08 August 2012

The Motorpool: MECHA

Mecha. One of the most iconic futuristic war-machines in popular media for the last four decades, and one of the major foundations of Japanese Anime. Since the mid-1970's, Anime featuring the giant piloted robots has been imported to America, injecting the imaginations of viewers, including me, with futuristic battlefields populated with mecha, and helping form such spinoffs of the Japanese giant robots, like Battletech and Exosquad. Mecha has expanded pass the days of cheap models and badly dubbed cartoons dumbed down for American audiences, to become featured in American movies, like the upcoming Pacific Rim. For me, Mecha has been a lifetime investment in imagination and has lit up dreams since watching the first Gundam Anime series and of course, ROBOTECH. So, here it is, the mega-blogpost on mecha, the history, examples, and of course, the reality of using these humanoid war-machines on future battlefields. This blogpost will most concerning the larger examples of combatmecha, like those featured in ROBOTECH, Battletech,and Mobile Suit Gundam.

What is Mecha? What is the difference between Mecha and Armored Power Suits?
Mecha or "meka" (メカ) is the Japanses world for Mechanical, and is a board term for all manner of vaguely humanoid robotic devices, which encompassed everything from automotive robotic workers, to Honda's Asimo, to the giant robotic war-machines popular in Battletech, Transformers, and ROBOTECH. But when it comes to cataloging Mecha in the wider scope of futuristic war-machines, we can place the word 'mecha' more in the vain of bipedal or even hexapod piloted war-machines that are much larger than the human crews that control them, think more along the lines of modern main battle tank on legs. Often the word mecha and armored power suit are mixed up and used interchangeable. To work out the differences, I've made up three classes of these types of futuristic battle armor:
  • CLASS-I: The Armored Power Suit, close to the body of the wearer, think Iron Man
  • CLASS-II: This is the in between class of humanoid battle armor, think Avatar AMP suit
  • CLASS-III: The full on humanoid 'giant robot' mecha, think Gundam or Battletech     

The Wide Range of Mecha Designs
For the most part, this blogpost is considering the giant humanoid robot type mecha that roam the battlefield like jolly Green Giants with guns, which is the standard of classic mecha of manga and anime. However, as seen in ROBOTECH, Battletech, and other works, mecha can be all shapes and sizes. From the the nearly-organic shaped fuchikoma of the Ghost in the Shell, to the spider-walking-tank variety. So, why the wide range of mecha designs? Since battlemecha are not real...yet...writers of manga and anime attempt to set themselves apart from the vast array of giant robot works that flooded the market in the 1980's.
A unique design was one way of setting your anime/manga, and increasing the sales of your plastic model for years, or getting your name out there as an artist. Rare is the world of military mecha is those based on the same design principles as designers created a new armored vehicle or attack jet fighter. One of the few designs put through the ringer was the AMP suit from AVATAR. According to research, it seems that James Cameron designed more of the most realistic APS/Mecha seen in any type of media.

The Brief History of Mecha\

There have been legends from the Greeks and the Indian cultures of metallic warriors, but nothing as concrete as what came to fashion the beginnings of mecha. In 1880, the legendary Jules Verne wrote, what now would be concerted streampunk, a book called The Stream House. This book featured a controllable stream-powered robotic elephant. It is more likely the much better known 1898 War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells and its Martian tripod piloted war-machines forged the the beginning of mecha in the popular culture, certainly leading to the metal-machine-aliens popular in the 50's and 60's.
When researching this blogpost, I pulled out some of my old anime books from the 1980's, several of them, including Mobile Suit Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, cited not War of the Worlds, but the founding classic of MSF, 1959's Starship Troopers for the invention of mecha as a manned war-machine.
The manned military robotic humanoids from Japan we know and love today it is believed started in 1956 with the Japanese anime series Iron Man #28 as known as Gigantor here in the states. How could we forget the another grandfather of mecha than came to us in 1974: Mechagodzilla! Unlike Mechagodzilla, the 1972 anime series Mazinger Z, where unlike previous Japanese series, the robot was not controlled by a small boy via remote control or were some type of metal monster, but inside the robot, like a tank or aircraft. Some of the mecha from this series made it here via the Mattel Toys Shogun Warriors line, that also mixed the mecha from another series, Getter Robot. That 1974 series is credit with origin of the smaller-robots-combining-to-form-a-super-robot phenomena. Some of these early giant-robot-defending-the-earth series were package together under the title of Force Five, and aired on a few stations around the US, one of them was in Dallas, where I was able to first start watching mecha anime.
What would real push mecha into the military machines we know was the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam. These series displayed a more realistic space war between two human government during space colonization, and had the main character and mecha placed firmly into the ranks of a future military organization. It is hard to overstate the importance of Mobile Suit Gundam, because it took the mecha into space within a believable military organization and forged an iconic standard that allowed other anime/manga creators to work from. One of the first series to use this new template was the 1981 mecha 75 epsiode series, Fang of the Sung Dougram. With the success of mecha on TV and as a line of toys/models, allowed Japanese companies to develop mecha intense shows, including Macross and Armorer Trooper Votoms, and also created the exporting market to the US. Gundam coupled with Star Wars, fueled the giant robot boom of the 1980's, where hobby and comic book stores began selling Japanese mecha toys and models, and caused Harmony Gold to air their re-dub of three separate anime series in to ROBOTECH in 1985, filling my life with overwhelming joy.
Much like Mobile Suit Gundam but to a greater extent, ROBOTECH forged new mecha fans, and created demand for mecha toys, comic books, and TV shows. Seeing the money in mecha, American companies leapt onto the bandwargon and put out cartoon series and toylines like Robotix, the Revell Robotech Defenders model and comic line, the Mighty Orbots and re-dubed Voltron: Defenders of the Universe. But none was more famous than Transformers. All of this added up to an explosion that rippled throughout the 1980's, however, Japanese mecha products fell on hard times both here in the states and in Japan. What saved mecha from going out here in America was the invention of Battletech,original called Battledriod, that combined lifted mecha designs from ROBOTECH, the Fang of the Sun Dougam, and some sites claim Crusher Joe. 
Younger readers may not realize that when Battletech came along, there was no real outlet for us that watched ROBOTECH, there was no computer or console game to wage computerized mech combat. Battletech's success allowed mecha and its fans to have an outlet for their geekdom, and spawned American creations, Exosquad in 1993, and even their own animated series in 1994. While the Japanese series were less common in the States, the Japanese would depoly one of the most sucessful mecha anime of all time in 1995, the Neon Genesis Evangelion. According to some sites, Evangelion, re-energized the giant robot genre in Japan, spurring new series development. One of the more exciting developments in the history of mecha has been the invention of CGI SFX which has finally given us some badass live-action mecha in major Hollywood films like Avatar and Matrix. With the continued progress of of CGI SFX, we can expect the to more complex and realistic mecha coming out. The future is bright my friends... 

The Advantages of Mecha


Ancient lore often contains stories of giants that roam the earth, from the Nephillim, the Titans, to the Jotun, and all of these were forces to be dealt with. The reason for these myths to use giants is the common human fear of anything larger than us. Look at the scary deep sea creatures, the Loch Ness Monster, the Great White Shark, and the Giant Squid. One of the effects of fielding combat mecha, would be fear, causing infantry and civilians to abandon their positions, flooding the local area with running troops and civilians, bogging down any armed response. After all, if I saw an Atlas mech head my way on the battlefield, I would run away before I pissed myself.

-Highly Mobile Weapon Platform
If we take the examples from popular mecha, thee things would be loaded to bear with all manner of weapon systems. From Gauss cannons, machine guns, lasers, and scores of missiles to deal death to anyone unlucky enough to get in their path.Plus, given some of the other positive aspects of having a bipedal walking tank would allow for that firepower to be used in terrain and conditions inaccessible to a tank.
The biological human form was developed over millions of years of evolution on this world for concrete reason rooted in natural selection, and could one of the best reasons to base the combat mecha on the humanoid shape. Plus, it allows users of the mecha to be more familiar with the movement of such a power and giant machine if it was model after a system you have been using your entire life. This allows the mech to more intuitive than a tank or a helicopter for moving around the battlefield.     

-Interactive Ability 

Given the humanoid form of most mecha, and even some of the more insect-like war-machines, especially the fuchikoma there is a greater degree of the machine's ability to interact with its locate environment. I came up with this positive of classic mecha design when watching the second episode of  ROBOTECH: Macross, when Rick Hunter uses the VF-1 hand in gerwalker model to rescue Lynn Minmay (really wished he hadn't done that). If you think about, a tank, APC, or even a Humvee, cannot use arms to load gear, help get itself unstuck, or grab a wounded soldiers from in the line of fire, but a humanoid mech can.

-Terrain/Environmental Adaptation
While researching this topic, I am across a few forums discussing one of the major positives of combat mecha would its ability to adapt to changing terrain and/or environmental conditions more readily than a tank. If we examine the conflicts in Afghanistan. Vietnam, and Iraq, most armored vehicles were barred from widespread deployment. In Vietnam and A-Stan it was due to the bad conditions, where it was the lack of roads and jungles in the 'Nam, it was the mountains, hills, bad roads in Afghanistan.
While most of the pool-table terrain of the deserts of Iraq lend itself to mechanized warfare, cities like Baghdad were difficult to maneuver for the M1 Abrams down the clogged and narrow roads, then there was the IEDs. Specially designed mechs in various leg configurations could traverse difficult terrain, allowing for mechs to use their firepower for close fire support. As seen in ROBOTECH and Citytech, mecha could use building and other urban terrain features closer to foot soldiers to wage war in manner very different from armored vehicles.  I just hope future engineers figure out stair climbing mastery for mechs.

The Disadvantages of Mecha

-The Legs
Any mecha has one big weakness, the legs...the Ewoks taught us that. Mechs are only as strong as their joint/leg armor, and one good clean shot could bring down billions of high-tech military hardware. Some websites content that designers would reinforce the leg armor to the point of being virtually impervious to most anything, or that the legs would be too difficult to hit in a real engagement. I call bullshit on all of that. I was trained in Jeet Kune Do, and my sifu taught me that no matter how hard you pump iron at the gym, you knee is going to buckle if I use my sidekick, and the same is true of a battlemech. An infantryman with a Gauss gun or portable railgun could play the role of an anti-mecha sniper, target the knee joints and take down the badass mech by shredding the leg systems.

Real-world mecha similar to ones seen Battletech or the Knightmare Frames, would require a complete technical team to keep these gods of war in the field. Combat mecha would require similar maintenance times equal to an modern attack fighter or tank, and similar facilities, only much larger. That could be a major issue with deployed mecha to off-world battlefields, one could hope that mecha repair facilities would be already on-site, or the dropship itself, like the Battletech examples, would be the repair facilities.Even to refit and reloaded the mecha would require specialized scaffolding and power equipment. For example, the three-barreled GU-11 55mm cannon used on the ROBOTECH Veritech fighter would be similar in weight to the A-10 Warthog's GAU-8 cannon, about 690 lbs, which requires special equipment to off-load it to perform maintenance and reload.
Few series devoted time or energy to show this side of a war with mecha. During the writing of my own MSF novel, Endangered Species, I made the tech crew important and valuable part of the story, because while all of the glory goes to the wild-haired pilots, the true heroes of the mecha would be the techs. Some minor repairs Given the advancements in nanotechnology, I would think that most mecha would sport something like our own lymphatic system, where a flow of nano-machines are circulating at all times to perform basic repair functions.

-Limits of Robotic Technology

As it was said in BLADE RUNNER, reaction time is a factor, no more so than during combat. Modern robotics has come along way since the 1980's wheeled robots I saw at Tulsa Radio Shacks, today we have robots like Honda's ASIMO that are venturing closer to the vision of Isaac Asimov. But could the movements of a giant robotic combat armor react quick enough to survive on a battlefield?  Could future scientists and engineers develop technology to allow for mecha capable of lightning fast reacts and kung-fu?
The best example of bipedal robotics is of course, Honda's ASIMO, which took engineers 20 years to get the bipedal locomotion and balance right to allow ASIMO to walk. Giant 60 foot tall mecha would even more complex in terms of balance and synchronizing the various hardware and software systems to perform, and preventing the damn thing from falling down.
While unmanned ground vehicles are about to take their place along side combat infantry in both defensive and offensive operations, they are mostly controlled and wheeled. Some robotic workers, like those in automotive plants have the react time to wield while chassis are moved along, but those are under specific conditions and designed for specific tasks. What I worry about with mecha, is that human input commands, even from a neuro-interface, would not translate quick enough to allow for combat-rated mecha, especially the ones seen in ROBOTECH or Battletech, where these war-machines are controlled more like a vehicle and not a armored suit.

-Transportation to the Battlefield
When you look at the 1:1 Gundam statue in Japan, you see the issue with transporting these 60 foot war-machines to distant off-world battlefields. Then there is the issue of transporting the mecha from ship-to-shore, not to mention, getting back up to the FTL transport vessel when the fighting is over. These mech drop ship and/or recovery starlift vehicles would be massive, and expensive, just look at the Battletech universe use of massive spherical dropships to deploy and support mechwarriors. This is one of the many advantages that APS units have over the giant Class-3 battlearmor in a spacefaring military organisation. 

-Power Supply
Mechs similar to the ones featured in Battletech and Gundam are vast complex machines that would require massive amounts of energy to not only move on the battlefield, but also to fire next-generation DEW and KEW systems under battlefield conditions. Examining the current vehicles that would be proximate to the scale of 60ft mech would be along the lines of the Caterpillar Mining Truck and the M1 Abrams. Those metallic mining truck beasts run on a 3500 horsepower turbocharged diesel engine, and the M1 Abrams MBT uses a 1500 horsepower multi-fuel gas turbine engine that normally runs on military JP-8 fuel. So, could mech pilots fuel up their giant robots at the local Quicktrip with diesel? No, not on the scale of the classic battlemecha, those types of power systems are for the Class-1 and Class-2 battlearmor. Fossil fuels and fuel cells would not be able to supply the steer amount of energy needed to allow a Class-3 battlearmor to fight and run all of the systems, especially bipedal locomotion. What we are talking about is nuclear power, and since the Mr.Fusion units have not been developed, we are talking about mounting a fusion or even fission reactor inside a mech frame in the range of 30-60 feet. There two issues with that: weight and thermonuclear explosions.
Nuclear power was experimented with for use on aircraft and tanks, but it proved impractical due to the amount of weight, safety issues, and shielding needed to protect the crew. All of this added up to a nuclear airplane being too heavy to fly, not to mention if the damn thing fell out of the sky. Mecha would face the same issues, unless, future technology allows for micro cold fusion generators, Protoculture matrix, or even a Mr. Fusion. The simple addition of a nuclear reactor in the belly or groin of the battlemech would add enormous weight, not to mention the cooling systems, shielding, and armor to protect the fusion core for weapons fire. We also have to think about safety of the pilot, their squad of mecha around them, and the local surrounding. Can you imagine a nuclear explosion inside a urban combat zone if a mech was taken down? It could single-handed bring victory to the enemy, and wipe any hiding civilians in the city. Talk about a PR nightmare. Some websites I've checked out talk about using larger radioisotope thermoelectric generators, due to their usage in unmanned space exploration, like the currrent NASA Curiosity Mars Science laboratory rover. However, RTG have a limited power output, a few hundred watts, which would not work on a combat mecha.  
Powering a battlemecha the most critical stumbling blocking these war-machines being a reality.


 In the summer of 2009, to mark the 30th anniversary of Gundam, a 1:1 scale statue of the iconic RX-78-2  was constructed in Japan. This gave the best example of the real real-world scale of a 60 foot tall combat mecha. It is astounding how massive these combat machines would be. As I was writing this blogpost, I passed by downtown Fort Worth right off I-30, right near where I work, and I could not help but imagined the Gundam battlemecha stalking around the buildings of Fort Worth and Dallas, and it would quite easy to spot (and target) something of that size. Giant robotic war-machines would be easy spotted in most situations, after all, not all battles are going to occur in downtown Tokyo, especially in off-world colonies,where the mecha cannot take cover behind the nearest office building.
But would this size be a benefit to the military organization that fielded them or a hazard? This size would also make difficult to transport disabled  units back to a repair point or to cross over larger, deeper bodies of water, because as everyone knows, mecha don't swim, they sink. Personally, I do believe that the familiar armored power suits that are either close or slightly larger than the wearer will be the mecha fielded for future wars. They seems to make more sense that the giant robots of Anime/Manga, within a scienfic and military sense.


Often not talked and frankly overlooked, is the steer bulk of these battlemecha, and how this would impact their performance on the battlefield and interaction in that environment. Real-world mecha that is 40-60 feet in height and weighting around 50-70 tons could be a danger to itself if it misjudged the ability for a bridge, raised highway, soft terrain to support its weight. If the mecha misjudged and became trapped, it would be target for everything in the region, not to mention the headache of digging out the mecha from its quagmire...and no Warn winch is rated for dragging out a mech.  

Transformable (Henshin) Mecha?
I was a kid during the heyday of the original Transformers cartoon/toy line, and yes, I had them, but I loved the Henshin mecha of ROBOTECH much more. During this time, brother and I attempted to build transforming mecha out of our Legos, which proved difficult, would it also prove difficult for a real-world combat battlemech? Impossible might be the better world for it. The issue for real-world transformable mecha is why and how. The complexity of having a massive object like a combat mech swap around its interior and exterior systems in a flow mechanical ballet that could be done on the battlefield during combat is mind-blowing. The needed joints, gears, computer control system, flexible components and body shell simply would be too much for a combat-rated vehicle. Just imagine the maintenance on something like that! If you watch some transformable mecha scenes in anime, they tend to happen in conditions were it seems gravity not long exists. A mech would have to supported and stable during the entire process, and free-falling while transforming from jet to walker would be suicide.
Then we come to the question of why? My thoughts is that some mecha, if we indeed built them, could have swrappable components, much like the omni-mechs from Battletech's clans. Where a few changes could allow a mech to handle different situations based on threat and/or terrain. When it comes to massive combat crewed robots morphing into tanks, cassette players, and jets, I'm not so sure. Cost would be one thing holding back that development, plus the added needless complexity of mechanics behind this process. Imagine a gear or motor breaking down during this transforming sequence...the pilot and mech would be completely screwed. When I played the PS2 game Battle Engine Aquila, I marveled at its beautiful design, and the simplicity of its switch from attack jet to walker, but then I thought about the pilot. Attack jet pilots are a rare breed, and the military spends millions and years to train them to fly those very expensive planes and it seems mecha would be the same process. If we were to have mecha that transformed from jet-to-tank, like the simple Land-to-Air Mech from Battletech, then those pilots would have to trained to perform both tasks, one as a pilot, another as a tank driver.
During research for this blogpost, I read forums were the possibility of transforming mecha was discussed, and the consensus was that it was pure fantasy, like mecha that runs on faith or built from Adam's rib.            

Organic Technology-based Mecha?
One possibility mentioned around the Internet for overcoming some of the technologically shortcoming mentioned above is the use of organic technology. This could fuse man and machine into a single, more coherent system, rather than pilot and machine, much like the Triolian Bioroids in ROBOTECH: the Masters or the angel fighting mecha from Evangelion were all based organic (techno-organic) technology. This use of biotechnology extends to the 2005 War of the Worlds tripods, the Striders from Half-Life 2, and the Bio-Armor suit from Guyver.
The issue is that real-world organic technology is still in its infancy, so I cannot comment if the technology would viable for combatmech construction. Evangelion triggered the more current crop of mecha anime, like Knightmare Frames from Code Geass, Broken Blade, Gun X Sword, and Rah Xephon seem to fashion their mecha more after organic designs than the previous classic series. FWS will discussing organic technology in more depth in the future.

Future Military Application of Mecha
According to most sources for the use of mecha on the future battlefield, it fits somewhere in the ranks of the gunship, main battle tank, and even mobile artillery platform, but how would a future military field these giant robots, or would they even bother?
Too many Sci-Fi creators and fans seem to operate under a false belief: these walking tanks are the end-all-be-all of futuristic combat. One element that sci-fi works that feature mecha-only seem to forgot about that most all exoplanets colonies would be similar to  LV-426, where the entire world has maybe one or two major colonial sites, not massive cities like Macross or Tokyo. This would cause these heavy mecha to need some sort mobility. After all, mecha would be slow crossing vast distances especially if the terrian changes radically, all while exposing themselves to enemy artillery and air power, increasing the chance of mechanic breakdown, and higher energy consumption.
It is unlikely that the massive war-machines would be used on the scale of the tank or APC or a gunship. It is more likely that the smaller cousin to the mech, the armored power suit, will appear on future off-world battlefields or even the walking-tank,similar to the Star Wars AT-TE. Simply put, the military, as a rule, does not set out to construct military machines bigger than they need to be. This is not some dick-measuring contest or the battlecruiser race of the early 1900's, the modern military set size requirements for for manufacturer, and making it bigger than someone else is not a requirement. It could be possible for a military or alien invasion force to use walking giant as a psychology weapon designed to scare the utter shit out of the civilian population, clearing the way for occupation. 

Killing Giants...Bring Down the Mech\
Way too many sci-fi works depict the battlemech has the ultimate in tool in future wars, and that anyone not in a mech, is fucked. Is this true? would mechs be the end-all-be-all of future wars? No. Everything has a weakness. Tanks were once thought to be the king of the modern battlefield. But, as we have seen, planted roadside bombs can and will take out their tracks, even if you just have axle grease, plastic explosives and socks.
The thin armor on top can be attacked, such as the Swedish BILL missile used to destroy MBTs.Even the big bad tripods from War of the Worlds were nothing without their fancy energy shielding. In future wars were mecha like what is seen in Battletech are deployed, we will see infantry-based heavy weapon systems, like the standard-issued big gun, portable missile systems, EMPs, and even computer attack-viruses that all will hunt the mech on the battlefield, especially dense urban terrain. One of the better examples of this tactic was when Kyle Reese was planting explosives on the tracked Hunter-Killer in the original Terminator film. Besides the infantry anti-mech hunting teams, future armies will deploy gunships, UAVs, and even armored vehicles especially outfitted for the task of kicking metallic ass. I can see mecha, especially the jolly green giant size, being the focus of a great deal of hostile attention, much like what was said about the main battle tank during the Cold War. Everything on the future war-zone will take a shot at the mech.

The Mecha Pilot
Japanese Anime is stuffed with wild haired male teenagers and equally young girls with flowing hair, both piloting these massive war-machines to defend Mother Earth one last time against an alien horde and looking damn cool while doing it. Sadly, this would not be the reality of these pilots if and when future armies deployed battlemech. First off, mechwarriors would not be some 16 year old high school student with non-reg hair. Sorry. Realistic mecha pilots would fall somewhere close to modern attack jet pilots, especially those that fly the A-10 Warthog. Due to the complexity of the battlemech controls and the amount of information flowing to the cockpit, the task seems suited to attack jet pilots, marking these types of soldiers more elite, highly trained, carefully selected, and more highly educated than what has been shown onscreen.
This would match up with the rarity of mecha in a realistic future military, due to the cost, complexity, and battlefield role of mecha, which would not be the standard offensive tool of any army, that would still belong to some sort of tank-like vehicle and/or the infantry, possible in APS gear.
Another issue that mech pilots would have to overcome is the "god-mode syndrome". Going into battle with a multi-ton, weapon-clad armored titan that can withstand all manner of punishment and is impervious to most small-arms instills a sense of superiority, even god-like ability to wage wreck and ruin on infantry and smaller vehicles. I originally read about this in the Citytech manual, where a battlemech goes chasing after some running infantry and runs smack into ambush.
Another element to the life of mecha pilot would be the way that they control their battlemech and receive data. Often mecha control systems parallel developments in current technology or what is in vogue. Back in the 1980's, most mecha was featured with isolated control rooms, packed with monitors, buttons, and a view-screen. This depicted battlemecha being more akin to a fighter with similar control systems, ROBOTECH and Battletech are good examples of this. By the 1990's, VR visors were more common, like in Ghost in the Shell that gave the pilot a 360 degree view inside along with HUD-like information all in La Forge style!  The more rare types of control systems are where the pilot and the machine are symbolically linked. The mere thought and/or nerve impulse inputs are used to control the war-machine, much like the ROBOTECH: Master Bioroids, and this can make the reaction time in these types of mecha very quick. One thing that anime and manga got right about mechwarriors...they would be cool.

How Much?!
It has been estimated that using current technology, a battlemech on the order of the 60 foot tall RX-78-2 from Gundam would be around $725 million dollars for the base model, and it would be able to do even close to the amazing feats of technology and combat seen in the series. $725 million....wow, better not wreck one.

Examples of Real-World Mecha

The John Deere/Plustech Oy "Timberjack" Walking Forest Machine 
One of the best examples of the mecha that we grow up with is this insect-looking vehicle, the Plustech Oy forest walker. This Finnish company developed an honest-to-Kobol walking pilot mecha around 1998. The key of the design was not to mimic Japanese mecha, but maneuverability over the conventional forestry equipment and less environmental impact. Since the development of the Forest-Walker occurred prior to internet as we know today, little digital information is available on why this vehicle was not developed for mass sale. Sadly, Plustech Oy was bought by John Deere and killed this little mechanical wonder. However, the prototype in resting in a forestry museum in Finland.

The Sakakibara Kikai "Kid-Walker" 
This little Japanese has manged to turn out two real-world mecha, one was the 2005 walker, and now they have the Kid Walker. This is more of a mecha rollerblader, the 'feet' have wheels that provide the basic locomotion. You can buy one for about $20,000, but the company envisions these being a rental for the end of the world...or something. Could be useful for a bully problems but not for childhood obesity.

The Kuratas KR01 from Suidobashi Heavy Industry
Life intimidating art should be the motto for the Kuratas KR01 four-wheeled, driveable mecha from Suidobashi Heavy Industry. At 13 feet tall and armed with twin Galting Airsoft cannons, the KR01 is just this side of the ED-209, and features a claw-like hand. The driver can control this mecha via a smartphone remotely or inside the chest cavity of the vehicle. There is no word on what SHI hopes to do with the KR01 besides make me drool, could this be a real-world crowd-control mecha armed with pepperball guns? There was a model in police livery at the perimeter event. The man behind the KR01 is a lifelong mecha fan, and previous forged a 1:1 statue of the VOTOM APS. Officially, the Kuratas is an art piece...with gun.Want one? You can have one in your choice of colors and options for $1.4 million please, in small bills...and no the sexy model in the helmet does not come with it. Pity.  

The BigDog from DARPA/JPI/Boston Dyanmics

While the mechs above are impressive, nothing compares to the BigDog, a joint project between DARPA/JPL/Boston Dynamics. It is simply amazing to watch this four-legged robot traverse rough terrain, and correct itself after being kicked.  The three foot long, 240lbs gas-powered BigDog is presently being explored by DARPA to be the prototype base platform for the Legged Squad Support System (LSSS). the final test of this system is a 20 mile trek with 400lbs being carryed and a 24 hour time limit.  The vision by the US Army is to use the LSSS in a role similar to the old MULE, a highly mobile, low-profile, cargo hauler that can keep up with the troops.

Video of BigDog's test run

Where the hell is my Mecha-fighting live-action Movie?
While Japanese anime and some western animation works were okay, geeks like me that grew-up with mecha want nothing more than to see these war-machines on the big screen. I've been asking since childhood, where the hell was my live-action Battletech film was?
There have a few Japanese live-action films that feature cheez-whiz level effects on mecha, namely the 1974 Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and the children's TV show, Giant Robo of the 1960's. When compared to the anime or manga, the live-action bordered on mockery and something fit for MST3K. The first really great mecha-like creation in mainstream filmes was in '86, when James Cameron put the mecha-like Power-Loader into ALIENS, and is just one more reason why ALIENS is one of the best movies of all time!
There have been a few serious attempts to bring fighting mech to the screen prior to widespread usage of CGI, Robot Jox and Gunhed are primary examples. I can remember renting Robot Jox in 1990, and expecting to see something closer to Battletech but received a work closer to the old Japanese monster movies. Robot Jox was set in a post-nuclear world were direct combat was forbidden between the two major political blocks, and instead they solved their issues with giant robot combat gladiator-style. That movie still gives me nightmares. Other movies in the style of Robot Jox would haunt us for most of the 1990's. Then came hope with the the more APS-styled APU in final two Matrix films, the AMP suit from Avatar and the Bunny Mech from 2011's Sucker Punch. The issue for me is that all of these films use mecha closer to Class-1 and Class-Two, none are the Class-Three that we are discussing here.  
There is hope for finally seeing a true giant robot mecha on the silver screen, Guillermo del Toro's upcoming Pacific Rim will feature massive mecha called Jaegers. It seems from what little information there is, these Jaegers were created to fight giant monsters, similar to the ones from Japanese films. I had hoped this would be a very film, but after seeing the scale of the mech, and the basic plot, I'm officially disappointed. Why are there few mainstream films that contain giant robots and trend more towards the armored power suit? My guess would be usability for the filmmaker to show the mech within the environment of the film and APS seem more believable to an audience. 60 foot robotic suits would have difficult to swallow in Avatar. So, I guess I will wait on the Battletech film awhile longer...sigh...

Where the hell is my Mecha-Fighting Simulator?!

Okay, I can accept that I'll never join the US Mecha Corps, use my badass 60ft metal killing giant to squish Taliban in Afghanistan, but where the hell is my mecha-fighting cockpit simulator?! There have been several attempts at bring mecha combat into the arcade setting over the years, and it is an odd twist of historical development, that the video-game generation (mine) coincides with giant-mecha anime/manga, fueling the market for these games to take my money. In 1990, Virtual World Entertainment with FASA, developed Battletech arcade centers where players mounted a mech via a VR cockpit, and battled sixteen other others hooked into these simulator pods. With the pace of computer technology, these mech-combat VR centers began to close in Japan, and die off in the states. One of these was in Dallas during the 90's, and I begged my parents to let me go and blow my money when we used come to Dallas from Oklahoma, but they always said no...tears.
During the late-90's and early-2000s, there was VR pod Mechwarrior game that was seen in the hellish Chuck E. Cheese centers and some arcades, there is little information on these, and I did play this game a few times, and was never impressed with it, especially once MechWarrior came out for Xbox.
The most recent examples of these mech combat VR-pods is the Kido Senshi Gundam: Senjo no Kizuna cockpit pod simulators in Japan and Hong Kong that is based on the Gundam universe, and is epic in its graphics and control. The other is here in the US, with the updated VR pod system from the 1990's Battletech centers, the Tesla II Battletech cockpit simulator pods. Virtual Worlds and MechCorps Entertainment put these VR simulator pods on tour to nerd/geek hotspots, like the Dallas's own anime Con, A-Kon, which I missed this year...my wife said no.
The closest we gamers ever got for our home-consoles was the 2002 Xbox Steel Battalion with it's uber-cool light-up 40 button, three pedaled $200 controller. I had visions of becoming Roy Fokker with this thing, but when this game came out back in the day, I had a small kid, a wife in college, and I was lucky enough to eat everyday.
By the way, you can rent these Battletech cockpit simulator pods for your next guy's night out. Beer, wings and mecha...what could better?

Some of my Favorite Examples of Mecha

Battletech Universe
The promise of mecha military science fiction combat is one that has eluded most works that have attempted to capture it. Something is always amiss, its hard to describe fully, but while research this blogpost, I felt that when re-examining mecha-based productions. However, that is not true of Battletech. Somehow, this American pen-and-paper RPG game that branched out into video games, novels, toys, and a cartoon series that started off stealing anime mecha designs, became the best example of giant robot combat. Battletech did something right with both the story and the mecha itself.
 For example Most of the mecha designs in Fang of the Sun Dougram, were simply wasted in the series, but in Battletech they were each fully developed, used by various players, and evolved over the length of the game. For example, I loved and used the Thunderbolt heavy mech, but it was also from the Robotech Defenders as 'Gartan', and the 'F4X Ironfoot' from Fang of the Sung Dougram. The design was able live on beyond its original incarnation.making them much grander, and giving each a personality, beyond the original anime. Then the basic story and history of the Battletech universe is better than most anime or manga, save for a few Japanese mecha productions.

Dynamo Joe (First Comics 1986-88)
Much like Battletech, the Americans out-write the Japanese and turn in one of the most original far-future MSF tales of giant mecha being used in a space war against aggressive aliens. Of course, if there was no Mobile Suit Gundam or ROBOTECH, then there would be no Dynamo Joe. The "Joe" is a massive 60 foot nuclear-powered robot-suit developed by the Alliance, a military tri-alliance against an invaded alien that uses organic technology. Let it be said, Doug Rice is a genius, and his military sci-fi comic of the mid-80's is still one of the best giant robot comics around, and story period. It is a crime against humanity that Dynamo Joe has been most forgotten. If there was to be a giant robot MSF movie made, this such be the story they use. It is that good.

Anyone that reads this blog knows how much I love ROBOTECH and its impact on me as well as Anime in America as a whole. However, I do have a bitch about the way that the ROBOTECH series treats the other, non-transformable, mecha, called Destroids. Most of the background mecha were the basis for the original Battletech games, but in the anime series are they treated like gnats, dying quickly, and not seem to making much of a difference in the defense of the SDF-1. But, the Veritechs are treated like gods or porn stars, able to intercept and kill legions of battlepods. For a long-time player of Battletech, I was always insulted  by the treatment of these great mecha designs. The worst, was the poor treatment of the MAC-II Monster destroid, this thing, according to the stats, could lay down that hate, but is seen mostly being easily wiped out by an battlepod. I am thankful that FASA used the ROBOTECH/Macross mecha designs to give them some dignity.   

The Sentinels from the X-Men Universe
While I was never a big fan of the X-Men, my brother collected the comic for years, and I read them from time to time, always enjoying the Days of Future Past storyline. At the time I read these, I was watching ROBOTECH, and the Sentinels seemed a prefect addition to the X-Men universe. But, it is only now that realize how long these mutant-hunting robotic giants have been around, 1965, which makes them one of the oldest mecha-like designs.

The Gundam Universe 
The science fiction community as a whole got lucky that 1979's Mobile Suit Gundam was the archetype of the military science fiction-space-opera-giant-robot-war series. Due to its story, iconic mecha designs, and complex war that often was a grey area on who the real enemy was. Also, Gundam was the beginning of so much great anime to follow.  

Fang of the Sung Dougram
While this 75 episode future war epic was not broadcast in the US, the various war-mecha were relabeled into Revell Robotech Defenders model line, a two-issue DC comic, and the original battlemech for the Battletech RPG. The plot is interesting, the show opens with a woman standing next to a rushing battlemech, and the show is an entire flashback to the war of independence on an Terran colony named Deloyer, a member of the Earth Federation. Due to an election, a dictator favored by the Earth Federation, who allow his iron-fist rule over Deloyer. The Governor's son and others form a rebel group using the prototype 'Dougram' mecha, that was the 'Shadowhawk' in the Battletech universe. The aim of the group was to not only expel the planetary governor, but to liberate Deloyer from the rule of the Earth completely. While the mecha and basic plot were interesting, I was unimpressed when I watched a few episodes online, coupled with the poor mecha combat  and rather cartoony scenes.       

Thread on why we would make mechs 

The trailer for Mechwarrior 5

Some kick-ass combat footage from Macross Zero

Promo-Video on the Kuratas KR01 Mecha (warning: Mecha Porn!)

Alan Parson Project song I, Robot music video


  1. Wow. A bit of an epic post even for you're blog. Really impressed with it and it's really comprehensive.

    I remember getting a mecha style robot as a present when I was about ten. I didn't quite know what to make of it at the time.

    I think I forgot about them until Battletech came around. It seemed like a nice idea but I was never sure that they were really feasible. I am still not but the image is pretty good. I know someone who is really into this but can't see the massive attraction that it has.

    I also watched a film called robot jox which really stuck a cord even with it's cheesy 80s graphics but gave mecha a kind of gladiaorial feel. I got hold of a copy of it not that long ago and had a chance to indulge in some nostalgia.

    I have purchased a model mech a few months ago so it must have made some impact on me.

    I still wonder how people can think they would actually work on the battlefield.

  2. I was a big ROBOTECH fan myself, even bought the DVDs recently but,
    I do agree with you on the Destroids, the got a far better shake in the Battletech universe! I war gamed the Heavy Gear universe in miniature,
    their Mechs run from CLASS-TWO to THREE and have a great Anime feel
    to them.....


  3. Thanks everyone for reading! This is one of those blogposts that has been hanging around the draft pile for nearly two years, because I feared researching such a massive and cherished topic of MSF. After the research, I am starting to think that giant robot Mecha is one of those examples of tacti-cool. And it is hard to fight something that you grew up with.
    I have 14 book ideas ready to go, and a few have soldiers using CLASS One and TWO mecha, but none use Class Three, I guess deep down, I knew that they would not work on the future battlefield.
    You know, Heavy Gear shows very interesting, I will have to dive deeper into it, and devote a blogpost to it, after all, it is a great example of far-future sci-fi.
    I watched some of Robot Jox online while writing this...it still makes me mad.
    Thanks for reading and commenting!

    1. I know this was 4 years ago, but has titanfall 1 and 2 changed your thoughts on class 3 mecha? Would like to see your opinions on Pilots and certifications in that universe, and their background in combat prowess coming from the shipping and receiving dept.

  4. Since it's on topic :)


  5. Ugh, sorry, comms got crossed, ignore previous.

    Great piece on Mechas, really injoyed it.

  6. PS, what I missed are the massive, über mechs from WH40K - the Titan Warlord mecha from the original Epic game series is a friggin' castle on legs. Talk about size :)

    Played that table top game for many years, and my legion had all the mechas available; Knights, Warhounds, Reavers and said Titan, all raining pain on enemy (foot) infantry. Big fun.

    Again, I enjoyed the post!


  7. I still beleive that the most reallistic design is the class two, like avatar or appleseed/gost in the shell. shirrow really is a master!

  8. You said it! Shirow was thinking well beyond his time, developing technology and ideas about technology that are and will come true.
    I do believe that Class-One and Class-Two will the mecha fielded and not sixty-foot manned robots

  9. Wow, that really is a mega-post, William. Good research!!

    The plausibility of mecha depends on what you mean by mecha. A 60 foot tall humanoid metal war machine is not very practical and probably impossible. Something that big and heavy couldn't just stride about and do kung-fu with aliens. It would probably sink through the ground, and it's limbs would be so heavy it probably couldn't even swing them fast, or possibly even hold them up. Remember the scale law? The bigger your robot gets, the more mechanical stress it is under. At a certain point, even your best materials will not be sufficiently strong. This is why you can't keep scaling up any machine indefinitely- at a certain point you will need to redesign it, and eventually it just becomes infeasible. Why would anyone want a giant war robot anyway? You might as well go and paint a red crosshair on its chest. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

    You should note that neither fission nor fusion reactors can explode like an atom bomb. The uranium in fission reactors is not enriched enough to be used in a bomb, and the core contains plenty of neutron absorbing materials. A nuclear reactor could melt down in a disaster, but not explode like a bomb. Fusion reactors can't explode either. In fact, they can't even melt down. It takes incredible energy input to maintain a fusion reaction. The reactor must heat and compress the fuel to ignite the reaction, and if the reactor fails, the reaction will just stop. A fusion bomb must use a fission bomb to even start the fusion reaction!! A crippled atom-powered spaceship won't explode like a cheap firecracker when it is heavily damaged. It will just stop working, and hurtle on its original trajectory as a battered hulk.

    The ever useful Stardestoyer.net discusses this in its "Brain Bugs" article. I tend to ignore the rather silly SW vs. ST argument, but the science and SF myths articles on this website are pure antimatter (the most expensive substance on Earth to date!!) to someone who wants a little accuracy in their SF. While we're at it, I should bash Star Trek's idea of organic technology. Designing genetically modified organisms or building robot killing machines with specially grown organic computers- i.e. brains on a slab- are quite possible. Building an invincible organic spaceship? Utter nonsense. One photon torpedo, and SQUISH!!!! For that matter, should it enter a gravity field- SQUISH!!! It is unlikely a living organism could ever act as an armor suit, though you could imagine implanting a brain into a metal and ceramic robot to create a cyborg weapon.


    Walking machines, walking vehicles, and maybe even walking tanks might patrol future battlefields, but giant robot warriors or jet airplanes that transform into giant robots aren't very practical or even possible. I can imagine walking vehicles and walking gun platforms as playing a role in future war as futuristic APCs, tanks, and artillery. They might be valued for better handling rough terrain than wheels or tracks. It is up to the artist to come up with designs that don't look silly, of course...

    You know, Stane's iron man armor in the first "Iron Man" movie counted as a Class-2, not a Class-1 like Tony Stark's armor. I'd say that that make Stane's weapon a small mecha, not a a power armor suit like Stark's Iron Man armor. Let's be real, if Stark really existed, he would have made a fortune selling mecha to the US Army instead of playing the holier than thou superhero. And, if Earth were to be invaded, they would face an army equipped with power armor suits and Class-2 mecha. Defenders of the Earth, indeed...

    Christopher Phoenix

  10. I must admit, I screwed up on the idea that the fusion power pack would led to a nuclear explosion, I meant to write that it would throw radioactive material across the urban battlefield, I honest forgot to take it out. I was shocked that power sources could one of the major reasons against the development of traditional mecha. And I missed labeling so of the issues under scale law.
    I will add that Stardestroyer to my upcoming article on orgnaic technology! Thanks for that!
    The title image for the Armored Power Suit post is Stane and his Iron Monger suit...it is a great image of the different classes of the APS. Now, I need to rewatch Iron Man!
    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  11. Radioactive contamination from a reactor accident would a major concern for a fission reactor, and was one of the issues with nuclear powered aircraft. If the thing crashes, will it scatter radioactive material across the landscape? And who wants to go to battle with a nuclear reactor strapped to their back?

    "Aww, man, how do ya' know this thing is not irradiating my freaking balls?!"- Future Mecha Pilot :-)

    I'm not sure that fusion reactors can spread dangerous fallout. Fusion does not create dangerous waste, and the fuels are generally harmless isotopes of hydrogen, helium, lithium and other light elements. Some fusion reactors produce lots of neutrons that could make reactor parts radioactive, but an aneutronic reactor would not. Fusion power promises truly safe, plentiful atom power. It is a pity that most Tokamaks would weigh more than several class-2 mecha, but there are other concepts in the works. Break-even fusion is pretty hard to achieve.

    I've found that energy sources are the biggest problem for developing truly awesome technology. You can even study civilizations by examining their energy sources. In ancient types, we used the muscle power of people fed by crops raised in the fields. Then we started using coal, and then oil, and we became an energy intensive civilization instead of a labor-intensive society. Our whole infrastructure runs on oil- our vehicles, or aircraft, or farms, everything. Something like hydrogen can't replace oil, because we have to make hydrogen by electrolysis. Where does the energy for that come from? Oil, gas, coal...

    A truly futuristic civilization, of course, doesn't use dead plants. A Type-1 civilization might use orbital solar power stations, widespread fission power, fusion power, and so on. A Type-2 civilization might build vast petal-like structures in space to gather plentiful solar energy or even mine the outer planets for fuel. Big projects, like mining the asteroids to build big space structures and launching starships would be routine to such a civilization. Hopefully we will develop some compact, powerful batteries or power plants so we can power up our mecha suits and such. If we harness the radiant energy of stars, we could last as long as the stars still shine. Talk about sustainability- and nowadays they still prattle on about windmills!!

    You might enjoy the discussion of galactic empires I placed a link to below. For some reason, I always think of ray-gun wielding Victorian gentleman (and ladies) riding rocket ships out to conquer the stars when I read it. Perhaps we were born to young- to near the cave, to far the stars, and all that...


    Christopher Phoenix

  12. The demand for power is one of those issues our founding fathers and mothers could not imagine, for them wood was the key construction and fuel of their age. I complete agree with you on that the fact that future military organizations will not run their war-machines on dead plant material, more likely hydrogen in the short-term, but micro-fusion generators would suffer from weight issues and of course, let us not forgot about the plasma containment! There could be cold-fusion generators, if that is possible, or even some form of bio-fusion energy systems.
    Some Sci-fi writers talk about off-world fossil fuels, or even the exotic bio-fusion Protoculture matrix from the Invid Flower of Life seen in ROBOTECH. My Dragoon APS in my book are Hydrogen powered with a battery backup, it seemed the easily solution.
    I think I will write a blogpost on future energy systems, it would be a great resource for writers and good for me to research more on....THANKS!

  13. Nothing is accomplished without energy, and while the sheer amount of energy you have may not be as important as what you can do with it, the amount of energy available sets clear limits on what might be possible. To assemble huge space cities, launch starships, and achieve other cosmic-scale projects, we will need to harness vast amounts of energy.

    For example, accelerating a sub-C starship up to a good fraction of C would require an energy expenditure possibly equal to the amount of electrical energy produced in the US in a year, depending on how massive the ship is and how fast it goes. Some people use this to argue that interstellar travel is "clearly impossible", but all that they manage to prove is that the starting assumptions can be chosen to give the appearance of great difficulty. If we should reach Type-1 and eventually Type-2 status in the future, the cost of interstellar travel will end up representing only a small fraction of our total energy usage. I am assuming here that there are no exotic breakthroughs like space warps or inertialess drives, and we have to go to the stars with photon rockets and such...

    Exotic power sources are common in SF, ranging from those derived from real world concepts to the utterly made up. Massive solar arrays, widespread fusion power, or direct taps on Jupiter's rotation energy are some interesting power sources for Type-1 and Type-2 civilizations. Antimatter can only be used to transport energy instead of generating it, because we must make antimatter at a net loss due to inefficiencies. This would change if we found an antimatter "mine", but there is no evidence for any nearby concentrations of antimatter. Black holes might be used as an energy source in the future. The Penrose process taps the energy tied up in a rotating black hole's angular momentum. It might also be possible to compress plasma to fusion temperatures with a small black hole. A tiny hawking black hole will evaporate by releasing photons which we could tap for power- this could be used as an interstellar "photon drive". In SF, we sometimes encounter "total conversion drives" and other mechanisms which can totally convert any fuel matter to energy- a hawking black hole is the only semi-plausible mechanism for doing that we know of today, but perhaps there are more techniques hidden in the mysteries of high energy physics. When you are designing future energy sources, you need to think BIG.

    How exactly was the Invid Flower of Life supposed to work? I heard that some sort of room-temperature fusion reaction was supposed to be involved, but how is this related to the starship's reflex furnaces? Generally, living things are chemically reactive, semi-permeable, and mechanically weak- not exactly the ideal building material for a fusion reactor. Somewhere I read that the Flower of Life uses a cold fusion reaction to break open its seed pods- an odd way of reproducing. They are a bit like dilithium crystals, I suppose- important for the setting, but they have no real world equivalents.

    Granted, Robotech has its scientific inaccuracies, ranging from the implausibility of turning a fighter jet into a giant robot, the scale law causing a sixty-foot Zentradi to smash himself to jelly when he tries to stand up and take a step, and even the rather silly order to "switch to horizontal propulsion" when the SDF-1 reaches orbit. I guess you can try to justify the fact that the space cruisers are laid out by boats- they do land on their bellies, and they have artificial gravity, but still...

    Christopher Phoenix

  14. More real life mecha!


  15. http://www.mechaps.com/

  16. No mention of five star stories? Really?

  17. I had never heard of this manga/anime until I googled it. Interesting. Thanks for the tip. Trying to do the normal examples that FWS does would have been impossible.

  18. There are advantages to the mech that your piece did not cover. Though they are expensive to maintain, there are few other units that give you equal or greater “Bang For Your Buck.”
    The infantry appear deceptively light. They are the cheap choice if your campaign remains within the confines of a planetary operation, but as soon as you expand that campaign to exo-planetary and beyond, they get very heavy. First there is the weight of the troops and their equipment. Then you have the food water, and air needed for the trip. Even if some of this is recycled, you still have the weight of the recycling gear.
    I am sure you have heard the saying, “complaining troops are happy troops.” That comes from the fact that if you keep a group of people together for a length of time, territorial issues begin to arise. The French Foreign Legion refers to this as “The Beatle.” The most familiar example of this is the Biosphere II experiment. Six professionals were sealed in what was essentially a very large terrarium for a year. They were friends going in, but after a year, they hated each other. The way to counter this is to keep the troops distracted. For this “distraction,” the ship will need training areas, galleys, and recreational areas. All this adds weight. (For the record; the Battletech rules for dropship construction got this part completely wrong.)
    If you have suspended animation technology, you could freeze your troops for the trip. There would still be the weight of the suspended animation equipment. Then you would need an area for them to recover from their sleep. In the end, you will have just a group of infantry.
    The mecha, on the other hand, is heavy, but most of that weight is dead weight. It could be transported in a vacuum and still function when it reached its destination. The life support needs mentioned above would only apply to the mecha’s crew, (traditionally just the pilot,) and a couple of technicians.
    The same could be said of vehicles, with just two caveats. First, the mecha’s legs make it less sensitive to terrain. Second, the vehicle’s source of locomotion, (tracks, wheels, or skirt,) cannot be significantly armoured, but the mecha’s legs can be.
    Of course, infantry and vehicles will be part of the force, and mission will dictate how the mecha are deployed. Because of the mecha’s firepower, it will be the backbone of combat operations. The only unit that wound be more versatile than a mecha would be a gava-tank.

  19. Love the overview. HOWEVER, I spotted a major oversight. How could you not mention that the gun on the KURATOS is triggered by smiling?!? LOL, they actually have to warn their pilots not to accidentally go on a shooting spree by enjoying themselves too much :-D

  20. Never smile, it turns on the Gatling guns...clever. I actually did not read that, nice catch! Leave to the Japanese to invent a mecha that fires 6mm BBs due to smiling!

  21. As a fan of Battletech, I've never really liked the super nimble ninja mechs from most anime. I did like the ones in Code Geass, though.

  22. I used to have a regiment of Inner Sphere mech's, a cluster of Clan mech's, a mixed battalion of ground armor and 15 or so Clan battle armor bases. I still have a large collection of the clickital game from 10 years ago.

    What made the Battletech game work was 2 things, ranges were short and hit location was randomised.

    The best of the computer games IMHO was Mechcommander. To me it played more like the miniature game than the first person shooters.

    Great post. Brought back lots of memories.

  23. Nice subject about the Mecha, though despite for all their strengths Mecha are incredibly vulnerable to the right weapon. I've read one very nice 'Round Robin Story' on the Space Battles Forum 'An Entry with a Bang' it is fanfic cum crossover in which the Jack Ryan Verse or C Earth as TV Tropes section put it, is ISOT'ed to the Battletech universe what follows is pure bliss of action (and ass kicking) all the way. The story also shows the vulnerabilities of a Mecha(s) against normal opponents who use proper combined arms, nerves of steel and 21st century tech to boot. (you can find the links for both the Space Battles Forum and the PDF version which cuts down on the chatter and gives you the meat here. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/FanFic/AnEntryWithABang)

  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. I am a fellow battletech player. me and my brother, cousins, and neighbors were snot-nosed 11 year olds in 1988 and we pooled our money to get that boxed set with the warhammer on it. Life was cheap, battlemechs are priceless. we were hooked and we still talk and play battletech in whatever form we find it. we have all the technical readouts, we hand-made our custom mech designs using the old rules and know our VLAR & GM engines too. in 1991 the Clans arrived and it blew us away. we grew up, did things that older kids did, but some of us did the mechwarrior clix thing too. In fact I held a venue that had bi-weekly matches for the wizkids sanctioned matches from 2005-2012. We brought in dozens of new fans of the Battletech universe.

    I am younger than you but we also grew up with bigger brothers who were into Robotech and Mobile Suit Gundam. we were the little guys who would beg to borrow their betamax or play a tabletop game with the cooler kids. we could never touch their gundam dioramas, only admire them from afar.

    well here we are , I found your blog.

    I hunt zombies, but my daughter is also gonna play with toy robots just like all of us.

    your blog blows me away. I look forward to my endless hours of happy reading over here. :-)



  26. A couple of thoughts:
    1. The spider tanks and Fuchikomas/Tachikomas of GotS are probably good predictions of the first practical mecha. Partly, as you noted, because of size; partly because four or more legs would be more inherently stable and require less processing power; partly because the auxiliary propulsion methods (wheels, grappling hooks) give them more range and mobility in urban environments.

    2. No mention of Patlabor? In addition to being lighter hearted than the military anime (necessary for the sanity, sometimes), it also shows how mecha, combat and otherwise, could be developed in real life.

    P.S. the pilots in Battletech also did at least part of the mech controlling with mind-reading helmets. Cheers :)

  27. Think for mechs they would be best operated in combined arms groups or small groups. As with tanks a single armored vehicle be it tank, IFV, or mech would be easy picking for infantry with the proper anti-armor weapons. Even in battletech it shows that a lone mech can be taken down with the right weapons and tactics. In the end it all depends on how these weapons are utilized, what tactics are used, and what defenses are implemented to increase the survivability of the mech.

  28. If a tank loses a tread, it turns into an armored stationary bunker with its guns and turret still functional. If a mecha loses a leg, it turns into a helpless pile of scrap with, at best, one arm to partially defend itself with. And every single game system dealing with mechs either has to discourage this through special rules or ends up with virtually every player adopting house rules so that every game doesn't devolve into a kneecap-fest. It's not like this is some obscure technical issue that'll just be worked out some day, it's basic physics that everyone intuits immediately.