A 20th century with mechas

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Fraktal
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A 20th century with mechas

Post by Fraktal » 2018-05-19 09:19am

Last year, a question came to me while watching a let's play of Wolfenstein: The New Order.

If Nazi Germany were to develop a dieselpunk version of a Zaku I using 1939-era technology, what would their name for a mobile suit be?

I was thinking that sometime in the thirties, the highest echelons of Nazis are discussing Jewish Physics when one of them brings up the Jewish legend of the golem (know thy enemy and all) as a dismissive example that fairy tale levels of stupid shit is the best those entartet untermenschen can possibly come up with. Except Hitler, being Hitler, promptly starts handing out orders that military R&D is to round up the top mechanical engineers of the Reich and have them top that with something Aryan that would strike terror into the hearts of the enemy and scare them away from attacking the Fatherland ever again.

Not to mention that the whole idea of a giant killbot is so ridiculous that western intelligence efforts will never ever believe it.

Development is difficult and ponderous. The first major issue is found to be the powerplant: even with batteries borrowed from the Kriegsmarine's Type VII submarine, the prototypes couldn't operate for more than a few hours while untethered and nuclear reactors haven't even reached the conceptual stage yet. Ultimately, the engineers just threw up their hands and supplemented the battery with a diesel generator.

Then there was the fact that not only the whole thing was so insanely mechanically complex that no human could possible drive and fight at the same time, it was hard enough just to learn how to make it walk without losing balance. Ultimately, a three-seater cockpit was squeezed in: a driver seat at the bottom with levers and pedals for operating the leg hydraulics; a gunner seat in the middle with foot pedals for rotating the torso, hand-operated winches for moving the arms and a small cathode ray tube TV screen connected to a boresight camera mounted onto the bottom of the hand armament; and finally a commander seat at the top with pedals for rotating the head so that it can be used as a periscope with a far longer line of sight than any tank's.

Even so, it was an utter nightmare to maintain, even with compromises put into the design. The arms had a highly limited range of motion to keep the joints as robust as possible. The fingers weren't actually usable, nor did the hand armaments mount an external trigger; those handles were just handles for holding and aiming the weapon, with the firing mechanism being directly wired to the gunner's controls. Switching weapons mid-battle is also out of the question.

Nevertheless, the go-ahead was given for a limited production run. And thus in September 1939, the Polish Army received the fright of their life...

Although ponderously slow and cumbersome, absolutely nothing the Polish had on hand could go past the Sd.Kfz.400 Gehenpanzer I's massive armor plates. Even artillery shells bounced right off before either the head-mounted 2 cm autocannon or the magazine-fed semi-automatic rifle version of a Flak 38 obliterated the offender. Far too slow to participate in blitzkrieg maneuvers, the behemoths were instead driven straight into the heaviest clusters of enemy resistance like a hammer while the conventional forces followed behind to provide covering fire against flanking attempts and to mop up any resistance left after the big boys' passing. Not that the latter was really needed; brave as the Polish were, more than once the Germans had the tattered remains of whatever Polish unit they most recently encountered hysterically begging to surrender after the Gehenpanzers were through with them.

To them, the Gehenpanzer was not a monster of a war machine; to them, it was an act of God. As hodgepodge the design was, its sheer psychological effect who'd never seen anything like it in fiction, much less in real life, was undeniable. Think Tiger tank times 10.

In the spring of 1940, the Wehrmacht rolled into Denmark while the Gehenpanzers remained home to receive a thorough check-over and tweaking in preparation for the real deal in France. Hitler personally inspected the war machines during this downtime and upon returning to Berlin, immediately approved a budget expansion for expanded production and crew training. Meanwhile British and French intelligence were scratching their heads in confusion about what could've happened in Poland because the first-hand accounts they have speak of invincible steel giants that wield cannons like men wield rifles. They speculate it may have been just a really big tank that spooked the refugees, or maybe even a Guntank-esque deal. But walking machines? Preposterous.

Mechs are powerful, yes, but still reliant on combined arms warfare to be effective due to their slow walking speed. They do not replace tanks or anything; in fact, late-war tanks like the IS-2 can take down a mech just fine. Additionally, the Gehenpanzer I Ausf.A that first saw action in Poland and France lacks proper environmental shielding for subarctic and desert conditions, which is why the Germans still couldn't roll over Russia (they managed to close the Persian Corridor and claim the Caucasus oil fields, but their supply lines were too overextended to go any further and even though they actually reached Moscow, it became this timeline's Battle of Stalingrad due to the Gehenpanzers having trouble with their hydraulics freezing up). The Ausf.B that was developed based on Rommel's input pipes the engine coolant through the armor plates to heat/cool as needed, so it can run marginally better in harsher environments. Mountainous terrain is also a problem (which is why German mech troops didn't participate at Dunkirk: they couldn't get the mechs through the Ardennes in a reasonable timeframe, so they threw them at the Maginot line as a distraction while the rest of the Blitzkrieg took the northern route).

As for the other nations in the war, they naturally tried to replicate the design, but it took years. In the USSR, Stalin immediately gave the order as soon as the Germans bragged about their newest toy during the Paris victory march, but it doesn't actually bear fruit until early 1945 and Stalin himself was severely injured in an assassination attempt by Skorzeny and co. while personally inspecting the research effort (as motivation for the engineers after their predecessors were shot as saboteurs due to having failed to deliver results as swiftly as Stalin would've liked). In the west, the US got their hands on disabled German mechs captured in Africa and eventually reverse-engineered them into a design of their own; the British were already hamstrung with resources due to shit going down in the Atlantic, so they let the US do the manufacturing and only pitched in with R&D. The US only deployed mechs in Europe; for the Pacific front, it was simply too much hassle to keep shipping the things from island to island without being able to deploy them from assault ships to support landing operations (too much weight and not enough displacement to float and not watertight enough to walk to shore on the seafloor). For the same reason, the Japanese never bothered with the concept themselves until decades after the war when they've taken notes from the US mech troops stationed at Okinawa.

Where the development timeline goes from there, I'm still not sure. What I'm thinking of:
  • First-gen mechs saw service in Korea, with some improvements. The US brought their mechs with them; China didn't have the tech yet, but the peninsula's mountainous terrain worked in their favor to some extent (hilly terrain generally favors mechs due to being able to terrain-mask their legs, but their feet do not have enough traction to traverse very steep slopes the way tank treads could).
  • Second-gen was in service by Vietnam. All-around better mobility, started using composite armor. Very limited ability to swap hand-carried weapons during battle.
  • Third-gen was developed in the 1970s. Switched from diesel to nuclear, which solved the limited operational time issue but resulted in numerous accidents; early third-gen models are generally considered Armored Coffins by their crews. First automation features appear at this time, though still very rudimentary. Preliminary experiments into hover propulsion for faster movement, eventually shelved because contemporary technology wasn't advanced enough to make it work.
  • Fourth-gen was developed in the late eighties, seen action in the Gulf War. Started using computers and electronic fire control. Joints reinforced with reactive armor. Now has fully animate hands, although they're still awkward to use.
  • Fifth-gen begins to appear in the early 2000s. Fully computerized, although still not to the part where one person can drive it. Hands properly work now. Preliminary experiments into shelving the nuclear generator for hydrogen fuel cells.
  • Sixth gen... no idea. US wanted to equip theirs with railguns, but couldn't get the tech working in time. Hardkill active protection systems are a thing.
Thoughts?

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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-05-19 11:04am

No dice. Unless either the Nazis started work designing these the instant Hitler came to power, or this was still another secret project underway during the Weimar era, it would likely be 1944-45 before the first one of these rolled out, due to the cost, and the development of a completely new technology, and its supporting infrastructure and knowledge base.

Depending on how tall the Ubermech would be, and how massive, it would present a huge target vulnerable to at least 45mm cannon fire(maybe even 20-37mm cannon) because its armor would be, at the very best, little thicker than the Panzer II's, with a powerplant insufficient to move an articulated frame with even that much armor wrapped around it .

Moreover, since you are postulating diesel-electric power., you have to provide ventilation/exhaust, so that the pilot/crew don't suffocate, creating a major point of vulnerability, as even a Molotov cocktail can smother the exhaust ports, and thus the motor.

Finally, given the limitations, these would only be best employed in Sturmtaktiks, blasting through enemy strongpoints in advance of the main offensive, before they run out of fuel, ammo, and battery power and require relief by main force units

In the final analysis, they would be better off sticking with traditional combined arms doctrine
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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by Vendetta » 2018-05-20 05:54am



So basically this then?


Real talk, the mecha will be worse than tanks at everything. They will have smaller, lower velocity guns because they would overbalance if they fired otherwise. Less protection due to the much greater surface area needing armour and the inability to effectively armour joints. Less range due to the weight limit on fuel tanks. Be horribly mired by any form of broken or wet ground due to high ground pressure. Be horribly inefficient in combat due to limited crew space (one of the big limitations of the French tanks at the start of the war was that they tended to have two or even one man turrets, meaning the commanders had to also be gunner and loader and radio operator if he was blessed with a radio, dividing their attention in a paradigm where generally the first one to lay their gun on target and fire has won the engagement, three man turrets were one of the biggest improvements to tanks in WWII). And be much more vulnerable to logistical interruption because they're more complex than tanks to build and maintain (and that was a major problem for Germany in WWII).


Like basically every "What if Germany had X during WWII" it tends to exacerbate the problems they already had whilst not offering a new valuable capability.

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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by LaCroix » 2018-05-20 06:13am

Pretty much - tthe germans had some of the best engineers and were far ahead in a lot of technologies.
Their main problem was that most of their things were TOO cutting edge, and to many different versions of them.

Come to think of it, their problems mirror those of the Confederation - no really standardized arms production.
For both, it came down to having a lot of these old ones, some of the really good ones, a bunch of those really cool new ones that don't work, but in sum not enough for everyone to get one...
A minute's thought suggests that the very idea of this is stupid. A more detailed examination raises the possibility that it might be an answer to the question "how could the Germans win the war after the US gets involved?" - Captain Seafort, in a thread proposing a 1942 'D-Day' in Quiberon Bay

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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by Vendetta » 2018-05-20 07:02am

LaCroix wrote:
2018-05-20 06:13am
Pretty much - tthe germans had some of the best engineers and were far ahead in a lot of technologies.
Their main problem was that most of their things were TOO cutting edge, and to many different versions of them.

Come to think of it, their problems mirror those of the Confederation - no really standardized arms production.
For both, it came down to having a lot of these old ones, some of the really good ones, a bunch of those really cool new ones that don't work, but in sum not enough for everyone to get one...
Being "too cutting edge" wasn't a root cause. It was, if anything a symptom of the underlying problems.

A lot of the root causes of the German war machine's logistical and technological problems were political. The arms manufacturers were in bed with the party and politicked among themselves beyond ordinary competition for contracts (Krupp were infamous for trying to take over projects they were involved in). And there wasn't a central non-political procurement board who had the power to really tell them no on things, with a lot more decisions resting on Hitler and who in favour with him at the time.

Different factories and manufacturers also had a lot more ability to dictate what they were willing to produce than in other countries, where they could be told "We need this, done this way, you are doing it". Which led to much less standardisation than other armies had. (Trying to correct all this, far too late for it to make a difference, was the point of the Entwicklung series, to standardise around a few designs that were simpler whilst hopefully retaining existing capabilities, rather than charging forward on "bigger and better" every year because der Fuhrer decided it was good)

So when the VK45.01 project to create a 45 ton tank came back as the 54 ton Tiger it was accepted because the right people were convinced that it was Big And Shiny despite its extra weight and complexity causing it massive reliability problems. Whereas in, for instance, the Soviet Union and United States there was a central military authority which actually had a say in what got made, and when a tank design came back overweight for the design specification they were told to go away and come back when the design matched what they were asked for.

There was, of course, also the problem of nobody wanting to look bad. You can see that in things like vehicle loss reports. The Germans only reported a vehicle lost when it was absolutely and conclusively unrecoverable, whereas other forces like the Russians and British reported technical losses as well (breakdowns, repairable damage, etc). That meant that the commanders got to look better by not "losing" tanks, but also the staff officers trying to do planning had a gross overestimate of how many vehicles were actually combat capable. On the second day of the Soviet counteroffensive at Kursk one unit was reporting 7 of its 38 Tigers were lost, but that hid the reality that only 6 were actually combat ready, the remaining 25 were stuck in the workshops being fixed.

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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-05-20 10:53pm

Fraktal wrote:
2018-05-19 09:19am
Last year, a question came to me while watching a let's play of Wolfenstein: The New Order.

If Nazi Germany were to develop a dieselpunk version of a Zaku I using 1939-era technology, what would their name for a mobile suit be?
Kampfgeher. That's both the singular and plural, and translates as "war walker." Probable model names: Gigant, Koloss, Titan, Troll. However, all of this relies on absolute magical bullshit tech that would be far more effective used in a tank. Otherwise, the proposed walker designs would be a pathetic failure.
I was thinking that sometime in the thirties, the highest echelons of Nazis are discussing Jewish Physics when one of them brings up the Jewish legend of the golem (know thy enemy and all) as a dismissive example that fairy tale levels of stupid shit is the best those entartet untermenschen can possibly come up with. Except Hitler, being Hitler, promptly starts handing out orders that military R&D is to round up the top mechanical engineers of the Reich and have them top that with something Aryan that would strike terror into the hearts of the enemy and scare them away from attacking the Fatherland ever again.

Not to mention that the whole idea of a giant killbot is so ridiculous that western intelligence efforts will never ever believe it.
...With reason. Seriously, it wouldn't work, it'd fall over, get stuck, not move, et cetera. There are REASONS nobody ever seriously built walking vehicles in real life, and it's not because nobody ever thought of it. Furthermore, if the thing was built it would be functionally impossible to armor on anything like the same scale of a tank of equal tonnage because it would be much larger and have more exposed surface area than the tank. It would not be immune to anything heavier than maybe antitank rifle fire or 20mm cannon rounds, and even that might be optimistic. It would be large and ponderous and direct fire from artillery would knock the things out of commission relatively easily.
Development is difficult and ponderous. The first major issue is found to be the powerplant: even with batteries borrowed from the Kriegsmarine's Type VII submarine, the prototypes couldn't operate for more than a few hours while untethered and nuclear reactors haven't even reached the conceptual stage yet. Ultimately, the engineers just threw up their hands and supplemented the battery with a diesel generator.

Then there was the fact that not only the whole thing was so insanely mechanically complex that no human could possible drive and fight at the same time, it was hard enough just to learn how to make it walk without losing balance. Ultimately, a three-seater cockpit was squeezed in: a driver seat at the bottom with levers and pedals for operating the leg hydraulics; a gunner seat in the middle with foot pedals for rotating the torso, hand-operated winches for moving the arms and a small cathode ray tube TV screen connected to a boresight camera mounted onto the bottom of the hand armament; and finally a commander seat at the top with pedals for rotating the head so that it can be used as a periscope with a far longer line of sight than any tank's.
If the arms are large enough to carry a semiautomatic artillery weapon, they are too large to be operated smoothly by handheld winches; if the entire head is a turret turned by a hand crank, experience from real tanks with hand-cranked turrets shows that the crew's situational awareness will be shitty. Like WWII tanks with hand-cranked turrets, if the vehicle is fired on by concealed antitank weapons from directions it isn't already aiming, those antitank weapons will probably get several shots off before the mecha can bring any weapons (head OR arm mounted) to bear on the target. Given that unlike a heavy tank it won't be protected well enough to survive being repeatedly hit by even small-caliber antitank weapons without damage, this thing is going to get perforated a lot.
Nevertheless, the go-ahead was given for a limited production run. And thus in September 1939, the Polish Army received the fright of their life...

Although ponderously slow and cumbersome, absolutely nothing the Polish had on hand could go past the Sd.Kfz.400 Gehenpanzer I's massive armor plates. Even artillery shells bounced right off...
...Because of Aryan deflector shield technology, I'm assuming? I'm serious, how exactly is this thing, which is presumably significantly larger and bulkier than a tank of comparable mass, armored to the same scale? Even tanks basically got by through concentrating the vast majority of their armor on a comparatively small pair of plates on the turret front and the physical front of the chassis, weaker armor on the sides and often minimal armor on the rear, and practically none on the large top and bottom faces that aren't exposed to the enemy.

A mecha does not really have this option; and its front and sides are likely to be several times larger anyway, so the armor must correspondingly be several times thinner.
before either the head-mounted 2 cm autocannon or the magazine-fed semi-automatic rifle version of a Flak 38 obliterated the offender.
Do you mean the 20mm FlaK 38 weapon, or the 10.5 cm FlaK 38 weapon. If the latter, how large do you envision this mecha being?

Also, where is the cockpit? If not the head, who's controlling that head-mounted cannon? Remote controlled gun turrets were not, to put it mildly, mature technology in 1939; the first I'm aware of was the tail gun mount on the B-29, and that was a US development done with several years more work time without being constantly interrupted by whimsical Hitler bullshit.

Going back to the size of the vehicle, if this thing is carrying around a 10.5 cm semi-automatic artillery piece as a main weapon, it's too large to be transported on a railroad car. This vastly increases the difficulty of moving them anywhere, since they have to walk anywhere and will experience a steady stream of breakdowns. Plus, they'd be so big that they can't be unstuck from a mudhole, or hoisted back onto their feet if they trip and fall, by anything other than heavy construction equipment. You also can't shut them down and get them down to ground level for mechanics to work on them without some kind of massive support gantry and, again, heavy construction equipment set up in advance. Field serviceability is effectively zero.

This doesn't work unless you assume these things have literally zero maintenance requirements and never break down, common in RTS games and unheard of in real life.
To them, the Gehenpanzer was not a monster of a war machine; to them, it was an act of God. As hodgepodge the design was, its sheer psychological effect who'd never seen anything like it in fiction, much less in real life, was undeniable. Think Tiger tank times 10.
:wanker:
In the spring of 1940, the Wehrmacht rolled into Denmark while the Gehenpanzers remained home to receive a thorough check-over and tweaking in preparation for the real deal in France. Hitler personally inspected the war machines during this downtime and upon returning to Berlin, immediately approved a budget expansion for expanded production and crew training. Meanwhile British and French intelligence were scratching their heads in confusion about what could've happened in Poland because the first-hand accounts they have speak of invincible steel giants that wield cannons like men wield rifles. They speculate it may have been just a really big tank that spooked the refugees, or maybe even a Guntank-esque deal. But walking machines? Preposterous.
Again, with reason. Unless the Germans actually pull a Wolfenstein and get bullshit science-fictional technologies so advanced they can do blatant bullshit far in advance of real life, this helps nothing and changes nothing.
Mechs are powerful, yes, but still reliant on combined arms warfare to be effective due to their slow walking speed. They do not replace tanks or anything; in fact, late-war tanks like the IS-2 can take down a mech just fine.
The very assumption that it takes a 122mm cannon to penetrate the armor on these mecha begs the question, how thick is the armor plate, and how much does it weigh?
Additionally, the Gehenpanzer I Ausf.A that first saw action in Poland and France lacks proper environmental shielding for subarctic and desert conditions, which is why the Germans still couldn't roll over Russia (they managed to close the Persian Corridor and claim the Caucasus oil fields, but their supply lines were too overextended to go any further and even though they actually reached Moscow, it became this timeline's Battle of Stalingrad due to the Gehenpanzers having trouble with their hydraulics freezing up).
What, to the Caucasus in 1941? This requires a massive ahistorical advance by the Wehrmacht, when you haven't actually given them more fast units to make the advances with, just more walking-pace assault troops. Lack of walking-pace assault forces was very far from the Germans' only problem.

Remember that the 1942 offensive that plausibly COULD have taken the Caucasus (if the Russians weren't in the way) started with its jumping-off point being the 1941 final advance. Moreover, you're forgetting that the mecha are too large to be rail-transported and too large to be maintained or salvaged from accidents without the same kind of superheavy machinery used to haul around big siege guns like the Schwerer Gustav.

THIS is what lets the Germans blitz deeper into Russia than historically?
The Ausf.B that was developed based on Rommel's input pipes the engine coolant through the armor plates to heat/cool as needed, so it can run marginally better in harsher environments. Mountainous terrain is also a problem (which is why German mech troops didn't participate at Dunkirk: they couldn't get the mechs through the Ardennes in a reasonable timeframe, so they threw them at the Maginot line as a distraction while the rest of the Blitzkrieg took the northern route).
The Maginot defenses would slaughter the mecha if they're armored to a plausible scale. Lots and lots of disappearing artillery turrets that can pop up, take a shot, and pop back down, while the mecha crew is comically limited in terms of visibility and situational awareness.
As for the other nations in the war, they naturally tried to replicate the design, but it took years. In the USSR, Stalin immediately gave the order as soon as the Germans bragged about their newest toy during the Paris victory march, but it doesn't actually bear fruit until early 1945 and Stalin himself was severely injured in an assassination attempt by Skorzeny and co. while personally inspecting the research effort
Blatant Nazi-wank in that the point of departure does nothing to achieve this and historically German commandos never got anywhere near Stalin.
(as motivation for the engineers after their predecessors were shot as saboteurs due to having failed to deliver results as swiftly as Stalin would've liked).
Blatant Nazi-wank in that Stalin seldom if ever actually did this on any real scale. He'd send technicians to labor camps but rarely if ever shoot them en masse because he wasn't a drooling moron.
Where the development timeline goes from there, I'm still not sure. What I'm thinking of:
  • First-gen mechs saw service in Korea, with some improvements. The US brought their mechs with them; China didn't have the tech yet, but the peninsula's mountainous terrain worked in their favor to some extent (hilly terrain generally favors mechs due to being able to terrain-mask their legs, but their feet do not have enough traction to traverse very steep slopes the way tank treads could).
Chinese infantry with pack howitzers blow the shit out of a bunch of olive drab mecha.
[*]Second-gen was in service by Vietnam. All-around better mobility, started using composite armor. Very limited ability to swap hand-carried weapons during battle.
Guys with rubber tire sandals and straw hats bury giant-ass bombs under roads and blow the shit out of olive drab mecha.
[*]Third-gen was developed in the 1970s. Switched from diesel to nuclear, which solved the limited operational time issue but resulted in numerous accidents; early third-gen models are generally considered Armored Coffins by their crews. First automation features appear at this time, though still very rudimentary. Preliminary experiments into hover propulsion for faster movement, eventually shelved because contemporary technology wasn't advanced enough to make it work.
Anti-nuclear protestors put an end to entire concept; lots of tiny nuclear reactors stomping around on a battlefield is a fucking disaster.
[*]Fourth-gen was developed in the late eighties, seen action in the Gulf War. Started using computers and electronic fire control. Joints reinforced with reactive armor. Now has fully animate hands, although they're still awkward to use.
[*]Fifth-gen begins to appear in the early 2000s. Fully computerized, although still not to the part where one person can drive it. Hands properly work now. Preliminary experiments into shelving the nuclear generator for hydrogen fuel cells.
[*]Sixth gen... no idea. US wanted to equip theirs with railguns, but couldn't get the tech working in time. Hardkill active protection systems are a thing.[/list]
Never built. See previous.
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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-05-20 11:28pm

Kampfgeher literally translates as "combat(battle) walker." And would be the correct name.

(Krieg is German for war)

Nitpicking aside, these things would be unstabilized and therefore unable to fire on the move, making them even more vulnerable to enemy fire, as they have to stand still in order to fire.
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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by Fraktal » 2018-05-21 08:23am

I get it guys, it sucks, I suck. I get it.

I don't have the writing skills to make anything other than a horrible mess out of this anyway. Just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.

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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-05-21 09:16am

The idea sucks, because you didn't think it completely through. That happens to the best of us.

What's worrying to me is the romance you seem to have with Hitler's Germany. These were Not Nice People, and shouldn't be romanticized. Ever.
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by Fraktal » 2018-05-21 09:18am

Oh nonononono, I am NOT a Nazi sympathizer. It's just that they're the only ones who would ever seriously think of wunderwaffen concepts like this.

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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-05-21 10:39am

You're right about that. Okay, cool.
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-05-21 10:46am

The thing to do with writing mecha: simply have them. Don't try to say "they work because x or y". No "they can get around (usual difficulty) because (bullshit)". Have the nads to admit that you're only including them because you think they're cool, and that there's no reasonable justification for them in the real world but they just work in whatever universe you're creating. As long as the writing is good, it can be excused somewhat.
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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-05-21 03:31pm

Fraktal wrote:
2018-05-21 08:23am
I get it guys, it sucks, I suck. I get it.

I don't have the writing skills to make anything other than a horrible mess out of this anyway. Just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.
Okay, here are the fundamental issues that aren't about your writing skills (which are actually not so bad as such)...

1) The problem of target profile and armor. Mecha are bigger targets than tanks of equal tonnage, which means that the same mass of armor has to be spread thinner to cover more surface area. It's like, the same blob of peanut butter that covers a Ritz cracker a quarter of an inch deep won't go very far if you spread it over a big slice of sourdough bread. Unless you arbitrarily give the Nazis unobtainium uber-metals so tough that a thin sheet can deflect cannonballs with the sheer density of its bullshit, this means the mecha will be highly vulnerable to return fire from anything heavier than handheld rifles. And that problem won't go away.

2) The problem of maintenance and repairs. Vehicles, especially vehicles with lots of articulated joints and a clumsy mode of movement, will tend to need frequent repairs and the support of "tow trucks" to get them back to repair depots. Your Nazi mecha are, as written, so big and heavy that they can't realistically be moved around on railroad flatbeds, or picked back up when they fall without large derricks and cranes. This makes them very un-serviceable for anything other than the modern version of siege operations, because it takes too long to move up the ponderous support infrastructure... But in the modern equivalent of a siege operation, the enemy drowns your mecha in massed artillery barrages and a storm of 40mm or 57mm antitank gunfire.

3) The problem of ahistorical German feats enabled by... not much, actually. The Germans randomly succeed in almost killing Stalin in Spring 1945? How? Why? No such plan was tried in real life as I recall, and certainly no such plan would succeed.
Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-05-21 10:46am
The thing to do with writing mecha: simply have them. Don't try to say "they work because x or y". No "they can get around (usual difficulty) because (bullshit)". Have the nads to admit that you're only including them because you think they're cool, and that there's no reasonable justification for them in the real world but they just work in whatever universe you're creating. As long as the writing is good, it can be excused somewhat.
Well, I think it may be worth going out to first order ("the mecha are powered by a weird ancient technology stolen by Nazi archaeologists" or 'their armor is made of an exotic substance that is absurdly durable").
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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-05-21 04:04pm

Well, if you go the route of Nazi occultists and the Thule Society, you can introduce magic metals like mithril, which are light and wanktastically resistant, enabling conventional diesels to power them.

(or metal inscribed with runes providing protection, or both)

It will still take years of research and engineering to get the armor just right, even going the magical route, though. Same as it would've taken them years of research to apply the techniques and metal behind Wonder Woman's bracelets to armoring tanks and aircraft.

(was watching that particular episode of Wonder Woman Saturday, and this came to mind. Sorry)
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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by Vendetta » 2018-05-21 04:23pm

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-05-21 10:46am
The thing to do with writing mecha: simply have them. Don't try to say "they work because x or y". No "they can get around (usual difficulty) because (bullshit)". Have the nads to admit that you're only including them because you think they're cool, and that there's no reasonable justification for them in the real world but they just work in whatever universe you're creating. As long as the writing is good, it can be excused somewhat.
It's worth pointing again to that video I linked upthread.

It's the intro to a game called Ring of Red, and they put more thought into explaining why the political setting was the way it was than the mecha. (Heavier than air flight never develops, so there is no nuclear attack on Japan, so the country is invaded and partitioned between a US influenced democratic south and Soviet influenced communist north, cue 1950s war happening in Japan instead of Korea).

Mecha are just there.

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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by Lord Revan » 2018-05-21 05:08pm

Yeah Mecha are those things that pretty much cannot be explained logically and you pretty much have to go "a wizard did it" maybe not literally but in the end you must admit to yourself that the only reason there's mecha there is because they're cool and any explanation is ultimately an excuse.

walking warmachines of various forms as a concpet easily pre-date the 20th century but no-one has yet been able to produce a working version. Also a lot of the german "wunderwaffe" were things that worked in paper but not really in practice. For example the huge flying wing bomber from the "Captain America:the First Avenger" movie was an actual design nazis planned called the "amerikabomber" (officially Horten H XVIII) but it was never built in real life and american tests with similar (like Northrop YB-35) found the design to be practically unflyble. In fact it remained unflyble until the 1980s (when the american B-2 bomber used the design with computer controls to make it flyble).

So a lot of the unproduced (and more produced) "wunderwaffe" could just as well be called "traumwaffe" (dream weapon) as in "they work only the fantasies of the designers and Hitler"
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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by Vendetta » 2018-05-21 05:14pm

Lord Revan wrote:
2018-05-21 05:08pm
So a lot of the unproduced (and more produced) "wunderwaffe" could just as well be called "traumwaffe" (dream weapon) as in "they work only the fantasies of the designers and Hitler"
Also their designs tended to mysteriously appear on the walls of Ferdinand Porsche's bedroom when he'd had too much cheese and port after dinner.

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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by LaCroix » 2018-05-21 05:41pm

Nitpick - it's "Kampfläufer". The word "geher" is not German.
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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by Formless » 2018-05-21 05:52pm

Fraktal wrote:
2018-05-21 08:23am
I get it guys, it sucks, I suck. I get it.

I don't have the writing skills to make anything other than a horrible mess out of this anyway. Just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.
Don't worry, the people here just suffer from the Curse of Knowledge. They know so much about military technology and science in general they sometimes forget that there is a difference between ignorance and stupidity. And they also have a notorious bias against Mecha as a genre, in that it isn't their area of interest to begin with. So they aren't going to give questions related to the genre the treatment it actually deserves.

The Mecha genre benefits more from Verisimilitude than it does Engineering Realism (what most people mistakenly call "Hard Science Fiction" :wink:). Most of the audience doesn't know about the issues that curse all kinds of walking robot, so convincing them to suspend disbelief isn't actually that hard. Verisimilitude is like a magic trick: you just need to direct the audience's attention in the right direction and they won't notice the sleight of hand. It is important to work out a lot of the details regarding your mecha, but primarily so that you can identify the weaknesses you need to conceal. For example, walkers have a problem with ground pressure that causes their feet to sink into the earth and hinder their mobility. So you might consider giving them oversized feet, working off the same principle as snowshoes or skis to prevent that from happening. Whether this would actually work or not is irrelevant, because engineers are notoriously difficult for magicians to perform for. They are always trying to figure out the trick, even if it hurts their own enjoyment. Same goes for this trick. And you only need to call people's attention to the feature once, preferably at a moment when even a layman would realize the problem. Say for instance the walker has to go through mud. Many normal people have had problems getting their cars through mud or walking through mud, so this would be a good time to bring up that the walker is specifically equipped for this situation. After that, the general audience will remember the detail and you won't have to talk about mud ever again. Conservation of detail is your friend: the less you say or explain about the machine, the more you can direct people's attention away from the less obvious flaws with mecha and the more likely they will play along for the sake of a good genre tale.

If someone knowledgeable about tanks points out that even tanks can sink into mud, ignore them. It doesn't matter. Everyone knows magic doesn't exist. Everyone knows mecha don't exist. What matters is that you can convince them to play along. Don't have both walkers and tanks appear in the mud scene, and most people won't even stop to ask themselves whether a tank would do the job better under the circumstances. The mecha isn't stopped by mud, and that's all the audience needs to know. This is why many mecha shows have mecha fighting other mecha or sometimes giant monsters, because it gets the audience to compare like with like instead of asking what would make for a strictly better weapon platform.

Every flaw that mecha have can be glossed over if you carefully direct people's attention away from it and slap a semi-plausible reason it isn't an issue when you can't. And if you find that you are making Mecha overpowered, then maybe you do call attention to one of their flaws and not take it away from them. Like, maybe they don't do so well without air support because they are such tall targets. But at the same time maybe they aren't as vulnerable to infantry attacks as a tank (because REASONS; don't think too hard about it) so they can fill a niche that way. Acknowledging combined arms can make them feel validated as a military weapon, and validate their place in the world. Same thing that Gundam does. Or go the alternate rout and absolutely make them overpowered as fuck. Make them out of alien technology or some shit. Then you don't have to explain it, like most super robot shows don't. Go the Gurren Lagan rout, and people will generally leave their complaints at the door because they aren't relevant to that kind of story in the first place.
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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-05-21 10:24pm

LaCroix wrote:
2018-05-21 05:41pm
Nitpick - it's "Kampfläufer". The word "geher" is not German.
Thanks. Between the three of us, we'll get the right word. 😁
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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by LaCroix » 2018-05-22 04:51am

U.P. Cinnabar wrote:
2018-05-21 10:24pm
LaCroix wrote:
2018-05-21 05:41pm
Nitpick - it's "Kampfläufer". The word "geher" is not German.
Thanks. Between the three of us, we'll get the right word. 😁
"Kampfgeher" makes my toe nails curl up... It just sounds horribly wrong... :D

If somebody has a problem with the strange 'ä' letter - as a combinded vocal with 'u' it forms "äu", which is pronounced similar to the 'oi' in "loiter"
"Cam" + "pf" +"loi" + "fur"
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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-05-22 11:09am

Kein Problem. Ich kann Deustch sprechen wie ein Amerikaner.
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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-05-23 03:00pm

LaCroix wrote:
2018-05-21 05:41pm
Nitpick - it's "Kampfläufer". The word "geher" is not German.
Okay, my apologies; I was working with limited memory of the language and limited translation resources.
Formless wrote:
2018-05-21 05:52pm
Don't worry, the people here just suffer from the Curse of Knowledge. They know so much about military technology and science in general they sometimes forget that there is a difference between ignorance and stupidity. And they also have a notorious bias against Mecha as a genre, in that it isn't their area of interest to begin with. So they aren't going to give questions related to the genre the treatment it actually deserves.
Well, the thing that bothered me here was that the mecha were being introduced without any clear attempt to justify why they'd work any better than in real life (that is to say, better than not at all). Combine this with the 'timeline' element where the guy posts an entire timeline that consists of "lol mecha crush things tanks couldn't" with ongoing lack of justification, plus occasional random moments of the Nazis achieving ahistorical super-feats entirely unrelated to their mecha, and it pushed a lot of my buttons.
The Mecha genre benefits more from Verisimilitude than it does Engineering Realism (what most people mistakenly call "Hard Science Fiction" :wink:). Most of the audience doesn't know about the issues that curse all kinds of walking robot, so convincing them to suspend disbelief isn't actually that hard. Verisimilitude is like a magic trick: you just need to direct the audience's attention in the right direction and they won't notice the sleight of hand. It is important to work out a lot of the details regarding your mecha, but primarily so that you can identify the weaknesses you need to conceal. For example, walkers have a problem with ground pressure that causes their feet to sink into the earth and hinder their mobility. So you might consider giving them oversized feet, working off the same principle as snowshoes or skis to prevent that from happening. Whether this would actually work or not is irrelevant, because engineers are notoriously difficult for magicians to perform for. They are always trying to figure out the trick, even if it hurts their own enjoyment. Same goes for this trick. And you only need to call people's attention to the feature once, preferably at a moment when even a layman would realize the problem. Say for instance the walker has to go through mud. Many normal people have had problems getting their cars through mud or walking through mud, so this would be a good time to bring up that the walker is specifically equipped for this situation. After that, the general audience will remember the detail and you won't have to talk about mud ever again. Conservation of detail is your friend: the less you say or explain about the machine, the more you can direct people's attention away from the less obvious flaws with mecha and the more likely they will play along for the sake of a good genre tale.
Okay, see, I don't disagree with this. The trick is to think ahead and plan for versimilitude features, rather than assuming the narrative will work even if those features don't exist.

For example, maybe you need magical featherweight armor for the mecha. Fine, then we introduce the featherweight armor. Yes, some killjoy can still ask "so why didn't they just put a smaller amount of this armor on a more compact tank and make it better protected?" But at that point, you're more clearly dealing with a party pooper. As opposed to if you just keep up this pretense that doing the whole thing with steel and diesel engines and 1930s electronics technology is going to present a realistic, workable design.

If you want to go the Real Robots route to a 20th century with mechas, you need to introduce some elements not found in the historical 20th century, and Fraktal didn't really do that. If he DOES do that, I for one am more open to discussing how things might play out.
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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by Zixinus » 2018-05-23 03:25pm

Out of curiosity, what WOULD be a descent, not necessarily good, non-arbitrary* justification for mecha? Not necessarily combat justifications, mind. Hell, what justifications are there using non-tracked vehicles on land?

Two things come to mind:

1. Hostile atmosphere/space setting: mechas are large enough to carry a power source and a life support system, both things that a regular person can only carry batteries/tanks of for limited amount of time. There are tracked vehicles too (or may even be the majority) but mechas are versatile (can use all four or more limbs for mobility, just switch tools rather than stop to retool entire vehicle) enough to be worthwhile. Especially useful (maybe?) where getting something ready to get the job done is more important than doing it efficiently.

2. Snow? Either abnormally large or similar obstacle where mechas can just walk over (I'm assuming non-humanoid design). What comes to mind is Frostpunk's automatons, which were actually quadroped but could walk around on long legs rather than force its way through the snow. This was partly game design, so the automatons would not interfere with things on the ground much (they do climb about) but this aspect made sense to me.

* Arbitrary justifications as in "someone in power or society entire decided that yes, this inefficient and costly thing is worth it". We can imagine that Hitler and the Nazis would be stupid enough to have them no matter how much they cost, because it impressed them.

One thing that comes to mind is Automan's daughter, where they have become relegated to tournament fighting (non-humanoid mechas). Their use for military purposes is seen as outdated ("You think our enemies still use tanks?").
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Re: A 20th century with mechas

Post by Lord Revan » 2018-05-23 04:19pm

By their very nature mecha have few or no non-arbitrary justifications. The key to good story with mecha is accept that what you're doing is essentially a narative equilevant of a magic trick and stop drawing attention to the trick itself.

That why justification in Gungam works, it's essentially a "black box"(the narative device that is not a literal box that is black) so it can what ever the writers need it to be, without there being "that doesn't sound right" issue.
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