Yes, I know the big news is that MechWarrior 5 is out, but that doesn’t mean I’ve completely lost sight of everything. I mentioned in my earlier piece that MechWarrior 5 might be light on story, but you know what’s not light on story? An actual story that was written as a prelude to MechWarrior 5.
Also, it’s free to everyone and not just MechWarrior 5 owners.
It’s called the MechWarrior 5 Origin Series, and you can find it on the MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries website in 8 installments. Written by Randall N. Bills (whom you might know from his six previous BattleTech novels and as the guy involved in BattleTech development for over 20 years), the eight-part novella tells the story of Nikolai Mason and how he came to create Nik’s Cavaliers, the mercenary company you take over in MechWarrior 5.
Any amount of BattleTech fiction is, of course, a welcome addition, but a free novella? Free is the best price of all.
You can head on over to the MW5 website to download the novella’s 8 parts in either mobi or epub formats. Or you can get it from various online retailers for exactly $0.00. I think it’s pretty spectacular that someone managed to convince Indigo to host a novel for exactly zero pay.
The Origin Series also goes a long way to fixing one of the larger omissions from MechWarrior 5. I know that the game is geared towards getting action fans into a ‘Mech simulator game, but BattleTech fans still prefer to have a bit of backstory. Motivation is key, and with the game set during the “in-between” eras means that there are no galaxy-spanning conflicts to insert ourselves into.
If you use a Kindle (like I do), use the DriveThruFiction download link. That’ll get you set up. For everyone else, you can download your own e-reader to your phone, use the online store of preference, or just murder a tree by printing the whole thing out on paper. I personally prefer the less herbicidal approach, but you do you.
MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries has arrived! I’ve actually been playing it for a week now and I have some thoughts. It’s a solid return to classic MechWarrior gameplay and one that I think most of us here at Sarna will be happy with. I haven’t finished the campaign as I’m in no rush to run through all the story missions, but I’ve certainly played enough to get a general impression of the game.
Before I begin, I have a confession to make. I was honestly not all that excited about MechWarrior 5 when it was announced some time ago. MechWarrior Online had left a very bad taste in my mouth after years of being a loyal fan. There were many reasons why I came to hate MechWarrior Online, but I’ll boil it down to the fact that it was just a bad deal. It asked for way more of my time and money than it gave back in terms of enjoyment, and no amount of me being a BattleTech fan was enough to even the scales.
I quit MechWarrior Online about 2 years ago and haven’t looked back–even after PGI started practically giving away ‘Mechs in sales. So when I heard they were making MechWarrior 5, I had pretty low expectations. When I went to Mech_Con 2018 and got to play a very early pre-alpha build, I still wasn’t very excited.
Flash forward to December of 2019 and I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised.
It’s not bad. In fact, MechWarrior 5 is actually pretty good. I haven’t experienced any of the technical glitches that always marred my MechWarrior Online experience, and the overall gameplay is a delightful return to simple, solitary, giant stompy robot action.
A Return To Form
For those of you who haven’t played a MechWarrior game since MechWarrior 4, this game is exactly what you’ve wanted for 15 years. Perhaps moreso; MechWarrior 5 improves on the Mercenaries model that began in MechWarrior 2: Mercs with procedurally generated maps and enemies, available co-op play, and a whole freakin’ Inner Sphere to explore. That’s right–it’s all there. Every major House and most of its planets, just a JumpShip hop away. That’s pretty incredible all on its own.
The core gameplay of performing missions in ‘Mechs is pretty much the same as you remember from MechWarrior 4, only everything is improved. Graphics quality is good, although hardly on the bleeding edge of possibility with modern hardware. I don’t begrudge PGI this–they’re still an indie studio with a small team, and with that attitude in mind, what they accomplished in MW5 is even more noteworthy.
What you’ll really find to be vastly improved over previous games are the destruction effects. For the first time, you can take your 50-ton Centurion and walk that fucker straight through a building. It’s just how you always imagined it after reading all those novels.
Building On Success
If you’ve played (or are still playing) Hairbrained’s BATTLETECH, you’ll find MechWarrior 5’s ‘MechLab has a lot in common. It’s the same general layout that bears resemblance to the classic paper schematics, but with fixed hardpoints. It also has a different view mode that drastically simplifies customization by just showing the weapons systems. That’s a great option for new or younger players that might not have the BattleTech background and just want to tip their toes into ‘Mech customization without feeling too overwhelmed.
You can’t mess with the engine, but I think that just improves the authenticity of the overall experience. It means that you can’t turn a Pantherinto a Jennerand vice versa. It means that each design will always feel unique and there will always be a reason to want a Shadow Hawk over a Centurionif you value speed. Also, overhauling a ‘Mech’s engine was always supposed to be an incredibly complicated (and costly) procedure that put it out of reach of your average merc company.
Much like in BATTLETECH, MechWarrior 5 uses a similar tiered equipment system with four pips being the best and zero pips being the worst. This is also represented in the weapon’s stats, which you’ll be able to view in both the ‘MechLab and the open market. You’ll find the usual assortment of weapons from the year 3015, but you’ll also occasionally see some Lostech stuff like ER PPCs, Pulse Lasers, and Gauss Rifles.
I’m of a mixed opinion here. On the one hand, that ER PPC was EXTREMELY expensive–prohibitively so at the point in the game where I saw it on the market, so this does a good job of making it clear this stuff is supposed to be extremely rare. On the other hand, the lore makes Lostech out to be something of legend and myth at this point in BattleTech’s history and not something you just see on the open market with a huge sticker price.
Overall, I think MechWarrior 5 walks a fine line between appealing to BattleTech lore buffs and appealing to MechWarrior fans that might not care too much about why their Marauder has a pair of ER PPC’s long before the Clan Invasion.
One thing I really like is the new variants of Autocannons and LRMs. You can get burst-fire or single-shot Autocannons, depending on whether you want to feel like you’re firing a machine gun or a tank cannon. You can also get regular LRMs or stream-fire LRMs, depending on whether you want all your missiles to come out at once or to be sent out a bit staggered. There are advantages and disadvantages to both and it allows a little bit more customization than MechWarrior games have otherwise allowed. It’s a nice touch.
That’s Great, But What About The ‘Mechs?
My early-release version of MechWarrior has a fairly limited number of ‘Mechs to purchase in the early part of the campaign, but I’ve been told that will change by the time MechWarrior 5 releases. From what I’ve seen, the ‘Mechs you fight are generally appropriate to whoever it is you’re fighting: Davion units will send in Javelinsand the occasional Commando, while Kurita units send in Panthers and Jenners. Mercs will have Locustsand UrbanMechs, and everyone gets a ton of J. Edgar hovertanks and SRM Carriers.
And while we’re on the topic of units, here’s the full list of ‘Mechs in MechWarrior 5. Because I know that’s all anyone really wanted to know anyhow. Note that there are multiple variants for each ‘Mech, so consider this list expanded to be roughly three times as large when you include all the lesser-known models.
A few notable designs: the Nightstar was supposed to be extremely rare even during the old Star League era, so finding it on a list of ‘Mechs in 3015 is a surprise. Ditto the Raven, which didn’t even exist until 3024, as well as the Wolfhound, which didn’t exist until 3028. I suspect players won’t see these designs much during the campaign. I certainly haven’t.
Everything else looks pretty standard fare, but with the extremely welcome addition of Unseen designs. Welcome back, you beautiful bastards.
Light On Story, Unless You Look For It
In terms of plot, the game itself tells a relatively simple story: mysterious bandits kill your dad, you take over his mercenary company to build it into a fighting force that can track down those bandits and exact revenge. If you want more than that, Randall N. Bills has written up a prelude novella that really fleshes out the characters and their motivations. For those of you that look for that sort of thing in your single-player games, I highly recommend reading them. Otherwise you’ll find the characters in the game act a little… stiff. And I don’t say that just because they don’t really move during the first-person ‘MechBay scenes.
Okay, that’s not true. I say that because the folks living in your Leopard-class dropship literally don’t move the entire time you play the game. It’s a small thing, but my gosh, it would go a long way to making those first-person dropship scenes feel a little more like you’re in a real space ship and not just some room with a bunch of robot-shaped statues and a few marionettes.
But that’s my biggest complaint, honestly. MechWarrior 5 is an action game meant to appeal to action game fans–it’s not going to bog a player down with complicated plots or characters with a lot of expository dialog.
I haven’t encountered any in-universe events in the game so far, but I think that was by design. They chose the year 3015 so that there’d be plenty of time between when the game starts and the next big event, which would be the Fourth Succession War of 3028.
But Overall, The Best MechWarrior Game Yet
I’ve mentioned BATTLETECH a few times and I think it’s important to address the fact that I don’t think there’s much point in comparing it to MechWarrior 5. They’re both completely different games that are providing a completely different experience. BATTLETECH is more narratively driven with character development and lore, whereas MechWarrior 5 is a more visceral action experience. I would even go so far as to describe the player character as a “dude-bro” just based on his in-game dialog.
BATTLETECH has also been out for over a year with several DLC expansions under its belt, and while MechWarrior 5 is definitely a complete game, it’s still not fair to compare technical aspects of these games either. MechWarrior 5 will almost certainly improve after its release in the same way that BATTLETECH did, and although I haven’t heard much discussion surrounding DLC, I wouldn’t be surprised to see something announced in 2020.
MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries is the surprising sequel to MechWarrior Online that surprises not just for being a quality game, but also for recapturing the single-player MechWarrior experience. It doesn’t get everything perfect and I’m sure there will be loads of complaints from other players over time, but I can safely provide my seal of approval. If you were a fan of MechWarrior 4 and wish someone would make a new one, then MechWarrior 5 is exactly that.
Actually, it’s not just that. MechWarrior 5 also has all the improvements in gameplay that have accumulated over the past 15 years, so it’s actually better. I haven’t even done the co-op campaign yet, which I’m really looking forward to.
I know some of you are still kinda upset about the whole Epic exclusive thing. If that’s the case, then you can wait for it to release on Steam in 12 months. By then, whatever bugs were present (and my experience thus far has been bug-free) will have been ironed out and there might even be some additional content. But if you don’t mind another launcher, then you can pick up MechWarrior 5 now for $49.99.
UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that the fleshy bit hanging from a turkey is called a “wattle,” not a “waddle,” thus identifying a clear lack of poultry knowledge on my part. This has been corrected. The original story follows.
It’s Thanksgiving. In America, anyway. In Canada, we celebrated Thanksgiving several weeks ago due to our short harvest season and our reservation for the month of November to be one-half solemn remembrance for our fallen soldiers, and then one-half insane consumerism in the lead-up to Christmas.
However, Canada celebrating early means that I am reminded of American Thanksgiving with plenty of time to prepare an article on the subject.
How can Thanksgiving possibly relate to BattleTech, you ask? Simple: some of these ‘Mechs look a helluva lot like turkeys.
As is often the case, I found myself browsing the vast databanks of Sarna’s stored ‘Mech designs thinking, “Man, some of these giant death machines look a lot like a bird I’d like to eat.” So then I figured I should point out some of my favorites and turn it into a fun way to celebrate Thanksgiving in a very BattleTech way.
So without further ado, these are the ‘Mechs I think resemble turkeys the most.
Right away, I centered in on the Huron Warrior. Yes, that frilly bit around the ‘Mechs head is most certainly designed after the ceremonial headdresses of Native Americans, but I hasten to point out that some of the feathers on those headdresses were from wild turkeys. Thus, the similarity between the Huron Warrior and a turkey’s tail feathers shouldn’t be too much of a shock.
I have a friend who I used to play MechWarrior Online with. He always called his Stalker the “Murder Turkey” for the way it single-handedly dismantled opponents. I think it also had to do with the way the ‘Mech moved, which was sort of like a man drunk on wine and tryptophan, the sleep-inducing chemical that is found in roast turkey. Regardless, the squat and ugly Stalker is very much a turkey in ‘Mech form.
I mean, how could we not discuss the Mad Cat (or Timberwolf, if you’re a Clanner)? It’s got the backward-canted legs, the bulbous body, and the missile racks sort of do a good stand-in for the big frilly tail of a turkey. Replace those racks with a bunch of lasers as on the Alt. Config A and it sort of has the roundedness of a turkey too.
This might be a little on the nose given the name, but what the hell. It’s a giant turkey of a ‘Mech if there ever was one. Perhaps more so than any other design on this list. It’s just huge, and menacing, and rounded, and weird in all the same ways as a real turkey. Just about the only thing separating the two is the Turkina’s lack of a wattlle.
Sticking with Jade Falcon bird ‘Mechs, we arrive at the Black Lanner. This design is a little more predatory than a turkey really could ever be, but overall the similarities are there. Especially if we ignore the farm-raised turkeys and stick with wild turkeys, which are far sleeker.
Why not the regular Marauder? Because the Marauder II is thicc in all the same ways as a turkey. Plus it has a giant autocannon sticking out of its head in much the same way a turkey has a wattlle. Only it’s on the top instead of the bottom. Then there’s the legs, the body, and the capability for short bursts of flight. It’s a turkey, no question.
I’ve never really seen great pictures of the Maelstrom, but from what I’ve seen in the classic BattleTech art, it looks an awful lot like a turkey. Plus it spits charged particles and concentrated light beams while possessing enough double heat sinks to keep it cool, just like a real turkey.
Another Davion chassis designed to take on the Clans, the Falconer possesses the same bird-like qualities as the very ‘Mechs it was tasked with defeating. This also makes it look a bit like a turkey. You can see the rounded nature of the torso and the long, slender legs, although they’re not quite the same as the bird-like limbs of other designs on this list. Still, it’s got that turkey air to it, so the Falconer is on the list.
Arguably more turkey-like than an actual Mad Cat, the Mad Cat look-alike has all the same qualities of turkey-ness as the real deal. Perhaps more due to the somewhat smaller missile racks being more easily confused with a turkey’s tail feathers. Especially if you’ve had a few too many to drink after consuming an unhealthy amount of turkey and stuffing.
Did I miss one? Is there another turkey-’Mech that rightfully deserves to be on this list? Drop a comment and let me know of my horrible mistake.
So in my earlier article, I mentioned that I got to speak to Robert Charrette thanks to Michael Todd, a BattleTech fan and historian who’s got his hands in a lot of personal projects (some of which we’ve even covered). Michael gave me what I felt to be a rather touching story of how he and Robert met, and I thought it was worth sharing in order to prove just how small of a BattleTech world we all live in. I’ll let Michael take it from here.
If you’re new to BattleTech, you might not know much about Robert N. Charrette. I hesitate to call him one of the founding fathers of BattleTech as that makes it seem like there’s some sort of sacred text out there, but maybe “formative” father would do just as well. Robert penned some of the earliest BattleTech fiction, including Wolves on the Border, Wolf Pack, and Heir to the Dragon, and he was perhaps the third BattleTech author I’d ever read. All those stories introduced iconic characters that would define an era in BattleTech history.
But turns out that fiction isn’t even half Charrette’s contribution to BattleTech.
During his endeavor to get to the heart of the Unseen era of FASA history, Michael met Robert and struck up a friendship. Then when Robert needed to downsize his enormous BattleTech collection, Michael reached out to me to get the word out.
That’s when I found out that Robert is the guy who made the vast majority of the original sculpts for the BattleTech (or Battledroids, as it was called back then) tabletop game. Those ancient metal minis? Robert’s the guy who made them.
Robert’s collection has gotten to the point where it needs to shrink a bit, so he’s looking to off-load some of his more interesting artifacts. I was able to briefly chat about what’s being called the “Charrette Collection” and what Robert’s contribution to BattleTech in general. Enjoy.
via Robert N Charette
Sarna (Sean):Well, first of all, what’s this I hear about you off-loading all your BattleTech stuff? Are you abandoning BattleTech and all of its big-stompy-robot glory?
Robert N. Charrette: Not all, just most. My personal gaming interests have drifted away and I haven’t played with them in years, but BattleTech will always hold a special place in my heart.
Sarna: You’ve been a huge part of the BattleTech universe for decades. I personally have read all of your stories, but I’ve only just recently discovered that you’re the one responsible for most of BattleTech’s first-edition metal miniatures. What’s the story there?
“BattleTech will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Robert: I believe Michael Todd covered that story in his history of BattleTech. In short, Ral Partha pitched doing miniatures to FASA when BattleDroids was released. There was some reluctance to have Ral Partha do them since they were not a specialized producer of mechanical miniatures, so a “proof of capability” model was to be produced and I got the assignment, being the most enthusiastic sculptor regarding – I believe the term of art is – big stompy robots.
Sarna: How does one get the job of creating miniatures for a nascent tabletop game?
Robert: Being in the right place at the right time and having the ability to do the work.
Sarna: Are there any particular favorites from that first set of minis you produced?
Robert: The BattleDroids? Has to be the Wasp/Stinger/Phoenix Hawk family as they all were derived from the “proof of concept” model.
Sarna: But back to the “Charrette Collection,” as it’s being called. What exactly are you offering?
via Robert N.Charette
Robert: Michael has kindly offered to help with the “downsizing” of my gaming collection. Naturally, with his interest in BT, we started there. The first offerings are a mix of items from my gaming collection, which I painted and based myself, and other, now vintage, BattleTech items that I had a hand in or managed to collect in those early days. I’m still looking for that box of BattleTech sourcebooks and such.
Sarna:How can people get in touch to put in a bid or offer for these items?
Sarna: What are you up to these days? Anything else you’d like to share?
Robert: Mostly non-gaming things.
For about 15 years I have been heavily focused on studying Armizare, a resurrected medieval martial art written down in the early 15th century by Fiore Dei Liberi. I wrote a book on the pedagogy of the manuscript I study, give presentations on it to academics and taught classes on it at seminars across the country and in Canada, and have been slowly, laboriously progressing on a series of books relating to the understanding and practical practice of Armizare, in and out of armor.
I am also back at the modern version of what I started out doing before I took up sculpting: graphic layout work. Computers make it both easier and harder than the exacto knives and rubber cement I started with.
via Robert N. Charrette
You can check out The Charrette Collection over on his site here. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to own a piece of BattleTech history, and the miniatures are all beautifully painted too. I totally recommend you check it out.
BattleTech’s Heavy Metal expansion arrives on November 21st, and it is bringing 470 metric tons of new weapons and ‘Mechs.
We got a lot of exciting ground to cover here, so we’re just going to dive right in. The new trailer for BattleTech’s upcoming Heavy Metal expansion just dropped and brought with it the juiciest of new info, starting with a brand new, never-before-seen BattleMech, the Bull Shark.
From the trailer, the Bull Shark is a 95-ton assault ‘Mech armed with a Thumper artillery cannon. That’s all we got. Judging by this beast’s appearance, it seems armed with autocannons above machine guns in the arms, as well as a quartet of lasers mounted across its two burly shoulders.
I’m just speculating here, but judging by the name, we could be looking at a design from the old Rim Worlds Republic. History students will remember that as the home nation of Stefan Amaris, better known as Amaris the Usurper. So that’s pretty cool.
As with MechWarrior Online, this new design’s canonicity is going to be a matter for debate for some time. I dunno how much Catalyst was involved in the Bull Shark’s making or if it will eventually get their seal of approval.
The remaining seven designs will be something we’re all familiar with. Starting from the small, Heavy Metal brings us the Flea, Assassin, Vulcan, Phoenix Hawk, Rifleman, Archer, and Annihilator. All of these appear to be models taken from MechWarrior Online, with many being classic designs that are fan favorites.
Some of you might be wondering about the Warhammer and Marauder, two classic heavy ‘Mechs that were long rumored to be coming in Heavy Metal. They are not part of the expansion. Instead, they’ll be given to everyone FOR FREE as part of the 1.8 update, no Heavy Metal required.
New ‘Mechs leads us to new weapons. As shown briefly in the trailer just before we’re showcased the Bull Shark, a screen tells us each of the new weapons systems that will be added in Heavy Metal. A lot of these technologies normally wouldn’t be seen in the Inner Sphere until well after that Clan Invasion, so we’re playing a bit loose with the timeline here. One wonders just how Harebrained is going to explain their presence in the pre-Fourth Succession War era.
A new ‘Mech-sized mortar will almost certainly be the Thumper Artillery System. Although normally mounted on vehicles, ‘Mech-mounted Thumpers weren’t entirely unheard of.
Finally, COIL Lasers are described by Polygon as having a “charge-up” function. The more you move before firing, the more damage they deal. Their exact function is unknown at this time as they don’t seem to have any classic BattleTech analog.
These weapon additions are really throwing the timeline for a loop and I do not know how to feel about them. One thing I will definitely appreciate is the new Flashpoint mini-campaign that will be added with Heavy Metal. It will feature Wolf’s Dragoons, Natasha Kerensky, The Bounty Hunter, and a mysterious derelict spacecraft. We can likely assume there’s going to be some of this amazing tech on that spaceship, so maybe that will be out explanation.
I also see mentioned on the Paradox forums post that there will be official mod support added for the first time, so everyone playing with RogueTech installed is going to be super excited about that. I can’t find a better source for that though, so this might just be wishful thinking.
Heavy Metal arrives on November 21st for $19.99, or nothing if you already purchased the Season Pass. And remember: you get the Marauder and Warhammer for free even if you don’t buy Heavy Metal, but you should totally buy Heavy Metal. It looks like it’ll be the best expansion for BattleTech yet.
First, a big thanks to Reddit user a_false_vacuum who posted over on r/OutreachHPG that this thing exists. Kudos to you! For the rest of us, gaze in wonder at what is probably the easiest way to play older MechWarrior games.
Well, sort of. We’ll get to the big caveats in a sec. First, how does this whole thing work? Basically, the Internet Archive has an image of the CDs and an applet that runs a DOS emulator through your browser. You download the emulator and the CD, which means a 740 MB download. That might take a few minutes, depending on your internet speed.
After that, the whole freakin’ think loads in your PC’s RAM and runs from there. This has a few problems, most notably that you can’t save your game; as soon as the browser closes, everything gets wiped and you have to re-download the game all over again. You CAN save your game in a far less meaningful way by simply returning to the title screen, but once you close the window it’s game over for good.
Another problem is that since everything is done through the browser it’s a bit of a resource hog. And by hog I mean a voracious CPU-eating apocalypse. The menus and intro videos play just fine, but when you actually get into a ‘Mech the whole thing slows to a crawl.
I got about 1 frame every 2 seconds on my laptop. Things didn’t improve much when I moved to my desktop, and my desktop PC is a fairly beefy machine running most games on high graphical settings. But then again, I was using Google Chrome. Perhaps a slimmer, more streamlined browser will actually be able to get this game to run a bit better.
It’s a real shame too since I’d love to have an easier way to play some of these older games. Browser-based ‘Mech-bashing just sounds super cool and perfect for the 21st century. If someone could get this to work and tell me how you did it, I’d be awfully grateful.
I’m told thanks to the Reddit comments that the MechWarrior 2 version of the game actually allows you to download the ROM, so in theory, you can just download your own DOS emulator to play it that way instead. That’s one step more than being a browser-based game and is thus inferior, but would likely provide a far superior gameplay experience in being able to actually save your progress.
For those unfamiliar with MechWarrior 2, I did a pretty big write-up on it a little while ago. We’ll get to MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries in due time.
A few weeks ago, Nic managed to catch up to prolific BattleTech writer Philip A. Lee at GenCon 2019, who graciously agreed to an interview. I’ve read a few of Philip’s stories, so it was my absolute pleasure to pick his brain on how he got into BattleTech, how he started writing BattleTech, and how he managed to kill a Jenner in the most hilarious way possible. Well, he didn’t really kill the Jenner, but it was still hilarious and you should read about it.
On top of that, we also get a grade A. Lee-preview of the next story we can expect from the prolific author. So once again, sit back, relax, and enjoy another story from the many corners of BattleTech.
Welcome to another edition of Community Outreach! It’s been a while since the last time we’ve taken a look at the wider world of BattleTech, one that is still as vibrant and alive as ever. This time I am honored to introduce a big personality and iconic voice in the world of BattleTech YouTube videos: “Tex” from Tex Talks BattleTech!
As usual, we’re going to get into Tex’s head to really find out what makes him tick, how he got into BattleTech, and why the Steiner Scout Lance is best filled with a quad-pack of Awesomes.
So sit back, relax, and imagine this interview happening between two ferns while a disturbingly close firefight between an UrbanMech and Commando takes place in the background. Enjoy.
Sarna (Sean): Who are you? Briefly introduce yourself.
Tex: Howdy, I’m Tex of the Black Pants Legion. I am a delusions-of-adequacy YouTube channel with a peculiar array of very odd things. I’m a huge lore nerd for BattleTech and sci-fi in general. I truly feel as though I’m really not altogether very remarkable. Over the years I’ve held a lot of jobs and had a lot of very strange adventures. At current, I feel honored to have the opportunity to be featured in your most magnificent periodical. I fucking love Sarna. You guys are great.
Sarna: Aww, thanks! So what exactly IS The Black Pants Legion? That is, how would you describe it to someone who doesn’t know much about it?
Tex, pictured here as his alter ego, ‘Randolph P. Checkers’
Tex: From the outside in, people would probably see us as a cult or a very strange think-tank. In recent years I’d like to say we’re a ship of strays adrift on the ocean of our times. I’m the man on the tiller. The Black Pants Legion started as an experiment; I needed an outlet – to just create for the sake of creation. I’d then gone through some fairly challenging and traumatic life events and I just needed to do something to be creative, and goofy, and have fun. Years later I’m getting interviewed by Sarna – again, something I can hardly believe. Through the years, I’ve met some phenomenal people in the Legion, and I’ve been lucky enough to use it to do some good in the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to make a major positive impact in other people’s lives and I treasure that opportunity. It’s tremendously humbling as an experience.
As for what it is? Hell, I couldn’t tell you. But I can tell you its fun, and sometimes that’s all something needs to be.
Sarna: Now, who is “Tex”? Is that a persona you put on or just a nom de plume? How would you describe it?
Tex: I achieved the appellation indirectly by nature of once-upon-a-time having a rather heavy Texas accent. Though I’ve since divorced myself of the southern drawl, the nickname has stuck despite my best efforts. In reference to is it a persona? I certainly hope not. That’s something I’ve consciously fought against my entire time in doing things online. I find our culture somewhat worships the idealized version of a character – what is sold to them. I loathe that.
Do I wind myself up or jump into some things with more energy? Sure. I think I do that because it’s my creative outlet and I’ll down an assload of coffee before preparing to do whatever awful madness I can come up with. It’s a lot like putting on a suit and tie for work, you do your best but ultimately you’re still you.
I’d hope to never willingly put on a persona; I can’t stand the notion of putting on a fake face for the sake of popularity or commercial gain at the expense of a fanbase. It very much runs against the grain of my character. People online call me Tex, but so do my friends. I’m the same person throughout. Though, perhaps I may venture that in “meatspace” I’m a great deal more shy or reserved. It’s one of my autistic tics I believe. Being able to see your audience makes things different for me, sadly. Randolph P. Checkers though… That’s a different person altogether.
Sarna: What made you want to start the Tex Talks BattleTech video series?
I had a long-standing desire to dive into the lore because I firmly believe BattleTech is a wonderful community, a wonderful setting, and supported by the best fans in the goddamn world.
Tex: I had gotten into an argument – as nerds do – over the internet. Specifically, we were furiously shitposting about good and bad tabletop settings. My counterpart was making the assertion that Warhammer 40K was the grandest space-opera ever written and my blood boiled. This aggression could not stand. My response I believe verbatim was, “You’re wrong, Fucko.” He, being my friend and a classic contrarian said, “Okay, prove it.”
And here we are. He admitted to being moved by the last stand of the Black Watch, or in his words, “Manly tears were shed.” I believe I won that bet. And yet I can’t stop making them…
Sarna: When did you start Tex Talks BattleTech?
Tex: “Start” is hard to pin down. I think I had a long-standing desire to dive into the lore because I firmly believe BattleTech is a wonderful community, a wonderful setting, and supported by the best fans in the goddamn world. However, given the above-mentioned impetus, we started June the 5th, 2018. One day short of our channel’s 7th anniversary
Sarna: Now let’s go back. Waaaaaayyyy back. When did you get into BattleTech?
Tex: As a young lad with limited social skills in the vast desert of the modern social world, the outcome was predictable: I was a game store geek. Initially I wanted to get into 40K because, by God, it seemed glorious to me. The local game store had one of those enormous true to scale Astartes standing in the lobby with his bolter. It struck me with total awe. However, 40K required enormous sums of money and time for a handful of badly struck miniatures. When I was introduced to the BattleTech people, a kind neckbeard loaned me miniatures and taught me to play, encouraging me throughout. He even helped me select my first minis and helped me find out what I’d do best with. It was more inclusive and kind than anything else I’d ever experienced up to that point.
I was, oh, perhaps 12 years old. That’d have made it late summer of 1996. The summer before I’d had a lot of fun with the masterpiece that was MechWarrior 2 but I really had no notion of the setting’s depth beyond stompy robots and “SYSTEMS ONLINE” giving me a wonderful feeling. It still does.
Sarna: What’s your Favourite ‘Mech? An all-important question. :)
Tex: The AWS-8Q. The best 80 tons money can buy of Inner Sphere steel. Did I mention I like to run Steiner-esque scout operations? A lance of Awesomes will beat the brakes off anything you throw at it. Unless it doesn’t. But hey, dice are bastards.
Sarna: What parts of BattleTech do you play? Perhaps a better question, what HAVEN’T you played?
Sarna: How has “Tex” collaborated with official BattleTech content publishers, such as Catalyst, Harebrained Schemes, or PGI? If you haven’t, do you know if any of those folks have seen your work?
On occasion, I drunkenly stumble around in Mechwarrior Online quoting Macho Man Randy Savage. Because, to quote the Macho Man himself, “Sometimes you must expect the unexpected in the Kingdom of Madness.”
Tex: Insofar as I am aware, the only people “aware” of me in any real sense are the modding communities and by extension the BattleTech community. I often put in my credits the disclaimer: “If the people who invented this stuff found out about what I do they’d whip me with a belt.” I was made aware recently that I was mentioned or at least spoken of politely in the latest Kickstarter AMAs for BattleTech’s Clan Invasion Pack from Catalyst.
That being said, I would be truly humbled if they knew of my “work” and didn’t immediately click down-vote. Again, I am surprised to be featured here, let alone known by the greats who forged this magnificent setting. I see myself as just a voice in the choir. There are plenty of talented people very much interested in BattleTech and me surely least among them.
Sarna: Let’s talk numbers. What’s your most viewed video?
Tex: This is embarrassing but I had to look as I didn’t know off-hand and I highly distrust YouTube’s metrics. As it turns out, it’s the UrbanMechvideo. Figures, people love the damn trashcan. Then again, you rightfully should. It’s the most adorable platform for an AC/20 I’ve ever seen.
Sarna: And which video is your favourite?
Tex: That’s a hard one. My crew and I really love what we’ve done recently with the Amaris Civil War. Our storyboarding/editing/scoring process really brought that one together. We’re driving like mad to get part 2 out because we see part 1 as one of our greatest achievements yet. We spent our time and went overboard in a few sections but dammit, It’s BattleTech. It’s worth it. A very close second are all the memes we made for Steiner Scout Squad. Because “Scouting” something with 100 tons of Lyran ‘Mech is utterly brilliant.
Sarna: Which video didn’t hit as well as you thought it might’ve?
Tex: Easily the Catapultepisode. We went with a lot more overt comedy than we should have, and in retrospect, some of the meme-ery was over the top. I mean, we had a whole JRPG spoof of a battle scene in which a Mad Cat trounces an inner sphere lance. While funny, it just was a bit much. Also, the Tukayyid video hit a bit softer than I thought it would, but we turned it around as fast as we could to make it release on the actual anniversary of the battle. Also, I think it may have upset a few Clanners as evidenced in the comments. Some people just hate Comstar I guess?
Sarna: How long does it take to create these videos? I know that something like the Catapult video (which I actually liked a lot) won’t take as much time and effort as the Kerensky-Amaris Civil War series, but if you had to give a rough estimate how many hours does it take per 30 minutes of YouTube video?
Tex:That is a HUGE variable. Here’s the basic breakdown from what notes I can gather.
Stage 1: Research. See what information is out there–sources, images, anything that can help us. This can take a month or two as was the case with the Amaris Civil War/Coup/Collapse of Star League as the subject is rather broad. However, with something like a single ‘Mech, that can take a week.
We all love to create and that’s what brings us together. It’s a passion project.
Stage 2: Script. This can take a month or so, but sometimes as little as a week. Depends on what time I get as I tend to work an unhealthy amount of hours in the week. But I generally run 10-15 drafts. Each time I write I find something else I want to say or change how I say it. Sometimes things can be rather funny in your first run-through, but by draft 15 you just go “ugh” and delete paragraphs at a time. This also helps me control tangents. Kind of. Somewhat. Sometimes.
Stage 3: The editing. This is where Mike and Madasgardian come in. We start to storyboard and come up with ideas, themes, chapters. This is generally a 2-3 week process, though real-life events in “meatspace” can certainly delay it.
Stage 4: Scoring, my guys Goat, Kumakin, and Dr Jekyll come in at this stage. Some music is from epidemic sound or other licensed sources, but we do create quite a bit of music in-house. They’re great. We sit around and watch the video without music and then obsessively try to match the “action” with themes that fit. This takes a few days at least.
Stage 5: Final cut, 2-3 days. This is where we add funny nonsense, usually.
Some of these things can be done simultaneously, like writing and research. However, typically from start to finish, we’re looking at a month or so. As for hours? I can only guess. We try not to count because this brings us a lot of joy. We all love to create and that’s what brings us together. It’s a passion project. That and, well, the other things we’re interested in doing. However, those project(s) hinge on obtaining IP rights to even try.
Sarna: Can I request a video topic?
Tex: Sure. Anyone can. I do polls every so often to let people decide my list of topics and then narrow down from there based on what I’d find interesting. If you got an idea, shoot. I’d love to hear it. I see this as a community effort and I’m just some surly voice that likes his whiskey.
Sarna: What’s in store for Tex Talks BattleTech in the future?
Tex: Immediately, Part 2 of the Amaris Civil War. At current it’s threatening to become a feature film. However, Amaris did a load of bad shit and that takes time to explain. Further, the Amaris Coup and Civil War sets the scene for what follows in the setting. I can’t just gloss over it and say, “Welp, and stuff happened,” or people would lynch me. Well, they still might. #RememberTheBlackWatch.
You have to inject something of yourself in everything you do. For me, it’s just goofy jokes and comedy.
Sarna: I noticed the ‘Mech-related Tex Talks typically has more entertaining fluff than the more historical reviews do. Why is that? Is it just easier to insert fun fluff when talking about a typically dry subject like a ‘Mech’s history?
Tex: Well, look at car reviews. Anyone can stand in front of a car and go, “This is a car, it possesses an engine,” and then drive it around a track to show how many seconds it took with your foot to the floor. Or, you can be Top Gear. Or Regular Car Reviews. You have to inject something of yourself in everything you do. For me, it’s just goofy jokes and comedy. For something like the UrbanMech, you can’t not have comedy. If I did a dry seriousness with the UrbanMech the community would smell a rat. Then they’d mail me loaded diapers or something.
Sarna: Where do you get all those great pictures you use in your videos? Besides Sarna, of course. I ask for my own future reference as much as I do this interview.
Tex: Sarna at first, but then we started acquiring a metric f-ton of original Battletech Technical Documents. The Amaris Civil War Part 1, for instance, drew heavily from the Liberation of Terra Iand II supplements. Older BattleTech books can be had for relatively cheap. I happen to have a collection at the moment that’s rather impressive.
Sarna: Anything else you’d like to share? Feel free to get shamelessly self-promoty :)
Tex: Oh hell, I’d like to thank Mike and Madasgardian (my editors), my gifted music people, my fans and the BattleTech community. Again, I feel superbly honored to have been given this outlet and place to express myself. There are many more that are deserving I’m sure. I just want to say this, for the record, there has seldom been a piece of fiction more meaningful, entertaining, and thoughtfully constructed than the BattleTech franchise and I feel at this juncture it is right to say it’s in the hands of the fanbase to keep it alive and well. We must be good custodians of it to pass it on to future ‘Mech pilots. Also, death to Clanners.
As usual, a thousand gratitudes to Tex for agreeing to sit down and talk about his work. I’ve been told Part 2 of The Amaris Civil War is going to be a big one and I can’t wait to watch it.
So the Clan Invasion is barreling towards the $2 million milestone with about $50,000 to go as of the time of this writing (it will almost certainly be higher by the time this gets published, and hopefully be over the $2 million threshold).
I think it’s safe to safe to say that this Kickstarter has been far more successful than anyone could have hoped. But in the waning hours of this crowdsourcing project, I come to you with a final desperate plea: we have to get over the $2 million mark.
In the utterly insane pace that this Kickstarter has been climbing, Catalyst has been adding more and more stretch goals. When it passed $1,500,000, backers unlocked the coveted Double Forces Rapid Redeployment, which allowed them to select what Star/Lance/Level II pack they’d prefer to receive rather than merely doubling whatever Star/Lance/Level II was unlocked at their backer level.
Then at $1,875,000, backers unlocked the “Beard-Off Rematch” which will see bearded Catalyst and Harebrained Schemes team members compete in a live-streamed tabletop game of BattleTech where the losers will ceremoniously remove their beards.
But the $2,000,000 mark is the true prize. The creme de la creme, the piece de resistance, the other-French-words-that-have-great-meaning-but-I-forget, is the UrbanMech plush toy.
I want it. I wasn’t going to back this Kickstarter. Even though I love BattleTech and certainly love the new designs that Catalyst has put out, I don’t really do much tabletop gaming. Worse, I don’t really have a whole lot of shelf space to display miniatures on, as pretty as they may be.
But I don’t care. I will make space for an UrbanMech plush toy. I will store everything else in a box if I can cuddle an UrbanMech to sleep at night.I WILL REMOVE EVERY ANCILLARY PIECE OF TECHNOLOGY CONNECTED TO MY COMPUTER IN ORDER TO MAKE SPACE ON MY DESK IN ORDER TO BASK IN THE GLORY OF A PLUSH URBANMECH.
I have backed the Clan Invasion Kickstarter at the $75 USD level (which works out to something like $15,000 Canadian) in order to make this dream come true. I implore you all to do the same. If you have donated, up your donation. Convince your friends to donate, even if they’re not BattleTech fans. We have just two days left. Together, we can make the plush UrbanMech a reality.