Hero-U Rogue to Redemption

Jan 08 2017

Celebrating Hero-U 2017

We like to decorate our Christmas/Solstice tree with themed decorations. One year was space, another Harry Potter. For the past five Christmas seasons, we’ve decorated the tree with symbols of Quest for Glory and Hero-U to remind us of our commitment. We have Quest for Glory ornaments, School for Heroes baubles, and Rogue decorations. Our gifts this year included Hero-U mugs and t-shirts. It’s safe to say that we’ve thought of Hero-U a lot more than about snowmen, reindeers, or sugar plums during these holidays.

Hero-U Christmas

Hero-U Christmas

We believe the love and commitment from us and the team will make Hero-U great. Every week, I have the pleasure and honor of seeing John Paul’s gorgeous artwork created for the game. Chris and Aaron did fantastic work bringing JP’s vision for the school into 3D. Al has given our characters graceful movement. Carolyn turned static scenes into staged events. Jerry and Robert built the foundation of the castle and the other environs. Adam gave us our Reputation system and our new interface design. Judy created the foundations for our mini-games and added important features to Rob’s game scripting editor. Joshua has led the development of… well, nearly everything code-related. Our other Josh is helping Hero-U be hilarious through his droll messages for interacting with objects that most games ignore.

Moira Defends

Both Al and JP play the game weekly to see that things work and look right, handling Quality Assurance as well as their artistic contributions now that the art tasks are winding down. Who better to judge whether a room lights need adjusting or a character’s movement looks stilted?

It’s the programmers who need to do the heavy lifting now. We’ll be adding a few new names to our programming list soon. It’s time to get this game done.

The game is designed, but I am still writing dialogue and setting scenes in motion. Our custom game system has turned me into a programmer as well as a writer. It gives me the control to make a scene extremely complicated and sophisticated without the worry that my design will get lost in programming translation. It also makes my job harder and take longer as I have to keep track of ‘If’s and Else’s”. We also get to spend time finding mistakes in the scripts as well as in the Unity code.

Corey is now going over the resumes of the many wonderful folk who want to work on the game. There’s a lot of behind-the-scene work like paying people, bills, and taxes that needs to be done to keep this project going. Occasionally he even contributes to design decisions.

Hero-U is a very different game from anything we have made in the past. We’ve applied lessons from every game design we’ve created, the experiences of all the people involved, and the pleasure of all the games we all have played and loved. Hero-U will bring these things together to create a game experience that we hope you all will love as much as you loved Quest for Glory.

So here’s to 2017! We are adding more programmers to add to the richness of the game. We are incorporating new music and sound effects to give the game emotional depth. We are testing, poking, and judging every pixel and action in the game to make sure it works as intended and that the game is fun.

This is the year we ship this game. You will enjoy all the effort it took and all the love we built into this creation.

It’s going to be a great year for Hero-U.

Celebrate Hero-U 2017

Jan 01 2017

Happy Heroic New Year 2017

Happy Heroic 2017

Here we go into the final year of creating Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. It’s been a wild and woolly “bumpercar-on-a-roller-coaster” kind of experience – a mixture of fear, terror, amazement, and great joy.

We’ve gone through a lot, these past years. We’ve made friends, worked with great people, and watched far too many of them go on to their own projects and better lives. Yet each person has left an impression upon the game. Every person who has been on the team helped to shape and improve the game. The best games are built by the synergy of the people who work on them.

The amazing part of creating this game is seeing the world of Hero University come to life. Most of the game art is done, we’re just tweaking and refining what we have in place to polish everything with glowing pride. All the pieces of the puzzle are in place, Shawn can stroll the halls of the castle, explore the wonders of the sea caves, sneak cautiously through the catacombs. The world of Sardonia awaits the explorer.

It’s a silent world right now. Anyone who has danced with Dryads knows just how magical music can be. That spell of magic has yet to be cast upon the game, but the tools of creation are now in place. We’re ready to begin the symphony of sound.

The Power of Magic

Of course, we still need a few Wizards to conduct the final ritual to bring the game together. Fortunately, when we asked for help from our friends and fans, many talented and experienced people answered our call. They, too, want to help make this game special.

Bringing this game to life has been difficult and grueling. No one wants this game to ship more than we do. However, we want it to be the best game possible, and there is still a lot of work to do. We will make this game as magical as we can.

Fortunately we have you to support us. Your faith in us and in Hero-U keeps us working, keeps us striving to do our best. The greatest of joys we have had from this project is the pleasure of knowing how important Quest for Glory was to you. That’s why we are making Hero-U. We want to share the thrill, adventure, and wonder that a great game can give.

For all of you, thank you. You keep us going.

So here’s to 2017. It’s going to be happy, heroic, and amazing.

Sargonian Garden

Mar 20 2016

Spring Forward

Spring Forward
In the midst of Winter, there are times when it seems as if the chilling gloom will never end. Game projects go through a similar period when the game is like a scattered jigsaw puzzle with many of the pieces missing. It is hard to believe that the project will ever be completed. But even in the depths of the coldest and darkest Winter days, we know that Spring will be reborn with joyous warmth and sunshine. So too, we know that Hero-U will find all the pieces of the puzzle, put them together into a beautiful picture, and we will be ready to release the game so that we can share that beauty with all of you.

The pieces are coming together now. There are many more pieces to this game puzzle than we expected when we started out. We listened to our fans and supporters. Thus, the Sea Caves are much more extensive than we planned. Our animation is becoming more sophisticated. Our programming is becoming more elegant and expressive.

It will still take months to fit all the pieces into the game. It will take more months to test it all and make sure it lives up to its heritage of QfG and the expectations of its fans. However, we are springing closer to our goal every day.

Spring Fling

Sea Caves Section 2H

All of the backgrounds for the Sea Caves have been completed by JP Selwood and Aaron Martin. This means that all of the background art is finished.

So, is the art done? No, not exactly.

When we started out designing the art for the game, we created backgrounds like a stage set with many reusable walls and props. This made the scenes seem a little dull and artificial.

We have started the polishing phase of the project. We are going over many of the older rooms now to make them more dramatic and dynamic. Each prop is handcrafted from the finest pixels. Each room is aglow with the careful arrangement of many-colored lights. It’s amazing what lighting can do to bring out the emotions in a scene.

We are also refining and improving our user interface design to make the game play intuitive and yet beautiful.

Our newest programmer, Carolyn VanEseltine, is crafting each scene with character movements and camera placement to bring a cinematic approach to game interaction.

Josh Mandel is bringing his clever wit and wry humor to Hero-U whenever the player examines objects or interacts with the myriad of props and decorations in the rooms.

My dialogue script keeps getting longer and more sophisticated as the stories of all the characters in the game are revealed. This is the richest, most complex story I have ever written.

The game just keeps getting better and better.

Of all the games I’ve worked on in the past, Hero-U has the best team and the best art. I could not be prouder of what we are creating with Rogue to Redemption.

Spring Break

Adventure Games

I was asked to speak about Adventure Games at the 30th Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco in Mid March. I was one of twelve Keynote Speakers; together, we gave a retrospective of the game industry over the past 30 years.

There are some truly amazing Adventure Games today. The genre did not die when Sierra folded and LucasArts turned its back on the medium. Instead, adventure games morphed into the interactive, episodic stories of Telltale Games and other studios. They are being jumpstarted by Kickstarter, giving designers like Ron Gilbert (Monkey Island), Tim Schafer (Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango), and Jane Jensen (Gabriel Knight) the opportunity to make great games once more. Games like “Her Story” and “Life is Strange” tell compelling stories by reinventing the genre.

Adventure Games are alive and well.

Flash Backwards

A Kickstarter I Love

Girl Genius Website

My favorite cartoonists and web comic creators, Kaja and Phil Foglio, are raising money to publish the latest edition of the adventures of Agatha Heterodyne, Girl Genius, on Kickstarter. If you like a wild, ribald romp through the world of Mad Scientists and Steampunk, then read Girl Genius on line. If you love the comics as much as we do, then support their Girl Genius Kickstarter.

Dec 31 2015

New Year Commitment for 2016

Aim for Greatness

2015 was a great year for us. We added new people to the team. We developed an improved version of the original Break-in House demo to show off the new art style. We made a combat demo to show off and test our combat system. We held a new Kickstarter to reach out to all of you and improve our cash flow by reducing debt.

The Kickstarter gave us more than just money – it gave us feedback on the features you players really wanted to emphasize in the game. Because of this, we have even more work to do. People loved the Sea Caves, so we’re expanding them and making them better. People wanted better animation, so we hired a full-time animator. We’ve improved and expanded the gardens in the game to give Shawn a chance to get away from the doom, gloom, and stress of classrooms and dungeons.

We keep working hard to make this game amazing. That means re-doing a lot of the artwork and re-coding rooms to improve what was done before while at the same time working on all the newer areas and building the structure of the game.

The entire castle has been rebuilt in Maya rather than put together piecemeal like Legos in Unity. This means it looks much better and more polished than it did a year ago. The dungeon and the Catacombs are completely constructed now. Joshua is setting up the ghosts and ghouls that roam those regions.

And the Sea Caves will be as amazing as the concept painting that inspired them.

Considering that this is all being done with people all around the world who’ve never met each other outside of a computer screen, this is quite an accomplishment.

There’s a huge amount of work that still needs to be done on the game. Hero-U has as many areas to explore as the largest of our Quest for Glory games. The dialogue and character interactions are much more complex than in any other game we’ve worked on. We keep refining and redefining the way a game is experienced. Hero-U will be different from any other game you’ve played.

Hero-U is a labor of love from everyone who works on this game. We all strive to do our best to make Hero-U the best game ever.

And it’s all thanks to you. Without your support and encouragement, Hero-U wouldn’t exist.

So as 2015 fades away into history, we make our New Year’s Commitment for 2016. For us, there’s only one that really counts – get Hero-U finished. Make it something that everyone on the team is proud of. Make it something that you will love to play over and over again.

Have a Happy New Year and the promise of better things to come for everyone.

Have a Heroic 2016

Dec 21 2015

Happy Holidays 2015

Happy Holidays
‘Tis the time of friendship
‘Tis the time of cheer,
The time when holidays
Draw us near.

To all our friends,
We raise a toast.
You are the gift
We value most.

For whether we’re close
or far apart
You’re near and dear
Inside our hearts.

So we thank you all
For in so many ways
You bring the ‘happy’
To our holiday.

Wherever you live
In your faraway lands
We’ll all join together
We’ll hold out our hands.

We share the same joys
We know the same story,
We’re bound by the quest
For the essence of glory.

Our Holiday wish
Wherever you’re found.
Let us all be heroes
The entire year round.

Life is more than a game
But it still can be won
One day at a time
Good deeds can be done.

The world needs more heroes
And we’ve answered that call
To make the world brighter
And better for all.

So let’s all join together
And share in the cheer.
Happy Holidays to all
And a Heroic New Year!

Holiday Card

Here’s our Holiday Gift for you – The Heroic Holiday Wallpaper:

Holiday Wallpaper 2015

Nov 22 2015

Thanks for Giving

Happy Thanksgiving

Being grateful is a very important tool for life. That may be an odd way of putting it, but the truth is that learning to regularly count your blessings makes your life richer and more rewarding. It is a way of being mindful of all the little pleasures and wonders that surround our lives on a daily basis.

Right now, I look out my window and the sun is shining on the yellow, gold, and pale green leaves of the massive oaks. The ground, which has been brown and parched by the dry, hot summer, now is a verdant green from the Autumn rains. I’m very happy that I can sit here at my computer and see the changes of nature around me. I’m glad that there were rains after such a long hot drought here. I’m glad that our well didn’t run dry over the summer. I’m glad that though this morning is chilly here in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains, I have my blanket, sweater, and hot tea to warm me.

I have a lot to be very thankful about – and many people to be thankful to. I am admiring a blue jay on a fence post outside my window while I do something I love to do – all thanks to you.
You give me the support to work each day to create the tour-de-force that Hero-U will be. Whether you donated to our Kickstarters, wrote us about Quest for Glory’s effect upon your life, commented upon on blog posts, or just gave us a Like on Facebook, you remind us that what we are doing with Hero-U isn’t work – it’s a calling. It’s creating a piece of art that will one day be shared back with you.

Thank You

When I am designing a game, I am constantly thinking of you. What will you want to be able to do in this Situation? How will you want Shawn to talk to people – do you want Shawn to be polite and friendly, or snarky and cynical? What will you want to explore – the dangerous dungeons of monsters and treasure, or the mysteries of friendship and Shawn’s past?

There are a lot of you out there. You are not all alike. So I need to think of all of you and create experiences that will please you whatever your taste may be.

So you are very much on my mind every day. I’m very grateful to you for this opportunity.

Many More Thanks

Of course, I’m not alone while I create Hero-U. Corey’s nearby paying the bills, managing the programming team, and designing the complex systems that underlie the game play. Yes, we’re over budget because we care more about making the game better than we do at being fiscally sound. Somehow, Corey manages to keep this company going and our people paid. I’m very glad that he’s doing it and not me.

I’m very grateful for our programming team. They’ve worked so hard over the last year on Hero-U despite the fact that they all have other jobs and other lives. Cidney, Robert, Judy, and Joshua have worked wonders bringing Hero-U to life. I’m grateful for all the other programmers who helped shape Hero-U over the years – Jerry Shaw, Jonathan Cheatham, Andrew Goulding, Mike Croswell, Rob Eisenberg.

I’m also very thankful for our artists. Without their creative talents and craftsmanship, this game would be lifeless and dull. Thank you, JP, this game is amazingly beautiful and rich thanks to your artistic vision and skill. Game creation is a collaboration and a synergy of creative talents, and JP is as much a designer of this game as I am. I look on the walls beside me at the paintings of Mordavia and Spielburg, the wonderful scene of the Caligari Harbor with the Pegasi flying over the water and the Hero-U castle rising in the bright morning sky, and I am inspired. Hero-U will be a beautiful game thanks to JP.

Of course, I’m also thankful for the other great artists who are helping bring Hero-U to life. Aaron and Chris have turned sketches and drawings into 3D environments. Al gives new animations and motions as well as refining the 3D models to all our characters. Paul, Eric, and Terry all contributed to the look and style of the game. Ryan Grogan gave us the music to give emotional depth to every scene.

That’s Gratitude for You

I’m very grateful to all of these people, most of whom I’ve never met in person. Some of them were former Sierra On-Line people. Most of them were strangers from distant places. And yet, they all help to make Hero-U.

I have a lot for which to be grateful.

Mostly though, I have to be grateful to you. Without you, I couldn’t make Hero-U. Without you, I wouldn’t be working with all these wonderful people creating an amazing game.

Thank you so much.

Dinner with Shawn

Oct 27 2015

Halloween Tricks and Treats

Night casts its shroud of cobwebs and gloom
Releasing the souls that are trapped in their tombs.
Through catacomb halls the wind wails and weeps
Summoning spirits from undying sleep.
The Living are fearful and fretful with dread
As the Spirits arise on the Nights of the Dead.

Rise from the Tomb

Rise from the Tomb

’tis the season of ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night, where we again watch “Nightmare Before Christmas” and hail to the pumpkin song. Once again, we here at Hero-U celebrate Halloween with you.

Halloween has always been my favorite season of the year. That’s why there has been a thread of eeriness running through many of my games. Shadows of Darkness explored all the tropes of Horror Movies with Vampires, a Frankenstein-like monster, ghosts, a haunted castle and monastery, and so much more.

Mordavian Nightlights

Mordavian Nightlights

Now Rogue to Redemption will have its Nights of the Dead to add an aura of spooky thrills to Hero University.

On the Nights of the Dead when darkness falls, the ghostly shades haunt the castle halls. Most of the friendly ghosts in the school are the spirits of backers who help bring this game to life. It’s the unfriendly ghosts you have to watch out for. It’s bad luck to explore the catacombs at night any time of the year – but the Catacombs are especially dangerous during the Nights of the Dead. You never know who – or what – you’ll meet there.

What makes a good scare is not a grotesque monster or something jumping out of a corner at you. It’s all about mood. It’s that sense of dread that builds out of the anticipation of danger. It’s the fear of the unknown countered by the lure of curiosity to drive you deeper into the darkness where monsters lurk.

Humor and Horror share the same elements. They both need a setup to lull the player into a sense of expectation. The player anticipates what is going to happen next . Then humor or horror breaks that expectation by surprising the player. It’s the juxtaposition of expectation with the unexpected that make something funny or scary.

There’s a lot of humor in our games. However, there are also a lot of scary bits.

Creepy Castle

Creepy Castle

Scariness is built by layers. First is the setting – an old castle with a tragic history or the cold crypts of the catacombs. Both locations form the foundation for a creepy experience. Just the sound of such places evokes an emotional response from the player. Then we color the setting in shades of cold blues or eerie greens to evoke a chill up the spine. We darken the halls and drape them in shadow. You can’t quite tell what hides in the corner or just out of sight.

Then we tell you there is danger. We let you know that you aren’t safe. No matter how clever or skilled you are – if you make a mistake, it might be your last.

Finally, we add music and sound effects to the scene. The music is mournful and disquieting. You can hear the creak of doors or the scraping of something of something just out of sight. Are those voices whispering in your ear the sounds of the dead or the illusions of your mind?

Emotional impact makes a game memorable. There should be moments of delightful treats as well as breath-stopping tricks. That’s why we love Halloween. We never know quite what to expect.

You Can Never Leave

You Can Never Leave

Aug 20 2015

Creating the Catacombs

Catacombs Section

A Section of the Catacombs

The Catacombs is a huge underground complex where for centuries the dead of Sardonia have been entombed. Once a final resting place for heroes, now the Catacombs is filled with the restless Undead. Only the bravest of explorers or the most foolhardy of tomb raiders dare enter this realm of death.

In the modern world, the Catacombs of Paris are underground warehouses for the storage of bones. In medieval times as cities expanded, old cemeteries were dug up and the bones were stacked in abandoned limestone mining tunnels. These are estimated to hold the remains of six million people. The catacombs of Hero-U are a cross between an ossuary and an underground graveyard. There are tombs, sarcophagi, and crypts throughout the Sardonian Catacombs.

Bring out Your Dead

While Hero-U is an adventure rich with character interactions and story, it is also a turn-based combat role-playing game. The Catacombs provide an eerie setting for exploration and unravelling of mysteries as well as an opportunity to test Shawn’s wits, skills, and equipment against the creatures that defy death.

Slaying the dead is risky business.

But the Catacombs isn’t just a place of doom and gloom. Amidst the blood-craving revenants and the hateful wraiths, there are the ghosts of the heroes.

Memento Mori

School Spirits

School Spirits

In our original Kickstarter, we offered School Spirits and tombstones as reward add-ons. This means they will have epitaphs on tombs and perhaps a free-roaming vapor haunting the Catacombs and the school.

Twenty-six people wanted to be ghosts in the game. Another 28 wanted to have tombstones. This meant we needed to have an extensive Catacomb to contain them all.

The Catacombs consists of twelve different areas to explore, including one major Boss Monster, a Monster Lair, and the Thieves’ Guild Fence. There’s a lot of exploration and excitement buried here.

School Spirits

In our original Kickstarter, we offered School Spirits and tombstones as reward add-ons. This means they will have epitaphs on tombs and perhaps a free-roaming vapor haunting the Catacombs and the school.

Warrior WomanTwenty-six people wanted to be ghosts in the game. Another 28 wanted to have tombstones. This meant we needed to have an extensive Catacomb to contain them all. Thus, the Catacombs consists of twelve different areas to explore, including one major Boss Monster, a Monster Lair, and the Thieves’ Guild Fence.

We’re currently creating the Catacombs, transforming the lush concept art into a 3D environment. Ghosts, ghouls, epitaphs, and Undead have to be carefully arranged to create this moody and dangerous region of the game.

There are secrets as well as dangers hidden in the shadows of the Catacombs. Will Shawn be able to explore and uncover the treasures of lore and wealth without sharing the fate of the catacombs residents? Only you can determine Shawn’s fate when you play Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption.

Shawn in the Catacombs

Shawn in the Catacombs

Aug 04 2015

Mischief Making Meeps

Once upon a time in the quiet countryside of Kriegsland, there sprang a peaceful people known as Meeps. Meeps are cute little bundles of fur perched on hands that serve as feet, and vice versa. The Meeps live in underground villages concealed under rocks in the remote pastoral meadows. They occasionally pop out of their holes to search for food – wild berries, windfall apples, and root vegetables. Theirs is the perfect communal society where everything is share and share alike.

Pleezed to MeetchaMeeps are rather like the hairy-footed, short humanoids of the Shire fame. They like to lead simple, uncomplicated lives, snug in their warm little dens. They like to eat apples. They like to cuddle together while the Chief Meep tells them how lucky they all are to be Meeps.

Meep Menaces

What Meeps do not like are Troublemakers.

Troublemakers are… different. Troublemakers are Meeps who mistakenly believe that there is anything better than living off the land or hiding in a hole in the ground. Troublemakers are the ones ask dangerous questions like why should Meeps go hungry in the wintertime or why must Meeps hide away from everything else. Troublemakers even have the nerve to argue when the Chief Meep says that a good Meep is a quiet Meep.

Thus, any Meep deemed to be a Troublemaker is given a polite kick out of the Meep hole and sent off to make his or her own way far from the serenity of Meepish society.

Good Riddance

Oddly enough, there are now more Troublemakers living away from the Meep villages of Kriegland then there are Meeps.

Equally strange is the fact that most Troublemakers don’t mind being kicked out of the Meep villages. Okay, it’s scary being away from home. Yes, it’s much more dangerous than hiding away in a hole.

However, it’s a lot more fun.

Once Troublemakers are away from other Meeps, they can be something new and different. They don’t have to live in holes in the ground. They don’t have to spend most of their lives scrounging for food. They don’t have to keep their mouths shut when they disagree with someone else.

They can be themselves.

Prates Ahoy

Some Troublemakers stowed away on ships to sail the ocean sea. These Troublemakers call themselves “Prates,” wear fancy hats with feathers on them, and say “Arrr, Matey.”

A Prate's Life for MeMost human sailors believe that Prates are good luck on a ship (at least, that’s what the Prates tell them). Oh, sure, Prates get grumpy and soggy and smell like bilge water when wet. So what if a Prate can’t tell a jib from a mizzen or a spanker from a bowsprit? Prates can always find the best tavern in a port (by the smell of the ale) or when there is a storm brewing over the horizon (by the frizz in their hair). And what sailor doesn’t appreciate that a Prate can sing 300 verses to ‘What do you do with a Drunken Sailor?’

On sailing ships, Prates make great First Mates.

Fuzzy Logic

Some Troublemakers go to live with humans, preferably wealthy humans. These Meeps cultivate their cuteness and cuddliness. They brush their fur. They put bows on their braids. They call themselves the “Fluffies.”

Fluffy Fluffies adopt lonely humans by moving in and befriending them. Feeling melancholy? Stroke a Fluffy. Are you blue? Hug a Fluffy. If you need someone to talk to, a Fluffy is always there to listen and hold your hand.

Fluffies make fine friends when you are feeling fur-lorn.

Mischief Masters

Then there is one group of the people formerly known as Meeps that embrace their inner Troublemaker. They call themselves Kwirks. While Meeps avoid human society and Prates integrate with humans, Kwirks avoid humans and live with them at the same time. They tunnel under towns. They sneak in cities. They creep in castles.

They hide with pride.

Like the Meeps, Kwirks scavenge for food. However, Kwirks equally scavenge anything that isn’t nailed down or too big for a five Kwirk towing team to drag to their burrow. They like to decorate their dens in a style best described as “eclectic”.

Roguish KwirkThey value things by how difficult they are to obtain. They entertain one another with long stories of how they managed to squeeze through an open window, crawl along the walls above a sleeping watchdog, and make off with the dog’s food bowl that now serves as their punch bowl. They brag about climbing to the topmost tower of a castle, slinking through an arrow slit, and fetching a feather pillow from a baron’s bed.

Kwirks work at lurking and looting. They boast about burglary. They bask in being bad.

In short, Kwirks are the Rogues of the Meep peeps. And it goes without saying that Kwirks inhabit the hallowed halls of Hero-U. They fit right in as long as they can avoid the Headmaster, Mr. Terk, and everyone else.

They’ll Never Meep Again

With all these Troublemakers, the best thing that ever happened to them was the worst thing imaginable to them – banishment from home, hearth, and family. Now, they find their own homes, friends, and fun.

The moral of this message
Is not very deep…
Just be yourself
and more than a Meep.

Dare to Be Wicked

What kind of Troublemaker are You?

Meep, Prate, Fuzzy, or Kwirk?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...