A Tale of Two Castles
The university for Heroes is located in an ancient and foreboding castle with a long and storied history. Here you will explore the mysteries of the past and how they affect the present and future games. As part of our research into the the broad topic of “fantasy schools in medieval castles,” we recently explored another famous school - Hogwarts, the School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hogwarts is quite close to Hogsmeade, a charming traditional village. Both are apparently located in Universal Studios Hollywood, although it’s possible some interdimensional rifts were involved in our visit. (You don’t often see snow on the rooftops of buildings in Southern California in the summertime…)
Walking the Line
It took about 40 minutes to get from the entrance of the Harry Potter attraction to the actual ride. We spent most of that time walking around the castle grounds and inside the castle itself. There were always new things to see and examine, and the exercise was undoubtedly good for us couch potatoes.
Shawn will get plenty of exercise as he walks around the Hero-U castle and improves his skills in the practice rooms. As for “new things to see and examine,” they are everywhere in Hero-U! Our castle is filled with curios from around the fantasy world, and Shawn can interact with all of them. There are surprises everywhere.
One of the first things we noticed inside Hogwarts was the profusion of animated, talking portraits. They carry on conversations with each other, many played by actors from the Harry Potter films. (See https://www.pottermore.com/writing-by-jk-rowling/hogwarts-portraits for more details on magically-animated portraits.)
The portraits in Hero-U are much better behaved, mostly staying within their frames. However, each portrait in the halls of Hero-U has its own story to tell. Many of them are portraits of backers, but each is also an artwork in its own right.
There are also a few “interactive people” in Hogsmeade Village, actors representing vendors and townspeople. Most of them could have been in any store, but a few took their acting seriously. I particularly enjoyed talking with a Hogwarts Express conductor - he really knew his Harry Potter lore.
Hero-U is another matter entirely. Lori has spent most of the last three years crafting dialogue for each of the dozens of actors at the University. Everyone has unique things to say that fill out the background of the school, provide important game hints, or are just for fun. Shawn’s roommate Aeolus loves to compose lyrics to music, but the melody is not always completely original - see how many popular songs you can recognize as his inspirations.
By the way, most of the dialogue changes every day, so don’t assume you can get to know people in a single conversation.
Like most of the attractions at Universal Studios, the Harry Potter ride is a 3-D motion simulator. Your broomstick seems to soar above and through Hogwarts as you encounter some of the scenery and situations from the Harry Potter films. It was definitely fun, but also a challenge for those of us - such as Corey - who suffer from motion sickness.
Corey has a similar problem with 3-D action games such as first-person shooters. The sometimes jerky, uneven motion is more than he can stomach, so to speak. That’s one of the reasons why we are going out of our way to make Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption a very different experience. Yes, we have 3-D environments, but you control the action. Combat in particular is turn-based - it’s about strategy and tactics, not about how fast you can click.
Top Five Similarities Between Hogwarts and Hero-U
- Both are schools situated in ancient castles.
- Wizards study their Gramarye there; magic is in the air.
- Deadly terrors lurk beneath, and sometimes in, the schools.
- Filch and Mr. Terk both think their schools would be better without any students.
- Harry and Shawn find both staunch friends and malicious enemies at their schools.
Top Five Differences Between Hero-U and Hogwarts
- Hero-U offers many other disciplines than Wizardry, even Roguery.
- Hogwarts students play Quidditch, not for the faint-of-stomach. Hero-U students play Poobah and other games that do not require flight.
- Mundanes and magicians mix freely in the halls of Hero-U.
- While many Hogwarts teachers have quirks, only Hero-U has Kwirks.
- There is no “chosen one” at Hero-U; anyone can be a Hero.
There is another big difference between the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios and the Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption game. Their development budget was over $500 million; ours is closer to $500 thousand (or $1 million counting deferred costs). As a result, Universal charges about $100 per visit. We let you visit Hero-U as often as you want for $30 or less. What a bargain!
We look forward to opening the doors of Hero-U to our Beta testers late this year. Depending on the results of the tests, we’ll release the full game either at the end of this year or early next year. Both Wizarding World and Hero-U took several years to develop, but they are experiences you will enjoy exploring.
If you have moved, and whenever you move in the future, please update your mailing address on BackerKit. I would like to gradually fulfill physical goods orders as I have time available, and I become really sad when a package with $10 of postage is returned because we didn’t get a change of address.
To check or update your address, visit https://www.backerkit.com/master_backer_accounts/sign_in.
Interesting Kickstarter and Indiegogo Games
Buck (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1441684765/buck-2d-post-apocalyptic-noir-action-adventure-gam) has potential. They have a demo available from the project page so you can check it out before backing.
Unity (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/215931791/unity-tabletop-rpg) looks really nice and has some interesting concepts. This is a tabletop RPG, not a CRPG. If you like experimenting with new tabletop systems, consider giving this game book a try.
Herbert's Quest (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/herbert-s-quest-a-medieval-madness-adventure-game#/) is an interesting experiment - a game created in a week using only Unity Store assets. It’s by Oded Sharon, an Israeli game developer with whom we worked on the Bolt Riley game. You can pledge as little as $1 to get a copy of the game.
Zartana (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/zartana-an-interactive-storybook-adventure#/) is a paper (book-based) interactive adventure game that looks gorgeous. Corey has a D&D character named Zartan. :-)
Indivisible (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/indivisible-rpg-from-the-creators-of-skullgirls#/) looks impressive. It’s a high-budget Japanese-style RPG, already funded at almost $2 million, but looking for extra backers for their community and stretch goals.