Celestial Heavens' GhostWriter was at the E3 this year, and brought back some
exciting new information about 3DO's upcoming games. The first interview is with the creator of the Might
and Magic series himself,
Jon Van Caneghem. Click on the speaker icon and be patient while the appropriate Mpeg file loads. The Expo is a very noisy place, so crank up the volume and listen carefully. Coming during the next few days is a discussion with
Rick Reynolds, from 3DO's marketing department, and you can now read Part Two of the exclusive Heroes interview of Jon.
CH: How was the Heroes series born?
JVC: (Without my wife) Heroes would have never come about. I made King's Bounty, I don't know if you've ever known of that game...
JVC: ... and that was the first game she got into, and I started King's Bounty, and she totally fell in love with it. And I went back to working on Might & Magic. And every month, every week, every morning, (she'd say) "When are you going to make a sequel to King's Bounty? That's the best game, that's better than Might & Magic! That's the one to make a sequel for." (So I said) "Alright, I'll make it." So finally I gave in and that's how Heroes I was born.
CH: Well, thank her for it.
JVC: (laughs) I will.
CH: She had a good eye.
JVC: And she's actually... was involved quite a bit with Heroes II and III. She did alot of the maps and alot of the testing...
CH: ... Oh yeah...
JVC: ... Quite a bit. She still plays it to this day. She still yells at me every day for the way Heroes IV turned out like, "You ruined my game!"
CH: What are the improvements for Heroes V from Heroes IV?
JVC: Alright, so Heroes V, what I really want to get back to, and what I'm spending all my time on, is redesigning the entire game engine, to be much more along the lines of Heroes II and III, except much more modern and a lot more balanced, and much more challenging. The game evolved much more towards a role-playing type of game over the last couple of years, and I want to bring back completely, 180 degrees back to a true strategy game. It will have role-playing elements, but really the esence of what I wanted Heroes always to be since the very beginning is a pure strategy game. And role-playing is nice for campaigns and some particular scenarios, but the basic game is strategy. It's you against a few players, or you against other human players.
CH: (And so it will) focus more on scenario combat and scenario design features? Well, not just the scenarios, but the game itself, where there will be less emphasis on quests, and more emphasis on tactical combat?
JVC: Right. Absolutely, the game takes it much more towards the strategy orientation, and we'll make the story lines shorter, and the quest-based maps more, uh, simpler in terms of the entire overall quests so... But what that allows us to do and allows me to do is make much more of a strategic quest or story out of (those elements), instead of one of just plodding through it, and opening up a story like an RPG. It becomes an involved strategy quest that's active... figure out what to do, make decisions that are important when you mkae them and how you make them, so then you can work out the scenario. Versus just what it's truned into now is (meaning Heroes IV), it's just a matter of plodding through it. There's really no big strategic decision to be made in the current scenario (meaning Heroes IV). So, that's what I want to get back to, and I think that's more fun.
CH: What is your level of involvement for the new game?
JVC: (Full-time) Yeah, that's my plan. I mean, I'm looking forward to getting back into it full-time and really making it... It sounds like... I feel like I owe it to the fans, to bring back Heroes the way it was, as opposed to what it kind of evolved into.
CH: How is the programming of the AI system going?
JVC: For Heroes V I'm starting from scratch. Everything from AI is now going to be my design from scratch.
CH: It will not be parts of Heroes III?
CH: ...Scrapping Heroes IV...?
JVC: Yeah. Heroes IV was completely new from Heroes III. There wasn't much at all used from Heroes III.
CH: Oh really?
JVC: There was some talk if "there was", "there wasn't", who can really tell...?
CH: ...Right. Lot of speculation...
JVC: ...Lot of speculation, but no. Heroes IV was redone completely, and it just wasn't done right. And a long back-story about how that was done, but I won't get into it.
CH: Well, it's fine, we're looking forward to the new AI.
JVC: Yes, And that will be quite a challenge since I'm pretty much doing the plan again. But, you know, I always... in all my designs I make it that it's always very easy to adjust the difficulty. In that, if you're having trouble or it's getting ahead of you then you can just turn it down.
CH: What types of creatures will there be?
JVC: Well, we have our creature list for the six town types already done, but all the old favorites, many of them are back, of course... Titans and Giants, and Dragons of course, of all types.
CH: Any new ones that you've decided to go with that are different from the others in the series?
JVC: Yeah, I think there's a few new ones we haven't seen in any of the Heroes, but for the most part we kind of pick and choose the ones people like the most out of the last of the Heroes games. And then put them together in appropriate towns.
CH: Make sure there are Genies.
JVC: Gotta have Genies, hehe.
CH: What types of alignment and faction system is being designed? Do you know how the magic system will work?
JVC: There are six town types, and I don't know them off the top of my head, which is terrible but I should.
CH: With everything in your head, I can imagine.
JVC: Yeah, uh, but they're very much, you know, orgainzed in a, I dunno, kind of the (inaudible)-together type of grouping... (inaudible). So there's still all the stand-bys and favorites. But, I'm doing a lot, probably the most exciting thing I'm doing is the actual Hero development and skill system, which is completely from scratch. And people that alot.
CH: And the magic system, is that tied to the faction system like in Heroes IV?
JVC: Yes. In fact, we have a magic system that is completely tied to each town type. We have a set of spells that are generic to all towns, then we have a complete set of spells that's dedicated solely to each town type.
CH: Has the decision been made about removing the Underground yet?
JVC: Yeah, the Underground just didn't seem to add much except for cunfusion. It was... the way I originally designed it was, I made the Underground, and I think it was Heroes III it first appeared... a lot of our maps ran out of room for little treasure caches. So I said well, I could make this little Underground, you could go down and there would be a little bit bigger of an area where I could actually have a little treasure cache based where you were. The big maps it made sense, but the mapmakers went wild and turned it into an entire... thing, and now we had two maps instead of one, and it kind of went in a diredction it wasn't intended to.
CH: So are you planning on doing an alternative system to the Undergound, or just keeping it a single-layer map?
JVC: Keeping it the single-layer. I mean, we can always add it back... and there were orignal plans were for a cloud layer, an Undergound, an alternate plane, and... (but those won't happen)
CH: Yeah, in the Winds of War expansion you actually have in the editor the ability to add or remove an Underground.
JVC: That's right.
CH: Who is doing the music and has the music been finished?
JVC: (The music hasn't been done yet), but we'll probably use the same team...
CH: ...same composer?
JVC: Yeah, Rob King.
CH: Excellent music.
JVC: Yeah, I really loved his... I discovered him, you know, (from) nowhere, brought him on full-time, and now he's doing music for all sorts of games, so.. Oh definitely, I want him and the same guys do the music. I really like how the music fits Heroes.
CH: Will the game be using a similar kind of scripting system in its editor, and will it be improved over the one in Heroes IV? Heroes IV has an awesome editor.
JVC: I'd love to improve on it, I don't know if we'll be able to do much of a revamping with that editor or not. But it'll have all the layout to it in the way it works... but making it easier to use is a big... completely big "if". But the other side of it is it's not that important since if I I get the AI to where I want it to be, no one's going to have to go in to do all these scripted events to make the game play its best...
CH: ... Right, exactly...
JVC: ... So, that's kind of my caveat to, well, if we do this right, then that won't matter as much because people won't have to fight with that editor to get some measure of interesting gameplay out of it.
CH: But you are doing it with a scripting system?
JVC: Yeah, it's the same one. We're basically using the same tools, just changing it to enhance it.
CH: That's good news for me.
CH: Will there be a Random Map or Terrain Generator?
JVC: I'm working on it. Yeah, I'm going to try to get that done if I can for the first release.
CH: Because that's a very poplular thing with the tournament players, they're always looking for ways to create maps...
CH: And the Object Painter which came along in the Winds of War expansion is one tool that... anything that saves a mapmaker time. Because that just means more maps...
CH: And people will spend more time on them...
JVC: Making them, yep.
CH: ...not doing the things that (waste time, and thus) planning more creative maps.
The 3DO Booth at the E3
Part Two of this interview with New World Computing's Jon Van Caneghem is presented here.
CH: Do you have any plans for an Official Tournament or other sponsored events?
JVC: That'd be great. I'd love to do it.
CH: Seems like you're going to have to add to your staaff a vit to handle that.
JVC: Yeah, but at the same time, ya know, between web sites and people organizing themselves. If we just support it, I think that could probably work out.
CH: Can we expect you on the 3DO Community or the Round Table posting some time?
CH: You're a busy guy, but ya know, you're the Man.
JVC: Alright, well I mean, I hate to personally get into the whole "posting wars"...
CH: It's hard. It's very difficult, I know...
JVC: I know, I know. Chris (Vanover) had been with us (for so long)
CH: Most of the time someone will ask you a question and you find that you just can't answer it, because it will start something else...
JVC: So, ya know, I'd rather start something up where you guys filter up what you want me to answer, once a month or... and (I'll see if I can get to it).
CH: Do you visit Celestial Heavens?
JVC: Yeah, of course, and I'll end up getting along with most of the stuff, but no, I think it's great that you guys have been supporting us. I know there's been some friction over the last few months.
CH: Yeah. We do post what we find, in terms of news...
CH: ... But we're all fans of the games.
JVC: That's all that matters. Hey, the truth is what it is, I don't care. (laughs)
CH: Most of what we're doing is just bringing news to the community so they can talk about it...
JVC: ...can talk about it, right..
CH: ... not so we can bring our own opinions in.
JVC: No, I love that you guys are there. I mean , ya know, I used to have to read UseNet to find out, ya know, I'd go to Strategy: UseNet, and I'd see... to pick through the Heroes topics to find out what people were saying about the latest game or expansion. But most of your guys grew so large.
CH: Are there plans for a Heroes IV Complete, and what would it include?
JVC: Probably, I think 3DO actually has it on their schedule to do that.
CH: Is that a 3DO question?
JVC: Yeah, that's a 3DO question. I wouldn't have much involvement except we would want to be making the CDs and testing it.
CH: I was just wondering if they might ask you to add some more content.
JVC: I don't know. Unlikely.
CH: If it didn't happen with Heroes III Complete then it probably isn't likely for Heroes IV.
CH: How about the turn-times? Will Heroes V be faster in terms of the amount of time it takes to access things?
JVC: (The computer has to) ... figure out stuff, but 99% of it didn't move, never changes... it's the map. That can be done when the map's created at our office. It shouldn't be a burden for every player out there at the end of their turn. So there's lots of stuff like that that I want it to be (when clicking the button) "Go, go, go".
CH: Is there going to be a beta test release for Heroes V?
JVC: One of the problems we've had with our games and beta testing is, we've never had a large enough schedule to do formal beta testing. So by the time the CD goes out to, say we've got a hundred people we want at the office to be around for the first round of beta, by the time we get them, get them their CDs, and have them start playing it, we're eighteen revisions at the office past what they have. Alot of what they'll be reporting we'll already have on the list, we'll either have fixed them, or decided that we're not going to... (do that in the game).
CH: ... You know you're giving the beta testers this thing that isn't working yet, so you're working on those problems...
JVC: ... we're working on those problems, and if we had a longer cycle the you could do that, but the last few years with 3DO has been, ya know, by the time we're beta, everyone's non-stop (working on the game's problems)
CH: What financial factors come into the development of the game that affects its publication?
JVC: On and on and on, it all just never ends; the financial situation, so...
CH: Not being a game industry person myself, and most of the readers aren't...
JVC: Yeah. It's hard for them to understand.
CH: ... it's phenomenal to understand what goes into developing a game.
JVC: Yep. The bottom line is two things. There's the integrity, and how great a game is, and then there'e the actual dollars and cents of the checkbook, and everyone keeping the lights on and paying salaries. And a lot of times those two can't meet. They just can't get together to the point where you going to satisfy both of them. So or course the one that's going to fail is the game side, because everyone's got to keep the lights on and pay the bills. Bottom line, that's what it comes down to.
Celestial Heavens wants to thank Jon Van Caneghem for his time and valuable knowledge of the games he lovingly creates.