- by Kalah
Regular readers will know this name well: as one of the original founders of NWC and creator of the Might & Magic games, Jon is considered the spiritual father of the franchise. As he said it himselt: "I wrote the first Might and Magic while finishing college on an Apple II, and I’ve been making games ever since." After 3DO went belly up in 2003, he moved on to other things while Ubisoft would eventually pick up the baton and continue the series. Currently, he's CEO of VC Mobile Entertainment. After the release of Creature Quest, we were able to get him to answer some questions for us.
1. What's your current job? Please outline what your work entails.
"CEO, so I oversee everything involved with running the company, but I try to spend as much time on game design as possible."
2. What's your favorite part of the job?
"Designing new games and playing new games, but working with a talented and enthusiastic team is by far the most fulfilling."
3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
"Hopefully doing what I’m doing now but with multiple teams."
4. What do you like to do in your free time? Do you still race cars?
"Yes, I’m quite active with several racing organizations and I won a national championship with NASA-pro racing 4 years in row! I still play lots of games on PC and Mobile, but my hobby has always been racing cars."
5. What was your inspiration for Creature Quest?
"I was enjoying many of the current mobile games and I had the idea to bring some of the elements that made Heroes so much fun to the genre. So many people who have mobile devices have never experienced anything like this."
6. What are you most proud of?
"When making something new, it’s very difficult to create a game that’s fun and addicting. I’m very proud of how the game has evolved, the decisions we made along the way and how much fun it is to play."
7. How big is the team?
"We just past 20 people and growing."
8. What are you hoping for with the global release?
"We all hope for a big hit, but just having a large number of players try the game and enjoy playing will be awesome."
9. You're just now launching globally; why the "soft launch", why didn't you launch globally right away?
"In the mobile world, this is quite common. We have made a tremendous amount of changes and adjustments during our soft launch, which is difficult to do in the PC/console world, but it gives us a chance to iterate and polish before we go out to a large audience. Its especially important for free to play games that only generate revenue from players sticking around."
10. What are your future plans for the game?
"We have an entire roadmap for the next year and beyond. It really becomes a live service like the MMO world where we have the ability to constantly add and improve the game, and respond to consumer feedback."
11. What does Creature Quest have in common with the games in the Might & Magic franchise?
"The combat system has the same feel as the early M&M RPG’s (party of portraits, taking turns attacking waves of creatures). The adventure part of the game is like exploring maps in Heroes, find treasure, resources, battle blocking armies, completing quests."
12. How is working on a mobile game different from the PC games?
"Embracing the input differences is probably the biggest challenge; swiping and tapping is very different from keyboard / mouse / controller. The play session length also makes for very different focus and scope. This means different types of games will work better than others. The list goes on, but at the end of the day it still must be fun!"
13. Fans like to think about "the road not taken" - did you have any specific plans for the future of the M&M/Heroes series, lore-wise and gameplay-wise? Did you have any visions for Heroes V or other games?
"I really wanted to make Might and Magic Online a long time ago, this was before EQ and all the MMOs. We started on it and had a lot of great systems and ideas, unfortunately I was never able to finish it. For Heroes, I had a very cool design for V that I would still like to do and now with all the connectivity and server power available, so many new cool things could be done with the Heroes franchise… (raising and waving hands in air)"
14. Were you proud of the creature lineups of HOMM IV factions? Were you planning to do radical changes in HOMM V factions due to fan reactions?
"Yes and yes, but the most heated debate was whether or not to allow the heroes on the battlefield (H3 vs H4)"
15. Do you think there's a chance you might work on M&M/Heroes related titles in the future?
16. What do you think is the future of gaming? Will mobile games grow at the expense of PCs and consoles?
"The future of gaming is… more gaming. I think all the platforms will grow, although mobile will always reach a much larger audience."
That's it - big thanks to Jon for taking the time and we hope to hear more from him in the future.
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- by MadMax
Marcus Pregent, Level Designer Heroes of Might and Magic 3, Might & Magic 6, Part 1
F I N A L L Y
I present to you, the first part of the interview between me and Marcus Pregent.
Once again, I want to apologize (I had it recorded at first, but intro got to long featuring me apologizing) for it taking so long.
Editing the video has been quite tough and I've just been way to busy.
I also want to add that during this interview, I was still dealing with post covid symptoms such as being extremely tired and my head simply not wanting to work with me. I realized watching this video, I was simply looking and feeling "down".
Fortunately though, Marcus Pregent is a rock and delivers some great anecdotes and stories. You'll get to hear about some of his less conventional working places, the story behind the quite graphic event in the map "Faeries" and it's background.
This is the first part of (most likely) 3 videos of us meeting with Marcus Pregent. What's your favorite part of it? Who should we try to contact next?
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- by Kalah
1. A quick bio: what's your story? How did you get into gaming and what's been your career so far?
I got hooked on video games when I was a kid. I took classes for programming and graphics, aiming to be an animator or programmer to work on a game. New World Computing was my first job, thanks to Julia Ulano who liked my fantasy art. It was fun creating 2d animated sprites for Heroes II and seeing the game box in the stores. Things shifted to 3d for Might and Magic VI. From that point on the games used 3d models. When NWC relocated to Solvang, I went around different companies and learned new skills along the way, but I still missed working on fantasy games. Then JVC sent me an email and now I’m working on his Creature Quest project. It is so exciting to be working with familiar faces that I have not seen in years.
2. What's your current job? Please outline what your work entails.
I create the visual effects that are used to enhance gameplay on Creature Quest. They help pop out a feature in the interface or creature - such as sparkles over a button, or flames from a creature.
3. What's your favorite part of the job?
Watching other people having fun playing the game.
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope to be working on a creative project in some form.
5. What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy drawing creatures, and playing video games.
6. How many creatures are there?
There are over 500 creatures in the game, including all the variations of evo states.
7. What’s your favourite aspect of the game?
The map quests, I enjoy exploring and uncovering goodies. It is also a good way to collect items that level up your creatures.
8. What does Creature Quest have in common with the games in the Might & Magic franchise?
It is from JVC, lol. The strategy of building a team of creatures and improving their stats is there.
9. How is working on a mobile game different from the PC games?
There is a smaller limit on the amount of data a mobile game can push compared to a PC. I would love to have higher particle counts for each creature. As the chipset technology improves, mobile devices will eventually play more graphic intensive games.
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- by MadMax
Songs of Conquest - Trailer, Release Date
Songs of Conquest is back and banging the drums in an all new trailer featuring gameplay footage and more epic sounding music.
They have also launched their new, updated website containing some sweet new designs and information about their game. Make sure to check it out here:
Coming Early 2022
That's some huge news, which we have been looking forward to A LOT! You are already able to Wishlist it on Steam here and on GOG.com here
With the news out there, let's dive into some of the good stuff from the trailer.
Scenes from the trailer show a promising turn based battle system where the archers seem to stand on some sort of "high ground" which can also be seen in the preview of the battlefield. We are looking forward to seeing more of the mechanics behind this.
Some sweet effects are made when the video zooms us closer to what presumably is a wraith like being most likely belonging to the faction "Barony of Loth" (which is one of the factions I am most hyped about).
We are also shown a Hero travelling over the adventure map, which gives the feeling of the more laid back style we see in the Heroes of Might and Magic-series. A style where you are allowed the time to explore and plan your next strategical move.
Spells and Artifacts are also teased, not only on the adventure map as pictures above, but we do get a sneak peek at something that looks like a large spell scroll and two Heroes interacting, trading (?) artifacts.
We will dive deeper into Songs of Conquest and keep you all posted as soon as our heart rates are back to normal from the hype of this trailer, so stay tuned!
What do you think of the trailer?
What's your favorite part?
Did we miss something important?
Will you add it to your Steam/GOG Wishlist?
Let us know in the comment section.
In case you haven't checked out our interview with Carl Toftfelt from LavaPotion, the creators of Songs of Conquest, go check it out while we prepare to release Part 1 of our interview with Heroes of Might and Magic 3 level designer Marcus Pregent!
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- by Kalah
1. A quick bio: what's your story? How did you get into gaming and what's been your career so far?
"I started gaming in the late ‘70s when my tech-loving father got a PONG system for our TV. Then he bought a computer in 1982, a used Atari 800. I was connecting to BBS systems and downloading and uploading games (at 300Bd!) when I was 10 years old. We upgraded to an IBM clone in ’86 or ’87, and I’ve been upgrading every few years ever since.
My career started at New World Computing in 1995 as a QA tester. In very short order I became a Technical Writer, then a Designer, and then a Producer. For Heroes I and II, I was the QA Lead, contributed heavily to both strategy guides, wrote the Heroes II manual, and did map building and other design work. I became more full-time design for Might and Magic VI and VII, and then shifted into more of a Producer role for the later Heroes and Might and Magic games.
After New World, things have been a blur. I worked at NCSoft for a bit on an MMO game that never released. Then I was part of the team that founded Trion Worlds and worked on (what became) Rift. After that I went to Electronic Arts to bring Command and Conquer to the online world. When that was cancelled, I pushed JVC to start VCME."
2. What's your current job? Please outline what your work entails.
"I’m the Executive Producer for Creature Quest. As exotic as that title sounds, in reality I coordinate all the aspects of the game to try and keep things flowing as smoothly as possible. Beyond just art, design, and programming you have to factor in external groups (localization, first parties), create release schedules and the processes for hitting them, while also trying to develop the people working for you."
3. What's your favourite part of the job?
"Nothing beats creating something original and having it come to life—moving from paper design to implementation, going through numerous tweaks and revisions, and finally getting a full version finished that you can hand to a stranger.
And when that stranger gets their hands on it and become enthralled—that moment you realize what you dreamed up actually connects with people - that’s my favorite part."
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
"That’s impossible to answer! I wouldn’t see myself where I am today five years ago. Ideally, I’ll still be here working on who-knows-what awesome, new thing. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned, though, it’s that this industry is quite unpredictable."
5. What do you like to do in your free time?
"Primarily, I play games in my free time. I love RPG and Strategy games the most, though I dabble a bit in other categories (FPS and action). I prefer the PC to consoles, and I’ve been spending more and more time on mobile titles.
Outside of games I haven’t had that many other hobbies. I’ve started to learn how to golf so that I can enjoy an ‘outdoor’ activity without requiring an organized team. Recently, I’ve picked up reading books, primarily non-fiction, to gather up ideas and further develop my skills."
6. About Creature Quest: What devices does it play on?
"Creature Quest will be available on both iOS and Android devices through the App Store, Google Play, and Amazon.
7. How large is this world?
"We have over 20 different quests, each taking place in different regions of the world. It’s hard to compare world sizes, and we’re not close to done building out all the different areas yet."
8. How do you keep the balance, is there a (battle) formula?
"Fortunately for us, JVC’s pet passion is balance. He’s been very involved in making sure we have proper boundaries for the Creatures’ stats and abilities. Our ‘battle formula’ is actually derived from the original Heroes combat system."
9. What can you tell us about custom quest creation?
"At release, we aren’t supporting user-generated quests, though we have a lot of ideas for how to expand the guild/community features of the game."
10. Are there also Dungeons and Utopias?
"Not in the specific sense of the Heroes games. The quest maps have specific objectives, but they also have locations gating treasure and quest completion bonuses. The spirit is similar, but the specifics are different."
11. What's your target audience?
"Our primary audience are mobile gamers, and people moving into mobile games, that want games with depth and strategy. Obviously, we want to appeal to fans of JVC’s work (Heroes and Might and Magic), and in a broader sense not restrict our audience. One of the tentpoles that New World Computing had was to create games that could appeal to wide audiences - ages 8 to 80 and both genders - and we’ve tried to accomplish the same with Creature Quest.
12. How is money generated - in-app purchases?
"How to monetize a game is a question based entirely on the distribution platform for that game. Console games and traditional PC games were/are box purchase, primarily because there was no other way to easily distribute them. Modern console games have leveraged DLC more aggressively because they are now connected devices. Modern PC games (built solely for PC) are moving more and more towards free to play. Mobile games have tried both methods, and free to play has won handily. Having the widest possible audience is the smartest approach, and giving that audience the ability to enjoy the game before asking them to spend makes their purchase more considered and valuable.
Given that, our goal in crafting the game was to make sure we were consistent with certain principles: 1) that monetization does not gate progress, and 2) that the game is not filled with annoying ads. We play plenty of mobile games and know how irritating ‘pushy’ monetization can be. Our goal is that players choose to spend because they want more right now, as opposed to feeling like they have to spend to simply progress.
It is possible to play, and progress, without spending any money at all. Spending is like adding nitrous oxide to your car - it doesn’t make the car move, it makes the car go faster once it’s moving."
13. What does Creature Quest have in common with the games in the Might & Magic franchise?
"Creature Quest isn’t really a port of a Might and Magic game - it’s inspired by Might and Magic. There’s a map to explore with random encounters, humor, and combats like in Heroes. Those combats are presented and fought in manner similar to Might and Magic and there’s a wide range of Creatures to encounter and collect similar to both Heroes and Might and Magic. Creature Quest is an RPG game with some strategic elements, as opposed to a strategy game with RPG elements (like Heroes)."
14. How is working on a mobile game different from the PC games?
"For us, it’s been like turning the clock back. Our team is fewer than 20 people, which doesn’t happen much anymore in AAA console/PC development. Outside of that, it’s the interactions that are the most different - the display is much smaller than a monitor and the input mechanisms are significantly more limited - so creating UI and control schemes are pretty different than a PC game.
In addition, the monetization of modern mobile games (F2P), and the design around that, is very different from stand-alone PC development. Our goal here is to make spending in the game something you do to enhance or speed up your playing, without gating enjoyment of the game based on spending."
That's it - big thanks to Bryan for taking the time and we hope to hear more from him in the future.
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- by Pol
Welcome. Hope each of you is doing well.
Until next time.
Fanstratics Game Director & Designer
Fanstratics Troop: Clockwork Gremlin
This month’s Troop took a mildly interesting road from idea to concept art.
For story, lore, and world reasons, I wanted at least one clockwork Troop. Stoutbluds were the logical Faction, but there are only so many Troop slots. Initially, I cut the Gremlin and replaced it with a Clockwork Warrior.
About a week later, I was looking over the roster, and... well... I was missing the Gremlin. They are cheesy, endearing, surprisingly fun, and great for trolling an Enemy Player. I thought about it and eventually asked myself, “Why not merge the two?” Thus... the Clockwork Gremlin.
On the art side of things, this was one of those instances where I gave Justin a good amount of background detail to digest. Upon seeing the initial thumbnails, I quickly realized I was getting in his way, and told him, “Don’t worry about the lore. You know what I’m after. Just make something cool. I’ll make adjustments on my end if necessary.”
Ultimately, I think it turned out rather well. ;-)
Fanstratics Faction #7: Infernals
Residing in Volcanic lands with persistent lava flows, this Demonic faction exists only to slake its unquenchable thirst for fire. Burn the world... scorch it all... until the self is destroyed... and the thirst no more. To ask ‘why’ shows an absence of understanding.
Most will immediately recognize this Faction’s similarity to HoMM3’s ‘Inferno’. Representing the Infernals is the Bile Worm, which can be viewed in the Fanstratics Gallery.
Fanstratics Feature: Player Determined Weekly Events
HoMM3’s Weekly and Monthly Astrological Events were... oddly enough... one of its more iconic elements. For Fanstratics, I’m expanding this specific mechanic.
It is no longer a passive event. Instead, on Day 1 of each Week, one Player is randomly selected. This Player is then given the option to choose one of two random ‘Decrees’, with a third ‘Gamble’ option. A Decree can affect Town Construction, Merchants, Resources, Troop Recruits, etc. If a Player chooses the Gamble option, there is chance to enact both presented Decrees... or neither.
Question: “I also wanted to say some things about the Forge. I don’t know about the rest, but I think it’s a good idea to diversify the fantasy world with mechanical factions, and to be honest, it’s sad for me what happened to the Forge in HOMM3, I personally think it was a good idea, at least with regard to the faction itself, so I join the number of those who are waiting for the Forge (or something similar to it).”
I understand your sentiments. I too was disappointed with the Forge’s cancelation, but I also understand the opinions generated by the opposition. Rudimentary clockwork technology has a place in the Fanstratics universe, so a clockwork faction isn’t out of the question, but we first need to publish the initial game.
HoMM3 Recollection: Dave Botan
When it came to finding and leading the Map Makers for HoMM3, Christian Vanover was the logical first choice as he made maps for HoMM2: Succession Wars. He couldn’t do it alone, and suggested someone he knew in Quality Assurance (QA / Test / Game Testing).
When Christian appeared in the doorway to my office, he had with him... Dave Botan. Dave stood there, sheepishly, with both his hands in his front jeans pockets.
Chris, “Dave, this is Greg. Greg, this is Dave.”
Dave pulled one hand out of his front pocket, and shyly waved with a deadpan, “Hello.”
I nodded, “Hey.”
My first impression? Dave was awkward, self-conscious, and a touch grumpy. I liked him.
Chris, “I want Dave to help me with the maps on Heroes.”
I could have conducted in person interviews for potential map makers, but Christian’s recommendation was more than enough. He had been at New World Computing (NWC) far longer than myself, and knew who he could rely upon. So, Dave was assigned to making Campaign Maps and Single Player Scenarios for HoMM3.
My initial interactions with Dave were very limited. At the time, 3DO was growing NWC’s headcount, and we didn’t have any extra office space. Despite no longer being a Game Tester, Dave had to stay in the communal QA room.
With computer desks butted up against one another, the QA room was the largest ‘office’ in NWC. There were no dividers... no privacy. Off in the corner, Dave sat at his desk, doing his best to focus on making good maps for Heroes3. I have no doubt it added to his grumpiness.
Eventually, NWC expanded its office space. Dave, along with Jennifer, Ryan, Walter, Marcus, and Michael, finally got a cubical. It wasn’t as good as an office, but far better than a desk in an open room.
After the expansion, when walking about the office, I would frequently catch Dave standing up within his cubical. He would look my way. I’d scowl at him. He’d scowl back. We’d both smirk, snicker, and continue about our business. This was effectively my relationship with Dave... playful provocation. Perhaps the pinnacle of this dynamic occurred when Dave accidentally embarrassed me in front of Jon Van Caneghem (JVC)... remotely. What do I mean by ‘remotely’? Let me explain.
One day, David Mullich poked his head into my office, “Could you set up Heroes on JVC’s machine. He wants to play the current build.”
Me, “Just tell him to use the Network Tool.”
David, slightly hesitant, realizing he could have just told JVC to use the Network Tool, “I told him you would do it.”
I rolled my eyes and pushed back from my desk, “Is he there now?”
David, “I think so, I just spoke to him on the phone couple a minutes ago.”
We were far enough along in development to play the game and get a sense of how things were going. There was still a lot to finalize, but almost all of the first draft artwork was in, and you could play a number of maps, win, lose, etc.
JVC was alone in his office, at his desk, when I stepped inside, “Just use the Network Tool.”
JVC, “What directory?”
I thought for a second, “I know how to get there, but I forgot the drive letter.”
JVC pushed back from his desk. I stepped behind Jon’s desk and grabbed his computer’s mouse. He already had the Network Tool up and running.
What was the ‘Network Tool’? It was a simple, custom, in-house desktop application. NWC used it to selectively copy the contents from a network folder, to a different folder on your local computer. It would compare files between the two folders, and copy over anything with a more recent date. Once you had it set up, it was essentially fire-and-forget, so it was easy to misremember how you’d set it up. Using the Network Tool, I navigated to the Heroes3 build and started the transfer.
As I left JVC’s office, I told him, “It should take about 10-15 mins to copy everything.”
I returned to my office, sat down, and got back to work. After about 20 minutes my phone rang.
I pressed the speaker button, “Yes?”
It was JVC, sounding playfully peeved, “Would you come here.”
Me, “Build not working?”
JVC, “Just come here.”
When I returned to JVC’s office, he was waiting for me, “I just played a map and got killed on Day 10.”
My heart sank. Great. There could be any number of reasons why this occurred: Map, Ai, wrong data, etc. It was embarrassing.
I asked, “What happened?”
JVC, “I don’t know. I was exploring the map. Building up my town. Then on Day 10, this Hero shows up, mows down the monster at the choke point, then marches right to my town and kills me.”
“Was your town defended?”
“It was Day 10 on Normal difficulty.”
“Okay-okay. Can you load the autosave?”
Looking over Jon’s shoulder, I watched him load the saved game.
Me, “Press Tab and type ‘nwcgeneraldirection’.”
Jon pressed Tab, hesitated, “Type in what?”
“N W C general direction. All one word.”
The Shroud disappeared from the map, showing the Enemy Hero ready to pounce.
Me, “Right click the Enemy Hero.”
Jon right clicked the Enemy Hero, displaying its Army... fully loaded... including Tier 7 Behemoths... on Day 10. Jon looked back at me, squinting, suspicious.
I immediately stammered out an excuse, “He shouldn’t have that many creatures. Especially Behemoths.”
JVC, “No kidding.”
As I mentioned, there could be any number of reasons for this aberrant behavior, but the easiest first check is the map.
Fingers crossed, hoping, I said, “Open the Map Editor. It might be a bug. Maybe someone accidentally set to the town to fully built.”
Jon opened the Map Editor, and loaded the map he was playing (I don’t remember its name).
JVC navigated to the Enemy Town, double clicked, and displayed the Town Properties. Everything normal.
Me, “Huh? Check the Hero.”
JVC closed the Town Propertied window, double clicked the Enemy Hero, and navigated to the Creature Tab. Full army... including Behemoths... on Day 1. For the second time in less than five minutes, Jon looked back at me, squinting, suspicious.
For the second time in less than five minutes, I stammered out another excuse, “That’s not my fault.”
Jon started chuckling. I reached for Jon’s office phone, picked up the receiver, and dialed Christian Vanover.
Me, “Hey. It’s Greg. I’m in Jon’s office. Did you make [insert forgotten map name here]?”
Over the phone, I could hear the clicking of Chris’s computer mouse “No, but I can tell you who did. One moment. Uh... Dave (Botan).”
Chris, beginning to suspect something was amiss, began to laugh, “Something wrong?”
Me, hanging up the phone, “I’ll explain later.”
I looked at JVC, “I’ll take care of it. Try another map. Let me know if you get trampled again.”
JVC chuckled, “Okay.”
JVC’s office wasn’t too far from the QA room.
Walking through the office of QA Lead Walter Johnson, I said “Hey, Walt.”
Walt replied, “Hey, Greg.”
Immediately inside the QA Room, in his corner, sat Dave Botan, at his desk, working away on a Heroes3 map. Dave looked up at me.
While the QA room was large, it was small enough for you to hear almost any conversation, provided you weren’t whispering. Well... I wasn’t in any mood to whisper. Mind you, I wasn’t yelling, but my voice was elevated, as Dave had just unintentionally embarrassed me... remotely... in front of JVC. You could say I was... miffed. I knew the map could be easily fixed, but I didn’t want Dave to forget this moment. If he didn’t remember, he might make another map with same issue.
Me, “So... today JVC decided he wanted to play Heroes. I set him up with the game. He loads up a map. Starts playing. On Day 10... an Enemy Hero shows and [censored] him in the [censored].”
My description of the event caused Dave to stifle a laugh. By this time, my volume, my tone, and my energy, had captured the amused attention of the QA testers.
Me, “The map’s name is [insert forgotten map name here].”
Immediately, Dave knew it was his map.
Me, “Well, Jon just read me the riot act (not really). Now I’m here reading you the riot act (not really).”
Dave attempted to defend himself, “That map’s supposed to be that way. It’s supposed to hard at the beginning.”
Me, countering, “The Enemy Hero had Behemoths on Day 1.”
Dave, “Okay. Well. Maybe that was too much.”
Me, “The goal is the make the game fun for the player, not [censored] them in the [censored].”
Dave stifled another laugh and shrugged, “What do you want me to do?”
Me, “You know what to do. You can hassle the player, without running them over. Make it easier.”
Dave, in reluctant agreement, “Alright.”
When I was composing last month’s Newsletter, I briefly exchanged emails with Phelan Sykes (HoMM3 Lead Artist). I was surprised, when she told me, earlier this year, Dave Botan had passed away. I liked Dave, and while I lost track of him, it saddens me to know he isn’t somewhere, making someone’s day more interesting.
Rest in peace, Dave.
Behemoth Cave Interview
Questions 3-4c, of 18
This interview was conducted by Behemoth Cave (Webpage & Facebook) and originally published on November 10th, 2020. It’s another relatively long interview, comprised of 33 questions in 18 parts. I’ll be posting around 5 questions per Newsletter, until we reach the end, after which we will roll into another interview. Below are questions 5a to 6b, of 18.
5a. Let’s talk about balance. What methods did you use to make decisions about creature statistics, AI value, faction balance and schools of magic? Was every single value chosen on a whim and then verified or rather were there more complicated mathematical calculations involved?
Balance was determined using a process of opinion and verification, via abstract simulation. JVC and I hashed out the statistics for the various troops, based on our personal opinion of which was more or less powerful, in relation to one another.
Using these preliminary numbers, I put each Troop through a Battle Simulator I constructed in Microsoft Excel. This Battle Simulator produced a relative number, which I then used to verify our assumptions. If something appeared to be out of whack... an adjustment was made.
Using these base ai values, Gus Smedstad further modified the numbers, to account for special abilities, creating adjusted ai values, which were again verified using the Battle Simulator. If something appeared to be out of whack... an adjustment was made.
Faction balance was less complicated. I did an analysis of Troop Power versus costs over time. If something appeared to be out of whack... an adjustment was made
Spells and spell schools were largely opinion.
5b. Were you aware of earth magic or logistics supremacy, or how useless eagle eye or learning are?
Keep in mind, at the time, HoMM3 was considered, first and foremost, a single player game. If a skill or spell proved to be overpowered, it wasn’t a big concern, because the overwhelming number of games were human versus ai. If we had known, twenty years later, HoMM3 would be a competitive multiplayer game, we would have given ‘balance’ extra attention.
This being said, at the time, we did not know Earth Magic or Logistics would be considered overpowered.
Learning could have used a buff, but we were worried about it becoming a ‘required skill’, so we errored on the side of ‘underpowered’.
Eagle Eye was a hold over from HoMM2, and within NWC it wasn’t considered ‘useless’. Regardless, in hindsight, it could have been cut.
5c. Were there dedicated testers and balance designers in the dev team of Heroes III?
Short answer... no. Please keep in mind, at the time, network play was a relatively new thing, and the thought of competitive HoMM3 was inconceivable. Also, dedicated balance designers and testers didn’t really become a thing until Starcraft became an esport in South Korea. Today, it is standard practice for any pure multiplayer game.
6a. How did you react when you realized that after 20 years Heroes have a huge fanbase (which still grows) in the central-eastern Europe (especially in Poland and Russia) and Asia?
In the USA, immediately after its release in 1999, HoMM3 stayed at #3 on the sales charts, for 3 weeks, before declining. HoMM3 was respected, but never showcased. At the time, it felt like a cult hit, not a commercial success.
Around 2016, to my genuine surprise, I saw thousands of people regularly playing HoMM3 on Twitch.tv. After speaking with David Mullich, and doing a little digging, all of the hints I had seen over the years... suddenly made sense.
Whenever I mentioned HoMM3, to my surprise, most people knew of the game:
- HoMM3 SoD?
- HoMM3 Chronicles (x3)?
- HoMM3 WoG?
- HoMM3 VCMI?
- HoMM3 HotA?
- HoMM3 HD?
- Thousands of user made maps?
- Persistent GOG.com bestseller?
In the 3DO bankruptcy, when Ubisoft bought the Might & Magic intellectual property, I thought they were going after the RPG and the TBS games for their long history and built in fan base. In truth, they were specifically after HoMM. Ubisoft distributed HoMM3 outside of North America, and it sold millions of copies across Europe, Russia, and Asia.
I was stunned. I had really had no idea.
6b. Do you have any idea what could be the reason behind the popularity in those regions?
I’ve chatted with David Mullich about this, and thought about it at length. In my opinion, it is a unique combination of elements.
1. Easily accessible genre
Fantasy is a universal genre. Around the world, most people understand the concepts of knights, wizards, and dragons. It doesn’t hurt this genre was also birthed in Europe.
HoMM3 is a beautiful game, and continues to hold its own after all these years. Phelan Sykes, Scott White, Adam McCarthy, George Almond, and David Mullich, don’t get anywhere near enough credit for what they pulled out of the New World Computing art staff.
3. Exceptional Value
There’s plenty to see, experience, discover, and play within HoMM3. It’s unusual for a game to be both deep and wide. This creates an exceptionally large amount of gameplay for your money. With all the expansions, mods, user made maps, and the random map generator, you can literally play the game for 100’s if not 1000’s of hours.
While HoMM3 isn’t the easiest game to get into, you don’t need to be a guru to enjoy it. Also, being turn based, there is no pressure to immediately engage the game, and you can explore it at your leisure.
5. System Requirements
You don’t need to be a member of the PCMR to play the game. Any office computer or laptop should suffice, and this makes almost anyone with a computer, a potential fan.
Most game developers don’t like talking about this, but at some point in their lifespan, all of PC’s biggest franchises were heavily pirated. This effectively got the game into the hands of people who wouldn’t pay-to-play the game. This ‘unofficial’ demo uncovered a lot of fans who didn’t know they were fans, and hopefully purchased a legitimate copy, at a later date.
Greg's FANSTRATICS (FST) News web, with all newsletters and gallery: https://www.fanstratics.com
Fanstratics Newsletter #01 (September 2020)
Fanstratics Newsletter #02 (October 2020)
Fanstratics Newsletter #03 (November 2020)
Fanstratics Newsletter #04 (December 2021)
Fanstratics Newsletter #05 (January 2021)
Fanstratics Newsletter #06 (February 2021)
Fanstratics Newsletter #07 (March 2021)
Fanstratics Newsletter #08 (April 2021)
Fanstratics Newsletter #09 (May 2021)
Fanstratics Newsletter #10 (June 2021)
- by Kalah
Rob King is a name that will be familiar to fans of the Might & Magic franchise. Responsible for much of the music of previous games, his work serves to add that certain level of class needed to lift the gaming experience. It's been a while since we had our own talk with him - you can read that interview here. For now, though, let's catch up with this guy and see what he's doing:
1. First a quick bio for those who may be unfamiliar with the name Rob King: what's your story? How did you get into gaming and what's been your career so far?
"I got into gaming in the late 70’s with Pong! Then was addicted to my Atari 2600 all through the early 80’s. I had every console made through the 2000’s! Even the Magnavox Odyssey, Colecovision, Vectrex, Atari 5200 in the 80’s. My career has been working on Games, Music and Film projects since the early 90’s."
2. What's your current job? Please outline what your work entails.
"My current job is working on different projects as I have done for years. I usually bounce between music, dialoue and sound design. Just finished a lot of VO production on Ghost Recon: Wildlands coming out March 1st. Just did a score for a really cool Augmented reality project coming out this year some time and of course we are wrapping up this cool mobile game that we have all worked really hard on this year – Creature Quest! The soundtrack will be available when the game drops."
3. How is making music for mobile devices different from your previous work? How is it different from the PC games?
"Absolutely no difference except for a little more memory limitations; the technical challenges. Although I think you need to make something fun that you can get in an out of quickly or be able to play at great lengths. I think people like to play between life’s tasks quite a bit. I know I do. You can be at a car wash waiting for your car and just wanna play a quick 10 min of something. You can do that with Creature Quest if you want to or you could be pretending to watch TV and be engrossed in the game for hours."
4. Do you personally play such games?
"Oh yeah, I play mobile games all the time. I am actually addicted to Hearthstone in a bad way.. I have been playing our Creature Quest build for over 2 years and I still enjoy it! Kinda crazy really as I rarely even play games I work on."
5. What's your favourite part of the job?
"Working on a team with other humans… I spend way too much time by myself in the recording studio so whenever I can work with others it’s a pleasure."
6. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
"I have no idea. Five years ago I wouldn’t have known where I’d be today. Hopefully I will be able to continue to do creative work in some capacity."
7. What do you like to do in your free time?
"I love art, I go to a lot of gallery shows. I like writing pop songs and consuming good wine. Spending time with my daughter is also very important to me."
8. How did you enjoy your collaboration with Ubisoft?
"It was great. They always gave us creative freedom. The producer on the last HOMM games Julien was also a super nice guy."
9. How many tracks have you composed for HoMM in total?
"Oh god…I have no idea. I’d have to say somewhere between 200-300 over 21 years."
10. Can all the tracks from the H7 Tbf expansion be heard somewhere on the web?
"I have no idea, but they are sitting on my hard drive.
11. What does Creature Quest have in common with the games in the Might & Magic franchise?
"Obviously the sound. Personally the score to this game is one of our best. I love exploring unique instruments and blending them with the orchestra. We did a lot of this back on the Heroes III soundtrack and this score feels similar. It is a pretty mellow score over all but has our signature sound. Paul Romero and I worked on and off for over 2 ½ years on the music score. We didn’t really have any set schedule so we got to take our time working on it which is always the best way to work. I think the character and creature design has an M&M feel and our art director Heather Poon is an absolute talent. Another thing in this game is the adventure maps. They have mini story lines and the way you explore has a familiar feel to HOMM even though it is completely different. When you start to play this game for a good 30 min and understand your way around the game play, it starts to give you that “Just one more turn” feeling.
That's it - big thanks to Rob for taking the time and we hope to hear more from him in the future.
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- by Pol
Lo and behold, work on "Ultimate Mod for Heroes IV" begun. Nothing is confirmed and set in stone at this stage. You can watch or talk to him at HC here.
What to expect in UM?
- Full HD and widescreen support: Incorporation of the HD Wrapper, with edited fullscreen remastered menues and altered, brilliant buttons.
- Contrast-enhanced, color-corrected: A darker, more moody Heroes IV experience, fully reconfigurable from the menues.
- Relive campaigns like never before: Remastered campaigns with better ambience, added secrets, enabled previously unfinished events, story and features.
- Rediscover creatures: Thanks to the creature plugin, all creatures have abilities overhauled, with up to four abilities each. Discover the blocking Nagas, reevaluate tier 1 creatures such as double-hacking dwarves, and ambush your enemies in the woods with Stealth elves!
- Completely stable: Reliance on modern DLL methods and not hex hacking of the executable permits much less crashes. Enjoy hours of uninterrupted gameplay and worry not about your actions!
- No false positives: Unlike Equilibris 3.55 hacks, this doesn't trigger antiviruses warnings. Play with the security of knowing nothing fishy is going on.
- Incorporated objects: All map objects in the pack and both Equlibris versions have been added and are load-compatible. In addition, several completely new objects have been added just for this mod.
- Improved terrain: Fractal landscaping allows hybrid terrains for more lush and interesting sights, both in adventure and combat maps.
- Re-slotted Artifacts: Accumulate up to four tomes or scrolls in your Misc slots while you still hold Shields in your hand, upgrade your health to 200% with the Rigs of Health... but you can no longer obsolete Scouting by buying four spyglasses. After all, you can only look into one at a time ; ).
- Improved heroes: Now all hero classes come with a third skill! Use wisely the Diplomacy of Nobles, encourage the daily Summoning of your Druids, shine with the Leadership of Knights, or immediately raise hordes of undead with your actual Necromancers...
- New and Rebalanced Spells: Turned every cast-enabable pseudo-spell into a learnable spell. Rebalanced schools and gave more variety. Applied unused magic bonuses to corresponding ones. You think Banish is useless? Not any more! You can also now Freeze your opponents in Order, or obliterate your enemies with Nature lightning.
- Conserved lineups: No creature has been level-altered, town-switched, removed or substitued. Reuse the factions you know and love from default Heroes 4, with all the same levels, monsters, and classic choices; now revamped with all the new features.
Special thanks: Karmakeld, mirage, and radmutant for making object pack, Iliveinabox for his tool which helped mass-packing, RoseKavalier for creature ability plugin, verokster for HD wrapper.
-- Expected release date is around mid of 2021. --
What to say? It's nice when the community works together. This can become the best mod for Heroes IV, including many other mods and work incorporated in this one.
- by Angelspit
April Lee is a Graphic Artist at New World Computing. She worked on Heroes II, Heroes III and Armageddon's Blade, creating well-known graphics such as the H2 Mummy, the Manticore and the Gnoll. She tells us about the world of graphics and her work on Heroes IV.
Note: All pictures in this article are property of April Lee or 3DO. Reprinted with permission.
To learn more about April Lee and her work, please visit her Web site at www.aprillee.com
Angelspit: You have worked with various media before, such as CD-ROM games, Collectible Card Games, RPG Books, Magazines, and so on. What is your favorite one? Which one do you think is the most rewarding?
April Lee: Most of my work has been either in computer games or card games. I've got to say that my favorite is the card games. I like working in traditional mediums, and sometimes we are given a lot of artistic license to create people, creatures, places and objects that can really affect the look of the game.
In computer games, I tend to be assigned all kinds of different things and since it IS so collaborative, I try to match my style to the game, rather than try to affect the look of the game. This isn't quite as satisfying as the card games, especially since the artists aren't really credited that well. With the card games, my name is usually on every piece of work I do. With computer game art, the art may have been begun by another artist and finished or touched up by yet another, so it's hard to point to anything that's really mine.
That said, I do enjoy modeling and animating on the computer. It's very different than painting, and it's fun to contribute to a team effort.
Angelspit: What is a typical day of work for you? Since you are a freelancer, I guess you must work from home? Do you have a particular schedule?
April: Actually, I work full-time at New World Computing/3DO. And if you know anything about computer game companies, this means that 50 or 60 hour work weeks are not uncommon. Almost every single other hour, and most of my sleeping time, is consumed by my free-lance illustration work. Actually, I'm getting a bit tired of doing both--it does wear a normal person out. I've been doing it for 7 years straight, which is pretty hard-core.
Schedule is usually: into the office by 10am, out by 9 or 10, then eat and work until 2 or 3 am, weekdays. Weekends--catch up on sleep, work in afternoon and nights until 3 or 4 am.
I also go to conventions and sell artwork and prints--which can also be incredibly time-consuming.
Angelspit: How did you come to work with New World Computing? You said you knew someone there? Is it easy to get in touch with gaming companies?
April: I was hired at New World 5 years ago, for character animation on Heroes 2. Before that I was working for a small game developer called The Dreamers Guild (not to be confused with the big-time DreamWorks!). Several co-workers had left there to work for New World, who offered better pay, and they passed my name on to the art director. I had the exact skills they were looking for, so it was a natural transition.
The first game I ever worked on (at the Dreamers Guild) was "Inherit the Earth", which was published by New World. And I had also done free-lance, black and white illustrations (non-digital) for New World's manuals from 1989-95. So I actually had a rather long association with the company. It was also local to me, which didn't hurt.
Now, breaking into computer games with no experience is a bit harder. It wasn't too hard when I started in the early '90s, since the technology was still evolving and there were very few--almost NO-- places that actually taught the computer graphic skills. I was trained as an Illustrator in traditional media (at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena), and that alone helped get me in. But I also had been a fantasy artist, showing my art at Science Fiction conventions for years, so people at the Dreamers Guild knew me and I originally started doing concept sketches for them.
Since all companies at that time were critically short of computer artists, and the artwork in games was becoming increasingly involved and increasingly a large part of the game, they were practically begging me to work on the computer -- willing to train me and give me a computer at home to learn on, etc. Now that there are more schools that teach the programs, and the programs are more difficult to learn, it's probably harder to break in. Although an illustrator can almost still do it the way I did (starting with concept sketches)--as long as they know at least a bit of PhotoShop. I learned everything on the job, though, which isn't how it's being done these days.
Angelspit: You said 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, to know where your work starts and where it ends. Please describe how this process works. Also, which tools do you use?
April: I'm not very up on all the Game Design aspects--but it begins with the Designers and the Leads--in art and programming. The designers need to start a Design Document that covers the game play and all the elements. As soon as they have some idea of what assets and programming they will need, those leads will come in and figure out the time and resources (in artists and programmers), and the producer/lead designer will organize the writers and other departments, and interface with, perhaps, level or map design teams, testers, marketing, etc. Then things start going into production. In art, often there will be a concept sketch artist who will be communicating the look of the game, determined by the art director. Modelers and texture artists and 2d/interface artists will hopefully get their direction from the art director and the concept sketches. With Heroes 4, the art director was doing some concept sketches, as well as various artists. If I was assigned to do a building for the Adventure Map, say, a Library, I would get a sketch and I would model and texture the item based on that, and perhaps animate it, and submit it to the art director for approval, then it would get plugged into to the game by the asset-coordinator. The maps would be assembled by the map designers on Map Editors created by the programmers, etc.
Most game companies, New World included, use 3D Studio-Max and PhotoShop, primarily, along with other programs to do specialty things.
Angelspit: How do you manage to "enter" the Might and Magic universe, in other words, where do you get the information you need to create such a good-looking creature? Did Classic authors, mythology or the other Heroes games inspire you?
April: This is mostly left up to those doing the sketches. I've done some now and then. MM tends to be very "classic" fantasy/rpg--which means the images most people are familiar with--vaguely Northern European medieval-like society, with generic dwarves, halflings, elves, etc. We just use whatever visual inspiration we like to try not to make things mind-numbingly boring and repetitive. Hopefully, we are creative and interested enough to do this, at the same time, making sure we're not doing something TOO out there so that it doesn't fit into the general look of the game.
Angelspit: Are you a gamer yourself? If so, what are your favorite games, of any kind?
April: I started role-playing (AD&D, Runequest, C&S, Traveler) decades ago, but haven't had much time to do that lately. I can still think of playing paper rpg's since it's up to the GM to do all the work and planning and I can just join in a session for an afternoon or evening. I haven't had time to put into a computer rpg (I have NOT gotten through ANY MM game--or anything similar). And I can't keep up with the card games, either. I can do some lunchtime multi-player Unreal Tournament, now and then!
Angelspit: I just cannot resist: can you say a little something about Heroes 4? I know you must be under a NDA, but something like "there's a new creature, and it's brown and ugly!" would be fun!
April: Hmmm... I'm not up on the creatures. There are plenty of the Usual Suspects, however... I have friends who are Heroes fanatics and I am VERY frustrating for them, since I really don't read the design doc and can't tell them what's new, even if I wasn't under a non-disclosure act...
Angelspit: Thank you very much for your time April! We can't wait to see the results of your good work on Heroes IV. Best of luck in the future!
- by Pol
fheroes2 - release 0.9.3
With small steps I measure Earth but nothing can stop me. Could be a motto of fheroes2 team . This time they added easy hero and artifacts meeting screens, fixed many shadows. Marked liches area attack and added language support for Polish, French, German and Russian. Bug hunts marked additonal 80 down.
And finally we almost finished the support of "The Succession Wars" campaigns, including bonuses and special victory conditions.
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