It’s been about two months since the second Hero-U Kickstarter campaign closed, and we’re making great progress in every area of the game. The current focus is on the thousands of tiny details that lift a game from “acceptable” up to “excellent”.
If you receive this update more than once, that means you contributed to the project in both Kickstarter campaigns, or on both our website and Kickstarter. In that case, make sure you read the section on “collapsing” your pledges into one pledge. This post is part of the November 2012 Kickstarter campaign.
Surveys Coming Soon
Later this week you will receive a link to a backer survey on BackerKit. We are using their service to track pledges, add-ons, address changes, and fulfillment accurately. The tricky part on our end has been combining pledges – especially those with add-ons – from our 2012 and 2015 Kickstarter campaigns, PayPal, and Humble Bundle into a single database.
In some cases, we were not able to do this. As a result, BackerKit will send new surveys to all of our backers from both campaigns. This will give you a chance to update your address and any other information that may have changed in the last couple of years. You will also get the opportunity to specify or request add-ons such as meep plushies, posters, and many others.
If you backed at the $20 level in both campaigns, we have automatically merged (“collapsed”) the two into a single pledge at a new $40 level that includes all of the promised rewards.
If you backed at any other level in both campaigns, you may choose to keep the pledges separate. You would choose this option if you want the rewards from one of the pledges to go to a friend. We expect that this will be a rare choice – most of you will prefer to “collapse” your pledges into a single larger pledge. Here’s an example of the BackerKit invitation page showing how to do that:
If you choose the “collapse pledges” option, the extra funds from your pledge will be available to order add-ons or to move up to a higher reward level. If you can’t do that within the BackerKit interface, there will be a support option you can use to request a reward level change.
Please respond to the survey as soon as you receive it even if you answered our previous Hero-U survey in 2013. We plan to ship most of the add-ons in November to help backers who want to use them as Christmas gifts. We need accurate add-on numbers as soon as possible so that we can order the add-ons in time for November shipment.
Programming – The Combat System
Joshua continues to improve the tactical combat system features. We now take account of movement in combat including tactical retreat (also known as “bravely run away!”) Al has improved the combat animation and added more attack and defensive moves and reactions.
Here’s how the tactical combat grid looks in the debugger – the color-coded “pegs” show where enemies are allowed to go, and which areas they try to avoid. The grid makes enemy movement look more realistic and causes some “emergent behavior” that helps make combat less predictable.
I also think the grid is really pretty – maybe we can make it into a different type of game someday. More importantly, it’s useful.
Our other team programmers – Cidney, Jonathan, Robert, and Judy – are concentrating on improving the Composer game design tool, cleaning up the game interface, integrating 3D art and animation, and generally raising the quality of the game play and appearance. Every piece of the game needs to be “just so” as we continually refine and polish the game.
Art and Animation
One of the stretch goals in the recent Kickstarter was “improved animation”. Former Sierra animator Al Eufrasio is now working full-time at bringing the characters and monsters of Hero-U to life.
There’s more to it than meets the eye – for example, students with capes have had trouble sitting down because their capes like to float through the backs of chairs. Some looked disproportionately large when sitting, and some seemed to float in mid-air. All of them tended to slide out of the way if Shawn walked too close to them.
As with everything else in Hero-U, we’re trying to walk a tightrope with character animation – it needs to make the characters feel alive without breaking the budget or adding too much time to the schedule. When in doubt, we try to err on the side of “make it look better”.
Speaking of tightropes, Lori recently added a tightrope challenge back to the rogue practice area. This is a side-effect of reaching the Gog Temple stretch goal. Shawn needs to have good climbing skills for the Temple, which means we needed to add a way for him to practice them. It helped that we can rely on Al to animate climbing and walking the tightrope.
Our dynamic duo of background artists – John Paul Selwood and Aaron Martin – continue to amaze us with great concept pieces deftly converted to full 3D environments. JP is also creating dozens of single-frame images for transitions and exposition. These fill out the story without the need for complex custom animation sequences or movie “cut scenes”. For example, the alley scene after Shawn escapes from the “break-in house” tells the story in a single image better than any movie.
These are just a few of the thousands of details involved in making a graphical adventure game. In some ways, it’s easier than an animated film because we are not creating custom animation for every event of the game. In other ways, it’s harder – each animation sequence has to work throughout the game.
Down to the Wire
It’s our final day on the supplemental Hero-U Kickstarter campaign – 30 hours to go as I write this. The funding campaign ends Monday night (midnight PDT). The funding from this campaign will ensure we can complete Hero-U in style without going deeper into debt than the Marianas Trench.
We reached our $100,000 stretch goal on Saturday thanks to over 1600 dedicated backers. We’ve also passed the first two stretch goals – the Tower Garden and Improved Animation – and hope to reach several more in the final hours of the campaign. We are rapidly closing in on the $110,000 stretch goal – Better illustrated and more complex puzzles in the Sea Cave area.
Share the campaign with your friends so we can make Hero-U the best game possible. Every stretch goal dollar will be a big help in making Hero-U better.
Combat in Hero-U
I’ve posted an article about the Hero-U combat system to https://www.kickstarter.com/
The Hero-U Skill System
I’ve explained the Stats and Skills system in Hero-U at https://www.kickstarter.
The Hero-U Development Team
I introduce the current team members along with shout-outs to key developers who had to leave the team in a post at https://www.kickstarter.
We hope you’ve enjoyed the more-frequent updates during the supplemental fund-raising campaign. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity of sharing more about the Hero-U game to our backers old and new.
We currently have backers from four sources – two Kickstarter campaigns, PayPal, and Humble Bundle – so it’s been a challenge to keep everyone informed. We will be using BackerKit to track all backers, and I think we’ll be able to use them to communicate with all of you in the future.
Thank you so much for supporting Hero-U! With our now-solid team, completed concepts, and the funding from the new campaign, we should be able to make rapid progress on the game. Our target is Beta testing late this year and release in early Spring (around March or April) of 2016.
Congrats to Lori and Corey Cole and the rest of the Hero-U team!
Posted by Corey Cole
One of the things that makes adventure games special is the emphasis on story. You aren’t just running around solving puzzles, you’re participating in a shared-storytelling experience. Obviously story and characters are essential features of Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption.
Throughout the game, you will learn small threads of the story. How you put them together creates the tapestry that is your version of the story. Some sections may be incomplete until you play the game several times, because the way you play Shawn helps direct the story.
There are story threads as early in the game as the opening “break-in house” scene. Some of them are subtle, but designed to raise questions in the player’s mind. Clearly Shawn is special – how many young men do you suppose the Chief Thief pulls off the street and assigns to a special test with no training? Who is the man in the alleyway, and why does he care what happens to Shawn? Who has sponsored Shawn to attend Hero-U, an elite University that does not normally cater to street people?
A Bad Time to Babble
Inside the break-in house, why are shamrocks a theme in a game set in the Mediterranean? What do you learn about Shawn by examining the piano or the globe? What is going on with that safe that looks specifically designed to thwart expert thieves? Why does Shawn think about his mother, but never mention his father?
The answers to those questions are intentionally ambiguous for several reasons. One is to set up later plot development. Another is point of view – in Rogue to Redemption, you play as Shawn, and he doesn’t know the whole story.
There is also the nature of “interactive fiction” – we can’t tell you the whole story at the beginning because we’re writing it together. Each decision you make in the game affects some part of the story and character development. It even helps create the style of the game.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Is Hero-U a suspense thriller in which danger lurks around every corner, and Shawn must keep on his toes to avoid disaster? It could be if you play it that way. The monsters are waiting.
Is Rogue to Redemption a coming-of-age story where a young man of modest means improves himself and “becomes somebody”? Yes, it is, to the degree you make it that story. Even the subtitle implies that, but the story doesn’t have to go that way if you choose otherwise.
Is Hero-U about the relationships between characters, possibly even a romance story? It can definitely be that if your focus in the game is talking with other characters and romancing one – or two or more – of them. Traditional romance or alternative relationships? Possibly – it’s up to you.
Is Hero-U a mystery story in which Shawn and the player consider many subtle clues and try to unravel the secrets of the past and the present? The clues are there – what you do with them is your choice.
Maybe Hero-U is a contest where you try to maximize Shawn’s attributes, skills, and wealth while winning the Rogue of the Year contest.
There are also stories (“character arcs”) for other characters besides Shawn, and you have some influence on them. Each character has a back-story, personality, goals, and challenges. Sometimes Shawn can help with one of those challenges and have an effect on the outcome of the character’s story in Hero-U. Examples? That would be telling.
Whatever your adventure or role-playing gaming style, we think you will find the experience of playing Hero-U fascinating and challenging. You’ll want to watch your friends play too, because each of you will have a different experience each time.
Beautiful and Free
There’s only so much I can fit into these updates. To learn more about Hero-U, and see some of the beautiful game art our team is creating, visit Lori’s “What’s New At Hero-U” blog at www.hero-u.com/leaders/.
Each day through the end of the Kickstarter campaign, we are giving away a new game art desktop background. Visit every day to get your free wallpaper, and check the older posts to learn more about Hero-U. Don’t forget to click on the Share buttons at the bottom of each post; we’re coming down to the wire and want everyone to know about Hero-U.
I’ve added two new digital add-ons to the Kickstarter campaign – $20 for an additional copy of the game, and $5.89 to join the AGL 589 – The Adventurers’ Guild Local 589 created by our backers.
Shouting Across the Internet
We all want to see more games with great story and gameplay. That’s why I make a point of sharing other Kickstarter projects here, and why we all support each others’ campaigns. It’s really important for you to share Hero-U and other interesting games on Facebook, Twitter, reddit, and other sites. Talk about them in our comments, and about us in theirs (but be respectful in both cases!).
Brian Fargo and inXile Entertainment are currently running a major campaign for the Bard’s Tale IV. They are asking $1.25 million and have promised to add at least another $1.25 million from the company coffers to make a great game. Based on their first in-game trailer, the new game looks much more immersive (and beautiful) than the original Bard’s Tale games. I played the first one in the mid 1980’s even before I broke into the game industry. Support Bard’s Tale IV at https://www.kickstarter.com/
Ron Gilbert (@grumpygamer) and Brian Fargo (@brianfargo) recently tweeted about Hero-U and personally pledged to this Kickstarter. Thanks, Ron and Brian! I’ve mentioned Ron’s Thimbleweed Park (http://blog.thimbleweedpark.
Previous celebrity supporters have included Jane Jensen Holmes and Robert Holmes of Gabriel Knight and Moebius fame (http://pinkertonroad.com/); Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe of Space Quest and SpaceVenture (along with Chris Pope of SpaceVenture) (http://guysfromandromeda.com/
These aren’t just gaming celebrities – they’re good people who deserve respect and support. All of them care about making great games and are good at it. Keep an eye out for their upcoming games and buy a copy, or give them some support on their web sites. Making games is a very tough business, and support from our fans is one of the main things that makes it worthwhile.
Lori and I decided to try a voiceover “Let’s Play” of the Hero-U combat prototype demo. If you enjoy it, please Like and Share so that your friends can watch it. You can also try out the demo yourself at http://hero-u.com/demos-and-
I’ve now posted stretch goals to the main page of the new campaign – https://www.kickstarter.com/
Talking About Conversation in Hero-U
A central feature of Hero-U is conversation with other characters. This is probably the feature that sets us most apart from other games.
Sure, there is dialogue in almost every game, but it is usually a filler. Dialogue helps to flesh out a character’s personality, but it’s often one-dimensional. Either you see the dialogue in a cutscene (in-game film clip) or you get the same dialogue over and over when you click on a character.
Hero-U treats dialogue as a simulation rather than fixed scripts or filler. Conversations with the same characters change constantly. This can happen because of what Shawn said to them previously, or because of his reputation with the character, or simply as the result of passing time.
There are still rules to dialogue – we aren’t up to the level of artificial intelligence in Ex Machina yet. When Shawn enters a scene for the first time in an event, it’s likely a character will greet him with the latest news. If the player clicks on that character, Shawn can start a relevant discussion.
The discussion topics change for every character on most days. If they’ve already talked with Shawn about something, that dialogue option will no longer appear.
Can I Interest You in an Almost New Lockpick?
For example, let’s say Shawn meets Joel Kayro outside the rogue class early in the game. After the initial greeting, Shawn has a few possible discussion topics:
- Talk to Joel
- Buy from Joel
Choosing Talk to Joel might lead to:
- Ask about Joel
- Ask about Tools
- Ask about Information
Talking With Joel Kyro
Those topics are available because Joel has just introduced himself, the class lecture was about rogue tools, and Joel has mentioned that he sometimes has useful information… for a price.
In this case, Joel’s priority is to sell tools to Shawn, so even if Shawn asks about Joel, he’ll get a sales pitch on Joel’s useful stock of equipment. Asking about Tools gives more detailed information about them.
As for actually buying the tools, some options will only appear if Shawn has enough money to afford them. In addition, Joel’s stock changes throughout the game as he begins to sell more expensive and valuable goods.
Let’s say Shawn Asks about Information. Joel knows that one of Shawn’s first unpleasant encounters was with Mr. Terk, Hero-U’s disciplinarian. So that topic might interest Shawn (and be valuable to the player). In classic “the first one is free” fashion, Joel doesn’t charge for that information. Later on, everything he reveals has a price.
Joel Warns Shawn About Curfew – The First Tip is Free
Each time Shawn meets with Joel, they can have a different conversation. Nothing in dialogue is mandatory in terms of puzzle solutions, but sometimes characters give Shawn useful hints. More importantly, as in a film or a novel, dialogue is the heart of the story. By talking with other characters, Shawn learns about the University, the characters, local politics, and various mysteries.
Dialogue is also the key to building relationships. Most characters like it when you talk to them, especially if you talk about things that matter to them. Every time Shawn talks to a character, he has a chance to gain or lose reputation with that character or with others who may be listening. Shawn might also improve a character skill such as Charm, Smarts, or Moxie.
Dialogue Choices – Much More than Words
Creating the game dialogue for Hero-U is one of Lori’s major responsibilities. Besides writing tens of thousands of individual messages, she is using the power of our proprietary Composer scripting system to create dependencies.
Composer allows her to decide if game text is only available once, once per day, or repeatedly. She makes other dialogue dependent on previous game actions. For example, if Shawn and his roommate Aeolus are discussing Sophia, the receptionist, it makes a difference whether Shawn has met Sophia and talked to her.
This is handled by “script tags”. When Shawn talks to Sophia in the reception area, the dialogue script sets a tag. Some of the conversations with Aeolus in the dorm later only appear if Shawn has talked to Sophia first. Here is one of many possible paths through that dialogue. On the next day, the conversation will be different, but may refer back to the choices made in today’s conversation.
You will not be able to go through every dialogue option in one playthrough of Hero-U. Subtle differences in conversational choices and meeting other characters affect the available choices. This gives a different mood to similar conversations across multiple playthroughs.
It’s hard to convey just how many dialogue scripts Lori is creating for Hero-U, and the degree of complexity of each one. When you play the game, you will follow the path you choose through the dialogue, seeing just a fraction of the available possibilities. Each path will be part of a satisfying story involving Shawn and the other characters. The next time you play, you will likely see different conversations.
Keep on Talking
Please share this update on Twitter, reddit, Facebook, Google+, and other social media. The more people who learn about Hero-U, the better we will be able to fine-tune and improve the conversation systems and individual dialogue choices.
New Kickstarter Status
The supplementary Kickstarter project is going very well thanks to some dedicated backers. We have over 1,200 backers so far and have received pledges for almost $73,000 of our $100,000 goal. The campaign is live at https://www.kickstarter.com/
Please share our new Kickstarter campaign with your friends and on social media. The amount we raise in the final two weeks will have a huge impact on our ability to fine-tune Hero-U with better animation, sound effects, and additional help where we need it.
We invite you visit the new campaign to see more screen images and other improvements to the game. Please also visit www.hero-u.com and vote on the polls for the Yearbook cover design, travel posters, castle painting, and more. Lori posts a blog there with more game images and information.
Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption Project Status
Art is about 150% complete according to the original plan, which is to say about 80% complete with the new animation we intend to add and one 3D area that is still in progress.
Programming: Estimated 50% complete. The hardest parts are out of the way – we have a scripting system integrated into Unity, we’ve worked out the combat basics, UI, and object placement and handling.We think it will take about six months to finish all the scripting and system programming.
The player can walk around the entire University and the wine cellar, but we are refining all of the areas to make them look and play better. We also have a lot of work to do on refining combat.
Game Design: 100% complete. All of the basic design and story structure is done, but we have a great deal of writing and scripting to do.
Dialogue and Other Text: Estimated 30% complete. Our process for design and writing involves specifying the key elements of all scenes, then writing detailed text and dialogue after the basic implementation is complete.
Since this is a key area that is being done by Lori and me, it is on the critical path for completing the game. We estimate we have four to five months of work to do on writing, given the distractions of managing the project and team.
Testing/QA: We plan to have a 3-4 month testing and refining cycle. That’s the part that got shorted on some of our Sierra games, sometimes resulting in buggy releases.
We expect to complete development late this year, and have the game ready for release early next year.
We have achieved Greenlit status on Steam Greenlight, so we will definitely have a Hero-U release on Steam. We will also have a DRM-free version on Humble Bundle. We are in talks with other potential distributors.
Reward Fulfillment Status
We’ve come a long way since the original Hero-U Kickstarter campaign in November 2012. 30 months in, here’s what we’ve accomplished and what we’re working on next.
As the chart shows, we have made great progress on fulfilling most of the rewards from the first Kickstarter.
A major reward in the campaign was inclusion in the physical and virtual Yearbooks. Lori has posted a full article on the Yearbook at http://hero-u.com/we-got-
We delayed shipment of the posters, but are now ready to send them out. We will do that in July or August so that we can do them and shipments from the supplemental funding Kickstarter at the same time. Those will complete the physical rewards from the first game except for the boxed games and autographed Yearbooks.
New Rewards in the 2015 Hero-U Kickstarter
We’ve added a new “Digital Deluxe” reward tier at $150. It’s designed for international backers and those who have limited shelf space, as all of the rewards are digital or virtual. Those rewards include:
- All-digital – No physical rewards
- Alpha and Beta Test Access
- “Insider Reports” on the Making of Hero-U
- Secret Thieves Guild Password
- Game key for Quest for Glory 1-5 on GoG
- Mention in the in-game credits (optional)
- Set of Hero-U screen saver images
- Digital Hint Book
- Digital “Art of Hero-U” Book
- Digital Hero-U Soundtrack
- Digital game
- Receive a special Thank You
- Access to project updates
NOTE: The Quest for Glory game key is not included in higher tiers, but is available as an add-on. All of the other rewards apply to all higher tiers in both campaigns.
We’ve also added more add-on options. To get add-ons from the new campaign without upgrading to another reward, pick the $10 Supporter tier. Instead of pledging $10, pledge the total price of your chosen add-ons. Most add-ons will be shipped separately from the game.
Digital Add-Ons (delivered by email):
- Quest for Glory 1-5 Game Key $15
- The Hero-U Bestiary Book PDF $20
- Set of 5 Hero-U Concept Art Images $20
- Five Quest for Glory Art Images $20
NOTE for backers of the previous Hero-U Kickstarter campaign: The add-on we called “Set of 4 high-resolution game art images in PDF” will receive a free upgrade to the current add-on called “Set of 5 Hero-U Concept Art Images”.
Physical Add-Ons (prices include postage and handling):
- Two Hero-U Key Rings $15 to any destination
- Autographed Postcard $25 to any destination
- Cloth “Varsity Letter” Patch $25 to any destination
- Shawn’s Lucky Coin $30 to any destination
- Set of Four Travel Posters $40 U.S. / $50 International
- Hero-Unicorn Baseball Cap $40 U.S. / $50 International
- All Kinds of Heroes T-Shirt $40 U.S. / $50 International
- Customized Wanted Poster $250 anywhere
The Wanted Poster also appears in-game for all players. The Travel and Wanted Posters also include high-res digital copies.
Please tell your friends about the new Hero-U Kickstarter campaign
Worthy Kickstarter Projects
There are just 3 days left for the Oak Island adventure game (https://www.kickstarter.com/
If you prefer role-playing to adventure, there’s a new large company indie project on Kickstarter. From Brian Fargo and inXile Entertainment comes Bard’s Tale IV (https://www.kickstarter.com/
That project already has over 12,000 backers and $500K in funding on its first day. The goal is $1.25M towards a $2.5M game budget. The remainder will be funded with profits from Wasteland 2 and potentially Torment: Tides of Numenera once that game is released.
When we created Quest for Glory, we set out to tell a story with the best features of both adventure games and RPGs. We didn’t set out to change the world – we just wanted to make better games – but the result was the first role-playing adventure game.
Adventure game characters explore the setting and solve challenging puzzles. The characters themselves don’t change much.
Role-playing game characters explore complicated labyrinths, mash monsters, and collect treasure. Their stats improve throughout the game, and they get better equipment, but the characters have more numbers than personality.
In a story, characters change and grow as the result of overcoming conflicts. There might be some tricky puzzles to solve, and the characters might become stronger, but the important thing is that they learn something new.
Quest for Glory games – and now Hero-U – combine all three types of game play and storytelling. We think they belong together.
Mixing adventure game exploration and rich stories with skill advancement and combat was our biggest innovation, but we didn’t stop there.
Quest for Glory used a unique “practice makes perfect” skill advancement system. Other RPGs had level-based advancement where characters gained better abilities only when they reached a new experience level. Our skill-based approach let players focus on the skills they wanted to improve.
The passage of time was important in Quest for Glory. If you left the safety of the town at night, you met a different and tougher class of monster that what ran around during the day. If you went too long without eating, your character would become hungry and more easily tired. Starting with Quest for Glory II, we introduced story events that changed the game over time.
For Hero-U, we are again using a skill-based character system. This time skills are just as important in school as it is in the dungeons. Shawn uses and develops his charm, street smarts, and moxie in conversation, his agility and combat skills by fighting monsters, and his stealth and tool use by acting like a rogue.
Time is even more important in Hero-U than in Quest for Glory. As a student in the Hero University, your character needs to attend classes and pass exams between adventures. Shawn has to make some difficult choices about how best to use his time.
Choice is a major theme in all of the Hero-U games. Conversations are more advanced than in Quest for Glory – other characters respond to Shawn’s attitude, and their relationship with him, as to his words. Each time you play Hero-U, the story, dialogue, and relationships will change in subtle ways.
We’ve added more role-playing game features – tactical turn-based combat, a wide variety of equipment choices, and more things to buy and learn. Shawn can use these items and techniques to solve problems, fight effectively, and build friendships.
The biggest strengths of our Quest for Glory games were the storytelling and the balance of serious stories with humorous situations and plentiful puns. Our goal is to continue those traditions in Hero-U with new and exciting stories and plenty of fun moments to help make the serious ones more meaningful.
Each Quest for Glory game had its own story – “coming of age” in the first game, experienced adventurer in the second, peace-maker in the third – all part of the greater story of the hero. In the final game, he could even become a King.
In Hero-U, Shawn O’Conner is again a young man with no real experience, but his coming of age has a difference. All we knew about the player’s character in Quest for Glory is that he wants to become a hero. Shawn doesn’t start out wanting to be a hero; he just wants to survive. But Shawn also has a past cloaked in mystery. In Rogue to Redemption, Shawn will discover his heritage as well as create a new destiny.
The Hero-U stories are in layers. World-changing events occur inside and around the school while the player character is trying to get an education. Each game reveals more of these events, and each character is involved in parts of them. What happens to one character, and how the player has that character act, affects the future games.
Hero-U is our spiritual successor to Quest for Glory. We are using modern technology to create even stronger stories, with more meaningful choices. These games are our response to fans who asked for more games like Quest for Glory. Thank you for being part of this new series.
The best way you can help us make all of the planned Hero-U games is to spread the word to other adventure and role-playing gamers. Please share this post and the new Kickstarter campaign (https://www.kickstarter.com/
Visit us and share the posts you like on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/
Also please support our Steam Greenlight campaign at http://steamcommunity.com/
Thank you for helping us make Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption a success.
Here’s a full list of other voice actors announced for King’s Quest as provided by Sierra:
- Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants)
- Michael Benyaer (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen)
- Loretta Devine (Crash)
- Gideon Emery (Teen Wolf)
- Jean Gilpin (Frozen)
- Michael Gough (Batman: Arkham Origins)
- Andy Pessoa (Transformers Prime)
- Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
- Kath Soucie (Rugrats)
- Fred Tatasciore (Marvel’s Avengers Assemble)
- Richard White
- Michael-Leon Wooley (The Princess and the Frog)