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HeavyMetal Pro Review
Friday, July 14, 2000

Approximately two years ago, I made a fateful decision to write a review about a recently released program. Unlike some reviews out there, I talked about both the bad and the good, saying that it definitely had room for improvement and but that it was a good program that was at least equal to the other two main programs out there. It didn’t allow you to name your weapons or make text and html files like BattleMech Designer, but it was easier to use. Another major program called The Drawing Board also pulled ahead in the ability to name weapons and was easy to use, but it was buggy and crashed often, along with having substandard printouts. I had other, smaller complaints do to the fact that it was designed for Windows 3.1x and not Win 9x, so there was no long file name support among other things.

When asked which programs I liked better I would say it like this. TDB is easy to use, but doesn’t have good printouts. BMD is hard to use but has good printouts. This other program was easy to use and it had good printouts, but less personalization was allowed. All in all, they were equal. That was my conclusion. The program was HeavyMetal, the only official FASA BattleMech Designer.

Within a week of the time I wrote the review, the author of HeavyMetal asked me to Beta test the upgrade that was in the works. I agreed. And in these last two years, I have seen HeavyMetal PRO expand from being slightly better then the original and her contemporaries to being light-years ahead of her earlier form. I lobbied for being able to name equipment to match BMD and TDB. I screamed for text and html saving to match BMD. I repeatedly asked (no, I’ll be honest...I demanded) being able to link pictures of the ‘Mechs rather then simply faction logos, to go beyond any other program. I repeatedly asked for the ability to use gifs and jpgs instead of just bmps for pictures. It was this that forced the program to go to Win 9x because of differences in processing between a program designed for Win 3.x on Visual Basic 2 (or was it 3?) and the newest processor on the market, the Pentium III. I probably wouldn’t have asked for that if I’d known what poor Rick would have to go through.

The point is, I have been rough on poor Rick. But he has delivered. Well, he still hasn’t decided to make html and text files that can be read like BMD...;-) But lets put this all in perspective. He was putting this much effort into a program that was not even recognized by FASA. HeavyMetal was two years old before FASA even made it public and sales against the younger, free programs that had just recently been made available were simply not flourishing. In fact, FASA was looking at the advisability of even doing a new version of HM. Rick was doing all of this work with the knowledge that it was very possible this program would never see the light of day. FASA owned the program, so he couldn’t even give it away if FASA decided not to market it.

The story of HeavyMetal Pro truly is the story of a fan of BattleTech who cared enough about everyone else to work with FASA and never give up. And if you have a copy of this program that you did not pay for, remember this. You aren’t hurting someone like Bill Gates. You are not hurting FASA. You are hurting a fellow BattleTech fan who has put his blood, sweat, and tears into this program. Just consider that every time you open the program.

But now, after all this time, HeavyMetal Pro is official. It will be marketed. And all of the time that has been devoted to this program will finally see the light of day. “But what’s the big deal,” you ask. “Why shouldn’t I use one of these other programs,” you ask. To put it frankly, that’s what I’m here to tell you. And if you’ve gotten this far, I suppose it’s time to reward your patience.

So what does this program offer? Frankly, I can’t tell you everything it does. It would take too long and I’d expect you to pay me for it...;-) What I can give you is a brief overview, a tour if you will, of the program and how most of you will travel through it in your quest to build the ultimate ‘Mech. Or the replacement for the Urbie.

The first thing you will see after the loading screen completes is the main HeavyMetal Pro screen. This screen is topped by the customizable bar that gives you quick access to every screen in the program. Below that, is a line of information that describes the basics of the ‘Mech you are working on. Name, model, weight, tech base, rules base, and chassis type. What is nice is that this information is always visible if you are in the main window. The four tabs and the information they carry take up the majority of the screen though. The first tab allows you to set movement and engine type, heatsink numbers and type, general design information, myomer and targeting type, and finally, physical and standard weaponry. Also, at the very bottom, you can see the present BV and tonnes and crits free.

Clicking on the “add/remove” button brings the Weapon Selection Screen (the second most visited spot) up above the main window. At the top you can select which weapons you want to see, choosing by ranges or type. Very nice. You can add ammo with the weapon (it defaults to one tonne), see all relevant information on any weapon in question, add or remove weapons, and still see the BV and tonnes and crits free info.

Going back to the main window and clicking on the “Armor and Structure” tab will bring you to the third most visited spot. Here you can select armor, internal structure, cockpit, jump jet, and gyro types. You can select fractional accounting and limit critical (yes, that is under the gyro pull down menu) options, as well as select how you want the program to handle armor allocation. Do you want to do it automatically, assuming you want all remaining tonnage to go to it? Or do you want to set the armor up and fix it in place so subsequent additions of equipment doesn’t reduce it? Or do you want to manually set up the armor but leave it vulnerable to adding and delete equipment? I usually set it on automatic until the very end when I tweak it manually. It makes it very easy to add weapons and jazz while knowing that armor is already taken into account.

Click on the “Dmg Graph & Info” tab to go to this screen. Here you see a graph showing what damage this ‘Mech can do over range with an alpha strike, what it would probably hit with in an alpha strike, and what is probably the best idea of power I seen in any program. Shows how much damage it can do after taking into account both probability of hits and the ‘Mech’s heat dissipation capabilities, is a very nice statistic. You can see how much punishment it can dish out over time, not just right now. Also in this location, you can see the ‘Mech’s picture and fluff text, including a non-printing area. Very nice tab for those who like to give your ‘Mechs atmosphere.

The final tab labeled “Usage” is probably the least visited of the main tabs, but it also is very nice for adding atmosphere to your ‘Mech. The only function of this tab is to let you declare who uses this ‘Mech, including two custom IS and Clan users.

Another screen I know that I use often is the Manufacturer Model Screen. You name nearly every weapon on this ‘Mech, say who built the ‘Mech and where, what chassis it is built on, the jumpjet type, etcetera. If there’s anything we can’t name, I haven’t found it. This in my opinion was one of the biggest things that the original HeavyMetal was missing. But now I can place a HellBitch medium laser or a Nut Cruncher Ultra AC 20 on my ‘Mechs, making them even more fearful sounding.

Probably one of the last screens you will visit is the “Distribution Screen” where you place the weapons and equipment in their critical slots. You can place CASE, add and remove arm actuators, and of course see where everything goes here in an existing design. A very nice thing about this page is that you can change the colors to anything you like.

Beyond that main area what do you want to do? Do you play a lot of games with your own mercenary company, The Dirty Dozen? If so, save all of your pilots and their stats in the MechWarrior Roster. In fact, why not just save all of the ‘Mechs in the Dirty Dozen to the 'Mech Roster and print them out on demand. Do you play BattleForce 2? Well, add them to the BF2 Roster and print them out for a fun time.

There’s just so much to this program that I really can’t tell you everything you can do. What I can tell you is that this is the only program I ever use anymore. I used to use BattleMech Designer unless I wanted to make the rare level 3 ‘Mech. Then I used The Drawing Board. Now I have everything I want in one designer. Awesome printouts, full TRO capabilities, and easy use. What else could you want? At least that’s the way I see it. But the fact is, this is a program that is easy to use, flipping hard to master. I have used it for about two years now, and there are still things I don’t know about it. To this day, I am learning about this program. “I can do that?” is a common refrain for me. If all you want to do is make a ‘Mech, then you will literally never see at least half of the screens in this program. Probably more. This program is so much more then a simple ‘Mech Designer.

In fact, there are elements to this program that could literally help you run campaigns. Imagine, many months from now after the whole HeavyMetal 2000 Suite is finished, opening up a single window that gives you a choice of going to any of the HeavyMetal programs. There’s Lite for doing ProtoMechs, BattleArmor, and infantry. Vee for vehicles and jazz. Rocket (or whatever he’ll call it for aerospace fighters, dropships, jumpships, warships, etcetera. Pro for ‘Mechs. And maybe he can add some other stuff as well. A unit manager for instance. (HeavyMetal Manager?) Imagine being able to actually build The Dirty Dozen from every ‘Mech saved in your database. Captain Ramirez commands his unit from a Crockett named (ironically) the Davy Crockett. He has stats of 2/3. Do the same for the rest of his command, right down to the ground pounders, the aerospace element, the dropships, and his jumpship. Then you could print it out. So the question is, what game do you want to play? BattleTech, AeroTech, BattleForce 2, BattleSpace, AeroTech 2, or even MechWarrior? Why not? Ask him to make us a HeavyMetal Warrior where we can design the player of our choice for a MechWarrior campaign. Just choose what you want printed at it will do it. Now further, imagine actually being able to track maintenance and damage for your unit across the passage of the campaign? And how about a HeavyMetal Unit (help me please, I’m running out of names) where we can randomly generate a unit using any of the FASA ‘Mech tables. Let us load, save, and build our own tables so we can have fun with that. I mean FASA has never made a table for the Taurian Concordat.

Now let me just stop before I give poor Rick a heart attack…;-). To my knowledge he hasn’t even thought about half of the stuff I just mentioned but I would truly love this program if he could do this stuff. Not a simple ‘Mech Designer, but a game aid. That would rock. And if enough of us ask for it, we may even get it. (Now Rick!...Get away from the window!...I’ll get mad if you jump...You won’t like me when I’m mad...Now just come over here and let me chain you to this computer...Good boy.)

Ah...a boy can dream. But my verdict (very biased by the way) is that HeavyMetal Pro as it is now is better then any ‘Mech Designer out there. I want it to be more, yes. But that is in the future. For right now, you won’t get any better anywhere else. Below is a list of all of the screen shots I have of this program. Take a look and see what you can get out of this program.

Medron Pryde
pri.steelcommand.com

The Main Design Screens:

Main Tab - Elite

Main Tab - Regular

Armor Tab - Regular

Info and Picture Tab - Regular

Usage Tab - Regular

Distribution Screen

Weapon Selection Screen

The Print Outs

TRO Print Out, Page 1 and 2

TRO Print Out, Page 3

Advanced Record Sheet

BattleForce 2 Print Out

The 'Mech Opening Screens:

Advanced Open Screen

Select 'Mechs Screen

The Technology Customization Screens

Custom Weapons Screen

Mixed Tech Setup Screen

Manufacturer Model Screen

The Program Settings Screens

Preferences Screen

Customize Toolbar Screen

Page Setup Screen

HTML Options Screen

Print Options Screen

The Extra Features

MechWarrior Roster Screen

'Mech Roster Screen

Select Logo Screen

Battle Value Report Screen

Tip Of The Day Screen





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