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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.

Dev Diary – State of Berlin

Hi guys! Mike McCain here – I’m the art director for SRR, and I'm also heading up creative development of the Berlin campaign so I wanted to give everyone an update on where we’re at and where we’re going.

Story: We’ve completed a first draft of our story for the Berlin campaign. There’s still plenty to refine and iterate on but we’re all excited about where it’s heading and agree that the “bones” of it are solid. Without venturing into spoiler territory, it has a lot of fun Shadowrun elements and really plays to the strengths of the Berlin setting – the anarchist Flux state, the many varied factions and ideological viewpoints present in Berlin, and the sense of teeming opportunity for the savvy Shadowrunner. Berlin is a new standalone campaign, not a sequel to Dead Man’s Switch. As such, you’ll start the campaign with a new character. The player is cast as a more seasoned runner this time around, who’s recently relocated to Berlin. You’re running with a small crew which you’ll get to know well as the game progresses.

One thing we’re particularly excited about is developing the player’s home base neighborhood, which we’re currently calling the Haven. In 2054, Berlin exists as a fully neo-anarchist state – it’s not a crazy, lawless frontier, but rather a grand experiment in self-governance and emergent social order. Neighborhoods in Berlin become their own entities, with small communities banding together and often operating completely independently of the rest of the city. These neighborhoods organize their own protection and resources, sometimes even to the extent of walling off the entire block. Technology (and the electricity to use it) isn’t always available, and some parts of the city have fallen back to older patterns of living. We’re focusing on one such neighborhood for the player. Not only do you have a home base in this area, but you can explore and meet people in the surrounding neighborhood – meet a contact at the cafe down the street, or head to that back-alley street doc for some new meds or cyber. While developing this Haven area, I’ve been working with the Shadowrun pen-and-paper team in Germany to make sure we construct a slice of Berlin that’s accurate to the spirit of the campaign setting.

The main campaign of the game will allow you to complete certain missions in the order you choose, and will present you with some different ways to tackle those missions as well as some optional side objectives. To be clear though, Berlin is not a sandbox environment or an open-world experience. What we are working to create is a more flexible story structure and an engaging “hub area” that will give the player some choices and a sense of place and purpose.

Design: For the last few weeks, Trevor and Kevin (our designers who did the bulk of the level design for the Seattle campaign) have been prototyping a variety of gameplay ideas for missions. We want to create meaningful choices for the player within scenes. As an example, Kevin’s working on a run against a corporate facility with several possible ways for the player to gain entry depending on their party’s skillset. The choice of approach isn’t always clear cut, however – one path may allow the player to slip in undetected but at the expense of some innocents. We’re also working on some more unique non-combat elements – the other day Trevor created a dog character in the Haven area that you can interact with and get to follow you around.

Also, this week we welcome two new members to our design team, Simon and Andrew, who complete the team for Berlin. (Simon’s our new level designer and Andrew’s our new writer.) It was really fun recruiting for both of these positions, as Mitch and I got to play everyone’s audition levels which showed off a lot of fun, creative ideas. In fact, Andrew wrote a sample NPC character for his audition that we now plan to use in the game. When these guys showed up on Monday, we actually wound up re-arranging the office a bit so that now the design team has a dedicated space right next to the Berlin art team. This should allow for more fluid iteration on scenes between designers and environment artists.

Art: Berlin’s a really exciting environment to explore visually – the concept of the Flux State creates a ton of opportunities for unique visual elements. The environment team’s already put together a great European museum interior set and is now hard at work developing our Haven area. It’s fun to think about how a neighborhood would become self-sustaining – the residents of this place have to have their own shared arrangements for power, food, communications… this district is independent from the outside. This means, for example, rooftop gardens and a central growing area with hydroponics technology allowing a high yield of crops from a relatively small area; solar panels plastered across buildings; a cafe at the end of the block which has become the community’s informal gathering place; jury-rigged street lighting along the main strip of the area; and a ruined, fenced-off building which has since become an agreed-upon dump location for unwanted items.

(A sample of some visual development work for Berlin's Haven area. Larger here.)

Berlin will come with several new tilesets, which will also mix and match well with the core game’s tilesets to create a lot of variety and opportunities. Our top priorities for Berlin environments are: 1. fully realizing the Haven area as a vibrant, dynamic community, 2. Creating a great European corporate office tileset (for all of our classic office-incursion shadowrunning needs), and 3. building a satisfying final-mission environment (which I can’t say more about without spoilers…). In addition, we have a cool industrial factory environment set underway and a couple of our environment artists have put together a great new set of Berlin advertisements, signs and graffiti.

We’re also working on other types of enemies and creatures for the game. So far we have some cool new supernatural creatures (such as a Fire Drake) and some new private security forces for you to contend with – Knight Errant. Berlin will also include some new player portraits, outfits, and Germanic totem choices for shamans.

Systems: In between their work on the other big-ticket dev tasks, the engineering team’s been able to complete some fun new features for us to use in Berlin. We now have the ability to display important mission data directly in the game’s UI. This makes it easy for us to communicate custom mission objectives (For example, the number of rounds before reinforcements arrive, # power junctions remaining, etc.) Another cool new toy is… exploding barrels! Because… video games. (Actually, our engineers went above and beyond with this feature and now we can make any actor explode with any type of effect or damage, and even leave behind damage-over-time effects on the tiles in the area.)

Another thing we’re excited to add in this new campaign is some more weapon variety. So far we have a grenade launcher, sniper rifle, throwing weapons, and even a taser going in. There may be one or two other fun weapons that find their way in as well…

What’s Next: This week we’re shifting from pre-production to production. I’ll be finalizing our story with the design team, along with Jordan and Mitch, to make sure we’re constructing this campaign on a strong foundation. We’ve flowed out a schedule from now until the end of the year so that we can budget our production time appropriately. The environment team is moving from concept art to full tileset production on our Haven location. Our story is being broken out into discrete mission outlines, with each designer taking the lead on a set of missions. Kevin’s created a great “mission doc” template that we’ll use not only to document a clear set of goals for each mission, but also to track feedback and important hotspots for our test team to pay attention to. Our next milestone as a team is to construct a full first-playable of our Haven neighborhood, with the player able to explore the area, talk with the locals, buy equipment, and maybe complete a small side objective or two – then return to their base to get to know their team. This will establish a strong template for both the Haven location and the characters in it that we can build the rest of the experience on.

So that’s where we’re at! If you have any questions about Berlin, I’ll be stopping by the HBS Dev Q&A section of the forum as time allows – starting next week – so feel free to leave questions there for me (please put [Berlin] at the front of your thread title).

Until next time!

- Mike

And… some other quick updates:

Kickstarter Rewards: Many of you have already received your dogtags and t-shirts in the mail but those of you who backed at higher levels were still waiting. Not for much longer though! We have finally received the hardcover Anthologies from our printer and have already started to ship them out.

Tablet Releases: The iOS version of Shadowrun Returns is complete and has been submitted to Apple certification. It’s hard to predict certification times but we’ll keep you posted. The Android version of the game is nearly complete and should be ready for release at the same time as the iOS version.

The Next Patch: We’re looking to release the next patch for Shadowrun Returns sometime in early October, and it will include a number of the new code and editor features mentioned in the Berlin update above (like custom mission objectives) so you can start using them in your stories before Berlin is even released! It will also include the usual bug fixes and improvements.

Linux Release: The next patch (again due in early October) will also include the Linux Beta versions of both the game and the editor. If you’re a Linux user, we’d love to get your help testing when it comes out!

Improved Save Games: Our intrepid engineers are hacking away at improving our save game functionality in an experimental branch of the code. We still can’t commit to such a major architectural change or to how long it would take to complete but we are diligently working on it, so please stay tuned.

Localization: We’ve pulled all text from the game and sent it to our localization partners, who are currently translating the game into French, Italian, German and Spanish. We should receive translated text back at the end of the month, after which it will require some heavy integration work into the game. We anticipate this work being completed in late October / early November. We’re also working on Russian and Chinese translations of the game, though we don’t have a timeframe for those yet.

And finally…

The Golem Arcana team has launched their Kickstarter funding campaign and it’s off to a great start – check it out, and tell your friends about it!


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    1. Missing avatar

      Martin on October 7, 2013

      I have received no physical rewards aswell.

    2. Roland Austinat on September 30, 2013

      Hi fellow backers, no rewards have hit my part of the SF Bay Area yet, curious if others in the region have received theirs yet? Not worried, just curious. :)

    3. Matt on September 28, 2013

      Still waiting on my rewards as well.

    4. AstroCat on September 21, 2013

      Still waiting on my physical rewards, looking forward to getting them!

    5. RC on September 18, 2013

      Hoi Chummers!

      If you'd like to see what the Shadowrun Returns rewards look like... ^_^

    6. S.D. on September 16, 2013

      Yes!!! Linux!!! Can't wait to "deck" on my real-life deck \m/

    7. Missing avatar

      on September 15, 2013

      Does anyone know what version of the game is on the disc and USB ?

    8. Ilan Inglis on September 15, 2013

      Got my T-shirt and Doc-wagon card two weeks ago, they rock :)

      as for Berlin- I would love to have some dark 80's synthpop or industrial music popping here and there, a harsh EBM stomping beat on an underground club scene, and so on :)

    9. Beau Machado on September 15, 2013

      $125 Backer here, fun game saves aside but still waiting on the physical rewards...

    10. twincast ~ Mangy WoOS-DOoD Mage
      on September 14, 2013

      (Argh. I meant hyphen, of course. Why did I write dash??)

    11. James C on September 13, 2013

      @William C Crawford: I was initially confused as well but iirc they offered dog tags post-kickstarter for some pre-orders so I believe those people got their packages already since they didn't get the same goodies those of us who Kickstarted.

    12. RC on September 13, 2013

      Hoi twincast!

      regarding the asian themed assets, I can't wait until we have a full-on stockpile of 'em to do up a full on Neo-Tokyo run! ^_^

    13. twincast ~ Mangy WoOS-DOoD Mage
      on September 13, 2013

      Well, I'm loving everything I've seen in this post, particularly "small crew which you'll get to know well" and "explore and meet people in the surrounding neighborhood". (Well, I despise exploding cars and barrels, but explosive assets in general are a nice addition.)

      As for the art assets etc.:
      The walls look perfectly fine to me so far.
      The "U-Bahn" sign is in dire need of a dash (not to mention that a plain white "U" on blue (square) is way more common a sight - by several orders of magnitude).
      The more Asian-themed assets (udon! wee!), the closer I'll get to be able to whip up a Japanese run, so there can never be too many for me. ;P

    14. Missing avatar

      Azriel on September 13, 2013

      Ah, want to add to my post.

      10, Yea, if possible, I know HBR wants you to use a new character, but I would REALLY like to import my character. I do not even care if my character is near max level, I just like my character and hate that we have to dump him to the curb.

      11, More story and game. SR felt really short, I know this will probably be too, but I just wanted to mention for future games that it will be nice if future games are longer.

      12, Branching outcomes, so far we only have one outcome through the game, it would be nice if we had more multiple ones so it does not feel we are railroaded to do one thing.

    15. Aerouge
      on September 13, 2013

      Will berlin feature different possible endings? Or will it be the same as DMS where you railroad from start to finish, only with the difference that in Berlin you can choose the order of your runs?

    16. RC on September 13, 2013

      Hoi Atticusmj!

      This updates DOES address the people who got limited box copy's of the game, because they ALSO get the printed BOOK (Hardcover Anthology)!

      HBS had to wait for the printing company to finish the book before they could ship all the Rewards to $100+ (including $125) Backers, because it's too expensive to ship "some" of the rewards, and then the book later.

      So, HBS now has the books, and ALL the rewards are being shipped! But, it takes time to "pick and pack" rewards, and then make sure addressing is correct, and then ship them. So people will BEGIN to receive their $100+ rewards over the next few weeks!

      Does this answer your question, Chummer? ^_^

    17. Atticusmj on September 13, 2013

      What about update on ppl who got limited box copys of the game?
      I haven't seen anything about the ppl payed $125+ out on the game aside from that something about prints for book

      Could you plz update backers who haven't goten there stuff at all?

    18. Missing avatar

      Sebastien Poivre on September 13, 2013

      Thanks for the update :)
      Please, fix the save game problem as soon as you can : I stopped playing to SRR due to this (I kept repeating the same parts again and again as often, I hadn't enough time to "deserve" a save slot ;) )

    19. ET3D on September 13, 2013

      I'm glad to hear the mobile versions are almost here. I'm also glad you're working on a new save system.

    20. RC on September 13, 2013

      Hoi Chummers!

      I don't disagree with "Berlining up Berlin" but do keep in mind, the game is set 41 years in the future. Currently, there is a ton of asian investment in Germany and lots of new contstruction interest. It's quite possible the game reflects what Berlin *might be*, as opposed to what it is "now" ^_^

    21. Ross Sharp on September 13, 2013

      Loving the art. Having recently returned from Berlin my two key takeaways on the environment would be graffiti over everything and old rundown hotels re-claimed as punk squats with lots of hanging banners/graffiti over them.

    22. Tobi (Crusader Kickstarter pls!!) on September 13, 2013

      nice update, thanks. i would love to see more german elements (architecture, stores etc.) in the visual style. don't get this the wrong way, i love your work, but honestly it looks quite generic, like it could be anywhere. maybe you could watch some documentaries / videos / pics from berlin? and i get that asian influence will rise in the future but if you make everything look like blade runner it's moot to let it take place in berlin. i would guess the appeal of berlin is that it is very different from seattle.... maybe put some döner- and currywurst-buden in it next to the chinese thingy..
      anyway, looking forward to the final designs and kudos that you're working on the save-system

    23. Arno Blokhuis on September 13, 2013

      Thanks for this very informative and fun update.

      As someone who makes UGC (Silver Angel, Seattle 2050) I am very interested in this new feedback template. Since we tend to get many people playing our stuff and providing feedback perhaps this could help us get more efficient feedback. Can you share this template, perhaps even one with actual feedback in it so we can learn from that?

      Yes I know this is a more boring request then exploding barrels but rest assured I love that too :P

    24. Laurent Maire on September 13, 2013

      Fantastic update Mike thanks. Really excited for the Berlin campaign. It's looking like the model of feeding new content and features into your game, while other parts of the team work on other projects, will work out famously! I wish you guys all the success in the world for GA even though it's not at all my cup of tea.

      I thought Dead Man's Switch was great fun and more than lived up to my expectations for the universe. More importantly thanks to your efforts to encourage modding, creativity and innovation with the flexibility of the editor (which only looks to be improving over time) a lot of the early UGC is very promising indeed. I see a very long life indeed for SR:R as long as you continue to build on it as you're doing. My only regret is that the DVD copy of DMS will be a very early build and sans the much-hoped-for save system. Ah-well, first world problems and all that ...

      Thanks again HBS! Keep up the good work ;-)

    25. William C Crawford on September 13, 2013

      Another $125 here who hasn't received anything yet. Which is confusing because the text above clearly says that some people have received their dog tags, and that's the first level that has them.

    26. James T. Benton on September 13, 2013

      I would strongly recommend making the new campaign where you can import your character from Deadman's Switch.

      The save issue NEEDS to be fixed ASAP. It's why I'm not playing it at the moment. The save bloat kills me.

    27. RC on September 13, 2013

      I knew I'd suddenly heard a funny ticking sound... ^_^

    28. Christoph Wagner on September 13, 2013

      > now we can make any actor explode

      Cortex Bombs! :D

    29. RC on September 13, 2013

      Hoi Chummers!

      First off, THANKS MIKE! Awesome Update! Intel on Berlin, Linux, Localizations, code branch for Save Game improvement, Barrels go BOOM, a peek at the concept art, and more! Now THAT'S A GREAT UPDATE! You and the crew at HBS totally ROCK, Chummer!

      Regarding REWARDS shipping, HBS RECENTLY received the physical Anthology from the print company, which delayed printing on the TWICE. This is why our $100 and HIGHER rewards were delayed. (Under $100 rewards have been shipping for weeks now, if you havent received your under $100 rewards by next week, then contact HBS to inquire) Now HBS has the physical books for our OVER $100 rewards and have started the process of "picking, packing, and SHIPPING our rewards" - this takes time!

      They are shipping out our rewards as fast as they can, but to put together thousands of rewards packages, and confirm the delivery addresses and get them out the door, well it doesn't take 1 day. Maybe a few weeks to get them ALL out, so they've begun shipping rewards as they're ready, and over the next few weeks we'll begin receiving our higher tier rewards! I can't wait to get mine!

      In the mean time,

      I played the Golem Arcana demo at GenCon, contrary to my expectations, the stylus worked surprisingly well, no lag, it was perfect, and the tactical elements were engaging. Actual gameplay with the minatures was fast and a lot more fun than it had any right to be. I immediately wanted to play again. There's no question Golem Arcana is a win, and with the mobile devices handling the rules, my family and friends won't have spend more than a 5 minute intro learning how the game plays, just like a board game, with the depth of tabletop miniature fantasy wargaming. Seriously, I can't wait to play Golem Arcana again, and the Kickstarter for it looks AWESOME!

      So if you're holding out because you have reservations due to HBS's first ever crowd funding project (Shadowrun Returns) you may want to consider that they now have more experience with Kickstarter, and will likely do an even better job this time! Oh, and Golem Arcana does have a Save anytime feature! (lol) ^_^

      Ja Mata, Chummers!


    30. Ryan "Keokuk" Smith on September 13, 2013

      I'm really hoping to see some deeper interaction with the story side of the campaign. Hopefully seeing them do it in a large campaign context will allow people to use that framework for their own stories. Was pretty frustrated with the limited interaction with the primary campaign. Still I enjoyed the world.

    31. Ber on September 13, 2013

      Andrew Vallejo: Fine, you don't like it. But saying "the devs just don't seem to care enough" is really rude, there is no need to be a dick about it.

    32. Furgas on September 13, 2013

      Thanks for the update! Sounds like a lot of great stuff.
      Maybe there's some inspiration here:
      It's a documentary about a grizzled guy and his team making sustainable housing from scrap, pretty nifty!

    33. Mewie on September 13, 2013

      Thank you for making such a wonderful game and quality expansions.

      I am discouraged, however, that I won't be able to import my character over to the Berlin campaign. This reduces the replay value imho. We love our characters and want to see them in action across all potential campaigns.

    34. Joshua Graves on September 13, 2013

      Thank you for the awesome update guys! I'd like to throw in one tiny thing though: I'd really like the option to import my runners from Dead Man's Switch. I know you said you wanted it to be a new character and a new team...but I really like the idea of continuing the misadventures of my troll combat mage who's done with Seattle and hokey religions :)

    35. Missing avatar

      Azriel on September 13, 2013

      Hey, great update. LOVED Shadowrun Returns, really great game, but it did have some flaws which I hope will be patched up in berlin. Just a couple of thoughts here.

      1, Fix the save asap. This is probably the number one complaint and honestly justified. I cannot remember how many times I had to leave the game for some random reason, just to have to start over at that level from scratch, or the fact you died for a stupid reason. This is the one reason many people are saying hold off until this is fixed. Fix this and the scores will improve drastically. I think I read the probelem is because of the ios version. Honestly, if the ios cannot do it, then at least put it in the PC/other versions. Better half a loaf than none. I wish this had been a PC exclusive honestly, sooo many limitations because of trying to put this on tablet...(sigh)

      2, more non violent/alternative solutions before running and gunning everything. Someone pointed out that in the books, if it says you go into a game running and gunning, your playing it wrong, that is a LAST resort, not a first. My favorite missions were when you got to go undercover, scope a place out, act as a spy, etc. The ones where there was no real violence and you could use your brains.

      3, make each level have something for everybody. I was a decker and honestly felt my class was useless for most of the game because I focused my skills on decking instead of guns. This was pretty bad design, I wanted my character to feel important and useful for each mission. When I was able to use my decking skills (matrix hacking, not just pull up text on a PC), that is when I really liked my character.

      4, more matrix/hacking - as a decker, I loved the matrix levels. They made my character feel important and actually cyberpunky and not just an average guy who can type on a computer. I hated that my "hacker" just pulled up text files for most of the levels and did not get to do any matrix stuff till later. I would prefer to have any hacking done matrix style if possible. Also, we need more stuff to hack, more turrets, robo security, not sure if possible, but can we hack cyberbrains and brainwash npc's to do stuff for us or access memories? Or what about cybernetic systems like arms and stuff so that they attack enemies or freeze. That would be cool.

      5. Astral level like the matrix level? - would be nice to have an astral level that was similiar to the matrix level so shamans can have a cool moment too.

      6, more side missions

      7, A way to importan/export characters for expansions/other games. I think a lot of us like the characters we create and want to export them into other games. Might want to look into including that function.

      8, more shadowrun - this is a great game. More games of this sort would be nice. My dream is to see an actual FULL on RPG of shadowrun. Something in the vein of planescape torment/fallout 1 & 2, etc. That is for PC and NOT tablets. Perhaps give the IP to an RPG making company that wont disney it. Just a thought.

      9, keep up the good work!

    36. Jared87 on September 13, 2013

      They've said in a couple of places that the $100+ rewards have been shipped.

      As for the update, I have to say this all sounds great and I'm really looking forward to it. Berlin sounds like a neat response to all the criticism of the game so far and expanding features as well.

      @Andrew Vallejo: You have an inflated opinion of your opinion clearly :P

    37. SectionOne on September 13, 2013

      Thanks for the Updates. Did you plan to do any improvments for the AI? And Please, more Modules after Berlin ;)

    38. GroovyDad and the Slap Me Some Skin Kids on September 13, 2013

      Dude, that is awesome news! Thank you for the update Team HB!

    39. Andrew Vallejo on September 13, 2013

      Some time removed and with the purchase justification mentality gone I guess I'm ready to admit that I didn't really like this game. I've abandoned hope that any official campaign will be any good, the devs just don't seem to care enough, but if you put in a real save system the game will at least have a chance of being good with the mod scene. I expect to get shouted down into oblivion for this post by the other backers but I just can't bring myself to care anymore. Fire away I guess; I won't be checking back to read the responses.

    40. Missing avatar

      Jeremy Andreani on September 13, 2013

      Thanks for the update. Have you thought about continuing to create further adventures beyond Berlin? I for one would be happy to pay for more well-constructed adventures like DMS.

    41. Chet on September 12, 2013

      I have to agree with many others, the messed up SNES type save game function needs to be fixed before I spend any more cash on this, or any other HBS scheme, (see what I did there).

      I also noticed that many of the "new features" are already out via talented modders, ie ... Sniper rifles and Knight Errant are two that come to mind quickly.

    42. J.R. Riedel on September 12, 2013

      Woohoo. I look forward to the new props, particularly the dog!
      I definitely hope you make good progress with the save feature, though I dont mind as long as scenes are smaller to make up for it missing.
      I like the idea of a central hub and i hope to see a flavorful crew!

    43. Liz on September 12, 2013

      Thanks for the update! Can't wait for Berlin and the rewards! :D

    44. Doktor Jones
      on September 12, 2013

      You guys fussing about not getting your stuff yet do understand that "many of you" != "all of you", right? I'm in the same boat, but until I see a KS update saying "everyone should have received their rewards by now" I'll just sit tight.

      To the SR:R team: you guys did a fantastic job on the game, and I eagerly await the expansion content (and my physical rewards)! I hereby award you the "Best Kickstarter Campaign in the History of Ever" award (disclaimer: no claim is made as to the objectiveness or definitiveness of this award beyond my own opinion).

    45. James Jones
      on September 12, 2013

      Sounds good and I'm looking forward to Berlin. Personally I really love the art style and the "campaign modules" design.

    46. George Clifton Weaver on September 12, 2013

      i too have not had any email to tell me anything about my stuff

    47. George Clifton Weaver on September 12, 2013

      i too am like Josh i have not gotten my stuff no box game tshirt or flashdrive what the deal i paid $125 so where my stuff please

    48. Ketil K on September 12, 2013

      Yay, linux! Would love to help testing. Have been playing through the windows version twice, but now I don't want to do any more until I get hold of a linux version. Does not matter that it's beta. I will try to send as good bug reports as possible. I have some experience dealing with bugs in linux software.

    49. Marc Aranha on September 12, 2013

      $125 comes with the hardcover book, which they just got in stock. Mailings have just started for the tier.

    50. Brantley Love on September 12, 2013

      Please, oh please fix the save system. Make it the top priority! Putting out a new campaign would be meaningless if most people no longer play anyways, due to the terrible save system.