This has been a year of tumultuous change in our lives. Last year, we stopped accepting assignments at The School for Heroes last October so that we could focus on making a new game. Then matters large and small started piling up on us, and we began to doubt if we could do it. We said, “If we’re going to make a new game, we need a team, we need funding, and we need to find a way to promote and sell it.”
And so the quest began – With whom will we partner for Hero-U (then known as “The School for Heroes Game”), and how will we find funds and players?
All of these things are hard. We’ve always worked through a publisher that supplied most of our game development tools. This time around we’re going the full indie route, but we are no longer worried. Kickstarter became the go-to site for both funding and publicity for new games, and developers have been coming to us. In fact, we’ve regretfully had to turn down multiple offers from programmers, artists, musicians, and complete companies to help us make our next game.
Persistence Pays Off
Back in 2010, I got an email from Andrew Goulding, founder of Brawsome in Australia. Andrew wrote, “Back in the good old days of adventure games, I was a big fan of the Heroes Quest (erm, Quest for Glory) series. Actually, not much has changed, I still love QFG 1 – 4… Just wanted to say your work has been a big inspiration for me and I’m trying to carry on humour in the humble point and click with my new game Jolly Rover.”
Andrew sent me a Steam key so I could play the game, and I found it enjoyable. It reminded me of Secret of Monkey Island (perhaps my favorite adventure game) with cute dog characters. But I was too busy back then to do much more than play the game.
Andrew is persistent (and a very good marketer). This year (back in May), he wrote me again, “No doubt you will have been watching Al Lowe, Jane Jensen, Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe launch their successful kickstarter campaigns to develop new adventure games, which got me wondering if you were considering doing the same? If it’s something that interests you I’d love to throw my hat in the ring as a programmer that would love to be involved.”
Now I have to confess we get a lot of mail like that. But Andrew was right – We were watching those campaigns with great interest (having had multiple fans point them out to us) and thinking, “Hmm. Maybe, just maybe…” I admitted as much to Andrew, and then…
All heck broke loose. Any thought of doing a game went onto the back-burner while we dealt with some obnoxious and time-consuming family matters.
Well, that was May. In July, Lori and I went to Comic-Con in San Diego and talked with Oded Sharon and Chris Pope about Kickstarter campaigns. We learned a lot, but still weren’t sure which project we wanted to make. Writing a book or a paper RPG scenario was tempting – Those are a lot easier to do than making a game, and you are much less dependent on others while doing them.
Tempting as that was, we had made a promise to our School for Heroes students that we would make a game based on the School, and we really *hate* breaking promises. So before we committed to one project or another, Lori and I spent some time mapping out what a School for Heroes game might look like.
We decided we wanted to have a top-down, 2D “dungeon” interface like the Atari ST version of the classic dungeon crawler, Rogue. That seemed like something I could code up in my spare time, and we both loved the old Rogue. Of course, we would add many twists – A real story, character dialogue, and so on. Might have taken us three years to build. J
I mentioned that one of our fans had sent us a game that looked like what we were discussing. The fan was Andrew Goulding, and the game was Brawsome’s latest creation, MacGuffin’s Curse. Lori and I looked at the demo and said, “Hey, this is really charming.” Then we played a little of the game, and it was really fun. Snappy dialogue, interesting puzzles, intuitive interface, cute character design – Everything worked.
Just as importantly, the look of the game was right in line with what we had been discussing for our new game. Top-down, tiled interface, something like a Rogue dungeon in closeup so you can see the details, cute character closeups… all that, and the game was fun too!
I wrote about MacGuffin’s Curse last month in my Quest Log blog – http://www.theschoolforheroes.com/questlog/1428/puzzling-under-a-full-moon/.
Do yourself a favor – Buy the game (it isn’t expensive) and play it. Then blink a few times and imagine an old-school dungeon crawl with a similar look. Blink again and imagine Quest for Glory’s character dialogue and story integrated into it. That’s pretty much what happened with us when we played Andrew’s game and talked about ours.
The One That Didn’t Get Away
A little worried that we might have missed our window of opportunity, we wrote Andrew again. Might he be interested in working with us? And the answer was… “Yes! But I’m tied up on a contract until the end of the year. Oh, by the way, I have a team and other contacts for people who would like to work on this.”
Talk about win-win-win! Andrew was happy, we were happy, and the time frame fit our plans. (We still had some of that family stuff to handle before we could get very far on the game.)
Since then, it keeps getting better. Andrew introduced us to Ryan Grogan, who put together a musical theme that knocked our socks off – You’ll get to hear it in the Kickstarter video. Eriq Chang popped up to lead the art team, and proceeded to send us some amazing art. We don’t just have a good team; we have an amazing one! And it all started with that one little email back in May.
Fairy Tales Can Come True
Do you believe in Angels in the Outback? Miracles on email street? I’m beginning to, and we are looking forward to our new game collaboration more than any project we’ve ever done. Ok, at least as much as Quest for Glory 4: Shadows of Darkness, anyway. It’s all making us feel young at heart.
Brawsome is awesome! And the game we’re going to make together, Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption is going to be incredible because of it.