Category Archives: Video Games

Your BattleTech News Roundup For October 2020

October has been exceptionally busy for BattleTech! So busy, in fact, that I’m pushing our big monthly news update out a few weeks earlier than usual. I’m also leaving my customary existential dread at the door since there’s just no room to concern ourselves with elections or pandemics will all this incredible BattleTech news sitting right in front of us.

Expect to receive a supplemental news dump later in the month if things keep dropping at the same pace they have been for the past few weeks. But for now, let’s get to the news!

Catalyst’s Clan Invasion First Wave Is Away!

The day we’ve all been waiting for is finally here! Wave 1 of the Clan Invasion Kickstarter has finally started shipping according to the most recent update from Catalyst, with 23 out of 26 shipments having arrived (the remaining three will probably have arrived by the time this article is published). That means the first shipment is being sent out to backers as we speak, with backers from the EU and UK expected to receive their shipments before everyone else because the customs office there was lucky enough to not suffer any setbacks.

Catalyst also gave us a bunch of fun stats: 9,824 backers, 268,797 physical items, and 31,543 UrbanMech Salvage Boxes, with another 3,000 or so expected to be sent out with Wave 2. This is an enormous logistical undertaking, and Catalyst is hard at work making sure everything goes as smoothly as 2020 will allow. 

With Wave 1 on the way, all eyes now turn to Wave 2. Catalyst is still making the 3D designs for Wave 2 ‘Mechs, and they’re hoping to have everything done and off to the manufacturer in time for shipments to be sent out before Chinese New Year (which is February 12, 2021). 

In the meantime, the Pledge Manager will be reopened on October 15 (which is right now as of the moment I’m writing these words) to allow people to edit their pledges or add one of the eight new items that Catalyst just couldn’t wait to get into people’s hands. I’ve got no idea what those items are, but we’re surely going to find out when the Pledge Manager reopens.

New Patch For MechWarrior Living Legends! Update 0.13.0 Is Here

MechWarrior Living Legends update 0.13.0 has gone live, and with it comes some new tanks. Big tanks. Like, the largest tanks that BattleTech has ever seen.

First up, the Behemoth, a 100-ton assault-class tank that certainly lives up to its name. Although the overall design follows the same general theme of the Behemoth combat vehicle, its prime variant is armed with the new Hyper Velocity Autocannon 10 which provides super long-range suppressing fire. This comes at the cost of the two SRM-6s, while the machine guns are replaced by two of the new Autoflamer turrets. 

The Clans are represented by the equally massive Mars assault tank. As with the Behemoth, some liberties were taken with the principle armament of the tank as the twin Streak SRM-6s were replaced by dual Streak SRM-4s, and the extra weight used to install two Autoflamers. 

In case you were wondering, the Autoflamer turret will automatically target opponents within 150 meters, and is the ideal way to convince battle armor to keep their distance.

There’s a bunch of other new toys to use, such as the C3 Master Unit, Sniper Artillery Cannon, and Stabilized Thumper Cannon, as well as even more balance and game mechanics changes. Check out the full patch notes over on ModDB here.

Renegade HPG Interviews My Boss (And Sarna.net Owner), Nic Jansma

Behind the Scenes of SARNA.NET with Creator Nic Jansma
Watch this video on YouTube.

Travis over at Renegade HPG contacted me a little while ago and we engaged in a little bit of journalistic trading. In exchange for his contacts with the BattleTech CCG community, I agreed to forward his email to my boss so he could have Nic on the show. And then it happened! You can check out the whole 45-minute interview here

If you were ever curious about how Sarna works, including its origins, site operation, and monetization, you’ll get it all here. I even got a shoutout for writing up all this lovely news for you lovely people. 

Alright, enough with the self-plug, back to business. 

Bombadil Is Back And Working For PGI Now

Bombadil Is Back

Daeron is back! But he’s not working for No Guts No Galaxy anymore. He’s been hired by PGI to be the new MechWarrior Online Community Manager.

This was our first indication that MechWarrior Online would be getting a revival, with more details to follow in the No Guts No Galaxy podcast that came days after the announcement. Daeron “Bombadil” Katz was a longtime host of NGNG but left in February to pursue other interests. Those interests apparently didn’t stray too far from BattleTech, as Bombadil was the top guy for PGI when it came time to start planning on how to reinvigorate MechWarrior Online.

Bombadil gave us a bit of an update on how he’s been doing in his official announcement on the MWO website. The plan is for Bombadil to lead PGI in developing a plan to bring MWO into the year 2021 by refreshing the fanbase and maybe convincing lapsed players to give the game another try. More on that in exactly one embedded video and one subheader.

MechWarrior Online’s Future

Podcast 204 - Mechwarrior Online's Future
Watch this video on YouTube.

Last time I checked in on MechWarrior Online, I’d basically written the game off. Player counts were dwindling, content updates had stopped, and PGI had announced that it was all hands on deck for MechWarrior 5. So imagine my surprise to find out that MechWarrior Online is not nearly as dead as I was led to believe.

I mean, MechWarrior Online has certainly seen better days from a player count perspective, but it’s still very much alive and kicking. In fact, PGI CEO Russ Bullock recently did a podcast with our friends over at No Guts No Galaxy to discuss a MechWarrior Online revival. 

This all comes from PGI renewing their MechWarrior license from Microsoft for another five years. This wouldn’t have come cheap, so PGI is looking to make back their money by investing in the license, and that includes both MechWarrior 5 and MechWarrior Online.

Bullock, PGI marketing head Matt Newman, and recently appointed community manager Bombadil talked to Sean Lang about what may or may not be coming to MechWarrior Online. All options are on the table, with PGI specifically focusing on content that will bring lapsed players back to MechWarrior Online. This might include new features like ‘Mech knockdown or melee weapons, or silly event queues like games where everyone is in an UrbanMech.

Don’t expect to see MechWarrior Online 2, however. Although all options are on the table, remaking MechWarrior Online in MechWarrior 5‘s engine is likely to be more of an investment than would be profitable, which is a shame since Unreal 4 is a vastly superior engine. But we might see some fundamental changes to MechWarrior Online, including changes to its monetization model and its byzantine and unpopular skill tree.

This might be an unpopular opinion to MechWarrior Online fans, but for me personally, I’m not going to really get interested in an MWO revival unless it starts catering more to casual fans. The days of me spending hours and hours grinding for new ‘Mechs are long gone, and unless MWO improves its monetization model to give me WAY more content than I’ve ever had access to, I’m probably not going to bother. That content would also have to be faster to get at, which would mean some overhauls to the ‘Mech bay, skills, and likely the core gameplay loop to be less dependant on matching 8v8 single-life games, something I don’t really see happening. 

But then again, if everything is on the table, who knows? I’d love to see MechWarrior Online adopt a game mode that mirrors MechWarrior: Living Legends--a persistent battle with constant respawns from your personal ‘Mech bay. That’d be both a fun and fresh take on a very old game.

MechWarrior 5 DLC—Heroes of the Inner Sphere—Arrives December 10

RazerCon 2020 MechWarrior 5 Merc DLC Heroes of the Inner Sphere
Watch this video on YouTube.

Announced at RazerCon 2020, Heroes of the Inner Sphere will finally arrive along with MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries releasing on Steam. That’s December 10th, exactly one year since MechWarrior 5 released on the Epic Games Store.

I know many of you have been waiting for this day, so lemme once again offer my two cents: the game is absolutely worth playing with the right mods, and Heroes of the Inner Sphere is expected to bring a free update that will totally overhaul the MechWarrior 5 experience. This will include better ambient heat effects, an additional biome for random missions, new skill trees, and more. 

Best of all, those that purchase Heroes of the Inner Sphere can sort of share it with friends. If the host of a co-op game owns Heroes of the Inner Sphere, friends that join that game will have access to the same new ‘Mechs and story missions that the host does. 

Check out Sarna’s previous coverage of the Heroes of the Inner Sphere to get more details on what to expect from the DLC, along with a list of new ‘Mechs. Heroes of the Inner Sphere will be priced at $19.99 USD. Expect to find a package deal with the Steam release (hopefully with a bit of a discount for everyone patient enough to wait for the game to release on Steam).

Oh, and one more thing that was discussed with the MechWarrior Online revival podcast: MechWarrior 5 is getting more DLC, with an extremely tentative date set for next April. No idea what that might entail, but the concept of a Clan Invasion was definitely mentioned at least once. Take that for what it’s worth.

More Mod Tools Coming To MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries

Mechwarrior 5 Mercenaries Modding Resources
Watch this video on YouTube.

Yet another breaking story from our friends at No Guts No Galaxy! MechWarrior 5 is getting additional mod tools to help with mission scripting. This includes “tutorial videos and associated documentation” that explain “level setup, markup levels and locators, area specification setup, mission flow nodes, and finishing the mission and deploying the mod.”

As discussed in Lang’s interview with Bombadil and PGI level designer Thaddeus Jantzi, a lot of these tools are the same ones used to create MechWarrior 5‘s missions in the Unreal 4 engine. And that’s basically the extent of my knowledge since I’m not a programmer and have no idea what these tools might look like, but they certainly sound cool and they open up a whole new world of custom campaigns in MechWarrior 5--something I’m totally on board for.

Modders can grab these new modding resources here.

Would You Like To Bring BattleTech To Roll20? Then Support This Kickstarter!

BattleTech Kickstarter

I’ve never really dealt with the RPG side of MechWarrior and BattleTech, but I know it exists, and it has its appeal to those that are really into tabletop RPGs. However, with COVID-19 ending in-person group sessions and sending everyone online, folks are looking for their favorite virtual tabletop to support their RPG habit for the foreseeable future.

Roll20 is one such piece of software that’s gotten to be pretty popular--mostly because a base account is free and a DM can share all their paid-for resources with their players. Roll20 already has tons of stuff for Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder, and now one dedicated BattleTech fan is looking to add our humble universe to Roll20’s list. 

However, getting BattleTech/MechWarrior added to Roll20 takes money. Joel Janni has taken it upon himself to start a Kickstarter campaign to get someone to code up the MechWarrior and BattleTech sheets so that people can actually play the game virtually via Roll20. This will include a basic macro that will allow for skill checks and weapon/damage rolls. 

Janni needs $500 to get the sheets made and pay for Kickstarter’s fees, but stretch goals can include a ‘Mech builder function to make your own custom ‘Mechs and even a character builder function. 

There’s still plenty of time to contribute, so head on over to Kickstarter to make this Roll20/BattleTech dream a reality.

Someone Is Reverse Engineering MechWarrior 3 In Unity

Unity 5 6 5f1 64bit Builder unity UnMech3 PC, Mac & Linux Standalone DX11 2020 10 03 17 59 1
Watch this video on YouTube.

So remember a few months back I spotted someone trying to recreate MechWarrior 2 in Unity? Well, now we’ve got someone else trying to do the same thing with MechWarrior 3

Judging by the teaser trailer, there’s still a lot left to do before the engine is working right in Unity, although it looks like they’re off to a great start. The slight skip in the Bushwacker‘s gate is probably wrong, but so adorable that I hope they keep that animation bug in. 

Of all the MechWarrior games since MechWarrior 2, MechWarrior 3 was probably the one I played the least. Mostly because it came out around the same time as Diablo 2 and I spent a lot of my high school years playing Diablo with my friends than I did playing MechWarrior by myself. That said, a reborn MechWarrior 3 in Unity might be enough for me to take another crack at the single-player campaign.

Check out the MechWarrior 3 Community Project Discord for updates and to shout encouragement, which you should totally do.

That’s it for October! Join me again probably in the next few days as October keeps racking up newsworthy items faster than I can even keep track.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For September 2020

courtesy of Eldosiousrex

Welp. It’s September, and you know what that means.

Now that we’ve gotten that crucial meme out of the way, welcome to September. I’ve got more than enough existential dread to make writing this intro extremely difficult. So instead, I’m just going to rely on that cheap laugh and jump right into the news. Because nothing blows away anxiety over the potential fall of Western Civilization than a game universe about constant, unending warfare. And giant robots.

Hire Steel Pilot Episode Drops On YouTube

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

Hey, remember that Hired Steel poster we got last month? Well, TMC is back with a pilot episode for its brand new MechWarrior machinima.

This has a whole lot of potential. The animation is only two minutes long, but the quality is superb. They’ve even got a DropShip flight deck where people move around and stuff! MechWarrior 5 could take a lesson here. Hint hint.

Not a whole lot happens; a lance consisting of a Shadow Hawk, a Catapult, a Hunchback, and a Rifleman land on a nameless world before the screen lets us know that this story will continue later. What is this lance of medium and heavy ‘Mechs doing on this apparently verdant world? Find out next month, hopefully.

Also, TMC got George Ledoux to do the opening narration, and that’s just sweet of ‘em. 

Lostech: 30 Years of Heavy Metal Mayhem

Lostech 30 Years of Heavy Metal Mayhem
Watch this video on YouTube.

Last month’s preview has given way to the real thing. Lostech is here, and it’s a story about Virtual World and FASA’s BattleTech Centers, two places I’ve sadly never had the pleasure of attending because I live in Canada. But I have at least experienced a BattleTech simulator pod, so I know a bit of what I’m missing.

Lostech explores not just the construction and evolution of those simulator pods, but the business side of things as well. With BattleTech and FASA founders Ross Babcock and Jordan Weisman, Virtual World developers Greg Corson, Dave McCoy, JM Albertson, and Bill Redman, as well as Virtual World staff David Abzug, Jose Corpuz, and Paul Tierney, Lostech is a meandering romp down memory lane directed by Chris “Lynx” Chapman (whom you might know from a certain MechCommander game).

There’s a wealth of information here that I am almost certain to source when it comes time for me to revisit Virtual World and the BattleTech simulator pods. It’s also great to see where FASA and Virtual World fit into the wider arcade phenomenon back in the early ‘90s. Check it out when you get the chance! Just make sure you’ve got a spare two hours or so--this is definitely a dense documentary.

Tex Impresses Again With New Documentary On The Mackie

Battletech/Mechwarrior Lore : The Mackie, The Rise of the Battlemech
Watch this video on YouTube.

I’ve probably said enough kind words about Tex’s videos to fill an entire article on its own, but I’ll say ‘em again because the Black Pants Legion just keeps getting better and better. The latest video features the same wonderful writing and narration we’ve come to expect from Tex and company, but now goes one step further thanks to community support.

In the latest Tex Talks BattleTech, we have the wonderful voice stylings of BB Wolfe and George Ledoux, as well as all-new art from D.C. Bruins, Spacer, and Eldosiousrex, plus a ton of music from Goat, Kumakin, and Jekyll. The production value has really gone through the roof thanks to all these collaborations, and I can honestly say this is the best BattleTech content being made and distributed for free anywhere on the internet.

Plus, the full story of the Mackie is truly fascinating. Not just because it’s about the BattleTech universe’s first ‘Mech, but because it’s also about the story of how all of human conflict came to be dominated by giant stompy robots. With a clear sequence of events, Tex and the Black Pants Legion make a rational case for how all war went from space-based warship battles to ground-based robo-fights without making the whole thing sound hokey or downright stupid. That’s a talent I’m not sure I could replicate.

Anyway, go check out this video and subscribe if you haven’t already. You won’t regret it.

The Unofficial MechWarrior Online World Championships Are About To Start

Sadly, COVID-19 has rendered it impossible for PGI to host an actual live tournament, but that hasn’t stopped players from organizing an unofficial MechWarrior Online World Championships anyways with their support. 

The competitive queue opens to all-comers on September 29 and closes on November 10. Matches are every Thursday and Saturday, with the top teams moving on to the finals starting on November 13. The grand finals will take place on December 12.

MWO Championship

There will be both in-game and cash prizes, with the cash portion being crowdsourced over on Matcherino. PGI will supply the in-game rewards, which can be pretty substantial. First place gets a 3x Ultimate Pack consisting of 25,000 MC, 74 million C-bills, 2,500 GSP, and some titles. The top 500 players get a consolation prize of five ‘Mech Bays, 3 million C-bills, 373 GSP, and some free paint colors.

Rules are similar to previous years, with matches being fought with teams of 8 on Conquest mode. There are five maps to choose from along with a map ban phase, with air and artillery strikes allowed on both sides. Each team is limited to 480 tons, must have 3 ‘Mechs from each class, and all weapons, tech, and ‘Mechs are allowed, including Hero ‘Mechs.

Sign-ups are available via the Comp Play tab in-game, but also head on over to the MWO Comp Discord to verify your roster and ensure you’re signed up for the many rewards this tournament has to offer. The fine folks over there would also be happy to answer any questions you may have. You can read the full rules here.

Let’s Show Some Quickdraw Love

I’m currently maining a Quickdraw in my MechWarrior 5 playthrough, so these images couldn’t have better timing. 

Finished the Lineart for my Quickdraw redesign! What do you guys think of it, overall? from battletech

First, we have this one from RedCometComith. This is technically a redesign, but I can see a lot of MechWarrior Online/MW5 influence in the arms and chest. I think I like this one a little more though. MechWarrior 5‘s Quickdraw is sort of squat while this one stands a bit taller and retains some iconic features from the tabletop like those rounded ankle actuators.

Quickdraw 3D model from battletech

And then we have judosavarnas with a 3D model released on the exact same day. This one is far more traditional but no less amazing. They’re both great, and they’re both fueling my love of the Quickdraw as my current favorite ‘Mech. But to be fair, my favorite ‘Mech changes more often than the seasons, so next month it’ll probably be a Doloire or something.

Catalyst Clan Invasion Shipping Update And Shrapnel Issue No. 2

Clan Invasion

via Catalyst Game Labs

Catalyst gave us an update earlier in the month to let us know how things are going with the Clan Invasion. The big takeaway was this: “All hubs are expected to ship to backers in the early weeks of October.” So people should start to get their first wave orders sometime in October, provided of course that the USPS hasn’t been completely dismantled by then.

In the meantime, we’ve got yet more photos, yet more 3D renders of second-wave ‘Mechs, and other merch that will get shipped with the first wave. My only problem is that there’s absolutely nothing here about the UrbanMech plushie, and I’m starting to get desperate. Who do I gotta suck up to in order to spend every waking moment with a soft UrbanMech toy surgically grafted to my ass?

In other Catalyst news, the second issue of Shrapnel magazine is out now with new fiction from Michael J. Ciaravella, Jason Schmetzer, and Michael A. Stackpole, as well as “a technical readout of an unusual 55-ton Centurion variant.” There’s lots more, of course, so go order your copy and subscribe for future issues.

Oh, and there’s a new book coming out on Friday: Icons of War by Craig A. Reed Jr. This one takes us back to the home Clans to see what they’ve been up to leading into the invasion of Terra. And in typical Clan fashion, they’re all trying to kill each other. At least, I assume.

Wolves Is Gearing Up For A Big Update, So Here’s A Few Teasers

I’ve been keeping tabs on Wolves, the free-to-play fan-made MechAssault game, and it looks like there’s going to be a new update soon. There will be new ‘Mechs, new skins, a brand new HUD, and some visual effects, according to the game’s Twitter page.

One of those ‘Mechs is definitely a Hellbringer, a ‘Mech so cool that it’s mentioned with both its Inner Sphere and Clan name on our page for MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf.

I might be wrong since you can only see the ‘Mech from behind and it (of course) bears a strong resemblance to the Summoner. I’m sure Pajama Boy will correct me if I’m wrong. 

Anyone Up For A ProtoMech Webcomic?

protomech issue 1 cover (description in comments)(my art) from battletech

Geergutz over on Reddit recently posted this, and I felt like it was something worth sharing. They plan to start a BattleTech-inspired webcomic about ProtoMechs, of all things. These much-maligned overgrown battlesuits aren’t really something that gets a lot of attention these days, even in the post-Dark Age era where everyone and their pet dog have a set of power armor in their closet. 

The cover we see here apparently features a Hell’s Horses pilot and a Centaur ProtoMech. That’s about all we got so far, but you can check out geergutz’s DeviantArt page to see more, along with this neat comparison image of several ‘Mechs, ProtoMechs, and Elemental armor.

Somehow, MechWarrior 5 Wins Best Narrative At Canadian Game Awards

MW5 Wins Canadian Game Awards Best Narrative (somehow) from OutreachHPG

No, this is not a joke. I like MechWarrior 5 as much as the next guy, but a masterpiece of narrative storytelling it is not. And yet, somehow, MechWarrior 5 won the award for Best Narrative at the Canadian Game Awards.

This is what happens when we don’t get a new BioWare game every year.

Also, I LIVE in Canada and I’m only hearing about the Canadian Game Awards just now. The selection committee is a bunch of people I’ve never heard of, except for Marc Salzman and that’s only because he’s at the beginning of every in-theatre movie to hawk overpriced tech at me during the pre-show.

PGI president Russ Bullock has even admitted that MechWarrior 5‘s narrative is not the main draw, so there’s really no logic to be found here. There’s also no explanation from the judges or even a quick blurb about why MechWarrior 5‘s narrative was considered better than every other Canadian game produced in 2020. We’ll probably never know. 

And that’s it for this month! Join us next month where we’ll all hopefully have our Clan Invasion Kickstarter minis and maybe the world won’t be quite so on fire.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Let’s Talk About Mods For MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries

Centurion

Alright kiddies. Let’s talk about MechWarrior 5. I know some of you hate this iteration of MechWarrior with a fiery passion that has inflamed the comments section from time to rime, and those comments are for the most part valid. MechWarrior 5 is, admittedly, a flawed game, but mods fix many of those flaws, and I’ve been having a blast on my most recent playthrough. We’re going to talk about some of those mods today.

However, SOME of the comments that I’ve culled from posting have been a little bit… let’s call them “heated.” We’re all entitled to our opinions, but we’re not entitled to declare a holy war on anyone. So, keep the personal attacks to a minimum as we explore the wonderful world of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries mods!

I’ve recently picked up MechWarrior 5 again after putting the game down relatively soon after it launched late last year. I admit, the initial shine of the first new MechWarrior game in years was enough to get me to overlook some of the game’s flaws. Yes, the actual core combat portion of the game felt better than any other MechWarrior to come before (at least to me), but the more you play, the more you find things that really should be fixed. 

Knowing that mod support was a core feature for MechWarrior 5, I decided to sit down and wait for mods to take care of all those rough edges. While there’s still plenty of roughness yet to smooth out in MechWarrior 5 (and a pending update will hopefully do just that), I wanted to share with you the package of mods that I’ve personally installed, and what mods that I hope the community will make in the future. Who knows? Maybe we’ll change a few minds today. 

The Mods I Use

Rifleman

First off, shout-out to Byte_Knight117 for making a giant list of mods every MechWarrior should consider for MechWarrior 5. I’m not using all of them, but I am using some, and there are many others on this list that folks should consider such as MercTech and MW5 Mercs Reloaded

In general, my philosophy when it comes to mods is to try and keep the core experience as much as possible but fix everything that annoyed me. And before any of you naysayers start your naysaying, yes, even I found a lot to dislike in MechWarrior 5. But hey, mods fix it. Feel free to discuss the role mods should play in a game’s development in the comments below.

I also tried to use mods that were officially supported through the Epic Games Store as much as possible. Since Epic now makes downloading and installing mods easy for MechWarrior 5 while also keeping those mods updated, this drastically cuts down on the amount of work needed to get MechWarrior 5 up and running. The mods I’ve downloaded from Nexus Mods are relatively small and therefore easy to install, so they weren’t too much effort even for the non-technically inclined.

As I said before, both MercTech and Mercs Reloaded are not on this list. I certainly recommend them both for ‘Mech fans looking for a new experience and to expand MechWarrior 5’s extremely limited ‘Mech customization, but I wanted to go without that. While ‘Mech customization is and always has been a core feature of BattleTech, I’ve always felt that sort of thing wouldn’t necessarily be available to a poor mercenary unit. Simple swaps like removing a small laser for more armor could be done in a Leopard’s ‘Mechbay, but an engine swap or tossing out an AC/5 for a PPC would require specialized equipment only found planet-side–at least, in my personal view of this fictional universe.  

That’s not to say that MercTech and Mercs Reloaded don’t have lots more to offer than ‘Mech customization and equipment, though. Both are feature-packed and vastly expand upon MechWarrior 5 in more ways than I can go into here. 

But anyway, without further adieu, here’s what mods got going on for my personal MechWarrior 5 experience.

Better Spawns Mod

Better Spawns Mod

This mod is easily the most important one. Much of MechWarrior 5‘s randomly generated missions will turn into a battle of attrition as more and more enemy units just keep spawning from thin air. This mod fixes that, toning down the number of enemies spawned and making them show up from DropShips rather than nowhere. It changes the tone of MechWarrior 5 to be less like a frantic rogue-lite and more like previous MechWarrior games, and I consider it an essential addition.

Better Performance – FPS Drop Fix Mod

There’s a well-known bug in vanilla MechWarrior 5 that has to do with the way the game fails to clear memory used for weapons fire and other sound effects. On longer missions, this will cause increasing performance loss and possibly even a full lockup on older machines. This will be fixed in the next patch, according to PGI, but in the meantime, this is another essential mod. 

Enemy Mech Availability Date Fix

Another noted bug is that enemy ‘Mechs never update to use newer-model ‘Mechs over time. This will also be fixed in the upcoming patch, but why wait? This mod fixes that bug right now.

TTRulez Enemy and Lancemate AI mods

Lance-AI-Mod-via-Epic-Games

The AI in MechWarrior 5 can be truly atrocious at times. This mod makes your lancemates stop running through buildings you’re required to protect while also giving enemy ‘Mechs behaviors beyond suicide-charging straight at the player.

Remove JumpShip Animations mod

Frankly, the JumpShip animations weren’t all that great to begin with and they can really slow down MechWarrior 5‘s overall pacing. Best to be rid of them. This mod leaves you with the much shorter animation of your Leopard in flight but gets rid of the parts with the Invader-class JumpShip.

MechWarrior 2 Music Reimagined

I like crunchy guitars as much as the next guy, but it seems like MechWarrior 5 has maybe six songs total and they all kinda sound the same. It gets old fast. This mod replaces the soundtrack with remixed and remastered versions of songs from MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, and I gotta say, it’s a huge improvement. The mod even changes songs depending on the in-game action. 

3D HUD

I really liked seeing this mod in action, so I grabbed it for myself. Not that I have anything against the traditional MechWarrior Online layout, but the 3D Hud mod makes MechWarrior 5 seem like a brand new game. Plus it looks cool and has an advanced zoom for sniping.

Prime8’s Distinct Weapon FX

Prime8 Distinct Weapons FX

Vastly improved weapon effects. Missiles have better smoke trails, lasers look better, and autocannon rounds are more explosive. Pew pew is very important in a game like MechWarrior 5, and this makes the pew pew more woo woo!

Weather Improvement Mod

Rain looks more like rain, snow looks more like snow, and fog occasionally gets so dense that you’re forced to fly by instruments. I like this mod, and I think you will too.

Limp Galore

Limp

For whatever reason, PGI thought that if a ‘Mech’s leg gets destroyed, this should cause them to limp for a few seconds and then get up and run away as though nothing happened. This was probably a gameplay decision based on how being legged would make a co-op teammate take forever to reach the objective. I understand that logic, and I disagree with it 100%. This mod keeps a legged ‘Mech limping forever, just as the BattleTech gods intended.

Portrait Distortion Effect

The in-game portraits are fine, but I always felt like they needed a little something extra so they weren’t just pictures popping up on-screen. This makes pilot portraits feel more like they’re actual broadcasts thanks to a bit of distortion animation and brings MechWarrior 5 in line with contemporary games that make use of the same feature.

The Mods I Wish Existed But Don’t… Yet

Rifleman

Now let’s get to the mods I wish existed. These are fixes that I feel MechWarrior 5 desperately needs. We might see some of these fixed in the upcoming patch, but I haven’t specifically heard them being mentioned, so I’m begging you modders to get on these quick! 

Fix Jump Jets

I gotta be honest, when I think of jump jets in MechWarrior games, I think of Death from Above and jumping from mesas into gorges to duel a Masakari to the death. Jump jets in MechWarrior 5 do virtually nothing–they just let you hover in place for a little while and maybe prevent some leg damage if you accidentally fall into the previously-mentioned gorge. I think this might be a bug because I occasionally find myself leaping into the air as one would expect, but most often it’s just a useless hover 3 feet off the ground. The game desperately needs a mod to give jump jets some actual functionality.

New Voice Actors

Ryana is okay, as are some of the random NPCs, but I cringe openly whenever Fahad or Commander Mason opens their big dumb mouths. Someone, please, save me from their nattering!

On a related note…

Manticore Tank

Character Creator Options

This will likely make more sense with the new campaign options that are coming in the next patch, but it’d be great if we could play as ourselves rather than this Commander Mason guy. He’s not really all that important as a character if we’re being honest, and something like Harebrained’s BATTLETECH would be a vast improvement. I’m even fine with the protagonist going back to being completely silent just so long as we can play as something other than a huge dudebro.

Animate NPCs on DropShip

Pretty much all the NPCs in MechWarrior 5 stand around like mute mannequins until you go up and talk to them. It’s embarrassing that a game in 2020 still takes the same approach to NPCs that Half-Life did back in 2001. Ryana and Fahad should be doing stuff. How hard can it be to have Ryana tapping on a keyboard of Fahad to be using a laser torch on some ‘Mech armor? Get these NPCs moving!

Make Running The Default Movement on DropShips

This is another personal peeve of mine. Why would I slowly crawl to wherever it is I’m going on the Leopard when I could actually get there sometime this century? I shouldn’t have to hold down the damn Shift key all the time! Just make running the default movement in first-person mode!

Design Quirks Mod

Phoenix Hawk

I’m pretty sure I’m not the first person to think of this, and if I’m stealing your idea, I apologize and give you full credit. 

So you know how BattleMechs have little design quirks that give them a whole bunch of flavor? Like how the Phoenix Hawk is supposed to have great sensors, and the Centurion is supposed to have ammunition feed problems for that AC/10? It’d be great to add these quirks to the game to give each ‘Mech their own unique flavor. Maybe it’d be tough to program ammo-jams for specific ‘Mechs, but it can’t be that hard to make an “Easy to Repair” ‘Mech cheaper to repair after a mission. 

Still no word on when PGI plans to release the next big update along with Heroes of the Inner Sphere, but I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as I do!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For August 2020

Welcome, ‘Mech fans, to your August news roundup! The West Coast is on fire and the Gulf Coast is underwater, which is not a great way to end the summer. For all those in affected areas: stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in your cockpits if at all possible. Most ‘Mechs have an air filtration system and oxygen supply provided you’ve been keeping up with your maintenance schedule.

Now let’s get this show on the road!

Virtual World Hosts “Lostech” Interview With BattleTech Founder Jordan Weisman

Lostech1

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

It’s been a minute since we heard from the folks at Virtual World, and although the pandemic has put a crimp in their usual convention touring where they bring BattleTech Simulator Pods all around the country, they’ve decided to do something at least equally as impressive to make up for it.

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

I reached out to Nick Smith to get the lowdown, and this is what he wrote back to tell me: 

The Lostech project has been a pet project for some time and is the work of Chris “Lynx” Chapman, a former Virtual World Entertainment Group and FASA Interactive Technologies employee. (You may have also commanded him on MechCommander.)

For years, many of us affiliated with Virtual World have been proudly telling the stories of how so many things that we take for granted in the games industry today’s were first seen at the BattleTech Center in Chicago in the early nineties. Head-To-Head multiplayer gaming, “GamerTags”, defined roles in multiplayer gaming, mission review, and televised E-Sports, to name just a few, all owe some of their histories to those early days in Chicago at the original BattleTech Center. 

As a person who has spent tremendous energy and time to preserving this seldom-told history, I was thrilled to partner with my friend Chris Chapman (who also wrote the Electronic BattleTech History section for the BattleTech: 25 Years of Art & Fiction book) to finally tell this story, to shine a light on those who made magic happen and subsequently influenced the future of electronic gaming.

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

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

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

Called MechWarrior Prime, it would have essentially been a much earlier MechWarrior 5. From the screenshots, it looks like much of the game would have used MechWarrior 4’s assets but with slight improvements to the models and textures--unsurprising, given how this game started to get pitched immediately following the release of MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries.

MechWarrior Prime

This also gives us a rare peek into the world of video game development and how studios start working on their next game pretty much just as soon as their latest game is done--and sometimes even before that. 

Sadly, Microsoft moved away from the BattleTech license and everything got shelved. It’d be years before Smith and Tinker’s attempt at MechWarrior 5 made a few headlines, and then years more before MechWarrior Online finally brought us a new MechWarrior game (even if it wasn’t necessarily a traditional single-player experience--for that, you can play MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries that’s out now). 

MechWarrior Living Legends Gets Its Own YouTube Channel

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

It looks like the PR folks at MechWarrior: Living Legends are increasing their reach with a brand new YouTube channel. There’s not a whole lot there at present besides the fan-made “Inferno” trailer, but that’s more than enough to get them started. Although I gotta say, there’s a better than even chance that there will be a DMCA strike for using DOOM‘s music.

Hopefully they’ll get an introductory video and maybe a few tutorials up in the near future.

August Brings More Stuff From Catalyst

Patience, MechWarriors. The Clan Invasion will begin its arrival in due course. In the meantime, here’s some fresh new BattleTech content straight from the source. 

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

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

MechCommander Mercenaries Update 1.2 Is Here

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

MechCommander Mercenaries just dropped its 1.2 update with a bunch of changes, most noticeably the fact that Commander Mason is just plain gone. But it’s for a good reason that has nothing to do with the plot.

One of the issues found in the early release of MechCommander Mercenaries was that sometimes Mason’s ‘Mech would just not move no matter how many times you clicked. This issue was annoying (and game-breaking) enough to warrant a temporary workaround, which involves flat-out removing Mason from the game at the start of every mission and replacing him with a stunt-double AI pilot.

While this solves the problem of Mason ignoring commands, it adds a new issue of the AI pilot being unable to trigger objectives or extraction after the mission is complete. Also, since Mason is technically not there, he doesn’t gain any experience (which is bad), but neither can he die from enemy fire (which is good, I guess).

But besides Mason taking a (hopefully short) hiatus, update 1.2 also adds something amazing: reinforcements! This beta feature now allows you to summon up to an additional 8 ‘Mechs from orbit courtesy of your Leopard DropShip. Since Leopards can only carry four ‘Mechs at a time, you’re limited to deploying an extra lance at a time, but you can still deploy an entire company of ‘Mechs on every mission. Which is as completely busted as it is awesome.

A couple of notes on reinforcements: as this is still in beta, not everything is working right. Reinforced ‘Mechs are taken from your available stored ‘Mechs, but don’t have pilots assigned and are instead given random AIs. There’s also no additional cost for reinforcing your deployments, so it is 100% busted and can turn any mission into a turkey shoot for both you and your allies.

Friendly fire is a big problem as friendly ‘Mechs will often keep firing even if they randomly move into each other’s firing lines. That’s an issue that is currently being worked on, as well as the weird Mason thing and balancing reinforcements.

There’s some other quality of life improvements in 1.2 as well, which you can hear all about in the above video.

Since When Was There A MechWarrior Dark Age Video?

Mechwarrior
Watch this video on YouTube.

I can’t believe nobody told me that this film exists. It turns out that MechWarrior: Dark Age--y’know, the Clix-based miniatures game from the early 2000s--had a freakin’ film made. And it’s not just an ad! 

This was made by The Digital Animation and Visual Effects School (or DAVE School) of Orlando, Florida in partnership with BattleTech creator Jordan Weisman and WizKids, then owners of the MechWarrior: Dark Age license. It was the final project for the class of March 2006, and everything about it is delightfully B-movie, from the actors to the effects.

There’s a lot to love from this film, from how overweight most of the ‘Mech pilots are to how there’s a keyboard in the BattleMaster‘s cockpit. But the CGI does an admirable job of rendering Dark Age-style ‘Mechs and tanks in intense combat.

This is five minutes well spent. Kudos to Reddit user geergutz for finding this gem.

Some Madman (or Woman, or Other) Is Recreating MechWarrior 2 In Unity

I don’t know who this is. I don’t know why they’re doing it. But I do know that this is amazing and should be encouraged, so I’ll tell you what I know.

A parent and son are working to recreate the MechWarrior 2 engine in Unity. This pet project will take assets from the original MechWarrior 2 game files and load them into Unity for use at runtime. This is apparently being done for legal reasons and not because it’s an efficient way to make a game. But regardless, this is the closest we’ve ever come to a remaster of MechWarrior 2, and I’m here for it.

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

Tarantula

I’m not sure what the end goal here is. Maybe it really is to remaster MechWarrior 2, or maybe it’s just a tech demonstration to show that it’s possible to remaster old games in Unity. Either way, if you can put me in touch with these people, I’d love to get answers to these burning questions.

That’s it for August! Join us next time as the Earth continues to burn around us. 

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

MechWarrior 5 DLC, Heroes Of The Inner Sphere, Previewed In Podcasts And Streams

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries

There’s been a lot of developments for MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, the latest and (arguably--please don’t @ me) greatest MechWarrior game to hit PC’s since MechWarrior 2. Mod support has been added to the Epic Games Store, so now you don’t have to fiddle about with downloads from ModDB or Nexus Mods to get your version of MechWarrior 5 exactly how you like.

And another big development is MechWarrior 5‘s first DLC. Announced in April, Heroes of the Inner Sphere plans to expand the game’s initial career mode by adding new quests, new missions, and allow players to start in various new hot-zones around the Inner Sphere. And of course, there are new ‘Mechs, new guns, and the return of quirks from MechWarrior Online.

We still don’t have all the details, but several recent livestreams have dropped a lot of new info that I felt warranted sharing. As a quick recap, here’s what we know for sure will be coming in Heroes of the Inner Sphere:

MW5 Mercs Heroes of the Inner Sphere DLC - New Mechs and Biome Preview.
Watch this video on YouTube.

“But Sean,” I hear you screeching with the incessant whine of a Cicada, “how will ECM and BAP even work? What will Chemical Lasers be like? What about infantry and artillery? And what will happen to all those great mods that are already out there enhancing everyone’s MechWarrior experience beyond measure? And when is this DLC even going to release?”

Well, I have some answers--and some non-answers--thanks to two livestream broadcasts. 

The biggest news dump came courtesy of No Guts No Galaxy’s Sean Lang interviewing PGI’s Chris Lowrey for two whole hours. It was quite exhaustive and covered a wide range of topics, all ending with some alpha footage of an Orion stomping around in the new Beachhead mission type.

Mechwarrior 5 Mercenaries - DLC Info & Walk-through Podcast
Watch this video on YouTube.

You can watch the whole thing in the video above, or you can read on for my summary.

As with every good first DLC, quality-of-life and bug fixes are a high priority for Heroes of the Inner Sphere. One of the big topics discussed was radar changes that will now provide MechWarriors with full 360-degree coverage around their ‘Mechs out to 800 meters. Currently, the game only offers radar in a cone view which differs wildly from previous iterations of MechWarrior and makes it difficult to track down fast-moving ‘Mechs as they flit around you. I’m big on this change and how it will solve my general inattentiveness to my surroundings (which often happens regardless of whether or not I’m in a giant robot).

Ambient heat will be added to planets which is another addition inspired by past MechWarrior games. A news ticker similar to MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries will keep players up to speed with the current comings and goings-on in the Inner Sphere, while an internal database added to your DropShip‘s computer will keep track of all encountered ‘Mechs and units so players can properly identify them in the future.

Marauder IIC

I know none of Sarna’s illustrious readers need a database to tell the difference between a VTR-9B and a VTR-9A, but not all of MechWarrior 5‘s customers are so enlightened.

All of the things I just mentioned will be part of a free update that will arrive around the same time as Heroes of the Inner Sphere. That is to say, everyone is getting those sweet sweet bug fixes and QOL improvements. But if you want the new ‘Mechs (such as the aforementioned Dervish or Marauder II) and the new ‘Mech variants, you’ll have to shell out for the DLC. Pricing has yet to be mentioned from anyone, but I can’t imagine it exceeding 20 bucks or so. 

Let’s talk equipment. Many of the new items mentioned on the MechWarrior 5 website, such as ECM, BAP, and MASC, are already present in MechWarrior Online. So you’d expect those items to basically work the same as they do in PGI’s other game, but that’s apparently not quite the case.

According to Chris, ECM will reduce enemy detection range as it does in MWO, but it will also scramble opposing targeting computers at close range. BAP will provide an increase to sensor range as it does in MWO, but it will also pierce line-of-sight requirements so that you can maintain a target lock if a ‘Mech or vehicle runs behind a hill or a mountain.

Artillery

EWECM and EWAP are basically heavier, more cumbersome versions of ECM and BAP that might not be quite as effective. Expect to find ECM and BAP closer to Inner Sphere homeworlds, while EWAP and EWECM are more likely to be found in periphery worlds. 

That’ll be the overall georaphic trend with a lot of the more retrotech weapons added in Heroes of the Inner Sphere too. Chem Lasers and ‘Mech Rifles are more likely to be equipped on pirate and insurgent units than regular House forces. Chem Lasers will have significant heat savings over regular lasers at the cost of requiring ammunition, while ‘Mech Rifles look to be harder-hitting but lacking in ammo reserves.

The NGNG Podcast interview ended with an extended look at the new Beachhead mission type, where the player’s company takes on the role of vanguard ahead of an allied invasion. You’ll need to take out several objectives while under heavy fire from combined enemy forces, including ‘Mechs, tanks, infantry, and artillery. Red circles mark the landing zones of enemy shells, so remember to stay out of those when embarking on this mission type.

MechWarrior 5 Mercenaries Heroes of the Inner Sphere DLC Discord QNA
Watch this video on YouTube.

More recently, PGI hosted a Q&A livestream where Lowrey and David Forsey answered questions posed in the MechWarrior 5 Discord chat. One of the big questions in this stream was about enemy spawn rates, which PGI is most definitely working to solve. Lowrey mentioned to NGNG that the randomness of ‘Mech designs faced in missions will be replaced by drawing from a certain “deck” of ‘Mechs that will better correspond with the House or pirate gang you’re attaching, while Forsey said in the Q&A session that they’re working towards improving the spread of ‘Mech weights faced during random missions.

AI improvements were another big topic, with one question asking if PGI plans to use some of the improvements to enemy and friendly behavior offered in the TTRulez Improved AI mods. Forsey said PGI is reviewing the mods, but couldn’t comment further at this time.

Melee weapons and Aerospace fighters also seem off the table--at least, for now. Aerospace fighters haven’t really featured in MechWarrior since MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries as they’re just hard to implement from a game design perspective. Melee weapons are also difficult to program, although both Lowrey and Forsey invited the wider modding community to take a stab at it. 

A big concern is what this new DLC will do to the mods that are already out there. Forsey admitted that Heroes of the Inner Sphere “may break some [mods],” but quickly added that PGI is talking with the mod community to ensure that the DLC’s arrival causes as little disruption as possible. 

Champion via PGI

And before I sign off a few quick hits: 

  • The new Career mode will provide players with a unique starting lance depending on their House of origin.
  • Infantry are armed with SRMs and machine guns, and you can totally stomp on them.
  • Bitching Betty might make her return, in case you don’t want to use the existing Bitching Betty mod.
  • A new “rare equipment” tag will be added to the paid DLC so you can better track down ECM and BAP.
  • Changes to the Leopard DropShip spawns will make it more obvious when one arrives with enemy reinforcements by adding more noise and screen shake.

Oh, and last but not least: no, we don’t have a release date yet. We are well past the initial June target thanks to COVID-related delays, and the livestream footage made it clear there are still a few ingredients that need to be tweaked before this DLC is done cooking. Hopefully, we’ll get a release window by the time the August News Dump hits.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

MechCommander Returns As a MechWarrior 5 Mod

I know we JUST had a news dump, but I felt that this was just too cool to wait for August.

So there’s a lot of really cool mods available for MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, ranging from simple tweaks that improve things like the HUD or visuals, to far more all-encompassing mods like Navida1’s MW5 Mercs Reloaded. The mod we’re going to discuss today goes beyond even Reloaded in terms of fundamentally changing the way you play MechWarrior 5.

It’s called MechCommander Mercenaries for a reason. This is a total conversion mod that changes MechWarrior 5 from a first-person ‘Mech simulator game into a third-person ‘Mech real-time strategy game.

That’s right: MechCommander is back.

MechCommander Mercenaries

Obviously, what’s changed most is the actual core combat of MechWarrior 5. Instead of hopping in a ‘Mech that you pilot yourself, you send commands to your lance to tell them how to fight. Which can be a little tricky as MechWarrior 5’s AI is still pretty bad and MechCommander Mercenaries is still in early beta and hasn’t quite figured out how to iron out the AI pathing issues.

But the rest of MechWarrior 5 is mostly the same. You still have the same ‘Mechlab, the same mission selection screen, the same map, the same interior dropship walkabout, and the same salvage and mission complete screen. The only real difference is that you’re not the one strapped into a neurohelmet.

Sorry, there’s another big change. As Sean Lang reveals in a recent No Guts, No Galaxy podcast, MechCommander Mercenaries also adds a slow-mo button so that you can slow down the action and send quick commands to your units even in the heat of combat. This is probably a necessary addition as MechWarrior 5 can be surprisingly quick when the AI is the one doing all the shooting.

Installation is simple: just unzip MechCommander Mercenaries in the MechWarrior 5 mods folder and select the mod from the in-game menu. Everything should work fine with other mods (barring a few notable exceptions like the better lancemate mod), but the development team hasn’t tested MechCommander Mercenaries extensively enough to know if it works with 100% of the available mods out there.

MechCommander Mercenaries is out now on Nexus Mods with a beta release. As I mentioned before, it’s still an early beta, and there are a ton of known issues that still need to be fixed with later releases. Expect some bugs, which are detailed on a recent posting in the brand new MechCommander Mercenaries subreddit.

Mechcommander Mercenaries - Podcast #200
Watch this video on YouTube.

I have some fond memories of MechCommander Gold. Not fond enough to replay the game (and it’s most recent update) as much as Sean Lang, but still, fond memories. MechCommander is as beloved around these parts as the MechWarrior franchise, so seeing it return in this way is a truly heartwarming sight.

If you’re interested, subscribe to the MechCommander Mercenaries subreddit for updates, and you can follow this link to download the mod.

UPDATE: You can also get MechCommander Mercenaries from the newly enacted mods feature on the Epic Games Store. Just go here, click “add to library,” and MechCommander Mercs will be automatically installed to MechWarrior 5‘s mods folder. Then you just select the mod from the in-game menu and you’re off!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For July, 2020

It’s July. Man, where does the time go? I guess the time dilation might have something to do with the fact that I’m stuck inside all day long and commerce has ground to a standstill in much of the civilized world. And the things that I would normally use as milestones for the passage of time--like movie releases and sporting events--have all completely stopped. That and I’ve been cutting my own hair so I haven’t been keeping to that 6-week barber schedule. Frankly, I don’t even know what day it is.

But I do know that it’s still July, so it’s time for another news dump. I’m going to take a dump all over you, and you’re going to love it because it’s made of robots.

Alright, that could have been phrased better. My bad. Let’s get to the BattleTech news.

Finally, Someone Is Making A Full-CG MechWarrior Fan Film

Hired Steel

File this one under “I really hope I get to see this before a cease & desist letter shuts them down.”

A group of German madmen are braving the legal minefield that is the BattleTech intellectual property to bring us all a short fan film made using what appears to be MechWarrior Online assets. This isn’t too much of a surprise given that they’re previous works have also been made using MechWarrior Online, only this time instead of making a 5-minute long advertisement for MWO, they’re making a short film with an actual plot.

It’s called Hired Steel, and it’s a full CG movie that has been in development for about 3 months now. They plan on releasing a pilot episode soon that will detail what to expect from the series. I’m guessing it’s about another mercenary unit that’s down on their luck and has to fight their way to glory and freedom, but I’m just playing the odds here.

Also, I wouldn’t get your hopes up. The last time we saw a fan project stroll through these parts, it got hit with a C&D from Topps faster than you can splat an Elemental with a Streak SRM-6.

You can support TMC at their Patreon to help bring this project to fruition, and in the meantime, enjoy the poster. Shadow Hawks really ought to be the new poster child of the franchise.

But In The Meantime, Enjoy This Slightly Smaller CG Fan Film

Battle of the Crescent Fortress
Watch this video on YouTube.

Speaking of fan animation that may or may not get a cease and desist (although probably not in this case), Farseer Animation has come out with a new video that’s their largest and most elaborate yet.

These guys have actually been making BattleTech fan videos for several years. They got started remaking the original MechWarrior 2 cinematics using their own models, and have since then branched off into making more complex CG films. Their latest, “Mechwarrior: Battle of the Crescent Fortress,” is almost 10 minutes of non-stop action. 

And it’s also hilarious. The Hunchback is piloted by a dude who sounds like Chekov from Star Trek (and sounds SUPER familiar--maybe he’s also been in one of Tex’s videos, someone correct me here!) and the Vulcan pilot does a great “angry drunk who just got taken out by a Crab” impression. There’s even a Crescent Hawks reference for the super old-school BattleTech fans in the audience.

Also, the line “I’m going to be blunt: you suck,” is perhaps the greatest one I’ve ever heard on YouTube. Go watch this thing and be amazed.

More Catalyst Stuff, More Clan Invasion Delays

Clan Invasion Vol 2

Alright, bad news first. Last week, Catalyst announced another delay in shipping out the first wave of the Clan Invasion Kickstarter. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: sucks, but what’re you gonna do?

Apparently, the same company that held up shipping the original BattleTech: A Game Of Armored Combat box sets is also late on making the plastic figures for the Clan Invasion. The new shipping date for the first wave is July 31st, but that’s to get the figurines from China to America. And that’s only the folks who got in on the actual Kickstarter campaign and didn’t sign on as a late backer. 

According to Catalyst, 80% of first wave shipments will be out on July 31st, and the remaining 20% will come in the middle of August. Again, that’s just getting the stuff out of China. Catalyst won’t begin shipping to backers until late September, so you’re likely not going to get those shipments until October.

Clan Recognition Guide Vol 3

So that’s the bad news. The good news is that backers now have access to $50 worth of digital content if you follow this link and use a code at checkout that was emailed to backers earlier this month. This includes the brand new first edition of Shrapnel magazine as well as ten digital novels and three scenario PDFs.

Also, Recognition Guide: IlClan vol. 2 and 3 are out now, and we’ve got a brand new Stone Rhino with two overhead barrels instead of one. This is a long-overdue redesign that finally makes sense. What else might be hiding within these hallowed pages? Head on over to the Catalyst store to find out.

Renegade HPG Interviews Blaine Lee Pardoe, And Does Some Great Stuff With The Old Card Game Too!

A Conversation with BATTLETECH'S BLAINE LEE PARDOE | Renegade HPG Podcast Episode 3
Watch this video on YouTube.

A couple of weeks ago, a brand new BattleTech YouTube channel popped up called Renegade HPG. Travis, the owner, first got started with the BattleTech TCG by opening a sealed booster box of Limited Edition on camera. It’s pretty sweet, especially considering my love of the original card game. I still have a bunch of those old cards and even the new ones that were made by BattleTech historian, Michael Todd (the same guy who made this great fan-made TRO).

From there, Travis decided to explore more of the TCG with Michael Cohen and Chester Hendrix, both BattleTech TCG pros (at least, as professional as you can get with a card game that’s been out of print for almost two decades) who’ve played the game for years and run the BattleTech TCG Facebook group. They talked about the card game’s history and design, as well as actual gameplay and deckbuilding. They go on four HOURS about BattleTech TCG mechanics, and I encourage you to check it out if you want to ever get into the card game (and then I might have someone to play with). 

And from there it seems that Travis has branched out into speaking with BattleTech‘s creative team. His most recent interview with Blaine Lee Pardoe explores BattleTech‘s history as well as what stories have yet to be written (at least, in novel form). 

Check them both out, and follow the channel to see what he comes out with next.

Ever Wonder What MechAssault 3 Might’ve Looked Like? Check Out This Art Portfolio

Fire Falcon

This is an interesting one that came from a person who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of taking too much credit for just how awesome this is. So I’ll take that credit for myself, thank you very much. 

It’s an art portfolio slash promotional pamphlet for MechAssault 3 from graphics designer Kurt Saberi. We’ve talked about MechAssault before and the fan project that’s getting quite a bit of traction these days, but what we have here is what might’ve been had Day 1 Studios still existed and hadn’t been bought out by Wargaming (the makers of World of Tanks) in 2013.

MechAssault 3

The intent of this portfolio was to try and convince people to invest in this game, which obviously didn’t pan out, but likely not because of the pitch. Or maybe--you decide.

MechAssault 3 would have taken 300 years after the events of MechAssault 2, which would put us way beyond anything we’ve ever seen from official sources and certainly way beyond the current Dark Age/IlClan era that we’re in now, narratively speaking. And the future is weird. The Clans are still around, with Clan Wolf still being in separate Warden and Crusader factions. Clan technology has also advanced considerably, with Elemental power armor replaced by sleek, sexy, almost anime-style power armor with animalistic features.

Mech Assault 3a

In fact, there seems to be a Far Eastern-influence in the design of everything here. The only ‘Mech in the portfolio, the Fire Falcon, is almost Metal Gear-like in its appearance. You can imagine a bajillion missiles coming out of those open ports.

The portfolio does mention that Clan technology is smooth and hyper-advanced, while Inner Sphere tech is crude, chunky, and brutish. Or it would if any of it was represented. Whatever the plot of MechAssault 3, it looks like it would have heavily focused on the Clans. 

MechAssault 3

But as we all know by now, if you want a new MechAssault game, you gotta do it yourself, so go check out the latest news coming out of Wolves

Wolves Releases Soundtrack Teaser

Speaking of Wolves, here’s a teaser of the game’s impending soundtrack. Sounds pretty good, right? I liked it. Also, there’s a nice picture of an Atlas for you to gawk at for a bit.

It’s MechWarrior 2’s 25th Anniversary!

MechWarrior 2 Cover

On July 24, 1995, MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat first arrived in stores on compact disc. It would go on to revolutionize gaming, especially when it came to portraying giant stompy robots. And it did a few neat things to move the dial forward for PC gaming in general.

I went into great length about MechWarrior 2 already, and while it would probably have made a lot more sense to celebrate a quarter-century since the release of MechWarrior 2 by publishing such an article now, I don’t have that kind of foresight. Instead, you may read that article here at your leisure.

And you can join a bunch of old farts in Discord to talk about the glory days of MechWarrior games. Reddit user CommanderHunter5 is inviting all MechWarriors to join their Discord to discuss the good ol’ days and to help people get MechWarrior 2 to work on modern hardware. It can be done, it just takes some doing.

So yeah, click this link to get in on the discussion.

Fan Gifts Us Remastered Soundtracks Of Every BattleTech Game Ever Made

Soundtrack Remastered

Perhaps a better way to celebrate MechWarrior 2‘s quarter centennial is by re-listening to the game’s soundtrack, which was awesome (and also discussed at length here). 

Xeromynd recently posted to various MechWarrior and BattleTech related subreddits a gift: a compiled and remastered selection of songs from every MechWarrior, BattleTech, MechCommander, and MechAssault game ever made. At least, the ones that aren’t still being sold for money so nobody can get sued. 

Apparently, xeromynd is an audio engineer of 10+ years and also a die-hard BattleTech fan. Combine the two and you get this fun little project that will tickle your earbuds. 

There’s quite a lot to download, so the collection has been broken into five separate parts: the BattleTech Legacy collection, the MechCommander Legacy collection, the MechWarrior Legacy collection, the MechAssault Legacy collection, and a bonus collection that has covers and remixes from the community. Timothy Seals’ fantastic remixes are sadly not included.

Thank you, xeromynd. This will replace my collection of old MP3s that were taken many, many moons ago, and were frankly never that great because I didn’t know jack about audio compression back then.

That’s it for July! Join me next time as we discuss what fresh hell awaits us in August. It’s sure to be a blast.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

The Evolution Of Long-Range Missiles In BattleTech, or Why You Should Shut Up And Love The LRM-5

LRM-5 Thinker

thanks to Bradigus for this gem

I’ve got a question for you, my fellow BattleTech aficionados. Why doesn’t everyone just scrap their LRM-20s and use a bunch of LRM-5s in their place? This is a question that has dogged me ever since I got into BattleTech and one that I’ve decided to answer once and for all.

For me, this all started way back with MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries when I discovered than an LRM-5 weighs just 2 tons, meaning I could boat-up four of those suckers and get the equivalent firepower of an LRM-20 but at just 80% of the tonnage requirement. Then I got into the tabletop game and saw that the LRM-5 was still just 2 tons, and it made me wonder why didn’t everybody scrap all their LRM-20s and duct-tape together a bunch of LRM-5s? Is every ‘Mech jock in the entire universe stupid or what?!

It turns out there’s a reason for that, and that reason has changed with every new generation of BattleTech games. But for much of BattleTech video game history, there was little reason to keep those big LRM launchers instead of swapping them for an equivalent number of LRM-5s,  and that made me wonder just how the heck this innocuous weapon system can be so weird across so much of BattleTech’s games.

So today, we’re going to take a deep dive into the many intricacies of perhaps one of BattleTech’s most boring weapon system: the LRM-5.

LRM-5, According To The Table

LRM

Starting where it all began, of course. My introduction to the LRM-5 might have come in the form of a video game, but to understand the LRM-5 we have to go back to the beginning, and that means tabletop rules. Even here the LRM-5 can seem like a questionable choice, so let’s break this weapon down.

The LRM-5 weighs 2 tons, takes 1 crit, and can fire a packet of five measly long-range missiles at a target up to 21 hexes away (Inner Sphere stats, of course). One look at Sarna’s vast repository of BattleTech knowledge reveals that this is a significant weight savings when compared to larger missile launchers such as the LRM-10 (5 tons, 2 crits), LRM-15 (7 tons, 3 crits), and LRM-20 (10 tons, 5 crits), so why would you ever want to use any of those larger launchers?

The answer is hiding in the damage tables. To determine damage, you roll 2D6 and then consult the table. For most of the possible rolls, the damage between four LRM-5s and a single LRM-20 is equivalent, except for two results: a 2 and a 4. If you roll a 2 on an LRM-5 shot, then you’re only dealing 1 damage, whereas an LRM-20 is dealing 6 damage. That’s a 50% bonus over four LRM-5s firing simultaneously.

A similar story happens if you roll a 4, which causes an LRM-5 to deal 2 damage and an LRM-20 to deal 9. A single extra point of damage isn’t quite as pronounced as the snake-eyes situation, but it’s still more damage on low rolls.

There’s also heat to consider. An LRM-20 produces just 6 points of heat, but four LRM-5s firing together produce 8 points. On the other hand, you can manage your heat better by just firing a few of those LRM-5s at a time rather than all four at once, but in terms of average damage per round, the LRM-20 is clearly beating our cludged 4xLRM-5.

Whether you think a little less heat and a little more consistent damage is worth the extra two tons and one critical slot is a matter of personal opinion, but the math checks out--at least, for the tabletop. That story changes dramatically once we get into the video games.

Off The Table And Into The Silicon Wafer

While things were just fine and dandy for the LRM-5 in the tabletop version of BattleTech, as soon as things went digital, shit got weird. Really weird.

A little while back, I briefly touched on a YouTube video from Pixelmusement that revealed the actual damage values of all weapons used in MechWarrior 2, and the LRM-5 is on that list. Now, this is Clan tech instead of Inner Sphere, but we can still highlight some major differences in the LRM-5 thanks to this exhaustive analysis.

First, LRMs in the old MechWarrior 2 days didn’t use damage tables to randomly calculate the amount of mayhem a flight of LRMs will produce. In MechWarrior 2, every missile was its own object with its own specific trajectory. However, LRMs had such good homing in those days that a missile lock often meant that every single one of those missiles would hit its target--many of them in the same location. Worse, the splash damage of the explosion essentially doubled the firepower of LRMs, meaning you were dealing 2 damage per missile instead of one.

MW2 Mercs

So in MechWarrior 2, it absolutely made sense to replace all your LRM-20s with LRM-5s, but only if you had space for them. MechWarrior 2 limited players to just 10 total weapons systems, so this would work on some ‘Mechs like the Vulture, but not on more heavily-laden machines like the Mad Cat.

The only downside to this strategy was heat. LRM-5s still produced more heat than the equivalent LRM-20, so that extra ton is likely to be used up with a heat sink to offset the extra heat produced.

MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries still had inexplicable Streak LRMs, but at least the splash damage bug had been fixed so that each individual missile only did 1 damage. However, the same situation remained: all missiles fired hit their mark, and that meant random damage tables couldn’t account for the extra 2 tons and 1 crit that an LRM-20 has over four LRM-5s. Once again, it absolutely made more sense to toss your heavier LRM units for group-fired LRM-5s.

This situation continued into MechWarrior 3, but finally changed in MechWarrior 4 when LRMs got a complete overhaul. Rather than fire streak-style homing missiles directly at whatever you had a lock on, LRMs in MechWarrior 4 would take an arcing path over obstacles if fired at great distances. Missiles were also grouped into “packets” of 5, just like in the tabletop game, and it was certainyl possible for those packets to miss a fast-moving target.

However, this isn’t quite the same as the tabletop’s damage. Those packets of 5 missiles either struck home for 5 damage (actually 4--MechWarrior 4 used weird damage values) or they missed and did nothing. There’s no in-between. So, boating LRM-5’s once again appears to make sense.

MW4 via the Pirate Bay

Only MechWarrior 4 did something different that finally gave players a good reason to use a larger missile system over a smaller one. MechWarrior 4 added fixed hardpoints to the MechWarrior series that prevented a player from simply swapping out whatever weapon systems they wanted. Although the tonnage of each weapon remained the same, critical slots had been replaced by weapon hardpoints that would allow only a certain amount of energy, missile, or ballistic weaponry.

An Inner Sphere LRM-20 still weighed 10 tons, but now it took up two “missile” slots in a hardpoint. This meant that a single LRM-20 could only ever be replaced by two LRM-5s, albeit with significant weight savings and with only 8 possible damage (again, MechWarrior 4 used different damage values than pretty much every other MechWarrior game).

For me, MechWarrior 4 was where LRMs started to make sense again. Yes, larger LRM packs were less efficient in terms of weight, but they were more efficient in terms of damage per missile hardpoint slot. The key here is that MechWarrior 4 changed the relationship between damage, tonnage, and space. Instead of tonnage being the key limiter to damage, hardpoint slots were often the limiting factor. This meant that it made sense for larger ‘Mechs to have larger LRM packs, while smaller ‘Mechs made do with LRM-5s.

The Modern Solution To The LRM Problem

In modern games like MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries and BATTLETECH, the solution to the LRM problem has become a hybrid of MechWarrior 4’s hardpoints and more classic tabletop ‘Mech construction. In both titles, ‘Mechs are limited in the number of specific energy, ballistic, and missile-based weapons they can mount in any given section of the chassis, but the more traditional critical slot layout is also retained from the tabletop game.

MechWarrior 5 goes one step further. Instead of just having missile, ballistic, and energy hardpoints, it also subdivides those weapons into small, medium, and large categories. A small weapon can fit into any sized hardpoint, but it occupies the entire hardpoint and prevents any additional weapons from slotting in. A large weapon can only occupy a large weapon hardpoint, so an LRM-5 can replace a single LRM-20, but an LRM-20 can’t replace an LRM-5. And, crucially, four LRM-5s cannot replace an LRM-20 unless the chassis has four total available missile hardpoints.

You’d think that would be enough for MechWarrior 5, but no. PGI REALLY wanted to differentiate between small and large launchers, so they added a very interesting quirk to LRMs.

Lock-on Weapons (LRMs) in Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries | Full Mission Gameplay
Watch this video on YouTube.

In MechWarrior 5 there are actually two styles of LRM launcher: stream launchers and regular launchers. Stream launchers fire their missiles one after the other so that each missile’s launch doesn’t affect the one behind it. This causes stream launchers to be somewhat more accurate and have a tighter grouping than regular launchers.

Regular LRM launchers fire all their missiles at once, creating a sort of “cloud” of missiles that home in on their target. The orientation of that cloud is random every time it’s fired, and that randomizes how damage is applied when missiles strike their target.

If they strike their target. In MechWarrior 5, the larger the launcher, the larger the cloud of missiles. Unlike in previous MechWarrior games, missiles don’t converge when they approach their victim, so if the target is significantly smaller than the cloud of LRMs fired--like in the case of an LRM-20 fired at a Locust--then the vast majority of those missiles will just hit the ground and deal no damage.

Suddenly the LRM-5 is more than just a smaller version of larger launchers. Since the cloud fired from an LRM-5 is small, it can be used against smaller targets like light ‘Mechs and armored vehicles. LRM-20s, on the other hand, are only really useful against larger targets that will get struck by the majority of the missile cloud--otherwise you’re just wasting most of your ammo.

MechWarrior 5 is smart too. If you manage to group together four LRM-5s, firing them all at once essentially creates the same cloud as firing a single LRM-20. You do have the option of firing them one at a time, however, which will keep the cloud to a smaller size that’s more appropriate to dealing with smaller targets and adds a measure of flexibility.

Enforcer

I gotta give PGI credit, this is probably the most innovative and effective iteration of LRMs in any MechWarrior game. Boating is discouraged, but having an LRM-5 or two is still an effective way of dealing with pesky light ‘Mechs at extreme ranges. LRM-20s are better for heavy and assault ‘Mechs or heavily armored structures. The difference in weight efficiency is overshadowed by the importance of using the right weapon for the right job.

Now let’s take a look at Hairbrained’s BATTLETECH, the game that perhaps mirrors the tabletop experience more than any other BATTLETECH game ever produced. On the surface, BATTLETECH appears to handle things very similar to the tabletop, which means we’re back to maximizing damage per ton with our cludged 4xLRM-5 launchers again, but it’s not immediately obvious what’s going on when the computer is the one rolling digital dice. To find out, I actually reached out to Harebrained Studios to get the inside scoop on what’s happening when you light off a flight of missiles at some schmuck in a Thunderbolt.

“LRMs roll a separate to-hit for each missile in the rack,” BATTLETECH engineer Connor Monahan told me via email. “The first to-hit is rolled on a normal hit table (respective of facing) and that first hit determines the ‘center’ of the LRMs clustering, then all subsequent location rolls for successful hits from that missile rack roll on that influenced/clustered table.”

So, does that mean there’s really no real damage advantage between four LRM-5s and a single LRM-20? Monohan explained essentially “yes,” but that’s not the whole story in BATTLETECH.

LRM raining on Panther

First, there’s still heat to consider. Four LRM-5s are a lot hotter than an LRM-20, and that will seriously reduce a ‘Mech’s average damage per round. Second, since every missile rolls separately, missile weapons are some of the best weapons in the game to take against smaller, more evasive targets. A medium laser with 40% to-hit is most likely going to miss and deal no damage at all, whereas an LRM-20 with a 40% hit chance is likely to still deal 8 total damage with 8 missile hits. This is in stark contrast with MechWarrior 5 where larger launchers are actually no better than smaller ones against small targets.

And third, you can split your fire with four LRM-5s. This is especially useful when a pilot has Multi-Target, which enhances your accuracy when firing at multiple opponents.

The Evolution Of A Tiny Missile Launcher

So, are we done? Is MechWarrior 5 the pinnacle of long-range missile technology? Or is BATTLETECH and its faithful adherence to the original tabletop rules the best that an LRM can be?

Honestly, I think MechWarrior 5 has gotten the formula right. You can still boat those LRM-5s to replace heavier LRM-20s and wind up with weight savings, but there are appropriate tradeoffs. You lose the option of mounting other missile launchers (most likely, as few ‘Mechs have more than four missile hardpoints), but you gain extra tons to devote to other weapon systems. Each LRM launcher is best suited to increasingly larger enemies, and if you do decide to mount multiple LRM-5s, you’re given maximum flexibility in being able to engage both large and small targets without wasting ammunition.

But I don’t think the evolution of the LRM is over. We started out with ludicrously broken and overpowered missiles in MechWarrior 2, and each iteration of BattleTech brought them first towards balance, and then to something better: justification.

Kintaro

Is MechWarrior 5 where the evolution of the LRM launcher ends? Or will long-range missile launchers of the future take a more retro-inspired approach like BATTLETECH?

Right now it’s hard to say since we’re sort of in-between generations at the moment. All I can say is that I will always hot-swap my LRM-20s for LRM-5s until I’m convinced to do otherwise. And even then, I’ll probably still swap for those two extra tons. It’s just how I’ve been taught.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

(Edit: Yes, I know I’m omitting quite a few games, including the first MechWarrior, MechCommander, and MechWarrior Online. But I think this article is long enough.)

June News Roundup 2020 – Supplemental

Yeah, I know, we just had our June news dump, but a few things came up that I really didn’t want to push off until July. They’re kinda big deals, hence we have a “supplemental” addition to our June news.

So, without further adieu…

New Trailer For MechWarrior 5 DLC, Heroes Of The Inner Sphere

MW5 Mercs Heroes of the Inner Sphere DLC - New Mechs and Biome Preview.
Watch this video on YouTube.

We heard about this DLC back in April, and now we get to see it in action. All seven new ‘Mechs are showcased in this trailer, which includes the Corsair, Champion, Dervish, Charger, Hatamoto-Chi, Vulcan, and Marauder II. I’m personally very excited about the Dervish, which I think would make a great early-game machine and a decent ride to throw my lancemates.

There’s also a brand new moon biome on display here that looks pretty danged good. Suspiciously good, in fact. I’m wondering if this DLC might have a few lighting improvements to MechWarrior 5’s engine.

And right at the end there? Infantry! Finally, MechWarrior 5 will feel more like a real world that is inhabited by humans and not just giant stomping death machines and the occasional tank.

Corsair

And as a quick recap, this DLC isn’t just about adding new ‘Mechs. Heroes of the Inner Sphere will add new warzones, quests, missions, and an expanded map of the Inner Sphere. The centerpiece is seven new quests that tell the stories of seven heroes along with their unique ‘Mechs.

Might those be the seven ‘Mechs that were just showcased in the video? Or will we see the tale of Grayson Carlyle and his Marauder? We’ll find out… later. There’s no release date and PGI isn’t even going to guess at a release window, so patience is a virtue here.

Catalyst Announces Two New Books And A Delay

Grey Watch Protocol

Gosh, Catalyst has a lot going on this month. Good news first: we got two new novels to pre-order. First is Grey Watch Protocol: The Highlander Covenant vol. 1, and the second is Jennifer Brozek’s Ghost Hour: Rogue Academy vol. 2. Both are available for pre-order now and will be delivered in digital format on June 26, which may or may not be after the date of this publication. If I’m late, I blame my editor.

Ghost Hour

Now the bad news: Technical Readout: Golden Century has been pushed back a few weeks. Originally scheduled to release this month, it’s been pushed back so that it can release in both PDF and print-on-demand format at the same time. If all goes well, Catalyst will also release other landscape-format products in the same way such as the upcoming Technical Readout: Irregulars and possibly even past TROs.

And a bit of more good news: Recognition Guide: IlClan vol. 2 is still on track to release next Friday, July 3rd.

Alright, that’s it for June. For realsies this time.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For June 2020

Welcome to your BattleTech News Roundup for the month of June, 2020. Now we’ve got protests against police brutality and massive civil unrest to go along with the global pandemic, so that’s cool. Who had race riots on their Apocalypse: 2020 Bingo card? Someone’s gotta be close to winning by this point. I’m still waiting on “volcanic eruption” and “meteorite impact” to complete my set, although I’m eyeing “alien invasion” with more and more suspicion.

Anyway, we’re not going to get too political around these parts. BattleTech had a busy month in June, so we’ve got plenty of much more fun stuff to talk about. Let’s get this party started.

MechWarrior 5 Adds Mod Support To Microsoft Store-Bought Games

Flea

While MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries has remained an Epic exclusive, it’s not 100% exclusive to Epic. If you’re really against Epic, you could always buy the game on the Microsoft Store for the same price.

But there was a problem in that the Microsoft version of MechWarrior 5 didn’t have mod support, which was one of the key features of the game. That’s changed as of earlier this month with a brand new patch that brought mod support to the Microsoft Store and Xbox GamePass versions of MechWarrior 5.

There was a bit of a hiccup as PGI also changed the save data location to make things a little more accessible, but this caused players to lose their save files and campaign progression if they had the game installed anywhere other than their C drives. Players had to go digging around for their save files to put them in the new location in order to get their campaign back.

Minor bug aside, this is a welcome change for Microsoft Store players since mods can greatly enhance your experience in MechWarrior 5. Welcome to the fold, Microsoft Store and Xbox GamePass MechWarriors!

Shrapnel, The Official BattleTech Magazine, Has Officially Arrived

shrapnel

Kickstarter backers got their inaugural issue of Shrapnel a few weeks ago, but now The Official BattleTech Magazine is available for everyone via Amazon.

Shrapnel represents a return to more serialized BattleTech fiction, filling the void left by BattleCorps when it shut down in 2017. It’s definitely a tome, clocking in at 172 digital pages when you include the index (the magazine portion itself is more like 150 pages). Within this digital magazine, you’ll find short stories from recognizable authors like Blaine Lee Pardoe and Kevin Killany, a forward from editor Philip A. Lee, and some more technical pieces about sniper rifles and the Eridani Light Horse.

They’re also publishing Michael A. Stackpole’s recent Kell Hounds novella If Auld Acquaintances Be Forgot. Which sort of explains why this thing is about the size of a small novel, and why it’s being priced at $5.95 on Amazon. That’s good value, considering the amount of text you’re getting.

As Blaine points out, the first issue of Shrapnel is very wordy without a lot of visual aids. Shrapnel is taking submissions for future issues, but so far the submission guidelines are all about word limits and preferred subject material (which is to say character-focused BattleTech stories). There’s nothing about fanart submissions, but reach out anyway. I’m sure Catalyst would love to spruce things up with a bit of fanart.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Sean, you’re a writer, why don’t you submit something to Shrapnel?” Well, I did have this idea about a gay romance between star-crossed Elementals from different Clans, but I don’t think anyone wants to read that. Plus I’d have to edit out the sex scenes to meet the PG-13 requirement and trust me, that’d be A LOT of work.

But if anyone at Catalyst thinks goofy articles about AC/20 ammo being made of pancakes is worth reading, gimme a shout.

Catalyst Sends C&D’s To Thingiverse Accounts Over BattleTech Copyrights

UrbieCop

courtesy of Fried Eggs on Discord

Well, this was a long time coming. Catalyst has finally taken action against the burgeoning 3D printing community to remove all copyrighted materials from Thingiverse, perhaps the largest 3D printing design site on the internet. This has resulted in many ‘Mech designs being removed at their request.

Takedown requests started getting sent out at the beginning of June, and according to a copy of the request posted by Reddit user AceTimberwolf, those requests are coming directly from BattleTech line developer Ray Arrastia.

You can’t blame Catalyst for protecting their copyrighted ‘Mechs, but it looks like this was a takedown of anything that was tagged “BattleTech” on Thingiverse. This meant things that aren’t technically copyrighted also got taken down, including stuff like buildings, trees, and other hex-based terrains. Custom designs that were based on copyrighted ‘Mechs also got the ax.

DCMA notice

It was all a little heavy-handed, and it has left a bad taste in the mouths of the 3D-printing community. The BattleTech International 3D Printing Facebook group has taken to tagging their designs “America Mecha Game” to both protest the mass removal and also avoid future takedown notices, with various pirate memes dominating the recent postings (kudos to Fried Eggs on the Everything BattleTech Discord server for coming up with this delightful UrbieCop meme).

My take? Catalyst is staring down an existential threat. Printing minis at home means they lose their market, which means they lose some pretty essential revenue. They’d rather BattleTech fans buy minis they make instead. That’s how their business works, how it’s always worked.

But there’s really no putting this genie back in the bottle. Just as how music had to transform decades ago thanks to the advent of MP3s, so too will gaming miniature providers have to change how they do things thanks to 3D printers. C&D’s and takedown requests might slow things down for now, but they won’t stop it. The technology is out there, and it’ll only get harder and harder to police as 3D printers get cheaper and 3D designs get easier to make.

I won’t link them here, but I can tell you that certain Facebook groups are already throwing Dropbox links around with all those removed Thinigverse designs inside them. This fight is only going to get spicier in the coming months as the Clan Invasion Kickstarter shipments start later this year.

Halfway Through, So Here’s A Pixel Art Javelin

[OC] Practicing Pixel Art! from battletech

Reddit user Maaxxim posted this one and I really like it. Javelins don’t get enough love (even though you’re basically given one for free in MechWarrior 5), so I’m glad to see someone else is giving the Javelin some long-overdue attention.

BattleTech Recognition Guide: IlClan Volume One Now Available

BattleTech Recognition Guide

People have been wondering when we’ll see IlClan. Well, here’s our first good taste. The IlClan TRO is being handed out piece by piece as it’s being created in the form of the BattleTech Recognition Guide: IlClan.

What will eventually span 22 PDF files, these Recognition Guides will include at least one all-new ‘Mech per volume and also redesigns on classic ‘Mechs rebuilt using Dark Age tech. They’ll also include “in-universe development notes, battle histories, notable pilots, and record sheets for each ‘Mech.”

Dominator

After all 22 PDFs are published, they’ll be combined into a single print volume. If this doesn’t eventually become the IlClan TRO, I don’t know what will.

In a preview posted on Twitter, Catalyst also treated us to that new ‘Mech that was on the cover of Pardoe’s latest book, Divided We Fall. The Dominator is a 65-ton Clan BattleMech with decent speed, armor, and jump jets. And I was mostly right about the armament too with the real design sporting an ER PPC, ER Large Laser, ER Small Laser, and a Streak SRM-6. A Targeting Computer makes those long-range energy weapons hit consistently, and I’m all about consistency.

BATTLETECH Revised Is Now Live

BattleTech Revised via Nexus Mods

Back in March, we heard about a “crack commando team” that was looking to rebalance everything in BATTLETECH, from ‘Mech hardpoints to weapon stats. We were promised an update later, and it seems that time has come.

BATTLETECH Revised is now available on Nexus Mods and it brings with it a totally new BATTLETECH experience. ‘Mechs now have quirks based on their lore that gives them… well, quirks. Strong ‘Mechs were given debuff quirks, while weaker designs got helpful quirks.

Although the mod description states that the quirks are designed to respect a ‘Mech’s lore, the example provided isn’t exactly doing that. Apparently the Commando is considered a “sniper” ‘Mech that now has 50% more firepower for weapons mounted in the right arm. Although the COM-1B has a large laser that might make it slightly sniper-y, the vast majority of Commando variants have short-range missiles and are more harassers and reconnaissance machines than snipers. [Ed. It has been brought to my attention that the prototype and early model Commandos were actually snipers armed with large lasers and AC/2, notably the COM-1A, COM-1B, and COM1-C. So this is more in keeping with BattleTech than previously indicated. My bad!]

On the plus side, weapons have been rebalanced so that some of the more maligned weapon systems such as the AC/2 are now much more of a threat. On top of that, there are big changes to the game’s economy, story, and pilot abilities, with pilots now receiving special bonuses if they’re sent into combat in their personal rides.

It sounds like a much-expanded experience, even if the designers aren’t quite aware of the full BattleTech lore, so if you’re looking to change up your game, try BATTLETECH Revised.

MechWarrior Destiny, Dice Sets, And Puzzles Now Available

June is a big month for Catalyst! They’ve already taken up most of this recap, but we still have a few more newsworthy updates to make with new BattleTech products.

Destiny

Starting with MechWarrior: Destiny, the new RPG based on the Cue system. I have not played anything using the Cue system, but it certainly sounds interesting. Rather than having a GM, the Cue system gives each player a turn at being the Lead Narrator using “cues” on their character sheet to move each scene forward. It’s designed to be easy to learn, so it shouldn’t add too much of a complicating layer to regular BattleTech tabletop gameplay.

MechWarrior: Destiny can be played without the usual stomping robots, or you can incorporate Destiny into your BattleTech or Alpha Strike games for an added role-playing element. MechWarrior: Destiny is availble now in PDF or print formats.

Turning Points: Tyrfing is also available now in PDF form, telling the story of how the planet Tyrfing became the scene for a five-way war for Lostech during the First Succession War. There’s also a bunch of dice sets available using the logos for famous mercenary groups, including Gray Death Legion, McCarron’s Armored Cavalry, the 21st Centauri Lancers, the Eridani Light Horse, and the Northwind Highlanders.

Puzzles

And finally, we got some brand new jigsaw puzzles. Each puzzle is 500 pieces, 18×24-inches, and features box and cover art from some of the most iconic BattleTech products out today. Only 1,000 puzzles of each design will be made, and they’ll be foil-printed too. Combine this with the coloring books from last month and you got yourself the perfect way to keep the kids entertained during social distancing.

Have A Hornet To Brighten Your Day

Hornets 3D models redux from battletech

Reddit user u/juodasvarnas is back with another 3D design, this time the Hornet. It looks sort of like half an UrbanMech with jet engines strapped to the back, which I’m sure is perfectly safe. We need more Hornets out there hopping along and shooting their LRM-5s at nothing in particular–much like how a yellow jacket is inclined to sting for no particular reason.

And that’s it! Join us next month where we talk about all the stuff that happened in the next few weeks, barring an even greater global catastrophe that makes this whole giant robot stuff seem kinda trivial. Unless that global catastrophe IS giant robots. Then I guess we’ll talk about that.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy