Last week, Cliffhanger Productions revealed they were working on a new Shadowrun game, a franchise beloved of old-school role-playing fans (and SNES and Genesis gamers as well).
Given people's passion for the source material, it's a project that's going to come under a lot of scrutiny. So it was with a little trepidation, then, that people met the news the game would be played in...a browser.
"Browser games have a come a long way with regards to visuals and gameplay - and will go further still" Cliffhanger's Jan Wagner tells Kotaku. "They remain by far the most accessible platform (and can be extended towards Smartphone and Tablet PCs easily) and - as we intend to take a publishing role as much as we can - also make it easier for us to release directly.
"Furthermore we want to continue the storyline with permanent updates — much easier in the browser. The budget simply is nowhere near that of a regular game, so the only online solution is browser. Of course it also helps to have low expectations — we would rather be higher up a small ladder than on the lower rungs of a big one."
Those are refreshingly practical answers. These guys aren't blowing sunshine up anybody's ass; they're working on this game on the cheap, and want people to be prepared for that. In fact, it's so cheap that to get the rights to Shadowrun, the team had to not only spend over a year just courting the relevant parties, but had to pool resources and borrow money from their relatives.
That's about as far from the big-money world of AAA publishing you can get for a licensed game, but it's also a move that will allow the team - many of whom are obviously big Shadowrun fans - a level of control and authenticity AAA projects could only dream of.
Instead of properties like XCOM and Syndicate, for example, which for economic reasons were forced into a first-person perspective, Shadowrun Online is going to be "using key concepts of the rules" from the original game, while also "working directly with the pen-and-paper-game publishers to build a common continuous storyline and cross from our game into theirs".
While Wagner admits that it won't be a literal port of the RPG - their game lacks the customisation of the original but "can handle many more complex calculations than rolling a bucket" - Cliffhanger's goal "is to produce a game that is fun for the pen and paper players as well as for players new to the license".
Those older fans, especially of the tabletop RPG, will be interested to know just how the game will be adapting the source material. After all, since the game's creation things have changed in the Shadowrun universe, as technology and designs have advanced since the late1980s.
Cliffhanger will be striking a compromise between the two. While the game's storyline will be based on one implemented only recently into the main game, the visual design of Shadowrun Online will be very much sticking to the cyberpunk look of the 1989 edition, with "visibly chromed-up augmentations and more visible grit".