Corey and Lori's Quest Log


Corey and Lori’s Quest Log

The School for Heroes – A New Hope

New HopeA long time ago, in a Zeitgeist far, far away, Lori Ann Cole and Mishell Baker opened the “How to Be a Hero” Web site. For the next three years, Lori worked tirelessly to promote the idea of being a fantasy Hero in real life. Then there came a great disturbance in the Force, and hundreds of voices cried out in agony, then were silenced.

But the Force of Heroism is not so easily defeated. Two years later, a new school rose up to defy the Empire of Greed, Evil, and Selfishness. Based on the Principles of Truth, Freedom, and above all Heroism, the School for Heroes rose up in the Fall of 2008 with a bold new mission.

Return of the Heroes

The new school for young Padawans – um, Heroes – strove to be fun, challenging, entertaining, interactive, inspiring, meaningful, and above all, a Force for Good in the world. We wanted it to be a game as well as a school.

Since the school opened, over 3,000 potential Heroes have taken the new Hero Test. More than 600 of those took the critical next step of completing the first Hero Mission to become Rank One Heroes-in-training.

But what of the school’s Mission? How well did we achieve our lofty goals?

I think we can safely say we made the “game” of the school challenging enough. Just 74 students braved the challenges to advance to Rank Two or higher. Was the school too challenging? Or did the dropouts not find it as fun as they expected?

Seventy-four Heroes isn’t bad. Rudyard Kipling wrote about “one man in a thousand”, and Diogenes would have been happy to find a single honest man. Seventy-four trained Jedi would be a mighty Force to stand up against the Empire. But are they enough to justify the continued existence of the school and an ever more challenging job for its creators?

This is the split personality of the School for Heroes. It is a game, a school, a soapbox for our opinions, and a social site. But how well has it really succeeded at any of these? Maybe the time has come to find the school’s real focus.

School Recess

Rise AgainOur favorite saying is, “Rule #1 – The Game Must Be Fun.” And that applies to the school as well. We think we have lost sight of that in the school in our quest to “educate” would-be heroes. Our goal with Castle of Dr. Brain and Mixed-Up Fairy Tales was stealth education – learning while having fun – and we want the school to work the same way.

Everyone has worked very hard for the last three years (and many of us, for three years before that at the previous school site). It is time for a recess while Lori and I reinvent the school.

We are not going away, but we are taking a break. We think we can make the school more like a game, and less like a job. We think we can find ways to integrate the social and the learning sides of the school. We also think we can change Lori’s and my role from teachers to writers and designers. Our personal touch will still be there in our words and beliefs, but we don’t need to give a personal response to every assignment.

For the school to succeed and grow, it needs to be able to scale… even to the extent of a Galaxy-wide Republic.

But we are already at the limit of what Lori and I can handle. The current School is not scalable. To succeed at making a big difference in the world, the School must become bigger than its founders.

The New Hope

For now, that unfortunately means that we have had to stop accepting new assignments. We simply do not have time to respond individually while developing the new version of the school. It will take a while.

But we promise you that we are committed to making the school even better, and above all, fun. The School for Heroes will rise again, a new hope for the current and next generation of Heroes.

In the meantime, never stop being a Hero. We have taught you a little, and you have learned much more on your own. Take those lessons and apply them to every aspect of your daily life. It is up to you to show the Galaxy what a few committed Heroes can do.

May the Force of Heroism be with you!

New Hope

 

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Comments

  1. Richard Baxter Says:

    Hey Corey – if you are looking into any general AI / NLP please let me know. I would be happy to create a library for you, if it could help in your analysis. Feel free to send me your requirements at any time (for feasibility). Note my current technology under development is not focused on emulating speech, but processing semantics. It sounds like it might be a difficult problem, but that makes it interesting…

  2. Corey Says:

    We totally agree. Because the school was completely dependent on Lori’s and my time, responses inevitably took time. That also meant the school was not scaleable – As it became more popular, the response time went up. When we do a new school, it will be automated, but with the best automatic responses we can give it.

  3. Techempage Says:

    The balance seemed off. The school was so quiet when I ahowed up. When I first had the motivation and was waiting for a response all I could do is wait, and there seemed to be no peer group to keep me motivated. When the reply came, my motivation was much lower, I got over thinking on how to do the assignment right and well…then ended up getting distracted by something else. I think that is part of why games are so popular, generally you get immediate feedback. Imagine waiting a week for you achievement or quest reward, GM ticket issues aside. (I’m not saying you or Lori should have been monitoring 24-7, just, my thoughts.). That said, I did like the concept, which is why I circled back around. :) So if there is any way I can provide help with the new site, (well non-monetary, I’m broke.) let me know. I think my e-mail shows up here. If not let me know that too.

  4. Corey Says:

    The hardest thing is always getting started. The second hardest thing is finishing what you start. :-) At the moment I’m swamped with classes, personal and family paperwork, and home maintenance. Once our big Summer Solstice D&D weekend is over, I hope to be able to find some breathing room to work on the site. Lori and I have had several discussions about it, but I haven’t found time to write any code yet.

  5. Corey Says:

    Hi Matthew. I just looked at that site – The wands look very impressive and are no doubt highly magical.

    Unfortunately, the Wizardry professor is on a temporary leave of absence to another dimension, so we are not able to provide any spell books at this time. Please use the magic of the Web to learn all that you can in the meantime.

  6. matthew Says:

    im a new wizard cory and lori how do i do some new spells i have a wand but need a spell book well im not sure if its a wand but i bought it off of a site called kurthworks.com so do i get sent a spell book and a wand cause im a wizard plz get this as soon as possible thank you

  7. James StarRunner Says:

    I know the gaming industry is always trying to step things up. Technology is making leaps and bounds forwards. I shouldn’t be surprised that you’re taking on-line courses with all these advancements… I guess I just have Superman goggles on when I look at you and think you can do anything. You’re one smart cookie though and you should do well in your studies. I was wondering what was going on, but I guess you answered it already.

    I can’t help but notice the startling similarities between you and your wife & myself and my wife. You’ve got many years of experience on us granted as we’re still somewhat newlyweds… I’ve been playing and designing games since the near end of the Atari’s popularity, before the NES came out (not always video games) but with all these advancements, it’s difficult trying to catch up, let alone publish a single game without help. Now it seems you need a massive team to get a game out to compete with everyone else (at least if you are wanting to make a massive game like WoW). And then there’s my wife with her photography hobby and her skills with photoshop as well.

    I’m thinking of learning JavaScript now so I can get some of my smaller games out at least. I just got my first smartphone and I think I could make a reasonable start making games for that kind of platform. Of course that will take time too. But I taught myself BASIC while I was still in elementary school and later got a good introduction to C++ in, so I think I’ll be alright.

    I’m not sure what you totally intend for version 3.0 of the school, but if you need a hand, someone to help moderate the forums to clean up spam, some graphic design for the refurbished site, a 3d model of the school based off the map given, or for some reason need a good amateur voice actor (been doing a hero’s voice for 4-5 years now), I can lend a hand there.

    Anyways, good luck with everything!

  8. Corey Says:

    Congratulations, Dawolf! That sounds great. If 5% of our most active students go out into the world and teach ideas similar to those of the School, we will have had a “critical success” (in the gaming sense). Your project definitely sounds valuable, heroic, and above all, real.

    As for the school closing, students (and instructors, for that matter) have at least three choices. They can grumble and use their school time to play more Angry Birds, they can spend more time in the “real world” away from their computers, or they can resolve to make their pursuit of Heroism real and take it out into the world. So maybe their are just two choices – vegetate or create.

    The school is closed precisely so that Lori and I have more time – She is using hers to improve her photography and Photoshop skills. I am spending more time at gaming :-), but I am also trying to increase my knowledge by taking some online classes. I am also getting some much-neglected things done around the house, and of course supporting Lori’s photographic avocation. One of the classes we are both taking currently is Web Application Engineering at http://www.udacity.com. This is directly applicable to the School 3.0 as I am learning much more about Web site development. But it’s still going to take time, and games still call to me. :-)

    Most readers are aware of the current big trend in game financing – Starting with Tim Schafer’s “Double Fine Adventure”, and now including Wasteland, FTL, Leisure Suit Larry, and Pinkerton Road (Jane Jensen of Gabriel Knight fame), game companies are now going directly to the players for funding. Effectively they are selling pre-orders before starting on the actual game development, and using that seed money to create the games. We may start a project like this, but it will be at least six months down the road. First I am developing some basic skills (and getting back into programming), then we will create a prototype before trying to start a fundraising campaign.

  9. Dawolf Says:

    So here I was, on the way back to the School for Heroes after a two-year long quest. As the good Captain had told me, it had indeed “taken more work than I had ever imagined I could do” — and even more than that. But success was at last finally mine and my mind was overflowing with tales of my adventures — good and bad — and thoughts to share with the rest of the school.

    Imagine my surprise when, arriving at the gates, there was no one to be seen! And then there was that small, weathered sign: “Closed for Remodeling”. This may or may not have been my reaction:

    http://www.nooooooooooooooo.com/

    <__> … :-P

    I don’t regret one minute of it all. The School for Heroes was the final push I needed to set out to accomplish my dreams, and I really loved the thought that went into the feedback and assignments as much as the flavor of the school (though I have to admit that I’ve always found Meeps to be creepy as hell…). Discovering the warrior in me was truly eye-opening. I had never thought before I had an ounce of a leader in myself and I’m happy to have been proven utterly wrong, in the end.

    To Corey and Lori: don’t sweat about it. Now that I have an idea of just how much work it takes to change the world, I can tell you that 74 persons is quite the achievement. Also, you might have done more good than you know… Besides becoming (at last!) a freelance programmer, I now also happen to be the lead developer of a project called “Tribu” (“Tribe”, in French), which my colleague and myself describe as “an MMO in real life”.

    It’s kind of an RPG, where you have an avatar, equipment, virtual money, XP, etc., but where everything you earn, you do so by doing things in real life. Players can gain experience points and level up in five different values: “community”, “culture”, “ecology”, “social skill” and “sports” and we plan to eventually add “critical thinking” and “academia”. We’re currently making deals with various community centres, co-ops and the like to get help supervising the whole thing and make sure players are actually accomplishing something.

    To say that I was inspired by the School for Heroes to invest myself in this project — even though it wasn’t my idea originally — would be quite an understatement. I immediately saw the similarities and have decided to see where this adventure will lead me, no matter what. It is my hope that, in the coming years, we’ll be able to grow beyond Quebec City, find a way to make the whole thing multilingual (beyond French) and — who knows, maybe even manage to one day tie it to the School for Heroes v3.0? ;-)

    If you happen to speak French and would like to see what it looks like right now, you can check it out at the following website: http://www.jeutribu.com (bear in mind that we are still very much in development)

    And finally, no matter what happens, whether the School comes back or not, I wanted to say this: from the bottom of my heart, thank you!

    Dawolf

  10. Corey Says:

    Thanks for the comments so far (and sorry for my very late response here). You’ve given us some new thoughts as well as reinforcing ones we had. We identified three major problems with the school’s format:

    1. Too much of a time sink for Lori and me. We wanted the school to grow, but could not really afford it if that happened.

    2. No good way to interact with other students. We created the Student Center forums with that intention, but with no clear connection between the forums and the school assignments, they didn’t really accomplish much other than fun.

    3. The tightrope Mookah mentioned between students taking the easy way out on assignments – doing no real work or learning – versus becoming paralyzed with the idea that an assignment response should be perfect. We had a similar problem – Will we discourage students by making critical comments, or will we encourage them to work harder?

    For the most part, we accepted any reasonable response to an assignment. Our thought was that students who were just doing the minimum were not going to change based on our rejecting the assignment or criticizing it, so we merely gave them the minimum allowable grade. We used the “honors” system to try to encourage especially insightful assignments. Of course, that caused us to discriminate somewhat in favor of students with better writing skills.

    Lori and I now think that the school needs to emphasize community to encourage “students” (let’s call them “players” instead) to keep learning and growing. We also want to make it more game-like with specific objectives and clear goals. We will tie that into either the forums or something like the assignment comments pages. We hope this will encourage players to talk about ways to apply what they learned in the game to their lives… and possibly to do some collaborative work with other players.

    As for Mookah “cheating” on the hero test to join the Rogue school, I did something similar to create a Warrior persona because I felt the Warrior assignments would be valuable to me. In practice, I only did a few of them. For similar reasons, it will probably take quite a while for me to get the “school 3.0″ into playable shape.

  11. Fingon Says:

    I’d like to write down few words as well… I was also one of the 74 brave ones who made it past tier 1 and I’m actually under impression that I’m the only one who finished the Bard school.

    I was here from the very start (I was also aware of the previous project How to be a hero, but I came too late for that) – I even finished most of the assignments before you started to award us with stars. But maybe I just didn’t deserve any;)

    Since I finished most of the assignments quickly (and that’s because I found them most pleasing), I didn’t have much to do afterwards and peeked here only ocassionaly to see if there’s something new, maybe to type something on forum or comment some of the blog articles.

    I think I was quite succesfull with “spreading the word” – my sister took the test twice and in the end she pursued the career of a Rogue. When she struggled, she came to me and I fed her with stories that she reworked as her assignments. She also managed to talk my dad into this project and he pursued the career of a Paladin (but since he doesn’t speak much English, in the end it was I who had to translate painstakingly his texts). I even managed to “enlighten” my one time date, who then became the Wizard, accompanied by her classmates. Not to mention my girlfriend who went as far as to read every single assignment that I penned.

    I just wanted to say: Thank you. Thank you for your games and for your projects. You are wonderful.

  12. Mookah Says:

    There is a time to conceal and a time to reveal. This is the later, so allow me to pull back the theatrical curtain a bit and reveal my experience as a rogue.

    I am one of the 74 heroes who made it past level one, but I am so just barely. I want to describe my experience so that you can see what it is that hindered me, and what it was that kept me here. I’ll start at the beginning, and when I reach the end, I will reflect a little, then stop.

    A bit of context: When I joined the school for heroes, I was a young woman of about 19 or 20, I believe. I was in college, and I had just started down a rather perilous but hopeful path: I had decided to pursue a career in academia, hoping to learn insights about a field that I didn’t know yet existed that I hoped would help me change the world for the better. I was younger, full of idealism, and it was a time to take risks.

    When I saw your site, I was excited, in large part because of what the original Quest for Glory games meant to me as a child. But another large part of it was that the site promised to show a path towards exactly what I wanted to become: a real hero. Maybe a small hero, but a real one, someone who lived fully and pursued their ideals.

    I took the test honestly, and it told me I was a wizard… or maybe a paladin. I didn’t like either of those, because all my life my teachers have been telling me what a good and smart girl I was, and while I appreciated that, I knew that what I needed to learn was something different. I needed to learn how to survive outside the world where ideas and intentions were all that mattered. I needed to liberate myself from that. So I took the test again and lied, aiming for Rogue. I got in, and I got started.

    I thought about the first assignment a great deal before submitting. I have never been one for breaking rules intentionally; most of the time, I just accidentally bumble into breaking one, and I get away with it because everyone knows my intentions were good. I was sick of that. Wasn’t there anything in this world that I genuinely wanted to change, regardless of the world’s boundaries or my own? When I found my answer, I found it was something I had already done: how convenient. So I just submitted that, and got in. I am not certain I would have happened if the instructor had given me a redo and resubmit; I likely would have been disheartened. It’s also possible I would have tried harder, and actually done something new. But I don’t think so. There’s a time and a place for everything, and only in some instances is that time ‘anytime.’

    Once in, I began the ‘What is a Rogue’ mission with inspiration. I simply poured onto the page all those things that I truly hoped to be. My vision seemed to match the instructor’s, and I got a key from it, which heartened me. He told me he wouldn’t be as easily impressed in the future, and, eager to impress as always, I took it to heart.

    Too much to heart. It took me years to complete the rest of the assignments, which really, I just should have /done./ I must have written at least three versions of the spider essay over the years, and I finished the actual recruitment assignment years before I submitted it because I was scheming up a better plot that I didn’t actually have the resources for… or at least, that I didn’t want to spend them on, being busy pursuing my career. Although the plan was a playful experience, implementing it would have become work. I wonder if collaborating with my fellow rogues might have lightened the burden to the point where it could have actually happened.

    In the end, though, what got me to that second level was the idea that things actually had to get done whether they WERE done or not. I think that’s what got Marsdriver so far: he is an achiever to the end, remarkably ambitious.

    My final spider test reflected that realization: that in the end, things need to get done, and it doesn’t matter how. Perfect doesn’t matter. Ideal doesn’t matter. Done matters.

    I reached that point not through my experiences in the school, but through my experiences in actual life. When I hit my limits in Grad school, I had to finish to survive. That’s what taught me. I believe the Rogue school made me fearless in pursuing my interests, but it didn’t teach me the practical skills I needed to succeed. Falling down hard on my ass in the real world did. I don’t know if that experience can be implemented into play.

    I wonder what would have happened if I had taken the wizard, paladin, or warrior route. I have no regrets, and will miss the school while it’s gone, even if I didn’t often visit after achieving rathood… I liked knowing it was there. That there were others. I never talked to those others enough, either. I would have liked some group projects, I think. Being forced to do things teaches me how to do them best.

    Thank you very much for making the school, and good luck in creating the next one; I look forward to it. I hope what I’ve said here has helped. The school certainly helped me think about the experiences that I was going through at the time, and while I’m not sure it taught me what I needed to know, it did help me frame the experience and create meaning out of what happened to me in a way that is extremely meaningfully to me (and, yes, fun. :) )

  13. Nagath Says:

    I’ve been a member since the 2008 start. Though I’ve for the most part been absent the last two years, the two before that were very prominent in the choices that I’ve then made and continue to make. I’m convinced that the school is a force for good and that it is as influential in my life now as the QFG games were when I was a young child learning about good and evil.

    If you’re a gamer who wonders if he could be heroic outside of the game world.. Then keep an eye on the school for heroes, as it is sure to be great vehicle to make that transformation happen.

    I can’t wait to see what the Coles have been up to!

  14. James StarRunner Says:

    Meepy-wan Fuzzobi… You are our only hope. ;3

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