Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Shadowrun Online

Way back in the 1990s I used to play a great deal of Shadowrun. Many, many hours were spent playing the second edition of the RPG, with my brother running a very long Seattle-based campaign. We got into it after playing Pendragon and Call of Cthulhu, and from it we traveled on to SLA Industries. I've dabbled a bit in the game since moving to Brighton, but nobody has been able to mount a sustained campaign.

I've always been a fan of the cyberpunk genre, and loved William Gibson's earlier books when I read them in the mid-1990s, although I've been less impressed with his more recent fiction, like Virtual Light for example. Shadowrun, however, was a great opportunity for total immersion in a cyberpunk environment, and very different from a dungeon bash or the 'high brow' academic Cthulhu investigation. When the bad guys turned up, instead of going mad, you got to unleash some serious military firepower. One of my highlights of the campaign was bringing down a dragon with a surface to air missile.

Shadowrun somehow managed to successfully mesh the genres of cyberpunk with fantasy, using the plot tool of the Awakened World. It was great fun, although towards the end there we were getting bogged down in the reams of equipment and hardware available to runners, and the detailed operational planning (a fun part of the game, but it did mean the GM could go off and make a cup of tea, go for a walk, come back and still find us plotting).

This is not, however, a paean to Shadowrun per se. I doubt I'd even use the Shadowrun rules today to run the game, opting instead for d20 Modern or Savage Worlds. But what is exciting is the prospect of the game graduating into an MMO format, via a Kickstarter campaign.

Oh yes, this does look interesting:

Shadowrun strikes me as an ideal setting for an MMO. I suspect you could get the most out of the game by joining a team/cadre of other players. In this case, Cliffhanger Productions in Austria is looking to launch a highly interactive environment, which will be gradually expanded with additional city modules, just as the original RPG was.

I also like the way that they are being less ambitious with the graphics. Not everyone has high speed broadband connections, and a game that is less graphically ambitious may work better for a bigger slice of the potential audience. I for one am certainly happy to trade in some graphical beauty for superior game play.

But one of the sexier parts of this game is how individual runs can influence events in the broader campaign environment. In particular, corporations in the world will have live stock prices, and events in the game will be able to impact their overall value. If we can also bring in some kind of active media component, like an in-game newswire, that would be even better. I loved the corporate politics and machinations in Shadowrun, and this mechanic really helps to bring it to live.

Anyway, really excited about this, and hoping that Cliffhanger will make it work!

1 comment:

  1. I do miss Shadowrun myself, and I'm pleased to see that they're being modest with the system requirements; I hate it when there's a game I'd like to play, if only I'd spent two grand on a computer first.