Battletech and Red Planet: classic immersive gaming
July 23, 2009 10:26 AM   Subscribe

In 1990, the first BattleTech center opened in Chicago in the US. The centers were based around networked play of the BattleTech (related to the Battletech RPG) and Red Planet combat and racing games via immerse pods. BattleTech enthusiasts have gone so far as to purchase new and decommissioned pods to set up their own centers. Occasionally, pods go on tour.
posted by Imhotep is Invisible (71 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I tried this in Chicago, must have been right after it opened. My friends had a blast but I walked smack into a big rock and never did figure out how to turn my mech around, let alone run away or fight.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:35 AM on July 23, 2009

I remember hearing rumors about this when I was a kid, and figuring it was just an exaggeration of a really good LAN party. Holy Shit.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:41 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ok, now I need to get on a plane to Chicago.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:41 AM on July 23, 2009

wiki: The first BattleTech Center opened in Chicago in 1990, with others in Yokohama following in August 1992 and Tokyo in 1993.

Holy crap, I thought that was a typo in the fpp.

I know these kinds of pod-based arrangements from immense gaming centres in Japan, but much more recently than that. I had no idea it originated that far back -- especially in the west (for certain flavours of "originated").
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:42 AM on July 23, 2009

Oh, man, a trip to the Chicago centers was one of the two Nintendo Power contests I really wanted to win more than anything (the other being the Final Fantasy trip to Tortuga).
posted by adamdschneider at 10:44 AM on July 23, 2009

I remember playing Battletech in Chicago around 1995 with a group of friends and had a complete blast. We loved the detailed damage reports -- apparently, we spent a lot of time ravaging each other's legs.

I also played at the giant Wizards of the Coast game center around 1999 or so, but if I recall, the pods were showing their age. It wasn't as much fun as back in Chicago. Possibly because no legs were ravaged.
posted by Spatch at 10:47 AM on July 23, 2009

Watching that first video, I cannot imagine how awesome it must have been to play this in freaking 1990.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:50 AM on July 23, 2009

Wow, I really want to do this.
posted by grobstein at 10:50 AM on July 23, 2009

We were just talking about this. The Battletech center moved around a bit here in Chicago for a while before ending up at Dave & Buster's. The same dude was working it at D&B as had been at it when I went to North Pier. It was obvious he just loved that game and he had his patter down. Sadly, the last time I went to D&B Battletech was no more. I had *heard* that the dude had bought up the pods and took them home with him, but I had *no idea* it was a nation wide (though small) phenomena.

If you do get a chance to run it, ask how to enable the Advanced Options....that way you can turn with your feet, target with your joystick, and torso twist as well. The graphics look a bit dated now, but the whole experience is really something else.

Having checked out the first link, I might have to get up to Madison.
posted by Wink Ricketts at 10:50 AM on July 23, 2009

That's a nostalgia button, all right! Some friends and I took a couple road trips down to Chicago in the early 90s for this. To this day, any of us can make the others occasionally twitch by an appropriately timed "The year is 3025! The Fourth Succession War has begun!" which was roughly the opening line of the attract loop played on monitors in the waiting line. The loop was a grand total of a couple minutes long; the average wait to get into the pods was, at the time, easily 30 minutes or more, so you heard the line dozens of times.

Occasionally there wouldn't be a full set of pods in use, so one of the employees would join in the rumble, which was always humbling. At the end of each bout, everyone got a neat little printout of a log of major events in the battle. So and So blew off Drastic's right arm! Drastic destroyed ThisGuy's left leg! Etc. Good times.
posted by Drastic at 10:54 AM on July 23, 2009

There was one here in New York City for a few years - the entire arcade it was in closed down a few years back, though. It was a mess of fun, especially when I worked out how to do the weapons links so I could have all the lasers go off on a single pull.
posted by mephron at 10:55 AM on July 23, 2009

I remember playing one of these on a trip to Chicago to visit family in the early 90s. It was amazing. I kept wondering why Boston didn't have one. When I told my friends, they thought I was making it up.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:57 AM on July 23, 2009

I believe this was in San Diego as I was growing up. Words cannot describe how desperately much I wanted to play this. Great to see they're still around, except I can't see where the centers are because of the &%$^& firewall.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:57 AM on July 23, 2009

I played these a couple of times in Seattle in my teens, and it was always a blast. I wish there was still a place to do it nearby; outdated graphics or not, I'd love to be able to play this regularly.
posted by Caduceus at 11:04 AM on July 23, 2009

posted by Saxon Kane at 11:05 AM on July 23, 2009

Yeah, the chicago setup was a blast. Mechwarrior 2 on PC was just not the same, tho I wanted it to be. I remember thinking I would try to build a PC in a pod to duplicate the experience. Wow, that would've cost somethin'!
posted by mouthnoize at 11:06 AM on July 23, 2009

Also, Layfayette, Louisiana is a weird fucking place for MechaCon to be held, and I'm excited by the newly announced MechWarrior game. I hope it's not console only.
posted by Caduceus at 11:07 AM on July 23, 2009

LOL I was working for the company that co-operated the BattleTech centers in Japan in the 90s and had the opportunity to pick up their entire collection of hardware for free in late 1999 since it was going into storage. Didn't have the money for the storage fees and didn't see the business opportunity.

In 1990 I had interned with MicroProse and the arcade team went to play the games in Chicago. Their follow-on to B.O.T.S.S.", a Battle-Tech flavor game.

I'd like to think that a modern version of this as an arcade game would still work.

The iPod Touch has more graphics power than what we were doing in 1990, sigh. The iPhone is using PowerVR, a hw renderer that launched in 1996 and was comparable to Voodoo 1 if not a tad superior.
posted by @troy at 11:08 AM on July 23, 2009

Oh, the paper boardgame BattleTech was the apotheosis of cool in the late 80s. Ripped off wholesale from Macross of course, but cool nonetheless.
posted by @troy at 11:09 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

"follow-on was", not to
posted by @troy at 11:15 AM on July 23, 2009

Hahaha. I took a turn at these at North Pier in 1994. I still have the souvenir book somewhere. And I was just thinking about this a few days ago when i discovered Battle Mechs on Kongregate (shame for no saves on the Kong server). I kept wondering how far I'd have to upgrade my machine gun for it to be an Auto Cannon 20.
posted by mrmojoflying at 11:16 AM on July 23, 2009

I can remember I remember playing in Chicago and Toronto in the early 90's, tons of fun for someone WAY into Battletech like I was.
posted by jjb at 11:18 AM on July 23, 2009

Wow, or what Jon_Evil said. I had no idea.

This kind of thing could make me finally appreciate a WoW-ish obsession.
posted by rokusan at 11:21 AM on July 23, 2009

Good lord, and I thought my purchase of the Steel Battalion setup was a little extravagant.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:22 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I remember when FASA debuted these at Gen Con one year. Only 2 pods were in the convention center, but the line for them was hours-long.

I played them a few times in Chicago, but the last time I saw them was at the arcade in Times Square that mephron mentioned, above. My friend and I bought some time, played a few games, and then wandered out. The machines were flaky, the guy running the place didn't know how to operate them, and they couldn't turn on any of the advanced options. I started to feel really old...
posted by thanotopsis at 11:30 AM on July 23, 2009

Ah, Battletech.

Did anyone else play the "Mechwarrior" RPG that used the Battetech mechs and combat system, or was I the only one?
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:42 AM on July 23, 2009

i spent a LOT of money at the virtual world in circle center mall in indianapolis back circa 96-98 or so. the arcade was done up really cool, in a sorta spacey victorian national geographic kind of way, totally steampunk back before steampunk was even a thing. there was a bar where you could hang out before your run, and a lounge with TVs that replayed each race after the people came out, so you could relive, kibbutz, razz and lol with each other. great fun, very social, and unfortunately didnt take off, probably because it was kind of expensive.

mechwarrior was OK, but red planet was where it was at if you ask me. there was the normal racing game, and a "football" variant where there was one runner for each team, plus blockers, tacklers and so on in the bigger ships. football was where it was at, the team dynamics were really fun, and if you were a runner you could go craaazy fast and use all your boosts on each run through the course.

thanks for posting this, i thought it had all been forgotten.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 11:42 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I loved Battletech. One of my preteen birthday celebrations consisted of a few rounds with some friends. This was mind blowing stuff for 11 year-olds. I still remember sitting in the car on the way home reading the logs with complete giddiness. Vulture v2 was my jam.

I remember thinking Red Planet was a waste of money.
posted by dagosto at 11:44 AM on July 23, 2009

I remember playing Battletech at Navy Pier in the nineties. The experience was expensive, confusing, and awesome.
posted by ignignokt at 11:49 AM on July 23, 2009

Did anyone else play the "Mechwarrior" RPG

No, but I played the living shit out of MechWarrior 2.

Clan Wolf 4 Life.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:51 AM on July 23, 2009

MechWarrior [1], baby. "OMG I'm gonna die" Locust MG-leg attacks FTW.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:57 AM on July 23, 2009

there was a bar where you could hang out before your run, and a lounge with TVs that replayed each race after the people came out, so you could relive, kibbutz, razz and lol with each other. great fun, very social, and unfortunately didnt take off, probably because it was kind of expensive.

Battletech was probably too ahead of its time. Teenagers can't afford to play the game that often, nor can they drink in the bar.

But now, there's an entire generation of gamers in their prime who can do both. Maybe it's time for a comeback.
posted by meowzilla at 12:00 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Multiplayer Battletech was one of the first (and best) massively multiplayer online games. And I was obviously the best mech jockey in the Inner Sphere. Anyone who disagrees is welcome to meet me on Solaris for an object lesson.

Kelton, if you're reading this, I'm still waiting for my custom mech. I hear they should be available real soon now.
posted by Justinian at 12:02 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ah, I remember Battletech. On my first visit to Toronto, in the very early 90's, as a young, overwhelmed geek, I found the Battletech center at the base of the CN Tower.

The idea of networked gaming wasn't new, and the graphics were good, but not outstanding. What I enjoyed most was the complete sense of science-fiction immersion - you were in a mech, with no view to the outside world except through your screen, and surround sound. All it lacked was force feedback.

I bought a giant white T-shirt with large black lettering, "FRANKIE SAYS RELAX" style, that read "REALITY SUCKS". Good times.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 12:08 PM on July 23, 2009

They'll be at Gen Con Indy
posted by juv3nal at 12:11 PM on July 23, 2009

I played pretty regularly at North Pier under the nick "Staph" (yes, like the infection). As fun as BattleTech was, Martian Football was flat-out incredible: in Martian Football, you were the ball, zooming faster and faster until you got nudged by a Crusher and were sent careening into a steel pipe at several hundred miles per hour. The dark isolation of the pods and the physical switches you had to throw in the Tesla pods made it entirely immersive and sick, sick fun.
posted by eamondaly at 12:14 PM on July 23, 2009

Oh Tesla pods, how I miss thee.

They had a Tesla set up at the Dave & Busters here in Atlanta for years. My (now) husband and I would go and play for hours, particularly on days when there were fewer little kids (who favored the stand-in-your-face-and-fire-repeatedly tactic). It was pretty much the ONLY reason to go to D&B.

(My husband tells fond stories of being on a business trip to San Diego and treking up to the local D&B to play Battletech. He had his butt handed to him repeatedly by Navy pilots from the air base, but he said it was the most fun he ever had playing.)

posted by elfgirl at 12:17 PM on July 23, 2009

drjimmy, I've got a stack of MechWarrior universe sourcebooks and techincal readouts that is at least 18 inches thick... and I've got box sets... Battletech, Battleforce, Aerotech, Battlespace, Solaris VII, Citytech, BattleTroops.... my most prized books are the 2750 Technical Readout and Dropships and Jumpships... printed in 1988.

Yeah... so I was just a little obsessed with the MechWarior universe. Give me an Orion any day.

I miss FASA.

I spent many night with high school friends playing within the realms of DnD, Vampire, BattleTech/MechWarrior...

Good times, good times...
posted by PROD_TPSL at 12:19 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dropships and Jumpships

Who didn't want an Overlord Class dropship?
posted by mrmojoflying at 12:23 PM on July 23, 2009

I still wear the "elite mechwarrior" pin you got for doing 30 missions.

Sure it makes me look like a tool, but at ten bucks a mission... I figure i might as well wear the thing.
posted by ServSci at 12:26 PM on July 23, 2009

My cousin took me to the one at Dave & Busters in Chicago, shame it's not there anymore. I wonder if something like this could make a proper commercial comeback, now that network and processing power have become much cheaper.
posted by borkencode at 12:52 PM on July 23, 2009

They had these pods set up in the Wizards of the Coast arcade in the University District. Went there a few times with friends. The arcade was much nicer and had better games than the other arcades in Seattle. When you stepped ino the arcade a huge fiberglass minotuar overlooked the foyer area. A guy I knew, who used to work at WotC, went down there when he found out they were shutting down the arcade. They had taken down the minotaur, tossed it onto the sidewalk out front, and run a hacksaw right through the middle of it. Assholes.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:03 PM on July 23, 2009

Oh, and, my friend had bought the Instruction booklet for the game one time. There were three different settings to the games. Each setting gave you more capability and control than the last. The highest setting allowed you to, amongst other things, eject damaged ammo that was in danger of exploding and taking out a limb. I think I have that booklet sitting around somewhere still.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:09 PM on July 23, 2009

My family had a vacation that took us through Chicago at some point, and I got to play a round of this.

I don't remember anything else from that vacation.
posted by flaterik at 1:23 PM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Haha, wow. Late 80's on the Amiga there was this shareware RPG with fighting mecha, i played that thing forever. The thing was, you had to pay for the 'Factory' that let you build your own mech. Then one day I was looking in the gaming section for some new D&D books and saw this Battletech thing, I flipped through it and aha!!!!! it's the same game down to everything. I bought the book with my hard earned allowance. Then started dumping the mech files included through a hex dump program out an old printer, pages of 0-9A-F with ASCII and started to compare what showed up in the game with what was in the files. Wrote my first real hacker program in BASIC and made my own 'Factory'. Weapons that had no range limits and 1 round recharge, armor that weighed nothing, maximum heat dissipation, full jump fuel.... that was the first time I learned to pile through an unknown file for days to figure out what everything was. Battletech got me into old school hacking.

I went off to college having the awesome Amiga and the awesome RPG game, we played 4 player campaigns all night long many a night.

Never had the $$ for the pods, there was also an installation in Old Town Pasadena for a while. I didn't know they still existed, there is still HOPE!
posted by zengargoyle at 1:43 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I went to the one in Dallas back in 1995. I was so stoked to sit in the mech pod, only to have that excitement utterly dashed my by crashing realization that I really, really sucked at piloting a virtual 'mech.
posted by kaseijin at 1:47 PM on July 23, 2009

A friend of mine that I've lost touch with since my divorce married a guy who worked for the company that did the pods. I think she met him while he was in Houston installing the pods at a Dave & Busters down here. I'm so crap at any kind of reflex games that I never tried them, but I had a friends back in the day who loved those pods.

I hadn't thought about them in ages, or the pods, so thanks for the nostalgia trip.
posted by immlass at 1:50 PM on July 23, 2009

I was in Japan two years ago and they still had some kind of all Tokyo networked system for immersive mecha games. The arcade we went to had a few pods, but it was connected up to a whole city network of other arcades. My friends and I played and all got killed pretty hard by the local kids. Pretty awesome. Last year when I was there, I think the pods were still available for game play.
posted by wuwei at 1:57 PM on July 23, 2009

I spent many a childhood hour trying to redraw the schematics in those old FASA Technical Readouts, so when I went to UW Seattle, where the aforementioned Wizards of the Coast stood about two blocks away from campus, I felt the blessings of whatever deity it is that causes your mech-nerd lust to manifest in pod form.

Much laundry went unwashed so that funds could be directed towards mastering the capabilities of a Mad Cat. I never really got a handle on it (there were instruction manuals??) but it was still frickin' terrific to sit around afterward, munching fries and swearing while you watched yourself struggle to maneuver out of a tight corner while your friend blasted you as fast as he could. Thank goodness for overheating weapons systems.
posted by krippledkonscious at 2:16 PM on July 23, 2009

Obscure detail: on the older gen systems, the Thor class battlemech could be pretty easily destroyed by detonating the shoulder-mounted missile pack. There used to be a game where everyone started in a Thor but respawned as a drone (simple, gimpy mech). The last Thor standing would be swarmed by the gimpy drones desperately pinging away at the missile pack. The game was called "pizza pizza" (as the circular missile pack resembled a pepperoni pizza). It was...odd.
posted by Imhotep is Invisible at 2:24 PM on July 23, 2009

Ah, Red Planet!!

Velocity = Victory
posted by Megafly at 3:16 PM on July 23, 2009

Virtual World in Walnut Creek, CA was a regular destination for my friends and I in high school. The steampunk-ish ambiance was awesome, but steadily declined as they added pool tables and arcade machines in what I can only assume was an effort to stay profitable. I loved BattleTech, but anyone really serious about playing was into Red Planet, specifically Martian Football. That was a hell of a game. Wow, memories flooding back. I remember the computers behind the windows running everything were all Apples. And I suppose I need to check youtube and other sources to see if I can find the intro movies they showed before the games to see if Dooley (or Drooly as we called her) looks as good as I remember her.
posted by ericales at 4:52 PM on July 23, 2009

I loved Red Planet the best.

In 2002 I scanned my membership card to Virtual World. Yes, I've been using my handle that long.

I played several times in Pasadena, at least twice in San Diego, and one time in Las Vegas.

I may have some of the damage report sheets somewhere, maybe if I find them I'll scan them.

These were Mac II class machines, so pre-PPC architecture. Looking back, it's kind of amazing they were used like that.
posted by artlung at 4:57 PM on July 23, 2009

I played that Chicago Battletech, drunk with a bunch of work buds on a business trip in 1990.

*searches drawer for scoresheet*
posted by sfts2 at 5:01 PM on July 23, 2009

I put all my score sheets as well as the manuals in a binder. Pretty sure that's still out in the garage somewhere. Loki 5 FTW!
posted by ericales at 5:04 PM on July 23, 2009

Wow! This might have been in London near Piccadilly circus, in the bottom level of a mall/amusment center, must have been around 1992. There was another installation in the basement where actors led groups through science-fiction corridors and re-enacted some sort of Alien storyline. I was a kid so I don't remember much except the pilot's lounge was decked out with leather seats, made to look anachronistic, like from World War 1 or so, lots of badges and knick knacks, and had TVs which showed the battlefield live. To get to the pod, I was led through a short few corridors designed to look like inside a spaceship, and at the pod the guy realized I didn't speak English and pretty much left me to it, but I had a blast. Kept my scorecard as a memento - LOL - thanks for reminding me!!
posted by yoHighness at 5:36 PM on July 23, 2009

I remember playing MechWarrior in one of these somewhere in SoCal at a Dave & Buster's. GREAT gaming.

Pretty sure I ditched my friends and spent the time until closing in the pods.
posted by vrogy at 5:40 PM on July 23, 2009

I played Red Planet on several visits to Chicago in the 90s. The KILLER feature of the games was that after the mayhem of the contest was over, everyone would exit the pods and watch the entire race together, recorded and played back from third person perspective. You could relive all those moments that passed in a blur during the race: when you sent your friend's hovercraft spinning off into oblivion with some well-placed weapon fire, and when you gleefully kicked on the afterburners and ran headlong into a metal column.
I recently came across the passport-style ID they gave out for recording your games, which identified you as a member of the "Virtual Geographic Society."
posted by itstheclamsname at 6:00 PM on July 23, 2009

Velocity = Victory!
posted by SPrintF at 6:44 PM on July 23, 2009

There are TWO centers in Colorado. I live there now. OMFG.

My best geekout date ever was at the BattleTech in Old Town Pasedena, near CalTech in '94. Amazing. I can't wait to play this classic again.
posted by andreaazure at 7:31 PM on July 23, 2009

I'm SO glad I didn't hallucinate Red Planet! That level with the liiiiitle tiny hole to hit after the jump? And the rotating things?(rolls eyes.) God, I loved that game.
posted by Orb2069 at 8:36 PM on July 23, 2009

The phrase that springs to my mind after reading all these recollections and remembering my own experiences: "Reverse disabled." Oh, to be able to go back to those times.

BattleTech at Virtual World (or Monde Virtuel here in Montréal) allowed me - a dedicated but very shy, female, single-player only gamer - to come out of my shell and realize I could hold my own against the boys.

I was trembling and anxious as I stepped into the pod the first time. But when I heard (and for the first time *felt*) the sweet sound of my mech powering up, it was on. And it was glorious.
posted by mephisjo at 9:06 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Haha, wow. Late 80's on the Amiga there was this shareware RPG with fighting mecha, i played that thing forever. The thing was, you had to pay for the 'Factory' that let you build your own mech.

What you're thinking of is Ralph Reed's Mechforce. You could still download the full version over the Internet, if you'd registered the game, in the 2000 timeframe. He'd maintained a full list of everyone who bought it, and some guy had that list and was still letting people download the full version.

It may be still be available, but I don't see it in a very quick Google search. It runs really well in WinUAE, the Amiga emulator. The Amiga Forever package from Cloanto (which is WinUAE, fully licensed Amiga ROMs, a hard drive image, and pre-done settings for many games) will likely recognize it, but I haven't actually tried.

If you want it, and can't find it, let me know, and I'll do a search of my mail archive. It's possible I may still have the contact address.
posted by Malor at 12:54 AM on July 24, 2009

Oh, by the way, for the 99.9999999% of you that have no idea what I was just talking about -- MechForce was a 2D, overhead, hex-based mech battle game. You built a mech pilot in an editor, and could modify your mech almost completely in another editor, limited by space, money, and available equipment. You could do battle singlehandedly against enemy AI, cooperatively with players against AI bots, or just flat player against player. The enemy AI was absolutely remarkable, even by modern standards. AI mech pilots were clever and dangerous.

I don't remember any limit on how many players you could have. The game supported keyboard and joystick input, so you'd tell it who was on what device. If more than one person was on, say, Joystick 1, it would prompt you to hand over the controller when they needed to make a decision.

The interesting twist of the game is that it wasn't exactly turn based -- it was time based, with separate clocks for movement and shooting. You'd issue a movement command, and some time in the future, that command would complete. You might do several attack commands while moving, as your weapons recycled on that separate timer. And both the weapon and move timers had a 'break' command for the OTHER timer, so you could cancel what you were doing on that 'side'. If you issued long commands both for move and for shoot, you could be out of control of your Mech for a long time. This could be handy, or dangerous, depending on the situation. I think he added an automatic Weapon interrupt when you came under fire in later versions.

At the end of a match, you were able to salvage gear from enemy mechs, which you could then sell, or use to upgrade your own. If you won a fight against a better mech than what you had, hey, free upgrade! But, of course, it would be beat to hell, and you'd have to pay to fix it.

Your pilot had a career, and got experience, and got better at what he was doing -- a truly skilled pilot was terrifyingly deadly, but getting one to that point without ever taking a critical hit to the cockpit was pretty much impossible without savescumming. Critical hits to the cockpit were usually instant death, and you could count on one of those every five or six matches. So, as you can imagine, I did quite a lot of savescumming. :-)

Great game. Spent many hours with it.
posted by Malor at 1:27 AM on July 24, 2009

Reading about these places in the Swedish computer mag Interface I remember being blown away by the concept (cities slugging it out through ISDN…) and thought the future was going to be awesome.

Metafilter: Move fast. Shoot smart. Watch your six.
posted by monocultured at 2:28 AM on July 24, 2009

I'm not into video games but I tried these at North Pier in the 90's and had a blast! Good times...
posted by jeanmari at 6:53 AM on July 24, 2009

If anyone has any leads on homebrew/DIY communities that are trying to produce these pods, please PM me. Virtual Worlds seems (understandably) un-interested in opening up their specs or software.
posted by butterstick at 12:32 PM on July 24, 2009

Malor: "What you're thinking of is Ralph Reed's Mechforce."

I still play this from time to time. Probably the most faithful adaption of the original Battletech tabletop game.

P.o.B.: "a huge fiberglass minotuar overlooked the foyer area."

Death to the Minotaur
Now it's sitting in someone's back yard.

Since I live in the wrong half of Washington I din't get to spend as much time as I'd have liked at the Battletech center. But between 1998 and early 2001 my friends and I would usually drive over once a month to spend an afternoon in the pods.
posted by Tenuki at 12:17 AM on July 25, 2009

I spent more hours than I care to remember playing Battletech while in College circa 1990. If I remember right, and I do, Walt's great nephew Tim Disney was an investor in the concept.
posted by IndigoSkye at 7:33 PM on July 25, 2009

I played the boardgame, the MechWarrior RPG, and the pods at North Pier, but the most addictive, most amazingly fun way to play was to login to the entirely ASCII MUSEs and MUXes to which Justinian alluded to above. They took the boardgame and figured out how to make it realtime.

I have fond memories of switching between electromagnetic and seismic sensors while hunting a smaller mech scout in heavy forest, and of igniting the forest with my laser when I was the prey so as to give off smoke and block visual sensors. Of hiding behind a ridge and using indirect fire rocket clusters on targets designated by the spotter mech to which I'd established a data link. Of occasionally getting a series of hit location rolls that left my target a legless, armless torso. Of maneuvering as squads as a set piece piece battle in a campaign that would last months.

I would love to have a complete distribution of that code and data that would run on a modern system.

The basic controls are described here.
posted by jjwiseman at 1:45 AM on July 26, 2009

Malor, if you're looking for something like Mechforce, you should check out MegaMek, a religious recreation of the tabletop game. It's Java, open source, multiplayer, and can run with multiple AIs.
posted by thanotopsis at 1:08 PM on August 6, 2009

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