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.

Hero-U Update #66: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption by the Quest for Glory designers

I’ve received messages from a number of people who backed our first Kickstarter campaign and want to move up to higher tiers in the new one. Yes, there is a way to do that! You can find the new Kickstarter campaign at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/transolargames/hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game/description.

First, if you’re moving from the old $20 tier to the new $50 tier, we have a big discount for you – Simply pick the $20 Double Time tier. You are already getting the game from our first campaign, and Double Time adds the hint book, soundtrack, and the “Making of Hero-U” art book (which is going to be BEAUTIFUL).

If you backed at the $35 level the first time, and want the rewards of the new $50 level, you do not need to do anything – We will give those rewards to everyone who backed at $35 or higher in the first campaign.

By the way, if you’re happy with the tier you supported in the first campaign, AWESOME – Thank you so much for supporting us when this project was just a glimmer in our eyes. There’s nothing else you need to do.

Let’s say you picked the $75 Senior level in our first campaign, but you really want the fancy Collector’s Edition with the t-shirt (or cap), lucky coin, Hero-Unicorn Varsity Letter, soundtrack CD, and key ring. That’s a $200 tier, so you need to add $125. To do that, simply choose the $10 Supporter tier, but instead of pledging $10, pledge $125.

After the campaign, we’ll ask about add-ons and upgrades and you can tell us you went from the Senior level to the Collector’s Edition level. We’ll also ask your t-shirt size.

Here’s a chart of upgrade costs from the original tier to the new $80 and $200 tiers. We are giving full credit to backers at previous physical tiers, and partial credit to those who previous chose digital-only tiers. That’s because shipping is included, and it’s very expensive for us.

Hero-U Backer Upgrade Chart Hero-U Backer Upgrade Chart

We will also have some really cool add-ons that you can order “a la carte” in the new campaign. Just support the campaign at any level and add the price of the add-ons to your pledge. This time we’re including shipping costs in the price of each add-on. Check the first update to the new Kickstarter campaign for the available add-ons and prices.

By the way, I will mostly be posting public updates (you don’t need to support it to read them) about the Hero-U project to the new campaign, so check in there occasionally to learn what’s new with Hero-U. Here’s the update page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/transolargames/hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game/updates.

Also drop by www.hero-u.com occasionally to read Lori’s news emphasizing the Hero-U art and story.

Hero-U Update #65: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption by the Quest for Glory designers

Hero-U Funds Again

Hero-U Funds Again

Our second-round funding campaign is now live at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/transolargames/hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game. We hope many of you will join us there to learn more about the game. Most posts will be public, open to everyone.

Here is the section from that page on why we decided to do a second Kickstarter campaign instead of getting venture capital or looking for an outside publisher.

It is unusual for the same project to raise funds on Kickstarter twice, but it is not unusual for a game to need additional funding. We have talked to many adventure game developers, and nearly all of their projects went over budget. They have either absorbed the costs themselves or obtained venture capital.

We chose not to seek outside funding because we want Hero-U to be a game of, by, and for our many heroes. Kickstarter is where we began, and we would like this to be a wholly crowd-funded game.

In October 2012, we had very little to show, but many amazing fans pledged to support our vision. We now have so much more to share. Check out the game art examples here, and try the combat and game play demos for yourself!

If you like what you see, please contribute to this project. We will use the funds to finish developing the game, add new art and music, and polish everything to a quality level where all of us can be proud of the game we made together.

SpaceVenture Update #102: Two Guys SpaceVenture – by the creators of Space Quest by Two Guys From Andromeda

We are still pushing really hard to get this game done this year. As soon as we have a ship date, we’ll announce it.

So I’m sure you all have been wondering what we’ve been up to for the past two months. Well the main focus has been on a pretty important chunk of the game. Our time has been mostly spent showing some love to Cluck Yegger and his story. We’ve said since the beginning that Cluck Yegger is a fictional video game character in the Ace Hardway universe. Yes that’s right, a fictional character from a fictional character’s universe, go figure.

In the last update we introduced you to an 8-bit Cluck Yegger mini game called “Clucky Bird”. Not long after we wrapped that last update we began working hard on the next part of Cluck Yegger story in SpaceVenture. It is kind of another Cluck Yegger mini game that Ace will have to take part in within SpaceVenture, but this is no 8-bit game. Entering into Cluck Yegger’s virtual reality world is a critical plot element of our story, and we know you’re gonna love it!

There is a little bitter sweetness to this, because although this is such a fun and cool concept we’ve put together, I’m limited to what I’m allowed to show you. Below is a small video that is more of a teaser than anything else. Now keep in mind that the Cluck Yegger scene you are about to see is actually a fully functional mini game. There is a lot more that you can do in this part of the game that is fully functional, that won’t be demonstrated in the video.

https://youtu.be/Dkom5Xb3VuU

And here is a little photo to compliment the video:

Here is a photo of another scene from the Cluck Yegger mini game/virtual reality experience:

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ANDROMEDCON

In the last update we gave you a peek at the Andromecon Centari Center exterior scene. It was in a very early stage. Below is the updated scene. Keep in mind it is still a work in progress, but here is how it’s looking now:

Below is a test video of Rooter exploring the Andromecon convention floor. This scene still has a good deal of work to go, but we thought you all might enjoy a quick look at how it’s coming along.

https://youtu.be/0JarMh-bbpk

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TACO NOVA

We also previously gave you all a look at the exterior of our SciFi fast food joint, Taco Nova! Well now you can have a look at the interior. The artwork for this scene is not polished yet, but you should be able to see how well it’s coming together.

Current Interior:

Current Exterior:

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MEET VERONICA7

This is a character that has been planned for the game since the beginning. She has a very big part in the SpaceVenture story. Her name is Veronica7. Have a look at her below:

(No Sound)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMsBcmm9zpQ

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LANDING ON THE SCRAPYARD

We’ve shown you a good deal of progress within the “Scrapyard”, but how about a little clip of docking in the Garage?

(No sound)

https://youtu.be/H7sQdTauKJs

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CONCEPT ART

How about a look at some concept art? This is an early look at Nurb’s bar. You should be able to get a good feel of the layout. I’ll be showing you a completed version of the scene in the future.

And here is concept art for a scene that I’m not allowed to give any details about whatsoever. Make of it what you will 😉

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COREY AND LORI COLE

If you haven’t already heard, our friends Corey and Lori Cole(creators of the Quest for Glory series) are launching another Kickstarter to help push them over the finish line. They are aiming for May 12, so keep an eye on their Kickstarter page for details.

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Thanks for all of your support everyone!

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

PS- Some of my fellow Space Quest fan friends created a fun little adventure game called “Late Last Night”. Check it out if you have a moment :) Link: http://gamejolt.com/games/adventure/late-last-nite/59209/

Hero-U Update #64: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption by the Quest for Glory designers

A number of backers were angry at my previous update, feeling that we were asking them for more money without having delivered anything for their previous pledges. That was never the intent. The object of that post was to:

  • Announce the upcoming supplementary Kickstarter (starting May 12)
  • Share the new version of the break-in room demo
  • Show how the game is finally progressing from concept art to a real game
  • Show that a small donation from many people can make a big difference
  • Thank you for your past support and bearing with this delayed game

That was all. It certainly was not intended to demand more money from backers who were generous to us when we had nothing more than a game concept. You are the 6,000 who believed in us more than any of the other hundreds of thousands of Quest for Glory and Castle of Dr. Brain players. You mean the world to us.

As you know, nearly all of my updates have been open to everyone. Yesterday’s update was the first of a series of backer-only updates to keep you posted on why we are doing the new Kickstarter and other project details that we feel are of more interest to you than to the rest of the world. There won’t be any secrets here, but there will be some very honest talk that some will take negatively.

One of the questions raised several times yesterday is, “What did you do with the first $400,000? Why do you need more?” It’s a great question, and I’ll answer it here.

But first let me put it in perspective – $400K after our costs of making and shipping rewards, Kickstarter fees, and so on, is actually less than $300K net towards the project. That was enough money to pay for one programmer and four artists for a year, even with no other expenses (music, Unity licenses, etc.) and paying Lori and me nothing.

We started with four artists, a musician, and a programmer. If nobody had left the team and we completed it in 8 months, we’d have broken even. That lasted one month before a key team member quit and we could not find a replacement.

Let’s look at all the money we’ve received from crowdfunding and our site:

  • Pledged on Kickstarter (Gross):            $409,000 (but some did not pay)
  • PayPal and Humble Bundle (Gross):       $26,000
  • Total Crowd-Funding to Date (Gross):  $435,000
  • Deductions and Funding Costs:              $60,000
  • Total Crowd-Funding to Date (Net):  $375,000

Here’s where we spent the original Kickstarter funding:

  • Art and Animation  $205,000 (includes work on virtual rewards)
  • Programming           $85,000
  • Music                       $25,000
  • Taxes/Fees/Overhead  $75,000 (includes cost of funding)
  • Software/Supplies   $10,000 (Unity and other licenses)
  • Rewards and Shipping  $35,000
  • TOTAL:  $435,000

Of the $85,000 spent on programming, $45,000 went to work that proved unusable by team members who later left the project. We’ve deferred about $25,000 of additional programming expense until after the game is released.

$84,000 of the art expense went to Contract Art House for 3D character models and animation.

Note that there is no category for game design, writing, or management. Lori and Corey each took a $20/hour salary for the first year, resulting in $15,000 in taxes. Once we started running low on funds, we returned every dollar of our salaries to Transolar Games in the form of a personal loan.

We estimate the total project cost at $550,000 to get the game out the door. We are deferring an additional $75,000 in costs until after the game becomes profitable – Deferred contractor payments and cost of producing and shipping physical rewards such as game boxes.

Lori and I are personally covering all expenses beyond the crowd-funding amounts. In fact, we’re literally betting our house on the project – Since we have no income from the project, we are using a $150,000 home equity line of credit to cover Hero-U development and pay our living expenses. We are completely committed to finishing Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption and making it a game that players will love.

We will not make any money from Hero-U until everyone else is paid, backers have their games, and we manage to sell some copies.

If this campaign is successful, here is how we will spend the funds (based on exactly meeting the $100,000 goal):

  • $10,000  Kickstarter and bank fees
  • $20,000  Cost of project rewards
  • $40,000  Programming
  • $20,000  Art and Animation
  • $10,000  All other expenses

If the project reaches $200,000:

  • $20,000  Kickstarter and bank fees
  • $40,000  Cost of project rewards
  • $70,000  Programming
  • $40,000  Art and Animation
  • $20,000  Game testing, production, and shipping
  • $10,000  All other expenses

Any additional funding will be used for:

  • Improved game play, art, and sound effects
  • Debt reduction to lower interest expense
  • Additional section of the Sea Caves (Temple of Gog-sosloth)
  • Localization and Voice Acting
  • Android and iOS Tablet versions of the game

Our artists have been doing amazing work on the project over the last 2.5 years even as we had to change the specs because of programming issues. Our new strike team of four part-time programmers are all doing great work. Many of the team members are making sacrifices to keep the development costs reasonable, and we hope we can make it up to them later. They are Hero-U’s biggest fans (all were backers before they joined us), and we are blessed to have them on our team.

Lori, I and the team are really excited about recent progress and what we expect to happen this year. We’ll keep you posted on all of it!

Hero-U: Ten Reasons For Running Another Kickstarter

http://hero-u.com/top-ten-reasons-for-running-another-kickstarter/

Top Ten Reasons for Running Another Kickstarter

10) We’re running out of money (Sad but True)

9) It would be a shame to waste the cool art of the Master Wraith room

8) We really want to see the Temple of Gog-Sosloth in the Game

Gog Temple

7) Somebody has to pay the artists for their work!

6) The more money we get, the better the game

5) We want the scary parts to be even scarier

4) We’ve got an awesome new t-shirt design!

3) The castle needs more backer paintings

2) Wanted Posters (Everybody wants to be Wanted, after all)

Wanted Alexian

And the Number 1 reason:

We bet the ranch on this Project. (Do you want to be responsible for thousands of homeless flying Aardvarks?)

 

Hero-U Update #63: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption by the Quest for Glory designers

Starting May 12, we are taking a very unusual step – Two and one-half years after successfully completing the Hero-U Kickstarter, we are coming back to ask for more funding and more support.

We will need your help to succeed, and I want to show you here why supporting our second Kickstarter is both the right thing to do, and why you will benefit from supporting us.

It won’t take much – If every backer from our first Kickstarter pledges just $10, we will be more than halfway to our $100,000 goal. If you all pledge $20, we can reach our goal on the first day.

This game will be amazing! Thanks to you, we’ve made amazing progress over the last two years. Here is an example of what we showed you in late 2012 compared to what the game looks like now:

We are putting in the time, effort, creativity, and expense to bring this level of quality to every scene and every aspect of Hero-U. This will be a game that each of us – backers and developers – can look on with pride and say, “I helped make that!” Thanks to your support, you are part of our team.

Check Out the New Game Play Demo

We have a great new version of the playable demo for you with all-new art, programming, interface, and dialogue. If you log on to your Humble Bundle account, you will find WIndows, Macintosh, and Linux versions waiting for you to download and enjoy.

We have also just completed our first combat prototype, a playable experience that lets you explore a section of the cellars underneath Hero-U, fight monsters, and collect incredible treasure. We plan to release that to Insider and Beta Test backers today to get their feedback, and to everyone next week.

The rest of the game is also progressing well. We recently added Aaron Martin to the team to work on 3D environments. Most of the castle is now explorable, and we are steadily filling out the text and dialogue. With the demos complete, we expect to make rapid progress on other areas.

There is still a long way to go. Each scene is like a rough gem that needs to be refined, cut, and polished before becoming a jewel worthy of adding to the Hero-U treasure chest.

How You Can Help, and What You Will Get

Every dollar contributed the new Kickstarter campaign will make a big difference to the quality of Hero-U.

For those of you who backed us at the $20 level in 2012, we’ve created a special $20 pledge level just for you. For that second $20, you will receive all the benefits of our new $50 tier. That will include a hint book with tips and strategies for reaching different goals in Hero-U. We will give you the complete soundtrack with all of Ryan Grogan’s stunning musical compositions along with any music we add to the game in the coming months.

You will also get the “Making of Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption Art Book”, highlighting many of the stunning portraits, paintings, and background art from the game. It also includes an insider look at the process our artists went through to complete the game art, including the original design notes, early sketches, and “color comps”. It’s a pretty awesome reward level!

More than half of you (3300 of 6100 total) backed at the original $20 level. Check out the math – As a numbers guy, I think it’s pretty cool. 3300 x $20 = $66,000. That leaves about 2800 backers. Each of you kick in just $10, for 2800 x $10 = 28,000. Add those together and you get $94,000, and the new campaign is nearly funded. It doesn’t take a painful amount from anyone – All it takes is a community and a commitment to this game.

Would you like to help more? We have added some great new rewards at the higher levels including a new t-shirt design depicting all of the types of Heroes at Hero-U. A new hat design will feature the awesomely cute Hero-Unicorn.

Then there is the mysterious Rogues Gallery deep in the catacombs beneath Hero-U. If you are one of our Most Wanted Backers, your picture could appear on a Wanted Poster in the Gallery.

Is there a reward you would treasure more than anything else? Contact us at support@hero-u.net with your ideas.

What’s New At Hero-U?

We’ve simplified our main www.hero-u.com web site and made it mobile-device-friendly. The latter is important for Google’s changes to search priority. From the main page, you can get to the Kickstarter, the What’s New blog, our stores, and the discussion forum. The latter are still on hero-u.net for now. Here are the main links:

Let’s Make This Happen Together

We’ve had an amazing and exciting time developing Hero-U so far, full of ups, downs, and sideways. For all the challenges, we wouldn’t trade the experience. We have been thrilled, delighted, and relieved by your continuing support, confidence, and encouragement for this most difficult project.

Check back on Kickstarter on May 12 for the start of “Hero-U Adventure Role-playing Computer Game” by Corey Cole. www.hero-u.com/kickstarter will count down the time left, and then link to the Kickstarter page once it goes live.

Be sure to share the good news with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and real life. We’ll see you there!

Hero-U Project Update #62: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption

St. Patrick's Day Kwirk

St. Patrick’s Day Kwirk

We’re coming up on St. Patrick’s Day. We’ll be having the traditional corned beef and cabbage because corned beef goes on sale this time of year, and we like it. Besides, we have our small connections to Ireland – Lori’s mother was an O’Brien, and I have Welsh ancestry on my mother’s side (close enough to Ireland for me J). We also love Irish traditional music.

First we had to get through Pi Day, with slices of homemade coconut custard pie on 3/14 at 1:59:26 and on 3/14/15 at 9:26:53 (yeah, it only works in American Month/Day/Year format). The next few days, we’ll be working that off, probably by running in circles.

Keeping Current With Hero-U

Exciting things are happening at Transolar Games. Keep an eye on www.hero-u.net for current project news, discussion forums, and the Hero-U stores. We’re working on a redesigned version of the site, so visit frequently.

We’ve added a Café Press page (http://www.cafepress.com/herouniversitystore) with designs based on our new Hero-Unicorn mascot.

Also “Like” our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TheSchoolForHeroes) for the latest updates, polls, and links to other fun things we find on the web.

Shawn Goes Green

Shamrock Shawn

Shamrock Shawn

As you might suspect from his name, Shawn O’Conner’s roots are in Eire, the Emerald Isle, a place suspiciously similar to our Earth’s Ireland. The major difference is that magic in Eire is real – There are leprechauns, banshee and other Sidhe, and much more.

Eire is beautiful, but sometimes circumstances force people to leave the Emerald Isle. Among these emigrants was Shawn’s father. Shawn doesn’t remember much about his missing father, but he will learn much more during his time at Hero-U. Shawn has the Luck of the Eirish, but that isn’t always good luck.

An important way for Shawn to learn the secrets of Hero-U is to talk to other characters. Conversation is a big part of Hero-U game play.

Talkin’ about Most Anything

In Hero-U, conversation “is the thing”. Choices you make in dialogue affect the flow of the game, and determine the story you get from the game; change your choices and the story changes. Although dialogue is menu-driven as in Quest for Glory and Secret of Monkey Island, Shawn’s conversations are designed to feel more natural and less scripted because our system does not repeat any lines Shawn has already “heard”.

Let’s say you’re in your dorm bedroom talking with your roommate, Aeolus. You’re back there every night, so you’ll get a lot of chances to talk to him. You innocently ask, “What’s new?” and Aeolus launches into a new song he’s written. He wants to know whether you like it, and you might have a chance to “Answer Politely (use Charm)” or “Answer Cleverly (use Smarts)”.

Once you choose to be clever, you can’t go back and be charming on the same topic – That conversation wouldn’t make sense. Also, when you talk to Aeolus the next day, you will have completely different dialogue choices. This is not a game of “go down the menu and try everything”.

As in most films with strong storytelling – let’s say a Woody Allen rather than a Michael Bay film – dialogue is the main way the story is expressed in Hero-U. When Shawn talks to the other students and school staff, he learns more about them and the mysteries at the school. He also develops relationships, making both friends and enemies, and occasionally finds out about a “quest”. These are not MMO quests – “Go fetch me a pristine conch shell.”

Rather, as in Quest for Glory, Shawn learns about another character’s problem, and can decide whether to help them solve it. One of the students is having troubles with assignments; is it worth taking the time to tutor them? Another is searching for a lost treasure, but their map has been stolen. Help them or go after the treasure yourself? Each choice has its own consequences and rewards.

Writing ever-changing dialogue that expresses our story and character personalities is Lori’s biggest challenge on the Hero-U project. A single scene might have 20 or more conversations, each with multiple branches. Lori has designed them so that there are no “essential” branches, but each path reveals a different part of the story or character arc.

Upcoming Demos and Events

We will have some exciting progress to show over the next two months. The combat system is coming along nicely, and we will make a stand-alone playable combat scene in the beautiful – and now fully 3D – wine cellar. Of course, the demo won’t reveal all the secrets that will be found there in the game, but it will give you a feel for our major combat features including traps and throwing weapons.

Shawn Meets an Angry Dire Rat

Shawn Meets an Angry Dire Rat

We’ve also completely redone the “breakin room” that we showed as our first prototype. As it will be the first scene in Hero-U, we don’t mind “spoiling” actual game text and play in the new demo. The art is all new, and I’ve added a considerable amount of text including a few of my trademark puns.

The new demos, along with a revamped web site and more frequent Facebook updates, are the prelude to a supplementary Kickstarter campaign we plan to start in mid-April. It is unusual to run two campaigns for the same project, but it makes a lot of sense for Hero-U. Two years ago, we had only concepts to describe, and very little artwork. We also planned to make a relatively primitive game based on the assets we had at the time. Our optimistic project estimate of Oct. 2013 was based more on what we could build with the Kickstarter funds than on what it actually takes to do a high-quality game.

Since then, we have made enormous progress. We now have artwork for most of the game, professionally modeled and animated 3D characters, music, combat, and a significant amount of writing and game content. This time we have much more than concepts to show! We hope we will gain many new backers and that many of our current backers will find project rewards worth having. We’ve also spent a lot of personal money on the project; having more backers and presales will make it easier to complete the project without worrying about how we are paying the developers.

Crowfall – A Kickstarter MMO Worth Supporting

I’ve known Gordon Walton for many years by way of narrative game designers’ workshops. Gordon was a producer on Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, and Star Wars: the Old Republic. Now he’s working with J Todd Coleman (creative lead of Shadowbane and Wizard101) to create a new type of MMO. The team also includes developers from every other major MMO, and even (as a consultant) Raph Koster, lead designer of Ultima Online, Everquest, and Star Wars Galaxies.

Instead of playing a stable of characters in a persistent world, you have a small number of “immortal” characters who participate in limited-time campaigns, each on a unique world. They promise “destructible” worlds using Voxel technology thanks to the worlds having limited existence anyway.

The game is Crowfall, and you can support it at http://kck.st/1FSZc6G. It has 9 days to go as I write this, and is currently at $1.2 million, 50% over the original goal. That’s awesome, but MMO’s are also extremely expensive to develop, so they can still use our support.

SpaceVenture Project Update #101: Two Guys SpaceVenture – by the creators of Space Quest by Two Guys From Andromeda

LEGENDARY GARY OWENS PASSED AWAY

So as most of you have probably heard by now, the man with the golden pipes, Gary Owens, passed away on February 12th. We are deeply saddened by this news as I’m sure you all are as well. As you probably know, we had commitment from Gary that he would be the narrator for SpaceVenture as he was for Space Quest 4 and 6.

I had the honor of talking with Gary a few times. He truly was one of the nicest guys you would ever have the pleasure to talk with. Some fond memories I have of Gary involves talking with him about SpaceVenture and how excited he was to return as the narrative for another Two Guys From Andromeda game. I remember going over the lines that he would say for the Narrative skit that we did with Scott, and him bragging on the dialogue, all the while needing to “Xerox” a copy of the script to magnify the font so he could actually read it. He talked fondly of his family and his weekly lunches with other legends of the entertainment industry. Ultimately Gary was just an all around nice guy and positive thinker, just as you’d expect him to be, and he was very grateful for voice over work that came his way. The entertainment industry truly lost a good one on February 12th!

Mark took a moment to write the following:

“Hey Gang –

Scott and I are both very saddened by the news of Gary Owens’ passing at the age of 80. What can we say- the man was a living legend in the entertainment biz whom we were both extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to work with and honored to have featured in Space Quest. It was definitely a high-point in our younger lives/careers and an experience I’ll always look back on warmly. What makes this news doubly hard ,of course, is that (as you all know) Gary was to be featured as the narrator in Spaceventure. Unfortunately, Mr. Owens health fell into decline before we were able to record him. But what we want everyone to know is that, though we could never replace Gary as the narrator, we will work hard to find the right talent for the job.

Best,

-Mark”

Some links that might interest you involving Gary:

Amayirot Akago put together a video tribute involving Gary Owens voicing in Space Quest

Akril’s Memorable Moments and Lines from Space Quest 4

Akril’s Memorable Moments and Lines from Space Quest 6

SpaceVenture Narrator Skit that Scott Murphy, Chris Pope, and Gary did together

Guys From Andromeda Podcast with Gary Owens

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INTRODUCING CLUCKY BIRD, A CLASSIC CLUCK YEGGER ARCADE GAME

As the story goes, the Two Guys From Andromeda once authored a marginally successful coin-op arcade called Cluck Yegger many, many years ago. They recently re-released the game in the form of a downloadable on galactic app store app, only to find that it completely took over as the top selling game (via paid advertisements). In fact, they originally made so many buckazoids on it, they felt guilty and ended up pulling it from the app store never to be played again. As a side note…Ace Hardway just happens to own one of the few remaining Cluck video arcade consoles in existance.

As a side not, we are excited about a catchy little 8-bit tune that will go along with the game as well!

http://youtu.be/gUyIE_cqwvU

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MEET WELDON

Take control of Weldon and help him do what he does best, weld stuff!

http://youtu.be/es8rj7E4aq8

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A DEATH SEQUENCE TEASER

The below video is two fold. You’re gonna get an updated look at the Scrapyard leading out of Scrap’s garage, along with a fun little death sequence that can happen if you play your cards wrong, or right depending on how you look at it! 😉  Take a moment towards the end of the video to soak up some of the awesome pop culture scifi content inside!

http://youtu.be/40sfqtWVcaU

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AN UPDATE ON THE CRANEPIT

When you last saw this scene back in January, we showed you Ace walking along the navigation path. Here is an updated look at the scene, just like the Scrapyard scene, take a moment towards the end of the video to soak up some of the awesome pop culture scifi content inside!

http://youtu.be/T8f4MBDetTM

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AN UNSPECIFIED BONUS SCENE

The guys don’t want to reveal too many details about this scene but lets just say Ace will be spending a lot of quality down-time in here.

http://youtu.be/3tC8ipWxhig

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A COUPLE OF BONUS IMAGES THROWN IN FOR GOOD MEASURE

Next up… an exclusive sneak peek at an exciting new gaming platform expected to be unveiled this year at ANDROMECON. Remember you saw it here first.

Thanks for all of your support everyone!

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

SpaceVenture Project Update #100: Two Guys SpaceVenture – by the creators of Space Quest by Two Guys From Andromeda

Happy New Year everyone! Let me flat out start by saying that we are still on track for 2015 being the release year of SpaceVenture! I’m crazy excited to say that, and I know it’s been a long wait for everyone. I hope you know, it’s been a long journey and wait for us as well. We have not been idle. Parts of the SpaceVenture team work on the game just about every single day, that includes weekends.

A WEEK OF VERY LITTLE SLEEP

We utilize a virtual office environment on team SpaceVenture that allows us to be located all over the world. Back in November, some of us had an opportunity to stay in a cabin located near Pigeon Forge TN for free. This gave some of us a chance to get together in the same place and do some team building exercises. Okay, not really, our team building consisted of working on SpaceVenture for an average of sixteen hours a day for seven days straight, but we did get a chance to take a nice little chunk out of the middle of the game, and move us towards the last third of the game.

As we were leading up to the cabin trip, Mark created a funny movie poster style piece of artwork that I thought I’d share with you guys.

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SOME QUESTIONS THAT ARE PERHAPS ON YOUR MIND

Are you guys broke?

Nope, still not broke and we’re doing just fine in that department. We have money to pay voice actors and money for all the rewards that have to go out, not to mention our artists, etc..

Is the project moving faster than it was?

Definitely! Seeing as it was the programming that was really holding up our project, I can proudly say, it’s not slowing us down anymore because we’ve got most everything we need built right into our custom event system. Not to mention the programmers we do have are all hard workers and very dedicated to the project. It feels so good to be able to write those words. :)

I still plan to post some demonstrations on the SV Rewards website to show off some of our event system in Unity (our game engine of choice). Be on the lookout for some posts from me(Chris Pope).

When is the game going to be released?

As mentioned above, we are still on track for having the game out sometime during this year. When I can give you estimated date/month/quarter information on this, I promise I will.

How far along is the game?

We are getting real close to having the second third of the game up and running and will be heading full throttle into the final third of the game. Considering the fact that we are able to move much faster than in the past due to programming, I’m confident that even the final third of the game won’t cause us too many slow down periods.

The project updates seem to be getting further apart. Is that how it’s gonna be from this point on?

Nope, and I wanted to personally apologize for how long it has taken for a new update to come out. There have been a lot of reasons for why it has been so long since the last update, I won’t get into details. I just want you to know that it should never be three months before you get new info from us.

When will the Kickstarter rewards ship?

The rewards will ship around the time that the game ships.

My address has changed since I pledged to this project. How do I let you guys know for rewards shipping purposes?

Don’t worry about letting us know any of that yet. We’ll send out info on that when the time comes.

NEW STUFF TO SHOW YOU

As always, I need to clarify something. EVERYTHING YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE IS A WORK IN PROGRESS AND CAN AND WILL PROBABLY CHANGE BY THE RELEASE OF SPACEVENTURE. Nothing you are about to see is 100% final. Be advised though, that the changes will be for the better and will mostly be polish.

Another thing worth mentioning is that you’ll notice that we still aren’t really showing you anything involving the SpaceVenture UI system. That is because we still aren’t happy in that department. It would be pointless to show it to you because it is definitely going to change. Once we’re happy with the looks and intuitiveness of it, demonstrations will be posted in an update.

Now for the fun part of this update. The new stuff I get to show you all! We’ve got quite a few things to show you all and I hope you’re as excited about it all as I am.

First up, some music for you!

ROOTER’S THEME MUSIC

It’s been awhile since we had any music to let you all listen to, so I asked Ken Allen (the SpaceVenture music guy) if he could shoot something my way. He decided on “Rooter’s Theme”.  This little video show cases a little interaction with Rooter in SpaceVenture and let’s you hear the theme music Ken put together as well.

http://youtu.be/FDY3D9zHebs

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HOME SWEAT HOME

We’ve told you before that Ace stays with his usually cantankerous (not to mention cranky) mentor, Scraps. In the past, I may have showed you a mockup of the inside of his home. Here is an update! This scene is chocked full of SciFi pop culture references. Can you figure them all out?

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A COMFY COUCH TO LOUNGE ON

Some of you might remember an early concept drawing of Ace lounging out on the couch and getting caught up on his favorite shows on The Holotube. Well I put together a little video featuring the original concept art along with some updated in game footage of that scene.

http://youtu.be/EsVHmKEMLlk

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JOSH MANDEL JOINS THE SPACEVENTURE TEAM AS A CAMEO WRITER

If you’re behind on Sierra/Video game lore, you might like to know that Josh Mandel was one of the majorly talented game developers that once worked at Sierra On-Line back in the day. He’s credited on games such as Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist, Space Quest 6, not to mention other Sierra titles. He also worked directly with Al Lowe on the Leisure Suit Larry remake, Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded.

If you saw the above video, you’ll notice Ace watching the Holotube. As you may have guessed, you’re gonna hear more than just sound effects coming from the tube! Josh is writing some hilarious content to be played throughout Ace’s perusal of the Holotube channels. You will get to make Ace flip through those channels yourself.

If you haven’t already, you should listen to the Space Quest 6 youtube video I did will Josh awhile back. You can check it out here.

AN UPDATE TO THE GARAGE

The Garage scene I showed you previously has had some polish made to it. Here is an updated look for you!

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GOING UP AND THEN BACK DOWN

Speaking of the Garage, here is a small video demoing Ace and Rooter using the elevator. Any of you guys know the SciFi reference for that elevator? Be careful, you’re dating yourselves! I apologize for the jerkiness/framerate of this video.

http://youtu.be/yXbOa67yZc4

WORKING ON ROOTER

Without being too spoilery here, I’ll just say that at some point in SpaceVenture you’re gonna need to prop Rooter up on a workbench to make some repairs. Here is a glimpse at that scene.

And here is a small video look at the Rooter Repair scene.

http://youtu.be/Zzjk2QYKzDo

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FLEAS ARE NO JOKE IN GAMES OR REAL LIFE

I believe I shared a story with you all a year or so ago about how my family cat had somehow gotten out of my house and was lost for a day. When we found him and got him back into the house, he was infested with fleas. Apparently he had gotten into the woods. Anyway, long story short, we put him in our basement which is where my office is and the whole basement had fleas all over it. I waged war on the fleas. A war that I lost, and was unable to work on SpaceVenture with the team for a couple of days. Anyway, I was telling the story to Scott and Mark while in a game design meeting. Next thing you know, Nano fleas were showing up as a puzzle in the game itself.

Without spoiling the point behind this sequence, here is an early look at controlling a nano flea in a portion of SpaceVenture:

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THE CRANE PIT

In the last update you saw an early look at the scrapyard with a magnetic crane in the background. You never got to see a closer look at the magnetic crane. So here is a work in progress look at the crane pit!

Here is a small video that demonstrates Ace and Rooter walking along the navigation paths of this scene. Keep in mind, this scene still has a ways to go.

http://youtu.be/Ckhs83mTCq0

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INSIDE THE CRANE ITSELF

Also in the previous update, I mentioned that you would need to pull some things out of the scrapyard itself using that big magnet in the above scene. Here is a look at being within the interior of the crane.

NOTE: The UI controls that you see in the lower left of the screen are temporary. We just put that in there for testing purposes until the polished artwork goes in.

http://youtu.be/WZmGyVL3KqA

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DELIVERING PARTS WITH THE MULE

What you just saw in the above video in which Ace can pickup parts out of the scrap yard isn’t quite as simple as it looks. There is a puzzle there that I don’t want to spoil. Just know, it’s not as easy as it may seem. However, once you do get the certain parts you need, they’ll need to be delivered to the Garage. Enter “The Mule”, which is the vehicle you’ll control that floats above the ground (think land speeder from StarWars: A New Hope) and is used for parts delivery.

Here is a small video I put together of Ace delivering a part to the garage.

http://youtu.be/b9-jKmMeNts

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WHAT THE HECK IS THAT THING

Speaking of parts! Here is a part that will play a major role in the game. I’m not allowed to give you any real information about it. Let your imagination run wild with this one. 😉

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TIME FOR SOME CHEESY TACO GOODNESS THAT IS SURE TO STOP YOUR BOWELS UP AND LEAVE YOU WANTING MORE

Of all the scenes in SpaceVenture, I am the most excited about the one below. I think everyone who played through most of Space Quest 3 remembers their first experiences in Monolith Burger. For me, it was a video game life changing experience that I’ll never forget. Getting to step foot in a greasy SciFi fast food restaurant was almost more than I could bare. We hope you’ll have that same experience when stepping into Taco Nova.

And here is a short video of the outside of Taco Nova:

http://youtu.be/a9mcO46KlC8

I hope you all have enjoyed taking a look at some of what’s going on with the project! Looking forward to future updates.

EPISODE 23 OF THE BI-WEEKLY PODCAST BY THE SPACE QUEST HISTORIAN

This episode starts out with an immediate interruption by Chris Pope the SpacePope to bring you good tidings of great joy with how things are going on the SpaceVenture project. And it’s that time of the year — you all know what I’m talking about — the Space Quest Historian delves head-first into the pool of hard-ass, difficult-as-all-hell puzzles in a rant that, predictably, goes nowhere. Luckily, he’s not on his own, as Alan Luckachina steps up to deliver his own take on the subject in another phenominal bit of The Lucky Corner. Also on this show, you will find not one, but two impressive treats: Our music pal, Ken Allen, talks about music devices of old that never went anywhere, and the Historian plays his entire interview of Space Quest III composer Bob Siebenberg in its full, unedited glory! Merry whatever, ladies and janitors!

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