Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What is it like working for Catalyst?

I realize it's been a while since I've blogged anything --- four months. I wish I had an real excuse beyond the two that took up my time --- a Non-BattleTech novel and the holidays. The novel is done and is now going through the editorial phase ....

But that's enough of the excuses. I did complete something that I sent in to Battlecorps and hope to see it sometime in the future. I won't say more than that until there's more to say. There's a new Catalyst Store that should be more responsive to users' needs (There is no truth to the rumor that Catalyst was running out of virgins to sacrifice to keep Battleshop running --- they ran out of those five years back......)  There's a few things on the way....

The reason for this post (besides a reminder that I'm still alive) was prompted by a comment (Since deleted for some unknown reason because I didn't delete it, and the comment wasn't offensive in any way.) I will however post the comment (Because I'm notified by email when a comment is posted, along with the copy of the comment) without revealing the person's identity until such time I received permission from the poster. It asks a question I would like to answer.

Hi Craig,
Read your blog with great interest. Longtime Battletech fan here, and recently submitted & got approval for two short stories from John & Philip. I'd be interested to hear about your experiences working with the company, as this is my first submission with them.
First, welcome to a small group of people --- Battletech writers. The fact you had two stories accepted by Phil and John is a mark in your favor. Hope you hang around for a long time. We're a crusty bunch, but mostly harmless (At least that's what the Hitcherhikers Guide to Gaming Writers said, which is better than the previous "Warmongering Stormtropers" Until Lucasfilms sued.....)

What has my experience been like? It's been mostly good, but like every other company, there are times you wonder what's going on. But before I dive into my experiences, a little about Catalyst Games Lab and what makes them a little different for other gaming companies.

The most unusual things is Catalyst operates under a defused company structure. Catalyst Employees and Freelancers are all over the world. With the Internet, we don't need to live in the same area, as Catalyst, or even in the same country. So we are a diverse group and we all bring out unique views to the game we write and make art for. The second thing is that most of us working for Catalyst are freelancers, operating under a few full-time employees. That makes Catalyst flexible enough to handle a multitude of projects are the same time. And last is the passion the freelancers have for the game and the universe. For nearly forty years, the Battletech Universe has been a living, breathing universe with a diverse set of factions and an in-universe history that covers over a thousand years, from the start of the 21st century to the current middle of the 32nd. It is a honor to be a small part of such a vibrant universe.

My experiences with Catalyst have been for the most part, great. Most my interaction had been with six people; Jason Schmitzer. Herb Beas, Ben Rome, Phillip Lee, John Helfers, and Randall Bills.

Jason Schmetzer was Battlecorps' editor when he bought my first story, The Lancer Killer. A writer as well as editor, he had an ability to find a story's weakness and suggest changes to make a story better. He left to pursue other projects, but I remember him as the man who started my Battlecorps career.

Herb Beas was the Battletech Line Developer when I became a Battlecorps writer, and it because of him, I had to chance to pitch for a number of Battletech projects. Fact-checking lead to pitching and because of him, I established myself not only as a Battlecorps writer, but as a Battletech writer, with several writing credits in products such as Field Manual: SLDF, Interstellar Players 3, and Field Report 2765: DCMS.  He also left, replaced by Randall Bills.

Ben Rome was Battletech's Assistant Line Developer under Herb Beas and ramrodded Total Chaos  for Herb and wrote most of the War of Reaving sourcebook. It was he that gave me a chance to write up Gannon's Cannons for the sourcebook to honor the son of a Catalyst agent who had leukemia. Gannon is much better these days and I still considered writing the backstory for the Cannons my greatest pleasue to this day.

Phillip Lee became a Battlecorps writer after me, and Jason decided his skills were also suited to helping him running Battlecorps. He is usually the one who first reads a story from the slush pile and his experience as a writer can spots the flaws in a story as quickly as Jason could. Those that pass his inspection are sent to John Helfers. Phil and I have also work on both Valiant: RPG games books, with Phil taking the lead on both books and me writing for him. I consider him a good friend and  and we bounce ideas off each other more often than not.

John Helfers' background I've detailed in the previous blog post, but in all my communications with him, I have found him to be friendly, helpful, understanding and encouraging. He has plans for both Battlecorps and the other fiction lines has me hopeful for 2017 and beyond.

Outside of Battletech's creators, I can't think of anyone more associated with the IP than Randall Bills. He has been working with the IP in one way or another for over twenty years, and is currently acting as Battletech's Line Developer in additions to his other Catalyst duties. A nice guy, when you can get a hold of him, which isn't often.

I've had good relations with all of them, even though the only one I've met in person was Randall (Twice, I think, when Origins was still moving around --- Baltimore and Philadelphia were the two I attended.) And that is the key --- if you have good relations with the people you work for/with, you will enjoy the experience.

I hope that answers your question.

Until later (though less than four months, I promise!)