Last week Cliffhanger let us know that in addition to Jagged Alliance Online, they're also planning to launch Shadowrun Online as an browser-based RPG. It's an intriguing project, so we decided it might be an idea to have a chat with Cliffhanger's Jan Wagner to find out more. You can discover the results of this conversation below, along with the first images from the game itself.
RPS: How did you come to be developing a Shadowrun game? What was the motivation for picking the licence?
Wagner: Actually many of us are long time pen and paper players and when we thought about the future for our company and which games we would like to do, we decided to try and become the top address for high quality rpg and strategy browsergames (and no, to us that is not a contradiction in terms) and reached out to a number of companies. Shadowrun and Deadlands were available and we are still in talk with others. It took as almost a year to get the license signed and paid for, but here we are now. We think the Shadowrun setting lends itself so well to a computer game that we had to do it. And also, I wanted my Troll character to be able blast away some of those pointy eared posers in 3D.
RPS: Can you tell us a bit about how it's going to work? You've said it's a browser-based game, but can we have a bit more detail about how that will work?
Wagner: The game will be a tactical action RPG in isometric 3D, with emphasis on the RPG part. The game will feature two major parts - the action map, where a runner group executes missions and the meta game, with a city map where the legwork mission take place and the hubs are and your own upgradable hideout, where mission preparations, crafting of software and character management takes place .
Actions map mission can range from infiltration -where raising the alarm usually means you are swarmed by guards- to all out shootouts, taking out a supernatural critter or defusing a bomb. There are several of the classic Shadowrun archetypes available of course.
City maps will feature legwork mission locations, where you basically apply your skills or contacts and sort of roll the dice to see whether you succeed - this is more of a text-window narration that may unlock new action missions, provide necessary items like the code cards for a corporate facility or allow you to smuggle in rifles to an action mission, which usually only allows small, concealable weapons.
The plot will actually evolve over time based on player actions - so for example, a mission may be about getting an item for one of two corporations. If more people win this mission for Corp A, then the next time we update the storyline, this corp will have that item and new plot developments follow from this. We are looking very much forward to using mechanics like this, which is where the strength of a browser game comes in - we can update anytime without forcing people to do huge downloads and we can produce new content much quicker than the big client based games.
RPS: How much is what you are doing with the game based on the engine you've made for Jagged Alliance Online? Will they play similarly?
Wagner: Well, the technical base is similar as will be some of the core mechanics for the turn based game - but while JAO is all about running a group of mercs and tactically overcoming the opposition, SRO will focus on one character per player, more roleplaying and have a lot more interaction with the environment, hacking, magic and infiltration. We will have smaller groups but more fireworks!
Wagner: Currently we are very happy with people giving us suggestions and discussing the game at our forums. The fans we have so far have been excited about us trying and we are very open about the limitations of the game. Of course we would love to spend a hundred million on a big-ass game, but with our budget we need to make up what we lack in sheer manpower by good ideas and concepts. This seems to be something the fans can get behind - obviously everyone wants their favorite character or location in the game, but some stuff needs to be put off until after launch. Again, we are open about that and so far fans have been very understanding. Even the thorny subject of monetization has been approached with an open mind from both sides We also have created the Shadowrun High-Council of Elders (SHE), manned by writers, editor, artists and fan-project and community stalwarts to make sure we stick to the spirit of the setting and fit into the current storyline.
RPS: When can we expect to see the game in action? Are you launching it via a beta?
Wagner: Well, we have just started pre-production, so beta is probably a year away, but we actually have sneaked in a Shadowrun mission map into the Jagged Alliance Online beta, which is starting soonish. Of course it won't have the SRO gameplay, but at least it helps people imagine what the game would visually be like. The screens we have published are taken from that map. We are also thinking about crowdfunding a part of the game, so some people may get an earlier look if they support us in creating the game.
RPS: Thanks for your time.