The cyberpunk-fantasy world of 1989 tabletop RPG Shadowrun has been adapted into videogames multiple times, beginning with an RPG for the SNES all the way back in 2003. In 2007, FASA Studio and Microsoft released a multiplayer shooter in the vein of Counter-Strike based on the setting, and it sank like a stone. At the time, a full-price shooter that was multiplayer-only was an even bigger risk than it would be today, and fans of Shadowrun saw it as a genre mismatch. On release, it reviewed poorly and sold worse.
While designer Bill Fulton has previously said, “Shadowrun was originally envisioned as a game with a full campaign mode,” more information about what that campaign would be like and why it was cut was revealed during a recent video AMA with the developers.
“It was a linear, progression-based System Shock-style RPG-type experience,” said community manager David Abzug. He also explained that, rather than using the same maps as the multiplayer mode, the campaign would have had its own bespoke levels and taken in the breadth of the setting, including its virtual world, the Matrix. “That’s one of the reasons why it got cut,” he said. “It was very expansive. It had the Matrix, it had the Astral Plane, it had all of that stuff in it, so Microsoft decided that we needed to narrow down our focus.”
Shadowrun has been back in the news lately because fans kept it running via peer-to-peer wizardry long after official servers were shut down. When a recent update of Microsoft’s matchmaking service incidentally broke the unofficial community-run version of Shadowrun, Microsoft responded to a request to fix it. Against the odds, this 16-year-old shooter has had a revival of sorts, and is being played again today.
Still, I sure would have loved a vent-crawling immersive sim/RPG based on Shadowrun. Deus Ex with elves? Sign me up.