Q&A with Ubisoft and Limbic on Might & Magic: Heroes VII
Upon the announcement of Heroes VII, we sent a series of questions to Ubisoft about the upcoming game as well as other related material. Instead of forcing you to read more of my babble, here it is:
Kalah: Many fans of the Might & Magic series have been hankering to see Jon Van Caneghem back making games. Have Ubisoft considered talking to him about a future collaboration?
Gary Paulini: Actually, we met Jon Van Caneghem back at GamesCom last year when introducing Might & Magic X – Legacy. It was a really great meeting (and a great moment for Julien, as he's a die-hard fan). By that time, he was working on Command & Conquer for EA. We haven't had the chance to get in touch with him since the release of MMXL. We believe he's currently working on new projects, and we really wish him the best for the future. We are confident that whatever he creates next will be awesome!
Kalah: A question specifically for Limbic: You started out by taking over the development of Heroes VI, then you developed MMX on your own, and now you have been given the task of developing Heroes VII. Would you say this is your biggest task so far? What have you learned from the past couple of years working on the other games in the MM franchise?
Stephan Winter: First and foremost Heroes VII for sure is the biggest project in our collaboration with Ubi. It's great for us to be onboard right from the beginning of the development this time around. And on Ubi's side we have many familiar faces working with us once more - that feels good!
From a development point of view, from Heroes VI and its adventure packs we learned to be smart about the way we create content. On the one hand content creation is always a time consuming process but on the other hand I am confident that we made some good decisions in regards to the engine, the editor tools and especially the connection between story writers and our level designers. As far as I can tell right now this seems to work quite well. For the moment we are not concerned about the amount of maps we are producing. We are still looking to add one or two new people to the level design team but overall the entire team did an amazing job to ensure that we can build the maps and
campaigns for Heroes VII. All in all we (hopefully) learnt not to fall in the content trap!
Even if Legacy was a different in-house team and scope, we benefit from it for Heroes VII. Legacy gave us the opportunity to do one full production cycle with Ubi – including all the required processes from localization, quality assurance, marketing, community work, etc. We had a very fruitful post-mortem with the Ubi team about what went right and wrong and I am sure we will benefit from it. For instance the idea of having the fans vote on two of the Heroes factions plus the Shadow Council approach is based on our first experience with what we did on a smaller scale with Legacy during the Open Dev.
Kalah: What can you tell us about the skill and magic systems?
Gary Paulini: Too early to tell! Some things are still being discussed internally, and it would be a shame to announce things which will not make it into the final game.
Xavier Penin: The biggest info is that spells are outside the skill system again, and must be learned in town guilds, adventure map buildings or from other Heroes. Player can complete their Heroes' spell collection while exploring a map or completing a campaign. Heroes have a class (like Paladin) and that defines their skills. They also have a faction skill.
Skills have a global effect and offer access to abilities, which have a more specialized effect. When levelling up, the player must spend a point to upgrade a skill or buy an ability. You cannot have everything so you must make choices: you can specialize or try to be balanced.
Also, skills are divided into Might, Magic and Neutral categories, and are consistent with the Hero's class.
Kalah: Tell us about the editors;
- Will there be a map editor released with the game?
Gary Paulini: Yes, there will be a map editor released with the game! As a matter of fact, the map editor should be considered a core feature of the main game, and we're putting in a lot of effort and giving it a lot of love to make it as accessible as possible for players. We'll give you more details really soon.
- Fans were disappointed with the H6 editor and hardly any maps was made for the game; will the editor be better this time?
Gary Paulini: Well... The easy answer is just: YES, plain and simple... As I already said, we're putting in a lot of effort to design and develop the map editor. Moreover, we're currently bringing some seasoned map makers to help us improving the User Experience (including UI), but also testing the map editor.
But keep in mind it's always easier said than done. So instead of bragging and trying to oversell it, I would simply put it this way: you can be the judge when the game is out!
- What about an RMG?
Gary Paulini: As I said previously, we're really working a lot on the map editor! We'll provide you more information as soon as possible.
- Can the editor be used to make campaigns with carryover heroes?
Gary Paulini: We'd certainly love to have the campaign editor right from the start and that's something we're looking into. However, I don't want to say or promise anything as we're still really far away from the release.
Xavier Penin: As a matter of fact the campaign editor is planned and would allow carryover heroes, but also artifacts and other data to be used for storytelling.
Kalah: Is there an online system? What about DRM?
Gary Paulini: I guess the question is more: will the game use Uplay? Am I wrong? More seriously, Uplay is part of Ubisoft corporate strategy so it will be part of Heroes VII. However, as we've mentioned before, Uplay doesn't mean permanent connection anymore. Just like Steam, you have to connect once to activate your game and then you can play offline as long as you want. It will be this way in Heroes VII.
Xavier Penin: The game will feature the classic online modes and maybe even more.
Kalah: Battle system and battlefield - what can you tell us about this?
Gary Paulini: There are really many things to say about those topics. I don't want to give away too many details, as we'll unveil them through the Shadow Council website. You should definitely keep an eye on it to get as much information as possible. Instead, I'll just throw out some teaser words: different combat map layouts, obstacles, different victory conditions... and flanking!
Basically, we're not trying to reinvent the wheel, but using the combat of the previous Heroes titles as the basis and building from there, hopefully bringing some interesting variations to the battlefield.
Xavier Penin: The motto for the battle system in H7 is less abilities, more tactics. We want dynamic battles with movement, risk and sacrifices. We want to encourage offense and reward smart placement of units and use of space. Also, we want to strongly emphasize each faction's battle style, through faction skills but also creature stats and abilities.
Another big topic is the variety of battle maps and NPC formations. You will encounter surprising terrain and enemy formations, varied armies using specific tactics.
- Which factions?
Gary Paulini: If you've seen the trailer (and we certainly hope you have!), you already know that 6 factions are planned for Heroes VII. 4 of them were decided early on due to production constraints: Haven (as usual I would say), Academy (finally making their big comeback!), Necropolis, and Stronghold. In the meantime, the remaining 2 factions are not set in stone, and in fact we chose to let the fans decide what they want in the game. Right now, a vote is currently ongoing on the Shadow Council website offering fans the choice between Sylvan and Fortress, which will be followed by other votes (such as the 2nd implemented, affecting the storyline, the environments, the lineup and abilities. Basically we're letting fans be a huge part of the development process, allowing them to help make the Heroes title they want. So don't miss out this opportunity and please make sure to spread the word in the various communities!
Gary Paulini: You should take a look at the Shadow Council website as it already contains details about announced creatures. Stay tuned for more as we'll unveil more details during the development!
Xavier Penin: The biggest news is the comeback of war machines in a different form, but with a similar role to what they played in older games. You will be surprised.
Gary Paulini: Sure neutrals will be part of Heroes VII. I can't give you more details at present, but we'll make sure to make them an important part of the game.
Xavier Penin: We know the importance of having neutrals to provide variety in random encounters, but we also count on the variety of armies, formations and terrain to reach this objective.
Kalah: Game economy: what resources? Are some resources linked to specific factions?
Gary Paulini: We did our homework and heard your feedback. There will be 7 resources in Heroes VII, and some of them will be linked to specific units tiers. So, more than ever, controlling resources will be the key to success.
Xavier Penin: Some factions will need certain resources more than others, but we don't want to create bottlenecks. Those factions will have means to gather their preferred resources even in difficult situations, through hero abilities and town buildings.
Kalah: What will the campaign be about? Where are we in the MM timeline?
Gary Paulini: The "framing" story of Might & Magic Heroes VII takes place in 853 YSD. That's ten years after the Fourth Eclipse and the death of Empress Maeve Falcon, leaving the throne empty and the Empire in turmoil. After countless battles, treaties, betrayals and alliances, two contestants remain to claim the crown: Ivan of Griffin, and Seamus of Stag. Now most of you are aware that in the end Ivan wins the war and becomes Emperor. What you don't know is that it almost didn't happen.
We meet Ivan in a state of self-doubt: the war has taken its toll on both his body and mind. He saw a lot of horrors and devastation, and he probably committed a few himself. Now he is tired of it all, wanting to lay down arms, declare the independence of his Duchy and leave the Empire to Seamus. But as he's about to make this fateful decision, his council of advisors (among them a few familiar faces) start telling him stories of past heroes, who, like Ivan, were faced with impossible choices.
These stories are the six campaigns of Heroes VII, each focusing on a key moment of the history of one particular faction ... And that's all we will say for now.
Kalah: Who does the music? Will the fans' favourite duo King/Romero return?
Gary Paulini: Heroes is not Heroes without Rob and Paul. So for sure they'll return... oh sorry, I should say they already returned as some of their new compositions can already be heard within the demo presented at GamesCom.
Roc Chen, a composer who has worked on the Heroes VI Adventure Packs and also on MMX – Legacy, has also contributed some tracks to the game.
Kalah: System requirements?
Gary Paulini: Hard to say right now as the game is still in development, changes are being made, features are being added. However, we're focusing a lot on system requirements to make sure the game can be run on a wide range of computers.
Big thanks to the team for taking the time.
Best wishes for the future, and a kick-ass Heroes VII game!
Ubisoft also released a Q&A when they announced the game.
If you want to read that, you can download it as a .pdf here.