When I started designing Hero Generations, my goal was to build a game that, through gameplay, would allow players to feel a complex set of emotions I had experienced myself. The lessons I pulled from that experience felt like universal human truths that others might benefit from experiencing too. During the early design process, I wrote the below summary of how I planned to achieve the aesthetic experience I wanted in the game. I figured I would share it with you now since details on the topic in the Kickstarter
description are pretty light.
Hero Generations Design Philosophy
Hero Generations aims to be both a personal expression and experiment in distilling deep strategy gameplay into a shorter form experience. The intent is to build a game system around familiar personal life experiences everyone can relate to, and over time reveal insights about the following core themes:
- What is worth our limited life time?
- What do we sacrifice to pursue the things we love?
- The value of thinking long term vs short term; planning for a better future vs immediate personal achievement.
- The value of putting down roots vs staying free to explore passions.
- The impact of nature vs nurture.
Mechanically, I will reveal these themes via the following systems:
- A hero with a limited lifespan, and permanent death. Each turn choice should matter because the stakes are high.
- An expanding, variety of valid goals to pursue (it should be an interesting puzzle for you to chart your life path amid static, dynamic, and hidden objectives).
- Quick-play sessions leading to rapid generational iteration. I want to expose the long-term effects of player actions as soon as possible, so enabling players to play many generations is key.
- World permanence and persistence leads to a connection between generations, and allows players to leave a lasting (positive or negative) impact on the game world.
- Generational variety through mating, to expose different choices with each new child hero. It’s not one story; it’s an exploration of a concept.
- Making classic strategy game mechanics accessible in quick play sessions. Give people a replayable short form version of 4X Strategy that they can chain into longer epic legacies on their schedule.
- Keep everything beloved about Rogue-likes, but fix the pain of permadeath by allowing players to continue on as an heir with similar characteristics.
- Play with procedural generation to make each game varied and personalized.
The influence list for the game is quite varied. A number of games were useful references for solving hard design problems:
- Oasis (single screen exploration structure, elegant, quick-play strategy)
- Civilization Revolution (4x made casual, on console)
- Passage (limited lifespan, rapid character growth/aging)
- The Legend of Zelda (adventure unlocking structure, non-linear exploration, item system)
- Super Mario World (aesthetic, surprise, “little world”)
- Spelunky (random generation, accessible rogue-like)
- Risk (combat simplicity, design)
- Minesweeper (uncertain/dangerous grid-based exploration with “tells”)
- Super Mario 3 (mini-game integration)
- Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne (Varied Quests types – victory pts/fame design unify varied goals)
- LOVE (Procedural generation, graphical evolution)
- Braid (careful match of visual tone and mechanical communication)
Approaching these non-traditional concepts in a game was challenging at times, but it has resulted in a design that I think has slowly taken the shape I wanted, and will hopefully get closer to the ideal as we work to flesh out the game more.
For more background on my approach to Hero Generations, you can check out this article I wrote long ago on the subject for Gamasutra.com: Truth in Game Design