Category Archives: Historical

The Evolution Of Long-Range Missiles In BattleTech, or Why You Should Shut Up And Love The LRM-5

LRM-5 Thinker

thanks to Bradigus for this gem

I’ve got a question for you, my fellow BattleTech aficionados. Why doesn’t everyone just scrap their LRM-20s and use a bunch of LRM-5s in their place? This is a question that has dogged me ever since I got into BattleTech and one that I’ve decided to answer once and for all.

For me, this all started way back with MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries when I discovered than an LRM-5 weighs just 2 tons, meaning I could boat-up four of those suckers and get the equivalent firepower of an LRM-20 but at just 80% of the tonnage requirement. Then I got into the tabletop game and saw that the LRM-5 was still just 2 tons, and it made me wonder why didn’t everybody scrap all their LRM-20s and duct-tape together a bunch of LRM-5s? Is every ‘Mech jock in the entire universe stupid or what?!

It turns out there’s a reason for that, and that reason has changed with every new generation of BattleTech games. But for much of BattleTech video game history, there was little reason to keep those big LRM launchers instead of swapping them for an equivalent number of LRM-5s,  and that made me wonder just how the heck this innocuous weapon system can be so weird across so much of BattleTech’s games.

So today, we’re going to take a deep dive into the many intricacies of perhaps one of BattleTech’s most boring weapon system: the LRM-5.

LRM-5, According To The Table

LRM

Starting where it all began, of course. My introduction to the LRM-5 might have come in the form of a video game, but to understand the LRM-5 we have to go back to the beginning, and that means tabletop rules. Even here the LRM-5 can seem like a questionable choice, so let’s break this weapon down.

The LRM-5 weighs 2 tons, takes 1 crit, and can fire a packet of five measly long-range missiles at a target up to 21 hexes away (Inner Sphere stats, of course). One look at Sarna’s vast repository of BattleTech knowledge reveals that this is a significant weight savings when compared to larger missile launchers such as the LRM-10 (5 tons, 2 crits), LRM-15 (7 tons, 3 crits), and LRM-20 (10 tons, 5 crits), so why would you ever want to use any of those larger launchers?

The answer is hiding in the damage tables. To determine damage, you roll 2D6 and then consult the table. For most of the possible rolls, the damage between four LRM-5s and a single LRM-20 is equivalent, except for two results: a 2 and a 4. If you roll a 2 on an LRM-5 shot, then you’re only dealing 1 damage, whereas an LRM-20 is dealing 6 damage. That’s a 50% bonus over four LRM-5s firing simultaneously.

A similar story happens if you roll a 4, which causes an LRM-5 to deal 2 damage and an LRM-20 to deal 9. A single extra point of damage isn’t quite as pronounced as the snake-eyes situation, but it’s still more damage on low rolls.

There’s also heat to consider. An LRM-20 produces just 6 points of heat, but four LRM-5s firing together produce 8 points. On the other hand, you can manage your heat better by just firing a few of those LRM-5s at a time rather than all four at once, but in terms of average damage per round, the LRM-20 is clearly beating our cludged 4xLRM-5.

Whether you think a little less heat and a little more consistent damage is worth the extra two tons and one critical slot is a matter of personal opinion, but the math checks out–at least, for the tabletop. That story changes dramatically once we get into the video games.

Off The Table And Into The Silicon Wafer

While things were just fine and dandy for the LRM-5 in the tabletop version of BattleTech, as soon as things went digital, shit got weird. Really weird.

A little while back, I briefly touched on a YouTube video from Pixelmusement that revealed the actual damage values of all weapons used in MechWarrior 2, and the LRM-5 is on that list. Now, this is Clan tech instead of Inner Sphere, but we can still highlight some major differences in the LRM-5 thanks to this exhaustive analysis.

First, LRMs in the old MechWarrior 2 days didn’t use damage tables to randomly calculate the amount of mayhem a flight of LRMs will produce. In MechWarrior 2, every missile was its own object with its own specific trajectory. However, LRMs had such good homing in those days that a missile lock often meant that every single one of those missiles would hit its target–many of them in the same location. Worse, the splash damage of the explosion essentially doubled the firepower of LRMs, meaning you were dealing 2 damage per missile instead of one.

MW2 Mercs

So in MechWarrior 2, it absolutely made sense to replace all your LRM-20s with LRM-5s, but only if you had space for them. MechWarrior 2 limited players to just 10 total weapons systems, so this would work on some ‘Mechs like the Vulture, but not on more heavily-laden machines like the Mad Cat.

The only downside to this strategy was heat. LRM-5s still produced more heat than the equivalent LRM-20, so that extra ton is likely to be used up with a heat sink to offset the extra heat produced.

MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries still had inexplicable Streak LRMs, but at least the splash damage bug had been fixed so that each individual missile only did 1 damage. However, the same situation remained: all missiles fired hit their mark, and that meant random damage tables couldn’t account for the extra 2 tons and 1 crit that an LRM-20 has over four LRM-5s. Once again, it absolutely made more sense to toss your heavier LRM units for group-fired LRM-5s.

This situation continued into MechWarrior 3, but finally changed in MechWarrior 4 when LRMs got a complete overhaul. Rather than fire streak-style homing missiles directly at whatever you had a lock on, LRMs in MechWarrior 4 would take an arcing path over obstacles if fired at great distances. Missiles were also grouped into “packets” of 5, just like in the tabletop game, and it was certainyl possible for those packets to miss a fast-moving target.

However, this isn’t quite the same as the tabletop’s damage. Those packets of 5 missiles either struck home for 5 damage (actually 4–MechWarrior 4 used weird damage values) or they missed and did nothing. There’s no in-between. So, boating LRM-5’s once again appears to make sense.

MW4 via the Pirate Bay

Only MechWarrior 4 did something different that finally gave players a good reason to use a larger missile system over a smaller one. MechWarrior 4 added fixed hardpoints to the MechWarrior series that prevented a player from simply swapping out whatever weapon systems they wanted. Although the tonnage of each weapon remained the same, critical slots had been replaced by weapon hardpoints that would allow only a certain amount of energy, missile, or ballistic weaponry.

An Inner Sphere LRM-20 still weighed 10 tons, but now it took up two “missile” slots in a hardpoint. This meant that a single LRM-20 could only ever be replaced by two LRM-5s, albeit with significant weight savings and with only 8 possible damage (again, MechWarrior 4 used different damage values than pretty much every other MechWarrior game).

For me, MechWarrior 4 was where LRMs started to make sense again. Yes, larger LRM packs were less efficient in terms of weight, but they were more efficient in terms of damage per missile hardpoint slot. The key here is that MechWarrior 4 changed the relationship between damage, tonnage, and space. Instead of tonnage being the key limiter to damage, hardpoint slots were often the limiting factor. This meant that it made sense for larger ‘Mechs to have larger LRM packs, while smaller ‘Mechs made do with LRM-5s.

The Modern Solution To The LRM Problem

In modern games like MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries and BATTLETECH, the solution to the LRM problem has become a hybrid of MechWarrior 4’s hardpoints and more classic tabletop ‘Mech construction. In both titles, ‘Mechs are limited in the number of specific energy, ballistic, and missile-based weapons they can mount in any given section of the chassis, but the more traditional critical slot layout is also retained from the tabletop game.

MechWarrior 5 goes one step further. Instead of just having missile, ballistic, and energy hardpoints, it also subdivides those weapons into small, medium, and large categories. A small weapon can fit into any sized hardpoint, but it occupies the entire hardpoint and prevents any additional weapons from slotting in. A large weapon can only occupy a large weapon hardpoint, so an LRM-5 can replace a single LRM-20, but an LRM-20 can’t replace an LRM-5. And, crucially, four LRM-5s cannot replace an LRM-20 unless the chassis has four total available missile hardpoints.

You’d think that would be enough for MechWarrior 5, but no. PGI REALLY wanted to differentiate between small and large launchers, so they added a very interesting quirk to LRMs.

In MechWarrior 5 there are actually two styles of LRM launcher: stream launchers and regular launchers. Stream launchers fire their missiles one after the other so that each missile’s launch doesn’t affect the one behind it. This causes stream launchers to be somewhat more accurate and have a tighter grouping than regular launchers.

Regular LRM launchers fire all their missiles at once, creating a sort of “cloud” of missiles that home in on their target. The orientation of that cloud is random every time it’s fired, and that randomizes how damage is applied when missiles strike their target.

If they strike their target. In MechWarrior 5, the larger the launcher, the larger the cloud of missiles. Unlike in previous MechWarrior games, missiles don’t converge when they approach their victim, so if the target is significantly smaller than the cloud of LRMs fired–like in the case of an LRM-20 fired at a Locust–then the vast majority of those missiles will just hit the ground and deal no damage.

Suddenly the LRM-5 is more than just a smaller version of larger launchers. Since the cloud fired from an LRM-5 is small, it can be used against smaller targets like light ‘Mechs and armored vehicles. LRM-20s, on the other hand, are only really useful against larger targets that will get struck by the majority of the missile cloud–otherwise you’re just wasting most of your ammo.

MechWarrior 5 is smart too. If you manage to group together four LRM-5s, firing them all at once essentially creates the same cloud as firing a single LRM-20. You do have the option of firing them one at a time, however, which will keep the cloud to a smaller size that’s more appropriate to dealing with smaller targets and adds a measure of flexibility.

Enforcer

I gotta give PGI credit, this is probably the most innovative and effective iteration of LRMs in any MechWarrior game. Boating is discouraged, but having an LRM-5 or two is still an effective way of dealing with pesky light ‘Mechs at extreme ranges. LRM-20s are better for heavy and assault ‘Mechs or heavily armored structures. The difference in weight efficiency is overshadowed by the importance of using the right weapon for the right job.

Now let’s take a look at Hairbrained’s BATTLETECH, the game that perhaps mirrors the tabletop experience more than any other BATTLETECH game ever produced. On the surface, BATTLETECH appears to handle things very similar to the tabletop, which means we’re back to maximizing damage per ton with our cludged 4xLRM-5 launchers again, but it’s not immediately obvious what’s going on when the computer is the one rolling digital dice. To find out, I actually reached out to Harebrained Studios to get the inside scoop on what’s happening when you light off a flight of missiles at some schmuck in a Thunderbolt.

“LRMs roll a separate to-hit for each missile in the rack,” BATTLETECH engineer Connor Monahan told me via email. “The first to-hit is rolled on a normal hit table (respective of facing) and that first hit determines the ‘center’ of the LRMs clustering, then all subsequent location rolls for successful hits from that missile rack roll on that influenced/clustered table.”

So, does that mean there’s really no real damage advantage between four LRM-5s and a single LRM-20? Monohan explained essentially “yes,” but that’s not the whole story in BATTLETECH.

LRM raining on Panther

First, there’s still heat to consider. Four LRM-5s are a lot hotter than an LRM-20, and that will seriously reduce a ‘Mech’s average damage per round. Second, since every missile rolls separately, missile weapons are some of the best weapons in the game to take against smaller, more evasive targets. A medium laser with 40% to-hit is most likely going to miss and deal no damage at all, whereas an LRM-20 with a 40% hit chance is likely to still deal 8 total damage with 8 missile hits. This is in stark contrast with MechWarrior 5 where larger launchers are actually no better than smaller ones against small targets.

And third, you can split your fire with four LRM-5s. This is especially useful when a pilot has Multi-Target, which enhances your accuracy when firing at multiple opponents.

The Evolution Of A Tiny Missile Launcher

So, are we done? Is MechWarrior 5 the pinnacle of long-range missile technology? Or is BATTLETECH and its faithful adherence to the original tabletop rules the best that an LRM can be?

Honestly, I think MechWarrior 5 has gotten the formula right. You can still boat those LRM-5s to replace heavier LRM-20s and wind up with weight savings, but there are appropriate tradeoffs. You lose the option of mounting other missile launchers (most likely, as few ‘Mechs have more than four missile hardpoints), but you gain extra tons to devote to other weapon systems. Each LRM launcher is best suited to increasingly larger enemies, and if you do decide to mount multiple LRM-5s, you’re given maximum flexibility in being able to engage both large and small targets without wasting ammunition.

But I don’t think the evolution of the LRM is over. We started out with ludicrously broken and overpowered missiles in MechWarrior 2, and each iteration of BattleTech brought them first towards balance, and then to something better: justification.

Kintaro

Is MechWarrior 5 where the evolution of the LRM launcher ends? Or will long-range missile launchers of the future take a more retro-inspired approach like BATTLETECH?

Right now it’s hard to say since we’re sort of in-between generations at the moment. All I can say is that I will always hot-swap my LRM-20s for LRM-5s until I’m convinced to do otherwise. And even then, I’ll probably still swap for those two extra tons. It’s just how I’ve been taught.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

(Edit: Yes, I know I’m omitting quite a few games, including the first MechWarrior, MechCommander, and MechWarrior Online. But I think this article is long enough.)

Did You Know? Other Games Come And Go, But MechWarrior: Living Legends Is Here To Stay

Osiris

As is sometimes the case here on Sarna.net, I must begin this article with an apology. I had heard of MechWarrior: Living Legends many years ago, before my stint on MechWarrior Online and even while I was still replaying MechWarrior 4 for the gazillionth time, but I’d never really considered it as something I’d like to get into. Firstly because it was initially built on Crysis, a game famous for taking modest gaming PCs and turning them into shambling corpses unable to render a single frame, and secondly because it was an online multiplayer shooter of the kind that I just had little interest in. 

Fast forward many years later and I would still occasionally see news about MechWarrior: Living Legends on social media, but I always passed it off as such a tiny corner of the wider BattleTech community that it was hardly worth mentioning. I hope this article–and perhaps more like it–will make amends for my transgression. 

And as I’ve found out over the years, I was wrong about many things, and certainly wrong about MechWarrior: Living Legends. It is a game worthy of my attention and the attention of any BattleTech fan looking for a different kind of BattleTech experience. 

Although I wasn’t wrong about it having a very small community, I’ve discovered that small doesn’t mean disorganized. They even have a PR guy, whom I will give full credit for sending me on this journey into yet another weird and wonderful corner of the BattleTech universe (and also being a great historian for MechWarrior: Living Legends–shout out to you, Bird_Thing). 

Apologies out of the way, let’s get this party started. This week on Did You Know?, we’re looking at an older MechWarrior title with an interesting origin story and gameplay unlike any other game in the franchise. Mostly because it’s not an officially licensed product and so it never had to conform to the rules. Welcome to MechWarrior: Living Legends

How To Be A Living Legend

Timberwolf

As I mentioned before, MechWarrior: Living Legends has a small community both developing and playing it, so you might not have even heard of this game. Allow me to illuminate.

MechWarrior: Living Legends started life as a Crysis total conversion mod that has since become a game unto itself. Although it still prefers to call itself a Crysis total conversion mod, Living Legends has its own stand-alone installer and has virtually nothing in common with the original game from which it’s based on.

If I had to describe Living Legends in a single sentence, I’d say it’s Battlefield, but BattleTech. Unlike most MechWarrior games that focus on the ‘Mechs, Living Legends provides players with several different options of vehicles to play as well, including Aerospace fighters, tanks, VTOLs, and even battle armor

Although there are several different game modes available, the most common (at least, from my short time playing in it) is Terrain Control, where each team attempts to capture control points in order to drain the opposing team of tickets. Once a team’s tickets are exhausted, that team loses unless they can also exhaust their opponent of tickets within a short period of time in a sort of sudden-death showdown.

While this might sound similar to MechWarrior Online’s Conquest mode, the two are starkly different. For starters, MechWarrior: Living Legends games can go on for much longer than a single round in MechWarrior Online, with games sometimes taking over an hour to conclude. Players also respawn after death and must purchase new machines to fight with each time using a pool of accrued credits based on their performance.

Oasis Argus

But perhaps the single largest difference between the two games is pacing. Yes, you can respawn in Living Legends so you never need to wait more than a few moments to get back to the action, but simply running to the battlefield any dying to enemy fire over and over again won’t actually get you anywhere. You gain credits based on how long you survive, and so it’s important for you to play strategically (I’d even go as far as saying “carefully”) in order to preserve your machine. Falling back to repair and rearm is far more beneficial than dying and respawning.

Understanding that your survival has meaning beyond merely staying alive is fundamental to a player’s success in MechWarrior: Living Legends. If all you do is run in with an Osiris and die repeatedly, you’ll never be able to afford heavier, more impactful units that can truly sway the tide of battle. 

And I’ll admit that it took me at least three games before I understood this concept. RIP my Osiris

But Is It BattleTech?

Marauder

MechWarrior: Living Legends takes an approach to balancing itself that is similar to MechWarrior Online. Yes, there are Clan and Inner Sphere units, but their respective stats have been tweaked to resemble a fair playing field. And while it seems that the developers have tried to stick with cannon designs as much as possible, there are a lot of differences between classic BattleTech and Living Legends.

For starters, Inner Sphere ‘Mechs have lettered variants for every chassis similar to the Clans, and those variants don’t have a lot in common with their tabletop counterparts. Even some “prime” variants like the Marauder have two AC/5s instead of one and can run at 86 kph instead of 64 kph. Again, this is all in the name of parity between Inner Sphere and Clan factions so that each game is fair and balanced.

There’s no ‘Mechlab and no customization of any kind. You can change your paint job for some appropriate camouflage, but that’s it. Some BattleTech purists might lament the loss of such an iconic part of the BattleTech experience, but you can understand how quickly players will become irate at a teammate that takes 10 minutes to design their perfect custom machine only to lose every control point on the map and cost their team the game. 

A more interesting aspect of Living Legends is the ability to pilot vehicles. You start the game equipped with battle armor (Elementals for the Clans, Longinus for the Inner Sphere), but they’re generally ineffective on their own with only a single-shot SRM-2 and a small laser to work with (although I am told there are some legendary battle armor players that will ruin your day with a man-portable PPC). Tanks such as the Harasser or Goblin can provide additional firepower at a premium price, while Aerospace assets like Corsair or Visigoth can provide extreme mobility and take advantage of an enemy lacking in anti-aircraft weaponry. You can even take a Long Tom to lob artillery at opponents.

Rommel

This move away from ‘Mech-centricity and towards combined-arms combat is MechWarrior: Living Legends‘ greatest strength, although I recommend that only experienced pilots take the wheel of a hovercraft or Aerospace fighter. In the one game I decided to play a Harasser, I flipped my hovertank in the first five minutes of battle and couldn’t get it righted. At least ‘Mechs don’t have to worry about falling on their backs like an upended turtle. 

It also means that games can become truly chaotic. Some maps can have up to 14 players on each side, and with that many people all swapping their gear to gain an advantage on their opponents, you might be dealing with a wave of Aerospace fighters one second and a team of LRM-equipped high-speed harassers the next. Staying alive and capturing resource points should be your primary concern in the early game, and only later in the match should you even consider moving to larger, more formidable units.

After charging in and dying repeatedly for my second game–which relegated me to light ‘Mechs for the entire 30-minute match–I finally decided to change tactics on my third game. I picked an Owens equipped with LRMs and stayed well back from the fight, lobbing missiles at targets of opportunity and retreating whenever the enemy got too close. I managed to survive (and even get a few kills) for long enough that I was able to swap my Owens for a Marauder on my next return for ammo and repairs, and then I was able to truly anchor the line in my team’s next big firefight.

It was a totally new way of playing MechWarrior that I’d never experience before and I’m embarrassed it took me so long to understand the flow of MechWarrior: Living Legends. But then, the folks behind Living Legends started with a totally different mindset for this game than any other MechWarrior game ever made.

Genesis Of Living Legends

Cauldron Born

Living Legends got its start way back in 2006 under a development team called Wandering Samurai Studios (WSS). They initially started working on the game using the Quake engine, but then decided to change course with the arrival of Crysis in 2007. From the beginning, the idea was to make Crysis into a game like Battlefield 2142, using BattleTech as the inspiration for all the sci-fi tanks, space fighters, and giant stompy robots.

Wandering Samurai Studios succeeded spectacularly. The initial beta release of MechWarrior: Living Legends released in December 2009 and received its first patch in January of 2010. It then went on to win 2010’s Mod of the Year from ModDB, the massive modding community site that also hosted MechWarrior: Living Legends. It would also get an honorable mention in 2011’s Mod of the Year awards after the mod achieved a second year of high votes, but wasn’t allowed to win the award two years in a row.

This was the golden age of MechWarrior: Living Legends. There was even talk within the community of packaging up Living Legends and selling it as its own game. 

Warhammer

Then two things happened. The first was MechWarrior Online. This portion of Living Legends legacy is shrouded in some controversy, so I’ll just provide key points. Both Living Legends and MechWarrior Online used the same engine: Crysis. Living Legends had a non-commercial license to use the engine, while MechWarrior Online had every intention of making as much money as humanly possible. PGI felt that Living Legends might split their target audience and exerted some pressure to have Wandering Samurai Studios cease production.

That last bit is where lies the controversy. Neither PGI nor WSS state that there was ever a cease and desist letter sent, but that might not have been necessary. Several WSS members worked at Crytek, the company that made Crysis and the Crytek engine, and having some of your employees trying to make a free game that sucks players from one of your customers is certainly a bad look.

According to Mandalore Gaming, a YouTuber that covered a bit of Living Legends in his review of MechWarrior Online, PGI met WSS at the 2012 Game Developers Conference and politely asked them to cease development of Living Legends. Which they did after the final 0.70 update released on January 16, 2013, simultaneously announcing that they’d move on to other projects. 

The second was the death of Gamespy in 2014. MechWarrior: Living Legends relied on Gamespy’s servers for matchmaking, and without them, nobody could actually play Living Legends. At the time, this seemed to be the final nail in Living Legends’ coffin, and there was widespread belief that this would be the end of this beautiful little game.

Living Legends Lazarus

Kodiak

I may have forgotten to mention something earlier: MechWarrior: Living Legends has a small and highly dedicated community. They wouldn’t let a tiny thing like the departure of the entire development team and the destruction of the fundamental backbone of the MW:LL‘s online matchmaking prevent them from keeping their beloved game alive.

In 2013, the MW:LL community released a universal installer for the game that no longer required Crysis (or Crysis Wars) to run. It still used the same engine, but for all intents and purposes, MechWarrior: Living Legends was its own game.

Throughout 2015, the MW:LL forums are used to assemble, document, and just fucking cludge together workarounds to the total lack of Gamespy servers. This allowed the community to keep playing as a more long-term solution was sought.

That solution happened at the end of 2015 with a brand new launcher that would search for active game servers and provide them to the user. This came after the better part of a year trying to track down the source code and many more months of trying to get it to compile. MechWarrior: Living Legends had officially returned from the dead.

Sunder

Thus began a new era for MechWarrior: Living Legends, one we can consider a sort of community-driven renaissance. WSS gave their blessings to a new development team, with Living Legends co-founder Kamikaze making that announcement in January of 2017. Since then, iterative updates have continued to add content to Living Legends in the form of new maps, units, and a new login service that made MW:LL completely independent of third-party services.

That team continues to work on Living Legends to this day. The most recent major update, 0.12.0, added the Sunder and Kodiak ‘Mechs to the game, along with a slew of balance and bug fixes. The team plans to add the Mars and Behemoth tanks for the next major update as well as adding the C3 Master equipment

Where To Go From Here

For those looking for more info on Living Legends, there are a whole bunch of resources for you. There’s of course Sarna’s page, which will provide a good overview of the game, it’s history, and what units you can expect to find. There’s a far more detailed Living Legends wiki, which not only provides detailed unit specs and gameplay explanations but also provides an excellent primer for those looking to get into the game (with a sub-primer for those transferring over from MechWarrior Online).

Vulture

And of course, there’s a Reddit, forums, Discord, and ModDB page too.

Of all the BattleTech fan projects I’ve played, MechWarrior: Living Legends is easily the most polished. There’s a lot of love in this game, and it’s that love that keeps the game going. Not at all unlike BattleTech itself. 

If you do download the client (which again, is totally free and doesn’t require Crysis to play anymore) I recommend perusing the new player guides first and familiarizing yourself with the controls. Head to an empty server to test things out (“Free Testing Practice” on the 12th VR game server network has one with unlimited credits for new players to test things out) and get yourself situated with some early-game units. Then it’s time to dive into an actual game.

My biggest takeaway with Living Legends is: survive. If you take damage that puts you close to death, retreat and get repaired at a ‘Mech bay. If you run out of ammo, retreat to reload. The longer you live, the more money you make, and the bigger the ‘Mech you’ll be able to purchase.

After that, your old MechWarrior reflexes should be just fine to mix it up. At least, it was for me.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

Your BattleTech News Roundup For May 2020

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.

PGI Is Hiring For MechWarrior 5 Development

Katapult

We begin our monthly roundup with some big news from MechWarrior 5 developer PGI. They’re hiring! Eight new positions have opened up at PGI, including some pretty senior technical positions like Level Designer, Principal Animator, and Senior Game Designer.

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).

Shell Games

First, we have Jason Schmetzer with Shell Games. This book has to do with the Republic of the Sphere‘s incursion into Draconis space following the fall of Fortress Republic. Paladin Max Ergen sets out to capture Dieron, a Draconis district capital and home of the Dieron Regulars, but Warlord Kambei Okamoto won’t let the planet fall without one hell of a fight.

Renowned BattleTech author Blaine Lee Pardoe did a review of the story on his site, and said that “Schmetzer does a great job of taking two paragraphs of sourcebook and turning them into a story of characters, strategy, and honorable struggle.”

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 these links.

Pardoe Also Did A Fun Jihad And Dark Age Summary

Jihad

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.

Pardoe wrote a hilariously snarky TLDR of all the BattleTech events following the FedCom Civil War, from Jihad all the way to the fall of Fortress Republic.

“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

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

Metal Core Collectibles

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.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Retro BattleTech Games – MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries

Welcome to another retrospective on the video games that made the BattleTech universe come alive in ways that dozens of novels, hundreds of sourcebooks, and even a short-lived ’90s cartoon just couldn’t. I’m your host, Sean at Sarna, and I’m here to teach you a thing or two about MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries–perhaps the greatest BattleTech-sourced video game ever made.

I know I say that about most of this particular generation of video games, but this time I really mean it!

But first, we gotta go back to MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat. That game was a huge freakin’ success for Activision, and like all major game developers/publishers, they want to keep making money. So after MechWarrior 2 came MechWarrior 2: Ghost Bear’s Legacy, an expansion pack that added a brand new Ghost Bear-focused campaign, several new ‘Mechs, and a bunch of different weapons systems that should have been in MechWarrior 2 but were cut for time.

Ghost Bear’s Legacy was great and really added a lot to MechWarrior 2, but it was really just an appetizer. The main course was MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries.

A Labor Of Love

At this point in Activision’s history, and specifically for the MechWarrior 2 team, it was a time of near-constant crunch. MechWarrior 2 first came out for MS-DOS in July of 1995, then for Windows in December of 1995. Ghost Bear’s Legacy was developed concurrently with the Windows 95 version of the game and came out in November.

Which leads us to MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries. For this latest iteration of MechWarrior 2, Activision decided to take everything they’d learned from Ghost Bear’s Legacy and the Win95 version of Mechwarrior 2 and make a “stand-alone expansion,” which is really just a fancy way of saying they’re making a brand new game using the same engine. 

CD Case

Mercenaries had several enormous technical improvements over its predecessors. It was one of the first games to feature texture-mapped surfaces rather than mere colored polygons, making terrain and ‘Mechs actually stand out from their surroundings. Multiple light sources were finally possible, meaning laser blasts and PPCs generated their own glow that shined off surfaces. Smoke contrails were added to missiles that obscured your screen when they leaped off their launch rails. And for the first time ever, taking out an opponent’s leg didn’t cause them to stand there like a stunned flamingo–they actually fell over and were unable to right themselves without the use of jump jets.

All of this was pretty ground-breaking, but this wasn’t just some tacked-on improvements to the source. Mercenaries was its own game, with its own incredibly unique campaign that puts pilots right in the thick of the Clan Invasion. There were added vehicles, tons of all-new ‘Mechs (at least, new to the MechWarrior series of games), voice acting, music, and more. 

And all of it was done in just 9. Freakin’. Months. Think about how long it takes to make a modern game with cutting-edge everything, and imagine doing all that in just 9 months. It wasn’t easy, as the dev team revealed in hidden thank you messages buried inside MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries‘ code. 

“Most of these people haven’t left their cubicles in months, so if they sound a little crazy, forgive them,” wrote Game Director Jack Mamais in his passage. His tone might sound jocular, but everyone on this page (courtesy of The Cutting Room Floor) said something about working “a ton of long hours.” 

3D Artist J.J. Franzen called it “4 months of non-stop hectic craziness.” That’s a long time to be working 12-hour days. It’s several years late (or more like several decades), but let me at least express my appreciation for all the blood, sweat, and tears put into Mercenaries. It might not have had the crazy employee turnover that MechWarrior 2 did, but there was certainly a lot of suffering to go around because of corporate deadlines.

Back To The Inner Sphere

How to start your career as a mercenary ‘Mech jock.

One of the interesting aspects of Mercenaries‘ development was not just when the game takes place in the BattleTech universe, but also when the game was developed in FASA‘s history. At the time, FASA hadn’t even written the sourcebooks to the FedCom Civil War and all the things that would happen following the Clan Invasion, and they forbid Activision from using any parts of BattleTech that hadn’t yet been officially published.

Without any path forward in time following Ghost Bear’s Legacy, they instead went back to perhaps the most exciting period in BattleTech’s history. 

“The problem with FASA’s BattleTech universe is that it ends roughly where Ghost Bear ends, and FASA won’t let us go beyond that,” said Mamais in an interview with NextGen Magazine way back in 1996. “Just covering another Clan wasn’t the way to go, since that wouldn’t add much that was new. So we looked at the entire BattleTech universe and decided that the most interesting time really was in the Inner Sphere when the Clans were just coming back.”

Mercenaries starts with you, a lowly ‘Mech jock in an old Commando COM-7X fighting for Team Venom, a mercenary unit of unknown size and headed by Colonel Holly Harris. When Harris’ Zeus gets left behind on a recon raid mission in the Draconis Combine, she bequeaths the unit and Commando to you in a rare display of generosity, posthumously saying you need to figure things out on your own from now on.

MRBC Board

Gotta pay those bills, mercenary.

You’ve got two options: go solo as your very own merc outfit, or you can sign on with Hansen’s Roughriders. Signing on with the Roughriders turns Mercenaries into a very linear game much like MechWarrior 2 without any of the business management aspects that come with owning your own mercenary command. This was suitable for new players and ensured that even the worst MechWarrior always had a working ‘Mech to fight with.

But the real game is found by selecting “Mercenary Commander” on the menu screen. This puts you in command; you buy and sell ‘Mechs, MechWarriors, components, and everything else. It’s much like the original MechWarrior game, only you don’t have to worry about travel time or travel costs like you do in more modern titles like BATTLETECH or MechWarrior 5.

You do, however, need to worry about armor, ammo, weapons, and everything else that a mercenary lance needs to stay afloat. 

From MechWarrior To Mercenary Commander

Although you start out in a Commando, you likely won’t stay there for long. Mercenaries adds a whopping 37 Inner Sphere ‘Mechs that weren’t already present in previous iterations of MechWarrior 2 (Ghost Bear’s Legacy already had the Atlas, Annihilator, Victor, Hatamoto-Chi, and Raven) along with the 19 Clan ‘Mechs ported from other games for a total of 61 ‘Mechs–more than any other MechWarrior game at the time (although some of those ‘Mechs aren’t available in the main campaign, and a few can only be obtained as salvage from later versions of Mercenaries that added dynamic salvage rules). 

That’s a lot of ‘Mechs. For the first time, you’ve got your choice at every weight class on whether you want speed or armor, weapons or defensibility. It was this unparalleled choice that made Mercenaries the best in the series, at least to my eyes.

You also had an unparalleled level of customization. Mercenaries allowed up to 16 different weapon systems, meaning you didn’t have to stifle your Medium Laser boat Atlas just for the sake of mounting a heavy autocannon. You could do both

Although I loved the Commando you started the game with, the Jenner or Panther were quick upgrades, depending on which archetype you preferred. From there it could lead to a Sentinel, Crab, Centurion, Vindicator, or Hunchback, and then to whatever heavier designs you wished. Notably absent were any of the Unseen designs, which were the subject of ongoing litigation at the time.

Training Mission

“Shoot me even once, and I’ll tear that beer can you call a ‘Mech into scrap.”

You don’t get launched right into the Clan Invasion, of course. You start with an optional training contract with Hansen’s Roughriders, where the gloriously rugged voice of Sgt. “Deadeye” Unther threatens you through a series of simple missions designed to get you in touch with your ‘Mech. After that come a series of progressively more difficult campaigns that take you all around the Inner Sphere, from hotspots in the Draconis Combine to the great halls of Solaris VII. While you smash rebels for the DCMS or put down pirates for the Free Worlds League, Comstar provides detailed news about what’s going on in the wider BattleTech universe that really made it seem like you were in the middle of the Inner Sphere.

Unlike in MechWarrior 2, mission outcomes aren’t set in stone. You could fail a mission and get a dock in pay but have it lead to a different mission that would otherwise never have been available. These differing outcomes added an element of replayability to Mercenaries the previous MechWarrior 2 titles never had. Failure wasn’t just the end but a new path to explore.

While I enjoyed MechWarrior 2‘s short stories before and after every mission, Mercenaries‘ added news reports were just a much better fit for a game that’s trying to draw the player into the universe. But if you still preferred the stories, your personal journal likely provided more than enough backstory.

I won’t go into the ‘Mech piloting too much as it’s mostly the same as previous games. The added management components of Mercenaries were far more interesting, although somewhat cumbersome compared to more modern titles. Still, no other ‘Mech game provided a more tabletop BattleTech-accurate ‘Mech customization bay than MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, for better or for worse. 

Mongoose

How did the rebels get access to a Star League ‘Mech?!

One thing I will go into is the weapons. After MechWarrior 2, BattleTech fans wrote in to petition the next game to have weapons that were more accurate to the tabletop game. This meant that LRMs and PPCs were far less effective (Activision had managed to fix the splash damage bug that was causing both weapons to hit far harder than they should in MechWarrior 2), but also meant that autocannons were just generally bad. If an AC/5 did as much damage as a Medium Laser and had only 20 shots per ton of ammo, you’re far better off with a few Medium Lasters and accompanying heat sinks than even a single AC/5.

For this reason, the most effective loadouts in Mercenaries often involved mounting multiple Medium Lasers as your main armament and then having some support weapons to take out Elementals or other small targets.

The Invasion Begins

I’ll never forget the first time playing through and getting to the mission that required you to hunt down the Oberon Confederation in the Free Rasalhague Republic. Things start off as you’d expect, but then “unidentified” ‘Mechs barge in and start wrecking both you and the pirates alike. The second mission where you have to escape in a stolen Pegasus hovertank was one of the most frustrating experiences in a MechWarrior game, but that feeling of helplessness against even light Clan ‘Mechs really pressed home how ‘Mechs were the kings of the battlefield.

Afterward, you read how the KungsArmé murders the escaped pirates so nobody can confirm your story that the Clans have invaded. It was a nice touch.

It was also rendered almost immediately irrelevant as your next mission takes you to Wolcott to fight off the Smoke Jaguars and hand the clans their first-ever defeat. You’ll later take on the Ghost Bears to capture a fully intact Kodiak so that the DCMS can examine it, or you could decide to just blow away the Dracs and keep the 100-ton ‘Mech for yourself. 

The campaign eventually leads to Luthien, where you and other mercenary commands heroically fend off the Jaguars and prevent the capture of the Draconis Combines’ home planet. The last mission where you hold the line against wave after wave of Jaguar ‘Mechs is chilling both for how desperate the player tries to keep their ‘Mech from crumbling around them and the epic music that plays in the background.

Perfect, But Imperfect

Night Atlas

Who needs enhanced imaging when you’ve got thermal sensors?

As great as Mercenaries was, it’s still far from perfect. The rushed development cycle meant that the DOS version of the game didn’t launch with dynamic salvage and instead had scripted salvage at the end of each mission. Only the Windows 95 version of Mercenaries got dynamic salvage after a patch (which also made it one of the first games to use “patching” in order to add intended features). 

There were also a ton of bugs. One was a “phantom weight” bug that kept adding extra un-specified weight to a ‘Mech every time it was repaired until it eventually became so overburdened that you couldn’t even equip a Small Laser. The only solution was to sell the ‘Mech and buy a new one–something I did a few times when my Atlas suddenly became unable to equip its full complement of AC/20 rounds. 

While Aerospace fighters were a fun addition to your mercenary command, the pilot AI was so useless that you might as well not bother. Fighters would often get lost, stuck on buildings, or take so long to arrive at the battlefield that the fight was already over by the time they got there. They were occasionally useful to delay enemy forces in defensive actions, but that was about it. 

And of course, there was the usual collection of freezes and crashes that were typical of games from the era. The Windows 95 version of Mercenaries was especially prone to crashes, as was the 3DFX-enhanced and Titanium Editions.

This one is coming home with me.

But did the bugs really matter? Not really. Not when there were so many ‘Mechs to play with, and not when there was so much replayability in Mercenaries. Taking different contracts, using different ‘Mechs, and making different decisions meant that I got way more out of Mercenaries than I ever did out of MechWarrior 2, and I suspect I’m not alone in that opinion.

A Mercenary Legacy

What Mercenaries did for MechWarrior was truly remarkable in that it showed us what a MechWarrior game could be–a non-linear campaign where decisions mattered, from choosing what parts of your opponent to destroy in the hopes of salvaging components later to choosing whether or not it’s worth holding the line for that sweet bonus at the end of your contract. These choices have since become standard features for both BATTLETECH and MechWarrior 5, and they both owe Mercenaries for their creation.

It also proved that the time before and leading up to the Clan Invasion was just a better era to play in. The rules were simpler, the factions were clearer, there were more ‘Mechs, and you could slowly add technology to the game as it was discovered (or rediscovered). Fighting before 3049 made it so that Clan or Star League technology was something truly special and equipping it meant you were on the cutting edge of technology.

And there was a sense of freedom to Mercenaries. You weren’t railroaded to anything. You could take missions you wanted or ignore them (outside of the mandatory story missions, of course). You could use whatever ‘Mech using whatever weapons you wanted. You could customize your lancemates and their machines to perfectly match your fighting style. 

There’s a reason why today’s BattleTech games use MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries as their template. While the graphics might not hold up quite as well as MechWarrior 2 due to the very basic texture maps, I recommend any BattleTech fan pick up MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries and give it a shot. You’ll be glad you did.

 And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy. 

stay syrupy

 

You Can Now Play MechWarrior 2 And MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries On Your Browser… Sort Of

MW2 Mercs

Great news! You can play MechWarrior 2 and MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries through your browser thanks to the Internet Archive.

First, a big thanks to Reddit user a_false_vacuum who posted over on r/OutreachHPG that this thing exists. Kudos to you! For the rest of us, gaze in wonder at what is probably the easiest way to play older MechWarrior games. 

Well, sort of. We’ll get to the big caveats in a sec. First, how does this whole thing work? Basically, the Internet Archive has an image of the CDs and an applet that runs a DOS emulator through your browser. You download the emulator and the CD, which means a 740 MB download. That might take a few minutes, depending on your internet speed.

After that, the whole freakin’ think loads in your PC’s RAM and runs from there. This has a few problems, most notably that you can’t save your game; as soon as the browser closes, everything gets wiped and you have to re-download the game all over again. You CAN save your game in a far less meaningful way by simply returning to the title screen, but once you close the window it’s game over for good.

Another problem is that since everything is done through the browser it’s a bit of a resource hog. And by hog I mean a voracious CPU-eating apocalypse. The menus and intro videos play just fine, but when you actually get into a ‘Mech the whole thing slows to a crawl.

I got about 1 frame every 2 seconds on my laptop. Things didn’t improve much when I moved to my desktop, and my desktop PC is a fairly beefy machine running most games on high graphical settings. But then again, I was using Google Chrome. Perhaps a slimmer, more streamlined browser will actually be able to get this game to run a bit better.

MW2

It’s a real shame too since I’d love to have an easier way to play some of these older games. Browser-based ‘Mech-bashing just sounds super cool and perfect for the 21st century. If someone could get this to work and tell me how you did it, I’d be awfully grateful.

I’m told thanks to the Reddit comments that the MechWarrior 2 version of the game actually allows you to download the ROM, so in theory, you can just download your own DOS emulator to play it that way instead. That’s one step more than being a browser-based game and is thus inferior, but would likely provide a far superior gameplay experience in being able to actually save your progress.

For those unfamiliar with MechWarrior 2, I did a pretty big write-up on it a little while ago. We’ll get to MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries in due time. 

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

Let’s Talk About The MechWarrior 2 Soundtrack

Last week we got into the weeds with MechWarrior 2, but there was one topic that I didn’t get to go nearly as in-depth with as I would have liked. So I’m hitting that topic this week in its own special featurette.

I’m talkin’ about the MechWarrior 2 soundtrack.

Timberwolf

As much I loved stomping around in polygonal representations of giant robots armed to the teeth with lasers and PPCs, MechWarrior 2 wouldn’t be half the game it was without that bitchin’ set of tunes guiding me every inch of the way. This was the first game I played that actually had a soundtrack worth mentioning. Sure, there were other games with some great music at the time, but none of them had the polish, the fidelity, or the sheer quality as MechWarrior 2’s soundtrack.

A lot of that quality can be traced back directly to the game’s composer, Jeehun Hwang (with the help of Gregory Alper and Kelly Walker Rogers, but we’re going to focus on Hwang for this article). This guy has done a ton of work in video games, contributing music to Quake, Heavy Gear, and Battlezone. Amazingly, Hwang’s first ever video game soundtrack was MechWarrior 2, and he hit it out of the park on the first try.

Here’s a refresher in case you might need it:

In an interview with Indie Game Reviewer.com, Hwang recounts how he landed the gig. He first started out as a production assistant at Activision just to make some cash. After moving to Los Angeles, he sold his car and purchased his first synthesizer–a Korg X2 sequencer–and worked on his music career in his spare time.

“At first, I was asked to help with the composer selection process, but then I brought in a few tracks that I’d written for the game on my Korg X2 internal sequencer, and shortly after, I was asked to stay home and write music full time,” Hwang recalls. “I got a lucky break since the game was such a big success, and my music reached a big audience and got a lot of recognition. The rest is history.”

Another interview with SoundOnSound (courtesy of a NeoGAF thread) went into a bit more detail on how that initial interview went. “After I’d written a few songs I took them in and there was this big meeting with everyone, including the head of the company, where first they played all the music the other guy had done and then they played my music. To my surprise, I got a standing ovation!

“I was literally learning as they were paying me,” he continued. “It was the very first time I’d used a computer sequencer: prior to that, I didn’t even know they existed! They also wanted me to score the movies–the intro and outro–so I got an old VCR with timecode and pretty much scored everything in real time and then went back over them. It wasn’t really the conventional way of doing things and it took a long time, but I worked very hard on it.”

MW2 Stormcrow

All that hard work paid off. MechWarrior 2 won a slew of awards from gaming publications, and many of them were specifically for Hwang’s incredible music.

It’s hard to pin down a single genre to describe MechWarrior 2’s soundtrack. Parts of it are filled with orchestral grandeur, others with a sort of jungle bongo rhythm, and still others with an electronic futurism that holds up even today.

Firemoth

Besides the music itself, there were a few other things that really made the MechWarrior 2 soundtrack stand out, and the first was the disk it was recorded on. For most games of the era, music was encoded into MIDI files and installed on the computer’s hard drive. Now, I’m not knocking MIDI music, but a lot of early PC game soundtracks were just plain bad and it had a lot to do with the fact that MIDI music files were designed to be as small as possible. There just wasn’t a lot of physical memory available for more complex sounds, and it showed.

MechWarrior 2 did things differently. The game’s soundtrack was actually encoded directly onto the game disc itself using a relatively new technology called Compact Disc Digital Audio (CDDA or CD-DA), also known simply as Red Book Audio CD. The technology was essentially just a set of standards used to encode music onto the digital compact disc format. It had been used for years in the music industry so that Sony Walkmans could navigate from one track to the next, but it was still relatively new to PC gaming in 1995.

MW2 FireMoth

MechWarrior 2 was one of the first games in the world to use this format to encode its soundtrack. This meant that the PC’s sound card would read the disk and play the disc’s music while the rest of the computer concerned itself with running the game. It also meant you could take MechWarrior 2’s disc, put it in a regular old CD player, and listen to the soundtrack wherever and whenever you wanted.

Dire Wolf

It was also one of the few ways to listen to MechWarrior 2’s entire soundtrack. A bug in earlier versions of the game caused certain songs to never play for the mission they were intended and instead repeated the tracks from other missions.

I can’t tell you how many walks home from school were spent listening to the MechWarrior 2 soundtrack. And from the looks of things, I wasn’t the only one. In fact, some very talented people have taken the MechWarrior 2 soundtrack and used it as the inspiration for their own musical endeavors.

The one person I’d like to mention is Timothy Seals, an Australian artist who took eight songs from MechWarrior 2 and remixed them into something that’s both very modern and very awesome. His album is called New Dawn, which you can listen to and download for free on his Bandcamp site (although as a “pay what you want” download, he’d certainly appreciate it if you’d toss him a few bucks).

These are some very faithful recreations of MechWarrior 2 music using modern software and not some ancient Korg sequencer. I think the kids these days would call it a “cover”, but I’m not a music writer, so I have no idea.

And before I leave you, I just wanted to note how the song Pyre Light has a very special place in my heart. Way back in the day when I was first being introduced to the world of the internet and was suddenly confronted with the necessity of an online handle, I chose “Pyre Light” in honor of MechWarrior 2.

I’ve long since abandoned that name, but the song still hits me in the feels every time I hear it.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Did You Know? – Retro BattleTech Games – MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat

The time has finally come. We’re taking a look at MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat in this week’s retrospective look at the BattleTech video games that made the franchise. And for me at least, there was no more formative experience in BattleTech than MechWarrior 2.

But before we get into the game, let’s head back to our last retrospective on MechWarrior 2: The Clans. If you recall, the original MechWarrior PC game was made by Dynamix, but then they got purchased by Sierra On-Line and took MechWarrior’s engine with them. That meant Activision had to start over from scratch back in 1992.

As is often the case with Activision, development did not go smoothly.

You can read up on the details in our previous post. Suffice to say, the entire production staff either quit or left for other projects, and MechWarrior 2 would have died entirely were it not for Tim Morten. Credited as an associate producer, Tim took the engine being worked on for The Clans and refined it until there was something resembling a game. Morten was also instrumental in convincing Activision’s leadership to keep the project going with a team of about two dozen people.

Finally, two development teams and one scrapped game later, MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat released on PC for MS-DOS in 1995.

MechWarrior 2 would go on to win dozens of awards from various game publications and sell 500,000 copies in the first three months of sales. For the mid-’90s, that’s basically a blockbuster. Overall sales were a lot more than that, but getting specific figures is a bit tricky. Let’s just say it’s well into the millions and leave it at that.

I came across MechWarrior 2 back when games were still being handed around via shareware discs. The internet was still in its infancy and my home still didn’t even have a dial-up modem. My gaming was done entirely solo, and MechWarrior 2 was easily the best DOS game I’d ever played.

Arch Rivals At War

MW2 Splash Screen

MechWarrior 2 takes place during the Refusal War between Clan Jade Falcon and Clan Wolf. The player can decide to fight for either the Wolves of the Falcons, with each side’s campaign consisting of 12 missions interspersed with Trials of Position as you make your way up the Touman‘s ranks.

Depending which team you play for, either the Jade Falcons crush the Wolves and go on to take Terra, or the Wolves defeat the Jade Falcons and defend the Inner Sphere against Clan incursions for the foreseeable future. Obviously, MechWarrior 2 doesn’t take place in traditional BattleTech canon, so these outcomes are entirely apocryphal.

Also, you wind up as Khan of either Clan after the final Trial, which is technically an elected position and not one you can achieve strictly through combat. But whatever–you’re also destroying dozens of ‘Mechs completely by yourself in some missions. ‘Mech games sell based on hero fantasies and not realistic depictions of a single person’s ability to sway history, after all. 

Choose Your Weapon

MW2 Mech Bay

Both sides feature the same arsenal of 14 ‘Mechs and both sides lacked some of the newer designs introduced in 3057 (some would be added later in the Ghost Bear’s Legacy expansion, but it’s still a notable slip). You do get several IIC variants, including the some unseen ‘Mechs such as the Rifleman, the Warhammer, and Marauder, but otherwise, you’re limited to Clan ‘Mechs that were present during the start of the Inner Sphere invasion.

Hellbringer

MechWarrior 2 also didn’t ship with certain technologies that were present in 3057. Anti-missile systems, ECM, active probes, and basically anything that wasn’t a standard Clan weapon was just too complex for the developers to handle and still actually ship a completed game. To that end, many of the ‘Mechs featured in MechWarrior 2 didn’t arrive with their historically correct loadouts. Basically all the Firemoth alternate configurations were modified in some way, as was the primary config Hellbringer, several Kitfox variants, the Warhawk, and the Gargoyle Alt Config C and D.

Another limitation in MechWarrior 2 was that each ‘Mech could only carry a maximum of 10 weapon systems, which meant several weapons-heavy ‘Mechs also needed to be changed. The primary configuration of the Nova, famously comprised of 6 ER Medium Lasers in either fist, was instead changed to just 7 ER Medium Lasers, 2 Medium Pulse Lasers, and 1 ER Small Laser.

Strangely, Activision didn’t stop at just altering the Nova’s weapon loadout. They also gave the ‘Mech an Endo Steel chassis and a 300 XL engine to give it a running speed on par with that of the Storm Crow. Nobody is quite sure why they did that, and we can only assume it was to ensure the Nova stayed roughly on par with the Storm Crow in terms of performance.

Nova

The Timber Wolf and Dire Wolf also had minor changes to their primary configurations due to possessing too many weapon systems.

Unlike modern BattleTech games that limit the types of weapons that can be taken on an OmniMech, MechWarrior 2 allowed anything and everything on any given chassis. If you wanted to rip out the missiles and lasers on a Mad Dog and replace them with autocannons, that’s just fine. This would do nothing to the overall appearance of your ‘Mech, mind you, but you could do it. It wouldn’t be until MechWarrior 3 that dynamic loadouts were considered in a Mech’s model.

Piloting your multi-ton beast was done entirely via keyboard unless you were one of the lucky few who purchased MechWarrior 2 packaged with Microsoft’s Sidewinder joystick. The Sidewinder allowed you to control your ‘Mech’s torso by twisting the stick, making it a lot easier to maneuver your machine while maintaining weapons on your opponents. Otherwise, one hand was on the arrow keys while the other was busily hitting the “<>” keys to keep your torso pointed in the right direction.

The Prettiest Death Machines

But what truly set MechWarrior 2 above most PC games of the era was its graphics. MechWarrior 2 used dynamic lighting and color shading to really add depth to every world you encountered. Textures were entirely basic–you would see some bitmaps on each machine, but otherwise, every surface was just a flat color interrupted by the occasional sprite of a bush or piece of rubble.

And yet, somehow, it still holds up. Take a look at the video below to see for yourself.

MechWarrior 2 remained on the cutting edge of graphics technology for quite a few years following its initial release. As Digital Foundry calls it, the mid-’90s was a Wild West-era for PC gaming where there were multiple video card manufacturers and each one required their own special game release in order to take full advantage of what that manufacturer’s card could do. Activision catered to pretty much all of them, which meant that MechWarrior 2 was released in no less than 38 different versions over three years.

And frankly, a lot of them sucked. Sure, it was neat to see ground that was something other than a flat-shaded polygon, but in order to make the textures work, Activision had to remove a lot of the dynamic lighting that made the original DOS version look so great. They often also removed textures from the ‘Mechs themselves making them look drab and utterly boring.

Accerlated Graphics MW2

I managed to avoid those special editions. By the time I got my first PC upgrade, MechWarrior 3 and MechCommander were out, and they did a much better job of making things look pretty. But these graphically enhanced editions and expansions like Ghost Bear’s Legacy and the stand-alone MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries–packaged together as the Titanium Trilogy–kept the MechWarrior series relevant for years and were widely considered the golden age in ‘Mech simulator games.

The Little Things

Another thing that set MechWarrior 2 apart from games of the era was the music. Even today, MechWarrior 2’s soundtrack holds up extremely well, combining orchestral and digital sounds in a way that was both unique and cutting-edge for that era of PC gaming. It was also one of the first PC games to burn the music directly to the CD rather than encode it as MIDI files, meaning you could take the CD, put it in a Walkman, and listen to the entire score whenever you wanted.

There were way more little gems that set MechWarrior 2 apart. The manual came with its own Technical Readout section that basically took part of the actual Technical Readout: 3050 for the relevant ‘Mechs. There were little notes added in the margins to make it look like a pilot had been scribbling notes to provide cadets hints on how to succeed. And between every mission, there was a short story that provided you with a bigger picture of all the battles that were happening at that time in the Refusal War.

MW2 Timberwolf

I could say without a doubt that it was these little things that gave MechWarrior 2 a certain magic that no other game of the era possessed. The music, the lore–they all made it seem like MechWarrior 2 was bigger than it actually was, which if we’re being honest, wasn’t all that big. You could crunch out both campaigns in a single afternoon if you were really rushing it. But then you’d miss out on reading the stories that came before and after each mission, or on tweaking your ‘Mech so it was armed and armored exactly the way you wanted it.

Warhawk

That’s not to say MechWarrior 2 was perfect. The Windows 95 versions were often bug-filled messes that crashed after a few minutes of play. Splash damage was so hopelessly broken that it doubled or even tripled the stated damage of ER PPCs and LRMs, making a pair of LRM-20s capable of destroying any ‘Mech in a single salvo. And those LRMs were actually Streak LRMs considering how they locked-on and homed in on targets.

Let’s not even get started on the Sega Saturn or PlayStation versions of the game.

But these faults were relatively minor. MechWarrior 2 was the first game that truly captured the magic of BattleTech in a single experience. You had all the lore of previous BattleTech video games combined with the feeling of really being inside a multi-story death machine, with truly enough firepower to level a city block. That’s an intoxicating combination that snapped up more than a few impressionable young minds.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Let’s Talk About MechWarrior: Dark Age

 

Hi everyone. Pull up a chair, take a sit, grab a cup of hot cocoa. I want us to have a frank, honest discussion about MechWarrior: Dark Age.

Now, I know that Dark Age wasn’t particularly well received by the BattleTech faithful. There are plenty of good reasons for that–the complete sidelining of all the major houses, the inability for anybody to communicate due to the HPG blackout, and ‘Mech stats that didn’t even bother to follow the classic ‘Mech construction rules are all valid complaints. Even for me, as someone who arrived at BattleTech a little later on, thought that Dark Age represented a franchise reboot that pissed all over the original game’s charms.

I mean, who wants to field an army of modified AgroMechs and unarmored infantry? Nobody, that’s who. A glorified farmer in a chainsaw-wielding tractor with legs is nobody’s idea of a sound military strategy.

Dark Age Panther

courtesy of Troll and Toad

But I don’t want us to just spend an hour bashing Dark Age and blaming them for BattleTech’s relative obscurity in this era of increasing tabletop gaming interest (I think that has more to do with the complicated web of licenses and ownership of the original IP). There were real, genuine merits to MechWarrior: Dark Age.

First, there were the models themselves. I know plenty of people love painstakingly painting their own figures and even customizing them into miniature pieces of art, but man, I don’t have that kind of time! Being able to get a fully-painted and even slightly opposable figure straight out of the box was actually pretty cool, if I do say so myself, and they weren’t half bad! Sure, sometimes the arms fell off at the slightest provocation, but they were intricate, fully-painted models that look good for zero effort. I call that a win.

And the Clix system wasn’t half bad either. Let’s be real: BattleTech’s rules are a wee bit on the complicated side, as my 300-plus page tome of Total Warfare can attest (I had university textbooks that were smaller–just sayin’). Simplifying everything down to “damage equals clicks”, and having your ‘Mech’s or tank’s (or whatever) stats modified to represent battle damage with every click was actually a really clever way of making combat easier to keep track of.

Admittedly, using a tape-measure for movement a la Warhammer 40K made the rules slightly more complicated, but it also meant that Dark Age could be played anywhere and even household objects could be repurposed as ad hoc terrain. Empty bottle cans became buildings, moldy pizza boxes became swamps, and that bit of carpet where your dog threw-up became a toxic waste zone.

For some reason, my miniature battles were usually fought in some pretty rank areas.

Dark Age Swordsworn

via Twitter

I even appreciate the random “loot box” nature of buying most MechWarrior: Dark Age boxes. It was a lot like buying Magic: The Gathering cards, which was another pastime that I genuinely enjoyed. And even if you don’t like that aspect, the age of the internet has made purchasing specific figures in Dark Age or any other collectible game easier than ever–just go on eBay and you’ll probably find what you’re after.

Tundrawolf

via eBay

Anyways, my point is that Dark Age gets a lot of flack, and while a lot of is deserved, it’s important to understand that it wasn’t all bad. There were some truly innovative of fun aspects of Dark Age, and I kinda wish that some of those aspects could be incorporated into the original tabletop game. But no AgroMechs, please. Those were stupid.

Also, I’m selling my old Dark Age collection. It’s spring, I haven’t touched the things in years, and I suspect wherever I wind up next won’t have the storage space for me to keep these plastic bins as monuments to my childhood. So they gotta go.

Details are on the eBay listing. Yes, this is a shameless use of a pulpit for my personal benefit, but someone else should be able to get some joy from these toys so they don’t just languish in my basement. That and it’s tax season and Canadian taxes are no freakin’ joke!

And if that ultimately means my old collection gets chopped up to be used as props in someone else’s custom miniature scene because Dark Age is stupid and everybody hates it, that’s fine with me.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Did You Know? – Retro BattleTech Games – MechWarrior 2: The Clans

Welcome to another part in Sarna’s retrospective series of old BattleTech video games.

Last time we took a look at the original MechWarrior and saw how it would set the stage for the breakout ‘Mech classic, MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat. But there was a lot of work to go from the pixelated and basic graphics of MechWarrior to the fully 3D environments of MechWarrior 2. So much work that it actually took two tries to get it right.

I speak of the long-forgotten first attempt at a MechWarrior sequel known as MechWarrior 2: The Clans.

That’s right: before we had MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat, Activision tried their hands at a MechWarrior sequel that had way more than just Clan Wolf and Clan Jade Falcon going at it for bragging rights.

We’ll get to that in a bit, but first, let’s recap what happened after the original MechWarrior hit store shelves in 1989. To summarize, the original developer Dynamix got bought by Sierra On-Line and used their tech to create Earthsiege, and then later Tribes, and then later still go bankrupt. That meant that the original game engine left with Dynamix, leaving Activision to start from square one.

Which is exactly what they did starting in 1992. Activision gave the game an ambitious release date of sometime in 1993, which meant that the development team had just over a year to go from nothing to a full 3D ‘Mech simulator.

As any game developer can tell you, that’s not enough time. Especially for a team of roughly a dozen over-worked and underpaid people.

Adder

courtesy of Local Ditch

So anyway, 1993 came and went without much of a game, but Activision did put out a playable demo that showed just exactly where MechWarrior 2 was headed. What we get is a strange amalgamation of ‘Mech models that would become familiar in the real MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat and the old bitmap-style cockpit that was the mainstay of the original MechWarrior.

You can see where the demo was going with a lot of the cockpit stuff: the altimeter, bearing indicator, and torso-twist indicator look and feel exactly as they do in the final MechWarrior 2. The radar now sat dead center in the screen, while the exterior portion of the cockpit would bounce around with the ‘Mechs movement.

That exterior skeletal portion, as well as the green letters of the HUD, would be the only things that survive into the finished MW2. That and the overall look of the models, which bear an uncanny resemblance to the ‘Mechs we know and love.

However, there were a lot of limitations to the demo. First, you couldn’t get critical hits so you never had to worry about losing any of your components. Second, you couldn’t lose limbs which meant that losing an arm didn’t mean a whole lot. Instead, you just kept shooting until your armor and internal structure depleted, at which point you exploded.

Besides the whole fully 3D game thing, Activision had some big plans for MechWarrior 2: The Clans. Originally there were going to be 6 clans total, including Can Wolf, Jade Falcon, Smoke Jaguar, Nova Cat, Ghost Bear, and Steel Viper. There would also be 8-player multiplayer free-for-alls where everyone could enjoy a good ‘ol Grand Melee whenever they wanted. For its time, the game was really forward thinking.

So what happened to MechWarrior 2: The Clans? Perhaps in a sign of things to come, Activision’s marketing team and executives kept pushing for a finished game that was nowhere near ready to be published. According to an ancient article from Local Ditch, there were internal disputes over when to release as well as some legally questionable arguments between the game’s producer Kelly Zmak and Activision higher-ups. And even though the team had 3 programmers officially, most of the work on the game’s engine was being done by one guy: Eric Peterson.

Mech Bay

courtesy of Local Ditch

Eric would describe in his personal blog working 14-16 hour days on MechWarrior 2, although he admitted that had as much to do with loving the work as it did with any pressure from Activision. Eric would also be the only person on the original MW2 team to be credited on the final version of MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat, with the second team’s producer explaining that much of the final game’s engine could be chalked up to Eric’s work.

By 1994, the original team working on MechWarrior 2: The Clans had all left Activision for greener pastures. At the time, it looked like Activision would kill the game entirely, but a guy named Tim Morten proved instrumental in convincing the bigwigs in charge to continue development. Tim would build on Eric’s original designs and eventually finish the game and release it as MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat in 1995.

The biggest differences between what would have been The Clans and MW2: 31st Century Combat mostly boiled down the story. The Clans was more of a random mission generator attached to a multiplayer game, while the MW2 that got released offered a single player campaign set during the Refusal War between Clan Wolf and Clan Jade Falcon. It also meant that the other Clans would have to take a bit of a backseat (at least until the first expansion came along).

Technologically, MW2: 31st Century Combat had two big improvements over The Clans: dynamic lighting and a fully 3D environment. Lighting effects from explosions and even a moving sun would change the shadows and colors that the player sees to be far more realistic, while the 3D environment got rid of all the old bitmaps that made the game seem a lot more like the original MechWarrior than a true sequel.

We’ll take a bigger look at the real MechWarrior 2 next time, so stay tuned.

Once again, a big shout out to Chris Chapman who can be considered an official BattleTech games historian at this point. He also sent me an entire scan of the original The Clans promo box, which Activision sent out a little prematurely but Chris somehow still got his hands on one.

And as always MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Did You Know? – Retro BattleTech Games – MechWarrior

Welcome back to Sarna’s retrospective on classic BattleTech video games! I’ll be your host as we look back on some of the games that made BattleTech and MechWarrior the storied franchises they are today.

We’re going to switch things up a bit due to some… we’ll call it “negative feedback” that was given during my last foray into the Crescent Hawks Inception. I understand that some of these classic games might not quite be the shining jewel of digital accomplishment when compared to more modern ‘Mech games, but at the time they were real accomplishments that should be respected for the stepping stones they were.

That and nobody likes having their childhoods shit on, no matter how awful the sound effects were.

So instead of a pseudo-review where I start tossing out crazy things like numbered scales, we’re going to just look at the game’s history and see what it contributed towards modern MechWarrior titles. Starting with the original first-person ‘Mech combat simulator, MechWarrior.

MechWarrior was originally published in 1989 by a little company called Activision–you might know them as the massive game corporation that’s slowly eating Blizzard Entertainment alive right before our very eyes. Back in the day, the evils of microtransactions and rushed development cycles weren’t nearly as prevalent, so Activision was just another little fish in the nascent pond of PC gaming.

While Activision published the game, it was created by a humble team of 17 dudes working at Dynamix Inc. Dynamix would eventually be bought-out by Sierra On-Line, creating both Tribes and Earthsiege as their subsidiary, but back in 1989, they were known for creating flight simulators like A-10 Tank Killer, F-14 Tomcat, Arctic Foxand Red Baron.

They also made Abrams Battle Tank, a tank simulator game that shares much of its engine with MechWarrior. I never played the original MechWarrior, but I did play Abrams Battle Tank, and the similarities in the first-person combat sequences are uncanny.

However, MechWarrior is only half about the giant stompy robot combat. Much of the game still harkens back to the text adventure style of gameplay exemplified in the prior Crescent Hawks PC games, with the player going from planet to planet seeking fortune and machinery as they build up the Blazing Aces mercenary company.

Almost all of the modern BattleTech games, including BattleTech and the upcoming MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, can thank the original MechWarrior for the whole “mercenary commander” gameplay loop.

In MechWarrior, you play as Gideon Braver, a disgraced Davion noble who’s forced to flee his home planet due to some inter-familial intrigue (ie. a bunch of ‘Mechs showed up and killed everyone). Since Braver has some cash and an old Jenner just lying around, he decides to take up the mercenary mantle and start making some green (C-Bills, that is). Braver will then journey all over the Inner Sphere, building up his company’s strength and meeting such notable BattleTech personalities as Natasha Kerensky and her Black Widow Company.

But Braver never really forgets his heritage and continues to pursue his family’s killers even as he chases after the almighty C-Bill and a better set of robot legs. It’s during these text-heavy portions of the game where the player can branch into several different endings, depending on what the player decides to do.

For the text portions of the game, you can see some very significant improvements in MechWarrior over Crescent Hawks Inception–most notably in the art. Full-screen, vibrantly colored pixel images add a lot more atmosphere, and additional music plays during certain areas of exploration (usually in the bar).

Sound effects are also improved, although still a far cry from what would be heard in the sequel, MechWarrior 2.

There are eight ‘Mechs the player can purchase (salvage is represented only in C-Bills and not in the burnt-out wrecks of your foes) including the Locust, Jenner, Phoenix Hawk, Shadow Hawk, Rifleman, Warhammer, Marauder, and BattleMaster. The Scorpion, Atlas, and Griffin are also mentioned but aren’t pilotable. Since the tonnage tops out at the BattleMaster and Marauder, this is the main reason why these two ‘Mechs still have reputations amongst the BattleTech faithful as being scary as all get out. 

As I mentioned before, much of MechWarrior’s combat will appear the same as Abrams Battle Tank as they use very similar engines. Terrain appears as large polygons while the ‘Mechs themselves appear as smaller, more colorful objects. The player can zoom-in to get a better view of their foes and engage with long-range weapons or wait for them to close to use things like lasers and SRMs.

There’s no denying that the combat is pretty basic, but you can see how MechWarrior created the template for all other games to follow. A giant radar dominates the center screen with heat and jump jet gauges to either side. Weapons status are all listed in the lower right corner, while enemy target data appears in the lower right. That’s all still essentially the same in MechWarrior Online, with the minor tweak of enemy combat data appearing in the upper right corner and the player’s own ‘Mech’s status appearing in the lower left.

(Things would get completely swapped around in MechWarrior 2, but we’ll dig into that later.)

With Dynamix doing such a great job of mixing the classic text adventure elements with a more modern 3D simulator, it’s almost sad that Activision had to go it alone for the sequel, MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat. But as I said before, Dynamix (and all their proprietary 3D engines) got picked up by Sierra On-Line, and that was it for them. 

If you want a great example of what a MechWarrior 2 made by Dynamix would have looked like, check out Earthsiege. It’s an interesting alternative view of what MechWarrior could have been rather than what it turned out to be.

With incredible thanks to Chris Chapman who provided a lot of invaluable information on Dynamix and MechWarrior’s development.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy