Welcome back to another edition of Community Outreach. This week, Sarna sat down to talk to Mark Nicholson, 3D artist at PGI, and one of the architects turning ‘Mechs from mere ink on a page (or pixels in a digital image) into an actual moving, stomping, Autocannon-blasting giant robot.
Mark has been talking about his work over on the MechWarrior Online forums revealing some of the finer aspects of his job, but I wanted to get a little bit more into some of the technical issues of building ‘Mechs designed for customization. MechWarrior Online is the first MechWarrior game that really changes the look of your ‘Mech as you change its loadout, which makes building modular 3D models an enormous technical challenge. I find the whole thing fascinating, and I hope you do too. Enjoy.
September will be a month to remember. This month, not only did many of us receive our Clan Invasion Kickstarter packages, but we’re also getting a very special present in MechWarrior 5. For the first time in a MechWarrior game, we’re going to be able to play giant rock ’em sock ’em robots.
And yes, I’m aware Hairbrained’s BATTLETECH did melee combat first (and also allowed shoulder charges and mule kicks, too), but there’s something viscerally satisfying about punching a ‘Mech in first-person. It’s going to be so sweet.
As usual, we got a lot to talk about so we’re not going to dwell too much on the arrival of melee combat in a MechWarrior game for the first time, ever. Don’t worry, we’ll pick that thread up later. For now, on to the news!
The MechWarrior Online World Championships Are Back
The last time we saw an officially sanctioned competitive MWO tournament was back in 2019 when PGI held an invitational-style tournament due to falling player numbers. The 2020 tournament never happened, which was unsurprising given how PGI was hard at work on MechWarrior 5 and the pandemic was putting a stop to many game events and tournaments.
But that’s all in the past. The MWO Champion Series returns in 2021 in collaboration with the MWO Comp community, a group of die-hard MechWarriors who kept the competitive spirit alive while MechWarrior Online went through its Cauldron-fueled metamorphosis.
The rules seem to be mostly the same as previous championships, with 8v8 games featuring all tech and ‘Mechs available with a maximum of 3 ‘Mechs in each class with no duplicates allowed. A 480-ton maximum is also applied, so there’s no loading up on heavies and assaults allowed.
The competitive queue is already available to all MechWarrior Online players who are part of a competitive team, with the queue open on Thursdays and Saturdays. The competitive queue closes on October 18, and then round one of the double-elimination finals begins on October 30 with the grand finals on December 11. Prizes will be both in-game and real-life cash prizes.
It’s going to be a very interesting tournament with all the changes that the Cauldron have instituted. New builds, new ‘Mechs, and new strategies will be employed to account for the refreshed maps that have arrived throughout 2021. It’ll also be exciting to see if there are any new faces that have arrived in the competitive scene thanks to MechWarrior Online’s renaissance.
But speakin’ of new maps, a brand new refreshed Caustic map arrived on September 21’s patch, along with another quirk pass. ‘Mechs like the Griffin, Enforcer, Thanatos, Ebon Jaguar, and Rifleman are all getting revamped quirks along with many, many more designs. Check out the patch notes to see if your favorite ‘Mech just got a facelift that’ll bring it into the current MechWarrior Online meta.
See The Timber Wolf In All Its Glorious Variations
SU-SMD recently started on an expedition to draw every version of the Timber Wolf, from Prime to Z, along with unique camo schemes for various Clans employing each design. I like ’em, since you hardly ever see a Timber Wolf other than the Prime variant, with its big, boxy launchers and paired laser pods. I can’t wait till we get to the U alternate configuration for some underwater Mad Cat action [UPDATE: it’s everything I imagined.]
Sarna Unveils A Searchable Map Of The Known Universe
First off, I want to make it clear that I had absolutely nothing to do with this herculean effort. That credit all falls to Sarna Cartographer Gruese, founder and editor-in-chief Nic, as well as the team members of Operation: Doneve. This searchable map will be made available on the main site as well as in the Discord, which you can find here.
This map covers the Inner Sphere and the rest of the known universe right up until the year 3151. Additionally, each planet will have its own centered map which allows you to see which factions owned it during which period. Just click the little arrow over the map to bring yourself forward or backward through BattleTech‘s eras.
You can see the whole map of the Inner Sphere here, and get an example of the planetary-focused maps by looking at Park Place here. It took over 6 years to catalog over 3,000 planets/systems, but the results I’d say are worth it.
MechWarrior 5 Generated 160,000 Sales For Steam Release
We don’t know how many copies MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries sold when it was first released on the Epic Games Store, but we do know how many it sold on Steam and Xbox. This comes courtesy of a recent financial report from EG7, developer PGI’s new Swedish overlords. An additional 160,000 units were sold when MechWarrior 5 was re-released on Steam and Xbox in May, with 75,000 Heroes of the Inner Sphere DLC purchases on top of that. About 81% of those sales were on Steam, so Xbox/GOG and Epic accounted for the remaining 30,000 in new sales.
That might not sound like a lot compared to all the many million-unit franchises out there, but EG7 considers this a financial success, and that’s all that really matters. EG7 will foot the bill for marketing and publishing, while PGI focuses on making new DLC and adding features to MechWarrior 5--such as the recently-announced Legend of the Kestrel Lancers. We’ll dive into that in just a second, but first…
MechWarrior 5 VR Mod Goes Into Beta
Virtual reality compatibility was initially touted as one of MechWarrior 5‘s features back in the day, but the complexities of VR proved too much for PGI’s small development team. The feature was cut ahead of the game’s Epic release and there hasn’t been much discussion about it since then. Perhaps VR will get official support in the future, but in the meantime, we have mods.
Specifically, we have VRWarrior from modder Kitt, now available on Nexus Mods. This mod provides support for Oculus, HTC, SteamVR, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets to experience MechWarrior as never before.
As someone who only recently got their first VR headset, there is nothing that compares to the level of immersion you achieve with VR, and especially for games that put you in some sort of vehicle. Games like Beatsaber and Superhot are fun and all, but when you can only move a few feet in any given direction before you hit an invisible wall, it sort of ruins the experience.
Sitting down in a chair with a headset and a game controller doesn’t have that problem. What VR does is allow you to move your head and look in the direction your head is pointing. This makes you feel like you’re really in the cockpit of a giant death machine, and that’s a feeling that’s difficult to replicate outside of VR.
However, VRWarrior isn’t perfect. The mod only works when you actually get into a mission, with all the in-between menus and dropship scenes still happening on a flat monitor. It’s also still in very early beta, so expect there to be bugs (many of them are already noted on the Known Issues portion of the mod’s page). But either way you look at it, I’m excited for VR to finally find its way to MechWarrior.
Gallery 3025 Brings Us Yet More Great Art
A little while ago, we saw this Archer as a work in progress, but now Jayden Morris has unveiled the finished product on Gallery 3025. It’s pretty amazing, and as always, I encourage you to assist Gallery 3025 by subscribing so they can bring even more precious BattleTech art like this into the world.
MechWarrior 5 Punches Onto PlayStation Along With New Legend Of The Kestrel Lancers DLC
MechWarrior5: Mercenaries - Legend of the Kestrel Lancers Expansion Pack Features.
Big, big news for MechWarrior 5. First, the game is heading to PlayStation. PGI senior community manager Daeron “Bombadil” Katz made the announcement on the official PlayStation blog earlier this month, noting that this will be the first time that a MechWarrior game has come to a Sony-branded console since MechWarrior 2: Arcade Combat Edition for the PlayStation.
Besides receiving full crossplay with both the PC and Xbox versions, the PlayStation 5 version of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries will include support for the DualSense controller’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. It’ll also come alongside a free update that lets players swap control of lancemate ‘Mechs during gameplay--another all-new feature never-before-seen in a MechWarrior game.
There’s also one other new feature coming with the free update. Fans noted in the PlayStation 5 announcement that there were some UI tweaks, and in the weapon’s table there was something labeled “HANDS.” A follow-up tweet from PGI offered a tongue-in-cheek “no comment,” but basically confirmed that the game was getting melee-based combat--a first for any MechWarrior game.
There’s also going to be new ‘Mech skins, 23 new ‘Mech variants (with a lot of Archers, for some reason), three new biomes (Jungle, Tourmaline Desert, and Megacity), five new random mission types (Scorched Earth, Objective Raid, Targeted Kill, Guard Duty, and Battlefield), and seven new quest lines including the new “all-out-war” battle scenario.
Also confirmed with the DLC features trailer was what MechWarriors have been asking for since as far back as I can remember. Melee combat will finally appear in a MechWarrior game.
It seems like it’ll be limited to just punching, which means only ‘Mechs equipped with fists will get the option to play rock ’em sock ’em robots. However, ‘Mechs with fists are the ones that often needed a little extra to feel the most impactful in the game. My Quickdrawsuddenly shoots from bottom-tier to top-tier heavy ‘Mech, along with the Commando and Panther.
The mighty Atlas probably didn’t need the help, but I doubt anyone is going to complain.
We still don’t know exactly how melee will work, but I’ll assume it’ll be like a weapon system that you can bind to a button and then launch a haymaker at anything that’s close enough.
Lancemate ‘Mech-swapping and melee combat are included in the free update that launches alongside the PlayStation release of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. Legend of the Kestrel Lancers will include the new campaign, sidequests, and 23 new ‘Mech variants. Both are launching on September 23.
Hatamoto-Chi Is The True ‘Mech Of The Samurai
I couldn’t go without featuring SU-SMD’s other BattleTech piece, a commission from Everything BattleTech’s David for a Hatamoto-Chi in full Draconis Combine samurai regalia. This is the sort of thing that reminds you that the Dracs have a lot of very pretty ‘Mechs so long as you can get over the retro-futuristic aesthetic.
BattleTech Is Slowly Being Turned Into Audiobooks
I’m not sure if any of y’all knew this since I didn’t know it until a helpful Sarna reader pointed it out, but BattleTech’s many novels are slowly being converted into audiobooks. You can head on over to Audible to see which books are currently available, such as The Gray Death Legion saga, Wolves on the Border, and A Bonfire of Worlds. I’m a big podcast guy, so audiobooks are a great thing to slip into my usual listening habits.
The narrators for books already converted are fine, but I’m holding out for Tex’s rendition of Michael Stackpole’s Blood of Kerensky series. Tex made the announcement on the official Black Pants Legion YouTube page, adding he’s under an NDA so he really can’t offer too much in terms of comments. All he told me was that he needed to upgrade his computer hardware just to render the audio of sufficient quality and that he considers himself an “ultimate amateur” in the audiobook biz, so don’t get too excited.
He also wasn’t able to offer me a timeline, so patience is a virtue and all that.
BattleTech Returns To GenCon 2021
Catalyst Game Labs was at Gen Con this past weekend to showcase many of the new miniatures that arrived with the Clan Invasion Kickstarter Wave 2 packages. I got mine, by the way, and the minis are superb. I hope y’all get your packages in the coming weeks.
To really make these new minis pop, CGL, Arcturus Rising, and Iron Wind Metal set up a diorama featuring a mixed landscape battle bookended by boxes of Clan Invasion ‘Mech Packs. You can even spot a few new Iron Wind sculpts in there, including the Goliath C, Sojourner, and Archer ARC-9W.
We’ve got Guardian982 on Reddit to thank for these pictures, which also show a brand new official Annihilator hiding behind a building. The Iron Wind Metals ‘Mechs are available on its website now, while that Annihilator comes as part of a brand new Wolf’s Dragoons Assault Star Force Pack available from Barnes and Noble. This is an exclusive item, so you can ONLY get ’em from Barnes and Noble, and it’s a pre-order item too. Shipping for these Wolf’s Dragoons Force Packs starts December 15. Inside you’ll find the aforementioned Annihilator, but also a Rifleman, Archer, Blackjack, and a re-posed Timber Wolf.
And that’s in for September! Join us next month as we head into the spooky season with some more scary announcements.
No jokes, no quips, no higgeltybips. We’re jumping straight to the straight facts today because there’s a load of BattleTech news this month and it ain’t gonna get spoon-fed to your eye holes with flowery language about summer rains.
If you’re like me, you probably thought that combining all your Clan Invasion toys into a single shipment made sense. This was before a global pandemic, a global shipping slowdown, and that stupid tanker that got stuck in the Suez Canal. Time makes fools of us all, as they say, and I felt very foolish indeed for my naive decision from so long ago.
That said, our long wait is almost over. Clan Invasion Kickstarter backers will soon be shipping their Second Wave packages over the next few weeks, with deliveries expected to last into September. Emails have already started going out for people to confirm their addresses. If your address hasn’t changed, no action is required, but you might as well double-check that nothing weird has happened between now and what feels like a lifetime ago.
Sarna has a Discord!
A few months ago, an official Sarna Discord was created. It’s already grown to over 750 members, and is a great way to connect with others in the BattleTech/Sarna/Wiki community.
The focus of the Discord is as an aid to the wiki — join the #research-desk, or as #wiki-questions. If you have any technical problems with the site you can post in #wiki-issues.
Of course you’re welcome to discuss is #general BattleTech stuff or about #videogames-general — we love talking BattleTech.
Our first artist spotlight is PhearTheHam on Reddit, who posted this phenomenal image of an UrbanMech in a police uniform. We’re not sure which planet this Urbie is on, but whatever it is, it’s got an urban center with a crime problem big enough to warrant an AC/10.
So Detroit, basically.
Wolves Remakes Terra In Its Own Image
Some of you may be familiar with Founder's work already. For the past few months he's been working on bringing Terra to life with original assets taking strong inspiration from the original MA2 levels. Here's how that's looking so far… pic.twitter.com/SqQzble8f4
Another month, another Wolves update. This one brings back one of MechAssault 2‘s levels using some of the original assets completely new, custom assets [ed. PajamaBoy has corrected me--sorry about that!]. Terra certainly looks a lot different in the 31st century thanks to ComStar rule. This is what the world would look like if a telecom company took over.
I gotta say, for a completely fan-made game, the Wolves folks are better at keeping their players up to date than most AAA developers.
Eldonious Rex Makes The Best BattleTech Paperback Cover Ever
Oh, Eldonious Rex, you’ve done it again. Eldonious recently released his Marauder Print Pack, a collection of original prints that would look great on a wall or the cover of the latest CGL novel. Here we see a Marauder II taking on two Hatchetmen in close-quarters combat. It’s gotta be one of the most dynamic still images of ‘Mechs fighting I’ve ever seen. Catalyst, I hope you’ve hired this guy to be your cover artist.
You can get this image along with several other Marauder-themed items (including a coaster) over on Eldonious Rex’s commerce site here.
MechWarrior: Living Legends Releases Update 0.14.4
Development continues on the old Living Legends even as a new standalone Living Legends is also under development. Honestly, there’s not a whole lot new in update 0.14.4 but there are a few notable fixes.
First, ambient temperature wasn’t updating correctly on vehicle HUDs, so that was fixed, and damage modifiers that were allowing splash weapons to crack through a ‘Mech’s head armor have been tweaked to stop providing quick and undeserved kills. Third, all ASF build timers have been set to 45 seconds from 10 seconds to prevent players from just Kamikazeing into ground objectives over and over again and wasting team tickets.
There’ve also been a few tweaks to the Kagoshima map, including added ammo buy zones on the side caps, rolling fog has been added to the lower part of the river valley, and the Karnov has been moved from the middle of the map. You should see these changes live on servers now.
Games Workshop Drives Warhammer Fans To BattleTech
I was a little late for this drama because I’m not much of a Warhammer fan, but apparently, Games Workshop has declared war on its own fanbase.
Earlier this month, Games Workshop updated its intellectual property guidelines to have a “zero tolerance” policy towards infringements. This includes “pirating books, using a 3D printer to make copies of their models, and a ban on fan animations,” according to an article from Vice.
The weird part here is that even though I’m not a Warhammer 40K nerd, I’ve still seen the incredible fan-made Astartes series on YouTube. Games Workshop actually hired that guy as well as a bunch of other talented individuals to make original content for a new streaming platform that Games Workshop is launching on August 25, so you can imagine how awful it looks for Games Workshop to suddenly turn around and say “no more fan animations, now you gotta pay for it.”
This led r/GrimDank, the official Warhammer meme subreddit, to switch to entirely BattleTech memes for an entire week, driving untold hordes of Warhammer fans to discover BattleTech for the first time.
You remember MechCommander Mercenaries? The MechWarrior 5: Mercs mod that turned the game from a game where you command a single lance from the cockpit of your personal ‘Mech to a game where you command an entire company from the safety of your DropShip? Well, the Steam release of MechWarrior 5 and its Heroes of the Inner Sphere DLC sort of broke the mod for a while, but version 1.3 fixes it, and it’s available now over on Nexusmods.
Besides being playable again, MechCommander Mercs 1.3 adds a few new features, such as squadmates sharing sensor data for the purposes of long-range missiles, new empty/low ammo message on the game’s UI, and has better ‘Mech AI that should be compatible with other mods (like the TT AI mods).
However, there are still a bunch of things left to do, and also several known issues in the current release. For example, if you decide you’re tired of being a bystander and you want to get back into the action by entering back into Mason’s cockpit via the F6 button, you’ll break the Mason AI if you try to leave again.
I love the Assassin. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a bad ‘Mech; it’s under-gunned and under-armored compared to anything in its class, and it’s not particularly effective in its singular role of hunting down and killing light ‘Mechs. It’s a poorly designed ‘Mech built by corporations that were looking to milk the Star League military-industrial complex and it honestly hasn’t gotten any better in the half-millennia since its introduction.
But man, it just looks so damned good, and I just love me a recon-in-force ‘Mech that can fly (even though there are many, MANY other ‘Mechs that can do it better than the Assassin).
So thank you, fed0tich, for indulging in my unabashed love of the Assassin. Please feel free to do so again at your earliest convenience.
Tex, Stackpole, Pardoe, And HPD Renegade Talk All Things BattleTech
Tex, Michael Stackpole, Blaine Lee Pardoe and Renegade HPG Talk BattleTech
What do you get when you combine two of BattleTech‘s most prolific authors, Renegade HPG, and Tex? Two hours of the most fascinating conversation interspersed with some amusing anecdotes and Tex’s… unique brand of humor. This interview winds its way from the Minnesota Tribe and Clan Wolverine to the author’s favorite missed opportunities for cover art to some interesting “what if” scenarios.
If you’ve got two hours to kill, you could do a lot worse than Renegade HPG’s latest interview. Check it out in the video here.
Battle Bound Answers Who Would Win In A Fight Between The Black Widow Company And The Gray Death Legion
Battletech: Battle Bound S2E2 - The Black Widow Company vs The Gray Death Legion
I stumbled across Battle Bound in one of my many jaunts across the wider world of BattleTech, which is to say it popped up in the subreddit and thought it was amusing enough to watch while I work.
What we’ve got here is a group of creatives that are essentially jazzing up a BattleTech playthrough with some nice editing, some video game-inspired effects, and narration courtesy of the one and only Tex. Frankly, I’m OK with Tex becoming the voice of BattleTech--it’ll give George a break from doing Duncan Fisher all the time.
Before the main event, Battle Bound shows us a bit of BattleTech history with an unboxing of the Gray Death Legion and Black Widow Company‘s Japanese sourcebooks and even goes deep into each company’s dossier, outlining each pilot, machine, and even their ‘Mechs unique quirks. This is circa 3025, so ‘Mechs often went into battle with damaged systems that just couldn’t be fully repaired.
If you want to see a BattleTech tabletop game made as exciting as it basically can be, this is it.
Boston Dynamics Shows Off Precisely The Wrong Kind Of Robot We Should Be Making
It’s a little sad to see current robotics going in the direction of small and dextrous rather than giant and lumbering, but I guess we gotta start with baby steps, right?
Boston Dynamics is a name we’ve covered before around these parts. Being on the forefront of robotics design means we’re just itching for the folks over in Boston to invent myomer musculature, fusion engines, gyroscopes capable of keeping an 80-ton death machine from toppling over.
Instead, we get Atlas running a parkour course and then doing a backflip. It’s impressive, yes, but I think we need to collectively remind Boston Dynamics that we’re not at all interested in the cyberpunk future of robot ninjas. Give me giant stompy robots, thanks.
MWO August Patch Brings The First ‘Mech Quirk Pass And Revamps HPG Map
MechWarrior Online’s renaissance continues with yet more updates! This time we’ve got a first quirk pass to several underused ‘Mechs as well as a massively updated HPG map.
You can see the new HPG over on MechWarrior Online’s website, but it looks like the giant satellite dish has been pushed to the side and the actual battlefield is going to be a collection of ramps and technologically infused boxes. This might make the map seem a little more boring from an aesthetic perspective, but this is all to prevent games from devolving into two teams constantly circling around the HPG in a maneuver affectionately referred to as “NASCARing.”
In MWO’s first quirk pass since the Cauldron took the reins of development, a collection of underused ‘Mechs is getting a much-needed performance boost in the form of quirks. Although somewhat controversial to BattleTech purists, quirks are basically MWO’s method of balancing BattleMech designs. Because ‘Mechs come in all different shapes and sizes, some are just easier to hit than others. Some have big arms that protect the torso, some have no arms at all, and some are just giant boxes that are so easy to hit that they turn into a walking bullet sponge on the battlefield.
On top of that, certain ‘Mechs have better hardpoints, better omni-pods, or other non-equipment factors that just make them better or worse than other ‘Mechs in their weight class. Quirks give MechWarriors a reason to use a particular ‘Mech that’s just objectively worse without a little help.
I’m particularly interested in the Ice Ferret quirks, as it’s one of my favorite ‘Mechs and it’s going to be quite a bit tougher following Tuesday’s patch. The Incubus and Cougar also look very interesting, as does the Centurion, which looks like it’ll suddenly become the tankiest medium ‘Mech in the game.
Both the new quirks and HPG remaster are live now, so go out there and blast people with some of these quirked-out ‘Mechs!
It’s raining here where I am right now. A summer thunderstorm, the sort that comes on quickly, blocks out the sun, and then dumps a bucket of water over your head before leaning back into a more sustainable downpour that comes with the occasional far-off thundercrack and enough wind to rattle the branches of trees and bushes. It’s the sort of weather where you wish you could just stop whatever it is you’re doing and just read a book by candlelight.
Mostly because I’m worried one of those lightning bolts will strike my house and fry my laptop.
But that’s just how dedicated I am to ensuring you, dear Sarna reader, get all the BattleTech news that’s fit for human consumption. And trust me, there’s always a heap of BattleTech news to consume, so let’s hop to it.
What If MechAssault Was A SNES Rail Shooter?
Just as July arrived, so too did these delightful images from MrTalida. They imagine MechAssault, a game we’ve discussed a few times around these parts, but as a SNES rail shooter instead of a 3D action game. Think After Burner, but with ‘Mechs instead of jet fighters.
As a huge fan of these classic arcade games, this set of pics hit me right in the nostalgic feels. But better, since it’s Mechs. It almost makes me wish that we had these MechAssault games instead of the brutally hard BattleTech game we got on the Sega Genesis (called MechWarrior 3050 on the SNES).
This is still a mod for Garry’s Mod, so you’ll need to own Garry’s Mod in order to install the MechAssault 2 pack. It’s also still in beta, although the mod creators are currently looking for others to help them complete the project and maybe recreate all of MechAssault 2 inside Gary’s Mod.
It looks like these guys have already made quite a bit of progress with almost 30,000 downloads. If you’ve got Gary’s Mod and loved MechAssault 2, check out the mod here.
MechWarrior: Living Legends 2 Will No Longer Need MechWarrior 5 To Play
So remember MechWarrior: Living Legends? The same folks are making a sequel, which was announced last March. At the time they planned on making it using MechWarrior 5, which would have meant you’d need to own MechWarrior 5 to play Living Legends 2, but now the dev team has announced that’s no longer the case.
This, unfortunately, means that JPL Studios is going to have to make an entirely new game from scratch. Well, almost scratch. It’ll be made in Unreal Engine (same as MechWarrior 5), but JPL will need to make all their assets, animations, and everything else on their own. And because the only way to get this done under Microsoft’s Game Content Usage Rules is to do all this without actually selling the game, MechWarrior: Living Legends 2 will remain totally free.
It’ll also drop the “MechWarrior ” moniker because it’s copyrighted and just go by Living Legends 2. But we can call it MechWarrior: Living Legends 2 here because that’s basically what it is.
Don’t expect any updates on this project for a while. Scuttlebutt around the Living Legends 2 Discord is that we might see an alpha build later this year, but don’t hold your breath.
As for the original Living Legends, expect to find new VTOLs in the future along with some “thoroughly reworked” flight models.
Now This Is A Poster That Could Get Me To Leave My House
I’ve never been a huge fan of the Puma aesthetically speaking. It’s a great little ‘Mech, don’t get me wrong, it just looks sort of like if a Kit Fox found a home that it started carrying around everywhere it went. The Cougar looks a lot cooler, which is likely why you see a lot more of it in various video games including MechAssault.
Wolves, the MechAssault fan game that we’ve been following for a while now, is getting ready for its Wave 3 release of ‘Mechs. And one of those ‘Mechs just so happens to be the Puma.
I’m not going to say that the Wolves version of the Adder improved substantially on the ‘Mech’s hermit crab aesthetic, but I will say it looks exceptionally unique. I’m here for it.
Now THIS Is A Grasshopper
Reddit user Philbobagginzzz is a hobby enthusiast from Alberta, Canada who loves painting miniatures. Warhammer and BattleTech are both parts of Phil’s repertoire, but we’re going to focus on the BattleTech side in this post.
It’s a Grasshopper. But not just any Grasshopper--it’s a PURPLE Grasshopper. And the base is also the size of your fist, so it’s less of a tabletop mini and more of a figurine. It’s something that I’d be proud to mount on my mantle, and I love Grasshoppers, so it gets a pass in this month’s news dump.
Alpha Strike Cards Out Now For WarShips, JumpShips, DropShips, And Small Craft
Alpha Strike might not get all that much attention around these parts, but it does something that I think is very important in BattleTech: it makes things simpler. BattleTech is fine for an afternoon of fighting between lances, but blow that up to a company-level engagement and you’ll be playing for a week. Alpha Strike cuts down on the dice rolls and makes it a lot easier to include large-scale engagements in your tabletop nights.
It also makes space combat a lot easier, and now that you can get Alpha Strike cards for WarShips, JumpShips, DropShips, and Small Craft, you can have a massive space fight that won’t take the rest of the year to finish.
Both Alpha Strike card packages are now available on Catalyst’s store and Drive-Thru RPG for pay-what-you-want. That’s 140 WarShips and JumpShips along with almost 200 DropShips and smaller spacecraft.
Also, a recent update on the Clan Invasion Wave 2 shipping: Australia and the UK within the next two weeks, mid to late August for the USA and EU, no word on Asia and “the rest of the world.” Here’s hoping Canada is considered part of the USA for the purposes of shipping.
This particular image will soon be featured on a custom BattleTech card courtesy of Renegade HPG over on Gallery 3025. Speaking of which…
A Reminder That Gallery 3025 Exists And Is Doing Good Things™
We’ve talked about Gallery 3025 before, and we’re going to talk about it again right now. Do you want new BattleTech art? Animations? Even more elaborate fan projects that bring the BattleTech universe to life in new ways? Then you should sign up to Gallery 3025. For a very low monthly donation, you can get quick and easy access to brand new BattleTech art and also bask in the satisfaction of knowing you’re one of the noble few keeping BattleTech alive.
Canyon Network has flooded as of this match! No idea what this means for gameplay (yet), but maybe it’ll mean ‘Mechs that stay low in the floodwaters will get bonus cooling while peeking above the hills will give better sightlines on your opponents. Also, it’s neat for any part of MechWarrior Online to change this rapidly, so kudos to Francois on this map update!
Another big change in this patch is to jump jets. Jumping has always felt better in certain ‘Mechs, with usually the lighter end of each class enjoying the best jump performance. The 40-45 tonners in particular made the best jumpers since their jump jets cost only half a ton but provided as much lift as you’d get on a lighter machine.
The Cauldron’s latest changes help to smooth out jump jet performance disparity so that mounting jets on heavy and assault ‘Mechs isn’t quite so useless. Smaller ‘Mechs will enjoy increased initial thrust, while heavier ‘Mechs will have improved burn time so they can still make those high jumps, they’ll just do it more slowly.
Ahh, June. Honestly, my favorite month, and not just because it contains my birthday (ah, but which day? I’ll never tell!). It’s hot, but not too hot, it’s wet, but not too wet, and the bug population hasn’t had quite enough time to explode like it will in July and August. June is, in my mind, the perfect month.
Not to mention there’s a whole bunch of BattleTech news to get caught up on, so let’s hop to it!
Latest Tex Talks BattleTech Dives Deep Into The Marauder
The latest Tex Talks BattleTech came out just after I posted May’s news blast, so I wasn’t able to promptly advertise the majesty of Tex’s latest project. For that, I apologize and beg your forgiveness.
The Marauder was never my favorite ‘Mech even though I acknowledge it shares a special place in BattleTech and among most BattleTech fans. Like the Shadow Hawk, Locust, and Warhammer, the Marauder is a ‘Mech that will never die. Not even a decade of litigation can keep the Marauder from being perhaps the most famous BattleMech ever made.
Tex does the Marauder sweet justice in this hour-and-a-half-long documentary. I think it’s Tex’s best work yet, and I encourage you all to learn more about both the machine and the history which produced it.
I’m really hoping the Charger is next. There’s a ‘Mech with a story that deserves Tex’s special attention.
Timothy Seals Just Updated His MechWarrior Remix Album, And You Can Still Download It For Free
I’ve probably gone on at length about Timothy Seals and his great work remixing and reimagining the original MechWarrior 2 soundtracks, so I won’t go into it again. All I’ll say is that the original MechWarrior soundtrack still holds up, and Timothy Seals only improves it further.
And now you can get the definitive version of Timothy Seals’ “Bred for War” album over on Bandcamp. This 19-track album includes several songs that were previously only available on YouTube, as well as the rest of the songs that were already on Bred for War.
You can download the whole thing on his Bandcamp page paying for what you want, although only honorable MechWarriors will throw this bard a few coins.
I can’t remember when I first reported on someone remaking MechWarrior 2 in Unity, but here have an update on how things are going.
And it looks like things are going well! Silent Thunder, the first mission in the Jade Falcon campaign, seems to have loaded just fine, although there are some issues with the enemy AI not really responding to the player’s presence. The game uses all the original sound files but updates the laser and explosion effects to be a little bit better than the original. There are also some issues with the explosions not lighting up the terrain as much as they should. There’s still no minimap, heat implementation, nav points, or music. You can basically walk around, shoot the objectives, and quit.
But hey, that’s something! And it’s a lot of progress over where the team was last we checked in. We might see MechWarrior 2 reborn in Unity before the end of the year!
MechWarrior Online’s Revival Continues With ‘Mech Agility Pass And A Reborn Polar Highlands
The first is the remastered Polar Highlands, which got a preview earlier in the month. Previously, Polar Highlands was relatively flat. Low, rolling hills provided breaks to line of sight, but the map was notorious for favoring LRM-focused builds which could utterly decimate an opposing team. Combine that with a lance of players dedicated to supporting their missile boats and Polar Highlands often turned into a match of who’s LRMs struck first.
Although LRM-boating is a legitimate strategy, it’s not conducive to fun gameplay. The best and most reliable strategy against missiles is to stick to cover, so the new Polar Highlands adds larger hills, bases, structures, and long winding trenches to ensure ‘Mechs have an escape route when they find themselves under fire.
And second is the agility pass. The Cauldron warned us of the impending agility changes in our recent interview, with the majority of ‘Mechs receiving a big boost to their acceleration, deceleration, run rate, torso twist speed, and torso pitch and yaw angles. These changes are designed to make the game feel more fluid and less like you’re fighting against the controls of a gigantic robot. Which you are, but fusion engines and myomer musculature shouldn’t feel cumbersome.
Great art from Reddit user SU-SMD of a Clan Wolf star dropping from a Union-C and then moving onto their objectives. That Viper and Shadow Cat are jumping quite aggressively, but that seems to be the standard operating procedure for Wolf maneuvers.
MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Took Over E3’s PC Gaming Show
Let's get things started ... | PC Gaming Show E3 2021
If you were watching E3 as closely as I was, then you likely noticed how MechWarrior 5 featured quite prominently in the PC Gaming Show. In fact, Day9 was in the cockpit of a dropship, while Frankie was in the cockpit of a 65-ton CPLT-C1 Catapult. The hosts frequently swapped back and forth between various set pieces from MechWarrior 5, and the big interview during the show was with PGI’s community manager, Daeron Katz (who wore a stylish hat for the occasion).
It was a fun surprise to see how much pull MechWarrior still has in the wider gaming world. Sadly, the PC raffle where someone would win a MechWarrior-inspired computer was only available to US residents, so my Canadian passport disqualified me from entering.
Anyway, although this was clearly just a marketing stunt, it was cute and fairly well done. There wasn’t really anything new discussed, so just catch a glimpse of the clips for everything you need to know.
Lego Mad Dog? Lego Mad Dog
We like Lego, and here we have a 1:21-scale Lego model of a Mad Dog courtesy of EngineeredEntropy on Reddit. This model is extremely well done, with the only issue being that it’s not quite strong enough to stand up on its own. Plastic just doesn’t have the same structural support as Endo Steel, sadly. Bonus Timber Wolf at the end of the 20-slide carousel.
In Honor Of Brood X, Someone Held A Cicada Death Race
As many of you in America’s East and Midwest are already painfully aware, Brood X has arrived with a vengeance. Brood X is one of 15 Cicada broods that periodically rise from the earth to sing us the song of their people, and they do it every 17 years or so. It is the largest and furthest-ranging brood of Cicadas in the United States, filling the air with their characteristic buzz before mating and then dying off due to mass predation.
What makes VonJankmonBT’s fictional death race so exceptional is that they really went all-out on it. Check out the Reddit post for a full race report and a collection of pictures showing each lap of the Cicada Death Race.
Because the Cicada‘s lasers are technically part of the torso and not the arms, the leading Cicada isn’t able to flip its arms around to start firing back at its pursuers. Thus, being in the lead is actually a very dangerous proposition for a Cicada racer, making this race a real blood bath.
Now we just need someone to put as much effort into an UrbieDurbie.
Is America About To Make Real ‘Mechs?
Well, no, not really, but a study from the US Army Research Lab looked into the idea and determined it’s at least possible. But they don’t really recommend it.
This comes courtesy of Popular Mechanics, which looked into the study published in the journal PLOS ONE. The study specifically examines something called the Heglund Formula, “which estimates the energy required for animal locomotion.” Physicists determined that the power required to move an object using legs is roughly the same as using wheels or treads up to 35 tons, so it’s no less efficient energy-wise to get around in a Jenner than it is a light tank.
So, great news for ‘Mechs right? The US Army is saying, “Well, we can make giant robots if we really wanted.” But that doesn’t mean they’re going to do it. The study also notes that walking vehicles are taller and thus more vulnerable than low-slung tanks and armored combat vehicles. And while ‘Mechs have an easier time getting down steep slopes, there’s not a lot of call for armored combat on the side of a mountain.
The study also doesn’t go into determining exactly how to power a theoretical BattleMech, just that it’s not immediately a bad idea from a power perspective. But hey, we’re one step closer to real ‘Mechs. Now we just need to have a century of warfare involving nukes and orbital bombardments before we sign a piece of paper that makes ‘Mechs the best means of waging war.
Farseer Animation Teases Next Project, And It’s Also About The Marauder
Farseer Animation is back with a teaser video for their latest project, “Marauder.” If you’ll recall from around the same time last year, these are the folks that brought us that fabulous “Battle of the Crescent Fortress” animation, which is almost ten full minutes of some of the best fan-made fiction around.
This time we only have a minute to figure out what’s going on, but it looks like there’s Clan Jade Falcon going up against a lone FedCom Marauder. Dig the old-school Novamodel being used here, as well as the Elemental infantry battle.
“Coming eventually” is about the best time frame we can hope for in what looks to be Farseer’s most ambitious project yet, so be patient on this one.
Clan Wave 2 Shipments Delayed Because We Can’t Have Nice Things
Sorry to end the June news on a bummer, but this just came in over the wire. Catalyst has just told Clan Invasion Kickstarter backers that Wave 2 has been delayed because the ship that was supposed to pick up the last two containers today didn’t even stop in port due to a COVID outbreak.
Yeah, COVID ain’t over, and it probably won’t be for years to come even as we all get vaccinated (and if you haven’t yet, I certainly hope you do soon). Catalyst is now calling for delivery around the first of August.
On the plus side, we got to see some ComStar minis, so that’s cool.
Welcome back to Community Outreach, the ongoing column where we learn more about the people that help keep BattleTech alive and swinging. To get the lowdown on MechWarrior Online’s renaissance (which you can read all about in my last piece), I sat down with the Cauldron’s Bear_cl4w and Krasnopesky to talk about where the group came from, how it’s evolved, and how they plan to take the reigns of a failing game and bring the fun back to MechWarrior Online.
This interview was conducted last month, so many of the things we’ve discussed have already come to pass. That said, you can get an idea of what’s to come in MechWarrior Online by reading what Bear_cl4w and Krasnopesky have to say. Enjoy.
Something pretty remarkable is happening in MechWarrior Online. After years of falling player counts and being basically put on life support as developer PGI diverted funds and resources into developing MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, MechWarrior Online players are returning to this once nearly-dead game.
There are a number of reasons for this unexpected renaissance. To start, PGI began providing MechWarrior Online with updates at the end of last year. PGI also hired a new community manager--a well-known figure in the MechWarrior and BattleTech community--to help reach out to players and convince them that MechWarrior Online was worth another shot.
But I’d argue that the biggest reason why players are returning to MechWarrior Online is that PGI has done the unthinkable: they’ve put the players in charge of MechWarrior Online.
Not all of them, of course. Even an almost dead game still has thousands of players and most of them couldn’t be bothered to dive into the spreadsheets of data necessary for a game as large and complex as MechWarrior Online. But a small group of players plucked from all levels of play have coalesced into a governing body that has largely been given the authority to determine MechWarrior Online’s future.
Those players call themselves the Cauldron--a name chosen to represent their melting pot of opinions. Like many online PvP games, MechWarrior Online has a diverse group of players of differing skill levels, and like BattleTech itself, they all love different aspects of the game. However, this group of players has been able to do something that PGI has struggled with over its many years of MechWarrior Online development.
The Cauldron is bringing fun back to MechWarrior Online.
MechWarrior Online’s Many Missteps
MechWarrior Online is a textbook example of what happens to an online service game when it expands faster than its developers can keep up. You can hardly blame PGI for wanting to monetize MWO as best they could, but the way they decided to do that was to keep throwing more and more ‘Mechs and weapons into the game until it became too overwhelming for their dev team to keep up with both balancing the game and also creating the next big thing.
Those big things often became sweeping changes to MechWarrior Online‘s mechanics that nobody really asked for. Perhaps the best example of this is MechWarrior Online‘s absolutely byzantine skill tree--resoundingly panned for being both overly complicated and ludicrously expensive at launch, and that opinion hasn’t changed much in the years since.
Throw on engine desync, overly quirked Hero ‘Mechs, pay-to-win airstrikes and artillery strikes, and the still-infamous golden ‘Mech cash grab, and at times it seemed almost like PGI was deliberately trying to alienate MechWarrior Online‘s audience.
It certainly alienated me. Until recently, I hadn’t even touched the game since sometime back in 2017. And although we don’t have a complete report on MechWarrior Online’s total player count, we can assume based on the game’s Steamcharts performance that it also alienated plenty of other players over the years.
By early 2020, MechWarrior Online had reached its lowest point. With few players still left actually playing the game, it made far more financial sense for PGI to focus on creating MechWarrior 5 than it did to waste resources in a game that nobody was playing. Although the servers remained online, few players meant extra-long wait times for MechWarrior Online’s matches to start, and so PGI declared official updates for the game would end in January of 2020.
At that point, the writing was on the wall. MechWarrior Online was on life support, and it seemed only a matter of time before it became more profitable to turn the MWO servers off rather than keep them online.
Then 2020 happened, and the whole fucking world changed.
A Pandemic Makes Fools Of Us All
In February 2020, there were as few as 577 players on MechWarrior Online via Steam. Then the pandemic hit, and despite the fact nothing in the game had changed, government-imposed lockdowns meant that lots of people were stuck at home with nothing to do. A free-to-play game like MechWarrior Online was a worthy diversion for BattleTech fans worried about an apocalyptic new virus, so by March, MechWarrior Online‘s population had jumped by nearly 25%.
By July, MechWarrior Online‘s player count was nearly double what it was a few months before without the game receiving a single update. I don’t really know what was going through the minds of PGI’s upper management during this time, but from their actions, you get a sense that they weren’t entirely ready to give up on MechWarrior Online.
First, PGI hired a brand new community manager in October. Daeron “Bombadil” Katz is a well-known figure amongst the entire BattleTech community for his time as co-host for No Guts No Galaxy, and especially well-known in the MechWarrior Online community. There was basically no better person to reach out to MWO players and ask them just what could be done to revive the game.
But it was a very small team, and both Bombadil and PGI marketing head Matt Newman made it clear in the early months of 2021 that they just couldn’t make the sweeping changes to MechWarrior Online that some players had hoped for (chief among those was porting the game from CryEngine to Unreal Engine 5, a heroic task even for a much larger developer).
Matt and Daeron promised small fixes, some new events, and perhaps a new ‘Mech pack or two. Game balance--which by this point was hopelessly out of control thanks to high-tech-era weapons and over 1,300 different ‘Mechs--was mentioned, but never really highlighted. The effort required to rebalance MechWarrior Online simply cost more than PGI would get in return. Or so they thought.
Welcome To The Gulag
Before we can talk about the Cauldron, we have to talk about the Gulag, a name chosen for several reasons but chief among them was the idea that they were providing PGI with free labor. The group first formed in early 2018 after several updates took MechWarrior Online‘s balance in a decidedly un-fun direction, nerfing certain weapons and ‘Mechs to the point where they became basically unusable for no particular reason.
The Gulag was by all accounts a reactive movement, but one with the best intentions. The group created spreadsheets of game data and made reasonable arguments to revert the changes or institute entirely new ones for the overall health of the game. MechWarrior Online‘s developers, however, weren’t a receptive audience.
“The attitude that PGI had at the time [was] sort of the ‘we don’t want your help, we can do it ourselves’ type,” Bear_cl4w tells me in an interview. The group operates mostly as a collective, but Bear_cl4w serves as the de-facto leader.
“When we had finished our work and showed it to the community the feedback was generally positive. But again, the response from PGI… They saw it and told us, ‘yeah we’ve discussed it internally,’ and then nothing,” Bear_cl4w recounts. “Little did we know that at the time they were working on MechWarrior 5, which led to maintenance mode for MWO.”
Things changed over the course of 2020. Maintenance mode reverted back to active--if somewhat tentative--development. With PGI’s resources mostly diverted to MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, the free labor offered by the Gulag suddenly seemed like a far more attractive proposition.
But once spurned, twice shy. PGI needed to make amends, and that job fell to MWO‘s brand new community manager.
“Daeron I would say is a big part in why it has happened,” fellow Cauldron member Krasnopesky tells me. “I agree,” adds Bear_cl4w. “Daeron is a familiar face in the community due to his ties with No Guts No Galaxy and his recent hiring with PGI, but it was less about the individual and more about the message: they were asking us for help.”
This first step to mending fences meant that the Gulag was back on board. Only, they couldn’t be called the Gulag anymore. To avoid all the negative historical connotations, and to represent their new partnership with PGI, the Gulag “had to lose the edgy name.”
The Cauldron, as the group calls themselves now, got straight to work fixing all of MechWarrior Online‘s many ailments. “The Cauldron has been sort of set to high gear,” Bear_cl4w says. “Rather than tackling one part of the game, we intend to re-balance as much as we are able to. Or as much as PGI currently can do.”
Certain aspects of MWO are just beyond the Cauldron’s abilities to change. Fundamental aspects of the game--such as the team deathmatch format, the 12v12 matches, and user interface--require engineers on PGI’s end to alter, which are in terribly short supply given the company’s focus on MechWarrior 5. But anything that can basically be boiled down to a number on a spreadsheet is fair game, and the Cauldron loves its numbers.
They’ve also got a plan. “The Cauldron is going about it as strategically as possible,” adds Bear_cl4w. “For example, our April patch was the big weapons pass and some light quirk changes, and for May, there is a map rework coming from the recently added map guy PGI hired, Francois. But after every big step, there will be an iteration on the previous step. So for May, it’s a big mobility step, small weapon iteration, and some more light quirk work.”
May’s recent patch notes make Bear_cl4w a man of his words. April’s weapon changes get slight adjustments, but there are also some big developments when it comes to ‘Mech mobility. Old, outdated designs like the Centurion, Hunchback, and Firestarter have all received massive agility enhancements, while designs like the Jagermech, Jenner, and Cicada have all received armor and structure buffs.
It’s no exaggeration that these changes make all these old ‘Mechs feel like new again. I’m actually excited to take these old gals out for a spin, and I’m not the only one. Feedback on both Reddit and the MechWarrior Online forums has been universally positive, not just for the ‘Mech reworks but for the reworked Canyon map as well.
What’s next for the Cauldron and MechWarrior Online? Once again, Bear_cl4w lays out the near-term plan. “We are getting some significant stuff this year and we’ll push for as much as we ourselves and PGI can do. Our intended path is weapons, agility, quirks, rescale, skill tree.”
Not everything will come at once, but rescaling certain ‘Mechs to be smaller or larger than others (the Shadow Hawk has been annoyingly tall in MechWarrior Online for some time now), as well as a simplified skill tree will only help to bring more players back to the game and maybe even get new players to give MechWarrior Online a try.
Courtesy of PGI
Before I heap all the credit for MechWarrior Online‘s revival entirely on the Cauldron, it should be noted that PGI has been uncharacteristically generous with its events recently. Last month, they gave away the Mad Cat Mk II-B, a powerhouse of the old meta with its twin UAC/5 and twin UAC/10s. For May, PGI is giving away the Timber Wolf-C, a laser-vomit specialist and one of the ‘Mechs that benefited greatly from the recent mobility pass. And even if you don’t play enough to get the free ‘Mechs (which honestly doesn’t take too many matches even if you’re of average skill), there’s still tons of free C-bills, skill points, MC, and Premium Time up for grabs.
But just by the very nature of the game, players wouldn’t come back to acquire these new ‘Mechs if they didn’t think there’d be anyone to use them against. The Cauldron has changed the perception of MechWarrior Online as a dead game without a future into something much brighter.
For the past seven months, MechWarrior Online’s player count has only gone up. In my own experience, the time spent waiting for the matchmaker to find players for a game has gone down. And when those games actually start, I’m far more likely to see new and interesting custom loadouts that nobody has ever seen before. it honestly feels like a whole new game.
MechWarrior 5’s release on Steam in the coming days is sure to bring renewed interest to MechWarrior Online. When those players come, they’ll be met with a game being made better by the very same MechWarriors they’re facing online. Just as it should be.
It’s May, and I’m finally vaccinated! It hurt like hell and I was feeling like hot garbage for several days, but it’s a small price to pay for life to get back to some semblance of normal. A normal that probably won’t come for at least several more months as more people need to be vaccinated. And then we’ll all have to get boosters as we accept COVID as a seasonal disease like influenza.
But whatever. As far as I’m concerned, May is full of good news, and that includes BattleTech. So let’s get to it!
MechWarrior 5 Steam Release Includes Full Crossplay On May 27
There are two big news beats for May, those being Catalyst and the imminent shipping of Wave 2 of the Clan Invasion Kickstarter, and MechWarrior 5 releasing on Steam. We’ll start with MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries because it’s just days away from arriving.
All the deets recently got published on the MechWarrior 5and MechWarrior Online websites. The base game will clock in at $29.99, while the Heroes of the Inner Sphere DLC will hit you for another $19.99. Not a bad price for those who’ve been willing to wait for the game to release on Steam.
Ahh, but MechWarrior 5 isn’t just getting a Steam release! The game is also coming to the Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, making it the first console MechWarrior game since MechAssault 2. And if you’re a PC snob, you can even get it on GoG too.
Even better, MechWarrior 5 will have full crossplay across all platforms. For co-op play, only the host will need to have purchased the DLC to give access to everyone playing, so if you’ve got your lancemates already arranged you can save a few bucks with only one of you purchasing Heroes of the Inner Sphere.
A massive free game update is also coming with the Steam release, which includes a revamped intro sequence, the ability to skip the tutorial, rebalanced difficulty and economy, and greater variety in missions and maps. There’s even going to be infantry running around so the levels will feel more like an actual planet and not just some ‘Mech-sized set-piece.
We’ve already gone over most of what Heroes of the Inner Sphere will get you (such as a new career start option, seven new ‘Mechs, new missions, biomes, and equipment), but you’ll also get an expanded Inner Sphere map with 18 more warzones and 11 more side quests.
Clan Invasion Wave 2 Shipping Soon And IlCan Coming In June
And now for the news you’ve all been waiting for: Clan Wave 2 shipping is imminent! I just got an email warning me to update my shipping address if anything’s changed between now and Wave 1 (if your address is the same listed in the email, then there’s no further action required). Catalyst is still waiting on one last container shipment as of May 20, and I have no idea how long it takes for a box to cross the Pacific ocean (or even if it necessarily is arriving via the Pacific), but I’d say a June delivery is likely.
Catalyst also treated us to a State of the Game update earlier in May that revealed an equally momentous occasion: The IClan sourcebook arrives in June too! Get the full story for the Battle of Terra, including tactical maps, new ‘Mechs, and insights into how the other Great Houses reacted to this momentous conflict.
There’s a whole list of things coming in the next few months! Recognition Guide: IlClan gets its fourth cycle from August to November, Rock and a Hard Place brings the first new Gray Death Legion story in years in July, and Tamar Rising takes a look at the Tamar region of Lyran space during the Battle for Terra in September.
Check out Catalyst’s website for the full rundown on what’s coming in the latter half of 2021.
This Guy Added A ‘Mech Bay To His Computer
My computer hasn’t had a disk drive in some time, and even the days of my solid-state drives requiring a bay are numbered. When I eventually swap to NVMe drives, I’ll have nothing to put in the front of my case.
Nothing, except for a bad-ass ‘Mech bay.
Toukejin, thank you for creating this articulated Timber Wolf model and then throwing it on Thingiverse for me. Now I just need to find a 3D printer to make one of these for my next build.
MechWarrior Online’s May Patch Brings Phase 1 Mobility Pass And A New Canyon Map
We covered a lot of what’s going on in the May patch in my recent interview with the Cauldron’s Bear_cl4w, but a quick recap never hurts!
The biggest change with MechWarrior Online’s May patch is the reworked Canyon Network map. Spawn points and differences in cover have been fixed along with newly added ramps, bridges, and other terrain fixes that will make it a little easier to get around if you’re a non-jump-capable ‘Mech, but still provides a benefit for bringing a ‘Mech with jump jets.
April’s weapon pass has been fine-tuned with additional tweaks to various over-performing weapons, such as the Snub-Nose PPC, Clan Micro Pulse Laser, and Light Gauss Rifle. These adjustments hardly remove these weapons from viability, so all the cool new builds that came out of April’s patch will still work just fine. As always, the Cauldron is keeping a watchful eye on weapon performance for next month’s patch.
May also brought phase one of the ‘Mech agility pass. The Centurion, Hunchback, Hunchback IIC, Firestarter, Night Gyr, Timber Wolf, Atlas, and Kodiak are all more nimble to varying degrees to bring them into line with other ‘Mechs in their class. The Centurion and Hunchback IIC in particular were both extremely cumbersome chassis despite being medium-class machines, often getting outmaneuvered by ‘Mechs much heavier.
A few ‘Mechs also received armor and structure quirk alterations, namely the Stalker, Jagermech, Cicada, Jenner, and Jenner IIC. Generally, this involved providing more base armor to these fragile ‘Mechs while also redistributing their structure values somewhat so that they’re all tougher and hopefully more viable to bring into a pug.
I’ve tried the new Hunchback and Jenner, and both feel a lot better. I’m looking forward to my Novagetting the same treatment eventually.
Sean Lang Interviews Iqfish, Creative Director For Hired Steel
So I somehow missed Hired Steel‘s debut episode on Sarna’s April news blast, which is an unforgivable offense given how this is quite possibly the most amazing fan-made BattleTech machinima ever made. For those that missed it (including myself), I’ll embed the video above.
Now that you’ve seen it, here’s No Guts No Galaxy’s Sean Lang’s interview Constantin “Iqfish,” Hired Steel’s creative director over at TMC. Apparently, this whole thing got started as a COVID project since Germany had a bunch of lockdowns that resulted in reduced work hours for most of the population. With more free time, TMC came up with this amazing new video series.
Earlier this month, Wolves got its Wave 2 update, including the Raven, Raptor II, Hellbringer, and Mad Cat Mk II. And to celebrate the occasion, New Day Fiction gave us this sweet new trailer. The maps are all still fairly basic-looking, but they’re working on it.
Oh, and Wave 3 is currently in development. No word on what ‘Mechs that will include, but there’s a hint on the Wolves Twitter suggesting that the Puma will be in it. The Puma isn’t as cool as the Cougar, but it’s still a worthy addition and a ‘Mech we don’t see all that often in MechWarrior games.
As always, you can download Wolves and play for free from their website. If you’re a fan of MechAssault, then you’ll love Wolves.
The Ostsol is a ‘Mech that doesn’t get nearly enough love. Especially the bizarre, spindly-limbed original drawings by Duane Loose. So when I saw SU-SMD‘s take on the Ostsol on the BattleTech subreddit, I just had to share it.
What I love about this drawing is how it combines the abstract and “rough” style of the original BattleTech card game with the more hyper-realistic style of modern BattleTech artists.
Well, not really. But as the story goes, Tex had a VERY strong girlfriend at one point, so the meme is that he’s into big strong ladies, and it doesn’t get any bigger or stronger than an Elemental. Thus, the incredibly talented EldoniousRex created this image of Randolph P. Checkers on his wedding day with one very lucky Ghost Bear woman.
The lore of Randolph P. Checkers, Tex’s now-canonized character, still needs to be fleshed out with this story on Sarna’s wiki, so somebody hop to it!
And that’s it for May. Join us next month for more BattleTech action.
Well, now it’s April, and I’m still waiting on the go-ahead to get me some of that sweet sweet COVID vaccine. Here in the wilds of Canada, vaccines haven’t been as readily available as the rest of the world, and being in a relatively low-risk group (I work alone, at home, in the dark usually) means that I’m not really a priority to get vaccinated. That hasn’t stopped me from camping outside the pharmacy every day waiting for the sweet taste of stainless steel.
I’ve been asked to leave several times. Apparently, merely wearing a mask isn’t enough for some people.
Anyhow, let’s get to the BattleTech news for April, shall we?
MechWarrior Online Gets Its Second Big Balance Patch, But This Time The Players Did It
So. This is a big change for MechWarrior Online. Previously, PGI had absolutely no problem with ignoring complaints from players, but after last March’s balance pass went over about as well as Dire Wolf with a faulty drop pod, PGI has had a change of heart.
March’s balance changes are being reversed in April’s patch. Not only that, PGI has brought on The Cauldron, a group of both professional and casual players previously known as The Gulag, to work on MechWarrior Online’s future development. This provides direct player input into the design process for MechWarrior Online for the first time, ever.
I don’t know who all these Cauldron folks are, but I do know that they have some pretty great ideas for revitalizing MechWarrior Online. That starts with a comprehensive balance pass that attempts to tone down over-used meta weapons, dial up under-used off-meta weapons, and just overall makes every weapon effective in its own role.
On top of that, The Cauldron plans to increase baseline agility for all ‘Mechs, perform a re-scaling pass so certain ‘Mechs won’t be uncharacteristically gigantic for no reason (I’m lookin’ at you, Shadow Hawk), and a quirk revision pass that will make crappy ‘Mechs worth using again (my Novaeagerly awaits a return to relevance).
The Cauldron has already posted the weapon changes on the MWOwebsite, so you can go over them there to see some of the new numbers. Almost everything has been adjusted in one form or another. I don’t think it’s overstating things that MechWarrior Online will feel like a totally new game once this patch goes live.
Weapons are getting the attention for April, while May’s patch will be about agility changes. Maps are also getting some attention as well with changes to spawn points and other tweaks, with particular attention to Canyon on the first go.
This is all great to hear, but I’ve been playing the game recently to pick up some of the free ‘Mechs, and I still absolutely abhor this game’s utter fetish for embedded menus and clicking buttons. It takes 5 clicks to start a friendly playgroup when it should take 2. That and the team deathmatch gameplay means that I’m often waiting for a game to start as long as I’m actually playing it. A 50% game uptime is still really awful.
But hey, baby steps. First, let the players fix the wildly unbalanced game, and then maybe we can talk about GUI design. I’ll be taking a look at the new patch this weekend to see how it changes the game for the better.
MechWarrior: Living Legends Adds The Archangel And Two Tanks To Its Arsenal
From MechWarrior Online to MechWarrior: Living Legends, which also recently got an update. Included are the Shoden and Schrek assault tanks--the first a Clan missile support tank and the second an IS PPC carrier. Update 0.14.0 also adds the oft-requested Archangel, the terrifying Word of Blake assault ‘Mech. The retractable blade on the Archangel is strictly cosmetic, so don’t get too excited.
Update 0.14.0 also brings several map revisions, bug fixes, and a targeting control revamp. You can get the patch now over on ModDB.
DC Bruins Creates Operation Bulldog Animatic With The Help Of Gallery 3025
Gallery 3025 is already showing us just how valuable it can be. With their help, DC Bruins was able to complete an animatic that shows a possible scenario from Operation Bulldog.
It’s not quite a finished animation as you can see most of the moving pieces are built from sketches, but the small amount of animation added here and there add a lot to what would otherwise be a storyboard set to some intense music. DC Bruins has been working on this piece off-and-on for years, and it’s great to finally see it come to fruition.
But don’t expect to see a polished version for a while. Animation takes a LOT of work, so getting DC Bruins to give Operation Bulldog some color will take a lot more patrons on Gallery 3025. Which is my way of saying you should all subscribe to Gallery 3025.
Seriously, I love this and hope to see a lot more from DC Bruins in the future.
Wolves Wave 2 Is On The Way With A Raven Showcase To Start Us Off
Last month, I thought Wolves was treating us to a Raven showcase when they were actually showing off the Raptor II, a ‘Mech with a lot of MechAssault history for being essentially created just for MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf. Pyjama Boy kindly corrected me and promised that this month we’d get to see the Raven in action.
And what Pyjama Boy promises, Pyjama Boy delivers. Here’s a Raven, and here it is in shooting the shit out of a bunch of Summoners, Cougars, and several other Ravens in an alpha build of Wolves.
Also, we got a date for Wolve‘s next big update. Wave 2 of Wolves will bring the Raven, Raptor, Hellbringer, Summoner, Atlas, and Mad Cat Mk II, as well as three new maps to clear out endless hordes of enemy ‘Mechs on May 1st. That’s not very long at all, so be sure to download the game now to be ready to play on patch day!
Remember That Stupid Ship That Got Stuck In The Suez Canal? Well, Bad News For Clan Invasion Backers…
Yup. That stupid ship--Evergreen or Everclear or Everwhatever--has caused an already strained logistics chain thanks to COVID-19 to just up and snap. So expect a somewhat later shipping date for Wave 2 miniatures than previously indicated. Catalyst said in a recent Kickstarter update that they’re hoping to have everything State-side by June 10, but that assumes some other giant-ass ship doesn’t get its giant ass stuck in the Suez Canal.
Whatever. We’ve been dealing with disappointments for over a year, this is just one more to add to the pile.
Harmony Gold, Big West Finally Settle Macross/Robotech Dispute
Harmony Gold has long since settled its ongoing dispute with BattleTech‘s IP holders such that we will likely never hear from them again. But Robotech was a franchise that wasn’t so lucky. In much the same way that FASA got dragged into a massive IP dispute thanks to Tatsunoko selling their ‘Mech designs to whoever would pay for them, Bigwest and Harmony Gold have been fighting over the Macross and Robotech franchises for decades.
And now it seems that fight has also come to an end. Both the Robotechand Macrosswebsites have issued statements confirming that Bigwest Co. Ltd. and Harmony Gold have come to a mutual agreement that ends their decades-long dispute.
What this means is that the Macross films and television sequels can now see worldwide distribution once again. It also means that Bigwest won’t stand in the way of the upcoming Robotech live-action film.
It’s pretty crazy to see the evolution of these legal disputes. I guess Harmony Gold has finally figured out that sitting on their IP won’t get them any more money, and the only way it’s worth anything is if they use it. A lesson learned likely from their loss against BattleTech.
Someone Put A ‘Mech In Smash Bros. For Some Reason…
Yeah, I’m not sure why this exists, but it’s cool. We have Mecha Krizalid to thank for this crossover that places MechAssault‘s Cougar inside of Project M, a mod that allows for user-generated content to be added to Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
I gotta say, even at 35 tons, the Cougar is ludicrously overpowered for Smash Bros. Like, what the fuck is Pikachu going to do to an OmniMech? Shock it slightly? Run around? And the Cougar seems to be able to tank damage up to the 200s while one-shotting Mr. Game And Watch with a PPC blast to the face.
The video description reveals that not only will the Cougar be present in this mod, but various other BattleMechs are going to make an appearance as costumes for the Cougar. I’ve already seen an Uller in action, and I think there was an Atlas II mentioned.
That’s it for April! Next month will bring the arrival of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries on Steam and the Heroes of the Inner Sphere expansion, as well as the usual surprises that I’ve come to expect from the BattleTech community.
Man, March turned into a whirlwind of announcements! First it was MechWarrior Online getting a controversial patch, then MechWarrior 5 getting a Steam release date, and then MechWarrior Living Legends announced that they’re making a sequel mod. Plus there’s an update from Catalyst on the Clan Invasion Kickstarter, and as always, some delightful new art to share from around the web.
So no more small talk. Let’s get to the news!
Shrapnel Celebrates Its First Year And Updates On Wave 2
We’ll get the good news out of the way first. Clan Invasion Wave 2 is on track to start shipping out in May/June, according to the most recent Kickstarter update. Manufacturing should be done by the end of the month, with freight happening in April.
There are, apparently, a few things that are running “a few weeks behind” due to delays, but Catalyst isn’t letting that delay Wave 2 shipping. No word on what those items are, but they better not be my goddamn Urbie plushes or I will start a riot.
In other news, Shrapnel – The Official BattleTech Magazine has just completed its first full year of print. That’s a pretty big deal, if you ask me, as Shrapnel has a lot of BattleTech content you won’t find anywhere else. And these magazines aren’t like picking up a copy of People--they’re more like grabbing the latest Reader’s Digest or National Geographic with 160+ pages to go through. This includes stories from vets and first-time authors, actually playable scenarios for your next tabletop game, and tons and tons of new art.
Frankly, they could use more art, but I’m not complaining about what we got.
New this month is Fall from Glory, the Founding of the Clans series’ first book, as well as Fang and Claw, a short story from Michael J. Caravella. That’ll come to Clan Invasion Kickstarter backers Ristar and above, with no word on a wider release as of yet. Check your emails for the link for this short story.
MechWarrior Online’s First Major Update In Years Was A Bit Rough…
MechWarrior Online recently got its first major patch in two years, and wow, people were not happy. There were a few map tweaks, some new trials ‘Mechs that don’t suck, and a few other miscellaneous tweaks and bug fixes (not the least of which was a new intro that won’t blow out your headphones every time you boot the game up).
But the new patch also included some weapon and equipment changes that nobody really asked for. You can go over the exact numbers on the MechWarrior Onlinewebsite, but in general, PPCs do 20% more up-front damage at the cost of 20% less DPS. That means a far slower recharge rate than you might be used to.
The reason for these tweaks as given by PGI was to open up more “space” for other weapon tweaks down the road and to make PPCs (and Gauss Rifles) more specialized weapons. In this case, specialized means dedicated sniper weapons. You get a whole bunch of bang, but if you can’t reposition while your PPC/Gauss recharges, you’re kinda pooched.
There’s a lot of talk online about this patch being an overall nerf, but I don’t think so. They certainly succeeded in making PPCs/Gauss Rifles into sniper weapons, and in the hands of a coordinated lance, this means trained PPC fire can bring down a ‘Mech in a single salvo. In those scenarios, the longer cooldown doesn’t matter because the target is already dead.
But I don’t play in those sorts of matches. I just play in PUGs, where it’s basically controlled mayhem every match. A 7-second Clan ER PPC cooldown means that my Nova-A has absolutely no ability to plug a hole in a line if the enemy side charges. I’ll get one shot off and then I have to wait an eternity to fire again, at which point faster-firing Medium Pulse Lasers or SRM-6s have chewed me to pieces.
To me, this change doesn’t feel great. It pigeon holes PPC-boating ‘Mechs into dedicated snipers and punishes pilots with poor aim. That’s fine for pro players, but for a game that’s trying to encourage a renaissance with new blood, it just seems too unforgiving to newbies to be the right call.
To me, the changes to PPCs/Gausses (and even the MASC changes that were included) feel like PGI is just trying to introduce some sweeping changes to the MechWarrior Online meta. I get that--established MMO and online service games do it all the time to keep things fresh and interesting. But it’s easy to get carried away with that sort of thinking and make changes that look like they’ll really shake things up on paper but really don’t feel great for existing players.
Plus, MWO players are a curmudgeonly lot that don’t take change particularly well, especially if they didn’t ask for it.
Mechwarrior Online Patch Notes Review - March 2021
On the plus side, MechWarrior Online is giving away a free Grasshopper-5H for the Month of March and also hosting a public test server with a slew of changes that have been suggested by a group of players calling themselves “The Gulag.” Those changes include an overhaul of pretty much everything based on input from both casual and professional MWO players alike, so it’ll be interesting to see how it compares to the latest official patch from PGI.
UPDATE: Oh hey, looks like PGI has decided to rollback the weapon and MASC changes in the latest patch after all. I gotta say, that’s a big change for PGI, which has typically ignored public outcry from its players after unpopular changes. If that’s not a positive sign, I don’t know what is.
The game Rust also hosted its save data at the same location and suffered far worse losses. Monthly backups meant that it wasn’t a total loss, but community-hosted servers that didn’t have backups were just… gone.
MechWarrior Onlinegot a new server the next day and is back and running for you fancy Europeans, so there’s no need to deal with a 200 ping when you’re playing with me here in North America.
MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Gets A Release Date On Steam, GoG, and Xbox
Hey, so, remember when MechWarrior 5’s Steam release got delayed till the spring, but then PGI said that they’d also come out with the Heroes of the Inner Sphere DLC as well as an Xbox release at the same time? Well, we’ve got a date: May 27.
“We are very excited to also be able to give Xbox and Steam players a good dose of MechWarrior fun,” said EG7 CEO Robin Flodin in a statement. “It is also great to be able to present yet another example of the EG7 companies working together to bring a world-class title to market.”
The funny part (at least to me) is that MechWarrior 5 was initially delayed from December to avoid getting stomped on by Cyberpunk 2077, and then Cyberpunk turned out to be a slow-motion train wreck. Now May is coming up with games like Biomutant, Subnautica: Below Zero, Resident Evil Village, and the remade/remastered Mass Effect trilogy, with more announcements being made all the time. It’s sort of an out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire situation if you ask me.
But hey, if you were among the many who thought that the Epic Games Store release was like an early access preview, then the real deal is just two months away.
Tex Talks BattleTech Returns To Discuss The Marauder Soon™
A little while back, I gave MechWarrior: Living Legends a try. It was great fun, but it’s a game that’s definitely showing its age. MechWarrior: Living Legends, for those unaware, is the total-conversion mod built on the original Crysis engine, which is pushing 14 years old at this point--old enough that it’s already received a remake on a brand new engine.
Rather than use the Crysis Remake for MechWarrior: Living Legends 2, the fine folks at JPL Studios have decided to use the far more moddable MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries as their starting point. This makes creating another total-conversion mod much easier since a lot of the assets they’d be using (like all the ‘Mechs, for example) are already present in the game.
That and MechWarrior 5 is built on the Unreal 4 Engine, which just has more knowledge and support out there.
JPL just announced MechWarrior: Living Legends 2over on Reddit, revealing that it’s been a passion project a year in the making. The team is made up of many of the same people who worked on the first MechWarrior: Living Legends, but I’ve been told there has been a lot of new blood brought in thanks to MWLL2 going public.
According to the Reddit post, alpha tests are coming “within a couple of weeks,” and MWLL2 project lead Nathan reports that the team will be hosting smaller stress tests before then to make sure everything works. Support will start out for 32-player matches, but that number might increase over the course of the mod’s development.
Nathan tells me that MWLL2 will follow the same format as the original mod, which is a sort of Battlefield-style persistent battle with matches focusing on taking control points for resources. The team with the most points gets declared the winner after roughly an hour of play.
Obviously, more MechWarrior is always great, but I think MechWarrior: Living Legends 2 has a lot going for it. First, it’ll be in a modern engine with way more technical support and it’ll be made by a proven team of modders with a passion for MechWarrior/BattleTech. Second, it might even add a multiplayer component to MechWarrior 5 that PGI has no particular interest in making. Sure, co-op campaigns are great, but competitive multiplayer adds a level of replayability that you just can’t beat.
I’m excited to see what JPL comes up with, especially given the quality of product they’ve put out with the original MWLL. For updates, follow MechWarrior: Living Legends 2 on Twitter, and for (possible) access to some of the upcoming stress tests or even the technical alpha, head on over to the MechWarrior: Living Legends 2Discord.
From Mice To Elementals?
So, this isn’t exactly BattleTech news, per se, but it does seem to have a direct link to the BattleTech universe in that it’s yet another piece of technology common to the Clans in the far future that has just been invented right now. Thanks go out to an eagle-eyed Sarna reader for giving me the heads up.
A group of scientists in Israel has just grown a mouse embryo in an artificial womb. That’s according to the MIT Technology Review, who interviewed biologists at the Weizmann Institute of Science. The embryos were grown by adding blood serum from human umbilical cords along with a pressurized oxygen mixture.
The mouse embryos only lasted between 11 to 12 days before they grew too large for the glass containers they were in to continue supplying them with adequate oxygen, but the basic concept has been proven: conception without a womb.
The crux of the article is the huge ethical concerns such technology raises for humans, specifically with the ongoing abortion debate. However, for us BattleTech nerds, this is the first step towards a true Iron Womb.
And that’s all I got for March! Join us next time for more BattleTech news, and hopefully some teasers for Heroes of the Inner Sphere.