TechCommander compared to other SciFi action/mecha

TechCommander is not a rehash of your dad’s  old mecha simulation games, it is a deathmatch on a tabletop!

This discussion is copyright 2010 Brian Carnes, any other works referenced directly or indirectly are for illustration purpose only and are copyright of their original creators.

When we first started making a sci fi game, the big question was whether we thought we could make something new in a world that is full of great sci fi games already.  We decided to make a game that put you into a fast paced battle set on a future battlefield that is torn from the pages of today’s fast advancing, remote controlled battlefield, but with feel of a fast paced sci fi  action movie or video game thrown into the mix. we wanted you to feel like you were in a sci fi tac center, commanding units on a battle happening with the highest levels of digital information technology.

We decided we wanted two things:   Cool power armor suits that were a step above average, but not silly, and the MSV, short for mechanized strike vehicle.  We wanted the MSV to be a mecha gunboat (always multiseater, with a second crew to run the digital battlefield systems) We thought the military would prefer something so expensive to be advanced enough that a second crew would be needed just to keep up with all the data coming at them. We decided we did not mind tanks, but they were a little dull by themselves and the gunboats on legs concept would be more fun for players

Because we wanted to have some toys to play with right away,  we actually built our first mecha units out of our ship parts that we had already sculpted for Sailpower such as crows nests, mast junctions, skylights, gunports, and even a sea service mortar (can you spot these parts?).

We originally also hoped to do a vehicle that could change form depending on the mission, but with more military twist in that we did not think these vehicles would have to resemble anything specific after changing modes. We had to give this up as our small studio could not afford the high end machined cad pieces necessary to make something with that many complex moving parts.  Our original designs pieces are hand crafted, often from wood, resin scrap from our Sailpower casting, and jewelers wax.  to make joints we used wood dowels, as they allowed stiff moving joints. They thus were easy to take apart, or even to customize with new parts, so we made the MSV uber customizable with an easy system that did not require loads of paperwork like other games.

When we started bringing these guys to shows, most people were very positive,  however some were confusing them with any number of old sci fi mecha units from movies, and from older games. A even smaller subset just randomly dismissed the game without playing it as a knock-off of whatever game they happened to think it resembled and that they happened to like.

The funny thing is we like all those games as well too! We pretty much think all mecha is totally awesome.  However, that said, none of these games came up the idea of power armor, or mecha.   These have in fact been sci fi concepts  in many stories, movies, games, and toys for years.  Power armor was first written in popular fiction by Heinlein in 1959.   Short after that the military started working on their own versions.

Depending on what you consider Mecha, it has been around even longer (since Jules Verne) or at least since it was popularized in anime and manga in the 70’s and 80’s.

The ironic thing about these fans claiming that our hand sculpted original designs look like some other mecha units they like is that in some cases these other sci fi universes have directly copied each other. In one specific case the same exact mecha unit appears in 3 or arguably 4 different universes.  In another the entire starting cannon of mecha units are exactly copied in every detail and had to later be removed..

The design paradigm we  prefer was an update of the older Japanese mecha look that was so popular in Japanese culture of the 80’s. we felt this looked the most militarily feasible, although we thought that most of them seemed to be a little off from a piece of hardware the military would actually buy.

We did not think the military would be interested in a weapons platform that required swarms of missiles to hit to actually eliminate a threat.  we also did not think we were interested in mecha being alien derivative, or in applying obsolete world war 2 paradigms such as weak rear defenses, horrid issues with managing weapons cycle and cool down times that would cause drastic system malfunction.

We also did not think the group troop based soldier will ever become obsolete, even in the world of big stomping mecha, and remotely piloted vehicles.  The military lesson of history, is that tanks take the city, but boots on the ground are required to hold it.  So we gave the units the gear to survive in a world of big mechanized weapons platforms.

We basically built what we thought were the most awesome mecha units we could make, from scratch, by hand.  While certain sci fi similarities exist between all entries in the genre we feel our game is VERY different then others in the genre.

What follows is a short list for the curious:

Our game is not intended to be a mecha dominate game per say.  Power armored infantry are the real stars once you learn how to play.  We just happened to release the MSV units first because they were finished first.

Our combat is fast and furious, and weapons can be rolled in mass groups (d20 based instead of 2 or 3 D6)

Our combat system is paced for fast action, not loads of paperwork, and tedious unit building.

Our game has a traditional skirmish rules set, but also contains a death-match combat system that is inspired by the first person shooter genre.

Our deathmatch rules play more like a video game deathmatch on a tabletop then a traditional mecha skirmish game, we play for points, have re-spawning units, random unit deployment,  skulls as mission objectives, kill perks,  and even special point awards for surviving rounds and for single shot eliminations. .

Our game has a lot of units that are progressions of the latest in modern warfare,  the universe could be described as a cross of modern warfare, and uber high tech sci fi units.

Our power armor units use wireless helmet cloud computing to act as a unified whole.

Our power armor units are equipped with capacitance based shields, jump jets, and a cloaking stealth infiltration.

Our mecha units do not have heat related performance issues.

Our mecha units do not have a rear weak spots.

Our universe does not have a focus on popular player factions that are based on ethnic cleansing, fascism, or other hate based political systems.  There are “bad guys”  you can play such as space pirates, or morally ambiguous groups such as the Syndicate, and there are even mysterious evil bad guys that act like terrorists. However in our universe there are a lot of heroes, and the focus is on people rather then constant corrupt or abhorrent political systems.

In our universe, there are a few super factions (3 so far), but space is represented similar to the wild west.  Players are encouraged to create their own factions as mercenary companies that reflect them.  We feel that the coolest factions are in fact the ones you create yourself!

Our mecha units fire weapons that are powerful enough to eliminate an opposing unit in a single volley. We feel this better reflects real combat which is often over is seconds!

We hope you the reader will give our game a try and enjoy it!

Brian Carnes


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