Sunday, May 31, 2009

TRO: 3063 Update

Hi! Yesterday was a bit of a piss-and-moan apologia for those of you who actually visit this site for news on the TRO. Needless to say, you didn’t get much updating.

Just a few short notes:

- The Bandersnatch and the Nightsky have been replaced by brand new art, courtesy of Eric ‘Eriance’ Ou over at the deviantArt website. I highly recommend him for those of you who are planning similar work, as his drawings are crisp and original, combining the ‘machine’ look of Battletech with just a touch of the fluid ‘Mecha’ anime style. Those of you who find objections to some of Matthew Plog’s earlier work will understand. He, too, is very talented and his work appears frequently in the Company’s publications. However, quite a few of his illustrations were heavily rounded and, to some eyes, lost a bit of the ‘Battletech feel’ as found in the rest of the TROs.

It is a matter of taste, of course. Duane Loose has his detractors as well.

- The Dragonfly and the Werefox AAV have been put to bed. There are just four remaining writeups to finish – the Sabra III, the Werefox Petain, the Werefox ICV (Infantry Combat Vehicle) and the Werefox FSV (Fire Support Vehicle). These require work mostly on the ‘Notable Vehicles and Crews’ section, as well as some updating courtesy of the incredibly detailed FedCom Civil War manual. I recently managed to scrounge a dog-eared copy of this book and found it contained a lot of material that I had never seen online.

- We have pipelined new images of the FedSuns Commando and Centurion, as well as the Lyran Fafnir and Centurion. On deck are the Lyran Griffin and the FedSuns Blackjack. I expect these to appear in the next three weeks.

- The Magistracy of Canopus has a ‘new’ Thunderbolt. I will not post the writeup here; suffice to say it was written by none other than Mark Miller himself, of FanPro/Catalyst Games fame. These machines are not your ordinary heavy ‘Mech. They are relics salvaged from an abandoned First Star League base and in lieu of the standard fusion engine and armor, have been refitted with a diesel powerplant and fairly primitive armor (a uniform twenty points in all locations except the head and back).

There are six operational examples, and I would not normally include this machine in the TRO due to such low numbers. But this is the shape of things to come, if you will; it is a taste of the Dark Age. As such, I thought it an important addition. We have fielded the design on a gaming table against forces likely to encountered on the borders of the MoC. It performs quite well. Slow, but effective.

David White is working on the illustration for this strange bird even as you read this.

That’s all for now. Take care and stop in for more updates as they appear!


Saturday, May 30, 2009

TRO: 3063 – Pros and Cons of the Production Schedule

As I write this, the month of May slips quietly into the rear-view mirror. It has been a good time – the weather finally took a turn for the warm (as opposed to last year's chill which lasted well into June) and I was finally able to get out there and, armed with an old laptop, cigar and cup of coffee, got writing again.

The introductions were written. That was a major writing block for me, as I did not really know where to start. And after reading the bit for Draconis Combine vehicles, some may agree that I really did not know where to stop. Be that as it may, I am done with them (except for polishing, of course).

Another thing out of the way: the Werefox line, another enormous chunk of ‘Lord-help-me’. It was just sitting there, waiting for me to think of something intelligent to say about it. I have to admit, I nearly combined four of the original six vehicles into a single writeup just to get them out of the way.

But as I began to dig into the Werefox Commander, several things began to happen. I eventually finished the Commander, only to spend the next three days tweaking and re-designing the remaining vehicles and even coming up with a new (!) VTOL to assist them. There was a common theme and a good reason to build all of these machines – I just had to get the juices flowing and hey presto!

The last of the Werefox line is getting a second polish. Meanwhile, I have begun on the Table of Contents (TOC) and Credits section. And this brings me to a somewhat awkward confession.

This project originally began as a stack of images linked to text files which contained the basic design for an Inner Sphere ‘Mech or Vehicle. The artist wanted this all assembled and written while he pursued other projects. Over the course of 2008, I dropped some designs and modified others, but always kept to a theme. However, it was not until mid-2008 that I began to notice some of the art pieces were more derivative than others. Furthermore, there were a host of additional vehicles AND ‘Mechs which had crept into the project, in the interests of expanding on an idea or just covering a greater range of missions. I mean, who has not tinkered with the Heavy Metal Vee © design program and seen the Level 3 option of ‘minesweeper’? And yet there are precious few examples of a dedicated minesweeper to be found in other publications.

All of this has be illustrated, all of it at a level comparable with the original company publications. To do otherwise, to allow thinly-disguised copies of other artist’s works to appear in our TRO (yes, even with a long list of ‘credits’ for inspiration) would spoil everything I and my talented associates have labored over so hard and for so long.

So it was that I gathered the art together and enlisted the aid of Eric ‘Eriance’ Ou from the DeviantArt website to go through it and validate the degree of originality in each piece. Many passed – some did not. And so I find myself digging even deeper into my bank account to fund what amounts to the ‘rework’ of several pieces. This, in addition to the pieces I had to commission in order to illustrate the newer designs, accounts for much of the delay in getting TRO:3063 to bed. After an outlay of $600, I am still budgeting artwork, though the end is in sight.

Today I shot off $75 via PayPal to two of our most talented artists, David White and Eriance. More will follow; despite his offer to do some work for free, I do not feel it is right to burden Eriance with the problems created by another. He gets paid, though it is at a reduced rate due to his insistence on helping me set things right. Everyone, even the massively busy MechaMaster, is pitching in. We will bring you the best we can do.

General George Patton once remarked that ‘the best is the enemy of the good’. Most of you have probably heard and understand that pithy remark, so I won’t elaborate. But I consulted the prolific, knowledgeable and very kind Mike Miller to make sure we were doing writing which was up to the standards of the company products. And I need not elaborate on the amount of re-writes, editing and subsequent polishing which have gone into even the smallest of our entries. It isn’t about just kicking out a TRO and basking in the resulting (minor) burst of glory. How many of you actually take the time to go collect the other fan-created TROs out there? This one will be worth the effort. You will actually want to field this stuff, and the writeups support both gamer and casual reader alike.

Time to draw this to a close.

The timetable has been pushed back and back and back. Original estimates put the publication date at June, 2008. As you can see, this did not work out, due mostly to the unanticipated amount of tag-team writing I decided was an absolute must-have to produce a quality product. The choice is now a year gone by, and I stand by it. Those of you who have had a taste of the art, or the writing, or both, will agree. That said, the new publishing date is set for 1 August, 2009 – just a month short of the two-year mark from the debut of the TRO:3062.

If anyone knows an artist who is talented, original and can do military vehicles in black and white, please refer them to this blog. I have several artists on commission right now, but they all have jobs, lives and other commission pieces which will slow the pace. I cannot promise top dollar, but they will get paid and earn a spot on the credits page. It is the best I can do right now.

Take care and keep your medium lasers clean!


Sunday, May 10, 2009

The balance of Power...

We just put the Churchill self-propelled assault gun to bed. Good work by all, but Geoff is the one who came up with the core writing, so my hat is off to him.

Next up is the answer to a question I've been sitting on for a while: what is the smallest effective tracked infantry support machine we can make with Rick Raisley's Heavy Metal Pro? I guess it depends on what you call effective. We figured it would have to end up just above the Thirty Meter Limit in terms of game use (more on that later).

What came out surprised us, to the point that it actually made the final cut and we squeezed it into the Periphery. It has the working name of Desert Rat, but you know that's gonna change. It is the result of joint effort by the Taurian Concordat and the Capellans.

Also on deck: I paid off the Battlemaster art and a third piece from David White, the Black Knight.

As of now, Vlad has promised me revised Velite art for the Marian Hegemony - hopefully he will get to it before taking off for the Continent. The current Velite has no less than five fifteen-tube rocket launchers mounted on the turret. Naturally, the art needs some tweaking...

Yes, the balance of power. We have two thirds vehicles, mostly ground types with a few aircraft. The rest are 'Mechs.

I have four writeups remaining. Last night saw a sort of breakthrough on the Werefox family of vehicles - the C3 variant was a blah, ho-hum vee carrying a C3 Master module and a bit more armor than usual. Then I looked at the art again, and realized that Vlad had not thought to include the LRM-10 launcher on the turret.

Next thing I know, I have something like eight tons open on the Werefox C3 and whaddaya know? Seems like a real good idea to include a second Anti Missile system, a second C3 Master and quite a bit more armor. Oh, and an ER large laser. Some of you may complain 'but that's pretty much the same thing as the Morningstar of 3062!'.

And you would be wrong.

About the only thing the two have in common are their C3 Master units. After that, there really isn't much comparison. After all, the Werefox C3:

- tracks have more terrain options than the Morningstar's wheels

- carries 15% more armor

- AND a nearly impenetrable anti-missile shield

- AND a Guardian ECM

- AND a longer-ranged, harder-hitting gun which is independent of ammo

- AND Cellular Ammunition Storage Equipment

- AND a targeting computer

.... and it ends up being cheaper, too.

The designs we have are not cheese.... but simply certain ideas taken to their logical conclusion...


Friday, May 08, 2009

How the TRO is set up.... and how it works.

Hey. Back again.

I thought I would outline what the TRO:3063 is, and what it is not.

It is a standard BattleTech Technical Readout, produced by fans to resemble very closely the kind that FASA, then FanPro, and now Catalyst Games produces. It is placed in the year 3063 A.D. and despite the initial title of 'Vehicle Annex', it deals with both BattleMechs and Vehicles.

It is going to feature at least 35 BattleMechs and some 58 Vehicles. Of the 'Mechs, some will be variants of existing designs and others will be entirely new machines. Rest assured, I keep tabs on the designs and do not want to include machines which duplicate a 'Mech or Vee which already exists (though there are exceptions, as in the case of the Star League-era Marksman self-propelled artillery).

We have some very good designs for all our 'Mechs and Vees, as well as carefully-written descriptions common to a TRO. Some players dismiss this as 'fluff', and that is its common name, but don't be misled. 'Fluff' is every bit as important to Battletech as the stories they publish in paperback format.

It must be carefully researched so as not to conflict with canon; that is, material already accepted in the Battletech 'universe' as accepted fact, history or whatever you want to call it. It is the bedrock on which all Battletech fiction is based.

I want to assure anyone reading this who has been waiting for the TRO:3063 that we do not intend to 're-invent' the Battletech universe with an alternate history or timeline. What our team has tried to do is insert war machines wherever and whenever we can in the established framework without contradicting the canon.

This is very difficult to do, let me assure you. I have learned more about the Battletech story than I ever thought I would, and still do not have half the knowledge my writing partner (Geoffrey Butler) has forgotten. But while we have similar writing styles, he has the 'software' skills and I have the hardware knowledge. It overlaps and the result (so far) is something pleasing.

It may be that we will still make errors; the Battletech universe is a very, very big and complicated place. Lots of stuff happens and if you don't read every single word of every single page of every single publication, online and in hard copy, you will miss it. And someone out there will catch you. We are editing this thing for entry size, word count, quality art, tight writing and as much compatibility with the existing material as is humanly possible with only four people on the project and three of them writing.

Just so you don't think this is a lot of hot air, we have already completed the 'Mech writeups and artwork. We have about five vehicle writeups left, then massive editorial review, then conversion to a PDF format, then another editorial pass, then we send it out to selected readers who go over it with a fine tooth comb and point out any last minute errors which have slipped through our 'process'.

I just nailed the Pershing last night and sent it off to Geoff for second draft. He in turn shot me the Diatryma armored car, the Ocelot II riot control vehicle and the Fox anti-aircraft tank for polishing. The Pershing is a replacement and, in some ways, an update to the venerable Marksman self-propelled artillery. We chose to do the Pershing because the Marksman has not been in production for about three centuries, and you know? The spare parts are about to run out.....


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

TRO:3063 Updates...

Hey, I am back after a long absence.

This time I should be filling the space with nattering on about my job, my life, my friends, my hobbies, ad nauseum.

Or holding forth on my religious views, or my political position, or what I think of the local Wal-Mart or Discover Magazine.


Everyone else does that stuff to death. I don't care if you agree with me or not on any of these things, because sooner or later reality will smack you in the head. Or me.

Meanwhile, if you are here, you are probably interested in Battletech. So there is something we can agree on. And guess what? I happen to be working on a Fan-produced Technical ReadOut for that game.

So that's what will go here. Updates on this work, and the next, etc.

Let's get a few things straight: I am not working for, or representing, Catalyst Game Labs. I am not selling the TRO. I am not taking submissions for writing or designs; those are done. I am willing to look over artwork, so long as I pay for it and it meets my standards.

There! Now, it is getting dark out and cold out and I want a cigar and a cup of coffee with my writing. So out to the garage. I will return tomorrow with an update on the 'Mechs section.