Is it time yet? For what? Lemme ‘splain.
We have for some years now been waiting with some anticipation to see what CD Projekt Red is going to do with Cyberpunk 2020. Or in their case, Cyberpunk 2070, since the original Dice and Paper game’s setting is set in the next year. (Hey, they got the dystopia right, I suppose.)
And now in the wake of e3 and the reveal of Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand, the hype machine is in high gear. I won’t be able to play it so much, since I get sim-sickness from 1st person games, but I’ve bitched about that in the comments in the other threads and that’s not what I wanted to talk about here.
So... if I can’t play CP2070, then of course I’m gonna start looking for something I CAN play without puking my guts. Maybe something with a 3rd person mode. ‘Living Dark’ looks pretty good. The pedigree of its developers seems to pass muster. Procedurally generated cyberpunk future city with factions to deal with and biz to do. That doesn’t sound bad at all. I’d hit that while waiting for what I really want.
And oddly... while the idea of CP2070 is an extremely good one. Especially if they include a 3rd person mode... It was an unexpected and unlooked for surprise for me that it was even happening. It comes close, but it’s not what I’ve been waiting more than half my life for.
I wanted SHADOWRUN.
There will be a few responses to this, I wot.
The first one will be “I’ve heard of that one! Isn’t that the 80's Dice and Paper game you need 400 D6-es for?? I’ve seen memes about that one. You make a bunch of elaborate plans to do data heists and end up kicking in the door and having gunfights instead!”
Kinda? If you end up shooting, you’ve already hosed the run. The best runs are the ones no-one ever heard about. The ones where you get away clean. At least, as clean as it ever gets. Never trust a Johnson.
The second one will be, “I played that on my Nintendo / Sega. That was pretty cool. I wish I still had one... how much does that old cartridge cost anyway...” *does a google search* “HOLY SHIT!”
Yeah. That game, by Data East was freakin’ sweeeeet. Released in 1993, that game was the gold standard for what constituted a Shadowrun game for 20 years. All the elements were there. All the things you’d expect. It was almost like playing one of the novels based on the game, which was no accident. Have a look at the wiki about that one sometime.
“But wasn’t there another one?”
We do not speak of the Microsoft shooter. The one that took a deeply rich and developed FASA game setting, then smacked a couple of textures on bad arena levels, stuck some races into it and called it Shadowrun. The developer has since apologized for said game. And in the wake of what he has helped to make happen since, we can forgive him that transgression.
“You’re talking about the 2013 one right? From Harebrained Schemes?”
You’re darn tootin, chummer. Back in 2013, Harebrained, made up of game developers and the original writers of the dice and paper game setting from FASA re-obtained the rights to the property from Microsoft and came up with ‘Shadowrun Returns’. Followed quickly by Shadowrun: Dragonfall, and Shadowrun: Hong Kong. These isometric RPG’s catch all the feel, reverence and dare I say, magic, of the original setting. They have been astoundingly good tributes to the source material. And have since released developer tools with which people can make their own adventures, a-la Neverwinter Nights. Which some clever-trousers have even used to re-create the original Data East game for modern times. Ain’t technology wonderful?
“There was an MMO too, wasn’t there?”
Kinda? Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown was really more of a shared but different isometric strategy RPG. It never really took off in a huge way, and seemed to fail to inspire me. The icon to run the game is still on my desktop, though it wouldn’t do much good. The servers for that game shut down in 2018. So as far as an MMO goes... there ain’t one right now.
And then there’s the last reaction.
“What the hell is Shadowrun?”
It’s a fair question. The game only just predates the 90's, before a lot of gamers nowadays were out of diapers. The 1st ed. of Shadowrun was an RPG set in our world, circa 2049. In said world, you had in the late 90s, and early 00's and teens the collapse of several nation-states and a bit of a re-arrangement of the maps in the world with the rise of the megacorporations. (Think the 1% on steroids. Essentially corps with sovereign powers over their facilities, people and property.) You also get a couple of major disasters. You have the collapse of the internet and worldwide economic collapse from a major virus infection. And you get two rounds of a plague called VITAS that kills major chunks of the population.
On top of that, round about 2018... the end of the 5th world, as defined by the Mayan calendar happens. And with the beginning of the 6th world... Magic returns to the planet. Along with all the requisite fantasy subraces of mankind. Elves, dwarves, halflings, orcs and trolls. And almost any subvariant and genetically compatible mix thereof. As well as magical beasties, metaphysical proof of an afterlife in the form of ghosts, spirits, sorcery, and dragons.
The world, already reeling from what’s already happened plunges into about 20 years of unbridled chaos. In the US. the remaining Native American population announces the return of Magic by performing ‘the great ghost dance’, simultaneously causing three major volcanic eruptions within its borders. (Mt Hood, Ranier and St Helens, if I remember rightly.) The US immediately capitulates, and the Native American Nations are born. Basically anything west of the Mississippi. Cepting a few places. The Elven nation of Tir Tairngire annexes Oregon. Mexico becomes the nation of Aztlan. The south secedes from the US to form the Confederated American States. The US consolidates and merges with Canada to form the United Canadian American States. And poor California, beset with elves to the north, Aztlan from the south and the NAN from the east calls on Japan for aid. Japan promptly invades, forming the Imperial State of California. Or the California Free State, depending on who you ask.
And that’s just in America. Later expansions included the Germany (where the fandom is stronk.), Japan, London, Aztlan. And all the cyber-magical weirdness such locales might entail.
However, in the wake of all this chaos, Magic is relearned and becomes part of every day life. Based on the data of the people who risked their brains and sanity to battle the virus that destroyed the world’s economy, cybertechnology and simsense are invented; allowing cyber-implant technology and the rise of The Matrix (!!!) to replace the old internet infrastructure. Where people jack into the net with direct connections to their brain. The Corps and the Governments constantly square off against one another in this new information age. And they’ll pay through the nose for any edge they can get against their foes. Wealth is no longer money, it’s information. And if you think you can get what they want as a deniable asset, play them off one another, maybe even just get rich, or change the world, you can become a Shadowrunner and do just that.
Wicked, eh? You see what I’m talking about? A franchise like this, I’m stunned there’s not been a movie. Though many seem to consider last year’s ‘Bright’ to be pretty much Shadowrun. It would seem tailor made to be a series, or anime, or movie franchise.
Or a AAA MMORPG.
Races, factions, spirits and sorcery, cyberspace and cyber-implants, crime and corporations, governments and intrigue. A rich and storied background setting that’s already been written. And let’s be clear about that. The people running the show for the dice and paper game have been doing this for literally 30 years. It is the game’s 30th anniversary this year. They’ve just announced their 6th edition. And where the game started in 2049 back in 1989, each successive version has advanced the storyline and future history of the 6th World. The story, which in true 80's style didn’t forsee everything, has since folded in all the advances in human society the writers at FASA DIDN’T. And since then, just as many world-changing events have taken place all the way up to the year 2080. Alll developed. Scripted. Written and fleshed out. All someone has to do is build a movie, series, or proper sandbox / MMO around it.
Sound good to you? Cos to me... well. Pick a meme. The Archer one about only being able to get so erect. (TMI) JUST TAKE MY MONEY! GIVE IT TO MEEEE! I’ve wanted this for 30 years.
So why am I bringing this up now? Cos if they’re on top of their game, the people over at Harebrained Schemes are looking into how and who they can bring on or partner with to make a huge, CP2070 style Shadowrun sandbox or MMO with. Given the anticipated success of CP, every last major developer is going to be looking for the next property to cash in on some of that sweet sweet CyberPunk money with.
I’m not saying it won’t be difficult, cos it will be. Essentially, you’re developing three different games at once here that have to intermesh flawlessly. A fantasy game, a Cyberpunk game, and a cyberspace game. Cos in your typical run, several things are happening all at once. An example...
Your strike team is at the remote facility on the outskirts of Tacoma out in the Barrens. Your rigger’s back in your ride, jacked into his dashboard, but his presence is still felt in the different drones providing eyes in the sky and some steel backup here in the incarnated world. Your shaman’s speaking to spirits and checking his fetishes in case he needs to pull up a nature spirit to assist if this goes sideways. The earth is angry around here, but he thinks it may cooperate. Your mage is in the lotus position over by that wall, but he’s not in his bod just now. He’s a-sensing the perimeter. Checking out the wards and magical defenses in the area. There’s some awakened animal guards, says his mouth. At at least one air elemental. Not good. This isn’t just standard security measures. They’ve either hired runner talent on their own, or someone’s bankrolling private defense contractors. Naturally the Johnson that hired you understated the security here. You remind yourself to add that to the Plus Expenses column of the invoice you’ll hand him before he gets his paydata.
Your decker is... somewhere. For his own security, you don’t know where. If they’ve got some kind of mind-reading mage on tap, it would be better if you couldn’t spill his location. But he’s in the wires all around the facility and in your ear-comm. The IC guarding the security systems at the facility are reasonably tough. But nothing he hasn’t seen. Nothing he can’t break. He’s already arranged your team being able to get in as a relief maintenance crew. The ID’s your fixer got you should be fine, if they hold up to scrutiny. You’re expected. If no-one loses their shit and starts kicking in doors or shooting up the place, you ought to be Capitol Hill before anyone suspects a thing. You run an internal systems check. All your chrome is ready. Fly-by-wire systems green. Hardware is loaded and concealed. Your adept over there is zero-chill, ready to Mortal Kombat in a heartbeat. Muscle’s good. Cyber’s good. Magic’s good. Matrix is green.
Now let’s see how it goes wrong.
From an engineering standpoint, the old Data East game KIND of did the Matrix part of their game... It was only on the Sega with the CD drive. Not the Nintendo version. But like the Harebrained Schemes games, it’s not something that’s happening at the same time as what your runners are doing. Your deckers are literally virtually somewhere else, in a TRON/Into the Mind’s Eye-like VR cyberspace, except what they’re doing affects what YOU’RE doing out in the real world. How do you do that in real time without a voice link to let your RL team know what you’re doing? Your mage or your shaman or physical adept may be seeing things in the astral plane overlaid on what you’re doing that you as a fighter can’t see. But what they’re seeing is just as important as the techno stuff your decker is dealing with. How do you merge all that together in a game that people are playing in real time?
I confess... I’m not sure. augmented reality in game would seem the solution, as it’s been baked into the dice and paper game nowadays. And if you’ve got the eyes to see, or rather the wireless or the mana to spend, you can see what they’re seeing too. It’s a challenge, but not one I think that’s beyond today’s developers. The real time comm ability with runners is a thing with teamspeak, or discord or whatever nowadays. This could happen. I just know that with the advent of CP2070, my renewed interest in a big AAA MMORPG version of Shadowrun is back in a big way. Hell, back in the day, I was even doing some color work on concept artwork for an MMO version before MicroSoft heard about it and C&D’d us. It was really too bad. It was going places we thought. That a rich property like Shadowrun is laying for the most part in a place where you have to Kickstart each successive standalone RPG is shameful. The property deserves better, and so do all of we. The Harebrained games are great so far. But it could be so much better. So much bigger. And it’s possible.
The world, the technology, the zeitgeist and the genres are ripe for this. The demand is not only there, but hyped and ready. All someone has to do is make this, and be clever enough to do it well without making it some pure action game, and avoid the pitfalls of the attempts that have come before.
And don’t let MicroSoft near it. Burn me once and all that...
Walk easy, shoot straight, and never make a deal with a dragon.