Customizable DropShip Home Base Details!
Mike here again, with news from the BATTLETECH development front. In this update, we’ll get up close and personal with the DropShip that you’ll get to use and customize as your home base in the Mercenary campaign. (Unlocked by you guys during our Kickstarter!) But - before we dive into that - here’s a few quick updates & announcements.
Six Beards Entered... And Ours Didn't Leave!
You may remember that we promised a tabletop BattleTech game against our friends at Catalyst Game Labs with beards on the line if the BATTLETECH community successfully unlocked the final Backer Mission during the Kickstarter campaign. And you guys delivered!
So - the Beard Off was played during the Hyper RPG Twitch channel Launch and Charity Drive with fans affecting the outcome by making charitable donations to help out their favorite team. It was a good fight but as you can see by the picture below, Mitch, Jordan and I made the ultimate sacrifice. The entire charity event is archived here - you can find the Beard Off at about the 2:15 mark. Over $14,000 was raised for the HALO Foundation during the Beard Off, thanks in part to the generous support of the Global BattleTech Community.
BATTLETECH Q&A This Wednesday, March 9!
As we mentioned in the last update, we really enjoyed doing the BATTLETECH Q&A's during the Kickstarter so we’re going to continue this tradition with a monthly livestream.
Beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, March 9 at 2pm PST, and then regularly on the 2nd Wednesday of the month, Hyper RPG will host us during their regularly scheduled show, Rabbit Stew.
Each month, we’ll solicit your burning questions on a specific topic over on the BATTLETECH Forum in a thread like this one. In the Q&A session, we'll split our time between answering questions from the forum thread and questions from the livestream chat. We know not everyone will be able to be there live so they’ll also be archived and available afterwards on Hyper RPGs profile page.
Death From Above!
If you enjoyed watching the Beard Off, check out the new Hyper RPG tabletop BattleTech show, Death From Above on Tuesdays and Fridays at 6pm. The game is GM’d by Tyler Carpenter, one of our BATTLETECH designers, and you might see some other friendly HBS faces as well.
On Tuesdays, you get to know our ragtag group of mercenaries as they role play the scenario that sets them up for battle on Fridays when they’ll play on the battlefield with our custom 3D printed ’Mechs.
A Quick Development Update!
Two months into 2016 and things are really picking up speed! Our gameplay prototype has evolved from a rough testing grounds to a fun, cohesive experience that has us all nodding and saying “Yes, this feels like BattleTech.” We’re up to 5-strong on the engineering team now, with architecture and gameplay efforts well underway. Tools and AI engineering efforts are just starting to spin-up, with a couple of key final hires rounding out the team (you’ll get to meet them in future “Behind the Curtain” updates.)
On the art side, we have a terrain-creation pipeline up and running for art and design to start working with that gives us a great balance between design features and really great-looking, naturalistic terrain. (I’m excited to show you guys later this year!) The story team has a complete first-draft of all major characters, locations, and story-beats for the game that we’re busy fleshing-out and iterating on. And the concept art team is right on the story team’s heels, with a good set of designs for major characters and environments already established.
One thing we’re all keenly aware of here is that this game is going to need a LOT of content created for it to fully deliver on the “open-ended” promise - so we definitely still have our work cut out for us, especially when the project transitions into our full Production phase this summer. That said - Jordan and I feel good about where we’re at so far in pre-production.
Introducing the Argo-Class DropShip
And now - it’s DropShip time! Below is a nice sourcebook-style bit of history from our Design Lead Kiva Maginn, along with concept art that the art team and I have been working on. NOTE: Very minor background and setting spoilers follow. It’s nothing big, but I thought I’d include the warning just in case - if you want to discover the DropShip and bits of its backstory for the first time when you play the game, then you might not want to read further.
The Argo-class DropShip was an experiment in constructing a self-sufficient mobile base of operations for a flotilla of expeditionary ships. Built as a mid-point between a mobile DropShip and a mostly-immobile JumpShip, the Argo-class prioritizes sustainable long-term missions over everything else. Boeing Interstellar produced just two of these enormous ships, the Argo and the Myrmidon. The Argo was sent on its proving voyage to the Rimward Periphery in 2762.
The intended mission of the Argo was to follow behind the first wave of exploratory missions, supporting multiple surveyor, terraformer, and colonizer teams while they completed a deep survey of the system. To accomplish this mission, the Argo would stay in-system for six months at a time, while the JumpShip that carried it there would move on to other systems and other tasks. The Argo was a mobile space station, in a sense, providing supply and temporary habitation for teams on dangerous missions in unsettled space.
The Argo is too large to land on a planet, much like the similarly-sized Behemoth. The prototype multiple docking collar system allowed for smaller DropShips to attach to the Argo for resupply, cargo transfer, and personnel transfer; these docking collars allowed smaller ships to remain attached while the Argo linked with a JumpShip for jump transfer, or to break off and remain in-system while the Argo moved on ahead. The Argo was thus meant as a logistical hub for a small flotilla of DropShips, which would dock and undock with the ship as needed to complete their independent missions.
With 57,000 tons of cargo space, the Argo was able to carry supplies for multiple young colonies, arms and armaments for garrisons in need of resupply, colonists being moved to or evacuated from a colony, military hardware, and fuel for other ships. It lacks the armor or maneuverability to function in battle, and it is vastly outclassed in size and firepower by even the smallest WarShips, and it was this non-combat role that ultimately led to its abandonment; the Boeing factories on Galax were entirely repurposed for wartime, and there was simply no place for a peacetime exploration ship.
The Argo featured a unique folding grav-deck design, which allows the ship to remain habitable while in orbit around a planet or station-keeping near a jump point. The three habitation ‘pods’ lie flat against the ship’s central spine while under thrust; while the ship is stationary, the pods extend and the collar to which they’re attached rotates. This keeps the living quarters and medical facilities under gravity at all times, which makes the ship habitable for long tours of duty. The flight control area and command center are located deep inside the ship, near its spine, and are only under gravity during thrust. They’re serviced by fast passenger-sized lifts that run the length of the ship, allowing the crew to muster for duty in just minutes in an emergency.
Habitability was a key point in the objectives the Boeing engineers were given: the crew would be expected to live on the ship for years at a time, if not decades. This total self-sufficiency is a recurring theme in the ship’s design. It includes three fully-featured MASH medical theaters, larger-than-usual crew and passenger accommodations, recreational areas, fitness centers, and extensive onboard hydroponic gardens. An entire pod is reserved for passengers and temporary guests; docking DropShip crews were expected to take ‘shore’ leave onboard the Argo.
The central spine includes multiple elevator shafts serving each of the three docking collars, each shaft being large enough to accommodate an Assault-class ‘Mech, an aerospace fighter, or a heavy combat vehicle. Ground vehicles and ‘Mechs were not expected to deploy directly from the Argo, so it lacks external bay doors; deploying a ground unit meant transferring the unit along the spinal elevators to a waiting Leopard (or comparable) DropShip, from which the unit would deploy. The complement of fighters, however, could deploy directly from the Argo, and were expected to provide support and cover if the Argo found itself in danger.
Ultimately, the Argo would prove to be a dead-end in DropShip design. On its maiden voyage in the deep Periphery, the Argo dropped out of contact, and was presumed destroyed as part of an attack in the New Vandenberg Uprising. While still in dock preparing for its own first voyage, the Myrmidon was damaged by a terrorist action. It was decided not to try to repair the Myrmidon, and it was ultimately broken down for parts and materials to manufacture other, more battle-oriented ships.
The Argo was a product of the era in which it was conceived: a peacetime ship meant for peacetime exploration duties, and planned with the expectation of an abundance of resources and a focus on long-term orbital deployment. In an earlier era, it might have seen widespread usage, but in practice the fall of the Star League and the outbreak of war (and near constant state of war ever since) has rendered the Argo little more than a forgotten, experimental footnote in the history of DropShip production.
A Tour of the Argo
I’m not going to dive into any story spoilers here, but suffice it to say that your Mercenary outfit will come into possession of this derelict Argo-class DropShip early on in the campaign. Here’s a quick tour of some of the different areas of the DropShip that you’ll be able to visit to manage your Mercenary outfit. (And by visit, we mean move between fixed-views of each environment, almost like the old MechWarrior games.) Once again, over to Kiva for the descriptions here!
COMMAND CENTER - This is where you and your command staff operate the ship. It’s a combination of a communications center, briefing room, and CIC. It’s located amidships, along the spine of the ship, where it’s quickly and easily accessed from anywhere on the ship while also being protected by the bulk of the Main Hold. In the Command Center, you’ll talk to your Executive Officer, review and negotiate contracts, and determine lance deployments.
BRIDGE - The bridge is where the operations crew and the navigator drive the ship. It features a large holo-vid display in the center of the bridge for surveying known planetary and stellar data. The pilot and copilot pods are at one end of the bridge area, and the navigator’s console is at the other end. On the Bridge, you’ll talk to your ship’s Navigator and chart both interstellar and interplanetary travel.
MAIN HOLD - The Argo’s main hold is subdivided into into multiple bays, which are connected to each other both via the ship’s main spine elevators and internal lifts. There are three Mech bays, each of which has four Mech cubicles. Active ‘Mechs are kept in these cubicles, ready for deployment. The cubicles are also repair bays for MechTechs to upgrade, modify, and repair Mechs. The Argo was built primarily as a cargo hauler, and has 20 cargo bays ranging in size from 20 m3 to the vast cavernous Main Bay, with 25,000 m3 of storage. In its new life as a mercenary company base, the ship’s cargo bays are used to store salvaged and otherwise deactivated mech chassis and weapons. In the Main Hold, you’ll repair, customize, and upgrade your ‘Mechs, as well as manage salvage and possibly support vehicles.
HABITATION RING - The Argo has three habitation pods, which spin while the ship is not under thrust to provide apparent gravity, and fold down along the spine of the ship to provide apparent gravity while under thrust. These pods contain all comfort-focused facilities: barracks, medical bays, hydroponics, recreation areas, and passenger quarters. In the Habitation Ring, you’ll manage your MechWarriors and other personnel, and browse hiring boards for new hires.
CAPTAIN’S QUARTERS - Your personal quarters on the ship. They’re located in one of the habitation modules, so they always have gravity. They’re larger than the other crew quarters aboard the ship, mostly because they include an attached office. In your Captain’s Quarters, you’ll manage your Mercenary company finances, browse ComStar news bulletins, and view records of your career-to-date.
ENGINEERING - The Argo’s engines are serviced by two primary engineering decks, near the reactor shield. Access to the ship’s maintenance passageways and access tunnels is all through these two decks. In an emergency, the engineering deck can be used as a backup command center. Engineering is where you’ll talk to your Chief Engineer and choose both functional and cosmetic upgrades for the Argo.
So, that’s the Argo! Some elements may still change, but we’re very excited about this direction and what it adds to the Mercenary campaign. Here’s one more last-minute addition to the tour, though - a previsualization video that Joel and Spencer have been working on to show how you might interact with the various rooms on the DropShip. I wasn’t planning on including this, but… well, when Spencer showed it to the team yesterday, we all thought it was just too cool to not give you guys a peek.
Please know that this is a rough concept piece only - it’s not in-engine yet, and is not meant to suggest any specifics as far as how ‘Mech and ‘MechWarrior customization will work from a game design standpoint, or who your particular advisor characters will be in the story. This is all hot-off-the-presses and subject to change. But enough caveats - here’s the concept video!
(Additional caveat - ‘Mech scaling is still a work in progress, and we’ll be following Piranha’s current rescaling efforts for MWO, coordinating with them to ensure that everything we ship in our final game feels correct.)