When I was growing up, arcade games were everywhere. Pizzerias, bowling alleys… even convenience stores usually had a cabinet or two. Street Fighter II, TMNT, Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, and on and on.
Every try mattered, and even if you died or lost, you always knew you’d have another chance, as long as you had one more quarter to spare. These games were designed to be hard (they had to make money somehow), but they were also accessible. You could take turns or play with or against friends and still have a great time. A lot of the time, I’d just stand there, watching friends play. When someone died, we would often continue each other’s games where the last person left off. I loved that arcade experience, and those games are a big part of why I make games today.
When I co-founded 5TH Cell in 2003, I became accustomed to a culture that demanded innovation. If you couldn’t bring something new to the table, you had to question if it was even worth making. And that’s what we did. When we started Digital Continue last year, I wanted to continue innovating, the kind of innovation and pioneering gameplay that independent developers are now known for. Our goal was simple: capture the accessibility, enjoyment and community of the arcade, but for a new and always-connected generation. And so, Next Up Hero was born.
Next Up Hero is a game which doesn’t just utilize, but requires the community. We built this game so that participation of other players is critical to your own progression. Every time we faced a design decision on how to structure progression or tune difficulty, we went back to that vision. The more people who play in a game session, the more people die in a game session (because it’s hard!), the more player echoes will be left behind for the next player to resurrect as AI followers. These echoes of fallen heroes can be combined to summon the powerful Ancients. In effect, the players themselves are the crafting materials needed for other players to create bigger and badder weapons and attacks.
I’ve fielded a lot of questions during development. What game are you trying to be like? How do you know there won’t be backlash for preventing people from playing their own sessions until someone new participates? What the heck is asynchronous co-op? The scary and wonderful thing about making original games is you have no idea how they’ll be received. You just pour what you have into a game and send it into the wild, hoping players will see what we see, the vision of what this game can be.
Since the early days of Live Arcade, Xbox has been a pioneer, leading the way in multiplayer and community gameplay. We’re excited to release Next Up Hero on Xbox One in early 2018. As you play, maybe you’ll see one of my echoes in your session, one of a thousand, there to help you take on that next challenge. When you strike the final blow on that final boss, you’ll know we beat this thing together.