A Hero at the Entertainment Expo
An interview by Mike Nino. Transcript by Mike Nino, Olav Lognvik, Julie Lambert and Angelspit. Mike Nino met Fabrice Cambounet at E3 2005. The Ubisoft representative kindly answered questions submitted by members of StrategyCore and Celestial Heavens. We would like to thank Fabrice for his time, and the readers who submitted questions for their assistance.
Mike: Tell us a little about yourself and your work on HOMM5. (StrategyCore)
Fabrice: I'm Fabrice Cambounet, the Heroes 5 producer at Ubisoft.
MN: When did Ubisoft strike the deal with Nival to develop HOMM5, and when did Nival start working on it? (StrategyCore)
FC: Ubisoft struck the deal with Nival in late 2003, and that's when I got involved. The fans were informed more or less right away.
MN: Tell me why HOMM5 will be the best Heroes game to date? :) (Brandaan)
FC: Very simple - because we're building on the foundation of the previous games. We played Heroes II, III and IV, and some of us even played Heroes I some 10 years ago. Our goal is to keep the best features from each game, especially those of III and IV, since they are the most recent.
As you can see, the game has moved to 3D. It's really a new dimension visually! And as you'll see during the demo, we managed to keep the core essence of the gameplay from the previous games.
In addition we're trying to make the game a bit faster to play, and easier to understand for new players. We wish to make the maps fun to play for both fans of the HOMM series and people playing for the first time. There will be a tutorial, and when you play the game you'll notice that a lot of stuff you had to click on or read before is gone. In general everything will be easier to digest.
MN: Which aspect of the game are you most pleased with? (Jorgen Linde)
FC: Hard to tell, since a lot of features are turning out really well. As you can see, it's really good looking. I am very happy with that!
We've been working on this project with Nival for a long time already, and the game has been playable for a few months. I've been playing all the maps and battles, and it really feels like Heroes. That's an element I am really pleased with.
MN: What is the story of HOMM5, and what is the connection to the previous games in the series? (Celestial Heavens)
FC: At this point I think everything I can say about the story is already available online (Ed: a synopsis can be found here)
MN: Can Heroes V be a TRUE M&M game if the original background story is discontinued? (JSE)
FC: We'll be discussing that later in the development.
MN: What more can you tell us about the role of Dragons in the game? (Xenophanes)
FC: Dragons will also be explained later, but they are the sort of beings that created the world.
Engine / Multiplayer
MN: Could you describe the similarities and differences with the other Nival engines (Etherlords, Silent Storm)? (Celestial Heavens)
FC: It's based on the Silent Storm engine. It's a very powerful engine in term of rendering and textures. It's a great compliment to the quality of the Nival artists really. When you look at the game, you can see that it's really detailed and that a lot of textures are very pleasant on the eye. There are a lot of details on the screen.
MN: How will the artifical intelligence be improved versus prior games? (Corribus)
FC: Artificial intelligence will be discussed later.
MN: What are the planned system requirements? (Moonman)
FC: Nothing settled yet, but we're targeting what was considered an average system around Christmas 2003.
MN: Is this game being developed primarily as a single player experience, or more for multiplayer? (Chaos Wielder)
FC: If you do not have a good singleplayer game, people will not get into the game, and will thus not enjoy the game enough to play it multiplayer. Both are important, but singleplayer is our primary focus.
MN: What significant departures have been made from previous versions of HOMM (or completely new features) specifically to make the game more suitable for multiplayer? (PeteusMax)
FC: There are a lot of elements to this. The game will be faster to play, based on a lot of small ideas. That is so for both singleplayer and multiplayer.
Since we're on the subject, I'd like to say a few words about Ghost Mode. We haven't discussed that earlier. There will be a mode in multiplayer that basically allows you to play even if it's not your turn. The problem with multiplayer in turn-based games is that you spend most of your time waiting for the opponent to finish his turn. It's basically a hotseat mode, where the opponent is under pressure and can thus not spend eternity finishing his turn.
MN: What specific ideas or features did you glean from the Heroes series? (Sermil)
FC: The basic concept and core gameplay.
MN: Will there be an overhead view of the adventure map or are you limited to the over-the-shoulder view as shown in the screen shots? (Grumpy Dwarf)
FC: Yes, of course. The screens you've seen so far are just marketing shots. When you're actually playing, you will be using the overhead view.
MN: Will there be fog of war? (CoarseDragon)
MN: What about the underground? (HellFast)
FC: I think there will be one.
MN: How important will sea travel be? (Daddy)
FC: We will see about that.
MN: Which town types have you chosen for the game? (Marcusml333)
FC: Only thing I can say at this stage is that there are 6 races in the game - human, demon and one completely new race amongst them. We'll discuss this in the future, so there's not much more I can say right now.
MN: What will siege battles be like? (handclap)
FC: That's a good question, which will be addressed in the future.
MN: How will the time limit during combat work? (GuybrushT18)
FC: It will be very important! You can switch between two modes - standard turn-based and a new dynamic battle system. The new mode will not be real-time, but close to it. That is, the enemy will slowly gather action points, so if you do nothing they will attack you. Thus you'll have to attack fairly quickly, or be attacked yourself. This will add pressure to the player in combat, and result in faster battles. And fear not, this mode is completely optional!
MN: Can you use that sort of dynamic real-time in other games as well? Seeing how it is built on the Silent Storm engine...
FC: Absolutely! A system like this could be used to speed up turn-based games in general, yet keeping the basic structure. It gives you time to think, but not a lot. You have to react, and stay focused.
MN: How will the magic system be organized? (Starbatron)
FC: It will be discussed later in the development.
MN: Will there be a Grail like in HOMM4? How will players be able to find it? (Echo)
FC: This will also be discussed later.
MN: Is there any chance that famous heroes from the previous games might return? (Celestial Heavens)
FC: Originally no, but we're discussing that.
MN: Will heroes participate in battle like in HOMM4 or will they only cast spells like in HOMM3? (Klimbert)
FC: Neither. It will be different for each race. That's all I can say at this point.
MN: Will there be balanced specialties for each hero? (Grumpy Old Wizard)
FC: Sure thing.
MN: Will heroes be unique, with different starting skills? (Zealot)
FC: We'll see about that.
MN: Can two heroes fight side by side? (sxShopper)
MN: Are you still using the classical stats system (Attack, Defense, Spell Power and Knowledge)? (Dragon Angel)
FC: We'll be discussing that later.
MN: How many unique creatures (i.e., not counting upgrades) will there be in each town, and how many unique neutral creatures (i.e., not available in towns) will there be in the game? (Fnord)
FC: I can't say yet. There should be enough to please most players, but if there are too many it would be impossible to balance, and it would hurt the game. There will be good number of creatures, especially in the first part of the game. I think most players will be pleased with the number of creatures.
MN: Will creatures gain experience? (DNA)
FC: I can't answer that at this stage.
MN: Will creatures be able to travel on the adventure map without a Hero? (HodgePodge)
Community / Modding
MN: What influence does the fan community have over the development of the game? Can you think of any feature that has been added or removed based on what has been said in forums? Have any fan ideas/suggestions been implemented? (The Filth)
FC: I spend a lot of time in the forums. I don't read all the forum posts, so the summaries are very valuable for me. It's still really important for me to know what the fans like and are expecting.
For example, regarding heroes from prior games, we didn't plan on having that, but we added it to please the fans. We are trying to integrate what they like into the game. We can't do everything they want, but we're trying to focus on the aspects of the game that the fans want the most.
MN: Will it be easy to modify the game? (StrategyCore)
FC: We'll see about that.
MN: Will HOMM5 support the map-making community in terms of powerful editing tools and map contests/expansion map submissions? (Psychobabble)
FC: A map editor is being developed. It will be easy to use, which is a big challenge.
Other / Publishing
MN: Will HOMM5 be released simultaneously worldwide, and when? If not, when will it be released in Western Europe and the US? (StrategyCore)
FC: Yes, Q1 2006. Could be in February or March.
MN: In which languages will it be released? (StrategyCore)
FC: Besides the standard ones, we hope to do the main Eastern European languages. Polish and Hungarian because they are so many fans there. Maybe Chinese.
MN: Is there any plan for a DVD version? (StrategyCore)
FC: Good question. Too early to tell.
MN: Any idea what will be in the expansion, besides additional campaigns and creatures? Will there be a new town? (Serge)
FC: Good question. We're already thinking about the expansion. It really depends on the success of Heroes 5. If the game is successful, there will be more content in the expansion. We don't want it to be released too long after Heroes 5. Its up to the fans to make people unfamiliar with HOMM feel at home in the community, so that it can expand and bring new players into the game.
MN: Will there be a Might and Magic game besides Heroes V? (Thelonious)
FC: I don't know.
MN: What are Ubisoft plans for the future of the franchise? (Celestial Heavens)
FC: There are so many things we'd like to add to the franchise, but sadly we can't do them all. We'll have to see in time.
For Heroes 5 we're planning a beta test and hope that the fans can participate.
MN: Will it be an open one?
FC: There should be one open. We're planning on several beta tests, and at least one open with restricted content.
MN: Well, you've answered all the questions and in record time! 18 minutes! Man, you're good!