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Shadowrun Returns brings back one of our most original & cherished game settings as a 2D turn-based RPG for tablets & PC.
Shadowrun Returns brings back one of our most original & cherished game settings as a 2D turn-based RPG for tablets & PC.
Shadowrun Returns brings back one of our most original & cherished game settings as a 2D turn-based RPG for tablets & PC.
36,276 backers pledged $1,836,447 to help bring this project to life.

It's Awakening Day!

Hey there, everyone! Happy Awakening Day!

Even though the 6th World’s Awakening was technically (according to 80s logic) in 2011, we at Harebrained Schemes, along with our friends at Catalyst Game Labs and Cliffhanger Productions are excited that today marks the start of The Year of Shadowrun. It’s going to be a fun (and REALLY busy) year of new games set in the Shadowrun Universe. To celebrate, we’re launching Shadowlands. It’s a series of blog posts and Tweets from the 2050s, so if you want, follow it on Twitter and Facebook. Oh, and if you’re a 2070s fan, check out Jackpoint!

Anywho, if you haven’t been subject to the apocalypse and/or surprise bodily transformation, we assume you’re sufficiently capable of watching Jordan’s Fireside Chat Video. Did you notice the music at the beginning and end? It’s new Shadowrun music! The samples in the video aren’t so much tracks from the game as they are homages to the music from the classic Shadowrun games, meant to give you a little taste of what’s coming up in SR:R.

The opening clip is by Sam Powell, who composed the music for the SEGA game, and who’s going to be working on the music for our Berlin story. The closing clip is by is by Marshall Parker and his son Gavin. Marshall worked on the original SNES game, so we’re really happy to have them on board working on music for our Seattle story. We hope you like ‘em!

In addition to Jordan’s fireside chat, we thought we’d give you another look behind the curtain... Here’s the latest developer diary, from grizzled designer Mike Mulvihill! He’s been working with our other designers, Kevin Maloney and Trevor King-Yost, to figure out the ins and outs of Shadowrun’s mechanics.

Mike Mulvihill - 12/21/12 (here's Mike showing off his figure)

Eight months ago, while crunching on Strikefleet Omega, Jordan and Mitch started a flurry of high-energy conversations. ”We’re bringing Shadowrun back ”… “An authentic turn-based game”… “Kickstarter!”

We had plenty of tools to work with and plenty of feedback on where to start (thank you Shadowrun fans!!!)

25+ years of pen & paper RPG products using four very different rules sets (for better or worse), one of which I led
A SEGA game that had a great and fond following all these years later
A SNES game that had just as great and fond following as well
My experience in translating SR into other game types (a card game, an action figure game and other stuff)
Millions of written words

With all those tools, the excitement of the community, and the trust of Jordan and Mitch, my only possible answer was - “Let’s make a game!”

So, where to start?

Our first decision was simply one of ideology. In order to ensure that the “feel” of Shadowrun would translate to our new format, we started boiling down what was most loved by fans, no matter how they were introduced to the world of Shadowrun. As designers, we needed to juggle a handful of core elements: the uniqueness of the world, the stories we want to tell, the choice of actions players need to take, the risk and reward of making those choices, the characters’ growth, and especially the fun that players spoke about when playing all the previous versions of Shadowrun.

We also knew the game we wanted to make: a story-driven team-based tactical game, which reflects the feel of the old-school pen and paper RPG. The first order of business was codifying the tactics. To achieve this, we needed to hit our first concrete goal – creating a mathematical base that the engineers could implement and that we could use as our core design engine. We decided to call this the Action Calculator (AC1).

To mimic Shadowrun’s feel for the majority of the players, we wanted an Attribute / Skill / Specialization hierarchy like the ones was used in all of the electronic games and the first three editions of Shadowrun. Setting the game in the early 2050’s reinforced that decision. Now it was fun with numbers… and yes, for all you old-schoolers, we actually attempted to model rolling handfuls of six-sided dice. Unfortunately, the number-crunching in AC1 proved that chucking all those d6s around was not sustainable for what we wanted and not expandable into the other systems we’d planned.

From the ashes of AC1 came AC2: a new mathematical approach that doesn’t necessarily use the old math systems of the RPGs but mimics them in order to ensure that we’re true to the feeling of Shadowrun combat. With that math done and with AC2 passing the old “eyeball test”, we took our mechanics to the next level - we created a Shadowrun board game. That’s right: we played with miniatures, terrain, dice rolling, and “role-playing”, while I fed numbers into various spreadsheets to see what felt good and what...didn’t.

Each day, we would add a new twist to the board game: burst fire, shotguns, grenades, magic, swords, healing, full auto, etc. The next day, I’d rebuild the spreadsheet, adjusting numbers that felt out of whack, and adding new calcs to push the limits of what we could do (cover modifiers, armor, staging of damage up and down, stun effects, etc.).

To finish up the board game task, we wrote down our “mechanics” in rulebook form and it became the first working design document. I‘m not sure any of the original words of that document are still there...but that’s a whole other story! Nevertheless, AC2 stands today, along with over 25 spreadsheet tabs of older versions of the math engine - but most importantly, it still stands.

Turning the math aspect over to Engineering and watching them develop it into a game I could actually play on screen AND SEE IT WORK was just an incredible feeling. Even more incredible was knowing that the system didn’t just drive combat. It was the basis for the magic, decking and summoning systems as well! Also, we were able to guarantee every advancement a PC makes to his stats will have a noticeable in-game improvement. I’m actually really proud of that.

Some will say that real game design begins at this point - when it’s on-screen. This is when you take your “baby” and let the team try it. It’s when, as Jordan likes to say, “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. You end up answering a lot of “working right” questions....

Do the cover modifiers work right or do they favor dwarves?
Is the recoil calc for Burst Fire working right or does it make you avoid using Burst at all?
Are the grenades working right or does a missed skill check fling them too far from the target?

And every tester comes back with suggestions for improving what you did and most of the time they are absolutely right. This is a tough time for designers because it becomes a quandary between intent, execution and expectation. We have to explain what we intended the action/result to be. We have to check to see that the engineers have executed (or can execute) our intention. And then we have to evaluate that what we put on screen matches what we think the player’s expectations are.  (Here's us. From left to right, Kevin Maloney, Trevor King-Yost, and me: Mike Mulvihill).

It can be a challenging process in such a collaborative studio because we all try to agree that there’s problem and then we all try to agree on the right fix. But we're all crammed into the same room and facing the same deadlines, so the decision-making is often pretty fast. We basically do everything fast - but not so fast that we take shortcuts. “Go fast; don’t rush.” is Mitch’s development mantra.

But making the math work isn’t all we’ve been up to! While doing all that, we were also tasked with many other designs, like the interaction of character abilities and skills, working with the engineers on the AI (as you read last time), the conversation system, gear, NPC and Awakened creature creation, the story itself, and finally, the editor which allows us (and eventually you) to make the actual missions and tell the story. Look for more detail on the editor in the future. It’s pretty sweet.

I hope that gives you some insight into what we in design have been working on and producing over the last few months. And as I like to say...

Have Fun!
Play Games!

Mike Mulvihill


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    1. RC on January 10, 2013

      Hoi Nick!

      HBS is still looking at a May/June launch window. Also, check the Comments tab for the project here on Kickstarter for some of my posts with more info... or join us on the forums at, where HBS has been answering even more questions from the community! ^_^

      Oh! And you should also check out this AWESOME news!!!

      Ja Mata!


    2. Missing avatar

      Nick Z on January 10, 2013

      Great update, everything looks really cool!
      What's the present ballpark guess for project completion timeline?

    3. RC on January 5, 2013

      P.S.: The pre-orders are NOT the same as our backer rewards. Check the comments tab here on Kickstarter for a lil more info. ^_^

    4. RC on January 4, 2013

      Hoi Chummers!


      For your edification, and to share with your chummers who missed out on the Kickstarter... ^_^


      Ja Mata!



    5. REkz kaRZ on December 24, 2012

      mic check!

      Idea = A+
      Audio = C-

      C'mon, buddies, multimedia includes AUDIO!!!

    6. Missing avatar

      Emeraude on December 23, 2012

      @Dave blanchard

      Already one upcoming, through traditional means.

      "Sprawl Gangers is a competitive, skirmish-level miniatures game for 2 players, with everything needed to game right in the box. Players will take on the task of building gangs (Ancients, Halloweeners, First Nation, and so on) following specific point values of a scenario, and modifying the various miniatures based upon what new resources (weapons/gear/magic/tech) a player gained through previous games."

    7. Missing avatar

      Dave blanchard on December 22, 2012

      Why not do another kickstarter for a miniature shadowrun game, I don't know if you noticed but any mini board game on here is making a fortune. I would definately back it.

    8. Missing avatar

      Revisor on December 22, 2012

      Thank you for the update.

      I agree with John Taylor: Please let us who are interested in power-gaming and min-maxing peek under the hood and see the numbers.

      Enjoy the holidays with your families. Or loved ones. Or alone.

    9. Ryan "Keokuk" Smith on December 22, 2012

      Have a good holiday hope you make a great game oh and I think me and my 36,275 backer bros....…

    10. Missing avatar

      John Taylor on December 21, 2012

      This all sounds amazing. I'm very much a sucker for the core systems underlying the games I play. I used to dig through the Shadowrun rulebooks to get every advantage I could. With that said, I beg you to give specific mechanics in your item, (cyberware, magic, decking etc) descriptions. In other words, I would hope to read "Wired Reflexes adds 1d6 +2 per level to the characters initiative" instead of "Wired Reflexes makes you fast."

      To me, the best games let the players in on the mechanics and don't hide them from the player. I want to know exactly the effects to my target number that 3-round burst is going to have. I love to read and contemplate rules because, well, that is the type of gamer I am. Please, lay all of the final rules out, maybe even in mini source book form!

    11. Harebrained Schemes LLC 4-time creator on December 21, 2012

      Mr. Weisman was stylishly modeling Mr. Gitelman's grandfathers dressing gown.

    12. Missing avatar

      Emeraude on December 21, 2012

      Happy Rebirth of the World day, and following hyperglycemic festivities. May you all have a great time with your loved ones.

    13. Missing avatar

      Emeraude on December 21, 2012

      P.S: Love the dressing gown. Mr Weisman sports it well.

      P.P.S: Lovely figure too. Mr. Mulvihill sports it well.

    14. Randy Snow on December 21, 2012

      Well since stickers are out of it how about making some fliers that we can print and post around?

    15. Will Herrmann on December 21, 2012

      Why was Awakening Day in 2011 originally? Was it just a miscalculation by the authors of the 1st Edition of Shadowrun?

      And I'm pleased to see that, along with Shadowrun Returns, Shadowrun 5th Edtion is coming out!

    16. Missing avatar

      iwelsh on December 21, 2012

      Probably Dwarves should treat cover differently than other races - and so should trolls...

      Sounding good so far. Of all the Kickstarter games I've seen, this is the one I'm looking forward to most. Also glad it's in the 50s and follows the first 3 rule sets and not the 4th.

    17. David Sherman on December 21, 2012

      Loving it! Thanks so much for the update!

      @ T.J. Brumfield - Let's not forget all of the USB Dog Tags, various Doc Wagon Cards, mini posters and all of the elite tier itmes as well. Not a cheap endeavor and a logistical nightmare as well.
      Happy Holidays Harebrained Schemes!

    18. Harebrained Schemes LLC 4-time creator on December 21, 2012

      Talking about money the day the world is ending is like talking about deck chairs on the Titanic. :)

      Hope you like Jordan's video and Mike's Dev Diary!

    19. T.J. Brumfield on December 21, 2012

      I think people forget a bit how some of this Kickstarer financing works. KS takes a cut (somewhere around 5% I believe), and then Amazon Payments takes their cut (also around 5% I believe). Assuming every payment cleared and went through (usually not the case as some people pledge but can't pay), then HBS only received $1,657,393.

      They have to ship 11,084 t-shirts and cards. They have to ship 6,327 hardcover books. They have to ship 5,199 deluxe box sets. Those things all cost money. This is a rough guess, but I'd wager they're easily spending $250,000 on backer rewards.

      As mentioned previously, they have to pay Microsoft licensing fees as well.

      With the stretch goals and increased funding, the scope and development cost of the game changed. I believe they can make the game on this budget, but a budget of maybe $1.3 million to develop a game of this complexity is still pretty small.

      The good news is that the game will sell more copies post-release, so they should turn a nice profit there.

    20. Sean Benner on December 21, 2012

      >>> All the money from Kickstarter and PayPal is going into the game, minus the Kickstarter, Amazon and PayPal fees, the licensing fees to Microsoft, and the Backer rewards. There is zero profit from Kickstarter.<<<

      I am certainly not suggesting your skimming off the top, as it were. Just that it must be a good feeling to know that your bills and payroll are paid before the game sells a single copy. So, even if you didnt sell a single unit, which is absurd, you would walk away having broken even and birthed a fantastic game into the world!

      An odd place that i found a very promising implementation of multiplayer turn-based strategy is Pirate101, the F2P 'kids' MMO. after having seen that, I can only imagine what you lot would come up with! Im already excited for the sequel.

    21. Roh on December 21, 2012

      Hope I'm not being too greedy saying this but... it would be an awesome little bonus if someone threw together a pdf version of the tabletop game rules that Mike was talking about and hooked up the kickstarter supporters. ;) Nothing fancy or anything. Just the basic rules he was talking about that we could fool with while we wait for more SR:R goodness down the line.

      I could understand if that wouldn't work for a lot of different reasons but I had to at least suggest it. Either way thanks for the update. Always happy to learn more of what's going on and every one of these things gets me excited to have a reminder that you all are hard at work.

      Have a happy Holiday and Merry End of the World!

    22. Harebrained Schemes LLC 4-time creator on December 21, 2012

      >>> even if you dont sell a single copy outside of Kickstarter, which is a ridicules suggestion, you already covered cost of production and all your wages while you make it, and made a substantial sum in addition with $1,836,447 from kickstarter alone! <<<

      All the money from Kickstarter and PayPal is going into the game, minus the Kickstarter, Amazon and PayPal fees, the licensing fees to Microsoft, and the Backer rewards. There is zero profit from Kickstarter.

    23. Harebrained Schemes LLC 4-time creator on December 21, 2012

      >>> I know that this is probably far too late to implement in the game but the ethnicity of the player-character matter in any social interactions?<<<

      Ethnicity won't come into play but meta-humanity may, in certain situations!

    24. Otto T M Tormented Ninja of the O-Order on December 21, 2012

      The video was really good and the music was great. I might be alone in thinking this but as good as the music was I hope that the soundtrack won't be 100% techno, a bit of variation can really liven up a game soundtrack.
      The dev-diary was very informative and interesting. Building a board-game to made a video game was really clever.

      OT: I know that this is probably far too late to implement in the game but the ethnicity of the player-character matter in any social interactions?

      Anyway Happy Awakening Day and Tasty Jul to everyone here.

    25. Sean Benner on December 21, 2012

      Thanks for another update! They are few and far between, but hopefully the game is coming along in a substantial way behind closed doors. Shadowrun was the first thing I played after getting into gaming with red-box DnD growing up, and even though it has changed substantially over the years, I feel that it is more shadowrunnie then ever. As for marketing, look at it this way; even if you dont sell a single copy outside of Kickstarter, which is a ridicules suggestion, you already covered cost of production and all your wages while you make it, and made a substantial sum in addition with $1,836,447 from kickstarter alone! Happy Holidays! Give us alpha video!

    26. Alex Bayne on December 21, 2012

      This is awesome! Board gaming is exactly what you should be doing for a turn-based tactical game like this. Any chance you might release a ruleset for the tactical game to backers so we can get a feel for how the combat plays here at home? (If its any good it could lead to miniature-based tabletop Shadowrun RPG mechanics for 5th! :D)

    27. Harebrained Schemes LLC 4-time creator on December 21, 2012

      Hey guys! Just wanted to let you know that we made a little error at first-- we posted the wrong Shadowlands link. In the e-mail you got, it's not right, but here, it's the right one. And here it is again :)

    28. Joshua R on December 21, 2012

      So cool... I've been hoping all along that the background math would be based on d6 rolls, but never actually expected that it would turn out that way... That it was even attempted is pretty awesome, imo. Happy Awakening Day, HBS!