Players will return to the magic cyberpunk world of Shadowrun for a new adventure later this year as the role-playing game franchise, revitalized by 2013's Shadowrun Returns, moves to a new location in Shadowrun: Hong Kong. Developer Harebrained Schemes is taking its new Shadowrun game to Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform that helped rocket Shadowrun Returns to success in 2012.
But this time, the Shadowrun team is taking a very different approach to funding its new game.
"Our last campaign, we asked people to fund the development of the game," executive producer Mitch Gitelman told Polygon in an interview. "This time, what we're saying is we're going to make a 12-hour campaign set in Hong Kong, with new tech and new magic. But instead of going to some publisher for co-funding, we've got a bunch of ideas that can't fit into our budget. We're asking fans, 'Would you like to add these features to the game?' Every dollar they give us is going into the scope of the game.
"we're already months into development"
"We're making it, we're already months into development and we're passionate about it."
Harebrained is seeking an initial $100,000 to co-fund development of Shadowrun: Hong Kong. Gitelman says the studio has invested its own money — profits from the sale of Shadowrun Returns and its stand-alone expansion Dragonfall — into the game, but has plans to make Shadowrun: Hong Kong bigger and better with the help of its fans.
"Everything we're doing is all stuff from the fans, things that they've asked us for," Gitleman said. Even the location, Shadowrun's "magically awakened" Hong Kong of the year 2056, is something fans have said they want to explore in a Shadowrun game.
Shadowrun: Hong Kong will be set in the Hong Kong Free Enterprise Zone and feature "an underworld of triads, tongs and gangs to navigate, wild Asian magic to harness and bleeding edge cybertech to equip." The game will explore the concepts of "guanxi," the dynamics of a personalized network of influence and relationships, and "face," one's social status, prestige and reputation.
Harebrained Schemes promises a single-player campaign that tells a non-linear story laced with "morally gray choices." Hong Kong will introduce new characters, "wild magic," corporate intrigue and other new components — including a new supernatural threat — that are exclusive to the environment.
"Our relationship with our community is pretty awesome"
On Kickstarter, Harebrained Schemes detailed a trio of new characters that are coming to Shadowrun: Hong Kong: Gobbet, the ork street shaman; Duncan Wu, a security specialist; and Is0bel, a dwarf decker. The developer has plans for additional characters, which are included as part of Shadowrun: Hong Kong's co-funding goals. Like stretch goals, those co-funding goals add more features: enhanced player controls, new animatics, side missions and playable characters.
Gitelman says the Shadowrun team is better prepared to handle a crowdfunded game with an expanding scope than it was with the original Shadowrun Returns project, which shipped nearly six months after its original target.
"When we did Returns, we were making the campaign, the toolset and the engine all in a year," Gitelman said. They were also crunching on another game, Strikefleet Omega, and adding stretch goals on the fly. With Hong Kong, they've got a defined plan and designers "waiting in the wings" to help complete the game for a late summer release.
Harebrained is limiting Shadowrun: Hong Kong's scope in another important way. The game is being developed for Linux, Mac and Windows PC only — no Android or iOS versions this time.
"We have elected to focus all our efforts on PC in order to deliver the best game we can without the current processing and memory limitations of tablets," the developer says. "This focus allows us to have higher-fidelity visuals, larger map sizes and more stuff on screen."
Don't expect a console version of Shadowrun: Hong Kong — or Shadowrun Returns or Dragonfall, for that matter. Gitelman says Shadowrun's gameplay just doesn't translate well to console platforms, in part because of the game's lack of voice-over work.
"That theater of the mind, it just ain't gonna fly," Gitelman said, "and I don't want to go voice-over."
Shadowrun: Hong Kong has an estimated release date of August 2015 and crowdfunding through Kickstarter runs until Feb. 17. Gitelman says the team will be paying close attention to its community not just for funding, but for guidance on what they want to see in Hong Kong.
"Our relationship with our community is pretty awesome," he said. "We have this sort of social contract with them from the very first Kickstarter that says, 'We're listening to you, and we may not do everything you say, but we're listening.'
"We're performance artists. We do this for our audience. The whole team is doing what we love. We just are in it to make games for people."