The thrilling conclusion of our Shadowrun babbling! I apologize in advance, this one is a doozy.

Part 3

Now I can’t remember where I first heard the news, probably Twitter, that they were launching a Shadowrun Returns Kickstarter. I remember messaging you about it, but weren’t you already aware of it at that time? I don’t want to think that I had given you the first heads up.

With the whole indie game movement that is going on lately, I was probably looking at something else but saw an article about “upcoming indie games that you might be interested in.” So needless to say, I saw Shadowrun Returns and flipped my lid. I had always thought that they should remake Shadowrun, especially since they did a horrible job with the Xbox 360 release. The FPS version, that was awful.

Yeah, exactly. It did nothing for the Shadowrun name. It had some unique elements for an FPS, but definitely didn’t do Shadowrun justice.

Before we get into the game itself, let’s talk a little bit more about the Kickstarter. So you pledged and backed the product for almost a year. It seems that this games success was going to be used to judge the success of Kickstarter as a whole. At least in the games industry as a crowd funding/sourcing platform for developers to use. You can look at Ouya a little bit, but the only other game that has attracted that scale of attention is Broken Age, in my opinion. What involvement with the development did you have as a backer of Shadowrun Returns?

They had a backer forum to collect feedback, but I basically just backed the project and waited for it to come out. That was all I wanted.

I can definitely identify with that. I’ve taken the same approach with game projects that I backed as well. Take for example, Hawken, an FPS I’ve been played off and on over the summer. For whatever reason I cannot break into their forum community. I feel like it is overwhelming as an outsider stepping in. You have these users that have been there for so long already, since day one. I don’t want to use the term elitist, but that is the vibe that you get. No matter how much of an impact you try to make, you aren’t one of them.

Yeah, you see that on every forum. The backer forums aren’t exempt from this type of behavior.

So they took community feedback (Shadowrun Returns) throughout the development process?

I think so, and I think they just wanted to generate a buzz for the community to get excited about the game. There is nothing worse than spending all this time building the game and having nobody there to talk about it.

I read an interesting Gamasutra article surrounding the development process. (found here http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/197132/) It was a Q&A with Jordan Weisman, co-creator of Shadowrun and one of the founders of Harebrained Schemes. It talked about their development process and what it was like going their crowd funding route. I particularly enjoyed when he was asked to share some tips on being successful with Kickstarter. ”For the best chance of large scale success in crowd funding  First design a time machine, travel back in time to create a game that becomes very popular, then return the present and have the fans of the original fund a new version.” It mentioned how crowd funding created a short deadline, you want to have the game done timely. People aren’t going to be patient forever. They put their faith in you with their own money. It was just really interesting to read his opinion on why they went the route that they did and what worked and what didn’t.

So a year later they delivered with the final product?

It was delayed 2 or 3 times. I know it was supposed to be early 2013, around February. Then it became summer 2013, then June, etc. They basically just pushed it back until it was ready. The Blizzard philosophy.

So it finally went live, this past Thursday, July 25th. I saw the headline, and thought, “OH, it comes out on Thursday!” Google became my friend, I wanted to check out some non-spoiler footage.

The alpha footage?

Yeah, I watched that and some other clips. You obviously know my issue with single player games and RPGs. Look at Fallout 3. I was always excited to play that. I was on vacation and there was a Blockbuster closing. I snagged a copy of the game for extremely cheap, started playing it, and then I just never finished.

But it’s an open world….

Yes it was. This is definitely not an open world concept, which is good for me (I struggle with too much freedom in games). The game reminds me of way, way back, playing a demo, back when I used to get Game Player magazine. It was either Fallout or Fallout 2 on Mac. Whichever one that had a portion of it set in a desert town. A run-down town in the desert and you had a dog companion.

You’re describing both of them really…

Well either way, that’s what this game reminds me of, that combat style. Not just because it was turn based, but the viewpoint, and the flow of the combat. I played that demo a lot and had fun with it. There was this one particular enemy with a big-ass mini-gun. Like Jesse Ventura in Predator min-gun.

Somehow I was able to kill him through repeated trial and error. Now I had that mini-gun and proceeded to mow down any other enemy I faced. These memories just kept me thinking about how much fun that combat was. The idea of snagging Shadowrun Returns kept creeping in. ”Well, I’ve got three hours before this game is going to cost me another 10 bucks, what am I going to do? I’m not playing much of anything else right now. So why don’t I play this?” So I threw my money down and I bought it.

I played at least an hour or two straight in my first session. I reached the point that I believe you are at now, the Seamstress’ Union. Coming back to what we discussed earlier, what are your initial impressions on what the game has been like, having played previous versions of Shadowrun?

The first thing that hit me was that this game is a vehicle to tell a story. Every time that you click on something, you get this long description. There is a basic animation, the character just sticking his arm out. You don’t get what you typically do from a larger funded game. More is left to the individual player to create for themselves. Which isn’t a bad thing at all.

That was one area that I would improve on. Have more objects in the environment to interact with. It was limiting to have an icon already determine what you could and could not manipulate.

I did a lot of research on the editor, I was just interested in it. I think they set it up to be similar to the tabletop version but without a GM there to run the game. It really feels like a hybrid of the previous incarnations. You’re getting the fiction of the books. The feeling, the sense of them, and I feel that comes through really strongly with the writing. You’re getting another segment of the tabletop with how the turn-based strategy is played out in the combat. It might not be as deep as you want, but at least it is something. Then you have the video game element. You have characters that you are developing with your typical RPG progression. It’s the storytelling that feels to be the strongest point. With the timeline they had for development, I feel that the gameplay they produced is pretty solid. My overall impressions are positive. From what I’ve played so far, it’s a nice hearken back to the older games of previous years. It’s cool to go back and play the type of games that you used to play, but updated. You don’t have as many hurdles to overcome to play it. You can just jump in and feel at home.

I don’t know if you have watched it yet, but the review I shared with you today, that’s one of the things that the reviewer mentions. It’s like going back and playing the games that you used to play, and realizing that you are not enjoying it. Simply because they don’t feel the same way that you remember. Sometimes it’s just better to keep those memories coated in nostalgia. This game does the opposite of that. It’s a positive way to experience that style of game from your past. At first I was a little turned off that all the dialogue occurred in text, that there was not any voice acting. After I settled into it though, I realized that I liked reading through that text. It helps to get you engrossed to that story. There are more details that can be added that you just don’t get from speech alone.

You have to put yourself into a different frame of mind.

I will say, that not having the previous experience with the game, I was a little overwhelmed with character creation. I had to sit there and really examine the options. Thinking about the exact type of character I wanted to play as was really important, what do I want to do? Who do I want to be? At first I thought I would end up as a street samurai, or maybe a physical adept troll. I decided on human. I really was interested as playing as a decker. I wanted to experience the matrix side of the game, but I also didn’t know how large of a part of the game would actually take place with that mechanic. So that idea was axed as to not handicap my character. I ended up as a shaman, (so did Lucas oddly enough), with decent pistol ability. With that character, I basically stay back in a support role. I focus on healing and try to buff/debuff the party as needed.

And you can control spirits….

At this point I was informed that spirits are actually a one-time use consumable, not a spell. I had completely neglected this part of the game, simply because I had to knowledge of that being how it operated. Lucas set me straight on my error.

Well then, the next time I load the game up, I’ll have to take care of that. The next part of the game that does create some grief, the save system. Have you experienced any issue with that?

Quick story. I progressed all the way to the end of coroner’s section. I talked to Jake Armitage and decided to stop right there. I didn’t see any on-screen notification that it was saved, but figured it would after every encounter. The next time I loaded the game up, I realized that I would be forced to play through that section all over again. I had to skip back over all of that dialogue. I was a purist, so I did make all of the same selections that I had made during my previous session. It would be nice to have the specific control of when the saves take place. You never know when you may suddenly have to stop playing.

My only grief is that it really dictates when I can play the game. I only play now when I know I’m going to be able to start a mission and finish a mission. That only seems to be when the save points kick in. Otherwise it’s not like I can play for 10 minutes and have something come up that makes me stop. Oh let me save it. You can’t be as casual with your play sessions.

I do kind of like that. I know that once I get through a section and enter a new scene I can just stop there. I don’t have to worry about anything else. The next time I play, I can just read the loading screen and I’ll be right back into it.

It is kind of a bare bones story, but I like the presentation of it so far. There will be a future DLC campaign coming set in Berlin (recently delayed until 2014). I knew the main appeal of this game wasn’t going to be the campaign that shipped with the game. It’s going to be the really creative users out there that are motivated to create something of their own. There will be custom campaigns and future mods for the rest of the community to enjoy. That storytelling is what is really going to expand the lifeline of this $20 game.

They made the entire campaign that they released with the game available to view inside of the editor. That tells you that they want people to figure it out and to mess around with the groundwork that they have laid. Even if you are not a programmer, you can use this to tell a story.

I read that already on day one of launch, someone had gone and recreated the first level of the SNES game.

Yeah, and there is more and more showing up on Steam Workshop all of the time.

I have to say, I really like the characters, I like the environment, and the entire supporting cast. I feel with the combat I haven’t been severely challenged yet. When I was given the option to hire up to 3 other runners to tag along with me, I hired all 3. I could have taken the option to hire only 3 to make things harder on myself, but I wanted to survive. I have had to use that much strategy yet inside of a battle. I’ll make sure my characters are in cover and move accordingly but right now I’m just relying on gunplay. Now there are a couple missions that I won’t give away details on, but there are certain conditions you can meet that will directly alter how the battles will play out.

It adds more layers to the combat. It spices things up.

One other complaint I’ve come across in early reviews is that there are no drops in the game. You slay an enemy and receive nothing for your trouble. No items, no nuyen, nothing. This strays away from the typical RPG formula. To combat this though, this goes along with the lore of Shadowrun?

That’s exactly right, I forgot to mention that earlier. I want to collect more of the novels. They have a strong neo-noir feel to their storytelling that explains more of the worlds themes. The point of being shadow runner is that you have all your gear. That gear is yours. There is a reason why you bought it and why you have it. It would only happening in the books if that character was in an extreme bind. Your supposed to be an established shadow runner in the story, so it would be out of context for you to loot.

Isn’t it also common for weapons to be, for lack of a better term, bound to that specific person. For instance, the trigger would only recognize your hand.

Yeah, there is a lot of technology like that in the lore. You’re also dealing with gutter trash and guards for the most part. These guys aren’t going to be just walking around with loaded cred sticks on them. So you aren’t going to pick up much cash from corpses. As a runner, it’s all about the job. That’s how you get paid.

And with that, I’m concluding our conversation.  I still had 20 minutes of audio to sort through, but as you can see, this is already a monster. I’ve learned a few things using this process and it was a fun experiment. Back on subject, if you like RPGs, have $20, and own a PC, buy Shadowrun Returns. You won’t regret it. I recently finished the main campaign and enjoyed every minute.

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