Project I/18

At long last! The first project of 2018 was about to begin. I decided to start from the top of the pile, also known as the two Metal Earth Models sets I got from the yule goat. Of those I chose for a change one from the rows of the baddies of the series, a well-known light freighter.

Before opening the packet I assumed that this wasn't going to be too easy, as the Falcon was basically a flying saucer with decorations. These not-too-straight angles had proven complicated in the previous projects.


Finished: Project IX/17

Off with the nonsense

After it was bathed and the liquid remains had evaporated the model was ready to be cleaned up. Because the resin was soft the support structure could just be simply and quickly cut away with sidecutters and any remaining excesses could just be scratched off just like that. I was a bit worried of squeezing the carbonite slab with too much force and causing it to bend or something. But my fears were vain, it wasn't that soft.


For the rest of the day I left Solo into a tube lined with UV LEDs. A few hours were supposedly enough, but we left him there over the weekend to harden up.


I took the piece home as a surprise and said that I was going to paint it to look like it was in the movies, but Han Solo was snatched off my hands with words "Don't touch it!". I guess I'd paint any potential second attempt, then. There he remained, on the bookshelf, next to his older self, in front of a bunch of uncle Zahn's books.


Project IX/17

The Empire strikes back

My significant other was wondering why my first idea when playing with a 3d printer wasn't the obvious one, Han Solo in carbonite. I guess we just had different priorities in life :p

Again I bothered my colleague Nathan, during the last months of 2017 and we played with the Formlabs resin printer. Somehow I always managed to start these things in the afternoon so that the printers were left alone overnight.

Friday. Morning.

As soon as I got to work I brewed a cup of coffee and started chiseling the printout off the printer's printing plate. Let me tell you, it was turning my few remaining hairs even greyer, beating the softish resin lump off with a spatula. I shouldn't have worried that much as the violently treated piece was just the footprint of the support structure. For some curious reason the printing program (or was it the slicer?) wanted to set the actual model slanted at an angle.

First thing after detaching it the piece had to be bathed in spirits, twice. The first time it was submerged to the first tank for a good while and then removed to dry up a bit. Then it was submerged into another one for a bit again. One of those bathes was longer-lasting than the other one, but while writing this I just couldn't remember how it went. All I can say the other one was 15 mins and the other one a bit less. Maybe.

While inhaling the ethanol fumes I was admiring the details. Especially captain Solo's hands were amazing.




I Kickstarted* the BattleTech-themed game project of Harebrained Schemes in the late '15 and immediately in Spring '18 my Steam library had a game to be tried out. Maybe I was nursing some massive hopes as FASA's Jordan Weisman was going to be a part of the project and so on. After its release there's been a few updates, the latest I have played before the publishing of this post had a few new difficulty sliders for different areas of the game, a "make it go by faster" for the action animations, but skipping the tutorials wasn't implemented yet.

*) while I'm writing this I had 5 projects "on the way", two had a delivery estimate for 2015, one for last year, one for April and the latest for July. Luckily I wasn't in a rush with these things :D In the end I've always received what was promised, as long as we exclude that one brainfart of Peter Molydeux.

The campaign mode

Of course I started poking at the story that was set before the Fourth Succession War on the BT timeline. As soon as I had the game installed and had some little time to actually give it a shot, that is. The tutorial took me three evenings, the early (1 or 1.5 skull difficulty assumption) random missions were short enough to complete a couple in a session. Securing Argus was surprisingly quick, maybe because I had mentally prepared it to be a long and tedious mission with a hundred enemy waves.

Somehow it just bothered me that the main story missions seemed to be these things I have always loathed: "teehee, you have max. 4 'Mechs to finish a mission and you're gonna get a bunch of plot twists and many, many more times enemies thrown at you than what you got"-kind of things. Luckily the different turrets, could be blown up en masse just by dancing on their control building, for example. As long as you could find out the most optimal, quick and safe route to them first.

Gathering all your 'Mechs around a fallen enemy to kick it to death: risky business that ought to end up in you getting your ass kicked nine times out of ten
The game's intro movie was just gorgeous, I really liked it and the overall style. Each cutscene in this game was not a prerendered video clip but a slightly animated painting-like image with background music. Just like behind the link above.

Then the main bit, the campaign mode. Its point was the running of a mercenary company: as time progressed, you got new contract offers and you could choose, in which order to do them, if you wanted to. Sometimes you could only choose one of the interesting ones (as their validity dates excluded each other). The same system didn't typically have many contracts open, often the contract required many days (planet to planet) or more typically many weeks (system to system) worth of traveling. Which also costs, because when you travel, you aren't working. So, touristing around wasn't going to be sustainable for awfully long with the monthly bills and whatnot to be paid.


After I had gotten past the very beginning of the story, I thought against my deeply ingrained habits that I could give the multiplayer mode a shot. Of course, in the time of the evenings when I could play something, no one else was online nor were there any games open. The very few existing lobbies were full or otherwise blocked. I really didn't feel like opening up  my own games in the vain hope of someone else testing that crap at the same time.

I played against the AI instead, mostly with mixes of different Catapult variants. The four K2 battery in a hot desert was amusing once, just like trying out very weird custom variants (maybe the most idiotic was a 'pult with two flamers and nothing else, with which you could mostly attempt DFAs and go for the melee attacks).

After my experiments I mostly played with a Lance with one or two sharpshooter dual-PPC 'Mechs and the rest being 2xLRM15 + 2xMLas units. Sometimes the enemies fell quickly, one by one, to the relentless missile rain, while sometimes my team got their metallic asses handed to them. As it should be.

Stop the press, I got online after all!

Just for shits and giggles I thought I give the multiplayer option a chance one random evening in late August and behold: there was a lonely lobby open. I tried to join, got in and into the game (with a randomized Lance). The fight began in a decentish way, as we killed a 'Mech each on the same turn. I took a noticeable risk with my third back-shooting unit in a row (which happened to be a Catapult) and alphastroke despite the overheat warning, as I wanted that enemy 'Mech down on that round and not the next one. Yes, it fell gloriously but my 'Pult required a cooldown round and that among some bad, rushed choices turned the tables against me and I lost. But it was fun!


Do guess, how much I liked that the 'Mechs had typed hardpoints instead of proper Critical Slots? Exactly, not one bit. I guess it made balancing and difficulty levels simpler when all the BattleMech models could not be hyperoptimized to the point of ludicrousness. This way the models were actually somewhat different instead of every player-machine being a perfected monster.

Still, the MechTech was supposed to be exactly for that, replacing the autocannon in slot X with a death ray. Her or his skills would then define, if it took many years and zillions of C-Bills or not, which would've fit this game like a PPC bolt into a cockpit, as these freebirhts hadn't yet (or again) invented the OmniPods and time == money. GRRR!

At least the armour amounts could be tweaked freely, the jump jets were somehow capped, maybe (even by hull?) and those damn typed hardpoints ("missile", "laser", "ballistic", "support" (MG, Flamer, SLas)) could take any of the type as long as the space (slots) and weight limits allowed.

It just kept offending me that to build a K2 you needed a different hull for it instead of taking your Catapult frame and swapping the LRM units with PPCs. I have complained, am complaining and will keep on complaining about this braindead rule.

In the game itself

Playing was nice and pleasant. The UI took a bit to get used to and I have to admit that I most likely haven't noticed all the cool little things yet. While playing the tutorials I collected way too much damage when I didn't think of how the direction of the incoming damage was important - and that the straightest route was never the sane nor safest one. But quickly it came back, I started going around to catch my enemies unaware and that stopping the movement too close to an enemy wasn't wise, as the nasty buggers played just as dirtily as I did - when I remembered to. Basic stuff.

My pilots have been pretty bad still (IIRC none had better than level 6 on any skill), the screenshot's even older than my memory. All the four main branches had a justification and honouring the ways of RPGs you couldn't get them all maxed during one game.

My character's name was twisted into Iesed (somehow this reminds me of my EVE Online test where my first name was assumed to be faking to be some sort of an importantish thing in the game universe and I got some negative feedback from the company running the game) and just used the random last name generator. Calvo - bald in English - somehow fit me like a PPC bolt into the viewport and I happily accepted it.

As the time ran forward in the campaign some random events fired at half-random intervals. In those I had to solve some crew or ship -based issues in the role of the commander, choosing from a multi-choice optionset. If I did this, crew member A did something better and maybe B worse; if I did that, C happened. In the pic below we had ran out of mocca (a critical error anywhere!) and I could've either given the last cupful to Dekker or Medusa, quaff it myself, or as I did, share it evenly between the two. This way they were both happy for a month (proper caffeination is damn important, I know) and the team got some nice bonuses.

In a different event my choice got my Mech Tech Virtanen to work like Scotty himself for a bunch of days (or was it weeks?), in a third one my crew's ouchies cured faster (sadly that buff lasted for a month that were in transit the whole duration and more, and no one was getting cured after a fight). I found those funny and they kinda made the crew feel a bit more than just names + portraits in a list.


While negotiation the contracts you could set your payment within certain limits. For that you got two sliders, one for the monetary compensation and another for the salvage rights. Playing with those either gave you more money and less junk, or vice versa. In case you turned one of both purposefully downwards, your company got a reputation boost, which didn't pay any bills but helped you get more lucrative and difficult contract, as far as MRBC was concerned. Whatever you did with these sliders, you always got some money and salvage, in case you caused any salvage to be had*.

Each different faction had their own reputation points as well and if a contract required a good relationship but you didn't have one, you couldn't even try to negotiate. So far I haven't found more than one mission that'd needed a bit warmer friendship with the Capellans than what I had.

*) I once ran with a single Light 'Mech through a prototype-stealing mission without firing a single shot. That was easy, as I just had to run around the map instead of running directly from dropoff site to the nav alpha. The enemies guarding the site only saw my Locust when I was parked in the backyard of the science centre and on the next round I was already running away at full speed, back to where I started. That was lots of fun as well!

A mumbled verdict

Based on ashamedly small amount of playtime (34 hours) I have enjoyed BATTLETECH, it's been a decentish substitute for Classic BattleTech with paper maps, dice, miniatures and friends to play it with. The rules have been bent here and there (to hit -value gets better when someone even shoots at a target, walking/running are different actions and after sprinting you couldn't shoot (even badly) anymore and so on), but somehow I've kind of accepted them. Maybe HBS folks wanted to make those '80s rules easier to swallow?

Whatever, the game has been running nicely and I've had a good time. I've even enjoyed some very funny moments, even though playing alone in front of a screen can never reach the fun of tabletop gaming.

The Project Mumblings approve and thumbs are lifted upwards like flak cannons, towards an incoming Overlord-class DropShip.