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H7: Would you prefer 2D or 3D townscreens?
I don't care.
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Features → Interviews  → Discourses with Fabrice I

by Corribus

Part I

Hello, loyal readers. I have spent some considerable time so far on this column talking about game development, particularly as it relates to Heroes V. I had a couple of ideas for a topic for my next entry in these Discourses, but then I got to thinking that maybe I should go and get some information about game development straight from the horse's mouth. After all - you might not believe me, but the horse never lies! So I bring to you an exclusive email interview with Fabrice Cambounet, producer. In this interview I attempted to ask questions regarding the decisions that went into the development of Heroes V at all stages of development. As you will no doubt see, I met with various degrees of success. It appears that Fabrice wants to keep some of this information under wraps until the end of time, and even my charming self couldn't extract it from him! Nevertheless, I hope you will find the following to be an entertaining and at least partially enlightening read.

Before we get on with it, though, there is one unfortunate caveat, and that is that ony half of the interview will be posted at this time, as I am still waiting on the second half. I had hoped to post it all at one time, but on the other hand I don't want to sit on it forever, so the second (and in my opinion better) half will be posted when it is put in my hot little hands!

Could you explain what specifically about the Might and Magic brand name attracted Ubisoft? Was there ever a concern over the risk of taking on such a project? After all, we HoMM fans have high standards!

The ambition has always been higher than the concern. The M&M brand is a passport for Ubisoft to enter the fantasy market, with a renowned flag bearer. It is a demanding but also a helpful brand: people instantly know what you’re talking about when you say the words Might & Magic. Besides, there is already a strong fan-base that has high expectations, but is also ready to help.

Why did Ubisoft decide to make HoMM5 first rather than a Might and Magic role-playing game (MMX)? Was it felt that this was the stronger title?

If a Heroes game is complex to do well, it is even more complex to do a good RPG game in today’s standards. If we do one, we’ll want to have it compete with the best in the genre, and that means a lot of work. The first step, finding the perfect team with a track record, being already quite a high entry ticket. However, we are committed to reviving the brand as a whole, so there will be more news in the future…

What goals were originally set for HoMM5 in the earliest parts of development? What did you specifically want to accomplish with this game?

The initial goals were the ones I’ve laid out in most Q&As over the last year! The first one being: staying true to the series – looking at the existing game play and solutions. The other ones being: easy to access, faster to play – working on the tutorial, which is coming in nicely, and on the interfaces, which is a long and iterative process, finally coming together now. I usually add that `faster to play` does not mean `simpler`: the complexity of the game is still there, with many skills and combinations. Other underlying goals that are quite obvious: make the game more modern, more appealing. Other goals that were set during the early development phases were: enhance the multiplayer experience - which is done through the ghost and duel modes, build a new world…

From a game-designer’s perspective, what went wrong with HoMM4? What mistakes did you hope not to repeat when designing HoMM5?

I`m not sure that something was wrong with H4 in terms of game design. They had good innovations on the table. I think what went wrong is the business part. Producing a game is not only dealing with game design decisions, but also with business decisions. You have to `sell` the game internally so that it gets considered, and so that it is put in the `priority` list in terms of quality, and not in the `release` list. The H4 team certainly lacked a bit of time to complete their project.

From what we know, the story of HoMM5 is going to be independent from the previous HoMM games. This includes a completely new set of Heroes (i.e., old favorites will not be returning). Can you tell us why the decision was made to not bring back old Heroes and to not directly continue the HoMM1-4 storyline, yet other things such as spells and monsters have been brought back relatively intact?

This was explained quite in detail in Erwan`s Q&A I think. There are two things here: the world itself, with specific characters, places, events; and the flavor of the world, with the mix of creatures and types of events.

We want to keep the flavor: a somewhat light fantasy at heart, although it gets darker in the scenario treatment and in a few visuals. That means keeping a varied mix of creatures, keeping the factions idea (but making them more coherent), keeping a mix of spells and artifacts which basically takes ideas from most fantasy sources. As for the world itself, the decision was taken for several reasons. The first one is probably that we want to start anew and be able to control all of the details. We also want to be able to build on it freely with future titles. We also wanted to avoid pitfalls in making mistakes regarding the previous world(s), and being stoned to death for heresy by the fans. And finally, it’s darn too much fun not to do it!

Could you share anything more about the storyline for HoMM5? Will the storylines of HoMM and Might and Magic be intertwined, as they have been in the past? Will there be “good” and “evil” campaigns in HoMM5?

The storyline in all titles in the M&M brand will be linked somehow, of course: the story of Dark Messiah happens some twenty years right after the events of Heroes 5. That’s one of the points we want to achieve by building a new world. There wont be `good` and `evil` campaigns as such, rather conflicting characters and motivations – but still it should be easy to spot the bad boys!

As for the storyline itself, at this stage I can’t reveal much more than what has been already said. You will see quite a bit during the demo itself. We are finalizing the cut scenes and videos at this stage – which is logical as we are finalizing most of the game!

Can you give us a sense of how the town line-ups were determined? How did you decide which of the old factions to keep? Where did the ideas for the new dungeon town come from?

Deciding the line-ups has been a long process, riding up until about half of the development process. The initial idea though was nailed down quite fast: we would keep the principle of factions, grouping fantasy creatures into races of sorts. We also decided to make these factions as coherent as possible, while keeping a good variety of creatures. A `dominant race` would unify each faction: human for Haven, elves for Sylvan, or a strong theme would bond the creatures together: the persian influence for the Academy, for instance. This is how the idea of the Dungeon was formed: tying a bunch of mythological creatures with a strong idea, the dark elves. These would be the backbone of the faction, and the other creatures would be either be dominated (minotaurs), used (hydra) or revered (dragon) by the dark elves.

All of this has lead to some heartbreaking decisions, with some flagship creatures not making the cut… this time at least.

Note: The discourses with Fabrice continue here.

ThunderTitan at 2006-03-02 10:32 wrote:
No dude, coz those are like Dark Elves, which have completly different facial expresions. :devil:

DaemianLucifer at 2006-03-02 07:39 wrote:
Itd be much better if there were no humans,but a dwarven town instead.But having two and a half human towns and two elven towns makes a game rather bland.

Corribus at 2006-03-01 15:52 wrote:
Has to be might: Cyclops, Goblins, Orcs, Trolls, T-birds, Behemoths
That conglomerate has been around since the beginning in some for or another and to omit them completely from H5 would be a shame.

The lack of dwarves is lamentable, but it's not a whole missing town!

Orfinn at 2006-03-01 11:23 wrote:
If two towns and one will be might based and the other one dwarf/gnome based. The might should go for rough terrain and the dwarf town should go for snow, if only might town then they should stick to snow terrain even if only orcs and not any viking celts. Then the dwarves, gnomes, drakes etc should be neutral.

Let see in H5 original there are (not counting upg as new creatures, just an improvement of the basic ones) 42 town creatures + 6 until now known neutrals, so its in fact 48 creatures. The creature limit in previous versions have been said to be 256 (not sure if they counted upg or not, I think not upges) creatures.
256 - 48
208 creatures are missing for the limit of 256. So there are alot of possibilites for good old creatures making a return and new ones like werewolves like one particular artifact are refering to, Werewolf Claw Necklace, hope we get wyvern, drakes and gnomes too! =D

ThunderTitan at 2006-03-01 10:28 wrote:
2 towns in expansion precedent!? Are you considering HoMM2 an expansion to 1, or what?

Lord_Haart at 2006-03-01 10:12 wrote:
Flagship creatures include orcs and dwarves, for sure.

I don't think we'll see might, at least not exactly - probably more like a steampunk dwarven town. Maybe a rugged goblin/orc town as well -> Maybe Ubival will go back to the precedent (from Homm2) of adding TWO towns in an expansion *hopeful*
ToweringAmishPlumber at 2006-02-28 23:24 wrote:
Cleanpea and infael: Thanks for the responses. Unfortunately, I have checked a bunch of web sites and some brick and mortar stores. The only thing that seems to be available is Heroes IV orihinal, but not either expansion (unless I want to pay outrageous prices on an auction site).

ThunderTitan at 2006-02-28 18:59 wrote:
Not really! Maybe he's refering to the creatures in the towns that didn't make it from H3! They do think mostly in terms of H3, not all the HoMM games. Maybe he liked the Mighty Moos but couldn't fit them anywhere.

Corribus at 2006-02-28 18:28 wrote:

I just don't know what other "flagship creatures" he could be referring to. Any ideas?

Thelonious at 2006-02-28 18:17 wrote:
@ Cleanpea, because we are a civilised forum and we want to stick on topic because this is a colum about sothing serious and interesting.

ThunderTitan at 2006-02-28 17:50 wrote:
Seeing how the Barbarian/Might faction has been there from the begining I would hope so.

Corribus at 2006-02-28 17:41 wrote:
@Lord Haart

I agree - he said a lot of things without actually saying them. Additionally he pretty much confirmed that at least one of the old factions will be returning in an expansion pack. My guess is that it's the might town.

I am very much looking forward to the second half, when it arrives.

Lord_Haart at 2006-02-28 17:21 wrote:

Fabrice came as close as possible to saying there will be an MMX without actualy saying it :)

I look forward to part II

Cleanpea at 2006-02-28 15:42 wrote:
H4complete has been out for over six months now- in Europe, it costs 9£... Excuse me someone, but, why are people afraid to go off-topic??

infael at 2006-02-28 14:29 wrote:
Plumber, I did hear that Ubi was reissuing H4. Have you looked around yet?

Orfinn at 2006-02-28 06:53 wrote:
Thanks for the 1st part of the interview Corribus, cant wait for the other half =D

Gaidal Cain at 2006-02-28 06:34 wrote:
I apologize for going somewhat off-topic, but has ANYONE heard anything about a reissue of Heroes IV and it's expansions. I would really like to buy it without spending a robber-baron price for a used copy. I would appreciate any news anyone might have.

I've seen ads for a "complete" version, but I think it might only have been re-released in Europe...

Justice at 2006-02-27 23:39 wrote:
Hope that means we'll get a MM soon.- And that we'll get it...
ToweringAmishPlumber at 2006-02-27 23:11 wrote:
I apologize for going somewhat off-topic, but has ANYONE heard anything about a reissue of Heroes IV and it's expansions. I would really like to buy it without spending a robber-baron price for a used copy. I would appreciate any news anyone might have.

Corribus at 2006-02-27 22:10 wrote:
Because I haven't received it yet. :(

Jerrie at 2006-02-27 21:48 wrote:
Ah, thanks, Corribus :).
And why can't you post the second part immediately?

Corribus at 2006-02-27 21:33 wrote:
Maybe two weeks ago (and still going). It wasn't "live", if that's what you are asking. :)

Jerrie at 2006-02-27 21:22 wrote:
Thanks, Angelspit.

When did this interview take place?

Angelspit at 2006-02-27 21:08 wrote:
Comments have been enabled. Sorry folks.

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