Shadowrun Returns: Talking To The Hare-Brained

Shadowrun Returns: Talking To The Hare-Brained
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So, Shadowrun Returns is now out (we've got a review of it up now!), and, with a suitably interesting launch trailer, the ship built by Harebrained Studios has finally sailed. A short while back, I had a chat with Mitch Gitelman, producer for the Harebrained team, about what development felt like, and some of their decisions behind the game.

JAY: So, how are things, Mitch?

MITCH: Good! Surprisingly good, I got some sleep last night!

JAY: So, it's been a pretty difficult last couple of months, huh?

MITCH: No, not the last couple of months... We basically crunched almost the entire project.

JAY: [whistle] That's impressive, because you've only been developing for what, something like a year, year and a half?

MITCH: Little over a year, really... Our kickstarter ended April 29th last year, but we were still finishing another game, called Strike Fleet Omega, and we were crunching on that when we did the kickstarter, and then we rolled a couple of people onto Shadowrun... But we didn't roll the rest of the team onto Shadowrun until... Er, june! So... It's just over a year.

JAY: So, showing a lot of devotion there... And you've also shown a lot of devotion to the fans, by allowing them to edit the main campaign. I can see a lot of potential for that one either way, really, but -

MITCH: Hahahaaa! Well, it's read only, so I mean, they can +copy+ the campaign, and modify that for themselves, but, y'know, they can't change the campaign for everyone. Honestly, I'm really excited about that, because everyone has the chance to improve upon what we did, or, if there's something they didn't like, to change it or whatever... I think it's great!

JAY: It's a great idea, and I'm actually very fond of it, because, as I always say, there's no game that's perfect!

MITCH: Oh, no, no, I've played my share of games, and – This whole thing, though, if you think about it from a Kickstarter point of view, y'know, it was fan funded, right? We kept in touch with fans all the way through it (Ed's note: They really, really did, and still are!)... It's a shared world, Shadowrun always has been, so -

JAY: -With a looong history.

MITCH: Right! So it's a group of people, a +large+ group of people, getting together to make it, there's a group of people that wanna play games in it, and then there's this group of people that are gonna be, y'know, creating their own adventures, and sharing it. So the whole thing is just this kinda... group, social... love-in!

JAY: I can certainly understand, having been a GM with the tabletop game, yeah.

MITCH: Yeah, I was a playtester back in the day! Back in '89.

JAY: Man, that actually makes me feel... Kinda young, really!

We both have a good laugh, and get right down to business. Mitch has beeen in game development for some time, whether roleplaying games, or computer games, and he's very enthusiastic about both.

JAY: So, as far as the game goes... Is there... Anything +big+ you've missed as far as rules go?

MITCH: Yeah, yeah... Y'know, there have to be! A roleplaying game is, really, infinite, in terms of imaginations, stuff, and what you can do with it. So, for example, you don't have your own house, and you can't go from living in this squalor, to a luxury apartment, things like that, y'know... We had one year, and really, not much more than about a million dollars went, when all is said and done, to make the games. So, there are features that we'd love to add in the future, but... In terms of rules? I guess not, just things about Shadowrun that we wanna add as time goes on... But, no, I won't say “big miss”, but... Y'know, there isn't a lot of stealth play in the game, and we really wanna add that in, as time goes on... I guess that would be the biggest one.

It's just... We had to concentrate. Game development, it's... I dunno... From my perspective, I've been doing this a long time, a lot of it is about what you don't do, not just what you do, and those decisions are critical. Y'know, what you choose to focus on... And so, we have a very focused game, a very focused production, and what with the ability with the editor, to... Just go nuts... It's an incredibly flexible editor, and you can do all sorts of incredible things with it, if you have the time.

JAY: Aye, if you have the time. Well, all of the main game assets are in it, and a couple of things right now that, as far as I'm aware, aren't main game assets, but they're still there, correct?

MITCH: Yeah, that's right, we actually created more than we used! That's true, because we really want the game to have legs after we launch, and, y'know, after we go into making our Berlin campaign (Editor's note: First content pack forthcoming for the game), and we really wanted enough in there for people to get, well, down and dirty, and really +play+ with in the interim, between the time we launch, and the time we come out with Berlin.

JAY: Pretty good! Now, this next question, I'm asking purely for personal reasons... How extensive is the character creator? For example, I've always liked playing bad guys, and, more specifically, Bug Shamans.

MITCH: Haha, from a player character point of view... No, no, we have to limit it. It's hard enough having a classless system... I mean, what we're doing is insane. Lemme just get this outta the way right now... We're dumb, but we did it anyway! You can start your character as any one of the core races, and then, on top of that, you can choose to be any one of the basic archetypes, but after that? You can choose any skill, any ability, and use your karma to grow your character any way you want. Or you can choose to make a character from complete scratch, and not choose an archetype at all.

That presents an interesting design problem, because we have to design a game that you can do anything in, so... Can you be a bug shaman, no, you can't be a bug shaman. Sorry! But, can you be a bug shaman in the future? Maybe! It depends, because everything about Shadowrun, from the time we release, it's all about how it's received. After July 25th, this is where the rubber meets the road. If people like what we did, and if people appreciate the editor, are using it, making their own stuff, and if people like tactical combat mixed with roleplaying games, y'know, the way that we did, then, in success, we intend to add more features! We intend to grow the game, and add value to it over time, and put out new scenarios, new art, whatever it is, whatever we feel is the right way to grow the game, based on audience reaction and support, well, that's what we'll do!

If that means Bug Shamans, then it's Bug Shamans... If it's co-op multiplayer, or a more robust economy, more items... Then that's what we work toward.

JAY: Sounds good! Well, I'm definitely supporting this, and Shadowrun is a damn good setting that's deserved a good game for a long time.

MITCH: Yeah, I truly believe that, and... Well, the previous Shadowrun game, that I developed... Well, let's say that this game is erasing that big red mark from my karmic ledger, sort of thing.

JAY: Haha, too true. Well, the best of luck, and hope this game does well!

MITCH: Thank you very much!


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