Something borderline miraculous has been happening on YouTube lately. The old BattleTech animated series has been appearing on Renegade HPG in a remastered form that makes it a heckuva lot better than a bootleg VHS, and way better than the version we’ve got stored here on Sarna.
Besides making these videos my new workout entertainment, I decided to sit down with the dynamic duo that is bringing this old cartoon back from the dead. This week on Community Outreach, we sit down with Emil of The Art Of BattleTech and Travis from Renegade HPG, two folks that are preserving and even improving on BattleTech’s classic media.
Read on to find out how Emil and Travis are going about restoring and remastering BattleTech: The Animated Series and maybe even take in an episode or two over on Renegade HPG. Enjoy.
I knew there’d be more news before October was done, and I wasn’t disappointed. Here’s all you need to know before November hits and our COVID quarantine turns into shelter in place due to armed insurrections.
Perhaps more interesting is his advice for potential novelists. He goes over how he got into BattleTech and how you too could do the same, plus become a famous freelance novelist for some of the biggest franchises in science-fiction and fantasy.
Mobile BattleTech Phone App Under Development
Here’s an interesting little development. Someone’s making a BattleTech app. Not just a mobile repository of ‘Mech information, not just a handy way to look up the rules, but an all-in-one app that lets you play a virtual game of BattleTech on your phone.
It’s from Maik Rehorst, who goes by TheDeathCrepeer on Reddit. They’re using a mobile app prototyping site called MarvelApp to get an idea of what the final product will look like and let BattleTech fans like you and me futz around. It has a ‘Mech database similar to Mech Factory (which is a great resource I encourage you all to download), but it goes beyond by adding voice chat, virtual dice rolls, and a virtual game board.
It’s important to note that this is just a prototype currently. It’s mostly a series of connected menus that provide structure but aren’t really all that functional. The ‘Mech database page goes to an image of the BattleMaster, but notes indicate that the plan is to automatically grab the relevant Sarna.net article in the finished product.
A recently concluded survey hopefully provided helpful feedback to make this idea into a reality.
RogueTech Got A Massive Update That Lets You Salvage Tanks
RogueTech, the total conversion mod that changes Hairbrained’s BATTLETECH into a roguelite, just got a massive update.
It’s called Operation Treadnaught, mostly because the big feature here is tanks. You can now salvage and deploy tanks in your company, which brings you up to 12 units (8 ‘Mechs, 4 tanks). Those tanks have all been retrofitted inline with classic BattleTech rules, so expect a few differences when you’re both fighting with and against armored vehicles.
To check out both your ‘Mechs and vehicles, there’s a new toggle that lets you switch between the ‘Mechbay and Vehicle Bay.
Although tanks are nice, they’re hardly all that’s new in Operation Treadnaught. The entire skill system has been overhauled along with the pilot background system. You can choose between two abilities at levels 5 and 8, with level 8 skills being so powerful they have an active cooldown.
There’s also a complete shop overhaul where your reputation with local factions will get you access to better stuff. Commander quirks, improved melee attacks, and a host of performance improvements round out Operation Treadnaught’s offerings. Get the latest version over on Nexus Mods.
Everyone Is Getting Their Clan Invasion Kickstarter Packages Except Me
I’m not really mad or anything--I live in Canada, the mail isn’t particularly fast, and I frankly don’t have time to paint a bunch of minis anyways. I plan on pawning that job off to my brother over the Christmas break. But I do want it, especially since there’s so many people posting their unboxing videos online over the past few weeks.
I’m sure I’ll get it in the next few days. Or something. Maybe I should call Fed-Ex…
And that’s it! I don’t expect a lot of news to arrive in November, but December is already shaping up to be another big month for BattleTech. Let’s all hope we survive that long.
Welcome, ‘Mech fans, to your August news roundup! The West Coast is on fire and the Gulf Coast is underwater, which is not a great way to end the summer. For all those in affected areas: stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in your cockpits if at all possible. Most ‘Mechs have an air filtration system and oxygen supply provided you’ve been keeping up with your maintenance schedule.
Now let’s get this show on the road!
Virtual World Hosts “Lostech” Interview With BattleTech Founder Jordan Weisman
It’s been a minute since we heard from the folks at Virtual World, and although the pandemic has put a crimp in their usual convention touring where they bring BattleTech Simulator Pods all around the country, they’ve decided to do something at least equally as impressive to make up for it.
I reached out to Nick Smith to get the lowdown, and this is what he wrote back to tell me:
The Lostech project has been a pet project for some time and is the work of Chris “Lynx” Chapman, a former Virtual World Entertainment Group and FASA Interactive Technologies employee. (You may have also commanded him on MechCommander.)
For years, many of us affiliated with Virtual World have been proudly telling the stories of how so many things that we take for granted in the games industry today’s were first seen at the BattleTech Center in Chicago in the early nineties. Head-To-Head multiplayer gaming, “GamerTags”, defined roles in multiplayer gaming, mission review, and televised E-Sports, to name just a few, all owe some of their histories to those early days in Chicago at the original BattleTech Center.
As a person who has spent tremendous energy and time to preserving this seldom-told history, I was thrilled to partner with my friend Chris Chapman (who also wrote the Electronic BattleTech History section for the BattleTech: 25 Years of Art & Fiction book) to finally tell this story, to shine a light on those who made magic happen and subsequently influenced the future of electronic gaming.
Called MechWarrior Prime, it would have essentially been a much earlier MechWarrior 5. From the screenshots, it looks like much of the game would have used MechWarrior 4’s assets but with slight improvements to the models and textures--unsurprising, given how this game started to get pitched immediately following the release of MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries.
This also gives us a rare peek into the world of video game development and how studios start working on their next game pretty much just as soon as their latest game is done--and sometimes even before that.
Sadly, Microsoft moved away from the BattleTech license and everything got shelved. It’d be years before Smith and Tinker’s attempt at MechWarrior 5 made a few headlines, and then years more before MechWarrior Online finally brought us a new MechWarrior game (even if it wasn’t necessarily a traditional single-player experience--for that, you can play MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries that’s out now).
MechWarrior Living Legends Gets Its Own YouTube Channel
It looks like the PR folks at MechWarrior: Living Legends are increasing their reach with a brand new YouTube channel. There’s not a whole lot there at present besides the fan-made “Inferno” trailer, but that’s more than enough to get them started. Although I gotta say, there’s a better than even chance that there will be a DMCA strike for using DOOM‘s music.
Hopefully they’ll get an introductory video and maybe a few tutorials up in the near future.
August Brings More Stuff From Catalyst
Patience, MechWarriors. The Clan Invasion will begin its arrival in due course. In the meantime, here’s some fresh new BattleTech content straight from the source.
MechCommander Mercenaries just dropped its 1.2 update with a bunch of changes, most noticeably the fact that Commander Mason is just plain gone. But it’s for a good reason that has nothing to do with the plot.
One of the issues found in the early release of MechCommander Mercenaries was that sometimes Mason’s ‘Mech would just not move no matter how many times you clicked. This issue was annoying (and game-breaking) enough to warrant a temporary workaround, which involves flat-out removing Mason from the game at the start of every mission and replacing him with a stunt-double AI pilot.
While this solves the problem of Mason ignoring commands, it adds a new issue of the AI pilot being unable to trigger objectives or extraction after the mission is complete. Also, since Mason is technically not there, he doesn’t gain any experience (which is bad), but neither can he die from enemy fire (which is good, I guess).
But besides Mason taking a (hopefully short) hiatus, update 1.2 also adds something amazing: reinforcements! This beta feature now allows you to summon up to an additional 8 ‘Mechs from orbit courtesy of your Leopard DropShip. Since Leopards can only carry four ‘Mechs at a time, you’re limited to deploying an extra lance at a time, but you can still deploy an entire company of ‘Mechs on every mission. Which is as completely busted as it is awesome.
A couple of notes on reinforcements: as this is still in beta, not everything is working right. Reinforced ‘Mechs are taken from your available stored ‘Mechs, but don’t have pilots assigned and are instead given random AIs. There’s also no additional cost for reinforcing your deployments, so it is 100% busted and can turn any mission into a turkey shoot for both you and your allies.
Friendly fire is a big problem as friendly ‘Mechs will often keep firing even if they randomly move into each other’s firing lines. That’s an issue that is currently being worked on, as well as the weird Mason thing and balancing reinforcements.
There’s some other quality of life improvements in 1.2 as well, which you can hear all about in the above video.
Since When Was There A MechWarrior Dark Age Video?
I can’t believe nobody told me that this film exists. It turns out that MechWarrior: Dark Age--y’know, the Clix-based miniatures game from the early 2000s--had a freakin’ film made. And it’s not just an ad!
This was made by The Digital Animation and Visual Effects School (or DAVE School) of Orlando, Florida in partnership with BattleTech creator Jordan Weisman and WizKids, then owners of the MechWarrior: Dark Age license. It was the final project for the class of March 2006, and everything about it is delightfully B-movie, from the actors to the effects.
There’s a lot to love from this film, from how overweight most of the ‘Mech pilots are to how there’s a keyboard in the BattleMaster‘s cockpit. But the CGI does an admirable job of rendering Dark Age-style ‘Mechs and tanks in intense combat.
This is five minutes well spent. Kudos to Reddit user geergutz for finding this gem.
Some Madman (or Woman, or Other) Is Recreating MechWarrior 2 In Unity
I don’t know who this is. I don’t know why they’re doing it. But I do know that this is amazing and should be encouraged, so I’ll tell you what I know.
A parent and son are working to recreate the MechWarrior 2 engine in Unity. This pet project will take assets from the original MechWarrior 2 game files and load them into Unity for use at runtime. This is apparently being done for legal reasons and not because it’s an efficient way to make a game. But regardless, this is the closest we’ve ever come to a remaster of MechWarrior 2, and I’m here for it.
I’m not sure what the end goal here is. Maybe it really is to remaster MechWarrior 2, or maybe it’s just a tech demonstration to show that it’s possible to remaster old games in Unity. Either way, if you can put me in touch with these people, I’d love to get answers to these burning questions.
That’s it for August! Join us next time as the Earth continues to burn around us.
Welcome back to Community Outreach, the series where Sarna reaches out to various members of the BattleTech community to ask them “what’s up?” And what’s up this week is Metal Core Collectibles, both a custom miniature’s small business based in Canada as well as a person! He’s a recent BattleTech convert but a longtime fan of giant stompy robots of all kinds. Plus he makes really awesome miniatures at home.
Sarna sat down with Metal Core Collectibles to see where it came from, where it’s going, and how its fate intertwined with BattleTech in an unexpected way. Enjoy.
As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, I get closer and closer to the day where I shave my head–a measure I didn’t think would be necessary until my male pattern baldness had progressed to critical levels.
So in my earlier article, I mentioned that I got to speak to Robert Charrette thanks to Michael Todd, a BattleTech fan and historian who’s got his hands in a lot of personal projects (some of which we’ve even covered). Michael gave me what I felt to be a rather touching story of how he and Robert met, and I thought it was worth sharing in order to prove just how small of a BattleTech world we all live in. I’ll let Michael take it from here.
A few weeks ago, Nic managed to catch up to prolific BattleTech writer Philip A. Lee at GenCon 2019, who graciously agreed to an interview. I’ve read a few of Philip’s stories, so it was my absolute pleasure to pick his brain on how he got into BattleTech, how he started writing BattleTech, and how he managed to kill a Jenner in the most hilarious way possible. Well, he didn’t really kill the Jenner, but it was still hilarious and you should read about it.
On top of that, we also get a grade A. Lee-preview of the next story we can expect from the prolific author. So once again, sit back, relax, and enjoy another story from the many corners of BattleTech.
Welcome to another edition of Community Outreach! It’s been a while since the last time we’ve taken a look at the wider world of BattleTech, one that is still as vibrant and alive as ever. This time I am honored to introduce a big personality and iconic voice in the world of BattleTech YouTube videos: “Tex” from Tex Talks BattleTech!
As usual, we’re going to get into Tex’s head to really find out what makes him tick, how he got into BattleTech, and why the Steiner Scout Lance is best filled with a quad-pack of Awesomes.
So sit back, relax, and imagine this interview happening between two ferns while a disturbingly close firefight between an UrbanMech and Commando takes place in the background. Enjoy.
Sarna (Sean): Who are you? Briefly introduce yourself.
Tex: Howdy, I’m Tex of the Black Pants Legion. I am a delusions-of-adequacy YouTube channel with a peculiar array of very odd things. I’m a huge lore nerd for BattleTech and sci-fi in general. I truly feel as though I’m really not altogether very remarkable. Over the years I’ve held a lot of jobs and had a lot of very strange adventures. At current, I feel honored to have the opportunity to be featured in your most magnificent periodical. I fucking love Sarna. You guys are great.
Sarna: Aww, thanks! So what exactly IS The Black Pants Legion? That is, how would you describe it to someone who doesn’t know much about it?
Tex, pictured here as his alter ego, ‘Randolph P. Checkers’
Tex: From the outside in, people would probably see us as a cult or a very strange think-tank. In recent years I’d like to say we’re a ship of strays adrift on the ocean of our times. I’m the man on the tiller. The Black Pants Legion started as an experiment; I needed an outlet – to just create for the sake of creation. I’d then gone through some fairly challenging and traumatic life events and I just needed to do something to be creative, and goofy, and have fun. Years later I’m getting interviewed by Sarna – again, something I can hardly believe. Through the years, I’ve met some phenomenal people in the Legion, and I’ve been lucky enough to use it to do some good in the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to make a major positive impact in other people’s lives and I treasure that opportunity. It’s tremendously humbling as an experience.
As for what it is? Hell, I couldn’t tell you. But I can tell you its fun, and sometimes that’s all something needs to be.
Sarna: Now, who is “Tex”? Is that a persona you put on or just a nom de plume? How would you describe it?
Tex: I achieved the appellation indirectly by nature of once-upon-a-time having a rather heavy Texas accent. Though I’ve since divorced myself of the southern drawl, the nickname has stuck despite my best efforts. In reference to is it a persona? I certainly hope not. That’s something I’ve consciously fought against my entire time in doing things online. I find our culture somewhat worships the idealized version of a character – what is sold to them. I loathe that.
Do I wind myself up or jump into some things with more energy? Sure. I think I do that because it’s my creative outlet and I’ll down an assload of coffee before preparing to do whatever awful madness I can come up with. It’s a lot like putting on a suit and tie for work, you do your best but ultimately you’re still you.
I’d hope to never willingly put on a persona; I can’t stand the notion of putting on a fake face for the sake of popularity or commercial gain at the expense of a fanbase. It very much runs against the grain of my character. People online call me Tex, but so do my friends. I’m the same person throughout. Though, perhaps I may venture that in “meatspace” I’m a great deal more shy or reserved. It’s one of my autistic tics I believe. Being able to see your audience makes things different for me, sadly. Randolph P. Checkers though… That’s a different person altogether.
Sarna: What made you want to start the Tex Talks BattleTech video series?
I had a long-standing desire to dive into the lore because I firmly believe BattleTech is a wonderful community, a wonderful setting, and supported by the best fans in the goddamn world.
Tex: I had gotten into an argument – as nerds do – over the internet. Specifically, we were furiously shitposting about good and bad tabletop settings. My counterpart was making the assertion that Warhammer 40K was the grandest space-opera ever written and my blood boiled. This aggression could not stand. My response I believe verbatim was, “You’re wrong, Fucko.” He, being my friend and a classic contrarian said, “Okay, prove it.”
And here we are. He admitted to being moved by the last stand of the Black Watch, or in his words, “Manly tears were shed.” I believe I won that bet. And yet I can’t stop making them…
Sarna: When did you start Tex Talks BattleTech?
Tex: “Start” is hard to pin down. I think I had a long-standing desire to dive into the lore because I firmly believe BattleTech is a wonderful community, a wonderful setting, and supported by the best fans in the goddamn world. However, given the above-mentioned impetus, we started June the 5th, 2018. One day short of our channel’s 7th anniversary
Sarna: Now let’s go back. Waaaaaayyyy back. When did you get into BattleTech?
Tex: As a young lad with limited social skills in the vast desert of the modern social world, the outcome was predictable: I was a game store geek. Initially I wanted to get into 40K because, by God, it seemed glorious to me. The local game store had one of those enormous true to scale Astartes standing in the lobby with his bolter. It struck me with total awe. However, 40K required enormous sums of money and time for a handful of badly struck miniatures. When I was introduced to the BattleTech people, a kind neckbeard loaned me miniatures and taught me to play, encouraging me throughout. He even helped me select my first minis and helped me find out what I’d do best with. It was more inclusive and kind than anything else I’d ever experienced up to that point.
I was, oh, perhaps 12 years old. That’d have made it late summer of 1996. The summer before I’d had a lot of fun with the masterpiece that was MechWarrior 2 but I really had no notion of the setting’s depth beyond stompy robots and “SYSTEMS ONLINE” giving me a wonderful feeling. It still does.
Sarna: What’s your Favourite ‘Mech? An all-important question. :)
Battletech/Mechwarrior Lore : The AWS-8Q Awesome and Variants
Tex: The AWS-8Q. The best 80 tons money can buy of Inner Sphere steel. Did I mention I like to run Steiner-esque scout operations? A lance of Awesomes will beat the brakes off anything you throw at it. Unless it doesn’t. But hey, dice are bastards.
Sarna: What parts of BattleTech do you play? Perhaps a better question, what HAVEN’T you played?
Sarna: How has “Tex” collaborated with official BattleTech content publishers, such as Catalyst, Harebrained Schemes, or PGI? If you haven’t, do you know if any of those folks have seen your work?
On occasion, I drunkenly stumble around in Mechwarrior Online quoting Macho Man Randy Savage. Because, to quote the Macho Man himself, “Sometimes you must expect the unexpected in the Kingdom of Madness.”
Tex: Insofar as I am aware, the only people “aware” of me in any real sense are the modding communities and by extension the BattleTech community. I often put in my credits the disclaimer: “If the people who invented this stuff found out about what I do they’d whip me with a belt.” I was made aware recently that I was mentioned or at least spoken of politely in the latest Kickstarter AMAs for BattleTech’s Clan Invasion Pack from Catalyst.
That being said, I would be truly humbled if they knew of my “work” and didn’t immediately click down-vote. Again, I am surprised to be featured here, let alone known by the greats who forged this magnificent setting. I see myself as just a voice in the choir. There are plenty of talented people very much interested in BattleTech and me surely least among them.
Sarna: Let’s talk numbers. What’s your most viewed video?
Tex: This is embarrassing but I had to look as I didn’t know off-hand and I highly distrust YouTube’s metrics. As it turns out, it’s the UrbanMechvideo. Figures, people love the damn trashcan. Then again, you rightfully should. It’s the most adorable platform for an AC/20 I’ve ever seen.
Sarna: And which video is your favourite?
Tex: That’s a hard one. My crew and I really love what we’ve done recently with the Amaris Civil War. Our storyboarding/editing/scoring process really brought that one together. We’re driving like mad to get part 2 out because we see part 1 as one of our greatest achievements yet. We spent our time and went overboard in a few sections but dammit, It’s BattleTech. It’s worth it. A very close second are all the memes we made for Steiner Scout Squad. Because “Scouting” something with 100 tons of Lyran ‘Mech is utterly brilliant.
Sarna: Which video didn’t hit as well as you thought it might’ve?
Tex: Easily the Catapultepisode. We went with a lot more overt comedy than we should have, and in retrospect, some of the meme-ery was over the top. I mean, we had a whole JRPG spoof of a battle scene in which a Mad Cat trounces an inner sphere lance. While funny, it just was a bit much. Also, the Tukayyid video hit a bit softer than I thought it would, but we turned it around as fast as we could to make it release on the actual anniversary of the battle. Also, I think it may have upset a few Clanners as evidenced in the comments. Some people just hate Comstar I guess?
Sarna: How long does it take to create these videos? I know that something like the Catapult video (which I actually liked a lot) won’t take as much time and effort as the Kerensky-Amaris Civil War series, but if you had to give a rough estimate how many hours does it take per 30 minutes of YouTube video?
Tex:That is a HUGE variable. Here’s the basic breakdown from what notes I can gather.
Stage 1: Research. See what information is out there--sources, images, anything that can help us. This can take a month or two as was the case with the Amaris Civil War/Coup/Collapse of Star League as the subject is rather broad. However, with something like a single ‘Mech, that can take a week.
We all love to create and that’s what brings us together. It’s a passion project.
Stage 2: Script. This can take a month or so, but sometimes as little as a week. Depends on what time I get as I tend to work an unhealthy amount of hours in the week. But I generally run 10-15 drafts. Each time I write I find something else I want to say or change how I say it. Sometimes things can be rather funny in your first run-through, but by draft 15 you just go “ugh” and delete paragraphs at a time. This also helps me control tangents. Kind of. Somewhat. Sometimes.
Stage 3: The editing. This is where Mike and Madasgardian come in. We start to storyboard and come up with ideas, themes, chapters. This is generally a 2-3 week process, though real-life events in “meatspace” can certainly delay it.
Stage 4: Scoring, my guys Goat, Kumakin, and Dr Jekyll come in at this stage. Some music is from epidemic sound or other licensed sources, but we do create quite a bit of music in-house. They’re great. We sit around and watch the video without music and then obsessively try to match the “action” with themes that fit. This takes a few days at least.
Stage 5: Final cut, 2-3 days. This is where we add funny nonsense, usually.
Some of these things can be done simultaneously, like writing and research. However, typically from start to finish, we’re looking at a month or so. As for hours? I can only guess. We try not to count because this brings us a lot of joy. We all love to create and that’s what brings us together. It’s a passion project. That and, well, the other things we’re interested in doing. However, those project(s) hinge on obtaining IP rights to even try.
Battletech/Mechwarrior Lore : The Amaris Civil War / Collapse of Star League - Part 1
Tex: Sure. Anyone can. I do polls every so often to let people decide my list of topics and then narrow down from there based on what I’d find interesting. If you got an idea, shoot. I’d love to hear it. I see this as a community effort and I’m just some surly voice that likes his whiskey.
Sarna: What’s in store for Tex Talks BattleTech in the future?
Tex: Immediately, Part 2 of the Amaris Civil War. At current it’s threatening to become a feature film. However, Amaris did a load of bad shit and that takes time to explain. Further, the Amaris Coup and Civil War sets the scene for what follows in the setting. I can’t just gloss over it and say, “Welp, and stuff happened,” or people would lynch me. Well, they still might. #RememberTheBlackWatch.
You have to inject something of yourself in everything you do. For me, it’s just goofy jokes and comedy.
Sarna: I noticed the ‘Mech-related Tex Talks typically has more entertaining fluff than the more historical reviews do. Why is that? Is it just easier to insert fun fluff when talking about a typically dry subject like a ‘Mech’s history?
Tex: Well, look at car reviews. Anyone can stand in front of a car and go, “This is a car, it possesses an engine,” and then drive it around a track to show how many seconds it took with your foot to the floor. Or, you can be Top Gear. Or Regular Car Reviews. You have to inject something of yourself in everything you do. For me, it’s just goofy jokes and comedy. For something like the UrbanMech, you can’t not have comedy. If I did a dry seriousness with the UrbanMech the community would smell a rat. Then they’d mail me loaded diapers or something.
Sarna: Where do you get all those great pictures you use in your videos? Besides Sarna, of course. I ask for my own future reference as much as I do this interview.
Tex: Sarna at first, but then we started acquiring a metric f-ton of original Battletech Technical Documents. The Amaris Civil War Part 1, for instance, drew heavily from the Liberation of Terra Iand II supplements. Older BattleTech books can be had for relatively cheap. I happen to have a collection at the moment that’s rather impressive.
Sarna: Anything else you’d like to share? Feel free to get shamelessly self-promoty :)
Tex: Oh hell, I’d like to thank Mike and Madasgardian (my editors), my gifted music people, my fans and the BattleTech community. Again, I feel superbly honored to have been given this outlet and place to express myself. There are many more that are deserving I’m sure. I just want to say this, for the record, there has seldom been a piece of fiction more meaningful, entertaining, and thoughtfully constructed than the BattleTech franchise and I feel at this juncture it is right to say it’s in the hands of the fanbase to keep it alive and well. We must be good custodians of it to pass it on to future ‘Mech pilots. Also, death to Clanners.
As usual, a thousand gratitudes to Tex for agreeing to sit down and talk about his work. I’ve been told Part 2 of The Amaris Civil War is going to be a big one and I can’t wait to watch it.
It’s that time of year again, ‘Mech fans! The MechWarrior Online World Championship is just around the corner. The three final teams have crushed all others to become the best three teams in the world, and we sit down with MWO shoutcasters BanditB17 and mdmzero0 to get their take on this year’s tournament.
They say a picture speaks a thousand words. That saying applies indescribably well to BattleTech. From the clean, sleek lines of scout ‘Mechs and vehicles to the thundering awesomeness of the largest assault machines, art brings the turmoil of the BattleTech universe to life. The images in our TRO’s and Source books lets us imagine these gargantuan machines storming across the battlefields of the Inner Sphere.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with one of this generation’s best BattleTech artists, Matthew Plog. Matthew was gracious enough to take some time out of his day to answer a few questions that gives us a glimpse into the mind of an artist and the workings of creating awesome BattleTech art.
Martin (Sarna): Let’s start from the very beginning, for all those budding artists out there who may read this. Where did you study art?
Matthew: First off I had a very creative mother and she was of course very encouraging to her young son. Now that that’s out of the way :), I received my more formal art education in New Jersey at the Joe Kubert School for cartoon and Graphic design. 95-98′.
Martin (Sarna): It’s great on many levels to have that family connection to your passion. What got you interested in designing BattleTech equipment?
Matthew: I’d always loved machines, robots, tanks and the like. Started with Saturday morning and weekday cartoons. Ranging from G.I. Joe and all their gear to Voltron, Tranzor Z, even Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors. Anything along those lines fed what I liked, and thus made me like that kind of thing even more.
Martin (Sarna): There are some great blasts from the past there and lots to draw from for inspiration. So what was your first experience with BattleTech work?
Matthew: Well, after time things get fuzzy. I know I started picking up work with FASA, who owned BattleTech at the time, directly from school. I believe it may have been work in one of the Battleforce boxed sets, BF2 if I recall correctly. That was mostly just introductory type work and shortly thereafter I got a big slice of the TRO3060 roster. As far as the experience goes, working with the BattleTech guys was always good. They knew what they were after, knew the right things to say to get it, and usually paid on time.;)
Martin (Sarna): As a writer I find it easy working with words. As an artist and with only words to work with, how do you go about transforming those words into drawings?
Matthew: Having everything I’m doing take place in a universe that has already been established helps. It gives you the framework. But the words do the same thing to non-artists that they do to artists, we hear something, we see it in our head. We just have the ability to get it back out. Plus almost nothing ever gets to its end state on the first go. There’s almost always something that gets missed or minimized when it should be far more evident. That’s why we have art editors.
Martin (Sarna): Can you describe your design creation process? Do you typically start from the ground up (literally) or work from the head down?
Matthew: Such things often end up being on a case by case. If there’s an important structure to whatever I’m drawing I’ll start there. But if we’re just talking general ‘Mechs then I start from the inside out. Since the universe has an established set of rules for its technology they tend to follow biological rules a bit. What with artificial muscle and man-mind controls. So typically an arm is an arm and a leg, other. Having fun with the sliders in the BT universe between straight machine look and more manlike is usually one of the fun parts of design. But usually the most important thing when designing is to remember what rules you’re supposed to be following. That tends to make the difference. Of course, also when to ignore them.
Martin (Sarna): You create a lot of excellent commissioned art, particularly via DeviantArt. What’s the thrill for you in doing this type of work as opposed to an entirely new creation?
Matthew: BattleTech fans have always been a fine bunch to do business with, so they make it fairly easy. Drawing something different every time has its appeal. I’m unlikely to be able to complain of stagnation, at least on a one to one basis.
Martin (Sarna): Between business and commissioned requests it sounds like you’re kept pretty busy. Do you have a lot of back-work waiting to see the light of day or do you create upon request?
Matthew: There are some personal projects still in sketchy stages, but generally I share everything that I’d consider “done”. Usually a good idea to show off the latest commissions and such. But when I’m not working on one of them, likely I’m doodling something else for sure.
Martin (Sarna): Do you play BattleTech? If so for how long and how often?
Matthew: I haven’t played the actual board game version in every part of 15 years but I still love the miniatures, buying and painting them. In keeping with the tone set by the first time I ever heard “BattleTech” I’ve played it most recently in the computerized form. I played MechWarrior Online for a bit and am looking forward to trying out the BattleTech turn based game as well.
Martin (Sarna): I can vouch that the latest BattleTech game by Harebrained Schemes is well worth the time and money. I hope you have a lot of fun playing it and we would love to hear about your experiences with it in the future.
Thanks very much for your time, Matt. It’s very interesting to get a little glimpse behind the curtain of a well-established BattleTech artist. We all look forward to seeing more of your work in the near future.
For those of you wanting to keep up to date with Matt’s work (and you absolutely should!) or contact him about commission work, you can follow his DeviantArt account here: MattPLOG on DeviantArt