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Hero-U is a turn-based PC RPG with adventure game puzzles and immersive story, by the award-winning designers of Quest for Glory.
Created by

Corey Cole

6,093 backers pledged $409,150 to help bring this project to life.

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Hero-U vs. Quest for Glory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hero-U Financial Report

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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 $25K deficit):

  • Design & Admin: $100K
  • Programming: $70K
  • Art & Animation: $70K
  • Music & Audio: $30K
  • Overhead & Misc: $45K
  • KS & Amazon: $36.5K
  • Rewards & Shipping: $73K
  • TOTAL: $424,500

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 also thought we could finish the game in a year, hence only $70K for two programmers, and $100K for two designer/directors and a producer.

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.

Moving On Up

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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 2015 - It's Alive!

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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.

Money Matters

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