The editors over at Esperino managed to catch up with Harebrained Schemes' Jordan Weisman for a lengthy and quite interesting Q&A about their forthcoming RPG, Shadowrun Returns. Significant quotage ahead, including the revelation that the poor-selling Shadowrun shooter was originally going to be an RPG:
Hangie: With Shadowrun on SNES, it had a very unique dialogue driven type of narrative where you collected keywords and that progressed the story along. How did that idea come about? I mean, at the time there wasn’t really that type of idea behind RPGs.
Jordan: It’s true, that was really innovative and unfortunately my memory isn’t good enough to remember where the idea originated. It was very unique and it’s something we want to build on now. I think one of the great parts about it was it made you feel very involved in the conversations. The down-side was; as you got very late into the game, if you were a completionist, you felt you had to click on every keyword to hear, just in case they might know something about it which can get kind of tedious towards the end. We’re trying to address that and take the keyword system concept one step further allowing you to interact with it in a more unique way. But as you say, it was very innovative and hopefully something we can build upon.
Hangie: About the Shadowrun game that came out on Xbox (360), the Microsoft release that was a first-person shooter. When I first heard about it, I was really excited.
You know, a Shadowrun title coming out after so many years and then, when it turned out to be a first person shooter, it was a bit of a letdown. Was that the same type of feeling you had, or were you kind of, “at least it’s still a Shadowrun title”?
Jordan: Well, I left Microsoft many years earlier and so was not involved in the decision-making of it. The sad part to me was, there was a lot of really solid game design work in there, some very innovative takes on a first-person shooter, it just isn’t really Shadowrun material. If you divorced it from Shadowrun itself, I think it has a lot of really interesting and unique gameplay.
Part of what happened was when the project first started, it was intended to be a big story driven RPG with a dynamic kind of first-person shooter afterwards, so I’ve been told. But then that whole front part got cut and all that was left was the shooter. The authors on the game kind of didn’t pay enough attention to the Shadowrun cannon, to make it feel connected to you know, Shadowrun which is kind of a shame. I think if they put that game out underneath it’s own name (different name) as opposed to Shadowrun, it would have been very well received.
Hangie: With the release of Shadowrun Returns coming to tablets and PCs, did you consider a digital release on Xbox LIVE or PlayStation Network?
Jordan: Umm… no, not really for us. The primary reason being that the user interface requirements of those platforms are so different than the PC or the tablets that it just would be a very different game to have to design around – being able to use a console controller, a PC, or mouse, or a touch-screen. Mouse; touch-screen, we were comfortable to be able to design for those two but it’s just so much bigger deal to design yet again for the console. Number one; and number two, the budget only goes so far.
Hangie: The original Shadowrun had the controller input and you could kind of move your cursor around to shoot at things, and now with this one; with Shadowrun Returns you’ve said this is going to be turn-based. So, will that be, you know; you take a shot, then they take a shot type of situation? Will you still have that kind of free flowing; you know, I want to put my cursor on this person here or will it just be tile-based type where you click on a tile?
Jordan: No, we’re going to put a fairly large amount of tactical options for the player. It is turn-based and we did that intentionally because we wanted to be able to have that enormous depth of tactical so you know, when you choose a gun, you can not only select what kind of gun you want to use but what firing mode. Is it in single-shot or is it in burst, or is it in full-auto?
You know, are you taking an aim shot or suppression fire, or snap shot? Those are the kind of options we’re trying to make readily accessible, and that obviously is very deep detail and that requires a turn-based kind of nature. Yes, you will be able to specifically click which target you’re looking at and choose targets. Cover, obviously will be a big consideration in your tactical environment.