SPOnG is heading out later today to check out Microsoft?s much-touted Shadowrun
? the 360 and PC shooter that is being billed as the first game to bring the Microsoft vision of 'Live Anywhere' to life.Shadowrun
for those of you who aren?t aware, is the first cross-platform game for Xbox 360 and Windows Vista. Shadowrun
is, according to Microsoft?s blurb ?a multiplayer, first-person shooter that propels team-based combat into a new dimension with a revolutionary blend of modern weaponry and ancient magic.?
We?ll bring you the full preview of the game and its ?Live Anywhere? functionality in the very near future. In the meantime check out this Q&A session with the game?s developer, FASA Studio Manager, Mitch Gitelman:
Q: What is Shadowrun
is the best game FASA Studio has ever made. It?s an intense, team-based first-person shooter that combines ancient magic, modern weapons and advanced technology in a way that?s never been done before. Rather than turn magic and tech into just another weapon, we?ve made them into tools the player uses to outwit and outfight the enemy. Notice that I used ?outfight? instead of ?outshoot.? That?s because Shadowrun
isn?t just about putting your cross-hairs on a troll and pulling the trigger. It?s about using the right abilities and the right weapons at the right time to get the advantage in combat. It?s really a thinking person?s shooter?but someone who thinks on fast on their feet.?
Q: Tell me about how the Live system works on Windows. Is it just like Xbox Live?
A: ?It?s not just like Live, it is Live, but on Windows Vista. You can voicechat, you can create a Friends list, and you can earn achievements. If you?re already a member of Xbox LIVE, you?ll see your friends, messages, gamerscore ? all the great stuff that makes Live a great online games service. You use the same gamertag, and can show off same gamerscore and achievements on each platform. The rest of the Xbox LIVE features, like Marketplace are coming later.?
Q: Okay, everyone talks about mouse/keyboard vs. controller. You?ve said it?s fair in the past but most people think that?s impossible.
A: ?Most people aren?t professional game developers who specialize in making games with great controls like MechWarrior
, Crimson Skies
. We also have developers from Counter-Strike
on the Xbox on the team as well. No offence, but a lot of people balked at the idea of dual stick move/look controls when Bungie was making Halo
and now it?s the default control method for console shooters. Any time someone attempts to innovate, there will be naysayers. I know there are a lot of people who don?t believe we could make the controls fair but we did it. Remember that Shadowrun
isn?t just about putting your crosshairs on the enemy. You can be a great shot but get crushed by someone who uses tech, magic, and character abilities better than you. We have great testers who helped us balance the game. These guys are league FPS players, so they know what they?re doing. About half are Counter-Strike
players and the other half are Halo
players. They say it?s fair. Since they can kick my butt on either platform, I have to believe them.?
Q: Why no single player campaign?
A: ?FASA always starts by designing our multiplayer first. We believe that the core of our gameplay is the multiplayer mechanics. Once those mechanics are clear, we develop single player scenarios to explore how to use them in fun ways in a campaign. As we were creating the single player scenario prototypes for ?Shadowrun,? we realized that the core multiplayer game completely stood on its own. It was that good. That?s when we came up with the idea of making Shadowrun the first cross-platform shooter so everyone could play it together. All we had to do was convince Shane Kim and Peter Moore we could to it and the Live Anywhere Vision was born.?
Q: But Shadowrun
is an RPG franchise ? why adapt it into an FPS?
A: ?It?s true that Shadowrun
started as an RPG but it?s also been a tactical combat board game, a collectable card game and an action figure combat game. The world of Shadowrun
is large and there?s a lot to do in it. Pen-and-paper and electronic RPGs explore the story element of that world, but other mediums have focused on the combat like we did. Bu the question remains?why a team-based first-person shooter? If you look at FASA?s history, you?ll see why. We?ve been making multiplayer shooters since 1990 with the BattleTech
pods. The pods were location-based multiplayer units that linked eight players together in virtual reality cockpits along with voicechat. Seven years ago, we released MechWarrior 4
and people are still playing it in multiplayer leagues. We produced MechAssault
the launch title for Xbox Live at the birth of online console action gaming. After that, we developed Crimson Skies
a game that lots of people call their favorite online game for the Xbox. And then I hired John Howard, the lead designer of Halo
melded the design teams of those great games together and set out to make Shadowrun
So, why adapt it to an FPS? Because we know it would kick ass. If you ran a studio with a history of making groundbreaking and fun multiplayer action games and the lead designer of the best FPS on console, what would you do??
Q: Okay, that makes sense but why not use that team to make a great shooter and call it something other than Shadowrun
A: ?Because this is Shadowrun
. It?s based on the core ideas and the themes of the pen and paper game. It?s just takes place about 25 years before the stories in the other games, when magic is first returning to the world. No one inhabits a dystopia yet but people can see it coming. Our intention has always been to move the timeline forward with each successive release. Not only will the world change, but the game mechanics will evolve as well when we introduce things like jacking your brain into a computer and travelling in the astral plane. There is plenty for a first-person shooter player to learn and enjoy in this game. The rest will come in time.
Q: How many players per game will Shadowrun
will support a maximum of 16 players per game but you?ll see a lot more that 16 players flying around the battlefield. You can summon creatures to fight for you, strangle crystals to block entrances and capture enemies, and trees of life to magically heal you. A lot of people ask me why we only support 16 players when other PC shooters can go as high as 40. My first answer is, ?What would happen if you let 40 people play football? Would it be any more fun?? Shadowrun
is fun for 16 players. More than that would just mean chaos, not fun. Also, take a look at what we?re doing in the game. 16 players can teleport through walls, floors and ceilings. They can glide all over the map and see everything from a high vantage point. There are spells going off, creatures being summoned and bullets flying everywhere. And all of that at a smooth framerate and with next-generation graphics. When you realize what you?re actually looking at, the number of players and graphic fidelity is impressive.?
Q: Okay, I have to ask you about the art. The game got torn apart for its art at E3 but it looks very next-gen and competitive now. What happened there?
A: ?We created Shadowrun
backwards from the way most games are made. Most developers create an exciting pitch and put together a pretty prototype to sell their game. They do all their art while desperately trying to make the game fun before they ship. Sometimes it comes together at the last minute and sometimes it doesn?t and you?re left with a game that?s pretty but not a lot of fun or that runs like a dog. Working on those games is a drag because everyone is working their butt of but secretly knows the game sucks. With Shadowrun
we nailed the gameplay first to ensure that the art we were creating would work well with our design and run at frame rate. So any time the project got into a rough spot, morale was always buoyed by the knowledge that our gameplay kicked ass. When you know that what you?re making is fun and different, it can get you over a lot of humps?like getting pummelled at E3.
What you saw at E3 was one of several art iterations we were passing through on our way to where we are today. The problem was that the art we had just wasn?t good enough to announce the game. So we got our nailed for terrible art and everyone said we should fire our artists. After E3, we refocused our art direction and busted out some great stuff that really reduced the heat on us. From there, we walked through our normal process to polish it to the competitive level it is today.?
Q: I heard you?ll only ship about 8-10 maps in the game. Other FPS games release a lot more than that. What?s up??
A: ?In Shadowrun
you can teleport through walls, floors and ceilings, glide across the battlefield, and spy on enemies through solid objects. The gameplay in Shadowrun
is more vertical and three dimensional than other FPS games. That means the maps are way more complex to design and execute. FASA has really high standards and we would rather ship a few maps that are great than a bunch of mediocre ones so we have a marketing bullet point that says ?over 15 maps? or something. We have a bunch of maps that?ll never see the light of day. And let?s be honest, how many ?Counter-Strike? maps actually get used? Less than a handful. Two I can think of. Remember that the maps in Shadowrun
are the same 8-10 maps we?ve been playing for years and still love to play.
Because the abilities in Shadowrun
were designed to allow you to outmanoeuvre your enemy, it?s never the same experience twice. When you have a finite set of solid mechanics that allow for experimentation and improvisation, you get a highly replayable situation-based gameplay model. It?s like a classic board game. How many maps do you need in chess?