Interview with Mike McCain, Project Lead on Shadowrun Dragonfall and Art Director for Shadowrun Returns at Harebrained Schemes

Yesterday Harebrained Schemes released the official announcement of Shadowrun: Dragonfall, the follow-up to last year’s smash hit, Shadowrun Returns. The expansion, funded as a stretch goal by the original Kickstarter campaign, is currently available for pre-order on Steam. This is great news to all of us here at Diehard GameFAN as Aileen, Ashe, Robert and myself all put Shadowrun Returns on our “Top Ten Games of 2013” lists and it also won the coveted 2013 Game of the Year award from us. Obviously expectations are high for Dragonfall.

Like many of you, I had a lot of questions about what Dragonfall would entail, especially since I’m the main Shadowrun tabletop guy here. Mitch Gitelman, Co-Founder and Executive Producer for Harebrained Schemes was kind enough to put me in touch with Mike McCain, who in turn was happy enough to handle my barrage of questions yesterday. Here what Mike had to reveal about Shadowrun: DragonFall.

Diehard GameFAN: Shadowrun: Dragonfall is the Berlin expansion chosen by the Kickstarter backers behind Shadowrun: Returns. What can you tell us about the core storyline in this expansion? Any classic Sixth World faces showing up?

Mike McCain: Certainly! Here’s a little bit more information about the story…

In 2012, when magic re-awakened in the world, the great dragon Feuerschwinge emerged into the Sixth World and unleashed untold destruction across the European countryside. It took German forces nearly four months to finally shoot her down. This event became known as the Dragonfall.

Now – over 40 years later – you’ve recently relocated to Berlin and find yourself leading a team of shadowrunners caught on the wrong side of a deadly conspiracy. The only clue: whispers of the Dragonfall. Rumors that Feuerschwinge may still be alive, waiting for the right moment to return…

Diehard GameFAN: Obviously (well obviously to tabletop fans) Berlin means two things: Saeder-Krupp and Lofwyr. For longtime fans, how big of a role will the Megacorp and its master play in Dragonfall. For people new to Shadowrun via Shadowrun Returns, could you give a little back story on why both are so important to the Sixth World Mythos?

Mike McCain: I’d like to stay away from this level of specifics Alex. But – the above answer is an exclusive look at some of the plot elements in the game.

Diehard GameFAN: A core storyline of Shadowrun Returns tied into the tabletop game pretty tightly. Titles like the novel Burning Bright by Tom Dowd and of course the Bug City sourcebook. Does Dragonfall tie into continuity in the same fashion and if so, for people that enjoy it, what classic Shadowrun products might they want to pick up to flesh out their experience?

Mike McCain: We don’t have any plot ties to existing Shadowrun novels this time around. We’ve relied heavily on the third edition Shadowrun: Germany sourcebook to inform our development of Berlin, and have also been coordinating directly with some of the folks at Pegasus Press (who publish the German-language Shadowrun sourcebooks). As far as reading material suggestions… Dragons of the Sixth World is an interesting read. (Alex’s note: Alas, Mike’s awesome suggestion is not in PDF form, but perhaps the good folks at Catalyst Game Labs could help make that into a reality. Otherwise, here’s a link to the print copy)

Diehard GameFAN: In “Dead Man’s Switch,” you had a wide variety of runners to hire. In Dragonfall, it sounds like you have less options, but characters with more back story and personality. What was the decision behind going that route for the expansion?

Mike McCain: Well in the first campaign there are a couple runners, such as Coyote, who you get to know better over the course of the story. Players responded really positively to that, and NPCs are an important part of the RPG experience, so we wanted to do more of that in the new campaign.

Therefore – in Dragonfall, the focus is really on being part of a team. It’s not just you alone against the odds, it’s you and your crew. This naturally calls for a small cast of characters that we can really put time into to ensure they provide both engaging narratives and interesting gameplay patterns.

That said, your team is not completely fixed. There are a couple team members that may or may not become part of your crew depending on choices you make. Also, in addition to your “core team”, there will be a small set of mercenaries available to hire for missions where you might want a runner with skills not represented in your core team or main character.

Diehard GameFAN: Dragonfall introduces the ability to save anywhere in the game, something that was missing from Shadowrun Returns‘ core product. Were you surprised by how many people requested this from Harebrained Schemes, and how hard was it to recode the game to allow this?

Mike McCain: We pride ourselves in being able to listen to and react to our audience. I would say as far as the save game system is concerned it was simply a matter of time and money. Save states are *very* complex and it was something we weren’t able to include in the original release. But since Shadowrun Returns was received quite well in the marketplace, this gave us the time and money to iterate and provide an improved save game system. This is also why we are able to release a much bigger, full-length campaign expansion to the game with Dragonfall, and why we’ve been busy continuing to add features and polish to the core game. Our goal is to give our audience what they want insofar as we have the ability to do so – so now that we have the ability, we’re doing it!

Diehard GameFAN: There will be a lot of new content in the game from new Cyberware to new options for the Game Editor. Any highlights you want to share and any chance of riggers getting vehicles in addition to the drones they already have?

Mike McCain: My personal favorite is the sniper rifle! Throw some buff spells on Eiger (the team’s troll weapons specialist), stick her in the far corner of the room with the sniper rifle and just wait for the enemies to stream in. The taser’s also pretty cool. It can stun enemies for multiple rounds, but it’s a short range weapon with a single round per reload, so you have to choose your targets carefully.

Some other great additions to the game, just off the top of my head: throwing weapons, exploding barrels, custom text & keypad input in conversations, a huge variety of new enemies – fire drakes and Knight Errant to name a couple – and a whopping 150 new portraits in total in the game!

To answer your question about vehicles – rigger-controlled vehicles would be fun to see, but we simply don’t have a game system that would be able to provide interesting vehicle play without a lot of overhaul. It’s unlikely we’ll see rigger-controlled vehicles in Shadowrun Returns.

Diehard GameFAN: Will players be able to port their characters from “Dead Man’s Switch” over to Dragonfall or with this require an entire new protagonist?

Mike McCain: Dragonfall‘s story is completely independent of the story told in “Dead Man’s Switch”. As such, you’ll create a new main character when you begin the Dragonfall campaign.

Diehard GameFAN: Approximately how long will it take to complete Dragonfall‘s core storyline and how many options/side quests will it contain?

Mike McCain: Our early playtests suggest that the campaign is actually longer than anticipated. We initially set out to create an experience somewhere in the 8-10 hours range. It currently looks like even a bare-minimum playthrough would take more than 10 hours, and I think you can count on at least 12 to 15 hours if you’re exploring and doing more of the game’s side content. We’re also trying to tune this campaign to a slightly more challenging difficulty level than “Dead Man’s Switch”, so that may factor in as well.

Diehard GameFAN: There were several other potential expansions bandied about in the Kickstarter ranging from Japan to more Seattle content. Is there any chance we’ll see some of these expansions come to life in the near (or even far) future? If so, which ones?

Mike McCain: It’s too early to say! But I will say, we would love to revisit the Seattle Metroplex at some point – there is so much more to the Seattle campaign setting to explore and tell stories about.

Diehard GameFAN: For Steam fans, are you doing another round of Trading Cards for this expansion. If so, can we get a sneak peak of who might be on them?

Mike McCain: We would love to release Steam cards for some of the new characters in the Dragonfall campaign! Unfortunately – because Dragonfall is an expansion to the base Shadowrun Returns game, Steam doesn’t actually support additional, expansion-specific Steam cards.

Diehard GameFAN: Is there a chance of Harebrained getting the chance to re-release or do HD remakes of the Sega Genesis or SNES Shadowrun games? Bluesky, makers of the Genesis version, shut down in 2001 and all their assets belong to Interplay now. Between Interplay and Sega (the original publisher), you could probably work something out. Likewise the SNES game’s creators, Beam Software, are long since dead and their assets now belong to struggling Australian company Krome Studios. Has there been any attempt to reach out to any of the retro rights holders to make something happen?

Mike McCain: You know, I think this is where the power of the Shadowrun Editor really comes into play. I think it would be difficult for us to create something like that as a commercial endeavor, but the truth is, we don’t need to! There’s already a passionate project underway to re-create the original SNES game in Shadowrun Returns. This is exactly the kind of thing we hoped that fans and creators would be able to do, all the way back when we were planning the Kickstarter campaign and decided to emphasize the creation and release of a robust toolset for user-content development. There’s already a lot of great content out there, and we can’t wait to see what the completed SNES remake is like.

Diehard GameFAN: The Shadowrun Returns Anthology proved to be pretty popular. Any chance of a small collection of Dragonfall related fiction coming out?

Mike McCain: We don’t have anything like that currently planned for Dragonfall. I hope this is another area where fans can jump in and tell their own Dragonfall-related short stories, either online OR by creating their own short campaigns and adventures in the Shadowrun Editor using our new Dragonfall assets and characters.

Diehard GameFAN: What does Harebrained Studios have planned next? I know you have Golem Arcana in the works. How is that proceeding? Anything else in the pipeline?

Mike McCain: Golem Arcana is in full production! The Golem team recently brought on a dedicated UI artist who’s been making some really exciting progress on the design of the app component of the game. I see the design team rapidly prototyping Golem gameplay nearly every day in the conference room. Right now, there’s a big push to meet physical manufacturing deadlines to ensure that everything is ready to ship the game on time later this year. You can learn more about Golem Arcana at the official website.

As for what else is next… well, we have some ideas kicking around but we’re not ready to share anything just yet!

So there you go. Hopefully you learned a lot of new and interesting information about Shadowrun: Dragonfall, just like I did! The full expansion comes out in under a month (February 27th) and will retail for $14.99. We’ll definitely have a review of Dragonfall up on or around the release date of the expansion so be sure to check back for that. In the meantime, here’s a bunch of links and articles I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

Our review of Shadowrun Returns
Shadowrun Returns cleans up at our 2013 Video Game Awards
The Shadowrun Returns Anthology wins the “Best Tabletop Related Fiction” award at the 2013 Tabletop Gaming Awards
The official website for Harebrained Schemes
The official website for Shadowrun Returns
The official website for Shadowrun: DragonFall



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One response to “Interview with Mike McCain, Project Lead on Shadowrun Dragonfall and Art Director for Shadowrun Returns at Harebrained Schemes”

  1. UGE_plex Avatar

    AWESOME interview! Thanks Chummers! Can’t wait ta run through the shadows of Berlin’s stable anarchy in Dragonfall! ^_^

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