Shadowrun Returns Kickstarter Chat #5

David Lynch


Shadowrun Returns is bringing back an old-school fan favourite with the help of Kickstarter, but just how hard has it been?

Published on Feb 4, 2013

Gaming has quickly found itself to be Kickstarter’s most popular category by quite some margin.

We have already seen it impact the gaming community and as more and more developers look to crowd funding as a viable means of financing their games, removing the publisher entirely, its success seems assured.

But, what do the studios working with Kickstarter think of the process? In a series of exclusive interviews, we ask the studios turning to Kickstarter and crowd funding what means to gaming and why it’s proving to be such a success…

Shadowrun Returns

Mitch Gitelman, co-founder and Studio Manager at Harebrained Schemes talks us through reviving an old-school favourite...

What stage is your game at?

We're a titch over half way through development. Our combat system is in and has been iterated to play well and acts as the foundation for gameplay. Our tech and magic systems came online at the end of the year and we're iterating on those now to get them to the same level. Art production is fully underway in all areas.

And finally, our editor is very functional and very powerful. We're adding additional features based upon request from our design team.
Would your game exist if it wasn’t on Kickstarter?

No. Due to the restrictions of the license, publishers were uninterested in funding the game. Frankly, it's fitting that the Shadowrun Community be the ones to make Shadowrun Return. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Have you made or anticipated any changes to the original pitch? If so, how did the community react?

Our original plans for the game were really quite modest - we only asked for $400k. As the community responded and began supporting us with additional funding, aspirations grew as did the scope of the game. The reaction from the community was very positive.

They liked the direction we were moving the game and reinforced their feelings with their generous funding. While we did increase the scope of the project dramatically, we did have to make an advertised feature cut along the way - the ability to import your friend's character into your game - but the community was very supportive of that change because we were focusing on the core experience of a story-based Shadowrun  tactical RPG. 

Will Kickstarter grow or diminish in importance during 2013?

It is already growing in importance as seen at CES. However, Kickstarter currently fields 250 games at any one time. It's a saturated market and competition is high to get noticed - just like any online marketplace. I look forward to seeing how crowdfunding evolves.

Are you concerned the next generation of consoles will distract from Kickstarter?

No. I think we're seeing a small resurgence of the PC gaming market that is linked to Kickstarter and I'm thrilled about it. Consoles are like black boxes. You don't talk to a black box. PCs are communication devices and are great for this emerging cycle: a developer has an idea and goes to the marketplace for validation.

The community supports the idea and funds the project. The developer keeps the community abreast of development in a two-way conversation. The game is released and is treated like a service - the community informs the developer of issues and wishes and the developer uses analytic tracking to determine the best course of action.

The developer releases updates to the product, refining it via feedback and data. The market validates the updates. In success, the developer does back to Kickstarter with additional credibility and a new idea  and the cycle continues.

How has Kickstarter funding changed the development process?

In the old days, you pitched a publisher, got a sticky development deal that often gave the publisher control of the game and ownership of the IP. Publishers would suggest changes and might hold milestone payments until those changes were made. When the project was polished enough, the game would be announced and audience generation would begin.

Now, a developer goes directly to the audience for validation and funding. The audience begins developing close to conception. The developer is living in a fishbowl but maintains creative control and (often) ownership of their work. While this sound great (and is) the workload increases because the audience needs to be consistently kept in the loop.

Either way is stressful. Working with a publisher is stressful because they hold the cards and a management or strategic change at the publisher could have dire consequences on your project. Working through crowdfunding is stressful due to the need to keep your community informed and react to their feedback throughout development.

How did you work out your original goal total?

It was based on previous projects we'd done as a team at the scope we originally envisioned.

Would you use Kickstarter again?

Absolutely. It is a very different experience but just knowing you're making something that people are already excited to play is a very positive experience.

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