See also: Reseen

"Unseen", in the context of BattleTech, is used alternatively as an adjective (as in an image or design being "unseen"), or as a noun (referring to such "unseen" designs as "an" or "the" "Unseen").


The "Unseen" issue arose in 1996, in the wake of a series of lawsuits. The word refers to certain real-world imagery, namely the visual appearance (artwork) of a number of iconic BattleMechs plus a handful of other units that BattleTech producer FASA agreed to not use forthwith. The use of these so-called Unseen images in a BattleTech context was discontinued. Although the units that they represent continue to exist within the canon lore of the fictional BattleTech universe as such, their original visual artwork is not used anymore in print (or electronic) products or as miniature sculpts.

In 2015 Catalyst Game Labs (the current licensee) announced that they had opted for a proper retcon, and that new art would be published to retroactively replace the Unseen designs and put the issue to rest for good. Since then, various products have appeared featuring new yet recognizable artwork for the classic Unseen.


Main article: Unseen lawsuits


When FASA created the Battledroids board game in 1984 that would become BattleTech, the designers licensed the rights from Twentieth Century Imports (TCI) to use certain preexisting mecha from the Japanese anime series The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Fang of the Sun Dougram and Crusher Joe. These mecha then served as the visual representation of several BattleMechs and other units within the BattleTech universe, with BattleTech-specific names and game stats devised entirely by FASA and totally unrelated to the context of the original mecha.

1996 Settlement[edit]

During a series of lawsuits FASA later found out that TCI might not have been in a legal position to provide these rights to FASA in the first place. However, this was ultimately never decided in court. The lawsuits were settled out of court in 1996.

As part of the settlement agreement, which included a nondisclosure agreement, FASA forfeited the right to use the images in question thenceforth. This affected many core designs which have been described as the bedrock of the BattleTech universe at the time, and thus was a serious blow to FASA. All existing products featuring pictures of the Unseen, be it on the cover or within the rulebooks—effectively most if not all BattleTech publications—had to be discontinued, and while numerous other original designs remained that could still be depicted, this massively affected the BattleTech line. Miniature molds had to be destroyed as well.

Beyond the specific artwork covered in the Unseen lawsuits and settlement, FASA decided to summarily treat all designs as Unseen that had been developed out-of-house on general principle as a precaution. This included some designs that had not been covered in the court case, but shared the same background as the contested ones, but also unrelated third-party artwork to which FASA did have full rights.

When they first announced the settlement, FASA also provided an initial list of Unseen designs. This list was repeatedly updated over time as the legal situation (or how it was perceived) changed. Some individual units were even put on and removed again from the list several times.

Project Phoenix[edit]

FanPro, then the holder of the Classic BattleTech license, published Technical Readout: Project Phoenix in 2003. Set in the year 3067, it introduced a series of new, additional 'Mech designs that were in-universe evolutions of older Unseen with a significant visual makeover. These new 'Mechs were meant to supersede their predecessors forthwith, but did not retroactively replace them. Additional Project Phoenix refits were published in later books. Despite this potential workaround, the Unseen issue as such remained unresolved.

25 Years of Art and Fiction[edit]

On 24 June 2009 it was announced that Catalyst Game Labs, now holding the BattleTech license, would resume use of the original Unseen artwork. The announcement did not explicitly mention whether or not Catalyst Game Labs had secured the permissions needed, though that was the general impression.[1] This was just prior to the print publication of the BattleTech: 25 Years of Art & Fiction anniversary tome.

Shortly afterwards, the BattleTech: 25 Years of Art & Fiction electronic edition was pulled from circulation. Managing editor Randall Bills made a statement on Catalyst Game Labs' website on 10 August 2009 where he explained with regret that twelve designs originating from Macross remain Unseen, due to the possibility that their exclusive distribution rights (outside of Japan) belonged to another company (Harmony Gold). Apparently, CGL had been unaware of a hitherto confidential clause in the original settlement agreement.[2] Still, roughly half of the Unseen artwork had been recovered for BattleTech. During this period of time, (formerly) Unseen art appeared in several products including the print edition of BattleTech: 25 Years of Art & Fiction (different from the initial PDF release in that the Macross designs had been removed again), Record Sheets: Operation Klondike, Historical Turning Points: Galtor, Historical: Reunification War, and Record Sheets: 3055 Upgrade.

However, to avoid the possibility of future legal issues in what was perceived as a legal minefield, CGL decided to revert to the previous Unseen situation.

2009: Harmony Gold takes down Mechwarrior: 3015 trailer[edit]

On September 3, 2009, shortly after posting preview videos and images of the game, IGN was issued a cease and desist order by Harmony Gold USA (owners of the Robotech franchise), citing copyright infringement over the use of several BattleMech designs allegedly based on mecha designs derived from the Macross series. Specifically, the trailer for MechWarrior featured the Warhammer, which is similar in design to the Destroid Tomahawk from the Macross and Robotech Series. The Warhammer, as well as several other BattleMechs, such as the Marauder and Archer, were an important part of the early BattleTech universe and image, but were based on images from Macross and other mecha anime series that FASA had licensed from the original Japanese creators but which Harmony Gold claimed as their own property inside the United States. The C&D from Harmony Gold did not have any effect on the viability of landing a publishing deal for a MechWarrior project:

"Contrary to all the press and speculation that Harmony Gold was getting in the way of a deal or development, this had no impact whatsoever on development or signing a deal for MechWarrior."

In June 2011, Bryan Ekman, from Piranha Games, tweeted that there was, in fact, no dispute with Harmony Gold, and that they were not responsible for the game's delay.


In 2015 Catalyst Game Labs announced that they had opted for a proper retcon, and that new art would be created to retroactively replace the Unseen designs and put the issue to rest for good. Since then, various products have appeared featuring new yet recognizable artwork for the classic Unseen.

2017: Harmony Gold sues, ultimately loses[edit]

Around 2013 and 2015, all the BattleTech and MechWarrior properties had started reintroducing redesigned versions of the Unseen 'Mechs, including the Warhammer, Marauder, and Rifleman. Catalyst Game Labs had started using the Warhammer, Marauder, and Rifleman as part of cover artwork for various products; Piranha Games Interactive had introduced the Marauder, Warhammer, Archer, and Rifleman redesigned by Alex Iglesias in the fall of 2015; and Harebrained Schemes had reused those same 'Mechs and their models from MechWarrior: Online for their upcoming BattleTech video game as part of their Kickstarter and in the first alpha gameplay video.

On March 1st, 2017, Harmony Gold filed lawsuit against Catalyst Game Labs, Piranha Games Interactive, and Harebrained Schemes over the use of not only the four redesigned Unseen 'Mechs, but also the Atlas and the Shadow Hawk in the case of Harebrained Schemes' BattleTech video game. Catalyst Game Labs defaulted on the lawsuit, while the case against Harebrained Schemes over the Atlas, Shadow Hawk, and Locust was dismissed with prejudice on April 9, 2018. This still left the Unseen 'Mechs as part of the lawsuit that would still affect Catalyst Game Labs, Piranha Games Interactive, and Harebrained Schemes. After taking the copyright-trolling threats by Harmony Gold head-on, Piranha Games Interactive did not back down and in the end managed to have the case dismissed with prejudice and Harmony Gold agreeing to an undisclosed settlement that demonstratively allowed PGI, Catalyst Game Labs, and Harebrained Schemes to continue the use of the redesigned Unseen 'Mechs. Harebrained Schemes would later reintroduce the redesigned Unseen 'Mechs in the Heavy Metal expansion pack in 2019 and Catalyst Game Labs accompanied their public announcement about the case's dismissal with a large artwork of the redesigned Marauder by Marco Mazzoni.

Affected Designs[edit]

All of the Unseen have at least one Reseen variant. Please refer to the list of Unseen.

Some highlights:

  • The original Ostscout, Ostroc, and Ostsol images were Unseen at one point, but were removed from the list in 2011.[3] Their original variants can legally be used with their original artwork.

An exact listing of which variants are Unseen and which are Reseen for all affected BattleMechs and vehicles is desired, but currently unavailable.

Alphabetical List of the Unseen[edit]

Bane (Kraken)
Black Python (Viper)
Conjurer (Hellhound)
Galleon Light Tank (Only the image from Technical Readout: 3025)
Glass Spider (Galahad)
Grand Crusader
Griffin IIC
Horned Owl (Peregrine)
Howler (Baboon)
Incubus (Vixen)
Jenner IIC
Locust IIC
Marauder II
Marauder IIC
Phoenix Hawk
Phoenix Hawk IIC
Phoenix Hawk LAM
Rifleman IIC
Samurai aerospace fighter
Shadow Hawk
Shadow Hawk IIC
Stinger LAM
Stone Rhino (Behemoth)
Vapor Eagle (Goshawk)
Warhammer IIC
Wasp LAM

Origins of the Unseen[edit]

Below, the Unseen are divided into categories based on their original series or creator. Each unit is listed by its BattleTech name first, followed by the model and/or name used in its original series (where applicable).

Super Dimension Fortress Macross[edit]

  • VF-1 Valkyrie

This mecha from the Super Dimension Fortress Macross series normally transformed into the three combat modes recognized in BattleTech by Land-Air 'Mechs. Within the BattleTech game this one vehicle was split into distinct nontransformable 'Mechs models and LAM models. The LAMs, true to their artistic origin, could transform into aerospace fighter, hybrid, and 'Mech mode.

  • Wasp - VF-1S
  • Wasp LAM - VF-1S
  • Stinger - VF-1A
  • Stinger LAM - VF-1A
  • Valkyrie - VF-1S
  • Phoenix Hawk - VF-1S Super Valkyrie
  • Phoenix Hawk LAM - VF-1S Super Valkyrie
  • Crusader - VF-1A Armored Valkyrie
  • Destroids

Destroids are nontransformable combat mecha. As such, their designs were easily transported to BattleTech. Although rules limitations necessitated the removal of weapons in the case of the Spartan/Archer (a gun cluster in the center of the chest, but gained arm-mounted medium lasers in exchange) and Tomahawk/Warhammer (torso-mounted missile launchers and one machine gun in the head).

  • Rifleman - ADR-04-Mk.X Destroid Defender
  • Archer - MBR-07-Mk.II Destroid Spartan
  • Warhammer - MBR-04-Mk.VI Destroid Tomahawk
  • Longbow - SDR-04-Mk.XII Destroid Phalanx
  • Zentradi Tactical Pods
  • Marauder - Glaug Commander Type
  • Marauder II - Glaug Commander Type
  • Returned
In December of 2011, BattleTech's line developer ruled that the Ostscout, Ostsol, and Ostroc were sufficiently different from their inspiration (Regult Scout Pod, Regult Battle Pod, and Regult Heavy Missile Pod, respectively) to be removed from the Unseen list.[3]

Crusher Joe[edit]

  • Locust - Ostall
  • Samurai aerospace fighter - TR-5 Harpy
  • Galleon Light Tank (3025) - Galleon
  • Returned
The Technical Readout: 3058 version of the Galleon was ruled, in December 2011, to be similar enough to the original that it should be removed;[3] however, that decision was reversed in November 2014.[4]
  • Other units of note
While inspired by Crusher Joe images, the following have never been Unseen:
  • Sparrowhawk aerospace fighter - TR-5 Harpy and SR-5 Siren
  • Corsair aerospace fighter - SR-5 Siren
  • Leopard DropShip - Minerva

Fang of the Sun: Dougram[edit]

  • Shadow Hawk - Dougram
  • Griffin - Soltic H8 Roundfacer
  • Scorpion - F35C Blizzard Gunner
  • Wolverine - Abitate T-10B/T-10C Blockhead
  • Thunderbolt - Hasty F4X Ironfoot
  • Goliath - Abitate F44A Crab Gunner
  • BattleMaster - Soltic HT-128 Big Foot

Victor Musical Industries, Inc.[edit]

These images by Victor Musical Industries, Inc. were created for BattleTech but were removed to prevent the possibility of future legal issues. Note that while the IIC images (with the exception of the Jenner IIC) are obviously inspired by images taken from SDF Macross, they were removed only because they were created by an "out-of-house" source.

  • Video Game Designs:
  • Nexus
  • Raijin
  • Grand Crusader
  • Locust IIC
  • Jenner IIC
  • Griffin IIC
  • Shadow Hawk IIC
  • Rifleman IIC
  • Warhammer IIC
  • Phoenix Hawk IIC
  • Marauder IIC
  • Unused Concept Art:
  • Stone Rhino (Behemoth)
  • Bane (Kraken)
  • Howler (Baboon)
  • Incubus (Vixen)
  • Horned Owl (Peregrine)
  • Conjurer (Hellhound)
  • Vapor Eagle (Goshawk)
  • Glass Spider (Galahad)
  • Black Python (Viper)

See also[edit]