Welcome back to Community Outreach, where Sarna looks out across the internet to see what’s going on in the world of BattleTech. This week, we talk with Ryan “Pajama Boy” Lalande about New Day Fiction and Wolves, the fan-made MechAssault game.
I was so impressed with Wolves a few weeks ago when I downloaded the demo, I decided to reach out to the design team to see what’s up. Ryan got back to me and agreed to answer a few questions on the creation of Wolves, how the team got started, and where it plans to go in 2020. Also, whether or not they have a plan if they ever get sued. Enjoy!
We here at Sarna love ourselves some fan-made BattleTech projects. Comic books aren’t the usual fare for BattleTech fan content, but we’re not about to say “no” to an entire volume filled with beautiful robot art. And if we’re lucky, maybe even several volumes.
It’s called (or rather, going to be called) Broken Teeth, with the story written by Solzen and the pictures drawn by Fherot. I was personally tipped-off to this dynamic duo’s project thanks to the BattleTech subreddit, but I also know that the boys over at No Guts No Galaxy have been posting this on their social media accounts as well to generate some hype.
Not to be outdone by those two, we here at Sarna will generate our own specifically branded form of hype. It’s decaf and low calorie.
So far, all we know comes from the cover art that was dropped as a teaser image. It shows a Viperstanding on a tarmac with its entire potential arsenal laid out before it. The specific stance and style is a callback to the Shadow Hawk that once adorned the Japanese version of BattleTech many moons ago, which as Tangowolf over on Reddit points out, is itself a reference to the specific style of military photography done to make jet fighters look super cool.
From the title, we know that the comic will be based on both Solzen and Fherot’s experiences playing MechWarrior Online, and it will feature Clan Diamond Shark in a big way. And there will be a Viper, which is a highly underrepresented but very awesome Clan ‘Mech I don’t see enough of.
Besides that, we’ll learn more as the comic is released.
We don’t have specific knowledge on where Broken Teeth will be released, but it’ll surely show up on my social media feeds when it does. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
BattleTech: The Animated Series was easily my favorite Saturday morning cartoon growing up (surprised? I thought not). Now it looks like independent YouTube video makers are bringing BattleTech back to our TV screens with a teaser for a new animated series.
The teaser is on the Black Plasma Studios YouTube page and is being spearheaded by MechWarrior Online enthusiast RoA Nitrox. Much of what’s on the teaser appears to be taken directly from MechWarrior Online, including the models and sound effects. It looks like they tossed the textures in favor of smoother animation, and it’s really brought these multi-ton death machines to life. These ‘Mechs move far more fluidly than anything seen in the game and even take part in some hand-to-hand combat.
Curiously, it seems like they’re using meta-builds from the game rather than stock ‘Mechs. For example, the Cicadashown carries six Medium lasers, while the Hunchback IIC that opens fire on it sports four Ultra AC/2s – known colloquially as a “dakka” build amongst MWO players.
The Timberwolf briefly shown appears to be a laser-boat build, while the Dire Wolfis the most ludicrous build possible: 11 ER PPCs. Which, by the way, will shut you down for an entire minute if all fired at once, but only if you don’t immediately explode from the heat spike.
Black Plasma Studios seem to typically create Minecraft videos for public consumption as it remains the second most popular video game of all time. The videos are actually pretty good, with silent protagonists and music that’s all top-notch. Their “Blocking Dead” video has over 30 million views, so this is a studio that’s making YouTube money.
I don’t think BattleTech can put up those kinds of numbers, but I know I’d love to see some BattleTech animations on YouTube, and I’m sure you would too. So click the link, like, and subscribe to Black Plasma Studios and help this teaser vid become a fully-fledged animated series.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t exactly ‘get’ the whole dating simulator craze. Even when the game speaks directly to me I’d rather be spending my gaming hours in a giant robot dealing death and destruction (or a ninja, or pirate, or something similar). But dating sims? Whatever, man. That stuff is for chicks.
Born from the creative genius of MechWarriors Krivvan and Halimede, A Locust Love Story follows young Locust-chan as she attends her first day at River City High. As a transfer student just going into her second year of high school Locust is entering the prime of her combat shelf-life, but she’ll have to be careful. There are mean ‘Mechs at this school, just waiting to eat a tasty little morsel like her for breakfast!
She won’t be alone though – Locust will meet lifelong friends who will help her draw strength to overcome the many challenges that lay ahead, as well as have loads of fun along the way.
She sure is Awesome
“We got inspired by Hatoful Boyfriend,” writes Halimede in an email interview. “Story-wise we got inspired by classical visual novel tropes and just put a MechWarrior Online spin to them.”
“The story line was to be based partially on the somewhat rocky patch and meta shift history of MWO,” Krivvan clarifies, “which I figure was probably because we were both playing in some tournaments and the first MechWarrior Online World Championship at the time.”
The entire game is built on a visual novel game engine called Ren’Py. The engine is built on the Python programming language and is relatively simple to use. It’s also the foundation for a metric ton of visual novel games, the quality of which will range from something like Locust Love Story to somewhat less reputable titles.
High school can be a mean place
As for the workload, it’s a fifty/fifty split between the pair. Krivvan does most of the programming, while Halimede takes care of the visual elements. “Most of the art (besides the title screen, I would like to take credit for that) was Halimede’s thing, and she designed the characters,” says Krivvan.
“For the actual art I made up some camos to fit the Personalities – ‘Pretty Baby’ for example got the darker shades and Purple for being a bit depressing and lonely,” tells Halimede. “Then we just took pictures of ‘em in different poses, some free flight spectator shots of River City for backdrops, and an extensive photo shoot with our heroine Locust-chan for the cover.”
The intro was as simple as adding “some effects like the flower petals”, and then taking some existing sound effects and buttons from MechWarrior Online.
As for why a Locust, Krivvan isn’t quite sure. “Maybe because there was something distinctively cute and petite about Locusts?”
So far the game is just a trailer with what the pair have been able to finish so far, but the skeleton of a truly amazing dating sim game is there. “We originally started when both of us were still active in the MWO competitive scene and it dropped by the wayside a bit when the World Championship rolled around,” says Halimede. “In general I would love to finish it someday.”
“And there are a few surprises planned that I haven’t mentioned yet,” adds Krivvan.
I for one am on the edge of my seat wondering what will happen to Locust-chan next. Here’s hoping that Krivvan and Halimede find the time to bring this amazing ‘Mech dating sim to life.
A lot of us will look back at Saturday morning cartoons from our childhoods and wish they’d bring them back. Sometimes it even happens – just look at Samurai Jack and Power Puff Girls. For most of us it remains just a wistful dream.
But not for everyone. Some of us decide to take action. And one of us decided to remake the BattleTech cartoon.
It may be just the first 5 minutes, but it’s something to build on, and in all the technical ways certainly an improvement over the original. Try comparing the two:
I managed to track down the man who spent the blood, sweat, and tears to bring this classic back to life and asked him a few questions on his work.
“When I first saw the BattleTech cartoon some years back I was completely blown away,” Vux tells me in an email interview. “That epicly badass introduction scene for the clans sent a die-hard clanner like me completely over the moon.”
Vux had been a BattleTech fan for a long time. An avid MechWarrior Online player, he’s done quite a few tongue-in-cheek introductory videos for new players on his YouTube channel already. Then, years later, he had an idea to bring back some of that original Saturday morning BattleTech magic.
“The vision I had was a shot-for-shot remake of the cartoon, with adaptations and additions as appropriate,” he writes, thus beginning a labour of love. “I started planning it with my MWO pals October of last year. I wanted to keep the script and dialogue very faithful to the original, with the intent being to mirror the style/attitude of the show (and its cast) as well as we could.”
The first step would be to get actual footage to use. “Luckily all the ‘Mechs featured in the cartoon were available to pilot in MWO,” so getting that footage would be as simple as gathering a group of friends to do some robot inspired acting. “All the battles and ‘Mech-y scenes were recorded with a group of nice players I knew, who volunteered (after only the tiniest amount blackmail and threats of lasery death) to assist me in some private lobby games.”
“We went with a slower moving ‘massive steel beasts’ feel, like in the cartoon,” which presented a challenge as the ‘Mechs in MechWarrior Online are generally significantly faster, and most pilots just jam the W button to go full throttle. Training his volunteers was difficult, as it went against everything they’d ever learned. “This meant dozens of (painful) retakes for scenes like the Inner Sphere ‘Mech charge scene with spinning camera, and the scene where Redmond’s ‘Mech dramatically steps into frame.”
Things got even more difficult once the shooting started. Since they were using a game to record all the footage, they had to work within the game’s constraints, which meant, “If the scene didn’t go right, we had to restart the entire map since there’s too much battle damage on the ‘Mechs to suit continuity of the scene at that point.”
As Vux tells it, this resulted in “A lot of strained nerves from my ‘Mech pilots, but we got them done just before people got completely fed up with me saying ‘okay guys, back to positions and go again’ for the 20th time.”
From Strained Nerves to Building Worlds
Not all aspects of the cartoon could be recreated in MechWarrior Online. Certain models, like the Batu fighters and the Dropships, just don’t exist in game. What’s a budding director to do? “I scoured the interwebs trying to find 3D models for the Battletech fighters and Dropship featured in the cartoon,” Vux writes, however most of what he found “were either not compatible with my 3D program or restricted in usage rights.”
“Then I discovered MWO player Kilroy’s archive of Battletech models and he was cool with me using them in my project,” he adds, proving once again how close-knit the MechWarrior Online community can be.
Next came the added challenge of adding this models into the footage already taken from the game. “I had zero previous experience working with 3D models, but I learned to use a plugin for Adobe After Effects called ‘Element 3D’ for the actual 3D work.” Still, learning on the fly was slow going, or as Vux tells it, “I spent many evenings experimenting with animating and compositing the models with the MWO footage, hoping to make it both look decent and match the original scenes as closely as possible.”
Other scenes, such as the conversation between Andrew Steiner (Adam Steiner’s older brother) and Star Colonel Nicolai Malthus and the establishing shots of the Somerset Military Academy, presented their own difficulties. Once again, video games come to the rescue.
“I used Star Wars: The Old Republic to record the indoor scenes as it had the perfect military-type environments and big computer consoles I needed. I was able to create a Steiner character in the game who looks very close to his cartoon self, down to the scar and 5 o’clock shadow. I used what emotes were available in-game to get the lip-sync as close as I could to his lines.”
Unfortunately, Star Wars didn’t have anything that even remotely looked like Colonel Malthus, which was a problem. “I discussed options with my creative assistant (chrx) and we concluded it would be way too difficult to reproduce those scenes in any decent manner.”
After weeks of intense deliberation, Vux came up with the solution: “[I’d] introduce the clanners in a more suspenseful way – only showing a brief initial flash of Malthus’ ‘Mech and his transmission readout, not showing their faces at all. This way I could keep the attacking force very mysterious until the very dramatic scene where the clanners are revealed and Malthus makes his entrance with that deliciously over-the-top, ‘Your insolence has provoked the fury of the clans!’ speech.”
The voice acting is intentionally a bit cheesy and somewhat over-the-top, just like in the cartoon.
The last ingredient to bring his project to life would be to give it a voice. As Vux tells it, “The cast is basically just a bunch of BattleTech fans I managed to sweet-talk into doing the lines.” Just like shooting the ‘Mech scenes, the voice acting had it’s own set of issues as not everyone in the cast had access to a professional microphone forcing “a few people to record their lines with their phones as that was all they had available.”
Nailing the dialog was also tricky as the cast couldn’t use their normal register when speaking to get the true 90’s cartoon camp. “This meant that the voice acting is intentionally a bit cheesy and somewhat over-the-top, just like in the cartoon.”
All that was left was months of editing and then it was released upon a wider world.
Wrapping up, Vux left me with a few words for his adoring fans. “I’d just like to thank all the fluffy people who have left nice feedback and supported my channel, you guys (and gals) rock!”
Nothing quite beats the feeling of sitting down around a big table with your friends and spending an evening playing tabletop BattleTech. The sound of rattling dice, the camaraderie, the drinking (at least when I do it), and the inevitable hollering that follows when someone bumps into the table and knocks over everyone’s ‘Mechs. Priceless.
Sadly this option isn’t available to everyone. Sometimes there’s just not enough people around to get a good playgroup going. For those ‘Mech heads there’s always been MegaMek to get there giant stompy robot fix, but the virtual world has never really lived up to the meat world in terms of delivering the authentic games night experience.
That remained the case until 2015, when a hitherto PC game got some much needed giant robot love.
Tabletop Simulator is a game available for download on Steam (or Humble Store or- y’know what? Just go to their website for the full list) that’s really not much of a game at all. It’s more like a physics sandbox designed to mimic real life as much as possible. The game comes with a few classic board games (like checkers, pachisi, and go), but in a terrible oversight from the designers, it did not ship with BattleTech as an available game to play.
Lucky for us, Tabletop Simulator is easily modified by enterprising individuals with a little modeling experience and a love of the game.
“When I heard of Tabletop Simulator I found out that there was nothing on the Workshop for BattleTech.”
“I’ve been playing BattleTech since… well, yeah I started playing MechWarrior since I was, like, you know, three,” says Steam user Turduckens, who was the first to see the potential for Tabletop Simulator and its glaring omission of BattleTech. “When I heard of Tabletop Simulator I found out that there was nothing on the Workshop for BattleTech. And I think the game had only come out for, like, a year or so, so then I decided I’d get to work on that.”
Bringing BattleTech to Tabletop Simulator wasn’t entirely a walk in the park. Because the game has almost no scripting outside of rolling dice, everything that exists in real life has to be made to work in game. That means hex maps, ‘Mech models, even the Record Sheets had to be recreated by hand to work in Tabletop.
“The hardest thing was originally trying to find good sources for models. Like, there was always the paper models, which a lot of the times were MechWarrior 4 and 3 models, which I don’t know what magic they used to rip those from the game because I could not figure it out.”
And of course there were some mishaps along the way. When developing the original hex boards for use in Tabletop, he ran into a few minor issues. “I didn’t know how to use the hexagonal snap at the time so all of my hexes were slightly uneven and disjointed, haha!”
Fortunately for Turduckens, after the initial release of the hex boards he didn’t have to work alone. “As the word got out it kind of blossomed. Like, a lot of people started making stuff for Tabletop Simulator,” says Turduckens after his initial release of the BattleTech game boards.
Soon a community of user created content would develop around the project, culminating in the BattleTech Collection page under the Tabletop Simulator Workshop. Turduckens curates the page where he compiles and collates all the latest and greatest in BattleTech mods for Tabletop Simulator.
And there is quite a lot available. From hundreds of Record Sheets from Steam user Insaniac99, to a full fledged campaign from Steam user WuSu. There’s even other BattleTech games like the TCG and Alpha Strike.
Getting started in BattleTech Tabletop Simulator is easier than ever, with many user created quick-start scenarios. Turduckens has his hosted on Nexus called Davion vs. Mercenaries, a well balanced 4v4 scenario that pits a Federated Suns lance against a mercenary lance of classic 3025 era Battlemechs. For more experienced users, there’s more comprehensive collections such as Steam user ItchyDani3l’s Skirmish, which gives players dozens of ‘Mechs to choose from, both Clan and Inner Sphere.
Best of all, Tabletop Simulator has recently gotten VR support, adding a level of immersion never before seen to simulated BattleTech. Turduckens sadly didn’t have a working VR headset to test out his designs, but he did have a friend do it for him.
“One of my favorite moments when I was making this stuff was my friend joined and he had his VR headset on, and it shows you in-game exactly where his head is and where his arms are and he was, like, picking stuff up and he was looking at these ‘Mech models I imported and it was just so cool.”
It may be soon that the virtual world will be the space of choice for tabletop BattleTech fans.
For those looking to find Tabletop Simulator players, Turduckens recommends Clan Ghoul as a place to start. “They were so fun to play with, oh my god. Our gamemaster was running, like, eight ‘Mechs at a time versus us, and he was such a good host.”
Of course, we couldn’t leave Turduckens without asking him his favorite ‘Mech. “Oh, I’d have to say the Awesome. Yeah, I love ‘Mechs that can peek out and do a crap-ton of damage and then just go back into cover and cool off.”
Welcome to Did You Know?, a new column exploring the weird and obscure corners of BattleTech. Today we take a look at Technical Readout 3028, a brand new, fan-made TRO that reimagines the classic Technical Readouts with modern rules and art. Enjoy!
image courtesy of Michael Todd
The BattleTech Technical Readouts historically have given every ‘Mechhead exactly what they want; all the numbers that detail the ‘Mech’s in-game performance, a detailed history and backstory, and a big glossy picture. TRO 3028 has all of this in spades, but what makes TRO 3028 so special is not only does it improve on the old school TRO’s by adding modern art and quirks to classic BattleMechs, it’s also completely fan made.
One of my fondest BattleTech memories is of an old spiral notebook I’d made back in high school called ‘Honest John’s Refits’
TRO 3028 comes from a collaboration of fans, but the driving force behind the project came from one man; Michael Todd. Hooked on BattleTech after picking up TRO 3025 as a kid, he’d always dreamed of making his own Technical Readout. “One of my fondest BattleTech memories is of an old spiral notebook I’d made back in high school called ‘Honest John’s Refits’,” he describes in a nostalgic post on the Harebrained Schemes forums. But work and school would always come first, and time would see Michael playing less and less. Eventually he sold his prized BattleTech collection to make way for a home and a family.
Then, years later, a call from an old college friend, and an invitation to a monthly BattleTech game was all it took for the bug to bite back with a vengeance. “Since I’d been away from the game for close to a decade at this point, I had some serious catching up to do.” In a mad frenzy he caught up on the novels that had been published in his absence, repurchased the old TRO’s, and made a tragic discovery. “It was missing all the BattleMechs I grew up with,” he lamented, regarding the loss the “Unseen” ‘Mechs from the modern 3039 TRO.
image courtesy of Michael Todd
There was one silver lining to be found; “I discovered Alex had re-imagined many of the original BattleMechs for MechWarrior Online.” These modern renditions of classic ‘Mechs were clean, detailed and intricate, far more interesting than the originals. Then with the announcement of Harebrained Schemes upcoming turn-based computer version of the classic BattleTech game, and the “Unseen” ‘Mechs return to the BattleTech fold along with yet more modern art, he knew there was a golden opportunity to recreate that magic he found in the old 3025 TRO.
For a long time I worked in solitude, harvesting art primarily from the MechWarrior Online forums
So Michael set to work. “For a long time I worked in solitude, harvesting art primarily from the MechWarrior Online forums,” but after posting progress on BattleTech forums, it wouldn’t take long for his project to grow. First came Justin Kase, who took the MechWarrior Online art and along Odanan’s templates repainted those ‘Mechs in the style of the old TRO’s, with unit colours and insignias. Then SpOoKy777 became involved by providing full page art spreads to break up each section. Finally after a dozen contributors and editors gave their piece, the dream was realized and TRO 3028 was born.
Packed with interesting lore based largely on canonical sources, TRO 3028 is a must have for any fan of BattleTech. But first and foremost, TRO 3028 is an invitation for players who might not be familiar with the tabletop game to come play classic BattleTech with the ‘Mechs they recognize from modern computer games.
MechWarrior 3 is somewhat unique in MechWarrior series. Whereas in every other game each engagement is a single battle where the player may kill a half-dozen enemy ‘Mechs and then move on, MechWarrior 3 is essentially one long guerrilla operation. In other games, when it’s all said and done you fly away in your dropship, sipping space martinis and laughing merrily at all the whacky robot hijinks you got up to. In MechWarrior 3 you don’t have that luxury – you’re stuck dirtside, on the run, fighting to survive wave after wave of Smoke Jaguar warriors.
So how many ‘Mechs did you bust on Tranquil? Reddit user hydra337 has helpfully done the math.
“The Smoke Jaguar forces that did go to Huntress were enough to overcome Serpent, but not enough to eradicate them wholesale before Bulldog arrives. If that returning homeworld force had an extra Galaxy however [like the one you destroy in MechWarrior 3], Clan Smoke Jaguar may have been able to destroy Task Force Serpent, regroup, and be much more prepared for the Huntress assault of Bulldog.”
Trial Under Fire, the book based off of MechWarrior 3, is considered the canonical version of events, and in that story Clan Wolf actually does most of the destruction for you. But in our hearts we all know who the real hero of the story is.
With much thanks to hydra337 for agreeing to let me post his work!
3D printing is growing both in the areas of industry and as a hobby. Many tabletop gaming players dream of getting a 3D printer and printing up all the models they’ve always wanted.
While that may be possible for some, most 3D printing hobbyists can’t afford to by the level of printer that it takes to print models for games like BattleTech. Most of the 3D printers available to consumers are not suited for that kind of detailed printing. That’s not to say that these printers aren’t capable of some amazing things, but usually models in the BattleTech game scale are not something they can handle.
So what kinds of things can consumer level 3D printers do? In the roughly six months that I’ve been into the 3D printing hobby, I’ve printed some pretty cool stuff. Statues, terrain, Pokemon, and more. There are a ton of things to do with a 3D printer if you take the time to learn how they work. I don’t know near everything about 3D printing, and I’m having a great time with it.
This dwarf statue is but one example of what you can make with a 3D printer.
A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing through Thingiverse, which is an amazing website full of free 3D printable files that creators have uploaded to the website to share with the community.
As I was browsing I found the page of creator LordNova2 who had shared a couple of really cool MechWarrior and BattleTech related designs. Among those designs was a Clan Ghost Bear medallion. Being a Ghost Bear at heart, I had to download it right away.
And then, I completely forgot about it, until a few nights ago.
One of my 3D printers (I have two) had just come off a big project I was working on, and I decided to print something fun. I thought I would share the process that followed my decision.