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Can Facebook's best game escape Facebook?

Can Facebook's best game escape Facebook?


‘Hero Generations’ boils a life down to just five minutes

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Life is short, and Hero Generations takes that idea to its logical extreme. Each move you make represents a year in your character's life, and so an entire existence lasts just a few minutes — you won't finish your epic quest in a single lifetime. It's a game about choosing between venturing out into the great unknown and making it easier for your offspring to ultimately save the world. Hero Generations first launched on Facebook in 2011, but it was never really a good fit on a platform devoted to time sinks like FarmVille and Bejeweled. "It was really an experiment to see if I could put a game with depth and meaning onto the biggest game market around," says designer Scott Brodie.

Now he's attempting to bring the game back through a crowdfunding campaign that will both look to improve on the core concept and finally move the game beyond Facebook.


The core of Hero Generations remains the same. You start out as a young hero, and each move you make through the grid-based world presents you with a choice: you can explore to uncover new areas of the world, take on quests to become famous, or build up a town to make life better for your offspring. You can't accomplish much in a single lifespan, but by carefully balancing all of the different choices you can ensure that future generations will be able to make it much farther. It can be surprisingly touching at times; I would often find myself delaying decisions, because I knew it would only bring my hero closer to death.

"I never felt like I got a chance to express the full idea."

Hero Generations ultimately fizzled on Facebook. While it received positive reviews, it didn't have the kind of sticky traction that's necessary for the platform, which in turn made it difficult to make much money on a game that was free by default. Facebook games depend on players checking back constantly, and Hero Generations just wasn't that kind of experience. The platform issues were only made worse by some design mistakes Brodie made as a rookie indie developer. The game launched before it was really ready, for instance, and he had a hard time keeping up with the constant maintenance an online game needs.

The game was eventually shut down, and Brodie moved on to developing a collectible card game idea he had been toying with, which turned into the fantastic browser game Highgrounds. But Hero Generations never really went away. "I never felt like I got a chance to express the full idea," says Brodie. He also had his first child in the interim, which made him want to finish the game even more. "Watching my son grow up really gave me some new perspective that reinvigorated my interest in the design," he says.


"It's made me way more prepared to finish Hero Generations the right way."

With a beautiful new style courtesy of Seattle artist Dominic Sodano, the new version of Hero Generations certainly looks more impressive than the original. But there are also a number of changes that should make it deeper and more satisfying — chief among them is a new prophecy system, which creates a random major event once per century, with everything from erupting volcanoes to giant monsters terrorizing the landscape.

These changes should go a long way towards making it feel like the game's world is evolving alongside your characters, as well as keeping things fresh and interesting over the course of multiple generations. The new features also likely wouldn't exist if the game hadn't been canceled in the first place. "It's made me way more prepared to finish Hero Generations the right way this second time around," says Brodie.

If the Kickstarter succeeds, the game is expected to be ready for early next year, available on both Windows and Mac, and potentially Ouya as well. "I think even in its unfinished form, the game is able to evoke the emotions I wanted it to in players," says Brodie. "It seems to speak to some pretty universal truths most players have experienced."