even in the post-Dark Age era where everyone and their pet dog have a set of power armor in their closet. 

The cover we see here apparently features a Hell’s Horses pilot and a Centaur ProtoMech. That’s about all we got so far, but you can check out geergutz’s DeviantArt page to see more, along with this neat comparison image of several ‘Mechs, ProtoMechs, and Elemental armor.

Somehow, MechWarrior 5 Wins Best Narrative At Canadian Game Awards

MW5 Wins Canadian Game Awards Best Narrative (somehow) from OutreachHPG

No, this is not a joke. I like MechWarrior 5 as much as the next guy, but a masterpiece of narrative storytelling it is not. And yet, somehow, MechWarrior 5 won the award for Best Narrative at the Canadian Game Awards.

This is what happens when we don’t get a new BioWare game every year.

Also, I LIVE in Canada and I’m only hearing about the Canadian Game Awards just now. The selection committee is a bunch of people I’ve never heard of, except for Marc Salzman and that’s only because he’s at the beginning of every in-theatre movie to hawk overpriced tech at me during the pre-show.

PGI president Russ Bullock has even admitted that MechWarrior 5‘s narrative is not the main draw, so there’s really no logic to be found here. There’s also no explanation from the judges or even a quick blurb about why MechWarrior 5‘s narrative was considered better than every other Canadian game produced in 2020. We’ll probably never know. 

And that’s it for this month! Join us next month where we’ll all hopefully have our Clan Invasion Kickstarter minis and maybe the world won’t be quite so on fire.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Let’s Talk About Mods For MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries

Centurion

Alright kiddies. Let’s talk about MechWarrior 5. I know some of you hate this iteration of MechWarrior with a fiery passion that has inflamed the comments section from time to rime, and those comments are for the most part valid. MechWarrior 5 is, admittedly, a flawed game, but mods fix many of those flaws, and I’ve been having a blast on my most recent playthrough. We’re going to talk about some of those mods today.

However, SOME of the comments that I’ve culled from posting have been a little bit… let’s call them “heated.” We’re all entitled to our opinions, but we’re not entitled to declare a holy war on anyone. So, keep the personal attacks to a minimum as we explore the wonderful world of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries mods!

I’ve recently picked up MechWarrior 5 again after putting the game down relatively soon after it launched late last year. I admit, the initial shine of the first new MechWarrior game in years was enough to get me to overlook some of the game’s flaws. Yes, the actual core combat portion of the game felt better than any other MechWarrior to come before (at least to me), but the more you play, the more you find things that really should be fixed. 

Knowing that mod support was a core feature for MechWarrior 5, I decided to sit down and wait for mods to take care of all those rough edges. While there’s still plenty of roughness yet to smooth out in MechWarrior 5 (and a pending update will hopefully do just that), I wanted to share with you the package of mods that I’ve personally installed, and what mods that I hope the community will make in the future. Who knows? Maybe we’ll change a few minds today. 

The Mods I Use

Rifleman

First off, shout-out to Byte_Knight117 for making a giant list of mods every MechWarrior should consider for MechWarrior 5. I’m not using all of them, but I am using some, and there are many others on this list that folks should consider such as MercTech and MW5 Mercs Reloaded

In general, my philosophy when it comes to mods is to try and keep the core experience as much as possible but fix everything that annoyed me. And before any of you naysayers start your naysaying, yes, even I found a lot to dislike in MechWarrior 5. But hey, mods fix it. Feel free to discuss the role mods should play in a game’s development in the comments below.

I also tried to use mods that were officially supported through the Epic Games Store as much as possible. Since Epic now makes downloading and installing mods easy for MechWarrior 5 while also keeping those mods updated, this drastically cuts down on the amount of work needed to get MechWarrior 5 up and running. The mods I’ve downloaded from Nexus Mods are relatively small and therefore easy to install, so they weren’t too much effort even for the non-technically inclined.

As I said before, both MercTech and Mercs Reloaded are not on this list. I certainly recommend them both for ‘Mech fans looking for a new experience and to expand MechWarrior 5’s extremely limited ‘Mech customization, but I wanted to go without that. While ‘Mech customization is and always has been a core feature of BattleTech, I’ve always felt that sort of thing wouldn’t necessarily be available to a poor mercenary unit. Simple swaps like removing a small laser for more armor could be done in a Leopard’s ‘Mechbay, but an engine swap or tossing out an AC/5 for a PPC would require specialized equipment only found planet-side–at least, in my personal view of this fictional universe.  

That’s not to say that MercTech and Mercs Reloaded don’t have lots more to offer than ‘Mech customization and equipment, though. Both are feature-packed and vastly expand upon MechWarrior 5 in more ways than I can go into here. 

But anyway, without further adieu, here’s what mods got going on for my personal MechWarrior 5 experience.

Better Spawns Mod

Better Spawns Mod

This mod is easily the most important one. Much of MechWarrior 5‘s randomly generated missions will turn into a battle of attrition as more and more enemy units just keep spawning from thin air. This mod fixes that, toning down the number of enemies spawned and making them show up from DropShips rather than nowhere. It changes the tone of MechWarrior 5 to be less like a frantic rogue-lite and more like previous MechWarrior games, and I consider it an essential addition.

Better Performance – FPS Drop Fix Mod

There’s a well-known bug in vanilla MechWarrior 5 that has to do with the way the game fails to clear memory used for weapons fire and other sound effects. On longer missions, this will cause increasing performance loss and possibly even a full lockup on older machines. This will be fixed in the next patch, according to PGI, but in the meantime, this is another essential mod. 

Enemy Mech Availability Date Fix

Another noted bug is that enemy ‘Mechs never update to use newer-model ‘Mechs over time. This will also be fixed in the upcoming patch, but why wait? This mod fixes that bug right now.

TTRulez Enemy and Lancemate AI mods

Lance-AI-Mod-via-Epic-Games

The AI in MechWarrior 5 can be truly atrocious at times. This mod makes your lancemates stop running through buildings you’re required to protect while also giving enemy ‘Mechs behaviors beyond suicide-charging straight at the player.

Remove JumpShip Animations mod

Frankly, the JumpShip animations weren’t all that great to begin with and they can really slow down MechWarrior 5‘s overall pacing. Best to be rid of them. This mod leaves you with the much shorter animation of your Leopard in flight but gets rid of the parts with the Invader-class JumpShip.

MechWarrior 2 Music Reimagined

I like crunchy guitars as much as the next guy, but it seems like MechWarrior 5 has maybe six songs total and they all kinda sound the same. It gets old fast. This mod replaces the soundtrack with remixed and remastered versions of songs from MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, and I gotta say, it’s a huge improvement. The mod even changes songs depending on the in-game action. 

3D HUD

I really liked seeing this mod in action, so I grabbed it for myself. Not that I have anything against the traditional MechWarrior Online layout, but the 3D Hud mod makes MechWarrior 5 seem like a brand new game. Plus it looks cool and has an advanced zoom for sniping.

Prime8’s Distinct Weapon FX

Prime8 Distinct Weapons FX

Vastly improved weapon effects. Missiles have better smoke trails, lasers look better, and autocannon rounds are more explosive. Pew pew is very important in a game like MechWarrior 5, and this makes the pew pew more woo woo!

Weather Improvement Mod

Rain looks more like rain, snow looks more like snow, and fog occasionally gets so dense that you’re forced to fly by instruments. I like this mod, and I think you will too.

Limp Galore

Limp

For whatever reason, PGI thought that if a ‘Mech’s leg gets destroyed, this should cause them to limp for a few seconds and then get up and run away as though nothing happened. This was probably a gameplay decision based on how being legged would make a co-op teammate take forever to reach the objective. I understand that logic, and I disagree with it 100%. This mod keeps a legged ‘Mech limping forever, just as the BattleTech gods intended.

Portrait Distortion Effect

The in-game portraits are fine, but I always felt like they needed a little something extra so they weren’t just pictures popping up on-screen. This makes pilot portraits feel more like they’re actual broadcasts thanks to a bit of distortion animation and brings MechWarrior 5 in line with contemporary games that make use of the same feature.

The Mods I Wish Existed But Don’t… Yet

Rifleman

Now let’s get to the mods I wish existed. These are fixes that I feel MechWarrior 5 desperately needs. We might see some of these fixed in the upcoming patch, but I haven’t specifically heard them being mentioned, so I’m begging you modders to get on these quick! 

Fix Jump Jets

I gotta be honest, when I think of jump jets in MechWarrior games, I think of Death from Above and jumping from mesas into gorges to duel a Masakari to the death. Jump jets in MechWarrior 5 do virtually nothing–they just let you hover in place for a little while and maybe prevent some leg damage if you accidentally fall into the previously-mentioned gorge. I think this might be a bug because I occasionally find myself leaping into the air as one would expect, but most often it’s just a useless hover 3 feet off the ground. The game desperately needs a mod to give jump jets some actual functionality.

New Voice Actors

Ryana is okay, as are some of the random NPCs, but I cringe openly whenever Fahad or Commander Mason opens their big dumb mouths. Someone, please, save me from their nattering!

On a related note…

Manticore Tank

Character Creator Options

This will likely make more sense with the new campaign options that are coming in the next patch, but it’d be great if we could play as ourselves rather than this Commander Mason guy. He’s not really all that important as a character if we’re being honest, and something like Harebrained’s BATTLETECH would be a vast improvement. I’m even fine with the protagonist going back to being completely silent just so long as we can play as something other than a huge dudebro.

Animate NPCs on DropShip

Pretty much all the NPCs in MechWarrior 5 stand around like mute mannequins until you go up and talk to them. It’s embarrassing that a game in 2020 still takes the same approach to NPCs that Half-Life did back in 2001. Ryana and Fahad should be doing stuff. How hard can it be to have Ryana tapping on a keyboard of Fahad to be using a laser torch on some ‘Mech armor? Get these NPCs moving!

Make Running The Default Movement on DropShips

This is another personal peeve of mine. Why would I slowly crawl to wherever it is I’m going on the Leopard when I could actually get there sometime this century? I shouldn’t have to hold down the damn Shift key all the time! Just make running the default movement in first-person mode!

Design Quirks Mod

Phoenix Hawk

I’m pretty sure I’m not the first person to think of this, and if I’m stealing your idea, I apologize and give you full credit. 

So you know how BattleMechs have little design quirks that give them a whole bunch of flavor? Like how the Phoenix Hawk is supposed to have great sensors, and the Centurion is supposed to have ammunition feed problems for that AC/10? It’d be great to add these quirks to the game to give each ‘Mech their own unique flavor. Maybe it’d be tough to program ammo-jams for specific ‘Mechs, but it can’t be that hard to make an “Easy to Repair” ‘Mech cheaper to repair after a mission. 

Still no word on when PGI plans to release the next big update along with Heroes of the Inner Sphere, but I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as I do!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For August 2020

Welcome, ‘Mech fans, to your August news roundup! The West Coast is on fire and the Gulf Coast is underwater, which is not a great way to end the summer. For all those in affected areas: stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in your cockpits if at all possible. Most ‘Mechs have an air filtration system and oxygen supply provided you’ve been keeping up with your maintenance schedule.

Now let’s get this show on the road!

Virtual World Hosts “Lostech” Interview With BattleTech Founder Jordan Weisman

Lostech1

Virtual World LLC is hosting an interview with BattleTech’s founders to discuss how the BattleTech Center became a thing.

It’s been a minute since we heard from the folks at Virtual World, and although the pandemic has put a crimp in their usual convention touring where they bring BattleTech Simulator Pods all around the country, they’ve decided to do something at least equally as impressive to make up for it.

Called “Lostech,” this upcoming video interview with Jordan Weisman, L. Ross Babcock, and FASA CEO Morton Weisman will discuss the origins of the BattleTech Center, those delightful simulator pods, and Virtual World Entertainment. Expect things to get nostalgic as both game developers and simulator pod operators will be in the panel discussion too.

I reached out to Nick Smith to get the lowdown, and this is what he wrote back to tell me: 

The Lostech project has been a pet project for some time and is the work of Chris “Lynx” Chapman, a former Virtual World Entertainment Group and FASA Interactive Technologies employee. (You may have also commanded him on MechCommander.)

For years, many of us affiliated with Virtual World have been proudly telling the stories of how so many things that we take for granted in the games industry today’s were first seen at the BattleTech Center in Chicago in the early nineties. Head-To-Head multiplayer gaming, “GamerTags”, defined roles in multiplayer gaming, mission review, and televised E-Sports, to name just a few, all owe some of their histories to those early days in Chicago at the original BattleTech Center. 

As a person who has spent tremendous energy and time to preserving this seldom-told history, I was thrilled to partner with my friend Chris Chapman (who also wrote the Electronic BattleTech History section for the BattleTech: 25 Years of Art & Fiction book) to finally tell this story, to shine a light on those who made magic happen and subsequently influenced the future of electronic gaming.

“Lostech” is currently in the final editing stages and is expected to hit all streaming media platforms by Labor Day weekend

MechWarrior Prime—The Cancelled Successor To MechWarrior 4—Detailed In New Screenshots

So this is neat. We have No Guts No Galaxy’s Sean Lang to thank for posting this to the BattleTech subreddit showcasing what might have been had FASA Studios continued making games after MechWarrior 4.

Called MechWarrior Prime, it would have essentially been a much earlier MechWarrior 5. From the screenshots, it looks like much of the game would have used MechWarrior 4’s assets but with slight improvements to the models and textures--unsurprising, given how this game started to get pitched immediately following the release of MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries.

MechWarrior Prime

This also gives us a rare peek into the world of video game development and how studios start working on their next game pretty much just as soon as their latest game is done--and sometimes even before that. 

Sadly, Microsoft moved away from the BattleTech license and everything got shelved. It’d be years before Smith and Tinker’s attempt at MechWarrior 5 made a few headlines, and then years more before MechWarrior Online finally brought us a new MechWarrior game (even if it wasn’t necessarily a traditional single-player experience--for that, you can play MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries that’s out now). 

MechWarrior Living Legends Gets Its Own YouTube Channel

MechWarrior: Living Legends Fan Trailer - Inferno
Watch this video on YouTube.

It looks like the PR folks at MechWarrior: Living Legends are increasing their reach with a brand new YouTube channel. There’s not a whole lot there at present besides the fan-made “Inferno” trailer, but that’s more than enough to get them started. Although I gotta say, there’s a better than even chance that there will be a DMCA strike for using DOOM‘s music.

Hopefully they’ll get an introductory video and maybe a few tutorials up in the near future.

August Brings More Stuff From Catalyst

Patience, MechWarriors. The Clan Invasion will begin its arrival in due course. In the meantime, here’s some fresh new BattleTech content straight from the source. 

Starting with two new Touring the Stars volumes for Valencia and Braunschweig. Valencia is in the deep periphery as part of the Escorpion Imperio in the current timeline, while Braunschweig is part of the Hanseatic League. You can learn about how about both these periphery nations duked it out in Turning Points: Hanseatic Crusade, too. 

The latest Recognition Guide: IlClan is here (volume 5) as well as a brand new novel by Bryan Young called Honor’s Gauntlet. Lots of recent books are looking at IlClan from lots of different angles, and this one will take a look at the Jade Falcons and how they’re preparing themselves in the lead up to the drive for Terra. 

MechCommander Mercenaries Update 1.2 Is Here

Mechcommander Mercenaries - Update v1.2
Watch this video on YouTube.

MechCommander Mercenaries just dropped its 1.2 update with a bunch of changes, most noticeably the fact that Commander Mason is just plain gone. But it’s for a good reason that has nothing to do with the plot.

One of the issues found in the early release of MechCommander Mercenaries was that sometimes Mason’s ‘Mech would just not move no matter how many times you clicked. This issue was annoying (and game-breaking) enough to warrant a temporary workaround, which involves flat-out removing Mason from the game at the start of every mission and replacing him with a stunt-double AI pilot.

While this solves the problem of Mason ignoring commands, it adds a new issue of the AI pilot being unable to trigger objectives or extraction after the mission is complete. Also, since Mason is technically not there, he doesn’t gain any experience (which is bad), but neither can he die from enemy fire (which is good, I guess).

But besides Mason taking a (hopefully short) hiatus, update 1.2 also adds something amazing: reinforcements! This beta feature now allows you to summon up to an additional 8 ‘Mechs from orbit courtesy of your Leopard DropShip. Since Leopards can only carry four ‘Mechs at a time, you’re limited to deploying an extra lance at a time, but you can still deploy an entire company of ‘Mechs on every mission. Which is as completely busted as it is awesome.

A couple of notes on reinforcements: as this is still in beta, not everything is working right. Reinforced ‘Mechs are taken from your available stored ‘Mechs, but don’t have pilots assigned and are instead given random AIs. There’s also no additional cost for reinforcing your deployments, so it is 100% busted and can turn any mission into a turkey shoot for both you and your allies.

Friendly fire is a big problem as friendly ‘Mechs will often keep firing even if they randomly move into each other’s firing lines. That’s an issue that is currently being worked on, as well as the weird Mason thing and balancing reinforcements.

There’s some other quality of life improvements in 1.2 as well, which you can hear all about in the above video.

Since When Was There A MechWarrior Dark Age Video?

Mechwarrior
Watch this video on YouTube.

I can’t believe nobody told me that this film exists. It turns out that MechWarrior: Dark Age--y’know, the Clix-based miniatures game from the early 2000s--had a freakin’ film made. And it’s not just an ad! 

This was made by The Digital Animation and Visual Effects School (or DAVE School) of Orlando, Florida in partnership with BattleTech creator Jordan Weisman and WizKids, then owners of the MechWarrior: Dark Age license. It was the final project for the class of March 2006, and everything about it is delightfully B-movie, from the actors to the effects.

There’s a lot to love from this film, from how overweight most of the ‘Mech pilots are to how there’s a keyboard in the BattleMaster‘s cockpit. But the CGI does an admirable job of rendering Dark Age-style ‘Mechs and tanks in intense combat.

This is five minutes well spent. Kudos to Reddit user geergutz for finding this gem.

Some Madman (or Woman, or Other) Is Recreating MechWarrior 2 In Unity

I don’t know who this is. I don’t know why they’re doing it. But I do know that this is amazing and should be encouraged, so I’ll tell you what I know.

A parent and son are working to recreate the MechWarrior 2 engine in Unity. This pet project will take assets from the original MechWarrior 2 game files and load them into Unity for use at runtime. This is apparently being done for legal reasons and not because it’s an efficient way to make a game. But regardless, this is the closest we’ve ever come to a remaster of MechWarrior 2, and I’m here for it.

About two weeks ago, the parent-son duo started posting their works on Imgur. It’s all broken down into parts with sweet animations showing Timber Wolves and Tarantulas trotting around, twisting torsos, and even leaping off of cliffs.

Tarantula

I’m not sure what the end goal here is. Maybe it really is to remaster MechWarrior 2, or maybe it’s just a tech demonstration to show that it’s possible to remaster old games in Unity. Either way, if you can put me in touch with these people, I’d love to get answers to these burning questions.

That’s it for August! Join us next time as the Earth continues to burn around us. 

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

MechWarrior 5 DLC, Heroes Of The Inner Sphere, Previewed In Podcasts And Streams

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries

There’s been a lot of developments for MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, the latest and (arguably--please don’t @ me) greatest MechWarrior game to hit PC’s since MechWarrior 2. Mod support has been added to the Epic Games Store, so now you don’t have to fiddle about with downloads from ModDB or Nexus Mods to get your version of MechWarrior 5 exactly how you like.

And another big development is MechWarrior 5‘s first DLC. Announced in April, Heroes of the Inner Sphere plans to expand the game’s initial career mode by adding new quests, new missions, and allow players to start in various new hot-zones around the Inner Sphere. And of course, there are new ‘Mechs, new guns, and the return of quirks from MechWarrior Online.

We still don’t have all the details, but several recent livestreams have dropped a lot of new info that I felt warranted sharing. As a quick recap, here’s what we know for sure will be coming in Heroes of the Inner Sphere:

MW5 Mercs Heroes of the Inner Sphere DLC - New Mechs and Biome Preview.
Watch this video on YouTube.

“But Sean,” I hear you screeching with the incessant whine of a Cicada, “how will ECM and BAP even work? What will Chemical Lasers be like? What about infantry and artillery? And what will happen to all those great mods that are already out there enhancing everyone’s MechWarrior experience beyond measure? And when is this DLC even going to release?”

Well, I have some answers--and some non-answers--thanks to two livestream broadcasts. 

The biggest news dump came courtesy of No Guts No Galaxy’s Sean Lang interviewing PGI’s Chris Lowrey for two whole hours. It was quite exhaustive and covered a wide range of topics, all ending with some alpha footage of an Orion stomping around in the new Beachhead mission type.

Mechwarrior 5 Mercenaries - DLC Info & Walk-through Podcast
Watch this video on YouTube.

You can watch the whole thing in the video above, or you can read on for my summary.

As with every good first DLC, quality-of-life and bug fixes are a high priority for Heroes of the Inner Sphere. One of the big topics discussed was radar changes that will now provide MechWarriors with full 360-degree coverage around their ‘Mechs out to 800 meters. Currently, the game only offers radar in a cone view which differs wildly from previous iterations of MechWarrior and makes it difficult to track down fast-moving ‘Mechs as they flit around you. I’m big on this change and how it will solve my general inattentiveness to my surroundings (which often happens regardless of whether or not I’m in a giant robot).

Ambient heat will be added to planets which is another addition inspired by past MechWarrior games. A news ticker similar to MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries will keep players up to speed with the current comings and goings-on in the Inner Sphere, while an internal database added to your DropShip‘s computer will keep track of all encountered ‘Mechs and units so players can properly identify them in the future.

Marauder IIC

I know none of Sarna’s illustrious readers need a database to tell the difference between a VTR-9B and a VTR-9A, but not all of MechWarrior 5‘s customers are so enlightened.

All of the things I just mentioned will be part of a free update that will arrive around the same time as Heroes of the Inner Sphere. That is to say, everyone is getting those sweet sweet bug fixes and QOL improvements. But if you want the new ‘Mechs (such as the aforementioned Dervish or Marauder II) and the new ‘Mech variants, you’ll have to shell out for the DLC. Pricing has yet to be mentioned from anyone, but I can’t imagine it exceeding 20 bucks or so. 

Let’s talk equipment. Many of the new items mentioned on the MechWarrior 5 website, such as ECM, BAP, and MASC, are already present in MechWarrior Online. So you’d expect those items to basically work the same as they do in PGI’s other game, but that’s apparently not quite the case.

According to Chris, ECM will reduce enemy detection range as it does in MWO, but it will also scramble opposing targeting computers at close range. BAP will provide an increase to sensor range as it does in MWO, but it will also pierce line-of-sight requirements so that you can maintain a target lock if a ‘Mech or vehicle runs behind a hill or a mountain.

Artillery

EWECM and EWAP are basically heavier, more cumbersome versions of ECM and BAP that might not be quite as effective. Expect to find ECM and BAP closer to Inner Sphere homeworlds, while EWAP and EWECM are more likely to be found in periphery worlds. 

That’ll be the overall georaphic trend with a lot of the more retrotech weapons added in Heroes of the Inner Sphere too. Chem Lasers and ‘Mech Rifles are more likely to be equipped on pirate and insurgent units than regular House forces. Chem Lasers will have significant heat savings over regular lasers at the cost of requiring ammunition, while ‘Mech Rifles look to be harder-hitting but lacking in ammo reserves.

The NGNG Podcast interview ended with an extended look at the new Beachhead mission type, where the player’s company takes on the role of vanguard ahead of an allied invasion. You’ll need to take out several objectives while under heavy fire from combined enemy forces, including ‘Mechs, tanks, infantry, and artillery. Red circles mark the landing zones of enemy shells, so remember to stay out of those when embarking on this mission type.

MechWarrior 5 Mercenaries Heroes of the Inner Sphere DLC Discord QNA
Watch this video on YouTube.

More recently, PGI hosted a Q&A livestream where Lowrey and David Forsey answered questions posed in the MechWarrior 5 Discord chat. One of the big questions in this stream was about enemy spawn rates, which PGI is most definitely working to solve. Lowrey mentioned to NGNG that the randomness of ‘Mech designs faced in missions will be replaced by drawing from a certain “deck” of ‘Mechs that will better correspond with the House or pirate gang you’re attaching, while Forsey said in the Q&A session that they’re working towards improving the spread of ‘Mech weights faced during random missions.

AI improvements were another big topic, with one question asking if PGI plans to use some of the improvements to enemy and friendly behavior offered in the TTRulez Improved AI mods. Forsey said PGI is reviewing the mods, but couldn’t comment further at this time.

Melee weapons and Aerospace fighters also seem off the table--at least, for now. Aerospace fighters haven’t really featured in MechWarrior since MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries as they’re just hard to implement from a game design perspective. Melee weapons are also difficult to program, although both Lowrey and Forsey invited the wider modding community to take a stab at it. 

A big concern is what this new DLC will do to the mods that are already out there. Forsey admitted that Heroes of the Inner Sphere “may break some [mods],” but quickly added that PGI is talking with the mod community to ensure that the DLC’s arrival causes as little disruption as possible. 

Champion via PGI

And before I sign off a few quick hits: 

  • The new Career mode will provide players with a unique starting lance depending on their House of origin.
  • Infantry are armed with SRMs and machine guns, and you can totally stomp on them.
  • Bitching Betty might make her return, in case you don’t want to use the existing Bitching Betty mod.
  • A new “rare equipment” tag will be added to the paid DLC so you can better track down ECM and BAP.
  • Changes to the Leopard DropShip spawns will make it more obvious when one arrives with enemy reinforcements by adding more noise and screen shake.

Oh, and last but not least: no, we don’t have a release date yet. We are well past the initial June target thanks to COVID-related delays, and the livestream footage made it clear there are still a few ingredients that need to be tweaked before this DLC is done cooking. Hopefully, we’ll get a release window by the time the August News Dump hits.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

MechCommander Returns As a MechWarrior 5 Mod

I know we JUST had a news dump, but I felt that this was just too cool to wait for August.

So there’s a lot of really cool mods available for MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, ranging from simple tweaks that improve things like the HUD or visuals, to far more all-encompassing mods like Navida1’s MW5 Mercs Reloaded. The mod we’re going to discuss today goes beyond even Reloaded in terms of fundamentally changing the way you play MechWarrior 5.

It’s called MechCommander Mercenaries for a reason. This is a total conversion mod that changes MechWarrior 5 from a first-person ‘Mech simulator game into a third-person ‘Mech real-time strategy game.

That’s right: MechCommander is back.

MechCommander Mercenaries

Obviously, what’s changed most is the actual core combat of MechWarrior 5. Instead of hopping in a ‘Mech that you pilot yourself, you send commands to your lance to tell them how to fight. Which can be a little tricky as MechWarrior 5’s AI is still pretty bad and MechCommander Mercenaries is still in early beta and hasn’t quite figured out how to iron out the AI pathing issues.

But the rest of MechWarrior 5 is mostly the same. You still have the same ‘Mechlab, the same mission selection screen, the same map, the same interior dropship walkabout, and the same salvage and mission complete screen. The only real difference is that you’re not the one strapped into a neurohelmet.

Sorry, there’s another big change. As Sean Lang reveals in a recent No Guts, No Galaxy podcast, MechCommander Mercenaries also adds a slow-mo button so that you can slow down the action and send quick commands to your units even in the heat of combat. This is probably a necessary addition as MechWarrior 5 can be surprisingly quick when the AI is the one doing all the shooting.

Installation is simple: just unzip MechCommander Mercenaries in the MechWarrior 5 mods folder and select the mod from the in-game menu. Everything should work fine with other mods (barring a few notable exceptions like the better lancemate mod), but the development team hasn’t tested MechCommander Mercenaries extensively enough to know if it works with 100% of the available mods out there.

MechCommander Mercenaries is out now on Nexus Mods with a beta release. As I mentioned before, it’s still an early beta, and there are a ton of known issues that still need to be fixed with later releases. Expect some bugs, which are detailed on a recent posting in the brand new MechCommander Mercenaries subreddit.

Mechcommander Mercenaries - Podcast #200
Watch this video on YouTube.

I have some fond memories of MechCommander Gold. Not fond enough to replay the game (and it’s most recent update) as much as Sean Lang, but still, fond memories. MechCommander is as beloved around these parts as the MechWarrior franchise, so seeing it return in this way is a truly heartwarming sight.

If you’re interested, subscribe to the MechCommander Mercenaries subreddit for updates, and you can follow this link to download the mod.

UPDATE: You can also get MechCommander Mercenaries from the newly enacted mods feature on the Epic Games Store. Just go here, click “add to library,” and MechCommander Mercs will be automatically installed to MechWarrior 5‘s mods folder. Then you just select the mod from the in-game menu and you’re off!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy