What ‘Mech Would You Survive The Coronavirus Outbreak In?


Gas Attack

I dunno about you, but this ongoing coronavirus pandemic is starting to get to me. Not only have I been cooped up inside without being able to see friends or family for a month (a situation unlikely to change in the near future), but I’m also terrified that each time I go to the grocery store it might be my last. There’s also that whole specter of a global economic collapse the likes of which we haven’t seen since The Great Depression, which sounds like a gay old time.

I’m sure some of you are feeling the same way. What we need to do is redirect that coronavirus anxiety into something that’s more productive. And what could be more productive than mindlessly speculating about which fictional giant robot could best survive a very real pandemic?

Time for us to go on a journey, my friends.

Coronavirus Criteria

For this intellectual exercise, we’re going to pick a ‘Mech from each class that is A) has a cockpit that is atmospherically sealed, B) is non-ammo dependant so as to avoid having to re-arm itself and risk breaking social distancing with ‘Mech techs, and C) has a relatively spacious cockpit with decent air recycling.

A) should be pretty much every ‘Mech in existence that has been properly maintained, so we’re really focusing on B) and C). There are plenty of energy-only designs, so criteria C) is the real sticking point. Luckily, I know of a few that had some decent space for spending months at a time trapped in a ‘Mech’s cockpit. Note that these are all Inner Sphere designs as Clan cockpits were universally cramped and spartan as they were designed for quick fights and not extended battles against an unseen enemy.

Light ‘Mech – Wolfhound

There are actually a few benefits to the Wolfhound for surviving a pandemic. First, it’s all energy all the time in all its various forms, so you never have to worry about bringing people into close contact in order to reload (except for the mutant Free Worlds League model, the WLF-3M, which features a Light Gauss Rifle).

Second, it’s got a rumble seat, so we know that it’s got a spacious enough cockpit to have a passenger. You might even be able to stretch your legs out and have a horizontal nap. I haven’t seen the inside of a Wolfhound (besides the view offered in MechWarrior 4 and MechWarrior Online, of course), but Sarna’s cockpit page points out that most IS ‘Mechs also had enough space for a small toilet and a meal-prep area.

Third, and most importantly, it’s got a Full-Head Ejection System, so even if you do get taken out and are forced to eject you still don’t have to inhale possibly virus-tainted air. Everything is always enclosed.

Medium ‘Mech – Blackjack

This one’s tough since most medium ‘Mechs aren’t designed for creature comforts. They’re designed for maximum combat efficacy for the minimum of cost, and where these two concepts intersect doesn’t leave a lot of room for something as inefficient as headspace.

That said, we can still take consideration for Inner Sphere designs that were created for extended operations. One of those ‘Mechs just so happens to be the BJ-3 Blackjack. I’ve always liked the look of the Blackjack, and the BJ-3 takes out those piddly AC/2’s for a pair of PPCs and enough Double Heat Sinks to actually use ‘em on occasion.

Being a St. Ives Compact design, you just know their engineers will pay special attention to atmospheric sealing, given how the Capellans are wont to experiment with bio and chemical weapons (and occasionally on their own citizens). It doesn’t have a Full-Head Ejection System like the Wolfhound, but that bulging head looks like it’ll have some extra space to kick your feet up.

Heavy ‘Mech – Thunderbolt

Of all the ‘Mechs ever designed, the Thunderbolt holds a special place in BattleTech canon. According to the BattleTech story A Guy Walks Into A Bar On Solaris VII, published in BattleCorps in 2006 by Jeff Kautz, the Thunderbolt has “an exceptionally roomy cockpit,” even when compared to an Atlas or a BattleMaster. And considering that a BattleMaster is often retrofitted to have a Command Console and two seats, that makes the Thunderbolt a bachelor apartment on legs.

Why the Thunderbolt was given such a roomy cockpit we may never know. But if I had to live out my days in isolation, I want the most space I can get, and that means the Thunderbolt.

Unfortunately, all variants of the Thunderbolt have some ammunition dependency, but even the TDR-5S has a fair number of energy weapons that will keep it in the fight long after it’s missile and machine gun bins are exhausted.

Assault ‘Mech – Grand Titan

Inner Sphere assault ‘Mechs tend to have spacious cockpits. Is this because Inner Sphere assaults are often piloted by nobles, generals, and high-ranking officials? Or is it simply because they’re larger and have more space to leave to creature comforts like a storage bin and an espresso machine?

These are questions left unanswered in BattleTech lore. But the Grand Titan has enough space for a goddamn back room and that’s good enough for me. You could play poker with your MechWarrior pals in this thing if it weren’t for social distancing.

According to the 3rd Edition MechWarrior RPG, this is what lays behind the command seat of the Grand Titan:

Is that a big enough to place a bed and breakfast? You damn right it is. I can’t tell if whatever is labeled “2” or “5” is where you go to the bathroom or where you recharge your cell phone, but either way it looks spacious and comfy.

Besides that, the Grand Titan is delightfully fast for an assault ‘Mech, has plenty of pulse lasers for when the ammo bins run dry, and the T-IT-N14R has an Improved Life Support system, an armored cockpit, and a Full-Head Ejection System.

As great as my suggestions are, I must admit to not having quite the encyclopedic knowledge of BattleMech amenities as perhaps some of Sarna’s illustrious readers. To that end, I ask you all to discuss which BattleMechs have the most luxurious amenities for their lucky pilots in the comment section below.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy

stay syrupy

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.

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Catalyst, Coronavirus, And Clan Invasions – Interview With BattleTech Art Director Brent Evans

Clan Invasion Production Samples

As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, I get closer and closer to the day where I shave my head–a measure I didn’t think would be necessary until my male pattern baldness had progressed to critical levels.

But it’s not just my barber that has faced business disruptions as a result of COVID-19. We’ve already heard that Catalyst Game Labs, beloved caretaker of all things BattleTech, has been forced to delay the launch of the Clan Invasions’ first wave to later this July. I recently sat down with former BattleTech Line Developer now Art Director Brent Evans to get an update on how Catalyst is dealing with the coronavirus outbreak and how it has affected the Clan Invasion Kickstarter.

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UrbanMech LAM Now Exists And Is Awaiting Canonicity Approval

April Fools has come and gone, and with it came the usual assortment of online jigs and japes. Catalyst, as usual, got in on the action with perhaps the best idea BattleTech has ever had: the UrbanMech LAM.

LAMs, as many of you likely recall, were early attempts by FASA to reconcile the Macross/Robotech models used in BattleTech with the transforming robot/planes of the anime. It never really worked out, so the Stinger, Phoenix Hawk, and Wasp LAMs were all relegated to the dustbin of BattleTech history, their presence hand-waved away as merely more Star League-era Lostech.

Save for a few Word of Blake LAMs that showed up during the Jihad, LAMs have remained dead and buried for most of BattleTech’s history. At least, until now.

We present… the UrbanMech LAM!

Urbie LAM

Truly a work of finesse and artistry, this literal flying rust bucket is the creative genius of Bishop Steiner, who regularly posts fancy drawings on his Twitter feed (so you should follow him). Mr. Steiner teamed up with Catalyst to provide a bit of an April Fool’s day joke, but one that I certainly hope gets turned into canon by the various powers that be.

You can read about the UrbanMech LAM on the Clan Invasion Kickstarter here.

Oh, and because UrbanMechs are the best thing ever, someone on Reddit has even created a 3D model of the Urbie LAM so you can make your own miniatures. Catalyst certainly won’t do it, but maybe an enterprising materials engineer will.

The Crazy LAM urbie! It had to be made. from battletech

(PS: I’m aware that the odds of this thing ever getting rubber-stamped as canon are about as good as me flying to the moon by flapping my arms really fast, but in these troubled times, one can freakin’ dream, capiche?!)

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

UPDATE: Clain Invastion Kickstarter Delayed To July

Stone Rhino

In our recent March update, we found out that the Clan Invasion Kickstarter was sadly going to be delayed as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. This was pretty much guaranteed as the ongoing outbreak continues to play havoc with the global economy as well as global supply chains.

We didn’t know how long the delay would be, but we do now: 2 more months.

Our first delay pushed production from March to May, but now we’re going to be waiting until July for the first wave of box sets to get in the mail.

“Our primary factory responsible for ALL plastics and 90% of the product for this Kickstarter Campaign has reportedly just come back up to 80% of their normal production speed,” wrote Catalyst in their most recent update. “Currently, they won’t promise anything before July, 2020.”

Keep in mind that’s a best-case scenario. We might be looking at later in the summer for the first wave to come out. Personally, if the pandemic gets even worse in the US, I think we might be waiting till the fall. But what can you do? Other than try to encourage China to close their illegal wildlife markets that allowed COVID-19 to jump from bats to humans in the first place.

Anywhoodle, the good news is that we’ll have some sample products to check out soon, and Catalyst has recently released Technical Readout: Jihad on PDF. Oh, and there’s still that BattleTech coloring book, which is all kinds of amazing and even for all ages of BattleTech fan. Oh, and have a Stone Rhino.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For March 2020

Summoner Wolves

Courtesy of Wolves

Welcome to your March news roundup in the wide world of BattleTech! As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, I’m self-isolating at home and scouring the internet for the latest in BattleTech news. Believe it or not, just because the world is shutting down due to a viral outbreak doesn’t mean BattleTech‘s gears stop churning.

Anyway, we’re not going to dwell on all the awful stuff that’s going on since you’ve got lesser news organizations for that. Instead, we’re going to get caught up on what’s happened this March in BattleTech. Let’s get to it!

The Summoner Is Now In Wolves

Wolves, the fan-made MechAssault remake that we previewed a few months ago, now has the Summoner (or Thor, if you’re a Spheroid) as a pilotable ‘Mech. I really like how they redid the Summoner, from the more angular cockpit to the torso-mounted lasers. They even posted a gameplay video of the Summoner in action and it definitely looks like a 70-ton ‘Mech lumbering around.

The team working on Wolves has also got an Atlas under development. Stay tuned for when that will be available in the downloadable alpha, which you can grab here.

Bombadil Leaves No Guts No Galaxy

This actually happened last month, but it definitely bears mentioning. Bombadil announced that he was leaving No Guts No Galaxy and the gaming industry in general to pursue other interests. Everything has now been handed over to Phil, including the Twitch channel, podcast, and Twitter account.

We don’t know what those other interests are, but we definitely wish Bombadil luck in whatever he chooses to pursue.

Clan Invasion Character Site Is Live

At the Star Colonel level of backing and above, Clan Invasion Kickstarter backers were rewarded with having their names added to the official BattleTech canon. This guarantees that their name will appear somewhere in sourcebooks or fiction, although the precise details of that were to be discussed at a later date.

Kickstarter Database

In order to get everyone to provide their info, Catalyst has set up a website where backers can add their personal (or online persona’s) info. I see Tex has already added his “Randolph P. Checkers” character to the database, and there are plenty of other colorful characters for you to peruse there as well even if you haven’t backed at the $300 level.

If you’re a backer, head to the website now to get your name added to the list of soon-to-be canon characters.

Catalyst Delays Clan Invasion Due To COVID-19

Well, this was almost inevitable, but with the coronavirus shutting down businesses all over the world, Catalyst has announced that the Clan Invasion will be further delayed.

Since Catalyst Games is a mostly virtual company, its operations are continuing as per normal. It’s everything else that’s coming to a screeching halt, and there’s not much that can be done about it other than wait it out.

Catalyst Game Labs

Catalyst says the delay will be “several weeks” for production and shipment, and that they’re “exploring alternative options to mitigate delays, including domestic U.S. printing.” We’ll keep everyone up to date on this one.

In the meantime, Catalyst has a 20% off sale on everything in their online store, with an additional 20% off for non-BattleTech, non-Shadowrun products. I’m not sure what those are, but you can head on over to Catalyst’s website to check out the deals.

BATTLETECH Revised Mod Coming Soon

Project XLRP2 gets a new name "Battletech Revised" from Battletechgame

Harebrained Schemes might be done with BATTLETECH, but that doesn’t mean BattleTech fans are done with it. Originally called BATTLETECH XLRP when it was announced two weeks ago (which stands for Extensive Lore and Rebalancing Project), it’s since been given a more descriptive title of BATTLETECH Revised.

According to the earlier Reddit post, a “crack commando team” plans on taking BATTLETECH and rebalancing everything to be less in-line with the tabletop game and more interesting from the strict video game perspective. This means that hardpoints might be changed, damage values will be tweaked, heat will be toned down or turned up (depending on the laser/PPC), and new, non-canon variants of ‘Mechs might be added.

This sounds like a pretty ambitious project and one to keep an eye out for. I can honestly say that certain weapons in BATTLETECH definitely feel underpowered due to adhering too closely to the tabletop rules, so this might be a way of changing things up to make more ‘Mechs and builds viable at higher difficulties.

No news on when BATTLETECH Revised will release, but expect more details “soon.”

Someone Has Finally Figured Out The Actual Damage Numbers In MechWarrior 2

MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat originally released with a manual that pretty much copied the weapon damage values from the tabletop game. However, anyone who actually played the game can tell you that they were utter BS. PPCs and LRMs did WAY more damage than they should, while Small Lasers were like shooting someone with a squirt gun.

Someone has finally gone through each and every weapon in MechWarrior 2 and figured out what the REAL damage values are. Kudos to you, Pixelmusement, for taking the time to go through every weapon and see what’s what.

I thought this was really neat and well worth a look.

Toy Galaxy Takes A Look At BattleTech: The Animated Series

Finally, YouTube channel Toy Galaxy did an interesting dive into BattleTech: The Animated Series. The video specifically looks at the cartoon and the toys that it generated, as well as the rival cartoon from Harmony Gold and the ludicrous legal battle that ensued. It’s an angle on the Harmony Gold thing that rarely gets coverage thanks to the Unseen ‘Mechs, and is again, well worth a look.

One Last Thing: Catalyst Made A BattleTech Coloring Book

Some of you might be bored because of this whole coronavirus thing. Others might have children at home due to school closures. Or maybe you just like pictures of big stompy robots. But for whatever reason, Catalyst has created a BattleTech coloring book.

BattleTech Coloring Book

It’s pay-what-you-want, which of course means “free” in my lexicon, but you do you. The BattleTech Activity Book is 56 pages and contains line art from the upcoming Clan Invasion as well as the previous Inner Sphere BattleTech Box Sets. Currently, you can only print it out in PDF form, but soon there should be a physical copy that you can order. It will likely cost more than $0, though.

That’s it for March! Join us next month for another BattleTech news roundup.

And as always MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy

stay syrupy

Retro BattleTech Games – MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries

Welcome to another retrospective on the video games that made the BattleTech universe come alive in ways that dozens of novels, hundreds of sourcebooks, and even a short-lived ’90s cartoon just couldn’t. I’m your host, Sean at Sarna, and I’m here to teach you a thing or two about MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries–perhaps the greatest BattleTech-sourced video game ever made.

I know I say that about most of this particular generation of video games, but this time I really mean it!

But first, we gotta go back to MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat. That game was a huge freakin’ success for Activision, and like all major game developers/publishers, they want to keep making money. So after MechWarrior 2 came MechWarrior 2: Ghost Bear’s Legacy, an expansion pack that added a brand new Ghost Bear-focused campaign, several new ‘Mechs, and a bunch of different weapons systems that should have been in MechWarrior 2 but were cut for time.

Ghost Bear’s Legacy was great and really added a lot to MechWarrior 2, but it was really just an appetizer. The main course was MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries.

A Labor Of Love

At this point in Activision’s history, and specifically for the MechWarrior 2 team, it was a time of near-constant crunch. MechWarrior 2 first came out for MS-DOS in July of 1995, then for Windows in December of 1995. Ghost Bear’s Legacy was developed concurrently with the Windows 95 version of the game and came out in November.

Which leads us to MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries. For this latest iteration of MechWarrior 2, Activision decided to take everything they’d learned from Ghost Bear’s Legacy and the Win95 version of Mechwarrior 2 and make a “stand-alone expansion,” which is really just a fancy way of saying they’re making a brand new game using the same engine. 

CD Case

Mercenaries had several enormous technical improvements over its predecessors. It was one of the first games to feature texture-mapped surfaces rather than mere colored polygons, making terrain and ‘Mechs actually stand out from their surroundings. Multiple light sources were finally possible, meaning laser blasts and PPCs generated their own glow that shined off surfaces. Smoke contrails were added to missiles that obscured your screen when they leaped off their launch rails. And for the first time ever, taking out an opponent’s leg didn’t cause them to stand there like a stunned flamingo–they actually fell over and were unable to right themselves without the use of jump jets.

All of this was pretty ground-breaking, but this wasn’t just some tacked-on improvements to the source. Mercenaries was its own game, with its own incredibly unique campaign that puts pilots right in the thick of the Clan Invasion. There were added vehicles, tons of all-new ‘Mechs (at least, new to the MechWarrior series of games), voice acting, music, and more. 

And all of it was done in just 9. Freakin’. Months. Think about how long it takes to make a modern game with cutting-edge everything, and imagine doing all that in just 9 months. It wasn’t easy, as the dev team revealed in hidden thank you messages buried inside MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries‘ code. 

“Most of these people haven’t left their cubicles in months, so if they sound a little crazy, forgive them,” wrote Game Director Jack Mamais in his passage. His tone might sound jocular, but everyone on this page (courtesy of The Cutting Room Floor) said something about working “a ton of long hours.” 

3D Artist J.J. Franzen called it “4 months of non-stop hectic craziness.” That’s a long time to be working 12-hour days. It’s several years late (or more like several decades), but let me at least express my appreciation for all the blood, sweat, and tears put into Mercenaries. It might not have had the crazy employee turnover that MechWarrior 2 did, but there was certainly a lot of suffering to go around because of corporate deadlines.

Back To The Inner Sphere

How to start your career as a mercenary ‘Mech jock.

One of the interesting aspects of Mercenaries‘ development was not just when the game takes place in the BattleTech universe, but also when the game was developed in FASA‘s history. At the time, FASA hadn’t even written the sourcebooks to the FedCom Civil War and all the things that would happen following the Clan Invasion, and they forbid Activision from using any parts of BattleTech that hadn’t yet been officially published.

Without any path forward in time following Ghost Bear’s Legacy, they instead went back to perhaps the most exciting period in BattleTech’s history. 

“The problem with FASA’s BattleTech universe is that it ends roughly where Ghost Bear ends, and FASA won’t let us go beyond that,” said Mamais in an interview with NextGen Magazine way back in 1996. “Just covering another Clan wasn’t the way to go, since that wouldn’t add much that was new. So we looked at the entire BattleTech universe and decided that the most interesting time really was in the Inner Sphere when the Clans were just coming back.”

Mercenaries starts with you, a lowly ‘Mech jock in an old Commando COM-7X fighting for Team Venom, a mercenary unit of unknown size and headed by Colonel Holly Harris. When Harris’ Zeus gets left behind on a recon raid mission in the Draconis Combine, she bequeaths the unit and Commando to you in a rare display of generosity, posthumously saying you need to figure things out on your own from now on.

MRBC Board

Gotta pay those bills, mercenary.

You’ve got two options: go solo as your very own merc outfit, or you can sign on with Hansen’s Roughriders. Signing on with the Roughriders turns Mercenaries into a very linear game much like MechWarrior 2 without any of the business management aspects that come with owning your own mercenary command. This was suitable for new players and ensured that even the worst MechWarrior always had a working ‘Mech to fight with.

But the real game is found by selecting “Mercenary Commander” on the menu screen. This puts you in command; you buy and sell ‘Mechs, MechWarriors, components, and everything else. It’s much like the original MechWarrior game, only you don’t have to worry about travel time or travel costs like you do in more modern titles like BATTLETECH or MechWarrior 5.

You do, however, need to worry about armor, ammo, weapons, and everything else that a mercenary lance needs to stay afloat. 

From MechWarrior To Mercenary Commander

Although you start out in a Commando, you likely won’t stay there for long. Mercenaries adds a whopping 37 Inner Sphere ‘Mechs that weren’t already present in previous iterations of MechWarrior 2 (Ghost Bear’s Legacy already had the Atlas, Annihilator, Victor, Hatamoto-Chi, and Raven) along with the 19 Clan ‘Mechs ported from other games for a total of 61 ‘Mechs–more than any other MechWarrior game at the time (although some of those ‘Mechs aren’t available in the main campaign, and a few can only be obtained as salvage from later versions of Mercenaries that added dynamic salvage rules). 

That’s a lot of ‘Mechs. For the first time, you’ve got your choice at every weight class on whether you want speed or armor, weapons or defensibility. It was this unparalleled choice that made Mercenaries the best in the series, at least to my eyes.

You also had an unparalleled level of customization. Mercenaries allowed up to 16 different weapon systems, meaning you didn’t have to stifle your Medium Laser boat Atlas just for the sake of mounting a heavy autocannon. You could do both

Although I loved the Commando you started the game with, the Jenner or Panther were quick upgrades, depending on which archetype you preferred. From there it could lead to a Sentinel, Crab, Centurion, Vindicator, or Hunchback, and then to whatever heavier designs you wished. Notably absent were any of the Unseen designs, which were the subject of ongoing litigation at the time.

Training Mission

“Shoot me even once, and I’ll tear that beer can you call a ‘Mech into scrap.”

You don’t get launched right into the Clan Invasion, of course. You start with an optional training contract with Hansen’s Roughriders, where the gloriously rugged voice of Sgt. “Deadeye” Unther threatens you through a series of simple missions designed to get you in touch with your ‘Mech. After that come a series of progressively more difficult campaigns that take you all around the Inner Sphere, from hotspots in the Draconis Combine to the great halls of Solaris VII. While you smash rebels for the DCMS or put down pirates for the Free Worlds League, Comstar provides detailed news about what’s going on in the wider BattleTech universe that really made it seem like you were in the middle of the Inner Sphere.

Unlike in MechWarrior 2, mission outcomes aren’t set in stone. You could fail a mission and get a dock in pay but have it lead to a different mission that would otherwise never have been available. These differing outcomes added an element of replayability to Mercenaries the previous MechWarrior 2 titles never had. Failure wasn’t just the end but a new path to explore.

While I enjoyed MechWarrior 2‘s short stories before and after every mission, Mercenaries‘ added news reports were just a much better fit for a game that’s trying to draw the player into the universe. But if you still preferred the stories, your personal journal likely provided more than enough backstory.

I won’t go into the ‘Mech piloting too much as it’s mostly the same as previous games. The added management components of Mercenaries were far more interesting, although somewhat cumbersome compared to more modern titles. Still, no other ‘Mech game provided a more tabletop BattleTech-accurate ‘Mech customization bay than MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, for better or for worse. 

Mongoose

How did the rebels get access to a Star League ‘Mech?!

One thing I will go into is the weapons. After MechWarrior 2, BattleTech fans wrote in to petition the next game to have weapons that were more accurate to the tabletop game. This meant that LRMs and PPCs were far less effective (Activision had managed to fix the splash damage bug that was causing both weapons to hit far harder than they should in MechWarrior 2), but also meant that autocannons were just generally bad. If an AC/5 did as much damage as a Medium Laser and had only 20 shots per ton of ammo, you’re far better off with a few Medium Lasters and accompanying heat sinks than even a single AC/5.

For this reason, the most effective loadouts in Mercenaries often involved mounting multiple Medium Lasers as your main armament and then having some support weapons to take out Elementals or other small targets.

The Invasion Begins

I’ll never forget the first time playing through and getting to the mission that required you to hunt down the Oberon Confederation in the Free Rasalhague Republic. Things start off as you’d expect, but then “unidentified” ‘Mechs barge in and start wrecking both you and the pirates alike. The second mission where you have to escape in a stolen Pegasus hovertank was one of the most frustrating experiences in a MechWarrior game, but that feeling of helplessness against even light Clan ‘Mechs really pressed home how ‘Mechs were the kings of the battlefield.

Afterward, you read how the KungsArmé murders the escaped pirates so nobody can confirm your story that the Clans have invaded. It was a nice touch.

It was also rendered almost immediately irrelevant as your next mission takes you to Wolcott to fight off the Smoke Jaguars and hand the clans their first-ever defeat. You’ll later take on the Ghost Bears to capture a fully intact Kodiak so that the DCMS can examine it, or you could decide to just blow away the Dracs and keep the 100-ton ‘Mech for yourself. 

The campaign eventually leads to Luthien, where you and other mercenary commands heroically fend off the Jaguars and prevent the capture of the Draconis Combines’ home planet. The last mission where you hold the line against wave after wave of Jaguar ‘Mechs is chilling both for how desperate the player tries to keep their ‘Mech from crumbling around them and the epic music that plays in the background.

Perfect, But Imperfect

Night Atlas

Who needs enhanced imaging when you’ve got thermal sensors?

As great as Mercenaries was, it’s still far from perfect. The rushed development cycle meant that the DOS version of the game didn’t launch with dynamic salvage and instead had scripted salvage at the end of each mission. Only the Windows 95 version of Mercenaries got dynamic salvage after a patch (which also made it one of the first games to use “patching” in order to add intended features). 

There were also a ton of bugs. One was a “phantom weight” bug that kept adding extra un-specified weight to a ‘Mech every time it was repaired until it eventually became so overburdened that you couldn’t even equip a Small Laser. The only solution was to sell the ‘Mech and buy a new one–something I did a few times when my Atlas suddenly became unable to equip its full complement of AC/20 rounds. 

While Aerospace fighters were a fun addition to your mercenary command, the pilot AI was so useless that you might as well not bother. Fighters would often get lost, stuck on buildings, or take so long to arrive at the battlefield that the fight was already over by the time they got there. They were occasionally useful to delay enemy forces in defensive actions, but that was about it. 

And of course, there was the usual collection of freezes and crashes that were typical of games from the era. The Windows 95 version of Mercenaries was especially prone to crashes, as was the 3DFX-enhanced and Titanium Editions.

This one is coming home with me.

But did the bugs really matter? Not really. Not when there were so many ‘Mechs to play with, and not when there was so much replayability in Mercenaries. Taking different contracts, using different ‘Mechs, and making different decisions meant that I got way more out of Mercenaries than I ever did out of MechWarrior 2, and I suspect I’m not alone in that opinion.

A Mercenary Legacy

What Mercenaries did for MechWarrior was truly remarkable in that it showed us what a MechWarrior game could be–a non-linear campaign where decisions mattered, from choosing what parts of your opponent to destroy in the hopes of salvaging components later to choosing whether or not it’s worth holding the line for that sweet bonus at the end of your contract. These choices have since become standard features for both BATTLETECH and MechWarrior 5, and they both owe Mercenaries for their creation.

It also proved that the time before and leading up to the Clan Invasion was just a better era to play in. The rules were simpler, the factions were clearer, there were more ‘Mechs, and you could slowly add technology to the game as it was discovered (or rediscovered). Fighting before 3049 made it so that Clan or Star League technology was something truly special and equipping it meant you were on the cutting edge of technology.

And there was a sense of freedom to Mercenaries. You weren’t railroaded to anything. You could take missions you wanted or ignore them (outside of the mandatory story missions, of course). You could use whatever ‘Mech using whatever weapons you wanted. You could customize your lancemates and their machines to perfectly match your fighting style. 

There’s a reason why today’s BattleTech games use MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries as their template. While the graphics might not hold up quite as well as MechWarrior 2 due to the very basic texture maps, I recommend any BattleTech fan pick up MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries and give it a shot. You’ll be glad you did.

 And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy. 

stay syrupy

 

Your BattleTech News Roundup For February

It’s been a busy month! There are lots of things happening in the BattleTech world, so instead of bombarding you all with a bunch of smaller updates, I decided to try and make things a little easier to digest. Hence the digest-style post.

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get to it!

BattleTech Clan Invasion Kickstarter Delayed

Timberwolf

Is this really much of a surprise? If you told me that something like 90% of Kickstarters get delayed, I’d believe it. In fact, CNN says that number is around 84% (in 2012, which is a number that likely hasn’t improved in the 8 years since). I don’t think I’ve ever had a Kickstarter ship on the day they said it would at the start of the campaign, and BattleTech Clan Invasion is no different.

In an update delivered to backers a few weeks ago, Catalyst said that issues with the plastic miniature supplier mean that the first wave of shipments won’t go out until May, with the final shipments expected to complete by May 31st. Sucks, but what’re you gonna do? Nature of the beast and all that. 

As Reddit user and Clan Invasion backer Halabis so eloquently put it: “If this one ships 45 days late it will still be the least late out of every Kickstarter I’ve ever backed.”

So far I haven’t heard anything about the Wuhan coronavirus adding more delays, but if the outbreak continues I wouldn’t be surprised. Knock on wood. 

Harebrained Is Done With BattleTech, Now Working On 2 New Projects

In even worse news, Harebrained Schemes has decided that a single season of DLC is all that BATTLETECH deserves. In an announcement broadcast online earlier this week, HBS head honcho Mitch Gitelman revealed that the studio has moved on to new projects.

“I’ve returned to the BattleTech universe many times over the last 25 years and it’s become woven into the fabric of my life,” Gitelman wrote in a follow-up tweet. “My deep appreciation to the community and the amazing teammates I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside. I’m personally honored to be part of its history.”

BattleTech Infograph

This means no more expansions, and no ratcheting forward of the timeline so that we have a Clan Invasion. I know that many of you are extremely disappointed to hear this, but there is at least a tiny silver lining. First, HBS will still throw out one more free update, update 1.9, scheduled for later this month. This will include 16 new ‘Mech variants, 8 new vehicle variants, fast-forwarding travel scenes, and some additional upgrade options for the Argo.

Second, mods are a thing, and the mod community that has sprung up around BATTLETECH will be sure to continue to do great things with the game.

In a farewell post, we also got some interesting stats from the game. Apparently the most-used ‘Mechs are the Shadow Hawk, Centurion, and surprisingly the Vindicator. I suspect this is simply due to the Vindicator being one of your starting ‘Mechs and is probably the strongest one you start with. Also, Decker dies over 10,000 times per month, a number which seems ludicrously low. 

As for what Harebrained is working on now, I have no idea. I certainly hope it’s another Shadowrun game, but your guess is as good as mine. 

Someone Did The Math, And Burst-Fire A/Cs Are Way Better DPS In MechWarrior 5

This is kinda nuts, but it explains why I vastly prefer burst-fire autocannons to single-shot versions in MechWarrior 5

We’ve got Reddit user kirby3021 to thank for sitting down and doing the math on the two types of autocannons available in MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. As you likely know, there are two options. The first is the usual single-shot cannon round that deals a set amount of damage to a single ‘Mech component. The other is a burst-fire that flings several munitions in a bit of a spread. This trades single-target accuracy for greater overall damage.

How much greater? According to kirby, burst-fire autocannons deal 46% more damage over time and produce 19% less heat than their single-shot counterparts.

That’s a lot, but as all MechWarriors know, DPS isn’t everything in MechWarrior. Burst-fire autocannons make it harder to hit specific components and harder to hit opponents at range, meaning it can be more difficult to down enemy ‘Mechs before they start hammering your armor. On the other hand, 46% more DPS makes it easier to core your enemies after they get up close and personal.

I’m an up-close and personal kinda guy, so I like my burst-fire cannons. Plus they sound cooler.

This Australian Guy Is Building His Own ‘Mech

And by the looks of things, it’s going to be an UrbanMech with some sort of weird ripper claw. I don’t really have anything else to say about it, but I certainly hope he succeeds. This world needs more ‘Mechs in it.

The Flashman Redesign Is Everything To Me

Flashman

Courtesy of Shimmering Sword

Last, but certainly not least, Shimmering Sword has redesigned the Flashman, and I am in literal awe. Look at this beauty. Can you imagine that something that used to look like this could one day become this menacing machine?

It doesn’t hurt that the Flashman is one of my favoritist ‘Mechs and one that I am eagerly awaiting in Wave 2 of the Catalyst Kickstarter.

That said, I do have one niggling complaint in that the redesign makes it appear like you can’t get away with calling the Flashman the “flashbulb.” Sure, it has a certain bulbousness to it, but it seems to have been greatly overshadowed by all that angular awesomeness. 

Regardless, I want it, and it almost seems criminal that I’ll have to wait 6-8 months to get it.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

MekTek Is Back

via MekTek Studios

So MekTek is back, apparently.

I should back up a bit. For those who weren’t as big into MechWarrior 4 as I was, MekTek is a collective of MechWarrior fans that got together to make their own development studio.

Their first great accomplishment was the MekPaks, a series of unofficial expansion to MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries. These greatly expanded the number of ‘Mechs you could pilot in the game, and some of my fondest memories in MechWarrior 4‘s Solaris matches was me running around in a Tenchi. I loved that thing, even if it wasn’t a “cannon” design.

Their second great accomplishment was acquiring the rights to MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries and then freely distributing it on their website. For a time, anyway. You can’t download it for free now, and even if you could, getting it to work on a modern PC is a bit of a technical nightmare.

After MechWarrior 4 had run its course, MekTek moved away from the BattleTech franchise to make a stand-alone game using the Heavy Gear license. Called Heavy Gear Assault, the game was released on Steam Early Access way back in February of 2017. I’ve never played it, but the Steam reviews are mostly negative saying that the game’s servers have shut down and you can’t actually log in or create an account.

Heavy Gear Assault stopped receiving updates in August of 2017. Since then, nothing. Not a word on the MekTek Facebook, LinkedIn, or official website.

But now, all of a sudden, MekTek has returned.

About a month ago, a Reddit post announced the return of the MekTek Discord server. I’ve been lurking there for a little while trying to see what’s going on, and from what I can tell, MekTek has big plans. The scuttlebutt is that they plan on bringing MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries back from the dead, updating it to work on modern hardware, and re-establishing MekMatch to give the game multiplayer capabilities.

Just a few days ago, another post on Reddit (and in the MekTek Discord) announced the return of MekMatch. Now if you’ve got a working copy of MechWarrior 4: Mercs you can take your big stompy robots into battle online once again.

My sources (and by that I mean me lurking in Discord) tells me that MekTek even plans for yet another MekPak expansion for MW4: Mercs. MekPak 5 is due sometime later this year.

And that’s all I know. I’ve been trying to reach out to the studio heads to see if I can get more, but they’re all too hard at work to answer my messages. I don’t blame them, but I certainly would love to know when I can re-install MechWarrior 4 without needing a degree in computer science.

Might MekTek also tackle MechWarrior 5 and its nascent mod editor? Maybe. I haven’t heard anything about that, but it certainly seems within their capabilities.

Anyway, I’ll be sure to continue my lurking and will report more on this exciting development as I learn more.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

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

 

Wolves Cougar

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

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

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