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  • How Player Feedback Completely Changed Hero Syndrome

    [11.03.20]
    - Jacob Jameson
  • It seemed to make sense. Take two genres that I really enjoy and fuse them into one. A new twist on existing mechanics and ideas.

    3 years ago I had recently left my role as VP of Engineering from a startup, parting with a good salary and job security to pursue my passion for game development. I've dreamed of going full-time into game development for many years and had saved up enough money to pursue it seriously for 3 to 5 years.

    I released a few titles on Xbox Live Indie Games on the side as a way to improve my programming skills after graduating college. The games did well, selling about 30,000 copies over 2 games and an app. Not bad for a nights-and-weekends project. The games were received well and Undead Empire stayed in the top 10 rated indie games list for 2 to 3 years.

    I was encouraged and knew I could make better games if working full time.

    I began making Hero Syndrome (at the time Fort Hero) around February 2018. The idea was to create a title that could be used as a tool for players to get better at building. I had played Fortnite and experienced how much their building mechanic adds to the competitive gameplay. I loved it. It was new, added a lot of strategy to an existing genre that hadn't seen any big changes besides putting 100 players on a map at once. I wanted it to become a bigger part of gaming as a whole.

    I also want to impact the competitive scene as well, and think an arena-style third-person shooter with building would be awesome and a few others agreed with me as well:

    I started developing a third person controller and building mechanics with some help of a few plugins in Unity. As development pursued and feedback came in for the ideas, it was clear that making a training simulator would not be an easy path, especially when everyone just saw the game as a clone.

    If I wanted to make a game that would allow me to continue making games and be seen as a contributor to the industry, it would have to be unique in some way.

    I thought about what would be best to do as a solo developer. What features and aesthetics would be powerful but also achievable. Games like Superhot come to mind, with visuals that are not overly complex but still very polished and appealing. I also think puzzles are great for solo developers to create. Multiple variations on the same puzzle mechanics can be created using the same models and game objects, limiting the expense of buying custom made assets.

    Puzzles also are very rewarding as a player. When done correctly, they give the player the feeling that they alone figured out a complex system of mechanics, even when they are purposely guided to go through a specific set of actions. I loved playing games like Portal and Braid.

    When transitioning from the game that was meant to train players how to build faster, I sat down and thought about what I wanted to make as a developer. I wrote out what I thought I would be good at making, and what I have experience playing myself. Portal was the title that jumped out at me the most considering my own personal connection with it and the modular aspect that could be used to create a puzzle game.

    My favorite games are more action-focused. I have spent the most time on first and third-person shooters. I love the action along with the challenge it provides the player. I knew these games inside and out, so this was an obvious direction I wanted to go.

    If I was going to contribute to the industry that had provided me with so many hours of entertainment, I wanted to do what I knew I was good at and what I enjoyed.

    I have since found that to be a mistake.

    I think it is more important (if the goal is to be successful as a game developer) to find out what other people want and make that.

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