April fools! Your prank came at the end of the month instead of the beginning. Tricksy, eh? But seriously, I’ve never understood the appeal of April Fool’s Day. Maybe that’s because I have a lot of news to write and dealing in anything but facts just makes my job harder. These days, truth is often stranger than fiction, so it can be hard to know what’s a joke and what’s not.
But a trained BattleTech eye can separate the lies from the truth, although I do have a few interesting lies to share which celebrated the non-holiday. So without further adieu, let’s jump into April’s headlines.
Mercenaries Triples Clan Invasion Kickstarter Total With $7.5 Million Pledged
15 MINUTES LEFT AND WE OPENED MORE BIG KAPPAS! GO NOW!https://t.co/vmpjHdxOWe
— CatalystGameLab (@catalystgamelab) April 21, 2023
I get that there’s been quite a bit of inflation between now and the 2020 Clan Invasion Kickstarter, but $7.5 million is still a lot of money. Since the campaign ended earlier this month, Mercenaries has become one of the top 20 highest-funded Kickstarters of all time. Mercenaries has also more than doubled the number of backers from the Clan Invasion, with 23,654 mercs pledged to form their own interstellar group of guns-for-hire.
Sadly, we didn’t quite reach the $8 million stretch goal that would have given everyone a free Blood Asp (at Company level and above), but we did unlock a lot of stuff. Since Mercenaries broke the $7 million goal, everyone at Company level and above gets two ForcePacks of their choice (one from the $5 mil goal and another from the $7 mil goal), while Battalion level backers and above get four additional ForcePacks. Everyone gets free audiobook versions of Eclipse by Jason Schmetzer, Close Quarters by Victor Milan, and A Splinter of Hope by Philip A. Lee, PDF copies of Cracked Canopy Cookbook, Mercenary Life, Tales of the Bounty Hunter, and No Greater Honor, and a whole bunch of Salvage Boxes which will contain random ‘Mechs.
Of course, there’s way more than that available, and listing it all here would take hours I don’t have. You’ll just need to check the Kickstarter page to see what your pledge has unlocked.
According to Catalyst, they have over 400 items to configure, so expect the pledge manager to be available in two-to-three weeks. Then you’ll be able to select your ForcePacks and other add-ons from the manager. All the physical stuff is expected to arrive around June 2024, but as with the Clan Invasion Kickstarter, I’m going to suggest we exercise patience. While global supply chains have largely untangled themselves from the pandemic, this Kickstarter is more than twice as big as the last one, which probably requires some serious man-hours.
Opinion: What Does BattleTech Mean To You?
Catalyst has put out a video series asking both fans and actual BattleTech creatives, “What does BattleTech mean to you?” To Mitch Gitelman, studio head of BATTLETECH developer Hairbrained Schemes and producer for both the MechCommander and MechAssault games, BattleTech was his entry into “big-time video game development.” To BattleTech writer Chris Hussey, BattleTech is an expansive universe where fans can always find something they like, provided it’s not aliens or magic. And to Nick Smith, president of BattleTech pod company Virtual World Entertainment, BattleTech is “a place for everybody” with a “love for big stompy robots.”
To me, it’s all those things too. BattleTech didn’t get me into game development, but it certainly helped me find a new career after I quit schilling for an insurance company. It’s also a huge universe where you can really find any kind of sci-fi, whether it be super high-tech space battles between rival galactic nations or a down-in-the-dirt contest between two martial arts experts. It’s got everything from political dramas to spy thrillers, but throughout the universe, it all comes back to those giant stompy robots.
On top of that, BattleTech represents a sort of gritty military sci-fi that’s okay to love. I’ve always had a fascination with military hardware, whether it be World War 2 battleships or modern jet fighters, but I’ve always had a problem with getting too excited about these weapons of war. Geeking out over a MiG-29 or an MP5 can be a lot of fun, but these things have killed real people. With BattleTech being a completely fictional universe, I don’t have to worry about that.
Oh don’t get me wrong--BattleTech has plenty of documented atrocities where ‘Mechs killed civilians wholesale, but it’s all make-believe. We can joke about the Word of Blake nuking most of Wolf’s Dragoons into atoms because it’s not real. And in an age where armed conflict seems to be escalating every day, I think it’s important to have that geeky outlet for hardcore military sci-fi where the stakes just aren’t as high.
I’m not sure I’d actually want to live anywhere in the BattleTech universe (with the exception of the Magistracy, of course), but I’m glad it’s here in our universe.
MechWarrior Living Legends Rebrands As MechWarrior LOL
Told you we’d get to the April Fool’s stuff. After MechWarrior Online rebranded itself MechWarrior Online: Legends last month, MechWarrior: Living Legends has since rebranded itself as MechWarrior: Living Online Legends, or MechWarrior LOL. I suspect this will cause some confusion with League of Legends, which might lead to yet another rebranding in the very near future.
Disney And Catalyst Reboot Herbie As An UrbanMech
Another good one, this time from Reddit user Samwitch13. Pretty sure that paint job came from the recent PseudoTech featuring the Urbie Derby, but can’t say that Photoshop isn’t on point. But hey, just imagine what a BattleTech movie could be with Disney money.
Crescent Hawks Training Video Details Exploits Of The Kell Hounds
Here’s a fun new video that came as part of the Mercenaries Kickstarter. Catalyst reached out to Rem Alternis Productions to produce a training video for new recruits to the Crescent Hawks, where the motto is: “We’re here to make money, not friends.” The video deals with the formation and legacy of the Kell Hounds, its notable figures, and their ‘Mechs, as well as what the famed mercenary unit is up to during the ilClan era.
It’s a good refresher if you’re not up on your Kell Hounds lore. Hopefully we’ll get a few more of these videos.
One-Hundred Tons Of Highway-Crushing Claw
— Masaka (@masaka3d) April 10, 2023
3D artist Maska brings us this brief animation of a King Crab making its way downtown, firing its twin AC/20s at some unfortunate soul off-camera. Ever since the King Crab became the poster child for MechWarrior 5, we’ve been seen more of the Crab‘s bigger, badder, and meaner brother. Can’t say I’m disappointed. Kudos to you, Masaka!
PGI Is Hiring A Writer (Probably For MechWarrior 6)
Wanna write the next MechWarrior game? PGI, developer of MechWarrior Online, MechWarrior 5, and holder of the MechWarrior IP, is hiring a”Narrative Writer II.” The listing doesn’t explicitly state that it’s for MechWarrior 6, but it does say that an applicable qualification is “passion for the MechWarrior/Battletech universe IP.” So it’s possible this is for new MechWarrior 5 DLC or for some wild expansion to MechWarrior Online, but I’m betting whoever lands this gig would be writing for the next MechWarrior game.
We should note that game writing isn’t your typical writing gig. This job doesn’t send you off to write a novel or a short story to somehow turn into a video game--it’s writing with an eye and ear toward in-the-moment game design. That means scripting levels so that they jive with the audio cues and physical action, which means a lot of coordination with the narrative director, level designers, and audio team. It also means writing using game engine editors and scripting tools, as well as documentation for external localization.
PGI is looking for someone in the field with two years of experience writing and at least one shipped title. Obviously, love for the BattleTech universe is a bonus, but not strictly speaking a necessary qualification. It’s more important to know and understand military jargon than to know every ‘Mech in the Inner Sphere, although, knowing the quirky military jargon of the Clans would probably be a huge bonus. Probably.
The position has a flexible schedule, “comprehensive benefits,” and remote work is available. Heck, I should apply. I don’t actually have any games writing experience, but how hard could it be?
Lady Kamea Arano Says Trans Rights!
Hairbrained’s BATTLETECH had probably the best voice acting of any BattleTech or MechWarrior game out there, and that was in no small part due to the performance of Gin Hammond as Lady Kamea Arano. So it means a lot when Lady Arano herself comes forward to say “Trans rights are human rights.”
Surprisingly, even the villainous Santiago Espinosa (voiced by the talented Tren Sparks) offered support for Trans rights, which is not something you hear from too many fascist dictators. But considering the environment trans folks face these days, I think they’ll take all the help they can get.
Cool BattleTech Paper Diorama
Scarlerr posted this to the BattleTech subreddit. I’ve seen a lot of miniatures, some paintings, and even a few scale models, but I’ve never seen a watercolor paper diorama with a Raven front and center.
The best part is the little cottage. Is this the Raven‘s summer home? Does it vacation here every weekend from March to October, water-skiing with its UrbanMech neighbors? Or is it a fairy-tale character like Little Red Riding Hood, off to meet her grandmother who’s been eaten by a Timber Wolf?
We need the story, Scarlerr.
Von Biomes 12 Makes MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Very Pretty
Head over to either the MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Steam Workshop page or the Nexus Mods site, and you’ll see Yet Another Mechlab is the most popular mod. Look a few mods down the list though, and you’ll see vonBiomes, a mod that I’d definitely consider adding to your rotation so long as you’ve got a gaming rig that can handle it.
MechWarrior 5 already has a lot of different biomes that you can potentially drop onto, but after a while they all sort of blend together. Download the vonBiomes mod and you’ll never get bored of tromping through a volcanic waste or massive junkyard. The mod adds over a dozen new biomes, including one with giant alien fungal growths, a desert with actual cacti, and an old-growth forest where trees are actually way taller than the ‘Mechs. The only downside is that these biomes are so pretty that they can really tax your machine, especially if you’ve got ray tracing turned on.
VonBiomes recently received its 12th update with a ton of new stuff. Besides the usual bug fixes and compatibility with the recently released Rise of Rasalhague DLC, version 12 adds new dynamic lighting for sunny planets, new mission backgrounds, and UI updates. It’s all very pretty, which you can see in vonSeiten’s video, so if you’ve got a good gaming rig, be sure to give this mod a download.
RenegadeHPG Interviews Loren L. Coleman
Travis over at RenegageHPG sat down with Loren L. Coleman, co-founder of Catalyst Game Labs and current “steward” of the Battletech license. Since the conversation lasted nearly two hours, Travis broke this interview into two parts, with the first mostly talking about Loren’s time as a BattleTech author and the second dealing more with his managerial role at Catalyst.
The first part doesn’t really tread any new ground, but I find part two to be a very interesting conversation. Catalyst had a lot of problems when it took the BattleTech license from WizKids following Dark Age, and getting things back on track required a herculean effort. He also dove into the success of the Clan Invasion Kickstarter and why Catalyst keeps crowd-funding these product releases.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff here, so I encourage y’all to set aside some time to see what Loren has to say.
MechWarrior Online: Legends Adds New Legendary ‘Mechs In April Patch
In MechWarrior Online: Legends news, April brings two new Legendary ‘Mechs to, some map updates, and yet more adjustments to ‘Mech quirks. The Scattershot is a Shadow Hawk variant that comes armed with two MRM-20s and three LB-X AC/2s, which is pretty good for a stock loadout. You’ll also get a mini battle pass that lets you earn GSP, C-bills, MC, premium time, and cosmetics just for playing the Scattershot. Meanwhile, the Marauder IIC “Dreadnought” is an Annihilator with a dead side. Four LB10-X ACs are paired with four ER Small Lasers, but only one of each are located on the left side of the ‘Mech, meaning it retains the bulk of its firepower even after losing its left torso.
These new Legendary ‘Mechs are really good, with unique and desirable characteristics that set them apart from every other ‘Mech in the game. It has a few players accusing PGI of releasing pay-to-win ‘Mechs, but having played my fair share of World of Warships, that’s nothing new for a free-to-play game.
Both Terra Therma and Free Worlds Colosseum received updates that’ll hopefully mean fewer MechWarriors getting stuck on geometry. Free Worlds in particular received a bunch of new trees and foliage that’ll make it more interesting, but removed the fireworks. Not sure why, but no more colorful explosions will appear in the sky unless the player puts them there.
As for quirks, the Osiris, Hatchetman, Storm Crow, Summoner, and Fafnir are all big winners in this patch. The Fafnir in particular received armor buffs and reductions to its critical hit chances that’ll hopefully make it into the terrifying behemoth it should be. The Wolfhound received some quirk consolidation, although some variants might see their heat-sinking diminished after April’s patch.
A few specific variants have also received some quirk adjustments, which you can read about in the patch notes here.
And that’s it for April! Join us next month for yet another rundown on all the best news for BattleTech fans like you.
And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.