Hero-U Project Update #89: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption

We’re going through the “final” push towards outside alpha testing of Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. I put “final” in quotes because this will be the first of several sprints towards releasing the game we’ve been working on for almost five years.

It’s hard to convey the thousands of things that go into a game. Small details make the game feel alive. Here are some of the non-game things we need to get in before we can start outside testing:

  • “Branding” the game as pre-release so people know it isn’t the final version
  • Choosing “first test” players out of our 750 qualified alpha testers
  • Adding bug & feature request reporting to the game
  • Setting up a QA/test database for tracking reports
  • “Triage” on reports to eliminate duplicates, already-fixed, and low priority items
  • Regression testing system to avoid breaking features while fixing bugs
  • Internal testing to make sure we don’t ship a broken alpha test
Just Enough Paperwork to Make a Game
Just Enough Paperwork to Make a Game

Once we have all of those elements in place (soon!), I will send a survey to backers who chose a reward that includes Alpha Testing. We will accept a small number to do the first outside tests and help us shake down the reporting system. The second alpha will go out to a larger number, and the full alpha version will be made available to everyone at that level. (Don’t worry – if you want to wait for the complete, polished game, just don’t download any Alpha or Beta version.)

The first tests will be solely in the Hero-U castle. Once we have some feedback and improvements to the castle, we will expand the test to include combat areas – the wine cellar, sea caves, catacombs, and finally the dungeon. These areas combine elements of adventure and role-playing gaming as in our Quest for Glory games.

With Hero-U coming down to the wire. Here’s what we’ve all been working on:

  • Al – new animation for Shawn and certain monsters
  • Charles – improving room behavior, fixing scripting issues
  • Cidney – Helping us with UI issues and testing
  • Corey – administration, achievements, and Shawn’s “task list”
  • Graham – cleaning up some rooms
  • Ian – improving the character sheet, journal and inventory screens
  • John Paul – showing Shawn’s status visually
  • Josh M. – text for examining and using things Shawn finds
  • Joshua S. – throwing items in combat, general problem-solving
  • Judy – Composer improvements, helping find errors
  • Lori – final dialogue, such as dealing with the Dire Rat Queen

A Torturous Process

Recently heard in a Hero-U team meeting, “I’m currently working in the torture chamber and having fun with it.” And Josh wasn’t even joshing. Yes, there is a “dungeon”, complete with torture chamber, left over from some former residents of the castle. This plays an important part in the “meta story”, the background behind game events, that makes it possible for us to plan a multi-game Hero-U series.

Having Fun in the Torture Chamber
Having Fun in the Torture Chamber

I’ve been in touch with Geekify about creating physical goods for backers. These will ship after the downloadable game release so that boxes can include a solid version of the game that incorporates early player feedback.

There is good news for “Game in a DVD case” backers. Once upon a time, we had three levels of physical boxed game packaging – DVD case, small retail box, large “big box” for collectors. Because of the way quantity discounts work, and to simplify fulfillment, I’ve decided to upgrade everyone to the “big box”. It’s going to be really nice and unique to our patient backers – no torture involved.

Look for another update by the end of June with detailed Alpha Test news and instructions. Thank you so much for being patient as we continue to solve the thousands of issues that come up in the development of every significant game. I remember one supposedly-finished game at Sierra that had a 4-foot tall stack of bug reports waiting to be addressed, many trivial, but some real show-stoppers. That’s why we have to take the time to get this game right before sending it out to you. We think you’ll find the result an experience worth the wait.

Please keep your information (particularly email and physical address) up to date on BackerKit: https://hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game.backerkit.com.

Torture Chamber 3D Layout
Torture Chamber 3D Layout

He’s back – again! Some of you may have known and remembered the struggles of the beloved Johnny Castaway – a beloved screen saver by the folks of Sierra – in which, our stranded hero – Johnny Castaway is marooned on an island – and has an assortment of adventures, trying to get off them – and encounters a wild assortment of wild life and people while stranded… The screen saver was even “time sensitive” that it recognized (based on your computer’s date/time) what holidays might be approaching, and made use of it! Well, a 32bit version for Windows XP was eventually made by fans (remember Windows XP?) – well, someone, through DosBox has figured out how to make it work on Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 – whether it’s 32 or 64bit! As a matter of fact, because it uses DOSBOX, it should ideally work on any Windows operating system going forward! I want to thank the folks at Screen Saver Planet for sharing this! I have included all the steps (and files) on the site here as well – so go check out the Johnny Castaway page!

 

Hero-U Update #88: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption

What’s New at Hero-U?

The University is preparing to open its doors for the Fall Semester! But first we need to have the Campus Visit (Alpha Testing), Entry Examinations (Targeted Beta Testing), and Orientation (Final Testing). It takes serious preparation to get the most value from a Hero-U education.

We added a couple of steps to the project over the last two months to dramatically improve the game’s visuals and reliability. First, with the guidance of two programmers with serious Unity credits, we upgraded the development system from Unity 4.7 to version 5.5.

We knew that would cause some disruption and extra work, but the change lets us take advantage of the latest Unity features and support. The biggest upgrade has been in our ability to effectively light scenes.

Catacombs entrance before lighting upgrades
Catacombs entrance before lighting upgrades

In the above image (just after porting to Unity 5.5), the contrast is low except on Shawn, who appears to have a spotlight on him. Everything looks a little muddy and indistinct. It’s fully playable, but not as good as it should be.

Same Catacombs entrance with improved lighting
Same Catacombs entrance with improved lighting

The improved lighting highlights some of the detail and sets the mood. Shawn looks more natural.

Let there be Light!

When we started building a castle to house Hero-U, it felt a little empty. Sure, there were classrooms and corridors, the dining hall and the great hall, the vestibule and the recreation center, the garden and the courtyard. But you know how it is with a castle – all that stonework can get pretty cold in the Winter.

That’s when we brought in portraits and tapestries for insulation and warmth. They also help us tell the story and the history of the University and some of our notable alumni. Tapestries are also pretty good at concealing secret doors and hiding places. You didn’t read that here.

At that point, we naively thought we were done decorating the castle. Then our artists stepped in and turned on the lights. And the lights shone throughout the castle, and it is good. Man is it good! Maybe a few “before and after” pictures will help you see how important lighting is to establishing the drama and mood in each scene.

Meanwhile, we continue adding new vignettes, closeups, and custom animation to bring more of the game to life.

Courtyard Before Re-Lighting
Courtyard Before Re-Lighting

This nighttime Courtyard view got the “dark” right, but feels “2D” and loses much of the beauty of the scene. Unity 5.5 let us keep the feel of the scene while bringing it to life with better lighting.

The Courtyard with Strategically-Placed Lights
The Courtyard with Strategically-Placed Lights

Here’s the same courtyard re-lit. It’s still obviously nighttime, but now the lights work and some details come to life. Shawn has also been toned down. (By default, Unity 5.5 lighting is about twice as bright as in Unity 4.7.)

We’ve had to make these changes to every scene in the game – over 60 of them – so our artists had a busy February and March. But the difference is “night and day” in bringing out the details and quality of the artwork.

Getting Ready to Graduate

After over four years of work and more than twice the original Kickstarter budget, we can finally see the graduation stage not too far in the distance. The extra lights probably helped. Here’s our current schedule for the initial testing phase:

  • 1 May 2017 – Feature complete – all “adventure” dialogue and interactions
  • 1 June – Castle Alpha Test – All team members and Insider Backers
  • 1 July – Castle Targeted Beta – Test specific areas in the Castle
  • 1 July – Wine Cellar opens to Insider Backers for Combat Alpha Testing
  • Etc. Specific dates will depend on early testing progress.

For this targeted Beta, we will need a few dedicated volunteers to test the game. There’s nothing like game testing to spoil all the fun of playing the game. If you are sort of person who likes to continually throw rocks to build up your throwing skills to the max (not that we’d ever want to make you do that sort of thing in a game) or who pulls back curtains to look for the man running things behind them, or who uses a magnifying glass to reveal every last detail, we could use your detection skills to make Hero-U better.

I will set up a web page and database for alpha and beta testers, then issue invitations to volunteer backers next month. We’ll be trying something new – assigning each beta tester to a particular area or game day so that we can make sure every event is tested throughout the game.

Beta testing is much more than playing the game – you’ll need to keep a critical eye on everything you see, and play through the same sequence multiple times with small variations to identify bugs that only show up after a certain sequence of actions.

If you’ve ever wondered why commercial games could possibly ship with “glaring errors”, it’s because many of those errors only show up after a specific set of moves or in a particular case of random numbers. This will be a real challenge for everyone who volunteers. That’s why we don’t have a fixed shipment schedule – we’ll ship when the game is done – and fun!

Resource Reminders

Please keep your email and address current at https://hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game.backerkit.com 

Participate in the Hero-U forum at http://www.hero-u.net/forum/

Our FaceBook page is https://www.facebook.com/TheSchoolForHeroes/.

Shawn Enters the Catacombs
Shawn Enters the Catacombs

SpaceVenture Update #113: Two Guys SpaceVenture – by the creators of Space Quest by Two Guys From Andromeda

Greetings and salutations SpaceVenture backers. We have another update here for you. First off, as always, we want to make sure everyone knows we are still pushing hard to get SpaceVenture out. A lot of you have made it clear you’re chomping at the bit ready for the game to be done. We hear you and are working extremely hard to get the game done as fast as possible. In the past we have let you guys know some of the things that have slowed us down. If you aren’t familiar with those things, please take a look back at some of the previous updates.

Lately, we have been silent in the comments section of our Kickstarter page. That being said, there are some things that we would like to quickly address here so you know our thoughts. You all have every right to speak negatively or critically on some of the causes of the delay to the game. We hope you all realize that none of the team ever expected things to go on as long as they have. A lot of folks probably check in on the project on occasions and get upset when they notice the game is still not complete. Those same people can push the game from their mind and not worry about it again until they decide to check back in. The team lives with this day in and day out. Everyone on the team cannot wait for the day that the weight of the game is lifted from our shoulders. That is not to say we haven’t enjoyed working on SpaceVenture, and that we don’t appreciate the fact that you backers gave us this opportunity. None of us regret working on the game. This has been an experience that we will never forget. We just hope you understand that there is real stress in getting it out, and hope you will continue to be patience with us. We are all real people with real life stuff going on, and we are taking the responsibility of getting the game completed very seriously.

In saying all that, we aren’t asking you not to criticize or say negative things. You have every right to. We only hope you will understand that we are not purposely trying to make the process any slower. We want the game complete probably more then anyone. One of the main reasons it has been a slow process is because of the high quality we are aiming for.

We are very much aware that we keep missing deadlines. We are pushing as hard as we possibly can to not keep up this pattern, but hope you all will understand that we are not going to give another deadline out until we finish a lot of the items that are listed below.

Rest assured, we will complete SpaceVenture. It has been slow going, but this will not be one of those Kickstarters that get abandoned. Again, thank you so much for the patience.

So what is the status of the game?

  • The last few scenes in the game that have puzzle related material are still in the works. There is some artwork that still needs to be finalized and some puzzle mechanics to work out.
  • We have a few cutscenes that are still slated to be completed, including the game ending
  • There are a few death sequences that are still in the works for Ace. Some of which will be voted on by backers hopefully very soon.
  • Most scenes have gone through the polish process artwork wise, but still have to pass through testing for bugs before we go into full beta testing.
  • Music for most areas of the game are added where music is warranted. There are still a couple of scenes that need music including the last areas of the game as well as the ending sequence
  • Sound effects have been added for the large majority of the game, but there are still a few areas left to complete
  • The vast majority of “look” messages are added to the game with exception to the last few scenes
  • Voice over has not been recorded but we are in the process of selecting the correct voice actors for all the parts in the game, and will hopefully have news on that coming up.

THE TWO GUYS FROM ANDROMEDA SPACEDOME

Going as far back to the original Kickstarter pitch with our playable concept art pieces, we showed you all of a Two Guys From Andromeda Space dome idea. There is a whole sequence of the game in which Ace Hardway gets a call from none other then the Two Guys themselves involving their in-dome swimming pool/lagoon. Ace eventually makes his way to the dome only to find that the Two Guys haven’t exactly made it easy for him to get to where he needs to be in order to fix the problem.

This is image of the old artwork for the Dome that was put together in the Kickstarter campaign:

Below is a look at the huge artwork revamp that has been done on the Space Dome. This is how the dome currently looks in game:

One of our SpaceVenture artists, Patrick Parish, worked hard with direction from Mark on making this scene look absolutely amazing.

This sequence of the game has quite of bit of hilarious content we think all of you will enjoy, not to mention some huge plot points that will take place. The dome has gone through a massive overhaul artwork wise that we hope all of you will love. Check out the exploration video below.

EXPLORING SOME OF THE DOME

This video features a fun new tune by our composer Ken Allen.

NOTE that this video is fuzzy due to compression, and parts of the scenes are still a work in process.

https://youtu.be/ia_6kes8u1Y

THE TGFA LAB

After finally meeting the Two Guys in person, Ace will need to make his way down below the interior of the dome into the pump house to repair the pool/lagoon. In order to get to the pump house, Ace will need to pass through the Two Guys development lab. The lab happens to be the place where the Two Guys design and work on their latest projects.

Things can get real spoilery here so we aren’t gonna say too much about what to expect, but we thought you guys would like to have a look at the scene itself.

UPDATE ON VERONICA

We’ve mentioned Veronica to you guys a few times in the past. We also got quite a bit of feedback from you all on how you felt involving Veronica. Veronica is meant to be a strong female character in SpaceVenture that plays a pretty important roll in solving the mystery of some of the story line going on around Ace.

Here is how Veronica used to look in early concept art:

Here is a look at Veronica as she is scene right now. Keep in mind, she isn’t wearing any of the outfits here that are planned for her in game.

Considering Veronica’s line of work, she will be seen wearing different outfits in different scenes of the game. Her outfits are one of the artwork elements we have left to complete. Some of you backers backed at a high enough level to vote on concept pieces for SpaceVenture. We plan to let you all vote for which outfits you like, and the ones that are selected will be the ones that she wears in game.

Here is a glimpse of one of the concept pieces to be voted on:

Be on the look out for a survey request involving Veronica’s outfits.

NEW DIARY ENTRIES ON SVREWARDS

Mark posted a diary entry on the SVRewards website involving what it takes to put together a 2.5D scene in Unity, such as the Space Dome. There is also a blooper video involving Rooter posted up there as well. All $30 and up backers can go have a look at that. Here is a sneak peak of an image he posted. The image will also link you straight to the website as well.

 

 http://svrewards.com

Thanks for all of your support everyone!

Chris Pope a.k.a your humble local intergalactic SpacePope

How well do you know your Sierra games?

Over on the SierraHelp forums, we have a game where a portion of the screen shot of a specific game (King’s Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, Police Quest, etc) and others need to guess where the screen shot is from. Some of the games have been going on for quite some time; but we’ve opened up some new ones (like Conquest series which includes Conquest of Camelot and Conquest of Longbow; as well as EcoQuest, Freddy Pharkus, Goldrush, Laura Bow series which is Colonel’s Bequest and Dagger of Amon Ra, and the Manhunter series).

Be sure to check out the latest post of each thread to see where the game stands! So if you haven’t already, please come by the forums and join in the games! And if you haven’t already registered on the forum – please do! We’d love to have you! Whether it’s to participate in the games, or join us in all the Sierra conversations we have!

 

Hero-U Update #87: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption

Posted by Corey Cole

Lori and I cannot express how much we appreciate both the initial support and continuing patience (or at least acceptance) from all of our dedicated Hero-U backers. Making this game is proving harder than anything else we’ve done, but you’ve also given us the opportunity to create something new and we hope wonderful.

So we wish a Happy Valentine’s Day with love to all of you.

Happy Valentine's Day
Happy Valentine’s Day

New team members

I put out a call for Unity programmers in December, and we were delighted with the results. Ten people applied, and if I had the budget I would have hired all ten of them. Currently I’ve added three additional developers to the team. Each brings extensive Unity and game development experience to the team.

Thanks to everyone who applied. Lori and I were impressed with your level of talent and dedication.

Planned Beta and Release dates

The current plan calls for “Code Complete” – all features implemented and ready for outside Beta testing – in 2-3 months. Figure on April 30 for the start of Beta. We plan to distribute digital copies of the game through a download on BackerKit for backers, and through Steam, GoG, and Humble for new orders.

The Beta phase will also last 2-3 months, so we’re targeting late June to mid-July for game release. We are following the tradition of similar Kickstarter projects in releasing the digital version of the game first. After we’ve fixed most of the problems reported by players, we’ll manufacture the boxed games and send them out to the backers at higher contribution levels.

We might still slip, but it won’t be by much. Lori and I have strong financial and creative incentives to get the game out the door and into your hands.

It’s a Trap

Here’s a sneak peek at the trap disarming puzzle. As Shawn practices disarming traps and improves in skill, some of the incorrect letters will be removed from the dial of Shawn’s Trap Tapper. https://youtu.be/RW3JjZI5YKM

Remember, Rogues, it takes more than a disarming smile to bypass a diabolical trap!

Project upgraded to Unity 5.5

We looked into porting Hero-U to Unity 5 a couple of years ago, but decided we did not have the expertise to make it work. Now with the help of our new team members, we’re up and running on version 5.5. This brings the game some big improvements in lighting, performance, and stability.

Bob Bates Thaumistry game

Bob Bates is an adventure game hero going all the way back to the days of Infocom text adventures. Bob also co-founded Legend Entertainment and published our Shannara adventure RPG. Now he has returned to his text adventure roots with Thaumistry, a comical fantasy interactive fiction game on Kickstarter. The project is fully funded, but additional backers will help Bob reach stretch goals including audio.

Please support Thaumistry and help keep the text adventure market alive. The project is on Kickstarter at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1575848200/thaumistry-in-charms-way-a-new-comedy-text-adventu

Seriously, You’re the Best

Thank you for supporting our incredible journey into making a Sierra-quality video game in the new indie era. We wouldn’t be here without our generous backers, and we think you’re going to love Hero-U as much as we love making it.

Hero-U Project Update #86: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption

From Corey Cole –

Lori and I, and the entire Hero-U development team, wish all our loyal backers and friends a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. (You can check out last year’s holiday card and poem at http://hero-u.com/happy-holidays-2015/.)

Have a Very Meepy Christmas
Have a Very Meepy Christmas

 

I recently shipped all of the “soft goods” – Hero-Unicorn baseball caps, All the Heroes t-shirts, and Blue Meeps – to backers who chose them as rewards in the 2015 Kickstarter campaign or BackerKit. Much thanks and appreciation to Eric Varnes, who designed the images on both the new hats and t-shirts.

Check your pledge at https://hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game.backerkit.com/backer/welcome. If your pledge included a t-shirt, cap, or meep toy, you should have received it by now or at least received an email saying it’s in the mail. If you think you are missing a toy, meep, or t-shirt, contact support (at) hero-u (dot) net.

While you’re at it, please make sure your email and mailing address are up to date on BackerKit. We’ll need them to hook you up with digital and physical game rewards, including the game itself.

I still need to print, package, and mail poster prints to backers who ordered them, and canvas prints to high-end backers from both campaigns. Lori and I decided to wait on shipping prints until we release the game, as it makes much more sense to have a Hero-U poster or painting once you also have the game.

Oh, That Door Looks Perfectly Safe
Oh, That Door Looks Perfectly Safe

The Year in Review

2016 has been a roller-coaster ride for us. There have been some great and exciting moments, and some sad and terrifying ones. If I needed to describe it all in one word, it would be “unpredictable”. Sadly, I could use the same word to describe most of the development of Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption.

The hardest part of running a small indie business has been turnover. To date, we’ve had about 30 people work on Hero-U, but currently we’re down to four regular developers, three occasional contributors, and Lori and me. Health, family, and computer issues have cost almost every team member at least a month during the year, and much more for some. I’m not going to go into details, but many events unrelated to the project have created huge stress for us and the team this year. These challenges have continually impacted the schedule, but we’ll keep pushing until the game is done.

On the positive side, we’ve made tremendous progress with the game. I’m personally funding it at this point, and that’s appropriate. “With great risk comes great reward.” – Dungeonmaster or maybe the D&D Player Handbook. Fortunately, Lori and I turned 60 while working on Hero-U, which opens access to our retirement accounts. We’ll try not to exhaust them, but the game comes first! We’re much too young to actually retire.

I hope that sword is just for scaling the marlin
I hope that sword is just for scaling the marlin

A lot of that progress is filling out the fine details of the game text and dialogue. Lori is down to the last few conversations. Josh Mandel has done a wonderful job of filling out the characters and game world by making every object in the game interactable. Our “Explorer” players – and everyone has some Explorer in them – are going to love the fine detail and humor that Josh has infused throughout the game.

Joshua Smyth continues to fill out the game with improved rooms and regions, better lighting, and of course the role-playing game combat. Each monster type has its own “personality” and behavior, although most share the common trait of enjoying the taste of rogue (or any other careless student). We lost Joshua to a “day job” for several months this year, and I can’t emphasize how critical he has been to the project since returning.

Al Eufrasio has had a tremendous impact on the look of the project as our animator. Al wrote a great post about the decisions involved in animating characters that I will share in the next update.

Unity Programmer Help Needed

I’ve had a balancing act throughout the Hero-U project. We need the right developers to complete and polish the game. But we also had to reach “critical mass” on the design, writing, and asset creation so they could get their work done. We also have a limited budget by game development standards, so we’ve had to run with a very lean team. That’s fine except when there’s turnover. In 2016, we lost most of Cidney’s time to recovery from an auto accident, Carolyn left for a full-time job, and most of Adam’s time to a triple-whammy of a dead computer and illness in the family. And now he’s moving on to a full-time day job, which will limit his time in 2017.

Lost in the Sea Caves
Lost in the Sea Caves

To finish Hero-U, we need one or two programmers to work with me on polishing individual scenes. The work will be a three-month contract with possible extension. If you have the right qualifications and want to join our small team, please contact me at jobs (at) hero-u (dot) com. (Note that this is a .com address, not .net as in the support email.) You must meet all of these requirements:

  • Experience developing games with Unity and C# (at least six months).
  • Available to work at least 20 hours a week, up to 40.
  • Able to work independently with a minimum of supervision.
  • Ability to communicate well with other team members.
  • Since this is a short-term contract, we prefer that you have your own Unity Pro license valid for Unity 4 (this is included in Unity 5 licenses).

RPG Investment Opportunity

Artcraft Entertainment – developer of the upcoming Crowfall RPG – is selling shares on Indiegogo and Microventures. This is an opportunity to invest in the long-term success of the game, although it is of course also a high-risk investment. Visit https://app.microventures.com/crowdfunding/artcraft-entertainment to learn more. For more about the Crowfall game, visit http://crowfall.com/.
Artcraft is headed by Gordon Walton and J. Todd Coleman. Gordon was an executive in charge of Ultima Online, The Sims Online, Star Wars: Galaxies, and Star Wars: the Old Republic. Todd was creative director on Shadowbane, Wizard 101, and Pirate101. I know Gordon through conferences, and I rate him One of the Good Guys.
Crowfall RPG Concept Illo
Crowfall RPG Concept Illo
Merry Christmas! We’ll see you all in 2017. We’re all wishing for a much better year and a Hero-U release that will bring joy to you and us. Have a happy New Year!

SpaceVenture Project Update #112: Two Guys SpaceVenture – by the creators of Space Quest by Two Guys From Andromeda

Hey everyone, we wanted to give you all an update and let you know the status of things. Most of you have probably guessed that the game is still not quite ready yet, there is no beating around the bush on that. We wanted to let you know where everything stands at the moment.

First off, we are still moving full force at finishing the game as quickly as possible. Nothing has changed there. We absolutely hate making excuses, but we know you all are wondering what is going on. The game is still being worked on everyday, but obviously we are gonna need more time. We are reluctant to set another exact day, because there are a few variables that have to be figured out. One being the fact that SAG-AFTRA(Actors union) is currently on strike and the majority of our voice cast is SAG-AFTRA members. We are not blaming the strike for the reason the game is still not ready, only that it is one of the variables that need to be worked out. Hopefully the strike will get wrapped up in the coming weeks and we can get our voice cast in the studio and record.

Secondly, working out the end of the game has taken longer than expected as well. Some art is still being finalized and the last puzzle mechanics are needing some TLC as well. We also still have some creative death sequences(which we know Space Quest fans love) to work out. We still plan to let you guys(that backed at a high enough level) vote on these along with some artwork voting stuff very soon.

One of the biggest reasons for falling behind this year is due to having to go back and work out a lot of bugs. We definitely still plan to beta test the game with backers that backed at a high enough level, but we want to work out the obvious bugs first. Some of you out there that have worked in game development before probably know one of the pitfalls that can happen. It can be summed up in four words, readjusting previously working code. If not, I’ll shed some light on what we’ve experienced.

SpaceVenture is laid out in four major sections, almost like chapters, because you can re-visit most areas. There are lots of mini sequences that connect three of the four sections together. One being the fact that we want you to be able to travel between pieces of the game freely. Think along the lines of Space Quest 3,4, and 5. The first section of the game is the Nostradamus area that we showcased a teeny bit of in our demo a couple of years back. Once we completed that section we moved to the next, and then next, etc..

The majority of the game is being created on top of our custom built event system that was made through the Unity engine. The event system allows us to tell the characters and scene elements to do anything we want without having to “re-invent the wheel” by reprogramming the same types of code over and over. As we’ve reached the scenes nearing the end of the game, we’ve had to adjust the code of the event system to allow for newer features. This is because we want SpaceVenture to be a unique experience from start to finish and not feel like a hidden objects game.

In changing code and adding new features, this introduced lots of bugs in scenes that were finalized earlier in the game. Going back to earlier sections of the game and ironing out all the wrinkles has been a huge undertaking. We know that a lot of you are excited about beta testing as well. We are getting close to that point, but need to get this obvious bugs worked out first.

HOW THE PROJECT IS DOING FINANCIALLY

We have been pushing VERY hard to keep our belts tight throughout the entire process of working on SpaceVenture, but as you can probably imagine, things are getting down to the wire. The Cluck Yegger game did help bring some funds into the project which is good. Cluck Yegger has been selling on Steam and in the Apple iOS store, but we’ve made a pretty good chunk of change by selling it on bundle websites, such as this one.

Ultimately, we still have the funds for our rewards/shipping(as we estimated), along with our voice actors and paid team members. We have had a couple of artists and programmers that have been willing to work for credits in the game so that has helped move us forward as well. Needless to say though, we are working extremely hard to get this game out quickly so we do not run out of funds. The good news is, we are close!

AN UPDATE ON SCOTT MURPHY

Some of you may know that Scott Murphy had a really bad year in 2015. He addressed some of this in a blog post that can be found here. 2016 has not been any better for Scott as he has had some big health problems that has affected his quality of life. Unfortunately, this has severely hindered his ability to work with the SpaceVenture team. Mark and myself have done our best to keep everything moving towards the finish line, but needless to say, it has been hard without having our third partner. Let me make it clear, that we do NOT blame the fact that the game is still not finished on Scott. But we did want you all to know that he has had to take some time away to work out the things he is dealing with.

From the game being completed perspective, the good news is that with the exception of some final grammar edits, the script is done. The game design has been done for awhile now. We are really pulling for Scott to get back on his feet and rejoin the team full time.

I know I’m being very vague in my above comments regarding Scott. This is because I don’t feel like it’s my place to share his personal challenges. Hopefully, he can address everything in another blog post for you all at some point. We hope you all will be understanding of him and his privacy.

WHEN WILL THE GAME BE RELEASED?

We are reluctant to give another exact release date, but I can tell you that we are close guys. We just need to work out the last few variables that I mentioned above and we will have this game in the can. No one is more excited to have the game done then us. We have enjoyed working on it, but you can imagine the amount of stress involved here. We hate knowing that we have disappointed so many people. It pains us to know that you all gave us money and we have still yet to deliver the product in this amount of time. We hope you all will stay positive, we need as much positivity thrown our way as possible right now.

ARTWORK FROM THE FINAL SCENES

We don’t have as much to show you as I would like due to a huge part of our time being focused on fixing bugs in the game. We also are gonna try and not be too spoilery here because what I’m about to show you happens in the final sequence of the game, we’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Here is another look at a scene that we’ve not shown you before. It is in a close to being finished state, but the artwork is still having final details added.

EPISODE 39 OF THE BI-WEEKLY PODCAST BY THE SPACE QUEST HISTORIAN

This is it! The end. The REAL end! After 12 ‘real’ episodes and 4 Xtra episodes, season 3 finally rolls to a close. There’s some special bloopers and outtakes from the season, as well as finally capping off the Music Talk with Brandon Blume, James Mulvale, and Ken Allen, as well as the ‘merits of the Space Quest series’ chat with Francisco Gonzalez. See you around the chronostream!

LISTEN IN ITUNES or THE RSS FEED HERE

Thanks for all of your support everyone!

Chris Pope a.k.a your humble local intergalactic SpacePope

Hero-U Project Update #85: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption

Beyond Random

I learned a lesson in improbability many years ago while playing Risk. My 12 armies were about to eliminate a player’s last two defenders. When the dust cleared multiple dice rolls later, my lone remaining army stared helplessly at the remaining single defender.

The lesson – high probability is not the same thing as certainty, and low probability is not the same thing as guaranteed failure. We all watched those lessons hammered home in last Tuesday’s U.S. Presidential election, and before that with the Brexit vote.

It’s an important lesson for game designers – there is no such thing as a 90% chance in a one-time puzzle. That puzzle is really a 100% chance for 90% of the players, and a 0% chance for the other 10%. If you want players to solve the puzzle, make it 100% solvable, or allow players to try multiple times until they solve it.

Lockpicking in Hero-U works that way – you might encounter a lock Shawn can’t open, but he’ll get a little practice attempting it. After enough practice and study, and a more advanced toolkit, Shawn can come back and open the lock. Trap disarming involves both Shawn’s skill and the player’s, but every trap can be disarmed with practice and cleverness.

I'll Need Some "Lock" to Open This One
I’ll Need Some “Lock” to Open This One

 

Risky Business

Risk and Reward applies to other aspects of games as well. Backing a Kickstarter project is risky because any project could fail or turn out to be a mediocre game. The hoped-for reward isn’t actually the game itself – it’s helping to make that game become a reality.

From the developers’ viewpoint, the risks are immense. Crowdfunding rarely provides the full budget for a game, so the developer has a monetary risk. They are also committing years of their lives to making the game and other rewards for backers. If the game sells well, they’ll be rewarded. If it fails, all that time and money is gone. However, we’ll have made a game – or hopefully several – of which we can be proud, and that’s its own reward.

Then there are the unforeseen risks, and occasionally rewards. Turnover has been a schedule – and sometimes momentum – killer for us. Thirty people have contributed to the project to date, ten of whom are currently working actively on Hero-U. With our limited budget and distant communications, I don’t know how we could have done much better in that area.

The rewards have come from some amazing team members making terrific contributions to the project. JP Selwood has been with us from the beginning, and his portraits and backgrounds are a beautiful and essential fabric for the game. Our New Zealand contingent of Joshua Smyth and Adam Thompson have added a lot of programming muscle and creativity to the project in the later phases. Finding the right team has been our biggest challenge in making Hero-U.

A Golem Guards the Path
A Golem Guards the Path

 

Project Status

Several team members have had personal and family challenges recently, but we’re working through them. I’m shooting for “feature complete” and alpha testing in January, with Beta testing in February or early March and release 2nd quarter 2017. It’s been a long, stressful journey, but the end is in sight.

After release, we’ll be very busy for several months. First we’ll fulfill the rest of the physical rewards that depend on the game – the boxed games, art book, and canvas prints. Then we’ll visit our super-backer in Germany and make some publicity stops in Europe. Meanwhile, the team will continue to fix any problems reported by players, and we’ll investigate porting Hero-U to other devices such as tablets.

Then we’ll move on to Hero-U 2. We hope to see you on Wizard’s Way!

Sending them Softly

The “soft goods” are ready to roll. I purchased the Hero-Unicorn caps and “All Kinds of Heroes” t-shirts last month (see image at bottom), but a family situation delayed shipping them. I plan to get them out by the end of November. If your reward tier included a t-shirt, cap, or meep toy, or if you ordered any of those as an add-on in the 2nd (2015) campaign, please visit BackerKit and make sure your address is up to date. Visit https://hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game.backerkit.com to verify your rewards and contact information.

References

For more on the surprising frequency of unlikely events, read: The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day by David J. Hand, or The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

I haven’t been keeping up with recent Kickstarter adventure and role-playing games, so instead let me give a shout out to Serena Nelson’s Cliqist site – http://cliqist.com/. Her team does a great job of covering relevant game projects.

Clothes Make the Meep
Clothes Make the Meep