Hero News

From: SteveL1979@aol.com
To: champ-l@sysabend.org
cc :
Date: Fri, December 21, 2001, 15:52:00
Subject: The Sale Of Hero Games

Hi, guys. Everyone's been curious about the ongoing effort to buy Hero Games, and the present status of the company. I'm finally able to shed some light on the situation.

First off, for those of you who don't know me, I'm Steve Long. I've written a bunch of books for Hero -- including DARK CHAMPIONS, THE ULTIMATE MARTIAL ARTIST, and THE ULTIMATE MENTALIST -- as well as the forthcoming HERO SYSTEM 5TH EDITION. For the past four years or so, I've been employed full-time in the gaming industry. I've worked as a freelance writer-designer for many companies (such as Hero), and as a full-time employee for Last Unicorn Games, Wizards of the Coast, and Decipher. List of credits available on request. :)

I'm extremely pleased to announce that the purchase of the assets of Hero Games has finally been completed. The purchaser is a company called DOJ, Inc. DOJ has several owners, including myself and Darren Watts. I'll let the other owners reveal their secret identities if they wish. :) None of the owners are former owners or employees of Hero Games.


Effective immediately, I'm stepping into position as HERO System Line Developer -- Bruce Harlick's old job, for those of you who've been following events at Hero for a long time. My primary responsibilities as Hero Line Developer are to plan the game lines for the HERO System, write books for those lines, edit and develop books written by other authors, and generally see to it that HERO System products are as good as they can possibly be. Darren will be performing most of the administrative duties for the company, and also editing and some writing.

However, those aren't my only duties. DOJ is committed to providing the best customer service we can for you, the Hero fans. You deserve it, and we're going to see that you get it. A lot of that falls on my shoulders. I intend to interact with y'all online and in person as much as possible, to promote Hero and build it up to be the game company it should be. Among other things, I promise you the following:

1. Openness and honesty: I'll be answering any questions you care to ask as thoroughly as I reasonably can. I can't divulge confidential information or trade secrets, like sales figures and whatnot, but if you want to know something and I can tell you about it, I will. Want to know what stage of development a book's at? Ask, and I'll tell you. Want to know what Hero has planned for the near or far future? Ask, and I'll tell you. Want to know why we did or didn't put something in a particular book? Ask, and I'll tell you. (Better keep reading before you start asking questions, though -- I may have already answered a few that you've already thought of.)

I realize that after many years of difficulty getting any sort of info from Hero, some of you may greet this claim with skepticism. That's understandable, and it doesn't worry me; I'll dispel your doubts pretty quickly. I think those of you who know about my participation not only on this mailing list, but mailing lists and message boards for other game lines I've worked for (like Deadlands, the Star Trek RPGs, and the Lord of the Rings RPG) will agree that I go out of my way to talk to the fans. After all, you guys pay my mortgage; the least I can do is be as up front with you as I can.

2. Rules answers: Traditionally, Hero Games has been reluctant, at best, to provide answers to rules questions. While there is definitely some logic to doing this -- it is your game, you bought it, and you should do what you want with it -- I think many Hero fans want answers. By definition, the HERO System appeals largely to gamers who like detailed, specific rules, so that's what you're going to get. From this point on, I will be providing answers to rules questions where appropriate. Any answers I give should be considered "official" until overruled by a later answer or in print. I am the only person at the company authorized to give official answers (a measure intended not to squelch discussion with other employees or owners, but to prevent confusion and contradiction). We'll keep the answers collected in a "FAQ" or like document on the Hero website.

3. Timely information: I'm going to be writing regular updates, perhaps in the form of a column, for the Hero Games website. Other company employees may do so as well. We'll tell you what we're doing, provide you with the latest news, all that sort of thing. I also hope to create a regular column, perhaps as part of a revitalized Digital Hero, for discussing rules issues too complex or large for mailing list and message board answers.


I'm going to start with that openness and honesty thing right now.

As you can probably guess, all these wonderful ideas and projects DOJ has in mind for the HERO System aren't going to materialize overnight. Buying the company was expensive; resurrecting it from its moribund state is going to require even more money. Like any other "start-up" (which is, in effect, what we are), we've got to tread carefully at first, manage our resources efficiently, and get our feet beneath us. Gotta walk before you can run. :)

Our first priority, obviously, is the publication of the HERO SYSTEM 5TH EDITION. To proceed with that, we have to hire a layout and graphics guy, settle on a final layout, decide what we're going to do with the art, actually lay the book out, prepare an index, all that sort of thing. Finally, we have to print it. We plan to work as fast as we can -- and that's pretty fast -- but it's still going to be a few months before you actually see it on game store shelves.

The 5TH EDITION is going to be a book: a big, hardcover book, with a sturdy binding. It's going to contain pretty much every word I wrote for it; there will be no significant cuts as planned by Hero under some previous management. We do not plan to release it as a CD-ROM first. If we can't produce a *book* containing our core rules, we're kidding ourselves. We intend to put this company back on the map, and we're starting with a nice core rulebook. We haven't decided yet whether to make the book available in one or more electronic formats in the future.

To summarize: it'll be a complete, hardcopy book. It'll be available in a few months. ;)


Beyond the 5TH EDITION, we have big plans for the HERO System. One of the problems Hero has had in the past is that it hasn't planned its game lines very well -- it's just released one book after another, whatever it had available to release, without any real "vision." As a result, many games didn't get the support they deserved or needed. We intend to take a better path. We have plans for multiple game lines, with books carefully released in the proper order at the proper times to ensure maximum utility for the customer, and maximum efficiency and profitability for the company.

Our hope is to produce a new product every six to eight weeks once we really get things rolling. That ensures a reasonably steady flow of new products without choking off the customer's ability to buy them. After all, each of you only has so much money to spend on gaming stuff. If we produce too much for you to buy, we're slitting our own throat.

Shortly after the release of the 5TH EDITION, we hope to produce one book (possibly two). We have not yet firmly decided what that product will be, but at present the front runner is a revised HERO SYSTEM BESTIARY. We're thinking about this book because it's useful in just about any genre or setting, but is not specifically tied to any single one. For similar reasons, a revised, expanded, and updated ULTIMATE MARTIAL ARTIST is also a possibility. We can't produce books intended for a particular genre or setting yet, because we don't have the appropriate genre or setting books in print. :)

Our first major product after 5TH EDITION will be the CHAMPIONS Genre Book. I'll be talking more about this in the near future as we solidify our plans for it. Our present intent is to have the book ready for GenCon 2002, in mid-August of next year, but the exact release date depends, of course, on many factors that have yet to be finalized.

After that, we're going to (a) support the CHAMPIONS line with appropriate supplements and sourcebooks, and (b) start other game lines and support them, too. Our first major genre book after CHAMPIONS will probably be STAR HERO. I'm not going to get more specific right now, because that's a long time away, and things can change. Once we get the production process started, I'll tell you more.


One of the greatest things about the HERO System is its fans. You guys have enough ideas and enthusiasm to knock over an elephant, and believe me, we appreciate it. That interest and devotion kept the HERO System alive during the years when the company wasn't able, for a wide variety of valid reasons, to maintain production. It's also one of the main reasons DOJ decided to get involved with Hero; we knew we had a large fanbase to work with.

We want to release as much timely information about what we're doing as we can because we want to enlist *you* to help us increase the company's profile. I've heard most of you say how great the HERO System is, and how much you wish it was more popular than it is. We agree, and we think that with your help, we can make the HERO System what it deserves to be.

So, what is it we want you to do? Three simple things, really.

First, buy our books! Heck, buy three or four copies of each one. :) No publishing company lasts very long if readers don't buy its books. If, in the process, you can support your friendly local game store, we hope you will; if that's not possible, you can order 'em from us directly.

Second, tell people about Hero. Spread the word that Hero Games is back and ready for action! Tell your friends on the net, your local game store owner, your gaming buddies, everyone you think might be interested. Even in this Internet age, it's surprisingly difficult to spread the word, so we need your help.

Third, teach people the system. Run a demo game at your local game store or a regional gaming convention, or persuade a local group of gamers to give it a try. We hope to set up a "Legion of Heroes" program of authorized volunteers to run games at stores, conventions, clubs, and anywhere else there's interest. These volunteers will get various prizes and benefits. We'll let you know more as we develop this concept.

We are also considering implementing a playtesting program in which volunteers would playtest and review products to help us fine-tune 'em before we print 'em. This might work similar to the Steve Jackson Games playtesting process, or it might be different. We have to find a way to ensure that the people involved are intelligent, knowledgeable, and dedicated enough to truly help us. :) We also have to resolve various other logistical difficulties. When we decide on some specifics, you guys will be the first to hear about it.


You may have noticed that I didn't list "submit an idea for a book you want to write" under "How You Can Get Involved." Traditionally, Hero has been very open to "over the transom" book proposals -- too open. While the process has occasionally yielded some high-quality work by some good writers (it's how I got started, after all :) ), it's also produced a lot of low-quality, low-value books that were not worth the company's resources. Additionally, it caused plenty of other problems with missed deadlines and so forth. We intend to shift toward hiring professional game writers/designers to do most of our books (or, more accurately, most of the ones we don't write ourselves). We believe this will ensure both a generally higher level of quality for Hero products, and greater efficiency and timeliness of production.

However, that being said, we do *not* intend to close ourselves off from outside proposals altogether. Hero always has been, and will remain, one of the few game companies where you can propose a book "out of the blue" and have a chance of getting your proposal considered, and perhaps even accepted. I won't lie to you -- the odds of having an "over the transom" proposal accepted are slim. But they do exist.

We plan to post revised, updated submission guidelines on the Hero Games website (and writers' guidelines as well, to ensure consistency of presentation from book to book). If you have an idea for a book, please wait until we post them, then download them and follow 'em to the letter. If you can't follow our guidelines, your ideas are going to be rejected without any review -- we don't want to try to work with you if you can't even listen to basic instructions. ;)

If you previously had serious discussions with Hero Games about a product you wanted to write, or have turned in a manuscript, please contact me by *private* e-mail immediately if I have not already contacted you. I don't want anyone to get lost in the cracks. If you are working on a project, please stop work immediately and contact me *privately.*

Even if you don't feel like working on a whole book, there are still opportunities for you to write for Hero. We intend to get Digital Hero, our "e-zine," going again. When we do, we're going to need articles: NPCs, scenarios, rules discussions and options, and lots of other stuff. I bet each and every one of you reading this has an idea or two that could be turned into a great article.


Well, I think I've said enough at this point, so I'm going to shut up and let the firestorm of discussion begin. :) I look forward to talking to you, answering your questions, and producing some of the best damn game books around.

And Merry Christmas. :)

Steve Long
HERO System Line Developer

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