While everyone has been hunting Easter eggs, we have been busy with the next update. The details on the next big one will be sent out as soon as we've nailed them all down, but expect security systems, a hacker archetype character and a few more missions as well as mission goals other than “kill everything that moves”. This will also change the current missions (including random enemy spawns, making mission 4 a tactical challenge and less of a learn-by-heart puzzle), so replay should be more fun.
To tide you over until then, there'll be an update out in early May including:
A Mac OSX version (yeah we know, Linux needs to be done as well…but we need to start somewhere).
Cover system reworked – half cover now offers less protection and full cover significantly more. This was suggested by many of you and changes the gameplay tactics quite a bit to make your positioning and movement more meaningful.
An update to the PvP map
Updated detection, so it'll be more obvious what your characters see (and what they don't see).
Ragdolls – so everyone dies in visually pleasing and interesting ways.
Path smoothing – making running a less griddy affair. (Sorry for the pun…Ok, who spiked my chocolate bunny?).
Some shader improvements and mesh and texture improvements for all the characters.
Many, many bug fixes.
This has already the first reactions to your comments in (such as cover, path smoothing and ragdolls), though not as many as we would have liked. We did a lot of hotfixing on servers and mission 4 which cost us some time. We are currently working on several of your other suggestions to see how they affect the gameplay and will also talk about this in more detail in future updates.
And we are planning to do another video session dedicated to your comments and suggestions in Early May – we’ll announce it as soon as we’ve found a good timeslot.
We’ve seen your feedback on the Early Access start and it’s important to us that you know that we value your feedback and your concerns. We take them as serious as our dedication to deliver a great Shadowrun Online and so we decided to address your questions and points in our old fashioned way: Per video. Jan will talk about hot topics like the Steam Early Access content, Exclusive Beta, What happens next, and DRM Free Version. Enjoy!
Also, we would like to invite you to follow our Shadowrun Online – Early Access Release Countdown on Facebook or our website shadowrun.com. We will post the updates here in the Comment-Section as well, but there is unfortunately no way to post visuals.
This week we have another level concept for you. It is the “other end of the scale” so to speak. From the orderly, controlled and life-affirming atmosphere of the Aztec Lab we are diving right into a busy market street. Well actually it is a deserted market street, but you get the idea. Making a place busy is actually quite the headache if you don’t have a hundred characters running around (which would kill performance quickly and be very irritating in turn-based mode). This is why we experimented a lot with “noise” – things that make the scene look lively, but don’t interfere with the action. There’s the monorail line, which will have an actual monorail pass by at certain intervals as well as a lot of neon signs, which will be flashing and blinking in the best epilepsy-inducing frequencies we can find. The walled off area to the right which has market stalls and winding passageways also makes the scene feel a lot more active and lived-in, not to mention that this is where they sell the best ratburger in town!
At the same time we need to keep the actual movement and combat area clearer and cleaner with regards to cover, so your tactical choices are more apparent. The main challenge was the “eternal twilight/night” setting, so closely connected to the famous references we all envision when we talk about cyberpunk. The main challenge here was to make it feel like a night in the seedy underbelly of town, while keeping the contrast levels high enough so that your characters still stand out – in our city the neon sun must shine on all creations! I for one think it came out great and can’t wait to have my characters face off against some vicious gangers in there!
Speaking of vicious gangers – the first missions that you will be able to play will feature not one but two of Shadowrun’s favorite bad guys: The Ancients and Aztechnology. This is not because we do our enemies alphabetically, by the way.
We did some research on the Azzies, thinking they would be the best defined of corps when it comes to baddies, but it turned out there isn’t that much visual material around. So we took a step back and tried to create a complete concept for their entire corporate force - from the security guy in lobby of the office building to elite troops such as the famous warrior orders. We enlisted some help from famous Shadowrun artist AAS to keep us on the correct path. He has been incredibly supportive of the project since the beginning and after a few modifications gave us a thumbs up for the Azzie forces! We ran them by our friends at Catalyst as well and it is pretty exciting to see how our vision of things influences the Shadowrun Universe! It is great to see we can give something back to the 6th world after all the great stories, gameplay ideas and settings it has given us.
These are internal concepts for our 3D artists to work from, but it shows you a bit about the range of enemies you will encounter. Let us know what you think!
Hope you like what you saw and we will see you in the Shadows real soon.
The above question has been asked – in increasingly less patient ways - for a while now. We completely understand how unsatisfying the lack of concrete gameplay and visuals must be. We thank the many of you who have remained patient and positive and active in the forum. And we can only apologize for keeping you all waiting for so long. We have our eyes set on a first playable version towards End of March. This will allow all of you to play a number of missions and get a good idea of the core gameplay (although obviously it will expand in variety), but it will not be the complete game (so you will have predefined characters for example). But at least it is something to finally put into the hands of our backers and fans.
So why does it take us so damn long? For one, as many of you know, we had to find more budget for the game whilst not going to a publisher to get it. This was not an easy task. It actually took us almost a year to get the game securely funded (in the way we wanted it). That is the harsh truth of an independent developer: Even projects of limited ambition are hard to do with a small team and an MMO for that matter is not an easy thing to create.
We found ways to cross-finance the game with another project (AERENA – you can check it out on Steam or Android in its Alpha form), so we could share the cost for building the base infrastructure of a cross-platform online game. We worked through a LOAD of prototypes – it has been over a year since we played the first one. We went back to paper prototyping to get some more iterations done without having to tax our coders’ resources. We changed the skill system … then changed it further to incorporate stats. We tested the “deadliness” of encounters relative to player health and group size. And then we put all that back again into a playable online version. You can do cool things like hacking a gun and forcing it to eject all ammo (leaving your enemy with an empty gun and a stupid look on their face), we have status effects (like bleed, stun etc.) working, we have specific damages and resistances (magic vs tech vs physical), individual chances to hit based on weapon type and range and skill and cover and evasion and so on. And we have determined the actual level sizes and movement ranges etc.
Until this last step was done, creating graphic assets made little sense. How big is “a table”? Should it provide full or half-cover? How should things providing cover be visually set apart from others? Or does a potted plant provide cover as well? How big are our characters - how big is one meter on the screen? Can I still make out the size difference of my dwarf vs a troll on a mobile device? How many light sources can we use in a scene on mobile devices? How much light needs to be baked into scenes themselves or even painted into the textures (making objects less re-usable)? A lot of questions needed to be answered before we could work on making the game pretty. Below you can see some of the schematic views of a prototype underground level (by now changed to a decent brownstone sewer environment more fitting to our Boston location).
Our level designers fought for one way to create levels, our producers suggested another, designers, artists and coders chimed in. We hope we have found a sensible system now, allowing us to build more interesting levels but not having to create huge amounts of scripting for each. Features for the future could be cameras, drones, access spots and all kinds of interactive objects that can be placed quickly, each with their own, limited AI and range of possible actions (the easiest one would be the famous button opening a secret door, but it can also be an entire system of linked security devices putting each other on alert and for example activating the deadly laser traps when spotting intruders).
We also have narrowed down our art style (as always a compromise between performance across devices, amount of work and making it as pretty as we can) and are in talks with the crew at Catalyst and leading Shadowrun artists to make sure it fits the universe. A sample can be seen below. Now the characters in this picture are a bit too small and some of the assets are game assets while others are ripped from somewhere (whoever can name the lady on the wall first gets a brownie point), but this is a lab level for the game…
We like the look – clean yet with enough contrasts. You can also pretty much tell where you can find cover at a glance. It is not the typical street corner – we are getting to that later.
So the next weeks will be exciting as things finally come together – we have 5 new people in the team (welcome guys and girl!) to help us, greatly increasing the team size and we have an exciting and no doubt wild ride ahead of us.
Expect more pictures of actual levels next time we do a game update (after a few more of the short stories our favorite and energetic writer Scott Schletz has whizzed up). It is getting real, folks (and about time, too)!