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ION: Microsoft's Hanna On The Fight For Shadowrun Audience

How did Shadowrun's announcement manage to turn off fans instead of excite them? Microsoft Game Studios' Dana Hanna admitted the company's missteps and describes its attempts to win back an audience for the Xbox 360/PC shooter in her community po

May 15, 2008

3 Min Read

Author: by Wendy Despain, Staff

In a postmortem lecture titled "You Can't Do That! Crossing Platforms and Genres with Shadowrun" and held at the 2008 ION Game Conference, Microsoft Game Studios' Dana Hanna discussed how now-defunct developer FASA Studio lost and regained its audience during the production of its Xbox 360 and PC shooter Shadowrun. Said Hanna on preparing to finally announce and exhibit the game at E3 2006 after 18 months of development: “We knew there would be some negative reaction from fans of the RPG because we were making it into an FPS, and we knew we had some issues with some of the assets on the way to E3. But we were really quite excited." "So we showed it. And the reaction was... shall we say, less than stellar," she continued. Followers of the Shadowrun property, originally a pen-and-paper cyberpunk role-playing game, were upset with FASA's decision to make the game a first-person shooter and set it in Brazil. "Some passionate fans intersected with the gaming press, and it was an 'epic fail.' These were opinion-leaders, and we didn't make a good impression." Hanna cited several reasons for Shadowrun's less than impressive debut at E3 2006, such as reset art assets, untrained incoming staff, and community people who weren't kept in the loop. "So why did we go to E3 with what we had? well, we really loved the game. We were actually enjoying the game. We loved it so much we really wanted to show other people and let them in on the fun. We knew once they got their hands on it they would love it." In order to win Shadowrun's audience back, FASA knew it had to reassure fans and have them discussing the game that was really being made, not the game people thought was being made. In order to do that, the studio did its best to get people's hands on Shadowrun, hosting on-site play days and releasing a public Xbox 360 beta to regain credibility and show players the actual game. The developer also listened to feedback from fans of the RPG, incorporating some of their ideas into the story to make Shadowrun fit better into the canon. Discussing what the team should've done differently, Hanna said the team should have engaged the community earlier, devoted more resources to story and incorporating it into the game, and included more community-building features, specifically measures players could take to deter or deal with troublemakers. She also regretted that Shadowrun's schedule didn't allow for a PC beta, and said collecting user data from early playthroughs was only "half the battle" in trying to figure out what players were actually doing in the games. "We couldn't tell people were using the rocket launchers to kill their buddies at the spawn point," said Hanna, who wondered "How do you capture experiences rather than stats? There has to be a better way to track that." Despite all of the challenges, Hanna praised the team that worked on the game - which launched in May 2007 - and concluded, "Even though the game has its flaws, I still feel like it was the best game I ever worked on."

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