When I decided to write this article about my experiences, I thought it would be interesting and different, but not too difficult. After having experienced this event firsthand, I found this BattleTech event to be quite difficult to describe completely. "You had to be there" to see it and experience it.
The BattleTech Center is located on the upper floor of the North Pier terminal, on the north side of Chicago and consists of 2 sets of 8 cockpits linked to a Macintosh Quadra 700. Each person has their own cockpit which consists of a unique slide over canopy, two color monitors, 16 digital readouts, 12 bar-graph displays, 3 fire buttons, over 100 user buttons, a throttle control, 2 foot pedals and a trigger control joystick. Four computer processors control each cockpit.
This "virtual world" is viewed via a 28" color monitor acting as your windshield. A smaller 13" color monitor, controlled by an Amiga computer, acts as your dashboard "radar" showing the other players relative to yourself, along with your own ground speed and direction. The cockpits are connected via a combination Arcnet/Ethernet network to a host Macintosh computer which sets up the parameters of the craft, type of armament, terrain, time of day, weather conditions and pilot names.
Now for the fun part. The synergy. When you put all this technology and software together you create an addictive interactive virtual sport. You are thrust into a world of fighting Mechs which are 30 foot tall armed mechanical two legged units which you control from your cockpit. With the controls, displays and screens provided you begin to move around and shoot at other Mechs and become part of the action.
After this 10 minute "battle", you obtain a personalized scoring printout which describes the major events during this battle and you can watch a radar view "re-enactment" of the battle, on a computer monitor.
The BattleTech Center is run by Virtual World Entertainment. This company was recently purchased by Tim Disney and he plans to open these centers in more cities and to create more unusual and different "virtual worlds".
As I said before, "You had to be there".
© 1993 Rick Smith All rights reserved.