Hero-U Project Update #73: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption by Corey and Lori Ann Cole

Amid some controversy and a lot of heart-warming support, we returned to Kickstarter for supplemental funding for Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. The project was successful, ensuring that we can finish the game without maxing out every credit card and life insurance policy loan.

Between overfunding of the campaign and some very generous backers on PayPal, we have also been able to restore some content to the game that we previously planned to cut. Hero-U will be a much better game as a result.

I’ve posted a full report to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/transolargames/hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game/posts/1265579.

Keeping in Touch

We will use these Kickstarter updates mostly for posts about fulfilling Kickstarter rewards, including information on how to access your backer account on BackerKit.

To keep up-to-date on game progress, please bookmark:

Thanks for sticking with us as we try to make a game worthy of a million-dollar Sierra budget with the crowdfunding dollars, our own resources, and a lot of hard work.

Hero-U Project Update #72: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption by the Quest for Glory designers

Down to the Wire

It’s our final day on the supplemental Hero-U Kickstarter campaign – 30 hours to go as I write this. The funding campaign ends Monday night (midnight PDT). The funding from this campaign will ensure we can complete Hero-U in style without going deeper into debt than the Marianas Trench.

We reached our $100,000 stretch goal on Saturday thanks to over 1600 dedicated backers. We’ve also passed the first two stretch goals – the Tower Garden and Improved Animation – and hope to reach several more in the final hours of the campaign. We are rapidly closing in on the $110,000 stretch goal – Better illustrated and more complex puzzles in the Sea Cave area.

Share the campaign with your friends so we can make Hero-U the best game possible. Every stretch goal dollar will be a big help in making Hero-U better.

Shawn Fights a Proach in the Combat Prototype Shawn Fights a Proach in the Combat Prototype

Combat in Hero-U

I’ve posted an article about the Hero-U combat system to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/transolargames/hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game/posts/1264169.

The Hero-U Skill System

I’ve explained the Stats and Skills system in Hero-U at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/transolargames/hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game/posts/1261715.

The Hero-U Development Team

I introduce the current team members along with shout-outs to key developers who had to leave the team in a post at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/transolargames/hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game/posts/1262872.

Further News

We hope you’ve enjoyed the more-frequent updates during the supplemental fund-raising campaign. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity of sharing more about the Hero-U game to our backers old and new.

We currently have backers from four sources – two Kickstarter campaigns, PayPal, and Humble Bundle – so it’s been a challenge to keep everyone informed. We will be using BackerKit to track all backers, and I think we’ll be able to use them to communicate with all of you in the future.

Thank you so much for supporting Hero-U! With our now-solid team, completed concepts, and the funding from the new campaign, we should be able to make rapid progress on the game. Our target is Beta testing late this year and release in early Spring (around March or April) of 2016.

Hero-U Project Update #71: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption by the Quest for Glory designers

Your Own Personal Story

Posted by Corey Cole


One of the things that makes adventure games special is the emphasis on story. You aren’t just running around solving puzzles, you’re participating in a shared-storytelling experience. Obviously story and characters are essential features of Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption.

Throughout the game, you will learn small threads of the story. How you put them together creates the tapestry that is your version of the story. Some sections may be incomplete until you play the game several times, because the way you play Shawn helps direct the story.

There are story threads as early in the game as the opening “break-in house” scene. Some of them are subtle, but designed to raise questions in the player’s mind. Clearly Shawn is special – how many young men do you suppose the Chief Thief pulls off the street and assigns to a special test with no training? Who is the man in the alleyway, and why does he care what happens to Shawn? Who has sponsored Shawn to attend Hero-U, an elite University that does not normally cater to street people?

A Bad Time to Babble

A Bad Time to Babble

Inside the break-in house, why are shamrocks a theme in a game set in the Mediterranean? What do you learn about Shawn by examining the piano or the globe? What is going on with that safe that looks specifically designed to thwart expert thieves? Why does Shawn think about his mother, but never mention his father?

The answers to those questions are intentionally ambiguous for several reasons. One is to set up later plot development. Another is point of view – in Rogue to Redemption, you play as Shawn, and he doesn’t know the whole story.

There is also the nature of “interactive fiction” – we can’t tell you the whole story at the beginning because we’re writing it together. Each decision you make in the game affects some part of the story and character development. It even helps create the style of the game.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Is Hero-U a suspense thriller in which danger lurks around every corner, and Shawn must keep on his toes to avoid disaster? It could be if you play it that way. The monsters are waiting.

Is Rogue to Redemption a coming-of-age story where a young man of modest means improves himself and “becomes somebody”? Yes, it is, to the degree you make it that story. Even the subtitle implies that, but the story doesn’t have to go that way if you choose otherwise.

Is Hero-U about the relationships between characters, possibly even a romance story? It can definitely be that if your focus in the game is talking with other characters and romancing one – or two or more – of them. Traditional romance or alternative relationships? Possibly – it’s up to you.


Is Hero-U a mystery story in which Shawn and the player consider many subtle clues and try to unravel the secrets of the past and the present? The clues are there – what you do with them is your choice.

Maybe Hero-U is a contest where you try to maximize Shawn’s attributes, skills, and wealth while winning the Rogue of the Year contest.

There are also stories (“character arcs”) for other characters besides Shawn, and you have some influence on them. Each character has a back-story, personality, goals, and challenges. Sometimes Shawn can help with one of those challenges and have an effect on the outcome of the character’s story in Hero-U. Examples? That would be telling. :-)

Whatever your adventure or role-playing gaming style, we think you will find the experience of playing Hero-U fascinating and challenging. You’ll want to watch your friends play too, because each of you will have a different experience each time.

Beautiful and Free

There’s only so much I can fit into these updates. To learn more about Hero-U, and see some of the beautiful game art our team is creating, visit Lori’s “What’s New At Hero-U” blog at www.hero-u.com/leaders/.

Each day through the end of the Kickstarter campaign, we are giving away a new game art desktop background. Visit every day to get your free wallpaper, and check the older posts to learn more about Hero-U. Don’t forget to click on the Share buttons at the bottom of each post; we’re coming down to the wire and want everyone to know about Hero-U.

Dragon Over Half-Dome - Free Screensaver Art Dragon Over Half-Dome – Free Screensaver Art

I’ve added two new digital add-ons to the Kickstarter campaign – $20 for an additional copy of the game, and $5.89 to join the AGL 589 – The Adventurers’ Guild Local 589 created by our backers.

Shouting Across the Internet

We all want to see more games with great story and gameplay. That’s why I make a point of sharing other Kickstarter projects here, and why we all support each others’ campaigns. It’s really important for you to share Hero-U and other interesting games on Facebook, Twitter, reddit, and other sites. Talk about them in our comments, and about us in theirs (but be respectful in both cases!).

Tavern Scene Concept Art from The Bard's Tale Tavern Scene Concept Art from The Bard’s Tale

Brian Fargo and inXile Entertainment are currently running a major campaign for the Bard’s Tale IV. They are asking $1.25 million and have promised to add at least another $1.25 million from the company coffers to make a great game. Based on their first in-game trailer, the new game looks much more immersive (and beautiful) than the original Bard’s Tale games. I played the first one in the mid 1980’s even before I broke into the game industry. Support Bard’s Tale IV at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/inxile/the-bards-tale-iv.

Ron Gilbert (@grumpygamer) and Brian Fargo (@brianfargo) recently tweeted about Hero-U and personally pledged to this Kickstarter. Thanks, Ron and Brian! I’ve mentioned Ron’s Thimbleweed Park (http://blog.thimbleweedpark.com/) as well as Brian’s Torment: Tides of Numenera (https://torment.inxile-entertainment.com/) in updates to our first Kickstarter.

Previous celebrity supporters have included Jane Jensen Holmes and Robert Holmes of Gabriel Knight and Moebius fame (http://pinkertonroad.com/); Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe of Space Quest and SpaceVenture (along with Chris Pope of SpaceVenture) (http://guysfromandromeda.com/); Josh Mandel and Al Lowe of Freddy Pharkas and Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded (https://www.replaygamesinc.com/); and many others too numerous to name. We really appreciate the way game designers promote and support each other.

These aren’t just gaming celebrities – they’re good people who deserve respect and support. All of them care about making great games and are good at it. Keep an eye out for their upcoming games and buy a copy, or give them some support on their web sites. Making games is a very tough business, and support from our fans is one of the main things that makes it worthwhile.

Hero-U Project Update #70: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption by the Quest for Glory designers

Lori and I decided to try a voiceover “Let’s Play” of the Hero-U combat prototype demo. If you enjoy it, please Like and Share so that your friends can watch it. You can also try out the demo yourself at http://hero-u.com/demos-and-videos/combat-prototype/.


I’ve now posted stretch goals to the main page of the new campaign – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/transolargames/hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game. We’re about to hit $82,000 towards the $100,000 goal. One stretch goal is already locked in, and we’ll reach the next if $105,000 is pledged.

Talking About Conversation in Hero-U

A central feature of Hero-U is conversation with other characters. This is probably the feature that sets us most apart from other games.

Sure, there is dialogue in almost every game, but it is usually a filler. Dialogue helps to flesh out a character’s personality, but it’s often one-dimensional. Either you see the dialogue in a cutscene (in-game film clip) or you get the same dialogue over and over when you click on a character.

Hero-U treats dialogue as a simulation rather than fixed scripts or filler. Conversations with the same characters change constantly. This can happen because of what Shawn said to them previously, or because of his reputation with the character, or simply as the result of passing time.

There are still rules to dialogue – we aren’t up to the level of artificial intelligence in Ex Machina yet. When Shawn enters a scene for the first time in an event, it’s likely a character will greet him with the latest news. If the player clicks on that character, Shawn can start a relevant discussion.

The discussion topics change for every character on most days. If they’ve already talked with Shawn about something, that dialogue option will no longer appear.

Can I Interest You in an Almost New Lockpick?

For example, let’s say Shawn meets Joel Kayro outside the rogue class early in the game. After the initial greeting, Shawn has a few possible discussion topics:

  • Talk to Joel
  • Buy from Joel

Choosing Talk to Joel might lead to:

  • Ask about Joel
  • Ask about Tools
  • Ask about Information
  • Back
Talking With Joel Kyro

Talking With Joel Kyro

Those topics are available because Joel has just introduced himself, the class lecture was about rogue tools, and Joel has mentioned that he sometimes has useful information… for a price.

In this case, Joel’s priority is to sell tools to Shawn, so even if Shawn asks about Joel, he’ll get a sales pitch on Joel’s useful stock of equipment. Asking about Tools gives more detailed information about them.

As for actually buying the tools, some options will only appear if Shawn has enough money to afford them. In addition, Joel’s stock changes throughout the game as he begins to sell more expensive and valuable goods.

Let’s say Shawn Asks about Information. Joel knows that one of Shawn’s first unpleasant encounters was with Mr. Terk, Hero-U’s disciplinarian. So that topic might interest Shawn (and be valuable to the player). In classic “the first one is free” fashion, Joel doesn’t charge for that information. Later on, everything he reveals has a price.

Joel Warns Shawn About Curfew - The First Tip is Free

Joel Warns Shawn About Curfew – The First Tip is Free

Each time Shawn meets with Joel, they can have a different conversation. Nothing in dialogue is mandatory in terms of puzzle solutions, but sometimes characters give Shawn useful hints. More importantly, as in a film or a novel, dialogue is the heart of the story. By talking with other characters, Shawn learns about the University, the characters, local politics, and various mysteries.

Dialogue is also the key to building relationships. Most characters like it when you talk to them, especially if you talk about things that matter to them. Every time Shawn talks to a character, he has a chance to gain or lose reputation with that character or with others who may be listening. Shawn might also improve a character skill such as Charm, Smarts, or Moxie.

Dialogue Choices – Much More than Words

Creating the game dialogue for Hero-U is one of Lori’s major responsibilities. Besides writing tens of thousands of individual messages, she is using the power of our proprietary Composer scripting system to create dependencies.

Composer allows her to decide if game text is only available once, once per day, or repeatedly. She makes other dialogue dependent on previous game actions. For example, if Shawn and his roommate Aeolus are discussing Sophia, the receptionist, it makes a difference whether Shawn has met Sophia and talked to her.

This is handled by “script tags”. When Shawn talks to Sophia in the reception area, the dialogue script sets a tag. Some of the conversations with Aeolus in the dorm later only appear if Shawn has talked to Sophia first. Here is one of many possible paths through that dialogue. On the next day, the conversation will be different, but may refer back to the choices made in today’s conversation.


You will not be able to go through every dialogue option in one playthrough of Hero-U. Subtle differences in conversational choices and meeting other characters affect the available choices. This gives a different mood to similar conversations across multiple playthroughs.

It’s hard to convey just how many dialogue scripts Lori is creating for Hero-U, and the degree of complexity of each one. When you play the game, you will follow the path you choose through the dialogue, seeing just a fraction of the available possibilities. Each path will be part of a satisfying story involving Shawn and the other characters. The next time you play, you will likely see different conversations.

Keep on Talking

Please share this update on Twitter, reddit, Facebook, Google+, and other social media. The more people who learn about Hero-U, the better we will be able to fine-tune and improve the conversation systems and individual dialogue choices.

Hero-U Project Update #69: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption by the Quest for Glory designers

New Kickstarter Status

The supplementary Kickstarter project is going very well thanks to some dedicated backers. We have over 1,200 backers so far and have received pledges for almost $73,000 of our $100,000 goal. The campaign is live at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/transolargames/hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game.

Please share our new Kickstarter campaign with your friends and on social media. The amount we raise in the final two weeks will have a huge impact on our ability to fine-tune Hero-U with better animation, sound effects, and additional help where we need it.

We invite you visit the new campaign to see more screen images and other improvements to the game. Please also visit www.hero-u.com and vote on the polls for the Yearbook cover design, travel posters, castle painting, and more. Lori posts a blog there with more game images and information.

Heroes Red - A Yearbook Cover Candidate Heroes Red – A Yearbook Cover Candidate

Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption Project Status

Art is about 150% complete according to the original plan, which is to say about 80% complete with the new animation we intend to add and one 3D area that is still in progress.

Programming: Estimated 50% complete. The hardest parts are out of the way – we have a scripting system integrated into Unity, we’ve worked out the combat basics, UI, and object placement and handling.We think it will take about six months to finish all the scripting and system programming.

The player can walk around the entire University and the wine cellar, but we are refining all of the areas to make them look and play better. We also have a lot of work to do on refining combat.

Game Design: 100% complete. All of the basic design and story structure is done, but we have a great deal of writing and scripting to do.

Dialogue and Other Text: Estimated 30% complete. Our process for design and writing involves specifying the key elements of all scenes, then writing detailed text and dialogue after the basic implementation is complete.

Since this is a key area that is being done by Lori and me, it is on the critical path for completing the game. We estimate we have four to five months of work to do on writing, given the distractions of managing the project and team.

Testing/QA: We plan to have a 3-4 month testing and refining cycle. That’s the part that got shorted on some of our Sierra games, sometimes resulting in buggy releases.

We expect to complete development late this year, and have the game ready for release early next year.

We have achieved Greenlit status on Steam Greenlight, so we will definitely have a Hero-U release on Steam. We will also have a DRM-free version on Humble Bundle. We are in talks with other potential distributors.

Reward Fulfillment Status

We’ve come a long way since the original Hero-U Kickstarter campaign in November 2012. 30 months in, here’s what we’ve accomplished and what we’re working on next.

As the chart shows, we have made great progress on fulfilling most of the rewards from the first Kickstarter.

A major reward in the campaign was inclusion in the physical and virtual Yearbooks. Lori has posted a full article on the Yearbook at http://hero-u.com/we-got-class-the-yearbook-report/ along with a poll for possible cover designs. If you are in the Yearbook, or have a strong artistic opinion, please vote in the poll.

We delayed shipment of the posters, but are now ready to send them out. We will do that in July or August so that we can do them and shipments from the supplemental funding Kickstarter at the same time. Those will complete the physical rewards from the first game except for the boxed games and autographed Yearbooks.

New Rewards in the 2015 Hero-U Kickstarter

We’ve added a new “Digital Deluxe” reward tier at $150. It’s designed for international backers and those who have limited shelf space, as all of the rewards are digital or virtual. Those rewards include:

  • All-digital – No physical rewards
  • Alpha and Beta Test Access
  • “Insider Reports” on the Making of Hero-U
  • Secret Thieves Guild Password
  • Game key for Quest for Glory 1-5 on GoG
  • Mention in the in-game credits (optional)
  • Set of Hero-U screen saver images
  • Digital Hint Book
  • Digital “Art of Hero-U” Book
  • Digital Hero-U Soundtrack
  • Digital game
  • Receive a special Thank You
  • Access to project updates

NOTE: The Quest for Glory game key is not included in higher tiers, but is available as an add-on. All of the other rewards apply to all higher tiers in both campaigns.

We’ve also added more add-on options. To get add-ons from the new campaign without upgrading to another reward, pick the $10 Supporter tier. Instead of pledging $10, pledge the total price of your chosen add-ons. Most add-ons will be shipped separately from the game.

See https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/transolargames/hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game (about halfway down) for all of the add-on choices. Here’s a summary:

Digital Add-Ons (delivered by email):

  • Quest for Glory 1-5 Game Key $15
  • The Hero-U Bestiary Book PDF $20
  • Set of 5 Hero-U Concept Art Images $20
  • Five Quest for Glory Art Images $20

NOTE for backers of the previous Hero-U Kickstarter campaign: The add-on we called “Set of 4 high-resolution game art images in PDF” will receive a free upgrade to the current add-on called “Set of 5 Hero-U Concept Art Images”.

Physical Add-Ons (prices include postage and handling):

  • Two Hero-U Key Rings          $15 to any destination
  • Autographed Postcard           $25 to any destination
  • Cloth “Varsity Letter” Patch    $25 to any destination
  • Shawn’s Lucky Coin               $30 to any destination
  • Set of Four Travel Posters     $40 U.S. / $50 International
  • Hero-Unicorn Baseball Cap    $40 U.S. / $50 International
  • All Kinds of Heroes T-Shirt     $40 U.S. / $50 International
  • Customized Wanted Poster   $250 anywhere

The Wanted Poster also appears in-game for all players. The Travel and Wanted Posters also include high-res digital copies.

Please tell your friends about the new Hero-U Kickstarter campaign

Worthy Kickstarter Projects

There are just 3 days left for the Oak Island adventure game (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/visionaire-studio/oak-island-some-treasures-are-best-left-buried). Support small indie adventure game development.

Oak Island Adventure Game Oak Island Adventure Game

If you prefer role-playing to adventure, there’s a new large company indie project on Kickstarter. From Brian Fargo and inXile Entertainment comes Bard’s Tale IV (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/inxile/the-bards-tale-iv), based on Fargo’s first major game (yes, I played The Bard’s Tale before I went to Sierra to make games).

That project already has over 12,000 backers and $500K in funding on its first day. The goal is $1.25M towards a $2.5M game budget. The remainder will be funded with profits from Wasteland 2 and potentially Torment: Tides of Numenera once that game is released.

Bard's Tale IV

Hero-U Project Update #68: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption by the Quest for Glory designers

When we created Quest for Glory, we set out to tell a story with the best features of both adventure games and RPGs. We didn’t set out to change the world – we just wanted to make better games – but the result was the first role-playing adventure game.

Adventure game characters explore the setting and solve challenging puzzles. The characters themselves don’t change much.

Role-playing game characters explore complicated labyrinths, mash monsters, and collect treasure. Their stats improve throughout the game, and they get better equipment, but the characters have more numbers than personality.

In a story, characters change and grow as the result of overcoming conflicts. There might be some tricky puzzles to solve, and the characters might become stronger, but the important thing is that they learn something new.

Quest for Glory games – and now Hero-U – combine all three types of game play and storytelling. We think they belong together.

Mixing adventure game exploration and rich stories with skill advancement and combat was our biggest innovation, but we didn’t stop there.

Quest for Glory used a unique “practice makes perfect” skill advancement system. Other RPGs had level-based advancement where characters gained better abilities only when they reached a new experience level. Our skill-based approach let players focus on the skills they wanted to improve.

The passage of time was important in Quest for Glory. If you left the safety of the town at night, you met a different and tougher class of monster that what ran around during the day. If you went too long without eating, your character would become hungry and more easily tired. Starting with Quest for Glory II, we introduced story events that changed the game over time.

For Hero-U, we are again using a skill-based character system. This time skills are just as important in school as it is in the dungeons. Shawn uses and develops his charm, street smarts, and moxie in conversation, his agility and combat skills by fighting monsters, and his stealth and tool use by acting like a rogue.

Time is even more important in Hero-U than in Quest for Glory. As a student in the Hero University, your character needs to attend classes and pass exams between adventures. Shawn has to make some difficult choices about how best to use his time.

Choice is a major theme in all of the Hero-U games. Conversations are more advanced than in Quest for Glory – other characters respond to Shawn’s attitude, and their relationship with him, as to his words. Each time you play Hero-U, the story, dialogue, and relationships will change in subtle ways.

We’ve added more role-playing game features – tactical turn-based combat, a wide variety of equipment choices, and more things to buy and learn. Shawn can use these items and techniques to solve problems, fight effectively, and build friendships.

The biggest strengths of our Quest for Glory games were the storytelling and the balance of serious stories with humorous situations and plentiful puns. Our goal is to continue those traditions in Hero-U with new and exciting stories and plenty of fun moments to help make the serious ones more meaningful.

Each Quest for Glory game had its own story – “coming of age” in the first game, experienced adventurer in the second, peace-maker in the third – all part of the greater story of the hero. In the final game, he could even become a King.

In Hero-U, Shawn O’Conner is again a young man with no real experience, but his coming of age has a difference. All we knew about the player’s character in Quest for Glory is that he wants to become a hero. Shawn doesn’t start out wanting to be a hero; he just wants to survive. But Shawn also has a past cloaked in mystery. In Rogue to Redemption, Shawn will discover his heritage as well as create a new destiny.

The Hero-U stories are in layers. World-changing events occur inside and around the school while the player character is trying to get an education. Each game reveals more of these events, and each character is involved in parts of them. What happens to one character, and how the player has that character act, affects the future games.

Hero-U is our spiritual successor to Quest for Glory. We are using modern technology to create even stronger stories, with more meaningful choices. These games are our response to fans who asked for more games like Quest for Glory. Thank you for being part of this new series.

The best way you can help us make all of the planned Hero-U games is to spread the word to other adventure and role-playing gamers. Please share this post and the new Kickstarter campaign (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/transolargames/hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game) to your friends and networks. The hardest part about Kickstarter is getting the word out to players who would enjoy our games.

Visit us and share the posts you like on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TheSchoolForHeroes), Google+ (google.com/+Herou-Game), Twitter (@HeroCorey or @Hero_Lori), and our web site (www.hero-u.com). Lori regularly blogs about Hero-U on the site.

Also please support our Steam Greenlight campaign at http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=444566574. We are 98% of the way into the Greenlight Top 100. Voting for Hero-U, marking it as a Favorite, and sharing the page will help us make the game successful.

Thank you for helping us make Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption a success.

King’s Quest by The Odd Gentleman – Voice talent.

Here’s a full list of other voice actors announced for King’s Quest as provided by Sierra:

  • Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants)
  • Michael Benyaer (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen)
  • Loretta Devine (Crash)
  • Gideon Emery (Teen Wolf)
  • Jean Gilpin (Frozen)
  • Michael Gough (Batman: Arkham Origins)
  • Andy Pessoa (Transformers Prime)
  • Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
  • Kath Soucie (Rugrats)
  • Fred Tatasciore (Marvel’s Avengers Assemble)
  • Richard White
  • Michael-Leon Wooley (The Princess and the Frog)

Read the full article here:

Watch the video here: http://www.polygon.com/2015/5/10/8581201/kings-quest-voice-cast-reveal-video-christopher-lloyd-josh-keaton-zelda-williams#ooid=g4YjIwdTrYGiRKmEDqrK5PyC1MeUXye1

Hero-U Update #67: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption by the Quest for Glory designers

Most of this post originally appeared as an update to our supplementary Kickstarter funding campaign. Several backers requested I repeat it here. I’ve expanded portions and added more links to other Kickstarter games, as well as recent news and interviews.

Hero-U is now on Steam Greenlight at http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=444566574. Please visit the project page, vote for us, and share the project with your friends. This will ensure that Steam carries Hero-U, and will help other gamers learn about it.

The Tower Garden

We had moved the Tower Garden to the optional “stretch goal” content list. At a major backer’s request, it has been restored to the “must have” game features. This is equivalent to the “Wings” and “Dungeon Lairs” we gave as premiums in the first campaign – the Tower Garden is sponsored by a backer.

Tower Garden at Night

Tower Garden at Night

What Is the Real Cost of an Adventure Game?

Games such as Hero-U, SpaceVenture, Moebius, and Underworld Ascendant are in a tricky position. We are making games to professional standards, and paying professionals to help make them, but we don’t have large teams at a big company to do them. A game in the $500K to $1M budget range is expected to compete with AAA titles that have budgets in the $10M+ range.

Looking Back – a 1990’s Game Budget

In the mid-90’s, Lori and I set up a company to make a game for a publisher. The experience was similar to making Hero-U, and our basis for this project. Here’s what the budget looked like:

  • Design and Programming (three programmers): $170K
  • Art and animation (22 artists – 8 on staff, 14 doing piecework): $270K
  • Music and sound effects: $25K
  • Voice direction and acting (non-Union): $25K
  • Equipment, software, overhead, travel: $65K
  • TOTAL: $555K in 1995 dollars ($855K in 2015 dollars)

That actually understates the cost. We used the publisher’s adventure game scripting system, and four programmers at the publisher did some work on the game. It also does not include the cost of manufacturing and shipping the boxed games.

I include this budget mostly to show that $400K is not a large adventure game budget when team members are being paid (even below-market) salaries for their work.

First Pass On the Hero-U Budget

We worked out a series of budgets for Hero-U based on possible fundraising amounts. The “sweet spot” was at $800K, which would give us $650K towards game development. The catch was that we knew we could not ask $800K, so we looked at what we could do with $400K. That budget looked like this (with a planned $125K deficit):

  • Design & Admin: $200K
  • Programming: $70K
  • Art & Animation: $70K
  • Music & Audio: $30K
  • Overhead & Misc: $45K
  • KS & Amazon: $36.5K
  • Rewards & Shipping: $73K
  • TOTAL: $524,500

Back then, we planned to modify an existing game to create the framework for Hero-U. The art would be minimal – cartoony top-down characters and very simple top-down rooms.

We had a slight communication breakdown here, in the the lead programmer normally made almost double the programming budget, and we had four artists on the team who would have overwhelmed the art budget. The rest was reasonable, but we would have gone over budget by about $150K between the art and programming. That would have been manageable with loans.

Incidentally, my original project completion estimate of Oct. 2013 was based on this estimate – We could not afford to spend any more time on development without running over the budget. At the time, I was new to Kickstarter and did not realize we could seek additional funding afterwards, as in fact every other major adventure game project has done. I apologize for the wildly unrealistic date estimate; I based it on bad information.

The Revised Full Project Budget

  • Design & Admin 200K
  • Programming: 150K
  • Art & Animation: 270K
  • Music/SFX: 30K
  • Misc/Overhead: 30K
  • Kickstarter/Amazon: 50K
  • Rewards/Shipping: 80K
  • TOTAL: 810K. Funding to Date: 435K, Deficit $375K.

Obviously we still can’t cover the entire deficit from a $100K Kickstarter goal, but we don’t have to – the object is to complete and release the game, not to make a profit from crowdfunding.

We are deferring costs in two areas: Lori and I aren’t paying ourselves, and some team members are deferring their pay until after release. These deferrals make a big difference in the project’s cash flow.

  • Deferred Expenses: $250K
  • Kickstarter Goal: $100K
  • Adjusted Deficit: $25K

We can carry a $25K deficit plus our personal debt until the end of the project. Of course, it will be helpful to our piece of mind if the Kickstarter overfunds enough to reduce or eliminate the remaining deficit.

Why is it ok to go $150,000 or more in debt (the result of not taking any salary) making a game? It’s because our backers are funding this project, not our personal lives. The current Kickstarter campaign will give us the time to complete Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption, and the rest will be up to us.

Should we have asked more than $400,000 in October 2012? The funding campaign would have failed, and we’d have gotten zero.

Then were we obligated to make a game under a $400K total budget? It turns out that none of the major games manage it. Star Citizen invested $2 million before coming to Kickstarter. Double Fine spent an estimated $2 million extra after exhausting their $3.3 million Kickstarter fund.

I just read an interview with Brian Fargo about the upcoming Bard’s Tale IV Kickstarter. They will be asking for $1.25 million and expect to spend at least that much from their own funding in addition. The only difference with us is that we are returning to Kickstarter to raise additional funding instead of looking for venture capital. Sorry, but we didn’t have $1.25 million or $125,000 in the bank.

In theory, if the game is successful, we can recover that debt from game sales. If it isn’t successful, the game isn’t as good as we think it is. Here is how we plan to use the first income from game sales (not Kickstarter funds):

  • First we pay our contractors their deferred fees
  • Next we allocate 50% of income to our back pay, i.e. getting out of personal debt
  • Any remainder funds continuing operations, i.e. Hero-U 2 development

If we get out of debt, we may start seeing actual profits:

  • A portion will go into a revenue pool to reward our contractors
  • A portion will pay royalties
  • 5% will go into Kicking It Forward pledges to other crowdfunding projects
  • We will start getting a salary, keeping the IRS happy
  • Anything left will be used to fund continuing operations

Other Interesting Kickstarter Adventures

If you’re still with us (whew!), the developers of the Visionaire adventure game development system are Kickstarting their mystery game, Oak Island, at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/visionaire-studio/oak-island-some-treasures-are-best-left-buried. Currently the project has over 75% of its 15,000 Euro goal., and it looks interesting.

Check out Unraveled at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/696564/unraveled-tale-of-the-shipbreakers-daughter. The campaign is about halfway through and halfway to its goal.

Elsinore, a game based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, looks interesting. It has reached its Kickstarter goal, but as you can see from the above, all adventure game projects need more funding than the base goal. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/235466673/elsinore-a-time-looping-adventure-game

There are six days left in the campaign for Herald (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/herald/herald-an-interactive-period-drama), and it’s about 2/3 of the way to its goal.

These indie projects are helping to keep the flame of adventure gaming alive, and we hope you will support them.

In case you missed the link to our supplemental funding campaign, it is at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/transolargames/hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game and doing very well so far ($55,000 of $100,000 after one week).

Interviews and News

Also check out the interviews Lori and I had with Don Parsons of TechRaptor at http://techraptor.net/content/indie-interview-corey-lori-cole-hero-u and with KickstartVentures at http://www.kickstartadventure.com/home/an-interview-with-corey-cole-on-hero-u/. The latter has more information on why we are using Kickstarter for supplementary funding instead of venture or publisher capital.

We also talked with Richard Cobbett of Rock Paper Shotgun on heroes in games. That interview is here: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2015/05/18/hero-u-interview/.

We are doing a “live” forum chat, similar to a reddit Ask Me Anything, on Adventure-Treff on Tuesday (8 pm in Germany, 2 pm in U.S. East Coast, and 11 a.m. in California). Visit this page (https://www.adventure-treff.de/forum/viewforum.php?f=49) to participate or to read the discussion afterwards.

Visit www.hero-u.com for Lori’s art and game development blog and other information about the game.

Thanks for staying with me on an article that probably belongs in a museum rather than a Kickstarter update. Feel free to ask questions in the comments if anything was unclear.