Turn-based tactical 'Mech combat set in the classic 3025 era of the BattleTech Universe. From the creators of the Shadowrun Series!
Latest Updates from Our Project:
Post-GenCon #SuperPreAlpha Demo Debrief!
over 6 years ago
– Fri, Aug 12, 2016 at 12:56:20 AM
Wow, the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of nerves and activity and emotions... but it was all incredibly worth it to see everyone’s excitement about the pre-alpha demo, both online and in-person at GenCon. We couldn’t have asked for a warmer response -- it was fantastic to see longtime tabletop fans and new recruits alike respond with such enthusiasm to this first look at our game. Brian and Connor (below) even drove six hours -- at the last minute, after seeing our Kickstarter update last Wednesday night -- to come try out the demo at GenCon. (They loved it!)
We’re still a bit tired, but also deeply buoyed by your support -- and by the validation that while we have a lot of work still to do, you believe we’re on the right path to deliver a great BATTLETECH experience. So, to the Global BattleTech Community: we thank you, and we salute you!
We’re going to get back to work now, but we’ll be back in touch soon with more updates -- and more cool new stuff to show you. In the meantime, see below for a recap of everything from last week, including photos from the show, and a brand-new cinematic sneak-peek teaser.
-- Jordan, Mitch, Mike, and the BATTLETECH team
Demo Playthrough Video
If you missed the Backers-only update last week, here’s the #SuperPreAlpha demo video. (Feel free to share it!)
Digital Backer Tiers Re-Opened
We’ve also re-opened a limited number of DIGITAL-ONLY Backer Tiers on our BackerKit page -- if you know anyone who missed the Kickstarter, let them know! And if you’re a current Backer, but want to upgrade your Reward Tier to the $35, $50 (Beta Access), or $85 (Valhalla) Reward Tiers, just contact us via our website and we can process your upgrade.
Cinematic Sneak Peek
This is a short teaser that the art team cut together right before GenCon to loop on the TVs at the show. Now that we’re back, we want to share it with you to give you a taste of what we’re doing with the cinematics for the game.
And, for those of you who weren’t able to make it to GenCon - here’s some of our favorite pictures from the show! (There’s more on our Facebook page too, if you’re interested!)
BATTLETECH Heraldry Set and Jacket Update
over 6 years ago
– Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 08:46:04 PM
Hey Backers, this is Brian again, Ops Director here at HBS. I have a quick update for Backers at the Noble House pledge level ($125) and up who will be receiving the Heraldry Set or Flight Jacket rewards.
Heraldry Sets started shipping yesterday!
Jacket + Heraldry Set will start shipping the first or second week of August
International Backers: we don’t need to collect any extra shipping fees
SHIPPING - HERALDRY SETS
Our fulfillment warehouse just started shipping Heraldry Sets on Thursday, 7/21. We’re starting with the U.S. addresses as they are the fastest to prep and process, then we’ll move on to the international backers. When your package leaves the warehouse, you will receive an email notification. (It could be in your Spam folder.)
Please be patient -- with over 5500 packages to ship, it will take a few weeks to get them all out the door and how long it takes for your specific package to arrive will largely depend on where you are in the world.
SHIPPING -- JACKETS + HERALDRY SETS
After the Heraldry Sets are shipped, we’ll start shipping the Jacket + Heraldry Set packages. We were forced to send them second because the Jackets were stuck in customs for the past two weeks. Grrrrrr.
I can confirm that the jackets have finally cleared customs today and will soon be on their way to the fulfillment warehouse in Austin. It will take about a couple weeks to process and prep for shipping, so we expect that Jackets + Heraldry Sets will begin shipping in the first or second week of August.
If, like me, you're curious about logistics: when a shipping container has boxes from multiple companies, if just ONE of those companies has a customs problems, it can hold up the entire container (hint: it wasn’t us). So... if I find out whose paperwork has been hosing us, I'm gonna fire an LRM in their direction!
Some good news for Backers outside the US: we won’t need to collect any additional shipping fees from you, beyond what you’ve already paid during the Kickstarter or through BackerKit.
I’m also pleased to say that we have been able arrange upgraded tracking for a number of countries. If you live in Canada, Australia, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, or New Zealand, then the shipping notification email will contain a tracking number that should give you pretty good status updates door-to-door.
If you live in a country not listed above, you’ll still receive an email when your package leaves the warehouse but it might not contain a tracking number, and if it does, that tracking may only be accurate up to the point that a shipment is handed off to your local postal service.
DEALING WITH CUSTOMS
Our international shipments include paperwork that your country’s customs agent or postal service will need to properly process the shipment. Yes, for some of you, this may involve paying taxes to collect your package, based on the (very modest) declared value in the paperwork.
From our previous experience with other Kickstarters, if the person you're talking to is saying that the customs statement wasn’t provided… well first, it’s just not true, because it would not have been allowed to leave the US without that paperwork. More likely, they either don’t believe the value given on the documents, or they are looking for a receipt for your Kickstarter pledge. (Or they’re just being difficult because they enjoy abusing their position of power… sorry that you have to deal with that.)
If they don’t understand how Kickstarters work and why your receipt is so much different than the contents of the package, contact us through our web site. We have a PDF we can provide you that might help clear things up.
THANK-YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
We’re really pleased with how all these rewards have turned out and can’t wait for you to have them in hand!
Campaign Setting Details!
over 6 years ago
– Wed, Jun 29, 2016 at 12:30:39 AM
Hey folks, Mike here again - we’ve got another big ol’ Lore update for you guys today, this time focused on the region of space the game’s single-player campaign will take place in. For this one I’m turning things over to Kevin Maginn, our Design Lead and resident historian. In addition to leading the charge on systems design, he’s been responsible for fleshing out all the detailed history and geography of our game - the setting material - essentially laying all the groundwork for our writers to build a great story with. What follows won’t contain any *story* spoilers, however it does provide some backstory and setting information that would otherwise only be learned during the campaign. I just love all the bits of history and context that Kevin and the team have come up with for the story campaign, and am excited to share this first peek at it all!
(And if you haven't seen our previous Lore Update about your home base during the campaign, the Argo-class DropShip, you can check it out here!)
Meet the Team: Kevin Maginn, Design Lead!
Hi! I’m your friendly Design Lead on the BattleTech project. You’ve maybe seen me on the forums trolling you as HBS_Thratchen.
I’ve been in the game industry for over 15 years, working as a designer for most of those years. I’ve designed MMOs, casual mobile games, browser games, and action games. Now I’m working on the kind of game I actually like to play: turn-based strategy.
I’ve been gaming since I was 8 years old, when my mom bought me the Moldvay edition of D&D (which dates me, unfortunately!) I’ve been a fan of BattleTech since 1987, when it competed for table time among my friends with Traveller and Gamma World. I’m a historian by education, and by far my favorite thing about BattleTech is the enormously detailed future history of the setting. I love future histories. I can’t get enough of them. If a sci-fi RPG comes with a timeline, it’s the first thing I read when I crack open the book. I’m the guy who read every. Single. Codex. Entry. in the first Mass Effect.
So when it was time to figure out where our game would be set, and how it would fit into the overall BattleTech world? That’s pretty much fun-time for me. Sometimes this job is just a job. Other times, you get to write fictional future histories for rich sci-fi settings.
So in this update I’m going to tell you about a little piece of the Periphery, way down in the Rimward region, caught between the Capellans, the Taurians and the Magistracy. We call it the Aurigan Reach.
(Oh, and since it’s traditional, my current favorite ’Mech is the Kintaro KTO-18. And my favorite House is not a House; it’s the Taurian Concordat. Unless I’m allowed to choose the Tetatae.)
History of the Aurigan Reach
At the edges of the Inner Sphere lies the Periphery. The systems there were far from the protective embrace of Earth, and were thus colonized by outcasts, misfits, renegades, and those who simply valued freedom and independence more than they valued comfort and safety. As a consequence, the Periphery has always been a somewhat lawless fringe, a haven for misfits and refugees, the Wild West to the civilized Inner Sphere.
In a very real way, though, it was the marginal nature of the Periphery that directly led to the chaos of the current era; the traitor Amaris was a product of the Periphery and was radicalized by two centuries of the Inner Sphere’s iron-fisted occupation of his homeland. His resentment and hate led to civil war, the catastrophic collapse of the Terran Hegemony, and with it the fall of the Star League.
In the wake of that fall, the Succession Wars have crippled all of humanity, and the Periphery is no exception. With the chaos of constant war, economies have shrunk, non-essential projects have been curtailed, and planets that might have once been worth colonizing have been abandoned, their colonists evacuated or left to starve in isolation.
The rimward area of the Periphery (what looks like ‘south’ on a map) includes a lightly-settled region that’s known as the Aurigan Reach. While once divided between the Magistracy of Canopus, the Taurian Concordat, and the Capellan Confederation, all three withdrew from the region during the wars, preferring to hold more secure borders and less marginal systems. The distant, poorly-developed worlds of the Reach weren’t worth the danger of overextending one’s power, given the sudden brutality of the Succession Wars.
The Capellans, hard-pressed by their rivals in the Inner Sphere, were first to abandon the Aurigan Reach, and by 2798 they’d withdrawn to a new, more defensible line, from Repulse to Rollis, leaving over a dozen systems to their own devices. The Taurians, in the wake of the disastrous and humiliating Taurian-Canopian War in 2813, turned away from expansionism, and likewise abandoned their Reach holdings. The Magistracy was the last to hold on to any Reach systems, but their claim was always more of a line drawn in the sand against the Taurians than any real colonial ambition; by 2840, their military forces were withdrawn to their own borders, leaving a vast and lawless region behind.
Power cannot tolerate a vacuum, though, and many of the abandoned systems had significant populations, industry, and commerce. Four of those systems were particularly well-suited to continue on as though still part of an interstellar civilization: Coromodir, Itrom, Tyrlon and Guldra. Trade between them continued, and the network of JumpShips continued to serve them, and through them some of the nearby, more marginal systems.
Of the four, Coromodir was the wealthiest and retained the most infrastructure and technology from the Taurian colonization. Two major mercantile houses, the Arano family and the Espinosa family, dominated the remains of the Taurian-led economy, and were natural leaders for the newly independent world. In 2820, the Arano family displaced the figurehead governor the Taurians had left behind, and with the support of the Espinosa family, Wiremu Arano ascended to the governorship.
This independence and leadership was needed as the Taurians withdrew from the remainder of the Reach over the next 20 years. By the time the withdrawal was complete, the Aurigan Reach was a haven for pirates and renegades, warlords setting up their own petty kingdoms, and worse.
In 2860, the Arano and Espinosa families approached their counterparts on Itrom, Guldra and Tyrlon with a proposal: a mutual protection and trade agreement that would allow coordinated and unified responses to the plague of piracy. As the primary financier of the agreement, the Arano representative was given executive authority over the newly formed Aurigan Trade Partnership.
By 2910, there had been a half-century for the ties between the four systems to deepen into alliances. Uniting the eight most powerful noble families of the Aurigan Reach, Keona Arano formalized the Partnership into a government, with herself positioned as High Lady. The other Founding Lords and Ladies sat at her side as members of her advisory council. This new state declared itself the Aurigan Coalition.
Over the next fifty years, the Coalition grew and incorporated many other nearby systems, most of them former Capellan holdings. This included the industrial world of Mechdur, which was already successful and self-sufficient; when Mechdur joined, the Coalition gained access to a powerful industrial and manufacturing engine that allowed for a much higher standard of living than other systems of the Reach could sustain.
The Coalition’s inexorable growth was not simply ignored by its neighbors, though. The Taurian Concordat wasn’t threatened by a simple trade partnership, but now the Coalition was beginning to look like an expansionist state, and a possible rival. It didn’t help matters than some of the systems the Coalition was annexing were former Taurian holdings, many with industrial and technological resources left behind in the withdrawal.
By the second decade of the new millennium, tensions had risen to the point where the Taurians sent a dedicated envoy to their new neighbor state to discuss the legal status of several border worlds, most particularly Qalzi, which the Taurians insisted was still a viable colony and thus under their control. The matter was quickly tangled in treaty negotiations and diplomatic red tape, and the conflict continued to simmer right up to the present day.
Now the powerful and indomitable scion of the Arano family, High Lord Tamati Arano II, has been lost in a tragic space travel accident. His daughter and heir, Lady Kamea Arano, must prepare herself to navigate her state through the dangerous pathways of the Succession Wars. Conflict with the Taurians threatens on one border, and on the other looms the vast power of the Capellan state and its devious ruling family, House Liao; meanwhile internal dissension threatens the prosperity her family has nurtured for over two centuries.
Behind the Scenes
So! That’s the setting of our game, in a nutshell. I’m not including everything here, of course; there’s simply too much material to include in a Kickstarter update. And besides, some of what I’m not telling you is secret stuff that would spoil the game’s story!
There are a couple of things I want to share about this history and how we ended up picking this location.
Our first priority was to find a way to coexist with BattleTech lore. This is really a lot more challenging than you might think; after all, it’s just space, right? There’s always more of it. But to make this a BattleTech story, one that had the right tone and texture, we needed to be near the Inner Sphere. On the other hand, the Inner Sphere’s history is detailed across more books and supplements than we could possibly account for. We needed somewhere interesting, close but not too close, and basically empty. A blank slate where we could do whatever needed to be done to make our story work.
I kept noticing this empty spot between the Taurians and the Magistracy, a little horseshoe of unclaimed space. What was that space? What was there? I eventually found the history of the Fronc Reaches, but that was well after our game was set. When I looked at the Star League era maps, though, I saw that before the Succession Wars, the area that was blank on later maps was owned by the Taurians and the Capellans. Interesting. So it had been colonized, and then abandoned.
The problem is that no map had any details on those systems. There were some, with some really sketchy star positions, but nothing comprehensive.
So I downloaded every map I could find from Sarna, and mined our comprehensive library of BattleTech books (thanks to Jordan’s extensive collection and the digital archives kindly provided by Catalyst Game Labs) for more maps. And then I dumped them all into Photoshop, lined them up carefully, and made a master map that included every single system labeled on any map anywhere.
Turns out there was a lot of stuff in that little horseshoe. Over 30 systems, in fact. The next step was to find out what we already knew about these systems. The answer, which was exactly what I was hoping for, turned out to be ‘nothing’. They were the blank slate we wanted.
It’s easy to look at the area covered by a map of the Inner Sphere and lose sight of just how massive space really is. The Periphery is 450 light years away from Terra. There are an estimated two million stars in that amount of space. The little nook we’re calling the Aurigan Reach is 120 light years across. That space contains something like ten thousand stars just in that region, and five hundred G-type (Sol-sized) stars. So this little horseshoe of space was much, much larger than we could possibly fill. Perfect.
I already had a vague picture of what this ‘little’ nook of Periphery was all about, but it took a lot of discussions with Jordan, Mike and Randall about the political situation of the Inner Sphere in 3025, the kinds of meddling the Great Houses were likely to get up to in this abandoned corner of space, and the kinds of stories we wanted to tell there, before we really nailed down the shape of the history.
Our amazing Lead Writer, Andrew McIntosh, took the rough historical sketch and turned it into a grim tale of dynastic succession, murder, sabotage, intrigue and war -- and that’s just the backstory. We worked through the politics of the Coalition, the major personalities, the power players and their holdings, and the likely future of the region. We're not quite ready to share much of this material yet, but you can expect us to reveal concept art and character bios for some of the major players in our story later this year.
So what we’ve ended up with is a set of systems that appear in Star League sources but nowhere else, that have only minimal pre-existing history: a perfect canvas onto which you’ll paint your own tale of mercenaries, power struggles, upheavals and betrayals. We hope what we’ll create together will feel like a part of the BattleTech universe, like a missing puzzle piece we’ve found and placed right at the edge.
This is Brian again, the guy making your Kickstarter swag, with a quick update on manufacturing and shipping for the Heraldry Set and Flight Jacket. As I mentioned in the last update, we’ll be sending out a reminder from BackerKit for you to double-check your shipping address. Those reminders will go out later this week, and will say something about a “48 hour” timer before addresses are locked down. Don’t get too excited -- we’re not shipping them 48 hours later - but we do need to export all of that data and transfer it to the warehouse’s shipping system. So please make any changes right away -- or you can always go to https://battletech.backerkit.com right now, if you’d like!
What Else is Up At Harebrained Schemes?
In case you haven't heard, the Steam Summer Sale is on! This is a great time to pick up the Complete Collection or any of the games you haven't played yet since everything is on sale - including the Deluxe versions of the games which include soundtracks and art books.
We’re also really excited about our upcoming game, NECROPOLIS, which is releasing on July 12th. It’s a 3D, third-person action-adventure game with procedural dungeon-delving which is really different than anything else we’ve made. If that sounds interesting, you can pre-order it now and receive a digital copy of the NECROPOLIS Original Soundtrack when the game is released as a bonus!
We’ll also be live-streaming a special Twitch event on Hyper RPG that we’re calling the Co-Op Death Jam on July 9th from 10am-10pm. We’ll have a ton of streamers teaming up to compete against each other and hourly giveaways for the folks watching at home. You may have seen the single player version of the game but this will be the first time anyone will see the co-op version. Hope you can join us then!
CATALYST GAME LABS
Randall here from Catalyst Game Labs. In addition to our work with HBS, we've been busy pushing out a slew of rocksauce for BattleTech including:
The First Succession War sourcebook is a great read that looks at the first of several Inner Sphere-spanning wars that lay the foundation for the era where HBS’ BATTLETECH is placed. If you want to know the origins of the universe as a whole that plugs into the Lore above, this is a perfect book to grab.
A series of five BattleTech Faction Dice sets in conjunction with Q-workshop.Here’s Each set includes two faction icon dice, three Combat Command icon dice, and finally a mercenary command icon die most associated with that House circa 3025!
We're also excited that the release of the penultimate core rulebook for BattleTech, Campaign Operations, is just around the corner! For the first time in over a dozen years, the most sought after rules for BattleTech are finally returning to print, fully updated and ready for a new generation of play: creating and running your own force, whether from a House, a mercenary, or even the Clans! A slew of additional rules bring a legion of campaign options to your table, including solar system/colony generation, formation building and the most comprehensive version of the fan-favorite Chaos Campaign rules ever published. A rulebook for any player in any era!
Look to the Catalyst Tumblr for that announcement!
And, finally, don’t forget our Legends Tuesday, where every week we release a BattleTech Legends epub, returning the entire back catalog of BatteTech novels to your digital library.
KICKSTARTER FROM PAPER UNICORN
Mike here again - I wanted to throw in a quick personal plug for a crowdfunding project on Kickstarter that really caught my eye called Transmission. One of our artists passed this along to me and I was really struck by the game’s style and storytelling ambitions. They’ve still got a ways to go so just I wanted to help get the word out - it’s the kind of game I hope to see more of in the world, and I’m a sucker for exploration and minimalist sci-fi. If that sounds interesting to you, check it out here!
BATTLETECH Rewards Update
over 6 years ago
– Wed, May 25, 2016 at 12:30:55 AM
Hey All! This is Brian, Ops Director here at Harebrained Schemes. I’ve taken on the task of manufacturing the Noble House Heraldry Sets and MechWarrior Flight Jackets but, before we get to that, here’s a quick update on how things are going with the game as well as a few other things of note.
Game Development: Mike asked me to let you all know that game production continues on schedule - the engineering team is currently heads-down and focused on building out all the core systems that make combat possible - essentially taking the game from a rough, bare-bones prototype to a fully-fledged, scalable Combat Game. Meanwhile, the design team is making maps and thinking ahead to plan out a lot of the game’s campaign and mercenary career “simulation” aspects, and the art team is busy making lots of terrain features, animations, effects - I’ve even spied a few classic BattleTech vehicles starting to roll out of the art factory here...
Novellas: Mike Stackpole has had consultations with all the Backers that will appear in the novellas and we’re hoping to be able to deliver the first in the series with Backers in the next couple months.
BattleTech Forum: There continues to be some great conversation about the game and with the Devs over in our Forum. Here’s a thread about Vehicles included in the game.
Death From Above: Our mercenary team, led by the Lord Commander (our own Mitch Gitelman) continues to play on the battlefield with our custom 3D printed ’Mechs every Friday at 6pm PDT on Hyper RPG. You can read more in this Forum post about how the game intersects with BattleTech lore from Aristocra and catch up on previous episodes on Hyper RPG’s Youtube channel.
Now, on to the main topic of the post...
HERALDRY SETS & FLIGHT JACKETS
We’re really pleased with how all these items came out - everyone here at the office has been trying to swipe the pre-production samples, especially the hats and the jackets. It might be a bit warm when you get your jackets (here in the U.S. at least), but go ahead and show them off at GenCon and PAX West -- we’ll understand. :)
Manufacturing & Shipping
So you’re probably wondering: is everything is all done yet? Not quite, but it’s getting there! It’s been a busy 6 months finalizing our choice of manufacturing partners, working with designers to find the right colors, materials and measurements, and making arrangements for ocean shipping and fulfillment to your doorsteps!
We expect manufacturing to finish at the end of May, after which a container ship needs to travel from China to the U.S., pass through customs, and then travel by truck to our fulfillment company in Texas. Assuming all that goes smoothly, packages should start going out the 2nd or 3rd week of July. With over 5500 packages to ship, it will take a few weeks to get them all out the door and when you get your package will largely be driven by where you are in the world.
Updating and Verifying Your Shipping Address
We know from experience that Backers may have moved since the Kickstarter ended and we don’t want to ship your rewards to whoever’s currently living in your old home -- they might want to keep your stuff!
If you know that your address has changed or you want to double check that it’s correct, you just need to go to your BackerKit account. (Go to https://battletech.backerkit.com, enter your Kickstarter email and - if you don’t already have a login- BackerKit will send you an email with a link directly to your account.)
However, don’t panic if you know your address is going to change but you don’t know what it will be. Before we actually start shipping rewards, we’ll send one final urgent reminder to confirm your shipping address. If the address is correct, you won’t need to do anything, otherwise follow the directions to update that information ASAP.
For International Backers Only
As we noted during the Kickstarter: “International shipping cost may increase depending upon your specific location, with the difference to be collected closer to ship date.” Now that dimensions and weights of Heraldry Sets and Jackets are better known, we’re getting updated quotes from our fulfillment company. This will let us know the final shipping cost to international destinations and if what we collected during the Kickstarter was enough.
Between now and the end of June, we will contact International Backers if we need to collect additional shipping fees to reach you. We’re still working out the logistics of how that will work: BackerKit or PayPal would be the most likely solutions and we’ll be in touch as soon as we have more information. Thanks for your patience on this.
“Show Us More Pictures Already!”
Visit the BattleTech Forums for EVEN MORE PICTURES, including individual pics of each Noble House set and high-res versions of the pictures shown here.
Prototyping Turn Order
over 6 years ago
– Fri, Apr 08, 2016 at 12:39:39 AM
Hey Everyone! Jordan here!
In this update I’d like to talk about our turn order design for the game - how we handle turn-based moving and shooting. We’ve been following your discussions on the BattleTech forums and as game developers, they’re always really exciting to see. We learn a ton by reading your different points-of-view, so thanks!
We were originally going to wait a little longer to talk about Turn Order so we could actually show it to you in-game and in-action - but we can see how passionate you guys are about this topic and we don’t want to leave you hanging. As your forum threads reflect, we all understand that tabletop and computer games are two very different animals, even when they are trying to simulate the same fictional reality.
Whenever I’m at a game convention, I’m always asked, “Why don’t you just port the BattleTech tabletop rules to the computer? They’ve worked great for 30 years!” For the answer, let’s start with the obvious - tabletop games have the enormous benefit of in-person social interaction. Being around the table with your friends is entertaining all by itself and taking more time to resolve game results is not necessarily a negative. On the other hand, waiting for a remote opponent in an online game can be frustrating at worst and boring at best. Even if your opponent is your best friend, it’s just not the same as being the table together.
Beyond social interaction, another key difference between tabletop and computer games is how you absorb information. For example, during a tabletop game, every move and every die roll you make (along with all the moves and die rolls of your opponents) happen at a speed that allows you to process that information. And don’t underestimate the tactile and social fun of rolling dice or the visceral feeling of filling in armor boxes on a ‘Mech’s record sheet. It is the tactile power of those experiences that helps us understand and retain the game information conveyed during the event.
BattleTech’s turn order is a good example of a tabletop design element that doesn’t port well to the computer. The tabletop design attempts to reflect the fictional reality of 'Mechs and vehicles moving and shooting simultaneously by splitting movement and combat into two different phases. Movement order is based on initiative, and then alternated between players. Combat is resolved simultaneously - players take turns rolling damage, and then that damage all takes effect at the same time. This works great for tabletop, where it’s easy to accept the nonlinear abstraction. Even though my attack may have destroyed your ‘Mech, I know you’ll still get to roll for its damage to mine. This is much harder to present on screen, where a certain linearity of events is expected!
So, now that you understand the basic design challenge, we’ll start where HBS always starts - at the goal level.
Our design process starts with explicitly stating the goals for every system, so that we have a way of evaluating if the system design is not just “cool” but most importantly achieves its design criteria. The design goals that impact the turn order system are:
Fluid play in both singleplayer and multiplayer game modes - This is actually a bigger deal than you would think because our emotional reactions to a turn order system are quite different with a computer opponent that takes zero time to make a decision and a human who takes considerably more than zero time.
Make Light 'Mechs useful and versatile - Light 'Mechs were included in the game to be used as scouts, flankers, and forward observers. Historically, these roles have appeared in BT fiction more than in game play, so one of our major goals is to make Light 'Mechs really useful.
Don’t overwhelm me with information - BattleTech is a very information heavy game. Previous computer / video games have handled this in one of two ways: greatly simplify the game, or overwhelm the player with too much information. We want to find a balance that allows us to maintain the depth of the simulation while making sure that the information provided is digestible and actionable.
Provide me visceral feedback on my actions - When you perform an action you should see a satisfying result to that action, and most importantly you should understand the results of the action.
It’s gotta feel like BattleTech! - This one might seem obvious, but it’s important to make it explicit - the results of the turn order system should feel like BattleTech.
Working from an established set of design goals for a system, we like to move directly into rapid prototyping. As designers, it’s always tempting to engage in lengthy debates, waxing poetic about the merits of different approaches, but we’ve found that it’s by far more effective to simply try out each compelling idea! Our designers and engineers jump right into Unity to quickly create crude working versions of design concepts that we can play right away. These prototypes look ugly, and are missing a lot of bells and whistles, but they’re enough for us to really get a feel for how the design element plays in both singleplayer and multiplayer scenarios.
This approach has made working on BATTLETECH a great deal of fun for for the entire team as we can all discuss the merits of each approach from an informed position. Even more importantly, the rapid prototyping methodology has allowed us to vet the game design many months before a fully architected code base would allow us to.
We have built and played the hell out of seven (7!) different approaches to turn order, from a completely linear XCOM-like system to a completely simultaneous action system with many variations in between. Since a simultaneous action approach is a natural one to gravitate to for BattleTech, I’m going to take some time to outline how those particular prototypes went in a bit of detail.
Our first simultaneous action prototype was one in which players plotted both movement and combat secretly and then watched as the round unfolded. The biggest issue with this prototype turned out to be with targeting and weapon selections for each 'Mech. In the prototype, players could target enemies with specific weapons while plotting their movements and then, during a simultaneous resolution phase, they’d see their choices play out in real-time action.
Sound great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, things often went very differently than folks anticipated. Watching everyone’s plans going awry is supposed to be part of the fun of a simultaneous action system but instead, players felt frustrated watching one of their MechWarriors slavishly waiting to shoot their designated target rather than unloading in the rear armor of an enemy 'Mech that wandered right into the line-of-fire. To compensate, we started to give the MechWarriors the ability to override the player’s targeting and weapon selections in specific circumstances and... eventually it just started feeling like the player was losing control of critical decisions. So much for Simultaneous Action Prototype #1!
Our next attempt at simultaneous action was to break the round into two phases, Movement and Combat - with both phases being revealed simultaneously. The idea was that player would plot movement for all their 'Mechs and then everyone’s movements would be revealed simultaneously. The players could then use a scrollbar like a video “scrubber” to roll time backwards and forwards to determine when to fire during each 'Mech’s movement, who the target was, and which weapons would fire. This prototype was interesting, and returned complete control to the player, but was a slow and laborious system to interact with.
Both of our simultaneous action solutions also really failed on the information overload and visceral feedback goals I mentioned above. Because so much happened so quickly, you often found yourself needing to dive into each 'Mech’s data after the action just to understand what happened in the previous round. As you can imagine, that wasn’t very fun. The other goal these prototypes failed at was actually the most important - they felt like you were commanding fighter planes, not BattleMechs. They didn’t feel like BattleTech.
I won’t take you through the pros and cons of all seven Turn Order prototypes we built and played the hell out of and instead cut to the chase by introducing you to the turn order system we finally embraced and are building the game around.
So - Where Did We End Up?
Here’s the basics:
Each weight class of ‘Mech has an Initiative value. Light ‘Mechs are the fastest, with an Initiative of 4 and assaults are the slowest, with an Initiative of 1.
Combat rounds are divided into 5 Phases, counting down from 5 to 1. ‘Mechs are allowed to act during the Phase that matches their Initiative. (That 5th Phase is the province of extremely skilled MechWarriors piloting Light ‘Mechs.)
Each Phase, each side takes turns choosing a ‘Mech to Activate. When a Mech is Activated, it can both move and then fire its weapons. However, once the ‘Mech fires, its turn is over and it can’t act again until the next Round of combat.
After you Activate a ‘Mech and take a turn, the game attempts to give the next action to the other side. If the enemy has units available to use in the current Phase, they get the opportunity to activate one of them. If, on the other hand, they have no more units they can activate in the phase, and you do, you’ll get to go again.
This means that if you and your opponent are both using full lances of assault ‘Mechs, every Round will be pretty predictable: You’ll go, then your opponent will go, and so forth until all eight ‘Mechs have been Activated and have taken a turn.
When the game finishes counting down Initiative values and Phase 1 units have taken their turn, the Round ends. The Phase counter resets to 5, and every ‘Mech is ready to act again.
And now the really cool part:
We think this is a neat system because it reinforces and distinguishes between the different weight classes of ‘Mechs - but the place where it really becomes really interesting is when you start reserving ‘Mechs’ Phases for use later in the Round.
Any ‘Mech that isn’t an assault can be held in reserve when its turn to act comes up. That temporarily sets its Initiative Value one lower. So a Light ‘Mech that normally acts in Phase 4 will instead act in Phase 3.
With this system, you can keep reserving your ‘Mechs’ actions, holding an entire lance of ‘Mechs until Phase 1, if you wanted to.
What’s so interesting about reserving actions? First of all, consider the case of a whole lance of Light and medium ‘Mechs being reserved until Phase 1, where they’ll get to act right at the end of a Round. Then, when the round ends and a new Round starts, they’ll immediately get to act again in Phases 4 and 3! (This tactic isn’t theoretical - in a recent battle, I snuck up behind our Lead Designer Kevin’s Centurion with a Jenner I’d reserved to Phase 1. Then, on Phase 4 of the next Round I got to make a full alpha strike right into his back armor.)
As you’d guess, there’s also a lot of value in using this tactic to locally outnumber an opponent. You want your engagements to be uneven in your favor, and you want to be able to fall back from any engagement in which you’re outnumbered. Focusing your forces in one spot when your enemy is spread out is right out of Sun Tzu.
Our initiative system, which allows you to reserve units, means you can locally outnumber your enemy in time as well as space. If you can take three actions in a row, and all three actions are effective fire on a target with no chance for it to respond by moving or returning fire… you’ve essentially made part of the turn a 3-on-1 battle.
Conversely, reserving your faster ‘Mechs to break up long sequences of enemy action with opportunities to respond can be useful in preventing your own forces from becoming focus-fired.
We’re reinforcing the role of Light ‘Mechs in other ways, but this system is a significant component of their value. Light ‘Mechs get to choose where and when they engage, and if used carefully can be exactly the tool you need to get out of a bad situation. Heavy and assault ‘Mechs pack a much bigger punch, but the tradeoff is that they’re inherently more predictable - and thus are more often reacting than acting.
This turn order system is the one that made us immediately say, “Yes, that feels like BattleTech.” (Randall Bills, who’s in charge of BattleTech at Catalyst Game Labs, had the same reaction, which is obviously a good sign!) It captures the feeling of the world in that 'Mechs feel like 'Mechs, not aircraft or stationary gun platforms. It really helped to emphasise the difference between the various weight classes of 'Mechs. The tactical choices are interesting and the results are immediate and understandable.
And this model also clearly fulfilled all of our design goals from above:
Fluid play in both singleplayer and multiplayer game modes - Because control frequently passes back and forth in this model, singleplayer flows smoothly while still giving the player a variety of tactical options and there’s almost always something to watch or do in multiplayer.
Make Light 'Mechs useful and versatile - As explained above, this system gives Light ‘Mechs an inherent initiative advantage which can be used in many different ways.
Don’t overwhelm me with information - Focusing on moving only one unit at a time, and allowing both sides to clearly see the results of JUST that action, really helped focus the amount of information being presented to the player on a moment-to-moment basis - all the complexity of BattleTech movement and attacks is still there, but now it’s being presented in a very digestible way.
Provide me visceral feedback on my actions - Plotting a ‘Mech’s action and immediately seeing the damage done by your attack is really satisfying!
It’s gotta feel like BattleTech - While this admittedly a subjective criteria, this turn-order model immediately elicited this response with the team.
Now, we know you can’t play this system yourself yet (we’re working as fast as we can!) so you’ll have to trust on this one, but our play experiences tell us that this turn order system hits the right balance for both singleplayer and multiplayer game play.
And, be sure to tune into the DEATH FROM ABOVE show on Hyper RPG’s Twitch channel to see how it plays out in their live-action BattleTech RPG. The #DFA team thinks it’ll make their livestreaming combat more engaging and understandable. Should be fun!
Talk to you all soon -
New BATTLETECH Dev Q&A Incoming
Starting at 2pm PST on April 13, we’ll be answering any follow up questions about the Turn-Order System discussed in the update and your burning questions about Interstellar Travel. You can ask your questions in this thread on the BATTLETECH Forums or, if you’re able to join us live, you can also ask any other questions in chat - although we can’t promise to be quite as forthcoming on those.
We encourage you to check out the community over there when you get a chance!
Death from Above Update
But! Death From Above is more than a show to watch! Each week the audience can directly influence the game by donating weapons, buffs, the chance to use a special ability and more to either our heros or the opposing force they’re up against.
In case you haven’t seen the show yet, here’s a quick synopsis of what’s happened to our intrepid mercenaries so far!
After breaking Lord Commander Garrilac out of the prison planet of Hastur II, the Mercs have started to earn a reputation as they make their way from one battlefield to another in the periphery. They have formed an alliance with a Lord in the Periphery and found a piece of valuable Lostech.
However, a shadow hangs over the newly-christened Mason’s Marauders. The team’s mysterious benefactor continues to hold the team under their thumb with threats to what they care for the most. The Marauders now find themselves locked in a conflict with House Davion, having taken a contract from House Marik. Will the Unit live long enough to discover who their benefactor is? Or will their next drop onto the battlefield be their last?
Tune in to Death From Above on the Twitch channel, Hyper RPG Tuesday nights for role playing and Friday nights for battle at 6 PM to find out.
And, for you Shadowrun lovers out there, Wednesdays at 5:30pm PST you can watch a motley crew of Shadowrunners on Corporate Sins!