Battletech Memories and Favorites

AtlasThe Battletech Kickstarter is doing very well, so it seems a good time to discuss the nostalgia consuming my psyche. I admire how Harebrained Schemes has been stirring fan conversations, either to gather metrics for game design (preferred mechs, ideas for mission designs) or just to generate PR buzz or maybe just for fun. But it’s effective and has gotten fans stoked.

I guess the best way to kick off is by telling a secret. Battletech played a major role in inspiring me to become a writer.

I’m serious. My first introduction to the Battletech Universe was through Mechwarrior 2. I procured the game on a whim, after having scored a fine report card and earning a reward from my parents.

While browsing PC games, a tough decision was laid before me. I very nearly took home a copy of Crusader: No Remorse. In the end, the classic mech sim won out. That very night I installed and played through a training mission. At first, I couldn’t figure out how to walk. However, I discovered that by shifting left and right, I inched forward just a little bit.

You read that correctly. I penguin walked my mech to my very first objective.

Two minutes of studying the instruction manual later I discovered this nifty thing called “throttle.” Before I knew it, my Firemoth was rushing from Alpha to Bravo, actually completing the laundry list of goals to accomplish. Everything after that was smooth sailing.

Until I accidentally fired a potshot at my training commander.

One violent death later and I was hooked. The game had no play timer that I knew about, but hundreds of hours of my childhood were invested playing and replaying trial missions and beating both campaigns inside and out.

Decision at Thunder RiftAs I progressed, I spent some time trying to understand the greater conflict between Clans Wolf and Jade Falcon and the universe as a whole. Later, while at the local bookstore, I noticed a connection between Mechwarrior and Battletech. That’s when I received my first Battletech novel, Decision at Thunder Rift.

For the audience members who haven’t read it, the book revolves around young Grayson Death Carlyle, son of the leader of Carlyle’s Commandos. While stationed on the desert planet of Trellwan, a bandit ambush cost Grayson his father, his unit and his inheritance.

Grayson survives, but is left stranded on a planet that has become hostile. However, after jumping into a battle between the bandits and the local militia, Grayson manages to turn his luck around and convince Trellwan’s government to set up their own Battlemech lance. Yet before he can finish off the bandits, Grayson is plunged into a greater political plot that threatens his home nation.

As a thirteen year old kid, this novel blew my mind. William H. Keith Jr did an amazing job of grabbing the reader’s attention regardless of their age and throwing them into the adventures, political intrigue and battles of the 31st century.

And as if it wasn’t awesome enough, the sequel Mercenary’s Star was even better. The kind of perfect guerrilla war story that was rife with conflict, challenges and betrayals. These tales helped set me down the path of trying to polish my writing craft on online message boards. Sometimes I produced fan fiction, and sometimes it was original pieces. Mechwarrior was a ton of fun, but it was Keith’s awesome novels that made me want to become a scribe in my own right. 

Back to the games themselves. Not long after Mechwarrior 2 came the Ghost Bear’s Legacy expansion, followed by my absolute favorite entry of the entire franchise, Mechwarrior Mercenaries. It was in this title that I developed a preference for medium battlemechs. They possess very good speed, can absorb some punishment and usually provide just enough firepower to legitimately threaten far-end heavies and assault mechs.

And as Mercenaries taught me, they’re a good price. Everything I thought I learned about being a Mechwarrior was turned upon its head once I learned to manage the flow of C-Bills. Before, the only punishment for using missiles and ballistic weapons was simply a little less ammunition with which to complete that mission. But the addition of financial considerations make me consider the price of every shot and every expenditure. And rewarded me with savings for preferring energy weapons.

For that reason, I have to give two mechs which I consider my favorites.

CenturionThe first is the Crab. I first piloted this mech during a campaign between rebel forces and House Kurita during Mechwarrior Mercenaries. The Crab’s exclusive focus on energy weapons, including two useful large lasers, helped me to outlast the competition and saved money in the long run. For the attrition-minded, you just can’t beat the value of a Crab piloted by a skilled mechwarrior.

The second must be the classic Centurion. Sure, I could easily list the Shadow Hawk, Wolverine or Griffin, all respected for their well-rounded designs. But while the trio were jack-of-all-trade types, the Centurion knew its role; peppering foes from afar and preferring to outgun over outrun the competition. When paired with other mechs, it did a great job at fire support. On its own, a strong raider.

The further along the Kickstarter gets, the more convinced I am that it’s the game I didn’t even know I wanted until now. All the elements of Mechwarrior Mercenaries with the tactical considerations of Mech Commander. A persistent lance, missions throughout the entire Inner Sphere and hopefully multiplayer arena battles, all set in the era of classic Battletech. 2017 never seemed so far away.

In the Beginning…

Chain swords cure everything.

Chain swords cure everything.

Started a new blog. I considered using Rots Your Brain for my writings as well, but I defined the scope of that as being for movies and television. To change its focus would be undesirable given its focus for mainstream appeal. Warhammer 40k isn’t mainstream, at least not yet… the attention that Space Marine is getting could really begin to change all that. Still, I hope the attention doesn’t go to the creator’s heads. It’s the hardcore fan base who will always be loyal, long after the more fickle fans have gotten over whatever caused the surge in popularity in the first place.

Anyway, I started this blog to keep my writing flowing. Many of the other Boltholers do the same, Pyro, Narry, Shadowhawk. But I need a spot where I can vent to myself the musings of the day, random thoughts and reactions to developing events within and about the 40k universe.

Recently, the submissions window closed after I had pitched three short stories and a novel submission. Of them, I’d say two of the short stories are decent. The last short story was surprisingly intensive, and I honestly have doubts that I could fit the full context of the story in less than 8,000 words. But then again, I think about what The Dark Knight was like or Memento, and recognize that there is a lot of story going on there as well (I am also biased as a huge Christopher Nolan fan). Then again, so did Spider Man 3. Still, I would venture to say that it is better to have too much story than too little, because no one would want to read a snooze fest.

Almost immediately after the contest ended, I went on a reading binge. I read A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, and posted a comparison of it against Gav Thorpe’s The Last Chancers. I completed reading Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DeFoe (not to be confused with William).  I slayed Zombieslayer by Nathan Long and am working my way through Nemesis by James Swallow. I’m trying to mix up my fiction with non-fiction, and also mix some more classic reading on top of that. Part of me is trying to avoid becoming an easily satisfied reader, when simply finishing a book automatically makes it worth reading in my opinion. That’s not always the case. Not every book is amazing, and adding another notch to my book shelf is nothing to be proud of.

My hero.

My hero. ❤

But reading the classics like Robinson Crusoe and A Clockwork Orange has the benefit of allowing me to identify and craft stronger themes into my work. It’s… easy to get lost and simply write what some call “warnography”, when the writing is produced simply to satisfy a person’s craving for action. An excellent story should do that and much more. Still, I suppose as long as the reader is entertained, the job is done.

Who inspires me? In the Black Library crew, my favorite authors are Nathan Long, Gav Thorpe and C.L. Werner. What’s amusing is that these three have veered more towards the Warhammer Fantasy than the 40k universe, but Nathan Long’s plot crafting skills are second to none. CL Werner’s enthusiasm for Robert Howard draws me to him every time. And Gav Thorpe’s story telling… The Last Chancers remains my favorite work in the Black Library despite how old it is. Outside of the Black Library, Christopher Nolan and Darren Aronofsky influence what I want to see. George Orwell, William H. Keith Jr and Robert Howard the other works.

I like to think that reading non-fiction can improve your fiction. When you understand the functions of political-economic structures, I feel you can construct more elaborate worlds within the 40k universe. Dan Abnett does so beautifully when he devises the structure of a hive-city’s political scene. It’s a talent that makes the world more complete, more realistic than the predictable black and white, evil vs good concepts that have little more to offer than the physical struggle against the other half.

Besides, it’s not like there’s any side I would call “good” in the 40k universe. To quote Darth Helmet, “So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph because good… is dumb. “