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Harebrained Answer Frustrated Backers

By MrJenssen08-04-2013

Harebrained Schemes, the developers behind the upcoming Kickstarter-funded turn-based RPG Shadowrun Returns, seem to be the target of a frustrated lynch mob these days, after their 49th update was published.

This long post intending to inform the backers has apparently only created more questions than answers, as the comment section clearly shows. A lot of backers were confused and angered at what sounded like lies and broken promises concerning the non-DRM version of the game.

The developers don't seem completely hare-brained though, because they quickly released another update where they attempted to clarify what they meant in the previous update:

"To reiterate, our Backers don't have to choose a DRM-free version of the game or a Steam version of the game. You get both."

It gets more complicated though. See, because Shadowrun Returns belongs to a licensed franchise - including novels, miniature wargames, board games, collectible card games and videogames -   Jordan Weisman and the other developers behind Returns can't just do whatever they want. They are apparently not allowed to just sell a DRM-free version on GoG and other stores, and all DLC released after the Berlin campaign will only be available on Steam which, for those who don't know, is a form of DRM.

"[...] Our license to develop Shadowrun Returns actually requires that the game and its DLC be distributed under DRM. This didn't come up earlier because the situation was complicated by the number of parties involved. [...] Ultimately, we were able to successfully negotiate an exception with Microsoft for us to provide our Backers with a DRM-free version of the Kickstarter rewards but that exception does not extend to non-reward DLC."

There's also a few other complications. Mod support may not work perfectly between the non-DRM version and Steam. It is the developer's intention to make the game Steam Workshop friendly, but mods released through Steam Workshop might not work with the DRM free version of the game.

In other words, there are plenty of backers who are still frustrated even after this clarification. Some commenters feel like, though they will get both a non-DRM version and a Steam version of the game and can choose to play either of these, the choice is very artificial since everyone will be "funneled" toward the Steam version of the game in the end. Some of the more vocal backers seem to want a DRM free version with all the positive aspects of the Steam version as well.

I personally consider myself a gamer of principle by nature. I can easily get my panties in a knot if I feel stepped on by a company. But I have to say that, even as a backer of Shadowrun Returns, I find this whole issue rather silly. It seems to me like a lot of people don't get why it is the way it is. Yes, maybe Harebrained Schemes should have made clear that they can't promise everything will be DRM-free already in the beginning of the campaign. But even so, the backers will get the full game and all rewards included, on Steam as well as a DRM free version. When you support a crowd-funded project like this, you should expect to get exactly what you pay for. If the project creator has listed a bunch of extra rewards for backers, then you should expect to get those. But these users seem to be angry because they expected all the paid content released after the Berlin Campaign DLC - which has nothing to do with the actual project they were backing - to be offered to them from non-DRM stores. Even if the developers weren't clear enough on this, it's not something you should walk around expecting and demanding. It's certainly not something you should get angry for like some have.

DRM is an unfortunate but somewhat necessary part of the gaming industry. None of these users can say they absolutely do not understand why DRM exists. The fact of the matter is, that DRM serves a purpose. As long as that purpose does not intervene with and cause trouble for the consumer, then there really is no harm to it.

I believe this is whole situation is a perfect example of a tempest in a teapot. I don't know about you people, but I am definitely looking forward to Shadowrun's return in June - and I will gladly play it on Steam to take full advantage of its potential.

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