Battlegrounds Limited Test
Editor's Note - After years of waiting for One Must Fall Battlegrounds, fans of the series finally
have the opportunity to obtain and play the game for themselves in Diversions Entertainment's first public
offering of the Battlegrounds PC game...Read More
Producer's Note - Diversions Entertainment and Diversions Publishing are getting THAT much closer to releasing the game. Find out what
the team is up to in Judy's first column about team progress...Read More
Game Breeding Pit - Part 2
All right so you got the concept, an idea of what
you want to do but how much is it going to run you,
can you really go about creating a game? This
month, the game breeding pit outlines general game development costs.
A must-read before you think about taking that
idea to market..Read More
Music in Computer Games
Ashley Kampta continues his monthly exploration
into the world of music in computer games, this time focusing on
composition as he leads us through a start to
finish creation process...Read More
Beyond the Battlegrounds
Steffan, now faced with fighting unknown foes, is
trapped within the arena and forced to fight. Who are they and what is
their intent?..Read More
Battlegrounds Limited Test
years, fans of the One must fall series have eagerly been awaiting the
opportunity to get their hands on the game. First, the beta. Launched
in November of 2001, the betatest of One Must Fall: Battlegrounds
started with a small pool of 60 testers and grew to over 600. Not
everyone could be accepted for technical reasons however and so many
hardcore fans of the One Must Fall series were forced to wait. Earlier
this month, a select few were given the opportunity to get their hands
on a working copy of the game. Still, not everyone could play. Many
were confined to screenshots, videos, game descriptions, and the slivers
that they could glean in forums and previews.
Diversions Entertainment is proud to announce that in just a short
while, One Must Fall: Battlegrounds Limited Test will be made available
to the public! That’s right, for the first time ever, you will now have
the opportunity to get your hands on the game and play a limited
version of the PC Fighting game releasing later this year! Find out for
yourself why the limited test players are saying:
"One Must Fall : BattleGrounds is in a class of it's own.
I've been a fan of One Must Fall 2097 in the past, but this amazing game
has taken one giant step away from the old classic with its stunning
gameplay and graphics..." - The_Ghoul
While the full game is available for preorder, the limited test will
allow players to see all 8 bots and play as three of them. Jaguar is
the all-purpose bot, a balanced mix and the flagship HAR of
battlegrounds for years. One of the first bots to be “completed”,
jaguar has been the base for testing of many of battlegrounds features
throughout the development cycle. Force, a bot with the power to
manipulate gravitational and magnetic forces around it, is a sleek,
solid bot offering a wide array of mid and long ranged attacks. Lethal
with gravity wells and homing projectiles, the force bot is a favorite
for those who like quick, special-weapons-laden combat. The Pyros
offers a balance of close and midranged combat, an opportunity to
unleash torrents of flame on unsuspecting components. The rather slower
Pyros often mixes it up in closer range, slamming opponents with
devastating melee assaults followed by punishing barrages of
Additionally, players with the limited test will find access to most
of the screenshots of the arenas, with three playable. The desert is a
wide open space good for large scale matches. Surrounded by minefields,
players will often vie for control of the pyramd in the center and the
nuke awaiting players on top. Grudge Match players will find themselves
in a much closer arena setting, where being thrown into the wrong
section of the wall means more than just a scratch on your paint.
Ripping chainsaw teeth await those unlucky few who brush against the
wrong surface here, get carried too high and a piston will seal your
doom. The Laser Ball arena is more than just a place to fight, its also
the playing ground for the Laser Ball game, a team based sports mode
demonstrating that One Must Fall can go far beyond the usual
crash-and-bash fighting that many enjoy. Laser Ball is a mod
proof-of-concept which plays something like football or rugby, players
scoring by getting past the other team and getting the ball into an
endzone or through a goal. Great fun for large games, Laser Ball is a
great way to take a break and get in some of that athletic action with
your giant bot.
The Limited Test will only be up for a short time, available for
10,000 downloads before the file is removed. Don’t wait, make sure you
get your download by finding out first! Subscribe to the Product Information mailing list to find out before anyone else does!
month, I want to start a new article series about Diversions
Entertainment's typical small developme team, and give the BattleCast
community a monthlu idea of what it is like to produce and publish a
game. These articles will be from my perspective, perhaps with comments
from the time, sometimes not. Hopefully, this article may help many of
you who one day wish to write a game, perhaps providing some measure of
This month, the key has been creating game hype for One Must
Fall:Battlegrounds. We chose to work with our own fans to get the word
out to other gamers. Earlier this month, we announced to many
publications and online game sites that the Message Board test was on
its way, being readied for release to the community. Initially, I
figured that this push of information would bring in totally new gamers,
expose them for the first time to One Must Fall, and draw them into the
community. Once the gamers started coming in, however, I soon
discovered that many of them were 2097 players from long ago! I suppose
the news of the test of the new game coming out reminded them of the
2097 days and many decided to give the new game a go.
Another major task we are working with right now will be setting up a
One Must Fall Shop and a Fansite registry. If you think that setting
up a webshop is easy, well, it depends on alot of different things. For
us it was difficult as we wanted to integrate a number of features into
it and really take the time to set up a full shop. We had to work with
Airborne Logistics Service for fulfillment, we had to choose a secure
company to work with the credit card transactions, both of which took
time to work with and integrated into the site. We also wanted to build
our webstore from scratch, Building it so that it could be as flexible
as we needed it to be - AND offer support for our affiliates program.
The shop and fansite should be up before the game is out. Those that
register to be a fansite and for the affiliates program will be able to
earn points for selling Diversions Publishing products through thier
site which they will be able to apply towards free Diversions schwag of
What it all boils down to is Diversions Publishing is putting alot fo
time and effort in focusing on our fan base and generating
word-of-mouth. The large publishing houses with the megabucks dont seem
to do this effectively because they would rather spend the money on
advertising and forego working with thier communities. I think it is a
real shame, that they don't spend thier money on the people that
actually contribute to thier success.
From the development side, Rob is working hard nights on into the
morning most days to get the game ready for release. Its a pretty
frenzied process involving a lot of small things to prepare for such a
wide scale test as our message board test is. Getting game servers
ready, all the pertinent information to go into the game, get it tested
internally, retested, make sure the patching is working properly, and so
on and so on. The rest of the team is frantically working on the
sounds, arenas, and bot balancing, to deliver a solid game to our
community and the public at large. So far we are working to get good
feedback from our message board community, thus creating a limited test
forum for them to directly give us their thoughts and problems on the
game which are relayed directly to the team members for consideration.
Thats the progress so far this month for Diversions Entertainment and
Diversions Publishing. Next month we should be able to tell you how
the message board test is profressing and how close we are to actually
getting the game on the shelf and into your hands. Stay tuned. I hope I
will be able to use this column to help keep our community up to date
on where the game is and where we are taking it. Also, those that have signed up
for the product announcements will be the first to get the information
on new prizes, promotions, when the shop opens, and more.
Judy, signing off.
Game Breeding Pit - Part 2
An Art Form that Assaults the Wallet -
hobbies have their expenses, and, using the classic analogy, hobby game
development (and, even more so, commercial game development) must be
the pastime of kings. Millions upon millions of dollars are poured into
the typical premiere title for the PC or console, and even hobbyist
projects can have effective development costs into the six-figure range
(or higher!). Consider some of the costs that go into typical game
Physical Location – This is where your development staff is
headquartered. Just a basic building can run over $2000 a month in an
expensive area, and then you have to throw in utilities (electric bills
will be a nightmare) and most likely high speed Internet access as well.
Figure at least $15,000 a year for your brick and mortar, and
potentially much more depending on location (why so many developers
choose to be in locations like San Francisco or New York City is beyond
me, it’s not really feasible for starting up a business and staving off
Manpower – Even if you can get the rest of your stuff cheap, this is
never easy or inexpensive. Best-case situation is you get a couple of
people just out of college for around $25,000 to $35,000 a year each
(depending on the state, that’s around the median starting salary for
programmers), but you’ll also be sacrificing experience (with the upside
of that you could be hiring people with bleeding-edge knowledge if you
know where to look). People with more experience can go for more,
sometimes even five times as much.
Public Relations – This is generally outsourced, and it’s not cheap.
Usually, several thousands of dollars (and, in the case of the
overzealous, millions) have to be thrown the way of the firm you’re
working with to get them on board with your project. Otherwise, you’re
hiring another full-time staff member (or two or three), oftentimes
running over $40,000 a year. EACH.
Advertising – One full-page color ad in a magazine can run you a
couple thousand dollars easily (if it’s a large-circulation publication
like PC Gamer or CGW, five figures for a single-page ad could be the
going rate). Choose your publications wisely unless you have the
scratch to be able to spend helter-skelter for your ad space (and very
few people can).
Print Materials – From manuals to registration cards, this runs up
costs as well. There’s been more of a move to put these things
electronically on the CD… and for good reason. If you provide hard
copies, this can run up to another dollar per copy sold.
Packaging Materials – Yeah, you’ve gotta pay for the boxes for the
games as well, not to mention the jewel cases (or not necessarily… see
well below for details). In large quantities, this can run you about a
dollar a box. But when “large quantities” is 50,000 or more… it’s
pretty obvious where the costs on this are going. Ouch.
Compiler – This is what you’re using (obviously) to compile your
code. Without it, you can’t get past square one. Although you could in
theory use an open-source compiler such as DJGPP, this type of compiler
doesn’t work too well for much past DOS and *nix (Unix, Linux, AIX,
Solaris, HP-UX, etc.) compiling. For Windows, the general tool of
choice is Microsoft Visual C++ .NET Professional, a package that’ll cost
you about $400 (and that’s per machine, as is all of the software costs
listed here. You can’t assume that just because the software packages
in question are obscenely expensive doesn’t mean that they have
broad-scale licensing; in fact, many of these programs have the
narrowest licensing terms of all due to piracy concerns. Not to scare
anyone or anything, but this is a viable issue that needs to be
addressed when costs are the topic in question).
3D Modeler – More or less, you have two choices in this space:
Alias|Wavefront’s Maya 5 (which runs $2000 to $7000) or discreet’s 3D
Studio MAX (which runs $3500 and up). Remember, once again, that’s per
machine. If you’ve hired three modelers, your pocketbook just got quite
a bit lighter.
Image Editor – More likely than not, your answer here is Photoshop.
It’s good, but at $700, it’s not much more budget-friendly than your
modeler. However, there are other options: the $100 Paint Shop Pro or
the famous open-source (and free!) image editor GIMP.
Installer Program – Technically, you could do this on your own with a
skilled programmer and the Windows Installer Software Development Kit
(free from Microsoft), but it’s a scarily daunting task (and,
considering the amount of time that it might take, could be more
expensive in wages for said programmer than just buying a commercial
package). Most of the time, software like InstallShield ($1200) or WISE
Installer ($450 to $2000) is used due to their simplicity to use and
wide range of features, including patching engines.
Licensing of Engine – This is optional, but, if you want to cut
development time, you might want to consider shelling out the cash for a
professional 3D engine. However, they don’t run cheap; licensing of
one of the big three engines (Quake III, Unreal, or LithTech) can run up
to a quarter-million dollars for the whole of your development project.
Even considering these companies throw in some very good technical
support for their products, only one word comes to mind: Ouch.
CD Security Program – If you’re a piracy-conscious developer, you
will at the very least mull over getting a physical CD security system
such as SafeDisk or SecuROM, which alters the appearance of data on a
CD-ROM to make it less likely for a copy to work. These can cost in the
$10,000 - $50,000 range upfront to start then a fee per-CD, so it’s not
necessarily a slam-dunk decision, even if you want to protect your
data. Not to mention that these protection systems aren’t all that
effective… quite a few easily available mainstream consumer CD backup
software programs (such as CloneCD, BlindWrite, or even Nero for some)
can handle making exact copies of these “protected” CDs.
Hardware – In this case you have to purchase (at least) one machine
per staff member, preferably of higher-end hardware. In addition, you
might want to consider getting one or two low-end “test rigs” off eBay
or the like. The main systems will probably be $1500 to $2500 each, the
test systems probably closer to $250. However, if you intend to give
your 3D crew a rendering workstation, you’ll be best off to be prepared
to take the hit for $10,000 (and possibly, gasp, more) for one.
Promotional Website – Lots of money is needed in order to keep a
website going at all times. If you have a full-scale site, with message
boards, screenshots, and other media, this can run a couple of thousand
dollars a month at the high end of things, and that’s not including
hiring a Webmaster… (It would certainly help the bottom line if you can
convince one of your existing staff members to take that duty.)
Generally, though, you may be able to pull off your page for only $250 a
month or so if you shop around, as Web hosting providers often have
wildly varying costs for hosting plans.
AND FINALLY, THE BIG ONE…
Publisher – If you choose to have a large publisher work on your
project, they will shoulder most of the above costs. However, in doing
so, you’re now more or less along for the ride. Costs to you have now
plummeted and you also now most likely have a wad of cash in your pocket
from a publishing advance, but you also have reduced your profit margin
and creative control. They’re in charge; however, you’re now just
their game development galley slave (unless you’re a big name in the
industry like John Carmack or Will Wright, in which case you’ve still
got the run of things, they trust you to bring them money hand over
fist). It’s rather obvious to many that the idea of hiring a large
publisher is more or less a last resort. However, if money is getting
very tight… well, sometimes you’re forced to sell your soul to somebody
who’s willing to pay for it. With so-called “independent” or “developer
oriented” publishers like TriSynergy and Dreamcatcher, hiring a
publisher is no longer as financially dangerous anymore, but they too
will take their share of the revenue stream (just not choking you off
from it). As a bit of a tradeoff, though, they won’t handle as much of
the costs related to the project. But for a developer who wants
national mainstream distribution without losing the lion’s share of his
creative control (or his potential profits).. they may be the way to go.
As you can tell, these costs mount rapidly, and the longer a title is
in development, the more money the developers have to part with (or
find through loans, mortgages on property, or opportunistic venture
capitalists) in order to keep the project moving. When you consider
that a development studio like Blizzard has a development team of over
thirty (extremely well-paid) employees that are working for many years
on a title and blow immense amounts of money into promotion, you can see
how the big boys can quickly burn through twenty-five million (or more)
dollars. Even still, you can see that even a more modest development
firm can part ways with a couple million just developing a mainstream
project… which makes the development of a game an extremely daunting
task that only the most determined (and well-heeled) can accomplish.
Creative endeavor is always an investment, in this case, an investment
that can pay big dividends if all goes well.
So How is it Actually Done? -
any game, before any music is even thought of (let alone composed)
there has to be the essential briefing stage. This usually consists of
the development team members (including the musician) getting handed a
design document to peruse for a while. This helps everyone get an idea
of what is to be expected and what will actually be going on when
development gets underway. As you may well be aware, a design document
is quite an integral part of the game development process, as it
outlines the goals the team will hope to achieve, as well as the methods
they intend to use to get to where they want to get to (amidst other
more specific details to the particular game being developed).
Obviously, at this stage nothing is final (nothing has even really
started), so things are very likely to change.
As such, game-music composers have to have their wits about them all
the time. They must be quick to adapt to change, since there are likely
to be at least a couple of changes to the game along the way (deviating
from the design document), to take account of unforeseen circumstances
and set-backs. All too often, I’ve spent a solid week of composing and
tweaking on a particular score, only to have a change happen that means I
have to put that particular score aside and start over with a new
picture in mind.
Note that I say ‘put aside’, because (and you’ll learn this as you go
along) you should never scrap a piece of music and destroy it
completely. It’s always a good idea to keep unfinished ideas, ‘scrapped’
pieces and other such stuff handy, even if they’re not being used. For
all you know, you may even be able to use an idea from a scrapped piece
that you really like, and meld that into your new vision. That way, you
have the feeling that all your previous work hasn’t gone to waste.
(Believe me, I have enough horror stories from my personal experience of
not keeping ideas that I could have used…)
Anyway, now that the musician has the design document in their
possession, they can now start thinking about the type of score they
will compose. Even though the musician has enough information in the
design document to start composing, the document is often accompanied by
a couple of conceptual sketches or renders of the game, so that the
musician has a visual idea of what sort of thing to expect when the game
is at a playable stage.
These concept ideas are far more than just pretty pictures (although
they may well be very pretty). Visual cues can indeed be a very
important complement to the composer’s thoughts. Remember I talked about
Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ in the last article?
Well, the same principle of re-inventing a picture as music, can also
apply here in the game-music situation. A musician may well want to
compose a piece, taking their cue solely from the concept drawings.
Indeed, I find it easy to work in this sort of mindset myself. They say
‘every picture tells a story’, and it is true that a piece of music can
also tell a story. All that’s happening is a conversion of one art-form
to another, while preserving the meaning and story behind it.
In fact, you can try this yourself. I’ll give you an idea of the
process I use to convert a concept sketch into a linear piece of music.
(Dynamic music would be too complex to lay out here in any reasonable
amount of detail.) Start by digging out any picture. (Perhaps something
by Monet might help if you’ve never done this sort of thing before.)
Now, think up a few adjectives to describe the picture you see.
For example, let’s say we’re looking at a riverside scene that could
be described as peaceful and quiet. After you have described the picture
in words, you must then draw on the knowledge of music you have heard,
in order to decide how you would most accurately represent the
adjectives you have used. The first step is to decide on one instrument
you could employ. (We will keep it to one instrument for now, for the
sake of simplicity.) Taking the example setting, a tranquil scene could
be realized by using an instrument such as a flute or clarinet, both of
which have been known to have a peaceful character about them. After
all, you wouldn’t normally use an instrument such as a tuba to describe a
calm scene – unless of course there was another goal in mind (for
example, to create humour).
The second step is where imagination kicks in. We will now have to go
below the surface and actually start composing some lines to fit with
the picture. Therefore, we must now decide on how the flute will play
and what it will play. This will require you to go beyond the picture
given, and imagine other things that could well fit into the scene that
is given; most times, using a picture alone is not enough to create a
good piece of music. You will have to take the given picture and animate
it, adding in little details that you feel may fit into the scene. So,
in a calm setting, it is normally the case that there is not very much
movement. You may imagine that the wind is just a gentle breeze, and
that the leaves on the trees are barely moving - this all has to be
reflected in the line we are composing. In this sort of situation, I
would compose a flowing melody, one that moves smoothly from one note to
another, without too many huge leaps. Of course, you may wish to
imagine that some fish are jumping in the river, and choose to portray
that by using some leaps, but overall, big and sudden movements should
be kept to a minimum when describing a peaceful scene.
The third and final step is to flesh out the ‘skeleton’ lines we have
composed. So, we are now taking our solo lines, and adding other
instruments to them to make the piece sound more musical and complete.
For instance, to accompany the flute lines we composed, we could maybe
use some string instruments playing softly in the background. This step
is more a case of ‘trial and error’ or ‘trial and improvement’, as you
are just trying out ideas that would seem to fit with what you have
already got. By this stage, the piece is already half-way complete. If
you have some memorable solo lines composed, then adding instruments to
the lines can only serve to make the lines that much more memorable.
Therefore, it makes sense to really concentrate on the beginning stages
of composing, as this stage is what ‘makes or breaks’ the music, and it
determines how much the audience is captivated by the music. Overall,
this final stage relies on your ears to be the judge. Just mess around,
do a little bit of experimentation with both instruments and lines, and
find out what works and what doesn’t. As a general rule, if it sounds
right, it is right.
After the piece is composed, the musician’s job is usually finished
(in the case of linear music). All that remains is to hand the finished
piece to the programmer for inclusion in the game. Of course, there may
still have to be a few revisions to the piece if needed, but on the
whole, the piece can be described as near-enough finished.
However, with dynamic music, the process is a little more complex.
Dynamic music differs from linear music in a pretty significant way,
when the composition stage is finished and the time comes for including
the piece in the game. The musician has to keep an ongoing rapport with
the programmer in order to ensure that both parties realize each others’
objectives. Because dynamic music consists of building blocks, rather
than one whole piece, the musician and programmer have to decide between
themselves on how to allow the building blocks to be pieced together.
Each block has to be accounted for, including any transitional material
from one block to another; if a block is added or taken away, this has
to be taken into account. In a sense, the programmer is also a composer –
therefore both musician and programmer have to have an equally
important part in realising the potential and goals of any piece of
Overall, the process of getting a piece from a composer’s head into a
computer game takes a lot of planning and thought, and requires a
musician to be dedicated and easy to adapt to large changes that could
arise at any time during the development phase of a game. A game-music
composer has a lot of things to take care of and think about, and many
aspects of the musician’s job depend on the actions and decisions of the
other people on the development team. Therefore, a musician needs to
have a good relationship with all the other members on the team, but
especially with the programmer – although this is undeniably more
evident in the case of dynamic music than linear music.
Many people are under the pretence that the musician has one of the
cushiest jobs in the development team, but I hope that during this
article, I have gone some way towards proving that it is hardly as easy
as people think it is. However, even though the job is challenging, it
goes without saying that the job is also a heck of a lot of fun!
A Fan Fiction, Continued -
[Last Month's Installment]
The air seemed to hang, motionless. All that could be heard was the
soft whirring of the blades; the low idle of the servo motors beneath
turning it into a mind-numbing drone. Steffan remained in his attack
stance, waiting for the attack that didn’t come.
Feeling unsure, Steffan started to ease back into a casual stance.
Despite their lack of movement, he was disturbed by their silence.
Cautiously, he started to inch toward the center of the arena,
quickening his pace as his motions were mirrored by one of them while
the others remained shrouded by the shadows, standing like sentinels.
He could now see that, at least for this foe, he was being challenged by
“What’s going on in there?” broke in the tech over the vocal link,
causing Steffan to stutter step. A quiet chortle was could be heard
from his unknown opponent.
“Just… shut it” replied Steffan, clearly shaken.
“It isn’t Nicoli, is it?”
They both reached the middle of the arena, taking a readies pose. No
longer playing games, Steffan inquired with force: “Who the hell are
you and what do you want?”
A humorless laugh was the reply. “Why, nothing much, my dear boy. Compensation. Is that too much to ask?”
“Compensation for what? I’ve been running legit; I got nothing to
compensate for!” Steffan, clearly on edge as to who these strangers
“Ah, but you have. Not to fret, we’ll be able to work this out with
little trouble.” As if to verify his claim, he returned to a casual
”Alright, fine. What is it you want?”
“Equivalent compensation for your actions, of course.”
”And what would that be?”
”You mean to tell me you honestly don’t know?”
Frustrated, Steffan shifted his glance away from his opponent, only
to notice that his associates were no longer within the shadows. At
least they were not where they had been just moments ago. This whole
so-called discussion was only meant as a deterrent as they set up for
their attack. Intent on not letting on he had them figured out, he
attempted to keep the conversation going while he figured out his next
mode of action. He could not, however, hide his anger and replied with
thick sarcasm “Sorry, I guess I never received the memo.”
He could nearly hear his foe smiling. The idea of his cold, cruel
counterpart doing so made him shutter. “No worries”, was his foe’s
reply “my request is simple: your life.”
His phrase was punctuated with a swift swipe of his claw, but Steffan
reacted too quickly, performing a back flip and delivering a clean kick
to his opponent’s jaw. His success was short-lived, as he was brutally
slammed out of his flip by a gravity well.
“Well, there goes my air game” grumbled Steffan.
Rising slowly, he surveyed the scene: mantis readied in front of him,
force to his rear, slightly left. Still among the shadows remained the
final HAR, seemingly the overseer of everything. If he was going to
get out of this, the overseer would have to be his target.
He quickly shot off a concussion cannon at the Mantis, rolling toward
the dark-swathed HAR, breaking into a run as he exited the roll. Just
as he neared his discreet opponent he was greeted by a laser blast to
the chest, sending him into a sprawl, sliding across the floor. Before
being able to rise under his own power, he was sucked up into the air,
and then attacked by a barrage spider bombs.
“Jack me out, NOW!” demanded Steffan.
“What, the match over?” What’s going on in there?” inquired the tech.
“This isn’t a match; it’s a beating. Just get me and the rest of the crew out of here.”
”What about the HAR?”
”Screw the HAR!” retorted Steffan.
“Alright, you’re explaining why we‘re needing a replacement for your next fight.”
Steffan remained on the ground, unable to regain enough motor skills
to get up. As the surrounded him, he let out a cry of rage. He made a
futile attempt to swipe at them with a single functional arm, but was
unable to get enough force behind his attack to even make a scratch on
his foes. The Mantis leaned in, slicing a gaping hole in the chest of
Steffan’s Jaguar and placing a spider bomb within.
”Just like I promised” stated his unknown foe with a smug tone to his voice, “little trouble. Now, to complete our collection.”
They started to walk off towards the direction from which Steffan
came, his vision suddenly filled with the blast of the spider bomb going
off. As his vision cleared, he saw them exiting the arena, the severed
lower section of his Jaguar sliding across the floor of the arena at
the edge of his vision.
“We’re taking you offline now, see ya in a bit” stated the tech.
Steffan attempted to reply but his attempts were futile, he could see
the shutdown process being played out in front of him. He’d just have
to wait until he was back.
Slightly groggy, Steffan returned to reality to the sound of a loud crash and the screeching of ripped metal.
“What the hell was that?” cried the tech, running to the rear of the support truck and looking out the back.
Steffan shook his head, trying to clear it. “It’s them. Let’s just
get out of here; NOW. I don’t know who they are but they mean
Through the open doors of the rear of the truck, Steffan could see
the Mantis and the Force completely destroying the transport truck. The
Jaguar was shooting off concussion cannon blasts in a barrage around the
wreckage, and he could see the unfortunate mechanics that were within
trying desperately to escape them, without success.
Steffan bolted to the front of the truck, stepping in behind the
wheel and jamming his foot down on the gas pedal. Nothing. Cursing to
himself, he turned the key to start it, shifted it into gear and jammed
the pedal down once again. In the rear of the truck, the tech was
thrown violently against the wall.
Outside, the three foes shifted their focus at the gunning of the
truck’s engine. The Force threw one final vortex charge, sucking the
transport truck up into the air and throwing it into a nearby building.
As they pursued Steffan in his escape, the building toppled down behind
them, enveloping them within a cloud of dust and debris.
Steffan jammed the shifter again, gearing up and gunned the engine
once again. In the back of the truck, the tech rolled across the floor
in an attempt to avoid the equipment as it flew off the benches. Sparks
flew as the cords were ripped from the wall, monitors shattered. The
tech carefully ambled his way to the front of the truck, favoring his
left leg as he crawled into the passenger seat.
“Who are they and what do they want?” asked the tech, grimacing in pain as he banged his leg against the dash.
“I don’t know” replied Steffan. “Whoever they are, I did something
to piss them off. I just wish I knew what it was that I did”.
Their conversation stopped before it started as the truck jumped
forward, the rear door of the truck starting to bubble and corrode away.
Steffan looked at the GPS, scanning the twisted paths of road that
remained in this derelict area. He cranked the wheel hard right, the
truck shifting up on the outside wheels, threatening to roll at any
moment. As he completed the turn, he cranked the wheel again hard left,
sending the truck into a slide against a building. The tech cried out
in surprise as the entire right side of the truck creased inward, his
door now tightly wedged against the side of his seat.
“Where am I going?” demanded Steffan, hard focused on the road as he
continued his string of rapid turns, avoiding the bomb charges as they
flew past him. The tech pointed to an area on the GPS display and
Steffan changed course. Out the back he could still see his foes,
following in close pursuit.
Turning a hard right once again, Steffan was greeted by a laser blast
right in front of the truck. Unable to avoid, the truck lurched
through the hole created, the bottom screaming at it dragged across the
lip. Desperate, Steffan down shifted hard, the high-pitched whine of
the engine crying for mercy. He threw the truck down an alley, blindly
smashing through the garbage and broken glass strewn across the way.
Behind, his pursuers made futile attempts to smash their way between the
towering buildings. As he blasted through the end of the alley, he
turned towards the bridge which marked the edge of the old sector. He
let out a sigh of relief, pulling the truck off to the side of the road
once he had crossed the bridge. His hands were clearly shaking.
“This ain’t over” stated Steffan. “Whoever they are, they want me out. Now I just need to figure out what I got myself into.”
“Forget about it. Right now, we got bigger things to deal with”
replied the tech, massaging his leg. “I’m positive that the rest of the
crew is gone; they didn’t stand a chance. What’re we going to do about
Steffan slammed his fist against the dash. “All off this happened
because I let an old grudge get the better of me.” He slammed his fist
once again. “Let’s just head back to the hangar and we’re figure things
The tech nodded in agreement and they drove off in silence.
Steffan turned on the TV, opening up a can of pop as the tech joined
him. Grabbing the remote, he turned it to the news and muted it,
watching the headlines run across the bottom.
“So, what’re we going to be doing about this?” inquired the tech, breaking silence.
Steffan sat there, watching the headlines scroll by and pondered the
question. He looked up a minute later, with a look of distress on his
face. “Honestly, I don’t know. We have no crew left, no HAR, and I
have a match in 4 days. We’re going to have to try to find a discreet
way to inform the families of the crew of what happened, otherwise who
knows what will happen.”
“I do” replied the tech.
“Huh?” inquired Steffan. The tech pointed to the TV, where a picture
was displayed behind the broadcaster of the remains of his transport
truck. “What the?” demanded Steffan, slamming his drink onto the end
table. Grabbing the remote, he un-muted the broadcaster.
“… hours ago, reported by some of the sector’s residents,” began the
announcer. “The truck has been found to be the HAR transport truck
belonging to Battlegrounds returned star, Steffan.”
“No,” murmured Steffan, “anything but this.”
The announcer continued her report, ignoring Steffan’s pleas. “… was
verified by the discovery of the remains of his customized Jaguar
within what is decidedly an illegally set up arena. Reports from the
Battlegrounds tournaments have stated that until further investigation
has occurred, Steffan has been banned from further tournaments and the
council is considering possible fines. As it is known, the council has
strict rules against pilot participation in unsolicited fights. The
last case of such a high profile pilot fighting in unsolicited fights
was Ch…” Steffan muted the TV again, not wanting to hear anymore.
The tech started to speak, but then thought better of it. After
several moments of silence, Steffan spoke up. “The only way I’m going to
get back into the tournaments is to figure out who these people are and
why they want me so bad then take care of them. Ya with me on this?”
“Sounds good. After all, I have nothing else to do now,” replied the tech.
“Guess I should get your name then at least; I don’t feel right just
calling ‘hey you’ if we’re going to be relating more than when I have
“Just call me Professor,” the tech replied.
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