Back in 2012, several Sierra alumni took to Kickstarter for spiritual successors to get their franchises funded. Of those, Corey and Lori Cole’s Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption is still being worked on. After nearly four years in development, the end is still not in sight. This is cause for concern, so I reached out to Corey regarding the current status of the game.
I like to think of myself as a patient person, but even my patience has its limits. When asked about an expected date, I didn’t receive any answer. However, the latest update mentioned sometime early next year with an extensive testing phase before then.
One of the biggest red flags with the project was due to financial issues. Backers have known the Coles have had to dig into their own funds to continue work on the game. According to Corey, “Lori and I would not have taken on massive personal debt without knowing we will complete Hero-U, and that it will be a great game; we have more at stake than anybody.” For their sake, I hope that they at least make back what they put in.
In addition to the first campaign, the Coles also returned with a second Kickstarter to help finish off the game. Some people took issue with this, while others were fine with giving the Coles more money. I was wary that this decision came off as too desperate, even though I know it takes time and money to develop a game. Corey said that many existing backers didn’t have any problem with this move, with a good number even returning for the second time.
I can’t comment on the total number that complained versus those returning, but I do know that some were rather vocal against it. Some hardcore adventure fans decided it best to move on and write Hero-U off as a lost cause. Whatever the reason, this doesn’t look good for the Coles. Still, according to Corey, “Some of our backers contributed thousands of dollars, others started regular PayPal contributions.”
Aside from these reasons, the decision to return to Kickstarter was to reach those that missed the first time. I can certainly get behind this reasoning, as not everyone could back the game four years ago. Some people might not even have heard about it back then. To those that were there from the beginning, though, it’s hard not to think the worst. After all, we have almost nothing to show beyond some screenshots and a couple early gameplay prototypes.
It doesn’t help that development for Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption has been hit with some major setbacks. Between a number of people leaving early on and part time workers, it sounds like development dragged on a lot longer than it should have. Thankfully, the Coles now have a number of dedicated full time members that should hopefully pick up the pace. It doesn’t help that the scope of the game has changed and expanded beyond what was originally promised.
With development taking so long, in addition to news of some developers closing shop, the future doesn’t look bright for the Coles or Hero-U. How well they do after release remains to be seen, but some people are starting to lose faith. Myself, unfortunately, included. That doesn’t seem to bother Corey too much, as they plan on continuing with the second game promised.
When asked if we’ll see any future games, Corey said they plan on releasing a new one every two years. Having the infrastructure already with the first game, it’s mostly a matter of writing the story. The plan is to return to crowdfunding for the wizard path, most likely IndieGogo to widen their fan base. Should Rogue to Redemption not sell well, the Cole’s will be forced to “admit that we don’t know how to reach the market of players who love great storytelling games.”
Should any future campaign fail, Corey admitted that they’ll end up refunding anyone who “pre-ordered” the second game and shut down the company. They won’t go with a publisher, as Corey is afraid that anyone they approach will demand sales numbers that they might not meet. He also doesn’t think that “publishers understand the kind of game we’re making”.
I don’t want to sound like a pessimist, but to me the writing’s on the wall. Unless the Coles deliver big time on their promises, I don’t see Hero-U doing well. And, they need to deliver something to backers soon or it could make things worse. Either way, I’ll reserve my final judgment until the beta phase hits.