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Interview Mike McCain and Mitch Gitelman on Shadowrun: Dragonfall

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Tags: Harebrained Schemes; Mike McCain; Mitch Gitelman; Shadowrun Returns; Shadowrun: Dragonfall

Mike McCain, who is project lead on Shadowrun: Dragonfall at Harebrained Schemes, recently gave an interview to the site Diehard GameFAN. I think you'll probably like what he had to say:

Diehard GameFAN: In “Dead Man’s Switch,” you had a wide variety of runners to hire. In Dragonfall, it sounds like you have less options, but characters with more back story and personality. What was the decision behind going that route for the expansion?

Mike McCain: Well in the first campaign there are a couple runners, such as Coyote, who you get to know better over the course of the story. Players responded really positively to that, and NPCs are an important part of the RPG experience, so we wanted to do more of that in the new campaign.

Therefore – in Dragonfall, the focus is really on being part of a team. It’s not just you alone against the odds, it’s you and your crew. This naturally calls for a small cast of characters that we can really put time into to ensure they provide both engaging narratives and interesting gameplay patterns.

That said, your team is not completely fixed. There are a couple team members that may or may not become part of your crew depending on choices you make. Also, in addition to your “core team”, there will be a small set of mercenaries available to hire for missions where you might want a runner with skills not represented in your core team or main character.

Diehard GameFAN: Dragonfall introduces the ability to save anywhere in the game, something that was missing from Shadowrun Returns‘ core product. Were you surprised by how many people requested this from Harebrained Schemes, and how hard was it to recode the game to allow this?
Mike McCain: We pride ourselves in being able to listen to and react to our audience. I would say as far as the save game system is concerned it was simply a matter of time and money. Save states are *very* complex and it was something we weren’t able to include in the original release. But since Shadowrun Returns was received quite well in the marketplace, this gave us the time and money to iterate and provide an improved save game system. This is also why we are able to release a much bigger, full-length campaign expansion to the game with Dragonfall, and why we’ve been busy continuing to add features and polish to the core game. Our goal is to give our audience what they want insofar as we have the ability to do so – so now that we have the ability, we’re doing it!

Diehard GameFAN: There will be a lot of new content in the game from new Cyberware to new options for the Game Editor. Any highlights you want to share and any chance of riggers getting vehicles in addition to the drones they already have?

Mike McCain: My personal favorite is the sniper rifle! Throw some buff spells on Eiger (the team’s troll weapons specialist), stick her in the far corner of the room with the sniper rifle and just wait for the enemies to stream in. The taser’s also pretty cool. It can stun enemies for multiple rounds, but it’s a short range weapon with a single round per reload, so you have to choose your targets carefully.

Some other great additions to the game, just off the top of my head: throwing weapons, exploding barrels, custom text & keypad input in conversations, a huge variety of new enemies – fire drakes and Knight Errant to name a couple – and a whopping 150 new portraits in total in the game!

To answer your question about vehicles – rigger-controlled vehicles would be fun to see, but we simply don’t have a game system that would be able to provide interesting vehicle play without a lot of overhaul. It’s unlikely we’ll see rigger-controlled vehicles in Shadowrun Returns.

Diehard GameFAN: Approximately how long will it take to complete Dragonfall‘s core storyline and how many options/side quests will it contain?

Mike McCain: Our early playtests suggest that the campaign is actually longer than anticipated. We initially set out to create an experience somewhere in the 8-10 hours range. It currently looks like even a bare-minimum playthrough would take more than 10 hours, and I think you can count on at least 12 to 15 hours if you’re exploring and doing more of the game’s side content. We’re also trying to tune this campaign to a slightly more challenging difficulty level than “Dead Man’s Switch”, so that may factor in as well.

Diehard GameFAN: There were several other potential expansions bandied about in the Kickstarter ranging from Japan to more Seattle content. Is there any chance we’ll see some of these expansions come to life in the near (or even far) future? If so, which ones?

Mike McCain: It’s too early to say! But I will say, we would love to revisit the Seattle Metroplex at some point – there is so much more to the Seattle campaign setting to explore and tell stories about.
Bigger, harder, better! I just hope "slightly more challenging" is challenging enough.

If you'd like to hear more about Dragonfall and Shadowrun Returns in general, you might also want to check out this 45 minute podcast interview with Mitch Gitelman at Eight and a Half Bit. Among other things, he reveals that Harebrained Schemes are definitely planning to release additional campaigns for the game, although none of them will be direct continuations of each other because they feel that "epic story arcs" aren't a good fit for the Shadowrun universe.
 

Burning Bridges

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Save states are *very* complex and it was something we weren’t able to include in the original release.

They are only complex if you ignore them during software design.

the truth is more like:

HBS: we ship DMS in two weeks, you should get finished with the save functionality
programmer: np
programmer (2 days later): I cannot find the .save() function in Unity
reality: there is no magic save() function, you have manage the states yourself
programmer: whaaat? fffuuu .. but this is .. this SO much work? I though in Unity there is no complicated stuff like in C++ etc??
HBS: FFFUUU! what are we gonna do now??
HBS: wtf, ship anyway and play for time, we will get away with it somehow
 

Junmarko

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27th of Feb couldn't come any sooner. Despite the shortcomings SRR has, the lore/setting more than makes up for it - and I'm glad they have been listening to the fans as well, making changes, most developers couldn't care less.
In the Podcast with Mitch, he said they are already planning the next campaign, and are really satisfied with the development tools they have. Hopefully in the next year or so SRR will get some bulk content.
 
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thesheeep

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Save states are *very* complex and it was something we weren’t able to include in the original release.

They are only complex if you ignore them during software design.
Hmm, well, yes and no.
I definitely agree that they made it unnecessarily complex for themselves by not doing it right from the beginning.
But still, save game complexity really depends on the kind of game.
For a game like Skyrim they are complex no matter what, as there's really a lot of stuff going on at each moment that has to be remembered and saved, and restored without screwing anything up.
It's not trivial at all. And don't get me started on online games. The horror!

But for a game like SRR... I really can't think of anything that would make it even half as complex. Most elements are static and should have a saveable state. Add some global variables for quest states of varying complexity, and that's it. I have a hard time coming up with a reason why they could not do it right from the beginning.


the truth is more like:

HBS: we ship DMS in two weeks, you should get finished with the save functionality
programmer: np
programmer (2 days later): I cannot find the .save() function in Unity
reality: there is no magic save() function, you have manage the states yourself
programmer: whaaat? fffuuu .. but this is .. this SO much work? I though in Unity there is no complicated stuff like in C++ etc??
HBS: FFFUUU! what are we gonna do now??
HBS: wtf, ship anyway and play for time, we will get away with it somehow
You know, as Unity means C# you can serialize pretty much any object rather easily. It's not directly a magic save() function, but it comes close.
They just probably never thought of designing their game state objects in a way that would allow easy serialization -> save game.

It's really a mystery. I'd love to see their source code. Well, the one before they implemented proper saving.
 

Burning Bridges

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I know that serialization is simple on value types, but I would expect problems with references and collections, so it is not trivial to fit it to a complete program. Also once references come into play, the order of loading objects is important. My guess is that they simply planned to do it later, and then realized what a huge amount of testing it would require.
 
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Forest Dweller

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Diehard GameFAN: Dragonfall introduces the ability to save anywhere in the game, something that was missing from Shadowrun Returns‘ core product. Were you surprised by how many people requested this from Harebrained Schemes, and how hard was it to recode the game to allow this?
Mike McCain: We pride ourselves in being able to listen to and react to our audience. I would say as far as the save game system is concerned it was simply a matter of time and money. Save states are *very* complex and it was something we weren’t able to include in the original release. But since Shadowrun Returns was received quite well in the marketplace, this gave us the time and money to iterate and provide an improved save game system. This is also why we are able to release a much bigger, full-length campaign expansion to the game with Dragonfall, and why we’ve been busy continuing to add features and polish to the core game. Our goal is to give our audience what they want insofar as we have the ability to do so – so now that we have the ability, we’re doing it!​
Yes, please just buy our expansion to get this feature that should have been in the original game.

Fuck off.
 

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Diehard GameFAN: Dragonfall introduces the ability to save anywhere in the game, something that was missing from Shadowrun Returns‘ core product. Were you surprised by how many people requested this from Harebrained Schemes, and how hard was it to recode the game to allow this?
Mike McCain: We pride ourselves in being able to listen to and react to our audience. I would say as far as the save game system is concerned it was simply a matter of time and money. Save states are *very* complex and it was something we weren’t able to include in the original release. But since Shadowrun Returns was received quite well in the marketplace, this gave us the time and money to iterate and provide an improved save game system. This is also why we are able to release a much bigger, full-length campaign expansion to the game with Dragonfall, and why we’ve been busy continuing to add features and polish to the core game. Our goal is to give our audience what they want insofar as we have the ability to do so – so now that we have the ability, we’re doing it!​
Yes, please just buy our expansion to get this feature that should have been in the original game.

Fuck off.

You don't need to buy the expansion to get it, it'll be patched in.

Also, when are you making your official "I'm back" post, Dicksmoker
 

Forest Dweller

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Oh okay, that's better.

I'm not planning on making one.
 
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SCO

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Serialization bitch, do you have a protocol?

I'm always suspicious of software that can't save and restore correctly (including my own). It means that the programmer didn't enforce some kind of discipline during setting up references / listeners etc. Those problems are caused either by 'optimizations' (like not saving listeners and 'wait, now you need to send some event on startup/customize object recreation' on a different code path) or by being a complete code cowboy with the order of startup / shutdown.
 
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Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Pathfinder: Wrath
Even though "good enough for what it is" will never be GREAT, 2013's "good enough for what it is" is so much better than previous years' "good enough for what it is" that it goes without saying I'll be buying this ASAP and hoping for the best. Viva La Hope!
 

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