Shadowrun Returns is nearing release, but developer Harebrained Schemes is already preparing for a second round on the crowdfunding wheel.
The project was one of the first wave of games to hit Kickstarter after the success of Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Adventure campaign, and raised $1.8 million dollars.
Shadowrun is due out on the 25th of July, making it one of the first major crowdfunding games to see release.
Harebrained Schemes executive producer Mitch Gitelman told GamesIndustry International that the studio is planning to have a second go after what it sees as a very positive experience.
He says that while many crowdfunded projects – including Shadowrun – were delayed, and others are facing budget concerns, it’s not any different with projects that choose to go with traditional publishers.
“It’s one thing to make a game for a publisher where it’s very secret until you finally announce it X amount of weeks or months before ship when you want to get the rolling thunder of marketing going," Gitelman explained.
"It’s another thing to make a game in a fishbowl where everybody can see everything you’re doing. And a lot of what I see on other Kickstarters are production difficulties or issues that happen on almost every game, except nobody knows it because it’s not so much in the public eye. I think there’s an element where you don’t really want to know how the sausage is made; you just want to know it tastes good."
The relative lack of creative input given to backers of Shadowrun might have been a good thing in the long run, but it might come as a surprise that it didn’t draw much criticism from fans at the time either.
"I expected that, but it really hasn’t happened that way on Shadowrun Returns," said Gitelman.
"Truthfully, our backers have been great. … I think what’s happened is we set the tone pretty early in our Kickstarter. It was a fairly conscious decision on my part. We’ll listen to feedback and then we’ll make intelligent decisions, but we don’t solicit it."
Instead of attempting to moderate the inevitable arguments over what features should be in or out and run the risk of being caught in a battle with fans, Harebrained Schemes simply pointed backers to a fansite where the developers could listen in and incorporate only the best ideas.
"We haven’t engaged the fans directly because we’re not about to have a debate or an argument with our supporters," Gitelman said.
"Let them debate each other and then we’ll just make intelligent decisions on things they can’t possibly know, production difficulties, costs, manpower, all that kind of stuff."
Though the project has had relatively smooth sailing, when pressed Gitelman admitted there were a few things he’d do differently.
"We didn’t know what we were doing, exactly," he said.
"There were no lectures about it at GDC or anything. So yes, I would do it differently. We didn’t plan out stretch goals the way this generation of Kickstarters does. We added them organically, and we didn’t have some master plan on how to roll them out."
As for the future of Kickstarter, Gitelman is hopeful the platform will succeed, though he’s worried that with so many projects it’s hard for campaigns to be noticed.
“The real question for me is, ‘Is Kickstarter a viable place where you can come with a new IP or an out-there idea and find an audience for that?’”, said Gitelman.
“What I’m looking at with Kickstarter is whether we can really innovate in this space. Can we use that as a bully pulpit, and to cut through the noise enough to find an audience to support it? But now that Kickstarter is so big, it’s almost like the iOS marketplace, so you have to market your Kickstarter and now you have to do even more work to get noticed.
“It’s an evolving animal, and I hope it works out because I really like the idea of allowing gamers to voice their support in a way that allows indies to follow their passion."