MechCombat from Ralph H. Reed

Today we have a guest post from Sam van Ratt, who will be sharing a retrospective on two BattleTech video games from nearly 30 years ago, called MechForce and MechCombat!

Take it away Sam!


A hello to all BT fans out there!  Today I would like to introduce you to my favourite BattleTech Game: MechCombat from Ralph H. Reed.

Startup Screen

A bit of my history:
In about 1990 I was introduced by a friend to MechForce. The first battle was disastrous and I was not very happy, how complex this simple game was, so the learning curve was (in my case) quite shallow until I read the BattleTech rules and found out how to use a ‘Mech proper and therefore being able to pilot it according to its best abilities. In 1991 I bought my first own copy of the game (must be about V3.70) which came with a big archive of different ‘Mechs which expanded the possibilities tremendously due to more complex NPC scenarios. While studying in NYC I arranged “mass-orders to Germany” (well from 1-3 pieces each time) to limit sending costs and was able to get always the newest version :-).

About the beginning of 1993 I received (my last “quantity-orders”) an additional disk with MechCombat on it, which looked very similar to MechForce, but was already V4.00. At first it appeared quite ordinary and very disappointing as my custom ‘Mech creations could not be used, nor the warrior/techs/companies I nourished with my own ‘sweat & blood’ (…and crumbles of my cookies). My look into it was therefore very limited. I asked for a conversion program or help files but didn’t get one, not even a reply. I read in a Amiga/Games news group, that there is no conversion kit available (or possible?) and you have to start anew from scratch, which was a killer-criteria for me.

After about 10 years in playing MechForce it grew somehow boring as I rarely lost, the ‘Mechs were far outdated, as all the BT books talked about newer ‘Mechs and not stuff of 2750. At that point I already had arranged a lot of nice add-On tools like HQ or MechForceHQ and alike which made gaming and gaining much easier compared to how I started ten years earlier. I had created about 60 different ‘Mech designs and have been very proud about all of them.

In 2007 I started digitizing all my media to disk/online storage. At 2010 I came about the additional disk from Ralph. I reinstalled my Amiga and installed the disk to my best knowledge. It worked instantly (no wonder due to the close similarity to MechForce) and I failed in the first 10 fights about 8 times. I switched back to MechForce and succeeded in 10 from 10 times. I failed because in my version all my opponents were CLAN, while I [as Playing Character starter (rookie=green level)] had only Inner Sphere types and just what I could afford. I switched to easy in combat and got my first successes and Yes: the Level 2 Rules allowed complete new designs and ‘Mech types and the map was much bigger.

Game-History:

MechCombat is/was the planned successor of MechForce (same Author, but published in 1988), but was dropped (instantly) in 1993 due to differences with (then) FASA (a sue against Ralph as I read in the very same Amiga Newsgroup).

Capabilities of MechCombat:

  • Creating/repairing/modifying/develop Mechs/Warriors/Techs/Teams from ‘Zero to Hero’ and play thousands of fights as there is a huge variation in the setupA ripe version of a company
  • Creating Combat Orders to fulfil including special maps attached
  • Creating Maps for combat orders for hilarious situation fights [e.g. Mazes]
  • burn your way through a forest, walk/dive/drown in seas and therefore giving grist to the mills of organizations like “Nature First!”Havoc for NATURE First!
  • slip on ice
  • cool your ‘Mech in water/on ice
  • (roled) aimed shots
  • use a ‘Mech equipped with an ATC as marksman
  • jump over obstacles and crash when your plasma is empty
  • fight in Battles, Recon Missions, Arena, Simulated fightings, …
  • use Melee weapons at your disposal (armless and 4-legged ‘Mechs are quite disadvantaged here)
  • save/restore a fight
  • self destruct your ‘Mech (if experienced enough) and transform it into a tremendously expensive fusion-based grenade
  • eject by will or surrender your ‘Mech

Both games are a combination of five executables written for the AmigaOS (min V1.20):

  1. MechCombat (the battle game)
  2. Factory (to create, modify and repair Mechs)
  3. Map Editor (to create/modify custom maps)
  4. CombatOrders (to create/modify scenarios=missions)
  5. Warrior (to create, modify and repair Units/Warriors)

my MechCombat arrangement

The game play is pretty straight forward:

  1. create a warrior+according ‘Mech
  2. play in the Arena, do Roving Patrols or Combat Missions
  3. fight and survive with as much salvage/XPs/C-Bills a possible
  4. repair your ‘Mech, heal the Pilot, get a good Tech, upgrade your ‘Mech (=customize it), upgrade your warrior to higher levels due to more XPs

Mech Capabilities:

MechCombat is able to create Level 2 Mechs, Vehicles, Maps, Missions and Forts.
Level 2 (no Experimental Tech!), IS/Clan, ER Weapons, LAMs, no VLRM, XL and Standard Engines, Ferro Fibrous, LAM, Armless, Bi/Quad Legged, Gauss, Impulse Weapons, Front/rear Mounting, JumpJets, ECM, Endo Steel Interior, Single-/Double-Heatsink, Normal, SWARM, Thunder and Cluster Ammo. Ultra AC, Anti Missile, Advanced Targeting Computer (!!!), Streak, Flight Control System (Arrow IV), C3 Units (Master/Slave), Active Probe, LRM/SRM Beacon, A-Pods, Pulse weapons.

What ‘Mech Capability is not working (in my V4.00 Version):

  • Thunder Ammo at all (apart from normal LRM function)
  • Vehicles at all (would have been on my top priority list)
  • Forts
  • Ultra AC shoots always, creates heat, consume Ammo, but only hits sometimes (it’s possible to de+activate it under ‘Status’ in Battle)
  • SWARM, Thunder, Cluster Ammo: I have no idea how to activate it or choose to use; the Computer opponent could use it…
  • SWARM works, if it is the only Ammo available: my favourite since my first try
  • LAMs: Jump: yes, flight: no, Fuel was already thought of (for Vehicles as well I guess)
  • C3: I never experienced an advantage when one is equipped with a C3 unit. When one group is seeing one opponent the hit probability is calculated, no matter if you see him or not, so Target Datas are always distributed.
  • Active Probe
  • A-Pods (well, there is no infantry or Battle Armour, but for creation purpose possibility; maybe Elementals were planned)

The GUI:

While quite unusual for today users, MechForce/MechCombat came in the (then) modern Amiga conform GUI with right/left mouse-click (alt. the famous Amiga Keys) to open or execute functions (mostly used in the Factory and the other administrative tools). MechCombat itself is quite similar to the usage of Text-based adventures with time/menu specific functions which could be triggered by a) Mouse, b) Joystick, c) Keyboard or d) the Computer as AI opponent.

Selection Phase

Thanks to that order it is possible for four players to simultaneously play MechCombat in four different (M,J,K,C) groups, while Computer is always the only opponent if chosen on one side. Due to the one monitor function of course any player always sees what the other is doing/planing. For teaming purposes (against the AI foe) it has some attraction to it.

Damaged ‘Mechs (red) or depleted ‘Mechs (yellow) are coloured differently, which helps to identify when there is work to do. In the earlier versions of MechForce it happened quite often to go into war with nearly empty Mechs, because you forgot to rearm or repair the right Warrior. If you right-mouse click the ‘Mech or warrior you can see his current status via a popup display.

For it’s time this multi-player action was quite unusual, and with Internet functions like amiVNC it is possible to do Internet gaming (well sort of).

Hint: With an emulator like UAE, Desktop sharing services (Teamviewer, Timbuktu, VNC, Netmeeting, Skype, …) could be used. Quite amazing for a 30 year old game to play with your pal on the next continent.

The Warrior:

Warrior Program

You are able to maintain, create, change your Unit, Warrior, Tech and Team. A Player character (Warrior and Tech alike) could (=has to) develop from Green to Regular to Veteran to Elite Level X, just like in CBT usual. A NonPlayerCharacter (NPC) is forged and easy to play around especially with Clan ‘Mechs. When you create a Warrior or Unit you are asked about your (House-)Affiliation, which influences the role to join a unit (same house makes it easier to join) just like higher rates when you come to choose a contract as supporting role. It is absolutely OK to have no contract and get 100% salvage at higher costs for replacement goods.

House Units have the advantage to be supported with anything you need, while the free house ‘Mechs are limited by your image (rating). It might be advisable to be a house unit at first so your bills and materials are paid. When you salvage a ‘Mech (as Unit/Lance) you have to come here to get the Mechslot free again, else your config file runs over. Same goes for dispossesed Warriors to choose a new ‘Mech of the Rack (or buy a Unit ‘Mech before).

What I miss here is a monthly/per-fight-basis costs of the unit to maintain. Everything you do in MechCombat is pay-per-usage (Tech, replacements, repair, upgrades, …). A Tech gets XPs from every repair/modification he does for you. It is a very low rate of XPs he gets so after 1000 fights/repairs my Tech has done, he is still at about 50.000XPs. There is again no limit, how many Techs you need for whatever repair, so one (very good) Tech works and he is never overworked no matter what scrap you brought back (‘Christ! I just finished the damn thing up’).

Installing MechCombat:

How to install the Game

Additionally here is my configuration (Amiga2000+TurboCard68060@50MHz):

My used Configuration

Fine-tuning of your Mech:

The Factory allows all the usual functions just like HeavyMetalPro does (well not in all its finesse), but when you print the sheet in MechForce you get the BT RPG typical printouts with statistics and all that stuff. For whatever reason, there is no print function in any part of MechCombat. There are a few points you could take care of:

Factory Creation of a Mech

  • Ammo positioning: MC uses a different scheme how to assign ammo to weapons: all is shared equally. Therefore it’s not possible to jettison ammo for one weapon only, but for all of the same type. With that restriction you only get one role for ammo explosion per ammo type.So it is quite critical to position the ammo in a certain order: when you have for example 5 tons of ammo (here AC/10) to distribute, you choose the best armoured in the less important position (just as usual), but when you distribute it in the Factory, MC counts the 50 shots where you position it first (which are shot 1-10) in the Torsos (e.g) and the last (here 41-50) in the arms/legs. Head and Centre are always bad. In my opinion and example case (9 tons of AC/10 ammo) I first choose 2 slots in right torso (so shot 1-20), 1 in left (shot 21-30), 2 in right leg (31-50), 2 in left leg, one in left arm, one in right arm. With this ‘reverse order’ distribution the lightest armoured part (Arms) might get hit/lost first, legs second and hopefully the torso is spared to the end.
  • The battle program MC has some strange moments when the positioning on the map is crazy and your motley crew is ambushed, therefore having armour on the rear helps, but in most cases friend/foe is clearly defined and that is why I use 98% and plus on armour in my front armour instead of a “especially friendly fire hurts double” approach. For my Melee ‘Mechs I still use 95% front as a faster engine helps more (faster in the front row and faster turning) than more armour.
  • In light ‘Mechs use FF/ES/XL as much as you can afford: plenty of space and only a few weapons to carry. ECM helps to cope with ATC equipped ‘Mechs (it took me some time to figure that out). In Heavy/Assault class I would advise to use only ES and maybe XL to save weight.
    d) DoubleHeatSinks (DHS) are always advised, even in IS ‘Mechs.

The Battle Program:

The positioning in ‘Roving Patrol’ on the map is by role and randomization. In Arena Mode you are always in the both ends of the map, while on some Missions you can choose where you want to start (typically the “King of the Mountain”-Defender role).

Selection again

It often happens to have the long range fighters in the front row and the Melee ‘Mechs in the last row. There is no way to influence it. Then you role for the starting initiative: highest number first, lowest last. You can always choose to break any doing by right (mouse)clicking and wander to the left upper menu and select ‘Break move’, ‘Break attack’, ‘Mech status’ or ‘Special’ per ‘Mech (unconscious warriors do not react for obvious reasons), to stop loops (like ‘wait on move’ and ‘wait on weapon’) or unwanted waiting cycles.

How to brake an action

The battle menu is divided in a ‘Move’ phase and a ‘Weapon’ phase with all the needed menu functions there. Both menus have submenus with their according functions. Common is the Special menu, where the important ‘Identify’ function lies there. Even in the MechForce predecessor version, all datas are shared (like C3 Master/Slave in all Mechs), so when one detects a Mech, all of your team can analyse his movements/status and current doings. Very practical against Death-from-above jumps or if you calculate when you should activate your weapons for the estimated appearance to prepare a nice punch/kick: the AI does that in a very accurate way, so why not get even.

When a move/weapon cycle is finished you can select a ‘wait on….’ and the cycle is finished, if you select ‘Wait’ and then ‘cancel’, one second is wasted and you start with the same menu again. The manual of MechForce describes it pretty fine how a normal cycle works, but it is pretty much just move (or stand up or just wait) and then the weapon, firing, recycle, wait until heat/reload is finished and hope the move is finished as well. Just like CBT works. LRM ‘Mechs best hide in the jungle or on/behind a high hill, while support AC/Gauss/PPC ‘Mechs are best positioned on the highest hill (or cooled on ice or in water), while Melee ‘Mechs work their way to the front best covered/sheltered as best as possible.

NATURE First!'s second proof

Well everyone has his own tactic to cope with opposing ‘Mechs.

Walk-Through:

A) Create a warrior:

  1. Go into Warrior and right mouse click (and hold) to get the pulldown menu and select ‘Warrior-New Player’ [up to my version only IS player characters could be created; Clanners only as “artificial” NPCs]Creation of an IS Warrior
  2. Click to calculate how much Starting XPs you get to distribute (higher is better; AFAIR 245 is the uppermost)
  3. Choose attribute/learn skills like in BT usual to form your MechPilot; important is ‘Piloting/Mech’ and ‘Gunnery/Mech’ skill (and very much later Technician, Rogue and Survival). ‘Dexterity’ helps to rise the bar and ‘Learn Ability’ how much skills your are allowed to develop.The same as in BT classic Tabletop of the 90’s. Choose an ‘Affiliation’ (helps with joining a company later on to have the same; if all are equal it helps if you join the same house later on). Rolling for the Mech, can be trimmed by spending/earning XP (spending means higher weight Mech).Choose the ‘Mech you like (all Inner Sphere of course) and click ‘Save/Done’. The ‘Academy Package’ is nice to use if you use the player for the Tabletop as well (other skills are used); I personally found it never really attractive as I could spend the XPs somewhere else for a real meaning.

    Warrior creation start

B) start the battle by double (left) clicking on MechCombat Icon

  1. Choose ‘Roving Patrol’ for you first game and pick one party left (e.g. you) and your control type (like I did: K for keyboard), then on the other side typically C for the computers AI. To force the computer to use light Mechs, use two or even three parties for C (like in the picture):Selection No.3Else stay on the one vs. one
  2. I would strongly suggest to start with ‘Easy’ or ‘Normal’, which could be hard enough when Clanners appear in the opposition.
  3. The random (game) map is created (which makes a big advantage to the “played it once, thank you” factor); if you do not like it: close the right hand window and click the ‘Escape’ Key so it will ask you to quit=>yes. Start from a) and better map next time
  4. Choose your warrior of Team 1 and select ‘Done’; do the same for all player teams=>Computer Teams are build according to your tonnage and difficulty Level and experience Level of the highest player
    The Map and the Unit/Warrior Selector
  5. Role for your starting time (99 is highest=earliest to start)Hint: when your first Warrior start up, you can trigger the other ones with right-mouse click (and hold) and use the Pull-Down menu on the top and use ‘Break Move’ (or ‘Attack’); this is not a wanted feature, but a not-closed option Start the Game
    Hint: In the same menu you can save the game or define special functions like how fast the Sprites move or how long the message delay should be (both are CPU depending values, so try yourself)
  6. The rest works straight forward: cursor keys to move and space button to selectThe Fight startup screen
  7. Against canon the selection who starts first is not rolled out in every turn, but the highest level defines how fast one reacts and the fastest always starts actions first (at the same time), so higher Experience rules (e.g. at aiming/shooting 3 seconds is the slowest and 1 seconds delay is fastest) and on what position you were chosen in the selection.Under ‘Options-Identify’ you can scan a visible ‘Mech (no matter if you or a colleague is seeing him) about his current status, movement, armour, …. Very important for Death-from-above attacks or when a ‘Mech comes into range!
    Weapon Selection
    Aiming
    Triggering
    The good ol' hugging of foes
    The last option for inflicting damage
    Hint: use the terrain to your advantage: LRM users can hide everywhere, Melee fighters should emphasize a faster travel instead of hiding and a slow travel. Typical Clan behaviour (no melee, one vs. one, no collateral) are not regarded.
  8. The Level2 Features could be switched on/off under ‘Options-Status-Mech SetUp’, simple but good hiddenLevel 2 Setup page
  9. Survive with your ‘Mech & life and hope for lots of salvage (C-Bills) as repairs can be very expensive.Dispossessed... again! A loss (as in this case) of the ‘Mech is “deadly” as there is no chance to recover as dispossesed Warrior (just like in real life)=> restart from A)a).Analyze Screen In the end you can browse through all comrades ‘Mechs and opposing/salvaged ‘Mechs and look into the carnage you done to “just-off-the-production-line”-Mechs (or the misery to the nameless Families depending on how you look upon it).The summary screen gives you very detailed info about all values Analyze Screen #2
  10. You could also choose at point to ‘load a saved game’, or use a simulator training =’Mode-Simulator’ (means nothing is saved no matter what kind of mission you pick or what happened there) or go to Solaris VII =’Arena Challenge’ or do a mission for your House =’Combat Orders’, where you are obliged to fulfill a specific deed (crossing, rescue, recon, safekeeping, search, ….) and get a Bonus for “House Experience Points”, which must be satisfied until you are allowed to change the contract as lance/company to your contractor:
    The Combat selector
    The missions can be easy, but often lead to loosing as you forget to count the ‘Mechs right, one escapes, one is lost, ….. I would advise against it in the beginning as bad experience=reference (=lost battles) gives you bad contracts=bad reputations=bad C-Bills. Even later: keep writing records about what you should do in combat orders and count!Hint: the maps and orders are compatible to the MechForce predecessor and can be copied and used (just the maps are smaller measured in Hexes). If you keep always only 1 in the folder (and change it after each one) you can create a mission-scenario. I played such scenarios with my old friend (who introduced me to MechForce) by buying replacements and then go to a Mercenary Scenario with no refresh until the complete Scenario was finished. A bit handy work and quite rustic, but as every mission could be changed (Mission Editor) it is surely more tempting then Activisions “MechWarrior (2) Mercenaries” with just 30 pseudo dynamic Missions and that’s it… well it is by far no “MechCommander 2X” (=the Wolfman-X addons).

C) Repairing

  1. Start the Factory, and use a right mouse click (&hold) to ‘Load-Warrior’ and choose your warrior.You might get a remark that “Healing Y costs X C-Bills”; press OK and move to ‘Repair Shop’ to see and start repairing. Now it comes handy to a) have high Technician skills or b) have a Tech with high skills to load (same as by ‘load-warrior’) and do the “dirty work”. Every red symbol means defective. By double (left) clicking on this item the repair is triggered and when the roll is equal or higher it’s done at certain costs. The prices of IS stuff is from the BattleTech defined regular prices in 1990 (I was told), while Clan stuff was guessed and cannot be bought (but salvaged).If a repair fails you could repeat it of course and pay again. Every part which have been repaired (much cheaper than buying anew) could fail in battle at a higher rate than replacement stuff. That’s quite a nice (meaning “nasty”) feature as the BT books often describes “non-brass guys”: failing weapons when urgently needed, jams, damaged actuators and engine problems and no replacement in sight. In the same Pull-down menu there is the important ‘Re-Arm’ function.
  2. It happens from time to time that money runs low, or out and not everything could be replaced or repaired:> get the armour done, one Medium Laser sometimes have to suffice to get it going again. In my case that happened when I started a company and I had to downgrade a lot of ‘Mechs just to get the actual staff supplied with a bare minimum. After 50 fights I could even risk a total loss and switch to some salvaged ‘Mech.
  3. With the 100th fight your company/lance should be able to have one good Tech (Techlevel10+), 3-5 MechWarriors, 10 working ‘Mechs and millions of C-Bills, so you could really get into customizing ‘Mechs. While IS ‘Mechs could be easily build and bought, Clan versions are not and could only be salvaged and then modified.

D) Upgrading

  1. Start the Warrior program and go to ‘Warrior-Update’ and load your Warrior: Warrior UpgradeThere you could Convert XPs by using the ‘Convert Experience Points’; for every 10 XP Points (meant to use under the ‘Modify’ function in skill checks) you get 1 Character Point (CP). Upgrade done In the picture I have had 214 XPs and select to convert 200XPs into 20 CPs. Usually it is not suffice to have any change of skills from only one fight, but 3+ fights (depending on the Difficulty Level you have chosen) and even then only starting skills could be upgraded.
  2. When finished press ‘Save’ and restart playing the game to increase your skill and get further.

General Hints

  • After about 30 plays it’s worth thinking about starting a Lance or Company (difference is only the amount of warriors/techs/Mechs it could harbour). With a lance/company you will be able to customize, salvage to your ‘Unit Stores’ (interesting) for Clan stuff OR limited replacements in SAP (=self applied pain)-missions, so keep your stock at level. As Player Unit there’s a limitation to not be able to buy or sell clan stuff (apart from Ammo), which makes Clan stuff rare & interesting.
  • Only as a Lance or Company you are able to modify and salvage parts, so found one as soon as possible!
  • If you want to fight against special ‘Mechs you can limit the available ‘Mechs in each folder (L/M/H/A) to the minimum=one for each possible tonnage; failing to provide just one ‘Mech per tonnage crashes the selector in MechCombat. Only ‘Mechs with a “@” Symbol at the beginning will be chosen by the Computer (which means Clan type). To be able to use IS types as well just add a “@” in front of it.
  • Use my ‘Mech Collection of “IS only”, “Clan only” or “IS+Clan” ‘Mech collections provided at Aminet oder Sarna.net Download collection. I created about 1000 ‘Mechs which are cannon to BT by using Sarna’s wiki and my HeavyMetalPro to get the needed datas/distribution and read the readme for explanation.
  • There is rarely the possibility of ‘Mechs behind you, so keep most armour in front of you.
  • To buy things for your Unit storage, move into the Factory-Company/Lance-Unit Stores/Whatever and use a right mouse click to buy and left mouse click to sell. Some usual stuff opens a slider and you could buy e.g. Armour up to 1.500tons at once without clicking endlessly like it was in MechForce V3.6x. Again: Clan stuff could only be salvaged, never bought (or sold…) as IS lance/company!

How to do a ‘Scenario’:

If you are interested (or as a Game Master) to do a true story, MechCombat has everything in it to do one:

  1. Use you Mechs/troops in a lance/company
  2. Equip them with ammo/replacement/armour limits by not buying more than allowed (and later restricting buying)=>SAP=self applied pain
  3. You can search for fitting single missions in the quite huge collection of MechForce Missions (I have collected about 150 missions) or create some of your liking and allow only the next one in the mission folder (so the random search is limited to the next episode) and move all others out to a temporary folder
  4. If you want to limit the allowed AI Mechs, you can limit the available ‘Mechs in the Mech\Light, Assault, …. folders (remember: MC chooses only ‘Mechs with an asterisk (*) in front).
    Hint: to not crash the AI, the AI expects there is one ‘Mech in any weight order available, else the “MC Selector” crashes the whole game (including your Warriors in combat; you have to rescue them in the ‘Warrior’ menu by retrieving them): so in /Mechs/Heavy-folder there must be a minimum of one *…60, one *…65, one *…70 and one *…75 mechfile in the folder.
  5. As a speciality there is the function to damage your ‘Mech in the Factory (mode settings). It is a strange function until you think about special background or predecessor missions (core shielding damaged, weapon defective, limping, damaged actuator, defective jet ports, …).
    Hint: I would advise to use file/folder tools to move/rename files like ‘DirectoryOpus’ or ‘XLentPro’ or like me the ‘NTP Commander’. Normally it is easier to rename the usual Mech/Mission folders and create an empty one and copy only the wanted/needed files to the new Mech/Mission Folders.

Comparison

How to use the Factory

If you ever worked with the HeavyMetalPro you should be able to cope with the Factory GUI as well: look into the submenus to get started. While HMPro is canonical, the Factory is only very close, but allows real armless ‘Mechs (unluckily without the Rifleman feature of switching front/rear at will). When creating IS Mechs, you can only select ‘StarLeague’ or ‘IS’ weapons, while Clan ‘Mechs can only use ‘Clan’ and ‘Clan Advanced’.

Known Bugs=> Factory, Unit Stores and new Functions (e.g. Thunder Ammo, Vehicles)

    The Bad Mech/Factory Bug:

At some point I found defects in the old MechForce. The defect came from modified base Mechs, which where modified after an error (Double used Slot in most cases) or wrong calculated weight, free slots). I never experienced problems in the version 3.60 I first owned, while in the later versions I was unable to repair such a defect and therefore could only repair a minimum (repaired parts stayed red). The bug stayed since then. It was acceptable as there have been third party tools like MechHQ, which allowed a “Repair All/Everything” function and solved that problem time by time it occured.

The newer MC Factory kept being problematic due to new functions and only increased the probability of its occurrence [especially when removing arms/hands or fiddling around with Double-heatsinks (which is cured with a simple change of the amount of heat sinks, which resets the locations of heatsinks)]. In most cases that is not a problem: restart the Factory and start again. Modifying “false calculated” ‘Mechs is always a bad practise and I would advise against it: it kills your design sooner or later!

P.S.: I cleared out all ‘Mechs I encountered, so no screenshot is available

    Close proximity=>The ‘Double Strength Heatsink’ Bug

As a new feature DS Heatsinks were added and I am pretty sure the free/used slots aka “Bad Mech” problem originates from here. When repairing a DS Heatsink it comes pretty obvious (one repaired HS repairs mostly all in the whole Mech) and only one is spent.

    The ‘Unit Stores’ Bug:

My Unit store
At some point you will come about the situation that your Company/Lance Store has Parts with a negative value (like mine ‘Clan ER PPC’ = -3126). This is a serious bug from (so called) Buffer Overflows and missing separation of single slot values, so when one value of another slot has a higher value than it could store, it may jump to a null value, while the next slot has suddenly at a negative value. That is normally not a big issue, but Clan stuff could not be bought, and buying 462 Medium Lasers just to have one to spare/use is quite expensive. I cope with this serious bug, by not using this weapons at all. If Ralph did have had more time to experiment with the new format, he might have found and fixed it for himself.

If you want to use e.g. Clan ER PPCs, salvage a Clan ‘Mech with one of such weapons and customize it: removing a critical part is OK, while adding is impossible due to the still negative value.

One random Combat Order:

Order 1
Order 2
Order 3
Order 4
And the other side

P.S.: While MechCombat difficulty is chosen, in Combat Roles you could as well chose a additional difficulty, resulting in a “versus-ratio” of from 0,5 up to 2.2 (Easy+Easy….Suicidal+Suicidal) which could be tempting.

Conclusion:
A great game then and now, but you have to like its unfinished state and pure 2D tabletop experience. I tried a lot of times to contact Ralph to talk about MF/MC and while I am not a programmer at all, I would have liked to buy the sourcecode and start an open source thread on Sourceforge or something similar.

The game had potential and was ahead of it’s time in stability, functions, usability, integrity and lightness, which was amazing for so many years. Today there are surely other promising platforms (e.g. MegaMEK) which allows a wider range, but the feature richness of MC (combat, factory, missions) is keeping me fascinated. After about 3000 fights in MC alone I still like to play a game or two each passing week and muse about the map & situation and how things could have evolved to fit in the actual picture. I even wished the BT authors would have had such a tool (well there’s always the Paper & Pen solution) to simulate their written words experience for a few solid factors. Clan philosophy was not integrated (e.g. SWARM not possible in Clan weapons, or one on one, no brawling, no retreat) so are a lot of new features. Maybe there have been more modern builds than mine (V4.00 “final Alpha”), but I doubt it to the stall in development due to Ralphs sudden stop which looks very final.

You can read more about MechForce and MechCombat on the Sarna wiki!

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2 thoughts on “MechCombat from Ralph H. Reed

  1. Pepetrueno

    I was an Amiga fan and an early adopter of the technology. I had my first taste of this game from a “Fred Fish” anthology if anyone remembers what it was.

    I played it incessantly and upgraded to the full version. And then Mr. Reed stopped developing. I kept playing it even when the Amiga, both as my personal computer and as a platform per se, died. I ran emulators and did everything to get my fix of this game.

    There were a couple of valiant attempts. I remember Mechwar, but not fondly. Neveron never did it for me. And then MegaMek appeared. Its learning curve was/is abysmal, but I could finally, again, “… play BattleTech the way it was meant to be played–pantsless!” (-Neko Bijin as cited by Weirdo on the Battletech forums)

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    1. Sam van Ratt Post author

      Hi Pepe
      nice of you to read and comment on my article. In the first week it looked like all the old MC/MF players has been extinct. As written Ralph was sued and complied instantly (with loots of anger stored inside as I was told).
      I’m still on Amiga OS 3.1 and quite happy with the old A2000 (10sec until boot is finished) and MC runs smoothly on it. Never used my Amiga much for the usual gaming, but to do Text and Soundprocessing (well 1987 Style) and stuck for two programs: MC/MF and a self written ARexx Program which is not portable. Well emulators will do fine theses days, so no need for ten hardware plattform when one can do the job as well.
      Well I have a few other computers as well…
      I checked once into MegaMek, but still find MC more intuitive and enough for most modern BT style. Surely at one time I’ll be challenged to do a step forward and then I will have to see what is on the rooster.
      Cheers and Happy Hacking!
      Sam

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