Heart Shaped Games’ Hero Generations Will Make You Famous on Facebook

IndieCade 2011 finalist Hero Generations from developer Heart Shaped Games for Facebook has a unique take on role-playing game genre in the form of heroes with finite lifespans determined by movement across a world map.

According to our traffic tracking service AppData, Hero Generations currently has 1,523 monthly active users and 48 daily active users.

Hero Generations calls itself a hybrid of strategy and art game, where the goal of gameplay is both to achieve winning conditions and to invite the audience to think more deeply about a topic — in this case, the best use of a person’s time given a limited lifespan. The core gameplay involves players moving a hero avatar across a world map one square at a time. Each movement costs the player a certain number of years off that avatar’s life with an overall life expectancy meter gradually falling to zero as the player continues. While moving squares, the player will encounter a series of events from villages to enemies that impact not only their lifespan, but also a fame score. At the end of an avatar’s life, the fame score determines the player’s score which is displayed on a leaderboard.

The key twist comes in making choices about trading off years of an avatar’s life for fame. At certain points during an avatar’s lifespan, they hit “milestones” where they age and gain new attributes. By the time they hit middle age, the game suggests that the player seek out a mate for their avatar. Mates are non-playable characters that live in village squares; visiting one of these will cause the hero avatar to mate with the NPC, producing a new playable avatar that carries attributes of the parent hero (strength, life expectancy, stat bonuses, etc.). Additional traits are selected by the player from a set of face-down cards. Note that certain mates will not copulate with your avatar unless that avatar meets certain conditions (e.g. total fame points, money).

The primary way to gain fame is to explore the world map by moving squares and thereby complete certain quests. As the avatar moves, so do enemy NPCs in various squares inside and outside of the player’s view. Colliding with an enemy triggers a brief combat sequence where the player’s strength is calculated against the opponent’s strength, plus any bonuses either character may have from traits (e.g. the Warrior trait) or items (e.g. a broadsword). Winning combat earns the player fame while losing deducts years off the avatar’s lifespan. Certain quests pit the player against enemies with far superior fame and strength, which requires the player to spend more time avoid the enemy and exploring the map to gain the experience needed to beat the enemy.

Another way to gain fame is by building structures like towns, observatories, or barracks. Each structure costs the player a certain amount of soft currency and grants the player gameplay bonuses like extra strength points or revealing additional squares on the map. Towns also grant tributes to avatars when they visit the square if the avatar is carrying a treasure item back to the town from another location.

Hero Generations reaches “game over” if the player’s current avatar runs out of years in its lifespan. Play can continue if the avatar mates with an NPC before reaching the end of its life, but the map and quests are all reset as if the player had begun a new game. If the player leaves Hero Generations in the middle of a playthrough, the map also resets, but the playable avatar retains its fame and lifespan. At any point, the player can start completely over with a New Game option from the main menu.

Social features in Hero Generations are currently limited to the leaderboard that tracks a player’s highest fame score. The fame score is also tracked by avatars within a player’s generational family. Monetization comes from the game’s premium currency, Cards, which can be used to buy special items at shop locations on the map. Cards can also buy extra traits during the trait-choosing phase of mating. Other items can be bought with the game’s soft currency, Money, which is earned through exploration and combat.

Heart Shaped Games is actively tracking player responses to various components of gameplay with surveys. As the game is very new to Facebook, changes to existing features and new content are being updated regularly. IndieCade 2011 takes place from October 7 through October 9 in Los Angeles, CA; finalist games like Hero Generations will be displayed during the Game Walk event at the festival.