BackerKit sent the surveys out (under my name - Corey Cole) yesterday, and you should have received yours by now. Please answer the survey both to make sure we have correct current information (such as your address) and to make sure we got all of your add-ons correct.
If you see a problem with your account, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can fix it. We've fixed several problems already, and I'm sure there are more.
I've heard there is an issue with "collapsing" your two pledges from the 2012 and 2015 campaign. I will work with BackerKit to resolve that.
Do *NOT* pay extra money unless you are ordering additional add-ons. Chris Fong and I did a tremendous amount of manually filling in spreadsheets based on text entries in our original backer spreadsheet. As a result, there will certainly be some errors. If BackerKit is asking you for more money, send email to email@example.com and I'll fix it.
If your add-ons included preordering the second Hero-U game (Wizard's Way) or an extra copy of Hero-U, you should have paid $18 for each, but I listed them as $20 each on BackerKit. If you've already filled out the survey, that would have shown you as $2 short. I have fixed that by crediting all of those accounts an extra $2. I need to do a second pass for people who pre-ordered more than one copy; I'll do that tonight.
Add-on t-shirts were not added due to a conflict between our spreadsheet data and the BackerKit database. If you added a t-shirt to the first campaign, please put the price into the tip jar - we mailed out all of the t-shirts last year.
Any other issues - please let us know by email. Thanks for your understanding as we go through this very complicated process. The folks at BackerKit have been extremely helpful, but we are doing things their system wasn't really designed to do.
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.
Amid some controversy and a lot of heart-warming support, we returned to Kickstarter for supplemental funding for Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. The project was successful, ensuring that we can finish the game without maxing out every credit card and life insurance policy loan.
Between overfunding of the campaign and some very generous backers on PayPal, we have also been able to restore some content to the game that we previously planned to cut. Hero-U will be a much better game as a result.
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.
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.
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?
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/projects/inxile/the-bards-tale-iv.
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/); Josh Mandel and Al Lowe of Freddy Pharkas and Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded (https://www.replaygamesinc.com/); and many others too numerous to name. We really appreciate the way game designers promote and support each other.
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.