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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.

Mitch’s Dev Diary - There’s Something About Decking

First, some sharing -- our air conditioning hasn’t worked for about a week. It’s currently 88 degrees in the studio (and ironically, a breezy high 60’s outside). We are melting. Kohnert is wearing those goofy pants that unzip and become shorts. Although I mocked him this morning, I’m now thinking of tackling him and taking his pants. As the HBS Human Resources Representative, however, I’ve cautioned myself that this could be punishable by legal action or worse. I think I’ll grab some ice from the fridge and put it under my arms, instead.

                                                                             * * * 

As you may have heard, our Decker gameplay has gone through a few revisions. More than a few, actually. When we began Shadowrun Returns, we knew that trying to simulate the Matrix as it works in the tabletop game would be a huge task that we couldn’t commit to. So Jordan conceived of a system where the Decker would jack in and see an overlay on top of the physical world that displayed the local area network - what computers connected to others, what they controlled, and that sort of thing. An icon representing the decker’s avatar would then traverse the overlay and do stuff at different nodes. It gave us the ability to do some Matrix puzzle gameplay on top of the tactical combat system we were developing, but when we reviewed the design with our engineers, we realized that it would be challenging to integrate into our level editor, take too long to develop as a whole, and wouldn’t be an efficient use of our budget. So we abandoned this approach and started exploring other design concepts. 

The other day, I held my breath and dove past our reasonably up-to-date design document and into the repository that is our OLD STUFF, looking to see how many stabs at decking we took - at least on paper. I found five, plus a sketch, a diagram, and the beginnings of what looks to be a card game. I know there are a few more documents on local hard drives. . . 

Some of these designs were written during (what some would consider) normal office hours. But most were written late at night, over weekends, and sometimes during holidays. Each was an attempt by the author to move the ball forward to make decking a satisfying experience.

Finally, this February, we got together to review several other mini-game approaches - all of which were met with silence. (FYI, Harebrained isn’t known for its silence.) That’s when Trevor looked down, shook his head, exhaled his special exhale, and said, “Look, that’s not what Shadowrun fans want. They want decking. They want the Matrix.”

We all want the Matrix.

The issue was (and is) how we integrate the idea of a decker entering the Matrix with the rest of the game AND within the boundaries of our production reality. To do it (at least close to right) it would need its own look and feel. It would need new characters and environments and interface and sounds. It would need new gameplay features for cyberdecks and programs and intrusion countermeasures and Black IC and AI.

And, and, and. All the reasons why we said we couldn’t do it. . . 

But we felt like we HAD to do it. It’s as much a part of Shadowrun as spell slinging.

We worked fast. We worked longer and harder. We brought in an old friend to help. We found issues we hadn’t anticipated. We got frustrated. We kept going.

So after all that, here’s how decking works in Shadowrun Returns. Throughout much of the game, your decking skill will allow you to hack computers in the physical world and gain information others can’t. The sort of hacker stuff you’d expect.

But several times during our story, you’ll jack in and enter a node of the Matrix that looks like this:

Among the people who created our visuals for the Shadowrun Returns Matrix is Dave McCoy, the artist who created the 3D Matrix art for the VIRTUAL REALITIES book published by FASA Corp. 

To be clear, runs centered around the Matrix don’t occur often and you can’t jack in whenever you want to and travel the vastness of cyberspace. Nevertheless, Matrix runs should be quite a ride.

A Decker's Matrix avatar is automatically created based on his or her "meat-world" appearance. Every three turns a decker’s avatar takes in the cyberspace equals one turn the rest of the party gets in “meat-world”. (Things moves faster in there!) While the decker’s consciousness is running around cyberspace, his body is inert in the real world and the rest of the party needs to defend him until he returns. To exit a Matrix LAN, the decker needs to leave from the same portal he entered or eject and suffer dumpshock damage to his physical body.

As the decker’s avatar navigates a Matrix LAN node, it will encounter Intrusion Countermeasures (IC) which will attack him. To fight the IC, the decker uses computer programs and deploys ESP - Expert System Programs - which are “independently operating artificial life simulations”. ESP operate under the player’s control and each has its own abilities.

The decking skill is used to derive the decker’s “to-hit” calculation and the ESP subskill determines the power of his ESPs. The decker’s cyberdeck determines how many and what level of programs can be taken into the Matrix. There are a variety of different programs for attack, defense, buffing, and debuffing. The cyberdeck is also the decker’s first line of defense - damage the decker takes is first applied to the deck which has its own equivalent of health points called IP. But Black IC or attacks from enemy deckers can damage the decker directly. Every Matrix LAN has an alarm threshold and every action the decker takes within the LAN moves him closer to that threshold. When an alarm is tripped, it might trigger the arrival of Black IC, an enemy decker, or bad things back in the meat-world.

With all the danger inherent in cyberspace, why go there? Because the Matrix LAN nodes can control things in the meat-world like doors, security cameras, automated turrets, security clearances, and even poison gasses flooding into room. And, of course, the Matrix holds the most valuable thing in the 6th world - information. 

Although runs in the Matrix are rare, when you get to play one, it’s pretty cool! We hope that the work that went into it pays off for you. Plus, the work we’ve done gives you even more building blocks for you to play with when you create your own stories.

Speaking of which. . . 

We’d planned to release the editor at the end of the month but the Matrix work and other issues pushed it out a bit. We'd rather give you the right thing a little later than something a little broken right away. Early Access Backers will be getting a direct mail with more details and an updated ETA for the early release ASAP.

Also, we’re setting up two forums for the Editor on One is a Q&A that our designers will respond to and the other is a general Editor forum. They’ll both be publicly visible, although Early Access Backers will be the only ones able to post questions to the devs in the Q&A forum until the game is released. We're also working on a Wiki that will document the Editor and in which you can share knowledge, tips, and tricks.

Oh, and I’ve just been tapped on the shoulder and asked to remind you that pre-orders on end 4/28. So let your friends know that this is the last chance they’ll have to pre-order the Collectors Edition of Shadowrun Returns and get their hands on those USB Dog Tags. Take care.

It’s time to get back to the sauna. 



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    1. Dan Spezzano on

      Thanks I'll check it out because the last update says people would get a direct email with a new eta and update well I never got a direct email.

    2. Sangius on

      Hello Dan,

      Shadowrun Universe ( is a great place to stay in the loop. And the forums there are an awesome way to interact with people from HBS directly ( Hope this helps! :)

    3. Dan Spezzano on

      Thanks RC, Where is the best place to keep up to date because I don't see that update in kickstarter at all and it should of been

    4. RC on

      Hoi Dan!

      It looks like SRR will launch in late June, though the date hasn't been officially announced, it will be some time in June. Regarding the Editor, HBS posted the following a few days back on the forum and in the Kickstarter comments:

      "Sorry for the delay folks but it looks like it's going to be a bit longer (maybe a week or more) before we can get the editor out to Early Access Backers. The issue is that most of our focus with the editor has been on creating the Seattle campaign. As we began the work to allow community created content integration, we discovered that several modules of the editor were hard-wired to work only for us. In order to make them available to you, we have to re-wire the architecture a bit. Thanks for your patience. We'll let you know as soon as we have a new release date."

      ...we should hear more about this very soon. ^_^

      Ja Mata!


    5. Dan Spezzano on

      Have there been any more updates. I thought the game was coming out in June and the editor to backers earlier or did I confuse that with one of the 27 other KS projects I have backed.

    6. Brown Brother on

      WOW, the node environment looks great! You and the team are doing a tremendous job of modernizing the visuals. I can't wait to jump back in.

    7. Sabin Figaro on

      I'll happily exchange a few-hours-early "preload" for sweet sweet matrix lovin'!! :D

    8. Veav on

      @vodevil01 Per HBS earlier in the comments: "Yes, Steam keys will be given when we launch. We won't be sending them out earlier because we need the team to concentrate on finish the game. Even a seemingly small task of sending out Steam keys can distract from getting to the finish line. Thanks for your understanding and patience." They are in SERIOUS crunch mode right now, what with adding a new game mode and all. :D

    9. vodevil01 on

      When will U send steam-keys to us ? :) Game looks sweeet :D can't wait :D

    10. Veav on

      @John There'll be johnny-on-the-spot decker moments, with jackpoints and terminals to be hacked. That's the majority of what deckers will be up to - the full-blown Matrix moments will be fewer and uhh farer between. (They've shown some of that in the gameplay demo but without any skill tests, presumably because it would make for a lame demo if they sat there rolling the dice.)

    11. Veav on

      @Paul Hah, small world! My complements to the chef. :D

    12. Missing avatar

      John Rohde on

      THat does look pretty sweet.

      Have a followup quesiton, so this will be in a few spots throughout the game, I understand theconstraints involved with that. The question is this, will there be other chances for deckers to do anything? Or will it be only the few times where the full on matrix experience, otherwise they are nto using their skills at all?

    13. Missing avatar

      Paul Gettle on

      @veav @drow My girlfriend drew that Tron Pony art you're gushing about. She also took an existing, store bought MLP toy and customized it to look like that.

      She then took that custom pony to Dragon*Con 2012, as well as a glossy color print of that drawing, and gave it to Bruce Boxleitner at his autograph table at the Walk of Fame Room (all part of her successful campaign to stalk Bruce every day of the convention). He teased Mira Furlan, who was at the table next to his, that she didn't get a pony and he did. So if Mira goes again this year, my girlfriend says she's going to have to figure out how to make a mimbari MLP custom.

      She also has Tron-ified versions of 3 of the Mane-6 in her KeeperOfTheSystem gallery on DeviantArt, if you're really in to that sort of thing.

    14. Frank Talbot on

      Awesome news!!!

    15. Missing avatar

      deleted on

      This user's account has been deleted.

    16. drow on

      @veav OoO awesome!

    17. J.R. Riedel on

      I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad about the delay BUT I fully understand and support it.
      Getting the matrix right is an important part of the game!

    18. Theo on

      Well done guys, I'm very much impressed, and am looking forward to release all the more! Good luck fellas, take your time, and I can't wait til next update!

    19. Kahuna Kevin on

      Release the game and editor when they are finished and no sooner.

    20. Kevin Reynolds on

      Good news...but what happens with the decker when these things arent available? Are they going to be a useful and functional class of character to play, or are they just going to be pushing buttons on "inanimate" objects most of the time?

    21. GhanBuriGhan - WOOS Wose on

      Excellent decision, to include the matrix, glad you are doing that!
      Get that air conditioning fixed, or you'll pay with twice as many bugs to fix! :)

    22. Mike Loftus on

      0.o. I... I can make my eleven decker?


    23. Missing avatar

      MBybee on

      Glad they're adding it - not too sure about the look so far, but I'm sure it'll be impressive once you're in it.

    24. Missing avatar

      Taxonomic on

      I'm SO HAPPY that they are adding in the Matrix. As a huge fan of the Genesis game I really believe it's the whole idea of the Matrix that really helped get me absorbed in the world and the system that governed it. To not have the matrix would be a devastating blow to my fanboy dreams.

      I honestly wouldn't mind if you held the game back another year and fleshed this out a bit. Though I realize you have obligations.

    25. Stras Acimovic

      I don't comment here often. But I always play a decker (despite the slowness and the traditional problems - it is where my heart lies). The mini-games and your overlay are concessions I'm used to making. But this? Yes this makes me incredibly happy to have backed.

    26. Missing avatar

      static0verdrive on

      My last comment was with regards to the editor coming out a little later; not the decking. That looks great! Keep up the great work!!

    27. Missing avatar

      static0verdrive on

      Anyone who would rather have an unfinished product now than have to wait for a better end result should be completely ignored, especially with respect to this game or portions of it! Take your time and get it right guys, there's no rush.

    28. Christian Steudtner on

      Looks pretty sweet! Great news

    29. Missing avatar

      Redsnorf on

      Damn that looks fantastic.

      So looking forward to this game. ^_^

    30. CheeseGraterSuicide on

      The Matrix sounds pretty awesome. Nice work!

    31. Dunkare on

      This game has been my best investment in 2012. Its been the first project i backed and im very glad i did. Thanks harebrained!

    32. Sean Yeske on

      Thanks for thinking of us, guys. It just wouldn't be Shadowrun without some decking. Keep it up, chummers.

    33. Federico on

      Matrix looks great! Make it the best possibile (and possible some editor matrix guidelines, as you're planning) then modders will increase the number of connections.

    34. Missing avatar

      sitasan on

      That's it! That's exactly what we wanted, at least me lol

      a GREAT news

    35. RC on

      Hoi Chummers! This Matrix news is AWESOME!! ^_^

      Also, Felix the Fixer asks: "Can you Chummers edit...Wiki?"

      Ja Mata!


    36. Missing avatar

      Alan Fick on

      Thank you so much! That is exactly what I was hoping for!

    37. Anarkopsykotik on

      Matrix seems nice, although it will be limited. With a bit of luck though, the modding community will be able to integrate matrix everywhere HBS couldn't!

    38. Sabin Figaro on


      ***I'll just leave this here:***

      Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude, seriously, that's exactly it! I really do hope, though their silence on this matter is indicative, that we can eventually start importing our own custom art/audio -- I'd be using that Matrix remix for all Matrix runs :D

    39. Ber on

      Hare-brained, OUTSTANDING work on the Matrix environment you can jack into. Quite understandable that it takes a lot of work to make areas as you've done it, so there won't be heaps of it.
      What I really like about the way you have approached it is how while its a small part of this game, a later expansion or other game could feature a main character who is a decker and flesh out the matrix world, making it a really major part of the game :)

    40. Krey on

      Wow ... this just looks amazing. Great news, thanks guys.

    41. Veav on

      Local LAN isn't a limitation of the engine or editor so much as a limitation of the campaign and limited time. From what I know there's no reason you can't orchestrate a massive set of interconnected networks, jack in, and have your actions set flags for use in much later levels.

    42. Jaime Wojick on

      Looks amazing. Any chance of DLC that would expand beyond local LAN or would that be something more suited to a sequel?

    43. Kesava Hart on

      Why is June so far away!

    44. Marc Aranha on

      Awesome! Great news!

    45. Darklord on

      YAY! We love you guys! :-D

    46. Tom "the Pendragon" Callahan on

      What Azriel said. 'Hell yeah!' And 'gimme an astral overlay!'

      I know I know, not in scope... ;) null sweat, chummers. Anyway, great work HBS folks! Way to power thru the obstacles and come up with a solution. I appreciate the difficulties, and your dedication even more! Also: cool to see Dave McCoy's in on it! Hope your AC kicks in soon!

    47. Missing avatar

      James Burey on

      I just woke up my wife crying oh my god like a little girl. She was not happy. I hope you're satisfied because I know I am! *squee*