Christian "Evil C" Vanover was one of the most popular New World Computing employees. With Jennifer Bullard, he was one of the contact persons at the 3DO Community forums. He took the time to answer the questions of the fans, as well as tease them a little. He was never afraid to step into the forums whenever there was some panic or confusion. He stayed with Jon Van Caneghem's team until the very end, before accepting a job at Microsoft.
Celestial Heavens: First of all, how are you, and where do you live these days?
Christian Vanover: I'm doing well, thank you. In the near two years since I left NWC, I became a dad, moved to Seattle, and as you know, now work at Microsoft.
CH: Now, where does that nickname come from, and that fascination for all things evil?
CV: Back when I was first posting to the NWC/3DO message boards (during the development of Heroes III), I developed a knack for hinting that I would be about to give out new info, but then I'd tell everything except the one thing I had hinted at. It was visitors to the boards that started calling me evil, and it just kind of stuck. I could post real info as "Good" C., and be a smartass with "Evil" C. (well, within the limits of general good taste, at least).
CH: Not that I want to make a connection between evil and Microsoft, but what have you been doing over there?
CV : No no, go right ahead and make the connection. In fact, when I got the job here I very nearly posted to the CH boards a thread called "Evil C. Joins Evil Empire, Says Plan of World Domination Nearly Complete!" And as strange as it may seem to longtime fans of the Might and Magic games, I'm currently part of the Design team working on a racing simulator for the Xbox called Forza Motorsport, due out this year.
CH: Did you stay in touch with former New World employees?
CV: Absolutely! Many of the people at New World were friends before they started working there, and there are many that I stay in touch with or visit with when I get the chance to go back to L.A.
CH : Now, if you could step into the time machine... You've done a lot of work on Heroes IV, especially on the expansions. Despite the good reviews, the game is considered by many the bastard child of the series. What should New World Computing as a whole should have done differently if we could go back in time?
CV: I personally consider Heroes II to be the best in the series, with Heroes III a close second. So for me, Heroes IV was the lesser of them all. But that's just me, and I know that opinions differ greatly. As for what could have been done differently, that's a tough call, because essentially Heroes IV was done differently.
CH : Jon Van Caneghem was very critical towards that game, even though his participation on the project has been... minimal. "It just wasn't done right" he told us two years ago. We also got the feeling that he wanted Heroes V to be a Heroes III remake. How did you feel about this?
CV: Honestly I felt the same way Jon did, but I think I can clarify the statement some. After so much close work on Heroes I-III, Heroes IV was the first time the game was out of Jon's direct control. I had also gone off to work on a different game, and as a result I missed all the Heroes III expansions and didn’t get to see Heroes IV until it was nearly done. With a different group of people, you undoubtedly get some different choices being made, and so I think that when Jon finally got to see the game it was completely different from what he would have created himself. Speaking for myself it was a strange feeling the first time I got to sit down and give it a spin.
CH: What was Heroes V like later on? Was development coming along well? Did you have high hopes on that games, or was it just a project on life support?
CV: We had actually pitched a few game ideas to 3DO, and encouraged them to shelve both the Might and Magic and Heroes series for a few years to give everybody a break (both us and the fans). Unfortunately, 3DO insisted we deliver two Heroes IV expansions and get to work on Heroes V, so off we went. I spearheaded the expansions, and by the time they were done, Jon and Bryan (Farina) had a pretty solid framework in place for how we would build Heroes V. Our Art lead already had an entirely new set of gorgeous looking terrains ready for the map editor, and creation of the new towns and creatures was well underway. We were all pretty excited.
CH : The last time we talked, the news of the move to Solvang just appeared on Celestial Heavens and generated some controversy. It was the beginning of the end after all, wasn't it? What was the atmosphere in the offices during that time?
CV: The move to Solvang was more of a new beginning. I never got to confirm it, but I suspect that Jon was prepared for 3DO to close its doors, and wanted to be set up "lean and mean" for when that happened, so that New World could hopefully continue on as their own game studio. The atmosphere beforehand was mixed... those moving saw a fresh start, but there was a touch of sadness because there were others leaving.
CH : Have you been keeping an eye on the details of Ubisoft's Heroes V? What do you think of the artwork? Do you agree with the decision to take heroes out of the battlefield?
CV: Yes, I've been watching. It will be interesting to see what direction they take the game in. As for taking heroes off the battlefield, that was something we were going to do ourselves, so yes I do agree with the decision. But we weren't "just" removing them... we had found what we thought was going to be an engaging way to keep them involved that would have improved combat overall.
CH : The first non-NWC Might and Magic title to be announced is some sort of MMORPG for the Chinese market. Aren't these plans similar to what Jon Van Caneghem wanted to do at some point? Isn't it ironic that Jon is now at NCSoft, working on a MMORPG?
CV : Well Jon originally brokered the deal with 3DO because they were planning on using their existing online technology to develop Might and Magic Online. As often happened at 3DO, however, plans changed, and MMO was shelved before it ever really got off the ground. As for Jon being at NCSoft working on an MMORPG, I wouldn't call it irony... I would call it justice!
CH: Do you miss the Heroes/Might and Magic fan community? Do you sometimes feel we were a little tough on New World and 3DO?
CV: Like anything else from my past, there are things I miss and will always remember fondly. As for being tough on us... you can never be too tough on 3DO, but y'all could have cut New World some slack! Heh.
CH: Finally, the age-old questions: Might or Magic? Gold or experience? Titan or Black Dragon?
CV: Might, Experience, and Black Dragons. And a certain hero named Sir Christian!
We would like to thank Christian for his time. His new game, Forza Motorsport, is scheduled for a May release.