Dev Diary – State of Berlin

Hi guys! Mike McCain here – I’m the art director for SRR, and now I’m heading up creative development of the Berlin campaign so I wanted to give everyone an update on where we’re at and where we’re going.

Story: We’ve completed a first draft of our story for the Berlin campaign. There’s still plenty to refine and iterate on but we’re all excited about where it’s heading and agree that the “bones” of it are solid. Without venturing into spoiler territory, it has a lot of fun Shadowrun elements and really plays to the strengths of the Berlin setting – the anarchist Flux state, the many varied factions and ideological viewpoints present in Berlin, and the sense of teeming opportunity for the savvy Shadowrunner. Berlin is a new standalone campaign, not a sequel to Dead Man’s Switch. As such, you’ll start the campaign with a new character. The player is cast as a more seasoned runner this time around, who’s recently relocated to Berlin. You’re running with a small crew which you’ll get to know well as the game progresses.

One thing we’re particularly excited about is developing the player’s home base neighborhood, which we’re currently calling the Haven. In 2054, Berlin exists as a fully neo-anarchist state – it’s not a crazy, lawless frontier, but rather a grand experiment in self-governance and emergent social order. Neighborhoods in Berlin become their own entities, with small communities banding together and often operating completely independently of the rest of the city. These neighborhoods organize their own protection and resources, sometimes even to the extent of walling off the entire block. Technology (and the electricity to use it) isn’t always available, and some parts of the city have fallen back to older patterns of living. We’re focusing on one such neighborhood for the player. Not only do you have a home base in this area, but you can explore and meet people in the surrounding neighborhood – meet a contact at the cafe down the street, or head to that back-alley street doc for some new meds or cyber. While developing this Haven area, I’ve been working with the Shadowrun pen-and-paper team in Germany to make sure we construct a slice of Berlin that’s accurate to the spirit of the campaign setting.

The main campaign of the game will allow you to complete certain missions in the order you choose, and will present you with some different ways to tackle those missions as well as some optional side objectives. To be clear though, Berlin is not a sandbox environment or an open-world experience. What we are working to create is a more flexible story structure and an engaging “hub area” that will give the player some choices and a sense of place and purpose.

Design: For the last few weeks, Trevor and Kevin (our designers who did the bulk of the level design for the Seattle campaign) have been prototyping a variety of gameplay ideas for missions. We want to create meaningful choices for the player within scenes. As an example, Kevin’s working on a run against a corporate facility with several possible ways for the player to gain entry depending on their party’s skillset. The choice of approach isn’t always clear cut, however – one path may allow the player to slip in undetected but at the expense of some innocents. We’re also working on some more unique non-combat elements – the other day Trevor created a dog character in the Haven area that you can interact with and get to follow you around.

Also, this week we welcome two new members to our design team, Simon and Andrew, who complete the team for Berlin. (Simon’s our new level designer and Andrew’s our new writer.) It was really fun recruiting for both of these positions, as Mitch and I got to play everyone’s audition levels which showed off a lot of fun, creative ideas. In fact, Andrew wrote a sample NPC character for his audition that we now plan to use in the game. When these guys showed up on Monday, we actually wound up re-arranging the office a bit so that now the design team has a dedicated space right next to the Berlin art team. This should allow for more fluid iteration on scenes between designers and environment artists.

Art: Berlin’s a really exciting environment to explore visually – the concept of the Flux State creates a ton of opportunities for unique visual elements. The environment team’s already put together a great European museum interior set and is now hard at work developing our Haven area. It’s fun to think about how a neighborhood would become self-sustaining – the residents of this place have to have their own shared arrangements for power, food, communications… this district is independent from the outside. This means, for example, rooftop gardens and a central growing area with hydroponics technology allowing a high yield of crops from a relatively small area; solar panels plastered across buildings; a cafe at the end of the block which has become the community’s informal gathering place; jury-rigged street lighting along the main strip of the area; and a ruined, fenced-off building which has since become an agreed-upon dump location for unwanted items.

berlinCollage

A sample of some visual development work for Berlin’s Haven area.

Berlin will come with several new tilesets, which will also mix and match well with the core game’s tilesets to create a lot of variety and opportunities. Our top priorities for Berlin environments are: 1. fully realizing the Haven area as a vibrant, dynamic community, 2. Creating a great European corporate office tileset (for all of our classic office-incursion shadowrunning needs), and 3. building a satisfying final-mission environment (which I can’t say more about without spoilers…). In addition, we have a cool industrial factory environment set underway and a couple of our environment artists have put together a great new set of Berlin advertisements, signs and graffiti.

We’re also working on other types of enemies and creatures for the game. So far we have some cool new supernatural creatures (such as a Fire Drake) and some new private security forces for you to contend with – Knight Errant. Berlin will also include some new player portraits, outfits, and Germanic totem choices for shamans.

Systems: In between their work on the other big-ticket dev tasks, the engineering team’s been able to complete some fun new features for us to use in Berlin. We now have the ability to display important mission data directly in the game’s UI. This makes it easy for us to communicate custom mission objectives (For example, the number of rounds before reinforcements arrive, # power junctions remaining, etc.) Another cool new toy is… exploding barrels! Because… video games. (Actually, our engineers went above and beyond with this feature and now we can make any actor explode with any type of effect or damage, and even leave behind damage-over-time effects on the tiles in the area.)

Another thing we’re excited to add in this new campaign is some more weapon variety. So far we have a grenade launcher, sniper rifle, throwing weapons, and even a taser going in. There may be one or two other fun weapons that find their way in as well…

What’s Next: This week we’re shifting from pre-production to production. I’ll be finalizing our story with the design team, along with Jordan and Mitch, to make sure we’re constructing this campaign on a strong foundation. We’ve flowed out a schedule from now until the end of the year so that we can budget our production time appropriately. The environment team is moving from concept art to full tileset production on our Haven location. Our story is being broken out into discrete mission outlines, with each designer taking the lead on a set of missions. Kevin’s created a great “mission doc” template that we’ll use not only to document a clear set of goals for each mission, but also to track feedback and important hotspots for our test team to pay attention to. Our next milestone as a team is to construct a full first-playable of our Haven neighborhood, with the player able to explore the area, talk with the locals, buy equipment, and maybe complete a small side objective or two – then return to their base to get to know their team. This will establish a strong template for both the Haven location and the characters in it that we can build the rest of the experience on.

So that’s where we’re at! If you have any questions about Berlin, I’ll be stopping by the HBS Dev Q&A section of the forum as time allows – starting next week – so feel free to leave questions there for me (please put [Berlin] at the front of your thread title).

Until next time!

Mike

And… some other quick updates:

Kickstarter Rewards: Many of you have already received your dogtags and t-shirts in the mail but those of you who backed at higher levels were still waiting. Not for much longer though! We have finally received the hardcover Anthologies from our printer and have already started to ship them out.

Tablet Releases: The iOS version of Shadowrun Returns is complete and has been submitted to Apple certification. It’s hard to predict certification times but we’ll keep you posted. The Android version of the game is nearly complete and should be ready for release at the same time as the iOS version.

The Next Patch: We’re looking to release the next patch for Shadowrun Returns sometime in early October, and it will include a number of the new code and editor features mentioned in the Berlin update above (like custom mission objectives) so you can start using them in your stories before Berlin is even released! It will also include the usual bug fixes and improvements.

Linux Release: The next patch (again due in early October) will also include the Linux Beta versions of both the game and the editor. If you’re a Linux user, we’d love to get your help testing when it comes out!

Improved Save Games: Our intrepid engineers are hacking away at improving our save game functionality in an experimental branch of the code. We still can’t commit to such a major architectural change or to how long it would take to complete but we are diligently working on it, so please stay tuned.

Localization: We’ve pulled all text from the game and sent it to our localization partners, who are currently translating the game into French, Italian, German and Spanish. We should receive translated text back at the end of the month, after which it will require some heavy integration work into the game. We anticipate this work being completed in late October / early November. We’re also working on Russian and Chinese translations of the game, though we don’t have a timeframe for those yet.

And finally…

golem_demoFoundry

The Golem Arcana team has launched their Kickstarter funding campaign and it’s off to a great start – check it out, and tell your friends about it!

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27 Responses to “Dev Diary – State of Berlin”

  1. Liack
    September 13, 2013 at 6:06 am #

    @NoThanks: have you released apps to the App Store? While asking for a rushed review (which is only occassionnally provided by Apple), it still took 4 business days to release an app. Apple works on its own timelines.

    And, if you forgot, here ‘s a link for the differences between 400k and where they got:
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1613260297/shadowrun-returns/posts/202725

    As far as “game the community needs to develop”, if you consider the studio to be “indie” rather than one big studio backed by a big publisher and compare to other similar budget games (Terraria? Minecraft?), I think what was accomplished is quite decent. I picked sandbox games considering the level of story available to users (unlike one with a big campaign but no user content whatsoever).

  2. Vascoe
    September 13, 2013 at 6:13 am #

    trooooollllllllllllllllll

    Although they exceeded their kickstarter the funding they got is really a pittance when you look at what it costs to make a title these days.

    As for the users generating the content, well….yeah, that’s the whole god dam point of the thing, what did you think you were backing exactly?

  3. Random_GM
    September 13, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    Please, please, please. While you’re doing all these cool changes if you could add tag functionality to zones it would remove the need for having a billion triggers in each map.

    Add tag to zone
    Remove tag from zone
    Enter the Zone with tag
    Exit the Zone with tag,
    etc..

    Credit to Erik Finley for coming up with this method for Matrix portals (http://shadowrun-returns.wikispaces.com/Tutorial+-+A+Cleaner+Kind+of+Matrix+Portals), but it’s a bit wonky at times. Giving zones tag functionality would make the whole thing perfect.

  4. Sho
    September 13, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    Great update, guys. Very much looking forward to new content and the desktop Linux and Android versions right now. Berlin is my home town, so I’m extremely excited about the upcoming expansion – I hope there will be a decent amount of local-regional favor to the tilesets and characters, the creeping globalization in the setting notwithstanding.

    If any of the writers or artists could use a contact in Berlin to pick their brain for inspiration, don’t hesitate to mail me :).

    The little teaser about work on the save game system is also quite exciting (even if you’re putting it into cautious terms right now, which I can understand).

    I have a feeling I’ll be sinking a few hours into SRR here and there for years to come, provided there continue to be modules which tell good stories.

  5. Marcus
    September 13, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    We need random Shadowruns, for when we are short on money. In Dead Man;s Switch it is so easy to make a wrong choice in a dialog and suddenly you don;t have money to hire runners for the next mission, nor a way to make money.

  6. too bad
    September 14, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    So Berlin won’t import Dead Man’s Switch character… I have to start over, with a seasoned character. Meaning, it won’t reflect my style of play. The point of a RPG Mr. McCain (in case you’ve forgotten) is to see ones character grow and evolve over time/games.

  7. thorfynn
    September 17, 2013 at 3:43 am #

    One thing first.
    I like this game. ;-)
    And for all of the people who thought we get an AAA-title here. Please come on. How should this possible with 1800 Grands and 20 or 25 people ?!?! Shadowrun is not Tetris or Mindcraft…
    To build a Shadworun RPG on the PC with all the features of the P&P-Version you would need a lot more input.
    Hmm, maybe 300 programmers, designers, musicpeople…and at minimum 200 million dolla-la-la-la….
    So. Thats my opinion.
    Sure Shadowrun Returns does not have real cool 3D like GT5, no voice output,… But in my opinion it catches the soul of Shadowrun with real good storytelling. Not more, nor less.
    And he. That´s worth 18 Euros.
    Greets from the black forest in Germany,
    thorfynn aka Heavy aka Michael aka Brainbooster

  8. Robin
    September 17, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    Hi, Everyone –

    Robin from HBS here. Someone’s email was hacked by a troll which is why there may seem to be comments missing from this thread. We were sent an email with notification of what happened with permission to delete them.

    too bad – The decision not to let people import their DMS character to Berlin was a hard one. We love building a character and seeing what happens, too. The reason is game balance. If you imported your character, you would start out too powerful and truly not enjoy the game.

    • too bad
      September 19, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

      Understandable, happy to have gotten an answer. However, their is such a thing as difficulty settings? Not trying to be an a– here. I really do appreciate the reply.

      Another question; Will this be a recurring theme throughout future campaign releases? Having to constantly restart with new characters?
      Or maybe/perhaps plans to release campaigns with a warning stating one needs a minimum amount of spent karma on a character? Kinda like WoW does with levels :) (btw don’t like WoW)

  9. Nick
    September 17, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    I really want to confirm – last time it was submitted it wasn’t. Can you confirm it was, when it was, what the price is and I presume it’s iOS 7 ready?

    I really want to get my hands on the game. It’s almost 2 months since the PC version launched, and I’ve been chomping at the bit to get my play on.

  10. Robin
    September 18, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    Hey, Nick

    We were about to submit and then ran into a bug that needed to be fixed which pushed our submission back. We have submitted and have our fingers crossed that we’ll hear back from them soon. Yes, the game will be iOS 7 compatible.

  11. tilly
    September 19, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    Oi! Linux :D *fingers crossed for Debian*

    Also make sure to change the UI to shorten the number of clicks and screens it takes to heal a party member outside of battle. (ie. getting to the heal spell then healing multiple members)

    I’ll make my DMS character for Berlin. :) Just pretend she got shaken up or some such thing, eh? Samus does it a lot. XD

  12. nineinchnick
    September 22, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    +1 for Linux port

  13. Robin
    September 23, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    Once we see how Berlin does, we’ll be able to make decisions about future campaign releases. We really try to listen to the community and see how we can work with that feedback.

  14. Arky
    September 26, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Oi!

    Just downloaded it for the ipad and I’m getting no sound at all from the game. What gives?

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    631749 980910Extremely nice design and style and great subject matter, extremely little else we want : D. 488860

  16. Theawaker
    September 27, 2013 at 5:20 am #

    Hei, love the game on IPad. Is this Campaign gonna cost much?

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