The news comes fast and hard in December! That’s mostly because everyone is getting their work out of the way now so they can have a quiet holiday break. At least, I assume. I don’t get those because the news never sleeps!
My pain is your gain. We’ve got some important things to talk about. Some important, plushie, Urbie things. But first, a follow-up to last week’s big story that is sure to be at the top of everyone’s mind.
PGI Talks About EG7 Purchase, MechWarrior 5 Release On Steam/GOG
To cut 45 minutes down to a few paragraphs, it means good things for both. With EG7 providing financial backing and marketing support, PGI can focus their efforts on developing the best game they can.
All three made it clear that there’s not a lot they can say that wasn’t handled in the press release a few weeks ago. Not even PGI employees knew about the EG7 deal until the day of the announcement as there was a ton of secrecy surrounding negotiations. Russ did say that PGI had been on the market for a business partner for some time, and EG7 made the most sense. It allows PGI to retain their autonomy and also gives PGI access to what they’ve been missing: a powerful marketing engine that can get their games out there.
On the delay for MechWarrior 5‘s planned release on Steam and GOG, that was just mostly bad timing. The EG7 deal started to really take shape in November, and then Cyberpunk 2077 announced their delay to release on the same day as MechWarrior 5. These factors combined made it just impossible to get the product they wanted out on Steam in December as previously hoped.
Now the plan is to have Heroes of the Inner Sphere and MechWarrior 5 release together on Steam in the spring along with a simultaneous release on Xbox Series X. This version will essentially be the same game as found on PC but optimized for a singular console. PGI had wanted to also get the Xbox Series X version out in December as a surprise addition to the Steam release, but Microsoft was a little slow getting their dev kits sent out.
And we have some good news. Daeron strongly hinted that there will be a second DLC pack after Heroes of the Inner Sphere “right about the same time or just around the corner.” He even went as far as calling it an “overload of content” come the spring.
Which is great. I’m into it, and that gives me plenty of time to get through Cyberpunk and Project Wingman.
In addition to the MechWarrior 5 Developer update, Bombadil also returned to No Guts No Galaxy to talk to Sean (not me, the other Sean) about MechWarrior Online. Honestly, plans don’t appear to have changed all that much from November, but they are taking a more solid shape.
First off, the plan is to slightly alter the new player experience by changing the tier in which new MechWarriors begin. Right now it’s set to a tier that has them playing against the best MechWarriors in the game, and that causes them to get stomped into oblivion--not exactly a great way to introduce a new player to a competitive game. Instead, they’re going to have new players arrive at a lower tier so they’re not always giant targets for dudes with custom Mad Cat IIs and Vapor Eagles.
That’ll hopefully arrive in December’s patch, but if not it’ll be here in January. That’s about the same time PGI hopes to have a roadmap for what they plan to do with MechWarrior Online in 2021. Daeron said that PGI is hiring a dedicated team to work on MechWarrior Online, and that might even include a level designer or two to make a new map. But first, they’ll fix up some old maps to learn the ropes.
Fixing the new player experience is the top priority though, and that means new trial mechs for new players to aspire to. Everyone seemed very doubtful that an engine rewrite or even MechWarrior Online 2 is in the cards but you never know.
Oh, and there’s a town hall for MechWarrior fans scheduled for December 11. Sean Lang of No Guts No Galaxy will host the town hall on Twitch with Daeron posting questions to the MechWarrior Online forums to discuss live on stream. Go on over there to provide your two cents. [EDIT: Sorry, this was meant to get up a bit earlier, but a problem with the site delayed things until after the townhall.]
The UrbanMech Plushie Is Real And I Cannot Stand Being Apart From It
Look, I’ll be honest, I was getting a little bit concerned that the UrbanMech plushie that was offered in the Clan Invasion Kickstarter was going to turn out to be an empty promise that wouldn’t be fulfilled. Every single time I’ve even mildly interacted with Catalyst, it was to ask about the plushie UrbanMech. At this point, they’ve probably blocked my emails.
But my concerns were totally unfounded. The latest update on the Clan Invasion Kickstarter confirms that the Plushie Urbie is real, and it is ADORABLE.
It’s also a lot more complex than I initially expected. Look at all the colors! And the antennae! And the arms!
What we’re seeing here is a product sample that got sent to Catalyst after they sent their technical drawings, which were very technical indeed. I was expecting something very basic, very greyscale, and very… well, y’know, urban, but no. We get a pirate Urbie complete with a fancy paint job.
I eagerly await the day when I can hold my new UrbanMech son in my arms and name him. Until that day, more news.
Camo Specs Has A New Website And They Got Tex To Do The Introductory Video
I’ll be honest, I’m not a painter, so I didn’t have much cause to go to Camo Specs very often. But the few times I did go I was reminded of a GeoCities website from the late ’90s. It was bad, and I felt bad going there.
But now it’s gotten a huge overhaul that makes it faster, more user friendly, and just freakin’ works. There’s a search bar that can bring up helpful articles. There’s a tab at the top that will list factions, artists, and tutorials. You wanna know how the Tiburon Khanate painted their ‘Mechs? Well, you’re just three clicks away from the Camo Specs home page of finding out.
Best of all, they got Tex of Tex Talks BattleTech to do the intro video. I know Tex’s delivery makes it sort of sound like he’s doing the voiceover work for a corporate training video, but it’s still pretty great.
Tex Did A Voice Pack For BattleTech Modders
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO THE BATTLETECH COMMUNITY - Grampa Tex Mod Pack Preview
Speaking of Tex, he’s also featured in a brand new voice pack for Harebrained’s BATTLETECH. This allows Grampa Tex to be added as a pilot to something like RogueTech--provided they want to add said pilot, of course. Grampa Tex is not exactly the sort of guy you’d expect to find in a decorated mercenary outfit, so he sort of breaks immersion. On the other hand, he’s hilarious, and I think comedy far outweighs realism when it comes to video games.
Wolvesis still working on getting Wave 2 out, but they’ve got something to keep us interested in the meantime. The Hellbringeris going to get added in the spring, and it will apparently be “agile, sturdy, and very hot.” Makes sense, given the Hellbringer was never a particularly cool ‘Mech even by Clan standards.
To show the Hellbringer off, Pajama Boy produced this delightful trailer video. And then he tagged me so I’d pop it in the December news dump. I’m easily manipulated, you see.
Now This Is A Super Cool HOTAS Setup For MechWarrior 5
I play MechWarrior 5 on a mouse and keyboard like most regular humans (I assume). When it releases on the Xbox Series X sometime next year, I suspect most people will play using a standard Xbox controller. This guy has something much, much better. Reddit user Tiltinnitus shows off his sweet-ass HOTAS setup, with the throttle on the left and joystick on the right. He’s even got old-school switches that can apparently be mapped to a ‘Mech’s engine ignition. For those wondering, Tiltinnitus explained in the comments that it’s a Logitech X56 throttle and an NXT Gladiator joystick. Both look very cool, although I sure hope there are some elbow rests hiding somewhere off-screen.
That’s it for now, but December isn’t over. We might have a few more surprises waiting for us before the year is out, so stay tuned.
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
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.
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 Onlinewebsite, 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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 devotedseveralvideos to creating ‘Mechs that are priced based on a formula developed by the community to ensure a fair playing field.
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 CCG | Building a Custom Card (Episode 9) Black Knight
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.
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 Battlemechs have overrun the Orlando warehouse as shipments of BattleTech: Clan Invasion for US and Canada have commenced this morning! This project will take some time to complete and we'll be posting updates throughout the process. #Kickstarter@catalystgamelabpic.twitter.com/kVMHZSnYFZ
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 UrbanMechSalvage 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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: The BattleTech Center: 30 Years of Heavy Metal Mayhem
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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
Along with brand new mechs, Wave 2 will of course launch with a shiny set of new skins. Some are completely original while some take inspiration from all corners of our favorite franchise and maybe even beyond… WIP. pic.twitter.com/elvtM1gxLq
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
It’s July. Man, where does the time go? I guess the time dilation might have something to do with the fact that I’m stuck inside all day long and commerce has ground to a standstill in much of the civilized world. And the things that I would normally use as milestones for the passage of time--like movie releases and sporting events--have all completely stopped. That and I’ve been cutting my own hair so I haven’t been keeping to that 6-week barber schedule. Frankly, I don’t even know what day it is.
But I do know that it’s still July, so it’s time for another news dump. I’m going to take a dump all over you, and you’re going to love it because it’s made of robots.
Alright, that could have been phrased better. My bad. Let’s get to the BattleTech news.
Finally, Someone Is Making A Full-CG MechWarrior Fan Film
File this one under “I really hope I get to see this before a cease & desist letter shuts them down.”
A group of German madmen are braving the legal minefield that is the BattleTech intellectual property to bring us all a short fan film made using what appears to be MechWarrior Online assets. This isn’t too much of a surprise given that they’re previous works have also been made using MechWarrior Online, only this time instead of making a 5-minute long advertisement for MWO, they’re making a short film with an actual plot.
It’s called Hired Steel, and it’s a full CG movie that has been in development for about 3 months now. They plan on releasing a pilot episode soon that will detail what to expect from the series. I’m guessing it’s about another mercenary unit that’s down on their luck and has to fight their way to glory and freedom, but I’m just playing the odds here.
Speaking of fan animation that may or may not get a cease and desist (although probably not in this case), Farseer Animation has come out with a new video that’s their largest and most elaborate yet.
These guys have actually been making BattleTech fan videos for several years. They got started remaking the original MechWarrior 2 cinematics using theirown models, and have since then branched off into making more complex CG films. Their latest, “Mechwarrior: Battle of the Crescent Fortress,” is almost 10 minutes of non-stop action.
And it’s also hilarious. The Hunchback is piloted by a dude who sounds like Chekov from Star Trek (and sounds SUPER familiar--maybe he’s also been in one of Tex’s videos, someone correct me here!) and the Vulcan pilot does a great “angry drunk who just got taken out by a Crab” impression. There’s even a Crescent Hawks reference for the super old-school BattleTech fans in the audience.
Also, the line “I’m going to be blunt: you suck,” is perhaps the greatest one I’ve ever heard on YouTube. Go watch this thing and be amazed.
More Catalyst Stuff, More Clan Invasion Delays
Alright, bad news first. Last week, Catalyst announced another delay in shipping out the first wave of the Clan Invasion Kickstarter. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: sucks, but what’re you gonna do?
Apparently, the same company that held up shipping the original BattleTech: A Game Of Armored Combat box sets is also late on making the plastic figures for the Clan Invasion. The new shipping date for the first wave is July 31st, but that’s to get the figurines from China to America. And that’s only the folks who got in on the actual Kickstarter campaign and didn’t sign on as a late backer.
According to Catalyst, 80% of first wave shipments will be out on July 31st, and the remaining 20% will come in the middle of August. Again, that’s just getting the stuff out of China. Catalyst won’t begin shipping to backers until late September, so you’re likely not going to get those shipments until October.
So that’s the bad news. The good news is that backers now have access to $50 worth of digital content if you follow this link and use a code at checkout that was emailed to backers earlier this month. This includes the brand new first edition of Shrapnel magazine as well as ten digital novels and three scenario PDFs.
Also, Recognition Guide: IlClan vol. 2 and 3 are out now, and we’ve got a brand new Stone Rhino with two overhead barrels instead of one. This is a long-overdue redesign that finally makes sense. What else might be hiding within these hallowed pages? Head on over to the Catalyst store to find out.
Renegade HPG Interviews Blaine Lee Pardoe, And Does Some Great Stuff With The Old Card Game Too!
A Conversation with BATTLETECH'S BLAINE LEE PARDOE
From there, Travis decided to explore more of the TCG with Michael Cohen and Chester Hendrix, both BattleTech TCG pros (at least, as professional as you can get with a card game that’s been out of print for almost two decades) who’ve played the game for years and run the BattleTech TCG Facebook group. They talked about the card game’s history and design, as well as actual gameplay and deckbuilding. They go on four HOURS about BattleTech TCG mechanics, and I encourage you to check it out if you want to ever get into the card game (and then I might have someone to play with).
And from there it seems that Travis has branched out into speaking with BattleTech‘s creative team. His most recent interview with Blaine Lee Pardoe explores BattleTech‘s history as well as what stories have yet to be written (at least, in novel form).
Check them both out, and follow the channel to see what he comes out with next.
Ever Wonder What MechAssault 3 Might’ve Looked Like? Check Out This Art Portfolio
This is an interesting one that came from a person who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of taking too much credit for just how awesome this is. So I’ll take that credit for myself, thank you very much.
The intent of this portfolio was to try and convince people to invest in this game, which obviously didn’t pan out, but likely not because of the pitch. Or maybe--you decide.
MechAssault 3 would have taken 300 years after the events of MechAssault 2, which would put us way beyond anything we’ve ever seen from official sources and certainly way beyond the current Dark Age/IlClan era that we’re in now, narratively speaking. And the future is weird. The Clans are still around, with Clan Wolf still being in separate Warden and Crusader factions. Clan technology has also advanced considerably, with Elemental power armor replaced by sleek, sexy, almost anime-style power armor with animalistic features.
In fact, there seems to be a Far Eastern-influence in the design of everything here. The only ‘Mech in the portfolio, the Fire Falcon, is almost Metal Gear-like in its appearance. You can imagine a bajillion missiles coming out of those open ports.
The portfolio does mention that Clan technology is smooth and hyper-advanced, while Inner Sphere tech is crude, chunky, and brutish. Or it would if any of it was represented. Whatever the plot of MechAssault 3, it looks like it would have heavily focused on the Clans.
But as we all know by now, if you want a new MechAssault game, you gotta do it yourself, so go check out the latest news coming out of Wolves.
Speaking of Wolves, here’s a teaser of the game’s impending soundtrack. Sounds pretty good, right? I liked it. Also, there’s a nice picture of an Atlas for you to gawk at for a bit.
It’s MechWarrior 2’s 25th Anniversary!
On July 24, 1995, MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat first arrived in stores on compact disc. It would go on to revolutionize gaming, especially when it came to portraying giant stompy robots. And it did a few neat things to move the dial forward for PC gaming in general.
I went into great length about MechWarrior 2 already, and while it would probably have made a lot more sense to celebrate a quarter-century since the release of MechWarrior 2 by publishing such an article now, I don’t have that kind of foresight. Instead, you may read that article here at your leisure.
And you can join a bunch of old farts in Discord to talk about the glory days of MechWarrior games. Reddit user CommanderHunter5 is inviting all MechWarriors to join their Discord to discuss the good ol’ days and to help people get MechWarrior 2 to work on modern hardware. It can be done, it just takes some doing.
Apparently, xeromynd is an audio engineer of 10+ years and also a die-hard BattleTech fan. Combine the two and you get this fun little project that will tickle your earbuds.
There’s quite a lot to download, so the collection has been broken into five separate parts: the BattleTech Legacy collection, the MechCommander Legacy collection, the MechWarrior Legacy collection, the MechAssault Legacy collection, and a bonus collection that has covers and remixes from the community. Timothy Seals’ fantastic remixes are sadly not included.
Thank you, xeromynd. This will replace my collection of old MP3s that were taken many, many moons ago, and were frankly never that great because I didn’t know jack about audio compression back then.
That’s it for July! Join me next time as we discuss what fresh hell awaits us in August. It’s sure to be a blast.
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.
MechWarrior 5 Adds Mod Support To Microsoft Store-Bought Games
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
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.
Catalyst Sends C&D’s To Thingiverse Accounts Over BattleTech Copyrights
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.
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 taggingtheirdesigns “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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Welcome back to Community Outreach, the series where Sarna reaches out to various members of the BattleTech community to ask them “what’s up?” And what’s up this week is Metal Core Collectibles, both a custom miniature’s small business based in Canada as well as a person! He’s a recent BattleTech convert but a longtime fan of giant stompy robots of all kinds. Plus he makes really awesome miniatures at home.
Sarna sat down with Metal Core Collectibles to see where it came from, where it’s going, and how its fate intertwined with BattleTech in an unexpected way. Enjoy.
Hey, it’s May, and BattleTech is pretty okay! Sorry, that’s the best I could do to complete the rhyme.
Today, we’re going to completely ignore coronavirus just like an anti-lockdown protester and instead focus on all that’s still good in this world. And as we all know, the only things that are good are giant stompy robots.
Welcome to your BattleTech news roundup for the month of May. Let’s get this party started.
As some of you know, PGI is also the development studio behind MechWarrior Online, but these positions are all calling for Unreal 4 Engine experience, and that means MechWarrior 5. MechWarrior Online runs on Crytek, an engine that’s both much older and much worse than Unreal 4. Think of Crytek as the Java of game engines--inefficient and nobody really uses it anymore.
I kid! Please don’t send me angry emails filled with Java code that will ruin my computer if I ever accidentally click the attached files.
Anyway, the fact that these are very key positions that are looking to be filled sort of implies that PGI might have lost a few people after the launch of MechWarrior 5. There’s no way you can make a game like MW5 without an Animation Lead or a Level Designer, so I’m thinking that those folks peaced-out after the game launched last year.
As we found out last month, PGI is delaying the release of MechWarrior 5‘s first DLC pack, and these empty positions might have something to do with it. That and the sudden shift to working from home and the up-ending of the global economy.
Benefits of working at PGI include flexible schedules, comprehensive benefits, and beer Fridays. Although, with everyone working from home, every day could be beer Friday. I’m having a beer Friday right now!
We Got Two New BattleTech Books!
May is turning out to be the month of BattleTech fiction for 2020. We’ve got two new novellas to tide us over until the release of IlClan, and both of them deal with events leading up to the ascendancy of Clan Wolf (I’m guessing--I don’t actually have any inside leads with Catalyst on plot development).
Speaking of Pardoe, he’s got his own book out now that also deals with Dark Age-era events. This time the focus is on Wolf’s Dragoons, the storied mercenary company that we all thought was done for after Outreach got nuked during the Jihad. They’re actually still around, and they even have a few regiments operating by the time the Fortress Wall fell.
In Divided We Fall, Alaric Wolf tries to convince Wolf’s Dragoons to return to the Clan that spawned them by sending an envoy: Marotta Kerensky. Will the Dragoons once again become Wolves, or will they keep fighting for the freedom of the Inner Sphere against Clan aggression?
Pardoe gave us a teaser earlier this month, treating us to a brand new ‘Mech on the cover of his book. It’s called the Dominator, apparently the brainchild of Pardoe with a few tweaks by BattleTech art director Brent Evans. Speculating based on its appearance, its armament consists of an SRM-6, a PPC, either a Large or Medium laser in the right shoulder, and a rear-facing Small laser (which Pardoe confirmed in the teaser). Class, weight, and movement profile are unknown, but given the Linebacker right beside it, I’m guessing it’s on the heavier side of Medium-class.
Both Shell Games and Divided We Fall are available now wherever fine e-books are sold. Or you can just follow theselinks.
Pardoe Also Did A Fun Jihad And Dark Age Summary
Not every BattleTech fan has kept up to date with current events. Some of them don’t know their Reaving from their Jihad from their Dark Age. That’s fine; Blaine is here with a fantastic way of getting lapsed BattleTech fans up to date.
“Almost all of the major characters, mercenary units, and a few billion passersby are killed in a fate worse than death: killed ala sourcebook footnote,” writes Pardoe, followed up by this gem about Inner Sphere savior Devlin Stone: “Stone wears a ball cap that says, ‘Make the Inner Sphere Great Again!’ – true story!”
You should read the whole thing over on his website, and also direct any BattleTech fan you know to bookmark it for future reference. And even if you already know the full series of events, it’s still well worth a read.
New Night Vision Mod Greatly Enhances Your Ability To See In The Dark In MechWarrior 5
Consider this a little preview for an article I’ve been pondering on just what mods you should get for MechWarrior 5. Mod support is perhaps the best thing about the latest MechWarrior game, and mods vastly improve MechWarrior 5 over the vanilla experience.
For example, night vision. The base game’s night vision is pathetic--you can barely see past your Atlas‘s big toe. With the Clear Night Vision mod on, you can see everything through two different choices of night vision. You can set your ‘Mech’s HUD to produce that typical green glow that society has come to readily associate with night vision since the Gulf War, or you can get a full-colored version that more readily approximates current technologies.
Phil at No Guts No Galaxy recently reviewed the mod, and I gotta say, the difference is night and day. I’ll show myself out…
Check out the mod in the video above, and stay tuned for a list of essential MechWarrior 5 mods.
Part 2 Of Tex Talks BattleTech’s Primer On The Clans Is Out Now
Battletech/Mechwarrior Lore : Exodus to Elementals - A Primer on the Clans [Part 2]
I’ve talked to Tex before about his video series which has only grown in popularity since then (not saying I might’ve had something to do with it or anything; his work stands for itself). His Clans Primer is probably the best work produced by the Black Pants Legion to date, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting Part 2 ever since. It’s only fitting that it was released on May 20, just in time for the anniversary of the Battle of Tukayyid.
It’s hard to give spoilers for a story that you already know the ending to, but if you watch any Tex Talks BattleTech, watch this one. And then go back and watch the rest.
And speaking of Tukayyid…
Metal Core Collectibles Is Hosting An Anniversary Sale
I’ve seen this guy post on the BattleTech subreddit a few times and have always been impressed by his work. If you’re not aware, Metal Core Collectibles is a series of not-quite BattleTech figures that are sort of like Mech Merc Commander from last week--BattleTech-inspired without actually having the license. They’re definitely made by a BattleTech fan though, and that shines through in the designs. I mean, there’s even a hex map in the background of most of the site’s images.
As far as I can tell, Metal Core Collectibles’ two designs--the Hammerhead and the Tyrant--are basically fan designs that somehow grew into their very own custom figurines. Both the Tyrant and the Hammerhead come in multiple variants so that you can get one with the weapons you want, and there’s a whole bunch of tanks, APCs, and choppers to buy too.
Personally, I really like the Tyrant. It looks like a Centurion-style medium ‘Mech, and I’ve always appreciated workhorse designs like that. I’m not sure if BattleTech-appropriate specs even exist for it, but it still tickles my love for giant robots.
And since Metal Core is owned by a BattleTech fan, they’re also hosting a sale in honor of both their first anniversary in operation and the Battle of Tukayyid. That’s 25% off anything in-store from now until May 27 using the code “Tukayyid2020”. Go check ‘em out.
That’s it for May! Join me next time as we explore what fresh hell June has in store for us.