By Marty Mulrooney
Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption is a turn-based PC RPG with adventure game puzzles and an immersive story. It is being created by Corey and Lori Cole, the legendary game designers behind Quest for Glory. The husband and wife team hope to raise $400,000 via Kickstarter to fund Hero-U by the 20th November 2012. AMO is therefore proud to present an exclusive online interview with Corey and Lori Cole!
Hello Corey and Lori, thank you for your time and welcome to AMO!
We’re glad to be here!
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourselves please?
Corey: I started out as a programmer, and an avid gamer. I met Lori at an SF convention while demonstrating my paper game module, “The Tower of Indomitable Circumstance.” Besides computer games, I play bridge and bowl (10-pin). I play a little guitar and sing in a choral group. Getting to make the Quest for Glory series and Castle of Dr. Brain for Sierra was the chance of a lifetime, so I dropped what I was doing to go there.
Lori: I was a schoolteacher before I became a game designer. I love to do digital photography and improve the pictures in Photoshop. I’ve always loved reading fantasy and mythology stories, so it was natural to use them in Quest for Glory. I also love singing and gardening. We have a great son, Michael, who is avoiding the game industry but helping us market Hero-U.
What have you both been up to since your Sierra days?
Corey: We worked at a startup company, Explorati, but the attacks on the World Trade Center caused it to lose its main clients and financing. Then I helped develop a popular online poker site, JetSetPoker.com (which later became the basis for Full Tilt Poker). I helped Lori create the school for heroes, and wrote a blog for it.
Lori: After Michael graduated from high school, I wrote a fantasy novel with a fan, then started the “How to be a Hero” and www.theschoolforheroes.com websites. Corey and I “taught” students how to be heroes in real life just like the heroes in fantasy games. I enjoy drawing illustrations for the articles, and I’ve been busy learning photography and Photoshop the last few years.
Have you both missed designing adventure games?
Lori: I really do. I enjoy making up stories, and adventure games gave me a chance to share my stories with the world. The school was great, but we only had a few hundred active students there.
Corey: At first it was a relief – game design is hard work! But now I’m looking forward to getting back into the fray, balancing the game, coming up with fun puzzles, and so on.
Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption was recently announced as a Kickstarter project. What can you tell us about the game?
Lori: I always meant for the school for heroes to be a game, but it turned into too much of a school. Hero-U is what the school should have become. Characters and relationships are really important to the game.
Corey: Hero-U is a mix of adventure, role-playing, and puzzle game like our Sierra games. Our combat is turn-based and tactical, because there are plenty of twitch action games out there, and because we want to emphasise thinking.
So it will take place in a school? How will this setting factor into the overall experience?
Corey: It makes a good contrast between the relatively ordinary atmosphere of the school and the really scary stuff that’s going on down in the catacombs beneath it. We want players to feel that they have real choices of where to go – be a perfect student, or spend more time adventuring and facing down monsters.
Why did you decide to fund this new game via Kickstarter and what would you say are the benefits of crowdfunding?
Corey: We’re using Kickstarter as much for the publicity as for the funding. We’ve tried to interest publishers in our style of game in the past, but they don’t have much interest in story-based games. Most of the games out there now are pure adrenaline shooters, racing games, and such. Those aren’t our strong points.
Lori: Kickstarter lets us appeal directly to our fans. If they want to see this type of game, they can “vote” for us by supporting the project. We want to make sure we still have a real fan base.
Is it an adventure game, an RPG, or a mixture of the two?
Corey: Hero-U is a hybrid adventure/RPG in the same vein as our Quest for Glory games. That means it has a real story, and puzzles to solve, but your character also changes during the course of the game.
Who is the main character and how would you describe them?
Lori: Shawn O’Conner is a young man from a poor family. He’s cocky, and not afraid to take chances. But that’s just a template. Hero-U puts the player in control. Each player will decide whether Shawn is more of a Hero or a Scoundrel, whether he likes to make friends or stay aloof, and so on. Shawn’s personality develops throughout the game based on the player’s actions.
Will the game be a serious affair or more comedic in tone?
Lori: It’s a serious story, with mysteries to solve and some really dark events happening in the catacombs.
Corey: But as in most good dramas, humour is an important part of it. The students tend to make fun of their all-too-serious Rogue instructor. There are some very strange characters.
What form will the gameplay take?
Lori: You will go to classes, take on assignments to find things, do things with other students, have chances to help people, and…
Corey: Then you’ll use your skills to explore the catacombs, fight monsters, collect treasure, avoid traps, set a few traps of your own, and…
Lori: You will try to solve the deeper mysteries of Hero-U and the catacombs. The game is a combination of Rogue studies, “social” behaviour, and dungeon delving.
How much freedom will the player be afforded?
Lori: It’s a balance. You’re in a school, and expected to attend classes and study. But how much of that you really do is up to the player. You can choose whether to go to the library, how much time you want to spend with other students, and when you want to explore the catacombs.
Corey: The dungeon and combat events are somewhat structured. Once you clear out a level, there won’t be much point to hanging around. You won’t have an endless set of constantly-renewing monsters to slay. We’re trying to have the game make more sense than that.
How did Andrew Goulding and the Brawsome team become involved?
Corey: Andrew completed a Sierra/Lucas-style adventure game called Jolly Rover in 2010. He sent me a copy of it, and I enjoyed it, but I was tied up with family business at the time. This year, as Lori and I were starting to think seriously about Kickstarting a game, Andrew sent us his latest project, MacGuffin’s Curse.
Lori: Corey and I had talked about making a role-playing game with more of a traditional “tiled” look, and I thought MacGuffin’s Curse had the right kind of look. I tried playing the game and really liked the combination of story, music, character design, and puzzles.
Corey: So we wrote Andrew and asked if he would like to collaborate on our new game. He had some commitments at the time, but definitely wanted to work with us. So we set the Kickstarter late in the year while Andrew completed his contracts.
Lori: Andrew did more than offer to program the game for us. He got us in touch with Ryan Grogan to do the music, and Eriq Chang and Paul Bowers to work on art. He also shared information about his indie game projects and lots of publicity contacts. We think we’re going to be able to work together really well.
Who else is involved with the creation of the game?
Corey: Ryan Grogan is the composer and in charge of sound. He made a great theme for us to use in the project video, and some spooky Halloween tunes.
Lori: Eriq Chang is a long-time Sierra fan and a talented artist. He has pulled in a number of other artists, including JP Selwood and Eric Varnes. Paul Bowers worked with Andrew on previous projects, so he’s helping the other artists understand how to use tiles.
You mentioned that your son will be helping out with the game too?
Corey: Michael is a marketing professional. He helped push us into committing to this project. He has opened a number of connections with the press and helped us with market research. Michael and Andrew are also contributing ideas to the game design; well, everyone on the team is doing that.
Lori: We have a great, creative team. That always makes a better game than having one or two people be the only ones contributing ideas.
I was really happy when I saw the hugely talented Eriq Chang was involved with making Hero-U – he’s a huge Sierra fan and actually designed AMO’s logo/banner! What is his specific role for this project?
Lori: Eriq is our art director. He is establishing the look of the game, finding other specialty artists, and making sure everything is beautiful.
Corey: Eriq has also taken on a marketing role. He is creating promotional images and setting up a new web site to help promote the game.
Will Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption be voiced?
Corey: That depends on whether we reach a stretch goal, or if we get additional financing after the Kickstarter project completes. Our base goal doesn’t give us enough budget to complete the game and add voices.
Lori: We would like to have them. Voices add a lot to a character-based game.
Who is in charge of the music and sound design?
Corey: Technically, we are. But that mostly means we listen to everything Ryan Grogan sends us, and write back, “That’s awesome! More!” Ryan is our composer and audio director. Incidentally, we’ve received about 15 or 20 letters from composers who want to do music for the game. I have to tell them all that Ryan is doing a great job for us. I guess the musicians are hungry.
How will the money raised be used?
Corey: I have several “What if?” budgets based on possible funding levels. If we make the minimum goal, 65% (about $260,000) will go into making the game – art, music, design, and programming. 10% goes to Kickstarter and Amazon Payments, 10-20% into reward fulfilment, and the rest into general expenses and overhead.
Corey: As I mentioned, we will need additional funding – either a huge surge at the end of the campaign, or external investment – to be able to add voiceovers and additional content. I’ve also promised a Linux port, but that won’t come out of Kickstarter funds. I will be doing that out of my own pocket, or with proceeds from sales, after we finish the Windows and Mac versions.
Lori: We want to make Rogue to Redemption the start of a Hero-U series, but all of the Kickstarter funds are going into the first game. Once it’s done, we will probably run another Kickstarter for the second game, if only to help publicise it.
What rewards are available for pledgers?
Corey: The best way to answer that is to visit http://kck.st/WwVlp7and look at the rewards. It takes a $20 pledge to get a digital copy of the game, $35 to add a soundtrack and art book PDF, and $75 to get the basic boxed version of the game. At $100 and up, you will get an entry in the in-game Virtual Yearbook. At higher levels, you get access to our insider design discussions, and there are some great additional in-game and physical rewards.
Lori: I’m most excited about the Yearbook. At $250 and higher, you become a real Hero-U student with your picture (or any appropriate picture you want) in the yearbook. Corey and I are going to autograph all of them. Both the virtual and physical yearbooks also contain a wealth of information about the game, the teachers, and other characters.
Corey: Everyone will get to read the in-game yearbook, but only selected supporters will have entries in it. It’s a great opportunity for them to share a little about themselves with all the other players.
Lori: And let’s not forget your very own toy Meep at the $125 level. We’re also going to make that available as an add-on so everybody can get one.
Corey: We have other great add-ons too, such as your own headstone in the catacombs, optionally haunted by your ghost. And of course things like extra game keys, t-shirts, and caps.
What makes Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption stand out from the crowd?
Corey: We invented the hybrid adventure/role-playing game category with our Quest for Glory series. Recent RPG’s have put more emphasis on story, but nobody has really been making games like ours. Hero-U has that same mix of features usually assigned to two different game categories, and we think they’re a lot more fun together.
Lori: Playing Hero-U is like sharing in the story with us. We’re giving players so many choices, it’s like they are telling the story too. You’re going to feel like you’re really part of this game, much more than with any of the action games or RPG’s out there.
Is Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption going to be a standalone game or the first part of a series?
Lori: If we reach our goal on Kickstarter, Rogue to Redemption will be the first of several games. We have five of them planned, each with a different main character for you to play.
Corey: Each game is going to have a very different feel. Our Wizard’s gameplay and story are completely different from Shawn’s. We’ll open up a new part of the school, have new students and instructors, and access to new parts of the catacombs.
Lori: But at the same time, all of the stories tie in together. What you do as Shawn will affect how Shawn acts in the sequels. Of course, if you start with the second or third game, it will still tell a complete story, but Shawn will have his default personality and we will decide which events “occurred” in the game you missed.
In your opinion, what makes an adventure game – or any game for that matter – truly special?
Corey: Adventure games are thinking games. Their combination of story, puzzles, and interesting characters help players live the fantasy. Game balance is also important – things have to make sense, and the player should never feel powerless or so overpowered that the challenges become pointless. I abandoned a racing game after five minutes earlier today because I felt like I had no control over it; that doesn’t make a special game.
Lori: A game is truly special when all of the team comes together and creates real synergy. This collaborative energy comes through in the game and makes it much more dynamic. In the case of Hero-U, the game is also a collaboration between the developers and the players, because each player will help determine what happens in the game.
What would you like to say to your supporters?
Corey and Lori: Thank you! We couldn’t do this without you! By supporting Hero-U, you’ve cast your vote for intelligent, fun, and funny gameplay. You’ve said you want to be a Hero, and you want characters and story that matter.
Thank you for your time and good luck with the Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption Kickstarter campaign!
For more information – and to pledge your support – please visit: