It only took two hours for the latest Shadowrun game to be funded on Kickstarter.
The original Shadowrun Returns was one of the crowdfunding platform's first big hits, raising close to $2 million in 2012 to reboot the classic shadowpunk RPG series (it was only the third project to cross the $1 million threshold). And unlike many Kickstarter projects, the game not only launched, but it turned out pretty great. Developer Harebrained Schemes followed that up with Shadowrun: Dragonfall, a sequel that improved on the original in a number of ways, and this week the studio launched a second Kickstarter campaign to fund the third game in the series, set in a futuristic Hong Kong. The studio was originally looking for $100,000 to complete the game, but as of this writing has received more than quadruple that amount — and the campaign just kicked off on Tuesday.
"You may hope for a rocket," studio co-founder Mitch Gitelman says of launching a crowdfunding campaign, "but you prepare yourself for a dud."
While gaming is still a big part of Kickstarter — it ranked as the third most popular category on the service in 2014 — the hype around crowdfunding games seems to have died down since 2012, when Tim Schafer launched his record-breaking campaign for what would become the excellent adventure Broken Age. Significant delays and projects that failed to live up to expectations have dampened that initial burst of enthusiasm. For the most part, games that are successful today are ones that are as close to a sure thing as possible — and given the success of the first Shadowrun, Hong Kong definitely fits into that category.
"We would never want to lose that."
Like Shadowrun Returns, Hong Kong is a turn-based role-playing game set in the same cyberpunk world as the original 1989 pen-and-paper Shadowrun game — it's part fantasy, part sci-fi, a future where trolls and elves are hackers and live alongside humans. In the game you control a small crew of mercenaries, each with unique skills, and along the way you can upgrade them with new weapons, spells, and body augmentations. That crew is led by a character of your own creation, and you can also use in-game tools to create your own campaigns.
Gitelman says that one of the key reasons Harebrained decided to return to Kickstarter is because of how it has influenced the way the studio works. "It goes much deeper than the investment — Kickstarter is where we communicate with our fans," he says. "They don't just tell us what they would like to see in the game, they talk to each other about ideas and challenge one another. And then we review the forums very carefully and research whether or not their ideas are possible. Some are, others are not. We would never want to lose that."
In that vein, the new setting was determined by fans. Backers voted on potential new cities, and Hong Kong came a close second to Berlin, the setting of Dragonfall (the very first game took place in Seattle). It will include expected updates like new weapons, spells, and creatures, as well as a brand new storyline. But it also looks to go a step further by adding deeper customization for your squad of cyberpunk hackers, and an improved editor for crafting your own stories and missions. Hong Kong is also being developed only for Windows, Mac, and Linux, whereas previous games were ported to tablets after launching on PCs.
Other features, like additional missions and new characters, depend on further funding, but Gitelman wants Hong Kong to feel like a sizable improvement over Dragonfall, which itself built on the foundation of the original Shadowrun Returns to make a much better game. And based on the studio's history, there's a good chance it will pull that off.
"My hope is that people see us as the trusted stewards of an awesome game setting that has been loved by many for over 25 years," says Gitelman.
Shadowrun: Hong Kong is expected to launch in mid-2015.