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H7: Would you prefer 2D or 3D townscreens?
I don't care.
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Heroes of Might and Magic V  → Fabrice Q&A (E3)

by Mike Nino

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)

FC: Yes.

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)

FC: No.

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)

FC: No.

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!

FC: Thanks!

Breza at 2006-04-07 18:40 wrote:
Will boarding a boat still take up a whole day of movement like on other games? Or will it just deplete some of your movement?
george137 at 2005-09-02 01:27 wrote:
I agree blue camel but what if the hero just had a really rough battle and needs extra creatures. The creatures could simply go to the hero. If the closest town is really far away then you could be able to get extra units two times faste.
Blue_Camel at 2005-05-28 18:24 wrote:
"In Heroes IV, creatures CAN grab resources just lying around the adventure map; they just cannot flag any of the resource generators (mines, sawmills, ore pits, etc.) I was hoping that creatures would still be able to scout out the adventure map in Heroes V. It's amazing how much one little sprite can accomplish."

this is exactly why they are doing the right thing in making it so that creatures cannot travel without a hero. As someone said before, it takes strategy to decide whether or not to spend the extra money on another scouting hero to go get some loose resources .. however if creatures can travel on their own.. then you just brainlessly send out 1 sprite to pick it up.. no strategy there. Also for scouting and other things in general, you once again have to decide how many heroes to recruit.. that decision is gone when creatures can move on their own.

Good call, Muaddib and development team.

CloudRiderX at 2005-05-26 14:52 wrote:
Gedassan: But also, what's the point of sending out a hero, for 2500 gold, to get killed after 2 turns by something, when you could send out an Peasant or Imp for 25 Gold, who travel twice as fast(which means more resources) and if they get killed, no one cares. I understand where you're coming from, because that was the exact problem I had when I first played Heroes games. I would only have one hero, because I wanted to advance in my town rather then advance on the field. This resulted in a loss both ways. If I chose not to hire a hero continually, others discover more of the map and get more resources. If I continually chose to hire a hero instead, I would have less monsters, upgrades, and town buildings. Now I hire many heroes and just do my best, and its worked well, but H4s way of monsters out of hero armies let you take a breath once in a while. Maybe for V, they should make Leadership bonuses or something, like in Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth. It worked like this. When you had a hero near or in a group of allies, it gave them bonus Health, Attack, Defense, everything. You could really see a diference too.

dragonn at 2005-05-25 15:34 wrote:
No doubt, to make Heroes V a worthy sequel of the series the story must at least be connected in some way to the previous games. Personally I hope that each hero will have his unique abilities like in Heroes III, not like in Heroes IV were every hero from the same class had the same abilities (only bio and portrait were diffrent), because it was one of the most disapointing thing in the game.

CloudRiderX at 2005-05-24 22:37 wrote:
If it was up to me, I'd keep most of the heroes. It gives you confidence when you can use a hero you've seen before and like. But if their are no heroes from the previous games, I'm losing excitement. If Crag Hack makes it, shouldn't Gelu too? ;)
gedassan at 2005-05-24 18:37 wrote:
I like the concept that creatures must travel with heroes. It was a no-brainer to send out several of your smallest creatures to gather resources in HOMM IV. While now you'll have to actually make decisions whether to hire a hero or save for that next building. Good gameplay design, I think.

About hero specialties, Fabrice said they are in. However, as I understood it, heroes of the same class may be equal in their starting stats (attack, defense etc or whatever they are using in this sequel) and starting skills. So Crag Hack - specialty offense, but like all barbarians, he may have basic offense and basic pathfinding as starting skills, 4 attack, 0 defense etc. Surely Crag Hack will make it to HOMM V:)

CloudRiderX at 2005-05-24 17:29 wrote:
Well....this is strange. No creatures without heroes. Thats dissappointing. That was one of my favorite features of H4. Now we'll have to spend money to recruit heroes without armies to send them out to get resources. But that's funny. I thought I saw one of the screenshots with an Imp or something right next to a hero on a horse. It couldn't be a Demon hero, way too small, but its possible they were going to but then dropped the idea.
I also kinda wish they would continue the storyline, because if they don't, the Heroes series will turn into more of a Final Fantasy series. As much as I like Final Fantasy, I don't want Heroes to have a completely different story every time. I enjoy following and playing the story as it moves.

Qurqirish Dragon at 2005-05-24 16:57 wrote:
Not an overly large amount of new info.Mostly re-enforcing the ideas we already had. I am very happy about the minspec, though. I got my new computer in october 2004, so if the minspec is geared towards end-of-2003, I should be able to enjoy a lot of the special features. Also, if they overrun the minspec, I can still play :-)

And about etas- a closed beta is done in-house, or with a small outside group. An open beta is usually spread to a larger test audience, and not exclusively in-house.

Marcus333 at 2005-05-24 16:32 wrote:
What's the difference between open and closed BETAs?

dragonn at 2005-05-24 15:40 wrote:
"Okay, but what about the people who love Heroes but can't afford the latest and the best?"
Yeah and don't forget that the power of Heroes was not it's grapchics but it's gameplay. The grapchic that is shown on the screenshots suits me very well and looks like it won't have big requirements...

I think that a lot of questions were not answered, and it bothers me why Ubisoft still tells us about so few things. I waited so long for the E3 and I we didn't get much information from it.

I still hope there will be caravans, though...

And hurray for Poland! I'm very glad that we have been noticed...

vaudy at 2005-05-24 13:50 wrote:
"They are getting close to disappointing another cathegory of gamers here: the maniacs that always have the latest processor and video card, just to play the latest games, and who will be maybe disappointed with a game that asks so less..."

Okay, but what about the people who love Heroes but can't afford the latest and the best? We want to play, too, which, besides what Sermil said, is a good reason to keep the minimum req's a little lower.

Vitirr at 2005-05-24 11:50 wrote:
I wouldn't be so sure about heroes specialities. The answer wasn't very specific and later he said nothing about heroes being unique. Perhaps he didn't undertand the question with the meaning of H3 like specialities but something else.

The idea of flexible battlemap size keep scarnig me unless the small ones will only appear when one side is far superior than the other and it takes into consideration the differece of shooters, flyers and walkers.
midnight at 2005-05-24 10:54 wrote:
hero specialties back, yay!

Am I alone in saying I like the idea of heroes doing the work, not cheap pixies? Mule heroes fine by me. Next question would be if the logistics of the hero depends on movement points for creatures carried by it.

So far Ubi seems to have made the right decisions IMO.

I like the idea of flexible sized battle maps, means the small battles are quick, but big ones have plenty of room to build up the battle and have a chance to use some magic.

If I made an RMG I'd release in 1st expansion to make sure it sells. Cant just have a few new maps in an expansion pack.
tetsumonkai at 2005-05-24 10:02 wrote:
hehe thats one big piece of crap :P
nothing intresting here at all...i dont even see the reason for this interview anymore ;P

Sermil at 2005-05-24 04:20 wrote:
>"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."
>Whow. Is't that too low? They are getting close to disappointing
>another cathegory of gamers here: the maniacs that always have
>the latest processor and video card, just to play the latest games,
>and who will be maybe disappointed with a game that asks so less...

Actually, "minspec system = good system 2 Christmases ago" is pretty standard except for the hardcore shooters. Also, one big advantage of 3D rendering is that they can probably downgrade the visuals on minspec systems (making textures smaller, reducing polygons, cutting fluff particle systems, removing fluff objects, turning off fancy water shaders, whatever), while keeping the eyecandy for the high-end folks. Easier to do in 3D than in 2D, from what I've seen. So it'll probably be pretty enough on the hardcore people's systems.

HellFast at 2005-05-24 02:42 wrote:
thanks a lot for asking my question ;)

*MN: What about the underground? (HellFast)

*FC: I think there will be one.

there will be one.... i'm really happy :) it's better than none lol

and i'm really happy too for the whole will be more similiar to H3 than H4

for me, making some steps backward is necessary especially when before you there's a pit !!! H4 is a Pit !

very good job ! and super interview ;)
thanks ;)

Fnord at 2005-05-24 00:30 wrote:
I appreciate Fabrice taking the time to answer, even if he was unable to answer a lot of the questions at this time (for one reason or another) but I'm a bit disappointed with his answer about the random map generator.

I'm fairly certain that the only answer he gave before was the following:
"Random map generator : I'd like to have that. I'll keep you posted."

This tells us that he would like to have it but it doesn't tell us if the game will actually include one or not. I'm sure the Heroes IV crew at NWC would have liked to have a random map generator too, but nevertheless, they weren't able to include one (apparently due to the complexity), so it's a very real concern whether or not H5 will indeed end up with an RMG or not.

And Frabrice did say he would keep us posted, yet we haven't heard any more about it.

In Heroes 1, there was no RMG and not even a map editor until the Windows release. Heroes 2 came with a map editor and I believe one of the patches added a basic random map generator, but it wasn't that great. Heroes 3 included an even better map editor but didn't get an RMG until the first expansion, but although not perfect, it was still pretty incredible. Heroes 4 had a map editor that, while having lots of options plus scripting capability, was inferior to H3 editor in terms of user-friendliness and overall ease of use. And of course, no RMG was ever developed for H4. If Heroes 5 can include a good random generator in the intitial release that would be excellent, but if not, including one in the first expansion would still acceptable.

But we really would like to know for sure what's being planned and worked on.

HodgePodge at 2005-05-24 00:20 wrote:
In Heroes IV, creatures CAN grab resources just lying around the adventure map; they just cannot flag any of the resource generators (mines, sawmills, ore pits, etc.) I was hoping that creatures would still be able to scout out the adventure map in Heroes V. It's amazing how much one little sprite can accomplish.

Zamolxis at 2005-05-24 00:17 wrote:
"MN: Will there be fog of war? (CoarseDragon)

FC: Yes.

FC: (about time limit during combat) ...fear not, this mode is completely optional! "

OK. One fear gone, one still remains. Will also the fog of war be optional? 'Cause I really hate it. One of the things that I loved the most in H3 was to see the "movie" between the turns, with what the other players were doing, and develope long time strategies depending on that.

With FOW I was always playing with the fear that some enemy my pop out from the "less then one day travel" fog and attack me. It's like playing chess withous being able to see what your opponent is doing the the pieces that are not next to some of yours. H3 was always relaxing and enjoyable. H4 was a headache (partly also because of the FoW). But maybe it's futile to fight against this trend of the new generation, which cannot enjoy a movie or game if it doesn't create tension, fear and stuff like that...

Zamolxis at 2005-05-24 00:07 wrote:
"FC: Dragons will also be explained later, but they are the sort of beings that created the world."

Hmm. And I used to consider dragons as pretty brainless creatures. And actually, apart from being huge and spitting fire, they were never really good for smth. On a creating level I mean. Compared with the Angels, who can resurrect, or even the wizards, I see them way lower on the hierarchy of the creative creatures. And now they come and tell me they created the world...

*using Yoda-like tone* Hmmm............
Tyreal at 2005-05-24 00:04 wrote:
I'm worried about the battlefield size too atleast if you want a fast game you can use the battlefield depends on size of army thing, If you want your normal leisurely paced game then you can turn the previous option off. Then have it be the same size proportion as say heroes 3.

Zamolxis at 2005-05-24 00:02 wrote:
"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."

Whow. Is't that too low? They are getting close to disappointing another cathegory of gamers here: the maniacs that always have the latest processor and video card, just to play the latest games, and who will be maybe disappointed with a game that asks so less...

Zamolxis at 2005-05-23 23:58 wrote:
Of all the things that were left out while the fans were craving for them, I can't believe Fabrice chose the one about bringing old heroes back. If we have a totally new world, it'll be kinda stupid actually to have the old heroes "reincarnated" here.

But they are forgiven if they bring Solmyr, Mephalla and few of the other favourite heroes of mine. :p
Camay at 2005-05-23 23:46 wrote:
Doma, I aggree for the mule (troop carrier) but ressource collector ? creatures cannot grab ressources in H4...

Evenshade at 2005-05-23 23:43 wrote:
Keep in mind, it's almost a year until Heroes V is done. Most of the questions that were asked he couldn't answer because development hasn't reached that point yet.

I'm generally satisfied with it. I'm just looking forward to the following year, and the possibility of a completely open beta!
Camay at 2005-05-23 23:40 wrote:
Doma, I aggree for the mule (troop carrier) but ressource collector ? creatures cannot grab ressources in H4...

Zamolxis at 2005-05-23 23:38 wrote:
"MN: Will creatures be able to travel on the adventure map without a Hero? (HodgePodge)

FC: No. "

Bad news. Let's hope they thought at least at some caravan system or smth.

Zamolxis at 2005-05-23 23:36 wrote:
"Polish's in! Well it seems our little lobby did its work well! :-)"

I'm more impressed with the efficiency of the Hungarian lobby. Romania and Poland are the two main countries in the East European block, at least twice as big as any of the others (including Hungary). Still Fabrice said Polish & Hungarian, not Polish & Romanian.

And if we talk about Heroes comunity, the difference if even bigger. I only hope that the reason of not choosing Romania is that Fabrice (somehow) found out that Romanians usually preffer to play games / see movies / etc in their original language (from what I've seen so far, we're one of the few countries in Europe that consider dubbing movies is stupid).

Marcus333 at 2005-05-23 23:05 wrote:
Yeah... Maybe you're right doma... But i'm glad to see, that the old heroes may have a chance of being in the game. I think, or actually know, that many of the fans would like that.

PS: My question was asked! Yes! Although no new information...

Ururam Tururam at 2005-05-23 22:42 wrote:
Polish's in! Well it seems our little lobby did its work well! :-)
doma at 2005-05-23 22:26 wrote:
"MN: Will creatures be able to travel on the adventure map without a Hero? (HodgePodge)

FC: No. "

jesus christ....
back to the days of "mule and resource collector" heroes. letting creatures travel the adventure map was one of the few things H4 got right. They could have brought it along I think.

JSE at 2005-05-23 22:24 wrote:
"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."


So, they will be discussing in a later state of development if the game can be a M&M game at all?!?! Well, I take Fabrice's word for it... ;)

Ryder at 2005-05-23 22:19 wrote:
Agree with Vitirr. Thought we'd be inundated with screens, videos and info from E3. Rather disappointed.

Seeing they decided to return some of the old heroes, hopefully they'll see the sense of having the one sized battlefield too.

Vitirr at 2005-05-23 22:18 wrote:
Hahaha, good one Sir Charles ;).

Sir Charles at 2005-05-23 21:49 wrote:
I have a bunch of comments to make on this interview, but we'll be discussing that later. *rolls eyes* :O)

Seriously though, thanks FC for taking the time to appease some of us ravenous fans. *grin*

Vitirr at 2005-05-23 21:32 wrote:
I was expecting much more info. This all hype with E3 has resulted in a big dissapointment for me. We get more info from leaked screenshots than from Ubi itself.

And why didn't you asked my question? :P, (or more people question about number of unit levels in towns).

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