Category Archives: Interviews

Talking BattleTech Fiction with Philip A. Lee

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.

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Community Outreach – Tex Talks 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. :)

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?

Tex: The answer is yes. I’ve played the RPG(s), the PC games, MechAssault (ugh), and tabletop. Nowadays I play the Roguetech Mod for BattleTech (2018), Mechwarrior Living Legends (the fan project), and 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.”

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 UrbanMech video. 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 Catapult episode. 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.

Sarna: Can I request a video topic?

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 I and 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.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Community Outreach – Interview With BanditB17 And mdmzero0 On The 2018 MechWarrior Online World Championship Finals

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.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Community Outreach – Interview with Jennifer Brozek, Author Of “The Nellus Academy Incident”

Catalyst Announces New YA BattleTech Novels

courtesy of Amazon

Welcome to another episode of Community Outreach! The famous and handsome owner of Sarna.net recently went down to Gen Con and had a chance to speak with Jennifer Brozek, author of The Nellus Academy Incident as well as the upcoming Rogue Trilogy of YA BattleTech novels. Using his rugged good looks and amazing charm he somehow convinced her to agree to an interview, which must’ve made the fact the interview was done by me all the more disappointing. 

Disappointment aside, Jennifer brings a new voice to the BattleTech narrative. We chat about how she got roped into writing about giant stompy robots and how important it is to include death in a YA novel. Enjoy! Continue reading

Community Outreach – Interview With Brent Evans, Lead BattleTech Developer At Catalyst Games

Welcome to Community Outreach! This week we have a very special guest: Brent Evans, the lead developer on BattleTech over at Catalyst Game Labs. We talk about the future of BattleTech, what awesome new products are coming out in 2018, and a bunch of random stuff that I’ve always wanted to ask the guy in charge of things. Enjoy!

Brent

Sean (Sarna): Nic let me know that he’s reached out to you for an interview on our humble website, and tasked me with doing all the heavy lifting :)  

Brent (Catalyst Game Labs): Humble website – are you kidding?!? Sarna is the greatest single resource for BattleTech fans anywhere. In this is one of the most complicated IPs from a legal standpoint in existence. Don’t sell yourself short there Sean, there’s nothing humble about it.  Sarna is the best and literally every member of the creative team uses it extensively.

Sean: Aww, that’s so sweet of you to say! I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to meet personally at Mech_Con, as you were definitely on my list of people to say “hi” to and get a quick interview with. I’m glad for the opportunity to ask you a few questions now.

Brent: Yeah that would have been awesome. I love MechCon, great show, but with all the overwhelming stuff going on there I would likely have been too distracted by all the mech stuff around us to finish a sentence. This is likely a better forum for a Q&A. No sweat.

Sean: To start off, let me recap your announcements at Mech_Con. I’ve got new maps, new fiction, new box sets, and newly overhauled figurines coming out in 2018. Did I miss anything?

Brent Evans and Randall Bills at PGI Studios.

Brent Evans and Randall Bills at PGI Studios.

Brent: Oh yeah we have dropship-loads of awesome product coming out, and most of it is geared toward new players and getting minis on tabletop battlefields.

“There’s really just a whole bunch of awesome coming down on BattleTech for 2018.”

We’ve got the two box sets announce at GenCon – the Beginner Box and the Game of Armored Combat. We’ve got new Maps – the first six of which were used to run all the demos at MechCon (to fanfare and accolades). There are new Hex Pack products in the works to augment those maps, new MechWarrior RPG products that the DevTeam just found out about today, a new sourcebook moving the timeline forward (which I will detail in a few questions further down), and a whole host of reprints as we make big moves to keep every book from the core line in print on store shelves – starting with Total Warfare (which should hit store shelves in July). Plus there are new novels, new novellas, a hint at new audiobooks, PDF supplemental products, I have new ‘Mechs up my sleeves… There’s really just a whole bunch of awesome coming down on BattleTech for 2018. The year of BattleTech!

Sean: I think we can both agree that every year should be a year of BattleTech :) As a brief aside since I always wanted to ask: who is the artist that did all the redesigned classic or “Unseen” ‘Mechs? Like this guy.

“Anthony and Alexander delivered a truly spectacular new chapter for the game, and have shown us what can be done ‘in a perfect world.'”

Brent: Yes – every one of them was designed by legendary BT artist Anthony Scroggins. This was a massive effort, unlike any mech design efforts before, with Anthony handling art but editing direction done by myself, Randall Bills and Ray Arrastia. The three of us rarely agree on anything so to get each design past all three of us took a truly painful amount of work (Anthony was such a trooper). But he didn’t just create one image and call it done; Anthony designed the ‘Mechs from every angle, then worked with 3D master Alexander Immerzeel to build the 3D models so they can be used by the other BT artists (like Marco Mazzoni and SpOoKy) to make sure the ‘Mechs look right each time they are shown. It also allowed us to use the 3D models for our prototypes and production, ensuring the figures match the art perfectly.

It was a herculean task the likes of which we’ve never tackled before in BattleTech, but the results have been totally worth it. Anthony and Alexander delivered a truly spectacular new chapter for the game, and have shown us what can be done “in a perfect world.”  Mad props to all those guys.  I have big plans in store for these guys.

Sean: What kind of worldwide events does Catalyst have planned for 2018?

Brent: Actually, Mary’s team is working on that as we speak so even I don’t know yet. I’ve just sent her the bulk of the conflicts from Shattered Fortress but since Con events needed to be scheduled far in advance (I believe the deadline was in December) I don’t know what magic she will be able to work. She’s amazing so I’m sure the events will be awesome, but I don’t know which in-universe battles will make the WWE as opposed to the Canon/Feature Events. What I do know is there is a lot of Warfare going on here in the BattleTech universe so she’s likely spoiled for choice.

Box Sets

Sean: Do we have any concrete dates on when the new box sets will be available? I know you mentioned Spring of 2018 at Mech_Con, but is there a specific target date?

Brent: Honestly we never have concrete dates on anything coming out of China because, between the shutdowns around Chinese New Year and their generally unique approach to scheduling things, there are always curve balls and hiccups. So specific dates are a “no”. I do have a target window (June) and a worst-case-scenario window (October), so the reality will likely fall somewhere between the two. Expect them to show up sometime this summer, and for me to move hell or high water to get copies to GenCon, and you should be happy.

Sean: Yeah, that sounds like something I’d be happy about. Let’s talk about the new fiction. What stories are coming out in 2018? Who are the authors? Will they be novels or short fiction? And most important, what will this new crop of fiction be about?

Brent: Ah fiction… This part is equal parts exciting and scary as hell because there are so many epic stories coming up over the next 24 months – and truly amazing authors with potential fingers in the pot. But until all the details get nailed down I’ll have to stay mum on almost all of it.  So I will say what I can.  

“Everyone knows that I am committed to having fiction drive the narrative for the BattleTech storyline.”

Everyone knows that I am committed to having fiction drive the narrative for the BattleTech storyline. We’ve proven to be exceedingly good at getting books written and printed, but getting novels through distribution (which has a totally different channel from game product) has proven to be hit or miss. Our Novel Line Editor John Helfers is working to correct that but please know Catalyst is absolutely creating new novels for both print and ePub formats. We are also working on a series of new novellas, the launch of a new audiobooks line, and the Development team is tying the fiction plots into PDF supplemental products so that the conflicts on pages can be fought on tables with minis. Bringing in several authors to help map out our storyline plots surrounding ilClan is delivering a number of collateral benefits and I think the fans will love what we’ve put together.

A prime example of which is the upcoming short fiction from the Game of Armored Combat.  Getting Bill Keith back on BattleTech is a fanboy dream come true. Enticing the creator of the Gray Death Legion to write a new chapter of BT-Lore detailing the previous generation, with Grayson’s father’s unit… That’s just awesome. And I’m diabolically scheming plots to unleash him on to keep him crafting BattleTech. He’s still got it, and is just one of the many voices of BattleTech who will be bringing the storylines to life.

Battlemaster Figure

Sean: Why aren’t those giant versions of the figurines you showcased at Mech_Con available for purchase? 

Brent: Oh man those sure were cool weren’t they! Neither Randall or I have any yet, but believe me we want some.  But yes those are not available for purchase because they were personally created by the Demo Agents who attended the event. In fact, they were prototyped individually on a 3D printer, and they take a full 40 hours to make – each.  The only reason those are available at Mech_Con is that the DemoTeam who support the event pull strings with a friend and have one or two done every year. I’m trying to barter swag and maple cookies to see if I can get some, but so far it’s all to no avail. Gotta love how far our fans and Demo Agents will go to support their love of BattleTech.

Sun Spider

Sean: Recently PGI unveiled the Sun Spider, a brand new Clan Omnimech from Goliath Scorpion. How did Catalyst coordinate with PGI on that ‘Mech’s creation? 

Brent: Ah, that’s easy. Catalyst doesn’t coordinate with PGI at all – there’s no formal relationship there.  But they are obviously huge fans so when then need someone’s subject matter expertise they just reach out directly to whomever they need. It’s pretty much always Randall, who dabbles in a little moonlighting from time to time to offer build recommendations for the various video game companies working on our properties. PGI doesn’t need my insights because they have Alex Iglesias who handles all their visuals, and he’s awesome. But Randall’s build expertise and universe knowledge is pretty awesome, so he’s a great resource. I didn’t hear about the specifics of the Sun Spider until I showed up at MechCon and bought the shirt.  (Huh… I really should have arranged a swag trade for that shirt. Didn’t even think of that.)

Sean: Yeah, that was a missed opportunity bud. So what’s going on with IlClan? When is it coming out, and what will we find out about the new direction BattleTech is headed?

Brent: The answer to that one is both simple and immensely complicated. The short answer is that ilClan is turning from one modest book into a “Big Bang” moment delivered by two Sourcebooks, several playable events, a series of fiction products (novels/novellas) and a whole lot of in-universe collateral damage as lots of sh** hits many fans.

Brent-as-a-Clan-MechWarrior

The first of those two Sourcebooks is nearing completion now so I can totally talk about. Titled Shattered Fortress this ilClan lead-in is scheduled for release in early summer. What this means for the Republic of the Sphere – well, you’ll have to get the book to find out. But the creative team and Author Phil Lee have done an exceptional job of crafting this book! Whether it be the crescendo to Stone’s vision or the prelude to many nightmares, the denizens of the Inner Sphere are soon to find out. But know that it sets the stage for the titanic clashes that will unfold in the upcoming ilClan plotlines.  

Later in the year we’ll be announcing more info about the next ilClan release and supporting products. All of the BattleTech product lines (fiction, sourcebooks, supplementals) will have stories that spin off the events in ilClan – so expect implications to spread across the Inner Sphere. As Line Dev, I’m balancing the release of new material and reprints, so expect further details and ETAs later in 2018.

Sean: Sarna is sure to be waiting with baited breath. Finally, on a scale of 1-10, how badly do you want Harmony Gold to self-immolate?

Brent: HAH! I may burst into flames in excitement just thinking about it.  :0)

Brent, thank you so much for agreeing to sit down and chat with us. We here at Sarna just can’t wait to see all the incredible new products that CGL will put out this year.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

A Special New Year’s Community Outreach – Nic from Sarna!

This week in Community Outreach we actually look within for our special guest: Sarna’s creator, owner, and Commander in Chief, Nic Jansma. Nic takes us behind the scenes with key Sarna facts, an origin story unlike any other, and of course, what’s in store for the future of the best darned BattleTech Wiki around. Enjoy!

Second Succession War

courtesy of marcomazzoni.dunked.com

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MWO World Championship Analysis with BanditB17 and mdmzero0

Ben BanditB17 and Mike mdmzero0

Now that the MechWarrior Online World Championships are over, it’s time to both look back at the tournament to see what worked really well, and also to look ahead to see what could be improved for next year. And I can think of no two people more qualified to speak to that subject than the two guys who have seen more of the tournament than anyone else, Ben “BanditB17” and Mike “mdmzero0”, the shoutcasters for the World Championship.

We sat down to chat about their thoughts on the most recent World Championship, the teams, and how things could be better for next time. 

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Community Outreach – RoA Nitrox of Black Plasma Studios

Hunchback Normal

courtesy of Black Plasma Studios

Welcome to Community Outreach! Many of you were impressed by last week’s teaser video of a brand new animated MechWarrior series on YouTube. To find out more, I reached out to the teaser’s director, RoA Nitrox, who was kind enough to answer a few questions about the video’s development and how he became a BattleTech fan. Enjoy!

UPDATE: It looks like the video has been taken down. According to Nitrox, Black Plasma Studios received a cease and desist letter. Rumor is there’s some internal negotiation happening, so hopefully, it’ll be back soon. The response – before it was taken down – was certainly good enough to warrant a real animated series. 

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An Interview with Jordan Weisman at GenCon 50

So yeah, this one is coming is pretty late. I do apologize to the readers out there. After GenCon got really hectic for me professionally, and, well, it is what it is. 

At this point, the game has progressed a bit past the improvements of the then new patch that Jordan and I discussed, so I’m going to re-tool my original interview to be my impressions of the interview and of Jordan and what we talked about. 

GenCon 50 has come and gone. Wow. I have to pause and let that sink in every year.

I spend the better part of six to eight months in a year planning for and making sure that I get everything in my professional and personal life squared away in order to make sure I can make it to GenCon.

Now, that’s not to say that I do so at the peril of myself or those around me. No, GenCon is for me that one time of year when I don’t have to explain anything about what I do professionally or for fun to anybody. Everyone there understands it. So I tend to make sure I can go.

With the Post-GenCon Recovery Period (I swear it’s a thing!) still affecting some of us (mostly in the finance region), I need to take the time to share some key aspects of the experience. In particular, I want to share with you all the hour of time I spent talking to Jordan Weisman, creator of BattleTech and one of the heads of Harebrained Schemes, about the new computer game version of BattleTech.

A note on how I am going to reflect on this time. My recording app malfunctioned during the actual interview portion, so I only have the notes that I took from the interview. As such, I won’t directly quote Weisman unless I wrote down his exact phrasing.

First, BattleTech had a huge development release the day that I spoke to Weisman. They had just released the first multi-player backer beta build for the game, so the Harebrained booth was abuzz with fans playing the new version as well as many people standing around to watch the action on the screen, stand behind their friends, and just chat about BattleTech in general.

I met Jordan Weisman a little before our interview, stopping by to verify the time, and he said he was looking forward to sitting down, playing a round of the new release, and then talking!

Wait.

What?!

I was going to get to go head-to-head against Jordan Weisman in BATTLETECH?!!!!

I was already excited about the interview itself, but finding out I’d get to actually play a game with Jordan Weisman was icing on an already delicious looking cake.

So, the time came, and we sat down to play. We selected out Mechs and dove on in. My experience with the BattleTech Beta at that point had been in the 10-12 hour range, so I knew I was at an extreme disadvantage going up against Weisman.

I was right.

The following thirty minutes was a whirlwind of back and forth not-quite-trash-talking as I sent my Lance in hard and fast….straight into the wall of strategy and effective tactics that was Weisman’s way of war. My Lance got picked apart one `Mech at a time, and it was glorious!

After his pyrrhic victory, Weisman humbly asked if I’d enjoyed it, and of course I did!

Because I foolishly didn’t fanboy hard enough, I don’t have a selfie with Jordan Weisman for the article! This will have to do. Weisman is seen here showing off the Kickstarter flight jacket reward.

So then we sat down and talked about the game, much of which is old news at this point. But the highlights that remain with me can be summed up in a few points.

  • The BattleTech community is great, and Weisman and Harebrained love every bit of interaction they get with us. They live off of our energy, and then they give it right back us in the best ways possible.
  • The next phase for Harebrained and BattleTech in general is what Weisman called “outreach,” continuing to get the word out, and the established community is a huge part of that. Harebrained want BattleTech to find every gamer and to read out beyond the pull it has now to get even bigger.
  • Now that the core mechanics of the game itself are established, there’s still much more to do in the way of developing the story, lore, and the extended campaign. Even though we’re a couple of months down the road from when I spoke to Weisman, I know they’re still hammering away at making the campaign the best experience it can possibly be.
  • There is nowhere else that Weisman and his team would rather be than right where they, making BattleTech. They’re pumped up. They love our excitement for the game and universe, and they look forward to much more BattleTech in the future.

For me, this short game and talk with Jordan Weisman will be one of only two or three stand-out moments from GenCon 50 that I know I will keep in my memory for many years to come.

It’s not just a fanboy moment. I mean, yeah, it’s a little bit of that, but it’s also more. Jordan Weisman’s enthusiasm for BattleTech is amazing, and that really has kept me charged up for everything to do with the game(s), on the table and on the screen.

Thank you to Jordan Weisman and Harebrained Schemes for working to bring us this amazing gaming experience in our favorite universe. We look forward to its release, and hope for more after it!