Category Archives: Video Games

Community Outreach – Pajama Boy Talks About Making Fan-Made MechAssault Game, Wolves

 

Wolves Cougar

Welcome back to Community Outreach, where Sarna looks out across the internet to see what’s going on in the world of BattleTech. This week, we talk with Ryan “Pajama Boy” Lalande about New Day Fiction and Wolves, the fan-made MechAssault game.

I was so impressed with Wolves a few weeks ago when I downloaded the demo, I decided to reach out to the design team to see what’s up. Ryan got back to me and agreed to answer a few questions on the creation of Wolves, how the team got started, and where it plans to go in 2020. Also, whether or not they have a plan if they ever get sued. Enjoy!

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MechWarrior 5 Mod Editor Has Been Released

Mad Dog

The MechWarrior 5 Mod Editor has arrived! Let the modders rejoice!

One of the key promises of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries has always been mod support. Mods, for the uninitiated, is short for “modifications,” although the term is often used as a catchall for everything from minor tweaks to entire fan-made expansions.

In the case of MechWarrior 5, we can likely expect some minor mods to arrive before anyone tackles a huge project like an expansion. That said, some pretty ambitious projects are already being discussed on Reddit, so we might be in store for some truly amazing things.

But first, let’s talk about this mod editor. What we have here is basically the same tools that developer PGI used to create the original game. PGI even released a guide so that someone with a little bit of game-dev experience can hit the ground running. For everyone else, a few helpful links to some Unreal 4 Engine manuals will give you some background info.

My programming knowledge ends at spreadsheets and HTML, so I will not be downloading the Mod Editor to see how everything works. I trust people with vastly more computer experience to perform such actions and report back if there are any problems.

PGI has said that they’ll be offering additional mod support over time and also mod integration and support with MechWarrior 5. For now, folks are using old standbys like Nexus Mods to catalog available mods.

The really exciting news is that people are already talking about what mods they’d love to see in the game. One mod that sounds relatively easy to do would add an entire layer of immersion to MechWarrior 5 while also sending a throwback to the game that inspired it.

Courtesy of Reddit user Shin_Ken, we have the ComStar News Bureau Mod. If you recall from MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, there was a computer terminal out Outreach that you could approach to get the latest news on what was happening throughout the Inner Sphere. It would show era-appropriate updates all based on BattleTech lore, which would be a really cool addition to MW5.

However, the big kahuna was posted a month ago just after the mod editor tool was announced. It’s called the MechWarrior “3068” Mod, and it basically takes you throughout the Word of Blake Jihad while playing as a MechWarrior in Clan Wolf-in-Exile.

3068

via Reddit

“In true MechWarrior style you’re going to see Blake‘s brutal retribution on the Inner Sphere across 3 operations, 3 planets, 17+ newly modeled, TRO-inspired mechs and an original score by Timothy Seals,” reads the mod’s description on Reddit. There’s a lot more, and it all sounds spicy in a very good way.

So far, I haven’t seen too much on this mod since the announcement a month ago, but the Discord is active and they’ve got some fantastic art and models already. Here’s hoping this gets made and maybe even inspires an official DLC from PGI.

I’m also still waiting on my Whitworth. Anyone with 3D ‘Mech-modelling experience should really get on that.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Fan-Made MechAssault Game, Wolves, Releases Demo

Cougar

Courtesy of New Day Fiction

Okay, I know I’ve pooped on MechAssault before as not a real ‘Mech game, but I’m going to eat my own words for a little bit to talk about Wolves, the fan-made MechAssault game.

First, you might be wondering how this hasn’t already been sued into the ground, what with BattleTech’s somewhat litigious history. For that, you can turn to Microsoft’s “Game Content Usage” rules, which essentially allows developer New Day Fiction to recreate MechAssault ‘Mech models to make their own fan game with a few provisos–first and foremost is that they can’t charge money for their game.

That makes Wolves a completely free fan-made project that recreates the third-person ‘Mech combat of MechAssault pretty much perfectly. And now you can get your hands on it thanks to a newly released demo.

I’ve downloaded the demo and I have to say, I’m genuinely impressed. Although there were a few graphical glitches, the core gameplay is fast, smooth, and easy to pick up with mouse and keyboard. It’s still MechAssault, which means you’re spending a lot of time managing health and ammo by picking up power-ups, but some folks like that sort of classic arcade-style gameplay rather than the more simulator-style gameplay you get from traditional MechWarrior games.

So far, the Wolves demo is just three ‘Mechs (Cougar, Blood Adder, and Arctic Wolf), one map, and one single-player game mode that is essentially just you surviving against an endless wave of enemies. There’s not a lot to it, but you can definitely get used to the game’s combat fairly quickly.

The devs also have big plans for Wolves. They eventually plan to include over 25 ‘Mechs, both single-player and multiplayer game modes, new and old weapons from the original MechAssault game, and a new soundtrack composed by Elijah Compton and Jonty Freack.

You can get the full low-down on Wolves on the Sarna page, or you can go to the official Wolves website. There’s also a Wolves Twitter page, subreddit, and of course, Discord.

If you were ever into MechAssault, Wolves will definitely bring back those memories. You can download the Wolves demo here.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

All I Want For Christmas Is My Whitworth In MechWarrior 5

The more I play MechWarrior 5, the more I realize it’s missing something. Something that made my MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries playthroughs so magical. And I’ve had time to masticate on what that thing is since I had to restart my campaign as the preview-version of MW5 I’d been playing ceased getting updates and became incompatible with the regular version. 

Anyway, I’ve figured out what the thing is that I’m missing. It’s the Whitworth

Let me back up a second–the Whitworth was a ‘Mech I became introduced to way back in the heady days of MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries. It was basically the largest, most heavily-armed ‘Mech you could purchase fresh out of the game’s training sequences. You’d trade-in your old Commando for something with a little more oomph, and that oomph for me was always a 40-ton missile ‘Mech.

On the surface, the Whitworth wasn’t really all that impressive: it was slow, kinda generic, and had a goofy name that made absolutely no sense (who or WHAT is a Whitworth?!). But what it did have was 3 Medium Lasers, 2 LRM-10s, and armor enough to take a hell of a beating for its size. 

That armament meant that the Whitworth was ideal for taking out enemy light ‘Mechs (albeit due to MechWarrior 2 LRMs being more like Streak LRMs than regular ones), and the armor meant that you could wade through some intense fire without fear of losing your arms. It was also long-range, so engagements could be started and sometimes finished at a distance where your opponents couldn’t return fire.

For much of the early missions in MW2:Mercs, the Whitworth was my jam. And then, when it finally came time to upgrade to a beefier machine, my lancemate would often inherit my beat-up Whitworth. The same things that made it great for the player also made it great for friendly AI: lock-on missiles so it could never miss, lasers so it could never run out of ammo, and armor enough to take a beating without losing components.

There’s nothing like the Whitworth in MechWarrior 5. I know you get the Centurion pretty early on and it’s a strictly better machine, but it just doesn’t feel the same. There’s nothing in the same weight class that lets you boat up on lasers and missiles in the same way as the Whitworth (barring the Trebuchet, but I haven’t seen any of those yet), and while I love the Assassin conceptually, it’s really only suitable for raid attacks on soft targets. 

So here’s what I want for Christmas: the Whitworth in MechWarrior 5

What are the odds of this happening? Not good. As anyone who’s played MechWarrior Online knows, all the ‘Mechs in MW5 use the same models as MWO, and since the Whitworth was never in MWO, it would have to be made from scratch. That’s a tall order when there are plenty of other MWO designs that could be ported over to MW5, including the Vulcan, Dervish, and the Champion

That leaves modders to pick up the slack. Unfortunately, MechWarrior 5 did not ship with modding tools, and while PGI says that will be coming in early 2020, that’s still too late for anyone to give me a Christmas Whitworth.

And I also must admit, there are far more important mods for those with the skills to make first, such as replacing the ‘Mech voice with the original Bitching Betty voice lines from MW2, as well as mods to replace the music with bitching tunes of Timothy Seals (seriously, go listen, and then imagine those songs in MW5chef’s kiss).

You might think the Whitworth to be beneath the notice of an actual company trying to make a buck off of BattleTech. You might agree that the Whitworth is boring and silly, one of the many Inner Sphere ‘Mech designs that seemed to be cobbled together and then given a random name without much thought and done to just to flesh out the overall BattleTech universe.

To you, I say: humbug! No Santa Whitworth for you!

And as always MechWarriors: Merry Christmas.

Courtesy of Alex Iglesias

 

 

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Has Arrived – Here’s What You Can Expect

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries has arrived! I’ve actually been playing it for a week now and I have some thoughts. It’s a solid return to classic MechWarrior gameplay and one that I think most of us here at Sarna will be happy with. I haven’t finished the campaign as I’m in no rush to run through all the story missions, but I’ve certainly played enough to get a general impression of the game.  

Before I begin, I have a confession to make. I was honestly not all that excited about MechWarrior 5 when it was announced some time ago. MechWarrior Online had left a very bad taste in my mouth after years of being a loyal fan. There were many reasons why I came to hate MechWarrior Online, but I’ll boil it down to the fact that it was just a bad deal. It asked for way more of my time and money than it gave back in terms of enjoyment, and no amount of me being a BattleTech fan was enough to even the scales.

I quit MechWarrior Online about 2 years ago and haven’t looked back–even after PGI started practically giving away ‘Mechs in sales. So when I heard they were making MechWarrior 5, I had pretty low expectations. When I went to Mech_Con 2018 and got to play a very early pre-alpha build, I still wasn’t very excited. 

Flash forward to December of 2019 and I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised.

It’s not bad. In fact, MechWarrior 5 is actually pretty good. I haven’t experienced any of the technical glitches that always marred my MechWarrior Online experience, and the overall gameplay is a delightful return to simple, solitary, giant stompy robot action.

A Return To Form

Cataphract

For those of you who haven’t played a MechWarrior game since MechWarrior 4, this game is exactly what you’ve wanted for 15 years. Perhaps moreso; MechWarrior 5 improves on the Mercenaries model that began in MechWarrior 2: Mercs with procedurally generated maps and enemies, available co-op play, and a whole freakin’ Inner Sphere to explore. That’s right–it’s all there. Every major House and most of its planets, just a JumpShip hop away. That’s pretty incredible all on its own.

The core gameplay of performing missions in ‘Mechs is pretty much the same as you remember from MechWarrior 4, only everything is improved. Graphics quality is good, although hardly on the bleeding edge of possibility with modern hardware. I don’t begrudge PGI this–they’re still an indie studio with a small team, and with that attitude in mind, what they accomplished in MW5 is even more noteworthy.

What you’ll really find to be vastly improved over previous games are the destruction effects. For the first time, you can take your 50-ton Centurion and walk that fucker straight through a building. It’s just how you always imagined it after reading all those novels. 

Building On Success

Victor

If you’ve played (or are still playing) Hairbrained’s BATTLETECH, you’ll find MechWarrior 5’s ‘MechLab has a lot in common. It’s the same general layout that bears resemblance to the classic paper schematics, but with fixed hardpoints. It also has a different view mode that drastically simplifies customization by just showing the weapons systems. That’s a great option for new or younger players that might not have the BattleTech background and just want to tip their toes into ‘Mech customization without feeling too overwhelmed. 

You can’t mess with the engine, but I think that just improves the authenticity of the overall experience. It means that you can’t turn a Panther into a Jenner and vice versa. It means that each design will always feel unique and there will always be a reason to want a Shadow Hawk over a Centurion if you value speed. Also, overhauling a ‘Mech’s engine was always supposed to be an incredibly complicated (and costly) procedure that put it out of reach of your average merc company.

Much like in BATTLETECH, MechWarrior 5 uses a similar tiered equipment system with four pips being the best and zero pips being the worst. This is also represented in the weapon’s stats, which you’ll be able to view in both the ‘MechLab and the open market. You’ll find the usual assortment of weapons from the year 3015, but you’ll also occasionally see some Lostech stuff like ER PPCs, Pulse Lasers, and Gauss Rifles.

Catapult K2

I’m of a mixed opinion here. On the one hand, that ER PPC was EXTREMELY expensive–prohibitively so at the point in the game where I saw it on the market, so this does a good job of making it clear this stuff is supposed to be extremely rare. On the other hand, the lore makes Lostech out to be something of legend and myth at this point in BattleTech’s history and not something you just see on the open market with a huge sticker price. 

Overall, I think MechWarrior 5 walks a fine line between appealing to BattleTech lore buffs and appealing to MechWarrior fans that might not care too much about why their Marauder has a pair of ER PPC’s long before the Clan Invasion.

One thing I really like is the new variants of Autocannons and LRMs. You can get burst-fire or single-shot Autocannons, depending on whether you want to feel like you’re firing a machine gun or a tank cannon. You can also get regular LRMs or stream-fire LRMs, depending on whether you want all your missiles to come out at once or to be sent out a bit staggered. There are advantages and disadvantages to both and it allows a little bit more customization than MechWarrior games have otherwise allowed. It’s a nice touch.

That’s Great, But What About The ‘Mechs?

Mechs

My early-release version of MechWarrior has a fairly limited number of ‘Mechs to purchase in the early part of the campaign, but I’ve been told that will change by the time MechWarrior 5 releases. From what I’ve seen, the ‘Mechs you fight are generally appropriate to whoever it is you’re fighting: Davion units will send in Javelins and the occasional Commando, while Kurita units send in Panthers and Jenners. Mercs will have Locusts and UrbanMechs, and everyone gets a ton of J. Edgar hovertanks and SRM Carriers.

And while we’re on the topic of units, here’s the full list of ‘Mechs in MechWarrior 5. Because I know that’s all anyone really wanted to know anyhow. Note that there are multiple variants for each ‘Mech, so consider this list expanded to be roughly three times as large when you include all the lesser-known models.

A few notable designs: the Nightstar was supposed to be extremely rare even during the old Star League era, so finding it on a list of ‘Mechs in 3015 is a surprise. Ditto the Raven, which didn’t even exist until 3024, as well as the Wolfhound, which didn’t exist until 3028. I suspect players won’t see these designs much during the campaign. I certainly haven’t.

Everything else looks pretty standard fare, but with the extremely welcome addition of Unseen designs. Welcome back, you beautiful bastards.

Light On Story, Unless You Look For It

King Crab

In terms of plot, the game itself tells a relatively simple story: mysterious bandits kill your dad, you take over his mercenary company to build it into a fighting force that can track down those bandits and exact revenge. If you want more than that, Randall N. Bills has written up a prelude novella that really fleshes out the characters and their motivations. For those of you that look for that sort of thing in your single-player games, I highly recommend reading them. Otherwise you’ll find the characters in the game act a little… stiff. And I don’t say that just because they don’t really move during the first-person ‘MechBay scenes.

Okay, that’s not true. I say that because the folks living in your Leopard-class dropship literally don’t move the entire time you play the game. It’s a small thing, but my gosh, it would go a long way to making those first-person dropship scenes feel a little more like you’re in a real space ship and not just some room with a bunch of robot-shaped statues and a few marionettes.

But that’s my biggest complaint, honestly. MechWarrior 5 is an action game meant to appeal to action game fans–it’s not going to bog a player down with complicated plots or characters with a lot of expository dialog.

I haven’t encountered any in-universe events in the game so far, but I think that was by design. They chose the year 3015 so that there’d be plenty of time between when the game starts and the next big event, which would be the Fourth Succession War of 3028. 

But Overall, The Best MechWarrior Game Yet

Awesome

I’ve mentioned BATTLETECH a few times and I think it’s important to address the fact that I don’t think there’s much point in comparing it to MechWarrior 5. They’re both completely different games that are providing a completely different experience. BATTLETECH is more narratively driven with character development and lore, whereas MechWarrior 5 is a more visceral action experience. I would even go so far as to describe the player character as a “dude-bro” just based on his in-game dialog.

BATTLETECH has also been out for over a year with several DLC expansions under its belt, and while MechWarrior 5 is definitely a complete game, it’s still not fair to compare technical aspects of these games either. MechWarrior 5 will almost certainly improve after its release in the same way that BATTLETECH did, and although I haven’t heard much discussion surrounding DLC, I wouldn’t be surprised to see something announced in 2020.

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries is the surprising sequel to MechWarrior Online that surprises not just for being a quality game, but also for recapturing the single-player MechWarrior experience. It doesn’t get everything perfect and I’m sure there will be loads of complaints from other players over time, but I can safely provide my seal of approval. If you were a fan of MechWarrior 4 and wish someone would make a new one, then MechWarrior 5 is exactly that.

Actually, it’s not just that. MechWarrior 5 also has all the improvements in gameplay that have accumulated over the past 15 years, so it’s actually better. I haven’t even done the co-op campaign yet, which I’m really looking forward to.

I know some of you are still kinda upset about the whole Epic exclusive thing. If that’s the case, then you can wait for it to release on Steam in 12 months. By then, whatever bugs were present (and my experience thus far has been bug-free) will have been ironed out and there might even be some additional content. But if you don’t mind another launcher, then you can pick up MechWarrior 5 now for $49.99. 

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy. 

stay syrupy

 

Community Outreach – The Robert N. Charrette Collection

If you’re new to BattleTech, you might not know much about Robert N. Charrette. I hesitate to call him one of the founding fathers of BattleTech as that makes it seem like there’s some sort of sacred text out there, but maybe “formative” father would do just as well. Robert penned some of the earliest BattleTech fiction, including Wolves on the Border, Wolf Pack, and Heir to the Dragon, and he was perhaps the third BattleTech author I’d ever read. All those stories introduced iconic characters that would define an era in BattleTech history.

But turns out that fiction isn’t even half Charrette’s contribution to BattleTech. 

So this sort of just fell into my lap, and I have to first off thank Michael “Sigil” Todd for tossing it my way. You might remember Michael from his work on the unofficial BattleTech CCG expansion as well as the equally unofficial TRO: 3028. Michael also did a huge amount of work creating the BattleTech retrospective Unseen: A History of FASA, Battledroids and BattleTech, which if you haven’t seen you should really give a look as it might just be THE historical account of BattleTech. 

During his endeavor to get to the heart of the Unseen era of FASA history, Michael met Robert and struck up a friendship. Then when Robert needed to downsize his enormous BattleTech collection, Michael reached out to me to get the word out.

That’s when I found out that Robert is the guy who made the vast majority of the original sculpts for the BattleTech (or Battledroids, as it was called back then) tabletop game. Those ancient metal minis? Robert’s the guy who made them. 

Well, maybe not all of them, but most of them. And certainly some of the more iconic ‘Mechs such as the Phoenix Hawk, Warhammer, Rifleman, Marauder, Archer, Locust, Catapult, and even the now-legendary Urbanmech. Yes, we can thank Charrette for the first three-dimensional representation of the walking trash can. 

Robert’s collection has gotten to the point where it needs to shrink a bit, so he’s looking to off-load some of his more interesting artifacts. I was able to briefly chat about what’s being called the “Charrette Collection” and what Robert’s contribution to BattleTech in general. Enjoy. 

Battledroids Lance

via Robert N Charette


Sarna (Sean): Well, first of all, what’s this I hear about you off-loading all your BattleTech stuff? Are you abandoning BattleTech and all of its big-stompy-robot glory?

Robert N. Charrette: Not all, just most. My personal gaming interests have drifted away and I haven’t played with them in years, but BattleTech will always hold a special place in my heart.

Sarna: You’ve been a huge part of the BattleTech universe for decades. I personally have read all of your stories, but I’ve only just recently discovered that you’re the one responsible for most of BattleTech’s first-edition metal miniatures. What’s the story there? 

“BattleTech will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Robert: I believe Michael Todd covered that story in his history of BattleTech. In short, Ral Partha pitched doing miniatures to FASA when BattleDroids was released. There was some reluctance to have Ral Partha do them since they were not a specialized producer of mechanical miniatures, so a “proof of capability” model was to be produced and I got the assignment, being the most enthusiastic sculptor regarding – I believe the term of art is – big stompy robots.

Sarna: How does one get the job of creating miniatures for a nascent tabletop game?

Robert: Being in the right place at the right time and having the ability to do the work.

Sarna: Are there any particular favorites from that first set of minis you produced?

Robert: The BattleDroids? Has to be the Wasp/Stinger/Phoenix Hawk family as they all were derived from the “proof of concept” model.

Sarna: But back to the “Charrette Collection,” as it’s being called. What exactly are you offering?

via Robert N.Charette

Robert: Michael has kindly offered to help with the “downsizing” of my gaming collection. Naturally, with his interest in BT, we started there. The first offerings are a mix of items from my gaming collection, which I painted and based myself, and other, now vintage, BattleTech items that I had a hand in or managed to collect in those early days. I’m still looking for that box of BattleTech sourcebooks and such.

Sarna: How can people get in touch to put in a bid or offer for these items?

Robert: https://charrettecollection.square.site/

Sarna:  What are you up to these days? Anything else you’d like to share?

Robert:  Mostly non-gaming things. 

For about 15 years I have been heavily focused on studying Armizare, a resurrected medieval martial art written down in the early 15th century by Fiore Dei Liberi. I wrote a book on the pedagogy of the manuscript I study, give presentations on it to academics and taught classes on it at seminars across the country and in Canada, and have been slowly, laboriously progressing on a series of books relating to the understanding and practical practice of Armizare, in and out of armor.

I am also back at the modern version of what I started out doing before I took up sculpting: graphic layout work. Computers make it both easier and harder than the exacto knives and rubber cement I started with.

via Robert N. Charrette

You can check out The Charrette Collection over on his site here. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to own a piece of BattleTech history, and the miniatures are all beautifully painted too. I totally recommend you check it out.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

New Heavy Metal Trailer For HBS’ BattleTech Reveals New ‘Mech: The Bull Shark

BattleTech’s Heavy Metal expansion arrives on November 21st, and it is bringing 470 metric tons of new weapons and ‘Mechs. 

We got a lot of exciting ground to cover here, so we’re just going to dive right in. The new trailer for BattleTech’s upcoming Heavy Metal expansion just dropped and brought with it the juiciest of new info, starting with a brand new, never-before-seen BattleMech, the Bull Shark.

From the trailer, the Bull Shark is a 95-ton assault ‘Mech armed with a Thumper artillery cannon. That’s all we got. Judging by this beast’s appearance, it seems armed with autocannons above machine guns in the arms, as well as a quartet of lasers mounted across its two burly shoulders.

I’m just speculating here, but judging by the name, we could be looking at a design from the old Rim Worlds Republic. History students will remember that as the home nation of Stefan Amaris, better known as Amaris the Usurper. So that’s pretty cool.

Bullshark

As with MechWarrior Online, this new design’s canonicity is going to be a matter for debate for some time. I dunno how much Catalyst was involved in the Bull Shark’s making or if it will eventually get their seal of approval. 

The remaining seven designs will be something we’re all familiar with. Starting from the small, Heavy Metal brings us the Flea, Assassin, Vulcan, Phoenix Hawk, Rifleman, Archer, and Annihilator. All of these appear to be models taken from MechWarrior Online, with many being classic designs that are fan favorites.

Some of you might be wondering about the Warhammer and Marauder, two classic heavy ‘Mechs that were long rumored to be coming in Heavy Metal. They are not part of the expansion. Instead, they’ll be given to everyone FOR FREE as part of the 1.8 update, no Heavy Metal required.

New ‘Mechs leads us to new weapons. As shown briefly in the trailer just before we’re showcased the Bull Shark, a screen tells us each of the new weapons systems that will be added in Heavy Metal. A lot of these technologies normally wouldn’t be seen in the Inner Sphere until well after that Clan Invasion, so we’re playing a bit loose with the timeline here. One wonders just how Harebrained is going to explain their presence in the pre-Fourth Succession War era.

Anywhoodle, we’ll all recognize Inferno Missiles, TAG, NARC Beacons, and Ultra and LBX Autocannons, and yes, they’ll come in the full range of 2/5/10/20 and not just the Ultra AC/5 and LB 10-X as they first appeared in the Clan Invasion era. Snub PPCs are also coming, which is a Second Star League-era technology from the Draconis Combine and definitely not something we heard about before then.

A new ‘Mech-sized mortar will almost certainly be the Thumper Artillery System. Although normally mounted on vehicles, ‘Mech-mounted Thumpers weren’t entirely unheard of.

Finally, COIL Lasers are described by Polygon as having a “charge-up” function. The more you move before firing, the more damage they deal. Their exact function is unknown at this time as they don’t seem to have any classic BattleTech analog.

These weapon additions are really throwing the timeline for a loop and I do not know how to feel about them. One thing I will definitely appreciate is the new Flashpoint mini-campaign that will be added with Heavy Metal. It will feature Wolf’s Dragoons, Natasha Kerensky, The Bounty Hunter, and a mysterious derelict spacecraft. We can likely assume there’s going to be some of this amazing tech on that spaceship, so maybe that will be out explanation.

I also see mentioned on the Paradox forums post that there will be official mod support added for the first time, so everyone playing with RogueTech installed is going to be super excited about that. I can’t find a better source for that though, so this might just be wishful thinking.

Heavy Metal arrives on November 21st for $19.99, or nothing if you already purchased the Season Pass. And remember: you get the Marauder and Warhammer for free even if you don’t buy Heavy Metal, but you should totally buy Heavy Metal. It looks like it’ll be the best expansion for BattleTech yet.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

You Can Now Play MechWarrior 2 And MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries On Your Browser… Sort Of

MW2 Mercs

Great news! You can play MechWarrior 2 and MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries through your browser thanks to the Internet Archive.

First, a big thanks to Reddit user a_false_vacuum who posted over on r/OutreachHPG that this thing exists. Kudos to you! For the rest of us, gaze in wonder at what is probably the easiest way to play older MechWarrior games. 

Well, sort of. We’ll get to the big caveats in a sec. First, how does this whole thing work? Basically, the Internet Archive has an image of the CDs and an applet that runs a DOS emulator through your browser. You download the emulator and the CD, which means a 740 MB download. That might take a few minutes, depending on your internet speed.

After that, the whole freakin’ think loads in your PC’s RAM and runs from there. This has a few problems, most notably that you can’t save your game; as soon as the browser closes, everything gets wiped and you have to re-download the game all over again. You CAN save your game in a far less meaningful way by simply returning to the title screen, but once you close the window it’s game over for good.

Another problem is that since everything is done through the browser it’s a bit of a resource hog. And by hog I mean a voracious CPU-eating apocalypse. The menus and intro videos play just fine, but when you actually get into a ‘Mech the whole thing slows to a crawl.

I got about 1 frame every 2 seconds on my laptop. Things didn’t improve much when I moved to my desktop, and my desktop PC is a fairly beefy machine running most games on high graphical settings. But then again, I was using Google Chrome. Perhaps a slimmer, more streamlined browser will actually be able to get this game to run a bit better.

MW2

It’s a real shame too since I’d love to have an easier way to play some of these older games. Browser-based ‘Mech-bashing just sounds super cool and perfect for the 21st century. If someone could get this to work and tell me how you did it, I’d be awfully grateful.

I’m told thanks to the Reddit comments that the MechWarrior 2 version of the game actually allows you to download the ROM, so in theory, you can just download your own DOS emulator to play it that way instead. That’s one step more than being a browser-based game and is thus inferior, but would likely provide a far superior gameplay experience in being able to actually save your progress.

For those unfamiliar with MechWarrior 2, I did a pretty big write-up on it a little while ago. We’ll get to MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries in due time. 

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

MechWarrior 5 Confirmed As Epic Games Store Exclusive

Enforcer

Courtesy of PGI

So. MechWarrior 5 is going to be an Epic Games Store exclusive title after all. It’s also been slightly delayed, now releasing on December 10th instead of September 10th as previously hoped.

I can’t say I’m all that surprised. The writing was on the wall, which you can read all about in Sarna’s previous coverage on the matter. Suffice to say, what was once mere rumor has now become reality, with PGI making the official announcement on the MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries website on July 25th.

What does being an Epic Games Store exclusive mean? Well, it means that MechWarrior 5 will be available only to those willing to download the Epic Games Store launcher. It will remain there as an exclusive title for one year, and then hopefully release on Steam, GOG, and other game stores on December 10th, 2020.

As for the delay, that’s covered in the updated FAQ page on the MechWarrior 5 website. The extra few months will give PGI more time to complete localization for a few different languages and also provide time for some additional marketing before release—both of which are Very Good Things™.

An AMA held on July 25th with PGI President Russ Bullock also mentioned not wanting to compete with the release of Borderlands 3, which is set to release September 13th on the Epic Games Store. No surprise there–Borderlands is expected to be a pretty big deal. 

“Our partnership with Epic Games store allows us the opportunity to make sure MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries meets our internal goal of creating the best MechWarrior game possible,” PGI wrote on their FAQ page. And while few would have been upset with a 3-month delay in MechWarrior 5’s release, there are quite a few more MechWarriors absolutely livid at the fact that MechWarrior 5 will now be releasing on the EGS after promising since the game was first announced that it would release on Steam.

And it’s resulted in many pre-order holders demanding a refund. To PGI’s credit, they’re offering a no-hassle, no-questions-asked refund to anyone who wants one, even if those pre-order buyers already used their community bonuses that were tied to MechWarrior Online. PGI also pointed out in their development update that those Community Pre-Order bonuses represent $100, $180, or $300-worth of MechWarrior Online goodies (depending on the level you pre-ordered MechWarrior 5) which they are now giving away essentially for free.

That said, many view the sudden swap to Epic as a betrayal even with the refund policy. There are also some open questions on just when PGI decided to sign a deal with Epic. MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries was still selling pre-orders up until May, and Bullock was even fielding concerns of Epic exclusivity in AMAs as late as April 10th, saying that the game would release on Steam and GOG as planned and they had no intent to release on Epic.

Catapult

In the July 25th AMA, Bullock stated there may have even been “a couple of days crossover” between when PGI signed their Epic exclusive deal but were still selling community pre-orders promising a Steam release.

PGi didn’t exactly have the greatest reputation to begin with, but this bait-and-switch with Epic has truly pissed-off a lot of folks. The various MechWarrior and BattleTech-related subreddits are abuzz with people expressing their outrage and that they will make full use of PGI’s offer of a full refund. 

I don’t have numbers, but we know from the previous MW5 AMA that the game received roughly 20,000 pre-orders. You gotta think that a significant quantity of those pre-orders has been refunded by now.

To get your refund, email support@mw5mercs.com. All refund requests have to be in by Septembers 1st, and please give PGI 10 business days to process your refund. They’re probably dealing with a lot of angry people, so patience will be a virtue.

Battlemaster

What will this mean for MechWarrior 5 and the future of the MechWarrior franchise? It’s hard to say. Whatever deal they’ve signed with Epic has almost certainly secured PGI’s financials for the time being, and Bullock said in the July 25th AMA that Epic provided enough data to convince him that MechWarrior 5 will still sell as well—if not better—on the Epic Games Store than on Steam.

Maybe that’s true. Maybe Epic’s smaller, more carefully curated game store will give MechWarrior 5 the sort of visibility that would have been impossible on Steam. Maybe this will result in that injection of fresh fans that an old franchise like MechWarrior desperately needs. There are certainly more than a few people that think MW5 going Epic is the right call.

It’s just a shame it had to come at the expense of so many old-school MechWarrior fans who are now angrily demanding refunds. 

And as always MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Is MechWarrior 5 About To Go Epic Exclusive?

So MechWarrior 5 might become the next Epic Games Store exclusive title. Maybe.

Before anyone starts shouting, there has been no official confirmation from either Epic or PGI (the makers of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries and MechWarrior Online). What we have is some troubling changes to the MechWarrior 5 website and PGI President Russ Bullock saying they’re just due to a harmless website update.

First, a shout out to Reddit user Ironshards for making the original post, as well as user Vektorweg for making a comparison between the old MechWarrior 5 FAQ page and the new one

One thing that you’ll immediately notice is that the new MW5 FAQ is much smaller than the old one. You’ll also notice that there is no longer any mention of getting a Steam key from pre-orders that recently wrapped up and that any mention of Steam has in fact been totally removed. The pre-order beta has also been removed.

Getting rid of the pre-order info makes sense since you can’t pre-order MechWarrior 5 any longer (although they might have another pre-order closer to release). But removing all mention of Steam–ostensibly the platform that the game will release on–seems a little strange. Suspicious even.

In case you’re not up on the latest brawl to hit the digital gaming market, Epic Games is the maker of Fortnite (that battle royale game you see the kids playing these days), Unreal Engine 4 (which is the same game engine that MW5 uses–more on that later), and also a brand new digital storefront called the Epic Games Store.

The Epic Games Store works just like every other digital storefront, but with a big incentive for game developers. Rather than the customary 70/30 revenue split, Epic gives studios more of the gaming pie to the tune of 88/12 (that’s 88% revenue to the developer, in case that wasn’t clear). All of this is done under the guise of breaking the virtual monopoly that Steam holds on the PC gaming market.

However, the Epic Games Store doesn’t have anywhere near the same features as Steam, GOG, Discord, or other game stores have. They don’t have cloud save file storage, user reviews, wish lists, news feeds, or bundled prices that reflect already-installed DLC. They also don’t have multi-language support or support for payment in any currency other than US dollars.

To be fair to Epic, they plan to implement all these features within the next 6 months, but when it launched, the Epic Games Store was a barren wasteland compared to Steam. 

So to get people onto their store, Epic has adopted an aggressive strategy of gobbling up PC games as exclusive titles. They also don’t care if that game promised its Kickstarter backers or pre-order buyers a release on Steam. Just look at the debacles of Shenmue III and Metro Exodus for proof if this.

MW5 Screens

Here’s where I’m going to diverge from the facts for a second to insert some personal opinion, which I mention specifically because this is a very heated topic with a lot of misinformation floating around.

It seems clear to me that Epic’s plan is to replace Steam as the de-facto PC gaming platform. Steam makes TONS of money–enough that Valve hasn’t really released a real game in years (Artifact doesn’t count)–and Epic wants that bank all to themselves.

But to get it, Epic is spending a ludicrous amount of cash essentially guaranteeing the developer a reasonable amount of sales. This is based off a tweet from June whereby a Korean games community discussed how SNK was offered “hundreds of thousands” of pre-orders for Samurai Showdown to become an exclusive title.

The only games store looking for exclusive titles is Epic, so put two-and-two together and you get Epic’s gameplan.

Initially, there were some unsavory rumors that Epic was full of spyware and was actually a front for the Chinese government. So far, that’s all turned out to be bunk, but there was an element of truth to it. Epic is 40% owned by Tencent, a huge Chinese entertainment and media company, and I think it’s Tencent that is funding Epic with gobs of cash to throw at any and every game they can turn into an exclusive title all with the intention of eventually becoming the big kahuna of PC gaming. 

Anyway, opinion over, and now back to speculating on MechWarrior 5.

We already knew from last month that PGI was hurting for cash. New ‘Mech Packs being sold in MechWarrior Online had stopped being profitable, and Bullock basically admitted that the studio was going all-in on MechWarrior 5. If the game flopped, then PGI would be in serious trouble financially, to the point where the likeliest outcome would be the cessation of operations.

But if MechWarrior 5 went Epic Games Store exclusive and PGI got a cash infusion from Epic, they wouldn’t have to worry. Epic guarantees their sales to the point where they could at least continue as a business. On top of that, MechWarrior 5 already uses the Unreal 4 engine, making even more sense for an exclusive deal.

If this all turns out to be true, I can’t blame PGI for taking the money. Games development is a risky business and most studios are one bad game from going bankrupt. That said, they promised a Steam release with their pre-order, and judging by the MechWarrior subreddit, people would be mighty upset if MechWarrior 5 were to suddenly become an Epic exclusive.

Twitch Streamer Nuttyrat asked Bullock on Twitter about the changes in MechWarrior 5’s FAQ, with Bullock responding that they’re just the result of the community pre-order being over so there’s no need to have information about it on the site.

But again, it seems odd to remove all mention of Steam at the same time as removing the pre-order info.

Personally, I don’t have nearly as much hate for Epic as a lot of rabid Steam fans do, and if Epic is able to eventually provide the same sort of services that Steam does I’d have no problem with switching sides. However, the use of exclusives to get users is pretty anti-competitive and puts a sour taste on things, especially when those games already promised to release on Steam and other platforms.

We won’t know for sure one way or another until Russ or PGI make an announcement. Which will probably come at the upcoming MechWarrior 5 Developer Update and AMA scheduled for this Friday at 6 PM PST (UPDATE: Looks like the AMA was delayed to next week, according to MW5’s most recent tweet).

And as always MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy