Hero-U Project Update #95: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption

What would you do if you had all the time in the world?

Tempus Fugit
Tempus Fugit

At first, it would seem incredible, a boon that allows you to do everything you want to do.

But then, once you have accomplished all of your dreams, what will you do with the rest of that time? Where will you find challenge and excitement once you’ve had it all and done it all?

This is especially true for an impatient young Rogue such as Shawn O’Conner. Shawn has the run of the Hero-U castle (as long as he doesn’t get caught after curfew). He can check out the wine cellars, Sea Caves, catacombs, and dungeon. He can work out in the practice area, practice with locks and traps, play games with other students, or visit the library. There is definitely a lot to do.

But without time constraints, the choices go away. Shawn would try to do everything every day, and might find himself in a rut.

Using Time Wisely

Fortunately, time is a precious commodity at Hero-U. Even a Rogue needs to sleep sometime, and there is far more to do than anyone can reasonably manage in one semester.

Time is one of the major “economies” in Hero-U. Players constantly need to decide how Shawn should spend his all-too-limited time. Shawn can focus on social relationships, improve his skills, earn money, take elective classes, or uncover mysteries in the school and dungeons. There certainly won’t be enough time to get bored.

Every game action except for “look” takes time. Conversations take several minutes. Practicing a Rogue or a combat skill takes anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. Class sessions take hours. As you guide Shawn through Hero-U, you will find yourself watching the clock and thinking, “Do I have time for one more practice round? Or do I need to run to the library before it closes?”

As a Hero-U player, you will constantly have to make choices. You can’t do everything every day. That applies to conversations too – you need to choose what Shawn will say, then live with the results. Expect some frustration if you’re a completionist.

None of this is accidental. We want Hero-U to be compelling, and that includes forcing players to make choices. We also want the game to be replayable, so it’s fine if you miss out on some of the dialogue, or one of the classes, or even delving the dungeons. There are many different ways to play the game. We hope you will find Hero-U involving enough to try them all.

Suppertime
Suppertime

Taking the Time to Get It Right

In a way, time has been our greatest issue while developing Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. Shawn’s “semester” at Hero-U consists of 50 game days, each with unique events and conversations. This is what we – and Lori in particular – have been doing over the last five years. She has been writing and crafting all of those events and keeping them from “stepping on each other.”

During the last year, we’ve found many places where the scripts are almost, but not quite, right. Every possible dialogue, each option for picking a lock or disarming a trap, has needed careful testing to make sure they work as intended. We’re getting there, but every day we still find minor (and occasionally) bigger mistakes somewhere in the game. We want to fix as many of them as we possibly can before releasing the game to a wider audience.

By now you might be asking, “What time is it at Hero-U headquarters? When will the game reach Beta, and when will you release it to the world?”

Last time I told you we are “so close we can taste it,” and I estimated a release date between April 15 and May 15. As we haven’t yet declared Hero-U to be Beta-ready, clearly we’re pushing the end of that range, and we could even slip a few more weeks depending on what happens during Beta. I expect to start the Beta process in 1-2 weeks.

If you backed at a Beta tester level, watch your email for a message from BackerKit with instructions on accessing the Beta test on Steam. We have all three versions – Windows, Mac, and Linux – available, but are only using Steam during the testing phases. We’ll add other ways to get your game when we “go live.”

The Taste of Success
The Taste of Success

Alpha, Beta, Soup?

Game industry use of the terms “Alpha” and “Beta” isn’t consistent. For us, we’ll be ready for Beta when the game is completely playable, all essential features are in place, and it has no known game-stopping issues such as crashing or freezing. I am also trying to make sure it is as free as possible of “uncaught exceptions”; these might not freeze the game, but they are often signs of deeper problems in the game.

The main missing features at this point are Achievements (which we will turn into Steam Achievements) and the game manual. I’m working on both of those currently. Also missing are credits for both developers and backers, and the opening cinematic. Other than those, the game is complete, but not yet ready for release. We are still tuning combat, making sure all combat items work as intended, and adding additional sound effects. We’ll continue to do all of that during Beta testing.

Lori and I are so excited that we will finally be able to put our game in your hands “really soon now.” Every week we get closer to the day we can say, “Ship it!” That was always Ken Williams’ favorite part of making a game at Sierra, and soon it will be ours.

Of course, then our real work – or the next stage of it – begins again with promotion, fulfillment, the Art Book, Bestiary, and planning Hero-U: Wizard’s Way. This will be quite a journey!

Ship It In Ship Shape - Much Better Than the Ship That Sank
Ship It In Ship Shape – Much Better Than the Ship That Sank

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