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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: 

Songs of Conquest website

 

SoC FactionsSnapshot from the new website which contains a lot of information about factions, gameplay modes and more. 

Perhaps the most important part of the trailer is revealed here: Songs of Conquest - Release Date

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.

The Heroes of Might and Magic inspired game gives us a good taste of what's to come. Featuring some fancy looking battle animations on the classic hexagonial battlefield.
vlcsnap 2021 06 14 01h14m45s770





 

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. 
SoC Battle

 

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). 

SoC Battle 2

 

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. 
SoC TownSoC Town 2

 

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. 
SoC TradingSoC Spells

 

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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fst clockwork gremlin2

Hey, All.
Welcome. Hope each of you is doing well.

This month I have five topics, followed by part three of my interview with Behemoth Cave (Webpage & Facebook).

As always, ‘thank you’ to everyone who wrote, especially those with positive sentiments. If you have any questions or comments, regarding Fanstratics (FST) or Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (HoMM3), feel free to send them along, and I’ll try to answer them in future newsletters (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Please keep in mind, it may take at least 7 days before I reply (it’s taking longer-and-longer as production continues).

Until next time.
​Greg
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.  ;-)

For those of you who want to see Justin actually render the drawing, you can watch a VOD of his Twitch stream.


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.”

Me, “Okay.”

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.”

JCV, “Okay.”

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.

Me, “Dave.”

Dave, “Greg.”

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
2020.11.10
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)?
  • HoMM4?
  • HoMM3 WoG?
  • HoMM5?
  • HoMM6?
  • HoMM7?
  • 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.

2. Beauty

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.
 

4. Accessibility

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.

6. Piracy

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.

Check our FANSTRATICS tag, to overview all related content in one place. ;)
CH Interview with David Botan

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)


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UM H4 editedcontrastNimoStar announced work on a new mod for Heroes IV. As he's almost having a monopoly at 'all in one mods' (now, after Equilibris team slowed down) for Heroes IV he got quite a lot of attention :D

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.

If you don't know NimoStar, he's author of Greatest Mod for Heroes IV, which also got a lot of a praise previously.  See ModDB or HC.


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fheroes2 - release 0.9.3

With small steps I measure Earth but nothing can stop me. Could be a motto of fheroes2 team wink. 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.

fh2 new bu10

And finally we almost finished the support of "The Succession Wars" campaigns, including bonuses and special victory conditions.

fh2 campai10

You can download fheroes2 here and read more about them in their thread.


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Master of Magic Announced!

MUHA Games announced that they are working on new Master of Magic game! You might remember them already as the makers of Thea:The Awakening, bold propagators of very lovely idea, getting addons only for coffee, beer or even for free. This small indie studio is based in UK/PL and let me say, that Thea was great success. Tweet.

We can finally confirm our latest project: Master of Magic.

Master of Magic is a classical turn-based strategy game from the ’90s and we’re working hard to remake this gem and bring it into the new age.

You may ask, how it's with rights, after all these years? Well Slitherine bought the rights for Master of Magic and judging by the mail they choose MUHA Games to make it happen again!

MUHA MoM Wizars selection MUHA MoM Combat1 1 1

Previous like MoM attempts

There were a few, first from pretty agile Stardock Company, maker of Galactic Civilization, with their Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes, released at 23th August 2012. This one was rated pretty well, used hexes in combat. And rendered not much astonishing 3D graphic.

The second come from Wasteland Interactive as Worlds of Magic. Having classic squares, strictly keeping to D20 Rule Set. Which was a lesser success (ppl mostly complain about AI) but a great attempt from the devs. This piece was released at 19 March 2015.

Mods and patches for the original MoM

This is probably the most interesting, if you played the original. You remember how you much you tried to avoid Wraiths touching your units?

Yes, it was death touch, unseen in any other games. After they spent all their magic shots and move to touch you, blam, you encountered the bug and whole game crashed.

That was fixed many years later in unoffical patches. None matter, this is a cannon game, shaping the FTS genre, hugely popular and inspiring everyone. Though the popularity started after the patches, which took years..

Master of Magic Classic: Caster of Magic for Windows - thanks Blake for the info, check more about it here. Get it from Slitherine or join Discord.

Master of Magic - IME - not have a final version yet, requires Java 11. Grab from sourceforge.

MoM Spell of Mastery

source: https://masterofmagic.fandom.com/wiki/Introduction


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FST Archangel

Hey, All.

Welcome.  Hope each of you is doing relatively well.

With this Newsletter... another small adjustment.  I’m relocating links to the ‘monthly Troop concept sketch’ into the Questions Section. 

Why?  As each is revealed, I want to chat a little bit about each one.

 

In writing these Newsletters, about the development of Fanstratics (FST), I continue to unearth old memories concerning the development of Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (HoMM3).  Before all of this began, part of me wanted to author a book about HoMM3’s development, and with the way things are going, these posts are quickly becoming the loose developmental memoir I had in mind.  Perhaps, after the ‘interview well’ runs dry, I’ll start posting HoMM3 development anecdotes.  We’ll see.

This month I have five questions, followed by part two of my interview with Behemoth Cave (Webpage & Facebook).

As always, ‘thank you’ to everyone who wrote, especially those with positive sentiments.  If you have any questions or comments, regarding Fanstratics (FST) or Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (HoMM3), feel free to send them along, and I’ll try to answer them in future newsletters (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).  Please keep in mind, it may take at least 7 days before I reply.

Until next time.

​Greg
Fanstratics Game Director & Designer

*****

Fanstratics Troop: Archangel.

When word first broke concerning the development of Fanstratics, I quickly needed a ‘signature image’ for the game.

For me, it came down to the Archangel or the Human Cavalier.  After giving it some thought, I settled on the Human Cavalier, as I thought it embodied the entirety of the game, where the Archangel was more representative of one faction (Allegiant).

For HoMM3, the Archangel has arguably become its signature Troop.  I remember George Almond’s color picture of the Archangel, when David Mullich and Phelan Sykes first showed it to me.  I don’t recall why Phelan had George create the picture.  It may have been for the box art, but Scott McDaniel (Marketing) shot it down as he wanted ‘3D’ rendered armies on the box front.  I suggested, “Let’s use it for the Main Menu.”  Both David and Phelan liked the idea, with Phelan recommending we animate the flames on the sword.

In hindsight, I wish I’d advocated for the option to customize the Main Menu background.  When Armageddon’s Blade was released, the Archangel disappeared.  With subsequent releases, accompanied by Paul Romero’s wonderful Main Menu score, some people never saw the Archangel in all its Main Menu glory.

In the years since, I have seen two different sculptures of the Archangel.  One on Kickstarter (canceled) and a second on Artstation (where is link to YT, as he also did Solmyr). One last story about the Archangel as it relates to the Main Menu...

At one point in development, David Mullich asked I talk to Mark Caldwell (Executive Producer).


David, “He doesn’t like the Main Menu.”
Me, “What’s wrong with it?”
“He wouldn’t say.”
“He wouldn’t say?”
“More like he couldn’t say.  I couldn’t get anything out him.  You try talking to him.”

Scott White (Artist, GUI, Castle town, Tower town, etc.) and I had been working on the game’s interface for weeks, and Scott’s office just happened to be adjacent to Mark’s.  Before I stopped in to see Mark, I took a detour to give Scott fair warning.  I mentioned I was going to see Mark, because he had an issue with the Main Menu GUI.  I remember Scott’s puzzled expression and shoulder shrug.  In response, I shrugged my shoulders as well.

After giving Scott a head’s up, I walked into Mark’s office, and got right to it, “You don’t like the interface?”


Mark replied, “It’s ugly.”
Me, “It’s not ugly.”
“Yes it is.”
“You think the Archangel is ugly?”
“No, the Archangel is great.”
“Then how can you say it’s ugly?”
“Everything but the Archangel is ugly.”
“Everything?  Can you show me specifically what you think is ugly?”

Mark exhaled, rolled his eyes, and started the game.

We were looking at the Main Menu splash screen, I said, “Okay.  You think the Archangel is fine... but you think the icons are ugly?”
Mark, “No, the icons are fine.  It’s the other stuff.

Mark navigates to Scenario Selection, “This stuff.”


Me, “You don’t like the layout?”
“No.”
“Font?”
“No.”
“Then what?”
“It’s... it’s... BROWN.”
“You don’t like that its brown.”
“Right.  It’s ugly.”
“What colors would you like?”
“Not brown.”
I looked at Mark and exhaled, “Alright.  Let me talk to Scott.”

I literally went next door, walked into Scott’s office, who was bracing for me to deliver bad news.  Something like, “Throw out all the hard work you’ve already done.”  Instead, I looked at him and said, “Well, I tired to pin him down on what he didn’t like.  It’s the color.  He doesn’t like the interface being brown.”  The look on Scott’s face said it all, “Really?”

At the time, we had followed the precedent set by HoMM2, which had a tan interface.  In fact, if you want an idea of the Main Menu’s original color scheme, just look at the Adventure Map interface, which is, for the most part, ‘brown’.


So, I said to Scott, “What if we used the Archangel’s color scheme for the other parts of Main Menu?  Blue, gold, and white.”
Scott seemed to like the idea and nodded, “Okay.”
“How long will it take to re-color all the GUI pieces?”
“Day or two.”
“Okay.”

The following day, I dropped in on Scott for a quick update.  He already had a mock-up ready in Photoshop.  I asked him what he thought.  He liked it better.  So did I.  I told him, to clear it with Phelan and David, and put it in the game.

Scott asked, “What about Mark?”
I replied, “If Mark doesn’t like this, I don’t know what we’ll do.”

A couple of days later, after not hearing any feedback, I did manage to catch Mark, with the game running, with the updated Main Menu GUI.  I asked, “Do you like the colors?”  With a slight smirk, Mark nodded.

Most people don’t understand, an important part of being a game designer, is figuring out what people want, or what a person wants, when they can’t properly communicate it... specify it... or put it into words.  If you can do it well, it’s a big benefit, as you become something akin to a mind reader... at least where video games are concerned.  If you can do it well, it can also be a big headache, as you may find yourself spending most of your time solving other people’s problems... in addition to your own.

roe mainmenu

Returning to the present, this month's Troop concept sketch, is the Archangel.  I’ve been champing at the bit for Justin to render this Troop, and its finally here.

For those of you who want to see Justin actually render the drawing, you can watch a VOD of his Twitch stream.


Fanstratics Faction #6: Zubhewen.

Largely of Goblin descent, this sub-human faction lives in an underground, Subterranean world.  Terror, chaos, and fear are their allies, leading to an amorphous ‘might-makes-right’ form of self-rule.  Representing the Zubhewen in the Troll Witch, who can be viewed in the Fanstratics Gallery.  For most, the Zubhewen will be remarkably similar to HoMM3’s ‘Dungeon’, but keep in mind... as I mentioned in the last Newsletter... some troops have been shuffled off to other factions.  So, some hallmark ‘Dungeon’ troops may have found new homes with other, more thematically consistent cultures.

Fanstratics Feature: Hardcore Mode.

Similar to the previous two features (Rally Attack & Boss Battles), a Hardcore Mode is not a new idea.  Anyone familiar with late 70’s, early 80’s, coin-operated arcade games, have experienced video game ‘permadeath’.  While this design choice has a long history, in my personal experience, it wasn’t formalized as a mainstream feature until Diablo 2’s ‘hardcore mode’ in 2000.

There is something masochistically romantic about risking your precious time attempting to conquer an intentionally difficult video game.  While I personally don’t have the time to grind out repeated hardcore wins, hardcore play has been responsible for some of the most memorable video game streams I’ve ever seen: Diablo 3, Fallout: New Vegas (hardcore mode), XCOM (ironman), Darkest Dungeon (86 or 100 Weeks), etc.  Most recently, Moonmoon played Doom Eternal in a pseudo-permadeath mode... and failed during the final fight.

While I suspect only a minority of players will utilize this feature, I would like to see hardcore streams of Fanstratics.  So, a hardcore mode is planned; one persistent save for your current game, with the difficulty settings of your choice.  There may also be other ‘hardcore’ wrinkles, such as ‘permadeath’ for Heroes.  If you lose a Hero in battle, they no longer appear in your Kingdom’s Hero Pool.  Bottom line... if you lose... you lose.

Personally, I want to see people play and stream Fanstratics in hardcore mode, on the toughest difficulty, against multiple AI opponents, with an in-game time limit.  It could make for some gripping entertainment.

Will there be a map editor and random map generator in Fanstratics?
HoMM3’s map editor and random map generator were released with its first expansion pack ‘Armageddon’s Blade’.  For Fanstratics, I expect to rollout both a Community Map Editor and a Random Map Generator, well after the game’s official public release.  When?  I cannot say at this stage.

If there will be a random map generator, how will it be configured?
It’s been a very long time since I crafted HoMM3’s original RMG templates (using Microsoft Excel).  Since then, different methods to random map generation have been developed, and I would like to research a number of them, before I decide on a final design direction.  So, details regarding the internal logic and implementation of the Random Map Generator are currently unresolved.

Behemoth Cave Interview
2020.11.10
Questions 3-4c, of 18

This interview was conducted by Behemoth Cave 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 3 to 4c, of 18.

3.  Obviously, the creator’s vision of the game often evolves while still developing the game.  Some ideas are dropped out, new ideas come up and are implemented in the game. Some press materials contained unit concepts like the "Demilich" (flying green skull with horns, appendix 1), Kenneth Thomson’s “Lobstrosity” (appendix 2) or an aristocratic elf (appendix 3).  Even after the release, we can find Fear spell icon or the Market of Time (the adventure map location) in the game files.  Can you tell us something more about these elements/features that didn’t make it into the game?  Also, Dendroids, Efreets, Zealots, Unicorns or Minotaurs and a couple of others - they all have additional animations and sounds which aren’t used by the game in any way.  Is there any particular reason behind them? Were those units supposed to cast a spell on the battlefield, like Ogre Magi for example?

Demilich
As you call it, the Demilich was supposed to be a Will-o-the-Wisp, for the Fortress.  It was inspired by the Lost Soul monster from Doom, and was cut because we couldn’t get it to ‘glow’ properly.

LobstrozityLobstrosity
I didn’t see the Lobstrosity until long after I left NWC.  It was a ‘secret’ Troop, and I had no knowledge it was in the game.

Aristocratic Elf
I believe the Aristocratic Elf was an early draft version of the Grand Elf.

fearFear Spell
The Fear spell was ‘cut’ because it was little more than ‘bad morale’ in another form.  Later, I thought it was better to convert the mechanic into the Fear ability for the Azure Dragon.

 

market of timeMarket of Time
Originally, the Market of Time was called ‘Brigadoon’.  It would randomly appear after long periods of time, and for a Day, a Hero could purchase very high value artifacts and very cheap resources.  It was ‘cut’ because it required new programing functionality, we were running out of development time, and I was worried players would ‘park’ a Hero at the destination and simply wait for the Market.  Also, for the record, it was never a place where Heroes could unlearn Secondary Skills.

Additional Animations and Sounds
There is no particular reason why certain characters didn’t get additional animations or sounds.  I suspect it was typical miscommunication or misunderstanding.

4a.  Heroes III in its bestiary has plenty of mythological beasts (like Minotaurs, Medusas, Hydras) or creatures that are popular in fantasy in general (Dwarves, Dragons). What were your sources of inspiration while creating Heroes III - not only for creatures but also for spells and locations?
Nothing is created in a vacuum, and is always derived from various sources of inspiration.  I looked at everything: paper and pencil RPG’s, table top games, card games, novels, comics, movies, and art books.  For the various troops and spells, anything and everything was a potential source of inspiration.

4b.  Can we find any direct reference to books and/or movies in the game?
Obviously the cheat codes reference Star Wars the Phantom Menace, the Matrix, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  As for in game assets, Gelu’s appearance was clearly inspired by Elric of Melnibone, and the Behemoth was derived from the Rancor in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

4c.  Are there any heroes that are based on real people (beside Sir Mullich - David Mullich,  Inteus - George Almond, Sir Christian - Christian Vanover)?
To my knowledge, there are only four...

Sir Mullich
It’s relatively well known, Sir Mullich shares the name and likeness of David Mullich.  While we were working on HoMM3, Might and Magic 6 was still in production, and needed people and costumes for various character portraits.  Of course... David had a Renaissance Fair costume... and volunteered.  When Phelan Sykes (Lead Artist) saw the final game asset, she couldn’t wait to tell me how goofy it looked.  Immediately, I said to her, “We should put it in the game.”  She told me she would clean up the portrait, get it game ready, and deliver it to John Bolton (Lead Programmer).  When David was away on vacation, for birth of his first son (if I correctly recall), we put it into the game.  Upon his return, we showed the ‘new’ Hero to him, and he got a chuckle out of it.  Since then, he’s become one of HoMM3’s most famous Heroes.
     

Inteus
Inteus shares a likeness with George Almond.  George did all of the HoMM3 concept art, the manual cover, and the interface backgrounds.  He also painted all the Hero portraits, so I’m not surprised he slipped himself into the game.
     

Sir Christian
Sir Christian is named after Christian Vanover, but doesn’t look like him in the slightest.  I don’t recall if Christian requested to be put into the game, or I did it as a goof.  The entire Sir Christian secret campaign was made to poke fun at Chris, who was a good sport about it.
     

foursLuna
Luna is based on a young lady from New World Computing tech support, who’s name I do not recall.  After 3DO finished its acquisition of New World Computing, her job was moved to 3DO corporate, in Redwood City.  I lost track of her after E3, in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1998.

Past Newsletters

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)

CH Addendum:
George Almond - Heroes portfolio
Lobstrozity Easter Egg PotD
CH Interview - Christian Vanover, 2005
David Mullich - My life as a videogame character
David Mullich - Remembering Erathia 15 Years Later

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Added some links and graphics above original imageless newsletter.


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