Mecha – A Primer

Okay, so I’m not really sure I’ve even talked much about what Mecha is.  Well, it’s time to change all of that.

So, what is Mecha?

Mecha is the game of anime-style Mecha combat and character development.   That might not sound like much and it’s not very salesy, but to me that definition says a whole bunch.  Let me break it down what it means.

Mecha is the game of anime-style Mecha combat and character development.

There are really three important pieces: “anime-style”, “Mecha combat”, and “character development”

Mecha has Anime Style

I think it’s important to point out that Mecha is completely unapologetically rooted in anime.  In fact, the seeds of this game were planted years ago the first time I ever saw Robotech and knew it was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

If you have not seen mecha anime before, it’s covers a wide range of different stories, the likes of which will be explored in other posts.  However, what “anime style” means in Mecha is:

  1. Mecha plays loose with physics.  Not only do character walk around in giant robots, but often times those robots teleport, do jump flips, and dodge incoming missiles.
  2. Mecha pilots are better than average.  No matter how inexperienced, mecha pilots are always exceptional ly talented.  The stars of the show are always in the top 1% of all pilots ever in the history of mecha-dom.  Because of this, pilots in Mecha aren’t bad at anything.  They may not be as good as others, but they’re not bad.
  3. Mecha have their place, but that place is usually window dressing.  The interesting part about mecha anime is that while a whole genre has built up around them, mecha anime is really about the men and women who pilot them and the world they try to affect.  To address this, Mecha has a tight scene structure which gives pilots the spotlight and then gives their mecha the spotlight.

Mecha has Mecha Combat

Mecha are machines of war.  Make no mistake about it.  Sure, some of them might mine or log or build, but they are tools of war and become dervishes of death with nothing more than a missile rack and an autocannon or two.

Because mecha anime has combat, Mecha has combat.  Combat that has been tested and reworked for over two years until it is as fast paced and action packed as mecha anime is. 

Over the course of those two years, everything that was not found in the mecha anime genre was summarily removed from the combat system.  What remained was a system that still allows for tactical flexibility without a lot of excess baggage (like say ammunition tracking).  Again, this is mecha anime.  Reality is optional!

Mecha has Character Development 

When I started designing Mecha, what I wanted more than anything else was a game that mirrored the story arcs found in mecha anime.  Anime characters of all types are complex and change and grow over the course of a season.  I wanted characters in Mecha to grow and change and I have accomplished this through pilot Goals and Traits, which define what the pilot wants and who the pilot is.

One of my favorite mechanics in the game involves Traits.  Mecha have these things called Configurations, which allow them to do cool things on the battlefield like attack twice, turn invisible, etc.  However, when the player chooses a Configuraiton for her mecha, she then has to pick one of two Traits for her pilot.  For instance, if you take the Configuration Boomer (attack every target in a sector), you have to choose between Loud and Quiet as Traits. 

In other words, you can pick a Trait the resembles the Configuation (Loud) or it’s antithesis (Quiet.)   In the end, mecha and pilot affect each other far more than in most mecha games.

More Mecha To Come

So, like I said, this has just been a primer.  Over the next several weeks until the game is published, I’ll be continuing to write about the game.  I’ll go into greater detail about everything here, go into some examples how play works, and talk about the three settings that are going to be published with Mecha as well as some ideas for upcoming games.

Hope to see you back.

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~ by Chris Perrin on July 18, 2009.

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