Harebrained Schemes has had great success in reviving its tabletop franchise Shadowrun as a PC game, and building on that the indie publisher is bringing its oldest and most successful franchise Battletech back to thunderous mechanical life. The company has announced at the GenCon gaming convention in Indianapolis this weekend that a Kickstarter will be launching this fall, and the company is rallying fan support already.

Jordan Weisman, the creator of BattleTech and MechWarrior, is back with the first turn-based BattleTech game for PC in over two decades. Steeped in the feudal political intrigue of the BattleTech universe, the game will feature an open-ended Mercenaries-style campaign that blends RPG ‘Mech and MechWarrior management with modern turn-based tactics. The Seattle-based developer made headlines with its two previous Kickstarter successes: the visionary, digitally-enhanced miniatures boardgame Golem Arcana, and Shadowrun Returns, one of the first videogame Kickstarter projects to exceed one million dollars in funding.

Visitors to Harebrained Schemes’ booth at Gen Con will have the opportunity to become early supporters of the project and receive an exclusive BattleTech collectible. Players can also sign up to join the Battletech mailing list at www.battletechgame.com.

Weisman spoke with [a]lisdaily about the plans for this new game, and how the marketing is critically related to the crowdfunding.

What Is Harebrained Schemes up to now, and why are you announcing it at GenCon?

We’re announcing that we’re going to be producing a modern turn-based tactical mech game, but we’re being real tight-lipped about too much of the game itself because that will be coming out as we do the Kickstarter this fall. We wanted to announce the Battletech game here at GenCon. It’s a little premature, but this is the audience where that game got started. These are the fans that helped build up Battletech from the beginning. This convention itself has been the hub of so many milestones for Battletech. We’ve been doing Battletech stuff here for a lot of years, and as soon as we were able to secure the rights to the game we knew this was the audience we needed to tell about it first.

What can you tell me about the game?

It’s PC and Mac, and it’s an open-ended mercenary campaign. Where you’re going to be building your own mercenary unit. It’s mixing a lot of turn-based tactical with a lot of RPG elements, because you’ll not only be managing a lance of ‘Mechs but also Mechwarriors as well. You have all their careers and their skill trees, doing the depth of story like we did in Shadowrun that we want to bring to Battletech. As we say, the feudal Machiavellian politics that was at the core of the Battletech universe.

Will you have fiction to go along with the game?

Fiction is an important part, both in the game and accompanying the game. We’re working with the Catalyst guys so we coordinate with their fiction line. We’re putting the game back in the original setting in 3025, because I think it played up the geopolitics really well and it lost some of the feudal nature later on. We want to sell the whole sweep of the story and sell the platform to do that.

What are you doing at GenCon for the game?

We have a teaser, just a paragraph about the game and a couple of pieces of concept art. For people that want to get involved early, we’re going to have a Vanguard backing opportunity. They drop by the booth and we’ve made up dog tags from different mercenary units. They can pick those up and if they back later on, they’ll get a variant of one of those ‘Mechs. There are ten different types of mercenary units, and if someone wants to pick up all of them it’s a $50 backing and then they get a free copy of the game when it comes out, the dog tags and the variant ‘Mechs.

The benefit of crowdfunding is that you not only get financial backing for the game, but you also get guidance on the design of the game, as well as a tremendous marketing benefit, wouldn’t you agree?

Part of the reason to announce now is that you have to make people aware that you’re doing a Kickstarter, you can’t just show up and hope people appear.

This will be our fourth game that we’ve brought to market with support from fans. The third Shadowrun title will ship August 20, and all of those were funded by fans. The Golem Arcana game shipped last year at Gencon. We’ve really enjoyed that kind of cooperative, co-development relationship with our backers. Obviously the financial support has allowed us to grow and we wouldn’t have done the games wthout that, but just as importantly the kind of emotional support and sounding board that they provide during development we’ve found to be a very energizing experience.

If we’ve done our job right and kept them happy during development, they’re a great amnplifier for when the game launches. That marketing opportunity is really twice – once when you’re doing the crowdfunding and making a lot of noise, but then a year and a half later or whenever you’re shipping the title. If you’ve really worked collaboratively with your audience all the way through, they’re a great help in getting the word out when the product comes out.