Hi everyone, Mitch again.
Hope your holidays were great. A lot has happened since the last time we talked! Sit back, crack a SoyCaf, and let’s get started. There’s a lot to cover. . .
Let’s start with a progress report!
On the code-side, over 30 character skills and abilities are in the game and working. That’s stuff like etiquette, snapshot, and conjuring. On top of that, decking, rigging, spirit summoning, and spellcasting are in too! This list represents a huge push from our engineering team to get the first draft of these features in before the end of the year and they delivered. Now, before you get too excited, all these systems are using “programmer art” so they’re. . . not pretty. But they prove the systems, can be tested, bug-fixed, and iterated upon before we spend the time prettifying them. It’s starting to feel like a game. It’s got bugs and there’s a lot to do but it’s starting to feel like Shadowrun.
But wait, there’s more. NPCs are talking! Our base conversation system is in and working. We’ve got branching dialog in the game that performs checks to determine what dialog options to give you – we plan to note the skill/attribute/race, etc. that allowed that option to appear. We (and you) can do all sorts of cool things with our conversation system combined with our trigger system. Things like attaching a conversation to a window prop so it feels like you’re overhearing people on the other side of the window or having a conversation that convinces someone to turn off the fog of war in an area and escort you to the mainframe.
One big task that can’t be underestimated in all of this was creating test environments for each of the above features to ensure they work according to our spec and continue to work while we bugfix and iterate on them. That took our designers a good chunk of time but it’s worth it because now we can have interns regularly run tests independently. It also gave everyone plenty of practice with the editor.
Our next undertaking is a major overhaul of the user interface. As you may remember from Thanksgiving, we were living with interface version 2.0 to see how we liked it. We wanted to give it time so everyone could play with it for awhile and enter their comments and suggestions on a master list so we could review it in its entirety. Mike, our Art Director, wrapped his brain around all the feedback and came up with a holistic plan to address everyone’s issues. After reviewing it with the team and making a few revisions and additions, implementation began this week. Everyone’s very excited about interface version 3.0 and can’t wait play it.
Last on the production-side, our Audio Director has been collaborating with our composers to make sure we get the right sound for the game. Marshall and Gavin are working on Seattle while Sam tackles Berlin. I think Sam has the tougher job because he’s working without concept art but he and Alistair (our Audio Director) think they’re on the right track. I love hearing the work-in-progress music because they throw in little bits of their SNES and SEGA tunes here and there.
So far, we’re tracking to our May/June timeframe but my palms are a little sweaty. This next bit will give you an idea why.
Here’s what’s up with the Backer Rewards and survey
Here’s the deal: Kickstarter’s Backer Survey feature only allows us to do ONE survey ever. If we get something wrong, we can’t do another. In addition, that survey would only cover Kickstarter Backers and we’d have to do a separate system for PayPal Backers. As an added complication, if someone wants to change their mailing address or something, we’d have to do it by hand which is error-prone. On top of that, the KS survey tool won’t allow you to upload your photo for the Doc Wagon cards or NPC & PC character art.
We saw a few Kickstarter game projects set up databases so their Backers could log in and personally maintain their data and we thought it would be perfect for us too. In fact, Brian Fargo from inXile was cool enough to send us his Wasteland II database code to save us time. But we also wanted to hook up the database to the game so it would automatically know who should get in-game rewards like the special ability and Doc Wagon.
Unfortunately, we were trying to work with an external partner for this so it wouldn’t distract the core team quite so much, but it wound up not working out to the quality level we were happy with, so we’re going to take a step back and make sure we can deliver something we (and you) will be happy with.
In the meantime, we’re starting some of the reward fulfillment process by hand. Backers at the $1000 level should have already received emails asking them to send us their photos so we can translate them into NPCs for the game. And Backers at the $2500 level and above will receive an email shortly asking for a photo so we can create their custom PC as well.
IMPORTANT: The deadline for getting your photos back to us is February 28th. If we don’t get your photo via email by then, we won’t be able to get your NPC or PC into the game. So watch out for that mail from us and contact email@example.com if you don’t get the mail by Monday.
We deeply appreciate our Backers’ patience about the rewards. Believe me, we haven’t forgotten about you! Far from it. We’re just trying to be smart and focus on delivering the best game we can.
Check out the coverage Shadowrun Returns is getting!
In addition to a bunch of great new features, something else exciting happened at the end of the year. Shadowrun Returns appeared on three “Most Anticipated Games of 2013” lists: Shacknews.com, Gametrailers.com, and PocketTactics.com.
Most. Anticipated. Pressure? What pressure?
There was also a nice interview with me on a Russian site called Game Star. Check it out here.
As we told you in December, GAME INFORMER did a big article on Shadowrun Returns for their February print and digital magazines along with an article called The Archetypes of Shadowrun Returns. The magazine article is really cool – good writing, great layout, 6 pages of coverage!
To get great coverage like this (over 6m people will see it!), game developers are often required to guarantee “exclusive content” for a period of time. That exclusive content, in this case, includes a couple of new images created out of in-game assets (like the Stuffer Shack scene released last year), a shot of our version of Jake Armitage from the SNES game, and a shot of our editor. Due to the exclusivity, we can’t include those in this post but will include them in Mike’s next dev diary where he’ll talk about how the environments are created.
In order to expand the audience beyond our original ~40k Backers, we still need to engage the gaming community at large in order to reach a wider audience. Even if we sometimes have to make special arrangements like this one, our default is to try and share the information with you first – you are our Backers, after all. We hope you understand.
Without further delay, here’s a rundown of the new information the article mentions:
- The mag talks a little bit about the story of the game, “A woman named Jessica Watts approaches your newly created protagonist for help. Her brother Sam, your old friend, has been murdered. You’re the only one she can trust and she begs you to come to Seattle to figure out what happened. We thought the only appropriate place to start a Shadowrun videogame was the morgue, so the first scene is there”, explains Weisman. “Your dead friend Sam is there, and like any film noir tale, the first character you meet is the Lone Star detective, Mitch Macklusky, who is immediately antagonistic. From there you find out that there’s been a series of murders; these people have all been found with organs cut out. You’re charged with solving Sam’s murder, but as you did into that, more and more unravels, and the mystery expands from the lowest echelons of society, like the biker gangs, all the way up to the dynastic control of one of the largest megacorporations.”
- While creating your character, you’ll answer a short set of questions that help determine your character’s background. (This isn’t implemented yet, so like all of our ideas, we’ll see how it comes out in the wash.)
- In combat, we simulate stun damage by reducing your Action Points. So a punch may do 5 Hit Points and 10 Action Points of damage, reducing your ability to respond to the best of your ability.
- Berlin is going to be released as downloadable content after the game launches and will be free to Backers.
- We also hope to release downloadable environment packs, like the Ork Underground, regularly so Player-GMs have more places to create their own stories.
Pre-orders of Shadowrun Returns are now available!
We’ve opened up pre-orders for Shadowrun Returns on our website. Tell all your friends! We took careful pains to ensure that our Backers’ Rewards remained special and exclusive. So while the highest pre-order gets the USB Dog Tags, it won’t come with the Collector’s Edition Boxed set and other goodies that come at that level.
We need Runners!
As Jordan said during his Fireside Chat, we haven’t reserved any of our funding for marketing expenses and it’s important to get the word out about the game to get more people “into the tent”. The more people we pull in, the more vibrant the community, the more fan-created stories we get to play, and the more support and content HBS can afford to deliver after launch.
So we need your help by sharing the love. Please get the word out about the Game Informer article to attract new people. When you see an article about the game somewhere, don’t just Like it. Share it, retweet it, and start a conversation about it.
- Are you a Facebook person? I am. (Maybe a little too much.) We post articles, news, and tidbits on https://www.facebook.com/HarebrainedSchemes all the time. Check it out.
- I still don’t really get the Twitter thing (old) but we tweet pretty often and retweet Shadowlands stuff too. Connect with us @webeharebrained
- Do you go to www.shadowrun.com? It’s a great place to post suggestions, start over-the-top flashmob plans, debate features and ask questions. I post there all the time, so come say hi!
- And don’t be afraid to send ideas and suggestions for spreading the word! All of us are more creative than just some of us. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed underground operatives can make Shadowrun Return; indeed, it’s the only thing that will.” –Lofwyr
Want to meet Jordan and me, ask questions in person, and maybe see some new stuff? We’re planning to be at two shows coming up and we’d love to meet you.
- The first is Emerald City Comic Con – it’s our hometown, after all. The show is March 1 – 3 and I’m looking forward to geeking out there.
- Next is South By Southwest in Austin, TX. SXSW is March 8 – 17 and sounds really cool this year. Lots of indie game developers and Kickstarter projects.
Just wanted to get those on your radar. We’ll provide more details as we get closer.
Thanks for the support, the feedback, and the questions.
We appreciate it,