Puzzling Problems and Mighty Meeps
We're making great progress, with over 3,000 backers and $170,000 pledged so far. That's right on track for making our goal! Thank you everyone for keeping Hero-U one of the top-rated Universities in the Southeastern quadrant of Silmaria.
Puzzles and Problems in Hero-U
We've said that there will be "adventure game puzzles" in Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. It's true – There will be. But they might look a little different from adventure game puzzles you've known.
There were certain "rules" to successful adventure game play – Take everything that isn't nailed down. Find a crowbar and use it to take the things that are nailed down. If there's a guardian, kill it, bribe it, or distract it. There isn't a lot of moral subtext to most of those games. Use your intuition to guess the designer's mind – "Ah, violets are blue and so is the sky, so you have to make someone believe a mirror is really a window by pasting on 500 violet petals."
We like to break those fundamental rules. In fact, we think you have to break them to make a great game. Worthwhile games are about innovation and surprises, not about copying formulas that might have worked for someone else in the past... or even for ourselves.
So we're afraid that Shawn won't be able to microwave his roommate's hamster – No microwave ovens in the University. He won't be able to slay a Dragon with his bare hands; he's not as buff as a Warrior. If he makes a mustache out of Meep fur, he'll get caught – green mustaches are not an effective disguise.
We're not going to require you to navigate a complex maze using your mouse, because those suck. They also don't work well in our interface. We won't make you map out the catacombs on paper, but you might find yourself taking a few notes, such as how to avoid the traps.
There are plenty of things to click on in Hero-U, but everything interesting fills a tile, and we intend to make the important things fairly obvious. Sorry, we don't like "hunt the pixels" puzzle either.
This lovely PC Gamer article from September 2011 talks about the difference between "puzzles" and "problems". We like that terminology. In Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption, we present Shawn with problems that you get to help him solve. You and Shawn have a lot of ways to resolve these problems, some with different consequences than others.
Silly as it was, the line about "itching powder" in the project video shows this flexibility. Someone is making trouble for you – You can try to make friends with him, play a practical joke, get him in trouble with the administration, get another character to help you with the situation, and so on. Our goal as designers is to provide a lot of tools, and let you use the ones you find appropriate.
What will happen in each of those cases? The situation may escalate if you are too obvious. Your attempt at implicating the other student might backfire and get you in trouble. The friend you make might prove important (or a love interest) later... or you might get them in trouble.
Now that level of detail sounds impossible, and it would be in a pure traditional adventure game. One of the "rules" of that genre was that there was exactly one solution to each puzzle. But we like to break rules. In Shannara, Jak could use his fishing pole in two different ways to solve problems. The producer balked when we tried to introduce a third. None of them involved actual fishing.
Shawn's role-playing stats and skills work the same way. If he doesn't study or practice his lockpicking, he will be bad at it. It he takes the Botany elective, he can harvest plants down in the catacombs and use them to make potions and powders. He might be able to buy some of those, or he can use other solutions to the problems he faces.
The Hero-U interface also lets us set up "problems" of a type that wouldn't work in an old-style adventure game. We can place traps and secret passages anywhere, with generic code, instead of spending a day coding each instance. Our combats add an entire layer of problems that you and Shawn can solve in many different ways.
So yes, Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption will have adventure game puzzles... but only ones that we think are fair and fun.
Musing About Meeps
"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." Oh wait, we're talking about Meeps. Some of them live in holes in the ground too, but others inhabit the walls, ceiling space, and otherwise-unused corners of Hero University. We've had some requests for more information about these curiously fuzzy creatures, so we thought we'd share the answers with all of you.
Q: Will the player be able to learn to tame meeps and have a meep pet to accompany him in the game and perhaps even help him fight? If so, can we give our meep a weapon to fight with?
A: Meeps would be the first to tell you that they cannot be 'tamed.' They consider themselves to be a free people.
However, there will be interaction between the protagonist of Hero-U, Shawn, and the Meeps that inhabit (some say "infest") the walls, halls, and caves below the university.
If we reach our first stretch goal for Hero-U, we will allow Shawn to adopt a baby Meep. This Meep will be hungry, noisy, and a bit insistent at times. It's very hard to be stealthy with a hungry Meep. However, if Shawn feeds, pets, and takes care of his Meep, it will be a very happy Meep. Happy Meeps are good. A happy Meep will warn Shawn when danger is near. A happy Meep may even help Shawn fight the monsters (if the monsters aren't too scary), by distracting the monster with a bite to the monster's butt.
The Baby Meep is too small to wield a weapon, but it has very sharp teeth and a perverse sense of humor. It would be unwise for Shawn to get the Meep mad at him. You don't want to know what an unhappy Meep is like.
Q: Will the player perhaps find a fun magic potion (or learn how to make one using alchemy skill) to turn himself into a Meep?
A: While the idea of turning into a Meep hadn't occurred to us before this, it is definitely funny enough to put into the game at some point. It might not be in Shawn's game, because Shawn would probably enjoy being turned into a Meep. It will be much funnier joke when the protagonist doesn't want to be turned into a Meep.
Q: Will there be any meep teachers at Hero-U? I think that would be so cool to have a very smart meep teacher in one of my classes in the game.
A: There are at least two people at the University who do not like Meeps. One is the Famous Adventurer, who (in theory) runs the school. The other is the Rogue instructor, Master von Urwald. (It may or may not come out in story that Urwald was once transformed into a Meep. This is not an incident Urwald cares to remember.) However, there are no Meep instructors currently at the University. Nor is there (so far) enough blackmail evidence to get a Meep on the staff.
There is more to the Meeps that at first meeps the eye, ut we have to save some surprises for the game!