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This month's Troop concept sketch is the Bile Worm.
This month, I have five initial questions, followed by part four of the lengthy interview I did with Tavern of Might and Magic.
Until next time.
Fanstratics Game Director & Designer
(Questions, Answers & Comments)
Fanstratics Faction #3: Thornwood.
This faction rounds out the three ‘good’ cultures. Elfin in origin, the Thornwood inhabit tribal towns throughout the enchanted Spring Lands. Where most cultures resist nature’s merciless cycles of birth, life, transformation, and death, the Thornwood zealously embrace them. If you are familiar with HoMM3’s ‘Rampart’, you should find comfort in playing this fierce, wild, and virtuous faction. Representing the Thornwood is the Elfin Sharpshooter, which can be viewed in the Fanstratics Gallery.
When HoMM3 was in development, did the team think Eagle Eye would be a viable or competitive secondary skill? I've seen players say it was meant to be a bad one to balance out with the good ones, but things like the boosting artifacts, a few pre-made Seer Huts and Witches high learning chance tell me otherwise.
Regarding Eagle Eye... it was a holdover from HoMM2. While we knew it was a ‘lesser’ skill, we didn’t consider it ‘useless’. In hindsight, I should have cut it, but like I said... it was a legacy skill from HoMM2, and there was a desire to maintain some consistency between HoMM2 and HoMM3. So, to directly answer your question, we never intentionally created ‘bad’ skills to balance out ‘good’ skills.
Originally, the concept of Eagle Eye was simple. An Allied Hero ‘sees’ an Enemy Hero use an unlearned Spell, and upon seeing it, the Allied Hero learns the Spell. In practice, it didn’t work out so well.
First, there was only a ‘chance’ to the learn the spell. Second, an Allied Hero typically fought and defeated lesser Enemy Heroes, thus rarely saw a Spell the Hero didn’t already know. Third, Enemy Towns are not necessarily difficult to acquire, thus Enemy Spells are not necessarily difficult to acquire. Also, big maps tend to give plenty of opportunities for learning ‘other’ Spells.
I’ve given Eagle Eye a lot of thought, but ultimately... I’m discarding its equivalent. Once it is gone, I strongly doubt most people will miss it.
Astrologers from HoMM3 but have long been a meme. Will they proclaim weeks and months in the Fanstratics?
Fanstratics will have weekly and monthly Astrological events.
The story you related for the Forge faction sounds great, a pity that it didn't come to pass. From what you say, it nearly seems that in AB, destroying the whole world was born from frustration coming with the cancellation of the Forge.
Regarding the Armageddon's Blade story, it was written well before the cancellation, but was oddly prescient.
Gamers in Russia and the CIS countries are very fond of HoMM3 and are one of the most active community of the game. In this case, have you thought about adding creatures from Russian/Slavic mythology and fairy tales or about creating a faction in the Slavic style in the Fanstratics?
Truthfully, I have investigated Slavic mythology, but shied away from it. In my estimation, one of the reasons why HoMM3 was successful, was in how it embraced stereotypical fantasy creatures: dragons, unicorns, dwarves, elves, etc. Worldwide fantasy tropes are largely driven by Western and Central European mythology, specifically Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of Rings’ (which largely inspired ‘Dungeons & Dragons’). Other fantasy tropes... Chinese, Japanese, Indian, African, North/South American, Russian/Slavic, etc... have for the most part... stayed regional.
With this in mind, there is a fair amount of visual crossover between Central/Western/Eastern mythology. For example, if outside of Russia or East Europe, I showed most people a picture of a Zmei... they would tell me it was a Hydra. Another example would be the Psoglav (human torso, horse legs, dog’s head, one eye), which most people would see as a weird-looking, cyclopean Werewolf (which, by the way, is a lot of fun).
In the end, when you have 60+ creatures, quick identification and natural assumptions, are especially paramount. So, it’s safer to embrace common stereotypes, and avoid any potential for confusion. This being said, I’ll take another look into Russian/Slavic mythology, and see if I can’t sprinkle a couple creatures into the Neutral roster.
Tavern of Might and Magic, 2019.02.28 - Questions 35-45, of 58
This interview was conducted by Tavern of Might and Magic and GoodGame.ru, and published on February 28th, 019, the 20th Anniversary of HoMM3. It’s a very long interview, almost 60 questions, and delves deep into unresolved lore, as well as other common questions. I’ll be posting between 10 to 15 questions per Newsletter, until we reach the end, after which we will roll into another interview. Below are questions 35 to 45, of 58.
35. In your FAQ on the Forge’s cancellation you highlighted the fact that the Inferno town is populated by aliens who look like demons. Those being Kreegans and the demon-like creatures they breed and summon, like pit fiends, demons, imps, efreeti, etc. Jennifer Bullard has mentioned in an interview that the Kreegan are the original demons faced in MM worlds, and you viewed them as such. That means the demons in MM 1-5 and MM9 are Kreegans and their creatures, like in the case of the Inferno line-up. Inferno creatures are also present in the Underworld, a deep and vast network of cavern below Erathia, nearly a millennium before HoMM3 (and they are mostly exterminated in Heroes Chronicles: Conquest of the Underworld). In MM2 Devil Kings are even seen guarding an Ancient installation, which has an interesting implication of it being possible to tame Kreegans and/or their creatures in some way. Kreegans and their creatures present in those games are probably remnants of past invasion and/or agents that has arrived on a particular world (which fits well with demons being summoned in MM3). Can you provide insights into how you viewed demons present in different games when developing the game?
When developing HoMM3, my view of demons in MM was defined by Paul Rattner (Lead Designer of MM6)Rattner (Lead Designer of MM6). He established their lore in MM6. In doing this, as far as I was concerned, he laid the foundation for their story going forward.
As to ‘demons in MM1-5 and MM9 being Kreegans’, I think it is safe to assume all demons in the Jon Van Caneghem era are Kreegans, until a different developer or another game effectively explains otherwise.
36. Did you have some ideas on the origin of Kreegan? One tavern rumor says: when a devil travels, it journeys to its plane before returning to our world. This implies that Kreegans control or at least have access to another plane of existence. Can you tell us more?
This really is a question for Paul Rattner, as I did not create the Kreegans, I merely inherited them. Nevertheless, I understood the Kreegans to be alien invaders from another plane of existence. Folklore would call them Demons from Hell.
37. What is the origin of angels and archangels? Don’t worry, we won’t have a heart attack.
Over the course of my time at New World, on occasion, typically when taking a break, I would wander into Paul Rattner’s office. Even though MM6 was in mid production, Paul was already thinking about MM7, so I made sure to update him on what was happening with HoMM3.
When I told him about the changes to the factions, I specifically mentioned the Angels. At that point in time, Paul was essentially the lore master for the MM universe. On the topic of the Angels and Arch Angels, he proposed they be sophisticated robots created by the Ancients to hunt down and eradicate the Kreegans. I agreed, and we ran with it.
Later, after the Forge was shelved, I remember thinking to myself, If people have a problem with the whole ‘goblins are aliens’ idea, I can only imagine what they will think if they figure out the true origins of the Angels.
38. Giants and titans are made of some rock-like material (which is especially evident in the titan’s HoMM2 and MM 6-7 death animation), but appear to be something more than just a golem. Moreover, their HoMM4 variation is clearly made of flesh? Also a notable thing is that both angels and some giants and titans are allied with Bracada. Did you have any ideas about titan lore?
Starting with HoMM4, I can tell you, I was only on the project for the first two weeks of its existence. Why did the Titans shed their apparent inorganic appearance? I honestly do not know. It is possible the HoMM4 team, by setting the game on a completely new world, chose to reinvent the Titans as flesh and blood giants the Greek tradition. It is also possible a ‘lack of communication led to creative inconsistency’.
In terms of game mechanics, what Jon and I wanted to avoid, was having yet another group of troops immune to Mind Spells. To this end, I considered Naga, Giants, and Titans to be conceptually similar to Dendroids, but there was never any specific lore explanation crafted to elaborate on this idea.
39. Was there a specific reason (or several reason) for the exclusion of halflings from the Tower faction?
I wanted something more creative and more visually interesting than a halfling. For a replacement candidate, it was a toss up between Gremlins and Red Caps. Gremlins were more familiar, so they made the cut. When the Halflings were removed, there was always an intention to use one of the expansions as an opportunity to reinsert them as a neutral troop.
40. Did you have any lore and story ideas about characters that weren't realized or properly reflected in the game?
Not really. HoMM story was basically created on-the-fly, very similar to comic book storytelling and continuity. A long term, game-to-game plan is rare and something of a luxury.
41. Was there any ideas on the future of Deyja and Archibald's advisors (who became its new rulers in MM7) in the light of Forge's cancellation?
Paul Rattner may have had some ideas pertaining to the subject, but we never discussed any such subject.
42. What is your personal opinion on the advisor's (and, by extension, the Forge faction they created) actions and motivations? Do you think they were driven more by their desire to lead the world to a better future (with them as leaders) or their lust for power? Or were those motivations roughly equally present?
Simple lust for power and domination, but I am sure there were plenty of rationalizations.
43. Can you tell us more about Forge's 7th lvl creature. Was that a cyborg dragon or something more akin to a golem (like in HoMM4)? Was it flying?
It was not flying and definitely not a cyborg. If my memory is correct, it was supposed to be robotic, so more golem-like in origin.
The intro cinematic for Armageddon's Blade is apparently a remnant of the original version of the story with the Forge, or at least inspired by it. The most notable difference is that the Blade is found rather that Forge. Can you tell us more about the intro's conception and inclusion?
Originally, the intro cinematic was a teaser trailer made specifically for E3, with the intention to eventually use it for the final game. At the end of the cinematic, instead of finding Armageddon’s Blade, there was supposed to be something akin to high tech ‘Predator vision’ scanning Gelu, Roland, and Catherine. This implication was to set the stage for the Forge as a sci-fi town. After the Forge was cancelled, Armageddon’s Blade was inserted as the replacement.
44. Did NWC have plans or rather ideas for any town types other than Forge and Conflux? If yes, do you remember some details about them?
At the time, there were no such plans for additional town types.