Hope each of you is doing relatively well. Happy New Year and welcome to Fanstratics Newsletter #5 (January 2020).
This month's Troop concept sketch is the Troll Witch. (Colorized by CH)
This month, I have seven initial questions, including a COVID wrap-up, followed by part three of the lengthy interview I did with Tavern of Might and Magic.
Until next time.
Fanstratics Game Director & Designer
--Questions, Answers & Comments--
Fanstratics Faction #2: Stoutbluds.
Our second faction may be a touch surprising to some. They are the Stoutbluds; a largely Dwarven faction, persisting within vast metropolitan civilizations, on and under wintery Alpine mountains. Long-lived and visionary, these noble craftsmen have a predisposition for runic artifacts and clockwork machinery. Anyone familiar with the ‘Tower’ from HoMM3, will find much in common with this wise, honorable, and enduring faction. Currently, the Troop representing them is the Hammersmith, which can be viewed in the Fanstratics Gallery.
What was the Market of Time, which was cut from HoMM3?
Originally, the Market of Time was called ‘Brigadoon’. It would randomly appear after long periods of time, and for a Day, a Hero could purchase very high value artifacts and very cheap resources. It was ‘cut’ because it required new programming functionality, we were running out of development time, and I was worried players would ‘park’ a Hero at the destination and simply wait for the Market. Also, for the record, it was never a place where Heroes could unlearn Secondary Skills.
Why was the Fear Spell cut from HoMM3?
The Fear spell was ‘cut’ because it was little more than ‘bad morale’ in another form. Later, I thought it was better to convert the mechanic into the Fear ability for the Azure Dragon.
What do you know about unused artifacts from the Shadow of Death: Diplomat’s Suit, Ironfist of the Ogre, and Mired in Neutrality?
By the time New World Computing (NWC) began work on Shadow of Death, I was long gone. So, I can't speak to anything regarding the expansion.
What happened to the Mac Port of HoMM3?
Similar to Shadow of Death, I was long gone from NWC when these ports were undertaken. For instance, there was an attempt to port HoMM3 to Dreamcast. I didn't know it existed until earlier this year. As to Ubisoft, I have never worked for them in any capacity, and they have never reached out to me for any reason. So, I can't say why they do one thing and avoid another. I will say this... if they could make reasonable money from it... only office politics or incompetence would prevent it.
Do you happen to know the situation with the HD release? Is there any chance whatsoever that an HD version of the full Heroes III Complete might ever appear?
As to the HD release, Ubisoft claims to have lost the original source code for the Armageddon's Blade expansion, hence the reason there is no HD version of Complete. This does puzzle me. If they let someone like myself, or David Mullich, rummage through their archives, we might be able to dig it up, but there's no guarantee. Personally, I'd work something out with the guys who made VCMI, but as I just stated... if they could make reasonable money from it... only office politics or incompetence would prevent it.
I’m curious about your COVID experience. My symptoms were few and only lasted a couple weeks, but I’ve had friends who stayed in bed for more than a month. Is your experience mild or severe?
I know this is not game related, but it is relevant to the present day. So...
On the day before my birthday, I fell ill with earaches and the inability swallow without intense pain. Initially, I suspected strep throat, as it was going around, but a quick five minute test, at a nearby clinic, produced a negative result.
My doctor wanted me tested for COVID, and a couple days later, I took another quick test. Two days after, my COVID test came back positive.
For the next five weeks, I took a handful of vitamins every eight hours, and lived on Aleve and Excedrin (not at the same time). I had almost every symptom: fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, loss of taste, sore throat, lack of appetite, and brain fog. Of these symptoms, fatigue and lack of appetite were the worst. It created a vicious cycle; I’m tired and not hungry... which leads to be being even more tired with even further diminished appetite. It’s difficult to put into words, especially the oppressive weight of the fatigue.
I had no energy for work, and when I did muster the strength for thirty to sixty minutes... I couldn’t focus. Browsing the web... watching a movie... quickly gave me splitting headaches. On the day Cyberpunk 2077 released, I made an effort to play, and after thirty minutes, I’d acquired a raging headache and queasiness.
In the end, I spent most of my time... existing. I began to wonder if I had ‘Long COVID’, which is measured in months, not weeks. It was demoralizing, and if it wasn’t for family and friends, I’m not sure how I would have managed.
Thankfully, on Day 1 of Week 6, I began to feel less miserable, and by Day 1 of Week 7, I was feeling relatively normal. Presently, I’m still working my way back, and experience bad days and good days.
Tavern of Might and Magic
Questions 24-34, of 58
This interview was conducted by Tavern of Might and Magic and GoodGame.ru, and published on February 28th, 019, the 20th Anniversary of HoMM3. It’s a very long interview, almost 60 questions, and delves deep into unresolved lore, as well as other common questions. I’ll be posting between 10 to 15 questions per Newsletter, until we reach the end, after which we will roll into another interview. Below are questions 24 to 34, of 58.
24. What was the conclusion of Seeds of Discontent, the secret campaign from The Restoration of Erathia? There’s a reference campaign in Archibald’s diary in the MM7 manual (perhaps my seed of discontent will grow in these ‘disputed lands’; that also implies that he was somehow involved in the events per his plans to stir up tensions between Erathia and AvLee), but other than that, the game doesn’t mention the events of Seeds of Discontent at all. It indirectly suggests -- in that the lands between Erathia and AvLee are still being disputed -- that the rebels failed to make the Contested Lands independent. Can you provide more details on the outcome of Seeds of Discontent? How was Archibald involved, if at all? What is the eventual fate of Faruk Welnin? Was Ryland severely reprimanded for basically going against AvLee?
The purpose of the Seeds of Discontent campaign, aside from being the ‘secret’ campaign, was to showcase the ‘upgrade a town’ victory condition. There was no planned ‘official’ story conclusion for the campaign.So, like many lore threads, we laid down enough story to satisfy the design requirements, then left the various elements to be possibly picked up by someone else at a later time. This occurred when the MM7 team decided to give Archibald an undefined ‘behind the scenes’ role in the Seeds of Discontent. So, yes, Archibald did play a role in the Contested Lands becoming independent.
In my opinion, as to the conclusion of the Seeds of Discontent, upon making Welnin the Capital in the campaign, the Contested Lands became their own kingdom. Despite the rebels declaring independence, this does not mean Erathia and AvLee acknowledged this reality. It is one thing to declare independence. It is another to remain independent. As for Faruk Welnin and Ryland, their fates were left unresolved, again, to be possibly picked up by someone else at a later time.
25. MM7 focuses on Harmondale – a town and castle in the Contested Lands that has been a key point of human-elven disputes since the Timber Wars, changing hands numerous times. The negotiations to divide Harmondale and other Contested Lands between Erathia and AvLee is a crucial plot point and choice in the game. Harmondale itself can become a small indepenent kingdom, or come under the control of either side. It is established in Armageddon’s Blade that Brandis Fairweather was chosen to be the Arbiter, thus making it clear that the Path of Light in MM7 is canon. Other than Gelu asking Judge Fairweather for advice, Harmondale is unrelated to AB’s plot – the Erathia-Eeofol war never reaches it, with Catherine holding the Kreegan off, and the lords of Harmondale were most likely in an expedition to other planets per MM7’s canonical ending. Thus, no clear indication is given about Harmondale’s political status. The campaign shows that at least some of the Contested Lands, like the Moss Valley near Eeofol’s border, belong to Erathia (which fits with all three outcomes, since the majority of the Contested Lands are divided between the two kingdoms anyway), but nothing is directly said about Harmondale. Lucifer calls Xenofex’s killers those heroes from Erathia, but that can easily be taken as him talking about the heroes place of origin, not their affiliation at the time. Was there a canonical outcome of the choice regarding Harmondale, or was it left entirely up in the air for players’ interpretation and potential further use of any option?
To my knowledge, there was no canonical outcome regarding Harmondale. This was strictly a MM7 thing, and I suspect, purposefully left open ended for player interpretation.
26. A small bit about Harmondale and Welnin. Two maps -- one of HoMM3 promotional images and a map from MM’s strategy guide – mark Welnin as a region, thus implying that the name is also used for the area around the town. In MM7 one of NPCs is mentioned as living in a small village in Welnin, just south of the city of Harmondale, and there’s Welnin Cathedral in Harmondale. Are the two towns located rather close to each another?
This is a tough one. I would reference the following maps.
The Map of Antagarich, the one with the Chinese characters, is essentially the map the MM7 team used when they started work on MM7. On this map, you can see within Erathia, three smaller regions colored redish-purple. These were The Contested Lands.
Welnin was supposed to be a town, later converted into the capitol of The Contested Lands. When the campaign was created, there was no formal location for Welnin. The Contested Lands campaign map clearly shows it belongs in the upper region, but there is no specific spot indicated within this region.
When MM7 was created, the MM7 team placed both Harmondale and Welnin for their own purposes. At this point in time, unless you can reach Paul Rattner or Tim Lang for contrary information, I would run with the World of Enroth map showing Harmondale and Welnin almost parallel to one another. As for the NPC from MM7, I would disregard the line of dialog. It feels like a continuity error to me.
27. MM 6-7 and HoMM3 have several mentions of Phynaxia, a nation that was part of Erathia, but later became independent, forming the Phynaxian Empire. Phynaxia was located to the south of what is now the Contested Lands (thus placing it in the area of Grainrich, Fire Coast and Rionpoint), and Erathia expanding it’s borders beyond Phynaxia was the cause of the Timber Wars. The date of the rise of Phynaxian Empire in the steppes of southern Erathiai is a year after the end of the Timber Wars. Was Erathia and AvLee being weakened after over a century of warfare what triggered Phynaxia becoming independent and rising to power? Considering that Phynaxia fell to the elves, has Avleeans settlers (the ones that we fight in the first Inferno mention of Dungeons and Devils; Ryland is one of them) arrived in Rionpoint around that time, or was that unrelated?
This is another tough one.
After the Timber Wars, I think is it is safe to assume the armies of Erathia and AvLee were relatively depleted. Under these conditions, you would have an obvious power vacuum, into which Phynaxia would attempt to rise. Under any other circumstances, I couldn’t imagine Phynaxia standing against healthy armies from either Erathia or AvLee.
As to Avleean settlers, again, I think you make a reasonable assumption. I see no reason why elvish settlers would not expand from Phynaxia, into other nearby areas, after it fell.
28. Was Rionpoint named after Rion Gryphonheart, the founder of Erathia? Was it the region from which he hailed or the one from which he started to unite the humans or something else?
To my knowledge, this was never specified, but it is logical to assume Rionpoint was named after Rion Gyrphonheart.
29. Edric’s bio says: Edric's father was the first man in Erathia to domesticate and train a wild Griffin. Now, Edric continues what his father started by setting up Erathia's largest Griffin breeding grounds for use in the King's armies. However, a campaign texts says that the aforementioned first King Gryphonheart tamed the griffins and trained them for war, eventually uniting the divergent human colonies into Erathia. I guess it is a mistake in Edric’s bio and it was instead an ancestor of his who was the first man to tame a griffin, is that correct?
This appears to be a continuity error created by a lack of research or simple miscommunication. It happens. Were I to correct it, your solution, specifying an ‘ancestor’ would be appropriate.
30. Sephinroth is introduced in The Restoration of Erathia and described in her bio as the only known woman ever to bear the title of warlock. In MM7, which takes place after RoE, there are female warlocks in Nighon. From the lore standpoint, it means that by the time of MM7, the warlocks have admitted more female members into their ranks. Can you tell us more about this development?
I cannot. This is really a question for the designers of MM7.
31. Did you have ideas on what Vokial’s kingdom was, where it's located and what is its current status?
In the course of production, assistant designers routinely create dangling ‘story hooks’. These ‘hooks’ are purposely laid down to later be picked up by the creator of the hook, or someone else. Vokial’s biography was written by Christian Vanover. After HoMM3 shipped, Christian moved onto Legends of Might and Magic, and Vokial’s story was left untold.
32. The Forest Guard is described as having been Erathia's eyes and ears for centuries. It is also distinct from the rest of Erathian military in that it has worked together with the forces of AvLee numerous, even admitting Avleeans to fight in their ranks. Was the Forest Guard formed before, during or after the Timber Wars?
This is a tough one. I remember creating the Forest Guard, but do not remember at what point in the timeline they were conceived. Do not hold me to this, but if I recall correctly, they were created during the Timber Wars, specifically to counter the elves of AvLee. Later, after the Timber Wars, Forest Guard evolved and became a general purpose ‘special forces’ group.
33. There is a scenario map in SoD called Adventures of Jared Haret. In it, the eponymous explorer, Jared Haret the Knight, return from an expedition into subterranean tunnels under a lake to find his castle in the highlands (snowy landscape on the map) captured by the neighboring wizard. Scenarios in Heroes, with only a few exceptions, usually depict some 'random' world without any connection to the main setting. Is this the case with AoJH, or could it take place in the game's world? On the Erathian-Bracadan border, for instance.
I did not work on SoD, and cannot speak specifically to AoJH, but in general, individual single player scenarios were considered isolated creations. However, as you point out, there are exceptions.
Typically, these exceptions had to do with individual Map Makers and the unique storylines they created and pursued. In these instances, as long as what they created did not interface with the over arching story goals, it was permitted.
34. Can you tell us some additional details on Gelu's background and potential eventual fate you and/or Marcus Pregent created.
Unfortunately, there really is nothing more to tell. What few ideas I had in mind were thrown away and never developed when the Forge was cut, and there was no long term plan beyond the second expansion. Marcus may have had some ideas, but we never discussed them.