I wanted to write this blog, as I have recently started doing volunteer work for Catalyst Games Labs through the BattleTech Universe (I got a beemer YIPPIE!). I thought blogging about my change now, whilst it is still fresh in my mind would be more useful for others. My observations might also provide a little bit of comfort to those wondering where things are going, without revealing anything I should not, as I am right at the bottom of the ladder.
I have played BattleTech for twenty-five years, with my introduction coming on a journey across Australia with my school. The games we played on the trip indoctrinated into supporting House Steiner and the Lyran Commonwealth and got me hooked. Twenty-five years represents over two thirds of my life, with many hours spent delving into the universe of BattleTech, from my first purchase of CityTech through to the end of the Dark Age era, where the universe stands today.
For those of us with such a long history in BattleTech, we have much that we carry forward with us: loyalty to a faction or factions; and often loyalty to an era as well. My own niche is the Lyran Commonwealth, which is the only faction requiring those who play it to ensure that they bring a bottle of fine Cognac and some good pâté de foie gras whenever representing the faction at the gaming table. We accept that Katherine Steiner-Davion was most likely our fault, though we lay the blame for Victor squarely at the feet of the Davionistas. We will claim we thought up the Federated Commonwealth and that Davion’s poor politics broke it. Of course, Davion fans will say the opposite, but that is half of the fun, and for those of us who enjoy the era from 3025-3057 it leaves lots of room for good-natured ribbings between friends.
In addition to the intellectual baggage an old B’Techer like myself carries, we also tend to have many, if not all of the sourcebooks and novels. This fact was not lost on me as I began preparing the game room/office for our coming move. The BattleTech box is going to hurt a removalist or two, but that is the price you pay for trying to lift that much awesome. The process was a slow one, as each old tome was lovingly packed, often leafed through and in some instances favourite sections were re-read.
In that light, it was a thrill of childlike proportions and a wonderful honour when, eight weeks ago, I was contacted by one of the Catalyst crew to see if I was interested in helping out with a planned BattleTech product. I could not type fast enough in response, but did manage to slow myself, in order to make sure I was writing in English and not making a gushing fool of myself.
Little did I know what I was getting into however, as what transpires behind the curtain is different from what you expect. Firstly, once I had signed my Non-Disclosure Agreements and agreed to the Code of Conduct, it was time to knuckle down. My fist task was to help on a small part of an upcoming project, which led to some additional data mining for another aspect of the same project.
However, my name got passed up the chain due to my background and I was asked to provide more of a detailed summary of my skills and abilities. That email resulted in a unanticipated response, which ended with the words “Welcome to the deep end” thrown back at me, along with a large chunk of material for review and input on. It was interesting to me that things had progressed so quickly and I know from my own professional experience that if someone is keen and looks like they could perform, then dump them in the deep end and see if they can swim.
The experience has been excellent so far, as I am part of a couple of small teams working on specific pieces of a larger project. We have been given plenty of leeway, always guided of course, in putting our little parts of the work together, and we are also part of much larger groups, who all come together to work on the larger picture.
It can be intimidating to see some of the long established names of the BattleTech universe commenting directly on your ideas, or even to throw those ideas out in the first place, but I made the decision early on to have a go and say my piece. I expect that in this large group environment, it will be the best way to learn. My thinking also is that this may be a way to start conversations with those with such deep and long exposure to the inner working of the universe and Catalyst.
One of the more interesting aspects of recent weeks was the opening of previously closed doors. Closed the community at large, having just a few of these doors open was an epic thrill. However, opening those doors felt like reading a good BattleTech book. Although it answered many of my questions, many remained unanswered. Additionally, myriad more questions sprung to mind, many of which will remain unanswered I expect. Being on the bottom rung of the food chain is like that, though it is a great food chain to be part of.
One aspect of the whole process that has impressed me has been the trust and camaraderie of the teams that make up the other side of the curtain. Like any community, some speak more often than others do, and there are many familiar avatars, though there are others who I had not been exposed to before, who have insights and ideas that I would never have encountered had I not crossed over. These folks inhabit the threads and boards I seldom visited and are a part of the BattleTech community I had not been previously exposed to.
I must say a heartfelt thankyou to those who introduce me to the other side. These people provided the initial opportunity and have helped guide me and my, at times, crazed outpouring of thoughts along the right path. Knightmare, Worktroll, Welshman and Alexander Knight have been excellent guides and managers and two of them I knew well (in internet terms), before starting my induction, which helped immeasurably.
For those on the outside who wonder if the guy behind the curtain knows what he is doing, I can certainly assure you he does, or they do, and their dedication to making the universe work and thrive is evident in all they produce and attempt. However, there are those currently wondering if the sky is falling and unfortunately, to some it always is. To those I say fear not, for even though I have only entered the outer realms of the inner circle, from what I have seen I can say the future is well in hand. Having just entered the other side, my own hopes for BattleTech’s future when still just a player are still clear and fresh, and having seen what information I have, I feel most confident in the future of the game we all love.
On a last note, for those who one day hope to jump across as well, the only advice I can offer is to be polite and have fun in being part of the BattleTech community, contributing in your own way and enjoying what you do for the sake of it. It took a long time and was a big surprise for me, but if you get offered the opportunity grab it and then stick your head down and have fun being part of the BattleTech machine.