MechCommander Returns As a MechWarrior 5 Mod

I know we JUST had a news dump, but I felt that this was just too cool to wait for August.

So there’s a lot of really cool mods available for MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, ranging from simple tweaks that improve things like the HUD or visuals, to far more all-encompassing mods like Navida1’s MW5 Mercs Reloaded. The mod we’re going to discuss today goes beyond even Reloaded in terms of fundamentally changing the way you play MechWarrior 5.

It’s called MechCommander Mercenaries for a reason. This is a total conversion mod that changes MechWarrior 5 from a first-person ‘Mech simulator game into a third-person ‘Mech real-time strategy game.

That’s right: MechCommander is back.

MechCommander Mercenaries

Obviously, what’s changed most is the actual core combat of MechWarrior 5. Instead of hopping in a ‘Mech that you pilot yourself, you send commands to your lance to tell them how to fight. Which can be a little tricky as MechWarrior 5’s AI is still pretty bad and MechCommander Mercenaries is still in early beta and hasn’t quite figured out how to iron out the AI pathing issues.

But the rest of MechWarrior 5 is mostly the same. You still have the same ‘Mechlab, the same mission selection screen, the same map, the same interior dropship walkabout, and the same salvage and mission complete screen. The only real difference is that you’re not the one strapped into a neurohelmet.

Sorry, there’s another big change. As Sean Lang reveals in a recent No Guts, No Galaxy podcast, MechCommander Mercenaries also adds a slow-mo button so that you can slow down the action and send quick commands to your units even in the heat of combat. This is probably a necessary addition as MechWarrior 5 can be surprisingly quick when the AI is the one doing all the shooting.

Installation is simple: just unzip MechCommander Mercenaries in the MechWarrior 5 mods folder and select the mod from the in-game menu. Everything should work fine with other mods (barring a few notable exceptions like the better lancemate mod), but the development team hasn’t tested MechCommander Mercenaries extensively enough to know if it works with 100% of the available mods out there.

MechCommander Mercenaries is out now on Nexus Mods with a beta release. As I mentioned before, it’s still an early beta, and there are a ton of known issues that still need to be fixed with later releases. Expect some bugs, which are detailed on a recent posting in the brand new MechCommander Mercenaries subreddit.

I have some fond memories of MechCommander Gold. Not fond enough to replay the game (and it’s most recent update) as much as Sean Lang, but still, fond memories. MechCommander is as beloved around these parts as the MechWarrior franchise, so seeing it return in this way is a truly heartwarming sight.

If you’re interested, subscribe to the MechCommander Mercenaries subreddit for updates, and you can follow this link to download the mod.

UPDATE: You can also get MechCommander Mercenaries from the newly enacted mods feature on the Epic Games Store. Just go here, click “add to library,” and MechCommander Mercs will be automatically installed to MechWarrior 5‘s mods folder. Then you just select the mod from the in-game menu and you’re off!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For July, 2020

It’s July. Man, where does the time go? I guess the time dilation might have something to do with the fact that I’m stuck inside all day long and commerce has ground to a standstill in much of the civilized world. And the things that I would normally use as milestones for the passage of time–like movie releases and sporting events–have all completely stopped. That and I’ve been cutting my own hair so I haven’t been keeping to that 6-week barber schedule. Frankly, I don’t even know what day it is.

But I do know that it’s still July, so it’s time for another news dump. I’m going to take a dump all over you, and you’re going to love it because it’s made of robots.

Alright, that could have been phrased better. My bad. Let’s get to the BattleTech news.

Finally, Someone Is Making A Full-CG MechWarrior Fan Film

Hired Steel

File this one under “I really hope I get to see this before a cease & desist letter shuts them down.”

A group of German madmen are braving the legal minefield that is the BattleTech intellectual property to bring us all a short fan film made using what appears to be MechWarrior Online assets. This isn’t too much of a surprise given that they’re previous works have also been made using MechWarrior Online, only this time instead of making a 5-minute long advertisement for MWO, they’re making a short film with an actual plot.

It’s called Hired Steel, and it’s a full CG movie that has been in development for about 3 months now. They plan on releasing a pilot episode soon that will detail what to expect from the series. I’m guessing it’s about another mercenary unit that’s down on their luck and has to fight their way to glory and freedom, but I’m just playing the odds here.

Also, I wouldn’t get your hopes up. The last time we saw a fan project stroll through these parts, it got hit with a C&D from Topps faster than you can splat an Elemental with a Streak SRM-6.

You can support TMC at their Patreon to help bring this project to fruition, and in the meantime, enjoy the poster. Shadow Hawks really ought to be the new poster child of the franchise.

But In The Meantime, Enjoy This Slightly Smaller CG Fan Film

Speaking of fan animation that may or may not get a cease and desist (although probably not in this case), Farseer Animation has come out with a new video that’s their largest and most elaborate yet.

These guys have actually been making BattleTech fan videos for several years. They got started remaking the original MechWarrior 2 cinematics using their own models, and have since then branched off into making more complex CG films. Their latest, “Mechwarrior: Battle of the Crescent Fortress,” is almost 10 minutes of non-stop action. 

And it’s also hilarious. The Hunchback is piloted by a dude who sounds like Chekov from Star Trek (and sounds SUPER familiar–maybe he’s also been in one of Tex’s videos, someone correct me here!) and the Vulcan pilot does a great “angry drunk who just got taken out by a Crab” impression. There’s even a Crescent Hawks reference for the super old-school BattleTech fans in the audience.

Also, the line “I’m going to be blunt: you suck,” is perhaps the greatest one I’ve ever heard on YouTube. Go watch this thing and be amazed.

More Catalyst Stuff, More Clan Invasion Delays

Clan Invasion Vol 2

Alright, bad news first. Last week, Catalyst announced another delay in shipping out the first wave of the Clan Invasion Kickstarter. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: sucks, but what’re you gonna do?

Apparently, the same company that held up shipping the original BattleTech: A Game Of Armored Combat box sets is also late on making the plastic figures for the Clan Invasion. The new shipping date for the first wave is July 31st, but that’s to get the figurines from China to America. And that’s only the folks who got in on the actual Kickstarter campaign and didn’t sign on as a late backer. 

According to Catalyst, 80% of first wave shipments will be out on July 31st, and the remaining 20% will come in the middle of August. Again, that’s just getting the stuff out of China. Catalyst won’t begin shipping to backers until late September, so you’re likely not going to get those shipments until October.

Clan Recognition Guide Vol 3

So that’s the bad news. The good news is that backers now have access to $50 worth of digital content if you follow this link and use a code at checkout that was emailed to backers earlier this month. This includes the brand new first edition of Shrapnel magazine as well as ten digital novels and three scenario PDFs.

Also, Recognition Guide: IlClan vol. 2 and 3 are out now, and we’ve got a brand new Stone Rhino with two overhead barrels instead of one. This is a long-overdue redesign that finally makes sense. What else might be hiding within these hallowed pages? Head on over to the Catalyst store to find out.

Renegade HPG Interviews Blaine Lee Pardoe, And Does Some Great Stuff With The Old Card Game Too!

A couple of weeks ago, a brand new BattleTech YouTube channel popped up called Renegade HPG. Travis, the owner, first got started with the BattleTech TCG by opening a sealed booster box of Limited Edition on camera. It’s pretty sweet, especially considering my love of the original card game. I still have a bunch of those old cards and even the new ones that were made by BattleTech historian, Michael Todd (the same guy who made this great fan-made TRO).

From there, Travis decided to explore more of the TCG with Michael Cohen and Chester Hendrix, both BattleTech TCG pros (at least, as professional as you can get with a card game that’s been out of print for almost two decades) who’ve played the game for years and run the BattleTech TCG Facebook group. They talked about the card game’s history and design, as well as actual gameplay and deckbuilding. They go on four HOURS about BattleTech TCG mechanics, and I encourage you to check it out if you want to ever get into the card game (and then I might have someone to play with). 

And from there it seems that Travis has branched out into speaking with BattleTech‘s creative team. His most recent interview with Blaine Lee Pardoe explores BattleTech‘s history as well as what stories have yet to be written (at least, in novel form). 

Check them both out, and follow the channel to see what he comes out with next.

Ever Wonder What MechAssault 3 Might’ve Looked Like? Check Out This Art Portfolio

Fire Falcon

This is an interesting one that came from a person who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of taking too much credit for just how awesome this is. So I’ll take that credit for myself, thank you very much. 

It’s an art portfolio slash promotional pamphlet for MechAssault 3 from graphics designer Kurt Saberi. We’ve talked about MechAssault before and the fan project that’s getting quite a bit of traction these days, but what we have here is what might’ve been had Day 1 Studios still existed and hadn’t been bought out by Wargaming (the makers of World of Tanks) in 2013.

MechAssault 3

The intent of this portfolio was to try and convince people to invest in this game, which obviously didn’t pan out, but likely not because of the pitch. Or maybe–you decide.

MechAssault 3 would have taken 300 years after the events of MechAssault 2, which would put us way beyond anything we’ve ever seen from official sources and certainly way beyond the current Dark Age/IlClan era that we’re in now, narratively speaking. And the future is weird. The Clans are still around, with Clan Wolf still being in separate Warden and Crusader factions. Clan technology has also advanced considerably, with Elemental power armor replaced by sleek, sexy, almost anime-style power armor with animalistic features.

Mech Assault 3a

In fact, there seems to be a Far Eastern-influence in the design of everything here. The only ‘Mech in the portfolio, the Fire Falcon, is almost Metal Gear-like in its appearance. You can imagine a bajillion missiles coming out of those open ports.

The portfolio does mention that Clan technology is smooth and hyper-advanced, while Inner Sphere tech is crude, chunky, and brutish. Or it would if any of it was represented. Whatever the plot of MechAssault 3, it looks like it would have heavily focused on the Clans. 

MechAssault 3

But as we all know by now, if you want a new MechAssault game, you gotta do it yourself, so go check out the latest news coming out of Wolves

Wolves Releases Soundtrack Teaser

Speaking of Wolves, here’s a teaser of the game’s impending soundtrack. Sounds pretty good, right? I liked it. Also, there’s a nice picture of an Atlas for you to gawk at for a bit.

It’s MechWarrior 2’s 25th Anniversary!

MechWarrior 2 Cover

On July 24, 1995, MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat first arrived in stores on compact disc. It would go on to revolutionize gaming, especially when it came to portraying giant stompy robots. And it did a few neat things to move the dial forward for PC gaming in general.

I went into great length about MechWarrior 2 already, and while it would probably have made a lot more sense to celebrate a quarter-century since the release of MechWarrior 2 by publishing such an article now, I don’t have that kind of foresight. Instead, you may read that article here at your leisure.

And you can join a bunch of old farts in Discord to talk about the glory days of MechWarrior games. Reddit user CommanderHunter5 is inviting all MechWarriors to join their Discord to discuss the good ol’ days and to help people get MechWarrior 2 to work on modern hardware. It can be done, it just takes some doing.

So yeah, click this link to get in on the discussion.

Fan Gifts Us Remastered Soundtracks Of Every BattleTech Game Ever Made

Soundtrack Remastered

Perhaps a better way to celebrate MechWarrior 2‘s quarter centennial is by re-listening to the game’s soundtrack, which was awesome (and also discussed at length here). 

Xeromynd recently posted to various MechWarrior and BattleTech related subreddits a gift: a compiled and remastered selection of songs from every MechWarrior, BattleTech, MechCommander, and MechAssault game ever made. At least, the ones that aren’t still being sold for money so nobody can get sued. 

Apparently, xeromynd is an audio engineer of 10+ years and also a die-hard BattleTech fan. Combine the two and you get this fun little project that will tickle your earbuds. 

There’s quite a lot to download, so the collection has been broken into five separate parts: the BattleTech Legacy collection, the MechCommander Legacy collection, the MechWarrior Legacy collection, the MechAssault Legacy collection, and a bonus collection that has covers and remixes from the community. Timothy Seals’ fantastic remixes are sadly not included.

Thank you, xeromynd. This will replace my collection of old MP3s that were taken many, many moons ago, and were frankly never that great because I didn’t know jack about audio compression back then.

That’s it for July! Join me next time as we discuss what fresh hell awaits us in August. It’s sure to be a blast.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

The Evolution Of Long-Range Missiles In BattleTech, or Why You Should Shut Up And Love The LRM-5

LRM-5 Thinker

thanks to Bradigus for this gem

I’ve got a question for you, my fellow BattleTech aficionados. Why doesn’t everyone just scrap their LRM-20s and use a bunch of LRM-5s in their place? This is a question that has dogged me ever since I got into BattleTech and one that I’ve decided to answer once and for all.

For me, this all started way back with MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries when I discovered than an LRM-5 weighs just 2 tons, meaning I could boat-up four of those suckers and get the equivalent firepower of an LRM-20 but at just 80% of the tonnage requirement. Then I got into the tabletop game and saw that the LRM-5 was still just 2 tons, and it made me wonder why didn’t everybody scrap all their LRM-20s and duct-tape together a bunch of LRM-5s? Is every ‘Mech jock in the entire universe stupid or what?!

It turns out there’s a reason for that, and that reason has changed with every new generation of BattleTech games. But for much of BattleTech video game history, there was little reason to keep those big LRM launchers instead of swapping them for an equivalent number of LRM-5s,  and that made me wonder just how the heck this innocuous weapon system can be so weird across so much of BattleTech’s games.

So today, we’re going to take a deep dive into the many intricacies of perhaps one of BattleTech’s most boring weapon system: the LRM-5.

LRM-5, According To The Table

LRM

Starting where it all began, of course. My introduction to the LRM-5 might have come in the form of a video game, but to understand the LRM-5 we have to go back to the beginning, and that means tabletop rules. Even here the LRM-5 can seem like a questionable choice, so let’s break this weapon down.

The LRM-5 weighs 2 tons, takes 1 crit, and can fire a packet of five measly long-range missiles at a target up to 21 hexes away (Inner Sphere stats, of course). One look at Sarna’s vast repository of BattleTech knowledge reveals that this is a significant weight savings when compared to larger missile launchers such as the LRM-10 (5 tons, 2 crits), LRM-15 (7 tons, 3 crits), and LRM-20 (10 tons, 5 crits), so why would you ever want to use any of those larger launchers?

The answer is hiding in the damage tables. To determine damage, you roll 2D6 and then consult the table. For most of the possible rolls, the damage between four LRM-5s and a single LRM-20 is equivalent, except for two results: a 2 and a 4. If you roll a 2 on an LRM-5 shot, then you’re only dealing 1 damage, whereas an LRM-20 is dealing 6 damage. That’s a 50% bonus over four LRM-5s firing simultaneously.

A similar story happens if you roll a 4, which causes an LRM-5 to deal 2 damage and an LRM-20 to deal 9. A single extra point of damage isn’t quite as pronounced as the snake-eyes situation, but it’s still more damage on low rolls.

There’s also heat to consider. An LRM-20 produces just 6 points of heat, but four LRM-5s firing together produce 8 points. On the other hand, you can manage your heat better by just firing a few of those LRM-5s at a time rather than all four at once, but in terms of average damage per round, the LRM-20 is clearly beating our cludged 4xLRM-5.

Whether you think a little less heat and a little more consistent damage is worth the extra two tons and one critical slot is a matter of personal opinion, but the math checks out–at least, for the tabletop. That story changes dramatically once we get into the video games.

Off The Table And Into The Silicon Wafer

While things were just fine and dandy for the LRM-5 in the tabletop version of BattleTech, as soon as things went digital, shit got weird. Really weird.

A little while back, I briefly touched on a YouTube video from Pixelmusement that revealed the actual damage values of all weapons used in MechWarrior 2, and the LRM-5 is on that list. Now, this is Clan tech instead of Inner Sphere, but we can still highlight some major differences in the LRM-5 thanks to this exhaustive analysis.

First, LRMs in the old MechWarrior 2 days didn’t use damage tables to randomly calculate the amount of mayhem a flight of LRMs will produce. In MechWarrior 2, every missile was its own object with its own specific trajectory. However, LRMs had such good homing in those days that a missile lock often meant that every single one of those missiles would hit its target–many of them in the same location. Worse, the splash damage of the explosion essentially doubled the firepower of LRMs, meaning you were dealing 2 damage per missile instead of one.

MW2 Mercs

So in MechWarrior 2, it absolutely made sense to replace all your LRM-20s with LRM-5s, but only if you had space for them. MechWarrior 2 limited players to just 10 total weapons systems, so this would work on some ‘Mechs like the Vulture, but not on more heavily-laden machines like the Mad Cat.

The only downside to this strategy was heat. LRM-5s still produced more heat than the equivalent LRM-20, so that extra ton is likely to be used up with a heat sink to offset the extra heat produced.

MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries still had inexplicable Streak LRMs, but at least the splash damage bug had been fixed so that each individual missile only did 1 damage. However, the same situation remained: all missiles fired hit their mark, and that meant random damage tables couldn’t account for the extra 2 tons and 1 crit that an LRM-20 has over four LRM-5s. Once again, it absolutely made more sense to toss your heavier LRM units for group-fired LRM-5s.

This situation continued into MechWarrior 3, but finally changed in MechWarrior 4 when LRMs got a complete overhaul. Rather than fire streak-style homing missiles directly at whatever you had a lock on, LRMs in MechWarrior 4 would take an arcing path over obstacles if fired at great distances. Missiles were also grouped into “packets” of 5, just like in the tabletop game, and it was certainyl possible for those packets to miss a fast-moving target.

However, this isn’t quite the same as the tabletop’s damage. Those packets of 5 missiles either struck home for 5 damage (actually 4–MechWarrior 4 used weird damage values) or they missed and did nothing. There’s no in-between. So, boating LRM-5’s once again appears to make sense.

MW4 via the Pirate Bay

Only MechWarrior 4 did something different that finally gave players a good reason to use a larger missile system over a smaller one. MechWarrior 4 added fixed hardpoints to the MechWarrior series that prevented a player from simply swapping out whatever weapon systems they wanted. Although the tonnage of each weapon remained the same, critical slots had been replaced by weapon hardpoints that would allow only a certain amount of energy, missile, or ballistic weaponry.

An Inner Sphere LRM-20 still weighed 10 tons, but now it took up two “missile” slots in a hardpoint. This meant that a single LRM-20 could only ever be replaced by two LRM-5s, albeit with significant weight savings and with only 8 possible damage (again, MechWarrior 4 used different damage values than pretty much every other MechWarrior game).

For me, MechWarrior 4 was where LRMs started to make sense again. Yes, larger LRM packs were less efficient in terms of weight, but they were more efficient in terms of damage per missile hardpoint slot. The key here is that MechWarrior 4 changed the relationship between damage, tonnage, and space. Instead of tonnage being the key limiter to damage, hardpoint slots were often the limiting factor. This meant that it made sense for larger ‘Mechs to have larger LRM packs, while smaller ‘Mechs made do with LRM-5s.

The Modern Solution To The LRM Problem

In modern games like MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries and BATTLETECH, the solution to the LRM problem has become a hybrid of MechWarrior 4’s hardpoints and more classic tabletop ‘Mech construction. In both titles, ‘Mechs are limited in the number of specific energy, ballistic, and missile-based weapons they can mount in any given section of the chassis, but the more traditional critical slot layout is also retained from the tabletop game.

MechWarrior 5 goes one step further. Instead of just having missile, ballistic, and energy hardpoints, it also subdivides those weapons into small, medium, and large categories. A small weapon can fit into any sized hardpoint, but it occupies the entire hardpoint and prevents any additional weapons from slotting in. A large weapon can only occupy a large weapon hardpoint, so an LRM-5 can replace a single LRM-20, but an LRM-20 can’t replace an LRM-5. And, crucially, four LRM-5s cannot replace an LRM-20 unless the chassis has four total available missile hardpoints.

You’d think that would be enough for MechWarrior 5, but no. PGI REALLY wanted to differentiate between small and large launchers, so they added a very interesting quirk to LRMs.

In MechWarrior 5 there are actually two styles of LRM launcher: stream launchers and regular launchers. Stream launchers fire their missiles one after the other so that each missile’s launch doesn’t affect the one behind it. This causes stream launchers to be somewhat more accurate and have a tighter grouping than regular launchers.

Regular LRM launchers fire all their missiles at once, creating a sort of “cloud” of missiles that home in on their target. The orientation of that cloud is random every time it’s fired, and that randomizes how damage is applied when missiles strike their target.

If they strike their target. In MechWarrior 5, the larger the launcher, the larger the cloud of missiles. Unlike in previous MechWarrior games, missiles don’t converge when they approach their victim, so if the target is significantly smaller than the cloud of LRMs fired–like in the case of an LRM-20 fired at a Locust–then the vast majority of those missiles will just hit the ground and deal no damage.

Suddenly the LRM-5 is more than just a smaller version of larger launchers. Since the cloud fired from an LRM-5 is small, it can be used against smaller targets like light ‘Mechs and armored vehicles. LRM-20s, on the other hand, are only really useful against larger targets that will get struck by the majority of the missile cloud–otherwise you’re just wasting most of your ammo.

MechWarrior 5 is smart too. If you manage to group together four LRM-5s, firing them all at once essentially creates the same cloud as firing a single LRM-20. You do have the option of firing them one at a time, however, which will keep the cloud to a smaller size that’s more appropriate to dealing with smaller targets and adds a measure of flexibility.

Enforcer

I gotta give PGI credit, this is probably the most innovative and effective iteration of LRMs in any MechWarrior game. Boating is discouraged, but having an LRM-5 or two is still an effective way of dealing with pesky light ‘Mechs at extreme ranges. LRM-20s are better for heavy and assault ‘Mechs or heavily armored structures. The difference in weight efficiency is overshadowed by the importance of using the right weapon for the right job.

Now let’s take a look at Hairbrained’s BATTLETECH, the game that perhaps mirrors the tabletop experience more than any other BATTLETECH game ever produced. On the surface, BATTLETECH appears to handle things very similar to the tabletop, which means we’re back to maximizing damage per ton with our cludged 4xLRM-5 launchers again, but it’s not immediately obvious what’s going on when the computer is the one rolling digital dice. To find out, I actually reached out to Harebrained Studios to get the inside scoop on what’s happening when you light off a flight of missiles at some schmuck in a Thunderbolt.

“LRMs roll a separate to-hit for each missile in the rack,” BATTLETECH engineer Connor Monahan told me via email. “The first to-hit is rolled on a normal hit table (respective of facing) and that first hit determines the ‘center’ of the LRMs clustering, then all subsequent location rolls for successful hits from that missile rack roll on that influenced/clustered table.”

So, does that mean there’s really no real damage advantage between four LRM-5s and a single LRM-20? Monohan explained essentially “yes,” but that’s not the whole story in BATTLETECH.

LRM raining on Panther

First, there’s still heat to consider. Four LRM-5s are a lot hotter than an LRM-20, and that will seriously reduce a ‘Mech’s average damage per round. Second, since every missile rolls separately, missile weapons are some of the best weapons in the game to take against smaller, more evasive targets. A medium laser with 40% to-hit is most likely going to miss and deal no damage at all, whereas an LRM-20 with a 40% hit chance is likely to still deal 8 total damage with 8 missile hits. This is in stark contrast with MechWarrior 5 where larger launchers are actually no better than smaller ones against small targets.

And third, you can split your fire with four LRM-5s. This is especially useful when a pilot has Multi-Target, which enhances your accuracy when firing at multiple opponents.

The Evolution Of A Tiny Missile Launcher

So, are we done? Is MechWarrior 5 the pinnacle of long-range missile technology? Or is BATTLETECH and its faithful adherence to the original tabletop rules the best that an LRM can be?

Honestly, I think MechWarrior 5 has gotten the formula right. You can still boat those LRM-5s to replace heavier LRM-20s and wind up with weight savings, but there are appropriate tradeoffs. You lose the option of mounting other missile launchers (most likely, as few ‘Mechs have more than four missile hardpoints), but you gain extra tons to devote to other weapon systems. Each LRM launcher is best suited to increasingly larger enemies, and if you do decide to mount multiple LRM-5s, you’re given maximum flexibility in being able to engage both large and small targets without wasting ammunition.

But I don’t think the evolution of the LRM is over. We started out with ludicrously broken and overpowered missiles in MechWarrior 2, and each iteration of BattleTech brought them first towards balance, and then to something better: justification.

Kintaro

Is MechWarrior 5 where the evolution of the LRM launcher ends? Or will long-range missile launchers of the future take a more retro-inspired approach like BATTLETECH?

Right now it’s hard to say since we’re sort of in-between generations at the moment. All I can say is that I will always hot-swap my LRM-20s for LRM-5s until I’m convinced to do otherwise. And even then, I’ll probably still swap for those two extra tons. It’s just how I’ve been taught.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

(Edit: Yes, I know I’m omitting quite a few games, including the first MechWarrior, MechCommander, and MechWarrior Online. But I think this article is long enough.)

June News Roundup 2020 – Supplemental

Yeah, I know, we just had our June news dump, but a few things came up that I really didn’t want to push off until July. They’re kinda big deals, hence we have a “supplemental” addition to our June news.

So, without further adieu…

New Trailer For MechWarrior 5 DLC, Heroes Of The Inner Sphere

We heard about this DLC back in April, and now we get to see it in action. All seven new ‘Mechs are showcased in this trailer, which includes the Corsair, Champion, Dervish, Charger, Hatamoto-Chi, Vulcan, and Marauder II. I’m personally very excited about the Dervish, which I think would make a great early-game machine and a decent ride to throw my lancemates.

There’s also a brand new moon biome on display here that looks pretty danged good. Suspiciously good, in fact. I’m wondering if this DLC might have a few lighting improvements to MechWarrior 5’s engine.

And right at the end there? Infantry! Finally, MechWarrior 5 will feel more like a real world that is inhabited by humans and not just giant stomping death machines and the occasional tank.

Corsair

And as a quick recap, this DLC isn’t just about adding new ‘Mechs. Heroes of the Inner Sphere will add new warzones, quests, missions, and an expanded map of the Inner Sphere. The centerpiece is seven new quests that tell the stories of seven heroes along with their unique ‘Mechs.

Might those be the seven ‘Mechs that were just showcased in the video? Or will we see the tale of Grayson Carlyle and his Marauder? We’ll find out… later. There’s no release date and PGI isn’t even going to guess at a release window, so patience is a virtue here.

Catalyst Announces Two New Books And A Delay

Grey Watch Protocol

Gosh, Catalyst has a lot going on this month. Good news first: we got two new novels to pre-order. First is Grey Watch Protocol: The Highlander Covenant vol. 1, and the second is Jennifer Brozek’s Ghost Hour: Rogue Academy vol. 2. Both are available for pre-order now and will be delivered in digital format on June 26, which may or may not be after the date of this publication. If I’m late, I blame my editor.

Ghost Hour

Now the bad news: Technical Readout: Golden Century has been pushed back a few weeks. Originally scheduled to release this month, it’s been pushed back so that it can release in both PDF and print-on-demand format at the same time. If all goes well, Catalyst will also release other landscape-format products in the same way such as the upcoming Technical Readout: Irregulars and possibly even past TROs.

And a bit of more good news: Recognition Guide: IlClan vol. 2 is still on track to release next Friday, July 3rd.

Alright, that’s it for June. For realsies this time.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For June 2020

Welcome to your BattleTech News Roundup for the month of June, 2020. Now we’ve got protests against police brutality and massive civil unrest to go along with the global pandemic, so that’s cool. Who had race riots on their Apocalypse: 2020 Bingo card? Someone’s gotta be close to winning by this point. I’m still waiting on “volcanic eruption” and “meteorite impact” to complete my set, although I’m eyeing “alien invasion” with more and more suspicion.

Anyway, we’re not going to get too political around these parts. BattleTech had a busy month in June, so we’ve got plenty of much more fun stuff to talk about. Let’s get this party started.

MechWarrior 5 Adds Mod Support To Microsoft Store-Bought Games

Flea

While MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries has remained an Epic exclusive, it’s not 100% exclusive to Epic. If you’re really against Epic, you could always buy the game on the Microsoft Store for the same price.

But there was a problem in that the Microsoft version of MechWarrior 5 didn’t have mod support, which was one of the key features of the game. That’s changed as of earlier this month with a brand new patch that brought mod support to the Microsoft Store and Xbox GamePass versions of MechWarrior 5.

There was a bit of a hiccup as PGI also changed the save data location to make things a little more accessible, but this caused players to lose their save files and campaign progression if they had the game installed anywhere other than their C drives. Players had to go digging around for their save files to put them in the new location in order to get their campaign back.

Minor bug aside, this is a welcome change for Microsoft Store players since mods can greatly enhance your experience in MechWarrior 5. Welcome to the fold, Microsoft Store and Xbox GamePass MechWarriors!

Shrapnel, The Official BattleTech Magazine, Has Officially Arrived

shrapnel

Kickstarter backers got their inaugural issue of Shrapnel a few weeks ago, but now The Official BattleTech Magazine is available for everyone via Amazon.

Shrapnel represents a return to more serialized BattleTech fiction, filling the void left by BattleCorps when it shut down in 2017. It’s definitely a tome, clocking in at 172 digital pages when you include the index (the magazine portion itself is more like 150 pages). Within this digital magazine, you’ll find short stories from recognizable authors like Blaine Lee Pardoe and Kevin Killany, a forward from editor Philip A. Lee, and some more technical pieces about sniper rifles and the Eridani Light Horse.

They’re also publishing Michael A. Stackpole’s recent Kell Hounds novella If Auld Acquaintances Be Forgot. Which sort of explains why this thing is about the size of a small novel, and why it’s being priced at $5.95 on Amazon. That’s good value, considering the amount of text you’re getting.

As Blaine points out, the first issue of Shrapnel is very wordy without a lot of visual aids. Shrapnel is taking submissions for future issues, but so far the submission guidelines are all about word limits and preferred subject material (which is to say character-focused BattleTech stories). There’s nothing about fanart submissions, but reach out anyway. I’m sure Catalyst would love to spruce things up with a bit of fanart.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Sean, you’re a writer, why don’t you submit something to Shrapnel?” Well, I did have this idea about a gay romance between star-crossed Elementals from different Clans, but I don’t think anyone wants to read that. Plus I’d have to edit out the sex scenes to meet the PG-13 requirement and trust me, that’d be A LOT of work.

But if anyone at Catalyst thinks goofy articles about AC/20 ammo being made of pancakes is worth reading, gimme a shout.

Catalyst Sends C&D’s To Thingiverse Accounts Over BattleTech Copyrights

UrbieCop

courtesy of Fried Eggs on Discord

Well, this was a long time coming. Catalyst has finally taken action against the burgeoning 3D printing community to remove all copyrighted materials from Thingiverse, perhaps the largest 3D printing design site on the internet. This has resulted in many ‘Mech designs being removed at their request.

Takedown requests started getting sent out at the beginning of June, and according to a copy of the request posted by Reddit user AceTimberwolf, those requests are coming directly from BattleTech line developer Ray Arrastia.

You can’t blame Catalyst for protecting their copyrighted ‘Mechs, but it looks like this was a takedown of anything that was tagged “BattleTech” on Thingiverse. This meant things that aren’t technically copyrighted also got taken down, including stuff like buildings, trees, and other hex-based terrains. Custom designs that were based on copyrighted ‘Mechs also got the ax.

DCMA notice

It was all a little heavy-handed, and it has left a bad taste in the mouths of the 3D-printing community. The BattleTech International 3D Printing Facebook group has taken to tagging their designs “America Mecha Game” to both protest the mass removal and also avoid future takedown notices, with various pirate memes dominating the recent postings (kudos to Fried Eggs on the Everything BattleTech Discord server for coming up with this delightful UrbieCop meme).

My take? Catalyst is staring down an existential threat. Printing minis at home means they lose their market, which means they lose some pretty essential revenue. They’d rather BattleTech fans buy minis they make instead. That’s how their business works, how it’s always worked.

But there’s really no putting this genie back in the bottle. Just as how music had to transform decades ago thanks to the advent of MP3s, so too will gaming miniature providers have to change how they do things thanks to 3D printers. C&D’s and takedown requests might slow things down for now, but they won’t stop it. The technology is out there, and it’ll only get harder and harder to police as 3D printers get cheaper and 3D designs get easier to make.

I won’t link them here, but I can tell you that certain Facebook groups are already throwing Dropbox links around with all those removed Thinigverse designs inside them. This fight is only going to get spicier in the coming months as the Clan Invasion Kickstarter shipments start later this year.

Halfway Through, So Here’s A Pixel Art Javelin

[OC] Practicing Pixel Art! from battletech

Reddit user Maaxxim posted this one and I really like it. Javelins don’t get enough love (even though you’re basically given one for free in MechWarrior 5), so I’m glad to see someone else is giving the Javelin some long-overdue attention.

BattleTech Recognition Guide: IlClan Volume One Now Available

BattleTech Recognition Guide

People have been wondering when we’ll see IlClan. Well, here’s our first good taste. The IlClan TRO is being handed out piece by piece as it’s being created in the form of the BattleTech Recognition Guide: IlClan.

What will eventually span 22 PDF files, these Recognition Guides will include at least one all-new ‘Mech per volume and also redesigns on classic ‘Mechs rebuilt using Dark Age tech. They’ll also include “in-universe development notes, battle histories, notable pilots, and record sheets for each ‘Mech.”

Dominator

After all 22 PDFs are published, they’ll be combined into a single print volume. If this doesn’t eventually become the IlClan TRO, I don’t know what will.

In a preview posted on Twitter, Catalyst also treated us to that new ‘Mech that was on the cover of Pardoe’s latest book, Divided We Fall. The Dominator is a 65-ton Clan BattleMech with decent speed, armor, and jump jets. And I was mostly right about the armament too with the real design sporting an ER PPC, ER Large Laser, ER Small Laser, and a Streak SRM-6. A Targeting Computer makes those long-range energy weapons hit consistently, and I’m all about consistency.

BATTLETECH Revised Is Now Live

BattleTech Revised via Nexus Mods

Back in March, we heard about a “crack commando team” that was looking to rebalance everything in BATTLETECH, from ‘Mech hardpoints to weapon stats. We were promised an update later, and it seems that time has come.

BATTLETECH Revised is now available on Nexus Mods and it brings with it a totally new BATTLETECH experience. ‘Mechs now have quirks based on their lore that gives them… well, quirks. Strong ‘Mechs were given debuff quirks, while weaker designs got helpful quirks.

Although the mod description states that the quirks are designed to respect a ‘Mech’s lore, the example provided isn’t exactly doing that. Apparently the Commando is considered a “sniper” ‘Mech that now has 50% more firepower for weapons mounted in the right arm. Although the COM-1B has a large laser that might make it slightly sniper-y, the vast majority of Commando variants have short-range missiles and are more harassers and reconnaissance machines than snipers. [Ed. It has been brought to my attention that the prototype and early model Commandos were actually snipers armed with large lasers and AC/2, notably the COM-1A, COM-1B, and COM1-C. So this is more in keeping with BattleTech than previously indicated. My bad!]

On the plus side, weapons have been rebalanced so that some of the more maligned weapon systems such as the AC/2 are now much more of a threat. On top of that, there are big changes to the game’s economy, story, and pilot abilities, with pilots now receiving special bonuses if they’re sent into combat in their personal rides.

It sounds like a much-expanded experience, even if the designers aren’t quite aware of the full BattleTech lore, so if you’re looking to change up your game, try BATTLETECH Revised.

MechWarrior Destiny, Dice Sets, And Puzzles Now Available

June is a big month for Catalyst! They’ve already taken up most of this recap, but we still have a few more newsworthy updates to make with new BattleTech products.

Destiny

Starting with MechWarrior: Destiny, the new RPG based on the Cue system. I have not played anything using the Cue system, but it certainly sounds interesting. Rather than having a GM, the Cue system gives each player a turn at being the Lead Narrator using “cues” on their character sheet to move each scene forward. It’s designed to be easy to learn, so it shouldn’t add too much of a complicating layer to regular BattleTech tabletop gameplay.

MechWarrior: Destiny can be played without the usual stomping robots, or you can incorporate Destiny into your BattleTech or Alpha Strike games for an added role-playing element. MechWarrior: Destiny is availble now in PDF or print formats.

Turning Points: Tyrfing is also available now in PDF form, telling the story of how the planet Tyrfing became the scene for a five-way war for Lostech during the First Succession War. There’s also a bunch of dice sets available using the logos for famous mercenary groups, including Gray Death Legion, McCarron’s Armored Cavalry, the 21st Centauri Lancers, the Eridani Light Horse, and the Northwind Highlanders.

Puzzles

And finally, we got some brand new jigsaw puzzles. Each puzzle is 500 pieces, 18×24-inches, and features box and cover art from some of the most iconic BattleTech products out today. Only 1,000 puzzles of each design will be made, and they’ll be foil-printed too. Combine this with the coloring books from last month and you got yourself the perfect way to keep the kids entertained during social distancing.

Have A Hornet To Brighten Your Day

Hornets 3D models redux from battletech

Reddit user u/juodasvarnas is back with another 3D design, this time the Hornet. It looks sort of like half an UrbanMech with jet engines strapped to the back, which I’m sure is perfectly safe. We need more Hornets out there hopping along and shooting their LRM-5s at nothing in particular–much like how a yellow jacket is inclined to sting for no particular reason.

And that’s it! Join us next month where we talk about all the stuff that happened in the next few weeks, barring an even greater global catastrophe that makes this whole giant robot stuff seem kinda trivial. Unless that global catastrophe IS giant robots. Then I guess we’ll talk about that.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Did You Know? Other Games Come And Go, But MechWarrior: Living Legends Is Here To Stay

Osiris

As is sometimes the case here on Sarna.net, I must begin this article with an apology. I had heard of MechWarrior: Living Legends many years ago, before my stint on MechWarrior Online and even while I was still replaying MechWarrior 4 for the gazillionth time, but I’d never really considered it as something I’d like to get into. Firstly because it was initially built on Crysis, a game famous for taking modest gaming PCs and turning them into shambling corpses unable to render a single frame, and secondly because it was an online multiplayer shooter of the kind that I just had little interest in. 

Fast forward many years later and I would still occasionally see news about MechWarrior: Living Legends on social media, but I always passed it off as such a tiny corner of the wider BattleTech community that it was hardly worth mentioning. I hope this article–and perhaps more like it–will make amends for my transgression. 

And as I’ve found out over the years, I was wrong about many things, and certainly wrong about MechWarrior: Living Legends. It is a game worthy of my attention and the attention of any BattleTech fan looking for a different kind of BattleTech experience. 

Although I wasn’t wrong about it having a very small community, I’ve discovered that small doesn’t mean disorganized. They even have a PR guy, whom I will give full credit for sending me on this journey into yet another weird and wonderful corner of the BattleTech universe (and also being a great historian for MechWarrior: Living Legends–shout out to you, Bird_Thing). 

Apologies out of the way, let’s get this party started. This week on Did You Know?, we’re looking at an older MechWarrior title with an interesting origin story and gameplay unlike any other game in the franchise. Mostly because it’s not an officially licensed product and so it never had to conform to the rules. Welcome to MechWarrior: Living Legends

How To Be A Living Legend

Timberwolf

As I mentioned before, MechWarrior: Living Legends has a small community both developing and playing it, so you might not have even heard of this game. Allow me to illuminate.

MechWarrior: Living Legends started life as a Crysis total conversion mod that has since become a game unto itself. Although it still prefers to call itself a Crysis total conversion mod, Living Legends has its own stand-alone installer and has virtually nothing in common with the original game from which it’s based on.

If I had to describe Living Legends in a single sentence, I’d say it’s Battlefield, but BattleTech. Unlike most MechWarrior games that focus on the ‘Mechs, Living Legends provides players with several different options of vehicles to play as well, including Aerospace fighters, tanks, VTOLs, and even battle armor

Although there are several different game modes available, the most common (at least, from my short time playing in it) is Terrain Control, where each team attempts to capture control points in order to drain the opposing team of tickets. Once a team’s tickets are exhausted, that team loses unless they can also exhaust their opponent of tickets within a short period of time in a sort of sudden-death showdown.

While this might sound similar to MechWarrior Online’s Conquest mode, the two are starkly different. For starters, MechWarrior: Living Legends games can go on for much longer than a single round in MechWarrior Online, with games sometimes taking over an hour to conclude. Players also respawn after death and must purchase new machines to fight with each time using a pool of accrued credits based on their performance.

Oasis Argus

But perhaps the single largest difference between the two games is pacing. Yes, you can respawn in Living Legends so you never need to wait more than a few moments to get back to the action, but simply running to the battlefield any dying to enemy fire over and over again won’t actually get you anywhere. You gain credits based on how long you survive, and so it’s important for you to play strategically (I’d even go as far as saying “carefully”) in order to preserve your machine. Falling back to repair and rearm is far more beneficial than dying and respawning.

Understanding that your survival has meaning beyond merely staying alive is fundamental to a player’s success in MechWarrior: Living Legends. If all you do is run in with an Osiris and die repeatedly, you’ll never be able to afford heavier, more impactful units that can truly sway the tide of battle. 

And I’ll admit that it took me at least three games before I understood this concept. RIP my Osiris

But Is It BattleTech?

Marauder

MechWarrior: Living Legends takes an approach to balancing itself that is similar to MechWarrior Online. Yes, there are Clan and Inner Sphere units, but their respective stats have been tweaked to resemble a fair playing field. And while it seems that the developers have tried to stick with cannon designs as much as possible, there are a lot of differences between classic BattleTech and Living Legends.

For starters, Inner Sphere ‘Mechs have lettered variants for every chassis similar to the Clans, and those variants don’t have a lot in common with their tabletop counterparts. Even some “prime” variants like the Marauder have two AC/5s instead of one and can run at 86 kph instead of 64 kph. Again, this is all in the name of parity between Inner Sphere and Clan factions so that each game is fair and balanced.

There’s no ‘Mechlab and no customization of any kind. You can change your paint job for some appropriate camouflage, but that’s it. Some BattleTech purists might lament the loss of such an iconic part of the BattleTech experience, but you can understand how quickly players will become irate at a teammate that takes 10 minutes to design their perfect custom machine only to lose every control point on the map and cost their team the game. 

A more interesting aspect of Living Legends is the ability to pilot vehicles. You start the game equipped with battle armor (Elementals for the Clans, Longinus for the Inner Sphere), but they’re generally ineffective on their own with only a single-shot SRM-2 and a small laser to work with (although I am told there are some legendary battle armor players that will ruin your day with a man-portable PPC). Tanks such as the Harasser or Goblin can provide additional firepower at a premium price, while Aerospace assets like Corsair or Visigoth can provide extreme mobility and take advantage of an enemy lacking in anti-aircraft weaponry. You can even take a Long Tom to lob artillery at opponents.

Rommel

This move away from ‘Mech-centricity and towards combined-arms combat is MechWarrior: Living Legends‘ greatest strength, although I recommend that only experienced pilots take the wheel of a hovercraft or Aerospace fighter. In the one game I decided to play a Harasser, I flipped my hovertank in the first five minutes of battle and couldn’t get it righted. At least ‘Mechs don’t have to worry about falling on their backs like an upended turtle. 

It also means that games can become truly chaotic. Some maps can have up to 14 players on each side, and with that many people all swapping their gear to gain an advantage on their opponents, you might be dealing with a wave of Aerospace fighters one second and a team of LRM-equipped high-speed harassers the next. Staying alive and capturing resource points should be your primary concern in the early game, and only later in the match should you even consider moving to larger, more formidable units.

After charging in and dying repeatedly for my second game–which relegated me to light ‘Mechs for the entire 30-minute match–I finally decided to change tactics on my third game. I picked an Owens equipped with LRMs and stayed well back from the fight, lobbing missiles at targets of opportunity and retreating whenever the enemy got too close. I managed to survive (and even get a few kills) for long enough that I was able to swap my Owens for a Marauder on my next return for ammo and repairs, and then I was able to truly anchor the line in my team’s next big firefight.

It was a totally new way of playing MechWarrior that I’d never experience before and I’m embarrassed it took me so long to understand the flow of MechWarrior: Living Legends. But then, the folks behind Living Legends started with a totally different mindset for this game than any other MechWarrior game ever made.

Genesis Of Living Legends

Cauldron Born

Living Legends got its start way back in 2006 under a development team called Wandering Samurai Studios (WSS). They initially started working on the game using the Quake engine, but then decided to change course with the arrival of Crysis in 2007. From the beginning, the idea was to make Crysis into a game like Battlefield 2142, using BattleTech as the inspiration for all the sci-fi tanks, space fighters, and giant stompy robots.

Wandering Samurai Studios succeeded spectacularly. The initial beta release of MechWarrior: Living Legends released in December 2009 and received its first patch in January of 2010. It then went on to win 2010’s Mod of the Year from ModDB, the massive modding community site that also hosted MechWarrior: Living Legends. It would also get an honorable mention in 2011’s Mod of the Year awards after the mod achieved a second year of high votes, but wasn’t allowed to win the award two years in a row.

This was the golden age of MechWarrior: Living Legends. There was even talk within the community of packaging up Living Legends and selling it as its own game. 

Warhammer

Then two things happened. The first was MechWarrior Online. This portion of Living Legends legacy is shrouded in some controversy, so I’ll just provide key points. Both Living Legends and MechWarrior Online used the same engine: Crysis. Living Legends had a non-commercial license to use the engine, while MechWarrior Online had every intention of making as much money as humanly possible. PGI felt that Living Legends might split their target audience and exerted some pressure to have Wandering Samurai Studios cease production.

That last bit is where lies the controversy. Neither PGI nor WSS state that there was ever a cease and desist letter sent, but that might not have been necessary. Several WSS members worked at Crytek, the company that made Crysis and the Crytek engine, and having some of your employees trying to make a free game that sucks players from one of your customers is certainly a bad look.

According to Mandalore Gaming, a YouTuber that covered a bit of Living Legends in his review of MechWarrior Online, PGI met WSS at the 2012 Game Developers Conference and politely asked them to cease development of Living Legends. Which they did after the final 0.70 update released on January 16, 2013, simultaneously announcing that they’d move on to other projects. 

The second was the death of Gamespy in 2014. MechWarrior: Living Legends relied on Gamespy’s servers for matchmaking, and without them, nobody could actually play Living Legends. At the time, this seemed to be the final nail in Living Legends’ coffin, and there was widespread belief that this would be the end of this beautiful little game.

Living Legends Lazarus

Kodiak

I may have forgotten to mention something earlier: MechWarrior: Living Legends has a small and highly dedicated community. They wouldn’t let a tiny thing like the departure of the entire development team and the destruction of the fundamental backbone of the MW:LL‘s online matchmaking prevent them from keeping their beloved game alive.

In 2013, the MW:LL community released a universal installer for the game that no longer required Crysis (or Crysis Wars) to run. It still used the same engine, but for all intents and purposes, MechWarrior: Living Legends was its own game.

Throughout 2015, the MW:LL forums are used to assemble, document, and just fucking cludge together workarounds to the total lack of Gamespy servers. This allowed the community to keep playing as a more long-term solution was sought.

That solution happened at the end of 2015 with a brand new launcher that would search for active game servers and provide them to the user. This came after the better part of a year trying to track down the source code and many more months of trying to get it to compile. MechWarrior: Living Legends had officially returned from the dead.

Sunder

Thus began a new era for MechWarrior: Living Legends, one we can consider a sort of community-driven renaissance. WSS gave their blessings to a new development team, with Living Legends co-founder Kamikaze making that announcement in January of 2017. Since then, iterative updates have continued to add content to Living Legends in the form of new maps, units, and a new login service that made MW:LL completely independent of third-party services.

That team continues to work on Living Legends to this day. The most recent major update, 0.12.0, added the Sunder and Kodiak ‘Mechs to the game, along with a slew of balance and bug fixes. The team plans to add the Mars and Behemoth tanks for the next major update as well as adding the C3 Master equipment

Where To Go From Here

For those looking for more info on Living Legends, there are a whole bunch of resources for you. There’s of course Sarna’s page, which will provide a good overview of the game, it’s history, and what units you can expect to find. There’s a far more detailed Living Legends wiki, which not only provides detailed unit specs and gameplay explanations but also provides an excellent primer for those looking to get into the game (with a sub-primer for those transferring over from MechWarrior Online).

Vulture

And of course, there’s a Reddit, forums, Discord, and ModDB page too.

Of all the BattleTech fan projects I’ve played, MechWarrior: Living Legends is easily the most polished. There’s a lot of love in this game, and it’s that love that keeps the game going. Not at all unlike BattleTech itself. 

If you do download the client (which again, is totally free and doesn’t require Crysis to play anymore) I recommend perusing the new player guides first and familiarizing yourself with the controls. Head to an empty server to test things out (“Free Testing Practice” on the 12th VR game server network has one with unlimited credits for new players to test things out) and get yourself situated with some early-game units. Then it’s time to dive into an actual game.

My biggest takeaway with Living Legends is: survive. If you take damage that puts you close to death, retreat and get repaired at a ‘Mech bay. If you run out of ammo, retreat to reload. The longer you live, the more money you make, and the bigger the ‘Mech you’ll be able to purchase.

After that, your old MechWarrior reflexes should be just fine to mix it up. At least, it was for me.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

Community Outreach – Michael At Metal Core Collectibles Talks About 3D Printing And Making Fan Designs

Welcome back to Community Outreach, the series where Sarna reaches out to various members of the BattleTech community to ask them “what’s up?” And what’s up this week is Metal Core Collectibles, both a custom miniature’s small business based in Canada as well as a person! He’s a recent BattleTech convert but a longtime fan of giant stompy robots of all kinds. Plus he makes really awesome miniatures at home.

Sarna sat down with Metal Core Collectibles to see where it came from, where it’s going, and how its fate intertwined with BattleTech in an unexpected way. Enjoy.

Continue reading

Your BattleTech News Roundup For May 2020

Hey, it’s May, and BattleTech is pretty okay! Sorry, that’s the best I could do to complete the rhyme.

Today, we’re going to completely ignore coronavirus just like an anti-lockdown protester and instead focus on all that’s still good in this world. And as we all know, the only things that are good are giant stompy robots.

Welcome to your BattleTech news roundup for the month of May. Let’s get this party started.

PGI Is Hiring For MechWarrior 5 Development

Katapult

We begin our monthly roundup with some big news from MechWarrior 5 developer PGI. They’re hiring! Eight new positions have opened up at PGI, including some pretty senior technical positions like Level Designer, Principal Animator, and Senior Game Designer.

As some of you know, PGI is also the development studio behind MechWarrior Online, but these positions are all calling for Unreal 4 Engine experience, and that means MechWarrior 5. MechWarrior Online runs on Crytek, an engine that’s both much older and much worse than Unreal 4. Think of Crytek as the Java of game engines–inefficient and nobody really uses it anymore.

I kid! Please don’t send me angry emails filled with Java code that will ruin my computer if I ever accidentally click the attached files.

Anyway, the fact that these are very key positions that are looking to be filled sort of implies that PGI might have lost a few people after the launch of MechWarrior 5. There’s no way you can make a game like MW5 without an Animation Lead or a Level Designer, so I’m thinking that those folks peaced-out after the game launched last year.

As we found out last month, PGI is delaying the release of MechWarrior 5‘s first DLC pack, and these empty positions might have something to do with it. That and the sudden shift to working from home and the up-ending of the global economy.

Benefits of working at PGI include flexible schedules, comprehensive benefits, and beer Fridays. Although, with everyone working from home, every day could be beer Friday. I’m having a beer Friday right now!

We Got Two New BattleTech Books!

May is turning out to be the month of BattleTech fiction for 2020. We’ve got two new novellas to tide us over until the release of IlClan, and both of them deal with events leading up to the ascendancy of Clan Wolf (I’m guessing–I don’t actually have any inside leads with Catalyst on plot development).

Shell Games

First, we have Jason Schmetzer with Shell Games. This book has to do with the Republic of the Sphere‘s incursion into Draconis space following the fall of Fortress Republic. Paladin Max Ergen sets out to capture Dieron, a Draconis district capital and home of the Dieron Regulars, but Warlord Kambei Okamoto won’t let the planet fall without one hell of a fight.

Renowned BattleTech author Blaine Lee Pardoe did a review of the story on his site, and said that “Schmetzer does a great job of taking two paragraphs of sourcebook and turning them into a story of characters, strategy, and honorable struggle.”

Speaking of Pardoe, he’s got his own book out now that also deals with Dark Age-era events. This time the focus is on Wolf’s Dragoons, the storied mercenary company that we all thought was done for after Outreach got nuked during the Jihad. They’re actually still around, and they even have a few regiments operating by the time the Fortress Wall fell.

In Divided We Fall, Alaric Wolf tries to convince Wolf’s Dragoons to return to the Clan that spawned them by sending an envoy: Marotta Kerensky. Will the Dragoons once again become Wolves, or will they keep fighting for the freedom of the Inner Sphere against Clan aggression?

Pardoe gave us a teaser earlier this month, treating us to a brand new ‘Mech on the cover of his book. It’s called the Dominator,  apparently the brainchild of Pardoe with a few tweaks by BattleTech art director Brent Evans. Speculating based on its appearance, its armament consists of an SRM-6, a PPC, either a Large or Medium laser in the right shoulder, and a rear-facing Small laser (which Pardoe confirmed in the teaser). Class, weight, and movement profile are unknown, but given the Linebacker right beside it, I’m guessing it’s on the heavier side of Medium-class.

Both Shell Games and Divided We Fall are available now wherever fine e-books are sold. Or you can just follow these links.

Pardoe Also Did A Fun Jihad And Dark Age Summary

Jihad

Not every BattleTech fan has kept up to date with current events. Some of them don’t know their Reaving from their Jihad from their Dark Age. That’s fine; Blaine is here with a fantastic way of getting lapsed BattleTech fans up to date.

Pardoe wrote a hilariously snarky TLDR of all the BattleTech events following the FedCom Civil War, from Jihad all the way to the fall of Fortress Republic.

“Almost all of the major characters, mercenary units, and a few billion passersby are killed in a fate worse than death: killed ala sourcebook footnote,” writes Pardoe, followed up by this gem about Inner Sphere savior Devlin Stone: “Stone wears a ball cap that says, ‘Make the Inner Sphere Great Again!’ – true story!”

You should read the whole thing over on his website, and also direct any BattleTech fan you know to bookmark it for future reference. And even if you already know the full series of events, it’s still well worth a read.

New Night Vision Mod Greatly Enhances Your Ability To See In The Dark In MechWarrior 5

Consider this a little preview for an article I’ve been pondering on just what mods you should get for MechWarrior 5. Mod support is perhaps the best thing about the latest MechWarrior game, and mods vastly improve MechWarrior 5 over the vanilla experience.

For example, night vision. The base game’s night vision is pathetic–you can barely see past your Atlas‘s big toe. With the Clear Night Vision mod on, you can see everything through two different choices of night vision. You can set your ‘Mech’s HUD to produce that typical green glow that society has come to readily associate with night vision since the Gulf War, or you can get a full-colored version that more readily approximates current technologies.

Phil at No Guts No Galaxy recently reviewed the mod, and I gotta say, the difference is night and day. I’ll show myself out…

Check out the mod in the video above, and stay tuned for a list of essential MechWarrior 5 mods.

Part 2 Of Tex Talks BattleTech’s Primer On The Clans Is Out Now

I’ve talked to Tex before about his video series which has only grown in popularity since then (not saying I might’ve had something to do with it or anything; his work stands for itself). His Clans Primer is probably the best work produced by the Black Pants Legion to date, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting Part 2 ever since. It’s only fitting that it was released on May 20, just in time for the anniversary of the Battle of Tukayyid.

It’s hard to give spoilers for a story that you already know the ending to, but if you watch any Tex Talks BattleTech, watch this one. And then go back and watch the rest.

And speaking of Tukayyid…

Metal Core Collectibles Is Hosting An Anniversary Sale

Metal Core Collectibles

I’ve seen this guy post on the BattleTech subreddit a few times and have always been impressed by his work. If you’re not aware, Metal Core Collectibles is a series of not-quite BattleTech figures that are sort of like Mech Merc Commander from last week–BattleTech-inspired without actually having the license. They’re definitely made by a BattleTech fan though, and that shines through in the designs. I mean, there’s even a hex map in the background of most of the site’s images.

As far as I can tell, Metal Core Collectibles’ two designs–the Hammerhead and the Tyrant–are basically fan designs that somehow grew into their very own custom figurines. Both the Tyrant and the Hammerhead come in multiple variants so that you can get one with the weapons you want, and there’s a whole bunch of tanks, APCs, and choppers to buy too.

Personally, I really like the Tyrant. It looks like a Centurion-style medium ‘Mech, and I’ve always appreciated workhorse designs like that. I’m not sure if BattleTech-appropriate specs even exist for it, but it still tickles my love for giant robots.

And since Metal Core is owned by a BattleTech fan, they’re also hosting a sale in honor of both their first anniversary in operation and the Battle of Tukayyid. That’s 25% off anything in-store from now until May 27 using the code “Tukayyid2020”. Go check ‘em out.

That’s it for May! Join me next time as we explore what fresh hell June has in store for us.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

“Mech Merc Company” – A Love Letter To MechWarrior 2, Now On Steam Early Access

The BattleTech community has some very talented people doing some pretty awesome things. There are folks making 3D models of obscure ‘Mech designs, folks making LEGO ‘Mech models, and there are even developers making their own fan video games. We’ve already covered Wolves, the fan-made reboot of the MechAssault franchise, but there’s another game that just recently released to early access on Steam that I’ve had my eye on for a while. 

Due to my undying love of giant robots, a game popped up on my Steam suggestions that I found intriguing for a number of reasons. It’s called Mech Merc Company, and before you write this game off as a mere cheap imitation of MechWarrior, hear me out. There’s a lot of BattleTech love in this game even though it doesn’t actually have the BattleTech license.

Mech Merc Company is the brainchild of Michael “McShooterz” Shoots, a MechWarrior fan that got started with MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat. There’s definitely a lot of MechWarrior 2 in Mech Merc Company, and I got the sense that Mech Merc Company is more of a love letter to classic MechWarrior games than any attempt at copyright infringement.

Not that there’s any of that going on, as far as I can tell. All the ‘Mechs used in Mech Merc Company are freely available on the Unity Asset Store, and none of them bare more than a passing resemblance to anything found in BattleTech. On the other hand, the ‘Mech building system is almost a carbon copy of the standard BattleTech tabletop rules, which might raise a few eyebrows. More on that a bit later.

Besides playing the free demo that’s available on Steam, I had a chance to speak to McShooterz to get the lowdown on just where Mech Merc Company came from. “It must have been either the end of November or beginning of December 2018. I was looking for a new project to work on, so while browsing the Unity Asset store, I stumbled on the work of MSGDI and he had just put out some really good looking ‘Mech models that look just like they would belong in HBS’s BATTLETECH. So I bought the license for them and just started building a Mech sim, and by trying to get at least a bit done every single day I have progressed to what MMC is now.”

And just what is Mech Merc Company? Think of it as a remade MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries. You play as a mercenary commander in charge of your own ‘Mech company. You can purchase pilots, equipment, and machines to grow your company while taking increasingly more dangerous missions that pit you against other fighting vehicles like tanks and enemy ‘Mechs. 

The core gameplay loop is pretty much the same as MW2: Mercs–take a contract, finish the contract, repair, buy stuff, and do it all over again. The menu and contract screens are all heavily inspired by MW2: Mercs, which is of course by design. 

“Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries is by far my favorite of the MechWarrior games, which has informed many aspects of MMC career mode design.”

Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries is by far my favorite of the MechWarrior games,” McShooterz told me, “which has informed many aspects of MMC career mode design.”

For the full career mode, you’ll need to actually purchase Mech Merc Company on Steam. The demo just has instant action mode, which will provide you with the core combat system of Mech Merc Commander and let you make custom ‘Mechs to take out for a spin. It’s a totally free demo, with the game itself available for a discount thanks to its early access status.

For just one guy working in Unity, Mech Merc Company is actually pretty impressive. Sure, the cockpit isn’t exactly immersive in its detail, and the animation of enemy ‘Mechs looks bizarrely rigid, but the weapons have impact, the controls are crisp and responsive, and disabled ‘Mechs collapse into believable heaps of scrap metal. 

There’s an old-school MechWarrior feel here that just isn’t captured in more modern offerings. Some might not have that sense of nostalgia for MechWarrior 2, but I find it rather charming. 

In my conversation with McShooterz, I got a real sense that Mech Merc Company isn’t trying to step on anyone’s toes and is more meant to offer a product that captures some of that nostalgia. That said, with so much of the core mechanics of Mech Merc Company copied from MechWarrior, I had to ask if McShooterz was worried about BattleTech’s litigious history.

“To my knowledge, everything I have used from Mechwarrior/BattleTech is not protected by IP law,” he tells me. “Ideas, mechanics, stats/balance, not-trademarked names, and UI design, to my knowledge, are not protected by copyright.”

As usual, I preface this with “I’m not a lawyer,” but I’ve seen a similar game take a stab at another, far larger license, and get away with it. You might have heard of Temtem, the Pokémon-like PC game from Spanish developer Crema Games and published by Humble Bundle. Temtem lifts liberally from Pokémon’s systems, such as stats and the four-move battle system, but so far Temtem has avoided a Nintendo lawsuit. 

Mech Merc Company seems to ride the same fine line between homage and outright theft. It’s a game that does things differently while trying to still capture that same game’s essence. The folks making Temtem are obvious Pokémon fans making their own game, and Mech Merc Company is no different when it comes to MechWarrior

“It probably will never be a looker, but I think I can make MMC one of the most interesting mech games to play.”

The game is by no means done. What Mech Merc Company has successfully accomplished is really just the bare minimum: there’s core ‘Mech combat, there are a few different randomly-generated maps, there’s a MechBay, and there’s a mission loop that’s really just a slightly more structured version of Instant Action. McShooterz knows that his game isn’t finished, which is why it’s in Steam  Early Access. He’s got a laundry list of planned improvements, including adding new hover tank models, aircraft, bases for defend/capture/destroy missions, and ‘Mech cockpits that have a bit more detail than the placeholders they currently are. And with MMC being a side project that gets worked on a little bit at a time, it might years before the game is ever truly “done.” 

But I think there’s still something to be excited about in Mech Merc Company. No, it doesn’t have any of those glorious machines that many of us have a strong emotional attachment to, and it likely never will. However, it does have the same experience that many of us feel nostalgic for that has never quite been recreated in more modern games.  

On top of that, without being constrained by a BattleTech license, MMC is free to iterate on the old formula as much as it wants. There are a few notable pieces of new equipment and weapons that have absolutely no BattleTech equivalent, such as an Autocannon 15 or Heavy Short Range Missiles, and they feel like they fill voids that some people might never have even realized were even there.

Mech Merc Company

“It probably will never be a looker,” McShooterz concludes, “but I think I can make MMC one of the most interesting mech games to play.”

If you can afford the $10 or so that McShooterz is asking for, I encourage you to give Mech Merc Company a try. And if not, there’s a completely free demo available on Steam that will give you a good idea of what you’re in for. 

Like Wolves, I’ll be keeping my eye on Mech Merc Company to see where the game goes from here. 

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Your BattleTech News Roundup For April 2020

Wow, April has been a drag, right? With most of the world still locked down due to the coronavirus, most of us have been given a bunch of free time to play our favorite BattleTech products. Unfortunately, only the virtual kinds can be played with people who don’t already live with you. You’d think that would leave you with just video games like MechWarrior 5 or BATTLETECH, but don’t forget about the BattleTech Tabletop Simulator if you’ve got a VR headset! It’s always safe to play with big stompy robots in digital space.

And just because there’s a pandemic doesn’t mean the BattleTech news stops. Strap yourselves in for the April news roundup!

DiscreetProteus Has Been Posting Original BattleMech Sketches On Reddit

The original drawing of the Peregrine/Horned Owl from Victor Musical Industries from battletech

So this is a little wild. Reddit user u/DiscreetProteus has been posting original ‘Mech sketches on the BattleTech subreddit, and there are a lot of them. Designs that were originally penned by Ral Partha and Victor Musical Industries are represented here, including the Goshawk/Vapor Eagle, Stone Rhino/Behemoth, and the Wraith. There’s way more, and you should totally just click the username to go through them all. 

What’s fascinating here is how these original sketches morphed into the ‘Mechs we know and love. Some of them are basically unchanged from the original sketch, such as the Horned Owl/Peregrine here, but some of them are wildly different. 

The original drawing and design of the "Cerebus"/Cerberus from battletech

Take the Cerberus sketch here. It was originally going to be called the “Cerebus,” which as far as I can tell is either a reference to a Canadian cartoon aardvark or an unfortunate typo. It was also 10 tons lighter, had ER Large Lasers instead of Gauss Rifles in the arms, and a torso-mounted missile system. 

They also all have a very distinct feel to them–especially the Victor Music Industries ‘Mechs which all seem to be heavily inspired by anime. That’s apparently due to VMI being based in Japan and being staffed by veteran designers that worked in the animation industry. I mean, the Incubus/Vixen looks basically the same as a Gundam, and it wouldn’t be the first time that FASA and a Japanese animation studio created some accidental crossover work

According to u/DiscreetProteus, these old drawings just came up during a bit of spring cleaning and they were kind enough to post them on social media for us nerds to gawk at. Hopefully, a few of these get archived for safe-keeping.

Reddit User u/juodasvarnas Posted Some Amazing 3D Renderings

Brigand 3D model from battletech

Some of us are taking the COVID-19 lockdown better than others. Reddit user u/juodasvarnas has decided to use his downtime to take up 3D-modeling and recreated some of BattleTech‘s more obscure designs. I mean, who’s ever seen fan art of a Thorn? Or a Brigand? I love it. 

I was able to get in touch with juodasvarnas to get the lowdown. “It’s just something i’ve always wanted to try, as I don’t really have much experience in modeling,” he told me in an email interview, “but you won’t ever get any experience if you never try!”

For modeling, he uses SketchUp, a relatively easy program to get into that’s good for clean, straight lines. SketchUp was originally intended for architecture, according to juodasvarnas, but it seems to do a fine job at making giant robots.

Yeoman 3D model from battletech

So why these obscure designs? “Bit of a spur of a moment kind of thing, whatever pops into my mind,” explains juodasvarnas. “Sometimes it’s a ‘Mech which I really like how they look, like the previously mentioned Brigand, or the Heliopolis and Goliath. Other times, it’s a ‘Mech I like conceptually, but find the art for it to be… Awkward to put it lightly?”

The Yeoman stays fairly true to the original, but the Thorn and Brigand are almost total redesigns worthy of MechWarrior 5. U/juodasvarnas doesn’t know what ‘Mech they’ll do next (although he’s leaning towards the Argus), but if you want to use the models for personal use, you can find them on the Battletech Art Society Discord Channel.

Did You Know That There’s A Community-Run Game Of BATTLETECH On Twitch?

This just recently grabbed my attention over on Twitch and I thought it was a pretty neat idea. Someone is playing a campaign in Hairbrained’s BATTLETECH where the company is being played co-op style. Viewers build and manage their own ‘Mechs in a persistent world while roleplaying in the chat. 

The campaign is using Roguetech, the wildly popular mod for BATTLETECH that adds roguelike elements, and is a bit of a work in progress. It’s not quite as chaotic as Twitch Plays; there are a few basic commands that anyone can type in the chat (such as joining the game with !join), but each turn of combat is played by handing over the mouse controls to their respective player. 

After typing !join in the chat, you’ll be given a  random starter ‘Mech and the game master will create the pilot (which you can request to look like whatever you want). You then get into your first contract but be patient since the more players there are, the longer it will take for your character to go on a mission. 

It’s super neat and a great way to spend some time with other BattleTech fans. You can check it out here

MechCommander Gets Updated For Modern Hardware In MechCommander Gold: Darkest Hours Version 4.2

Darkest Hours

MechCommander originally came out in 1998 as the first real-time strategy game set in the BattleTech universe. Although it took some liberties with the BattleTech canon (why the hell was the JagerMech suddenly 70 tons?) it was still a great game that took the franchise in a fresh and new direction. 

It’s also been a genre that BattleTech has never returned to. BATTLETECH brings the series to its turn-based roots, but real-time strategy enthusiasts are out of luck.

But not anymore. RizZen has updated MechCommander Gold: Darkest Hours for modern hardware in version 4.2. Now, anyone can relive the glory days of MechCommander thanks to a completely free download.

Oh right, I forgot to mention: the whole game is free. It’s been freeware since 2006. And since the game is a bajillion years old, it’ll basically run on a potato. Just mount the .ISO file and click on the resolution version of the game you want to install. That’s it. 

Not only does this version contain both the original and Desperate Measures expansion campaign, but it also includes an enormous collection of fan-made custom levels and campaigns.

According to RizZen, this is the most bug-free and complete edition of MechCommander ever made, so you might as well download it to save for a rainy day. Lord knows we got a lot of those lately.

Want To Make A Lego Uziel? This Guy Made Instructions

Credits to Kevin Hansen for not only making this incredible Lego Uziel, but also posting the instructions so that anyone can buy the parts and make it at home. Now, you too can make your own Lego ‘Mech because we finally have some step-by-step instructions to guide us!

Kevin’s also got a Lego Ryoken/Storm Crow on his personal page with similar instructions and a component list. If you don’t have the parts, order them directly from Lego here.

BATTLETECH Advanced 3062 Has Released The Clan Invasion

BattleTech Advanced 3062

You’ve probably played through BATTLETECH a few times by now and are looking for something new. You could try RogueTech, but if you hate roguelikes like me, then maybe give BATTLETECH Advanced 3062 a try.

BATTLETECH Advanced 3062 is a full overhaul of BATTLETECH that brings the technological level of the Inner Sphere to just before the FedCom Civil War. It adds more than 500 new ‘Mechs, dozens of weapons, and changes many of the game’s core mechanics like the turn-based combat and ‘Mechbay customization.

And now you can use Clan tech thanks to the Clan Invasion. Sweet, right? Head on over to Nexus Mods to download this mod and start your thirteenth playthrough right now.

PGI Has Revealed More Details On MechWarrior 5’s DLC

MW5

Although originally targeting April to release MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries‘ first DLC, that all got up-ended thanks to COVID-19. But we do have some new details on what to expect for the first DLC pack thanks to a recent update from PGI.

Called Heroes of the Inner Sphere, the DLC will add a new career mode that will have you start from scratch with any of the Great Houses or you can import your progress from the original campaign. The DLC will also add a new quirking system that MechWarrior Online fans will be familiar with, as well as blueprints to get those quirks installed.

There will be seven new ‘Mechs, including the Corsair, Vulcan, Charger, Hatamoto-Chi, Dervish, Champion, and Marauder II. Expect 50 new variants for existing ‘Mechs as well as a bunch of new equipment and weapons (such as ECM and Chem Lasers).

We still don’t have a precise release date, but that should be coming as we approach summer.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy