Monday, July 24, 2017

News and Commentary

There has been a lot, and I mean a lot of news for Classic Battletech in the last 72 hours, I was waiting for all of it to shake out a little before I posted this, but then Sunday's bombshell required I get to a computer and write.

So, first the good news. 2nd Succession War is out in PDF! The word is that limited copies will hit the street for Gencon, but hey, I can wait...that is assuming the other news I will talk about in a bit doesn't screw everything up.

I have been waiting for this for a while. I like fluff, fluff gives me ideas to write about, to write scenarios for, and to inspire painted units. I can take a throw away sentence or two in a given sourcebook and turn it into a 12 turn scenario, and I have done it many, many times.

Naturally, I already have a copy, (author's credits for Red Star, White Lights have been doing well of late) and on first blush, I liked what I saw. I cannot wait for the dead tree version, but it looks as if we are going to have another quality product on our hands to reenact some great CBT history.

The *meh* is the PDF releases of the Battletech Manual and the Technical Readout: Succession Wars. This is not to knock the effort that went into the former product, which was a lot, but honestly? This was a product that should have been released a long, long time ago in my opinion. The fact that it was not, seems a bit of a silly decision. Battletech, for all of the talk about combined arms (and such an idea is important, make no mistake) is primarily about the 'Mechs. It's why people play. It's what attracted me to the game in the 1980s. So, yeah, a 'Mech oriented rule book should have been one of the first projects to hit the street in the 2000s back when they were doing the Total Warfare series.

As for the latter product. It's the TRO version of a clip show. I hate clip shows. Yes, I know, it's got the reseen artwork. Cool. But I am not going to plunk down money for a product that I already have most, if not all the information for. If this is different, please let me know, as I am a person who is not above eating humble pie when required.

Now, the ugly. As we all know, Harmony Gold, the creators of Robotech (which is partly responsible for me *being* a Battletech player) alleges that the images created for the upcoming computer game by Harebrained Schemes and the images being used by Piranha Games for Mechwarrior Online are a threats to the Robotech copyright as those images resemble images in Robotech, or at least that's what their recently filed legal action says. They also named In Media Res Productions, the parent company of Catalyst Games Labs in the suit.

Now, I am not a legal scholar. but, my understanding is that if an image differs more than 15% from the original, than it is not an infringement on said copyright. Now, Harmony Gold has been kind enough to show their images, versus the images of the reseen and how they allege the similarities are actionable. Personally, I do not see it, but, hey, I will let you the reader decide. And if there are any IP experts or legal scholars out there, I welcome their comments on the case, and would love for them to set us straight.

Ok, let's take a look at the video tape, so to speak:

Found here is the comparison taken from the legal filings of the Warhammer and Archer (left) and the Destroid Spartan and Destroid Tomahawk (right). Image taken from Case 2:17-cv-00327

Found here is the comparison taken from the legal filings of the Atlas and Shadow Hawk (left) and the Armored Valkyrie and Destroid Spartan (right), note lack of captioning on the left. Image taken from Case 2:17-cv-00327

Found here is the comparison taken from the legal filings of the Marauder (left) and the Officer's Pod Glaug (right), again, note lack of captioning on the left. Image taken from  Case 2:17-cv-00327

Found here is the comparison taken from the legal filings of the Marauder/Marauder IIC and Phoenix Hawk (left) and the Officer's Pod Glaug and Super Valkyrie on the right. Image taken from  Case 2:17-cv-00327

Found here is the comparison taken from the legal filings of the Rifleman (left) and the Destroid Defender (right). Image taken from  Case 2:17-cv-00327

I am not at all convinced that Harmony Gold has much of a leg to stand on. The Atlas has similarities to the Armored Valkyrie? You have got to be kidding. I'd get it if they were up in arms if the Crusader was being reissued, which I have not seen a reseen for it yet. Could be wrong, and the Shadow Hawk? Who in their right mind says it looks like a Spartan? Sorry, but this smells to high heaven to me. And I might have good reason to think so, as Sony Pictures has announced they are going forward with a Robotech movie.

Now, that said, the suit was filed in March of this year, and the directorial announcement was made last week..but one might think all sorts of uncharitable things about Harmony Gold and seeking to destroy any potential competitors to any marketing of oh, say, toys and games ahead of a movie release? No, we wouldn't think that, would we?

Lets ignore the fact that Harmony Gold has done little with the IP in the last ten years. Yes, they released Shadow Chronicles (poorly received), and Love, Live, Alive (which was little more than a clip show!). Not to mention the remasters of the original episodes which while the sound and picture clarity was good, some of the questionable fan service was not (endless scenes of Dana showering in the Robotech Masters series, for example).

I won't even bring up the fiasco of the Robotech Miniatures Game and how kickstarter participants STILL have not gotten all they paid for. In fact, things got so bad there, one of the designers was almost driven to suicide. Where was Harmony Gold there? Filing dubious lawsuits it seems.

In short, this smacks of what is called "IP trolling" and while legally. Harmony Gold might be in the right, they are alienating a lot of fans...and those fans aren't probably going to take this lying down. I have already heard rumors of letter writing campaigns and defense funds. I would not be surprised if both go forward.

I will let you, dear reader, decide what you think of it all, but I am pretty convinced this is little more than "lawfare" and I hope it doesn't bleed dry some really good attempts to bring the game back from the brink. But, considering the nature of what the players are, I will quote Han Solo, "I have a bad feeling about this."

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