Category Archives: Art

Your BattleTech News Roundup For June 2020

Welcome to your BattleTech News Roundup for the month of June, 2020. Now we’ve got protests against police brutality and massive civil unrest to go along with the global pandemic, so that’s cool. Who had race riots on their Apocalypse: 2020 Bingo card? Someone’s gotta be close to winning by this point. I’m still waiting on “volcanic eruption” and “meteorite impact” to complete my set, although I’m eyeing “alien invasion” with more and more suspicion.

Anyway, we’re not going to get too political around these parts. BattleTech had a busy month in June, so we’ve got plenty of much more fun stuff to talk about. Let’s get this party started.

MechWarrior 5 Adds Mod Support To Microsoft Store-Bought Games

Flea

While MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries has remained an Epic exclusive, it’s not 100% exclusive to Epic. If you’re really against Epic, you could always buy the game on the Microsoft Store for the same price.

But there was a problem in that the Microsoft version of MechWarrior 5 didn’t have mod support, which was one of the key features of the game. That’s changed as of earlier this month with a brand new patch that brought mod support to the Microsoft Store and Xbox GamePass versions of MechWarrior 5.

There was a bit of a hiccup as PGI also changed the save data location to make things a little more accessible, but this caused players to lose their save files and campaign progression if they had the game installed anywhere other than their C drives. Players had to go digging around for their save files to put them in the new location in order to get their campaign back.

Minor bug aside, this is a welcome change for Microsoft Store players since mods can greatly enhance your experience in MechWarrior 5. Welcome to the fold, Microsoft Store and Xbox GamePass MechWarriors!

Shrapnel, The Official BattleTech Magazine, Has Officially Arrived

shrapnel

Kickstarter backers got their inaugural issue of Shrapnel a few weeks ago, but now The Official BattleTech Magazine is available for everyone via Amazon.

Shrapnel represents a return to more serialized BattleTech fiction, filling the void left by BattleCorps when it shut down in 2017. It’s definitely a tome, clocking in at 172 digital pages when you include the index (the magazine portion itself is more like 150 pages). Within this digital magazine, you’ll find short stories from recognizable authors like Blaine Lee Pardoe and Kevin Killany, a forward from editor Philip A. Lee, and some more technical pieces about sniper rifles and the Eridani Light Horse.

They’re also publishing Michael A. Stackpole’s recent Kell Hounds novella If Auld Acquaintances Be Forgot. Which sort of explains why this thing is about the size of a small novel, and why it’s being priced at $5.95 on Amazon. That’s good value, considering the amount of text you’re getting.

As Blaine points out, the first issue of Shrapnel is very wordy without a lot of visual aids. Shrapnel is taking submissions for future issues, but so far the submission guidelines are all about word limits and preferred subject material (which is to say character-focused BattleTech stories). There’s nothing about fanart submissions, but reach out anyway. I’m sure Catalyst would love to spruce things up with a bit of fanart.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Sean, you’re a writer, why don’t you submit something to Shrapnel?” Well, I did have this idea about a gay romance between star-crossed Elementals from different Clans, but I don’t think anyone wants to read that. Plus I’d have to edit out the sex scenes to meet the PG-13 requirement and trust me, that’d be A LOT of work.

But if anyone at Catalyst thinks goofy articles about AC/20 ammo being made of pancakes is worth reading, gimme a shout.

Catalyst Sends C&D’s To Thingiverse Accounts Over BattleTech Copyrights

UrbieCop

courtesy of Fried Eggs on Discord

Well, this was a long time coming. Catalyst has finally taken action against the burgeoning 3D printing community to remove all copyrighted materials from Thingiverse, perhaps the largest 3D printing design site on the internet. This has resulted in many ‘Mech designs being removed at their request.

Takedown requests started getting sent out at the beginning of June, and according to a copy of the request posted by Reddit user AceTimberwolf, those requests are coming directly from BattleTech line developer Ray Arrastia.

You can’t blame Catalyst for protecting their copyrighted ‘Mechs, but it looks like this was a takedown of anything that was tagged “BattleTech” on Thingiverse. This meant things that aren’t technically copyrighted also got taken down, including stuff like buildings, trees, and other hex-based terrains. Custom designs that were based on copyrighted ‘Mechs also got the ax.

DCMA notice

It was all a little heavy-handed, and it has left a bad taste in the mouths of the 3D-printing community. The BattleTech International 3D Printing Facebook group has taken to tagging their designs “America Mecha Game” to both protest the mass removal and also avoid future takedown notices, with various pirate memes dominating the recent postings (kudos to Fried Eggs on the Everything BattleTech Discord server for coming up with this delightful UrbieCop meme).

My take? Catalyst is staring down an existential threat. Printing minis at home means they lose their market, which means they lose some pretty essential revenue. They’d rather BattleTech fans buy minis they make instead. That’s how their business works, how it’s always worked.

But there’s really no putting this genie back in the bottle. Just as how music had to transform decades ago thanks to the advent of MP3s, so too will gaming miniature providers have to change how they do things thanks to 3D printers. C&D’s and takedown requests might slow things down for now, but they won’t stop it. The technology is out there, and it’ll only get harder and harder to police as 3D printers get cheaper and 3D designs get easier to make.

I won’t link them here, but I can tell you that certain Facebook groups are already throwing Dropbox links around with all those removed Thinigverse designs inside them. This fight is only going to get spicier in the coming months as the Clan Invasion Kickstarter shipments start later this year.

Halfway Through, So Here’s A Pixel Art Javelin

[OC] Practicing Pixel Art! from battletech

Reddit user Maaxxim posted this one and I really like it. Javelins don’t get enough love (even though you’re basically given one for free in MechWarrior 5), so I’m glad to see someone else is giving the Javelin some long-overdue attention.

BattleTech Recognition Guide: IlClan Volume One Now Available

BattleTech Recognition Guide

People have been wondering when we’ll see IlClan. Well, here’s our first good taste. The IlClan TRO is being handed out piece by piece as it’s being created in the form of the BattleTech Recognition Guide: IlClan.

What will eventually span 22 PDF files, these Recognition Guides will include at least one all-new ‘Mech per volume and also redesigns on classic ‘Mechs rebuilt using Dark Age tech. They’ll also include “in-universe development notes, battle histories, notable pilots, and record sheets for each ‘Mech.”

Dominator

After all 22 PDFs are published, they’ll be combined into a single print volume. If this doesn’t eventually become the IlClan TRO, I don’t know what will.

In a preview posted on Twitter, Catalyst also treated us to that new ‘Mech that was on the cover of Pardoe’s latest book, Divided We Fall. The Dominator is a 65-ton Clan BattleMech with decent speed, armor, and jump jets. And I was mostly right about the armament too with the real design sporting an ER PPC, ER Large Laser, ER Small Laser, and a Streak SRM-6. A Targeting Computer makes those long-range energy weapons hit consistently, and I’m all about consistency.

BATTLETECH Revised Is Now Live

BattleTech Revised via Nexus Mods

Back in March, we heard about a “crack commando team” that was looking to rebalance everything in BATTLETECH, from ‘Mech hardpoints to weapon stats. We were promised an update later, and it seems that time has come.

BATTLETECH Revised is now available on Nexus Mods and it brings with it a totally new BATTLETECH experience. ‘Mechs now have quirks based on their lore that gives them… well, quirks. Strong ‘Mechs were given debuff quirks, while weaker designs got helpful quirks.

Although the mod description states that the quirks are designed to respect a ‘Mech’s lore, the example provided isn’t exactly doing that. Apparently the Commando is considered a “sniper” ‘Mech that now has 50% more firepower for weapons mounted in the right arm. Although the COM-1B has a large laser that might make it slightly sniper-y, the vast majority of Commando variants have short-range missiles and are more harassers and reconnaissance machines than snipers. [Ed. It has been brought to my attention that the prototype and early model Commandos were actually snipers armed with large lasers and AC/2, notably the COM-1A, COM-1B, and COM1-C. So this is more in keeping with BattleTech than previously indicated. My bad!]

On the plus side, weapons have been rebalanced so that some of the more maligned weapon systems such as the AC/2 are now much more of a threat. On top of that, there are big changes to the game’s economy, story, and pilot abilities, with pilots now receiving special bonuses if they’re sent into combat in their personal rides.

It sounds like a much-expanded experience, even if the designers aren’t quite aware of the full BattleTech lore, so if you’re looking to change up your game, try BATTLETECH Revised.

MechWarrior Destiny, Dice Sets, And Puzzles Now Available

June is a big month for Catalyst! They’ve already taken up most of this recap, but we still have a few more newsworthy updates to make with new BattleTech products.

Destiny

Starting with MechWarrior: Destiny, the new RPG based on the Cue system. I have not played anything using the Cue system, but it certainly sounds interesting. Rather than having a GM, the Cue system gives each player a turn at being the Lead Narrator using “cues” on their character sheet to move each scene forward. It’s designed to be easy to learn, so it shouldn’t add too much of a complicating layer to regular BattleTech tabletop gameplay.

MechWarrior: Destiny can be played without the usual stomping robots, or you can incorporate Destiny into your BattleTech or Alpha Strike games for an added role-playing element. MechWarrior: Destiny is availble now in PDF or print formats.

Turning Points: Tyrfing is also available now in PDF form, telling the story of how the planet Tyrfing became the scene for a five-way war for Lostech during the First Succession War. There’s also a bunch of dice sets available using the logos for famous mercenary groups, including Gray Death Legion, McCarron’s Armored Cavalry, the 21st Centauri Lancers, the Eridani Light Horse, and the Northwind Highlanders.

Puzzles

And finally, we got some brand new jigsaw puzzles. Each puzzle is 500 pieces, 18×24-inches, and features box and cover art from some of the most iconic BattleTech products out today. Only 1,000 puzzles of each design will be made, and they’ll be foil-printed too. Combine this with the coloring books from last month and you got yourself the perfect way to keep the kids entertained during social distancing.

Have A Hornet To Brighten Your Day

Hornets 3D models redux from battletech

Reddit user u/juodasvarnas is back with another 3D design, this time the Hornet. It looks sort of like half an UrbanMech with jet engines strapped to the back, which I’m sure is perfectly safe. We need more Hornets out there hopping along and shooting their LRM-5s at nothing in particular–much like how a yellow jacket is inclined to sting for no particular reason.

And that’s it! Join us next month where we talk about all the stuff that happened in the next few weeks, barring an even greater global catastrophe that makes this whole giant robot stuff seem kinda trivial. Unless that global catastrophe IS giant robots. Then I guess we’ll talk about that.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

UrbanMech LAM Now Exists And Is Awaiting Canonicity Approval

April Fools has come and gone, and with it came the usual assortment of online jigs and japes. Catalyst, as usual, got in on the action with perhaps the best idea BattleTech has ever had: the UrbanMech LAM.

LAMs, as many of you likely recall, were early attempts by FASA to reconcile the Macross/Robotech models used in BattleTech with the transforming robot/planes of the anime. It never really worked out, so the Stinger, Phoenix Hawk, and Wasp LAMs were all relegated to the dustbin of BattleTech history, their presence hand-waved away as merely more Star League-era Lostech.

Save for a few Word of Blake LAMs that showed up during the Jihad, LAMs have remained dead and buried for most of BattleTech’s history. At least, until now.

We present… the UrbanMech LAM!

Urbie LAM

Truly a work of finesse and artistry, this literal flying rust bucket is the creative genius of Bishop Steiner, who regularly posts fancy drawings on his Twitter feed (so you should follow him). Mr. Steiner teamed up with Catalyst to provide a bit of an April Fool’s day joke, but one that I certainly hope gets turned into canon by the various powers that be.

You can read about the UrbanMech LAM on the Clan Invasion Kickstarter here.

Oh, and because UrbanMechs are the best thing ever, someone on Reddit has even created a 3D model of the Urbie LAM so you can make your own miniatures. Catalyst certainly won’t do it, but maybe an enterprising materials engineer will.

The Crazy LAM urbie! It had to be made. from battletech

(PS: I’m aware that the odds of this thing ever getting rubber-stamped as canon are about as good as me flying to the moon by flapping my arms really fast, but in these troubled times, one can freakin’ dream, capiche?!)

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

The ‘Mech That Looks Most Like A Turkey

UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that the fleshy bit hanging from a turkey is called a “wattle,” not a “waddle,” thus identifying a clear lack of poultry knowledge on my part. This has been corrected. The original story follows.

It’s Thanksgiving. In America, anyway. In Canada, we celebrated Thanksgiving several weeks ago due to our short harvest season and our reservation for the month of November to be one-half solemn remembrance for our fallen soldiers, and then one-half insane consumerism in the lead-up to Christmas.

However, Canada celebrating early means that I am reminded of American Thanksgiving with plenty of time to prepare an article on the subject.

How can Thanksgiving possibly relate to BattleTech, you ask? Simple: some of these ‘Mechs look a helluva lot like turkeys.

As is often the case, I found myself browsing the vast databanks of Sarna’s stored ‘Mech designs thinking, “Man, some of these giant death machines look a lot like a bird I’d like to eat.” So then I figured I should point out some of my favorites and turn it into a fun way to celebrate Thanksgiving in a very BattleTech way.

So without further ado, these are the ‘Mechs I think resemble turkeys the most.

Huron Warrior

Huron Turkey

Right away, I centered in on the Huron Warrior. Yes, that frilly bit around the ‘Mechs head is most certainly designed after the ceremonial headdresses of Native Americans, but I hasten to point out that some of the feathers on those headdresses were from wild turkeys. Thus, the similarity between the Huron Warrior and a turkey’s tail feathers shouldn’t be too much of a shock.

Stalker

Stalker Turkey

I have a friend who I used to play MechWarrior Online with. He always called his Stalker the “Murder Turkey” for the way it single-handedly dismantled opponents. I think it also had to do with the way the ‘Mech moved, which was sort of like a man drunk on wine and tryptophan, the sleep-inducing chemical that is found in roast turkey. Regardless, the squat and ugly Stalker is very much a turkey in ‘Mech form.

Mad Cat

I mean, how could we not discuss the Mad Cat (or Timberwolf, if you’re a Clanner)? It’s got the backward-canted legs, the bulbous body, and the missile racks sort of do a good stand-in for the big frilly tail of a turkey. Replace those racks with a bunch of lasers as on the Alt. Config A and it sort of has the roundedness of a turkey too.

Turkina

Turkina Turkey

This might be a little on the nose given the name, but what the hell. It’s a giant turkey of a ‘Mech if there ever was one. Perhaps more so than any other design on this list. It’s just huge, and menacing, and rounded, and weird in all the same ways as a real turkey. Just about the only thing separating the two is the Turkina’s lack of a wattlle.

Black Lanner

Sticking with Jade Falcon bird ‘Mechs, we arrive at the Black Lanner. This design is a little more predatory than a turkey really could ever be, but overall the similarities are there. Especially if we ignore the farm-raised turkeys and stick with wild turkeys, which are far sleeker.

Marauder II

Why not the regular Marauder? Because the Marauder II is thicc in all the same ways as a turkey. Plus it has a giant autocannon sticking out of its head in much the same way a turkey has a wattlle. Only it’s on the top instead of the bottom. Then there’s the legs, the body, and the capability for short bursts of flight. It’s a turkey, no question.

Maelstrom

Turkey Maelstrom

I’ve never really seen great pictures of the Maelstrom, but from what I’ve seen in the classic BattleTech art, it looks an awful lot like a turkey. Plus it spits charged particles and concentrated light beams while possessing enough double heat sinks to keep it cool, just like a real turkey.

Falconer

Falconer Turkey

Another Davion chassis designed to take on the Clans, the Falconer possesses the same bird-like qualities as the very ‘Mechs it was tasked with defeating. This also makes it look a bit like a turkey. You can see the rounded nature of the torso and the long, slender legs, although they’re not quite the same as the bird-like limbs of other designs on this list. Still, it’s got that turkey air to it, so the Falconer is on the list.

Rakshasa

Rakshasa Turkey

Arguably more turkey-like than an actual Mad Cat, the Mad Cat look-alike has all the same qualities of turkey-ness as the real deal. Perhaps more due to the somewhat smaller missile racks being more easily confused with a turkey’s tail feathers. Especially if you’ve had a few too many to drink after consuming an unhealthy amount of turkey and stuffing.

Did I miss one? Is there another turkey-’Mech that rightfully deserves to be on this list? Drop a comment and let me know of my horrible mistake.

And as always, MechWarriors: Happy Thanksgiving.

stay syrupy

 

Artist Photoshops ‘Mechs Into Classic Paintings, And The Results Are Hilarious

Apologies for the relatively click-baity title, but it sort of fell out of my head and it’s very descriptive. Plus, most of it comes from the Reddit thread where I found these works of art, so I can’t be entirely held responsible.

That argument holds up in court, right?

We have Reddit user TheTwist to thank for taking time out of his life to take some old MechWarrior Online clipart and paste it into even older classic paintings. Actually, that’s selling his work short: these were previously extremely detailed marketing drawings, and making them look like super old oil paintings must have taken a lot of work.

We’ll start with what will obviously be a fan favorite simply for including an UrbanMech, the most mysteriously popular ‘Mech in all of Battletech. Somehow, the Confederates seem to have gotten hold of 31st-century technology and are using it to hold on to… some sort of school. Maybe a church? I know nothing of this painting, and as a proud Canuck, next to nothing about the American Civil War.

So I reached out the artist themself and got the lowdown on how they did it. The painting is called “Tomorrow We Must Attack” by Dale Gallon, and depicts General Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson plotting before some sort of battle. Probably the one that they lost. Whichever battle that was. 

Moving on to another fan fav, the Atlas here is plunked straight in the middle of Vimy Ridge, a battle that as a Canadian I can take some particular pride for remembering the name. The painting is descriptively called “Battle of Vimy Ridge” by Richard Jack and shows the Canadian Corps bombarding the German-held ridge just before the Canuck’s relentless advance.

Somehow, I think the Canadians would have had less success if the Germans had a lance of Atlases on their side.

Next is “The War of the Worlds” by Terrence Cuneo, which was actually used as the cover art for an edition of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The Kodiak you see getting hit by a 24-pound artillery round would normally be a Martian walker, but somehow a giant Ghost Bear assault ‘Mech seems far more menacing.

In “Battle of the Somme: Attack of the Ulster Division” by J. P. Beadle, we see a Locust supporting British troops just as they head over the top, as they used to say. Instead of the first ever tanks deployed in military combat, we see a 20-ton scout ‘Mech. One wonders which would be more effective.

Ravens

“Trooping the Colour,” another painting by Terrence Cuneo, shows the British military on parade back when the British military still had parades. It somehow really fits the twin Ravens, which would surely appear in military parades in Liao space.

Finally, we have “The Tirailleurs De La Seine At The Battle Of Rueil Malmaison” by Étienne Prosper Berne-Bellecour. This one actually shows a scene from the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, with the Centurion lending support with its twin Medium Lasers.

I think these are great, and maybe even worthy of a desktop background if they could come in higher resolution. Which they do on TheTwist’s Imgur page, but not quite enough to be in HD. Still, a little blurring of the lines would only improve the effect of inserting a giant robot into historical battle paintings.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

Fan-Made BattleTech Comic Based On MechWarrior Online Coming Soon

Broken Teeth

We here at Sarna love ourselves some fan-made BattleTech projects. Comic books aren’t the usual fare for BattleTech fan content, but we’re not about to say “no” to an entire volume filled with beautiful robot art. And if we’re lucky, maybe even several volumes.

It’s called (or rather, going to be called) Broken Teeth, with the story written by Solzen and the pictures drawn by Fherot. I was personally tipped-off to this dynamic duo’s project thanks to the BattleTech subreddit, but I also know that the boys over at No Guts No Galaxy have been posting this on their social media accounts as well to generate some hype.

Not to be outdone by those two, we here at Sarna will generate our own specifically branded form of hype. It’s decaf and low calorie.

So far, all we know comes from the cover art that was dropped as a teaser image. It shows a Viper standing on a tarmac with its entire potential arsenal laid out before it. The specific stance and style is a callback to the Shadow Hawk that once adorned the Japanese version of BattleTech many moons ago, which as Tangowolf over on Reddit points out, is itself a reference to the specific style of military photography done to make jet fighters look super cool.

From the title, we know that the comic will be based on both Solzen and Fherot’s experiences playing MechWarrior Online, and it will feature Clan Diamond Shark in a big way. And there will be a Viper, which is a highly underrepresented but very awesome Clan ‘Mech I don’t see enough of.

Besides that, we’ll learn more as the comic is released.

We don’t have specific knowledge on where Broken Teeth will be released, but it’ll surely show up on my social media feeds when it does. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

The Art of War – An Interview with Matthew Plog, BattleTech Artist

They say a picture speaks a thousand words. That saying applies indescribably well to BattleTech. From the clean, sleek lines of scout ‘Mechs and vehicles to the thundering awesomeness of the largest assault machines, art brings the turmoil of the BattleTech universe to life. The images in our TRO’s and Source books lets us imagine these gargantuan machines storming across the battlefields of the Inner Sphere.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with one of this generation’s best BattleTech artists, Matthew Plog. Matthew was gracious enough to take some time out of his day to answer a few questions that gives us a glimpse into the mind of an artist and the workings of creating awesome BattleTech art.


Martin (Sarna): Let’s start from the very beginning, for all those budding artists out there who may read this. Where did you study art?

Matthew: First off I had a very creative mother and she was of course very encouraging to her young son.  Now that that’s out of the way :), I received my more formal art education in New Jersey at the Joe Kubert School for cartoon and Graphic design. 95-98′.

Martin (Sarna): It’s great on many levels to have that family connection to your passion. What got you interested in designing BattleTech equipment?

Matthew: I’d always loved machines, robots, tanks and the like.  Started with Saturday morning and weekday cartoons.  Ranging from G.I. Joe and all their gear to Voltron, Tranzor Z, even Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors.  Anything along those lines fed what I liked, and thus made me like that kind of thing even more.

Martin (Sarna): There are some great blasts from the past there and lots to draw from for inspiration. So what was your first experience with BattleTech work?

Matthew: Well, after time things get fuzzy.  I know I started picking up work with FASA, who owned BattleTech at the time, directly from school.  I believe it may have been work in one of the Battleforce boxed sets, BF2 if I recall correctly.  That was mostly just introductory type work and shortly thereafter I got a big slice of the TRO3060 roster.  As far as the experience goes, working with the BattleTech guys was always good.  They knew what they were after, knew the right things to say to get it, and usually paid on time.;)

Martin (Sarna): As a writer I find it easy working with words. As an artist and with only words to work with, how do you go about transforming those words into drawings?

Matthew: Having everything I’m doing take place in a universe that has already been established helps.  It gives you the framework.  But the words do the same thing to non-artists that they do to artists, we hear something, we see it in our head.  We just have the ability to get it back out.  Plus almost nothing ever gets to its end state on the first go. There’s almost always something that gets missed or minimized when it should be far more evident.  That’s why we have art editors.

Martin (Sarna): Can you describe your design creation process? Do you typically start from the ground up (literally) or work from the head down?

Matthew: Such things often end up being on a case by case.  If there’s an important structure to whatever I’m drawing I’ll start there.  But if we’re just talking general ‘Mechs then I start from the inside out.  Since the universe has an established set of rules for its technology they tend to follow biological rules a bit.  What with artificial muscle and man-mind controls.  So typically an arm is an arm and a leg, other.  Having fun with the sliders in the BT universe between straight machine look and more manlike is usually one of the fun parts of design.  But usually the most important thing when designing is to remember what rules you’re supposed to be following.  That tends to make the difference.  Of course, also when to ignore them.

Martin (Sarna): You create a lot of excellent commissioned art, particularly via DeviantArt. What’s the thrill for you in doing this type of work as opposed to an entirely new creation?

Matthew: BattleTech fans have always been a fine bunch to do business with, so they make it fairly easy.  Drawing something different every time has its appeal.  I’m unlikely to be able to complain of stagnation, at least on a one to one basis.

Martin (Sarna): Between business and commissioned requests it sounds like you’re kept pretty busy. Do you have a lot of back-work waiting to see the light of day or do you create upon request?

Matthew: There are some personal projects still in sketchy stages, but generally I share everything that I’d consider “done”.  Usually a good idea to show off the latest commissions and such.  But when I’m not working on one of them, likely I’m doodling something else for sure.

Martin (Sarna): Do you play BattleTech? If so for how long and how often?

Matthew: I haven’t played the actual board game version in every part of 15 years but I still love the miniatures, buying and painting them.  In keeping with the tone set by the first time I ever heard “BattleTech” I’ve played it most recently in the computerized form.  I played MechWarrior Online for a bit and am looking forward to trying out the BattleTech turn based game as well.

Martin (Sarna): I can vouch that the latest BattleTech game by Harebrained Schemes is well worth the time and money. I hope you have a lot of fun playing it and we would love to hear about your experiences with it in the future.

Thanks very much for your time, Matt. It’s very interesting to get a little glimpse behind the curtain of a well-established BattleTech artist. We all look forward to seeing more of your work in the near future.


For those of you wanting to keep up to date with Matt’s work (and you absolutely should!) or contact him about commission work, you can follow his DeviantArt account here: MattPLOG on DeviantArt

Community Outreach – BattleTech CamoSpecs Online

Welcome to Community Outreach! This week we speak with Todd “Mastergunz” Farnholtz, a BattleTech Miniature painter and admin at CamoSpecs Online, the biggest site and Facebook group for miniature ‘Mech painting enthusiasts. We ask him about CamoSpecs, how it came about, and how he joined up to help define the unit colors of ‘Mechs the universe over. Enjoy!

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

Mastergunz: My name is Todd Farnholtz, but I go by the handle ‘Mastergunz’ on CSO. I joined the group in Summer of 2009 – just in time to get a single piece done and added to that year’s Gencon 2009 CSO diorama. It was a Word of Blake Raptor II and I rushed to paint it because the mini had just come out and wanted to display it on the board. I’ve been playing BattleTech since 93′,  so having an opportunity to be a part of the game I loved was a huge achievement for me.

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: What is CamoSpecs? That is, how would you describe it to someone who doesn’t know much about it?

Mastergunz: CamoSpecs.com is a 100% fan run organization that provides visual references to canon paint schemes for the BattleTech universe. While we do get support from IWM (Iron Wind Metals) and Catalyst for special projects, the site and its upkeep is 100% on us. We are a dedicated group of artists that comb all available canon sources to make sure what we paint is accurate to what is written. We have even at times been asked to create schemes for new units as they were created by the authors.

Sean: When did you join CamoSpecs?

Mastergunz: I joined in 2009 after 2 failed submissions; finally made it in on my 3rd attempt.

Sean: What was the original idea behind CamoSpecs?

Mastergunz: I wasn’t around for the initial inception, which was 2 years prior I believe. The site and what it sought to do was conceptualized and inspired by the old FASA Camo Specs book showing the various paint schemes of the units in the BattleTech universe.

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: When did you get into BattleTech?

Mastergunz: I started playing BattleTech in 1993 with the 2nd Edition box set after having played the old MechWarrior computer game.

Sean: And when did you get into miniature BattleTech making?

Mastergunz: I’ve always been a lover of all thing giant robots. Starting back in the 80’s with Transformers, Voltron, Robotech, etc… the 2nd Edition box set is what introduced me to miniature wargaming and painting. Kit bashing the various variants of the ‘Mechs was just something that we all did from the start.

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: How long does it take to make some of these miniatures?

Mastergunz: I can’t speak for the sculpting side of things but painting a single mini used to take quite a while. In the beginning I would spend 6-7 hours on a single piece to get it to tabletop standard. As with all things in life, practice makes perfect (and learning to use an airbrush didn’t hurt) so I can finish a ‘Mech from primer to seal coat in about 3 hours now and feel it is of display quality.

Sean: What’s your favorite ‘Mech? An all-important question.

Mastergunz: Hands down the AWS- 9Q Awesome. I’ve never been a finesse player so something that hits hard and can take a beating is right up my alley. The 9Q is the original zombie. I even have a licence plate frame on my truck that says ‘My other ride is an AWS-9Q’.  

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: And what’s your favorite miniature you’ve built?

Mastergunz: My favorite ‘Mech I’ve ever built and painted for BattleTech/CSO changes constantly as my skills improve, but I’d have to say my most recent favorite was the Zeus X4. It’s a solid model with a lot of dynamics to its assembly so it doesn’t have to be static.

ZeusX1

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: What parts of BattleTech do you play? Perhaps a better question, what haven’t you played?

Mastergunz: I’ve played all the computer and console games, tabletop (both hex sheet and miniature rules) and little bit of Alpha Strike. I never got into the Dark Ages Clix Game but do own a ton of the models for kit bashing purposes. And of course I was a backer for the recent Kickstarter from Harebrained Schemes and am super excited for the beta to release.

Sean: How has CamoSpecs collaborated with official BattleTech content producers, like Catalyst Games?

Mastergunz: Yes. Our group leader, Ray Arrastia (who was recently promoted to Assistant Line Developer for BattleTech), is our direct liaison with Catalyst. We have been tasked with working on art for almost all of the books released in the last several years, most recently the Combat Manual: Mercenaries book and Alpha Strike.

courtesy of CamoSpecs

Sean: Let’s talk numbers. How BIG is CamoSpecs?

Mastergunz: CamoSpecs is currently a stable of about 15-20 painters, though only 6-10 of us are fairly active. You have to remember that this is a purely voluntary group and so we do what we can as real life allows.

Sean: What’s in store for CamoSpecs in the future?

Mastergunz: The million dollar question. Well I can say we have been working behind the scenes to keep things going via Facebook, mostly. Since we lost our server host in 2015 it has been a task to try and set up something that was as comprehensive and easy to use as the original site. Again, as a fan run volunteer group the time needed to essentially build a new site from the ground up is prohibitive but we are working on something right now.

courtesy of CamoSpecs

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

Mastergunz: BattleTech is my first love in miniature wargaming, and so I want to say thanks to all my fellow artist who over the years have pushed me to be better and became very good friends of mine – meeting up at cons and such. I can honestly say I would not be the artist I am today if not for their constructive criticism over the years and seeing the stuff they were turning out and making me say to myself “I want to learn to do that technique!”.

Shameless self plug time! To see some of my more recent BattleTech work (as well as not BattleTech) you can visit my painting page, Mastergunz Paint Worx, on Facebook and YouTube.

Also, some of my fellow CSO artist have a pages as well: “Captain of the Watch” Ed Smith on his Facebook page, and “B1BFlyer” Ryan Peterson runs a YouTube channel for CSO with lots of very cool tutorial videos up.

Incredible thanks to Mastergunz for agreeing to sit down with us. Tune in next time for more Community Outreach!

Community Outreach – Alex “Flyingdebris” Iglesias

This week on Community Outreach, we talk to one of the talented artists bringing BattleTech into the modern era: Alex Iglesias. Most notably the artist to create the designs featured in MechWarrior Online, we ask him what brought him to BattleTech, his inspirations, and how he goes about reinventing these classic images. Enjoy!

Sean (Sarna): Hi Alex! First off, thanks so much for agreeing to do an interview. To start, who are you? Briefly introduce yourself.

Alex: My name is Alex Iglesias, I’m 32 years old, and have been a ‘Mech fan for a significant portion of that length of time.  

Sean: When did you get into BattleTech?

Alex: Sometime between ’93-96.  Depending on whether you’d consider the cartoon, the Sega game, MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, or the novels as officially “in.”

Sean: What BattleTech games have you played?

Alex: Sega Battletech Game, MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, the Battletech CCG, MechWarrior 3, MechCommander, Virtual World Pods, Firestorm Pods, MechWarrior 4: Vengeance/Black Knight/Mercenaries, MechWarrior: Living Legends, MechWarrior Online, and Tabletop.

Sean: Your work in MechWarrior Online is pretty well known, but is there any other BattleTech products your art is featured in?

Alex: Creating art for the Tabletop books, doing some HUD design for MechWarrior: Living Legends, and I suppose the MWO designs carrying over to HBS’s Battletech game.

Sean: What’s your favourite ‘Mech?

Alex:  Don’t have an all-around favorite, more like situational favorites.  Urbies and Atlases (Atlii?) for humor, Crab and King Crab for looks, JagerMechs for dakka, and TSM equipped Berserkers because briefcases of doom are fun.

Sean: Was/is there any BattleTech artist you find particularly inspirational?

Alex: All of them to varying degrees, but especially Loose. He was probably my first exposure to BT art. The first fan art I started making back in the day was based off of his art.

Sean: What’re you doing right now?  I mean, in terms of your work.

Alex:  Working on MWO and MechWarrior 5 stuff.

Sean: I’m thinking I probably already know the answer to this, but could you tell us what stuff?

Alex: Sorry, can’t announce the specifics of what I’m currently working on. Suffice to say that it primarily involves ‘Mechs.

Sean: What’s your design philosophy when you recreate these iconic ‘Mechs?

Image courtesy of MechWarrior Online

Alex:  Depends on a few factors. In general, I do like to try to incorporate design elements of modern military vehicle systems, and mix it with a little bit of ‘rule of cool’. In the case of designs for MechWarrior Online, I try to factor in gameplay aspects of ‘Mech bodyplans and balance that against preserving the aesthetics that make it recognizable as a particular ‘Mech.

Sean: Let’s talk MechWarrior Online specifics. What was your favorite ‘Mech to design?

Alex: Probably still the King Crab.

Sean: Why was the King Crab your favorite?

Alex: King Crab just has a very unique body layout that was a lot of fun to draw, I am a fan of ballistic weapons like AC/20s, and I also like the claws.

Sean: Which ‘Mech was the hardest to redesign?

Alex: Hard to say, but probably the Mauler. Trying to figure out how to get those LRM shoulders to not be bullet magnets, but still look like a proper mauler was a real pain.

Sean: Which one was the easiest?

Alex: Not sure, none seemed so easy that it stands out in my memory.

Sean: What ‘Mech do you really want to redesign for MechWarrior Online?

Alex:  I would love to do some of the crazy loadout outlier mechs, like the Kraken or Piranha, or some of the really crazy looking ‘Mechs aesthetics-wise like the Blood Kite or Hoplite.

Sean: I would love to see you do up a Kraken. Alright, let’s take an example to see what your redesign process looks like. I’m currently a huge fan of the Wolfhound. How’d you go about redesigning that ‘Mech?

Alex: Typically, I grab as much existing art of the Wolfhound as I can, and sort of start trying to identify the design elements that make it visually distinct. In the case of the Wolfhound, you have the obviously canine inspired cockpit, a very polygonal laser encrusted torso, and a few other small elements in terms of armor panels and certain shapes throughout the body. I then start sketching a sort of blobby black-and-white silhouette that I try to get into a rough approximation of the body plan in order to start experimenting. I’ll then proceed to mess with and tweak the design for a long while, then proceed to start cleaning it up and increasing level of detail, though I’ll likely still keep experimenting well into this stage.  Once everything is nice and clean in gray scale, I’ll start working on the lighting, color, weathering, paint-jobs, and such.

Image courtesy of MechWarrior Online

Sean: Were their any ‘Mechs you were asked to redesign, but had so little imagery it was hard to get a feel for? Any ‘Mech that made you initially say, “Well, what do I do here?”

Alex: Not really, as there would almost invariably be a mini of it, and potentially some old CCG art of it.

Sean: Did it ever feel a little sacrilegious to add hips to ‘Mechs that never had them? Like the Nova, Viper, or Locust?

Alex: At first it kind of did, as there is some difficulty in preserving recognition of a certain chassis when giving a ‘Mech with no hips a pelvis, and for these ‘Mechs, no hips were very much a part of what made them standout. However, I never much thought that lack of hips made much sense.  Seems like it would make for a very bumpy and clumsy ride.

Sean: Yeah, I never understood how they could move at all. So, when you finally got the green light to redesign the Unseen ‘Mechs, how’d that feel?

Alex: Like Christmas.

Sean: For the Unseen ‘Mechs, there were usually 2 very different sets of images to choose from when redesigning. On some, like the Shadowhawk, it seems very true to the original. For others, like the Marauder, it seems more heavily influenced by the Unseen version. What made you go one way or the other with these ‘Mechs?

Alex: Mix of reasons. In the case of the Marauder, it’s factors like the original’s dorsal AC/5 actually being mounted in the side torso according to the stats, needing a more animation friendly pelvis and leg structure, some elements of personal taste, and other stuff along those lines.

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

Alex: I can be reached pretty easily on twitter @Flyingdebrisguy, I try to respond if I can and love to talk about ‘Mech stuff with people. Sometimes I post doodles. Also check out White Dragon Miniatures, they’ve got a 3D printed mini version of my old Fiddler ‘Mech design in their game.

Sean: Well, that’s all I had. Thanks again for doing this interview, I really appreciate it.

Alex: No problem! I look forward to seeing it.

Did You Know? Tale of the Unseen ‘Mechs

From the very beginning, BattleTech has been a game with a lot of controversy. Even the first edition name landed BattleTech in hot water. But another fateful decision would cast a long shadow over the fledgling universe, one that only recently has been put to rest. What I refer to is known colloquially as the Unseen ‘Mechs.

Cue spooky music.

Many of you older MechWarriors recall (or remember from our previous article) that the original ‘Mechs featured in BattleTech were actually all taken from Japanese anime, namely Macross, Fang of the Sun Dougram, and Crusher Joe. While these cartoons were middling at best, the mechas they featured were something the West had never seen before, and this novelty drew the owners of FASA to license the imagery from Twentieth Century Imports for use in their robot-inspired tabletop game.

That was 1984, the year the first edition of BattleTech (then called Battledroids) would be made. All seemed well at first; sales of the game were solid, and plans were already being made to expand the universe and release a second edition. Then, FASA got a letter in the mail from another company called Harmony Gold. The letter said they owned the rights to the mechas that FASA thought they licensed from Twentieth Century Imports, and they had to cease all use immediately.

Then, in 1985, a new show started appearing on TV called Robotech, which had robots that looked strikingly similar to the ones featured in BattleTech.

But it was the 1980’s, nobody had really ever heard of Macross, and FASA crumpled up that letter and threw it in the garbage. OK, we don’t know if they literally threw it in the garbage, but they essentially ignored it – at least, at first. Then, in 1985, a new show started appearing on TV called Robotech, which was essentially Macross recut and rebranded for the more refined American pallet, and wouldn’t you know, it had robots that looked strikingly similar to the ones featured in BattleTech.

Then, FASA got another letter from Harmony Gold, again saying they owned the rights to those ‘Mechs, and they had to pull them from their games. Now FASA was paying attention, and according to court documents, this “sparked an exchange of correspondence between the parties, including numerous cease and desist letters from Harmony Gold.” That exchange can be boiled down to a he-said, she-said where Harmony Gold argued they bought the rights to the Macross images, to which FASA countered by saying they owned them since they bought them a year earlier from Twentieth Century Imports. Lather, rinse, repeat.

In fact this went on for nearly a decade, and while there was a lot of animosity between the two companies, nobody was willing to sue. That is until 1994, when another company, Playmates, came out with a line of toys that looked suspiciously familiar.

Exosquad was a short-lived cartoon for which Playmates made little robot action figures. FASA had previously pitched the idea of a line of similar BattleTech-themed toys to Playmates, along with supporting sketches, but Playmates turned them down. Then, Playmates decided to throw a Timberwolf-esque design into their Exosquad line of toys.

That was enough for FASA, and they sued Playmates for copyright infringement, arguing the new toy line infringed on exclusive imagery owned and produced in-house. From the hindsight of 2017, it’s pretty easy to see that toy rather strongly resembles a Timberwolf. However, to a circa 1994 judge’s eyes, deciding a case between two long-feuding companies, the similarities weren’t enough, and the case was dismissed.

One good lawsuit deserves another though, and in a legal bait-and-switch, Playmates brought in Harmony Gold, who were all too eager to counter-sue FASA for copyright violations of their Macross-sourced imagery. “How’d they manage that?”, you ask. Well, Playmates also made a line of toys for Robotech, and they got their Macross image license from – you guessed it – Harmony Gold.

This case looked like it could go badly for FASA – having purchased the rights from Twentieth Century Imports meant that they were once removed from the original art production company, while Harmony Gold had gone straight to the Tatsunoko art studio to secure the rights for themselves.

However, part of that settlement meant that FASA could no longer use the ‘Mechs that were sourced from Macross.

Things were looking grim for our heroes, but lady luck was on FASA’s side. In a series of legal slip-ups, Harmony Gold provided FASA’s lawyers with quite a few letters during discovery that brought into question Harmony Gold’s sole ownership of the rights to Macross. The legal waters having been sufficiently muddied, Harmony Gold decided to settle rather than go to trial.

However, part of that settlement meant that FASA could no longer use the ‘Mechs that were sourced from Macross. This meant the end for the Wasp, Stinger, Phoenix Hawk, Crusader, Warhammer, Longbow, Rifleman, Marauder, and Archer.

The whole ordeal had left a foul taste in their mouths, so FASA didn’t stop at just Macross. They decided to end use of any art produced out-of-house for their ‘Mechs, which meant even the non-Marcoss ‘Mechs had to go. Thus, in 1996, the era of the Unseen ‘Mechs began.

For long-time BattleTech fans, it was a hard blow. Many had grown up with these ‘Mechs, and to have them yanked away was devastating.

Things stayed in that sad state for a long time. In 2001, FASA closed their doors and sold all their intellectual property, making the rebirth of these classics even more unlikely. But in 2003, a light shown from above on the poor Unseen. FanPro had purchased the license to the BattleTech tabletop game, and decided to bring back the Unseen ‘Mechs in a Technical Readout called Project: Phoenix.

Catalyst Game Labs would take up the mantle of BattleTech’s champions in 2007 and continue the fight for the Unseen.

Just because FASA wasn’t around didn’t mean that FanPro could start using the original Macross images though. To abide by the court settlement, they made brand new art based loosely on the original designs, but updated to match the technology used in 3067. While they weren’t quite the classics everybody remembered, the old boys were back, and better than ever.

Still, the pull of nostalgia is a strong one, and die-hard fans really wanted their old designs back. Catalyst Game Labs would take up the mantle of BattleTech’s champions in 2007 and continue the fight for the Unseen. In June 2009, for a brief, shining moment, it seemed like they’d secured the Unseen’s release, but those hopes were quickly dashed in August when they released a similar statement saying they may have spoken too soon.

For 6 more years the saga of the Unseen lingered on, until finally in 2015, Catalyst Games announced they would re-release the Unseen, this time with new art as true to the originals as they legally could make them. Considering the original art often seemed like it was drawn in pen on the back of a napkin (I kid, they have a delightful 80’s aesthetic), while the new art was clean, crisp, and often more closely corresponded with technical specifications, fans were pretty pleased with the new art, and the BattleTech community rejoiced. The Unseen had finally come home.

Now in 2017, it seems the tale of the Unseen ‘Mechs has finally come to a close. The Unseen have returned to the fold, and can be found in everything from the Alpha Strike table top game to MechWarrior Online, to yet to be released BattleTech and MechWarrior 5. We here at Sarna are certainly glad to have them back.

I should have the broad strokes right, but court documents from the 90’s can be hard to dig up. Got any juicy tidbits I missed?  Leave a reply in the comments!