Category Archives: Interviews

Bad ‘Mechs – Fireball

Fireball Eldoniousrex

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

Private Ensha heard the growling tone of his Fireball’s Streak SRM launcher as it locked onto the Toad leaping from cover. Secure in the knowledge that the missile’s homing seeker would find its target no matter what the Toad did, he pulled the trigger and sent two contrails spiraling into the flying battle armor. As expected, both struck home, sending the Elemental warrior crashing back to the ground.

Only to have that same Elemental warrior almost immediately pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and raise its own SRM launcher to fire back at Ensha’s ‘Mech. 

“What the fuck!” Ensha cried, half in dismay, half disbelief. He’d been told by various veterans in the Deneb Light Cavalry that Clan Elementals were tough, but even one of those missiles would have blown a hovercar to pieces. For the Clanner to survive two direct hits and then fire back was beyond unfair. 

Especially considering he only really had that Streak SRM launcher to deal with the Toads. Experience had already taught Ensha that firing the machine gun on his Fireball’s right shoulder was about as effective as getting out of his ‘Mech and taking on those armored monsters with a squirt gun.

Ensha locked onto another Toad and fired a second pair of Streak SRMs. Again, both hit, knocking the Elemental flat on its back. Zooming in on his external camera, Ensha saw the Elemental’s cracked faceplate as black ooze seeped in to rapidly fill the gaps. And just like the other Toad, this one shook itself off and came after him like an angry hornet, firing its laser to score a few hits on Ensha’s chest plate.

Panic was starting to set in. Ensha looked around and saw the other Fireballs in his lance were having similar trouble downing targets. Command had said these new ‘Mechs were specifically designed to take on Clan battle armor, with Ensha’s lance formed as a fast-response unit to deal with Elemental incursions. It was starting to look like someone in AFFC procurement hadn’t done enough research to verify those claims. 

When he saw his sergeant’s Fireball go down after two Elementals sawed their way through its arm, Ensha broke and ran. With a top speed of well over 180 km/h, at least his Fireball could take him away from danger faster than any ‘Mech in the Deneb Light Cavalry.


Fireball Evil Egg

Aside from vastly superior ‘Mechs and weapon designs, the Clan Invasion also introduced the Inner Sphere to an entirely new threat: Elementals. Clan warriors bred with superhuman strength and clad in powered armor that both augmented the Elemental’s inbred power and protected the warrior through advanced life support and automatic combat medications. In the early days of the Clan Invasion, single Elementals were known to have brought down entire ‘Mechs, smashing through thin cockpit armor and killing the pilot therein.

In response, the AFFC and the New Avalon Institute Of Science began rapidly prototyping ‘Mech designs that could effectively combat armored infantry. The Fireball was specifically designed to rapidly reach areas beset by Elementals and eliminate them before they could wreak havoc. Although an abject failure in its intended role, the Fireball’s outstanding speed eventually allowed it to become an exceptional scout and forward reconnaissance ‘Mech. 

The Fireball‘s defining characteristic is speed. With a running velocity of 184 km/h, the Fireball is one of the fastest ‘Mechs ever to come out of the Inner Sphere. NAIS scientists and Corean Enterprises engineers settled on four tons of standard armor as sufficient protection, and armed the Fireball with a single Streak SRM-2 and a machine gun to deal with Clan infantry. 

On paper, the Fireball seemed ideal. Unfortunately, by the time NAIS received accurate reports concerning the toughness of Elementals, it was already too late to modify the design. As such, the Fireball entered production with insufficient armament to be a true threat to Elementals, let alone satisfy its mission requirement of dispatching Elementals efficiently.

Fireball Card Art

In 3053, the first production runs started delivery to the Crucis Lancers, Deneb Light Cavalry, and Ceti Hussars, all regiments guarding the Lyran side of the Federated Commonwealth from incursions by Clan Wolf and Clan Jade Falcon. All three regiments often assigned their rookie pilots to newly delivered Fireballs in order to build experience against what was perceived as easy prey. 

It soon became clear that Elementals weren’t afraid of the new design. The Fireball‘s armament was found to be woefully inadequate in its first encounters with Elementals. Reports of Elementals dismissing machine gun fire and SRMs as they charged fearlessly towards quick-response Fireball lances often resulted in their pilots learning too late just how dangerous an Elemental could be. 

Having utterly failed in its intended role, the Fireball was quickly repurposed as a scout and reconnaissance ‘Mech, a task to which its almost ludicrous speed was far better suited. The Fireball became a common sight in scout lances during the FedCom Civil War, where both Lyran Alliance and Allied forces made use of the design as its factory on New Avalon changed hands. 

Corean Enterprises made several attempts to improve the Fireball after its disastrous initial deployment. The ALM-8D, introduced in 3054, replaced the Streak SRM-2 launcher with two medium lasers and an additional half-ton of armor. This was considered a vast improvement over the original and quickly became the new standard for regiments deployed against the Clans. The ALM-9D instead replaced the right-shoulder machine gun with a single medium laser and another half-ton of armor. This variant was more commonly given to raw recruits where the Streak SRM launcher’s targeting system would result in fewer wasted shots.

The ALM-10D, introduced in 3076, was a massive rework of the 8D variant. Adding MASC, Heavy Ferro-Fibrous armor, a targeting computer, and replacing the medium lasers with extended-range upgrades, the ALM-10D would begin production following New Avalon’s recapture from the World of Blake and remain in production into the Dark Age

Fireball

There is one other variant of the Fireball worth mentioning. Leaning into the design’s exceptional agility for illegal underground ‘Mech racing, the ALM-XF strips the Fireball down to just two ER small lasers and three tons of Ferro-Fibrous armor. The freed-up tonnage is then devoted to a massive 320 XXL engine, MASC, a Supercharger, and an XL gyro, providing the ALM-XF with a cruising speed of 240 km/h and a theoretical top speed of 400 km/h.

The Fireball offers a complicated legacy. Out-performed by newer scout ‘Mechs and designs purpose-built to deftly handle armored infantry, the Fireball‘s continuing presence can largely be attributed to Corean Enterprises maintaining Fireball production lines alongside its more famous ‘Mechs like the Centurion and Valkyrie. However, one can only assume that the Fireball will be the first production line to cease operations as soon as Corean engineers come up with a more competitive light scout.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For July 2022

Where British Columbia and Europe both suffer record high temperatures, it’s been uncharacteristically cool in Southern Ontario, and I feel like I’m being cheated out of my hot-hot summer. I haven’t needed to turn on the air conditioning, and I’ve even been writing these articles in sweatpants when I should be down to my skivvies. That’s just in case you were wondering what “business casual” is around here.

As always, we’ve got a Leopard DropShip’s-worth of news, so we don’t have time for me to complain about global warming tacitly avoiding my hometown just to force me to wear more clothes that I’d expect in July. Here’s what’s going on in the BattleTech world for July, 2022.

Catalyst Releases Third Founding Of The Clan Novels And Announces Store Credit For Missing Kickstarter Dice And Decks

Apparently Catalyst has had some trouble with the Clan Invasion Kickstarter’s insignia dice and pilot decks. For some backers, the dice weren’t of the expected quality while others were outright missing decks of pilots. Catalyst did say that they had a 96% successful fulfillment rate, which is pretty great considering this all happened during the whirlwind of the pandemic, but the company wants to make sure every backer is a satisfied customer.

Land of Dreams

To that end, Catalyst is now offering store credit for backers who pledged for either dice or decks. Those who had pledge rewards including insignia dice will receive at least $5 credit at the Catalyst store per pair of dice, and an additional $5 per order for the conversion to store credit. For missing decks, CGL has created the “Heroes of the Inner Sphere” deck, which will be received in addition to $15 store credit per missing deck. Those credits will be mailed out in the next few weeks. Give it a bit of time as there are 12,000 credits to be sent.

Catalyst also had some trouble getting the third Founding of the Clans book to backers as well. You can read the update on Kickstarter for the full story, but the climax is a Dropbox link that will provide backers with Land of Dreams and Jaguar’s Leap by Reed Bishop. I gotta say, putting the Starslayer on the cover of a BattleTech book is a gutsy move, but I’m all for it. 

Something Weird Is Going On With Everything BattleTech

Something is up with the Everything BattleTech group. Folks might have noticed an abrupt rebranding to “Everything Sci-Fi,” followed by this statement from Catalyst Games earlier this month. It seems that the BattleTech license holder, Fanatic (which acquired Topps earlier this year), had issues “regarding potential violations of the BattleTech rights and license.” Catalyst was contacted to discuss those issues with Everything BattleTech founder David Vivas, sending Line Developer Ray Arrastia to spearhead a “series of dialogues” with Vivas as well as other BattleTech communities.

Apparently things didn’t go well. Vivas rebranded the Everything BattleTech Facebook page to “Everything Sci-fi” and then again to just “EBT.” The Everything BattleTech Discord is currently voting on a more permanent solution, which includes fantastic suggestions like “OnlyMechs,” “Mecha Fight Club,” and “Republic of Mechs.” I’m a fan of OnlyMechs, personally.

Everything BattleTech

Catalyst’s statement doesn’t go into details, but it seems like the issue was largely surrounding the use of the name BattleTech specifically, especially on what was formerly known as the Everything BattleTech Patreon (which has now been renamed the David Vivas Patreon). The Everything BattleTech Discord server seems mostly unchanged outside of a few new channels that are helping with the rebranding effort.

The statement went on to explain Ray never made “any requirement for a comprehensive rebranding or retreat from the BattleTech fan space,” and the sudden rebranding came as a complete surprise. I reached out to Vivas for his side of the story, but he declined to comment. 

BattleTech has a long and complicated history when it comes to fan works and fan communities. Without knowing both sides of this story I won’t say whether this is just another case of an overly aggressive copyright holder or a group trying to cash in on the resurgence BattleTech has enjoyed over the past few years. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Empire Alone Reveals First Conflicts Of The ilClan Era

In somewhat more exciting news from Catalyst, we’ve got a new sourcebook to talk about. Empire Alone is the second sourcebook of the ilClan era, telling the tale of what happens in the Wolf Empire while Alaric Ward is off conquering Terra and the year following his victory. The Free Worlds League sees an opportunity to recapture worlds lost to the Wolves, which risks putting Nikol Marik in a war against Clan Wolf and potentially every Clan that acknowledges Alaric as the leader of a new Star League. And then there’s Wolf’s Dragoons, weakened after assisting Clan Wolf in defeating the Jade Falcons and then snubbed by the new ilKhan. They might be licking their wounds, but an opportunity for revenge can’t be ignored.

Empire Alone runs from the year 3151 to mid-3152 and centers around the major events between the Free Worlds League and the Wolf Empire. It’s available now at retailers and on Catalyst’s store along with the new CountersPack: BattleForce, the perfect solution to large-scale engagements.

And finally, there’s a new mini. The Timber Wolf TC (“temporary configuration”) was designed to counter ComStar ambushes during the Battle of Tukayyid. It comes armed with two large pulse lasers, two ER medium lasers, two Streak SRM-6s, and a smaller ER laser in the left torso. It also has five jump jets to escape whatever trap ComStar lays. It worked pretty well, and the mini is now available on the Catalyst web store.

Oh, and I almost forgot: there’s a new novel out for you fiction lovers. A Question of Survival reveals how Clan Jade Falcon plans to repopulate its depleted warrior caste following their defeat at the hands of Clan Wolf. The Rasalhague Dominion falls squarely in the sights of Jiyi Chistu‘s forces, and several sibkos may suddenly find themselves growing up Falcons rather than as proud Ghost Bears

An Outdoor Market For The Best Cheapest ‘Mechs In The Inner sphere

Speaking of Empire Alone, our very own Eldoniousrex created some cool-ass art for the sourcebook. Not only did he do the cover, but he also did this great landscape of a Clan Sea Fox market. Note the Griffin IIC, a ‘Mech that proves the Clans can make a better Griffin that’s lighter, faster, more powerful, and even cheaper than the original. Now that’s a ‘Mech that’s worth every C-bill. He also has an absolutely incredible new t-shirt design that y’all should definitely buy.

The Perfect ‘Mech Might Just Be The Whitworth

Whitworth via fed0tich

Some of you might be wondering why I haven’t discussed the Whitworth in a Bad ‘Mechs article. That’s because I don’t think the Whitworth is actually bad. Sure it’s a little slow for a 40-ton ‘Mech, but it can still keep up with most regiments and fulfill its role as a rapid response fire support ‘Mech. It can help lay ambushes and leap away before the enemy can return fire. And when it gets caught by faster light ‘Mechs, its heavier armor and three medium lasers are just enough to defend itself. It’s actually really good.

So it warms my heart to see someone giving the Whitworth the attention it deserves with art courtesy of fed0tich. Catalyst still hasn’t deigned to officially redesign the Whitworth, but when they do, I sincerely hope it looks something like this. 

July’s MechWarrior Online Patch Adjusts Armor Skills And Enforces Group Maximums In Quick Play

MWO July 2022 Patch Notes

A small patch for MechWarrior Online in July. No big new map or new ‘Mechs, but there’s another quirk pass, some adjustments to skill nods, and a fix for the group play restrictions in Quick Play.

Let’s talk ‘Mechs. Wolfhounds, Javelins, Hunchbacks, and King Crabs have all had their quirks adjusted, with a few tweaks made to specific variants of the Jenner IIC, Phoenix Hawk, Trebuchet, Vapor Eagle, Mad Dog, Banshee, and Sun Spider. Inner Sphere Gauss Rifles have also had their cooldown reduced to make them a little more competitive against their Clan counterparts.

Several skills have been adjusted. Hill Climb skills now actually work and make it easier to climb hills (whereas before this skill did absolutely nothing). Reinforced Casing, Torso Pitch, and Torso Yaw have all been increased, and both Armor Hardening and Skeletal Density skill nodes have been buffed across the board for ‘Mechs larger than 60 tons. There’s a specific chart in the patch notes that describes how each node changes depending on your ‘Mech’s tonnage.

Another big fix deals with Quick Play, by far the most common way to play MechWarrior Online. Group maximums have once again been brought back, meaning no team can have more than a single four-stack or a two-stack and three-stack. Previously, games were a little wonky as solo players were being matched against multiple teams, which often resulted in some terribly one-sided matches. Hopefully your matches will fare a little better.

There’s still a free giveaway going on in MechWarrior Online where you can grab a free Hero ‘Mech for earning 250 loot bags. You can easily get 10-12 loot bags in a single match, so it’s not too hard to get a free Hero ‘Mech, plus all the ‘Mech credits, C-bills, consumables, skill points, and more being given away in each loot bag. The loot bag event is on until August 4.

MechWarrior 5 Makes It Easier To Find A Yen Lo Wang

Yen-Lo-Wang MW5

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries has also received a new patch. This one is mostly game fixes, but there’s at least an adjustment being made to the spawn rates of the CN9-YLW2 Yen-Lo-Wang and BL-P-KNT2 Black Knight to make them a little more commonplace in your next playthrough. There’s also memory optimizations for both Xbox and PlayStation, and some helpful mod updates for tagging assets and tweaking player aim assist. You can check out the patch notes here to see what annoying bug you hated most just got squashed.

Explain To Me How This Even Works

Boombox Atlas via HighlighterFTW

Nevermind all the incredible talent that goes into creating a kitbash like this--I just wanna know how the hell an Atlas is supposed to fire what appears to be the LRM-15 packs of a Catapult that were unceremoniously ripped from the 65-ton ‘Mech’s body and are now being used as a giant external launcher. Does it press a ‘Mech-sized button on the side that says “FIRE ZE MISSILES” or does it just kick out the jams and beatbox its way to a swarm of fiery death? Explain this to me, Reddit user HighlighterFTW. I’m dying to know.

Renegade HPG Talks To Bruce Patnaude

Comic Artist BRUCE PATNAUDE Talks BattleTech | Gallery 3025 LIVE Q&A
Watch this video on YouTube.

Those who follow Gallery 3025 on Patreon (and you really should be) might have noticed a few recent pieces courtesy of Bruce Patnaude, a comic artist with a style very reminiscent of some of BattleTech’s earliest source books. You can see all of Patnaude’s pieces over on Gallery 3025, but we showcased two of them in last month’s news roundup.

To get an idea for Patnaude’s creative process, Renegade HPG’s Travis Gardner (who also runs Gallery 3025) sat down with him to talk about some of the fine work he’s been doing for the gallery. You should definitely check out the video above, and we hope to see more of Patnaude’s fabulous work in the future.

And that’s it for July! Join us again next month where Sarna provides you with all the BattleTech news that’s safe for human consumption.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Community Outreach – Gaming Jay And His Crescent Hawk’s Style Remake

Battle Mercs Green world

Welcome back to Community Outreach, the ongoing series where Sarna reaches out to the BattleTech community to see what makes it such a vibrant and evolving place. Last month, I found out about Gaming Jay’s personal project to remake The Crescent Hawks’ games for modern audiences, so I decided to sit down with Gaming Jay to find out more about Battle Mercs and what fans can expect from this retro-inspired BattleTech game. Enjoy. 

Sarna (Sean): I’ve played Crescent Hawks’ Inception, so I know a bit about what this game is likely about. What made you want to make a Crescent Hawks’-style game? And just how much is it like Crescent Hawks’ Inception/Revenge in terms of gameplay?

Gaming Jay: So the Crescent Hawks’ Inception was my first exposure to BattleTech as a kid. When I was little my uncle had a computer in the basement with a tray of disks and I would just leaf through and try random games. One day, I discovered The Crescent Hawks’ Inception and I was blown away. I loved the mix of RPG and tactical elements, the graphics were amazing for the time, and there was so much to explore. For years I played the game and wished, just wished that there was a sequel. A few years later I was on vacation with my parents and I walked into a random computer store and on the shelf, I saw something called the BattleTech Powerhits. I picked up the box and was shocked to find there was a sequel: The Crescent Hawks’ Revenge (also MechWarrior 1). I begged my parents to buy the game for me and they did. I spent the rest of that vacation reading the instruction manuals and plotting how I was going to actually install the game on my computer when I got home since it came on CD and I didn’t own a CD drive. Anyway, The Crescent Hawks’ Revenge quickly became one of my all-time favorite games. I played it over and over and especially loved the free battle Training Field they give you at the end of the game. My only gripe was that I wish the open gameplay at the end allowed different maps and maybe incorporated some of the mercenary system from MechWarrior 1 (which I also played to death).

Years and years later, my love for these three games never went away, and I always dreamed that a sequel existed to Crescent Hawks’ Inception that combined the best elements of CHR and MW1. In high school, I actually did program a game that played a lot like CHR, however, I never fully finished it. A while ago I found the old game and showed it on my YouTube channel and people really were blown away at the time. The bug got planted in my mind after that, and shortly thereafter I started work on a prototype. That prototype became a CHR combat engine. I expanded that with a CHI RPG engine, and then eventually a MW1 style contract and Inner-Sphere-travel system, and before you knew it, I had started to make my dream game.

Battle Mercs Beach Fight

In terms of how much CHI is in the game; a lot! The game recreates everything from CHI except for the RPG combat (although that may come down the line). But yes, people can design full RPG adventures, create interesting scenarios or unique planets or environments, and using some basic .json scripts just go nuts in creating whatever they want. Once you jump into actual ‘Mech combat the game plays like an updated version of CHR. It is a real-time combat game but you’re supposed to pause frequently and micro-manage (think Faster Than Light). Lastly, you can travel the Inner Sphere, and take contracts from any major house, live through years 3025 to 3050, fight the Clans, find Star League ‘Mechs, and even fight in arenas on Solaris VII or less reputable arenas on Dustball or other planets.

The other cool thing about the game is that it’s fully customizable. The game is intentionally designed such that all the gameplay mechanics draw from .json files. People can make their own campaigns with their own .json files that can change everything from what kinds of weapons are in the game, to what kinds of units to how the RPG segments work, to what options you get when you select units in combat, to what planets or factions are available. Even though I wanted to make my dream game, I wanted my game to be something people could change and mod, and make their own unique visions within.

Sarna: So this is all pretty amazing. Is this a home-built engine, or is it based on some other game engine? The FTL enhancements are a great touch to bring this game up to more modern standards, and I love the 3025-3050 era personally. 

Battle Mercs Black Market

Gaming Jay: The engine is 100% home-built. It’s written in PyGame, which is a game add-on library for Python. And yes, FTL is one of my favorite modern games. I really love how that game handles combat. It’s all real-time but you can still micro-manage everything very well, yet it still feels frantic when a lot is happening. I have tried to bring other small improvements to the game to help it feel more modern in control yet retain its obvious retro charm.

Sarna: Are you planning to create your own campaign, or are you just going to throw this out into the world to let people build off of?

Gaming Jay: So what I’d like to do for the game is to produce a fairly elaborate campaign as a bit of a showcase, to both give the game a good starting campaign and also show off what the scripts are capable of doing. In this way, people can look at my scripts if they want to know how I made a certain special mission, and then use them as an example to build their own campaigns and ideas. As for the campaign I want to include, I’d like it to be a reimagining of the Crescent Hawks’ story, essentially retelling their tale in this modern engine

Sarna: With the 3050-era available, you could replace the Draconis Combine attack with a Clan invasion. This way you’d also give players access to Clan tech. Speakin’ of tech, how many ‘Mechs have you got in this game so far, and how many do you ultimately plan on having? 

Gaming Jay: So long story short, yes the Clan invasion is a playable part of the game even right now. It’s not very detailed at the moment but could easily become more detailed. 

As for mechs in the game, pretty much every Inner Sphere mech from 3025 and 3050 is in the game. The 2750 Star League era mechs are also in the game (though hidden right now since only ComStar has access to them). The Clan OmniMechs and IIC variants from the 3050 invasion are all also in the game. At the moment I probably am not planning to add any more myself, but as I mentioned, the game is moddable so other adventurous BattleTech fans could add more mechs themselves (and more eras!)

Battle Mercs Country Fight

Sarna: Did you take assets from the original game or did you recreate all these pixel images yourself? 

Gaming Jay: Currently the assets in the game are mostly from the Crescent Hawks’ games, yes. Though the mech models came from a free set I found online, a really amazing set actually. They are several years old and the creator encouraged people to use them in games. I tried to reach out to him to get in contact but all his contact info (at least that I could find) seemed to be out of date, so I wasn’t able to track him down. The in-game ‘Mech units are about half from The Crescent Hawks’ Revenge and half my creations based on CHR. I’m not a great pixel artist mind you, so they look a little rough and cobbled together. One thing I would love to happen at some point is to get a pixel artist (or a few) to help give the game a fresh graphical makeover. I don’t want to fully change the look of it or anything (I love the retro, pixelated charm of the graphics currently), but it would be nice if the game’s graphics were more original than just lifted from the CH games.

Sarna: And using something that’s not lifted from a super old game would be better for copyright issues, although Crescent Hawks’ Inception is so old that it might be public domain at this point. 

So there’s still the Clan Invasion campaign and MechWarrior campaign to finish, what else is still needed to get this game to what you’d consider a finished state?

Battle Mercs Ice World

Gaming Jay: Haha totally agree. That’s one reason why I still consider it an alpha, since it has so many graphics that I really think of as just stand-in. I mean truthfully BattleTech itself is owned by someone who’s not me so even with unique sprites there are still copyright issues! :)

Anyway, I’ve been working with a dedicated gang of testers to root out as many bugs as possible. So it’s reaching a stable point. At that point, the only major thing left would be to add in mission varieties. Right now it’s all search and destroy but I’d like guard missions, attack missions, recon missions, raid missions, the whole gamut. It shouldn’t always just be “go have a slugfest!”

At that point, I just need to finish the campaign so there’s at least one stock campaign with the game and it would be ready I think. I’m sure there may be more small changes along the way and even after this seeming final stage, but that’s always the way

I’d also like to establish some kind of wiki or make a few tutorials on things like making maps and making campaign levels, editing units or factions, or making star maps. As I’ve said, I want this to be something other people can add to with their own campaigns and stories and mods, so that would be one of the final steps. In my mind that would be the point where I’m giving the game over to the community to develop to their hearts’ content. I would look forward to sort of stepping back from the game a bit and just trying other people’s campaigns and maps at that point.

Sarna: What’s your favorite ‘Mech and why? The all-important question of course.

Battle Mercs Mech Market

Gaming Jay: Favorite ‘Mech is the Marauder. From the first time I saw it in a technical manual I just loved the look and load out of it. As a kid, I thought PPCs were just the ultimate weapon and this beast was rocking 2 with a totally unique frame and look. How can you go wrong?

Sarna: Have you played any other BattleTech games? And if so, would perhaps any of them be a good fit for a Crescent Hawks’-style translation into your project?

Gaming Jay:  And yes I played almost everything BattleTech I could get my hands on when I was younger. MechWarrior 1 and 2 (including all the add-ons like Ghost Bear’s Legacy and Mercs), MechCommander, and even the Xbox MechWarrior games which I’m blanking on the name of. Truthfully though, although I loved MechWarrior 1 and 2, I never loved that franchise as much as the tactical games. Since the gaming industry went heavily in the MechWarrior direction I stopped keeping up with BattleTech games after a while. That is until Harebrained Schemes launched their turn-based BATTLETECH game. I was a Kickstarter backer on that and boy, that game did not disappoint. I believe that game is probably the ultimate BattleTech game and when it launched I actually spent 36 hours straight playing it. I kept saying, one more mission, one more mission, until eventually night became morning and I could hear the birds outside. 

As for whether any of these past games could get a reimagining as a campaign in Battle Mercs, I suppose any could, but of course, something like MechCommander or MechWarrior 2 would be a bit of a demake. MechWarrior 1 could be possible, though it would shift genres from a first-person game into a tactical game in the process. So I’m not sure. The Crescent Hawks‘ games are the most obvious ones to translate. I’m sure others could be done, but no real plans to do any others for the time being.

Sarna: Anything else you’d like to add? Feel free to get shamelessly self-promoty. 

Gaming Jay: I don’t currently have a website for it but I run a YouTube channel and, though the main focus isn’t on game development, I will be doing a few videos on the game eventually over there. So folks can always connect with me that way. I’m hopeful that this summer I’ll be able to put out a public alpha on the BattleTech subreddit as well as on my channel. So yeah, those are the two best ways for folks to find me or see the project when it’s ready. I have a Discord for the alpha right now which I’ll probably make public when the public alpha does launch but I’ll mention that when the alpha does come out.

Battle Mercs Unit Setup

Thank you, Gaming Jay! I’ll be keeping an eye out for that public alpha when Battle Mercs goes live.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

Community Outreach – Ben “Bishop Steiner” Myers, Concept Artist For Catalyst Game Labs

Bishop's Throne Room

Before we close out the year, I’d like to share this interview with artist Ben Myers, one of the concept artists working with Catalyst on the newly designed models for the Clan Invasion Kickstarters and recent resculpts. Instrumental in redesigning some of the best bad ‘Mechs, including the Assassin, the Sentinel, and the iconic UrbanMech, Myers and I discuss what it’s like working for Catalyst and how it feels to redesign these classic machines. Enjoy. 

Sarna (Sean): Good afternoon Mr. Steiner! I think we can start with introductions in case a Sarna reader doesn’t already know. Who are you?

Bishop Steiner (Ben Myers): Who am I? My real name is Ben Myers, but after so many years in MechWarrrior Online, Bishop Steiner just kind of is easier.

Pertinent details to my life? I’m Autistic. I’m an artist. Big fan of ‘80s / early ‘90s mecha anime. And I’m a huge Battletech (and tabletop role-playing paper game in general) nerd.

Bishop Steiner

I started gaming when I was 7, with basic D&D, and discovered Battletech around 1987, while in junior high. By the time I left high school it’d become my primary game and favorite IP for reading, and of course, to draw. Have played pretty much all the PC games, and was instrumental in pushing Russ Bullock into giving the Urbanmech a chance. I am the “UrbieDaddy” and patron saint of bad mechs.

And today, I sub-contract for Catalyst Game Labs (CGL) doing concept art primarily. Slowly working my way into line art, and hoping to convince the bosses to give me a shot at writing a TRO entry or two. And of course, do a fair bit of fan art of the Battletech community, both commission work and just because.

Sarna: Oh my! Well, if you’re the patron saint of bad ‘Mechs, what’s your favorite bad ‘Mech?

Bishop Steiner: Name it, I’m probably a fan. My absolute favorite medium ‘mech is the Assassin.  In fact, I pretty well love most of the 40 tonners. Big fan of the JagerMech in the heavy category.  Obviously the Urbie in the lights, but also its antithesis, the Hussar. I find “flawed” Omnis like the Mad Dog, Gargoyle, or Summoner a ton more interesting than ultra-optimized ones like the Timby

If pressed, though probably the Assassin. But the Vulcan is a close second. And when the new art is revealed, it might be neck and neck with the Assassin.

Sarna: We kicked off the Bad ‘Mechs series with the Assassin, so we’re kindred spirits there. I don’t recall the Mad Dog to be particularly flawed, it just didn’t have Endo Steel. I guess it was kinda hot in the primary config…

Assassin BattleTech

Bishop Steiner: Mostly people whinge about ‘Mechs with less than max armor. It’s not quite Hellbringer bad, but between that and the heat issues… Thankfully it’s a gorgeous machine, which is why I think it gets a pass with the public where others might not.

Sarna: The Hellbringer; now there is a flawed OmniMech.

Bishop Steiner: Indeed. Flawed enough that even I hesitate to run it. And I think the paper armor was one of the biggest things that pushed PGI to allow armor mods on the Omnis in MechWarrior Online. Pity that. Still, Anthony did a good enough job on the redesign that I might make an exception, even if I am not a huge Clan guy, outside of the Goliath Scorpions.

Sarna: Woof, we’re even getting into hipster clans already.

Bishop Steiner: Hipster? Isn’t that the Wolverines?

Sarna: That’s practically renaissance.

But before we go into which abjured Clan could beat up which invader Clan, we should at least discuss how you came to freelance for Catalyst. How’d you get involved in remaking so many iconic ‘Mechs in ilClan?

Bishop Steiner: Dumb luck? I’d made acquaintance with Anthony Scroggins, a bit on the side, between beating him on an art contest for fan redesigns of the Marauder over on the MWO forums, and some stuff on DeviantArt. Anyhow, as Shattered Fortress was approaching its release date, apparently CGL got in a bit of a bind for art and basically let Anthony cast a net for artists who might be able to contribute.

He shot me a message and asked if I’d be interested. To be honest, I didn’t think I had what it took, but also trying to do art for the actual game officially was too good a chance to pass. So I was given a pile of art briefs, and the moment I read the brief for the Battle of Dieron, the scene pretty much popped into my head, complete. Anthony had me reverse the composition and do a few tweaks, but apparently it was good enough. Don’t think they sent that same art brief to Jason Schmetzer, as his details in the new novella Shell Games differed quite a bit from what I was given, but what can you do? We are only stewards of the IP; can’t get too attached.

Anyhow, once the Clan Invasion Kickstarter was announced, Anthony knew from my past Urbie work that I had to be the guy to do the UrbanMech redesign. I pushed it into existence in MWO, nagged Mitch at HBS till they upped its frequency in their game, and even got my own “Hero” Mech in the K9.

That was going to be my only piece, but I guess they had another crunch during Wave 2, and just kept offering me more designs. And so I just kept drawing. I think one thing that Anthony appreciated is that while I have opinions and a “vision” for my redesigns, at the end of the day, I don’t get too attached. They aren’t my designs; they existed before my time, and will quite possibly be reinterpreted again, in the future. Sometimes as artists we can get our egos too involved in the work and forget that the designs belong to Battletech. And that can be an issue.

Lancelot

Sarna: Which is a pretty great segue into my next big question. How do you approach redesigning these ‘Mechs when some of the older drawings are super basic? Like, let’s take the Lancelot as an example. There were very few images of the Lancelot, and the ones that existed often didn’t even bother placing that torso-mounted PPC. How much is reinterpretation and how much is outright creativity?

Bishop Steiner: Really varies a lot with each ‘Mech. I always try to pick out what I consider the key aesthetic details of each design. Is it tall and lanky, short and stocky? What shapes immediately jump out?  What features have to stay?  Some, I also get told to basically blow up.  The Mercury was one. Others I push a little more–like the Enforcer–to not be sexy because it’s not a sexy mech, it’s a utilitarian one. 

And then I do have to look for those details. Are the weapons actually correct? News flash: for a ton of designs, that’d be a NOPE. Do the joints make any sense? TRO 3055/3058? Nope, nope, nope. And then I get as many of the official images, minis, the MWO stuff, even some of the better fan art, and look for what stuff is consistent through all the versions. 

The Lancelot for instance had to have a janky, angular torso, and be relatively lanky. The PPC I am not 100% in love with–the location made the most sense, but I think in retrospect maybe putting it coming from the lower glacis would have been more pleasing visually. And the legs maybe should have been a bit slimmer. But that’s the thing–after it’s done, I can go back and pick apart the “woulda/shoulda” elements of all my designs.

Sarna: Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. Let’s jump to the Assassin since it’s one of my favorite ‘Mechs too and it’s one that has always been at least a little mysterious in BattleTech for the cockpit. People have always been confused about the positioning of the Assassin‘s cockpit–what made you decide to stick with the teeny-tiny front-facing window over the more fighter jet-style cockpit that’s hinted at in the historical art?

Assassin

Bishop Steiner: One thing that helped was talking to Duane Loose on the regular, and I was able to ask him. But even before that, all one needed to do was read the lore texts. It’s constantly referred to as a cramped, dangerous place, one that even has crippled long-time pilots. It even suffers from the Cramped Cockpit quirk. That doesn’t line up with what the cockpit would be if one did the scaling and math of say a relatively spacious, F-16-like canopy.

Now in fairness, the “truth” as it usually is, isn’t that simple. In talking to Duane, he explained that the design was made before the rules were finalized and what he had in mind was a tandem cockpit like on an attack helicopter, with the gunner in front and pilot up top/behind. But when the rules were finalized and only single cockpits were a thing, it was moved to the front cockpit. Admittedly the emphasis has shifted in the various arts and minis, and nobody bothered to just ask the guy who designed it. It’s similar to the Commando head conundrum and why everyone screws up the location of the Dervish‘s medium lasers–which I then intentionally moved on the new version. To be a jerk.

But lastly? In my opinion, it just looks better. I always felt that with a big glass dome up top and the pointy “nose” it looked like Big Bird; kind of dorky. Along with being terrible for actual ground visibility, which seems like a bad choice for a ‘Mech jumping 210 meters at a pop.

Sarna: All great points. I kinda like the attack chopper look, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense for a ‘Mech. Not unless we start talking about external cameras and whatnot.

Let’s talk the Sentinel. Another fav, another bad ‘Mech, and another truly bizarre-looking ‘Mech in the historical art but one that at least had easily identifiable parts. Which of those parts did you really feel the need to focus on for the redesign and why?

Sentinel

Bishop Steiner: The Sentinel. Well. The biggest issue was it was a beach ball. With stick legs. So that took a lot of sorting through various reference pieces to try to salvage.

I knew the human legs were a non-starter. But I didn’t want to totally lose the silhouette, either.  The leg answer was one of the CCG pieces if I recall correctly. One done by Mike Jackson that had digitigrade-ish legs. And that kind of gave me the freedom to give some character to the legs. The upper body had potential, I just needed to tone down the “egg” effect.

I wanted to keep the big cylinder shoulders and as many little details as possible. The solution for the front was partially inspired by the version of the Sentinel Rudy “Shortpainter” Valle had done as fan art, to give the nose more of a harsh glacis. From there it was just adding more interesting shapes to things like the arm autocannon, which if I recall, I based off the chaingun from an Apache helicopter.

From there it was just finding a way to make the details serve a purpose like the odd bulbs on the side torsos, using one to house its laser, the other to do a sensor pack, and then the usual greebles, sensor pods, radars masts, etc. 

Sarna: We can’t possibly not talk about the UrbanMech. What do you think makes it so iconic? Did you worry at all about ravenous BattleTech fans angry at your take on the machine? Or has everyone been very supportive of the stylish new Urbie?

Bishop Steiner: Iconic or ironic?

I think it’s a mix of factors.  Some of it, like the Charger, the first glance “what were they thinking?” stat line. And then for those who actually gave it a shot in city combat, the “little engine that could” bit. And let’s face it, it was loveably derpy-looking in most of its renditions.

Did I worry about angry fans? Naw. Urbie fans are chill. It’s the haters who screech uncontrollably, and haters are gonna hate, either way. The fans I’ve seen have all been very happy, and it seems to have made some new Urbanites.

The haters? Still hating. And I just keep grinning and giving their “cool” Mechs the bad touch.

Urbie

Sarna: I don’t think the new Urbie is bad at all! It certainly is less dumpy, I think, but it’s got all the right bits where they should be. And maybe people would even be proud to drive an Urbie that doesn’t literally look like a walking trash can?

Bishop Steiner: Perhaps. I certainly wanted to make it still make sense as a mass-produced garrison machine, but that doesn’t mean it has to be dumpy or dull.

And I think if people actually gave some of the later models, be it the 68 with its MRM30, the FedSuns model with the RAC5, or the 96 series I designed for Recognition Guide 2, with its Hardened Armor, SN-PPC, and Improved Jump Jets, they might be surprised how effective it can be.

Admittedly, most of the folk who hate on it the hardest are usually min-maxing types, or your typical angry “get off my lawn” types.

Sarna: Were there any ‘Mechs that changed substantially between start to finish?

Bishop Steiner: I’d say the two with the most change, overall were the Mercury and Enforcer.  While Anthony did a fair bit of rework on the Crossbow Omni and Charger, in a lot of ways the details didn’t change massively. With the Merc and Enforcer, they were my first ‘Mechs after the UrbanMech and neither had nearly as crystallized in my mind as the Urb did.

The Mercury, because I wasn’t sure what Anthony, Randall, Brent, and Ray were looking for or expecting yet, I knocked out five rough concept sketches from close to the original to the out-of-left-field design we ended up with. I honestly didn’t expect that one to be chosen, but the decree was: “Nobody likes the Mercury. Blow it up.”  The Enforcer was mostly there on the body. Anthony had me make the biggest tweaks on the thighs, if I recall correctly. The fun was with the head; the original cockpit was similar to the final one, but a bit more complicated. The feedback from Ray was “the head is boring,” so I slapped together a concept list with 16 different head designs. And after much back and forth they settled on a simplified version of my first head concept.

Enforcer Heads

So overall, I guess I’ve been pretty lucky in that my concepts haven’t really changed much. With our group workflow, if either I or Anthony just don’t feel we have the right flow and feel going, he’ll reassign or take over the design. An example is the Crockett, which I just had zero clicking, so I handed it back to Anthony. I forget if that’s when I took on the Lancelot instead, but Anthony’s direction on the Crockett was very different and a lot better than where I was going. Being able to take ego out of it really allows us to (mostly) work toward just getting the best we can out of each design. There are probably a few places where egos maybe got in the way, but I’d say it was the exception.

Sarna: Let’s talk about the Mercury, Lancelot, and Sentinel for a sec. I’ve noticed a somewhat more insectile vibe from each of the Comstar ‘Mechs. Was that a running theme for your Comstar redesigns?

Bishop Steiner: Insectile?  Hmmm, I do see that now that you mention it, but it wasn’t really intentional. I did want to make them look more advanced than the Succession Wars staples.  More curves in various places, less flat angles, and such.  I think the Insectile aspect is just a happy accident.

Sarna: Fair enough. I did see the curves, but also that there weren’t any weapons discarded for the sake of maintaining a curve. Perhaps that’s what can explain away some of those earlier drawings. Do you have any particular favorites of your redesigns? Any that you’re particularly proud of?

Vulcan

Bishop Steiner: From the Clan Invasion designs, I think probably the Sentinel is the one I am most proud of the results. It’d be between it and the UrbanMech for my favorites.  With the Mongoose and Enforcer coming in just behind. Even though I’m most well known for my love of the UrbanMech, even I realize it’s not a scout. And for light mechs, the Goose has always been my overall favorite, so getting to redesign it was huge.

Of the ones that I’ve done since and haven’t been released, I gotta go with the Vulcan. And it’d be a coin toss between it and the Sentinel for the one I am most proud of. As much as I love the Assassin, I think my Vulcan and Sentinel redesigns are just probably my two overall best pieces, to date, period. 40-tons to freedom!

Sarna: Gotta love them trooper ‘Mechs.

Bishop Steiner: Yup. It’s a pity ‘Mechs like the Vulcan and Firestarter don’t see a little more granularity in their weapons systems in A Time of War or Destiny, as the AC2 on the Vulcan makes sense in fluff and reality, and not at all in tabletop mechanics. But basically having a 40mm Bofors for taking out barriers in infantry support makes perfect sense… except in the actual game, lol.

Sarna: Yeah, autocannons in general are just plain bad on anything less than 70 tons, frankly. Especially light autocannons. But they’re great fluff, and both authors and the modern games tune their damage output to better reflect that.

Is there any ‘Mech you’d love to redesign but haven’t gotten the chance, either because it just hasn’t come up or because it’s just not popular enough to really warrant it?

Firestarter

Bishop Steiner: Oh man. A lot. I’m a huge fan of TRO 3055. And I really want them to not just sweep Project Phoenix under the rug. Even with all these Kickstarter redesigns of the Unseens, too much lore is tied up in the whole Vicore Industries and Project Phoenix.

But instead of generalizations, let me think of specifics. I did cover quite a few of my dream ‘Mechs in my mad dash through Inktober. The Gurkha is one because I think as currently presented, it’s an insult to those amazingly brave Nepalese warriors, being that they didn’t give it a kukri. I have ideas for the Berserker, Naginata, and Hollander.

But probably near the top of the list would be either the Sha Yu or Jackal. The Sha Yu I really want to return to the ideas in the MechCommander 2 version. No offense intended to Franz Vohwinkel, but the TRO 3067 version just fell flat compared to the MC2 version I was introduced to.

And the Jackal… well, Anthony accuses me of having an “egg ‘Mech fetish”. I think it’s a killer design hampered by bad art. Even Matt Plog and Anthony’s versions were hampered by the edicts of the time, to not stray from the original too far. I have a piece on my Patreon right now where I preserve the details, but strongly re-proportion them that at the risk of sounding immodest, I think makes the Jackal look absolutely lean, mean, and lethal.

Beyond that, I would love to convince Brent and Ray to allow me to make some of my more wild ideas happen on existing redesigns, like my twin Thumper Cyclops or the “Einherji” variant of the Grand Dragon I made for the 3040s era KungsArmé of the Free Rasalhague Republic.

Einherji

Sarna: And what’s on the Einherji?

Bishop Steiner: It’s basically a Grand Dragon with a couple pieces of Lostech, with load out and aesthetics modified to fit the FRR. PPC in the right arm, hatchet in the left, SRM-6 in the center torso, medium laser in each side torso. Being a 3040s design, it had FerroFibrous armor and CASE

Non-canon sadly, though based on a description of mods the Drakons made to their ‘Mechs in Era Report: 3052.

Sarna: Ah, a Viking Grand Dragon for the FRR! I dig it. Always loved the Dragon, and the Grand Dragon in particular.

Bishop Steiner: Barely 100 made before Operation REVIVAL, with the factory lost along with most of the ‘Mechs during the invasion, was my explanation for the lack of records and examples in the TROs. Maybe a dozen left kept running due to major components compatibility with Grand Dragons

Anyhow, again, not canon, but the kind of idea I keep trying to float for Shrapnel.  Maybe someday. And yeah, Grand Dragon is a beast, with the 5K probably being my favorite ‘Mech on TRO 3050.

Sarna: Are you able to give us a preview for some of the ‘Mechs still yet to be redesigned? And is there anything else you’d like to promote while you’ve got the platform?

Bishop Steiner: Hmmm.  Can’t really promote anything we haven’t posted to Anthony’s Patreon yet, so aside from teasing what’s on there, like the Dervish, Charger, Javelin, Assassin, Vulcan, etc. There’s definitely other stuff on the works as we speak, and she will be a pretty welcome surprise, I think, but nothing I can comment on.

As for promoting, but really sure? Obviously I’d be happy for anyone to check out my Patreon, or my public gallery on DeviantART. Besides that? I don’t know. I’m terrible at promotion, self or otherwise. 

Bishop Horse

Thank you, Bishop Steiner, and be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He’s also got a Ko-Fi if you’re feeling generous. 

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy. 

stay syrupy

 

Community Outreach – Mark Nicholson, 3D Artist At MechWarrior Online Developer PGI

Courtesy of PGI

Welcome back to another edition of Community Outreach. This week, Sarna sat down to talk to Mark Nicholson, 3D artist at PGI, and one of the architects turning ‘Mechs from mere ink on a page (or pixels in a digital image) into an actual moving, stomping, Autocannon-blasting giant robot.

Mark has been talking about his work over on the MechWarrior Online forums revealing some of the finer aspects of his job, but I wanted to get a little bit more into some of the technical issues of building ‘Mechs designed for customization. MechWarrior Online is the first MechWarrior game that really changes the look of your ‘Mech as you change its loadout, which makes building modular 3D models an enormous technical challenge. I find the whole thing fascinating, and I hope you do too. Enjoy.

Continue reading

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!

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.