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BattleTech is a wargaming and science fiction franchise, launched by FASA Corporation and currently owned by WizKids. The series began in 1984 with FASA's debut of the board game BattleTech (originally named BattleDroids) and has since grown to include numerous expansions to the original game, several video games, a collectible card game, a series of science fiction novels, an animated television series and more.
Chicago-based FASA Corporation's original, 1984 BattleTech game focuses on enormous robotic, semi-humanoid battle machines called BattleDroids, though this was changed to BattleMechs in the second edition because George Lucas and Lucasfilm held the rights to the term "droid". The visual design of the earliest line of BattleMechs drew heavily from Macross and other anime, including many signature images. In later years FASA abandoned these images due to legal issues.
The game's popularity spawned several variants and expansions to the core system, including CityTech which fleshed out infantry and vehicle combat, AeroTech which focused on air- and space-based operations, and Battlespace which detailed large spacecraft combat. FASA also published numerous sourcebooks that featured specifications for new combat units that players could select from. However, despite the large number of such pre-designed BattleMechs, vehicles, aerospace units and other military hardware, the creators also established a complex system of custom design rules, enabling players to generate their own units and field them in combat. This engineering aspect of the game, itself expanded by several design and technology sourcebooks, has proven to be enduringly popular and may explain BattleTech's longevity.
FASA launched two additional systems to complement the core game: BattleTroops, an infantry combat system, and BattleForce, a large-scale combat simulator governing the actions of grouped BattleTech units. The Succession Wars, a board game released in 1987, is the only purely strategic title of the series and is played on a political star map, with players vying to capture regions of space.
The BattleTech franchise first extended beyond the tabletop wargame format with the release of MechWarrior, a role-playing game in which players portray 'Mech pilots or other characters in the 31st century. The RPG system has been republished in several editions and expanded by various sourcebooks and supplements. In 1996, FASA also introduced the BattleTech Collectible Card Game, a CCG developed by Wizards of the Coast, creators of the popular Magic: The Gathering.
WizKids, the owners of the BattleTech franchise since 2001, introduced a miniatures-based variant of the classic tabletop game called MechWarrior: Dark Age in 2002 (later renamed MechWarrior: Age of Destruction). The game incorporates WizKids' "Clix System", a means of tracking the combat statistics and abilities of each figure by turning a dial in its base.
BattleMechs, the hulking flagship units of the franchise, made a natural subject for computer emulation, and so in 1989 the first BattleMech combat simulator for computers was released. Entitled MechWarrior and published by Activision, the single-player game gave users the opportunity to pilot a range of 'Mechs and engage in combat against computer-controlled opponents. Sequels MechWarrior 2 (1995), MechWarrior 3 (1999) and MechWarrior 4 (2000) created progressively finer and more engaging simulations. The MicroProse titles MechCommander (1998) and MechCommander 2 (2001) also recreate 'Mech-based warfare, but with a greater focus on controlling groups of units. Two titles have also been published for the XBox (MechAssault in 2002 and MechAssault 2 in 2004) and one for the Nintendo DS (MechAssault: Phantom War in 2006).
Virtual World Entertainment
When the creators of BattleTech envisioned the BattleTech universe, they had originally dreamed of creating an actual 'simulation' of the 'Mech piloting experience'. The net result of this dream was the 'BattleTech Center' which opened at the North Pier Mall in Chicago in 1990.
The BattleTech Center featured 16 networked full sized 'Cockpits' or 'Pods' that resembled a fully functional BattleMech cockpit. Each player (or pilot) would be able to select his or her 'Mech to duel it out against up to 7 other human players in the other cockpits. With over 80 fully functional controls, this was the first time this kind of simulation technology was brought to the masses. Later, the new company 'Virtual World Entertainment' would open many Virtual World centers around the world.
VirtualWorld eventually merged with FASA Interactive Technologies(FIT)to form Virtual World Entertainment Group (VWEG)to better exploit the various FASA properties in location based entertainment venues as well as the retail market.
In 1999 Microsoft Corporation purchased VWEG to integrate FIT into Microsoft Game Studios and sold VWE. VWE continues to develop and support the current BattleTech VR platform called the Tesla II system featuring BattleTech: Firestorm.
The popularity of the BattleTech games and the fictional universe it inhabits has led to a number of related projects in other areas. By the far the most active of these is the line of popular science fiction novels, with more than 100 titles published to date. The novels are set in both the Classic Battletech era (mid-3000s) and the Dark Age era (3130s). BattleCorps, an online writing community, is another fertile source of BattleTech fiction.
BattleTech: The Animated Series, a 13-episode television show produced by Saban Entertainment, aired on Fox in late 1994. Plots centered around the character of Major Adam Steiner and his First Somerset Strikers, and their conflict with Clan Jade Falcon.
Electric Entertainment, a company under contract to Paramount Studios, has leased the rights to produce a motion picture based on the BattleTech universe, but development has been slow and little is known about the project's status.
The BattleTech universe
The breadth and volume of material written for BattleTech has yielded a fictional universe with a richness and complexity that rivals Star Wars and Star Trek. A detailed timeline stretching from the 21st century to the mid-32nd describes humanity's technological, social and political development and spread through space both in broad historical terms and through accounts of the lives of individuals who experienced and shaped that history. Individual people remain largely unchanged from those of modern times, due in part to stretches of protracted interplanetary warfare during which technological progress slowed or even reversed. Cultural, political and social conventions vary considerably between worlds, but feudalism is wide spread, with many states ruled by hereditary lords and other nobility, below which are numerous social classes.
A key feature of the BattleTech universe is the absence of non-human intelligent life. Despite one or two isolated encounters in novels, mankind is the only sentient species, making the incessant warfare among humanity's feudal empires seem a more realistic and direct extension of the past and present. Though not the norm, fictional futures in which humanity is alone have been explored in a number of other popular series, including Frank Herbert's Dune and Isaac Asimov's Foundation.
Above all, the central theme of BattleTech is conflict, something to be expected given the franchise's wargaming core. Interstellar and civil wars, planetary battles, factionalization and infighting, as well as institutionalized combat in the shape of arena contests and duelling, form the grist of both novelized fiction and game backstories.
Most events in BattleTech occur in the early to middle decades of the 31st century, though some are earlier, and one technical readout concerns 2750 era technology. MechWarrior: Dark Ages and its related novels take place in the first half of the 32nd century.
The level of technology evident in BattleTech is an unusual blend of the highly futuristic and the nearly modern. Radically advanced tech like faster-than-light interstellar travel and superluminal communication mix with such anachronisms as internal combustion engines, projectile weapons and artillery. Artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, androids, and many other staples of future fiction are generally absent or downplayed. Incessant war is generally blamed for the uneven advancement.
Terra is the homeworld of mankind and former capital of the Star League. Many planets around Terra were rendered uninhabitable during the first two Succession Wars, and surviving planets suffer from the damage even centuries later. Several dozen of these worlds, in what came to be known as the Chaos March, briefly gained their independence between 3057 and 3081. Historically, whichever faction controlled Terra has held more political power than any single Great House. Several groups have held Terra, including the Terran Alliance, Terran Hegemony, ComStar, Word of Blake, and Republic of the Sphere; most of these nations fought bitter struggles upon Terra, scarring the motherland of mankind.
The Inner Sphere
The Inner Sphere, heart of the BattleTech Universe, contains all worlds within 500 light-years of Terra. It is dominated by five "Great Houses": House Davion, House Liao, House Marik, House Steiner and House Kurita. (The term "Inner Sphere" sometimes refers to these houses collectively). The leader of each Great House claims to be the rightful successor to the rule of the Star League, and so their nations are known as the Successor States.
There are few other significant nations in the Inner Sphere. The St. Ives Compact was a short-lived state that broke away from the Capellan Confederation after the Fourth Succession War, and was reabsorbed following a brief war in 3062. The Free Rasalhague Republic was created in 3034 by a deal between the Draconis Combine and the Lyran Commonwealth. It rivaled the Capellan Confederation for size, but by 3052 it had been almost entirely conquered by the Clans; in the 3070s, much of it was incorporated into the Ghost Bear Dominion (which is known as the Rasalhague Dominion by 3130).
The space surrounding the Inner Sphere contains a number of independent nations, known collectively as the Periphery. The largest of these nations (the Outworlds Alliance, Taurian Concordat, Magistracy of Canopus, and Rim Worlds Republic) predate the Star League and rival the Successor States themselves in size, but are inferior economically and militarily. More moderately sized nations, such as the Marian Hegemony or Bandit Kingdoms, also lie near the Inner Sphere. The Periphery contains countless other independent nations, many consisting of a single star system each and rarely playing a significant role in Inner Sphere politics. The mostly uncharted space beyond the nearby Periphery states is known as the Deep Periphery and contains numerous pirate havens and lost Star League colonies.
During the Fall of the Star League, the Star League Defense Force exiled itself and eventually settled in the Deep Periphery. They reformed into the Clans, a warrior-centric caste society relying on genetic manipulation and artificial birth. The four strongest of these Clans returned to the Inner Sphere as would-be conquerors in 3049, were reinforced by three more Clans a year later, and were joined in the late 3060s by another two. Of the original twenty Clans, by 3067 three were absorbed, two were annihilated, two fragmented, two defected, and one was abjured. The Clan Occupation Zones together occupy a region roughly equivalent to one of the Successor States.
Inner Sphere has many private military companies. Some of them are quite powerful, and their actions have influenced the history of the known universe. Among the most famous mercenary groups are the Wolf's Dragoons, Eridani Light Horse, Kell Hounds, Northwind Highlanders, Gray Death Legion, and McCarron's Armored Cavalry.
- BattleTech has won three Origins Awards and its various expansions and spin-offs several more.
- Many of the novels and sourcebooks incorporate pop-culture references, in names and places. Anime and manga seem to be a popular source of names for minor characters, as does true history.
- FASA, the company that produced BattleTech, was sued for copyright infringement for using several mecha designs from Macross and other anime series without the proper copyright licenses1 (the first edition of BattleTech, then named BattleDroids, actually included two Japanese 1/144 model kits from the Fang of Sun Dougram anime series). The related lawsuits were settled out of court, and later products of BattleTech do not use the designs under contention. In the Japanese edition of BattleTech, all of these designs got redesigned by Studio Nue, creator of Macross.
- An estimated twenty-five million people have played a BattleTech or MechWarrior RPG game or read a BattleTech or MechWarrior novel, and at least ten million people have played the BattleTech-based computer games. More than eleven million copies of MechWarrior PC games and a similar number of MechWarrior: Dark Age Collectable Miniatures Game figures have been sold to date. Over three hundred and fifty different BattleTech/MechWarrior game and toy products have been produced to date; several products, such as the Technical Readout series, the core rulebook and base box set, have been in continuous print (in one form or another) since publication. More than five thousand World Wide Web pages have been created to date by the online BattleTech community.
- History of the BattleTech universe
- BattleTech technology
- List of BattleTech novels
- List of BattleTech games
- Classic BattleTech
- Iron Wind Metals, official manufacturer of Classic BattleTech miniatures
- HeavyMetal Software, official software for Classic BattleTech
- BattleCorps, official fiction and game material for Classic BattleTech
- BattleTech: Firestorm The mech simulator site
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