Latest News

Development Update – A peek behind the curtain at where we are in the process

Hey everyone,
Mitch here.

For those new to the project, I’m the Game Director on Shadowrun: Hong Kong. I did a bunch of writing and plotting on Dragonfall and before that, I produced and did the bulk of the writing on Shadowrun Returns. I’m also the co-founder and Studio Manager of Harebrained Schemes.

Mitch, already looking a bit care-worn

Mitch, already looking a bit care-worn

Awhile back, I gave you a “peek behind the curtain” of the stages a game goes through from Concept to Release. Today, I thought it would be cool to give you a quick look at what’s going on in each area of the project so you can see where we are in the process.

As I mentioned previously, the transition from Pre-Production to Production is always tricky. Before the Kickstarter, we were in hardcore planning mode – writing design docs, prototyping new tech and magic, creating lists of stuff to make, that kind of thing. Now, a couple of folks are still in planning mode, but most of the team has started cranking on the game. I imagine there are producers out there who prefer things “neater”, but in my experience, doing the right thing is more important than doing things right. You don’t ship a great process. You ship a great game.

Here’s a quick look at each discipline and what they’re up to:

Design

The designers are already at work creating scenes and runs in the game. Kevin’s been working hard on the hub, while Trevor’s busting out the first few scenes of the game. Tyler’s already completed a first draft of a side run and is starting work on his second, and Connor’s drinking from the firehose – he just started on the project and is busting hump to come up to speed quickly.

Writing

Andrew is hard at work on the second draft of his detailed story outline document based on the “GM Notes” document we collaborated on earlier. Think of the GM notes as the “What’s Really Going On” section of a Shadowrun tabletop adventure that allowed the art and design teams to get started. Andrew’s story outline meticulously lays out the information flow necessary to progress through our plot so that we can find holes or inconsistencies early when things are still easy to change. When Andrew needs to step away from that work for a “palette cleanser,” he and Kevin collaborate on a description of the characters & situations in the hub.

Art

The artists represent the largest discipline on the project. Cassidy and Spencer are in production mode, busting out environments for the locations called for in Andrew’s story outline, while Tristin puts in serious time on a Matrix look & feel piece. Maury is working on Gobbet and the rest of the crew members’ in-game character art while Eleanor builds new Hong Kong police and Triad members. Our technical artist, Will, has been working on new visual effects for all the stuff we’re adding and importing our new characters into the game. In fact, Gobbet and Wu have already made their way in. And our Art Director, Chris Rogers, is everywhere – leading art reviews with me, defining the amount of art we’re able to create, planning interface changes, working on outsourcing plans, sketching characters, and producing art for the Kickstarter.

Audio

Jon is working on his overall approach to the music in Shadowrun: Hong Kong, collaborating with Klimecky and Kevin who both have music backgrounds. Jon’s delivering his first draft today and I look forward to reviewing their work soon!

Programming

Garret’s already finished his first draft of the “toggle turn-mode” functionality that allows you to drop into turn-mode before entering a suspicious area. He’s turned it over to Jeff for testing before it goes to the design team for review. He’s now hard at work on new Matrix features. We’ve got to get those done immediately so the designers have time to play with and iterate on them before they start implementing them in their missions. Meanwhile, Brenton’s hard at work on new editor features that should make writing dialogue – our critical path process – faster and easier. And everyone’s consulting with AJ and Sheridan on AI and interface revisions.

Production

And then there’s production, led by Klimecky (there are a million guys named Chris in the studio, so the two on Shadowrun usually go by “Rogers” and “Klimecky”). Klimecky’s managing the scope of the game – figuring out how much of everything we need to make, how long it will take, how the processes will work, etc. It’s Klimecky who forces me to make the hard decisions – choosing between features, which characters are higher priority than others… that sort of thing. Although this sounds like a drag, it actually a very positive thing for everyone. We’re all focused on quality over quantity and don’t want to bite off anything we’re not sure we can deliver at our standards. By making these decisions early, we get to move forward confident that we can deliver what we promise.

So far, so good

That isn’t to say that the development of SR: HK is going to be smooth as silk. To paraphrase Field Marshal von Moltke (the Elder), “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” We’ll find plenty of problems we didn’t anticipate and we’ll need to improvise and adapt to overcome them. That’s part of the fun. And we also know that inspiration will hit us and we’ll want to add or change something down the road that we didn’t plan for. We’ve tried to leave time for that too, but as is often the case, if we want it bad enough, we may need to push ourselves to get it in. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about the major change to Dragonfall’s plot that happened just two weeks before we shipped…

Oh, before I go, I thought you’d like to see our first draft of what Wu and Gobbet will look like in the game. :)

First draft of how our in-game models will look

First draft of how our in-game models will look

Take care,
Mitch

How ’bout another peek behind the curtain?

Hey there!

Wow, we’re narrowing in on $800,000 in funding for Shadowrun: Hong Kong!

That is incredible. We would love to create that Mini-Campaign for you if we’re lucky enough to hit $1,000,000. Thanks for all your help in getting the word out. And thanks for being so welcoming to our new Backers! This community is full of really great people.

For today’s peek behind the curtain our Audio Director & Composer, Jon Everist, will talk a bit about his process and hopes for the game. For those of you who don’t know, Jon also did the sound and music for our other Kickstarted game, Golem Arcana.

Have a great week!

–HBS

Jon and his woofers

Jon and his woofers

Greetings Shadowrunners! I’m happy to be serving as your noble Audio Director, Composer, and Sound Designer for the upcoming full-length campaign set in Hong Kong! It’s been a dream come true, literally–Shadowrun for SNES was my favorite game as kid.

Harebrained Schemes is a collective of some of the most wildly talented people I’ve ever met. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for showing your support for my previous contributions to the Dragonfall OST, its been fantastic. My only hope is that I can support the insanely good writing and art with an audio soundscape that will suck you in and keep you running in the shadows.

Hong Kong, wow, what a location! Like many cities in the Shadowrun Universe, it’s a place of extreme contrasts. There’s the mega rich encroaching and crushing the poor, neon corporate buildings a mile high next to 3000 year old temples. There’s magic, there’s tradition, Yin and Yang, Qi, and nightmarish and otherworldly forces. I love that Shadowrun is a mashup of old and new, the timeless and the futuristic, the spiritual and the physical.

My approach to the music for Shadowrun: Hong Kong will mirror this dichotomy. There will be organic, acoustic instrumentation with classic, Chinese elements set against dread-future deep synths and driving electronic rhythms and soundscapes – imagine the expressiveness of a live cello set against the crackling of a gritty sawtooth bass and space in the soundtrack to tune your ears to the environment.

I’ve been involved in the Hong Kong campaign since day one so I’m working hard everyday to weave a cohesive, compelling, and immersive audio narrative into our story arc. My goal is to make the audio a unique character while supporting the story. I’m going to continue showcasing individual characters (like in Glory’s Theme) by creating unique motifs for them and situations they find themselves in. We have some exciting new tech we’re hoping to implement which will also allow us to incorporate adaptive music and sound design that reacts to in-game situations and how you choose to play.

For fans of the music of Shadowrun, expect a whole lot more of what you love. I’d love to hear from you so feel free to drop me a line on twitter @JonEverist or at my website at www.JonEverist.com

– Jon

Interview video! New concept art! And Mitch’s peek behind the curtain…

Hey Everyone!

We had a lot of fun on Arvan Eleron’s Twitch.tv show last night. The live interview with Lead Writer Andrew McIntosh and Game Director Mitch Gitelman lasted two hours and they took lots of questions from the audience. Here’s links to the interview, in case you missed it:

Part 1 of 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukGhNMhQOyc

Part 2 of 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSLijg0rSME

Beyond the interview, we thought you’d enjoy this new bit of concept art. It’s Tristan’s exploration into the look and feel of a Hong Kong slum in 2056.

Concept

And, to ease you into your weekend, Mitch will pull back the curtain to give you another peek at how your game is being made.

–HBS

Mitch, at the beginning of production

Mitch, at the beginning of production

Hey Howdy! Mitch here. This time, we’re gonna look at the overall game development process and where the team is within it. Now, every product is different and no two game studios do things exactly the same way – there’s an alchemy to this stuff – but if you view it from a high enough level, most games go through a few common stages.

Concept

During the concept phase the main idea for the game is created, along with a set of high level goals and key features for the project. This is the “Hey, let’s do another Shadowrun game and set it in Hong Kong!” phase.

Prototype

When a concept is given the go-ahead, team members start playing with new features to prove them out before we commit to putting them in the game. For example, Trevor prototyped Duncan Wu’s non-lethal attacks in order to solidify his Crowd Control Progression Track.

Preproduction

“Prepro” is where the project starts to take shape. Lots of research is done about the topic. Lots of documents are written to specify how new features will work. Lots of thought goes into scoping out how long each feature will take to make from beginning to end. Lots of lists are written to identify all the stuff we need to make. Lots of concept art is created to clarify the look and feel we’re going for. Lots of meetings are attended to get everyone on the same page and prioritize our work.

“Prepro” is where things get challenging. It’s when we plug all of the above into a schedule and pour a stiff drink. There are no lack of great ideas, as anyone on our KS Comments page can attest to – and that’s the problem. We always have far, far more ideas than we have time to execute on them. So some “pet features” have to go. We prefer to cut features early rather than pretend we’re going to get them for months. The project feels more under-control that way and it avoids the morale hit down the road when a long-hoped-for feature is finally abandoned.

Production

When you’ve done enough planning and you can start actually MAKING THINGS, the project moves into the Production phase. By this point, the team is usually chomping-at-the-bit to get started. The transition to Production is always tricky and often a bit uncomfortable because some work is dependent on the work of others and the timing may not mesh. It makes the project feel a little off-balance. But things eventually right themselves and we quickly get into our groove.

Production is usually the longest phase of the process and has a long through-line of problem solving. “No plan survives contact with the enemy” is a famous saying that applies here. No matter how much we plan, there are always surprises waiting for us when we start actually making the stuff. That’s when things take longer than expected and some features we thought would make it into the game are set aside for another day.

Post-Production

Once all the stuff is made, it’s time to iterate, polish, test, fix, and stabilize the game. Stabilize means “stop cramming stuff into the game and make sure that what you’re shipping works great”. It’s often the hardest part because, if you’re like us, you want to push the limits to create the very best experience you can in the time you have. But the best experience also requires a low bug count. And choosing which bugs you should fix, which bug fixes would cause more bugs, and which you don’t have time to fix can be a nerve-wracking experience because it always comes down to a judgment call.

Our Fearless Leader near the end of production

Our Fearless Leader near the end of production

Release

And then you wait to see if people like your work. And you start making lists of things you want to fix. And the things you want to do better next time…

So there’s a little window into the game development process. As I said earlier, every product is different and it’s never the same process twice. That’s one of the reasons I love game development so much – it’s always different, always challenging, and always an opportunity for learning and growth.

Have a great weekend!

Mitch