Saturday, 19 December 2009

BattleTech Jumping the Shark Reboot


On the official CBT forum there has been a rather long thread about has BattleTech jumped the shark? Warning 22 pages of repetition.


To summarise the thread topic was defined as the moment when a series delivers the ultimate desire of the characters; from the "Happy Days" scene where the Fonz always dreams of jumping over a shark and gets to realise his dream. If your dream has been realised then what is there left to do? I'm not sure I would agree with that interpretation, as for me "jumping the shark" implies more of the idea that a story has gone beyond believability, but YMMV on that, especially with something involving giant walking machines?

Then there is the idea that the in game ComStar aims, namely the coming of the third transfer would also mean that BattleTech had jumped the shark; it is suggested that the formation of a new Star League would be that third transfer. From a meta-gaming perspective I'd argue that one could see the real transfers of the game coming from changes in the rules, as they have evolved over time.

If you agree then using this analogy one can argue that the first transfer was from the 3025 rule-sets to the Clan invasion of 3050 rule-sets. I would argue that the game changed fundamentally at that point. Even though on the surface the rules are the same, the balance of the game changed. Battlemechs became brittle eggs that could be cracked open by superior firepower, rather than something that had to be slowly ground down to be destroyed (barring lucky shots that is). The second transfer was Clicky tech and the Age of Darkness, which unfortunately crashed & burned causing a reversion to the "classic form of BattleTech". Now we have the third transfer, which is the introduction of Word of Blake cybernetics to uplift the Inner Sphere to match the Clans and lead the game into the redefined new Dark Ages of the 3130 Battletech universe.

Rant on: As I said on the CBT forum, my only problem with the Jihad is that there was not enough destruction done by the Word of Blake as of yet. I want to see billions of people starving to death from the repercussions of war. Billions more dying from crops failing due to a lack of fertilizers and pesticides, and I want to billions dying from disease arising from unclean water, and a lack of medicines. I want to see the remains of humanity reduced to scavenging from the rubble. I want a future where a lance of battlemechs can rule a world, where the pilots are like gods, lording it over the cowered and subdued populations of denuded worlds. I want to see the Word of Blake/Comstar reap the whirlwind. If we see thousands of nukes raining down on the planets of the Inner Sphere during the Word of Blake retreat, then I could see how peace would break out and mechs mothballed for later on.

Showing that war leads to widespread famine, the rise of pestilence,and outbreaks of plagues. Would be a good message to send to the players that these are consequences of apocalyptic wars. Of course all the players will be moaning about how their favourite faction was robbed etc., but that is life. Rant off.

Like it or not, we know that due to the "second transfer" that BattleTech moves to the era Republic of the Sphere. For me this is in and of itself is not a bad place to play games of BattleTech. It is an ideal period for small unit actions of giant battling mecha-on-mecha action, which is where IMNSHO the rules work best. As a diehard old time fan, described on the BattleTech forums as a Retarded-Old-RetreadTM, and proud of it too. I welcome the return of BattleTech to its roots of small unit actions, where desperate home defence units field industrial mechs as a futuristic variant of tactical trucks seen today.

However, nothing lasts forever, not even D&D, without a reboot. Will BattleTech need a reboot? Probably over due for one, but I think that the likelihood of it happening is small.

4 comments:

  1. Honestly, I liked Dark Age. The original set was ugly as sin, and size issues were all over but it got much better by the end. The "classic" game I have yet to really get anyone to even try. The Clix game though I was able to find so many games and just play. That's a big thing for games like that. I have some much classic stuff but I've gotten so little use out of it. The clix game I think ran into problems because they came up with the great idea of adding depth to it, but the card system that suddenly went with the game made no sense. If a merc contract is worth X points per X points of my battleforce period...then why do I have to buy the starter set for a stupid card saying it? How do I get heavy armor for a medium mech if I missed the first set without you including it in another set and making all the current players angery at another useless double? They had a great idea but they did it poorly, and their attempt to fix it was an even worse idea.

    I really hated the Jihad though, it sort of seemed silly at first but what was worse though was that Battletech because of Dark Age just came to a grinding halt. Nothing happened, apparently no one liked it so of course we can't skip the time frame AND we can't explore it either. At least Catalyst started to flesh it out. A jump to the last point in time would best of the game I think, even though I lvoe the Succession Wars.

    I think if they did that and made the game accessible to a large audiance somewhat that they could reinvent the game just fine. I don't see the game as it is as a big money maker in its current form. Strangely enough Games Workshop is pretty popular so I don't see Battletech's amazing popularity as being cruel joke.

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  2. Never got into the clicky tech, which was down to time and circumstances to be honest. I played one game where the other players were more interested in pasting the noobies, rather than explaining the rules and their implications to them. I could see that the best game strategies were not the same as in Battletech. Never went back to that club.

    However, a lot of what I saw was good, but as you say the size issue, and the marketing strategies that left players angry were a bad thing. Shame really.

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  3. Time and circumstances seemed to work for me. I ended up with a Wolf Dragoon Cougar and went down to a place that ended up being friendly. Interesting enough the strategies that worked when the game came out slowly phased out over time. Originally the high defense mechs and fast infantry ruled the game so strategy to me seemed sort of shallow untill they changed that. Finding a place with lots of people to play was my main motovator though.

    I really liked some of the Age of Destruction era units though. There was a Davion quad mech I swore by as my little sniper that could. I really think that all they had to do to fix the game was to sell all the "cards" seperately and to make upgrade cards for rules covered gear uneeded, of course then people would have had to write things down...

    Still, beyond the faults the game itself was a solid concept. Unfortunetly if someone actually did pick it up now my Dark Angel marines would have a fit if I played it as much as I did back then!

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  4. I haven't looked at the thread itself but read through your post on it. The idea of a reboot sounds interesting. I've been trying for some time to get into CBT again and I think the hump is in the rules. The background is interesting enough, though like you, I think a fundamental change happened (for the worse inmho) when the clans entered the scene. I miss the days with images of knights in 75 ton armor fighting it out on the batttlefield for pools of water and the scraps left over by your enemies carcasses.

    Ultimately though, I think the rules are clunky and could use some serious streamlining. If course the kind of changes I'm talking about wouldn't interest a lot of CBT players. For me though, I'd like to reduce the number of dots I'm scratching off, and figure out how to add a little more tactical and a little less ship of the line type play.

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