- by Kalah
Julien "Marzhin" Pirou Q&A
April 10th, 2011.
CH: 1. Will the player have the opportunity to customize the game mechanics (e.g. activate/deactivate the area of control, enable/disable town conversion)?
Marzhin: "We're still working on the actual options that will be available to customize the game experience outside of the campaign. What is possible today is to create maps without Areas of Control in the editor. If there is no control point in an area, then mines work the same way they did in the previous Heroes. You can also block the ability to convert towns, so it's possible to create "old school" maps. The only things that won't work without Areas of Control are the neutral dwellings."
CH: 2. How did you decide which towns/units were going to make it into the game?
Marzhin: "That was decided pretty early during development (even before my arrival on the project). The game designers thought about what factions would be interesting and unique to play, and then they conceived the unit line-up according to the faction's gameplay."
CH: 3. Do you plan for a strategic mode view? Like "2D" view from above or lowly skewed angle in the battles and alternatives to "View Air&Earth" in the overall map?
Marzhin: "In H6 we brought back the "kingdom overview" screen, where you can see a larger, more detailed minimap. You have different layers that can be activated or deactivated if you want to only see the mines, towns, areas or quest locations, or all at once. It also summarizes the towns you own, your heroes, the creatures available for recruitment and the resources produced each turn.
As for the in-game view, you can zoom out more than in H5. It's not a 2D view, but you have a better sense of your surroundings."
CH: 4. Is it possible to do terrain "terramorphing"? I.e. that the ground can change to look like it actually belongs to the faction that owns the nearby castle; Inferno would change the ground to lava, Necro to cursed ground etc.?
Marzhin: "Currently the ground below the town changes to reflect the faction, but not the whole Area. On the other hand, the unique building of each faction can cause interesting effects on the Heroes travelling in the Area. So having an Inferno or Necro town in an Area does have an effect on the terrain – only it's a gameplay effect, not a visual one."
CH: 5. How was the decision making process concerning the number of male/female units?
Marzhin: "Once again, pretty early-on. Having more female units was a design choice done when the line-ups were being revised. Ashan is a world of equal opportunities after all."
CH: 6. Ubi mentioned they might release a preview of the new editor before the game. Have they decided on that?
Marzhin: "It's something we'd really like to do. However, there are a number of things that must be considered – most notably, the security of such a release (since to make maps you basically need all the assets of the game). We're still looking for the best solution."
CH: 7. Is there a chance simultaneous could return – if not in H6, then some day?
Marzhin: "I have no definitive answer on this right now, but clearly it would be a logical feature to add in a patch or add-on."
CH: 8. How will the difficulty system work – will the AI "cheat"?
Marzhin: "The H6 AI is still a work in progress, but obviously we'd like to have something better and "cleaner" that the one in H5. I can already tell you the AI turns are way faster this time around.
Also, in H6, the AI will cheat much less and less obviously than in H5. It doesn't cheat at all in Easy difficulty, and not too much in Normal either. In Hard, the AI will lose less troops and will receive some extra resources. That's all. But honestly: the AI always cheats in strategy games - I have yet to see a game where the AI doesn't cheat.
As far as difficulty is concerned, there are the classic difficulty levels, plus it's possible to customize the details (amounts of resources, strength of neutral stacks ...)."
CH: 9. What can you tell us about human-AI interaction, say, in an alliance ... can they communicate (like "attack now", "send me money", "explore here" etc.); will you be able to watch your AI allies moves?
Marzhin: "It's not possible to interact with the AI, but of course, you can send resources to allied AI players and see their movements."
CH: 10. How far along is the town screen, and will it be animated?
Marzhin: "We know there is a lot of confusion and worry in the community on this subject. Here is all I can tell you about the current town screens at this point:
- The town screen is actually a town window. It is designed to remain the same size whatever your screen resolution is, even if you use a 16:9 monitor.
- The town visuals will be animated and are what could be described as "2.5D".
- Each town has its own musical theme (as usual).
- The town visuals change when you build stuff (although in the current design, not all buildings appear).
- Building and recruiting is done through the window interface, rather than clicking on the buildings directly."
CH: On a less serious note ... You entered this business as a fan; what is your favourite PC game of all time?
Marzhin: "It's hard to pick only one ... I hesitate between Fallout and Dungeon Keeper. And there's also Heroes of Might & Magic II and Might & Magic VI, of course."
CH: How exactly did you get this job, and how did your mom react to the big news?
Marzhin: "Well as you know I've done the Legends of the Ancients campaign for H5 (hosted here on CH). Before that, I did countless maps for H2, H3, H4, WarCraft 2 and 3, StarCraft, Duke Nukem 3D, Unreal Tournament, even Freespace 2. Those were the days before Internet was widely available here in France, so my maps were mainly used by my friends in our local LAN club.
Back to LotA, someone (I don't know who) forwarded the link to the campaign to someone at Ubisoft, and a few days later I received an e-mail from Fabrice Cambounet who said he liked what I did and wanted to give it the "Seal of Approval". Later, Ubisoft needed someone to do the Dark Messiah map for the Complete Edition. Fabrice and Erwan contacted me. They were satisfied with my work on this map (done under a very tight deadline), so Erwan told me: "When we do Heroes VI, we may contact you again". And he did.
As for my parents, they are pretty zen about it. My father is a big fan of Heroes so he waits eagerly for Heroes VI. Funny thing considering he was the "playtester" of my very first H2 maps."
CH: You know how fans like to shorten names, like Ubisoft + Nival = "Ubival". How do you like the name "Ubihole"?
Marzhin: "I think it's a name that has depth."
CH: Which is the better Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter or Adrianne Palicki?
Marzhin: "The best Wonder Woman is, without a doubt, the one Adam Hughes draws (but his Catwoman is even better)."
CH: Was it a mistake not to get del Toro to direct "The Hobbit"?
Marzhin: "I think Del Toro's Hobbit was going to be something very special, and it's unfortunate he left the project. But I'm confident his next films will be amazing anyway (too bad Universal canned "At the Mountains of Madness"). I really love his movies. I think he's one of the most creative filmmakers out there, one of the few who managed to cross the gap between great entertainment and artistic vision.
Actually, I was lucky enough to exchange a couple of e-mails with Guillermo a few years ago (when he was less busy), and then to meet him in person (albeit briefly). Not only is he incredibly talented, he's also a genuinely nice person."
CH: What is your favourite drink, your favourite sexy actress, and do you prefer fresh mozzarella on your pizza, or that rubbery stuff Pizza Hut use?
Marzhin: "I unfortunately drink way too much Coca-Cola Zero. I suspect I'm addicted to that stuff. And fresh mozzarella of course. Although I'm not sure what a "Pizza Hut" is – is it related to the place where strange hermits give you quests?
As for my favourite sexy actress, I'd say Zooey Deschanel."
CH: What do you like most about working on the "inside"? Don't tell me - there are wild parties, aren't there ...
Marzhin: "You know, the usual – sex, drugs and rock'n roll. Or so I'm told – nobody invites me to those parties. So I go to the Ubi association of Cthulhu worshippers instead. There's a ritual sacrifice every Thursday, and they have cookies."
CH: I'd also like to ask you for your shoe size, whether you like fresh or dried pasta, and whether you prefer the new or the original "Battlestar Galactica" – but I understand if you consider those questions to be too personal.
Marzhin: "44 (European standard). Fresh pasta (preferably Penne, with Carbonara sauce).
As for "Battlestar Galactica", the original had its charm, but I prefer the recent series, especially thanks to actors like Edward James Olmos or the great James Callis. Contrary to some, I thought the ending was satisfying and managed to wrap up the story decently. Not a mind-blowing finale, but it did the job. Of course there were some plot holes and stuff left unexplained, but I actually didn't mind. I think movies nowadays try to explain too much.
But anyway, who needs "Battlestar Galactica" when you can have "Doctor Who"? Steven Moffat is an amazing writer and I just love Matt Smith as the eleventh Doctor. He had big shoes to fill after David Tennant's departure, but he really created a unique, fun and likeable version of this iconic character."
CH: Semi-serious, then, to round off the interview: What's the future of Might and Magic, in the RPG area, future games ... where do you think we'll go from here?
Marzhin: "What I can tell you is that Might & Magic does not stop with Heroes VI. If I say more they'll send Ezio or Altaïr after me ... As for a new M&M RPG, there's not a single day that passes without me harassing ... I mean, politely advocating the need to make a new one.
A big thanks to Marzhin for taking the time to answer some of our questions. We are eagerly anticipating the upcoming release of Heroes VI, and you just know that having guys like Julien on the inside is going to be a good thing.
- by Pol
Dear CH Followers,
for Advent month we prepared for you one news for almost every day from Might & Magic world, to show you some repete of what happened in this year and perhaps what will shape its future.
Bringing to you the latest bug fixes, mods and ideas.
As you possibly all know, there's not planned any next Might & Magic game release in the close future from Ubisoft - but no worries, in Fan's World there are still dwelling crafty modders to breathe a new life into it.
In so far there is no game which would overcome the great shadow of M&M majestical adventures or strategies. Many tried but no one cut it with the same success. Yet.
Long Live the Queen!
- by Staff
A month ago, we submitted a list of questions for the Ubisoft representative responsible for communication on Might & Magic, Irina Kassina. Since then, a few things have happened, but there is still a need to get something cleared up. So, without further ado, here is our Q&A with the M&M production team:
Might & Magic Community Developer Irina Kassina
There has been near-total silence on the game from producers and developers alike for the past five or six months, a mysterious and worrying phenomenon unprecedented of post-launch periods in the Heroes series. This has caused the Community of fans, who consider the game to be a failure, to become absolutely furious and now something even worse has happened: they have given up. Most of the forums are in fact quiet because the fans have abandoned the game. Also, hardly any fan made maps are being produced, unlike the situation after the release of Heroes V.
Taking even a cursory glance at the rage evident at the game's official forums, we observe a considerable disconnect between the game's developers and its customers. Very few posts are made by the producers and/or the Community Developer, nor can we trace any activity worth mentioning on the fan sites. This is very different from the situation of Heroes V, during the production of which the producers frequently volunteered their opinions. We therefore feel that harsh criticism is warranted and well deserved, and that the Community has need for answers to the following questions:
CH: 1. What is your reaction to the knowledge that most of the fans have already abandoned the game and will you do anything to rectify this situation?
Answer: "The opinion of the members of the various communities is very important to us, but they represent only a part of the whole of Heroes players. We gathered a lot of feedback on the game after the release on the forums, websites, the Facebook page and also through the post-launch survey that was answered by more than 20.000 players. One thing that really comes across is the fact that not everyone plays Heroes the same way or for the same reasons. A vast majority of players completed the single player campaign, played some skirmish maps and moved on to other games, just as they did on the previous instalments of the series.
That being said, we agree that the post-launch support for Heroes VI has been disappointing so far. We had to look for a new developer to take over the patching duties, and that made things more complicated (and slower) than expected. But this period of uncertainty is now over and we are back in the saddle, working to improve things.
In any case, we consider Heroes VI to be our baby. Sure, it was born with flaws, but we'll use any opportunity to make sure he eventually turns into a fine, healthy young game."
CH: 2. As the current M&M Community Developer, can you tell us the reason for the lack of Community activity from the producers and yourself? What is the cause of this silence and will it be improved upon?
Answer: "Over the last 6 months Community activity was not as high as we'd like to see it. While we've organized some events after the launch of the game, shared with the Community some interesting news, communicated about patches, our planning, a few Q&As have been made by the team and so on, I would agree with you that Community experience could be still more exciting. For instance we'd like to see more maps created by the Community and it is something we are currently working on (Map Editor will be improved along with the patches' releases). It is only one part of our plans, more will be revealed pretty soon.
It is important to notice as well that communication channels change all the time, but our engagement to take into account fans' feedback remains the same. The forum VIP was created exactly for this purpose and it is of a great value for us as opinions explained there are really representative of what the whole Community would think about different matters.
There is a team dedicated to the Community as well (Community managers, forum managers, moderators, customer support and Community developers) which is striving to create a solid link between players and developers. As I'm working with the production team, it is easy for me to get the information you are looking for (when there is an answer ready to be revealed of course). So, feel free to challenge me about anything related to Might & Magic.
The M&M production team is always eager to know what's your opinion about different stuff and to give you a better insight into what's going on in here, we are working on devs' diaries, Q&As (like this one), gameplay videos. Basically all of this is done in order to keep in touch with you."
CH: 3. You have made several design decisions intended to streamline the game and attract a wider audience, but despite Community managers trying hard to maintain activity, we see no evidence of such an audience. In light of that, can you tell us in general terms how well the game has sold? Has it exceeded your expectations, done "OK" so far or proven a flop?
Answer: "Despite a changing PC market, Heroes VI performed well, and even exceeded our expectations in some areas. Without delving into specific figures, it was the strongest launch of any Heroes or Might & Magic game, but has not yet reached our original expectations."
CH: 4. According to the Amplitude Studios website and apparently-former H5 and H6 writer Jeff Spock's Twitter comments, several fairly notable members of Ubisoft's production team left the company midway through Heroes VI's development to start up their own independent studio. What was the reason for their departure? Do you think it has harmed Heroes VI?
Answer: "Production on Heroes VI spanned 4 years and in such a long period there will always be some turnover and internal changes. That doesn't mean these seats remained empty – Ubisoft being a big company, one person leaving does not have the same impact as it would have in a small development studio. It's always sad to see talented and energetic people leave, but sometimes in life you meet opportunities (in that case, creating your own company) you just have to pursue.
In any case we wish them the best and their project looks very exciting. As for Jeff, he's an independent writer, so while he's indeed not the lead writer on Might & Magic anymore, he's still working with us on some unannounced projects."
CH: 5. Given the previous question, we are wondering what it is like to work with a Might and Magic brand under Ubisoft. What are the guidelines dev teams are instructed to adhere to and how free are they to follow their own ideas and communicate them to the world?
Answer: "As you know, the Might & Magic IP spreads to several games, which can be developed by different companies. That’s Nival on Heroes V, Arkane on Dark Messiah, Capybara on Clash of Heroes, Black Hole and now Limbic on Heroes VI, etc. All these games were developed in close partnership with Ubisoft producers and experts who work within the (appropriately called) Ubisoft Partners studio.
We soon realized we had to really give a "framework" to the studios and precise guidelines about the world of Ashan and its denizens, and validate the designs they create. This approval mainly touches upon art direction, but game design as well. For instance, a Vampire creature shouldn't attack with Fireballs, even if a game designer suddenly feels this would be awesome. That being said, we're always open to new ideas brought by developers as long as they are consistent with the IP. And while we have documents describing what the "high-level" game design of this or that Faction should be, they are just guidelines and we've always welcomed discussion with the developers if they are against a feature or want to bring something new to the table. And they are free to discuss these ideas with the Communities if they wish to do so, as long as it doesn't clash with the established PR plan."
CH: 6. There were a lot of rumours about Black Hole before you announced their substitution with Limbic Entertainment. Now, it seems to spread to other media. We wish to give you a chance to comment, but mostly we want your assurance that you will continue to improve the game: what are the plans for future support for Heroes VI?
Answer: "We cannot make any official comment about Black Hole. What is important is the fact the patching plan is underway with Limbic, and we haven't forgotten the promised towns creens as well, which will of course be released in a free patch. We have plans beyond that but it's too early to give the specifics."
CH: 7. The fan sites have a fairly general consensus as to what can be done to salvage Heroes VI. What do you think are the most important new/changed features needed for the game to evolve and survive?
Answer: "From what we've read, there are actually a lot of different opinions as to what could improve Heroes VI, so it's far from a "general consensus".
On the low-level changes, our plan is firstly to work on balance itself: make the abilities more relevant, reduce the power of Healing/resurrection spells, make the Core units more vulnerable, increase the damage of the spells. This should be seen in the future patches. In the long run, we also want to promote the differences between the Might and the Magic heroes, and between the Factions themselves. We know a revamp of the Skill System, Sim Turns and RMG are important features for the Community, so they are high on our "backlog" of features to add in the future."
CH: 8. The Map Editor is being worked on. That's good. But fans also want a Campaign Editor in order to make bigger and story-based sequence maps with carryover heroes/artifacts. Given that Heroes VI is based heavily on campaigns, is there any chance of ever getting a Campaign Editor released?
Answer: "We cannot promise anything but the Campaign Editor is one of the features we'd like to add to the editor somewhere along the road. You can bet Julien is bringing this subject back to the table at every meeting."
CH: 9. Given the mediocre success of Heroes V and the thoroughly unimpressive release and post-release stages of Heroes VI, the Community strongly questions Ubisoft’s commitment to the Heroes series – it looks like you want to move on to something else already. To what extent are you focused on Heroes VI and shepherding the game to a more satisfactory state?
Answer: "Heroes V has actually been the most successful Heroes game of all times in terms of sales, and proved to be a very popular game. It sold more than Heroes III for instance. Might & Magic is an important brand for Ubisoft, and we have no plan to abandon it. That includes Heroes VI and the Heroes series as a whole. H6 was meant to be the flagship of the Might & Magic brand for 2012 and beyond, and while it was not the game we dreamt it to be (not yet, anyway), it still paved the way for more Might & Magic in the very near future."
CH: 10. Do you have any plans, vague and unofficial or otherwise, for direct sequels to the Heroes series beyond Heroes VI, or other games in the M&M franchise? If so, roughly when do you intend to realize these plans (near future, distant future)?
Answer: "At the time you'll be reading this Q&A, we'll have launched the Beta for Duel of Champions, a card game in the Might & Magic universe developed by the teams at Ubisoft Quebec. While the Beta is for the moment only available in France, the game is already generating a lot of feedback and enthusiasm in many communities worldwide. And it's only one of the many projects we are working on, some big, some small, all bringing something new and exciting to Might & Magic. 2012 and 2013 are going to be busy years for us."
CH: 11. How would you evaluate your current relationship with the VIP fans? What would you say is their opinion of the game and your handling of its development? Do you think there is any point to communicating with the VIP fans or have they failed in their role?
Answer: "You have to remember that making a game is a collaborative effort between us, the development studio and the VIP fans. The VIP fans have been the representatives of the Communities and always acted as the voice of the rest of the fans. Now the constraints of game development meant we could not always implement their numerous feedbacks, much to our regret. In any case, we have no intent to close this forum and we'll continue to work with the VIPs as much as possible on the future projects of the Might & Magic brand."
Celestial Heavens would like to thank Irina and the rest of the team very much for their time.
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- by Kalah
In the capitalist craze that is "Black Friday" (now expanded to "black week" or even "black month" in some countries), the occasional deal does pop up that would make even us reclusive gamers reach for our wallets. Shopping online enables us to get our fix without ever leaving the comfort of our own chairs; no looking for parking or fighting over the last product on the shelf. We can have a look at some of them and, by all means, feel free to post links to other deals you might find out there.
GOG.com is a shop I heartily recommend, and on their sales page there are several gems you might be interested in. Firstly, if you haven't played "The Witcher" series yet, you have missed out on something. W3 is (in my opinion) the best RPG ever made. Take a look and buy them if you can; I also recommend getting the W3 expansions, especially "Blood and Wine". Another favourite is the enhanced editions of Baldur's Gate 1 & 2. At these prices, it's a complete no-brainer. Oh and if you're into older games, the "Quest for glory" series is really cool. Anyway, there are lots of gems on GOG.com, all DRM-free and playable on modern computers, of course, enabling you to go nuts and shop to your heart's content.
Steam also has many items on sale, including the FarCry series, the above-mentioned Witcher series, XCOM 1 and XCOM 2 (both of which I can recommend), Elder Scrolls V Skyrim, Civilization VI (currently selling at -70%), Borderlands 2 and much more besides.
Amazon.com have lots of PC/game stuff on sale, there's a good chance to pick up some equipment there if you're looking for something.
Of course there are many more shops out there, and many more deals, just keep in mind that you should not splurge for splurging's sake - shop for things you want or was going to get anyway ... Happy shopping, and don't ruin yourself. :)
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- by Znork & Kalah
Znork was one of the people who recently visited Paris for a fan day with the dev team. With him, he brought 10 questions asked frequently by the fans. Here are the answers - which will also be made into a video soon. I have translated the answers for your convenience - if you wish to read the Q&A in original Znorkish, visit the forum.
A video of the interview is available here.
Question 1: (by znork)
When are you going to understand that the "always online" feature is a sure way to piss off your customers?
We were trying to make more than an offline game - we would have liked the user to be online when they played the game but there were some shortcomings. We were working for the offline game to have classic play like Heroes of Might and Magic V and we wanted the Conflux to be a new Heroes experience online. The incentive would be that the online part would add more fun gameplay like ladder and achievements. The quality of the online server was not up to what we were hoping for, but we are working on making them better. We do want to keep the online part of the game and make it better - and as a part of this we are are fixing the online/offline save games so that the online experience will be better even when the server is down.
Question 2: (by znork)
Do you realize that the game's being poorly balanced and having lots of bugs, and your being slow to patch it after release, have made the fans even more angry?
Yes, we understand! There have been lots of problems with the game and there have been lots of problems with patching due to the transition from Black Hole to Limbic. We really understand that this angered the fans, but we still believe the game has potential. We are now starting to improve what needs to be improved in the game. We had some problems at the end of the production because of the budget, but in the end we released the game as good as we could with the resources we had. It's really good that we can release patch 1.5 with balancing, online-offline save compatibility and much much more.
We understand that fans were angry. We now have one person dedicated to balancing the game, reading the forums and just changing the numbers. He has also been working with the VIPs to improve the balance. There are lots of things we would like to improve; we have over 100 issues we would like address. We are not going to do them all, but we are really now working on doing as many of them as possible. We have improved the patching process and we now feel that this is going a lot smother. We are no longer in crunch mode, but are now looking at what important stuff can we do to improve the game.
Question 3: (by kingimp)
Do you not realize how badly you have turned off the majority of long-time Heroes fans by charging an exorbitant amount for this DLC when you haven't even proved you can properly fix this broken game first?
We really wanted to some support and patching before we released content people would have to pay for. Fixing the game is our number 1 priority. We believe the adventure pack is reasonably priced by how much gameplay the customers are getting and we have kept to the industry standard on the pricing. We believe you really get a lot form the adventure pack. The prices will of course drop as times goes.
Question 4: (by kingimp)
How about giving us this DLC for free as a sign of goodwill for releasing a product that in essence was no better than a Beta?
There are 15 people working on supporting and improving the game, and they need to get paid. But we believe the adventure pack is good and people should give it a chance. We would also add that patch 1.5 adds a multiplayer map from the adventure pack for free.
Question 5: (by kingimp)
Are there any plans of simplifying the map editor at all?
Yes, there are! When we were working on Heroes VI, there were a lot of things we would like to improve; the map editor was one of these, but since the end of development was as it was, we sadly did not have the time. One thing to know about the map editor is that it is a very powerful tool. The main issue is a huge gap between the hardcore map makers and the casual map makers. We are now trying to make the map editor more rewarding and pleasing to use. We are no really working on this, but it will still be a complex tool. This will be on the main topics we will be working on the next 3-4 months.
Question 6: (by Fyrestorme)
What was the primary motivator for making weapon artifacts tied directly into the dynasty system?
There were two obvious reasons for that: we wanted something that was powerful and part of the game. We also wanted something to be highly visual in the 3D models. That was why we also added dynasty pets for Heroes VI.
Question 7: (by Fyrestorme)
If you were to make another Heroes game in the future, what types of things did you learn from H6 that you would apply to it?
Try not to release an unfinished game! We could have long list, but we will try to get a more global answer. Area of control worked very well. The reputation system did not work so well. The skill sytem was not good enough and we would like to improve that. We are very concerned about the quality of the Conflux and want the service to be improved but not removed. The story part the game was not very good, but we believe the adventure pack will show how much we have improved the story telling. We are talking about resources, spell books and things like that and we are listening to what the Community is saying. We believe we lost something making the game too rational. And we would be having town screen right from the start!
Question 8: (by Gabryelxxx)
Are we ever going to get the free DLC with the Academy faction that Black Hole promised back during the beta?
We do remember this, and we know this is based on miscommunication. But there is a lot of things going to happen, and we have plans.
Question 9: (by broui)
Used to be that when we clicked on a destination point for our hero to travel, you'd know how many turns it would take to get there. Got plans to put that back in?
We've actually been asked this question twice. I'll have to take it back to the team, see what's possible and get back to you on this topic.
Question 10: (by broui)
Is Crag hack the only classic hero on tap for a return?
There is a lot of other heroes we would like to return to Ashan. But only time will tell. You'll have to buy the adventure pack.
To read Znork's early H6 preview, posted after the Budapest fan day in January, go here.
For more Q&As, see this page.
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- by HoP & Pol
Since we are such good guys we would like to invite all of you to take part in this Q and A. Gaming or music or music and gaming, as you wish! Whatever you ever wanted to know, write it down.
By the power of Zelas!
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- by Kalah
Julien "Marzhin" Pirou Q&A
August 27th, 2012.
Might & Magic: Heroes VI Lead Level Designer Julien Pirou
Julien Pirou, lead lever designer on Might and Magic: Heroes VI, known to us fellow fans as "Marzhin", answers questions about how it's been like to work on the game this past year.
CH: 1. Before we start properly, I've been meaning to ask you about your title – "Lead level designer". This isn’t just a fancy name for "map maker", is it ... what is it, exactly, that you do? What’s a normal day like for you?
Marzhin: "My job as Lead Level Designer is a bit similar to what an Art Director is for graphic designers. So I’m supervising a team of designers and working on the “high-level” conception of the maps, but not (much) taking part on the actual map making (except when extra hands are needed to survive crunch time ). I am also a sort of “interface” between the level designers and the writers.
So basically my job begins by meetings with the writing and creative team, discussing the kind of story they want to tell and how it could be translated into gameplay objectives. Once that’s done, I start briefings describing where the map takes place, the kind of geography, terrains, where the towns are, and outlining the main objectives of the map as discussed with the writers.
With this briefing document, the level designers can start working on the map itself. While they do, I’m starting to draft a document called the Sequentials, which is basically a table listing all the narrative events of the map, and where they are triggered. This first draft will then allow the level designers to put “placeholder” events in the map, and the writers to start working on the dialogs. The Sequential also includes a list of all quests.
Obviously there’s also some back-and-forth with the level designers, who will get back to me with suggestions to improve the flow of the map, ideas for secondary quests, etc. So I integrate these changes and additions to the rest of the documents.
When the maps start to be playable, I’ll also play them and give feedback and suggestions to improve them. After that, the map is pretty much in the hands of its level-designer(s), but I continue to play the new versions of the maps as they come out and give feedback if needed.
Aside from that “main job”, I also did some writing for Heroes VI (some artifact bios, a couple of signposts and lore texts), and I’m also involved in the reviewing process for all graphic assets."
CH: 2. It has been some time since we last talked, but since then, a lot has happened. This last year, what has been the high point for you?
Marzhin: "This last year has pretty much been a roller-coaster. I think the high point was being trusted with the writing of the Adventure Packs. Writing is something I enjoy as much as designing a map, so I was immensely happy when Erwan Le Breton offered me to write Crag Hack and Sandro’s return."
CH: 3. What has been the low point?
Marzhin: "No surprise there, I’d say the months that immediately followed the release of Heroes VI. As you probably remember, there were many issues to tackle. So the end of the year was pretty gloomy, and while we were determined to find a way to continue working on H6 no matter what, the future seemed uncertain at best. Fortunately the guys at Limbic rose up to the challenge."
CH: 4. The DLC has been worked on by a lot of people, but you were at the core, pouring your heart and soul into it; would it be fair to say it is your "baby"?
Marzhin: "In a way, the Adventure Pack was the culmination of my own campaign to bring some of the Ancient universe (as I call it) back into Might & Magic. I was already happy to have managed to bring back some familiar faces in H6, like Kilburn, Shiva, Maximus, etc.
So to have the opportunity to make a “legacy character” (as we nicknamed the characters showing up in several Might & Magic worlds/games) the centerpiece of its very own product, that was a blast. And as I said before, it was an honor to be able to actually write their adventures myself.
So yes, you could say it was my baby. However I wasn’t the only parent – the Limbic team gave an equal part of their hearts and souls to make this possible. Special kudos to Anselm, Karsten, Alexander and the rest of the team for their hard work."
CH: 5. So far, Ubi have been adamant in their decision to leave the old worlds behind and set up their own universe of Ashan. What was the motivation for returning to an old world?
Marzhin: "Ubisoft wants to keep Ashan as the main world for their Might & Magic games, but they weren’t automatically opposed to bringing back the Ancient worlds as bonus “legacy” maps. One of the reasons they didn’t do it earlier was that they didn’t want to do it wrong and attract the ire of the fans (which was one of the main reasons for creating Ashan in the first place).
The catalyst for bringing back VARN (and soon XEEN and Enroth) was the 25th Anniversary of Might & Magic. It was giving Ubisoft a good opportunity to pay tribute to the history of the brand."
CH: 6. So, you have taken us away from Ashan to revisit the old world of Varn. What's next?
Marzhin: "The next Adventure Pack, Danse Macabre, will be released in late September, and it includes a Legacy map set on the world of XEEN. World of Xeen is one of my favorite Might & Magic games (along with The Mandate of Heaven).
While the “Princess of VARN” was about imagining a possible future for VARN, the XEEN map (“A Tale of Two Guardians”) is an (almost) straight retelling of World of Xeen.
Basically after doing the VARN map, I wanted to do a map with Corak and Sheltem, who are to me the two most iconic characters of the early Might & Magic games. If you’re going to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the series, you have to include them. Also, XEEN felt like the natural choice for a Heroes map because its epic conflict translates easily into a "capture towns/defeat heroes" game mechanic, and the two-sided nature of the world is pretty cool (although it gave the level designers some headaches )
I preferred to tell the story of Corak and Sheltem rather than going into the future of XEEN since as you might remember after WoX it turns into something very different and I didn’t feel it was right to infringe into that unexplored territory.
There will also be a Gold edition of the game that includes H6 and both Adventure Packs, and a bonus legacy map that is a retelling of the Succession Wars of Enroth, opposing Roland to Archibald."
CH: 7. Fans were quick to spot the connection between the presence of Crag Hack’s helm in the game and his appearance in Pirates… There is a similar presence of an artefact set belonging to a "Great Lich". What can you tell us about this? (editorial note: these questions were submitted the day before the answer was revealed).
Marzhin: "Well now that the Danse Macabre Adventure Pack has been announced, you know the answer. There are several hints about Crag Hack and Sandro in Heroes VI, actually. Crag Hack’s helmet, the Staff of Sandro, and some texts found on signposts foreshadow the Adventure Packs. Although at the time I included those “easter eggs” I didn’t know if Crag Hack and Sandro would officially return! But I wanted to include those hints to show these characters were alive (well for Sandro that’s debatable ) and active in the world of Ashan, hoping that maybe, one day, I would have the opportunity to tell their stories."
CH: 8. Can you tell us what you're doing – are you working on more DLCs?
Marzhin: "If that ever happens, there are many classic characters I would like to bring back under the spotlight... Yog, Ignatius, Sir Christian... But for the moment I can only say that we have some more surprises for you in the future."
CH: 9. More content for the existing game is well and good, but our members seem to have a great desire for an expansion. Can you tell us if there are any plans for an expansion in the future and, if possible, how far along those plans are?
Marzhin: "You know that’s not my place to say anything about that. Let’s just put it this way: Heroes VI does not end with Danse Macabre."
CH: 10. What do you think you will do when the adventure of Heroes VI comes to an end?
Marzhin: "I still have a lot of work on my plate before that day comes, but there’s a pet project of mine I hope will become a reality somewhere in the near future. And that’s all I can say for now."
Big thanks to Marzhin for taking the time to answer some of our questions. Heroes live forever!
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- by Karmakeld
Good news to those who have long been waiting for mirrored objects for H4.
We're pleased to share with you, a beta version of the H4 Object Package, fully compatible with both WoW version and Equilibris mod. (Std. and TGS versions remains to be tested).
Download it here (15 MB)
The H4 Objects Package v.0.55 contains mirrored versions of ALL Creature Banks and Creature Dwellings, complete with altered shadows and highlights, working animations as well as adjusted flag positions and entrances. Worth mentioning is the 3 versions of the previously unfinished Magic Lamp (creature bank).
Also included are all objects from Equilibris 3.51 and 3.55, fully compatible with non Equilibris mod.
Adding objects made by Radmutant69 and Mirage, the current package contains no less than 1141 new objects, ranging from mirrored adventure objects to a large amount of decoratives and even new terrain types.
Ready made aop files (both for Equi editor and WoW) are included, meaning all of the objects have been placed in the editor's palette, along with maps that displays the many new objects.
Planned updates will include:
- Mirrored Quest Huts along with additional Quest Huts.
- Mirrored Movement Modifiers.
- Mirrored Misc. Adventure objects.
- Mirrored Power Ups.
- Additional decorative objects.
- Previously unused dwellings: Sea Monster Lair, Mermaid Sanctuary and Mega Dragon Lair.
- Hero Portrait bank, for editing with the Equilibris FaceTool.
- Creature Hero sprites (by NimoStar) allowing for any hero to appear as any creature both in combat and on the adventure map.
Feel free to report bugs like bad highlights, shadows, animation speed, flag position, entrance point, passability info, badly centered images, glitches etc
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- by Antalyan
Do you still play the latest Heroes game (at least from time to time)? Have you ever wanted to try Heroes 7 but you gave it up because of hundreds of annoying bugs? Would you like to see H7 improved?
If you answer "yes" to any of the questions above, you might have already heard about the Unofficial Community Patch (UCP), the largest bugfixing patch for Might & Magic: Heroes 7, released in December 2017.
This time, it returns with dozens of new fixes and improvements, with the version 1.1 released on September 8th.
Furthermore, it brings more than 20 brand new abilities to the game, so the combats are even more exciting than before. You can also enjoy the extended hero pool, as well many other improvements.
For the first time, you can choose between the full and simplified mod version.
Read more and start downloading right here: Mod website
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