Thursday, June 29, 2017

Writing Battletech Fanfiction - A View From the Trenches!

As some of you know, I am a budding professional writer. Partly, it's my day job, (I am a technical writer), and partly? It's my passion. Battletech is well, great fodder for fanfiction. The veritable "what ifs" alone make for some great story material.

I wanted to use a story I am currently writing, Clover Spear - The Story of the War of '56 as a way of showing both the joys and the pitfalls of fanfic writing, especially for Battletech. There's a lot of good here, and some bad. But am I enjoying myself? You bet.

So, first the good. Fanfic is a great way to keep your writing talons sharp, as well as your imagination. Your chosen subject matter is your canvas, and you're not limited by canon, but by whatever your mind can conceive,

Let's use my story, I wanted to see what the result of the following premise would be? "What might have happened had Hanse Davion had survived his heart attack back in 3052?" Well, for starters, I do not think he would have let the Clans just set up shop on his borders. And with Hanse Davion, when he is unhappy, he is rarely unhappy alone for long. But I didn't want this to be "Hanse Davion saves the universe again!!" No, I wanted Victor to shine, and I wanted Katherine not to be a "ponytail twirling villain" like she was reduced to in the canon universe. And yeah, I wanted Omi to live....

So, what to do, what to do? Well, you're seeing the results.

But some points as I continue to write.

1. Have a plan: Having a plan to guide your writing is always a good thing, especially for a stream-of-consciousness writer like me. That doesn't mean you let the plan straight-jacket you. If you think of something good (especially if it makes you cackle with glee), and/or a reader has a great suggestion? Use it. Give credit where credit is due, but use it. But always have an idea where you are going with this. I have two spreadsheets, soon to be four, tracking the troop movements for this thing. Combat resolution is, if it sounds about right, do it. Some may not like that, but this is a story, not a wargame. Just don't be munchy about it.

2. Deal out the Pain as Even as You Can: Battletech is war, and war is a risky, risky enterprise. Battles are lost and won based on the slimmest of margins, and so are wars. You can do a lot, even kill factions, but the fact is..make sure there is enough around to keep it an interesting universe, so more often than not, make sure everyone gets their fair share of loss.

3. Keep Writing: I admit it, every review, every site visit, and discussion thread on Spacebattles and is a fix for the writing drug. We fanfic guys don't get paid to do what we do, we do it for the love of what we do, so reviews are our payday. Many of us do it to see "Are we really that good, or are we kidding ourselves." I have had the question answered, and yes Virginia, I am a pretty damn good writer. But don't abandon your readers, even if you have to take time off, make sure when you come back, you come back with a vengeance.

4. Start Small, and Do Your Homework: Make your beginning micro, and build out macro. Make sure the steps you are about to take are ones you can build a good writing foundation for. If it's on a shaky foundation, it will be reflected in your prose. Moreover, do your homework. There is plenty of material out there for Battletech, even on the internet. If you have to make something up? Make sure it's at least plausible vis a vis your research. This leads into a related point....

5. Respect Your Readers Suspension of Disbelief: Your readers come to be entertained and have fun with your writing. They aren't asking you to be Hemmingway or Ringo, just good enough they can have fun reading it for a while. So respect the use of their time. Don't write a plot bunny you know sounds weak or just plain bad to you just because "it's in the plan" or "you have to, the story won't flow." If you think it sucks, then the reader will too, I promise you. Like on Broadway, give the audience what they want...but leave them wanting more. Do that and you will have them coming back for more of your work.

So, that's the best advice I have out there. I will keep writing my stuff, because it's fun and keeps the writing muscles sharp. I do hope you keep reading it.

Friday, June 23, 2017

It's tough finding active Battletech blogs out there!

It just is.

I don't know why this is, but it seems that as games go, Battletech isn't one that inspires people to blog about it for very long. Scrapyard Armory being the singular exception, and it hasn't been updated since the beginning of this year?

So why the heck is this?

I have my theories:

1. The game's release schedule isn't very active, or very stable right now. I know what the upcoming pages on the CBT site say, but then we see a beta for the Battletech Master Rules, part deux, a cover painting for ilClan, but has Alpha Strike been forsaken? Depends on whom you talk to.

2. The feeling that many at CGL don't have as much love for Battletech as they do Shadowrun. I had one person in the know (whose identity I will never reveal, so do not even ask) tell me that Battletech was seen as a loss leader, as compared to Shadowrun and that there was some enmity between the two teams.

3. Do we the fans bear some responsibility? I am an old grognard whom at 11 years old was eagerly leafing through his copies of the 4th Succession War atlas and just going "wow". We got spoiled under FASA in the 3025 years. We did. The Clan years were good too. But something happened around the mid to late 90s as the game moved into the 3057-8 era. The quality of the writing declined on the sourcebook side, this continued for a while, until Fanpro came along. Was the Jihad the best executed idea? No. But Battletech is a game that must evolve, and Fanpro, for better or worse was stuck with the Jihad and the changes Clicky-Tech wrought. They did the best with what they had.

And how did a lot of fans react? "If you don't love 3025, hippie, then get the hell out of CBT." A lot of fans, I hate to say it, did just that. Can we blame them?

So, we are left with a game in limbo. A game that like a shark, must keep swimming forward to survive. If we do not swim forward, we will die.

I for one, do not want Battletech to die again. I don't want us to just be some new hot property for a computer game (which does look good by the way). I want us to live and breathe again. We must do this, for the sake of the game.

How do we do that? I have my opinions, which I plan to keep to myself. This isn't the place for that. This is food for thought put out to you, the reader. So, tell me readers. How do we move forward, how do we get our game back on top again?

Because I am damn tired of looking up from the bottom.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

New Leadership for Battletech Line, and what we'd like to see!

As some are aware, Classic Battletech has some new people at the helm. This is good as the game has been, for better or worse, stalled creatively for some time. There has been few new releases (The first two books of the Combat Manual series, and Campaign Operations, as well as 1st Succession War come to mind), it has been dribs and drabs when it comes to new printed product.

Then there is the issue of certain newseen sculpts being pulled from the marketplace for reasons unknown. This is, of course, leading to rumors of everything from "HG's lawyers are suing" to "Someone at CGL Legal thought they needed to have further work done to make sure we don't get sued."

All of this has combined to leave a big communication gap between us the players, and CGL. Yes, there are the forums, and the facebook pages, but when I can't get a simple email about getting a replacement part for a Uziel filled from Iron Wind Metals filled in a timely fashion (Going on two weeks guys, and no response.), then there is a humongous problem.

So what would we like to see out of the new leadership?

  • We'd like the new products to get some forward motion, or at least, if there is forward motion, tell us that? Us Alpha Strike players are especially keen as we have seen the plastic lance box sets cut from $20 to $10  and then raised to $15? We'd like some honest talk about the future of Alpha Strike. And, some honest talk about the future of CBT in general.
  • We'd love to see this wishlist filled?
    • A introductory set with plastic Newseens, or Clan 'Mechs?
    • An Alpha Strike boxset?
    • A new design suite, perhaps app compatible and able to do conversions across all levels of CBT (Alpha Strike, Classic Battletech, Battleforce, ISIF, etc.)?
  • I know that the policy is "we don't do release schedules" because it is hard to meet them in the industry, but some idea as to when we can expect a product, approximately, at least in PDF would be awesome?
  • Better customer service from both Iron Wind (which I am aware is an independent company) and the CGL web store. I have personally heard too many horror stories first hand about waiting for product, waiting for response to emails, etc.

I don't think my ideas are too wacked out, and I'd like to hear from you, the audience? What would you like to see from our new overlords? Let's see what the fanbase needs, wants, and desires?

UPDATE: Brent Evans got back to the fans on the Customer Service front:

Hello everyone - I've been able to get a handle on all the cases from my original announcement, so I'm expanding my call out to everyone to make sure no one falls through the cracks.  

As the new Line Developer for BattleTech I'm taking the lead on helping anyone with outstanding Customer Service issues in need of getting their orders fulfilled through the Catalyst web store.  This includes any outstanding orders placed through the old web store as well.  I don't want anyone left behind.  

It was no secret that our old webstore was faltering pretty hard by the time we were able to get the new one built from the ground up, and despite the web-team's best efforts - we've been correcting gremlins every since it went live in November.  We've got a massive product list so there were bound to be glitches, but we are committed to making sure no one falls through the cracks.

And I'm willing to put products where my mouth is to prove it.

So if you have an old issue or product that you ordered, paid for, and for some reason are still waiting for delivery after 60 days or more - please email me directly so I can get it resolved for you.  If you placed an order for a PDF product that never arrived, the link didn't work, or it downloaded the wrong product - please email me directly.  If you've been emailing to the Customer Service address for months and not getting a resolution - just email me directly.  I will send a PDF product of your choice free of charge for every order like these that you send me.  

Thank you for helping us make sure every fan gets their gaming needs fulfilled.  I appreciate your collective assistance.