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Since the last time we checked, two updates have been released for the BattleTech Kickstarter project (which was funded last year), update 24 and update 25. Both updates contain a bevy of information on Harebrained Schemes streaming events, and the latest announces plans for a bi-weekly Q&A (the first questions will be answered today on the Hyper RPG Twitch.tv channel) and includes write-ups on the current state of development and the Argo-class DropShip.
I'm going to quote a couple of excerpts that I feel are relevant to most of our readers' interests, namely the update on development and a behind-the-scenes look at the development of the Argo:
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.
Behind the Scenes - Designing the Argo
This section may not interest everyone, but it's been REALLY, really fun designing this ship inside and out with the team. So I wanted to talk a little bit more about the way we approached it and some of the (hard sci-fi) considerations that made their way into the design.
We started with a really simple prompt: to design a new ship that both narratively and visually fit the BattleTech universe. We knew we wanted something that could act as a mobile base for the campaign, and eventually accommodate an entire Mercenary company. We considered using many existing BattleTech DropShips, but at the end of the day, we really wanted to contribute something new and unique to the world that could serve as one of the highlights of our single-player campaign. For gameplay purposes, we also really liked the flexibility of being able to send a smaller Leopard DropShip down to a planet for a mission, while leaving your main base of operations safe in orbit.
One of the things that really sets BattleTech apart from other sci-fi universes is just how much attention to hard science and practicality is included in the source material. To that end, we spent a ton of time early on discussing what kind of design features might make sense for an early expeditionary ship in the world of BattleTech. The idea of a persistent grav deck quickly became a key feature, one that I went through several iterations on before finally landing on the idea of the deployable hab ring. (In fact, I'm pretty sure at that point I was using paper cups to illustrate the idea to the design team.) Once I had that figured out, I was able to develop around that central idea, with the goal of building something that felt true to the overall shape language of BattleTech DropShips - in a nutshell, it's a ship built for cold reality, not for beauty.
To start designing the interior of the Argo, our art team took a field trip down to the nearby Museum of Flight to take their awesome Space Shuttle trainer tour, and take tons of reference photos. It's always incredibly useful in the visual development process to seek out primary reference, and this was no exception. There's an authenticity you find in little design details, like lockers on the wall with attach points on the front for sticking things to during free-fall - it's been really fun watching Joel layer those elements into the various area designs of the ship.
As the style of the DropShip came together, we turned to the crunchy stuff: the actual BattleTech numbers. (We weren't about to add a new ship to the BattleTech universe without ensuring that it was possible under the game's detailed DropShip construction rules.) Our goal was to create a writeup that wouldn't look out of place in an official Technical Readout book. Kevin started with the TechManual and a target weight of 100,000 tons. Then he turned to Tactical Operations for its selection of advanced equipment, and finally Strategic Operations to look over the advanced Aerospace and maintenance rules and the wide selection of design quirks. In the end, we were able to get pretty close to a set of '˜official' BattleTech stats, and this gave us some clear guidelines for the size of various components, the scale of the ship, and the way everything should fit together. (Though to be clear, we're not submitting this as any kind of playable entry for tabletop play - we're sure there would be plenty of balancing issues, at the very least.)