For some time you can watch developing of MM Merge, which is merging Might & Magic 6-7-8 on MM8 engine. And we felt that there is a right time to ask a few questions about the mod, current state and purpose.
Were you thinking about putting MM Merge to MM8 engine even before?
Yes, when I played MM6 and suddenly it turned out that the characters could not become liches, and the enemies, raised with dark magic, kept being agressive, then I wanted to somehow bring in these features. Back then I was finishing school and I did not have enough time to try. The desire came back when I first saw Grayface's MMArchive - extractor of game files. The choice between engines 7 or 8 did not cause me to think much, I've immediately chosen MM8, simply because this is my favorite part of the series, although now I am more attracted by the content that came from MM7. I think that the choice of the MM8 engine is the right decision due to the more flexible management system of the party and a larger size of the game window.
How did you get to the series?
The games showed me my elder brothers. In fact, the first such game of similar genre that interested me was "Betrayal of Krondor", I sat and watched my brother play, and all these pixel cutscenes, pixel people, made a big impression. The most valuable for me was and remains a certain balance of naturalism and fantasy in these games: the characters have the proportions of real people, the monsters are created to look natural. At the same time, even though the pixel world was not densely populated, behind each object there was a story: if there is a tombstone in the middle of the field - come and read the epitaph, dig there and be killed by swarm of ghosts. Later, when I started to play myself, I liked the opportunity to ignore the main story and go explore the world. These two points are what I really lacked in MM10: everything looks like a completely unrealistic cartoon, and I have to go through the “corridors” of the plot before I can just walk around and explore the world.
What all limits do you removed? What all is moddable now?
The presence of limits was a surprise to me. If you have MMArchive, you can open the EnglishT.lod and see that information, for example, about monsters, is stored in a simple text table. The first thought that arises: "Hey! I can just change existing or add new lines!" - but not. The game is able to reserve parts of the computer’s memory for its own purposes, but for some reason, text tables are not located in the reserved areas, but in the data section of the executable file. Therefore, the increase in any table leads to the fact that it's rows "climb" on the rows of the next table, which in most cases leads to critical errors in reading. The task was to calculate the amount of memory for each table, reserve it, and then write the table there. It doesn't sound very difficult, but add here the fact that the game is already compiled and all pointers and references to the table should be searched for in the disassembled version and corrected by hand. If you downloaded the modification, open the folder "... Scripts\Structs", all scripts with the name "Remove" in the name is the removal of limits. I will briefly describe them in order of creation (I hope to make detailed documentation in the future).
The first - the table "Monsters.txt" - now you can add an unlimited number of lines to it, which is why monsters from all parts of the series are present in the mod.
The second - the table "Hostile.txt", which describes the relationship of monsters to the player and each other, now you can add new rows and columns. Due to this, the guards in MM6 do not like goblins.
The third, the “2DEvents.txt” table, is my second largest script in the game. The limits of this table were removed by Grayface, you can add new rows simply by having the latest version of MMExtension. But the table worked very strange, for example, it was impossible to add a new weapon shop. Despite the fact that the table has a "Type" column, it was not used, it was directly stated in the engine that houses 1 to 14 are weapon shops, 15-28 are armor shops. I do not know why this is done. Perhaps for the sake of performance, and at the time of the release of the game it had sense. The script makes the engine use the "Type" column and column No. 2 - the sequence number inside the type. Thus, not only new lines can be added to the table, but also any type of house in any order. Therefore, the game uses all buildings and game screens from MM6 and MM7. In addition, the script allows you to customize the rules for generating the assortments of stores, the parameters of stables and boats, and the rules of Arcomage in taverns, using the additional text table "House rules.txt" in the folder "...Data\Tables".
The fourth - the "Items.txt" table - now you can add new rows, as well as items of any type in any order (the table had the same problem as in 2DEvents.txt). This is the biggest script in the modification, it brings great opportunities, including for modifying the system of alchemy and used objects. I recorded a video, which provides a complete list and ways to apply the new features.
Fifth - "RemoveNPCTablesLimits". Everything is simple here: add as many rows as you like to the tables "NPCData.txt", "NPCText.txt", "NPCTopics.txt", "NPCNews.txt", "NPCGroup.txt", "NPCGreet.txt". In addition, the limit on the size of the in-game script (".evt" ones) files has been removed.
Sixth - "RemoveQBitsAndABitsLimits" - add new lines to "Quests.txt" and "Autonotes.txt". In the game, the "flags" are used that determine whether the quest is completed or not, the stage of the story has been completed or not, they are stored in the files of saved games, now in unlimited quantities. Next, the scripts "RemoveClassLimits" and "CharacterOutfits" were created. With their help, you can enter new classes of characters - just edit existing tables with the word "Class" in the name - add rows/columns. They also add new tables: "Character Portraits.txt", "Character doll types.txt", "Character voices.txt". With their help, new portraits of characters can be introduced into the game. In addition, smaller scripts were created that remove the limits of the number of rows of the "Trans.txt" and "Mscroll.txt" tables and correctly link their indexes to the indexes of maps/items.
What works? What you would like to do/try in close future?
The storylines of all three continents work, all the tasks for promoting classes work. As far as I know, all side quests work. In a simplified form, the reputation system works, it is possible to hire NPC followers, as it was in MM6 and MM7. A choice of starting continent is available at the start of the game. I went through the game twice and did not encounter crashes or "breakage" of the plot. Mod have it's own main menu screen, which references character of cross-continent storyline, written by community.
The most difficult moment now is the game balance. At the moment, the power of the monsters increases parallel to the growth of the character level (this option is disabled and configured in the menu), this is done so that after passing one continent, the next two do not look like a walk in the park. This side of the game is hard for me. I have never raised the skills of my characters above 15 points, and have never “cleaned” game maps entirely. What I would really like to do now is to create a series of training videos on modifying the game (like a video about "Items.txt" table), then everyone could start balancing as they want. Now the possibilities are very wide, but poorly documented, and the tools are quiet unintuitive. I would like to base the video on creating a small modification, with one or two new maps, a pair of new NPC, a new portrait and player class, and a small storyline. Unfortunately, when I am voicing something, it either does not happen at all, or it happens with a long delay.
What about music?
What is the image/sprites format, music format? In terms of game resource formats, nothing has changed. Sprites/icons - in .bmp 8bit format, without color space information, with indexed color. Use GIMP to save images in this format. Music is supported in mp3 format and, in the latest GreyFace's patch - in wav. It is recommended to use wav, - the file size is larger, but the music loops correctly.
Is your mod GoG or original games compatible, what about language mutations, windows versions, does it work under Win10?
I did test the modification only on the GoG version, but I see no reason for incompatibility with others, with the possible exception of the Chinese (due to a different encoding of text tables). The game was tested in win xp x64, win 7 x64 and win 10 x64. I did not find problems with the launch, although sometimes they are reported on the forum. Most often, the problem is related to the installation: the installation folder should not have the flag "Read only", the files should be unpacked in the order specified in the topic.
And also what are you saying about Unreal Engine demo efforts?
I like these images. The combination of low-poly elements with high-quality lighting causes interesting sensations. I personally do not really like to engage in the graphic side of games, the expression "There is no limit to perfection" plays a cruel joke with me - I can not determine when something looks good enough to finally leave this element and move on to another. I don’t know if this is a feasible task - to transfer all MM game mechanics to a modern engine and at the same time preserve the charm of the M&M series (not to become too similar to other RPG projects), but I’m glad if someone does it and enjoys this process.
Your final wishes/thoughts?
I wish, old M&M engine once will become more popular as platform for storytelling. It has a lot of restrictions, but in my opinion, restrictions leads to finding unusual and less illustrative ways to do/show something.
Rodril, thank for your time and patience. Much appreaciated! Fingers crossed for your mod. ;)
Comments below. If you wish to go straight to the MM Merge thread, it's here.