Category Archives: Interviews

Your BattleTech News Roundup For August, 2021

No jokes, no quips, no higgeltybips. We’re jumping straight to the straight facts today because there’s a load of BattleTech news this month and it ain’t gonna get spoon-fed to your eye holes with flowery language about summer rains. 

Besides, we got some big news to start us off.

Clan Invasion Wave 2 Shipping Has Started

If you’re like me, you probably thought that combining all your Clan Invasion toys into a single shipment made sense. This was before a global pandemic, a global shipping slowdown, and that stupid tanker that got stuck in the Suez Canal. Time makes fools of us all, as they say, and I felt very foolish indeed for my naive decision from so long ago.

That said, our long wait is almost over. Clan Invasion Kickstarter backers will soon be shipping their Second Wave packages over the next few weeks, with deliveries expected to last into September. Emails have already started going out for people to confirm their addresses. If your address hasn’t changed, no action is required, but you might as well double-check that nothing weird has happened between now and what feels like a lifetime ago. 

Sarna has a Discord!

A few months ago, an official Sarna Discord was created.  It’s already grown to over 750 members, and is a great way to connect with others in the BattleTech/Sarna/Wiki community.

The focus of the Discord is as an aid to the wiki — join the #research-desk, or as #wiki-questions.  If you have any technical problems with the site you can post in #wiki-issues.

Of course you’re welcome to discuss is #general BattleTech stuff or about #videogames-general — we love talking BattleTech.

Most of all, we aim to be friendly!  Join us!

To Serve And Protect

Urban Tyrant from battletech

Our first artist spotlight is PhearTheHam on Reddit, who posted this phenomenal image of an UrbanMech in a police uniform. We’re not sure which planet this Urbie is on, but whatever it is, it’s got an urban center with a crime problem big enough to warrant an AC/10

So Detroit, basically. 

Wolves Remakes Terra In Its Own Image

Another month, another Wolves update. This one brings back one of MechAssault 2‘s levels using some of the original assets completely new, custom assets [ed. PajamaBoy has corrected me--sorry about that!]. Terra certainly looks a lot different in the 31st century thanks to ComStar rule. This is what the world would look like if a telecom company took over. 

I gotta say, for a completely fan-made game, the Wolves folks are better at keeping their players up to date than most AAA developers. 

Eldonious Rex Makes The Best BattleTech Paperback Cover Ever

Oh, Eldonious Rex, you’ve done it again. Eldonious recently released his Marauder Print Pack, a collection of original prints that would look great on a wall or the cover of the latest CGL novel. Here we see a Marauder II taking on two Hatchetmen in close-quarters combat. It’s gotta be one of the most dynamic still images of ‘Mechs fighting I’ve ever seen. Catalyst, I hope you’ve hired this guy to be your cover artist.

You can get this image along with several other Marauder-themed items (including a coaster) over on Eldonious Rex’s commerce site here

MechWarrior: Living Legends Releases Update 0.14.4

Development continues on the old Living Legends even as a new standalone Living Legends is also under development. Honestly, there’s not a whole lot new in update 0.14.4 but there are a few notable fixes. 

First, ambient temperature wasn’t updating correctly on vehicle HUDs, so that was fixed, and damage modifiers that were allowing splash weapons to crack through a ‘Mech’s head armor have been tweaked to stop providing quick and undeserved kills. Third, all ASF build timers have been set to 45 seconds from 10 seconds to prevent players from just Kamikazeing into ground objectives over and over again and wasting team tickets. 

There’ve also been a few tweaks to the Kagoshima map, including added ammo buy zones on the side caps, rolling fog has been added to the lower part of the river valley, and the Karnov has been moved from the middle of the map. You should see these changes live on servers now.

Games Workshop Drives Warhammer Fans To BattleTech 

I was a little late for this drama because I’m not much of a Warhammer fan, but apparently, Games Workshop has declared war on its own fanbase. 

Earlier this month, Games Workshop updated its intellectual property guidelines to have a “zero tolerance” policy towards infringements. This includes “pirating books, using a 3D printer to make copies of their models, and a ban on fan animations,” according to an article from Vice

The weird part here is that even though I’m not a Warhammer 40K nerd, I’ve still seen the incredible fan-made Astartes series on YouTube. Games Workshop actually hired that guy as well as a bunch of other talented individuals to make original content for a new streaming platform that Games Workshop is launching on August 25, so you can imagine how awful it looks for Games Workshop to suddenly turn around and say “no more fan animations, now you gotta pay for it.”

This led r/GrimDank, the official Warhammer meme subreddit, to switch to entirely BattleTech memes for an entire week, driving untold hordes of Warhammer fans to discover BattleTech for the first time. 

Tex wrote up a lovely welcoming post on GrimDank, while others have taken to trying to map Warhammer 40K factions to BattleTech factions (it doesn’t always work, but the effort is what counts here). As a reporter, I just report the news, but if any former Warhammer fans are reading this, welcome! Sarna is your one-stop shop for all the BattleTech info that’s worth keeping (which is to say all of it), and I’m sure you’ll come to love it as much as every other BattleTech fan does.  

MechCommander Mercenaries Returns For MechWarrior 5

Mechcommander Mercs – yeah, I'm just teasing you all now.
Watch this video on YouTube.

You remember MechCommander Mercenaries? The MechWarrior 5: Mercs mod that turned the game from a game where you command a single lance from the cockpit of your personal ‘Mech to a game where you command an entire company from the safety of your DropShip? Well, the Steam release of MechWarrior 5 and its Heroes of the Inner Sphere DLC sort of broke the mod for a while, but version 1.3 fixes it, and it’s available now over on Nexusmods.

Besides being playable again, MechCommander Mercs 1.3 adds a few new features, such as squadmates sharing sensor data for the purposes of long-range missiles, new empty/low ammo message on the game’s UI, and has better ‘Mech AI that should be compatible with other mods (like the TT AI mods). 

However, there are still a bunch of things left to do, and also several known issues in the current release. For example, if you decide you’re tired of being a bystander and you want to get back into the action by entering back into Mason’s cockpit via the F6 button, you’ll break the Mason AI if you try to leave again. 

There are other issues too, so read up on the 1.3 release notes before installing. 

Assassins Are Bad, But This Art Is Great

I love the Assassin. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a bad ‘Mech; it’s under-gunned and under-armored compared to anything in its class, and it’s not particularly effective in its singular role of hunting down and killing light ‘Mechs. It’s a poorly designed ‘Mech built by corporations that were looking to milk the Star League military-industrial complex and it honestly hasn’t gotten any better in the half-millennia since its introduction. 

But man, it just looks so damned good, and I just love me a recon-in-force ‘Mech that can fly (even though there are many, MANY other ‘Mechs that can do it better than the Assassin). 

So thank you, fed0tich, for indulging in my unabashed love of the Assassin. Please feel free to do so again at your earliest convenience. 

Tex, Stackpole, Pardoe, And HPD Renegade Talk All Things BattleTech

Tex, Michael Stackpole, Blaine Lee Pardoe and Renegade HPG Talk BattleTech
Watch this video on YouTube.

What do you get when you combine two of BattleTech‘s most prolific authors, Renegade HPG, and Tex? Two hours of the most fascinating conversation interspersed with some amusing anecdotes and Tex’s… unique brand of humor. This interview winds its way from the Minnesota Tribe and Clan Wolverine to the author’s favorite missed opportunities for cover art to some interesting “what if” scenarios. 

If you’ve got two hours to kill, you could do a lot worse than Renegade HPG’s latest interview. Check it out in the video here.

Battle Bound Answers Who Would Win In A Fight Between The Black Widow Company And The Gray Death Legion

Battletech: Battle Bound S2E2 - The Black Widow Company vs The Gray Death Legion
Watch this video on YouTube.

I stumbled across Battle Bound in one of my many jaunts across the wider world of BattleTech, which is to say it popped up in the subreddit and thought it was amusing enough to watch while I work.

What we’ve got here is a group of creatives that are essentially jazzing up a BattleTech playthrough with some nice editing, some video game-inspired effects, and narration courtesy of the one and only Tex. Frankly, I’m OK with Tex becoming the voice of BattleTech--it’ll give George a break from doing Duncan Fisher all the time.

Before the main event, Battle Bound shows us a bit of BattleTech history with an unboxing of the Gray Death Legion and Black Widow Company‘s Japanese sourcebooks and even goes deep into each company’s dossier, outlining each pilot, machine, and even their ‘Mechs unique quirks. This is circa 3025, so ‘Mechs often went into battle with damaged systems that just couldn’t be fully repaired. 

If you want to see a BattleTech tabletop game made as exciting as it basically can be, this is it. 

Boston Dynamics Shows Off Precisely The Wrong Kind Of Robot We Should Be Making

Atlas | Partners in Parkour
Watch this video on YouTube.

It’s a little sad to see current robotics going in the direction of small and dextrous rather than giant and lumbering, but I guess we gotta start with baby steps, right?

Boston Dynamics is a name we’ve covered before around these parts. Being on the forefront of robotics design means we’re just itching for the folks over in Boston to invent myomer musculature, fusion engines, gyroscopes capable of keeping an 80-ton death machine from toppling over. 

Instead, we get Atlas running a parkour course and then doing a backflip. It’s impressive, yes, but I think we need to collectively remind Boston Dynamics that we’re not at all interested in the cyberpunk future of robot ninjas. Give me giant stompy robots, thanks. 

MWO August Patch Brings The First ‘Mech Quirk Pass And Revamps HPG Map

MechWarrior Online’s renaissance continues with yet more updates! This time we’ve got a first quirk pass to several underused ‘Mechs as well as a massively updated HPG map. 

You can see the new HPG over on MechWarrior Online’s website, but it looks like the giant satellite dish has been pushed to the side and the actual battlefield is going to be a collection of ramps and technologically infused boxes. This might make the map seem a little more boring from an aesthetic perspective, but this is all to prevent games from devolving into two teams constantly circling around the HPG in a maneuver affectionately referred to as “NASCARing.” 

In MWO’s first quirk pass since the Cauldron took the reins of development, a collection of underused ‘Mechs is getting a much-needed performance boost in the form of quirks. Although somewhat controversial to BattleTech purists, quirks are basically MWO’s method of balancing BattleMech designs. Because ‘Mechs come in all different shapes and sizes, some are just easier to hit than others. Some have big arms that protect the torso, some have no arms at all, and some are just giant boxes that are so easy to hit that they turn into a walking bullet sponge on the battlefield. 

On top of that, certain ‘Mechs have better hardpoints, better omni-pods, or other non-equipment factors that just make them better or worse than other ‘Mechs in their weight class. Quirks give MechWarriors a reason to use a particular ‘Mech that’s just objectively worse without a little help. 

In this first quirk pass, the Locust, Mist Lynx, Adder, Cougar, Arctic Cheetah, Javelin, Incubus, Spider, Arctic Wolf, Hellspawn, Ice Ferret, Cicada, Centurion, Shadow Hawk, Hellfire, Thunderbolt, Nova Cat, Timber Wolf, Awesome, Victor, Highlander, Highlander IIC, Supernova, Mauler, Atlas, Kodiak, Dire Wolf, and Marauder II all get revamped quirks--mostly buffs, although a few quirks were removed or reduced to make way for the new quirk set. 

I’m particularly interested in the Ice Ferret quirks, as it’s one of my favorite ‘Mechs and it’s going to be quite a bit tougher following Tuesday’s patch. The Incubus and Cougar also look very interesting, as does the Centurion, which looks like it’ll suddenly become the tankiest medium ‘Mech in the game.

Both the new quirks and HPG remaster are live now, so go out there and blast people with some of these quirked-out ‘Mechs!

But as they say, that’s not all! There’s a free Shadow Hawk SDH-2K available for those who play the game even a moderate amount between now and August 9, and MWO community manager Daeron “Bombadil” Katz recently did an interview with No Guts No Galaxy’s Sean Lang to discuss the future of the game. There’s apparently going to be a huge announcement for both MW5 and MWO sometime next month, and PGI is also looking into restarting the MechWarrior Online World Championships and even hosting a virtual Mech_Con sometime in the future. 

Now This Is A Helluva BattleTech Map

I saw this pop up in my Twitter feed and just had to share. Longino Garcia’s battle map for the city of Olalla during the Battle of Tukayyid is nothing short of sublime.

And that’s it for August! Man, the time sure does fly. I’m still waiting on my Wave 2 order, but I hear someone at the door and it could be the mail person with my box now.

Oh, and have you checked out Sarna’s interview with BattleTech Line Developer Ray Arrastria? ‘Cause you should.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Sarna Interviews Ray Arrastia, BattleTech Line Developer At Catalyst Games

courtesy of Catalyst Games

A little while ago, BattleTech got a new line developer. We wanted to interview him back then, but he was busy with the Clan Invasion Kickstarter, then ilClan, and then there was a global pandemic, and it just never really worked out. But now that Wave Two is on its way and ilClan has shipped, we’ve finally got a chance to sit down with Ray and get to know a bit more about him. Plus, I got to ask a few questions about what’s next for BattleTech from the guy who should really know.

Today, Sarna talks to Ray Arrastia, BattleTech Line Developer at Catalyst Games. Enjoy!

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Community Outreach – Converting HBS’s BATTLETECH Campaign To Tabletop With Riley Centrella

Hairbrained’s BATTLETECH is still a masterpiece and I recommend anyone with a personal computer purchase it. My recent playthrough of the game has convinced me of that more than ever. But what if you wanted to experience BATTLETECH’s story without playing the game? Maybe you just don’t have the time, or maybe you just don’t have a gaming computer. Well, you could just watch a Let’s Play on YouTube or something, or you could play the entire game on tabletop.

Riley Centrella, or Magistrex Centrella as she’s also known, has painstakingly translated every main campaign mission from HBS’s BATTLETECH and turned it into a sequence of 16 tabletop BattleTech maps that can be played in MegaMek, Roll20, MegaMekLab, or your preferred digital tabletop of choice. And best of all, it’s free to download over on the Magistrex’s Patreon.

To get the lowdown on this massive conversion project, I reached out to Lady Centrella for the scoop.

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Community Outreach – The Cauldron’s Bear_cl4w and Krasnopesky Talk MechWarrior Online

courtesy of EldoniousRex

Welcome back to Community Outreach, the ongoing column where we learn more about the people that help keep BattleTech alive and swinging. To get the lowdown on MechWarrior Online’s renaissance (which you can read all about in my last piece), I sat down with the Cauldron’s Bear_cl4w and Krasnopesky to talk about where the group came from, how it’s evolved, and how they plan to take the reigns of a failing game and bring the fun back to MechWarrior Online.

This interview was conducted last month, so many of the things we’ve discussed have already come to pass. That said, you can get an idea of what’s to come in MechWarrior Online by reading what Bear_cl4w and Krasnopesky have to say. Enjoy.

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MechWarrior Online’s Renaissance Is All Thanks To The Developers Putting Players In Charge

courtesy of EldoniousRex

Something pretty remarkable is happening in MechWarrior Online. After years of falling player counts and being basically put on life support as developer PGI diverted funds and resources into developing MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, MechWarrior Online players are returning to this once nearly-dead game. 

There are a number of reasons for this unexpected renaissance. To start, PGI began providing MechWarrior Online with updates at the end of last year. PGI also hired a new community manager--a well-known figure in the MechWarrior and BattleTech community--to help reach out to players and convince them that MechWarrior Online was worth another shot. 

But I’d argue that the biggest reason why players are returning to MechWarrior Online is that PGI has done the unthinkable: they’ve put the players in charge of MechWarrior Online.

Not all of them, of course. Even an almost dead game still has thousands of players and most of them couldn’t be bothered to dive into the spreadsheets of data necessary for a game as large and complex as MechWarrior Online. But a small group of players plucked from all levels of play have coalesced into a governing body that has largely been given the authority to determine MechWarrior Online’s future.

Those players call themselves the Cauldron--a name chosen to represent their melting pot of opinions. Like many online PvP games, MechWarrior Online has a diverse group of players of differing skill levels, and like BattleTech itself, they all love different aspects of the game. However, this group of players has been able to do something that PGI has struggled with over its many years of MechWarrior Online development.

The Cauldron is bringing fun back to MechWarrior Online.

MechWarrior Online’s Many Missteps

MechWarrior Online is a textbook example of what happens to an online service game when it expands faster than its developers can keep up. You can hardly blame PGI for wanting to monetize MWO as best they could, but the way they decided to do that was to keep throwing more and more ‘Mechs and weapons into the game until it became too overwhelming for their dev team to keep up with both balancing the game and also creating the next big thing.

Those big things often became sweeping changes to MechWarrior Online‘s mechanics that nobody really asked for. Perhaps the best example of this is MechWarrior Online‘s absolutely byzantine skill tree--resoundingly panned for being both overly complicated and ludicrously expensive at launch, and that opinion hasn’t changed much in the years since. 

Throw on engine desync, overly quirked Hero ‘Mechs, pay-to-win airstrikes and artillery strikes, and the still-infamous golden ‘Mech cash grab, and at times it seemed almost like PGI was deliberately trying to alienate MechWarrior Online‘s audience.

It certainly alienated me. Until recently, I hadn’t even touched the game since sometime back in 2017. And although we don’t have a complete report on MechWarrior Online’s total player count, we can assume based on the game’s Steamcharts performance that it also alienated plenty of other players over the years.

By early 2020, MechWarrior Online had reached its lowest point. With few players still left actually playing the game, it made far more financial sense for PGI to focus on creating MechWarrior 5 than it did to waste resources in a game that nobody was playing. Although the servers remained online, few players meant extra-long wait times for MechWarrior Online’s matches to start, and so PGI declared official updates for the game would end in January of 2020.

At that point, the writing was on the wall. MechWarrior Online was on life support, and it seemed only a matter of time before it became more profitable to turn the MWO servers off rather than keep them online.

Then 2020 happened, and the whole fucking world changed.

A Pandemic Makes Fools Of Us All

In February 2020, there were as few as 577 players on MechWarrior Online via Steam. Then the pandemic hit, and despite the fact nothing in the game had changed, government-imposed lockdowns meant that lots of people were stuck at home with nothing to do. A free-to-play game like MechWarrior Online was a worthy diversion for BattleTech fans worried about an apocalyptic new virus, so by March, MechWarrior Online‘s population had jumped by nearly 25%. 

By July, MechWarrior Online‘s player count was nearly double what it was a few months before without the game receiving a single update. I don’t really know what was going through the minds of PGI’s upper management during this time, but from their actions, you get a sense that they weren’t entirely ready to give up on MechWarrior Online

First, PGI hired a brand new community manager in October. Daeron “Bombadil” Katz is a well-known figure amongst the entire BattleTech community for his time as co-host for No Guts No Galaxy, and especially well-known in the MechWarrior Online community. There was basically no better person to reach out to MWO players and ask them just what could be done to revive the game.

Second, PGI was purchased by Swedish games publisher EG7. Unlike many publishers, EG7 seems to be a very hands-off sort of company, content to simply fund studios to develop their games and then reap the rewards. With EG7 paying the bills, PGI could now afford to take even the tiniest financial risk in setting up a small team to once again begin updating MechWarrior Online

But it was a very small team, and both Bombadil and PGI marketing head Matt Newman made it clear in the early months of 2021 that they just couldn’t make the sweeping changes to MechWarrior Online that some players had hoped for (chief among those was porting the game from CryEngine to Unreal Engine 5, a heroic task even for a much larger developer). 

Matt and Daeron promised small fixes, some new events, and perhaps a new ‘Mech pack or two. Game balance--which by this point was hopelessly out of control thanks to high-tech-era weapons and over 1,300 different ‘Mechs--was mentioned, but never really highlighted. The effort required to rebalance MechWarrior Online simply cost more than PGI would get in return. Or so they thought. 

Welcome To The Gulag

Before we can talk about the Cauldron, we have to talk about the Gulag, a name chosen for several reasons but chief among them was the idea that they were providing PGI with free labor. The group first formed in early 2018 after several updates took MechWarrior Online‘s balance in a decidedly un-fun direction, nerfing certain weapons and ‘Mechs to the point where they became basically unusable for no particular reason.

The Gulag was by all accounts a reactive movement, but one with the best intentions. The group created spreadsheets of game data and made reasonable arguments to revert the changes or institute entirely new ones for the overall health of the game. MechWarrior Online‘s developers, however, weren’t a receptive audience.

“The attitude that PGI had at the time [was] sort of the ‘we don’t want your help, we can do it ourselves’ type,” Bear_cl4w tells me in an interview. The group operates mostly as a collective, but Bear_cl4w serves as the de-facto leader. 

“When we had finished our work and showed it to the community the feedback was generally positive. But again, the response from PGI… They saw it and told us, ‘yeah we’ve discussed it internally,’ and then nothing,” Bear_cl4w recounts. “Little did we know that at the time they were working on MechWarrior 5, which led to maintenance mode for MWO.”

Things changed over the course of 2020. Maintenance mode reverted back to active--if somewhat tentative--development. With PGI’s resources mostly diverted to MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, the free labor offered by the Gulag suddenly seemed like a far more attractive proposition. 

But once spurned, twice shy. PGI needed to make amends, and that job fell to MWO‘s brand new community manager. 

“Daeron I would say is a big part in why it has happened,” fellow Cauldron member Krasnopesky tells me. “I agree,” adds Bear_cl4w. “Daeron is a familiar face in the community due to his ties with No Guts No Galaxy and his recent hiring with PGI, but it was less about the individual and more about the message: they were asking us for help.”

This first step to mending fences meant that the Gulag was back on board. Only, they couldn’t be called the Gulag anymore. To avoid all the negative historical connotations, and to represent their new partnership with PGI, the Gulag “had to lose the edgy name.” 

The Cauldron, as the group calls themselves now, got straight to work fixing all of MechWarrior Online‘s many ailments. “The Cauldron has been sort of set to high gear,” Bear_cl4w says. “Rather than tackling one part of the game, we intend to re-balance as much as we are able to. Or as much as PGI currently can do.”

Made Better By Real MechWarriors

Mechwarrior Online May 2021 Patch Review
Watch this video on YouTube.

Certain aspects of MWO are just beyond the Cauldron’s abilities to change. Fundamental aspects of the game--such as the team deathmatch format, the 12v12 matches, and user interface--require engineers on PGI’s end to alter, which are in terribly short supply given the company’s focus on MechWarrior 5. But anything that can basically be boiled down to a number on a spreadsheet is fair game, and the Cauldron loves its numbers.

They’ve also got a plan. “The Cauldron is going about it as strategically as possible,” adds Bear_cl4w. “For example, our April patch was the big weapons pass and some light quirk changes, and for May, there is a map rework coming from the recently added map guy PGI hired, Francois. But after every big step, there will be an iteration on the previous step. So for May, it’s a big mobility step, small weapon iteration, and some more light quirk work.”

May’s recent patch notes make Bear_cl4w a man of his words. April’s weapon changes get slight adjustments, but there are also some big developments when it comes to ‘Mech mobility. Old, outdated designs like the Centurion, Hunchback, and Firestarter have all received massive agility enhancements, while designs like the Jagermech, Jenner, and Cicada have all received armor and structure buffs.

It’s no exaggeration that these changes make all these old ‘Mechs feel like new again. I’m actually excited to take these old gals out for a spin, and I’m not the only one. Feedback on both Reddit and the MechWarrior Online forums has been universally positive, not just for the ‘Mech reworks but for the reworked Canyon map as well.

What’s next for the Cauldron and MechWarrior Online? Once again, Bear_cl4w lays out the near-term plan. “We are getting some significant stuff this year and we’ll push for as much as we ourselves and PGI can do. Our intended path is weapons, agility, quirks, rescale, skill tree.”

Not everything will come at once, but rescaling certain ‘Mechs to be smaller or larger than others (the Shadow Hawk has been annoyingly tall in MechWarrior Online for some time now), as well as a simplified skill tree will only help to bring more players back to the game and maybe even get new players to give MechWarrior Online a try. 

Courtesy of PGI

Before I heap all the credit for MechWarrior Online‘s revival entirely on the Cauldron, it should be noted that PGI has been uncharacteristically generous with its events recently. Last month, they gave away the Mad Cat Mk II-B, a powerhouse of the old meta with its twin UAC/5 and twin UAC/10s. For May, PGI is giving away the Timber Wolf-C, a laser-vomit specialist and one of the ‘Mechs that benefited greatly from the recent mobility pass. And even if you don’t play enough to get the free ‘Mechs (which honestly doesn’t take too many matches even if you’re of average skill), there’s still tons of free C-bills, skill points, MC, and Premium Time up for grabs.

But just by the very nature of the game, players wouldn’t come back to acquire these new ‘Mechs if they didn’t think there’d be anyone to use them against. The Cauldron has changed the perception of MechWarrior Online as a dead game without a future into something much brighter. 

For the past seven months, MechWarrior Online’s player count has only gone up. In my own experience, the time spent waiting for the matchmaker to find players for a game has gone down. And when those games actually start, I’m far more likely to see new and interesting custom loadouts that nobody has ever seen before. it honestly feels like a whole new game.

MechWarrior 5’s release on Steam in the coming days is sure to bring renewed interest to MechWarrior Online. When those players come, they’ll be met with a game being made better by the very same MechWarriors they’re facing online. Just as it should be.

 

Your BattleTech News Roundup For May, 2021

It’s May, and I’m finally vaccinated! It hurt like hell and I was feeling like hot garbage for several days, but it’s a small price to pay for life to get back to some semblance of normal. A normal that probably won’t come for at least several more months as more people need to be vaccinated. And then we’ll all have to get boosters as we accept COVID as a seasonal disease like influenza. 

But whatever. As far as I’m concerned, May is full of good news, and that includes BattleTech. So let’s get to it!

MechWarrior 5 Steam Release Includes Full Crossplay On May 27

MW5 Announce Trailer
Watch this video on YouTube.

There are two big news beats for May, those being Catalyst and the imminent shipping of Wave 2 of the Clan Invasion Kickstarter, and MechWarrior 5 releasing on Steam. We’ll start with MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries because it’s just days away from arriving. 

All the deets recently got published on the MechWarrior 5 and MechWarrior Online websites. The base game will clock in at $29.99, while the Heroes of the Inner Sphere DLC will hit you for another $19.99. Not a bad price for those who’ve been willing to wait for the game to release on Steam.

Ahh, but MechWarrior 5 isn’t just getting a Steam release! The game is also coming to the Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, making it the first console MechWarrior game since MechAssault 2. And if you’re a PC snob, you can even get it on GoG too.

Even better, MechWarrior 5 will have full crossplay across all platforms. For co-op play, only the host will need to have purchased the DLC to give access to everyone playing, so if you’ve got your lancemates already arranged you can save a few bucks with only one of you purchasing Heroes of the Inner Sphere.

A massive free game update is also coming with the Steam release, which includes a revamped intro sequence, the ability to skip the tutorial, rebalanced difficulty and economy, and greater variety in missions and maps. There’s even going to be infantry running around so the levels will feel more like an actual planet and not just some ‘Mech-sized set-piece.

We’ve already gone over most of what Heroes of the Inner Sphere will get you (such as a new career start option, seven new ‘Mechs, new missions, biomes, and equipment), but you’ll also get an expanded Inner Sphere map with 18 more warzones and 11 more side quests. 

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries and Heroes of the Inner Sphere releases on May 27 for Steam, GoG, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. Wishlist now and you can get 1,250 MC in MechWarrior Online by posting to this forum thread

Clan Invasion Wave 2 Shipping Soon And IlCan Coming In June

And now for the news you’ve all been waiting for: Clan Wave 2 shipping is imminent! I just got an email warning me to update my shipping address if anything’s changed between now and Wave 1 (if your address is the same listed in the email, then there’s no further action required). Catalyst is still waiting on one last container shipment as of May 20, and I have no idea how long it takes for a box to cross the Pacific ocean (or even if it necessarily is arriving via the Pacific), but I’d say a June delivery is likely. 

Catalyst also treated us to a State of the Game update earlier in May that revealed an equally momentous occasion: The IClan sourcebook arrives in June too! Get the full story for the Battle of Terra, including tactical maps, new ‘Mechs, and insights into how the other Great Houses reacted to this momentous conflict. 

There’s a whole list of things coming in the next few months! Recognition Guide: IlClan gets its fourth cycle from August to November, Rock and a Hard Place brings the first new Gray Death Legion story in years in July, and Tamar Rising takes a look at the Tamar region of Lyran space during the Battle for Terra in September. 

Check out Catalyst’s website for the full rundown on what’s coming in the latter half of 2021. 

This Guy Added A ‘Mech Bay To His Computer

My computer hasn’t had a disk drive in some time, and even the days of my solid-state drives requiring a bay are numbered. When I eventually swap to NVMe drives, I’ll have nothing to put in the front of my case. 

Nothing, except for a bad-ass ‘Mech bay. 

Toukejin, thank you for creating this articulated Timber Wolf model and then throwing it on Thingiverse for me. Now I just need to find a 3D printer to make one of these for my next build.

MechWarrior Online’s May Patch Brings Phase 1 Mobility Pass And A New Canyon Map

Mechwarrior Online May 2021 Patch Review
Watch this video on YouTube.

We covered a lot of what’s going on in the May patch in my recent interview with the Cauldron’s Bear_cl4w, but a quick recap never hurts!

The biggest change with MechWarrior Online’s May patch is the reworked Canyon Network map. Spawn points and differences in cover have been fixed along with newly added ramps, bridges, and other terrain fixes that will make it a little easier to get around if you’re a non-jump-capable ‘Mech, but still provides a benefit for bringing a ‘Mech with jump jets.

April’s weapon pass has been fine-tuned with additional tweaks to various over-performing weapons, such as the Snub-Nose PPC, Clan Micro Pulse Laser, and Light Gauss Rifle. These adjustments hardly remove these weapons from viability, so all the cool new builds that came out of April’s patch will still work just fine. As always, the Cauldron is keeping a watchful eye on weapon performance for next month’s patch.

May also brought phase one of the ‘Mech agility pass. The Centurion, Hunchback, Hunchback IIC, Firestarter, Night Gyr, Timber Wolf, Atlas, and Kodiak are all more nimble to varying degrees to bring them into line with other ‘Mechs in their class. The Centurion and Hunchback IIC in particular were both extremely cumbersome chassis despite being medium-class machines, often getting outmaneuvered by ‘Mechs much heavier. 

A few ‘Mechs also received armor and structure quirk alterations, namely the Stalker, Jagermech, Cicada, Jenner, and Jenner IIC. Generally, this involved providing more base armor to these fragile ‘Mechs while also redistributing their structure values somewhat so that they’re all tougher and hopefully more viable to bring into a pug. 

I’ve tried the new Hunchback and Jenner, and both feel a lot better. I’m looking forward to my Nova getting the same treatment eventually. 

Sean Lang Interviews Iqfish, Creative Director For Hired Steel

Hired Steel: A Mech Machinima – Episode One
Watch this video on YouTube.

So I somehow missed Hired Steel‘s debut episode on Sarna’s April news blast, which is an unforgivable offense given how this is quite possibly the most amazing fan-made BattleTech machinima ever made. For those that missed it (including myself), I’ll embed the video above. 

Now that you’ve seen it, here’s No Guts No Galaxy’s Sean Lang’s interview Constantin “Iqfish,” Hired Steel’s creative director over at TMC. Apparently, this whole thing got started as a COVID project since Germany had a bunch of lockdowns that resulted in reduced work hours for most of the population. With more free time, TMC came up with this amazing new video series. 

Podcast 223 - Hired Steel - Constantin 'Iqfish'
Watch this video on YouTube.

Now that vaccines are rolling out and lockdowns are easing, I certainly hope TMC finds the time to continue this project to what will almost certainly be a thrilling conclusion.

Wolves Wave 2 ‘Mechs Are Here!

Wolves Wave 2 Launch Trailer | MechAssault Fangame Available Now For Free!
Watch this video on YouTube.

Earlier this month, Wolves got its Wave 2 update, including the Raven, Raptor II, Hellbringer, and Mad Cat Mk II. And to celebrate the occasion, New Day Fiction gave us this sweet new trailer. The maps are all still fairly basic-looking, but they’re working on it. 

Oh, and Wave 3 is currently in development. No word on what ‘Mechs that will include, but there’s a hint on the Wolves Twitter suggesting that the Puma will be in it. The Puma isn’t as cool as the Cougar, but it’s still a worthy addition and a ‘Mech we don’t see all that often in MechWarrior games. 

As always, you can download Wolves and play for free from their website. If you’re a fan of MechAssault, then you’ll love Wolves. 

How About Some Ostsol Love?

Ostol OTL-4D – Redesign Concept Sketch: take a derpy mech and try to make it look threatening… and facing to the right! from battletech

The Ostsol is a ‘Mech that doesn’t get nearly enough love. Especially the bizarre, spindly-limbed original drawings by Duane Loose. So when I saw SU-SMD‘s take on the Ostsol on the BattleTech subreddit, I just had to share it.

What I love about this drawing is how it combines the abstract and “rough” style of the original BattleTech card game with the more hyper-realistic style of modern BattleTech artists.  

Tex Got Married!

Someone drew a picture of Tex at his wedding to the Elemental. Enjoy. from battletech

Well, not really. But as the story goes, Tex had a VERY strong girlfriend at one point, so the meme is that he’s into big strong ladies, and it doesn’t get any bigger or stronger than an Elemental. Thus, the incredibly talented EldoniousRex created this image of Randolph P. Checkers on his wedding day with one very lucky Ghost Bear woman. 

The lore of Randolph P. Checkers, Tex’s now-canonized character, still needs to be fleshed out with this story on Sarna’s wiki, so somebody hop to it!

And that’s it for May. Join us next month for more BattleTech action.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Community Outreach – The Art Of BattleTech, Renegade HPG, And The Remastered BattleTech Cartoon

BattleTech Cartoon | Opening Scene [Remastered]
Watch this video on YouTube.

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.

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October News 2020 – Supplemental

Urbex

courtesy of EldoniousRex

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. 

I’m kidding. I hope. Anyway, on with the news!

Michael Stackpole Interview On Renegade HPG

Michael Stackpole Talks BattleTech
Watch this video on YouTube.

First up, a rare interview with Michael Stackpole courtesy of Renegade HPG! Travis is really making headway amongst BattleTech’s old guard, and it doesn’t get much more prestigious than Stackpole. He wrote the Blood Of Kerensky Trilogy, The Warrior TrilogyHeir Apparent, and most recently the Kell Hounds Ascendant Trilogy. He’s had a hand in building some of the biggest characters that BattleTech has ever seen, and he talks about that and much more in the interview with Renegade HPG.

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

Battletech Clan Invasion Unboxing
Watch this video on YouTube.

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.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For August 2020

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

Lostech1

Virtual World LLC is hosting an interview with BattleTech’s founders to discuss how the BattleTech Center became a thing.

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.

Called “Lostech,” this upcoming video interview with Jordan Weisman, L. Ross Babcock, and FASA CEO Morton Weisman will discuss the origins of the BattleTech Center, those delightful simulator pods, and Virtual World Entertainment. Expect things to get nostalgic as both game developers and simulator pod operators will be in the panel discussion too.

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.

“Lostech” is currently in the final editing stages and is expected to hit all streaming media platforms by Labor Day weekend

MechWarrior Prime—The Cancelled Successor To MechWarrior 4—Detailed In New Screenshots

So this is neat. We have No Guts No Galaxy’s Sean Lang to thank for posting this to the BattleTech subreddit showcasing what might have been had FASA Studios continued making games after MechWarrior 4.

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.

MechWarrior Prime

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

MechWarrior: Living Legends Fan Trailer - Inferno
Watch this video on YouTube.

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. 

Starting with two new Touring the Stars volumes for Valencia and Braunschweig. Valencia is in the deep periphery as part of the Escorpion Imperio in the current timeline, while Braunschweig is part of the Hanseatic League. You can learn about how about both these periphery nations duked it out in Turning Points: Hanseatic Crusade, too. 

The latest Recognition Guide: IlClan is here (volume 5) as well as a brand new novel by Bryan Young called Honor’s Gauntlet. Lots of recent books are looking at IlClan from lots of different angles, and this one will take a look at the Jade Falcons and how they’re preparing themselves in the lead up to the drive for Terra. 

MechCommander Mercenaries Update 1.2 Is Here

Mechcommander Mercenaries - Update v1.2
Watch this video on YouTube.

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?

Mechwarrior
Watch this video on YouTube.

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.

About two weeks ago, the parent-son duo started posting their works on Imgur. It’s all broken down into parts with sweet animations showing Timber Wolves and Tarantulas trotting around, twisting torsos, and even leaping off of cliffs.

Tarantula

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. 

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

Community Outreach – Michael At Metal Core Collectibles Talks About 3D Printing And Making Fan Designs

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.

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