Facts Ma’am, Nothing But the FAQs


My freelance boss for CGL is Herb Beas. He’s the Line Developer for the BattleTech license and a great guy. Overworked like no-one else I know, yet he handles it with…well, sarcasm and a wit sharp enough to not just kill sacred cows, but spit them over a raging fire until they’re juicy and medium rare.

So today I popped over to the game’s official forum and apparently, the lack of sleep has gotten him into rare form. He posted a brilliant FAQ for the game’s more…ardent…players and I have to share. Partly because he doesn’t maintain a blog, and partly because well, that post would’ve probably come from me in a few years if I was in his position.

Non-gamer readers may want to peak at this, too – you may not get the concepts, but you’ll definitely love the wit. It’s all served up right after the jump.

“And before I close on this prattle, let’s have some refreshing review of BattleTech’s buzz concepts and discussions to date, shall we? Kind of a quasi-FAQ:

Buzz Concept: Anything that states something the fans don’t want to believe or they can find no desirable explanation for is automatically considered a retcon. A retcon is something writers do when they are too lazy to make the faction work exactly the way the faction or character’s most ardent fans want them to.

Reality: You are wrong (and possibly a fool). A “retcon” is shorthand for “retroactive continuity”, and we like to stress the “continuity” part of that. Retcons are principally used to either fill in a gap of information to support present events, explain some of the more confusing past events, or to correct a fundamental flaw left unchecked for some time in print. The latter-most case, however, is very close to “errata”, which is a correction of erroneous information, and still happens even in a universe 25 years old.

Buzz Concept: Taurians are backwards idiots. The FedSuns is taking stupid pills for not obliterating them.

Reality: You are wrong (and almost certainly a fool). The Taurians are misinformed and their intelligence agencies have been compromised for decades. They are acting on that information out of anger in a way that should be familiar to anyone with a working on knowledge of the last eight years in the real world. They are NOT metagamers, and thus do not know what you, the reader, know by virtue of a broad selection of news articles and the hindsight of the Dark Age news sources (Note: Metagamers are players who use information gleaned from sourcebooks, novels, and other “cheat books”–knowledge that their character cannot possibly know–to determine how their characters will react to a development or situation in universe; prime example: when I was new to BattleTech, but had read all the literature surrounding the Clan invasion, I started as a player in a fellow gamer’s BattleTech campaign. In our very first combat action as a group, we encountered a vanguard Clan invasion force in the year 3048. I erroneously metagamed by expecting the Clan Mad Cat barreling toward me to engage me in single combat–reminding the GM of this often, in fact–and proceeded to use that to keep the sucker tied up with a game of cat and mouse until my buddies were free to help me take him down. As another example, a few of our writers, presuming the Jihad was INTENDED to be launched as it was, actually wrote tantalizing “hints” that subsequently needed to be explained via “retcon”–see above–when it because clear to us that the Jihad was actually the result of a tragic series of circumstances.)
Likewise, the FedSuns is not in a position to simply slap down the Taurians; they have a navy stretched thin and assigned to defensive roles in case the Word, Capellans, or Taurians target a capital, a military stretched thin on all fronts, a crumbling political structure caused by the breakdown of communications in the Outback, the Haseks early-Jihad efforts to re-liberate St. Ives, and enough rampant destruction of military industry to set back major reconstruction efforts a decade or more. For these reasons, plus a few others that are likely crossing the Princess Regent’s mind and knowable only to her as a character, the FedSuns is playing it more defensively than before. Just because she’s Hanse’s daughter doesn’t make her Hanse reborn, and she’s lost a few more of the great generals along the way. (Oh, and the Davions don’t get to metagame either.)

Buzz Concept: BattleTech is dying because Herb/Dave/Randall/Adam/Ben won’t tell us exact details on the next product coming out on a daily basis and the economy is bad.

Reality: You are wrong (and you are almost certainly an idiot). It takes months to do even one project, and we run several projects at once, in various stages of development. We don’t have the time to give detailed updates, nor do we like to give detailed updates lest anything go wrong behind the scenes (such as cost overruns, project cuts, bad rounds of playtesting, shipping SNAFUs, printing SNAFUs, arguments, or the unexpected eruption of a major nuclear offensive against an unsuspecting Third World country like Texas). We operate on street dates only, and a very limited number of our people are authorized to reveal any sneak peeks or status updates. Indeed, to be frank, I tend to get in trouble half the time I let something slip, and I’m getting rather sick of getting in trouble.

Bottom line: BattleTech’s fine. And it will remain fine until we tell you otherwise. Please stop trying burying us before we’re gone.

Buzz Concept: Herb hates the Clans, WarShips, and LAMs, and is out to destroy both as a “retcon”.

Reality: You’re only partly right. I dislike WarShips and LAMs. I find their use in the game rather superfluous, and in some cases outright against the universe’s core aesthetics. Retconning them away is against even MY ethics, though, and I have targeted plans for all of the above describing their evolution over the next few years of BattleTech progress. In fact, it may amuse some of you to know that I was one of the advocates for bringing LAMs back in future “on-radar” projects, if only to finalize them to TW standards. I have also made steps to identify which WarShips *must* survive the Jihad, and which we can cull (I’d also point out that it was my brainstorm to bring the Invincible back, when there was technically no real need to do so; of all the WarShips in the universe, I wanted to bring THAT ONE back purely for fanboy reasons). And the Clans? Sorry, but I don’t hate them. They have a pre-defined destiny, however, and it’s one that was established as far back as my first days with FASA.
Oh, and once again, it’s not a “retcon” if it happens in the current story progression, because the changes aren’t retroactive. To fully understand the term “retcon”, please look up both “retroactive” and “continuity” and imagine what would happen if you stopped using the shorthand term and wrote the whole thing out.

Buzz Concept: The writers/Herb are our bitch, and owe us an explanation for everything that happens that we dislike.

Reality: You’re wrong, and you’re a moron. We aren’t, and we don’t. Explanations–if any are to be given–will come in the fullness of time, and not a moment before. To explain the hows and whys of everything as we go is boring and bad storytelling. Read a few storybooks, your favorites will do, and try to identify how many things you don’t know the full hows and whys of when they occur, but get to see only at the story’s end. Then, for ha-has, imagine if the story was designed to be told over the course of over 25 YEARS in real time. (Harry Potter fans–if any are here–how much of the first book foreshadowed the last?)

Buzz Concept: Herb is angry and miserable.

Reality: Not all the time…. 😛

Buzz Concept: “Breaking” Herb is a great way to find out stuff about the universe or get answers about my pet peeve/favorite faction.

Reality: No. You folks need to realize that it is wiser to remain silent and be thought an idiot, than to type out a post on these forums and remove all doubt.

Buzz Concept: Catalyst Game Labs doesn’t care about me; only my money.

Reality: We care about both, or we couldn’t be here.

Buzz Concept: The new BattleTech writers don’t know what they’re doing.

Reality: I said STOP posting to remove all doubt. Most of us have been here for the last 8 years or longer. We’re not new and we know what we’re doing.

Buzz Concept: Herb is ignoring my post because he doesn’t like me.

Reality: Maybe. Alternatively, Herb is not answering because he doesn’t know and/or the topic is so far from an area he’s personally worked on that he wouldn’t feel comfortable even offering an answer, especially since he suspects you’re just asking so you can win some argument you’re having in some side thread, and as soon as he makes an answer you happen to like, your opponent will be PMing him to argue his case, thereby roping him into a debate he doesn’t want any part of. Leave me out of your disputes, please.
I’m also not fond of long and rambling posts with questions asked indirectly or mishmashed across multiple topics at once. I am a poor time budgeter, and if I answer something like that, I can chew up HOURS of more productive writing time. The RPG development has suffered rather badly from these delays of late.

Buzz Concept: Herb’s Standard Answers are a joke/lazy solution to dodeg questions with.

Reality: Partly. The Standard Answers were devised because, one way or another, folks are asking the same questions over and over. The answers are serious answers, though they may be executed at humorous moments. See, I realize that to many of you folks, this is still supposed to be a fun and entertaining pastime, and getting bogged down in arguments and recriminations wastes everyone’s time. If one of us invokes a Standard Answer, it’s because you asked one of these overused question types.

Buzz Concept: Herb has poor typing skills and is therefore a moron.

Reality: Yes I do, especially when rushed, over-tired, or when working on certain keyboards. My fingers are fat and I’m rather clumsy. Get used to it. Also, Herb’s Standard Theory of Humanity (Part 2), clearly identifies me as belonging to the “Stupid” gender. Get used to both; they won’t change.

FAQ: What are Herb’s Standard Answers again?
I’m starting by assuming you turned off your sig lines, or I’d have to call you the “I” word again. From there, I will give you the shorthand:
Standard Answer #1: If it works for your game table, the answer you seek is whatever you wish it to be.
Standard Answer #2: It is what it is because we said so, that’s why! (In the event of rules disputes with tournament judges or disputes about what’s canon and what’s not)
Standard Answer #3: If we haven’t published the info you seek, we cannot TELL you the info you seek.
Standard Answer #4: The product will be ready when it’s done, and not a moment before.
Standard Answer #5: We apologize for the inconvenience.
Standard Answer #6 (Apocryphal): The character you asked about likely died by slipping on soap in the shower. <– That one actually comes from Dave McCulloch. Credit where it’s due.

FAQ: Wait. What’s the difference between Herb’s Standard Answers and Herb’s Grand Theory of Humanity?
One is the set of answers given when you ask me overused questions about BattleTech product and projects. The other is how I explain how the sentient people on Earth work, using a flippant theory that is disturbingly accurate and based on the single premise: “Everyone has at least ONE hard-wired flaw”.

FAQ: Do people really ask you this stuff all the time?
You’d be surprised.

FAQ: Do you really think people are that stupid?
You’d be REALLY surprised….

Standard Answer #5

– Herb

This is my boss. I couldn’t ask for better. 🙂


14 thoughts on “Facts Ma’am, Nothing But the FAQs

  1. I think I understand. We are supposed to stop bothering Herb with stupid universe questions. That is now YOUR job. HOORAY!

    Why is there never any cake in the Battletech universe?

    • You know, considering how I’m usually the one who has to talk Ben down from a rant, you guys are probably getting off light….

      And there is cake. After your victory candescence.

      – Herb

  2. As part of an optional forum protocol, we are pleased to present an amusing fact: the post is now more valuable than the organs and combined incomes of everyone in (Herb’s hometown here).

    • Can I trade it in for all that money, then? The combined incomes of all in East Hartford–especially Pratt & Whittney Aircraft, Coca Cola’s bottling plant, and the Rentschler Field Stadium–should solve at least SOME of my more pressing problems…

      – Herb

  3. I have been playing battletech for a long time ( pre clan time) and I do like the changes that the clans, the civil wars, and the Jihad has brought. As for LAMS and warships I think the more diverse the forces and types of units you have makes a more detailed and realistic game. After all real world combat depends on not only the ground forces but air craft, airborn, marine ( possible LAM conection) forces, and naval support. You just do not leave infantry and armored units in field and say you are in a vacuum now have fun stormming the castle and win the war for us ( watch Patton 360 for a good example of how different elements worked together). By the way when is the street date for Strategic opperations anyway.

  4. I was joking about the street date anyway ( I just thought it is funny to hear how impatient most players are about product releases) . So what kind of Retro- Technology will resurface in the battletech universe ( besides the primitive mech construction tech hinted at in the tro3074 and on teaser info for intersteller operations), perhaps LAMS.

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