News


MM Heroes: Era of Chaos were released worldwide! If you pre-registered I can only guess that you will receive your "pirate Catherine skin and Legendary pack" when connecting the game with your Ubisoft profile. Which needs to be the same like your pre-registration e-mail.

Let us know, if you play the game ;)

 

MM Elemental GuardiansMM: Elemental Guardian - a few days ago received series of updates. Improving graphics, stability and running on phones with 1GB of RAM.

The Last one bring new monsters and spell, being called: "Dark and Light Update". In April Dev Sergi released roadmap, you can check it here. Some of its planned futures were however already delayed, like "Infinite Turns Strategy". As there would be too much changes at once.


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From the Battlefield to the Tilted Mill

Heroes of Might and Magic IV would only be a shadow of what it is today without Gus Smedstad. Some of the best features in the game, such as the battlefield artificial intelligence and the skill system, are among his creations. We originally hoped to meet Gus at the E3, but he was not one of the Tilted Mill representatives at the show. Fortunately, he agreed to write from his Wellesley, MA office. In this article we discuss the life of a programmer, Fry's Electronics, the strategy game genre and the dreaded adventure map AI.

Celestial Heavens: How are you doing? And how is your current project going?

Gus Smedstad: I don't feel I can talk about the project I'm currently working on at Tilted Mill, except to say that it's further along than I'd expect for the amount of time that we've put into it. From a purely project management point of view, we're doing very well indeed.

CH: What is a typical day in the life of a game programmer? Is the job as fun as it sounds?

GS: I think gamers tend to romanticize working in the game industry. It's definitely hard work, and even when you're working on a game that fits what you'd like to play, there are days when you're either slogging through a hard problem, or there's a bug that seems impossible to diagnose. Generally, the first thing I do in the morning is pick an issue to fix, or a feature that needs implementing. I'm not currently doing any design work, but when I was working on Heroes IV, sometimes there would be design details that needed filling in, or balance issues to address.

In any case, I then spend some time thinking about how I'm going to do it. If it's complicated, that may mean sketching out a diagram or two, or writing out an approach in English pseudo-code. I.e., "for every hero, do this-and-such." Most of the rest of my day is writing code. It's not very exciting to watch, just a lot of typing. Once I've got a draft done, I generally have to iron out a few typos or overlooked items that the compiler finds.


The folks at Tilted Mill, during a party...

Finally, I test. Usually testing is nothing like game play, it's a purpose-designed scenario that checks first the "normal" conditions, and some extreme cases to test possible problems. I.e. does the creature select the right target? What if there's no way to reach the target? What if taking the action at all is a poor choice?

That's all there is to it, really. I generally don't see the entire game as a whole until late in the project, usually I've gone over individual pieces many, many times, but not in the kind of context a player has.

CH: You were looking for a publisher for a game of your own in early 2002. Why did you choose Tilted Mill instead? Was leaving California a difficult decision?

GS: Honestly, I dropped the idea of going independent because I lost confidence in my ability to do so. The design I had looked a little too derivative to me, and since I was in pretty good shape financially, it was just a little too easy to just slack off and play games instead of work. Leaving California wasn't actually that hard, though I hate the amount of work and disruption moving brings. I grew up in Michigan, so I found I had no real trouble adjusting to the colder weather, though I still don't like driving in snow. The housing prices are better here, and so is the traffic, though neither is as much better as I'd like. I do miss ready access to Fry's Electronics, which is an computer and electronics superstore chain in California. Places like CompUSA or Circuit City just aren't in the same ballpark.

CH: The skill system remains my favorite feature of Heroes of Might and Magic IV. It is accessible, yet deep enough to ensure replayability. What was your favorite?

GS: I'm glad you liked the Heroes IV skill system. I'd played an awful lot of Heroes II, and not quite as much Heroes III, and one thing I knew I wanted was more meaningful choices in skills and spells. I wanted to avoid the pitfalls of must-have skills, like Wisdom, and useless skills, like Eagle Eye.

I also wanted a system that was more skill-driven than character class driven. I've always been a fan of skill-based pen and paper RPGs, like GURPS, as opposed to class based ones, like D&D. The magic system really was at the core of my Heroes IV design, but the skill system followed naturally from it and from my feelings about skills.

I don't think I can pick a single favorite skill. I liked the way the combat skills added special abilities to your hero, and of course each of the magic skills has the whole depth of that field of magic tacked on to it. To say, for example, that I liked the actual play of Life magic better than most doesn't really say that Life Magic as a skill is all that interesting, since it's just an enabler for a branch of magic.

CH: The main problem with Heroes IV is definitely the erratic behavior of the computer player on the adventure map. What happened there exactly? Why does the AI have some success on the battlefield (despite various changes with spells, range combat, special abilities and damage calculation), but keep making major blunders on the adventure map?

GS: The adventure AI is a touchy subject. We were under enormous time pressure with Heroes IV, and really the game was released 3, maybe 6 months before it was really done. As a result, I delegated some programming tasks that I probably should not have.

I did write the battlefield AI, which is why it has a substantially similar feel to the Heroes III battlefield AI. The programmer who did the adventure AI was an excellent programmer, but didn't have that much experience with AI or the Heroes series, and didn't get the polish time he needed to bring it up to the level of the Heroes III adventure AI.


What if the computer played as well on the adventure map than on the battlefield? We will never know...

CH: If one thing could have made HoMM IV a better game, what would that be?

GS: From a design standpoint, the single best thing I could have done to improve Heroes IV would have been to keep the "unconscious" state for heroes. The idea was that heroes on the winning side of a battle who fell in combat weren't dead, they were just badly hurt. Because we dropped the idea, we opened all sorts of unpleasant loopholes in scenario victory and defeat conditions which relied on hero deaths. The "potion of immortality" was a last minute stopgap to try and fix half the problem, the defeat conditions, but we really should have gone back to the original model.

CH: How did you feel about the reaction of the fans and the press? Were the expectations from the fans too high according to you?

GS: I don't think the expectations of the fans were too high, nor do I think the press reaction was unfair. We released a game well before anyone on the development team thought it was done or should be released. I like to think we might have met fan expectations if we'd really finished it. Except perhaps those fans who just wanted an expansion of the previous games, rather than a true sequel.

CH: Did you keep in touch with current and former New World employees?

GS: I do still occasionally exchange emails with former New World employees, though not as often as I did six months ago. Current New World employees are a different matter, since all of the artists and programmers I knew were either fired or quit. One did hang on for nearly a year, but quit when the company moved out of the Los Angeles area.

CH: How do you feel about the most controversial design decisions for Heroes V, such as removing heroes from the battlefield? Was it a bad idea in the first place?

GS: I haven't been following the news on design decisions for Heroes V. I think that heroes on the battlefield are and were appropriate for a Heroes game, with its ties to RPGs and heroic fantasy. Realistically, the fighting contributions of individual heroes shouldn't make much difference to a battle with armies hundreds or thousands of creatures, but the Heroes series has always been more about enjoyable gameplay than realism.

Since heroes don't grow the way economies and armies do, balancing them as individual units was difficult, but I think I did a decent job.

CH: Is there still a future for turn-based strategy games? Is there any danger that the genre might suffer from the same faith as the adventure genre several years ago? Are RTS taking all the room in the market?

GS: Yes, I do see a future for turn-based strategy games. Real time does give you better a better model of many actions, but even with the ability to pause and give orders, you can't easily spread your attention across several areas in a real time game, and you can with a turn based game. As long as we have people who enjoy playing games of grand scope like Civilization, we'll have successful turn based games. I think the problem with Adventure games was that they were inherently less interactive than strategy games or action games. You can't stray very far out of the bounds of the story the designer envisioned. As such, they're highly sensitive to good writing, and good writing in rare in computer games.

Strategy games, whether turn based or real time, have a much greater potential for the player to tell his own unique story. Writing isn't critical to game enjoyment, though it can help.

CH: Finally, what game are you playing these days?

GS: I am currently playing a Playstation 2 (gasp) game, Dark Cloud 2, and enjoying it a great deal. The writing is really awful, but I enjoy the gameplay. It's a resource management geek's game. You're continually modifying your character's weapons, you're saving resources for town building, you're going on photograph collecting expeditions, and you're even allocating skill points in things like the fishing mini-game. It's a surprisingly complex game, and it flies in the face of the cliché that console games are relatively unsophisticated compared to PC games.

CH: Thank you very much Gus. The best of luck for your current project.


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Heroes of Might and Magic III HD Mod here just breathed some new life into my personal favorite installment of the Heroes of Might and Magic series. 

The Change log looks like this:
5.0 RC61 -> 5.0 RC63 (11/18/2019)

[+] New graphics modes: (stretchable) 16-bit OpenGL and (stretchable) 32-bit OpenGL by Verok use GPU for scaling, filtering and rendering , unlike other modes which use CPU.
[+] 32-bit True graphics modes have become even more True for SoD and for the future HotA
[+] System cursors which was used in 32-bit True (stretchable) GDI mode is now used in all modes.

 This option is highly recommended for use.

[+] All graphic modes and some filters renamed , the functionality has not changed
[+] Changed the option code Sys.CPU.ReduceUsage (= 1 and = 2) Now in the message loop instead of "Sleep (1ms or maybe more)" the game tries to do "Sleep (about 0.5 ms, no more)". Changes apply only to Windows.

 As usual, it is recommended to use Sys.CPU.ReduceUsage = 2.

[-] Settings are no longer reset after update.
[+] Minor changes and fixes.

So, why the excitement? Well, take a look at the 32-bit true GDI mode and the OpenGL mode. I just launched up Heroes III using Verok's OpenGL and the difference is amazing. The entire feeling of the graphics make it feel new and fresh. Details feel more crisp but the main thing is without a doubt the on map animations. 

Here's the regular version: 

via GIPHY

And here's the updated version: 

via GIPHY

 

While it truly may not look like much at first, there are some distinct changes that, in my opinion, makes a whole lot of difference! 

What are your thoughts on the latest update?


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Originally appeared on The Astral Wizard. Reprinted with permission.

Fnord:
All the previous Heroes games have added more towns than the game before, yet HoMM IV will actually have fewer, but with more options. What design issues led to the decision to have fewer town types?

Maranthea:
This decision mainly stemmed from the new Magic System. With five schools of magic it seemed logical that there would be one town specializing in each school and of course, the Stronghold who would disdain any magic at all. Other important factors included a desire to have a stronger theme to each town, making them more distinct. The difference between towns, heroes and creatures was often minimal in previous versions of Heroes games and we sought to correct this in Heroes IV. One of the side benefits is people will once again have an easier time to grasp the basics of the game, but with the more options it will take a lifetime to master.

Fnord:
In some of the screenshots we've seen so far, the graphics look incredible but people are worried their current systems may not be able to run the new game; HoMM III recommended a Pentium 166 with 32MB of RAM. When New World Computing was creating the HoMM IV engine, were they able to find a way to keep the hardware requirements from rising too sharply?

Maranthea:
During research and development we have always kept in mind the lower end machines and the art and programming staff worked closely together to keep the requirements low. Despite the incredible new look we are aiming for Pentium 200 with 32-64MB of RAM as the minimum requirements. We also are supporting multiple resolutions so that gamers with either high or low end machines will be able to enjoy the best looking Heroes game yet.

Fnord:
Many fans have wished for a long time that heroes could fight directly in battles, and this is finally going to happen in HoMM IV. As possibly one of the biggest changes to Heroes so far, what kind of issues had to be resolved before you could be certain this would integrate well into the game?

Maranthea:
The two biggest issues were hero death and hero balance. Death on the battlefield and permanently leaving your forces would have been a huge detriment to any player, so we decided this was not a way to go. On the other hand we didn’t want invincible heroes. If a hero is ‘killed’ on the combat field before the rest of the army they enter a state of unconsciousness. If you win, you need to take your hero to a town or sanctuary and resurrect them. If you lose, your opponent has the choice to imprison your hero, and you have to go rescue them. This way any hero you hire is always part of your forces, they just aren’t always active if you lose a battle. As far as balance went, we worked out how powerful a hero at certain levels should be in comparison to creatures and balanced out their hit points, damage and so forth.

Fnord:
Another major change that goes along with the heroes fighting is that of armies existing, moving and fighting without heroes. In some ways, this could be an even more radical change. Although the concept has been used in other turn-based strategy fantasy games, what made it seem like this would work well in the Heroes game, and are there limitations to the number of armies that can run around on their own?

Maranthea:
There are still only 8 armies allowed for each player on the map, but you can garrison an unlimited number. We thought creatures by themselves would be great for scouting, picking up loose resources or other little ‘freebies’ that exist on the map. It’s much cheaper to lose one halfling than to lose one hero. Armies without a hero have backpacks to pick up artifacts, and creatures with hands can use potions. However, not having a hero means your forces just may run away if overwhelmed, or even join if the opposing army has a hero with Diplomacy or Charm. Not to mention there is a group of skills devoted to enhancing the abilities of creatures, along with some very powerful artifacts. These are still very good reasons to have at least one hero in an army, so I suspect most people will make sure their main fighting forces consist of a nice mix of both.

Fnord:
The expanded skill system (with five levels of mastery), sounds exciting. The Computer Gaming World article mentions nine primary skills, each with three associated secondary skills. In HoMM III, primary skills were Attack, Defense, Power and Knowledge. Does this mean that there are now nine of these score-based skills?

Maranthea:
No, you won’t have 9 score based skills. The entire system has been rearranged quite dramatically. The stats are now damage, hit points, spell points, shots, luck, morale, speed, movement and experience, which are score based. The new skill system has been devised very carefully so all of the skills are useful, but once again you can’t get them all. The nine primary skills are Combat, Tactics, Scouting, Nobility, Life Magic, Death Magic, Order Magic, Chaos Magic and Nature Magic. Each has three associated secondary skills and they have five levels of mastery. With so many options you’ll be more likely to specialize your heroes. The biggest side effect of this change is that your heroes will become more distinct in late game, rather than less distinct.

Fnord:
Replacing the elemental magic schools with five town-based magic schools makes a lot of sense and should help to enhance the individual identity of each faction. However, the new Stronghold town won't have any magic, but can hire heroes from the other town types, presumably including various magic-using heroes. If these magic heroes have virtually no access to spells, they would seem to be very weak and of little use to the Stronghold player. Did this potential contradiction pose any design problems?

Maranthea:
Not really, the town was designed to be quite effective without a mage guild present. Faster creature generation definitely gives the Stronghold an edge. Their blacksmith has more items available for sale, which can really help heroes out in early game. There are shrines, artifacts and potions available on the maps, and these offer up a diverse number of spells, giving Barbarians the opportunity to learn and use magic.

Fnord:
One of the more popular fan wishes for HoMM IV was for some sort of underwater or pirate town, yet there's been no indication of anything along these lines so far. Was it too hard to integrate such a town into the design of the game?

Maranthea:
We chose the towns based on the schools of magic, and a water-based town didn’t really fit well into the magic or skill system very well. The basic idea of making the water terrain more interesting was understood and we’ve created a few creatures specifically for the water, such as Pirates you can hire and sea monsters you can fight. The other step we took was to increase the number and variety of water-based adventure objects players can visit.

Fnord:
The underground level introduced in HoMM III was very popular and many fans wished for even more map "levels" for the next game. Was this element discussed by the design team?

Maranthea:
That’s an interesting idea, but we think that two levels is really the sweetspot. Too many levels and it would become tedious to chase someone down, or put you too far away from strategically important towns.

Fnord:
The new town screens use the same basic layout for every town and also change their background depending on the type of terrain they're placed on. This is a very nice idea and will add greatly to the atmosphere of the games. Will this mix-and-match approach to the town screens allow for completely customized town creation in the map editor, such as mixing dwellings from any of the six town types?

Maranthea:
We too thought it would be easier for the player if town buildings were in roughly the same place for all towns. Using this method also allowed us to have a more diverse building tree than in previous Heroes. After first level you will be able to choose between two different creature dwellings. Using this method there is greater diversity among the towns and armies, especially in mid and late game.

Fnord:
We're all very excited about the upcoming release of HoMM IV. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about the game's design?

Maranthea:
No other question was so difficult to answer because there are so many new features and design changes. Not to mention I want to tell everyone about them all right now, but that would spoil all the fun wouldn’t it? So I’ll just let you in on my favorite feature. It has got to be the way we’re handling heroes. I love the new role-playing elements we’ve added. Once you’ve chosen a class, give your hero a new name, new biography and new face. After that your hero can adventure alone, with some friends or with an army to command. Heroes will be more specialized so they’ll have a distinct personality later on. In combat we’ve been able to really bring heroes alive and give them much more personality than ever before. For all of you who are more concerned with strategy than role-playing, don’t worry. Heroes demand a lot of strategy every step of the way, and with so many possibilities it’s going to take you a very long time to master them.


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Ubisoft, just opened their pre-registration for their all-new mobile game Might and Magic Heroes: Era of Chaos which is currently playable in China, New Zealand and the Philippenes. Some game-play videos have emerged on YouTube but Ubisoft themselves claim, that this is a spiritual successor of Heroes of Might and Magic III. Without having been able to test the game myself (yet), we can see some old Heroes such as Gelu, Crag Hack and Queen Catherine available in game. 

Heroes of Might and Magic III, but for mobile

 

Also gathered from the information given by Ubisoft, we can tell that this is an anime-inspired game, drawing some thoughts towards the Clash of Heroes release for mobile as well. 

While the graphics are not very promising, there is great potential in the game-play. Do you think the gameplay will make up for the graphics? Are you on-board with the direction Ubisoft it taking with the franchise? Let us know in the comments! 

Might and Magic Heroes: Era of Chaos

 

 

 

There seems to be a good system with clans, battle systems, chapters of a campaign amongst other things. This will be definitively a download for me. The Ultimate Question for me is, can we survive the anime? 

 

There is definitively no doubt that we will report on this, as soon as we get a hands on review! 


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Celestial Heavens: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Joe. Could you introduceyourself to the readers who might not have heard your name before?

Joe McGuffin: I art directed “Heroes of Might and Magic 4”, the “Shadow of Death” expansion, and all of the “Chronicles of Might and Magic” series for New World Computing/3DO.

CH: How did you get started in the gaming industry? When did you join New World exactly?

JM: I am an illustrator by training from the Art Center College of Design and I’ve been in the entertainment/games industry since 1992. I got my start in the business working for a CD-I and 3DO games developer called the Interactive Support Group. I was interviewed and hired by a producer there with a keen eye for talent…so I thought. Little did I know he was looking for someone very green and that would work for peanuts! The man who gave me my first break is none other than David Mullich. We’ve been friends ever since. After ISG we found employment at different companies, but always kept in touch. I went on to work on a variety of different projects ranging from television and film to mainstream video games for the PC and consoles. It was in October of 1999 that we got the opportunity to work together again. David hired me into NWC and my first project was the “Shadow of Death” expansion for H3.

CH: We spoke with your former colleague April Lee in the past. Did you, like herself,deal with various mediums (card games, comics, prints)?

JM: April and I were both Illustration majors at Art Center where you’re taught to be versatile in a variety of mediums. I have not worked on card games, comics and prints as April, but pursued work in multimedia, film, television, and game projects. The great thing about being an illustrator is that you can design and draw for any medium!

CH: How would you describe your art style?

JM: My work is representational as well as stylized, with a heavy dose of perspective… I can render realism, create cartoon styled characters, and thoroughly enjoy illustrating structures and environments using perspective. I’ve been influenced by many artists old and new – too many to list.

CH: Now, how would you describe the Heroes series' art style, going from Heroes I to Heroes IV?

JM: I feel that the Heroes “style” has remained the same in certain respects, but also has matured from Heroes 1 to 4. Obviously, one of the greatest contributing factors has been the increase in computing power from what Heroes 1 was running on to Heroes 4. With that additional computing power, we were able to increase the amount of art work and animation as well as the quality and the sophistication. Heroes 1 and 2 have a very whimsical style to them, some may say “simple”, but colorful and positive. Heroes 3 got a bit darker and more refined but still kept some of the whimsy. For Heroes 4 we wanted to update the look and feel and the managing members of the team which included JVC, Gus Smedstad, the lead programmer and designer, Jennifer Bullard, the lead level designer and I felt that Heroes should maintain its positive look and feel, be colorful like Heroes 2, and much more animated than the others in the series.

CH: With the Heroes series dealing with very different branches of mythology, how did you inspire yourself and your team?

JM: How to inspire artists...hmmm...that’s tough, but always the most rewarding part of being an art director. I had a great team of artists working with me on Heroes 4, some were Heroes veterans, and others were brand new to the series. Working with the designers, Gus and Jennifer, the head writer, Terry Ray, and David, I was able to assimilate all the different mythological ideas that make up Heroes and translate that to the artists.

CH: How do you deal with mental block?

JM: Building a game is a very collaborative effort. There are many creative and talented individuals involved. So, there are plenty of people to throw ideas around with. This process is very helpful in getting over blocks.

CH: You were the Art Director for NWC. What exactly does that title mean? Are you the top dog in charge of graphics there?

JM: The title of Art Director brought with it the responsibility to take charge of the art production and development of Heroes 4. I had to manage the team, coordinate their efforts, lead the visual design of the art assets, handle the reviews and interviews of the artists, and assist David in tracking the schedule of the art production. The “top dog” in charge of art, as well as design at NWC was and is JVC. JVC had the final say-so on art direction.

CH: Working on the art for a computer game is a collaborative effort. It must be difficult to work with people with different background and styles.

JM: Artists are a different breed. They bring to bear a wide variety of experiences, talents, styles, attitudes, and each has a unique way of being creative. In the production of a game, it is imperative that the artists work together and that the art they generate is cohesive and unified.

CH: Please describe how this process works. Also, which tools do you use?

JM: In the production of Heroes 4, Fernando Castillo, my technical art lead, and I set up a few processes that helped to unify the look and feel of the art assets. These tools maintained the proper perspective, lighting, and scale of the art generated. Because all of the artists were using 3D Studio Max to generate the 3D art, Fernando was able to write scripts that everyone could utilize to process the files within Max. For 2D work, like textures, interface elements, and splash screens, we used Photoshop.

CH: How long does it usually take to complete a creature or a hero for the game?

JM: On average, from design to animation, a character or hero was taking about a week.

CH: According to you, what was missing from Heroes IV to make it a trulymemorable game? Anything you would do different if you could start over?

JM: Artistically speaking, I’d like to have been able to better develop the siege screen artwork. Due to time constraints, we were limited in how much we were able to put into the development and design of the siege screen. We had much more time to create the terrain, terrain structures, and character assets and I feel it shows. I would put more priority in creating the siege screen assets if I could start over.

CH: Heroes IV had only a few cinematics compared to the previous game of the series. How do you explain that?

JM: For Heroes 3, most of the cinematics were done by an outside contractor. For Heroes 4 we used an internal cinematics team that was created by NWC/3DO and they handled ALL the cinematics for every game in development. This team was very burdened by heavy loads of work, and thus prevented us from creating numerous cinematics seen in previous versions of the game.

CH: Portraying demonic creatures or undead in games has typically been a touchy issue. How did you guys handled that?

JM: This actually wasn’t too big an issue during development, but there were a few things that came up. I remember the mantra – “NO blood. Period.” I had to be very diligent in making sure no blood appeared anywhere in the game…the blood pool in front of the vampire generator almost slipped through the cracks! This is also why the vampire sucks the “life force” out of his victims instead of blood. Also, to gain an “E” rating from the ESRB panel, we had to change the death animation of the Venom Spawn. What you see in the game is very toned down. The first death animation for the venom spawn had it exploding in mess of green goo! Even with those changes and concerns, my favorite creatures are in the Death class and I had fun designing the Venom Spawn and the Devil.

CH: What is your favorite artwork in the Heroes series?

JM: I’m especially happy with the Main menu art of Heroes 4, which is also seen on the back of the box. It truly captures the essence of Heroes. George Almond, the illustrator who painted most of the splash screens and menu screens seen in Heroes 3 and 4, and I worked very hard to create that piece. Overall, I’m very proud of the artwork created for Heroes 4.

CH: With the strategy game genre being midway between 2D and 3D, which style do you prefer and what are your thoughts on what's going to be the standard in a near future?

JM: I like the level of detail that prerendered art affords, but like the amount of animation that a full 3D game offers. In the near future, games will appear prerendered but will be 3D. I’ve already seen a strategy game with such an engine.

CH: Are you a gamer yourself? What have you been playing lately?

JM: I’m an avid gamer. I play first person shooters like “Medal of Honor”, and “Unreal Tournament”, role-playing games like “Dungeon Siege” and “Neverwinter Nights”, and of course, strategy games like “Heroes 4”! I do prefer PC games over console games, but own a PS2 and a Gameboy Advance, as well. I’m currently playing “GTA Vice City”, “Mafia”, and “Medal of Honor” on the PC, “John Madden 2003” and “Dynasty Warriors 3” for the PS2, and “Monkeyball” and “Extreme Pinball” for the Game Boy Advance.

CH: Anything you'd like to add?

JM: The time I spent at NWC was some of the best in my career. I thoroughly enjoyed the environment and the team I worked with. I still keep in touch with many people and look forward to any future opportunities to work with them again.


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CNET reports that Internet Archive have released 2500 titles from the 1990s. Playing on emulators, these games now work on new computers so that old-timers can relive their childhoods.

In the roster, we find such gems as Jones in the fast lane, The secret of Monkey Island, Alone in the dark, Championship manager 2 and many more! So why not take a trip down memory lane, search through the archives and find one of those games that you loved playing as a kid?

Which game was your 1990s favourite?


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Celestial Heavens' GhostWriter was at the E3 this year, and brought back some exciting new information about 3DO's upcoming games. The first interview is with the creator of the Might and Magic series himself,

Jon Van Caneghem. Click on the speaker icon and be patient while the appropriate Mpeg file loads. The Expo is a very noisy place, so crank up the volume and listen carefully. Coming during the next few days is a discussion with

Rick Reynolds, from 3DO's marketing department, and you can now read Part Two of the exclusive Heroes interview of Jon.

Part One

CH: How was the Heroes series born?

JVC: (Without my wife) Heroes would have never come about. I made King's Bounty, I don't know if you've ever known of that game...

CH: ...Yeah...

JVC: ... and that was the first game she got into, and I started King's Bounty, and she totally fell in love with it. And I went back to working on Might & Magic. And every month, every week, every morning, (she'd say) "When are you going to make a sequel to King's Bounty? That's the best game, that's better than Might & Magic! That's the one to make a sequel for." (So I said) "Alright, I'll make it." So finally I gave in and that's how Heroes I was born.

CH: Well, thank her for it.

JVC: (laughs) I will.

CH: She had a good eye.

JVC: And she's actually... was involved quite a bit with Heroes II and III. She did alot of the maps and alot of the testing...

CH: ... Oh yeah...

JVC: ... Quite a bit. She still plays it to this day. She still yells at me every day for the way Heroes IV turned out like, "You ruined my game!"

CH: What are the improvements for Heroes V from Heroes IV?

/

JVC: Alright, so Heroes V, what I really want to get back to, and what I'm spending all my time on, is redesigning the entire game engine, to be much more along the lines of Heroes II and III, except much more modern and a lot more balanced, and much more challenging. The game evolved much more towards a role-playing type of game over the last couple of years, and I want to bring back completely, 180 degrees back to a true strategy game. It will have role-playing elements, but really the esence of what I wanted Heroes always to be since the very beginning is a pure strategy game. And role-playing is nice for campaigns and some particular scenarios, but the basic game is strategy. It's you against a few players, or you against other human players. (continued)

CH: (And so it will) focus more on scenario combat and scenario design features? Well, not just the scenarios, but the game itself, where there will be less emphasis on quests, and more emphasis on tactical combat?

JVC: Right. Absolutely, the game takes it much more towards the strategy orientation, and we'll make the story lines shorter, and the quest-based maps more, uh, simpler in terms of the entire overall quests so... But what that allows us to do and allows me to do is make much more of a strategic quest or story out of (those elements), instead of one of just plodding through it, and opening up a story like an RPG. It becomes an involved strategy quest that's active... figure out what to do, make decisions that are important when you mkae them and how you make them, so then you can work out the scenario. Versus just what it's truned into now is (meaning Heroes IV), it's just a matter of plodding through it. There's really no big strategic decision to be made in the current scenario (meaning Heroes IV). So, that's what I want to get back to, and I think that's more fun.

CH: What is your level of involvement for the new game?

JVC: (Full-time) Yeah, that's my plan. I mean, I'm looking forward to getting back into it full-time and really making it... It sounds like... I feel like I owe it to the fans, to bring back Heroes the way it was, as opposed to what it kind of evolved into.

CH: How is the programming of the AI system going?

JVC: For Heroes V I'm starting from scratch. Everything from AI is now going to be my design from scratch.

CH: It will not be parts of Heroes III?

JVC: No.

CH: ...Scrapping Heroes IV...?

JVC: Yeah. Heroes IV was completely new from Heroes III. There wasn't much at all used from Heroes III.

CH: Oh really?

JVC: There was some talk if "there was", "there wasn't", who can really tell...?

CH: ...Right. Lot of speculation...

JVC: ...Lot of speculation, but no. Heroes IV was redone completely, and it just wasn't done right. And a long back-story about how that was done, but I won't get into it.

CH: Well, it's fine, we're looking forward to the new AI.

JVC: Yes, And that will be quite a challenge since I'm pretty much doing the plan again. But, you know, I always... in all my designs I make it that it's always very easy to adjust the difficulty. In that, if you're having trouble or it's getting ahead of you then you can just turn it down.

CH: What types of creatures will there be?

JVC: Well, we have our creature list for the six town types already done, but all the old favorites, many of them are back, of course... Titans and Giants, and Dragons of course, of all types.

CH: Any new ones that you've decided to go with that are different from the others in the series?

JVC: Yeah, I think there's a few new ones we haven't seen in any of the Heroes, but for the most part we kind of pick and choose the ones people like the most out of the last of the Heroes games. And then put them together in appropriate towns.

CH: Make sure there are Genies.

JVC: Gotta have Genies, hehe.

CH: What types of alignment and faction system is being designed? Do you know how the magic system will work?

JVC: There are six town types, and I don't know them off the top of my head, which is terrible but I should.

CH: With everything in your head, I can imagine.

JVC: Yeah, uh, but they're very much, you know, orgainzed in a, I dunno, kind of the (inaudible)-together type of grouping... (inaudible). So there's still all the stand-bys and favorites. But, I'm doing a lot, probably the most exciting thing I'm doing is the actual Hero development and skill system, which is completely from scratch. And people that alot.

CH: And the magic system, is that tied to the faction system like in Heroes IV?

JVC: Yes. In fact, we have a magic system that is completely tied to each town type. We have a set of spells that are generic to all towns, then we have a complete set of spells that's dedicated solely to each town type.

CH: Has the decision been made about removing the Underground yet?

JVC: Yeah, the Underground just didn't seem to add much except for cunfusion. It was... the way I originally designed it was, I made the Underground, and I think it was Heroes III it first appeared... a lot of our maps ran out of room for little treasure caches. So I said well, I could make this little Underground, you could go down and there would be a little bit bigger of an area where I could actually have a little treasure cache based where you were. The big maps it made sense, but the mapmakers went wild and turned it into an entire... thing, and now we had two maps instead of one, and it kind of went in a diredction it wasn't intended to.

CH: So are you planning on doing an alternative system to the Undergound, or just keeping it a single-layer map?

JVC: Keeping it the single-layer. I mean, we can always add it back... and there were orignal plans were for a cloud layer, an Undergound, an alternate plane, and... (but those won't happen)

CH: Yeah, in the Winds of War expansion you actually have in the editor the ability to add or remove an Underground.

JVC: That's right.

CH: Who is doing the music and has the music been finished?

JVC: (The music hasn't been done yet), but we'll probably use the same team...

CH: ...same composer?

JVC: Yeah, Rob King.

CH: Excellent music.

JVC: Yeah, I really loved his... I discovered him, you know, (from) nowhere, brought him on full-time, and now he's doing music for all sorts of games, so.. Oh definitely, I want him and the same guys do the music. I really like how the music fits Heroes.

CH: Will the game be using a similar kind of scripting system in its editor, and will it be improved over the one in Heroes IV? Heroes IV has an awesome editor.

JVC: I'd love to improve on it, I don't know if we'll be able to do much of a revamping with that editor or not. But it'll have all the layout to it in the way it works... but making it easier to use is a big... completely big "if". But the other side of it is it's not that important since if I I get the AI to where I want it to be, no one's going to have to go in to do all these scripted events to make the game play its best...

CH: ... Right, exactly...

JVC: ... So, that's kind of my caveat to, well, if we do this right, then that won't matter as much because people won't have to fight with that editor to get some measure of interesting gameplay out of it.

CH: But you are doing it with a scripting system?

JVC: Yeah, it's the same one. We're basically using the same tools, just changing it to enhance it.

CH: That's good news for me.

CH: Will there be a Random Map or Terrain Generator?

JVC: I'm working on it. Yeah, I'm going to try to get that done if I can for the first release.

CH: Because that's a very poplular thing with the tournament players, they're always looking for ways to create maps...

JVC: Yes.

CH: And the Object Painter which came along in the Winds of War expansion is one tool that... anything that saves a mapmaker time. Because that just means more maps...

JVC: Yeah.

CH: And people will spend more time on them...

JVC: Making them, yep.

CH: ...not doing the things that (waste time, and thus) planning more creative maps.

The 3DO Booth at the E3

Part Two of this interview with New World Computing's Jon Van Caneghem is presented here.

CH: Do you have any plans for an Official Tournament or other sponsored events?

JVC: That'd be great. I'd love to do it.

CH: Seems like you're going to have to add to your staaff a vit to handle that.

JVC: Yeah, but at the same time, ya know, between web sites and people organizing themselves. If we just support it, I think that could probably work out.

CH: Can we expect you on the 3DO Community or the Round Table posting some time?

JVC: Sure.

CH: You're a busy guy, but ya know, you're the Man.

JVC: Alright, well I mean, I hate to personally get into the whole "posting wars"...

CH: It's hard. It's very difficult, I know...

JVC: I know, I know. Chris (Vanover) had been with us (for so long)

CH: Most of the time someone will ask you a question and you find that you just can't answer it, because it will start something else...

JVC: So, ya know, I'd rather start something up where you guys filter up what you want me to answer, once a month or... and (I'll see if I can get to it).

CH: Do you visit Celestial Heavens?

JVC: Yeah, of course, and I'll end up getting along with most of the stuff, but no, I think it's great that you guys have been supporting us. I know there's been some friction over the last few months.

CH: Yeah. We do post what we find, in terms of news...

JVC: Yeah.

CH: ... But we're all fans of the games.

JVC: That's all that matters. Hey, the truth is what it is, I don't care. (laughs)

CH: Most of what we're doing is just bringing news to the community so they can talk about it...

JVC: ...can talk about it, right..

CH: ... not so we can bring our own opinions in.

JVC: No, I love that you guys are there. I mean , ya know, I used to have to read UseNet to find out, ya know, I'd go to Strategy: UseNet, and I'd see... to pick through the Heroes topics to find out what people were saying about the latest game or expansion. But most of your guys grew so large.

CH: Are there plans for a Heroes IV Complete, and what would it include?

JVC: Probably, I think 3DO actually has it on their schedule to do that.

CH: Is that a 3DO question?

JVC: Yeah, that's a 3DO question. I wouldn't have much involvement except we would want to be making the CDs and testing it.

CH: I was just wondering if they might ask you to add some more content.

JVC: I don't know. Unlikely.

CH: If it didn't happen with Heroes III Complete then it probably isn't likely for Heroes IV.

JVC: Right.

CH: How about the turn-times? Will Heroes V be faster in terms of the amount of time it takes to access things?

JVC: (The computer has to) ... figure out stuff, but 99% of it didn't move, never changes... it's the map. That can be done when the map's created at our office. It shouldn't be a burden for every player out there at the end of their turn. So there's lots of stuff like that that I want it to be (when clicking the button) "Go, go, go".

CH: Is there going to be a beta test release for Heroes V?

JVC: One of the problems we've had with our games and beta testing is, we've never had a large enough schedule to do formal beta testing. So by the time the CD goes out to, say we've got a hundred people we want at the office to be around for the first round of beta, by the time we get them, get them their CDs, and have them start playing it, we're eighteen revisions at the office past what they have. Alot of what they'll be reporting we'll already have on the list, we'll either have fixed them, or decided that we're not going to... (do that in the game).

CH: ... You know you're giving the beta testers this thing that isn't working yet, so you're working on those problems...

JVC: ... we're working on those problems, and if we had a longer cycle the you could do that, but the last few years with 3DO has been, ya know, by the time we're beta, everyone's non-stop (working on the game's problems)

CH: What financial factors come into the development of the game that affects its publication?

JVC: On and on and on, it all just never ends; the financial situation, so...

CH: Not being a game industry person myself, and most of the readers aren't...

JVC: Yeah. It's hard for them to understand.

CH: ... it's phenomenal to understand what goes into developing a game.

JVC: Yep. The bottom line is two things. There's the integrity, and how great a game is, and then there'e the actual dollars and cents of the checkbook, and everyone keeping the lights on and paying salaries. And a lot of times those two can't meet. They just can't get together to the point where you going to satisfy both of them. So or course the one that's going to fail is the game side, because everyone's got to keep the lights on and pay the bills. Bottom line, that's what it comes down to.

Celestial Heavens wants to thank Jon Van Caneghem for his time and valuable knowledge of the games he lovingly creates.


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Hey guys! 

First things first, I am extremely honored to be a part of the mod team here at Celestial Heavens. For over 10 years, I've been on and off this forum. Most of you will recognize me as the kid who made a ton of promises that never came true, but also as the creator of the Masters of Sighisoara-series of campaigns for Heroes of Might and Magic III: SoD (Oh, and HoTA now that we are playtesting our remake of the first campaign for this incredible unofficial expansion). Masters of Sighisoara is also on facebook, find us here!

I just wanted to let you all know that I have fired up the Facebook of Celestial Heavens (click to see the page) and it's up and running, active as never before. There are a ton of things that will be seen here. It's connected with RSS to the news section of the page. But will also feature forum posts, PoTD posts and simply enough "All things Might and Magic". 

I would be more than happy to take suggestions of things you want me to post and of course, that you give this page a thumbs up and that you follow us on Facebook (as well as here, of course). 

We are currently trying to find a new profile picture for facebook too, but here is our current one! 

Celestial Heavens Facebook

 

With Best Regards, 
HeroofPunk


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