Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption Blog – It Takes a Team

Corey Cole talks about video games as a team effort in a blog post on the official Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption website. He also shares the story of how Quest for Glory, that was originally intended to be a serious game, adopted its signature pun-filled cartoony style thanks to a series of misunderstandings between the team members. Have a look:

Lori and I frequently get accolades about the amazing things we did with Quest for Glory and our other games. We smile and graciously accept the compliments. After all, our games were pretty special, and we had a lot to do with them.

But that’s far from the whole story. The last time I “made a game” completely by myself was probably the tic-tac-toe game I designed and programmed in 1976. (I almost typed 1776, and it feels about that far back.)

Every commercial game that Lori or I designed was created by a talented team of developers – programmers, artists, musicians, writers (for some of the games), and testers – along with a management team that assigned those developers and made sure everyone got paid no matter how long the game took to make.

Developers come in all shapes and sizes – concept artists, painters, illustrators 2D and 3D, animators, tool programmers, composers, audio technicians, content programmers, and a couple of dozen other categories. Of course, on a small team such as ours, everyone wears multiple hats – I pay the bills, write most of these posts, craft some game text, a bit of scripting, and so on. Our lead 2D background artist taught himself to use 3D tools so he could work on more of the game. He also created our box cover art, has done a bit of animation, and so on.

The general rule is that, no matter how much work has been done on a game, there’s always that much or more to still get done.

Why So Serious?

Look at the original Hero’s Quest (before it became Quest for Glory) team, for example. You would never know it now, but Hero’s Quest started out as a serious high fantasy game. There was no mention of humor or comedy in the original description. What changed? The team.

First came the art. Lori envisioned a beautiful medieval town in a pastoral forest setting. We got the forest, but the artist assigned to the town took Lori’s crayon and pastel sketches too literally, so Spielburg had a much more “cartoon” look than we intended. The characters also had simplistic, cartoon-like designs. Admittedly, it was hard to make them more realistic in 16 colors and relatively low resolution – 320 x 200 pixels on many displays. While Lori and I debated how to handle this, programmer Bob Fischbach scripted the first prototype of a forest scene. Since our documentation didn’t say anything about how to handle incidental objects such as trees, Bob came up with several amusing messages including a few puns.

Yes, Bob wrote the first puns in Hero’s Quest; I just took the punishment and ran with it. After all, I went to school in Punsylvania, so it was a natural fit.

That solved our dilemma with the cartoony art style. Instead of trying to write a very serious game that would have been spoiled by the unrealistic backgrounds and characters, we redefined the game concept to be a tongue-in-cheek, humorous take on role-playing, but with a serious underlying story.