Hero-U Project Update #44: The Hero-U Report

One year has passed since we posted the Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption Kickstarter project. Ten months since we received the proceeds. Originally we listed Oct. 2013 as the Estimated Delivery date. I’d like to talk a little about the scheduling and budget process and bring everyone up to date on the Hero-U project.

Before I dig into the details, here is the “too long, didn’t read” version: Lori and I remain 100% committed to delivering Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption to all of our backers and to the market. The game development is far behind schedule, but we are completely confident that we can and will finish it. Hero-U will look outstanding and will be as fun to play as we can make it. Based on past fan feedback, I think most of you will find that to be very fun, indeed.

A Kwirk and His MoneyA Kwirk and His Money

More What You’d Call “Guidelines”

This Update is partially a response to a project comment that said, “I assume the project’s not going to hit the October deadline…” Quite correct, up until the last word. The phrase on Kickstarter means exactly what it says, “Estimated delivery.” It’s more of a guideline than a deadline. However, the comment makes a good point – It’s time for a full Hero-U status update.

Based on what we knew at the time of the Kickstarter, October 2013 seemed like a reasonable estimate. There were actually four reasons for an October shipment date:

  • Lori and I love Hallowe’en, so we would have loved a Hallowe’en themed launch.
  • Releasing the game in October is a great time for people looking for Christmas presents.
  • At our minimum $400,000 goal, we expected to run out of money around October.
  • The date seemed achievable based on a small RPG built on the MacGuffin’s Curse engine. We planned to complete design in January, have a demo by April, combat working in June, Beta test in September, and release at the end of October. Ambitious, but possible.

Our Current Plan and Progress

  • Hallowe’en is still awesome. It’s a great chance for everyone to go to a party or trick or treating, since you won’t be locked in your room playing Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption.
  • We are shipping the Meep toys, t-shirts, and Hero-U baseball caps over the next few weeks. All of them make amazing Christmas presents (especially the Meeps).
  • Our development model with a mostly part-time team has slowed development considerably, but it has also slowed our “burn rate”. As a result, we still have a substantial bank balance. This is good – We will need it. More on that below.
  • The schedule that seemed achievable last year for a modest RPG was completely unrealistic for a full-scale adventure RPG. Our new target dates are playable demo next week (it is complete and ready to go), combat test around the end of the year, Beta in April, and release in June 2014. And yes, it is very possible we will need to extend that as well.

 The Money Game

Planning a Kickstarter-based project is hard. You have to guess where to set the goal and what you will actually receive. Lori and I started working on Hero-U in July of 2013. Based on our past projects and those of Brawsome, I came up with a pretty good estimate of the project’s cost. There was only one problem – It came out to $550,000 and we knew it would be very hard to raise that much on Kickstarter. We instead set our goal at $400,000 and successfully closed at $409,150. This makes us #81 on the list of “Top 100 Crowdfunded Companies” according to Entrepreneur Magazine, but it is a fraction of the budget of any of our previous games.  We added another $23,000 via PayPal.

After funding costs and rewards we’ve promised to backers, $275,000 of the $432,000 gross became available for the actual game development. Coincidentally, that’s almost exactly one-half of my original estimate. At a full burn, we would have run out of money about four months ago, and we would have about one-quarter of the game complete.

I chose a different route, developing the game more slowly while we worked out the technology, visual look, and the game design. There were many bumps along the way, but we now have a clear vision of how we will develop the rest of the game.

Shawn O'Conner - Then and NowShawn O’Conner – Then and Now

 Following the Vision

We have promised our backers a great game, and we will deliver it. We take our commitments and our craft very seriously. But how could we do that with half our planned budget?

Step one was to realize that we did not have to live within the Kickstarter budget – It is a “starter”, not an upper bound. I spent a great deal of time working with one of our backers on a possible “media investor” deal, but the numbers were impossible. The game would have to become an indie bestseller to make enough to continue the Hero-U series, and nobody can predict a bestseller.

Instead, Lori and I decided to self-fund the game by means of a personal home-equity loan. We will use that to pay our living expenses so we no longer need a salary, and we will fund other costs out of our “pocket”. Some say this is a big risk – We might lose our home. We see it as much less of a risk than promising a bestseller that we can’t guarantee.

Several of our developers have also agreed to defer some or all of their contract income until after we release Hero-U. They are equally committed to making sure that we complete the game and that it meets our high standards. We love our current team and are very excited about the work we are now seeing from them.

We are still short of the original $550K budget, but we are buying a lot of time this way, time we will use to create the combat test, much more art, and a substantial part of the game. If we need funding at that point, we will have many more options because we will have more to show. We can offer Humble Store pre-orders and Steam Early Access, apply for a small business loan, do a supplemental crowdfunding campaign, etc.

The Bottom Line

We have had many unexpected challenges with the Hero-U project, and not all of our development decisions have turned out well. However, none of those problems were disastrous, and we are now making good progress. Lori and I are just as committed to making a great game as when we first proposed Hero-U. We are now in solid financial shape and we have a much clearer road map towards completing the game. We hope that all of you will remain understanding about the incredible challenges of independently developing a high-quality game.

Bolt Riley - A Reggae AdventureBolt Riley – A Reggae Adventure

Support Bolt Riley – A Reggae Adventure Game

You may have wondered why Lori and I decided to make a new game 15 years after Quest for Glory V. A lot of the credit for that belongs to Oded Sharon of Adventure Mob in Israel. Late in 2011, Oded talked to Noah Falstein about helping him find an experienced adventure game design consultant. Noah introduced us to Oded and we started work on the game that became Bolt Riley. We helped with the overall design structure and wrote the puzzles and dialogue for about one-third of the full game.

Bolt Riley is the story of a young man growing up in a very poor section of Kingston, Jamaica. He loves music, especially the Reggae sound, and wants to become a singer. In the game, you will play Bolt and help him discover the inspiration he needs to write great songs and put together a talented group of musicians.

Alas, Adventure Mob’s publisher deal for Bolt Riley fell through, and they had to suspend development on the game. They were also very busy at that point with another project – The prototype that Replay Games used to launch the Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded Kickstarter. Lightning struck a second time when Replay cancelled the deal with Adventure Mob, and the company went on hold for a year.

Oded also worked hard to convince Lori and me that we should run a Kickstarter. He helped us understand how crowdfunding campaigns work. Oded also introduced us to Chris Pope of the SpaceVenture project. Between them, they convinced us that it was time to throw our hats back into the ring and make a new game.

Back in 2012, Kickstarter only allowed U.S. companies to create funding projects. Now that they have opened their doors to more of the world, Oded Sharon and Adventure Mob are able to seek the additional funding they need to complete Bolt Riley, including Lori’s and my section of the game.

Oded is looking for $120,000 to finish the game development. With a substantial portion of the art, programming, and music for the game already complete, this seems realistic. Lori and I hope that many of our backers will check out Bolt Riley and help support the project. We’re especially hoping that someone will choose the $10,000 tier that will result in us getting to visit Israel for the first time.

You can find the Bolt Riley adventure game project at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/soundguy/bolt-riley-a-reggae-adventure-game.

SpaceVenture Project Update #82: October 16th Update: Where we’ve been and where we’re at!

Attention dear and faithful backers. I wanted to spend some time updating you on a lot of what is happening on the project. This includes some things that have happened in the past, happening right now in the present, and hopefully will be happening in the future. It is no secret that the SpaceVenture project has been behind and we wanted to explain why this is and how we are working to get things back on track.

 QUICK CLARIFICATION  Before I give you details, let me start by saying this. We are not broke and we are all still in this 100% and will make this game become a reality even if it kills us.

THE CHOICE OF WORKING WITH A CUSTOM TEAM

After the successful funding of SpaceVenture, Mark, Scott and myself (Chris), had multiple bids from companies wanting to help develop the game with us. Unfortunately, after Kickstarter and Amazon got their share of the money, along with having quite a few declined transactions, and budgeting our Kickstarter rewards, hiring a development studio to help us was not affordable. We budgeted our money based on what we brought in from Kickstarter, and decided to hire our own developers to help do the programming for SpaceVenture.

During the Kickstarter, we made it known that we had chosen Unity as our engine of choice for developing SpaceVenture. A huge part of that decision stemmed from wanting to create the game on as many different platforms as possible. No doubt that the game being available on multiple platforms was good all around, partly due to gaining us more backers that were interested in seeing the game on other platforms, but also in garnering future sales for the game. Needless to say, we stand firm behind this decision, but we do want it to be clear that there was quite a learning curve for everyone involved that proved more daunting than expected.

As for hiring our dev team, we hired two developers to begin with, one being a senior developer and the other being under his management. In the visual department, we’ve always had the talented Mr. Crowe overseeing everything involving artwork, and we hired a lead character artist/animator and contracted with other artists to help with character design and modeling.

The humor infused story of the adventures of Ace Hardway and his little metal apprentice Rooter, Mark and Scott have collaborated on story development in typical fashion. As Scott says, “Mark’s kickass art is quite a literally a canvas that inspires the narrative and dialogue, or whatever the kids are calling it these days, One of the very cool things that hasn’t changed from the early days of our partnership is that we inspire each other. As has always been the case some things are very fluid during the development process. Don’t be surprised to see the part of the game that was demo to have evolved. We intentionally have very slow setting concrete.” It was a no-brainer to bring in Ken Allen for the music and sfx when he expressed interest given our history. He’s back in peak form if not better than he was in the days of Space Quest. These things allow us to have a compact team that’s very effective.

All of us on the dev team have worked really hard to pump-out the highest quality code and assets, but the biggest snag we ran into was programming. Though our programmers were busting tail trying to get things done, there was so much that still needed to happen foundation wise before we really had anything to show for ourselves. We decided to hire another programmer to work with our team to help move things along faster. He was another very talented developer that was able to help immensely due to the fact that he had experience in dealing with event driven systems. The three programmers together made a big difference and a lot of the foundation code needed for SpaceVenture was finally completed. Having a good event driven system in place has been critical for us in order to have code that could continually be reused throughout the entire creation of the game. In other words, we won’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we need to make the character interact with things.

Once we had a big portion of our foundation code written with an event driven system in Unity, we were able to start plugging in all the visual elements that Mark and his team had completed. This is where the demo started to take shape which came out in July. The single biggest number one thing that has slowed us down is in having to deal with building the foundation underlying code of the game. That is also part of the problem with having a lot to show on the Kickstarters updates. It’s not that we haven’t wanted to show you all kinds of amazing things that are going on, it’s that a lot of the progress that has occurred have been focused mostly on the underlying programming components.

Here is a summary of some of the recent project accomplishments:

  • Event Driven System that is invaluable for reusing programming elements within our game engine
  • Custom built narrative editor used to easily manage all game dialogue
  • A newly designed working solution that makes implementing cut scenes much easier
  • The original demo code has been updated to be much more stable and is being utilized for the rest of the game. Though it is not a priority, we do plan to eventually re-release an update with a more stable version of the demo for backer testing.

THE BACKER WEBSITE

One thing for sure I would personally like to get moving along better is the SVRewards website. I might have to get the SQ3 skumsoft whip out in order to make it happen, but I’m gonna be pushing to get the team to start posting more frequently. Be on the look out for a lot more activity coming your way!

THOUGHTS ON WHERE WE ARE NOW

The three of us are firm believers in accountability and we hope and know you all will continue to keep us accountable, but at this time, we can’t give you an ETA on when the game will be available. We know this will anger a lot of you, but that is anger we will have to suffer, because we are NOT going to put a game out that is of low quality and doesn’t meet the expectation that fans have waited 20+ years for. We have decided to wait until we have a much clearer view on when the game will be ready before letting everyone know another expected date of delivery.

Hopefully you can see that we haven’t been idle throughout the entire project, like a lot of those that have voiced opinions, we are frustrated at the speed in which things have been moving, but on the flip side we will not jeopardize the quality of the game in order to meet deadlines. When SpaceVenture hits the market, it will be the game it should be. I have said many times, and the Two Guys are 100% in agreement with this, we want to make the existing adventure game fan base happy, but in order for us to succeed as a company we have to produce a game that also holds up by todays standards.

We’ve worked very hard to manage things with the funds we’ve been given. Please remember that we’re NOT doing a remake here, this is a brand new game, with brand new characters and scenery. And although $539,000+ is a lot of money, and in our opinion, enough to make an adventure game, it also means we have to keep things small and manageable in terms of our dev team. I wish I could say we had investors lining up to help fund a proven development team for completing the game. I wish Mark and Scott had not blown the millions of buckazoids they made at Sierra back in the day on triple breasted women and Keronian ale, else we could have most likely funded this sucker ourselves to begin with. But I digress.. 😉

All joking aside, in saying all of the above, Mark ,Scott and myself all want to let everyone know that we by no means think all the decisions we’ve made were perfect, but we have always had the best intentions for the project in mind, and taken a cautious slow burn approach because of technical problems. We’ve worked hard to keep our belts tight, made decisions as a team, and with the exception of those jetpacks we purchased, we’ve tried to be good stewards with the money you all have so graciously trusted us with. We also want to thank you so much for the patience that most of you have shown. We want to make a game that will blow you away with story, humor, music, graphics, and gameplay.

A SMALL CLIP FROM A CUT SCENE IN SPACEVENTURE

We wanted to share a small clip that demonstrates an in-engine 3D cut scene of Ace, Rooter, and “Scraps” rocketing their way home through a treacherous asteroid belt. This clip also features an inspiring score by our composer, Ken Allen. Don’t worry, this video is not too spoilery 😉

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtl_KuLWgxA&feature=youtu.be

NEW BI-WEEKLY PODCAST BY THE SPACE QUEST HISTORIAN ‘

Strap into your space jockeys and fly off into the nebulous with The Space Quest Historian, a bi-weekly show of all things tenuously related to Space Quest, SpaceVenture and The Two Guys From Andromeda. Soon the podcast will be available in iTunes, but for now, you can listen to the first episode HERE!

OTHER SIERRA ALUMNI PROJECTS

The amazing Josh Mandel / Al Lowe’s Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded is on sale now for ($11.99) SALE 40% off. 

Jane Jensen’s Moebius and Pinkerton Road Studio

Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption by the Quest for Glory designers –  Corey Cole and Lori Cole

AN UPCOMING GAME THAT WILL HIT KICKSTARTER SOON

Become a Reggae legend in “Bolt Riley” – A Jamaican adventure game by Adventure Mob

Thank you so much everyone for all of your support!

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

PS- I will be at the Geek Media Expo in Nashville TN from Nov 1st – 3rd and would love to meet some of you. Drop by and say hi if you can! 🙂

Hero-U Project Update #43: Hat and T-Shirt designs

In the last update, I gave backers at the $250 tier the choice to get a baseball cap or a t-shirt.  So naturally the question arose, “What do they look like?”  Here are the designs we are supplying to the good folks at TeeLaunch.  They will be printing the t-shirts, embroidering the caps, and shipping those along with the meep toys.

Fulfillment by TeeLaunch - https://teelaunch.com/Fulfillment by TeeLaunch – https://teelaunch.com/

If you backed at the $250 tier, you have a choice – t-shirt or baseball cap. If you haven’t already sent your choice to support@hero-u.net, please do so immediately. (Default for not emailing is the baseball cap, since that’s what I originally listed as the reward.) Backers at the $500 level and up get both items.

Fits You to a Tee

Rogue to Redemption T-Shirt DesignRogue to Redemption T-Shirt Design

Much thanks for the design to artist Scott Flanders (http://scottflandersart.blogspot.com/) – apparently not the same Scott Flanders as the current Playboy Enterprises CEO, but you never know… 🙂  Lori added the red shading to help with contrast and mood; this will be on a black t-shirt.

Put a Cap On It

Hero-U "Baseball" Cap DesignHero-U “Baseball” Cap Design

This is Lori’s design for the baseball cap.  It will be a flex-fit “one size fits most” red camp with gold and black embroidery in the front.  The actual shade of red, font, and aspect ratio may change based on feedback from TeeLaunch.

Shout It Out Loud

I’d like to make a shout-out to our very helpful backer Serena Nelson.  She has been very active on our forums (http://www.hero-u.net/forum/) and on many other Kickstarter adventure game projects.  Someone at another adventure game project has recently failed to recognize her worth, so I wouldn’t to make sure that we support her as she has supported us.

Serena runs a very useful blog about Kickstarter adventure game projects at http://www.kickstartadventure.com/home/.  She goes into much more detail on current adventure game projects than I can fit here, so please check out the projects she recommends.

I mentioned The Ballads of Reemus 2 (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1311956304/the-ballads-of-reemus-2-2d-point-and-click-adventu) a couple of posts ago, but in case you missed it… The project now has 5 days to go and still needs about $5,500 in backing to meet its goal.  I’d hate to see it get this close and not make it.

Hero-U Project Update #42: Game Play Teaser Trailer

Last Call for Meep and T-Shirt Info

Reminder to all backers at the $125 level or higher (except for the $175 all-digital tier) and to backers who added on to your pledge to get a meep toy or a t-shirt:  We need your mailing address and t-shirt size by this Monday, Oct. 14.  On the 15th, I will send a final mailing list to TeeLaunch so that they can print t-shirts and begin mailing meep and t-shirt packages to backers.  Available t-shirt sizes are S (Small), M (Medium), L (Large), XL (Extra-Large), XXL, and XXXL.  If we do not have your size, we will send you a Large t-shirt.

In the campaign, I promised “Team Meep” baseball caps to backers at the $250 level and up, and t-shirts (as well as caps) to $500 and up.  Just to make life difficult for Chris, if you backed at the $250 level and would prefer a t-shirt to a cap, please send your t-shirt size to support@hero-u.net.  Yes, it’s short notice, but you only need to send a short email. 🙂  The t-shirts are really cool, so I would like more backers to have them.  By the way, I made the executive decision to make the add-on t-shirts and the “superfan” t-shirts identical; several high-tier backers stated they did not want “backer” text on their shirts.

The First Game Play Teaser Trailer

I can at last share the “teaser” video with you.  At this point, it is for backers only; I will release it to the public on the hero-u.net web site and YouTube next week.  I’m calling this the “alpha” teaser trailer, as it has a few aspects we’re still improving.  I used Fraps to record myself playing the actual demo, so this is a capture of real game play.

http://youtu.be/DRKycVbHce4I will make the playable demo available to backers soon.  We also have some exciting news about partnerships coming soon.  Lori, I, and the team are working hard to make Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption an excellent adventure/role-playing game.

Hero-U Project Update #41: The Meeps Are Coming! The Meeps Are Coming!

The Meep toys have arrived on our shores, and we plan to ship them to backers within two weeks via TeeLaunch. Every backer who chose the $125 or higher tier (except for the digital-only $175 tier) will get a toy meep if we have your mailing address. Of course, backers who added on a toy meep will also get one *if* you filled out the survey and gave us your address. If you have moved or did not complete the survey, please send an email to support@hero-u.net immediately with your current address.

We are working on cleaning up the t-shirt design. T-shirts will probably be mailed separately from the toys, but might be combined if we have them ready in time.
We will have some very exciting news and images coming soon regarding character animation, game art, the trailer, and the playable demo.

Kickstarter Adventures

The Ballads of Reemus 2 was recommended by several backers, and I am personally backing it. This is a point-and-click adventure with an interesting story line, lots of humor, and excellent graphics. The $15,000 CDN goal is very modest because the project creator is covering most of the costs himself. Help him out and support quality graphic adventures.
Larceny is a card game rather than a graphic adventure. I’m supporting it because the author is a fan, it looks like fun, and there is that nice connection with our own Rogue. Creative play in a card game? They might actually pull it off, as this is a storytelling game in which the cards help the players come up with crazy story lines.
Europa 2022 is an adventure game with action elements and a horror/mystery setting.
Rogue to Redemption – Oh, wait, you know about that one. But do come visit us at www.hero-u.net and contribute to the forums.

SpaceVenture Project Update #81: October 1st Update

Since the release of the alpha demo back in July, we have learned a lot. We’ve listened to your feedback and have done a lot more play testing. We’ve talked about removing things that didn’t feel intuitive and adding things that did. Obviously in order to do that, a good amount of code has had to be rewritten, but in saying that, the code that has been rewritten has all been for the greater good of the full game, not just stability for the demo portion of the game.

Since the demos release we now have a system in place that manages our narrative and allows for easier narrative updating for the writing of the game. We also just recently got a good system in place that allows for simpler cut scene management and implements narrative and VO to be managed by the game engine without having to do a lot of rigging.

More artwork and animations have been completed by Mark and his team. Ken Allen has also been pumping out more needed SFX and music for the game as well. In saying all of that we did lose one of our Unity programmers due to him having another contract he had to take on. That leaves us with an opening for a unity game developer.

We’d love to give someone a shot at this position if they are qualified and a fan of what we are trying to accomplish 🙂

Requirements:

  • Experience developing with Unity 3D (2 or more years)
  • Must know C# 3 or more years
  • Shipped Titles
  • A passion for adventure games
  • Able to work with a small team in a virtual office
  • Must be able to work a minimum of 20 hours a week

If you are interested or know someone who may meet our requirements, please contact me directly. Email: chris@guysfromandromeda.com

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

PS- I will be at the Geek Media Expo in Nashville TN from Nov 1st – 3rd and would love to meet some of you. Drop by and say hi if you can! 🙂

Pinkerton Road Project Update #49: Some News.

– The MGX announcement is coming very soon. We have approval from the publisher on a press release and screenshots and are just working on finishing up the website, a first interview, etc. We’re aiming for around the week of Oct 8th! A certain blue bird will have the first peep so if you’re on twitter follow jensen_jane. I’ll send out a special message to the CSG that day also.

– The Moebius ch 3 & 4 beta — I wanted to get it out in Sept but we’ve been busy trying to get the last of the Moebius VO sessions done (we go into the studio on Monday) and also get through our first full pass on content (a rough logic pass of ch7 is almost done). There are a few things that came up last beta that I wanted to improve — like the in game analysis — and have you guys test. So my new goal is to have that beta out by mid Oct.

Have a great start to my favorite month — October.

Jane

Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded Project Update #71: A Special Message from Al Lowe

Hi everybody, it’s Al Lowe again.

My buddy Larry Laffer and I need your help. Ever since Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded shipped, we’ve been working on a major update and now it’s ready for testing. We’ve added some cool new enhancements that I can’t wait for you to see! But before it gets released “into the wild,” it needs to be severely tested. I can’t think of anyone better than YOU to see it, stress it, bang on it, and otherwise wring out the bugs! What I’m trying to say is: I’m looking for some good game testers for the next version of Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded. If you can help, you will need:

· a PC (not phone, tablet, Mac, etc. just yet)

· to be detail oriented

· to be able to give up about 3 hours a day for 3 days this week (and maybe more?)

· a Steam account (or we can’t get the new version to you)

· to be willing to file bug reports via email at the end of each testing session.

· to keep notes and screenshots of bugs found (in case we need them later)

Think you can “rise to the occasion?” (Unlike Larry!) If you have what it takes, email my buddy Chris Myers, cmyers@replaygamesinc.com, to apply.

And help us reload Reloaded!

SpaceVenture Project Update #80: September 16 Update

Hello wonderful lady and gentle-backer folks! As always the team is still plugging away with SpaceVenture. A lot of time these past couple of weeks have been spent in dealing with artwork, so Mark has been crazy busy working with his graphics team.

An executive decision was made this week to use more 3D character models versus 2D character models in the game. We feel this direction is the best solution due to issues in having the characters interacting with each other. Originally the plan was to have some 3D characters and some 2D characters, but after having so many issues in having them work together in cut scenes, the decision became clear that going the direction of 3D on all character interaction was the best way to go.

Almost all scene artwork and objects will still continue to be 2D in order to keep costs at a minimum!

In closing, Mark has allowed me to share a scene with you. So here ya go!

With love,

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

Media - Image