Category Archives: BattleTech Game

State Of Play: How MechWarrior And BattleTech Are Doing Post E3

June is almost over. E3 has come and gone, and with it came basically no news about BattleTech, MechWarrior 5, or anything else ‘Mech-related. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t news to report! And now that I’ve got a minute to get caught up, here’s what’s happening in the world of BattleTech video games.

BattleTech Releases Urban Warfare Expansion And The Raven Was OP AF

Raven v Wolverine

Urban Warfare is out, and with it comes a bunch of new things including Flashpoints, a new biome, and new ‘Mechs. The Javelin arrived with the 10N and 10F variants, which allows you to boat up on SRM-6s or Medium Lasers, depending on your preference. But the ‘Mech that made the biggest splash was easily the RVN-1X Raven.

Why? ECM was busted, my friends. With a Raven in your lance, every ‘Mech is effectively cloaked until they move or fire. While this seemed like it would only be useful for guarding assault ‘Mechs that move last in the turn order, if you simply reserved your movement until the enemy had gone, it actually just made your lance completely untargetable unless your opponent was already inside the ECM bubble or they used Sensor Lock.

Also, there was a bug in the game that prevented the enemy AI from using Sensor Lock or just charging the Raven as soon as it appeared. This had been noted by many in the BattleTech community as a completely busted mechanic that needed fixing. 

Here’s my man Baradul with a pretty good example of what I mean.

See how the enemy AI was basically helpless against the Raven‘s ECM? That bug has since been fixed as of the June 20th 1.6.2 patch. Gone are the days when a single Raven could take down an entire enemy lance single-handedly, and good riddance. Ravens should be fragile balls of copper wiring and heatsinks liable to explode at the slightest provocation.

With Urban Warfare out of the way, all eyes turn to the next expansion, titled Heavy Metal. We already know that Unseen ‘Mechs are lurking in this expansion, although we don’t know which ones. But judging by the name, we’re guessing they’re heavy ‘Mechs like the Marauder, Warhammer, or even the Archer.

Did Microsoft Announce MechAssault At This Year’s E3?

Nope. Guess the rumors were false. Moving on.

MechWarrior Online Might Be Dying

At the end of May, PGI President Russ Bullock went on No Guts No Galaxy TV to provide an update on MechWarrior Online, MechWarrior 5, and Mech_Con. While there was plenty discussed on all three topics (which you can read a summary of here), the big bombshell Bullock dropped happened roughly 17 minutes into the broadcast when he basically just came out and admitted that new ‘Mech packs in MechWarrior Online weren’t paying the bills anymore.

“We have something like 1,000 different ‘Mechs between all the variants and everything. Frankly, it’s a lot,” Bullock said. “It’s been quite a while now–I would suggest maybe even a year-ish–since the last time a ‘Mech really was a good return on investment for us.”

Watch Developer Update w/ Russ Bullock from NGNGtv on www.twitch.tv

Before May of this year, MechWarrior Online stuck to a schedule which saw the release of a brand new ‘Mech every month. It was the cornerstone of MWO’s monetization model: a new ‘Mech every month to spend money on and keep the game afloat. While this model has seen a lot of rare and esoteric designs finally find their way into a MechWarrior game (where else can you get inside a Vulcan or a Dervish?!), it hasn’t been worth PGI’s time to create these new designs for some time.

If people aren’t buying ‘Mech packs, then MechWarrior Online isn’t generating money. If MWO isn’t generation money, then PGI’s survival now depends entirely on the success of MechWarrior 5. Even when asked point blank on how MWO would make money going forward, Bullock replied: “I think you can put two and two together.”

First, let me say this isn’t exactly a big surprise. MechWarrior Online has been in decline for years. Steamcharts reports an average of 1,122 players in January of 2018. By January 2019, that number had fallen to 818 players. In the last 30 days, that number declined to just 635 players.

You can pick and choose whatever reason you want for MWO’s slide, but ultimately the game is just old. MWO first arrived in open beta in 2012, and very few games last 7 years at all, let alone make enough money to fund the development of a completely new single-player, campaign-based MechWarrior game.

As for all the eggs being put into the MechWarrior 5 basket, that’s how most game studios do it, so why should PGI be any different? They’ll take out a loan or team up with a publisher if things get tight between now and September, but then the game will come out and they’ll be rolling on dough again. Probably.

Also, it should be noted that people are still buying new ‘Mechs, just not in volumes that make it worth PGI’s time to make. To turn that around, PGI will release fewer ‘Mech packs but choose popular designs that haven’t already made it into MechWarrior Online (might I suggest the Crusader, Wraith, or Stone Rhino?)

via Reddit

This is fake, but imagine if it weren’t!

Bullock said that MechWarrior 5 got an exceptional number of pre-orders given the current climate against pre-ordering anything in PC gaming, so we’ll have to wait and see how this shakes out. MechWarrior 5 is out September 10th, with pre-orders available now (EDIT: actually pre-orders are over! Don’t ask me why, I thought that developers liked getting money).

As for MechWarrior Online, if it does die, well, then it had a good run. It leaves a complicated legacy filled with missteps, but it also brought about an incredible revolution in ‘Mech simulation, phenomenal art design and assets used in other ‘Mech games, and created a community of loyal ‘Mech fans from around the world. You can’t really ask for much more than that. 

But before we start singing MechWarrior Online’s dirge, I just want to point out that PGI is still hiring a writer for MWO’s Faction Play, so they’re not planning on closing up shop anytime soon. Heck, I might even apply.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

BattleTech: Urban Warfare Confirmed For June 4th Release

BattleTech’s second expansion, Urban Warfare, arrives on June 4th.

Development of BattleTech continues over at Harebrained Schemes with the recently announced Urban Warfare expansion. We knew this one was coming when the whole season pass thing was announced, but now we know when it’s coming and what we’re all in store for.

As the name suggests, the first thing we should get used to is the idea of fighting in an urban environment. That’s right: ‘Mechs are going to brawl in a city, and suddenly the UrbanMech isn’t looking half bad.

The important thing to note here is that every building–EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.–is fully destructible. This means that you can either go around a building or, as is my preference, through the building to get at the enemy. However, it should be noted that not every building will leave a convenient ‘Mech-sized hole to walk through. Some high rises will just flat-out collapse and leave a building-sized pile of rubble that you can’t just smash or shoot your way through.

On top of that, there’s going to be gas and transformer stations that can really change the face of combat. At the very least, there will be a lot more tactical options to consider in every engagement.

Along with the new urban biome comes a bunch of new tech. In this case, Lostech. ECM and Active Probes are coming to BattleTech, and they’ll arrive in the first new ‘Mech we get to discuss: the RVN-1X Raven.

Urban Warfare

The RVN-1X was the very first Liao prototype pushed into service in 3024 to beat back the invading Federated Suns armies. It was equipped with a prototype Electronic Warfare system that combined the ECM and Active Probe into a single 7.5-ton device, which really cut into the Raven’s available tonnage. This meant that either weapons or engine would have to be sacrificed in the name of this EW suite, and the 1X chose engine. It can wobble at 86 kph, which puts it on the slow side for a light ‘Mech, but not as slow as the UrbanMech.

We’re not 100% clear on how ECM is going to work, but we do know it will disrupt enemy targeting and provide immunity to indirect fire. This likely means that ‘Mechs covered in an ECM umbrella will simply be harder to hit in combat.

The Active Probe is described as being able to “reveal, locate, and target enemy units that would otherwise be hidden.” That’s a little vague, but we’re hoping it also increases overall sensor range, and might even add something to indirect fire targeting (ie. LRMs).

Our next ‘Mech is the beautiful Javelin. We’re not given the exact designation of which Javelin, but I’m thinking it’s at least going to be the classic JVN-10N with its twin SRM-6 packs. There are a lot of other Javelin variants that could be added here as well, but we’ll have to wait and see what Harebrained says about it.

Three new enemy tanks join the fray, including the Gallant, the Packrat, and the Rotunda. The Gallant is particularly noteworthy for being an incredibly old design! Circa 2551, to be precise, but it’s still equipped with a potent arsenal that MechWarriors cannot take for granted.

The Packrat is described in our beautiful Wiki as having an SRM-6 and a Flamer, but Harebrained seems to have made a bit of an alteration to give the Packrat ECM. The Rotunda scout car has also been switched up by having an Active Probe added to its arsenal. It seems doubtful with an Active Probe on board that the Rotunda would still have room for a Large Laser and an SRM-2.

Urban Warfare will also expand BattleTech’s Flashpoint system with more possible encounters, special events, critical choices, and Lostech loot. There will also be a new mission type called Attack and Defend where the objective is to “destroy an enemy’s base to stop a steady stream of attackers before they can overcome your forces and knock out your employer’s base.” Which sounds hard.

Urban Warfare drops June 4th. After that comes Heavy Metal, and Harebrained has already said that some Unseen ‘Mechs will come along with it. Judging by the name, I’m gonna guess that we’re going to see the Warhammer, Rifleman, and Marauder. We’ll see how accurate that prediction is later.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Mech_Con Roundup Day 2 – Harebrained Show, Catalyst Announcements, And A New MWOWC Champion!

Day 2, electric boogaloo! After PGI had their big huzzah on the first day of Mech_Con 2018, the rest of the BattleTech companies got their chance at glory. We had Harebrained Schemes show off their latest BattleTech expansion: Flashpoint, Catalyst Game Labs revealed some fancy dice and that the new box sets aren’t a year-long fever dream, and the MechWarrior Online World Championships crowned a new champion! 

Harebrained Schemes Has Old Men Fight In Giant Robots

Once again, Harebrained decided to showcase their latest creation by making FASA co-founder Jordan Weisman and Harebrained co-founder Mitch Gitelman duel to the death, but this time, instead of mindlessly jumping on each other for a solid hour, they had Hatchetmen. Er, I mean henchmen.

So that went well.

I sadly did not get to see this hopefully yearly tradition when it was broadcast live on Twitch, but thankfully, PGI kept the whole 12-hour video from last Sunday online. So you can see the entire debacle so long as you’re willing to skip to roughly 6 hours in.

Which I can do for you. You’re welcome.

Watch MechCon Vancouver 2018 from PiranhaGames on www.twitch.tv

Like I said, rather than fight it out themselves, the two grandfathers of BattleTech picked two randos out of the audience to be there “advisors”. And by choose, it was more like Gitelman picked the best BattleTech player in Harebrained’s office, while Weisman got Willian von Wilhelm Helmut, the guy who won the Valhalla Tournament Of Champions. Whatever that is.

But here’s the thing: BattleTech is a game of random numbers. And on top of that, Weisman and Gitelman weren’t all that good at taking instructions. Weisman eventually fired his general, while Gitelman often ignored sound advice in favor of performing yet another DFA maneuver.

This year, the numbers were on Gitelman’s side. While last year he had to serve as Weisman’s bondsman, this year the tables are turned and it will be Weisman who washes Gitelman’s car and brews his lattes. They are from Seattle, after all.

Afterward the fight (and somewhat during), the two hosted a live Q&A session about the future of BattleTech. They revealed that more Unseen ‘Mechs are set to arrive, including the Marauder and Warhammer heavy ‘Mechs, but not to expect them in the next planned expansion which is Urban Warfare.

Catalyst Game Labs Answers Questions, Proves That Box Sets Actually Exist

The boys and girls at Catalyst Game Labs were also at Mech_Con to show everyone going gaga over MechWarrior 5 that there’s a simpler, slower, and lower-tech way of playing BattleTech that involves dice, miniatures, and a lot of reading. No, more reading than that–veritable textbooks of reading. Tomes, if you will.

I kid. I only wish I had the free time to play an actual, sit-down-and-roll-dice game of BattleTech.

But also as with last year, Catalyst answered a bunch of questions from the hardcore BattleTech faithful, chief among them was “where the hell are those brand new box sets you’ve been promising since last year?”

The answer: in the warehouse, and expecting to be at brick and mortar stores by the end of the month. It sounds like it might miss the Christmas rush, but maybe you’ll get it in time for New Years.

Box Sets

In addition to the new box sets, Catalyst Primary Randall N. Bills and BattleTech Line Developer Brent Evans also dropped a few new items on the horizon, such as new map pack called “grasslands” (to arrive sometime in March) as well as a reprint of the BattleTech Manual for BattleTech’s 35th anniversary.

We also got some news about Shattered Fortress, which will become a stepping stone to the hotly anticipated Il-Clan sourcebook. We also got a strong hint that the universe will go back to hammering the Capellan Confederation into space dust in the tradition of the classic BattleTech novels.

As always, new fiction is the top priority for BattleTech fans, which Evans was happy to reveal that there are no less than 30 fiction projects of varying length currently in progress. These will become available via electronic distribution (ie. Amazon) as soon as they’re done, which we’ll report on once we’ve got a title to share.

Oh, and since the whole Unseen business is finally settled, expect to see some new sculpts coming out. We don’t know when, but some redesigned Warhammer and Marauder minis could be here sometime next year.

MechWarrior Online World Finals Crowns New Champions

A new day has dawned in competitive MechWarrior Online. Two-time champions EmpyreaL have finally been dethroned by last year’s runner-ups, Eon Synergy.

Whereas EmpyreaL was the dominant force in competitive MWO for several years, EON Synergy displayed incredible skill and tactics during this year’s tournament that made them completely unstoppable. Despite EmpreaL’s team of veteran players, EON never lost a game, and the look of absolute relief after proving that EmpyreaL is not invincible could be felt even through an LCD screen.

This year’s winning team were awarded medals and a shared first place prize of $34,653. They also got a ton of in-game content, although, with the amount of ‘Mechs these guys probably already have, one wonders just how much value they’ll get with an extra 50 million C-Bills.

And that’s it for this year’s Mech_Con! Join us next year when I’ll hopefully get paid to fly to Vancouver on first-class tickets due to the incredible importance of Sarna’s first-hand reporting! And I’ll be sure to bring my BattleTech TCG cards when I do. I heard there were a bunch of you jokesters playing this year.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

First BattleTech Expansion – Flashpoint – Arrives November 27th

We all knew this day was coming. Flashpoint, the first of hopefully many BattleTech expansions, has been given a release date of November 27th. You can pre-order now and save 10% off your purchase on Steam.

As we may have mentioned before (Hatchetman), there are several exciting new chassis to explore with this expansion (Hatchetman). First is the quick and nimble Crab, capable of operating for extended periods behind enemy lines thanks to it’s all energy loadout (still not a Hatchetman though). There’s also the Cyclops, another C-word ‘Mech that comes with a Lostech battle computer to help with team resolve throughout the fight (still waiting on my Hatchetman).

And of course, how could we forget: the melee-focused Hatchetman (YES!) which uses a 5-ton hatchet to carve its enemies into scrap.

Flashpoints themselves play out as new end-game short story campaigns that will test your skill as a commander but can come with some incredible rewards. Lostech and rare weapons are at the end of these multi-mission mini-campaigns that can range from two to six missions in length. You’ll need to bring many men and machines to take on these varied sorties as there will be no time to rest or refit before the next mission begins.

In the latest update, Mitch told us that there are approximately 30 hours of new content to be had in Flashpoint, but that seems to completely ignore the numerous hours to be spent grinding out flashpoints for that sweet sweet loot.

Also, apparently the tropical biome has spore clouds. I’m not sure what that means, but nobody has ever looked at a spore cloud and said, “Hey, that looks like a fun place to be!”

In even bigger news, Harebrained Schemes has confirmed there will be two more expansions on top of Flashpoint, with the first one being called Urban Warfare. There were a few somewhat urban settings found in the regular BattleTech campaign, but no true urban settings with enormous skyscrapers and densely packed city streets. That’s all set to change with the next expansion, coming out in the summer of next year (hopefully).

If you’re thinking there might finally be a use for the UrbanMech, then you might be right. Too bad we have to wait until the summer to find out.

Oh, and there’s a season pass available for 20% off on Steam too. I’ma get me that. Daddy likes to save his Canadian pesos.

And as always MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Harebrained Schemes Reveals BattleTech: Flashpoint Gameplay, Kills Dekker

Crab Flashpoint

courtesy of Harebrained Schemes

Harebrained Schemes and Paradox Interactive just finished their first livestream gameplay reveal of the upcoming Flashpoint expansion for BattleTech.

Last Thursday, Harebrained bigwig Mitch Gitelman and lead BattleTech designer Kiva Maginn sat down with Anders Carlsson of Paradox Interactive to do a live Twitch stream of an early development build of the upcoming BattleTech expansion, Flashpoint. And they barely made it out with a single ‘Mech.

Flashpoints are a new post-campaign mission type where the player will engage in a sort of BattleTech short story. Each contract is comprised of a series of missions varying between two to six. Since these all take place one after the other, there won’t be any chance for major refits or for pilots to recover from injuries. You’ll need to have an A-team and a B-team of both ‘Mechs and pilots to replace your losses throughout the Flashpoint.

Since these missions take place after the campaign, it assumes the player is an experienced veteran and is looking for an additional challenge. Thus, the missions are likely going to be harder than your average campaign mission. However, the rewards for completing a Flashpoint can include Lostech, rare equipment, and other such goodies that might make the sacrifice in man and machine worth it.

The initial teaser made it seem like Flashpoints weren’t available until after the main campaign, but Gitelman let it drop that there are some changes coming in patch 1.3 that might allow Flashpoints to occur concurrently with the campaign–so long as you’re at an “open sandbox” portion, that is.

Obviously things are still in development and subject to change, but this seems like it’ll greatly enhance the core BattleTech gameplay.

Kiva and Mitch showed off a single mission during the stream with a new mission type called “Target Acquisition”. This new mission type requires you to bring a lance of fast but tough machines since you’ll need to split your forces to grab several key locations in order to call in an artillery drop. Each ‘Mech needs to be fast enough to get to the location quickly, but tough enough to take a beating once they get there.

Our Harebrained heroes were up against two full Steiner lances, which meant they were up against a lot of heavy firepower. Also, since they were looking to show off the new ‘Mech designs, their composition wasn’t exactly ideal. Consequently, two pilots died and one ejected (and yes, Dekker was one of them).

We got our first good look at the new Crab, Hatchetman, and Cyclops designs before most of them bought it. The Crab is as expected: swift, low-slung, and filled to the brim with lasers. The Hatchetman can be a deadly combatant in melee but is vulnerable to long-range fire. The Cyclops comes with a Lostech Battle Computer that will greatly affect your lance’s resolve, but Harebrained is still tweaking by just how much.

From the looks of things, this Flashpoint would be hard even for a fully prepared mercenary commander. Mitch said that the team had actually nerfed the difficulty twice, so maybe this is a case where some more tweaks are still in store. At least the new tropical biome looked gorgeous throughout the video.

You can check out the whole stream on Paradox’s Twitch channel, or here where I’ve helpfully embedded it for you. I’m helpful.

Watch BattleTech from ParadoxInteractive on www.twitch.tv

We don’t know when in November Flashpoint will come out, but even if it’s a little later in the month that’s still just a few weeks away. If you’ve already gone through a few campaigns in BattleTech, be prepared to dust off your old save file to get ready to drop jokers with a hatchet to the face.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

BattleTech Releases Teaser Video For New Expansion: Flashpoint

BattleTech Releases Teaser Video For New Expansion: Flashpoint

courtesy of Gamestar

BattleTech is about to get its first expansion called Flashpoint.

We knew this day was coming. BattleTech has been a great success for Harebrained and new publisher Paradox Interactive, and various HBS personalities have been dropping hints for a while that an expansion was in the offing. Now it has a name: Flashpoint.

Rather than a whole new campaign to play alongside the original, Flashpoint will instead be a whole bunch of smaller stories that are book-ended by procedurally generated missions. Some of them have to be played back-to-back without any opportunity for rest and refit, adding to the sense that you’re a mercenary company on extended operations in the field.

New conversation options, no critical decisions, and new special events will all find their way into Flashpoint’s multi-story campaign.

There’s no word on whether you retain your company from the original campaign or start a brand new merc company with the new story. We’ll have to wait for more details on that one.

We here at Sarna know that fantastically written stories will only take you so far. Harebrained knows that too. That’s why they’re adding three new ‘Mechs to the game, and for the first time ever, one of them has a melee weapon: the Crab, the Cyclops, and the Hatchetman.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment. The Hatchetman. For the first time ever, you’ll be able to swing your big, stupid ax at some schmuck and watch them literally come apart at the seams.

Unfortunately, due to the momentous occasion of the Hatchetman arriving in a BattleTech video game, I won’t be able to extoll the virtues of the Crab or Cyclops–both fantastic ‘Mechs in their own right. The Hatchetman is just that big of a deal.

Alright, let’s take a few deep breaths before we move on.

There’s a new biome, which will be very beach-y, and there’s a new mission type called “Target Acquisition” which will give your light and medium ‘Mechs something to do while the assaults facetank. Judging by the press release, it’s probably something to do with “capture the flag” or whatever.

Did I mention the Hatchetman is coming? I might have gotten excited and forgotten to mention the Hatchetman.

We don’t have a release date other than the standard “coming soon” at the end of the teaser video. If Paradox follows the same pattern with expansions for their other games (and as a player of Stellaris, I’m intimately familiar with this pattern), then we can expect a price around 20 bucks (or $30 if you’re an unlucky Canuck like I am).

Hatchetman.

And as always MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

BattleTech Tips And Tools Of The Trade

Centurion

I’ve now clocked in a solid 100 hours in BattleTech, with my latest run being focused on using what I’ve learned from my previous character to run through the plot in an ideal way. No lack of ‘Mechs, pilots, or components will mar my perfect experience. I’ll always get the ‘Mech I want, and I even went so far as to mod the game so I started off with a bespoke lance consisting of a Firestarter, Jenner, Shadow Hawk SHD-2D, and a Griffin GRS-1S.

That was just so I could have a slightly different experience than my previous playthrough. Since everything is randomized, all ‘Mechs after the first few missions will always be different outside of the story missions, so I didn’t have any concerns about boredom after I got started.

But now that I’ve achieved what I’d like to consider as “veteran” status in the game, I felt it right that I bestow upon you, dear Sarna reader, some of the tips I’ve learned in my career as a mercenary lance commander.

Locust

To start, I’ve always found that grinding out a bunch of easy missions early on will make the tougher missions that much easier for you later. The reason here is that grinding simple missions gives you XP that will make your pilots better. Once a pilot reaches certain milestones they get a huge power boost which can help turn the tide of a battle in your favor.

“Being able to move and shoot first is huge.”

One thing I’ve found to be a huge boon is the Master Tactician skill. Found under the Tactics tree at level 8, it allows your ‘Mechs to move at a higher initiative. This means that Assault ‘Mechs move at the same time as Heavy ‘Mechs, Heavies move at the same time as Mediums, and Medium ‘Mechs move at the same time as Lights.

Being able to move and shoot first is huge. If you can take out a few dangerous opponents before they have a chance to fire it will allow you to take on waves of opponents that would seem impossible to defeat on paper.

Master Tactician will always come with Sensor Lock as a secondary skill, which leaves tertiary skill to choose. I like to have a mix of Bulwark, Evasive Movement, and Multi-Target for my pilots. Bulwark is good for heavies and assaults to belly up to the line and face-tank whatever the enemy throws at them, while Evasive Movement is great for scouts and fast-movers. Multi-Target is better for missions with a lot of soft targets such as tanks or structures, but it can be difficult to predict if a mission will throw a swarm of Galleons at you or not.

Spider

What ‘Mechs you use is far more dependant on what ‘Mechs you fight than anything else (unless you want to mod the game as I did), but there are a few to keep an eye out for thanks to their weapon-efficient loadouts.

The Shadow Hawk SHD-2D is a personal favorite. You can load it up with 1,000 armor, 3 Medium Lasers, 2 SRM-6s, and 2 Small Lasers to turn it into a tough and deadly brawler. For whatever reason, the Shadow Hawk deals increased melee damage compared to other Medium ‘Mechs–closer to a 70-ton Heavy–so it’s the perfect design to get up close and personal with.

Light ‘Mechs eventually become too poorly armored to use later in the game (although I’ve heard some skilled commanders have beaten the game entirely with Light ‘Mechs), but the Firestarter is another close-range brawler that is utterly terrifying. Keep the Flamers or swap them for a battery of Small Lasers, and either way, once it gets in close whatever it’s fighting is dead.

The Shadow Hawk SHD-2D is the perfect design to get up close and personal with.

The Orion is relatively common and can be customized to be almost anything: a close-range brawler, a long-range sniper, or even a missile boat. In the Assault category, I came across quite a few Highlanders in my first playthrough and found them all to be equally amazing.

Short Range Missiles are, ton for ton, the most weight-efficient way of dealing damage. Before the latest patch they were utterly devastating when combined with Precision Strike, the ability that allows you to use morale to target specific components, but since then their ability to core a ‘Mech in a single salvo has diminished somewhat. Still, they’re potent, and a personal favorite of mine.

Laser boats were previously too hot to be effective, but the patch has also lowered the heat cost of Large Lasers to the point where they might be usable. I’ll have to do more testing, but I’m looking forward to finding a Black Knight or a Grasshopper to test it out.

If you can find a PPC+++ then they might be worth using, but generally I found them to generate too much heat for too little damage to be of much use.

Long range weapons aren’t really all that great in BattleTech thanks to a fog of war that reduces visibility to barely a few meters in front of you. If you feel you must take something with some range, Long Range Missiles are your best bet. They can fire over obstacles to soften your opponents up, and they deal a ton of stability damage with the right mods.

Autocannons are certainly better balanced in this game than on the tabletop, but they’re still not efficient enough in terms of damage per ton to compare with lasers and SRMs. On Assault ‘Mechs it’s not so big a deal since they have tonnage to spare, but on Medium and Heavy ‘Mechs, it’s strictly worse than a loadout weighted toward missiles and lasers.

One last thing: the key to success in BattleTech is using your Precision Strike and Vigilance abilities to their fullest. This means that opting for some increase morale upgrades in the early game might be even more important than faster repairs or healing in the med bay. Just have a team of 8 or more pilots and swap them out when they get a little banged up.

A veteran I may be, but I’m still far from a BattleTech expert. Think you might be one? Then submit your tips and tricks in the comment section below to prove it!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.  

stay syrupy

BattleTech Devs Talk About Making Game On A Budget

courtesy of Harebrained Schemes

courtesy of Harebrained Schemes

In our continuing coverage of BattleTech, for which I’d say I’m roughly 2/3rds of the way through (got some Highlanders, still need to find my first BattleMaster!), the developers of the game sat down with Gamasutra to talk about building a fantastic game on a limited budget. The boys, girls, and gender non-conformists over at Harebrained sure do make it look easy, but it turns out it was anything but!

As explained by Mitch Gitelman and game director Michael McCain, there originally were plans to have a lot more multiplayer in the game that was eventually shipped. “We planned to do leagues and tournaments, the Solaris 7 setting and stuff like that,” said Gitelman, but admitted that cash constraints and BattleTech’s reliance on randomness sort of made league competition against the spirit of the game.

Rather than try to set up bracketed tournaments where luck played nearly as large a role as skill, they backed away from that and ensured the game could be played casually amongst friends. Friends that hopefully understand that a spread of LRMs can just as easily hit every one of a ‘Mech’s components or all somehow manage to zero in on its right leg and shear it off at the hip.

Another point made by Gitelman was the importance of the first two hours of any game. Steam accepts free refunds of games so long as it hasn’t been played for two hours, so it’s supremely important to ensure the player is hooked in that amount of time. That’s where McCain came in to explain that the opening tutorial and story mission were iteratively improved over many, many drafts.

“We spent a lot of time on the opening,” said McCain. “And most of it was cutting! I don’t mean that we ran out of time, it’s editing. Those first couple of missions, they were way too long, or too narratively complex, to try to land the hook of our story. I hope it works now!”

Personally, I would’ve gone with a different ‘Mech than the Blackjack, but we’re a little limited in the low-tonnage medium ‘Mech category, and I certainly didn’t want a Cicada.

“You’re testing with a dozen people and they’re carefully curated. And who they are matters at that point.”

Honestly, I think the opening is great. The cutscenes also display a unique art style that really sets it apart from the rest of the gameplay and somehow emphasizes the gravity of the overarching political machinations that are always afoot. Even though this is the Periphery, it still feels just as grand as any of the power plays made by the Great Houses.

Finally, it came to beta testing. Testing out the game engine and multiplayer aspects were something that Harebrained managed via the Kickstarter process and surely gave them a lot of valuable info, but the campaign was something that needed faster (and above all, cheaper) refinement than a massive open beta could offer.

McCain reveals that BattleTech’s campaign was tested in-house and with a select group of outside testers. At that point, the beta test is no longer the statistical grind that happens with larger developers, and the people selected have enormous power to sway the direction the game goes.

“You’re testing with a dozen people and they’re carefully curated. And who they are matters at that point.”

In a larger test and a statistical method, you can just let the math do the talking. But, as Gitelman explains, that’s a lot tougher when there are only a dozen testers. “One of the things that often happens with playtesting, if you’re not careful, is you’re looking for the loudest voices, or the largest number of people all saying the same thing, rather than looking for what’s really going on behind what they’re saying.”

Lucky for us it seems that Harebrained’s relationship with their testers is a good one, and seems to be representative of the larger BattleTech audience. I haven’t really heard any complaints on the story at all, with most of them limited to technical issues that get further ironed out every day.

It’s definitely interesting to get the industry-side take on making games, and I encourage you all to read it all first hand over at Gamasutra. As for me, I’m getting back to BattleTech on my seemingly endless quest to find a BattleMaster. At this point, I’d settle for a Banshee.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupyPS: I FINALLY GOT ONE!

Harmony Gold vs. BattleTech – An Actual Lawyer Weighs In

courtesy of marcomazzoni.dunked.com

courtesy of marcomazzoni.dunked.com

There’s been a lot of speculation on the Harmony Gold v. BattleTech lawsuit, and I’m sorry to say some of that speculation may have come from this very publication. Previous articles from yours truly may have made it seem like the ongoing lawsuit is on its last legs and that we were all moments away from our triumphant victory.

That may have been more wishful thinking on my part, as it turns out. But, rather than me preface every article with the now-standard “I’m not a lawyer, but”, we’ve reached out to an ACTUAL lawyer to get his professional two cents.

Let me introduce you all to Robert Spendlove, an intellectual property lawyer and partner at the law firm of Laubscher, Spendlove & Laubscher. In his own words, Robert “has worked extensively in the gaming and toy industry, for and against such companies as Nintendo, Zuru, Disney, Turbine, and Sony.”

But more importantly, Robert is also a huge BattleTech nerd with over thirty years of losing countless hours to various iterations of the franchise on either tabletop or personal computer. This guy knows two things: BattleTech and IP law, and he’s also pretty damned good at explaining the two.

So good, in fact, that he wrote a big long essay on the current state of the lawsuit that I just couldn’t bear to slice and condense. Thus, to correct my own mistakes and give us all a unique insight into what’s going on, I present to you Robert’s take. Enjoy! Continue reading

BattleTech Dev Reveals Future Of The Game

courtesy of Harebrained Schemes

courtesy of Harebrained Schemes

BattleTech is a hit. We know that for certain because a Harebrained Schemes developer did an AMA on the BattleTech subreddit. He was also kind enough to give us an inside look at what’s in store for the future of the best-darned BattleTech game to hit our collective hard drives since MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries.

Your favorite BattleTech game might be different than mine, but remember: you’re wrong. 

The AMA was hosted by Tyler Carpenter, an HBS game designer and writer that had a huge hand in the making of BattleTech as well as a bunch of other Harebrained titles. Among the hundreds of questions answered quite a few of them were pertinent to just where HBS plans on taking BattleTech in the future and keep this still very young game alive for a very long time.

First off, HBS is going to be holding meetings soon to discuss internally what kind of expansions BattleTech will get. When I say the word “expansions” I’m talking about both paid and free DLC. What that’ll look like is still anybody’s guess, but marching the timeline forward into the 3030’s era and the Fourth Succession War would make a lot of sense to me.             

Or, y’know, we could just hike it all the way to the 3040s and do the Clan Invasion. I’m sure nobody would complain about that.

As for free DLC, Tyler mentioned they’re looking into expanding the types of missions you’ll find as random contracts to better include different encounter types. There will also be an additional emphasis on non-combat roles so that light and medium ‘Mechs might have more usefulness into the late game.

Another addition discussed would involve “broader systemic gameplay, recurring enemies with grudges, contracts that aren’t what they seem, and ‘unexpected events’ in battles” to make the world seem even more alive and fluctuating than it already is. This also includes more random ship events to keep things interesting on the long transits between contracts.

Technical improvements are at the top of the list for Harebrained in terms of game development. Things have gotten a lot better since release day, but there are definite performance gains to be had, especially on older systems. Ultra-widescreen compatibility issues are also at the top of the list as the technology becomes more widespread.

Although I personally enjoy it every time my ‘Mechs slowly marches forward with guns blazing, I admit that it may eventually become tiresome. For that day, Tyler said that HBS is working on general ways of speeding up the game so that we don’t have to wait for the animations to complete every single time.

Greater control of the game’s variables is also being looked into in the form of a giant menu that will allow the player to fiddle with the game’s mechanics. Imagine a bigger early-game ‘Mech selection or a much more frequent incidence of random encounters. Or just the ability to dial the difficulty of the game up to eleven. The replay value here is enormous.

Of course, we can expect more ‘Mechs to get into the game, but he was mum as to just which ones are in development.

There are a few more specific game mechanics that are being looked into, such as the Juggernaut skill being a little too powerful, and the Lostech weapons are likely to get more powerful after a weapons balance pass. Additional technical aspects, such as Linux support and localization for sale in other countries are also being looked into.

There’s tons more that Tyler also discussed, and you can get a good prospectus from a handy post that summarized the whole thing (thanks Aries37!). The one thing that we can take away here is that BattleTech is a solid success and that Harebrained has made sure their baby can crawl, but pretty soon she’s going to run.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy